Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

I love Valentine's Day.

Having never been married or even had a serious boyfriend for that matter, it's probably not for the reasons you would think.

I know that "Singles Awareness Day" and "Anti-Valentine's Day" movements are in full swing, but as a single gal, I still LOVE Valentine's Day.

Without fail, God shows up on Valentine's Day and reminds me of some of the things he's blessed me with that I love. Last year, it was watching the Olympics at home with my family while it snowed outside! (Big deal in South Georgia). This year, I'm excited about getting my ticket for Guatemala! One of my good friends, who had the opportunity to intern at a children's home outside of Guatemala City for six months, is taking me back with her during Holy Week so we can minister to the children. I'm so excited! I can't wait to be there and help these kids celebrate Easter!

I was thinking about all this on the way to work this morning. God is so funny in the irony that today, Valentine's Day, is the day I'm finally going to finalize these plans! Maybe it's just because I'm more aware of it, but Valentine's Day has really become a day that I spend reflecting on how thankful I am for all the wonderful things in my life.

It's so easy for me to get distracted by the "if-onlys" in my life. If only I had a better body. If only this guy liked me. If only I could be better..... If only I could ........ Everybody has those. For whatever reason, Valentine's Day has become a day where God really throws how blessed I am in my face. My friends and family make today great! Single or not, I wouldn't trade the time I spend with God on Valentine's Day for anything!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, 
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
(1 John 4:7)

I know what love is because I know God. Nothing else even begins to compare!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dear World

Originally published January 2012

Dear World,

We, as a generation, accept that you see us the way you want to see us. You label us in the simplest terms. You call us ignorant, self-seeking, and unmotivated. You tell us we're irresponsible for not voting enough or not caring about the world enough. You tell us that we're a generation of rebels who look after nothing but our own interest. You pay millions of dollars every year to find out what we want in technology and how to best sell it to us, but when it comes to something bigger, you count us out.

We accept that you see us the way you want to see us.

We do not, however, accept your labels.

This week, I had the privelege to witness 45,000 college students descend on the city of Atlanta for the Passion 2012 conference and break apart every label that you could throw at them. They walked for miles in the cold to stand in lines and have the opportunity to lift up the name of Jesus. 

They're crazy you say. Just a bunch of college hippies. A bunch of religious freaks. Maybe. But just when you had comforted yourself by saying that they just came to stand around and sing to God, they broke more of your labels.

They did something.

This generation that you complain about saying that we're uneducated and unaware, did something about the problems you love to sit around and talk about. We're a generation that has always known 24-hour news. We hear about the problems of the world all day, everyday. We hear your correspondants standing in the middle of broken places asking "what can be done?" We understand what a broken world looks like.

We did something.

Throughout the week, we were asked to give to end the horror of modern slavery. They asked us to raise $1 million. They told us stories that represented 27 million modern slaves. Then they asked us to give. We know you're broke college students they said. We know that you scrounge around in the sofa cushions looking for pizza money, but we will never count your generation out. They asked us to give.

Not only did a bunch of broke college students give, they did so happily. They stood in thousand people deep lines to give.

So what happens when a bunch of religious, college hippies get behind a cause? What happens when a generation says they will do something now?

They break through your labels.

This generation was not satisfied with giving $1 million. Instead, they gave $3 million to local and international causes. Suddenly, you start to perk up. Suddenly, you start to notice this generation a little more.

The Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed and the Leutinant Govenor of Georgia Casey Cagel noticed this generation. These broke college students said they horrified that one of the worst places for human trafficing was not in some foregin country but in Atlanta, Georgia. These students wanted to do something about it. In giving $100,000 to fund a new special victims task force, these students were saying that we were not going to stand by and let this injustice happen.

Are you paying attention yet?

Beyond giving, these students awknoledged the brokenness of the world. They did something more than just give.

They prayed.

They prayed for a broken and dying world. They prayed for mercy. They prayed for healing.They prayed for resoration.

Just a phase you say. Their enthusiasm will die down when they're not surrounded by 45,000 of their friends. Maybe for some that's true. However, if there is one thing that we should come away with from witnessing this, it's to not count this generation out.

You see us how you want to see us. We chose to do something.

You want to know the most surprising thing? Every single one of the 45,000 students will tell you that really, we didn't do anything. We are selfish. We are incapable. Do you remember why I said these students were in Atlanta in the first place?

To lift up the name of Jesus.

On our own, we are incapable. We are selfish.

We are ineffecitve.

When we lift up the name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit,

we do something.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they wereuneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
-Acts 4:13

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Daniel- A New Name in Leadership

Originally published December 2011

We can probably all think of several people throughout the Bible that we consider leaders. Some were more effective than others, and I believe we can learn something from each of them.

Daniel has been the subject of many Sunday school lessons throughout my life. I learned about his friends Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego and their close encounter with God in the fiery furnace. Who could forget the story of Daniel and the lion's den? I figured I knew the basics of who Daniel was. However, once I started really studying the book of Daniel, I realized that there was so much more to be learned from this leader.

I was struck by several characteristics of Daniel, as well as a type of "cause-and-effect" relationship he had with God. We first come across Daniel when he is between 14 and 17 years old. He and other Israelite boys are brought to King Nebuchadnezzar's palace to basically be brain-washed in the ways of the Babylonians. This is where Daniel starts to stand out. I want to share some things that make Daniel a great leadership example.

  • He held fast to his beliefs even when it meant losing his standing
    • In 1:8-16, Daniel refused to defile himself by eating the food provided by the king. This pagan food would have been provided as an honor to the multiple gods of the kingdom. Even though Daniel's action went against the king's command, he kept his allegiance to God.
    • As a result of Daniel's faithfulness, God granted him favor in the sight of the chief eunuch. He was provided proper food and was healthier than those who ate the King's food.
  • He was equipped for his calling
    • In 1:17, we see that God gave Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego "learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams."
    • God had equipped these young men to fulfill his calling on their lives 
    • He does the same thing for us!
  • He used good judgement when he spoke, even in the midst of a crisis
    • In 2:12-16, we see that the King is very angry when none of his magicians, enchanters, or socercers could interpret his dream. He is so angry that he orders all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed (Pretty much he wanted to kill all the smart guys). The king's men are coming after Daniel and his friends with the intent of killing them. Daniel spoke with "prudence and discretion" to the captain of the king's guard. I don't know about you, but prudence (the ability to discipline oneself by the use of reason) and discretion (showing good judgement, the ability to make responsible decisions) would probably not be my first reaction when somebody showed up to kill me!
    • Sure enough, Daniel keeps his cool and requests to see the king so that he may interpret his dream (remember how God had gifted Daniel back in chapter 1?)
  • He gave God the glory and remained humble
    • In preparing to go before the king, Daniel enlists the help of his friends by asking them to "seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery"
    • When God reveals the dream's interpretation to Daniel, he "blessed the God of heaven." Check out Daniel's praise in 2:20-23, it is a good summary of the theme of the book of Daniel
    • When Daniel interprets the dream, the king is amazed. Daniel remains humble and tells the king that the mystery has been revealed to him "not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king."
  • Daniel had an "excellent spirit"
    • In chapter 6, Daniel was over 80 years old, and had become the favorite of the King (now King Darius by the way). Daniel had become an excellent leader and was known for his wisdom, ability, attitude, and good reputation
    • Interestingly, it's at this point that people begin plotting against Daniel and he is thrown into the lion's den. In the quick fall from prominence to being left for dead, Daniel holds strong to God. God honors his faithfulness again by sending an angel to the lion's den and protecting him through this trial.
  • Daniel sought God through prayer
    • Chapter 9 is probably my favorite part of the book of Daniel. 
    • Daniel fervently prayed for God's mercy. There are several beautiful sections of scripture that reflect Daniel's obedience and faith
    • Once again, God is faithful and sends the angel Gabriel to speak to Daniel and give him understanding
Fascinating, right? There are so many qualities of Daniel that I strive for. I believe the world is desperate for leaders who will emulate all of these things. I feel a bit like Daniel in chapter 1. I have no idea what God is preparing me for or what he wants to do through me, but I hope to react like Daniel and hold fast to my faith and believe what God tells me. The same God that guided Daniel is still guiding us.