Colorado Diaries // Episode 4

Monday, August 22, 2016

1 July 2016 // Frontier Trip: Day 8
Yesterday as we hiked in the cold, pouring rain, something inside me felt so alive. I was so numb and so cold a so wet, but I was so incredibly alive. For possibly the first time, I can understand why people chase after pain.

If they don't have Jesus, then they don't have joy, and if they can't feel joy, they have to feel alive through pain. Because even if they hurt, they're feeling something, so that must mean they're alive.

That's what it felt like hiking: I was miserable, but there's a certain kind of rush that comes from being miserable. I was pressing myself to the limit, and it felt good.

I think it's this obsession with pain that makes me run away from God so often. I like the way it feels to press myself because it reminds me that I am alive. Instead, I need to find life in the joy. I need to be so out of my mind with joy that people wonder why.

Later that day:

Last night's club was when Glenn presented the gospel. Afterwards we did our 20 minutes. For the first time in forever, I started talking to God like a friend. I'm sure to anyone else, what I said would probably be incoherent ramblings, but I knew that God understood.

During my prayer, God made the sky light up. He sent two flashes of what looked like heat lightning, but it wasn't hot. In fact, it was cold, and I'm convinced that those two flashes of light were sent by God as a message to us campers. It was probably a different message for everyone, but to me, it was a reminder that God is here. He's with me at Frontier ranch, and He'll be with me when I go home.

He's not gonna leave me when I do something bad, and he's not gonna love me more if I do something good. He always feels the same way about me. He is the epitome of consistency, and as much as I don't like to admit it, I need that.

Do you see it as much as I do? People chasing thrills just to test their breaking point, people abusing relationships just so that they can feel something, anything to make make them feel just the least bit alive...

This recklessness is all over society today. So many prefer pain of joy because they've never really tasted real joy. American Christianity has fallen short of showing what true joy looks like. If we don't chase after the joy, if we don't show people just how beautiful life can be with Jesus, they won't want to follow him. Because if our life is just the same as everyone else's, why should they even want to try out life with Jesus.

I believe that we are called to be the people of joy. Joy, contrary to what the world thinks, is not a shallow emotion. Joy is understanding God's plan even when life is tough and rejoicing because of that understanding. Joy is looking back at everything God has done for you and thanking him for the hardships. Joy is dancing in the rain because you know you'll come out purer and more refined. Joy, contrary to what the world thinks, is not shallow, but is probably the deepest emotion you can ever feel. 

Joy is often quenched by the world, but it also is quenched by something all too real that very often comes from within the church: legalism.

The account you read about in my above journal entry was probably one of the coolest moments in my entire life. At every Young Life camp, the speaker allows at least one night a week when every camper can sit outside and look at stars and pray for twenty whole minutes. In a world that is obsessed with artificial light and never slowing down, this time is truly a treasure. Before going outside, Glenn, the speaker, told us this: You don't have to use any fancy words with God.

For someone who loves fancy words, that really hit home. It was during my twenty minutes that God made something so inexplicably clear to me: God's opinion of you does not change based on what you do. 

So many conservative churches inadvertently teach that we must earn grace after excepting Christ. By imposing unbiblical rules, such as dress code and music preferences, churches are essentially telling teens "Yes, grace is initially free, but to stay in God's favor you must do this and this and this." 

My week at Frontier Ranch made me realize that I had imposed this mindset upon myself. Through a series of events I won't elaborate on, I was convinced that God's view of me changed based on what I did. Long story short, I tried to stay in God's good graces and failed (because I'm human), and I eventually gave up. I soon adopted an attitude of, "If I can never stay in God's good graces, what's the point of trying?"

Legalism does this. Legalism not only quenches joy, but it also kills it. The Christian worldview is reduced to any other worldview when we put the rules at the center. When grace is placed in the center, however, that is what makes us different. If we do not base our very lives on the principle of grace, we are no different than any other religion. 

Contrary to what some churches teach, God's view of you never changes after you accept him, because when he looks at you, he sees Jesus' perfect righteousness and not your sin. Jesus took on your sin when he walked this earth, lived, died, and rose again; therefore, when you accept Christ, you take his righteousness. The very purpose of him dying is so that you don't have to try in vain to stay in God's good graces. Jesus died to give you his righteousness, because he was the only one who could conquer your sin. 

This doctrine of grace should be the very center of our lives and the very center of our worldview. This realization of grace produces the most joy because we realize that we are forever in debt to Jesus Christ. It is this grace that motivates us to please God, whether it is with basic biblical principles or personal convictions. Personal convictions, the ones that aren't necessarily black or white, are not things that should be imposed on others just for the sake of following the rules.  Instead of imposing your rules on someone else, you should ground them in grace, because without grace, there is no point in following the rules.

How do we escape the legalistic trap? Preach the gospel to yourself daily. Remind yourself that, as Jerry Bridges writes in The Discipline of Grace, on your worst days, you are never beyond the reach of God's grace, and on your best days, you are never without the need of God's grace. Every day you need grace as much as you did the day before and as much as you will the next day. You need grace just as much as a reformed murderer or a previous atheist. 

On a bigger scale? It is my personal conviction that church kids must be grounded in grace before anything else. Church leaders need to preach grace to kids so often that it spills out of their ears, and that's why I love Young Life. Young Life has taught me what my sixteen years in church couldn't: it's not about the rules. It is only through glasses of grace that we humbly wish to please God. It is only with God's grace in mind that we will treat others with love and compassion, not discriminating them based on where they are in their spiritual walk. It is only through grace that we can exhibit true, unwavering joy. 

Are you looking for the "life to the full" that Jesus promises in John 10:10? Hop on the grace train, and I promise you'll find it. 

Back to School Tunes for the Everyday Grind

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

As of Tuesday of this week,  I am officially a high school Junior! Whew, time flies! It seems like just yesterday I was riding the school bus home and singing "Miss Mary Mack." (I would also spend those bus rides thinking up my very first book ideas.) But, as Ben Rector sings, life keeps moving on. And don't we all need a little playlist of the school bus of life? (That was a bit of a stretch for an analogy, I know.)

Never Gonna Let You Down // Colbie Callait
"Never gonna let you down / Always gonna build you up..." 
Because we all need to heat that sometimes

I Won't Give Up // Jason Mraz
"I won't give up on us..."
Because most of the time, school stinks, and we need motivation

Ophelia // The Lumineers
"You got big plans, and you gotta move..."
Because you should pursue those big plans of yours! Make a move!

East Bound and Down // Jerry Reed
"We're gonna do what they say can't be done / we've got a long way to go and a short time to get there..."
Because you're gonna blow everyone's mind with your vast intelligence, even if you've got a long way to go :)))
[I'm kind of a country music junkie. My apologies to Abbie and Aaliyah.]

Losing You // Tim Halperin
"So darlin' give me something I can hold onto / Let's put this back together / 'fore we come unglued..."
Because you feel like you're losing summer, and you just wanna scream DARLIN' COME BACK.

You Will Find Me // Andrew Ripp
"You wrote the rain / You wrote the sun in / You called my name / I'm tired of running..."
'Cause Jesus is always here for you!!!

Shades of Blue // Ashton Edminster
"All my shades of blue / Go away when I'm with you..."
Because even though sumer is great, fall is coming, and it makes all your shades of blue fade away.

Where I'm Going // Tim Halperin
"I'll be content just waiting for now / I'll take in these emotions while I figure out / Where I'm going..."
Because sometimes waiting is hard, but it's part of life. I promise you'll figure it out.

Thanks for reading, y'all! I may potentially get a little behind schedule this school year, but it's only because I'm taking four AP classes, and all of them have a big workload. Hope everyone's school year goes well! Stay tuned for Colorado Diaries // Episode 4!

Colorado Diaries // Episode 3

Monday, August 8, 2016

Each night at Frontier Ranch, we'd have this thing called Cabin Time. Every girl in our cabin would sit in a circle, and we'd just get real with each other. Each night after cabin time, I'd have this immense sense of peace. This is what we're supposed to do, I said to myself. This was the purpose for Christians on this earth: to share our burdens and point each other to the only one who can take away those burdens, Jesus.

29 June 2016 // Frontier Trip: Day 6
Last night during cabin time, several girls opened up about their "dark corners." The speaker encouraged us to be transparent, and I really tried. But in reality, the only dark part of me is sin. and everyone knows that exists. I haven't ever contemplated suicide, and I have a loving family that most kids would be jealous of.

My life is good. Really good. And the fact that I desire something outside of that comfortable goodness is so selfish. 

So I guess my dark corner is pride. I've got a lot of it. I'd rather leave the people I love than risk hurting them, which only hurts them more. I'd rather live in a comfortable bubble than put myself out there and do what I'm called to do: love. It disgusts me that I'm so comfortable loving myself and not others.

So there. There's my dark corner... It's just me; everything below my skin is a dark corner. I'm so full of pride that I cannot even empathize with others. I can't weep with those who weep or rejoice with those who rejoice because I can't even put myself out there...

Western Night (excuse the double chin)

I found out a lot about myself at Frontier. There were dark places discovered that I didn't know existed. I was hesitant sharing this because I don't know if I've ever been this transparent on the blog before, but I think it's important to show y'all that I'm just a person. I struggle and sin, too, every day in fact. 

I find myself wishing every day that I'll find more today than I did the day before. I want to be bold, audacious. I want to take risks and see places and meet people, but all the while, I'm scared to step out of what I know.

True life, I think, is found outside of our comfort zone, and that is why I desire so much more than this little life I'm living. I can't quite make sense of it even now, a month after camp, but I know more is coming. Jesus promises us life to the full in John 10:10, and I believe, before my days are through, I'll find that life. Some way, somehow, somewhere, whether it be Tennessee or Australia or anywhere else, I have to find it. But, I think, before God allows me to find that, I have to find a way to really love others instead of just tolerating them. God is teaching me something big in this In Between, and though he can't guarantee I come out unscarred, he can guarantee I come out better, brighter, cleaner. And so that promise is what keeps me going, that this isn't for nothing. In John 13:7, Jesus says, "You don't understand what I'm doing now, but someday you will." Hold on to that with me, will you?

Colorado Diaries // Episode Two

Monday, August 1, 2016

One month ago today I was still in Buena Vista, Colorado having the time of my life. The whole trip was surreal. I know of people who haven't even been outside their own state, but I got to ride a bus across the country with a bunch of really cool people. I still amazes me that God provided the funds I needed for the trip.

Summer camp is very often a time that church-going teens use to get their hearts right, a time when all distractions are put away and you can just live. Most every day I tried to sneak away during some time or another to write in my journal and get my thoughts together. Several people told me they admired me for my dedication in journaling. I only smiled because, really, I journal to survive. Without it I'd probably go crazy. To go along with the last post, I'd like to share an excerpt from my journal. Again, my brain is a messy place;I hope you find it at least partially accommodating and can stand to look into my thoughts for just a few minutes!

26 June 2016 Frontier Trip: Day 3

Today was one of the longest days I've had in a long time. My legs ache and need shaving and my back hurts, but it feels good. It feels good to have done something and to have seen people and to be part of something greater than myself.

The speaker tonight said that everyone has a purpose, and everyone is searching. He hit the nail right on the head, I think. I'm definitely searching for my purpose. I don't know what it is yet, but I'll find it. 

I'd have to say that this is the biggest, longest in between I've ever been in. Granted, it could be the only in between but still. All I've ever wanted is to get away, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I live in a bubble. I want something more, but I'm ignoring what's right in front of my face. I keep setting myself up for a fairytale life, one where I have everything I want and need. That's not a reality, though.

Life is hard. People are complicated and sometimes stupid. I probably will never make it to a home in Tennessee. I probably won't be successful in my writing. I probably won't travel to Europe or Australia.

But I do have a purpose. I have to hold on to that, or else I have no will to live. I have to believe that someone will read my words and benefit from them. I have to strive for greatness or else I'll settle for mediocrity. There's gotta be something beyond this.

And till my last day, I'll search for that something.

One of the biggest lies that humans are told is that they are insignificant. Scientists tell us to look up at the stars and realize how small we are, and God does, too. But the difference between the two is that scientists tell us that because of our size, we don't matter, and God tells us that despite our size, we do matter. It's revolutionary, really.

This lie that is so popular, that includes the lie that we're gonna live and die and that's it, leaves us with a watermelon sized hole in our hearts, and that can't be good. With all these voices screaming YOLO at us, we've gotta focus on the one voice telling us that we've got a purpose on this earth that's bigger than ourselves. We don't have to chase after money and fame because we've got a better, eternal reward waiting for us.

Maybe you're like me. Maybe you don't know what your purpose is. Maybe you keep waiting for life because you're not finding it where you are right now, and, boy, do I know how agonizing that is. And what I've learned is that, maybe, if you open your eyes a little and look for your purpose around you, you'll find just what you're looking for. I promise you that investing in God and people is the most promising task you can ever take up on this earth, and if you pursue his will for you, you'll find the out exactly what you're supposed to be. Stop trying to figure it out on your own. God's got this!!

Hey, guess what????? I can tell you for real that I'm BACK for good. You know how I know that? Because this afternoon I just planned ALL of August's and September's blog posts! So stay tuned for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts through all of August and September. If you need help keeping up, just subscribe by email to all my posts on the sidebar to your right!

Also, I wanted to thank you awesome readers for keeping me going! I blog because y'all exist! Have a great week, and see you Wednesday!