The Gospel of Santa

In America, you are taught at an early age to believe in that loveable fat guy in the red suit, Santa. I've always loved Christmas, and everything that Christmas brings, including Santa Claus. While I've long ago learned that Santa isn't real (which I learned a bit late, I believe), Christmas has always been magical for me. When I was younger, our whole family would sing Christmas songs in the living room at night by our fake Christmas tree, I preferring the vocals of O Holy Night and other classics, while the little ones would hum here and there and then suddenly burst "JINGLE BELLS!" when they recognized the song (finally). Then there would always be Christmas morning, where we would rush with wild hair and red plaid pajamas to tear open presents and peek inside our stockings to see what Santa had left us.
While my parents always reminded us that Christ's birth was the reason for the season, many other families skip the real meaning of Christmas altogether. How does America cover this up? I think Santa must take the blame. For people like me, he just adds to the excitement of Christmas, but for some people, he is Christmas.
Santa has become a replacement for Christ. We gave him a kind spirit, a bag full of gifts, and wrote dozens of songs about him. In movies, such as The Polar Express, we are told to have "faith" in Santa and to "believe". It's the Gospel of Christ stripped of Christ and decorated with our media-saturated tinsel and holly. In Shrek the Halls, the message of Christmas is to be with family and friends. While family is special, is that really what Christmas is about?
It's all a mask, like putting concealer over flawless skin. Why mess with a good thing? Our country cannot stand to be led by Christ, so we do everything we possibly can to minimize Christ and maximize profit. That's all Santa really is. That's what "happy holidays" really means. Profit. Consumerism. Buy, buy, buy. Sell, sell, sell. Let's take Christmas, strip it of its worth and beauty, and create our own holiday, worshipping America's consumeristic culture. You can have your happy holidays, I'll have a Merry Christmas.


All I Want for Christmas is Jesus

You’ve probably heard the song “All I Want for Christmas is You”. The singer says that presents and Christmas decorations are nice, but she doesn’t need those things to make her Christmas complete. While the song is meant to be for a lover, what if we sung it to Jesus?

Can you stand before Jesus and say with all honesty, “All I want for Christmas is You”? I’d be stretching the truth a little bit.

You see, when I was younger, I would have detailed wishlists every year labeled “101 Things Melissa Needs”. No kidding. All sorts of things would make that list: computer games, dolls, play makeup, and, I must admit, a Jesse McCartney CD, which I thought would make me the coolest person ever, even though I knew nothing about him except that he had a CD. Gift cards didn’t mean much to me until a few years later, when I realized I could actually put that plastic to work for me. Clothes were another thing that never made the list until much later – but I didn’t want anyone to buy clothes for me…how could they possibly have better taste than yours truly? The biggest flaw of my “101 Things” list was the simple fact that nobody ever asked me for it. They either got me something of their own creation or asked what the one thing I really wanted was. Well, how should I know? I don’t have one thing I want – it says right here: ‘101 Things’! That’s 101, baby! Not one. This year, I had no list. Sure, I mentioned gift cards or the last two Twilight books which will of course make my life so much better, but I was blank with ideas. So, the year I had no wishlist, everyone asked me what I wanted. Well, you’re a few years late, I’m afraid. Even so, presents have always been exciting to me – the shiny new toy (or vampire book with fold-out poster) has always gotten me a little more giddy about Christmas. I think Jesus is slowly prodding me to focus on Him as I’ve gotten older, but He needs to keep prodding.

So, as of now, I am almost to the point where I can say, “Jesus, all I want for Christmas is You.”
Then again, what about Christmas breakfast? Christmas brunch? Christmas lunch? Christmas dinner? Christmas second dinner? What about family, red plaid nightgowns, fake trees, ornaments, hot chocolate, and last but not least, what about Santa? (And if you don’t believe in Santa, it’s been scientifically proven that reindeer can fly. I think.) Does Jesus want us to ditch all of that?
Christmas traditions are fun and a great way to spend time with family and get you hyped about the season, but it all comes down to Jesus and His miraculous birth, life, death, and resurrection. So, I ask you – what do YOU want for Christmas?



I never really got the point of history. I'd heard the default adult response too many times: "You can learn from history." Yeah, I can learn that Hitler was evil and that Napolean was short. I still haven't grasped the importance of reading about dead people. I mean, they might have been the big kahunas of their time, but if they're dead, they really aren't doing much, are they?
Religion is filled with the stories of dead people. Every religion has its roots and its history. Take Buddhisim's Sidhartha, or the Buddha. Sidhartha was a prince, living an extravagant yet sheltered life in his father's palace. One day he happened to see all the poor, starving beggars of his country for the first time, and from then on vowed to live a simple life outside the palace grounds and away from the comfort and wealth of his home. Then he died. The same goes for Muhammed, and every religion leader...except one.
Jesus Christ is the only religious leader who is alive today. The others had some nice ideas, but they all passed away. Jesus doesn't fade, and His followers don't either. Since Jesus is alive, His Word is still alive as well.
 Isn't that a powerful verse? God's word is alive and working! No matter how thick the walls around our hearts have become, the Holy Spirit breaks down the wall and sends the verses straight to our hearts, "where the soul and the spirit are joined".
I've had countless people tell  me that every time you read the Bible, you learn more from it. Even if you've read it 4 times cover to cover, you will always discover something new. That's the living power of Scripture and the working power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is alive! Every time you read the Bible, you can know God more.
When you read about Jesus in the Bible, you can be sure He made history -- but He is still making history today! You aren't reading about a great dead guy, but an amazing living Savior.

Pick one of the shorter books of the New Testament. Read the whole book every day this week. God will point out something new each time.

"God's word is alive and working and is shaper than a double-edged sword. It cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones. And it judges the thoughts and feelings in our hearts." (Hebrews 4:12)


CPR and a Guy Named Peep

I took a CPR/First Aid class yesterday to be a better babysitter. When we arrived at the class, a pile of legless, armless, decoy people were lying in a pile on the floor. There were even a few limbless babies in that pile. It was very disturbing.

We watched an American Heart Association DVD and then were directed to sit on the floor and choose a fake person – I’ll call them Peeps. It wasn’t that hard; they were all the same.
My Peep looked up at me with cream-colored eye sockets (he had no eyeballs that I could see). He did have a squishy chest, a bald head, and even a bellybutton. He had a mouth as well, which was guarded, for hygienic reasons, by a plastic sheet that went into his mouth, down his throat, and into his torso. Disposable lungs.
I did not like Peep.
As much as I disliked him, suddenly he was dying. What was I going to do? I had to save him! Peep – and all his buddies – were unconscious!
I looked left and right. “The scene is safe,” I announced. Then I tapped his shoulders. “Are you OK? Are you OK?” Peep didn’t say anything. I know what he was thinking: Do I LOOK OK?!
Since he made no reply, I had to take action.
I pulled his neck back, pinched his nose, and took a deep breath. I leaned down, hesitantly, and pressed my mouth against Peep’s. I wondered how many people had done this before. I breathed two deep breaths into him, and to my horror, his chest rose and fell.
I had to stay calm. “Good, Peep,” I said, and began pounding on his chest to the beat of the DVD. “One. Two. Three. Four.” I counted my way up to thirty. With each compression, his chest gave a sickening click. I wondered how many of his ribs I had broken already.
Two more breaths. Thirty more compressions. 2 breaths. 30 compressions. I repeated this over and over, a little light headed, bouncing up and down against his chest. I don’t know how I did it. It must have been the adrenaline rush. You can Google it.
Finally, it was over. Now it was time for infant CPR.
There must have been a defect when God made the Peeps, because they obviously were highly susceptible to dying. Peep Jr. thought he’d take after his father and stopped breathing.
I confirmed that the scene was safe and began to save the life of the little stubby dude. I cocked his head back – a bit too hastily; his neck snapped. I was in the zone now. I stuck my finger between his man-made nipples and started pressing my fingers into his chest, not realizing I was spearing him with my nails in the process. Oh well, he’ll live.
It was over and I was exhausted. Peep Jr. still looked a little pale; his skin was cold and his eyes unseeing, but I figured he’d better be OK by now.
I saved two precious lives that day. I was proud as a peacock. That is, until we had to dispose of the Peeps’ lungs. I pulled at the plastic around Peep’s mouth. It came up and got caught on something in his throat. I gave another pull and threw the lungs in the trash.
So long, Peep. It was nice saving you.


Be Still and Know

Last Sunday, our congregation sang “Be Still and Know” by Steven Curtis Chapman. It begins:

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is Holy
Be still oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease
Be still

As I tried not to cough into microphone and while gentle guitar strums filled the air, my worship pastor began to speak. “When you sing this song, imagine God singing it to you, because He does.” Softly he changed the words to the first person, to what God sings when He hears our voices.

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am Holy
Be still oh restless soul, you’re Mine
Bow before Me, the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am faithful
Consider all that I have done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that I will never change
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I’m your Father
Come rest your head upon My breast
Listen to the rhythm of
My unfailing heart of love
Beating for My little ones
Calling each of you to come
Be still


When Music Rules Our Lives

The music we listen to every day affects us more than we could ever know. While we work out, fold laundry, or hang out in our bedrooms, our brains are feeding nonstop on our iPods, CDs, and radios.

Author Stephanie Meyer wrote the Twilight series while listening to Muse, My Chemical Romance, and Coldplay. Singer Taylor Swift is inspired by Kelly Pickler’s songs. Songwriters all over the world will tell you that you have to listen to good music to make good music. In the movie Josie and the Pussycats, the music bands play secretly send messages to the brains of all the fans. Using music as a tool, the industry is able to sway public opinion, trends, sales, and worldviews.
As weird as it sounds, the music industry actually whispers messages into our heads. Sometimes we don’t notice them – maybe we’re too busy dancing (or maybe that’s just me). But the whispers are there and they aren’t going away. Some music “whispers” good things to you, like in Taylor Swift’s “Change”, Relient K’s “More Than Useless”, or Britt Nicole’s “You”. These songs inspire positive views of life, whereas other songs influence you in negative ways by sending you messages about sex, or by using explicit language. Even negativity, revengeful lyrics, or a sense of “who needs God when I’ve got me” are dangerous to your mental health and wellbeing. Songs like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” give us false views about love and relationships while Pink’s “So What” evokes a feeling of anger and revenge.
What you listen to really does affect how you see the world around you. Think of it as an IV into your brain. Are you filling your brain with junk or with truth?
I first heard Pink’s “So What” on Dancing with the Stars. I thought it sounded quirky and cool, but I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics. When I put it on my iPod and got past the initial “na na na na na na na” part, I was surprised by the lyrics. Besides dropping the s-word, the singer rants about an unfaithful husband and starting fights while drinking her money away. My reaction was, “Wow. OK. It’s not so bad, though, right? I wouldn’t really do that stuff, and I’m not listening to the words. I just like the beat.” Excuses for what you listen to are lame and they get you into loads of trouble. I’ve chosen to not listen to that song anymore. I don’t want it to influence my choices or attitude in life. My mind and wellbeing is more important than a song.
God knows that music is a big issue in your life. He’s willing to help you sort the good from the bad. His advice to you? “Whatever is pure, whatever is right, whatever is noble, think about such things.”
- Following God’s advice to you, what songs do you need to rid your life of? Go ahead and take them off your iPod or chunk the CD in the garbage so no one else has to listen to it.
- When you’re hanging out with friends, encourage them to listen to positive music. If you guys are listening to a song that doesn’t honor God, ask if you can listen to a different song. If they say no, they aren’t honoring God or you, so they probably aren’t your real friends at all.


The Deal with Digestion

I’m sure you read about digestion in third grade. My friend had this electronic book about digestion. It featured a picture of the digestive system. If you touched the stylus to a certain part of the picture, it would say what that does and then give a sound effect. Yeah. We thought it was so cool to make the book say “rectum” followed by a fart noise. I justify this by saying I was little and bored. Not a good combination. But stay with me; this is important.
According to High-Tech Productions, it takes about 12 hours for food to digest completely. That means your burger lunch is likely still with you. That seems like a long time, doesn’t it? I mean, for 12 hours, there’s a bunch of rotting food in your guts? That’s gross…but important. I don’t think I have to explain why.
My point? It takes time to digest your food. You can’t just shove it down and leave it at that. What do you do to digest your food?
▪ Recognize your human need for food (or, rather, get hungry).
▪ Acquire the food (make that junk food).
▪ Pray over the food (as in: “Dear God, bless this bag of Cheetos.”)
▪ Eat the food (like a pig).
▪ Chew the food (some people skip this part).
▪ Keep it with you (at your waist).
▪ Remember how good the food was (and look for more food).
▪ Get more food.
▪ Share the food (if you’re in a giving mood).
▪ Swallow the food (unless it’s vegetables; in that case, just spit them out).
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into eating food – a lot more than you think. It’s complex. It’s good. We want more. We NEED more. It’s necessary for life. Not everyone has it, but everyone wants it.
The same goes for God’s Word. It’s complex. It’s good. We want more. We NEED more. It’s necessary for a fulfilled life. It GIVES life! Not everyone has it, but everyone wants it. It’s amazing; it’s fulfilling! Without it, we are empty. Without it, we are dead. It nourishes us. It prepares us for our day.
You need time to digest the words of the Bible. You can’t just skim through it and then jump up to call your friend. You have to meditate on it, memorize it, think about it, share it. You have to live and breathe God’s Word. Just like you can tell someone eats very little (or way too much), people should be able to tell that you are filled with God’s wisdom! It’s not just an eat-and-run. It’s not fast food. You need to:
▪ Recognize your human need for God’s Word.
▪ Acquire God’s Word (it’s not junk food!).
▪ Pray that God will speak to you through the Bible.
▪ Read the Bible.
▪ Think about the passage and find out what God is trying to tell you. “How can you apply this to your life?”
▪ Repeat.
▪ Memorize Scripture so you’ll be prepared for nearly everything.
▪ Take time to remember and reflect on all God has shown you through His Word.
▪ Spend more time with God, reading His Word and living it out.
▪ Share God’s Word with everyone around you!

1. Are you really taking time to digest your spiritual food?
2. What has been keeping you from doing this? OR if you have been “digesting” your spiritual food, what has led you to do so?
3. What are the benefits of actually meditating and digesting God’s Word? What are the drawbacks of simply reading the Bible but not “digesting” it?


India - Pastor Attacked

On my birthday, just earlier this month, a pastor in India was attacked. He is still in custody. Here is his story according to The Voice of the Martyrs.

On Oct. 4, Pastor Prakash was attacked by 25 Bajrang Dal extremists while he was ministering in Kaiwara village, Bangalore Rural District, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts.
The extremists assaulted the pastor and accused him of cheating people. After the attack, the pastor was questioned and held on complaints of “illegal activity.” Fortunately, other believers provided evidence that the pastor had not broken any laws but had visited their homes for prayer. At last report he was still in custody.
Pastor Prakash has been in ministry for more than 10 years and pastors a church of 80 members. Recently, he had expanded his ministry to Kaiwara village, where 15 believers had been meeting for prayer on Sundays evenings.

The Voice of the Martyrs actively supports persecuted believers by providing legal assistance to Christians like Pastor Prakash who have been arrested for their faith. VOM encourages you to pray for Pastor Prakash’s immediate release. Pray for the safety of his family and other believers in the area.


In 10 Years...

I think if we knew just how short life is, we would live every day to its fullest.

Take me for example. At the moment, I am eating M&Ms while blogging and wondering about age. At the same time, I'm writing a book. On top of all that, I'm wondering what we're having for dinner. And somewhere WAY back there, God is speaking.

GOD: "Melissa, get your lazy self out of that chair!"
ME: "But God! I'm telling people about You!" *pause* "Want an M&M?"

OK, maybe He's not calling me lazy (or maybe He is; I'll never know). But I have this one thought that's been really scaring me. Here goes.

In 10 years, I will be 24. I will be an old lady. I might even be married (ok, that's not something I'm totally dreading, to be honest). I will be teaching Shamu impersonators how to jump over my head (and not land on me in the process). Who knows, I might make it to Oprah. But the point is this: my life is flashing before my eyes and I'm sitting here munching on trail mix.

And where will you be in 10 years? You might be 27. That's middle aged, baby. The downhill slope. I wonder if people get wrinkles at 27...?

I'm enjoying life. I love my family, my friends, my pets, my church, my God. I love shopping and simply wearing clothes (well let's hope...). I love writing and I love this blog and I love you readers. But, honestly, how am I making a difference in the world?


Did Jesus Bake Brownies?

Sometimes the small things in life make the biggest difference. Here are some ways to serve your community and be more like Jesus.

  • Bring brownies to youth group. (Make sure this is OK with your youth leader beforehand.)
  • Check out and participate in Operation Beautiful.
  • Bake cookies for your neighbor.
  • Wash your dad's car -- no fees, no hassles, just you, your sibs, water, soap, and fun.
  • Send an encouraging text to someone.
  • Support a charity. (TWLOHA, Compassion International, World Vision, etc.) Every dollar counts.
  • Set the table.
  • Load the dishwasher -- without being asked.
  • Buy your mom some smell-good lotion. (Bath & Body Works is a favorite brand, but overpriced. The Dollar Store should have some sweet-scented frangrances for a buck.)
  • Invite a few friends over for a Bible study around popcorn & M&Ms (or another fav snack).
  • Guys: Open the car door for your girlfriend. Girls: Offer to split the bill.
  • Find an inner quality that really stands out in someone you vaguely know but don't talk to much. Make a point of acknowledging that quality.


Blessed Be the Name of God

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

For wisdom and might are His.

And He changes the times and the seasons;

He removes kings and raises up kings;

He gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding.

He reveals deep and secret things;

He knows what is in the darkness,

and light dwells with Him.

(Daniel 2:20b-22)



So, I'm fourteen. And I'm very excited about that fact. Whenever my birthday rolls around, I never feel any older. It's different this year. I feel a little bit older, or maybe fresh and determined. I'm not sure what it is. Maybe I'm just imagining things.
13 was an amazing year. I went to Sky Ranch and Disciple Now. I got in touch with my friends again that are so dear to me. I've grown closer to God and will continue doing so throughout my entire life. I think I've gotten a better idea of what really matters in life; now I just have to use what I've learned. To recap on the age 13, I read several of my old posts. I got a kick out of reading my "I'm 13!" post. I'm sad that I didn't live out everything I planned, but I've grown so much and come so far.
I'm excited to share this new time in my life with you. I think writing to you has really helped me sort my thoughts and evaluate what I believe. Oh, I have a lot to learn. We all do. I'm thrilled to be given the opportunity to learn it with you.
Thank you so much, readers, for sticking with me through thick and thin. You all are so wonderful!

Your Sister in Christ,


Lucky Number 3...Tagged!

TV/Movie Characters you relate with:
1. Aquamarine. So, I'm not a mermaid, but I relate to her. I can be deep, but when I'm with friends, I like to do crazy things like waving/smiling at random people, dancing in parking lots, and laughing a lot. I can get pretty crazy. ;) I love doing new things. Still, love is a really important thing for me.
2. Susan, from Narnia. She fiercely protects her siblings and is always worried about what the future holds. She struggles with knowing that Aslan/God is always there. She's smart, sometimes bossy, a leader. She's also pretty. :)
3. Katie, from Flicka. I love animals. I'm a good girl on the whole, but if I'm not given enough freedom, I get rebellious. Maybe not so much as this girl, though. Rebellious on a careful level. :)

Three places on you travel list:
1. Italy!! What can I say, I absolutely love Italy. I want to go to Italy on my honeymoon and stay in a place with cobblestone streets and eat spaghetti every day.
2. London. I took a 2-3 hour bus ride through London and it was beautiful! I love how they talk, and the chilly air, and everything!
3. Paris. What girl doesn't want to go to France?

Hit "Shuffle" on your iPod and list out three songs.
1. Love Story - Taylor Swift
2. Beautiful - Bethany Dillon
3. Ghost Ride the Whip - Family Force 5 ;]

Things I'm confused about
1. The Bible
2. Science
3. Love
4. Chapstick, chapped lips, and things like chemistry ;]

Browse your DVD shelf and randomly pick out three movies
1. Lord of the Rings
2. Devil Wears Prada
3. Amazing Grace

3 Things you wish you'd known earlier
1. Delaware is a state, not the captial of New Hampshire
2. The cookies for Santa go to waste.
3. Changing a life is the only way to get one.

If you HAD to date a celebrity who would it be?
ROTFLOL!!! Nick Jonas, of course. Not that you didn't know already.

If you were a celebrity, what would it be for?
Acting. Most definetly. <3

If you could give your blog a facelift, what would you tweak?
I would collect donations. ;] jk


Waterskiing & Sack Races

What are some things you can’t do by yourself? You can’t water-ski, dance the samba, throw a party, kiss, seesaw, win a sack race, get engaged, hug, or learn to drive on our own. By yourself. If any one of us tried, that’d just be weird. We don’t have to think about it. Doing these things alone would just be silly – if not impossible.
There are lots of things you can’t do on your own. Getting closer to God is one of them.
If you tried to seesaw by yourself in a park, any nearby children would be pulled away by mothers who are whispering, "Come on, dear, let’s go home. Don’t make eye contact. Yes, that’s a very nice man. Let’s go." But if you didn’t spend a lot of time with other Christians, what would people think of you? They’d probably just think you were just shy, that you’re introverted, or that it’s just your personality.
We seem to think that, while hosting a party alone is silly, it’s perfectly OK to go about your spiritual journey alone. Ya know what I think of that? I think that’s silly.
Notice I said "we seem to think". Think about that for a moment here. If you take a look at humanity’s past, you can clearly see thinking isn’t something we do well.
We "think" that our walk with God should just be you and God. This actually seems right, at first glance – shouldn’t you be concentrated on God? You should! At the same time, don’t throw fellowship out the door!
Failing to spend time with Christians does not mean it’s your personality. It does not mean you’re shy. Failing to spend time with Christians is like having a strong wall around you, yet there’s one spot where the enemy can squeeze through without being seen.
We can’t make excuses. We can’t say "we don’t have the time". Because, honestly – who doesn’t have time for people? Who doesn’t have time for life? If you don’t have time for life, you have no life at all.
We’ve been talking a lot about wisdom. Well, IMHOP (in my humble opinion), doesn’t it seem wise to finish that wall? Close up that empty space in your wall and in your life. Fill it with people who will build you up and encourage you to invest in a closer relationship with Jesus.
So you think faith should just be between you and God? Well, what does God have to say about that? "Do not give up fellowship with one another, as some have fallen in the habit of doing." Well, OK, God, but… "Serve one another in love." (Galatians 5:13)
God wants you to have an intimate relationship with Him, but He also designed you to enjoy the company of other Christians! Did you catch that? You were designed to enjoy God and His people!
So next time you think of going alone, invite a friend over to do a Bible study with popcorn, or ask your parents what a certain Bible passage means.


Coming Together

I think effort is amazing. I think it's amazing when people invest their time and energy to create something beautiful, something worth sharing. I think it's even more amazing when they give it away -- no obligations, no payments. They do it simply because they enjoy it, because they want to serve.

This is the feeling I got last night, when the 3-days of The Butler Did It play was concluded. My eyeliner mustache is wiped off, my tuxedo costume discarded, and I will never ever talk like a guy again. Well, you never know....

I got this sense of elation last night as we all bowed before the audience. I had an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, as well as pride that I got to work with such amazing people. We recieved no profit from the play, yet we poured out several weeks of our lives to make people laugh.

When people come together with an idea, great things happen. Today at church, my pastor showed us a cool video.

There are some things we just can't do a alone. You can't water-ski, get engaged, see-saw, or have a party by yourself. Almost everything is better with company.

I don't have time to elaborate on this today, but these are just some ponderings to get you thinking.


In Love with You

I just want to fall in love with You again
Into Your arms in sweet surrender
I want my old life to end
I want to fall in love with You again

I want to fall in love with You again
Hear Your voice ring loud and clear
Live without a single fear
I’m in love with You, so draw me near

I want to fall in love with You again
Feel the rush of Your holy wind
Be broken and made brand new
All to fall in love with you

I want to fall in love with You again
No doubts, no cares, just You and me
Working things out and changing my life
When I’m with you I feel so alive

I’m in love with You
Jesus I’m in love with you
Make me brand new
I’m in love with You
Jesus I’m in love with You

I’m in love with You


An Actor's Life for Me

Wow, I am really, really, really nervous. The play is next week and I've only had -- what? -- 2 weeks of rehearsal? My lines, cues, blocking...oh woe is me, that I have so much more to work on!
So, to fill you in -- I am playing a guy. Whose rich and debonair (like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast). Who dies. Who is ressurected...somewhat. Who almost kills someone. Who almost dies again. Who is just pure awesomeness. Yep, that's me. I get to wear a tuxedo and everything. I even get an eyeliner mustache!
My cast family is great. They are such talented teens and so nice -- and hilarious! -- at the same time. If any of you are reading, I love you all thiiiiiiiiiis much!
If you could pray that I won't fail these wonderful people and make my director cry, that'd be great.
Just thought I'd fill you in on the biggest issue in my life right now.
Yo ho, yo ho, an actor's life for me!!

Your Sister in Christ,


Wisdom: So Yesterday?

What is wisdom good for anyway? I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of wisdom, I think of a weird balding guy who beats a stick on the ground while uttering "huma huma" (like that old guy on "Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom"). Our culture doesn’t really value wisdom, does it? Today, we are encouraged to live to please ourselves. We are told that we don’t need wisdom, guidance, or God. We are taught that everything is under our control, even though we know it isn’t.
The world wasn’t always this way. In Jesus’ time (and before…and after), kings appointed "wise men" to, well, share their wisdom and help the king make good decisions regarding his people. The kings, however, often had the same attitude we do when it comes to advice. "That sounds great. Sure. I’ll think about that. That’s some really good advice right there." But really, we totally forgot all that was said because we were too busy checking out his weird teeth. Or we completely rebel: "Whatever. I’m a king, remember? I don’t need your advice!"
The truth is: we often throw away the good advice people give us. This gets serious when we throw away God’s advice. The people who wrote the book of Proverbs were, let’s face it, a lot wiser than you and me, because their hand was directed by God. They wrote what God is desperately trying to tell you. So…are you listening?
"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." (Proverbs 24:3-4) Obviously, God wants you to know just how valuable wisdom is – it’s a "rare and beautiful treasure"!
"A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength." (Proverbs 24:5) Who doesn’t want great power and strength? A mean, c’mon, guys! Who doesn’t want to be in charge of something, to be strong, successful, powerful, influential?
"…You need guidance, and for victory many advisers." (Proverbs 24:6) [We’ll take a closer look at this verse later.] Do you feel like God is bringing on the "duh" factor here? "Don’t you get it, My child? Don’t you see?" He can even assume the parental role here. "Son, how many times do I have to tell you?" God isn’t saying, "Wisdom is cool. It’s nice to have." Nope. God is clearly telling us: "You NEED wisdom! You NEED My guidance! We both know that you can’t make it on your own. You need ME!"
Wisdom isn’t "so yesterday". It wasn’t a passing trend. It’s not a fad. No, wisdom is here to stay. Everyone wants to make the best decisions for themselves, but some people have trouble accepting that God can and WANTS to guide you. When you’re bombarded by messaging saying "I got the power!", remember that your power comes through God. He won’t leave you, He’s a heck of a lot smarter than you, and He knows what’s coming next before you can even get a glimpse of it. Here comes God-Dad again: "Time to wise up, son!"


Wise Up!

We asked ourselves: Do I "Got Wisdom?" We talked about how bragging or even being the smartest person in your class does not make you wise. We even broke out the dreaded dictionary to get a hint at what wisdom is. Now we’re going to go even deeper on the subject.
I know wisdom may not seem all that cool to you. I mean, advice? It’s hard to listen to, and it’s even harder to follow. But there are lots of questions in your head right now. How can you get along with someone who doesn’t like you? What’s the best way to make friends? The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom – or advice – about life, relationships, faith, love, family, and more. You’ve seen all those books on advice for young people. Cool. But when that advice is "God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness", that wisdom is the stuff you really want.

"Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach." (Proverbs 22:17)

Did you get that? Not only are we supposed to pay attention and listen to wisdom; we’re also supposed to apply it! That means that whatever wisdom God brings your way, God commands you to use it in your everyday life!
That means that you need to live and breathe God’s words of wisdom for you in order to make the right choices. Need. Command. God wants to make it clear to you that He isn’t asking you to read His Word; He is ordering you to.

So, why do we need God’s wisdom? What will you gain if you read the Bible for advice?
You will understand what is right and just. (Proverbs 2:9)
You will gain wisdom and be protected by it. (Proverbs 2:10-11)
You will be saved from the ways of the wicked. (Proverbs 2:12)

I’m really excited about this, and I hope you are, too! We’re going to be digging deeper into wisdom in the next posts. We will "pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise" and we’ll apply our hearts to what God is telling us! (Proverbs 22:17)


My aunt died last night...

My Aunt Shana died of cancer last night. She's been struggling with this for two long years. We went to the hospital to see her Saturday. She couldn't even move, speak, or even open her eyes. All she could do was hear us say we love her. She would try to talk to us, but you couldn't make out what she was saying. Even at death's door, Heidi Klum would be jealous. My aunt was so beautiful, God's closest thing to perfect.
I have never been so close to death before and actually understood it. Her breath was shallow, her abdomen swollen from the tumor, she couldn't see or speak or move. She was being fed through a tube. Her husband and 4 children were all tired of crying. My uncle said, "God bless her, she fought the good fight, that she did."
April, her oldest daughter, was in Rome. She had to fly home early when she got the news and rushed to the hospital. She brushed her mother's hair and six minutes later my aunt died.
It seems so unfair. Why her, God? She's never said a mean word in her life! Why her family, God? Her youngest isn't even married yet....Why couldn't You let her live to see him happy? Why not let a murderer die in her place? Why, why, why?
I don't see how anything good could come out of something so terrible...death so close...hearts so broken. But I don't see a lot of things. I can be at peace because God sees everything. Aunt Shana is with God right now, in paradise, free from the cancer that plagued her before. She's free. And I'm going to see her again, I know. It doesn't heal the wound completely, but it makes you feel a little better.
So, what does death mean for us? To be honest, I am scared of death, of pain and of feeling myself shut down, of coming to the end of the road. As a Christian, you might think that you're not supposed to be scared of death. Don't. It's OK to be scared, just remember where you find life. God doesn't fade away, so when you give your life to Him, it's in good hands. It can't ever fade and you'll have it forever.
"We do not want you to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again so we believe that God will bring with jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him." - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." - Revelation 21:4


Got Wisdom?

Wisdom is hard to define. It's not just knowledge or "smartability", but it's something more. The dictionary defines a knowledgable person as "one who knows a lot about something". But wisdom is said to be "one of four back teeth which grow when you are an adult" and "intelligence/common sense".
Now, wisdom is a lot different from being a wise guy, a "person who pretends to know more than anyone else". Bragging, being a know-it-all, or pretending to be wise really isn't wise at all. In Ecclesiastes, the writer totally denies earthly wisdom as amounting to anything. In fact, he curses it. Only wisdom from God lasts, and only He can give real wisdom.
Read James 3:13 with me.
"Are there those among you who are truly wise and understanding? Then they should show it by living right and doing good things with a gentleness that comes from wisdom."
Whoa, hold up. I have to prove that I'm wise by living right and doing good things? And believe me, God, my wisdom isn't always gentle. So now what do I do?
"But if you are selfish and have bitter jealousy in your hearts, do not brag. Your bragging is a lie that hides the truth. That kind of 'wisdom' does not come from God but from the world. It is not spiritual; it is from the devil." (v14-15)
Wait, I thought wisdom was truth, not lies! You're right, wisdom is made up of things that are true. That's what real wisdom is! Truth! The living Truth! Wisdom isn't being smarter than everyone else, and it isn't acing your grades or even knowing the Table of Elements or whatever those funky science ABCs are.
Some scientists are so wrapped up in finding the "truth" that they've lost sight of it all together. It's standing right before them, but they refuse to look in the right direction. Jesus is truth; God is truth. God invented truth and wisdom, therefore he is the source of all wisdom and the source of all truth. We can't fool ourselves into thinking we are so wise, because the only true wisdom we have comes from our Father.
"Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil." (v16)
Read that again, out loud. It's a super important verse.
Do you see what I'm getting at? When we search for wisdom and truth apart from God, in order to bring glory to ourselves, "there will be confusion and every kind of evil". Whatever we find out on our own is false and dangerous. We can't be wise if we are confused. So if we do anything to prove ourselves better than God or prove we don't need Him, we fail miserably, and the whole world is watching.
So how can we get real wisdom without getting into trouble?
"But the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help those who are troubled and to do good for others. It is always fair and honest. People who work for peace in a peaceful way plant a good crop of right-living." (v17-18)


A Really Big Deal

Often we take sin lightly. "I know I did this, but I’ll do better next time, right? Besides, it’s just a little sin. It won’t hurt anybody."
The truth is: even the tiniest sins are a huge deal. And the more you sin, the easier it will be to sin even "bigger" next time (same with lying) and do something you’ll really regret later.
When Jesus was up on the cross with all of the world’s sins on his shoulders (that’s the sins of the Roman soldiers, the Jews, King Henry VIII, Mother Theresa, Hitler, Zac Effron, and YOUR sins), God turned His face away. God just couldn’t look at that much sin in one person, even if that person was His Son, Himself. God hates sin, so that makes it a really big deal.
Luke 22:34 – "But Jesus said, ‘Peter, before the rooster crows this day, you will say three times that you don’t know me.’"
Now read out loud with me Luke 54-62. (Go ahead, read it. We can sit here all day.) Can we summarize that story?
Random Woman: "Hey, aren’t you the one who hangs out with Jesus?"
Peter: "Jesus who?"
Weird Guy: "Yeah, you’re like his groupie or stalker or somethin’!"
"Groupie? I don’t even know the guy. And stalker? That’s kinda creepy…"
Superstitious Man: "You’re one of them."
Peter: "MAN, I am NOT!" (To get the full effect, say it with a surfer accent, stressing the "man"-ness.) Ooh, self-denial.
"AT ONCE, while Peter was still speaking, a rooster crowed." (Luke 22:60b)
Peter didn’t say, "Stupid rooster! What is he yapping about?" Oh no, Peter got the message immediately. It’s like if you did a really bad sin (3 times!) and right in the middle of it, a siren goes off. "SINNER ALERT! SINNER ALERT!" He couldn’t deny that.
Here’s the biggie: the heart-wrenching, oh no what have I done moment. I’m so incredibly sorry! I wish I could take it all back! I’d give anything!

"Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter." (v61)

Can you imagine…you’ve just denied your relationship with Jesus – with God! – and he turns to look your in the eye? He’s being whipped and is in tormenting pain…but he picks you out of all the faces and focuses on just you…looks at your directly with the most sorrowful eyes ever…. Can you image? Your Savior, your KING, has just died for you…and you deny it all? And He cares so much about you that all the pain is forgotten in that one still moment where it’s just you and Jesus.

I’m sorry, Lord. I am so, so sorry.

"Then Peter went outside and cried painfully." (v62)

Peter didn’t take his sin lightly. He knew exactly how terrible it was, and we was sorry. Not just the half-hearted, grumpy "sorry" that your little brother gives you, but a real, true, genuine apology.

Right now, as you’re sitting here imagining Jesus’ perfect face, imagine Jesus looking into YOUR eyes like he looked at Peter. Give Him an honest apology and be completely broken by Him. Ask God to show you any sin in your life that is breaking His heart. God will forgive you and give you the strength to change.

The happy ending? Peter and Jesus made up. They both were so close to each other and loved each other so much that not even sin could separate them anymore. Jesus forgave Peter, and Peter continued to be His faithful servant.
You have a happy ending with Jesus, too. In fact, your happy ending is just beginning.


The Outsiders

When you go to school tomorrow, take a look around you. What do you see? I bet there are some pretty interesting people out there that you see every day. What about that girl with the bad reputation? Or the guy with the bad complexion? Or that small group that dresses, well, like weirdos and walk around looking self-absorbed? They're the outsiders who make us feel uncomfortable.

But do we just write them off? Isaiah 42:3 describes an outsider as a "bruised weed" and a "smoldering wick". Neither sounds nice, and neither is of much use. God is telling us that people whom society sees as worthless are really important to God. He created them. He knows their hearts.

This school year, try to look at the "outsiders" at school with Christ's eyes, and reach out to them.


So I Am Happy

"So I am happy, and I will continue to be happy. Because you are praying
for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is helping me, I know this trouble will
bring my freedom. I expect and hope that I will not fail Christ in anything but
that I will have the courage now, as always, to show the greatness of Christ in
my life here on earth, whether I live or die. To me the only important
thing about living is Christ." Paul in Philippians 1:18-21


Being Utterly Simple

"I know you might think that's boring, but I think it's the boring stuff that I
remember the most." - Russel, the kid from Pixar's movie UP

I hate being bored. Doesn't everybody? I mean, there are a million productive things we could do, and yet none of them seem worth any effort. We'd rather mope around all day.

But the truth is: everything we experience becomes part of our life. Imagine your experiences as the fabric of your life. All the threads are different colors, and alone they would be drab, but together they weave everything we've learned, and that's beautiful.

"The real test of friendship is: Can you literally do nothing with the other
person? Can you enjoy together those moments of life that are utterly simple?
They are the moments people look back on at the end of life and number as their
most sacred experiences." - Eugene Kennedy

Do you have a friendship (or relationship with boyfriend/girlfriend/parent) like that? Do you consider that relationship special? Honestly, I don't see why my friends adore me like they do. ;) I mean, we do some pretty cool stuff, but often we just sit around doing nothing. And yet, it doesn't make me value our friendship any less. In fact, I find that just being in the prescence of someone I love is special, no matter what we're doing.

The big question...
Is our relationship with God like that? Are there moments in my relationship with God where I can just "chill" or "hang" with Him? Imagine you and your best friend sitting on my bed just enjoying being with each other -- now imagine that best friend as Jesus!

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything. So we know there's a time to pray and read our Bible and tell our friends about Jesus and go on mission trips -- because all those things are great. But there's also a time for just relaxing, resting, and enjoying simply being in God's presence. Sometimes I get frustrated in the silence. But ya know what? The silence is special. It's special because it's me and God just chilling with each other. We don't have to do anything. You could enjoy the silence as God's way of clearing your mind; or you could listen to His voice. Just be still, be patient, be quiet. God does speak to people and He will speak to YOU!


Getting ready for church...

I love my church. I know some people get really bored during church, and I guess I sometimes do, but I have an awesome youngish pastor with silver hair who makes weird vocalizations during his sermons and it keeps you awake. His wife is amazing, beautiful in and out, with 3 precious little kids.
My mom leads worship and I sing in the praise band. It's really fun to get to do something together with her like that, especially something that serves the Lord.
Church is my chance to dress up. Ok, so I used to refuse to wear anything but jeans to church, but I have changed my ways. I get to wear dresses or skirts, slacks, and nice blouses all from Macy's. I know, I know, it may seem vain, to look forward to church as a time to be ultra-chic, but it's how I express myself.
I'm involved in nursery as well as the praise band. I used to be involved with the AWANA program as well, but we only had that running for 2 years. Next year we may start up again. I acted in skits and stuff every week.
My dad runs the children's ministry. He's got a blog with most of the skits he's written. They're really good, so check it out.
Our church is reallyreallyreally small, but it means everyone knows each other really well. We're getting a new building soon; they're working on putting up walls and stuff. It's going to be awesome!
Ah, youth group! Me and my friend Hannah make up the youth group, and her mom is the youth leader. So that can show you the size of our church. We're going to get a lot more kids soon, though, when we move into our new building.
So, that's my church, in a nutshell. I guess this was my way of thanking God for all the wonderful people He's put in my life...and I'd like to hear about yours. So, what's your church like? Who inspires you? Does your pastor make weird facial expressions? I wanna know! Post a comment.


Why the World Hates Christians

Why does the world hate Christians so much? It’s hard to understand. Here are the answers to clear things up.

- Christians aren’t controlled by the media. We live by different standards. When the media dominates the world, it can change our political views, our faith (or lack thereof), our fashions, what we believe about sex, and more. Christians are people who choose not to live by the media’s standards but instead by God’s holy standards. Since we don’t have to be controlled by the media, the media doesn’t like us.

"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is what the world hates you." (John 15:19)

- Christians live for a greater purpose. We as Christians live for God. Our purpose is to glorify Him in everything we do. The world teaches us that we have no greater purpose; that we are here to seize the fleeting joys of money, sin, and sex, trampling on other people to make our way to the top, if only for a second. But is the world’s "top" really where we want to be? Because Heaven is a whole lot higher.

"If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing." –Jesus, from John 8:54

- Christians go to Heaven. This paradise is beyond anything we’ve ever imagined. Nothing is better than living with our Creator and Savior for eternity! There is no sin in Heaven, so it’s perfect. The world tells us that Heaven is just a dream. They teach us that life doesn’t get any better than this – well, Hell – we’re living, so we might as well go with the world’s flow because it’s all we have. But that’s not true! We have something more to look forward to.

"They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one." (Hebrews 11:13,16)

- Christians live for a higher authority. God is the final judge, the final king. What He says goes for us. We are to respect the laws our worldly leaders make for us, but if they contradict the laws God has made for us, we are to use God’s Word as our final authority.

- Christians can do the impossible – with God’s help! God tells us if we have enough faith, we could even move mountains if it would benefit God’s kingdom! There are countless true stories where miracles have been preformed by God’s people – that includes YOU! Jesus did tons of miracles in His life on earth. Check out Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the Gospels) for 4 different accounts of His miraculous, world-changing, revolutionary life!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (1 Philippians 4:13)

For what other reasons does the world hate Christians? Do you think it is somehow good for us that the world hates us? Why or why not? Which is more powerful – a sinful kingdom or God’s kingdom? Feel free to post a comment telling me what your ideas are.


Can He Hear Me?

Have you ever felt like something that's really important to you isn't important to God? Like, if you struggle with your self-image. There are starving kids in Africa, so how could God be concerned with how you look? For me right now, it's the death of pets. That issue is really close to my heart, but it seems so small compared to the wars in the East. God couldn't possibly have time for something so small as a kitten.
I've tried to live my entire life as a prayer. I try to pray constantly, silently to myself about things that just happened. While I like it, at the same time, I get disappointed a lot. I pretty much like how I look, but some days you just feel down, ya know? On those days, when I look in the mirror and don't like what I see, I think about taking it to God -- but then I don't bother. He's too busy for that kind of stuff. I mean, what matters is the inside, right?
I get frustrated with math a lot. I mean, every day. Even when I understand it, it's just too much: too much to handle, too time-consuming, too hard. But why take it to God? He wouldn't listen. He wouldn't understand. He doesn't have to wake up to hours of math every morning while still trying to recover from bedhead, morning breath, and sleepless nights.
But I think that I sometimes picture God in the wrong way. He can help me cope with loss -- while guiding the persecuted Christians in China. He does care about my appearance and what I think about myself -- just as much as he cares about someone with a terminal disease. He will help me get through math, while at the same time healing those suffering from more traumatic happenings. He's a real-life Superman with absolutely no weaknesses -- He's everywhere all at once and cares about me just as much as he cares about the King of England or Billy Grahm or the President or more imporant people than me. I'm His Creation and He cherishes me. When I gave my heart to Him, my cares became His, my worries became His worries, my sorrows now His.
This is something all of us need to realize and be reminded of. It's something you can take home and really work into your daily life. Cast all your cares, worries, and sorrows on God. You belong to Him. You are His cherished creation, and He will ALWAYS be with you.


I could use some prayer...

Living in the country, things get eaten often. One of our young cats (the sweetest cat ever, more like a dog actually) didn't come to the barn to be fed today. I looked all around our property but there's no sign of him. I know I seem like a little girl, asking you to pray for a cat, but this is what's on my heart right now and...yeah. It would break my heart to think of him hurting, lost, or in someone's belly. If you could pray that he comes back home, that'd be great. Ugh. I'm such a little girl, but this is important to me.



Chosing the Healthy Choice

Did you know – the longer you eat healthy foods, the easier it is to resist a hamburger? Did you know – the longer you stick with God, the easier it is to resist sin?
With the busy lifestyle many people have today, sometimes we forget to take it easy and do something good for ourselves. You’re on the go a lot. You have places to be, people to see (and, of course, you’re texting 24/7).
A hectic lifestyle really takes its toll on your health when it comes to food. Some people cram so much into their day that they don’t have time to sit and eat a home-cooked meal with their family. Fast food is easy and inexpensive because it’s typically made with cheap ingredients, like high-fat meat and other content with unhealthy fats and cholesterol. According to The State of Our Nation’s Youth, 7 out of 10 students say having a good meal means eating something cooked at home, not eating out or bringing fast food or take-out home. So this means that even though we have a better option (eating at home), many people still choose to take the easier option, even if it may cost them in the long run.
It’s the same thing with faith. So many people know that there’s something more to life, but they take the easy route (a life without God) even though it will cost them in the long run. Just like the fat of yesterday’s French fries will stick with you (you know what I mean!), sin sticks to us and stays with us unless we live our lives for God.
Instead of going the easy – but unhealthy – route, why not make 2 changes in your life, starting today?
1. Eat more home-cooked meals around the dinner table with your family.
2. Chose God over your other options in your day to day life.

In 2 weeks, tell me – in the Comments or Chat Box – how you’ve been sticking to those changes and what the results have been. Like good home-cooked meals nourish our body, a good Christian life nourishes the soul.


Mountain of God

My iPod was on shuffle and happened to land on a song I hadn't heard before. The words jumped out at me. What they sang was so true! I just had to share it with you.
Third Day's song Mountain of God says, "I must go through the valley to stand upon the mountain of God."
Isn't that so cool? Whenever you're in a low point in your life (a valley), if you follow God's path for your life, you reach the mountain of God (a high point in your life). Believe it or not, God doesn't just give you three strikes and you're out. He continues to offer forgiveness again and again. He continues to guide you even though you've screwed up many times before. He longs for you to be near Him.
"Even though the journey’s long
And I know the road is hard...
Well, the One who’s gone before me
He will help me carry on
After all that I’ve been through
Now I realize the truth
that I must go through the valley
to stand upon the mountain of God."

We've talked before about trials and tough times in your life and what they amount to in the end. It's not just mumbo-jumbo; people actually change when they face trials. Some of them handle it better than others. When you're in a rough spot, you have a choice. Will you continue to live in sin, following a path that leads nowhere, and eventually die, never having made it out of the valley? Or will you rise above your challenges and become stronger, change your course and follow God's path, the narrow path that leads to eternal life (the mountain of God)? It's your choice.
"Thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me
And I didn’t even know
That I had lost my way
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me
‘Til You opened up my eyes
I never knew
That I couldn’t ever make it
Without You

1. Can you think of names for some of the "valleys" you've been through? What decisions led you to be there? Or were they out of your hands?
2. If you have been on the Mountain of God (having a deep relationship with Him) what choices led you away from Him and back down into the valley?
3. What is keeping you right now from reaching the mountain of God?
4. Ask a Christian adult that you admire what it was like when he/she had an exteremely close relationship with God. Did the relationship die quickly? Or is it still going?
5. What can you do so that you will never leave the mountain of God?

Thirsty for more of the song? Click here for the complete lyrics, and be sure to check out Third Day's Mountain of God on iTunes!


God's Love Really DOES Change People

I’m sitting here while my friend is drying off from a shower. We’ve raced on horseback, we’ve been swimming, and we’ve done dramatic interpretations of history books. It’s funny now, looking back, to see how far we’ve come.
Last year, this girl spent the week at my house. The first night she was here, I cried. I didn’t know how someone could be so – well, mean. My parents told me it was our job to show her God’s love and to be her friend. It was hard, because she was so critical of everyone, but towards the end of the week she had become more comfortable around us. She quietly had told me that she was sick of people criticizing her – but she had become what she hated most.
This year, we all were shocked. Is this the same girl? Not once has she made fun of me, not once as she played the part of a bully. She is encouraging, sweet, thankful, and fun-loving. We’ve talked a bit about church, and I’m confident that she is a Christian. I want to spur her on to a deeper relationship with Christ this week.
I realize how much that unhappy week last year changed her life. I showed her what it’s like to have a friend – and to be one. Most of all, I realized that God’s love really does change people, that patience is a virtue, that revenge isn’t sweet, and that bitter people are the way they are because some hurt them.
Just something I thought I’d share.

Your Sister in Christ,


Replying with Scripture

If someone was trying to get you to do something you know is wrong, what would you say? What if they kept doing it? I'd probably yell at them and tell them to back off, that I don't want to be a jerk like they are (in a slightly nicer way, of course).
Jesus had the same problem, but he handled it in a totally different way.
Check out Matthew 4. Jesus has been in the hot desert for a long time. He's hungry, tired, and in need of a shower. Satan comes along, trying to trip Him up. "If you're really the Son of God, turn these rocks into bread to eat." Next, he told Jesus to jump off a cliff, because of course God would save Him. Is testing God a good idea? Jesus knew it wasn't. Then Satan's last-ditch attempt: "Just bow down to me, and all the world can be yours."
Instead of mouthing him off with the longest stream of cuss words at the time, and instead of saying, "Hello, Satan. You're dirty scum, the world is mine, and I can burn you to a crisp whenever I feel like it."
Get this: Jesus replied with Scripture! He kept His cool, He didn't lash out, and instead, He replied with the Absolute Truth: the Word of God. I would be telling Satan to lay off and go get a life by now, but Jesus knew just how to fight off sin. He quoted Scripture to say no. When your friends ask you to do something you know is wrong, you don't have to rattle off Bible verses every time. But it's a good idea to keep your cool and memorize a few Bible verses that can help you when you're tempted to do something wrong.


Building Houses in the Sand

Remember in my last post, I talked about my trip to Galveston and seeing so many businesses and homes destroyed? I asked you what you would do if everything you ever worked for disappeared before your eyes.
The homes that line the beach in Galveston all have one thing in common: they are built on stilts to prevent flooding. Still, they are built in the sand, so there's always some danger of too much water or wind.
Remember that song when you were little? "The foolish man built his house upon the sand...." The wise man built his house upon the rock. When a storm came, the wise man's house stood firm, but the foolish man's house was washed away.
Why? The wise man had a firm foundation in solid rock. His house couldn't be shaken. But the foolish man placed everything he had in the sand, and it wasn't away. His house was shaky and unsteady, always changing.
Life is a lot like that. It boils down to where you put your heart. Is your life in sand -- shaky, unsteady, and unable to last? Or is your life built on the solid Rock of your Lord Jesus -- firm, steady, and able to withstand anything?
I would say my house is in dirt. Not quite as loose as sand, but definetly not as steady as rock. I'm with Jesus some of the way, but not all the way. It's wrong, but that's where I am right now.
Good news, though. I'm in the process of moving. I'm tired of my old home, my old life. I've found a nice place just for me in the Rock, in Jesus. I've been invited to live with Him -- all expenses paid -- forever. All I need to do is move. I need to move my life, my heart, my values, everything...and give it to Jesus. Anything that won't fit in my new home -- like movies I shouldn't watch, music I shouldn't listen to, things I shouldn't say -- is just going to be thrown out to make room for the new, better stuff Jesus will give me -- peace, compassion, and definetly better music. My old ways will just have to go because -- you probably didn't know this -- Jesus is a proffessional interior designer. He's had lots of experience. He can rearrange my life and show me knew ways to do this and that so that everything -- including my heart -- is in the right place.
Jesus has invited you to move in with Him in His awesome house. He doesn't care if your current decorating style is cliche or downright ugly -- He'll turn that around and show you the new and better way.
So evaluate your life right now. Where are you? Stuck in the sand? Or standing on the Rock?


After the Storm

I've been thinking... Ya know that hurricane in Galveston? It flooded the island, rose above the seawall, and destroyed many family businesses and homes. Can you imagine pouring all your life -- your sweat and time and money -- into a shop and then it's all swept away in an instant? Or what about the man who worked hard to build a house for his family, just to see it gone in one fell swoop? Everything you've worked for...everything you had...gone. No more than a memory.
And after the storm, you dust off uour jeans and start all over. A new beginning, a new chance. I don't know if I could do that. I think some people would just give up. What would YOU do? Just a thought. Gotta get on a tour now. Catch ya later, ok?


Gone to the Beach

I’m driving to Galveston tomorrow (not to worry, I’m not behind the wheel) with my family so I won’t be here for a few days. Then my friends are coming over for a week, so I honestly don’t know when I’ll get to update my 2 blogs. So if you’re wondering where I’ve been or coming to the conclusion that I’ve been abducted by aliens, I plead, do not worry. Of course, I might be eaten by a shark or run away and join the pod of dolphins residing in Galveston; but if this happens, my dad will notify you so you can mourn my parting properly.
While I’m gone, I have a few wishes. First, if you go on a trip, I want the details in my chat box! Second, feel free to leave me well-wishes for safe travel. :) Third, keep reading your Bibles and share with me what you’ve been reading when I get back, because I will most likely be feeling deprived of my readers. Lastly, when I come back to you, a few exclamations of, "OMB MELISSA WE MISSED YOU SO MUCH! OUR LIVES HAVE BEEN SO DULL WITHOUT YOU!" Yes, that would be nice. :)

Your Sister in Christ,


What will Heaven be like? [part1]

We know that when you accept Christ as your Savior, you receive eternal life. You’ll go to Heaven when your earthly body dies – there’s no question about that. But what is exactly is Heaven? What is it like?

You’ve probably had some sneakers that were great at first – but then you went outside and ran in them. They got muddy; the soles wore out. You still remembered their past awesomeness, but now they were nothing like that. So you toss those out and get a new pair for your feet to hang in – shiny, new, and even cooler than the old ones.
Revelation 21:1 says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven the first earth had passed away." Heaven will be a totally new place for us. God is going to toss out our muddy, worn out world and replace it with a new one, a shinier model that will last forever. There will be some familiar things – like plants and animals and streets – and then there will be totally new things for us to see, smell, taste, and feel. There will be streets paved with gold, gates made of mother-of-pearl, mansions more grand than anything on earth, and crystal clear water. Even the things that are familiar will be different to us. Every color that we saw on earth will be more vivid and more beautiful in Heaven. Every breeze will be more refreshing, the water even wetter.

"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4) Did you catch that? In Heaven, God will actually live with us! The old way of doing things will be gone. On earth, when you’re in pain, you cry. But in Heaven, God will dry your tears and take away your pain! He can even do that now, here on earth, if you ask Him to and if that’s part of God’s plan for you.
On earth, when we talk about purpose, we say your purpose is your job, or your walk with God, or your family or your cause. But really, all those fall into place when you figure out your real purpose: to be with God, to be as close to Him as possible. THAT is what you were made for.
Think of a car. What is that car made to do? Go forward, to do what it’s driver tells it to do. But what if that car wants to be a boat instead? So it drive into the ocean and sinks to the bottom where seaweed climbs over its forgotten hood. The car was trying to be something it wasn’t. The car was not doing what it was made to do; it was going its own way. And it died.
If we are not worshipping God like we were made to, we are spiritually dead. We’re trying to be something we’re not.
In Heaven, we’ll realize and fulfill our purpose and when everything clicks, we’ll realize what really matters. We’ll lead better, happier lives. We were made to be with God forever. If we’re not, than we die. In Heaven, our purpose will be fulfilled. Only then will we truly be alive.

Part 2 coming soon, where we look at the Holy City where we'll live!



My brothers and one of my sisters were baptized today at a pool party! The girl, Jessie, was scared of drowning [in 3-foot-deep water] but finally she decided she would do it.
My dad spoke about our youngest, Abigail: "I knew that Abigail wasn’t ready to be baptized when I asked her if she had ever sinned or done anything wrong – and she told me twice that she had never."
I wanted to make some points about baptism. You probably know these, but sometimes we need to be reminded.
Baptism is a symbol of your old self dying like Jesus died (when you go underwater) and living a new life in Christ, free of sin, just like Jesus rose from the dead.
Baptism is a command. Even Jesus, who was perfect, was baptized – and God was pleased with Him!
If you don’t get baptized, you’re still a Christian.
If you do get baptized, it doesn’t mean you’re a Christian.

If you chose to get baptized, you’ll probably get a Bible as a gift. Use it! Don’t let it sit on a shelf. Read about Jesus’ baptism in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and then about Jesus’ death and resurrection. If any passages jump out at you, let me know!


The Voice of Andronicus

"Do your worst, I am a Christian. Christ is my help and supporter, and thus armed I will never serve your gods nor do I fear your authority or that of your master, the Emperor. Commence your torments as soon as you please, and make use of every means that your malignity can invent, and you shall find in the end that I am not to be shaken from my resolution."
- Andronicus, Roman Empire, 303 AD
Andronicus was thrown into prison because he was unwilling to deny the Christian faith. He was whipped and his bleeding wounds were rubbed with salt. He was brought out of prison and tortured again, thrown to the wild beasts, and finally killed with a sword. This brave martyr was steadfast to the end. - Jesus Freaks, DC Talk


God Bless America

Freedom. According to a popular 4th of July song, "in the heart of every person is a longing to be free; free from fear and persecution -- free to think and free to speak."
Living in the USA, we have the freedom to say what we want, to preach what we want, to chose oru leaders, even to leave the country if we want to. With all that's going on in the world today, freedom is a blessing. Think about it. People DIE for freedom. It's that important. It's that special. We have to protect it.
But my mom was wondering...are we using this freedom? Or are we wasting it? Are we striving to use our freedom to benefit our country and the world? To benefit God's kingdom? Or are we using it to do evil, or not using it at all?
On the news, we here about people in foreign countries who cannot chose their leaders. These are people who are not allowed to speak truth. People risk their lives every day just to read their Bible. Every day, Christians are murdered for their faith.
We are given this freedom, and the US Army is fighting for it. So why aren't we using it?
God tells us, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." In America, we are free to say what we want. We live free from persecution when we proclaim our faith -- we know that one one can hurt us for doing so in this country. We are protected because of our leaders and their decisions and because of our armies.
Jesus also has fought for our freedom -- and has won. He died so that we could be free from sin. We don't have to act like sinners anymore. Isn't that amazing? We don't have to be tied down by our sin! We are FREE. When God sees us, He doesn't see our sin; He sees the Holy Spirit living inside us. Remember that verse? "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
We need to use our freedom, both the freedom in our country and the freedom in Christ. Go out there and be free!
(And don't forget to wear red, white & blue.)

Dear God,
I realize it is a blessing that I have freedom. I can do so much with my life. I realize freedom isn't free; you had to die so that I could be free. Please help me to use my freedom and shine for you.


Hebrews 12

First day of my SOAP reading. I read Hebrews 12 -- following Jesus' example, God as a Father, careful living. Read Hebrews 12, write your own notes and read mine. Let's compare and see what we've learned!

v1-3: I am surrounded by people who love me and are strong Christians. I should join them in their work for God. I should take out of my life anyhing that makes me sin. When people are jerks, I should follow Jesus' example. Even when he suffered daily from the accusations of mean people, Jesus was strong and firm. He never stopped working for God even when things got tough. He made a lasting impression -- one that's lasted over 2,000 years!
v4-11: God is my real father. he is disciplining, teaching, and training me to be more like Him, the person He created me to be: a beautiful, strong, courageous, kind person with a servant's heart.
v12-29: I should be careful how I live. When I'm weak, I must make myself strong again. I need to stay on the right path, the one that leads to God, so I will be strengthened. I should live in peace with everyone (that's hard!). I should live free from sin, becauses sin separates me from God. I need to be careful and listen when God speaks, because His Word is important to me. I am thankful that I am made strong in the Lord and that God's kingdom -- which I am a part of -- can never be destroyed or shaken.



"I'm doing this new thing," Maddy said excitedly, holding her Bible. "It's a Bible study."

"Cool," I said. That's a cute Bible. "What's so special about it?"

"We read through the New Testament in a year. But instead of rushing through, we soak it up. I really like it. Then there's the SOAP."


"Yeah, SOAP. Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. It really helps keep you on track. That's how I do my devotions."


I'm going to try it. My devotions -- if that's what you want to call them -- are, well, lacking. I've gotten into reading the New Testament and underlining all the important parts, but I don't pray about it. And when I do, it's not sincere. Or at least I don't feel sincere. And I never, ever apply it to my life. It's hard for me to admit, but this is how I'm feeling right now.
I think with the SOAP acronym, I'll be able to focus. I'll have four things to do and I won't skip a single one. To you it may seem like checking things off a list, but I think it's what will work for me.

I encourage you to try this. We can do it together! And of course I'll share with you my Scripture readings, my observations, how I'm living it out, and my prayers. This could be really cool. Let's do this!

{And, if you want to try it for yourself, tell me all about your devotions! Let me know what you read and what you felt about it in the comments or the "Be a Voice" chatbox on your left.


Lead Me to the Cross

Lead me to the cross
Where your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down

Rid me of myself
I belong to you
Lead me, lead me to the cross

To your heart
To your heart
Lead me to your heart
Lead me to your heart

My friend had this posted on her wall and I thought it was just beautiful. :)


Free Grace: A Different Angle

"I believe none of us is perfect. I believe no one is without some fault to hide." - Jane Eyre

I've talked to you about how we can't do anything to deserve our salvation. We can't take pride in it, because we didn't earn it. But I want to look at it from a slightly different angle.

As humans, we judge people. We look on the outside, where as God looks at the heart. We won't befriend someone because they look like they need a bath, or we won't talk to talk to someone because they aren't as popular or as good-looking as the people we want to hang out with.

We even judge people by their sins. "Whoa, Abbie is a wild girl! It must be really hard for God to love her." We rate sins. Some sins we think are worse than others, but in God's eyes the are all the same. Whether you've murdered someone or snapped at your dad, it's all sin and it all has to be punished.

When we think we are "good people" who don't sin a lot, or at least don't do any of the "really bad sins", we are wrong. We start to look at the people who don't carry that same "good Christian" image and we judge them. We place ourselves higher on God's friend list, when really, we're no better than the person we're judging.

We've all sinned; we've all fallen short. We can't feel better than anyone else because it was a gift; because we are not better than the next person.

My friend just thought of something. Instead of thinking of God's "friend list" as written vertically, with one person's name above another, think of it as horizontal, where all the names are equal. We are all beautiful in God's sight.

When you feel like you're falling short of what God wants for you, remember that God loves you just as much as someone who you think is perfect.


The Mystery & Glory of God's Plan

He held up the book then. "I’m reading it to you for relax."
"Has it got any sports in it?"
"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautiful ladies. Snakes. Spiders…Pain. Death. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."
"Sounds okay," I said, and I kind of closed my eyes.
William Goldman, The Princess Bride

When I was younger, I used to read the Nancy Drew books – all the time. And, honestly, I could never guess who-dun-it or why. In fact, throughout the whole book I was clueless. I could not get my mind around the mystery. Yet I enjoyed every minute of it anyway, and when I had finished the last page I would set the book down, satisfied.
The mystery of God’s plan is even harder to crack. In fact, it’s impossible for our minds to fully know God’s plan. But we can follow it. And we can know the final chapter, where God banishes sin to Hell and takes the Christians to Heaven where they live forever. The final result is no mystery to us because God has revealed His plan to us.
But if there are people involved in that plan who don’t work to fulfill God’s plan, then they are basically dead. Spiritually dead. They don’t know where they are going or why, mainly because they are not going anywhere at all. They are stuck in one place because they aren’t, as Paul would say, fighting the good fight.
If you want to be involved in God’s amazing plan, you have to work to see it through. Of course you’ll have God’s help, but everyone needs to do their part.
I read the whole book of Ephesians today and really want to share it with you. I loved it, and I hope you will, too. We’re going to look at Ephesians later and see how you and I fit into God’s plan.
Are you with me?


From Theory to Reality

Do you claim something, but don't live up to it? Like I claim to be a semi-vegetarian, but really I just refuse to eat hot dogs, sausage, and tasteless pork.
On the TV show Smallville, a couple had claimed to have broken up, but there was still an awkward presence between them. The guy finally said, "You know, there’s breaking up in theory, then there’s the point where you actually do it."
I think he made a good point. I’m still thinking about it, but I’m thinking that he’s right. There is being or doing something in theory, and then there is actually following through it. Proving it.
One example is being a great friend. You can say, "I’m a great friend" and never live up to it. Then there’s the point when you actually be a great friend and honor what you said.
What about this? "I’m a strong Christian." The next day you go out and party and give into temptations that a strong Christian would be able to conquer (with God’s help).
Even more…. "I’m on fire for Jesus. I live my life for Him." But…are you really on fire for Jesus? (Yes? Ok, then why are you sitting at the computer holding a bag of Doritos?) Are you really living your life for Him?
There is living for God in theory, then there is actually going out and doing it. Yeah, it’s great that you believe in Him. But why not take it to the next level? Why not actually prove that you believe? Prove that you’re a servant of Christ. Live it out.
You know all about the Theory of Evolution. It’s just that. A theory. No one has ever or will ever be able to prove it. So there is the Theory of Evolution, and then, if it was true, there would be actual Evolution. But it isn’t true, so it’s nothing but a theory. Which means it’s nothing at all.
Is your faith like that? Just a theory? Can you prove that your faith is more than that? Can anyone? If your faith isn’t real and working, then it’s just a theory. Which means it’s nothing at all.
Today, reflect on your faith. Ask God to help you change it from theory to reality.

  • What in my life -- from being a good friend to being a good student, being a vegetarian to having solid faith -- have I been living in theory?
  • Can I prove that it's not just theory? How?
  • Am I really living for Jesus, or is it just a theory?
  • How can I change my faith, or anything I deal with, from theory to reality?



It’s summertime, and chances are you’ve already been to the pool. I just got back from one and my hair is all chlorinated. Ew.
Anyway, if you’ve been to the pool or beach, you probably got sunburned. Yeah. Ouch.
The same feeling comes when someone attacks you with their words. Downright mean comments, teasing, gossiping – it all hurts. It burns like a sunburn and it’s just as dangerous.
And chances are that not only have you been attacked by words, you’ve also been the attacker. The teaser. The gossipper. And you’ve probably hurt someone. Maybe even someone you love. You may or may not have meant it, but that doesn't matter. It hurts anyway.
This summer, when you get mad and think of a real clever insult, remember the sting of a sunburn and do the right thing instead.


The Boy with Crutches

At Sky Ranch I learned an unexpected lesson. It wasn't in the Bible study but instead in the way someone treated me that got me thinking about how we treat other people.

There was this cute guy on crutches. He had some disease that affected his ankle and he couldn't run or jump. One thing that was really cool -- he never complained about not getting to run around with the guys in his cabin. He was always positive.
I was going to an optional bible study and wondering whether I should open the door for him. I decided against it -- maybe he would be offended, I didn't know. Instead, he set down one of his crutches and opened the door for me. Me, a girl who as far as he knew had cooties and was perfectly able to open the door myself.
I don't know why that made me so happy. Just that act of kindness and selflessness was so cool.
I realized I should be more like that. When something's wrong in my life, I focus on that instead of searching for other hurting people and helping them. I'm asking God to give me opportunities to help people instead of worrying about myself. I hope you'll do the same.


Sky Ranch!

I just got back from Sky Ranch! It was an amazing experience with wonderful campers and amazing counselors who were so open in sharing their wisdom and what God has done in their lives.
That is why I haven’t been on for like, a week. I’m so sorry, but I’m so glad I was able to go. I’m so excited to share with you everything I’ve learned! Yes, I will share everything I learned about God and people with YOU, but to experience one of Texas’ longest zip lines, coolest water slides, most fun lakes, and more, you have to sign up for Sky Ranch! They’re located in Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma. It costs a lot of money, but it is totally worth it. Do lots of chores for people in your neighborhood if you’re parents won’t pay the fee.
Have an amazing experience at skyranch.org