Making the Ordinary Extraordinary


I was born on a Thursday morning, bundled up into my mother’s arms and taken to church that very Sunday.  I was passed down the row to my grandmother, passed back to my aunt, and in every way I grew up in the hallowed halls and pews of our local church.  I sat next to my grandmother on the bench of the organ, I helped my mother in the church kitchen, and I even went so far as to eventually marry our pastor’s son.  But long before that, I was a little girl who (very often) sang along with her cassette tapes with a hairbrush into the mirror of her bedroom.

One summer, a choir group of university students came through our church to put on a musical.  I was enraptured by this group as I thought that the girls were so pretty, and the boys were so handsome.  I diligently studied their every dance move so as to recreate the scenes, and I can, in fact, still sing word-for-word a fair number of the songs they sang during their musical based on the story of Joseph. I know this because a quick Google search brought me to a YouTube post that includes every single song, and as I wrote this, l sang them all. And for the record, the singing is still best done with my hairbrush in my mirror despite the decades that have gone by.

It did not hurt at all that the young man playing Joseph was in every way divine to my nine year old heart, and from that day on, the story of Joseph has been a lifelong favorite.  As my own children and I have now circled our many different children’s Bibles innumerable times as we have read each night for years, I am always full of anticipation when we get to the story of Joseph, and I am definitely going to push play on this YouTube collection and sing along to their horror the next time we do.

If you were to read the story of Joseph that begins in Genesis 37, I am sure that you would agree that Joseph sounds absolutely obnoxious.  There he was, talking about in his famous multi-colored coat that his father had given him, going on and on about his lively dreams and the idea that his brothers would bow to him.  As the mother of boys, I can easily imagine how this played out, and I can also easily imagine the irritation that likely reverberated around this group of brothers. In Genesis 37:10, we even see that his father Jacob rebuked him, and given that Joseph was known as his very favorite son, can you just imagine how bad it must have been?  

As the plot moves on, it is not altogether surprising that his brothers opted to drop him into a cistern to leave for dead, though it does seem like a rather dramatic response.  But thanks to a well-timed caravan that passed by, they ended up selling him instead, leaving an angst ridden and devastated father as they returned from the fields with Joseph’s fancy coat, torn and ruined, as if an animal attacked him.

But God was at work as Joseph moves over the years from being sold by his brothers to being a slave, to being in jail, to being the governor of the land of Egypt. Thanks to the dreams that God gave him while he slept as a heads-up, Joseph eventually ends up playing a pivotal role in saving the people of the land, including those very brothers that sold him and his much-loved father.  

But as it often happens in our own lives, nothing about this transformation and resolution happened easily, nor quickly.  

We know from history books that Joseph was in Potiphar’s house as a slave for 11 years, likely in prison for at least two. Surely, he felt lost and forgotten every single day for over a decade, his circumstances changing little, his escape in every way impossible. But remember his dreams from earlier in the story? Joseph finds himself wrongly imprisoned, but there he eventually provides dream interpretations to other members of Pharaoh’s staff who had found themselves in jail for crossing their respective masters.  Can you imagine how this felt? The last time he interpreted dreams he landed in a cistern left for dead. But alas, this time his interpretations quickly came true, leading to a promotion for one jail mate, death for another.

But still, Joseph remained forgotten.  

Genesis 39:2, however, tells us that God was with Joseph, with verse 3 confirms that the Lord gave him success in everything he did.  While the narrative does not overtly tell us that God was at the center of Joseph’s inclinations, his actions and results well indicate that he sought to honor God, and God gave him favor. He wasn’t just a slave, he was the head of Potiphar’s house.  He wasn’t just a prisoner, he had found favor with the guard and was the second-in-command.

Despite his circumstances remaining immoveable, God was with him.

Years passed, and then Pharaoh began have troubling dreams, grasping at what they meant and asking his magicians and sages for an explanation, but not a one could interpret.  And then, at last, the cupbearer, for whom Joseph had interpreted his dream and had found himself promoted, remembered him.

Joseph was remembered!  

In Genesis 41:16, Joseph is summoned and asked to interpret Pharaoh’s complicated dreams, and he says that while he cannot, it is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.  Despite his opportunity to take all of the credit and exalt himself, Joseph gives all glory to God for what he can do for Pharaoh.

Just verses later and in one crazy, unbelievable swoop of events, God makes it possible for Joseph to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh. In a whirlwind of events, Joseph finds himself with the royal signet ring on his hand, a new life as second-in-command to Pharaoh himself, and he is suited up in the best royal linens.  To top it off, Scripture tells us that he is given a gold chain around his neck as he flies through the streets at top speed in his brand new chariot. The story sounds unbelievable; the twist of events impossible to imagine. After decades apart from his family, years spent imprisoned and enslaved, the life of Joseph finishes remarkably, unbelievably well in Genesis 50 with the people of a nation saved, a family reunited and God glorified.

This, my friends, is our God.

Where, in your life, do you feel lost and forgotten?  Do you ever feel left behind, as if you’ve been tossed in a cistern and left for dead?  Have you stopped believing that the God of the universe sees you, remembers you and loves you?  Do you wonder if this is all there is, whatever “this” happens to be for you?

Of the many characters that we meet over the story of God’s people, I feel like the story of Joseph is given so much space in the book of Genesis as his experience rings true for all of us, in one way or another.  While we may not have been the obnoxious brother terrorizing his siblings with dream interpretations, we might have been the young woman that destroyed others with her words, leaving a wake of broken relationships and pain behind us.  While we might not have spent years trapped in prison, we may have suffered at the hands of others and endured consequences that were unbearable, with reverberations that continue to echo in our lives. While we might not have been the right-hand man and the head of a fancy house, we may be the center of our own home, racing kids to and fro, buried in piles of laundry and field trip permission slips and wondering if this is all there is?

While Joseph’s story reads a bit light and breezy, likely because we already know the end, the reality is that Joseph’s life was by no means that simple.  In every way, he lost everything, and it was a LONG time before the hand of God became obvious in a tangible way. So, what do we do when we feel like Joseph did?  How do we move forward in those times of feeling lost and alone?

We are not our beginnings

While Joseph began his life as a favored son, treasured above all others while wearing his fabulous coat, his relationships with his collection of brothers was obviously fraught with pain and strife.  As the mother of boys, I cannot imagine a situation being so dire that either of them would toss their brother and leave him for dead. While surely Joseph contributed significantly to these broken relationships, he paid dearly with years in prison and a decade as a slave.  There was no way for him to text Jacob and let him know that all was well; there was no group text where his brothers could apologize and make things right, so imagine the pain that this family history brought daily to Joseph’s mind and heart. It would have been easy for him to have grown into a man of bitterness, anger and disdain, but Joseph’s track record is that of looking to God, obeying His direction, and looking forward.  While it is impossible to completely separate ourselves from what has happened in our past, through Jesus, all things can be made new and can be used for His purposes. We are not what happened to us, and we are not where we began.

Our decision to obey is honored by God

All over God’s Bible there is ample evidence that our decision to obey the principles laid out for us in Scripture will bring His glory and our benefit.  We are not promised that anything will move on our own time frame, and as a person who absolutely loves controlling my own universe, I find this truth both troubling and freeing.  When I am challenged personally to let go of my own expectations and opt for my own obedience in any given situation, I plant God’s word in my heart to take root, because relying on truth in challenging times is the only way to get through.  Some favorites of mine of late include these, all of them in The Message paraphrase:

Psalm 16:11

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face.  Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.

Lamentations 3:25-27

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.

Isaiah 26:3

People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit.  Depend on God and keep at it, because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.

Trouble will find us, but God is with us

I was recently at a conference with many of my Bible-teaching heroes on the platform.  While the words they were preaching were powerful and wise, I found myself studying what had brought them to this place of strength from which they were teaching, and that root was trouble.  Be it consequences from their own decisions, consequences from someone else’s, illness, broken relationships or whatever, trouble found them.

But in every instance, God did too.

Hebrews 11 brings us a list of those for whom this also rings true.  Consider the stories of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah as they all lived lives mired in turmoil, confusion, broken promises and challenges. But they also lived lives overflowing with provision, blessing, surprises and promises kept.  The text in Hebrews continues to point out Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. All of these stories include sin, brokenness, redemption, and God’s glory. God is with us.  History gives us plenty of proof, and if it was true for this cast of characters, whose failures and triumphs were recorded for us to know, then it is ABSOLUTELY true for us.

God can take the ordinary, and shift it to the extraordinary

We might never know how every story line in our life is going to end.  I may not know if my children will grow up to live lives that glorify Him, I may never see the legacy of faithfulness paying off across generations.  I might not see the resolution of every challenge, or the solution to every problem. But the truth of God is there for us to see throughout history, in every story and in every way that our God keeps His promises, sees every detail through, and can be trusted to take the ordinary into the extraordinary.  When you feel like all is lost and nothing can change, remind yourself that Joseph went to sleep one night filthy, imprisoned, and with a bad haircut. But the next day, he went to sleep wrapped in rich linens, the owner of a fast moving chariot and with a gold chain and signet ring.

God has rich linens, a chariot, a signet ring and a gold chain for you too.  His Word tells us He does! Psalm 16:11 has David praising God: You reveal the path of life to me, in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.  

God is good, and He has good things for us!  

In the perils and pains in my own life, I have seen God redeem and renew, redirect and change.  While not every problem and challenge has been neatly solved, I have watched God bring unexpected solutions and surprising blessings.  Like the Biblical heroes in Hebrews, we might not see the end of every story, but we can count on our faithful God to stay true to His plan. So, as my nine year old self often did, take out your hairbrush, turn on the music, and sing loud to our God that does not leave us where we are, gives us favor when we obey Him, is with us in our times of trouble, and takes our ordinary lives and makes them extraordinary.  

 

About the Author: Marci-Beth Maple and her family recently moved to Fort Worth, Texas after 3 years spent living in England.  After the season of travel and adventure, no one in her family wants to leave the house and they can now be found enjoying American television, queso and BBQ, only leaving the house for football or soccer, but only after dying on Fortnite.  With one husband, two sons, two kittens and a new puppy, her floors are never clean, but the smiles and fun rarely end.

 

Healing the Church

Some students came forward. All youth group age. The church body is broken.

The church is a mix of all types of people. Young, old and in between. Single, married, divorced, widowed, it’s complicated and so on. It’s also full of people striving to follow Christ and live out the ways in which He has commanded us to live. And it contains people who sin. Sometimes even against those in their local congregation. Sin tears and rips into the fabric of the lives of those directly affected, those that know them, and their church. When sin is committed against others, especially vulnerable children, devastation, anger, vengeance, sorrow, and wrath are introduced into the community. It is something which we can imagine, but don’t want to. It is something that some of us have experienced. It is something some of us have witnessed in our own church.

The church which this occurred is a faithful, God-honoring church. Well respected by the community as well as most of its congregants. The perpetrator was not on staff but a regularly involved member who had many friends in the congregation. That man is now awaiting trial. So what do you do when someone violates the trust developed within a church community? What do you do as a member of the congregation? What can you do?

My husband, Tim, and I work together to offer consulting for people and organizations in turmoil or conflict. We worked with this church to help their leadership and congregation members heal and create support systems to the victims, their families and friends. When my husband brought this possibility to me, I knew that we absolutely should do this. We are equipped to help in certain ways to bring some healing to this brokenness. At the same time, I wanted to avoid this situation at all costs. We have 3 young children, 2 girls and a boy. All I could think about was sometime in the future, my children will be attending youth groups and interacting with fathers of other children, and the thought that something like this might happen to my children terrified me. I didn’t want to interact with this pain for fear of what could be. I know that parents who are reading this are thinking about their own children, maybe even who are youth group age and don’t want to consider that this could ever happen in your church. And I’m not trying to scare you or make you paranoid or afraid, but I want you to understand why I wanted to avoid this very difficult situation. I finally told my husband that we can do the work but only if he does the majority of it and that I didn’t want to know any details that he might hear.

The process of our work with the church surprised me. It turned out that while emotionally difficult at times, it became life-giving. Because what we were offering them was hope, a way forward. It also helped put things into perspective for me. While sin steals innocence, life, and relationships, hope redeems what has been taken.

This is the very heart of the gospel. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Our sin always leads to death but the hope we are offered is forgiveness and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ, when he becomes Lord of our lives. Hope. Hope in the face of death. So here are three ways you can offer hope, when your church is facing sin and death.

  1. Be available. When someone goes through something traumatic what they need is support. It will look different for every person, but no one will be upset if you offer to be with them, listen to them, and help with meals or errands. You don’t need to have gone through the same thing to be available. The whole idea of support is to find out what you can do for them and what they need. When offering help it’s important not to seek what you need from the person you are supporting. You may need to make yourself feel better or alleviate any uneasiness that you may feel because of what happened. If you need help, then seek help, but don’t seek it from those directly affected by the traumatic event. If you are in a church and don’t know what to do, seek out your leadership and ask them if there is anything you can do or offer to setup something that seems appropriate, but of course be open to the leadership if they have other ideas. If you are a leader at a church, it is important that you seek help from professionals.

 

  1. Share your story. Everyone has had difficulties in their own life. Everyone has experienced harm, pain, and death. If you have not yet experienced healing for your pain, seek out those with the same story and ask them to help you begin your healing process. When you have experienced healing remember, God can redeem the pain and death in your own life when you share about your healing with others who are going through similar situations. Your story will be helpful to others when you have taken the necessary steps to heal for yourself.

 

While this is not an example of sin in the church it is an example of something painful happening to me, I suffered 2 miscarriages. I was devastated and angry this happened. The thing that encouraged me the most was other women sharing their stories of miscarriage and knowing that I would get through this just as they had. It works the same way with other types of pain. If you have gone through something and you are aware of someone else who has, here are some simple steps you can take:

  1. Be prayerful
  2. Approach them
  3. Let them know you know what they are going through.
  4. Let them know you are available to talk if they’d like to.
  5. Give them the option to opt in and use you as a resource.

Now when I hear of other women who have miscarried, I always contact them and give them the option to talk. Sometimes they want to and other times they tell me it is comforting to know they are not alone. Your story is never wasted in an effort to support and comfort another person.

 

  1. Maintain and Attitude of Hope. As mentioned previously, sin pervades our world, and unfortunately our churches. When sin or pain occurs, know that our hope is in Jesus. It is absolutely imperative to not downplay, minimize, or tell people to “let go and let God” but you can still maintain hope while caring for our hurting brothers and sisters. “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9-10) “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10) God does not prevent people from sinning, God does not always stop death from occurring in our world, but he offers Himself to be present with us as we go through these things, and will encourage us, restore us, and use us to help others.

May you be an instrument of God’s hope to those around you.

 

 

Noelle Nightingale M.A., is the President of Nightingale Resolutions as well as a consultant, mediator, trainer, and facilitator. She has over 13 year’s experience in the field of Conflict Resolution and is located in Fresno, CA. To find out more check out NightingaleResolutions.com

Life

On July 24th, 2005 my Grandma wrote me a letter that I have tucked safely in my Bible. There is no letter that I have read more thoroughly; I have portions of it memorized and often pull it out when I need to be reminded of truth.

 

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21

 

The combination of truth and timing is everything.

Life giving. Inspirational. Transformative. Empowering.

 

I received her letter within the first few weeks of our new adventure. David, our 18 month old son Elijah, and I had just moved to England to be missionaries. This letter contained words of wisdom from the lifetime she and my Grandpa spent on the mission field. She shared a verse God gave her for me, what she saw in me, and the mistakes she had made while raising her children in full time ministry.  Her desire was to encourage and equip me so that I could feel confident in my calling and avoid making the same mistakes.

 

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” Proverbs 13:14

 

In that letter my Grandma was offering me life – pointing me to scripture, speaking truth over me, and sharing wisdom. I believe when someone speaks truth over you it powerfully resounds in the innermost part of your soul. The Holy Spirit affirms and confirms that truth within you.

 

Truth has the ability to combat lies, to heal wounds and to bring dead places of your soul back to life.

 

What powerful instruments we can be, in the hands of an Almighty God, when we resolve to be available and useful to the kingdom. When we purpose to walk into every room, every conversation, every interaction… and simply aim to be a tool that imparts and inspires the life and love of Jesus – that is when miracles happen in us and through us. That is when we see God’s Kingdom here on earth today – when we are used by the Creator of the Universe to impart and inspire life. That is the essence of who He is flowing from us here on earth. What a gift we have to share!

 

What my Grandma did not know when she penned that letter to me, is her words would stick with me for years. The scripture she gave me would not just become a rock for a season, but shelter for a decade. The truth she spoke over me – would take root in my heart and keep me grounded through storms of doubt and fiery trials. God has a beautiful way of reminding of us who we are when the world comes crashing down on us – and He has used my Grandma’s words over and over again to bring life when the enemy meant to steal it from me. Her words of wisdom guided me as I parented my children through many different seasons of full time ministry – that has not just brought life to me, but to our entire family.

 

Every time I open my Bible and see her letter it inspires me to do the same – to make imparting life a way of life; in my home, in my church, with my friends, in the grocery store, and to strangers I pass on the street … If you think a loving, kind word – say it! Speak life into this dark world.

 

Life Goal: To be an instrument in the hands of an Almighty God, ready and available to bring life.

 

We all carry power and responsibility – the choice to impart life moment by moment, every day while we walk this earth together.

 

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” Proverbs 10:11a

 

Will you join me this week in being a fountain of life? Together we may not be able to change the whole world – but each of us can change someone’s world by speaking truth and life over them today. That is a powerful and beautiful thing.

 

May I speak this truth over you today?

 

Sister! “His divine power has given you everything you need for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” 1 Peter 1:3. We have ALL we need through the power of God to walk out life today with godliness, freely invited to bask in his glory and goodness. Let’s be women who stand firmly in that truth, when we know who we are and what we have been given we can inspire others to stand confidently in it too. We are all in this together! Let’s be women who impart life – through our words and actions with the power of Jesus.

 

Homework for this week:

 

  1. Take time to thoughtfully pen a life giving letter. A letter that speaks truth to the heart of the recipient.  
  2. Send an empowering text to a friend telling them something brave and beautiful that you see in them.
  3. God has given you influence in someone’s life – whether it be your children, your co-worker, a mentee or a friend. Set aside some face to face time with them to share what you see God doing in their life, call out the fruit you see growing, and honor it (applaud it, cheer them on, be their biggest fan)!

 

May you grow, be filled, and be blessed beyond measure as you speak life!

Love, Rachel

 

Podcast 012 – “The Old Testament and Why We Need to Know It” – Part 1

 

Do we really need to read and understand the Old Testament?  Isn’t knowing Jesus in the New Testament enough?  How do I even begin to study books like Leviticus, and is it even necessary?

In this episode of the Arise Ministries Collective Podcast, Lisa asks guest Ellen Newman for help and clarity answering some of these questions. We hope you’ll find this conversation both helpful and challenging as we explore the necessity understanding the Old Testament together.

Noteworthy Quotes

“The New Testament was never given to replace the Old Testament but rather to complete its story.” 

“The New Testament is the witness to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the One in whom and through whom all the promises of God find their fulfillment. These promises can only be understood from the Old Testament; the fulfillment of the promises can be understood only in the context of the promises themselves. So the Old Testament is – what was the promise? And the New Testament is – what was the fulfillment?

“We wouldn’t totally understand who Jesus is and why He did what He did unless we know the Old Testament. Without the Old Testament foundation of the curse, law, sacrifice, priesthood and redemption then the cross, resurrection and salvation of Christ would make little sense. His birth, His death, His resurrection, His return and His kingdom are all revealed in the Old Testament.” 

“We tend to put Jesus in the New Testament box and make Him the Jesus we are comfortable with. We need the see Jesus through the Old Testament to really define Him and what He came to accomplish.”

“Reading through God’s interactions with his people in the OT helps me remember just how steadfast God’s love really is.”

Ellen’s Recommended Resources

Click directly on the titles below to read about or purchase Ellen’s suggestions:

John MacArthur’s “Grace To You” app on iTunes

Nancy Guthrie’s five part series,”Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament”

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible: ESV Edition

 

About Our Guest:  Ellen Newman was a registered nurse for 45 years and is living proof that you are never too old to go back to school. She returned to college at age 60 to get a degree in Biblical Foundations from Multinomah University, and has a passion for seeing people engaged in the Word of God. Ellen has worked as a Community Pastor for Women at Summit View Church in Vancouver, Washington, and is a seasoned Bible student/teacher.  This picture was taken in Israel – A place she has visited multiple times and is dear to her heart.

 

In the Fire

God uses many different types of stories to drive home points He wants us to learn. I think one of my favorite Bible Stories of all time is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the lessons He has taught me through that. I want to dive deeper into the theme that has thoroughly changed how I look at life.

If at this point you have no idea what am I talking about, asking yourself  “Who are these random people with silly names??” I would invite you to read Daniel 3 to gain better background knowledge.

For a quick recap, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were living in Babylon, which was currently being ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar set up an image of gold and commanded everyone in Babylon to bow down and worship it when the music played. Since Shadrach, Meshack and Abendigo loved the Lord and sought to honor and glorify Him with their lives, they chose not to bow down and worship the idol. Worshipping would have gone against the 10 commandments God had given his people to live by. They did this not knowing what would happen to them, but trusting that they were following what the Lord wanted.

They were brought to King Nebuchadnezzar and he gave them an ultimatum: either they bow down and worship or be thrown into a fiery furnace. I do not know about the rest of you, but if I was given that option I am pretty sure I would be so scared and I would pretend to worship that idol pretty quick! But our three friends stood fast in their faith and told the King:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

I love that line! It speaks leaps and bounds about the character of Shadrach, Meshack and Abendigo, showing they were willing to trust God and that His plan is best whether or not He chooses to let them die. They accept that they know God could choose to save them if he wanted to. Their true goal in life was to glorify God the best way they could.

I think the next part of the story is my absolute favorite. In verse 23 it says “and these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.” I am personally so quick to beg God to save me from the “fires” in my life. When friendships get hard, when someone gets sick, when I feel down, I am quick to ask God to take it away – to fix it.  I love that He let them go into the furnace, I love that He did not swoop down and save them, but the thing I love most is that He was with them the whole time in the fire! “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods,” (Daniel 3:25). I adore how reassuring it is to have that hope. So often I can feel like God is not hearing my prayers simply because He is not answering them the way I wanted, but the truth is He is still right there, walking beside me using my trial to bring Himself glory.

This theme is shown again in Daniel 6 when Daniel is tried for his faith and later thrown into the lion’s den. Again, God could have changed the king’s mind or the law, but He let Daniel be thrown in the den to bring Him glory. At the end of both Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s stories, the king’s faith had been radically changed and overflowed to the people in his kingdom as he sought to spread it in response.

God can use the hardest of times, the “fires” of our lives to show His glory. He may let us go through them, but He is never not walking beside us. This has changed my prayer life where instead of praying for God to take the problem away I pray that He would be able to use it to glorify the Him as best as He can. I hope next time something hard comes up in your life, you will take a second, think back to our friends and pray that prayer as well. Remember, He is always walking right beside you.

 

About the Author:  Katie Boda is a Junior at Union, learning God has a knack for using people right where they are. She has heart for sharing Christ with girls her age whether it be through social media or coffee dates. Katie is a lover of the little things, a cheerleader for the underdog, and a sunset and snail mail enthusiast. She can not wait to see what God has in store for the rest of her years.

Pure

Over the last few months the word that has come up often, over and over, in my quiet time has been the word PURE. It has seeped from my quiet time into my every day, moment by moment living. As I have studied it, it has also become a kind of filter that guards my mind, heart and the words that I allow to leave my mouth as well.

The prayer I have prayed the most – from the moment I rise, until the moment I lay my head on the pillow, goes something along the lines of this:

God help me to be pure. Would the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing and honoring in your sight. Would the intent of my heart, all my motivations, the thoughts that I think, everything that I say – would it all be consecrated, sanctified, set apart and pure because I want to see your face, I want to see your tangible presence moving in every aspect  of my life – I want to see You.

The word pure is mentioned approximately 100 times in the Bible depending upon what version you are reading. It is laced throughout the Old Testament and the New. God’s desire from the beginning of time until now is that we would be in fellowship and community with Him. 

Why? Because He made every single human from the beginning of time with innate and immeasurable value and He LOVES us. He claims you, He claims me – and He longs to be known and claimed by us in return.

We belong to each other.

He desires for us to experience the fullest version of ourselves and a deep, intimate relationship with Him. That requires our purity. For us to be in the presence of a Holy God – we need to be holy too.

I recognize that there is a complex relationship between the finished work of Christ to once and for all purify us and secure our eternity and the process of personally embracing purity which cultivates intimacy with God. The tension is real.

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Over and over again we see God lovingly pursuing His people. In the Old Testament He asked the Israelites to be holy – to purify themselves, to sacrifice a lamb when they fell short – the blood of the lamb would cover their sins. Then the God of the Universe sent His Son to be our covering – our righteousness when we could not attain holiness in our human flesh – the Lamb that would give His life for the sins of the world.  In the New Testament He is still asking us to strive for holiness – to run a good race- to fight a good fight, to be pure. We now find ourselves striving in our human pursuit but lavished with the most beautiful gift in the world – we are always covered... ALWAYS COVERED by the blood of the Lamb when we fall short. We now always have access to God through Jesus.  

 He is holy and pure – for us to be in His presence we need to be covered in righteousness. That is why from the beginning of time, he longs for us to be set apart, to look like Him – not like the world – His desire is to draw us close and bring us near. His desire for our purity is for our own good.

There are so many times in scripture where He asks us to be pure with the promise of Himself, His goodness and our best. Take some time to read the passages below and take note of the truths we can count on as we pursue purity.

  • Psalm 73:1
  • 1 John 3: 2 & 3
  • Titus 1:15
  • James 4:8
  • 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 & 7:1
  • 1 John 1:7 

He is faithful – even when we are faithless. He always promises Himself to His people – over and over again. I don’t know about you, but I want to respond to His faithfulness with faithfulness of my own. I want to press in towards Him, to be pure, and to see His face. I want to see Him do wonderous things.

That requires our pursuit of Him – of holiness, righteousness and purity. To look like Him means we look different than the world, it’s painful, it can be lonely, but friend, it is SO WORTH IT.

Get yourself ready girl!!!! Evaluate the state of your heart. Confess your sin. Seek holiness and righteousness in the depths of your soul. Be pure.

Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5

He is still in the business of wonders.

 

Podcast 011 – “Adoption Q & A with Eryn Kesler”

In this episode, Lisa interviews guest, Eryn Kesler, about all things adoption. Eryn is wife to Matt, and together they are raising 5 amazing kids.

If you are considering adoption, in the process of adoption, or care about someone who has adopted or is in the process, this episode is for you! Lisa and Eryn discuss all things adoption, from what the Kesler’s adoption process was like to ways anyone can love & support an adoptive family.  Please join in for this candid conversation about adoption!

Loving My Real Life


Let’s Be Honest.

Every one of us has wanted life to be different in some way at some point: different house, different friends, different history, different body. The list could continue and is unique for each person.

As a 14-year-old, I feel the pressure to be someone I’m not every day. I want to be accepted by my peers, appreciated by adults and teachers, and successful in ways society deems worthy.

 

Who am I Really?

We often portray our lives, our beliefs, our activities, and our history in ways we think will attract others. We so desperately want to feel known and loved by them. By creating an image for ourselves  we think others will like, we are effectively closing people off from seeing our real selves. They can’t see us for who we are because we have built an image of who we are not.

Cooler on the Internet

Social media is a prominent part of my life.  I think it can be pretty great; we find things we like, places we want to visit, things we want to do, movements we want to get involved in. We can hear amazing stories and connect with people we love or would like to know better.

We can also control what part of our life the internet gets to see. Maybe we want the world to see our goofy, fun side, or our serious, “I know what I’m talking about” side, or our artsy, “everything in my life happens to be the same color” side. The internet only gets to see a few sides of us; the parts of us we are willing to share.

We need to be aware that social media platforms are places for us to create our own identity. We get to choose the “coolest” parts of our life to show. Meaning, the late nights studying instead of being with friends usually do not show up in my instagram feed, and that’s O.K. We don’t need a picture for everything. We don’t need the world to see every single  aspect of our life, because the truth is, the world probably doesn’t care about your late night study session. But, we do need to realize the power social media has, and we do need to understand that we are usually not getting (or giving) the full story.

 

Loving My Real Life

Sometimes my real life is messy. My mom and I don’t always get along. I wake up at 5:30 every morning to catch a city bus to school and don’t get home again until it’s dark, then I spend the rest of the night doing homework. My skin breaks out and I have bad hair days. My room is almost always a disaster. I’m clumsy and forget things. I struggle to make it to youth group because of volleyball practice, and reading my Bible right now is a discipline I’m not very disciplined at.  None of these things may be worthy of a pretty instagram picture, but each one of them is the story of me at 14.  The real me. My real life.

 

Taking Down Our Walls

Emotional walls and barriers are easy to create but hard to take down. We put them up in fear of what others may think of us. They feel safe because we can control what part of us we put out into the world, but our wall of protection can prevent real connection.

Imagine a physical wall – a circular, tall, stone one surrounding you. Yes, it is safe to some degree, but it is also lonely. Walls provide protection, but prevent connection.  Although we may not be as vulnerable without them, we are also not connected to others. You can hear the distant voices, but building community and trust is nearly impossible when you can not physically interact with others.

If we want strong, deep relationships, it is our responsibility to take down our walls, and be a safe place for others to do the same.

We need help. I need help. Deconstruction is not a one person job. It is hard, tiring, and grueling. If we want to take down these emotional barriers and become transparent we need to ask others to fight the battle alongside us. Open up to a few of your closest friends and family members. Share your struggles and let them walk alongside you as you begin your journey towards transparency, strong relationships, self-discovery, and all the good that comes along the way with being honest.

 

Overcome

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus has overcome the world! Yay! All the times we fall short of the world’s standards we can rest on the promise that Jesus has overcome! All of the times that we aren’t accepted, every negative word we hear, every struggle we face on this world, God is walking alongside us. He is “The Overcomer.” He knows you, loves you, sees you, and calls you enough. He has overcome this world already, and He did it for you. We do not live lives of perfection, that is true, but we are His. We are not the world’s. We. Are. His.

So, let’s be honest, know who we really are, be cool on the internet :), love our real life, take down our walls, and know He has overcome our world.

 

Choosing to love and be real about life’s imperfections, 

Maya

Instagram
My real life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Maya DaSilva:

I’m a high-school freshman trying to glorify God in the sometimes crazy seasons I walk through. I intended to spend more time on this post, but it’s finals week and I procrastinated. Yay, we love some good procrastination!

-That’s my real life for y’all.

How to Study the Bible – The SOAP Method

A Rough First Outing

I wish I could say that I instantly fell in love with reading the Bible. I actually found much frustration while digging into Scripture the first time. 

I was a thirteen-year-old boy heading off to my first winter camp, with a youth group I had just begun attending. I anxiously asked my parents to buy me a Bible, but not just any Bible, a “black leather Bible with the letters ‘NIV’ on the side”. Now, I wish I could say that I described it with the same passion as Ralphie, from A Christmas Story, requesting “a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle”. But I didn’t. My request was fueled in part by a curiosity about Christianity but mainly out of fear of being the only kid at Bible camp without a Bible. I knew nothing of the contents inside the book. I just knew what it was supposed to look like on the outside.  

I remember feeling the same about my first personal quiet time with God. The camp leaders taught us that “personal quiet time” is a term used to describe the time you sit down with the Bible and study it. There was a brief teaching on how to do one, but it might as well have been in a foreign language, because I left more confused than before. That wasn’t going to deter me from doing my first quiet time! However, my enthusiasm quickly changed to frustration and my curiosity was overshadowed by a sense of feeling overwhelmed and in over my head. I was frustrated as I discovered the Bible was not just one book but actually a collection of sixty-six books, numbering over a thousand pages. Questions began rolling around in my head: 

Where was I to begin?

Do Christians really read the whole Bible?

How do all these books fit together?

And, why are all these names so hard to pronounce? 

Disappointed, I looked around for clues of what to look like on the outside, but I had no idea what was supposed to be going on internally. Unfortunately, this was my approach to reading the Bible all throughout middle school.

Be Refreshed, Be Dangerous

I believe it’s easy to get lost in the noise of what studying the Bible is “supposed to” look like. Scrolling through my social media feeds, I often see a picturesque scene of my friend’s personal quiet setting: complete with coffee mug, Bible, journal (opened to a non-vulnerable page of course) in a naturally lit room on some sort of wood-grained or neat surface. Meanwhile, my reality finds me sitting in an office (under fluorescent lights) scribbling in a journal on my messy desk. It’s good because it works for me in the same way different settings work for others.  

This is my encouragement to you today. Be fueled by the internal transformation that personal time with God through Scripture promises to bring (Isaiah 55:11, in fact just read all of 55, it’s a good one!) and less about what it’s supposed to look like externally. There are many ways to do a quiet time, including the one you will find below, but the trick is and, the heart behind Arise, is that you would find one that works for you. One that leaves you refreshed from time with our Heavenly Father. One that is as dangerous to the enemy as Ralphie wielding his Red Ryder BB gun. 

Soap Like Never Before

Most mornings my routine involves toothpaste, Mango Strawberry Spark, and soap. I was introduced to soap in my twenties, and I have loved how easy it is to use. I use soap at my office to help focus my day, but you could really use it anywhere: the coffee shop, the park, or while your kids are getting a haircut.

I should clarify, I’m not talking about the cleansing agent but the way of approaching Scripture. Soap stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. I joked earlier, but it really is an easy way to approach reading the Bible. As a middle school pastor, it’s hard to get out of the “studying to teach” aspect of reading Scripture, even in my personal devotion time.  Soap helps me see the section of Scripture, within its context, and apply it to my life personally.

How to use SOAP

Scripture – 

Spend time in prayer before you begin. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time. Ask God to illuminate the words for today. Write down the passage(s) that stood out to you today. Be specific. Don’t write down too much. There is something about writing out Scripture that seems more engaging. It’s a discipline that requires commitment, not beautiful penmanship.  

Observation – 

Write out repeating words, look up words you don’t know, describe events happening in and around the text, 

What is God showing you from this passage?  

  • Is He communicating something about Himself?
  • Does this passage speak to your identity in Christ?
  • Are there any foundational truths?

Finish this section with a quick summary of the one thing God is speaking to you through this Scripture. Make sure to keep this thought consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Application – (1 Peter 1:7; James 1:12)

Get personal. Remember, this is your time with God. If you can’t be real with Him, you’re not being real with yourself. How does your observation impact your life? Does God have instruction for you today?

Prayer – 

Prayer is a two-way conversation with God. As you pray leave time for God to place things on your heart. When you do this, you leave room for God to validate the things He spoke to you during Scripture. Pray a specific prayer about the thing that has been revealed to you today. Lastly, write out your prayer.

Here’s the key to using SOAP: Commit to it for thirty days. By doing this you will see themes from your own life and things that you key in on that might give you insight into the beautiful person God has created.

And remember SOAP because BODY WASH is too long to recall.

(Download the SOAP Study Method Resource here)

(Download the SOAP Study Method Worksheet here)

Another Tool to Try

One last resource that I want to pass along. It’s called the Dwell App and it has become a staple in my routine. Dwell is strictly a Bible listening app on iPhone that will be coming to Android devices in the Spring of 2019. From their website: “Dwell offers the most beautiful listening experience for the most important and cherished book in our world’s history: the Bible.”

The team at Dwell desires to take the 21st Century Christian back to the time when the letters found in the Bible were read aloud to a listening audience. 

As a middle school pastor, it’s hard for me to personally detach from reading for the purpose of teaching. Dwell has taken me back to allowing Scripture to be read for the purposes of listening to it. For me personally, Scripture has come alive again in a beautiful way.

Dwell URL: https://dwellapp.io

 

 

About the author, Rob Williams: Son of God. Husband to my wife, Sara, an amazing lady (Seriously, I married up). Father to two wonderful children, Bailey and Boden. And a middle school pastor at Summit View Church in Vancouver, WA. 

I enjoy being active and outside. If it involves a ball, chances are I’ve played it. I love the Pacific Northwest and the abundance of hiking trails within an hour’s drive. My drive is to equip and empower middle school students through the Holy Spirit to be a “this generation” and to dispel the myth that they are the next generation. 

Unchained and Uninhibited

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

 

I have been thinking a lot about my Great Grandma Marge lately. I have a couple pictures of her tucked away in my room, a daily reminder of the gift she was to me. She and I were thick as thieves.

 

I loved being in her presence and her home.

 

As a child, I referred to her as Grandma Great, and that name stuck with her for the rest of her life. She was great indeed. The very best.  Grandma Great’s house looked like a white cottage out of a Disney movie. We would pull up in our station wagon, I would jump out and run inside her house. There was always a crystal china bowl full of Whoppers waiting for me on the kitchen counter, right next to her nintendo – her Nintendo, that she loved to play. Gosh, I love her for that.

 

Her home was cozy – shag carpet, wood paneling and velvety chairs. When I was there I just wanted to sink in. It felt safe and warm. She had a wooden end table in her living room where she kept Pacman consoles and other gadgets and games. There was plenty to do in her home. She had a small electric organ that we would play on for hours, just creatively composing our own music. The best place in her house was the attic. It was a treasure chest of well organized belongings from many different eras of her life. I remember there being an abundance of plastic fruit up there. It looked so real that I was fascinated by it. I loved exploring up there.

 

When we were at Grandma Great’s I always got to have sleepovers with her. It was the very best. Every night she went to bed in cotton night gowns, with a little bit of lace around the trim. She had permed gray and white curls that beautifully contrasted her stunning olive complexion. She was witty, the most hilarious and spicy woman I’ve ever known. She loved to laugh. Even into my adult years she  would poke me with her crooked, arthritic, pointer finger to get a rise out of me. I never once questioned or doubted her love for me. She told me that she loved me every time we said goodnight and goodbye. I would wake up in the morning to the view of her soft wrinkly face. Her mouth usually hung open as she snored away. She was such a snorer but I didn’t even mind.

 

Grandma Great was a gamer. It was tradition to have several Rummy tournaments every time we visited. She would plate her homemade rocky road candy and divinity fudge –  once the candy was out, we knew it was ‘time to get the pants whooped off ya’, as she would say. She included me in the game from as young as I can remember. Whether I was perched right next to her or playing a hand of my own, I always felt welcome and a part of the fun. She would get SO riled up playing cards. If she was playing, everyone wanted a seat at the table. I have several times witnessed her jumping out of her seat to smack someone’s hand when they were taking a card she wanted. It was the same every time, squeals, a yelp and slapping followed by bellowing laughter all around.  If it happened to be a card she had been waiting a long time for, you better believe you would find that crooked pointer finger right in your face, wagging away as she told you off in her own threatening but hysterical way. She was always quick to smile and her dancing black eyes were snappy and bright. She loved to laugh but at the end of the day, she would fight you for an Ace. No one doubted for a second that if a fight broke out she would win – feisty thing.

 

I had sleepovers with Grandma Great into adulthood. When David was out of town I would bring Elijah over and we would cozy in for the night. We had a routine together –  our favorite instant french vanilla coffee (which I only drank with her, because I am actually a coffee snob, but she could make even instant coffee a treat – go figure!?), Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, followed by Dateline and then bed. One of my funniest memories of her was at three in the morning, I woke up to find her hopping around the room on one foot yelling, “oooooh, oooooo, ooooh!!!!!!” through bouts of laughter, while holding her other foot mid air. She had a cramp in her foot. We laughed so hard we both were crying and eventually she was able to get back in bed and go to sleep. On one of those sleepover nights I took her trick or treating for the first time in her life. she fell over a potted plant in the dark and skinned her knee and elbow, we just about died laughing… (clearly, I got my calamitous gene from her). She did get candy out of the ordeal so I think it was worth it. We were quite mischievous together – no one made me laugh more than she did when we were stirring up trouble or mid – shenanigan.

 

She was always honest. You never had to wonder what she was thinking – she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She usually followed everything up with either humor or a sincere I love you. We talked about everything. She was always there for me – never judgey, just present and honest when she needed to be. I always felt unconditionally loved by her. In the last years I had with her, David and I would occasionally take her to church with us. We would sit in the back row and mid service she would always reach over and hold my hand. I loved holding her wrinkly, boney hand. Those quiet, more serious moments were few and far inbetween – I treasured them then and I still treasure them now.

 

Wherever she was there was joy.

 

She walked through every season clothed in strength and dignity and she laughed at the times to come and the moments she presently found herself in. She was the essence of joy and an extension of unconditional love rolled up in a ball of fire.

 

Grandma Great has been on my mind so much this season. Here is why. Her story is a powerful one. She is proof that our circumstances do not dictate or define who we are or who we will be. Her life story is also evidence that people change. Someone needs to hear that today. What if that was the framework with which we all went into this next year with?

 

Let 2019 stand all on it’s own in a new way. Let the aim of this year be: You and I, living out all we are called to be. Unchained and uninhibited – not letting the enemy use our circumstances, trials, and past to define us, but rather, propel us. Believing that Jesus is always at work, believing that Jesus has the power to change me – to change you – and to change that thorn in your flesh too. No one is too far out of the reach of the transformation power and love of the Father. Amen?!

 

My Great Grandma grew up in instability and poverty. She lived through the depression.  My Great Grandpa was a farmer and a Millwright at a cannery. Grandma Great took whatever job she could to supplement their income and provide for their three children – she picked berries, worked in the cannery too and was never too proud to work laborious jobs. She modeled that there is dignity in diligent, hard work. Their home was a one room shack. They lived without electricity or running water for the first three years and never had indoor plumbing. My Great Grandpa died at a young age leaving my Grandma Great even further acquainted with struggle, pain and loss.

 

My Grandma shared with me that in her childhood my Grandma Great was not very affectionate or generous with her words. She worked hard, “her fingers to the bone”, in her words. Grandma Great was matter of fact, no nonsense and got things done. It’s how she survived. My Grandma never even remembers her mother saying I love you as a child. They were a poor German farming family and even though she knew she was loved, she never heard it.

 

When my Grandma was an adult she intentionally and bravely told my Grandma Great that she loved her… and just kept doing so every time she spoke to her until Grandma Great felt comfortable enough to say it back. Through her love, my Grandma introduced my Great Grandma to Jesus.

 

Over time Grandma Great softened. To the point that when I came around I could not even imagine a brighter, more vibrant, kinder soul. She was still a hard worker, spicy and honary – but in it everything she exuded a love and a deep inner joy that made me want to be just like her. I never left her presence without her saying “I love you!” and smacking a wet kiss on my cheek.

 

Grandma Great still experienced sorrow and great loss over the years. She buried a second husband, was a breast cancer survivor, lost a grandson in an accident, a granddaughter, a great granddaughter to cancer, and even had bury one of her own sons. She experienced a lot of life. Through it all she only became more beautiful. Nothing about her circumstance defined who she was. God made a way for in her wilderness. He brought rivers of joy into a lifetime of hardship. Even in her old age – He was always at work, doing a new thing.

 

His love defined her life.

 

  • We are never too far off for His presence, power and love to reach us. Psalm 139

 

  • We are never too young to be transformed by Him and effective in His Kingdom. 1 Timothy 4:6-16 (especially verse 12)

 

  • We will never be too old for Him to change us in eternal ways. Hebrews 11 (Many of the greats were ancient!)

 

He has new and beautiful things for each of is in 2019. Are you ready for it?

 

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19 ESV

 

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