Do Heart Things: A Challenge For Every Would-Be World Changer
I believe anyone is capable of doing hard things. Anyone can publish a book, start a business, or run a campaign to raise awareness for AIDS in Africa. Everyone can do hard things once they set their minds to it. And while we might not do something as big as the things mentioned above, we are all capable of doing those things, and more.
If we truly ever want something bad enough, trust me, we will do what it takes to obtain that goal. And yes, it might be hard. The things mentioned above are extremely hard and are things that if you succeed at doing, the world even in all its immorality and secular filth, will notice and publicly applaud you for accomplishing.
Our view of “hard things” can become warped by the world’s standards
But how often do we hear on the news people cheering on the courage of the teen admitting to his parents about lying, and turning his life around starting with honesty? When was the last time you read an article about the girl who decided her siblings were people with feelings just like her, and decided to go against the accepted cultural norm of treating her sibling “pests” rudely?
You never hear people talking about the girl who admitted to her parents about wasting time on the Internet, or watch an interview where the boy is discussing his triumphs over deciding to not swear or take the Lord’s name in vain anymore.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” — 1 John 1:8
The world applauds doing big things, but don’t expect us to do the hard and right things
Alex and Brett encouraged us to go past our comfort zones and to use the teen years not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping stone. They greatly encouraged us to not put off doing a hard big thing for when we are older, but publishing that book now, throwing that concert now, creating that invention now.
But they also showed us how doing hard things was not just things that received glory or fame, but things closer to home. Things like honoring and treating our parents with respect. Showing self-discipline in the responsibilities we already have, like our chores and our relationships. Keeping our big mouths shut. Doing these things are not glamorous, don’t make you look good and you don’t see instant and enjoyable results all the time. And I think that makes them all the more hard.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” — Colossians 3:23
But I chose to ignore this less appealing dare, and this is my testimony.
When I first read Do Hard Things, I saw the possibility of attention and popularity. I wanted to prove to the world that Homeschooled-Jesus-Following-Big-Family kids were just as smart, talented and great as everyone else.
I chose to ignore what I really needed to hear and what would have been hardest for me and only took from that amazing book that I could spend the teen years working hard to be noticed. I could publish a book, build a website, and start a business. Then I would be noticed and successful. I would be important and people would look up to me because of the hard and big things I accomplished.
Three years later, my big mouth and I have been through a lot, and at my parents and siblings expense, no less. After being grounded for up to 6 months at a time on and off with all the things I loved taken from me, I finally broke down and started a heart change that hopefully will be ongoing for the rest of my life.
This also gives you a hint at where my heart was, but that’s for another time. I read through Do Hard Things again, and added that to my parents’ wise advice and the valuable convictions God was painfully pointing out to me. I finally took away from the book what I would have benefitted greatly from the last three years.
The hard things I should have been doing I was choosing to ignore
If I am truly going to do hard things, the attitude needs to go out. I’m going to have to wave bye-bye to saying the last word. I need to swallow my pride and admit when I’m not right. It might mean I’ll feel like I’m being walked over sometimes. I will feel misunderstood often because of not trying to make others understand my point of view. I’d much rather write a feel-good historical novel, thank you.
But the hard and sad truth is that there are amazing people out there who have started and done amazing things, but are still having that affair. Our society’s icons who we find ourselves idolizing are still going to drug-rehab. Even the “good girls” and “good boys” who are excelling at everything they do can still be smart mouths, liars and snobs.
And this is because they chose to ignore the training and testing they could have received at home in dealing with their siblings and parents before going out into the world. And as a result, there are people out in this world doing big and great things, having that great job, excelling at everything, and yet they could still be treating their co-workers rudely, their bosses with disrespect and their friends poorly.
Your home is going to be the hardest place for you to practice how you will treat people outside your home one day. It will seem like a lot easier to respect your boss, treat your co-workers kindly and manage your work and chores one day when you are on your own and grown-up, but it will not be.
Just think what a difference us teens could make on the world by just starting to treat our homes as the training experience and mission field that they are. What goes into the heart will eventually find its way back out.
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” — Philippians 1:20
I should have focused on my heart before I tried to change the world
So I challenge you readers who have read this far. Be honest with yourself. I dare you to start at the heart, the “wellspring of life” where all your true colors will show one day for all to see.
Let’s examine and fix the condition and motives of our heart before trying to change others and accomplish the bigger, harder, more noticed things.
Doing big things might look more appealing because of the attention you most likely would receive or because of the drastic changes for the better it could make on people. But will it really matter one day when you find yourself standing before the Lord, saying, “I raised money for orphans in Romania and dug wells for tribes in Africa in your name Lord, and yet I argued with my parents, couldn’t control my tongue and was known to be selfish and a liar”?
Be remembered for who you are, and then what you did. Live your life to glorify God, through every single thing you do, and it won’t matter if the thing is big or small.
So will you join me in doing the small, hard, heart things?
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Changing the Face of Literature
Just like movies and video games, books can have a huge impact on us. Unfortunately today’s literature is overflowing with shallow, dark, and often inappropriate material.
As Christians, we can choose to avoid the worst of it, but we still end up reading novels that can affect us negatively. At the very least they are unhelpful for anyone trying to uphold Godly standards.
I don’t pretend that Colin Firth is necessarily an expert on this subject, but I think he accurately sums up the effect that reading can have: “When I’m reading a novel, I’m seeing the world differently during that time – not just for the hour or so in the day when I get to read. I’m actually walking around in a bit of a haze, spellbound by the book and looking at everything through a different prism.”
This quote actually upset me because it is true. Books can change our viewpoint, and sadly the current material is, for the most part, guaranteed not to provide a godly outlook on life. Far from it. Our generation of fiction is worldly, rebellious, and offers little hope or redemption. Worse than that, it often presents sin as enticing or fun. These are not the kinds of ideas we want to be filling our minds with!
And the scary thing is, as we become more and more exposed, we also become desensitized. But my point is not to bash current literature. What I mean to say is that it needs a major face-lift. And such a thing is not impossible. Just think of C.S. Lewis, who is known internationally as an author and Christian apologist.
C.S. Lewis recognized the need to tackle popular literature and win it over for Christ. He did exactly what I dream of doing: not only did he write books for Christians that challenged and convicted them, but he also wrote books that targeted non-Christians.
The Chronicles of Narnia is not a blatantly Christian series, but it clearly illustrates redemption, forgiveness and love. The Narnia series has sold over a million copies, has been translated into forty-seven different languages, and been made into multiple movies. It has become an iconic symbol in literature, and all the while, it tells the story of the Bible.
C.S. Lewis saw the world’s many needs, but he could only tackle one of them. His choice to infuse light and truth into literature resulted in a long-lasting impact that is still evident today.
That is why I think that it is not enough for Christians to simply steer clear of inappropriate literature. It is time for us to start asking ourselves how we can use this area to give glory to God.
It is vital for Christian writers to target this as yet another mission field; we can follow in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis and produce counter-cultural material that will change the direction of literature. It is time to alter the focus of books from immorality and sin to novels that are light-filled, pure, and lovely in the eyes of God.
We are called to shed the healing rays God’s light into every darkened place. Popular literature is one of the many channels that we can use to spread the news of Christ’s love to the broken, needy people of this world. Culture shapes generations. By slowly changing the face of culture to match the face of God, we can shift the whole world’s attitude.
And the sooner we get on it, the better.
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Everyday Ways to Rebel Against Low Expectations
If you have read Do Hard Things you probably are wondering where to start. How do we change the low expectations society has for teenagers? Not all of us have the time, opportunity, or ability to graduate early or be a teen campaign manager; but there are basic things everyone can do.
What will we do differently? You may want to brainstorm, but here are a few ideas:
- Be less dramatic. This is one of the key things people think about when they hear “teen”.
- Act older. This one is not all that hard. It is pretty easy for people to think you are a couple years older. Simply imitate the manner of people older than you — people who are mature and responsible.
- Spend your time more wisely. Suffering grades are not impressive; and they certainly do not show maturity. Nearly everyone would rather be with their friends, or watching a movie, but take the time to study, it will be worth it. Managing your time wisely not only shows maturity, but responsibility, self-control, and competence.
- Don’t be too loud. Ever passed a group of teens talking loudly; with everyone else else just looking at them and shaking their heads? Don’t be a part of this problem. Keep the volume at a respectful level.
There is a multitude of other things. Go ahead, make a list — you may be surprised. This is what we can actively do in our everyday lives.
We can also encourage others to join The Rebelution cause. Imagine, multitudes of people rising above low expectations and doing hard things — little things, big things; while helping the world and changing the view of other teens, parents, youth workers, politicians, teachers, etc.
It is time to take action. When people notice your high maturity level; tell them about your cause.
Let’s say there are 25 million teens in the United States and that 50,000 of them decide to join The Rebelution and rebel against low expectations. If each of those 50,000 teens were able to get 5 people (of any age) to join The Rebelution this year there would be 250,000 rebelutionaries next year.
If those 250,000 did the same thing there would be a total of 1,250,000 people living out the Rebelution message! If this happened yet again; in five years that number would rise to 156,250,000 — almost half the population of the United States! I think you get the point.
It is estimated that the average person meets 100,000 people in their lifetime; so this should not be too hard. Even something as simple as being friendly to the cashier or waitress, or reading Do Hard Things while waiting in the sitting room for your doctor’s appointment can work. Personally I love to read, and I find it very common for people to ask me what I am reading. It makes a great conversation starter; and a time to explain your cause.
This is the generation of change, what will that change be? Change comes from people; so I will quote Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
So go, take a stand, spread the word, and change yourself.
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Our Family’s Amazon Store: A Different Kind of Fundraiser
Ever since I was about eight years old, my family and I have been working on summer missions projects. For a few years, I worked with our neighbors and some people at our church to collect cans and bottles and redeem them, with all the profits going towards a project like a bicycle for a missionary in India, or even digging a well near a church in that area. We were always having tag sales, and my friends and I would make a ton of cookies to sell at our own table. It was always really fun, even when the fudge we were selling turned to complete mush because it was so hot outside!
Almost two years ago, we moved to an area that was a little more rural than our old neighborhood. It made it harder to just set up a barrel in our front yard and wait for cans to arrive, because our new street gets a lot less traffic. Our tag sales didn’t get as many customers… let’s just say that the past couple summers we’ve eaten a lot of leftover bake sale cookies!
Then, this spring, my mom read Do Hard Things, and after she finished it she had this idea for a project — a project that was a big step up from selling cookies. She asked me if I was up to helping her start an online bookstore. I said I would, as soon as summer got here, and Mom started getting some information on how to start selling on Amazon. A guy named John Scafe from the Bible League (that’s the organization we chose to give all our proceeds to) was a really big help in getting us started.
It turned out to be a good thing that we had waited for school to get out. Our Amazon store turned out to be a little more time consuming that I had thought it would be. We started out with boxes and boxes of books that our friends had donated, and every one had to be entered into our inventory online and then shelved. It wasn’t too hard to figure out, but for a little while, I was spending something like an hour every day working on the store.
We had cleaned out one of the rooms in our basement in the spring and set it aside as our book storage room. The walls got fresh paint and my dad replaced the carpet. It was really nice to have a clean room to work in. As of right now, we have four big shelving units that are full of alphabetized books, and probably three boxes of books that I still haven’t gotten to processing! We have 1,311 listings on Amazon right now. It took us a pretty long time to get that many books processed and shelved, but it’s starting to pay off!
In just five months, we’ve raised more than $1,000 for the Bible League, which equates to two hundred Bibles sent to Russia, to places where the people who receive them would never get to hear God’s Word otherwise. When you think about that, the work I put into the store doesn’t seem so hard.
An Amazon store really isn’t that hard to maintain. My parents do a good chunk of the work: my dad stands in line at the post office every other day so that the books can get shipped out, and my mom is in charge of making sure there are always enough mailers for me to pack the orders we get every day. But our project makes me think… what if more families started a store like ours?
If we keep selling books at our current rate, we’ll raise enough money to buy almost five hundred Bibles by the end of our first year. Five hundred lives, families, maybe even whole villages, could be changed. And even if just one other family decided to start their own online store, that could add another five hundred Bibles!
Can you imagine? One thousand people might get to hear Jesus’ name for the first time… probably a lot more than that. I’m really grateful that my mom decided to get us to take the plunge on this project, even though I’m not always in the mood to do the work. God is changing lives through the Bible League.
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The Problem With Transparency
Among evangelicals today there seems to be this attitude that the most important aspect of our community and witness to a lost world is transparency. We have begun to believe that what the world wants more than anything from us is for us to be real.
Allow me to first say that I am wholeheartedly in favor of transparency. It seems to me that there are way too many Christian circles out there that portray Christians as well dressed, well mannered, well respected people who have a great life with little to no problems. If you turn on TBN for long enough, this is the picture that you get. When in reality, following Christ is messy and difficult. We have been given a new nature yes, but the old nature creeps back up often and we continue in our struggle with sin and temptation. Furthermore, we have so many trials and tribulations.
So hear me when I tell you that I believe in transparency. I wish for the day when as local gatherings of believers, we can share our struggles. That when the pastor asks for prayer requests, John stands up and expresses his need of prayer because he struggles with anger on a daily basis. I dream about churches that spend much time during their Sunday gatherings in confession and prayer over their struggle with sin. Small groups should be a place that we share that we are far from perfect.
Here is where I find the problem though; we stay in the place of transparency far too long. We are way too content sharing our struggles with each other while we neglect to talk about how we are fighting it. Small groups gather, spend an hour talking about how we are “all sinners.” By the way, Christians in the Bible are called saints way more than sinners (it’s a 3:1 ratio actually). We talk about how we struggle often, but never how we are making war.
We would rather stay in a place of admitting a struggle than actually get up and do something about it. Our cry for transparency has left no room for the war against sin. James 5:16 says – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” So we should spend more time praying for each other “that we may be healed” than sharing what it is we are struggling with.
I’m not saying lose the transparency; I am calling for us to not leave ourselves in that state. When an unbeliever walks into our assembly, they should not only see a group of people acknowledging their sin, but they should also see a group of people acknowledging their Savior and praising God for victory over their once struggles.
We are so foolish in this because we will come into the same small group for two years and talk about our struggle with porn; all the while having our friends sympathize with us and commend our honesty and transparency. Yet, two years have gone with no victory over the sin because we were so stuck on being transparent.
The gospel has set us free to be weak yes, but it has also given us freedom from the bondage of sin! We have been saved from guilt and shame, but we are supposed to have glorious fellowship with our Savior; and that fellowship is broken by sin. We have been set free by the gospel to hate our sin, not sulk in it. The gospel leaves no room for continuous sin in our lives. As we open up about our struggles, the body of Christ is supposed to pray for us and help us fight.
It’s time to take the next step Church! We were not called to boast in our sin (that’s what we are doing when we are only ever sharing our struggles), but we are called to boast in Our Savior! So what sin have you been sharing with people for the past few months that you have not taken steps to overcome yet?
Philippians 1:6 — “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
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LymeLight: The Story of Olympic Athlete Angeli VanLaanen and Her Battle with Lyme Disease
Some of you know that Ana Harris (Brett’s wife) is very sick with Lyme Disease, a nasty infection spread by ticks that can get very serious if misdiagnosed or mistreated. Unfortunately, many Americans (including doctors) are woefully uneducated about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, even as new cases continue to be reported at record levels.
This inspiring, 30-minute documentary about 2014 Winter Olympics athlete Angeli VanLaanen will give you a good idea of what Ana and thousands of others Americans are dealing with — as well as educating you about an emerging epidemic that may touch your life or the lives of people you love.
Watch the video above, check out the video description below, and leave us a comment when you’re done. Also, don’t forget to cheer Angeli on when she competes at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Thursday, February 20, in Women’s Halfpipe Skiing.
Has your life been touched by Lyme Disease?
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Video Description from the Creators of LymeLight:
LymeLight is a 30 minute documentary film based on Angeli VanLaanen’s battle with Lyme Disease. Angeli, now 27 years old, started showing Lyme symptoms at the tender age of 10.
After developing a chronic sinus infection, fainting spells, dyslexia and fatigue, Angeli faced over a decade of misdiagnoses. Through the years, her symptoms fluctuated and progressed into a debilitating chronic illness. In the summer of 2009 VanLaanen was sleeping for multiple days at a time and experiencing crippling body pain.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection spread by the bite of an infected Black Legged Tick (commonly known as a Deer Tick). Many children and adults cannot recall a bite because young Deer Ticks can be as small as a poppyseed.
If caught promptly, Lyme Disease can be treated in a matter of weeks. Angeli’s story of misdiagnosis is all too common due to the lack of knowledge in our society and in the medical community.
After her diagnosis in November 2009, VanLaanen was forced to put her competitive halfpipe career on hold at the peak of her career.
“It’s the lowest I’ve ever felt,” Angeli says. “With no guarantee that treatment would relieve my symptoms, I had very little to hold on to.”
Motivated by her struggle, Angeli linked up with Director John Roderick of Neu Productions in November of 2011 to make an awareness piece sharing a raw account of her experience.
“Our goal with LymeLight is to educate people about Lyme Disease, where it comes from, what the symptoms are and the challenges people face reclaiming their health,” says Roderick.
After taking 3 years off from halfpipe for Lyme treatment, Angeli returned to competition and placed 6th at the FIS World Championships and is ranked 9th in the world on the AFP points list for the 2012-2013 season.
[Update: On January 18, 2014, Angeli qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. She will compete in halfpipe skiing on Thursday, February 20, 2014.]
After the Olympics, Angeli plans to tour LymeLight in schools around the country as a part of an awareness program she has created. “When I was young I just flicked ticks off of me.” Angeli recalls “I didn’t know to tell my mom or doctor.”
With the help of the LymeLight Foundation, a nonprofit VanLaanen is a spokesperson for, she will educate kids about Lyme Disease prevention and overcoming hard times.
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Lessons From a Three-Year-Old
I am one of the luckiest girls in the world. I am the oldest of four children. Jessica is twelve, Cael (whom we call “Boy”) is three, and Cadence is thirteen-months-old. There are almost fourteen years between me and Boy and so I have gotten to observe his growing up process, more so than with my sister Jess. As I watch Boy grow and develop he has taught me many important lessons.
Pray about the little things
Recently Boy has developed a bedtime routine. My mom reads a story to him, they sing and then they pray together before he sleeps. Every night Mom asks him what he would like to pray for. He has a list that some would consider strange and most would consider cute. The list consists of family members and friends and each of his favourite toys. I sit in my room and listen to him praying with a smile on my face. It’s kind of funny that he wants to pray for his trucks and his teddies. However, I recently realised that I don’t thank God often enough for the little things in my life. God gave me everything I have and it’s good to take some time to thank Him for the “trucks and teddies” in my life.
Every morning my brother says brightly “Morning! Sleep nice?” The other day he gave my dad a high 5 for waking up “Good job Dad!” He claps for me and my sister after we practice a song on our instruments, he jumps up and down when we tell him we’re going out and he never fails to get excited when we say we’ll play with him. He greets life with enthusiasm and he gets excited for things I wouldn’t normally take a second glance at. The attitude makes us all smile and we have learned to appreciate so much more because of his daily cheerleading.
Often I will hear “I like that…” coming from across the house in Boy’s bright tone. He tells Mom, Jess and I that we look pretty on a regular basis, tells us we’ve done a good job or simply says “Yay!!!” and claps his hands when we achieve something. It makes everyone feel good about themselves and often we want to do even better next time because someone noticed what we did. It doesn’t take that much effort but it shows that you care and it really lifts the other person’s spirits.
Ask for help
Children are so innocent and when they know that they can’t do something, they ask for help. I don’t know why we lose this quality. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to look stupid because we can’t do something. However I’ve learned that it’s nice to be asked for help because it means the other person believes in you. Not only that but when I ask for help the task is done faster and better giving both me and my helper satisfaction.
Even though Boy will ask for help when he needs it there are also times when he just tries again and again until he get whatever he is trying to do right. He doesn’t give up easily and eventually he is able to do what he wants to. This showed me that there’s a time to ask for help and a time to keep trying. The important part is that in the process I am learning how to do what needs to be done the best way possible.
Spend time with those you love
My brother always wants to sit or be with one of us and often invites us to join him in whatever he is doing at that moment. Be it watching TV, playing a game, singing a song or reading he is always ready for company and isn’t scared to ask for it. Yesterday I was busy working and he came into my room and sat with me in silence sharing his popcorn just so we could spend time together. I feel special when he wants to be with me so wouldn’t others if I made more of an effort to do the same?
Learn something new every day
Everything is interesting when you are three! He watches us closely and learns new words, new skills and develops new ideas with every passing day. He wants to know as much as he possibly can and I believe we can never get to a point where we need to stop learning new things.
Treat your parents like heroes
As far as boy is concerned, our parents can do anything! Eventually we do learn that our parents can’t do everything but they are still heroes. They raised us, they taught us many of the important things in life, they are there to support us and to lean back on when we stumble. We don’t often treat our parents like the heroes they are or show them our appreciation. Make an effort to do this more, they deserve it.
My Life Is Not Exciting Enough
Recently, I submitted a three-part story for a children’s magazine to consider for publication — a diary-type chronicle of my life as a pastor’s kid. As I waited for a reply, I had already begun to count my chickens.
Diligently I calculated the compensation and multiplied it by three, imaged the cartoon-ish artwork that would illustrate the series, and hoped the editors would spell my name right. I even prayed about it and felt confident that the God who delights to give us good things would, without a doubt, make sure it got published.
Then came the reply. “Dear Contributor, we regret to inform you that your story is not exciting enough” and then, in bold red letters, they clarified “ALL 3 of them” as if I was confused.
I took a deep breath and held it for a long time before slowly letting it out. Not exciting enough? They should try living my life, I fumed sarcastically. After the frustration wore off, I felt like crawling in a hole and never writing again.
My fledgling writer’s heart felt as if it had been crushed. I had dared to expose my personal life and feelings only to have them reject it and then inform me it wasn’t exciting enough.
My initial thought was to question God. If he truly desired good things for me, like success, then why would He allow my work to be rejected and then so harshly criticized?
And then it hit me. Perhaps, He desired for me a greater, deeper lesson than the joy of success. Could it be that by traveling through the valley of rejection He only wished for me to live a better story — to turn criticism into motivation, disappointment into action?
In his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller states “Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
So how can we live a better story? As I pondered how I could implement a better story into my own life, I imagined myself skydiving from a crystal blue sky, or going on a high risk mission trip to a war torn country. Maybe I would champion a cause to end human trafficking, or raise money for clean water wells in Africa. I could pursue my interest in rock climbing, take an art class, or run a 5k.
Visions of adventurous grandeur danced around in my head, all of them good ideas, but something inside held me back. Perhaps it was reality — reality of a kitchen that needs cleaning, schoolwork that needs completion, and a realization of financial limitations.
I felt as if I had listened to God’s calling to live a better story, but perhaps I had tuned out the rest of what He was saying. In my eagerness to turn my disappointment into action I had inadvertently made a false start. I had yanked the pen away from God and begun to write what I thought would be a much better story with my life — a more exciting story. I plunged ahead only to crash into the brick wall reality.
But why, why would God invite us to live a better story and then at times seemingly limit us by our circumstances? I believe it is because when we are overwhelmed by our helplessness to alter situations, to play with the cards we are dealt, it is then that God can step in and work most powerfully.
When we’ve mistakenly tried and failed at every option known to our finite human reasoning, when we finally realize that it is impossible for us to write a better story for ourselves (let alone live it), and we fall exhausted and submissive at His feet, we then give Him permission to work mightily in our behalf.
But I have to wonder, is there a bit of a grey area, a blending, between our desire for a better story and the pursuit of happiness? Do we sometimes erroneously desire a better story for the sheer excitement, the recognition, that moment of joy? Do we fall into the trap of unconsciously blaming God for the circumstances that sometimes tie us down to a mundane everyday life?
We wake up, go to work or school, come home, go to sleep and then repeat. All the while thinking that perhaps God has laid down the pen — that He is taking a break from writing our story simply because from our point of view there’s really not a lot going on. Little knowing that He hasn’t forgotten about us, and with every experience, every act of service, every action, reaction, and interaction He’s writing.
It is one of our greatest privileges as humans to humbly come before the Creator of the universe and offer Him praise through the mundane. One of my favorite quotes is by Rabindranath Tagore who said “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
When we love God enough to make every aspect our lives a living sacrifice, when we sacrifice the outcome of our story, when we sacrifice our desires, hopes, and dreams, when we offer sacrifices of joy in the midst of pain, He delights to co-operate with us, to infuse His strength into our weakness, and build our faith muscles with each trying situation.
True to God’s giving character, this complete surrender of our story will not only strengthen us, but it will be a powerful witness to the joy of the Christian life. Donald Miller states that “We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them.”
No matter what chapter in life you find yourself living, whether God has called you to big responsibilities or asked you to serve him faithfully in the mundane, He hasn’t forgotten about you. He is still writing your story — you’re living in it right now, all you have to do is trustingly embrace this chapter.
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Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Photo courtesy of Jamelah E. and Flickr Creative Commons.
Matthew Mistele, Age 14: Developed Game for Xbox 360
(Redmond Reporter) — It’s not uncommon for teens to list video games as one of their favorite hobbies.
Creating a video game is a different story. But this is exactly what 14-year-old Redmond resident Matthew Mistele did. The ninth-grader from The Bear Creek School spent the past year or so working on creating a video game, which was released on Jan. 22 and is now available on Xbox 360.
“It’s a really good feeling,” Matthew said about completing his game and seeing it on Xbox.
His game, Warthog Wars, features various modes for players and assigns them various objectives to complete. He said the game was inspired by the popular video game Halo.
“I really like Halo,” he said.
While Matthew has created simple video games in the past, Warthog Wars is by far the most complex one he has created.
“It’s really ambitious,” he acknowledges.
Matthew’s mother Priscilla Mistele knew his goal to create a game for Xbox 360 would be difficult, so she expected it to just be a good learning experience.
“Basically, we humored him,” she admitted. “I thought it was impossible.”
Mistele said on the first try, Matthew’s game actually failed and fell apart. She said he did not have enough technical knowledge to work out all the bugs.
“He realized how much he didn’t know,” she said. Matthew then took a break from working on the game and hit the books. “(But) it was still super hard for him.”
Mistele said she was impressed by her son’s hard work and determination and the fact that he took the time to study — outside of his regular schoolwork — to complete Warthog Wars.
Matthew mostly worked on the game on the weekends, giving up hours and hours of free time. But when asked whether it was worth it, he had just two words.
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Let It Go: Learning Forgiveness from Corrie ten Boom
When those we love hurt us, it leaves our emotions raw and gaping, gasping for air. It scars our hearts, our memories. It scars our friendships and it sometimes even leaves us with an injured outlook on life, on people.
And we just can’t forget.
But whatever happened to ‘forgiving those who trespass against us’? Does the Lord really expect us to show grace to those who do us harm?
There once was a girl who wondered the same thing, after the time of war in Germany and that evil man who would crush & torture God’s people. And this is her story …
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.
It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947.
People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.
‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’
And I stood there — I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven — and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place— could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there — hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.
‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too.
Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then…
But even so, I realized it was not my love. I tried and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5… ‘because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.’”
— from Corrie ten Boom in Tramp for the Lord
No, she wasn’t perfect. She was made of bones and flesh, and faced temptations just like you and I do. But she still learned that lost art of showing God’s unfailing grace to those who don’t seem to deserve it.
Something I still need to learn. That forgiveness is not a feeling, but instead it is an act of grace & love — Christ-like love — that God gives us the strength to give so freely, as He has so freely given to us.
And, I think, why should I hold grudges against others for hurting me, when I have hurt God over and over again and He still loves me, He still shows me this grace without fail, without hesitation? And you know what? I don’t exactly deserve it either.
I fail Him daily, because I am not perfect. I’m nothing near perfect. But I am loved by a perfect God.
This forgiving others, letting go, giving grace — it’s a way to share the gospel, to witness, to those who don’t know Christ.
Just like the martyrs.
The martyrs never fought back against their persecutors, but boasted in Jesus Christ alone and showed off His grace, love, and forgiveness to those who hurt them.
And then great things happened. Things like prison guards falling to their knees in prayer before the most High God, and kings and nobles and whole countries bowing their heads in worship of the King of Kings. Could there be a greater reward for giving grace?
Photos courtesy of Nikos Koutoulas and Knowsphotos on Flickr Creative Commons.