2015Walking Worthy: 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Walking Worthy

Who am I? Why do I write? What is my purpose here? These are questions I have been wrestling with for some time now on this blog.

I never forget the day I realized I was having an identity crisis. I was a senior in college getting ready to graduate and I had no clue what I wanted to do in life and I realized my identity had been wrapped up in things that were not based on Christ.

That time in my life was more painful than I would like to admit to anyone. A year of what should have been celebration was filled with hurt and pain and depression.

But GOD. (It's one of my favorite phrases in the Bible, because it means He is about to do something incredible)

Oh the sweetness of a God who would pursue me while I was in the pit of despair. He wrapped me up and taught me what it meant to pursue Him, live for Him, and walk in a manner worthy of Him.

That is my daily pursuit to walk in a manner worthy of Christ. I want that to translate here on my blog and recently I have felt so lost in what to write. At times I have felt I had nothing to say.

Today I am reminded of my pursuit of Christ. If I would simply take a moment and realize I can't pursue anything other than Him. I must follow Him daily in the big and small things. So it looks like things are about to change around here. The content of what I write is going to focus on the pursuit of Christ in the everyday. We don't need more Christian writers pursuing themselves or fame and glory. We need someone to stand up and walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. That is what makes my heart beat.

I would love for you to join me. Maybe you are like me and you have felt lost in this world that tells you to pursue fame and glory. You are confused by the message that you must strive to be known and be the next big thing. Come with me as we look at what it means to pursue Christ daily in a quite practical way. What does it look like to be a follower of Christ in a world that tells you to strive after yourself. Spoiler Alert: that doesn't mean you can't be famous, but it is all about what you do with what you have been given.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

DIY Fall Pumpkins

All the DIY pumpkins have caught my eye on Pinterest. What about you? I just fell in love with the sweater and velvet pumpkins I was seeing. And all I could think of was…I CAN DO THAT.

Please note. I cannot sew well. I DO NOT own a sewing machine. I took one mother/daughter sewing class in 4-H and my mom and I almost killed each other trying to make an apron. It was ugly folks. I DO however own a sewing kit. It has some basic thread, needles, scissors, etc.

Like any good DIYer I searched and hunted on Pinterest. I looked at all the tutorials and decided I could make these pumpkins. I may not be able to sew, but I could conquer these pumpkins….

I settled on two styles of pumpkins: the kind made from a recycled sweater and the kind that require super basic sewing (because I own a sewing kit you know). I headed out and gathered my supplies

Supplies:
Sweater from a thrift store
2 yards of dark gray corduroy with gold polka dots
Sewing kit
Poly-fil
Twine
Wrapped wire (similar)

Making the Pumpkins
With the sweater pumpkins I followed this tutorial found on StoneGable. This was VERY easy. The hardest part was cutting up my sweater because it was so thick. One sweater made 4 pumpkins.
With my corduroy pumpkins I modified a tutorial I found on Masion de Pax. The modification I made was instead of sewing at the very end, I sewed each pumpkin about an inch from the edge giving me more of a little purse.


Making Pumpkin Stems
When I did my Pinterest search I found there were many ways people were making pumpkin stems. I wanted a more rustic look so I took three different approaches.


Wrapped Wire Stem
After closing off the my pumpkins either with twine or my sewing my little purse together I started at the bottom and wrapped up to form a faux stem.


Folded Sweater Stem
Some pieces of sweater that had a finished sleeve cuff. With those pieces I folded the edge over and then tied a piece of wrapped wire  around the base to hold the fold in place. I then made small curls out of the excess wrapped wire.

Rustic Rough Stem: 
Some pumpkins I left rough looking like a little purse. I tied wrapped wire around the base of the stem and made small curls with the excess.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

He Can Move Mountains

It seems we have seasons of strife and victory. Seasons of waiting and watching God move mountains. I’m sitting in a season somewhere in the middle. There are things I am waiting and praying and begging the Lord to move in all the while watching Him perform some mountain moving stuff. 

I’m watching people bend over backward and give in amazing and generous ways toward one of my girls. She is going on a nine month mission trip and has been raising support for her trip. A trip that  is now fully funded.

I’m seeing the Lord provide for my husband and I to go on a trip this fall. It's a trip of a lifetime...And someone else provided for us to go. It's not anything I ever would have asked God to do. Yet He did it anyway.

I’m witnessing God bring down walls and heal my friend's heart that has been broken for so long. She wondered if she would ever see victory. We are celebrating the ways the Lord is finally healing her heart. It’s beautiful.

In a season of victories I gain hope for the strife.  God reminds me He is so very capable of providing in ways I would have never dreamed or even asked. He is challenging me not to doubt Him with my needs. He proves Himself faithful time and time again.

My hope is resurrected for the friends with still broken hearts. As I watch Him move mountains my faith grows for the unanswered prayers. God reminds me that He is faithful to move and stir. He shows me there is beauty and purpose in the time of waiting and seeking. That EVERYTHING He does is intentional.

Maybe you are in the victory. Maybe you are in the strife. Find HOPE that God is faithful. He hears our cries. He is at work even in the wait. Keep trusting and hoping in Him. Don’t try to fix the strife, wait for Him to move. He is faithful to do the work, to move on our behalf, to stir in hopeless situations. He is the God who can do anything. Nothing is impossible with Him!

Photo Credit: Dino Olivieri
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

5 Lessons for Leaders of the New Senior Class

It’s that time again in college ministry. High school students walk across the platform and become college students. I had flash backs recently as I spoke with a friend graduating a group of girls into college ministry. Just two years ago I was in her shoes and I’m sharing 5 lessons for the leaders of the New Senior Class (aka things I wish someone told me).

1. Don’t Allow Group Opposition
This one I learned the hard way. As a student ministry leader my small group girls didn’t get along with the other group of girls in their grade. I unknowingly bred disconnect and dislike between the two groups. It didn’t occur to me they would become one group when they graduated. As a result our college ministry suffered. Student leaders…please don’t allow and participate in the clashing of small groups. Please look forward. When we allow opposition to grow we hurt the future of their participation in the body of Jesus. There are no sides in the body of Christ, we are all on the same team. Let’s act like it.

2. Help them Connect to the College Ministry
Do your students know their college minister? Do you know your college minister? Have you ever stepped foot into your college ministry? Help your students connect with the college ministry in your church. Take them to your college ministry’s weekly service, introduce them to the college minister, invite the college ministry to participate in Senior activities. Do whatever you can as a leader to help them connect NOW before it’s too late. I know, you have so little time with them and you want it all for yourself. (I GET THAT) But invite your college ministry leaders into the lives of your students and help your students connect with them.

3. Speak Well of Your College Ministry
It amazes me how much students pick up on our words and attitude. Do you set your college ministry up for failure because of what you say, act or treat the college ministry? Are you critical? Or do you speak praise and encouragement? Remember, your words will fall flat if your attitude is wrong. Students know how you really feel about a person or a ministry.  Be intentional to speak well of your college ministry (and MEAN IT).

4. Promote Early
This is SO BIG. If you promote in August, you leave one or two weeks for the college ministry to invest in your students before they leave for school. By promoting early in the summer (by June 1st) you enable your students to plug in early while the senior class is still together. You create opportunities for the college ministry to connect with them. You may not be the person who makes the decision for when your students promote, but you can speak on their behalf and help create change in this area. Promote your students as soon as they graduate….it makes a HUGE difference.

5. We Care about Your Students Too
I know how much you care about your kids. I cried my last Sunday with my small group (knowing I would see them the next week in college ministry).  Know that we love your kids too. We want to grow with them and walk with them as they pursue Jesus. I know how hard it is to let go. I still squeal every time one of my small group girls walks in the door (because they never stop being yours).  We are here and ready to invest in your students, so trust us knowing we truly care for them and cannot wait to know them better.

Photo Credit: Jessle Johnson
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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Costume Jewelry Corsage

This Sunday will be my mom’s first Mother’s Day without her mom. I wanted to do something special to honor my Mom and my Grandmother. As a little girl, every Mother's Day Dad and I bought my Mom a corsage to wear to church (anyone else do this? Or is that just a small town thing?). My Costume Jewelry Corsage is a nod to a tradition in our family and a way to honor my Grandmother this Mother's Day.
In January when our family gathered for my grandmother’s memorial we went through all of my grandmother’s jewelry. After everyone had been through the jewelry and picked out what they really wanted I quietly gathered some clip on earrings into a bag knowing I wanted to do something special for my mom.

At first I thought I wanted to create an art piece for her using the earrings, but then I had this idea to create a Mother’s Day Corsage. Like all crafty people I thought my idea was totally new and I would create something no one else had ever seen (that was short lived with one Pinterest search).

I pinned several ideas, bought supplies and got to work.

Supplies:


I wired each earring with floral wire being careful to leave a long tail (4-6 inches).

I took all my items and began playing with different ideas. But I didn’t like it. It wasn’t what I wanted. It was flat and one dimensional (and not very good looking).

After 30 minutes of playing and not liking what I was seeing I asking my friend Michelle if she would help me. (Never be afraid to call in a creative friend) Michelle helped me get past my crafting block and press on. We took all the pieces apart and grouped and wrapped them together.
We started with the burlap leaves and single fabric flower (I bought these in the wedding section of Hobby Lobby. They were already on wire.) Then we began pulling in the earrings. I loved where it was heading, but wanted to incorporate more.

I attached another fabric piece (which I bought in the sale section of Hobby Lobby) using my trusty glue gun and then wrapped in more of the earrings.
When I knew I was finished I wrapped the stem up as tight as I could (still making it look corsage like) and used some pliers to push down any ends of wire. I wrapped the stem with lace ribbon to give it a finished look and attached a pin back to the back on the corsage.
I packed my corsage in a corsage box, with a burlap cut out and more lace ribbon and sent the corsage off to my mom for Mother’s Day.

Mom- I love you!! Thank you for being such a great example to me, for loving me, pushing me, and showing me how to serve God and serve people!  

I've Linked up with Skip to My Lou  and Tatertots and Jello on this post. 
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Friday, April 24, 2015

Don't Follow Your Heart

I could feel a major light bulb moment brewing. I could see their minds buzzing with new truth. Finally someone broke through the silence and asked “So does that mean we can’t even trust who we love?” I shook my head no and told her, “No we cannot rely on our hearts or emotion to tell us what is true” 

The Lie We Buy
“Follow your heart, go with your gut, do whatever makes your heart happy, do what feels right.” These are all lies. Every last one of them. 

When we listen to these lies we fail to recognize we are actually saying “your heart is good and true and pure. You can believe everything it tells you because it is worthy of trust. Let your heart be the honing beacon for everything” Are you paying attention here??? Do you see how insanely absurd these lies are? We are buying into a lie when we rely on our self and our own heart tell us what is true and what to believe.

Our Hearts Cannot be Trusted
The problem with the lie we buy is that our hearts are anything but good. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”  Proverbs 16:25 tells us “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”

There is nothing good or true about our heart. In fact our heart is actually wicked and deceitful. Our heart will lie to us. Our heart cannot discern what is true and will lead us down a path of destruction.

The Foolish Prayer
Lord don’t let me feel ______ if it’s not your will.

Most likely everyone of us have prayed this prayer at some point. Why is this a foolish prayer? Isn't is a good think to pray? It is a foolish prayer because it focuses on emotion more than it focuses on Jesus and His will. Remember that your heart is a liar?? So why would you use it as a honing beacon for God’s will? When you pray this prayer then you are relying on your deceptive heart to be worthy of all trust. You are trusting in a heart that is untrustworthy. 

The Better Prayer
Lord I feel _______, help me know what to make of this, show me what your will is.

Instead of relying on our heart, we must take our heart to the Lord and ask Him what His will is. Proverbs 3:5 tells us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” We must put aside what feels right in our gut and center everything around the will of God. We entrust our heart to Him and don’t lean on what we believe to be true.

God and His Word are true.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Since God and His Word are true we must ask the Lord to help us make sense of what we are feeling and surrender everything at His feet. Even when our own heart cannot be trusted, we must rest in God and His Word. God and His Word are holy and true and more than trust worthy. Truth is the very character of God.

The heart is deceptive, your gut can't be trusted, emotions will change with the wind. So please don't follow your heart, follow the One who knows all and is in all and holds everything in His hand. He is worthy of our following.

Photo Credit: Camdiluv
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

DIY Book Page Wall Art

Today I am sharing my Book Page Wall Art with you. Last Christmas I had coffee with a friend at a local coffee shop. The moment I walked in I fell in love with the d├ęcor. The coffee shop had two large art pieces hanging on the walls I knew I wanted to incorporate somewhere in my life. This spring my husband and I are renovating our college room. As we began planning I knew I wanted to incorporate a DIY version of that art piece somewhere.

I began to search for a tutorial where all good DIYers search: Pinterest. I searched for hours, but couldn’t find a project that was exactly what I wanted. I found some more inspiration, but not an exact replica of what I was looking for.

Tutorials and Inspiration:

I found canvas pieces, but they were too small and completely glued down. I wanted my piece to have movement and texture (I DIDN’T want my book page art to look like I cemented book pages down on a piece of board). I liked the table runners I found, they had the look I was going for.

My DIY Book Page Art Piece Wall Art cost me less than $20 because I had most of the supplies on hand. I only purchased the precut plywood and the hanging kit.

Supplies You Need:
Old Book
Hot Glue Gun
Extra glue sticks
Extension cord (if needed)
Staple gun

Carefully rip out pages from the old book. If you love books this will go against every fiber of your being. Trust me the result is worth it.  Tear out small sections at a time so the edges are somewhat uniform.
Find a large space to work close to an outlet and lay your plywood down. Plug in the hot glue gun using the extension cord if necessary. Lay out one row of book pages allowing the edges to cover the edges of the ply wood. To keep the pages from looking perfect layer and stagger the height of each page until. After the first row is in position begin raising the top of the pages and glue the back of the page to the plywood by putting a row of glue half an inch to one inch from the top of each page. Gluing the page down at the top allows for a loose flow of the pages. Press the page down onto the plywood until it’s secure (It won’t take very long) and then continue with the next page.

Glue down the entire row, then lay out the next row. Each time change the pattern the book pages as they are laid out so your finished art piece appears random. Continue  laying out rows and gluing them a row at a time until you reach the top of the board. At the top of the board make sure the pages cover all the edges.
Once the entire board is covered and glued down look for opportunities to randomize the piece. Find places to insert a page here and there to give the art piece depth and not look too put together.
Allow the hot glue to dry and turn the entire piece over to attach the hanging kit. The kit has two d-ring hangers, a piece of wire and screws. Unravel the wire and determine the length needed to hang the art piece.  Lay down the D-ring hangers to be secured. The placement will be determined by the length of the wire and the width of the art piece.  Once the right spot for each hanger is determined, use the staple gun to secure it in position (No judgment here okay?! I choose was ¼” thick plywood so the art piece wouldn’t be too heavy. I needed to improvise. If your plywood piece is thicker, feel free to use the screws to secure the hangers). Once you have stapled each hanger, use the gorilla glue to cement each hanger in place. Give the gorilla glue several hours to dry.
Once the glue is dry, thread the wire through the D-rings and hang the art piece on the wall.
I'm linking up this post to Tip Junkie and  Skip to My Lou's Link Party
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Friday, April 10, 2015

Standing Firm When You are Limping

Some days you limp along. You know days when your friends’ son is in the hospital and you aren’t getting much sleep and then you go into worship and ugly cry through every song. Those days when everyone needs something from you and you have nothing left. When you look around  and people are self-destructing as the enemy attacks and you just want to yell at them to get it together because at this point your filter is completely gone and your mercy is nonexistent. No one seems to notice there isn’t any more room in your arms to carry one more burden because your arms are FULL. You are SPENT.
I keep asking the Lord to carry me. When I have nothing left I know I can stand firm in what God has already done for me. Ephesians 6:10 says “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” I hear the Lord quietly whisper, hold on tight, stand firm in me because I am strong and I am Mighty. 
And I am just so grateful.
I’m grateful for the reminder that I can’t do anything apart from Jesus
I want to think that I can. I want to believe that I am stronger than I think and that I can handle so much. I just can't pretend anymore like I can hold things together. And it’s foolish for me to pretend like I can do it anyway. So in those days of limping along my Great Defender and Strong Tower reminds me to sit so close to Him. To hide myself within Him. To stand firm in what He has already done for me and continues to do within in me.
I’m grateful for how BIG my God is
I am grateful that because of what He has already done for me on the cross, because I am in Christ and with Christ I have access to His Strength and His Might. He is greater and bigger than anything that comes my way. He is in charge of all things. You know He spoke things into being. He created this world out of NOTHING. Nothing is too big for Him to handle.
I’m grateful His armor is better than mine
My fleshly body is so weak which is exactly why I need the Lord’s armor made up of His character. As I seek Him with everything I slip into His armor. As I dive down deep into the Word and focus on His Truth I buckle that belt of Truth around me. When I recognize how despicable my sin is and I need Him to cover my sinful self I pull on that breast plate of Righteousness. As I remember that I am nothing apart from Christ but have all things in Him then my feet are planted with the shoes of the gospel of peace. When I put my trust in Christ and His character (not in myself and what I can do) I stand behind the shield of faith that can extinguish all the fiery arrows of the enemy. I pull on the helmet of salvation when I remember I possess salvation in Christ and the enemy does not own me. When the Spirit exposes my sin and woos me back to Jesus I stand with the Sword in my hand.
You see the armor isn’t about being on the offense. The armor is about Christ fighting for you. It’s that He ALREADY HAS FOUGHT FOR YOU. That in Christ our debt is paid in FULL. We don’t owe anything, and don’t have to strive to be anything. We BELONG to Jesus and He cultivates His character in us. We must run hard after Jesus, sit with Him, soak up His Word, rest at His feet, hide ourselves in Him, and allow Him to carry us instead of trying to limp along on our own.

Photo by Duncan
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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Reaching Away Students: Student of the Week

Our college ministry is constantly looking for ways to reach students away at school. My husband and I tossed around ideas, but never had time to formulate a plan to reach our away students. Kayla, one of our student leaders, approached us with an idea.

Kayla’s idea was to create Student of the Week. Kayla says “ I realized how important community was and that leaving that community is a big leap of faith and can be super intimidating. I wanted our students away at school to know their church community was still loving them and praying for them. That people were waiting for them to come home, but also encouraging them to find community there.”
Remember how exciting it felt getting real mail as a college student? Ultimately Student of the Week puts real mail in the mailboxes of our students away at college. Each week we feature two students and write notes to them.  We share on white boards each student's name, the name of their college, and ways to pray for them. We pin an empty envelope next to each name, lay out note cards, pens, and markers and ask students fill up the envelopes with personal notes. Each envelope stays on the board for one week allowing everyone an opportunity to write each person. At the end of the week we take the envelopes and mail them along with a general letter that Kayla wrote. 

Kayla spent many months planning and praying over Student of the Week. Student of the Week now has it’s own space in our college ministry area. If you want to start your own student of the week area here is how you can get started:
Where do I Begin? 
Collect information from your college students. We created a simple card to have on hand. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas we intentionally sought out information on students who were away at college. We even told them if they filled out the card they would receive something in the mail. 

Purchase and Gather Supplies:
  • White board that is half cork board (similar product)
  • Push pins (our dry erase board/cork board came with them)
  • Dry erase markers (similar product)
  • Regular markers
  • A box of pens
  • A stack of notecards
  • a box of envelopes
  • a general letter to include with personal notes
  • Printed calendar or planner
  • Folder for calendar and envelopes

Calendar students for an entire semester. 
Our goal was to reach every away student we gathered information on in one semester. To make that work for us, Kayla calendared two students each week. Calendaring students for the entire semester makes the entire process easier (trust me this step is worth it). 

Write a general letter to be included with personal notes. 
The purpose of the general letter is to tell your away college students who the personal cards are coming from (your college ministry). The point of the letter is to say our college ministry cares for you and we can’t wait to see you again! 

Introduce the idea to your college students and get to writing!!! 
Share each student’s name, school, and ways to pray for them on whiteboards. Pin an empty envelope on the cork board next to each name, lay out note cards, pens, and markers and ask students fill up the envelopes. We encourage students to write encouraging notes, ways they are praying, or a favorite verse. At the end of the week take the envelopes and mail them along with your general letter. 


Here are some free printable note cards you can download and print on your own:
Jones Design Company  
The Pretty Blog
Lauren McKinsey

I keep wondering how it took us so long to figure out something so easy, but sometimes it takes someone else, who has a heart and a passion for something to come up with an idea that you could have never thought of. (Plug: that’s what we love about our student leadership team. They bring ideas, passions, and talents to our ministry we just don’t have. We are super grateful for the way they lead and serve in our ministry)
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kindness Fueled by Christ: Guest Post for Transform Student Ministries

Occasionally I have the honor of writing for the Transform Student blog. This month the theme is kindness. Read a taste of my latest post for them and follow the link below to read the entire post.

I hung my head as I watched another debate go down on Facebook. You have seen them right? They spring up over theological issues. People standing up for the “name of Christ” and “His Word.” Yet I wonder how their desire to be right with a lack of kindness shows anything about Christ.... 

Keep Reading at Transform Student

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Shoulder Companions

I sat at the head of the circle, not sure what was about to happen. I watched as one girl shared and the avalanche began. As one girl let down her wall, another did, and they just kept sharing. They let one another see their wounded souls and shoulder companions were born. 

Shoulder-companion, when fighting in battle
Our heads we protected, when troopers were clashing, (Beowulf)

Shoulder companions went into battle fighting shoulder to shoulder or back to back. They trusted trusted each other with their lives in the midst of battle.

Paul also talks about shoulder companions. In Colossians 3:13 Paul calls believers to bear up with one another in love. Vine’s Dictionary tells us that to bear with means “to have or hold up, to endure, to forbear one another.” The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament tells us it means “to hold up or hold back from falling." To bear up with one another means to come alongside each other and help hold each other up or hold back from falling. 

I believe there is a connection between Beowulf and Colossians. Paul describes the evidence of a true believer in Colossians 3. He unpacks what it means to wear Christ’s covenant robe of righteousness.  He uses language that means to take off and put on as one does clothing. Paul is clear that Christians are transformed by the heart resulting in life change. An outside result of Christ driven heart change is bearing up with one another as Christ driven shoulder companions.

We All Need Shoulder Companions
We all get weary and worn. We need someone to come alongside us and spur us on toward Christ (Hebrews 10:24). Christ calls His church the body (Ephesians 4:12) and we are called to move and work as one unit that is interdependent and intertwined (Ephesians 4:16). There is a battle raging all around us (Ephesians 6:12) and we often feel alone.  Yet Jesus calls us to walk with others in essential fellowship and community (Hebrews 10:25).  We are called to look out for the interests of each other more than the interests of ourselves (Philippians 2:3). To be in the body of Christ is to be a shoulder companion to our brothers and sisters.

Transparency is Key
No one can bear up with you if you don’t allow them to. Bearing up requires transparency. It means we let down our walls and trust other people.  The community and fellowship God calls us to begins with gospel centered transparency. That means exposing what sometimes feels private or shameful. It means not fearing what others will think when they see the real you.  Bearing up requires us to be trustworthy shoulder companions that receive each other with truth and grace. Gospel centered transparency drives shoulder companionship.

Ultimately we Rest on Christ
We cannot be shoulder companions in our own strength. We are not capable of helping apart from Christ. Shoulder companions are rooted in the gospel and must rest in the character of Jesus. Christ is the rock (2 Sam 22:3), fortress (Psalm 18:2), present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1), shelter, mighty warrior that goes into battle for us (Zephaniah 3:17). He is the ultimate shoulder companion that strengthens and bears up with us (Psalm 68:19). Shoulder companionship rests on Christ.

Die to Ourselves
Who doesn’t desire to be affirmed by thinking someone needs them? Whose pride is not puffed up at being someone’s shoulder companion? We must fight that urge and die to ourselves daily (Colossians 3:3). We must remember we wear His covenant robe. It’s His character we live out as shoulder companions, not our own. We must daily die all the while clinging to Him.

Battle in Truth and Prayer
We battle shoulder to shoulder as we speak truth to each other (Ephesians 4:25) and lift each other up in prayer (Ephesians 6:18). I am convinced that two of our greatest tools are God’s Word and prayer. Without them, we are lost. Shoulder companions must speak God’s Word and pray.

Body Jesus, how are we doing? Are we bearing up with one another in love? Are we transparent with the people in our community? Are we fighting for each other in Truth and Prayer?

Photo by Jakub T. Jankiewicz
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Friday, March 20, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things: Bloggers I Love

I’m sharing with you today a few of my favorites ladies who love Jesus and write about it. Each of their testimonies encourage me and spur me on.  What I love so much about each of them, is they always give it to you straight. There is no fluff. They help you see they are people who struggle with sin.  They share their individual battles, while striving to come full circle in every situation.  These writers remind, encourage, and refocus our minds on the goodness of Jesus, that He alone is perfect, and all our hope must be found in Him.

Grace Covers Me
Photos provided by Christine Hoover
Christine and her husband Kyle are native Texans church planting in Virginia. Christine has authored two books: The Church Planting Wife and From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. As I read Christine's blog I often wonder how she understands me so well. I sit at my computer and wonder "How does she know that about me???" As a ministry wife I have so many questions, concerns, and fears. Christine addresses so many of those things and more. Her posts encourage and give me perspective in ministry while reminding me I am covered in God's Grace. Find Christine at Grace Covers Me.

Mundane Faithfulness
Kara Tippetts of Mundane Faithfulness is battling metastatic breast cancer. She is the author of The Hardest Places and Big Love. When I read Kara’s blog (written by Kara, friends, and family members) I remember that God is so much bigger than I think. The story He is writing has His sovereignty woven throughout and He is faithful to take care of us as we walk through the hardest times. Kara's story is powerful and raw. Kara's fight is hard and sometimes it doesn't make sense to our earthly selves. She shares her honesty while clinging to Jesus in the most beautiful way. Kara leaves a legacy of fierce faith flowing with love, kindness, and gentleness that can only come from walking intimately with Jesus. Read Kara’s story on Mundane Faithfulness.

GraceLaced
 
Ruth Simons is an artist (see her shoppe) and mother of six man cubs living in my home state of New Mexico. Ruth writes about her continual struggle to give herself grace. And let’s just say I really relate to that. My struggle with perfectionism often leads me to give myself a harder time about everything. I know I am harder on myself than anyone else could ever be and that us why I love the way Ruth laces grace through every post.  Join Ruth at GraceLaced.

What blogs do you read that encourage you with your walk with Jesus? 

 
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Revolving Door of Ministry: Part Two

If you are just joining, don't miss Part One of this series.


Dear Student Leaving our Ministry,

I hate that you are leaving. That’s right I said it. You are connected and do life with us. My heart is being ripped apart. You may not see it, but my heart hurts so bad and I desperately want to fight it. In my heart of hearts I just don't want you to go. You leave huge gaping holes where you once were. And it’s so apparent to me. You are taking my heart with you.

I hate goodbye's so give me grace. Like I may act ridiculous for a little while (you may have already experienced this). I might try to convince you to stay because I love you and don't want my heart to be ripped out (see above). So help me by recognizing how desperately hard this is for me. Know I have cried may tears over your departure (that I probably won't do in front of you because I would never want you to feel bad). I have wrestled with the Lord about letting you go, but still...I need grace.

Thank you allowing us into your life. Thank you for partnering in ministry, using your gifts, and growing together like iron sharpens iron. Our time together has not been perfect. We have argued and struggled because we are people in need of grace. We are imperfect people seeking Jesus together. It is a sincere delight to walk with you as you pursue Jesus. I am more like Jesus because of you. God used you to shape me, to reveal my sin, and to make me more like Him. You are a sweet gift.

I am so proud of you for following so hard after Him that you listened when He called you somewhere new. Yes, I hate it and fight it, but I am so proud of your obedience. Know it’s okay to still call and ask me questions. It’s okay to shoot me a text and ask me to pray for you. I am not going to quit caring about you just because I don't see you every week.

As you go, don’t forget what you had here. Don’t forget the sweetness of doing life and community with a bunch of messed up people all seeking to walk by the grace of God. Go get plugged in (see part one of this post). Don’t hold on so tight here that you refuse to be connected where you are going. It’s okay to make new friends and to do life with new people. (We are actually going to do the same thing here). Dig deep, grow roots, there are people where you are going who will teach you new things and help you to walk with Jesus too.

Don’t forget what you learned here. I pray that the things I have entrusted to you, you will entrust them to other faithful people (2 Timothy 2:2). Hold fast to the gospel and do not taint it (2 Timothy 1:13-14). I pray that you will be a follower of Jesus who continues to make disciples. You are meeting and reaching people where you are going that I can't. So use your time wisely, and make the most of every moment because we are not promised tomorrow.  

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Friday, March 13, 2015

The Revolving Door of Ministry: Part One

It just keeps spinning, that imaginative revolving door that leads into our ministry. There is a constant ebb and flow of students in and out. This post series is a culmination of conversations I have had over the last year. If I could sit down face to face with every person who walks into the doors of our ministry, this is what I would want them to know.

Dear Student Entering our Ministry,

Hi, my name is Ashlee and I so want to know you. But I may not remember your name in 5 minutes. So help me, have mercy on me, Know it doesn’t mean I don’t care about you, but I just struggle with names. And while we are talking about struggles, if I seem strange or stand-offish that’s because I am an introvert and I’m trying to meet new people. And it’s hard for me. Yes I know that’s not an excuse, that’s why I am here awkwardly having this conversation with you. It’s because I care about you and so want you to walk with Jesus. Please help me not feel like an complete idiot!

I want you to know getting connected is a two way street. I want to help you get connected in our ministry, but I need you to meet me half way. You have to want to be connected. You must show up, talk to people, and try too. I’m not being hard on you, but friendship and ministry is two sided. So partner with us, get plugged in, and be apart of this messy thing we call community and fellowship. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

I want you to know that we care about people. We will love you, cry with you, cheer you on, get in your face, and have fun. We will study with you, let you ask us hard questions about life, and talk to you about Jesus and His Word. We will disciple you and encourage you to be a disciple maker too.

We are about Jesus and His Word. We want you to know Jesus if you don't and if you do, we want you to know Him better. Don't worry we will help you know how to follow Him, we will walk next to you and you pursue Jesus. That is the whole reason we are here, because we want to help college students know Jesus better and grow in their love of Him.

I am not perfect yet a perfectionist by nature. I can’t be super woman. I work full time and serve in ministry full time. Sometimes I can’t be there for you the way I want to, but know I am here.  I am a human being that still struggles with this body of flesh. I will fail you. So please see me as a real person with real struggles who desperately needs Jesus to carry me and wash me with His grace.

There are big gaping holes in our ministry that you can fill. You see our ministry isn’t whole, we need you to take up your part in this body of believers. We need your gifts and interests and passions. We need you to care about things that may not be our passion. We need you to lead in ways we are not gifted. We are so delighted you are here. We cannot wait to get to know you more.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Good, Bye

Today I have a special guest post for you from Christine Hoover. 

Christine Hoover (@christinehoover) is an author, a recovering perfectionist, the wife of a pastor, and a mom of three boys. She writes online at www.GraceCoversMe.com and has contributed to Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Send Network, and iBelieve. Her newest book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, offers women biblical freedom from trying to “be good enough”. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book. You can read the entire chapter here.


I’ve been obsessed with being good and performing all of my life.

Hello, my name is Christine. I’m a goodness addict.

I was born with a list in my hand, or at least that’s how early I imagine it started. I came by it honestly—my mom’s response to everything my sister and I needed as children, whether shampoo from the store or help with a school project, was always, “Make a list!”

So I did. I made list after list—of library books for summer reading, of boys that I liked, of songs to record from the radio on my tape recorder, of necessities to pack for overnight camp, of must-haves in my future husband, even of outfits for the first month of eighth grade so as not to repeat and make a fashion faux pas of infinite proportion.

I don’t just make lists. I am that person, the one who adds a task to a list just to experience the satisfaction of crossing it off, the one who makes lists for my lists.

I’m a perfectionist.

There was a time when I would have said that with pride, but not anymore. Perfectionism has not been a friend to me. Sure, my house is organized and my budget spreadsheet is up-to-date, but when perfectionism is applied to the spiritual needs of the heart, it’s called legalism. And legalism is a fancy word for an obsession with goodness. It’s a belief that good things come from God to those who are good. And it’s a belief that you can actually be good enough to get to God on your own.

I became a Christian at age eight. From that point, or more accurately from the point in middle school when I started having “quiet times” according to my youth minister’s instructions, until my late twenties, I spent the majority of my Christian life striving—striving for perfection, for God’s favor, for the approval of others, and for the joy and freedom that the Bible spoke of yet completely eluded me.

At an early age, I fell for perfectionism’s lie that I could be good enough to win God’s heart and the approval of others. I sought joy, peace, and love through being good and, instead, found myself miserably enslaved to my own unattainable standards.

This was my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian: If I do good things, then God is pleased. If I do things wrong, then he is angry. This is actually the basis of every religion on earth except Christianity, this idea of a scale where the good must outweigh the bad in order to be right with God. I had religion down pat, but the religion I practiced wasn’t true and biblical Christianity. On the outside I appeared to be a good Christian, but on the inside I felt unlovable and was riddled with guilt about my inability to please God.

Unfortunately for me, a large part of a goodness obsession is an addiction to self. Goodness is evaluated by activity, completed tasks, responses from others, and results. It requires a focus on appearance and image and maintaining some semblance of religious behavior. Goodness required that I control my environment with military precision, hide my weaknesses, and compare myself with others or my own arbitrary standards. Goodness fed both my pride and my self-condemnation and kept me relationally isolated.

The other part of a goodness addiction, I discovered in my twenties, is a faulty understanding of who God is and what he expects from His children. I only saw God through perfectionism’s filter. He was gray. He had no patience for my mistakes, forever glaring at me with a scowl on His face. He sighed a lot. If I was extra-good, He might manage to crack a smile. He was one-dimensional, disengaged, unaffectionate, and I absolutely feared him.

I knew nothing about grace.
I knew nothing about forgiveness.
I knew nothing about the true gospel, because a goodness addiction completely overtakes the heart and mind, leaving no room for truth. It enslaves and cannibalizes itself. It becomes an all-encompassing religion, closing tightly around one’s soul. It led me down paths of depression and despair.

And it became my gospel.
           
I lived according to that gospel–what I now call the goodness gospel–for far too long, precisely because I didn’t know the true gospel’s reach. I believed that faith was effective for salvation but only self-effort could produce my sanctification. Now I know differently. God has taken me on a ten-year exploration of grace and sanctification and faith, and I am not the girl I once was. I live in the freedom that Christ was won for me.

Now that I know differently, I also have eyes to see the goodness gospel covertly worming its way into hearts of believers, and I see its destructive effects.

In the Christian culture, there seems to be great confusion and even pressure that we women feel about what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. The confusion touches decisions about education, family, eating and drinking, work, hobbies, community involvement, and even whether one should volunteer when the sign-up sheet is passed around again at church.

The pressure grows when choices are wrapped in spiritual or more-spiritual terms. We see it everywhere: Do something great! Follow your dreams! Make a difference for the kingdom! Be missional and in community! For the gospel-confused, that too often translates into: I’m not doing enough, what I’m doing isn’t making a difference, and I’ve got to create my own and my neighbor’s own and my children’s own and everyone’s own life transformation.

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel is a book for women like I was, who long to please God but fear they never will. It's for the woman drowning in self-condemnation, the woman afraid to be vulnerable with others because she's so fully aware of her imperfections, and the woman who craves but can't seem to grasp the freedom and joy that Jesus promised His followers.

Instead of asking "What does God want from us?", From Good to Grace asks, "What does God want for us?" The book illustrates how we confuse being good and trying hard--the goodness gospel--with the true gospel, which is really about receiving the grace and love that Jesus offers us and responding with our lives by the Holy Spirit's help. It’s my prayer that through it you discover it's possible to know God's love, live in peace and freedom, and serve others with great joy. Because God has something so much greater for you than trying to be good enough.


Purchase your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, or iTunes and discover the gospel’s reach in your own life.
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