Posted in about me

The Next Steps…

It isn’t just about what you love. It’s about what God created you to love so that you can use it to honor Him.

-Unknown

I graduated from Messiah college in May. It’s crazy how fast four years have gone by. I now have a degree in Christian Ministries.

I got a taste of what it’s like to lead my own ministry this summer when I worked in two different state owned campgrounds as a chaplain in the park. I led two services every Sunday. It was an incredible experience to worship in God’s creation every week.

Raystown Lake

When the summer came to an end, I packed up my car and drove down to Texas. I started at SMU Perkins. I’m on my way towards a Masters of Divinity (a pretty pretentious title if you ask me).

Perkins School of Theology

When I arrived in Texas I began doubting everything. I wasn’t sure that I was meant to be here. I felt lost. I attended orientation for school, and everyone seemed so sure that this is where they were meant to be.

I was overwhelmed. I was scared.

I made a quick decision that I wanted to go home. Thankfully, some of the faculty at Perkins stepped up and talked me down. They answered my questions, showed me they actually wanted me to be here. They showed me that they cared about me. Me, a person they didn’t even know.

I spent the weekend praying that I could see that I was on the right path. God took that prayer and opened my eyes.

God showed me that I am surrounded by amazing people. From the students, to the professors, to the faculty. God showed me that I am at a place meant to allow me to flourish. I’m being academically challenged while having the room to be me.

Not even a month went by when I hit a brick wall pretty hard. I had an unfortunate experience. I began to doubt again. I wasn’t sure how that fit into the picture. Plus I was still hanging on to the signs that God wanted me here. However, throughout that experience, God placed people even closer.

Through this experience, I have realized that I am loved here at Perkins. People want me to succeed. The “Perkins Hug” as I call it. I’ve been wrapped into the arms of all those around me.

Now it’s been two months, and I am beyond sure that this is where I am meant to be. God’s plan for me includes being here at Perkins. It’s a wonderful feeling to be back in the known and not lost in the unknown.

I am another step closer to reaching my goals. It has not been a perfect journey in the slightest, but it has been a journey in the arms of our savior and I couldn’t ask for a better journey.

So, friends, that is where I am.

One step closer to the calling I’m discerning daily.

One step closer, and yet onto the next steps…

Posted in Devotion

Lift your Eyes

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, you of little faithwhy did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”     -Matthew 14:28-33

This story about Peter comes immediately after the story of Jesus walking on the water. The disciples were terrified and believed they were seeing a ghost. Jesus responds to their fear with, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Our passage starts with Peter’s response to Jesus.

Peter, still having some doubts that it is truly Jesus walking on the water, asks for Jesus to command him to come out on the water with Jesus. Jesus grants Peter the permission he is asking for. When Peter got out on the water his gaze was focused on Jesus. He walked out to what we assume was right next to wear Jesus was standing.

However, we then read that Peter looked out to the storm and saw the wind. It was when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus that he began to sink. He shouted out for Jesus to save him. He must have been frightened as he was in the middle of the water in a storm.

Jesus immediately reaches out and grabs Peter. When I read this, I can’t help but think that Jesus reaches out to grab Peter as he cries out for Jesus to save him. Jesus doesn’t let Peter sink. Jesus doesn’t let Peter even fall into the water. Jesus reaches out and catches Peter.

When Jesus catches Peter, he asks why Peter doubted. Why did Peter doubt? We do not read that Peter lost faith in Jesus. We read that he looked at the storm. He took his eyes off of Jesus and began to see what was going on around him. It is exactly when Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on the storm that he doubted.

How does this play out in our lives? When are the storms all around you stealing your gaze away from Jesus? When we begin to focus on the storms of our lives we are taking our eyes off of Jesus and we begin to sink. We become fearful and call out to Jesus. We call out to God. We want someone to save us.

Jesus is reaching his hand out to catch you. Jesus will not let you fall into the stormy waters. But Jesus is asking you why you have doubted. What storm is it that took your gaze off of him. Jesus is refocusing your attention back on him.

So, step out onto those waters eyes locked on the Lord and know that Jesus commands the storms to stop.

Prayer:

God, the creator of the winds and the rain, we know that there will be storms in our lives. We know that when we keep our eyes on Jesus, we are provided the strength and capability to even walk on water. Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes on you. To not lose focus as we continue stepping out closer to you. And when our eyes begin to drift towards the storm, we thank you for reaching out and catching us. You never let us fall. You never let us drown. In Jesus name.

Amen.

Posted in Devotion

Imago Dei vs. Self-Love

“So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27

Right off the bat, lets clear up some definitions here. “Imago Dei” is translated as “the image of God.” As we can see in Genesis 1:27, humankind was made in the image of God in the creation story.  Self-love is usually defined briefly as love of self. However, something we learn very early is to not use the word in the definition, so let’s try again. Self-love is “belief that you are a valuable and worthy person (Self-Love).”

Now that we are on the same page, we can clear up a common misconception between these two terms. Often, the ability to love ourselves, when in constant battle with ourselves, is nearly impossible. Some days it seems to be easier than others, but most days we struggle to see ourselves of any worth. Here’s the good news though: God has created You in God’s image, sent Jesus to live, die, and resurrect for you, and there is nothing you can think, say, or do to have God see you any differently.

That being said, your worth and value comes from something more than yourselves. Your worth and value can never change. Whether you see that value and worth is not a question of whether you are worthy and valuable. Therefore in our moments of the lack of self-love, we are not denying our imago dei. We are not denying that we are created in the image of God. We are having difficulty seeing that worth and value in ourselves. We are in a moment of trial and struggle.

What can we do about it? We can remind ourselves that our worth and value does not depend on whether we give it to ourselves or not; it is always there. We can have faith that we are worthy and valuable and hold on to that eternal truth found in Genesis 1:27 when we are unable to see it for ourselves.

Prayer:

Almighty God, ever-loving and always present. You created us in Your image. You have decided our worth and value when You sent Your Son to die for us, and then You took that and raised him from the dead to show that You make all things good. God, help us to remember what You think about us when all we see in ourselves is less than unworthy. Help us hold that truth that nothing we can think, do, or say will cause You too see us in any other way. Thank You for always pushing me to be who You say I am.

Amen.

Posted in Devotion

The Least of These

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ -Matthew 25:34-36

Those of you who are familiar with this passage knows that those who are being told this, question when it is that they have done any of this. Their question is answered by, “Truly, I tell you whatever you did for the least of these… you did for me.” So often this passage is used for mission trips, service acts, and any other hands on projects the church goes out and does; however, I think using this passage in that way misses the point.

This passage is about how we as Christians are to treat people, specifically the least, the lost, and the last of these. Yes, it specifically mentions the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the unclothed, the sick, and the prisoner, but what about the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicted, the struggling, the _____________. Do these people not matter because they aren’t listed in the parable?

Jesus answers this with the response to the righteous when they question when it is they did all of those things for him. Jesus says whatever you do for the least of these… you did for me. This answer, portrays that whatever is done for the least of these are done for Jesus, himself.

None of these things make us any less than those around us. This is another example of the role revering nature of Jesus. Jesus is taking on the identity of all of those considered “the least of these.” Jesus is identifying himself with each and everyone of one of you.

How does this change the way you see this parable? How about the way you see others?

Prayer:

Father, God Almighty, we come to You in our needs and our wants. We come to You in our joy and in our suffering. We bring to You our burdens and pain, and we accept that Your yoke is easy and that Your burden is light. We ask that we don’t miss the cry of the needy or see ourselves as lowly because of our neediness. Lord, You know what our every need is and You collect our every tear. Thank You, Lord, for all You do for each of us. In Jesus name, Amen

Posted in Mental Health Awareness

The Bible is Triggering

The Bible is triggering. There is no content warning in the Bible.

All too often we look up a piece of scripture and we are surprised at what we find. We find examples of the very traumas that we have experienced, our friends/family have experienced, or we witnessed happen to someone we may or may not know. Reading these accounts between the front and back covers of the Bible does not make the discovery any less triggering.

Does this mean that we have to stop reading the scriptures? Absolutely not. It just means that we have to change the ways that we read the scriptures. Here are a few ways we can do that:

  1. Before we jump into a passage of scripture, look it up. You will be able to find out what the passage is about without reading the events themselves. This is like looking up the content warning for each passage before we read them.
  2. Read scripture in community. A community of those who have similar experiences or a group of people that have no idea what you’ve been experienced. There is more likely to be a trigger warning when reading in community, and in community you can find support if you are triggered. You won’t be exposed to this trigger in solitude.

Most importantly, do not feel that your faith is lacking or that you are in someway doing something wrong when you find a trigger in scripture.

Please know that you are not alone. Many Christians struggle with the triggers in scriptures. Many non-Christians struggle with the triggers in scriptures. The Bible is triggering, so where is the content warning?

 

What has been helpful for you when dealing with triggers in the Bible? 

Posted in Devotion

Jesus isn’t a Magic Pill

How often are we told that we can’t be Christian or at least Christian enough because we suffer from anxiety and depression? How often do people judge our relationship with Jesus because we have panic attacks?

I have been a Christian since I was ten years old. I didn’t start suffering from anxiety until a few years later. My relationship with Jesus has continually grown from the day I accepted Him into my heart. I’m not saying I haven’t been stagnate at times or even really distant from God, but growth has always been happening.

Anxiety, Depression, and any other mental illnesses are the way the brain functions. Accepting Jesus into your heart isn’t likely to immediately take away all anxieties and worries. It’s not going to end all the triggers and the trauma. The world around you isn’t going to change.

But now, you have Jesus. You have someone you know that loves and strives to be in relationship with you. You have someone who is walking along this path called life with you. There is hope in the Gospel message. There is hope in Jesus.

Eventually this relationship with Jesus may cause you to start to see yourself as worthy. This relationship may cause you to see the love and light in the people around you. This relationship may end a life long struggle with anxiety.

But… it may not. You may know these truths: that your loved, that your worthy, that you are a child of God, that God chose you. But it may not calm the self-critic in you. In fact, you may even experience a time where your anxiety gets worse.

If God loves me so much why can’t (enter name here) love me? If I’m so worthy, why can’t I do anything right?

And it’s OKAY. It’s okay to fall into the trap of anxiety and depression from time to time. It is okay to have panic attacks and still get triggered. Just don’t stay their. Begin to slowly hand over things to Jesus.

A relationship with God can still be a trust issue for some people and God knows that. He doesn’t leave us nor forsake us. Soon we will be able to trust God with the burdens we carry. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

Don’t feel like you aren’t doing something right because you still have panic attacks or are still suffering from anxiety and Depression. Because you are taking the next right step, you are trusting in a God that loves you for who you are not who He wants you to be!

Be true to yourself!

Posted in Seeing God in the Struggle

Seeing God in the Struggle: He is there

A story from Kathy Brown:

My brother Rees Harris II was born in December of 1982. He was soon diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman Syndrome, the infantile form of spinal muscular atrophy. It was very rare. Only a handful of kids were diagnosed with it. The nerves don’t send impulses to the muscles so they don’t work. He could not move. He had a tracheostomy tube and a ventilator to breathe for him. He had a feeding tube so he’d get nutrition. He had around the clock nurses to care for him because his condition required suctioning of his trach & use of an ambu bag while not attached to the breathing machine. He passed away exactly 22 1/2 years after his birth, outliving his life expectancy by 22 years. He also outlived several of his doctors and our mom.
So where was God in this struggle?
Rees had a smile that kept you from seeing his problems. God was there.
Rees had a fabulous mind trapped in a terrible body. God was there as he not only went to school, but excelled and was inducted into The National Honor Society.
To have Rees live 22 years longer than expected was truly of God. He was sent home to die on July 1, 1983. Our parents were told early on to just let him go, to enjoy their three healthy children and live their lives.
They did not.
God was in their decision to keep him alive.
God was there when they didn’t sleep, worried his condition would kill him sooner or later.
God was there when our Mom died unexpectedly and we had to carry on without her.
God was there when Rees finally could not fight anymore, when it was his time to go to heaven and join our mom and Jesus.
As Rees was dying, my husband joined two of his nurses and me around his hospital bed. We prayed him up to heaven and Ken remarked, “Can you imagine your mom’s face when Rees WALKS to her in heaven?”
How could we be sad? God won! Rees won! Every day was a miracle from God and we got well over 8000 of those days.
God was always there and He is always there. He’s there in our struggles and our celebrations. Thank you God for always being there.

Kathy Brown

Posted in Motivational Monday

Smile, it’s Monday!

I had someone say to me recently, “You know what’s cool about you? You always find things funny and are always smiling.”

I have not stopped thinking about this encounter. My smile was not only noticed, but appreciated.

All this to say, that people do appreciate a smile. They do take notice of your smile.

So start your week off smiling. You never know who needs your smile to jump start theirs! 😊