You Are More

Have you ever felt like you failed at something, and it left you utterly crushed? I certainly have. And because of a false mindset it left me crushed for a very long time.

This week I’ve been reading Switch by the Heath brothers as a school assignment. In the seventh chapter I came across this passage that intrigued me.

Read the following four sentences, and write down whether you agree or disagree with each of them.

1. You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.

2. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.

3. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.

4. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.

If you agreed with items 1 and 3, you’re someone who has a “fixed mindset.” And if you agreed with items 2 and 4, you tend to have a “growth mindset.” (If you agreed with both 1 and 2, you’re confused.”) (Heath 163)

I knew that I agreed with item 3, and probably 1, though I was unwilling to admit it to myself. I kept reading, and all was well and good until I came across this line.

If you are someone with a fixed mindset, you tend to avoid challenges, because if you fail, you fear that others will see your failure as an indication of your true ability and see you as a loser. (Heath 163)

I felt like crying. This one line epitomized what I’ve been experiencing since my last tournament in high school speech and debate. That last tournament was an unparalleled disaster, going from winning records in debate at every tournament, only to win one out of six rounds Regionals. It was a devastating blow, and I took that failure onto myself as my identity, effectively crippling me for the next three years. It was my last chance to prove myself, and I’d failed. It didn’t help that my partner went on to get first place at the first tournament the following year with a new partner who’d only debated for one year previously. I was consumed with thoughts that I had been holding him back from success the last two years.

But this passage from Switch revealed to me the lie I’d been telling myself for so long. My failures don’t define me. In fact, used correctly they instead shape and grow me. What I need instead of a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. This allows me to see my brain and my abilities as muscles, with challenges as the means of strengthening those muscles. I will be able to accept criticism, because I know it will help me improve.

This reminded me of the passage in Romans.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Reformation Study Bible, Romans 8.29)

God did not create me to be stagnant. He created me to grow more and more into His likeness.

This train of thought put the song “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North into a new perspective for me as well. I am more than my mistakes and my failures. Why?

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done
But what’s been done for you
This is not about where you’ve been
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel
But what He felt to forgive you
And what He felt to make you loved

In the end, it’s truly not about me and what I’ve done. It’s all about God.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant. (2 Cor. 3.5, 6a)

Thus, with a correct mindset that God will continually grow me into the person He created me to be for His glory, I no longer have to be crippled by my past failures. Instead, I can learn from them and take those lessons into my future adventures.

And only with this mindset can I reach the full potential for which God designed me.

Works Cited

Heath, Chip and Dan. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. New York:

Broadway Books, 2010. Print.

Tenth Avenue North. You Are More. The Light Meets the Dark. Provident, 2010. MP3.

The Reformation Study Bible. English Standard Version. Ed. R.C. Sproul. Orlando. Ligonier

Ministries. 2005. Print.

God’s Got This

I had a little chuckle today over the phrase, “Preaching to the choir.” The reason I laughed was because of the false assumption imbedded in this phrase. Namely, that if you are in the choir, you have achieved perfection and can no longer be edified by the preaching of the Word. This assumption is ridiculous! The only way anyone could not benefit from the daily washing of the Word is if they are either no longer in this world, or they are not human. All of us have our pitfalls, our weaknesses, our temptations and habitual sins. The bottom line is that we are human, and this means that we won’t have it all figured out until we reach eternity. And even then, only God is all-knowing, so we still won’t have it all figured out!

I make that point to make a more specific observation.

It is now the day after Christmas, the day after what is considered one of the happiest days of the year. But for some of us, Christmas may not be all that amazing. Whether because of the pain of a forever empty chair at the table, family quarrels or difficulties, disease, loneliness, or many other external pressures, there are a myriad of things that threaten to steal our happiness away.

There are a lot of things people can say in the face of this pain or trouble, some bad and some good. You could be told to just move on, or just forget the pain for a while so you can enjoy yourself. But this would be wrong. Or people could point you to the reason for the season, and remind you to count your remaining blessings and thank God for them. These latter examples are perfectly legitimate responses, but I have a different point to make that has to do with my introduction.

Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, whether it be personal and internal, or caused by others, remember this simple phrase; You are not alone. You are not alone because God is there with you through everything. Why can we be sure of this? Because it has been promised to us in God’s Word.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

~Psalm 23:4

And behold, I am with you always.

~ Matthew 28:20b

This for me then begs the question, why should I not fear if God is with me? We need not fear for two very big reasons. First, the God of the universe has promised to never leave us, and He was powerful enough to speak the world into existence out of nothing. Therefore, He is most definitely much bigger than any trouble we could possibly face. The second builds on this concept. Because God is bigger than any trouble we could possibly face, He can also handle any trouble we could possible face, and He has the strength to pull us through.

You see, the past while I have been weighed down by many life altering decisions, each unique from each other, but still equally important, ominous, and scary. More and more the past year I have been crying out, “I can’t do this.” And it’s true. I simply don’t have the wisdom to choose, the strength to not break, the perseverance to continue. But what I’ve been learning more and more recently is that this is okay. You know why? Because even when I’ve lost control, God is in control. I don’t got this; but God’s got this.

Just like the choir, we can pretend to have everything put together, and believe that we can handle anything because we have it all figured out. But any time we think that, it is a lie. We are finite, exhaustible, breakable, and have limited knowledge. We can think we can handle some things, but our trials reveal that honestly we can’t. We only live by the continual grace of God, and it is only by the grace of God that we make it through anything. This means that every pain and trial we face is a opportunity in disguise. An opportunity to admit your lack of strength, wisdom, and perseverance, and a wonderful opportunity to instead rely totally on God in complete surrender. I am reminded of the song by Keith and Kristen Getty called “When Trials Come.” The whole song is great, but the second verse says,

Within the night I know Your peace

The breath of God brings strength to me

And new each morning mercy flows

As treasures of the darkness grow

We can know this peace and strength. All that is required is admitting your insufficiencies, recognizing God’s sufficiency, and relying on Him alone. Surrender your pain and trouble to God. It’s so simple, yet so hard. But it is also so very freeing. Therefore,

Seek the LORD and His strength; seek His presence continually!

~ 1 Chronicles 16:11

“Why Courtship is Fatally Flawed:” A Response and Caution

I was casually browsing Facebook today, and the same blog post popped up again. It had appeared in my feed before multiple times, and here it was again, shared by another five of my friends. So I decided to bite the bullet and read the long post. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here: http://www.thomasumstattd.com/2014/08/courtship-fundamentally-flawed/) Now I will quickly point out that I appreciated this man’s honesty and candidness; it is no small thing to publicly retract views you have just as publicly promoted in the past. Also, I think he has some very valid points in his criticism of courtship, things that everyone can learn from and hopefully improve in light of. I will also admit that my ideas on courtship have changed over the past few years. I agree that the movement has largely stopped the communication between young men and women, and seems to have had an unintended affect on the marriage rate. However there were some positions in his article that I would like to address, not because I think his position wrong, but to warn against some of the things he may not have thought to bring into the discussion.

(Before I dive in though, I would like to add a definition for the sake of clarification. When I use the term “courtship” in this post, it is in reference to the more conservative, or extreme forms of courtship. Mr. Umstattd further defined what this is in his post, so for more clarification you can seek it there.)

Response: The Elephant in the Room

The past few weeks I have had the pleasure of taking a Comparative Worldviews course as part of my college work, and the things I have learned through it have been very enlightening. One worldview that I hadn’t studied much before this course was Naturalism, and how it birthed the Sexual Revolution. In league with Cultural Marxists seeking the demise of Western Civilization, the like of Margaret Sanger, Michel Foucault, and Alfred Kinsey actively sought the breakdown of family. I won’t go into an in depth history lesson, but needless to say their efforts were successful. In the past fifty years we have seen the definition of marriage expanded, a dramatic increase in promiscuity and births out of wedlock, as well as abortion numbers shooting through the roof. The correlation between these issues has been well documented in studies performed by sociologists and anthropologists, many of them on the outset intending to prove the traditional family unit had no intrinsic benefit to society. (In these links you can find two of these studies quoted. http://www.familywatchinternational.org/fwi/marriage_Unwin_and_Marriage.pdf , http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1555 ) A further result of the breakdown of the family is that the training ground for children to learn real commitment was compromised, and we have now at least two generations that have no concept of commitment or any visions for the future besides personal pleasure.

Now in Mr. Umstattd’s post he did eventually mention the Sexual Revolution, however I think he did not give it’s affect on our culture the weight it properly deserved. With the basic institution of our culture crumbling, there has been a significant rise in the divorce rate. Not to say that issues with courtship are not partly responsible, at least in the homeschool community, but it is by no means the only trend to blame. When you fail to learn the importance of commitment, and that life isn’t about being happy all the time, then you will have a divorce problem.

Caution 1: Don’t Be Naive

The breakdown of the family and the rise of divorce rates are not the only consequences of the Sexual Revolution. With the idea that sex is purely for selfish means, and a no-conquences attitude attached to it, there has been an increase in the rate of sex crimes. (http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeStatebyState.cfm) Unfortunately as we have been learning in the past few years, this problem is pervasive, and it’s perpetrators and victims do not exclude those in the homeschool community. In light of this, I found the following quote from Mr. Umstattd rather concerning,

Allow your daughters to say yes to first dates from Christian guys you don’t know.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that Mr. Umstattd isn’t recommending throwing caution to the wind and let your children got out with a Joe Shmoe that comes along. I only wish to present the unfortunate truth that just because someone was homeschooled and/or claims to be a Christian will honor your daughters purity. And also to entreat you to not forsake acting with wisdom and caution. I also realize that no system can perfectly protect every person from being a victim of sexual abuse, even the rigors of courtship couldn’t do that. But let’s not move forward with blinders on in hopeful ignorance.

Caution 2: Beware of Formulas

There is a rather ironic trend in our society: though we usually bristle when someone tells us what to do, we still love it when we have a convenient checklist that we can refer to and complete. I appreciated that Mr. Umstattd gave suggestions for how to improve the current issues, but we must watch ourselves that we don’t look to these suggestions as a formula to solve our problems. Every person’s situation is unique, and it’s impossible for a formula to appropriately address each one. In fact, this was one of the problems of courtship; people went to a formula instead of seeking wisdom from God in whatever situation confronted them. So let us learn from this failing, that we shouldn’t have faith in a formula, we need faith in God. Remember that Mr. Umstattd pointed out the complete lack of congruency in the way people in the Bible met and married their spouses. Let us not make the mistake we made with courtship, by making a newer (yet still older) form of finding your spouse our preferred formula. Again, every situation is unique, and requires God’s guidance.

Caution 3: Avoid Extremes

Probably the biggest problem with courtship was that it was working in extremes. My dad likes to say that world views, political ideologies, and social practices can be viewed as points on a pendulums arch. You have to be careful, because swinging too far to one side or the other ends up in pretty much the same place, at the top. The leaders of the courtship movement had some legitimate fears based on personal experiences and the reality around them. They saw the consequences of one extreme, part of that being the result of the Sexual Revolution, but in trying to fix the problem they went to the other extreme. There was a shift from absolutely no input, to a striving after complete control over their children’s relationships. They took their attempts at reform too far. Therefore this is another lesson we can take away from courtship; when seeking another solution, don’t run to another extreme. Seek God for wisdom, and be rational.

Conclusion

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. Matthew 10:16

That verse sounds very dark and foreboding, but it has a warning and wisdom in it that we should take to heart. We need to be careful, accurately discerning the times and culture we live in, and act accordingly. While avoiding the pitfalls of courtship, don’t forget the lessons it can teach us as well. Also let’s be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water, there are things of value that can be taken from the courtship movement. Whenever you get to the place that you desire to pursue a serious relationship, having a network of godly mentors can be supremely beneficial. There will still be an element of temptation, so they will be useful as accountability partners, and by having an outside view of your relationship any wisdom they can offer may prove to be invaluable.

I greatly appreciate the issues Mr. Umstattd discussed in his post, and again I do not intend for this to be an attack of him or his position. My heart’s desire is to caution us all to use discernment and act in wisdom.

In the end, seek to live out this verse:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

And God spoke

God speaks to us in many ways.  Often times through reading His word, sometimes through friends.  Yesterday God spoke to me in a kind of strange way.

Let me give you a little background first though.  I’m going through a kind of tumultuous time of life.  I’m finishing up highschool, and many of the things I have been doing for years are coming to an end.  Now, I’m not the kind of person who likes change in any shape or form. 😉  So with everything comfortable and familiar ending, I feel rather lost.  Also, recently I’ve come to realize that I lack purpose in my life.  Everyone around me is heading off to college, their heads full of dreams of what they will become.  Me, I know I’m staying home to help my parents, but beyond that I don’t really have a dream in life that I’m striving for.  Plus there are all the issues with our government weighing on my mind.  Added to this is a tournament this weekend that I feel rather unqualified to be competing in.  Thus life seems to be crashing down on me.

Then yesterday I was cleaning and listening to my mp3 player.  Now, because I have this problem for making decisions, I had it on random so I wouldn’t have to decide which album to listen to. 😉  Despite having a task before me that should have taken more of my attention, my stomach was starting to churn thinking of all the pressures weighing on me.  Then I noticed what song started playing on my mp3 player. 

Surround Me by The Swift

“You always know what to do when I need You.
You come through. Make my old brand new.
That’s what You do.

You always know what to do.
When life seems to much to take.
And I can’t hang on to it.
You open Your arms and You tell
me to hang on to You

(Chorus)
At the top of my lungs
At the end of my rope
When there’s nothing to lose
And I’m fresh out of hope.
You surround me.
You surround me.
You surround me.

Everytime I try, everytime I fail.
You surround me, You surround me.”

I almost started to cry.  This was exactly what I needed to hear.  Then many simliar songs began to play and every single one had to do with trusting God through the hard times.  Songs about life going crazy, but knowing there is a safe place in God’s arms.  It was truly amazing!  God spoke to me through my mp3 player, reminding me that my focus shouldn’t be on my problems, but on Him.

It is amazing as you read through the Psalms just how many times it speaks about God’s steadfast love.  Many of these times, the psalmist starts off in the pit of despair.  But in the end he remembers his focus should be on the one sure thing in this world.  God.  Take Psalm 13 for instance.  It begins asking God if He will forget him forever and let his enemies trample him.  Then is ends with “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5,6)

I’ll end with the words of Psalm 46

1God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
                         Selah
 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
   God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
   he  utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
                         Selah

  8Come, behold the works of the LORD,
   how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the chariots with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God.
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
                         Selah

Happy Thanksgiving!!

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

 2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
       come before him with joyful songs.

 3 Know that the LORD is God.
       It is he who made us, and we are his;
       we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
       and his courts with praise;
       give thanks to him and praise his name.

 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
       his faithfulness continues through all generations.

~Psalm 100

He Will Carry Me

“I call, You hear me
I’ve lost it all
And it’s more than I can bear
I feel so empty

You’re strong, I’m weary
I’m holding on
But I feel like giving in
But still You’re with me

Chorus:
And even though I’m walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I’ve been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me

I know I’m broken
But You alone
Can mend this heart of mine
You’re always with me

(Chorus)
And even though I’m walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I’ve been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me

And even though I feel so lonely
Like I have never been before
You never said it would be easy
But You said You’d see me through the storm

(Chorus)
And even though I’m walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him
Whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I’ve been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me”

~Mark Schultz

A modern day miracle

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of house sitting a friends house.  Looking back, it was fun, but at the time, I was scared.  I had never done this before.  But here I was, in charge of a house.  And there was no one to protect me if someone broke in. 😉  This was also right after getting my license, so it was weird driving myself back and forth all the time.

But during this time of fear, God caused me to see His omnipotence and feel His comfort.  In small ways every evening, as I had to go to Him to take away my fears of being alone in a large house.  However, there was one major occurrence that showed me His marvelous grace!

Part of my house sitting included taking care of the family’s dog.  His name was Chester, and he was a hoot. 🙂  Every time I saw him, he always had a reservoir of energy that needed to be used up.  I don’t think he ever got tired, no matter how much I chased him around the yard, or threw balls for him to chase.  Despite being a bundle of pure energy, he was a real sweetie.  Every night, before bringing him in, we would sit on the steps and I would pet him as we gazed at the stars.  (Well, I gazed at the stars.  He was more interested in taking in the yard’s landscape. 😉  )  But, one day, he gave me a real scare.

One Tuesday morning I woke up late, and had to hustle home for school.  When I let Chester out, I considered forgoing my usual trip outside with him, but something made me go out despite being late.  As I walked around the yard, I spied some torn up cardboard.  The house backed up to a greenbelt, so I often saw trash back there that had blown in.  Most days, I didn’t pay attention to the trash, however something made me stop and read the cardboard fragments.  The words that met my curious eyes were, “Mouse Kill.”  A few seconds passed.  The reality began to sink in that Chester had torn up this box, and must have gotten to the poison.  Hurriedly, I searched the yard for the four packets of poison.  Two were right next to the remnants of the box.  They were torn open as well, and empty.  A thorough search turned up only one more packet that was unopened.  To this day, we don’t know what happened to the fourth packet.

Unsure of what to do, I called home and told my mom what I had found.  The hint of panic in her voice told me that things were worse than I had first thought.  I hadn’t had any contact with rat poison before, and didn’t know it’s effects.  But upon reaching home, I found out.  Most of the rat poisons on the market are blood thinners.  The way they work is they make the animal bleed internally to death.  After reading this I felt sick.  My only desire was to go to my room and sob until this terrible tragedy had passed.  This was just awful!  This poor dog was going to die a painful death, and it was on my watch!  Unfortunately, I didn’t get in my cry.  After our family Bible time, Dad and I went back to the house to watch the dog and look more closely at the packaging.

Shortly after arriving back at the house, Dad was on their computer with the cardboard fragments in front of him.  The results of his google search brought some relief.  It turns out that that particular poison was a neurotoxin.  So, instead of bleeding to death, Chester’s nervous system would be attacked.  (Now, there is an important piece of information I’ve neglected to share.  We had deduced that it had been at least twelve hours between the time Chester had possibly eaten the poison and when I found the remnants.  Thus, doing charcoal or a stomach pump would have been useless.  So, whatever had happened was irreversible.)  Dad called our friends, the owners, and it was decided to take Chester to the vet.

Boy, was that a nightmare!  Chester was terrified to death of the vet.  Yet, she insisted on trying to check his eyes, ears and legs.  For her persistence, Dad got a ripped shirt and all of us are now sporting nearly shattered ear drums.  What made it worse was that they told us all we could do was wait and watch.  They did give us some hope however.  The peak of neurotoxins is between 2 and 12 hours.  We knew it had been longer than that, so it appeared he would come out all right as symptoms should have shown up by then.  The next couple of days I checked on Chester more often than normal, and he never exhibited any reactions to the poison!

So how was God’s hand working in all this?  They way we see it, it happened is one of three ways.  Either some other animal tore up the box (which I personally think unlikely), or Chester didn’t eat any of the poison, but simply tore the packaging up.  Or, God caused the poison to not do their evil deeds in that dog’s body.  Whatever truly happened, I know that God worked a miracle.  It was a miracle if Chester ate the poison, or it was a miracle that he didn’t.

So, even though that was an emotionally trying time, I learned something invaluable.  God worked a miracle in that dog.  He is an all-powerful God, surpassing all knowledge, and is bigger than all things.  Yet, He chose to work in my life by showing He cared about such small, insignificant things as that dog and me.  Through this trial, I got a taste of the goodness of God.

Though we forget it, God cares and thinks of us every second of every day.  In the Bible, Paul wrote how Jesus upholds the universe by His mighty word.  God is actively holding every atom in the universe together.  If He ever failed to think about you for one second, you would cease to exist.  Sometimes we feel all alone in a situation that is out of control.  We need to understand that it is not just when we desperately need help that God remembers us.  We are always on His mind and His heart.  Stop and think about that for a second.  This realization should make you fall prostrate before your God in complete awe.  This is what I learned in during that trial.  And the dog is still a bundle of energy to this day! 🙂

Praise the Lord, for His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness continues to all generations!!

~Tee-Kaye