Deep Fried Diary: Day 2

Oh my! To say that today was amazing would be quite the understatement.

First of all, Raudel Hernandez (our Spanish campus pastor) preached from James 1 at Summit today. He talked about temptation and sin. Here’s just a few things to think about from what he said:

  • “Sin is not that we want bad things, but that we want things more badly than we want God.”
  • Every adversity AND every prosperity is a test. Do you honor God or do you ignore him?
  • “You always do what you most desire to do.” -Jonathan Edwards
  • We sin because we want to sin (see above).
  • Sin is sweet, but Jesus is much sweeter and more satisfying than our sin.

The message isn’t up yet, but it should be soon. I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to it here as soon as it is. It gave me a lot to think about.

Also, I tweeted about a blog post and tagged @SummitRDU and @JDGreear in it earlier this week. J.D. AND someone on Summit staff both read the post and tweeted back at me. It’s a silly little thing, but it’s still incredibly exciting.

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After church, I had a quick lunch with my grandma and a family friend, then I hurried off to the fairgrounds.

My first assignment of the day was to attend the Livestock Hall of Fame induction ceremony. I helped shoot (with a camera, not a gun) the event. There was a light reception after the ceremony, then Heather, Danette and I headed back to the press office.

My next assignment was to write a press release about the SPAM recipe competition.

When I finished that up, I took a camera to get some golden hour pictures around the fair.

I was on my way back, when I bumped into Andrea and Heather, who were on a mission to sell two extra tickets to the sold out Florida Georgia Line concert that Andrea had purchased.

We went up to Dorton Arena and successfully sold Andrea’s tickets, then we set out to try to get into the concert to get some photos for the Public Affairs Office. After some trying, we made it in, and were told that we could stay for the opening act (Larry Frick) two songs of the Florida Georgia Line show.

Shooting that concert was one of the coolest things I have EVER done in my life. We were so close– I was probably about a foot away from the stage. I’ll post some more pictures later this week.

FL GA Line

I actually didn’t eat anything at the fair, so no awesome fair foods to report on today. Never fear, though, I’m going back tomorrow and I WILL be sure come back with something to share.

Be bold

Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by Christian friends, coworkers and family. Insulation makes being a a Christian easy. There’s no one to make you think or to challenge your beliefs. I got comfortable–too comfortable.

Confession: the last time I shared my faith was in high school (and it didn’t end well).

I find sharing my faith uncomfortable. My excuses are numerous: I don’t really know any non-Christians. I’m a people pleaser–I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t know Scripture well enough to present the Gospel. What if I can’t answer their questions? I’m more of a “share my faith by my actions” kind of person.

On Sunday, J.D. Greear preached about sharing the Gospel and being bold about our faith (listen to his sermon on Acts 4:23-37 here).

I was convicted to say the least, but even so, I really couldn’t think of any opportunities to share my faith. So, I began praying for opportunities and for boldness when those opportunities arose.

This afternoon, I opted to hang out at the mall for a while after work and write some cover letters (for some reason, I work best when I’m tuning out the world).

While I was there, a mall employee that I’ve chatted with a few times came over and sat with me while he ate his dinner.

Conversation flowed freely as we talked about our families, backgrounds and future plans. We talked about D.C. for a little bit, which oddly enough (or not so oddly if you know about my experiences in D.C.), the conversation turned to church.

Talking about church led to a conversation about faith and Christianity.

I’ll be honest. It was rocky. I fumbled at the beginning. I didn’t present the Romans Road or the Four Spiritual Laws.

I mainly asked him a lot of questions about what he believes. I tried to make sense of what he believes and place it side by side with what the Bible says.

He believes there is a G/god, that sin exists and that your soul continues to exist after you die. He doesn’t believe that we need to be reconciled to God or that we need a Savior.

God gave me boldness and he gave me the words to say (sometimes I didn’t even realize what was coming out of my mouth until I had already said it).

I keep thinking of things that I should have said and questions that I should have asked. He still doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah. He’s not coming to church with me on Sunday. He didn’t pray to accept Christ.

BUT

I obeyed. He heard the Truth. We parted as friends. 

God is good.

Struggle Bus

There’s a phrase circulating popular culture known as the “struggle bus.” It’s used when someone is having a rough day or just can’t get things right.

Struggle Bus [struhg-uhl • buhs] noun – a metaphor for a difficult situation, used when things aren’t going your way

Sentence: Man, I’ve been riding the struggle bus all day long; I haven’t been able to get anything right!

Well, folks, not only am I riding the struggle bus, I am driving it. I have wrecked it (literally) and I have popped it’s tires (literally), yet I just can’t seem to get off.

I don’t know what God’s trying to teach me in this “real job-less, boyfriend-less, kinda lonely, car destroying, soon to no longer be living on my own” phase of life, but I wish He’d just go ahead and teach it to me already.

Tonight, I am just so tired. Of uncertainty. Of waiting. Of unexpected problems. Tonight, I want to know why I can’t get my life together or why I can’t seem to drive a car.

Yes, I know God’s timing and will are best. Yes, I know that He is good and I trust Him. I am far from losing my faith, but I still can’t help being frustrated.

In April, I wrote about how I was broken into pieces. In August, I wrote about how I was rejected. Today, I am struggling.

 

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Rejection

Last week, I found THE internship that would make my dreams come true. It was in the perfect place. It was in the right field. It even came with the possibility of a full-time job at the beginning of the year. (It was even paid!) I didn’t apply for the internship; they approached me. I had nowhere to live, but the perfect place with great amenities came along (and the move in date was even the right date).

I thought that maybe, just maybe, God was finally putting everything in place for me to move from this season of waiting. I thought that maybe He was finally turning this time of “what-ifs” and “I don’t knows” into something new and exciting.

But today, I was rejected.

I am discouraged. It doesn’t seem to matter how many jobs I apply for, how out-of-this world my resume or cover letter is, or how qualified I am for the position: the answer is always “no.” That’s disheartening.

I’m not the only one who’s faced rejection, though. On my way home from work, I was reminded of an article I read a few weeks ago by my favorite author, Robin Jones Gunn.

When Robin was my age, she wanted to be a missionary. In fact, she applied for a full-time missions position as a laundry supervisor in Kenya.

She was rejected.

Instead, she worked with the girls in her church’s youth group. It was there that she met her husband AND was inspired to write a book, which turned into several books, which turned into The Christy Miller series, which turned into several series.

I have personally seen how The Christy Miller series had an impact on my life, my best friend’s life, and even the life of a dear friend who is currently serving as a missionary overseas.

When I was in middle school, I devoured Robin Jones Gunn’s Christy Miller series. I didn’t just read these books once or twice, either; I picked up them up again and again. In fact, this 22-year-old college graduate still picks those books up from time to time. Christy, Katie, Todd, Doug and Tracy were much more than just characters — they were role models and friends.

My friends and I aren’t the only ones whose lives were impacted by Robin’s books. Robin tells this story in the article:

As a result of writing so many books I was invited to teach at an international writer’s conference in England. At lunch the first day I met a young woman named Wambura. She quietly told me that she had read the Christy Miller books when she was in high school.

“You did?” I was intrigued. “Where did you grow up?”

“I’m from Nairobi, Kenya. Your books were very popular with the girls at my school.”

My eyes grew wide. “You’re from Kenya? I have to tell you something. When I was your age, I applied for a position as a Laundry Supervisor in Nairobi.”

“So you have been to Nairobi.”

“No. I was turned down for the position. I was crushed. I thought that was the best way I could serve God.”

Wambura smiled. She spoke a truth over me that day that changed my life.

“Robin, you did not need to come to Africa to wash our clothes. God sent your stories and they have washed our hearts.”

I may never write an award-winning Christian young adult fiction series, but I do know that He has better plans for me, just like he had better plans for Robin.

So even though I am discouraged, I am encouraged.

I know that God has me where I am right now for a purpose. He will use me in HIS way and in HIS timing. His plan is far greater than mine.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Broken pieces

This semester, I’m taking a photography class. During one of my weekend excursions to Raleigh, I grabbed my friend, Bruce, and drug him to an old (slightly sketchy), abandoned warehouse for a photo shoot. Not to be outdone, he insisted on taking some photos too. We found this smashed mirror on the ground, and got some really good pictures with it.

This is one of my favorite ones that he took of me. Not only is it a decent picture, but it also symbolizes my life right now.

Broken Pieces

Like this mirror, I feel like I’m broken.

I’m tired — no, I’m exhausted. I’m too busy. I’ve had too many late nights with not enough sleep. I have a million things to do, between school, work, my internship, applying for jobs, putting together a portfolio, traveling and (sometimes) attempting to throw sleep in there.

I’m worried and stressed. I graduate in 17 days, and my life doesn’t look at all like I hoped or planned it would two and a half weeks before graduation.

I have no job — I don’t even have prospects on one. Most of my friends have accepted job offers or have their plans for graduate school all lined up, but me? Nope. I’m the lame-o that’s moving home indefinitely after graduation. I have big dreams, and I don’t know if I’m shooting too high for a new college graduate or if I just need to be more patient.

Not only that, but the Christian university mantra of “ring by spring” didn’t work either. No husband. No fiancée. Nope… not even a boyfriend — and, yet again, no prospects. It seems like every time I turn around, so-and-so got engaged and so-and-so is pregnant and so-and-so finally started dating that boy she’s liked for months. While I’m incredibly happy for each and every one of those friends, it’s hard not to accidentally let the big green jealousy monster creep into my heart from time to time.

I feel like a failure: I’ve fallen short of practically all of my goals, I’m an awful person and my pride is broken.

I’ve allowed these failures to cause me to worry. I’ve turned my attention inward and begun focusing on selfish desires. The worst part is, I’ve let all these things choke out my time for Jesus.

Now, any good blogger’s next paragraph would read something like this:

Over the past week, however, I’ve really worked to realign my heart and mind with Christ. It’s a process, but I’m coming along–slowly, but surely. Throughout all this, God has shown up and saved the day. I may not know what lies ahead, but He’s completely turned my attitude around and everything is hunky dory.

However, I’m going to be perfectly honest: I HAVE really worked to realign my heart and mind with Christ, and it IS a process… a very slow and sometimes not so steady. I’m still tired. I’m still worn down. I’m still worried.

Something I have always struggled with is the difference between having a “head knowledge” and a “heart knowledge” of all things God-related. For example, I know He is [fill in the blank with your favorite “God adjective:” sufficent, sovereign, good, etc.], but often times, I don’t feel that way.

I’ve been listening to  Together for the Gospel Live II on repeat for the past few days, and there’s this one verse in “I Hear the Words of Love” that really sticks out to me.

My love is ofttimes low,
My joy still ebbs and flows,
But peace with Him remains the same,
No change my Savior knows.

Even though I change, Jesus doesn’t. So, even though I’m fighting that same inward battle once again, I’ve made the conscious decision to cling to my never-changing Savior with every fiber of my being.

It may not seem like it now, but just like Bruce used the broken mirror to create a creative and beautiful work of art, I know that God will create something beautiful out of my brokenness. Until that happens, I will wait and trust in Him.

The big stink about the inaugural benediction (and the Gospel)

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, taking in the usual tweets… you know: gun control, Oscar nominations and the White House Chief of Staff replacement (yes, there’s some @HonestToddler and @DepressedDarth there too). But then, a certain news story began taking over my newsfeed, and it went something a little like this:

BOILING SPRINGS, NC (XYZ NEWS SERVICE) – Evangelical pastor, Louis Giglio, withdrew from giving the benediction at the president’s inauguration on Jan. 21, after a liberal group discovered a controversial sermon of his on homosexuality from the mid 1990s.

ThinkProgress, the group that unearthed the sermon, provided several portions of the manuscript on their website in their initial story.  The original recording can be found here.

In the message, Giglio points to multiple passages in the Bible that state that homosexuality is a sin (I Corinthians 6:9-10, for example).

“…Homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle… homosexuality is not just a sexual preference homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin according to the Word of God… It is not ambiguous and unclear. It is very clear.”

Giglio went on to offer hope and the promise healing. “And the only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been engrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus.”

ThinkProgress and many other Americans didn’t like that message. They didn’t like being told that homosexuality is wrong. They certainly didn’t like being told that homosexuals should change.

But maybe, just maybe, they took Giglio’s message a little too personally. Later on, he says, “We’ve got to say the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me… it’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.”

Giglio puts himself, and everyone else sitting in his congregation, in the same plight as those living a homosexual lifestyle—the place of a sinner.

In Romans 3, Paul is very clear about who is affected by sin.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:9-12 (ESV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

You are a sinner. I am a sinner. Louis Giglio is a sinner. Billy Graham is a sinner. Homosexuals are sinners. Adulterers are sinners. Gluttons are sinners. The proud are sinners. Gossips are sinners. Murders are sinners. Every single human being on this earth is a sinner.

As sinners, we are condemned. Judgment. Hell. Eternal separation from God. These are the consequences of sin.

In Romans 6, we see our death sentence pronounced.

“For the wages of sin is death,…”

Romans 6:23a (ESV)

The beauty is that Paul doesn’t stop with death. He finishes the sentence.

“BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23b (ESV) (Emphasis my own)

What exactly is this free gift?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:16-17 (ESV)

The book of John tells us that God sent Jesus, his son—His perfect, spotless son—to our sinful and fallen world. Not to just coexist with the sinners… not to bring judgment on sinners. Jesus came to earth as a substitute for our sins.

HE was condemned. HE was judged. HE suffered through Hell. HE was separated from God. HE took on the consequences of our sins.

He offers us a new life, not one defined by our sin (and consequently, our separation from God), but one defined by His holiness. All we have to do is accept His gift of eternal life.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-13 (ESV) (Emphasis my own.)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Everyone. That means Louis Giglio, Billy Graham, homosexuals, adulturers, gluttons, the proud, gossips, murders–even you and me.

What I’ve learned so far

Since I arrived in D.C., the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities staff had been preparing us to live and work as young Christian professionals in the city. We have been from Anacostia to Alexandria to Capitol Hill on a scavenger hunt to help us get acquainted with public transportation in the city. Abigail, Rose and James have imparted wisdom to us regarding city living, including grocery shopping, churches and safety. WJC and ASP program directors, Terry Mattingly and Peter Baker, have lectured on subjects such as journalism, professional calling and different views of Christianity.

The thing that has stuck out the most to me in the two weeks we’ve been here, however, hasn’t been how to figure out which bus to take to get where or how not to get mugged, but it has been our readings and talks about being a Christian in the “real world.”

Many times, young Christians (particularly graduates from Christian colleges) feel pressure to pursue “Christian” vocations. If one feels called to a secular vocation, then the solution is to Christianize it. That’s why we have our Christian newspapers, Christian magazines, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian books… you get the point.

Now, I’m not saying that this Christian-niche is necessarily bad. I definitely believe that there is a place for all of our Christian materials. However, what if some of those editors or musicians or writers would work to become the best of the best in the mainstream? What if rather than creating Jesus-saturated media that only appeals to those who already know Him, they created wholesome, excellent and balanced materials that appeal to (and therefore reach) a larger (and often unsaved) audience? What if…?

It all boils down to how you live your life. I believe it’s just as possible for someone to live a life pleasing to God as a journalist for World as it is or as a stay at home with your kids or as a reporter for the New York Times.

Last Tuesday, I went to Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s intern Bible Study. We talked about I Peter 1:1-2 and everything worked right with what we had been talking about in class!

What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.   ~C.S. Lewis

Now… here’s the catch… figuring out my calling in life… 😉

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
~Jeremiah 29:11-13

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of those verses that I tend to gloss over. Having gone to private, Christian schools throughout my entire life, I know Jeremiah 29:11 about as well as I know my ABCs. It’s the verse that gets pulled out in every turning point in life, as well as every tribulation.

However, as much time as I have spent pouring over verse 11, the rest of the chapter often gets left out. It’s part of a letter written to the Israelites while they were living in captivity in Babylon.

I particularly like verses 12 and 13. I feel like they complete verse 11.  Verse 11 shows God’s goodness and his provision for His people. However, the next two verses outline our response to Him.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Our response to God’s plan for us is to come to Him and to communicate with Him with “ALL your heart.” Also, it says, “You WILL seek Me and find me.”

Earlier I mentioned that this is a verse I tend to gloss over. If that’s the case, why did I just write five paragraphs about it? Well, sometimes God takes those things that you gloss over and shoves them right in front of your face so you can’t ignore it any more.  Well, that pretty much happened tonight.

You see, I’m kind of at a place where I don’t really know what God’s plans are for me. I kind of do… at least I know the basics of what I feel He’s called me to do. But the details are fuzzy. Let me tell you, I hate fuzzy details. I like knowing where I’m going, when I’m going, what I need to wear and what will be served for dinner a month in advance (okay, maybe that’s a slight exageration), but I love knowing details. Just last week, a friend and I were supposed to go to his family’s lake house for the Fourth of July. The problem was, he didn’t know when they were planning on leaving until he woke up the morning of (only 20 minutes before they decided to leave, might I add). Boy did that ruffle my feathers! And that was just plans for one day.

Sometimes I’m tempted to get frustrated with God and cop an attitude with Him. This is when the last two verses kick in. Rather than being angry, I must choose to pray and to search for Him with all my heart. And then, and only then, will I feel peace. Not necessarily peace that comes from knowing what His plans are, but peace that comes from steady, enduring trust in Him.

His plans aren’t always what I want them to be. Oftentimes, I find that hard to understand. Sometimes so much so that I cling tighter to what I want, making it more painful when God has to pry it from me. But God knows far better than I.  In fact, as Garth Brooks said, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

“Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.”
~Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayers”