Monday, August 27, 2007
Anyway, yesterday we said goodbye to students heading off to college and talked to other students who’ve already started classes (poor guys).
While the start of school isn’t necessarily a cause for jubilation, I want to challenge you to pick a particular word or scripture for this coming year. Spend some quality time in prayer with God—more than a couple minutes, anyway—and ask Him what He wants you to focus on for this year.
It might be a challenge to your habits, like patience or discipline. Or it might be a spiritual challenge, like thankfulness or joy or respect for your parents.
God will give you that word if you ask Him. And if you write it up on your wall or bulletin board (or maybe as the screensaver on your computer), you’ll remember it this coming year.
Your word might end up being your lifeline this year. God always has something He wants to grow in us, and I’ve found that this “word for the year” works to help me focus on what He’s doing in me.
So spend a few minutes in prayer, in your Bible, in private worship. Ask Him to give you that word, and watch Him transform you and your coming school year.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8.
I guess I’ve never really thought about the action implied in this verse. Sometimes, it’s very easy for me to get into the mode of couch Christianity – just kick back and let others do everything for my spiritual growth. So, I go to Bible studies and Sunday schools and forget that I have a responsibility in this too.
To draw near.
It’s such a weird phrase, really. “Draw near”. Aside from sounding like a technical term for 3-D art class, it sounds hard. Especially when what we’re drawing near to is not in human form.
So how do we do it, really?
First step is the action. Get up off the couch, move away from where our walk with God is stagnant. Second step? We need to work as hard on this relationship as we would on the relationship with our dads or our boyfriends. It’s hard to try to get to know someone if we’re not doing anything to move in that direction. Third, let God communicate with us. We can’t do that if we’re not in the Word daily and intentionally.
“Draw near.” I hope you’ll join me in this life-long quest of knowing God and knowing Him better each and every day.
Have a great week everyone! ☺
Saturday, August 25, 2007
It's that time again. New classes. New teachers. New books. Freshly waxed floors. Clean gym clothes. Inspirational speeches over the intercom about how 2007-2008 will be the best year ever at Name Your High.
I always loved/hated the start of a new school year. I loved buying the latest clothes, seeing friends, getting back into my favorite clubs or activities. I hated the thought of getting up early every morning, enduring certain classes, putting up with obnoxious or even dangerous people.
High school is a difficult time of life in a lot of ways. Children become adults. Hormones and emotions soar off the charts. Joys are intense. Disappointments are magnified. It's easy to get caught up in our own dreams, goals, and desires, sometimes overlooking or even trampling people who get in our way. And it's hard to be happy for someone else who edges us out of achieving what we set our hearts on.
Wherever you are in your educational journey, I want to encourage you right now to take some time apart with God as the new year begins. Ask Him to remind you that every day is a gift, and every breath is grace. Though I truly wish you exceeding delights during high school, I pray God will grant you wisdom to see beyond today--to focus on His eternal purposes. Chances are, there are hundreds of people around you who don't know Jesus and who are riding the emotional teen roller coaster without His tender, comforting embrace to steady them.
Always know we're here to pray for you. Please don't hesitate to let us know when you especially need it. May you go into this new year as shining lights for Him, and may many be drawn to your flame.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Then I got another one just a few days ago - and well, that one revealed just how fragile I really am. It broke me in half. I sobbed and cried. Phrases like "I can't do this anymore." and "I quit." seeped out of my mouth. I begged God for understanding. I considered selling my computer on EBay and becoming a better scrapbooker.
Today, my tears are dry and I am none the wiser as to what God is doing in my life. I don't know why there have been so many "No's". And I am feeling very, very weary.
And yet the scriptures tell me that all these feelings I am having are nothing new at all:
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Gal 6:9)
"Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (Heb 10:35)
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." and just a few verses later, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must belive that he exists and that he rewards those who ernestly seek him." (Heb 11:1 and 6)
Whether disappointments come because of a career (like in my case) or a friend or someone you care about, they still hurt. But what will we do? Will we give up? Will we throw our hands in the air and say, "It's just too hard?" Or will we hunker down and simply keep plowing through - knowing, beyond any shadow of doubt, that God knows what he is doing and we can trust him?
I'm going to choose to trust him. Even though I can't see one foot in front of myself right now. Even though I don't understand him at the moment. Even though it's hard. Because that's what faith is all about. If you read the Bible you'll see over and over how precious our faith is to God. I'm not completely sure why he considers it so valuable, but he does.
So if you're facing your own sorrows right now, hang in there. I'm right there with you:-)
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I rarely get cranky ... I'm a pretty easy going person. But there are a few things that bug me.
Being late. I hate it.
Paperwork. Just shoot me.
People who complain. Which makes me laugh reading the above list!
Yesterday included all of the above. It started when I woke up in a funk and kicked off when my puppy chewed up an ant poison stake. (I learned from my vet to make your dog puke just give him a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide. It works!)
The call to the vet and the puking made us late for my grandma and son's eye appointments, which made everyone complain. And guess what was waiting when I got home? Edits and paperwork.
(Oh, yes, and the dog is fine!)
Being alive would be easy if there weren't dogs and people and problems, but I need to remember life isn't about my world, my comfort. Life is about LIFE.
When babies are born, the world centers around them. They only think of their needs. As we grow, it's the job of our parents to open our eyes to the world around us ... to help us understand "It's Not All About Me."
We get this ... most of the time, but spiritual growth has the same goal. "Love the Lord, love others like yourself." Hmmm ... easy to say, not so easy to do.
How are you doing? Here are some questions to ask. Then ... well, I'll leave the answers up to you.
--Is there someone who is going through a hard time that I haven't helped like I should?
--Do I look down on others who I don't think are "as good as" me?
--Do I ignore old people or people that are different?
--Do I keep others waiting?
--Do I carelessly forget when someone asks me for help?
--Do I keep silent when I should speak out?
--Do I butt in too quickly when I shouldn't?
--Do I let myself be bothered by things that really aren't that important?
--Do I accept when trouble comes my schedule gets messed up?
Just a few things to think about. I know I will be thinking about them ... and trying to figure out how to work on that "loving others" part of life.
Monday, August 20, 2007
I was able to take in small glimpses of the culture through my daughter’s stories and those of her teammates. Sometimes I caught Sarah online for a quick chat, but most of the time I simply read and wept over some of things they shared in their blog, Calcutta Love!
When my daughter returned, she gave me a quilt that one of the young women had sewn. In one corner, it has a small label which reads, “made in India by Mukti.” Mukti is a beginning level of apprenticeship in making the quilts. Sarah told me that if a woman stays through this time of apprenticeship, there’s a much better chance she won’t return to prostitution. She also said that when each woman succeeds in her apprenticeship, she can begin to attach a label with her personal name to her quilts. That must mean so much to them.
As I hold my quilt and run my fingers along the rows of stitches, I think of the woman who pushed a needle through the four layers of fabric—a Mukti, a person with a name, and a story I can't even begin to imagine. I pray for her. I hope she completes her apprenticeship, and with each stitch she sews, each quilt she completes, that she is one firm step closer to a new life filled with hope.
I haven't experienced anything like this young woman, but I know, just like her, I have a name and a story that God knows well. He knows when I mess up. He has rescued me when I've found myself backed into a corner I can't get out of on my own. He daily gives me hope and helps me walk closer and closer toward him.
Here is something God said to the Israelites as a nation. I believe he says it just as passionately and personally to us today:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:1-2 NAS)
What an amazing God. And he knows and loves each of us!
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Name one person who meets all of these requirements. Like me you’ve probably had your dreams of love disappointed more times than you care to remember, even by those who you thought would never let you down.
The passage above comes from Jannie Wilcoxson’s book Looking for Love in the Wrong Place, a great Bible study that uses the lives of biblical men and women to address our need for love and our heartbreaking tendency to fill the need in ways that lead to disaster. The stories of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, David and his wives Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba, the woman at the well, and others that I have studied since childhood reminded me that, though times have changed drastically in the past couple thousand years, people haven’t. Since creation each man and woman has wanted to be loved. Even those who love God to the core of our souls allow our passions to lead us down the wrong path. Jannie’s book reminded me also that a perfect love is available even as I fill the aches with second-best substitutes. God offers the love that no human can live up to, and His Word is a living reminder of it.
Look for this study on Amazon, through WinePress Publishing, or at your local Christian bookstore. It might be a great one to go through with a mentor, friend, or prayer partner. I hope that you’ll be challenged, as I was, to dig deeper into God’s Word for more messages of His love and faithfulness.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
After the service this woman came up to me. She clearly was not happy. She said she recognized me from a Bible study she had visited once or twice, then asked me to call her that she needed someone to talk to. Then she started crying.
I'm instantly STRESSED. I have to be honest and say these "share with me" moments just don't happen to me. I've been told I just don't have a kind face (No seriously. I hear this ALLLL the time.) My students tell me I'm initially intimidating. (Come on, kids. I'm 5'1 on a good day. How scary is that?) I'm one of those people that has to warm up, you know? So strangers don't typically seek me out for help. And on top of that, I'm just not naturally good with deep, dark issues. Not that I haven't had my share. I have (thus, I like to remain in my happy places). I'm the girl you sit next to when you want to giggle in a wedding. I'm the girl you call when you want to see a Will Ferrell movie. Keep it light, is my motto. (Actually it's really not. Who are these people who genuinely have mottos?)
Anyway, as she's talking I'm thinking, "Why me? Not only do I not want to deal with this, I'm the least 'gifted' to help her."
So we swap numbers, and I promise her to call her within hours.
I go home. I pray.
I pray for God to speak through me. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me. And I pray for her not to answer the phone so I can turn it over to someone who is qualified to help her.
Then I looked at my notes from that day's sermon. Here's the only thing I had written down:
It doesn't matter what you want to do.
It matters what you're called to do.
And I call.
Knowing at this point that God is up to something, it's no surprise that this woman answers the phone, and I have to follow through. Though I felt less equipped and able to help a distraught stranger and could have referred her to 25 more capable people, I proceeded to have an hour and a half long conversation with her.
To make a very, very sad and long story shorter, this woman has an unusually twisted background of neglect and abuse. And she was suicidal. Through my experience with students with depression and other disorders, I was able to counsel her to the best of my ability. But mostly this lady just needed someone to talk to. She knew I couldn't say magic words and it would all be fixed.
I have continued to talk to my new friend throughout the week. She has a long way to go, and needs help and services from professionals. But she also needs friends. And she needed a listening ear. She needed someone to offer the comfort of Christ. And like it or not, I was that person.
So where is God calling you? As a pastor's wife told me this week, "Jen, that IS ministry right there. That's what it's all about."
And she's right--even when it's not my gift.
God gives us specific gifts to use. But don't let that limit you to areas of help and ministry. I've hid behind the excuse, "Oh, I can't do________ because that's not my strength. Ask so-and-so. But if you want a skit or need some help with the children's church, call me!"
God all but slapped me down with a message this week. I'm not here to maintain my own comfort level. He wants me in the trenches, with sweaty palms and churning stomach, as I serve.
It doesn't matter what you want to do.
It matters what you're called to do.
Friday, August 17, 2007
- Have one of our girls (who's on the school dance team) teach some Christian hip-hop.
- Only have girls--no guys allowed.
- Have a Domestic Violence speaker. She can explain the warning signs of being in an abusive relationship.
- Have a Christian counselor talk about current issues and stuff girls are dealing with.
- Have some good food--not your grandmother's covered dish.
- Decorate it fun, for girls.
- Have a Bible Study to teach us how to fill our hearts up with Jesus.
- Have girls from our church make up fliers and invite their friends and the community.
- No charge.
- Have a couple of ladies give personal testimonies.
- Use the one day event as a kick-off for once a week morning prayer and coffee before school at a local Starbucks.
How does this sound?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I think I lifted this from a sermon or a Christian living book way back when I was in my 20s and a new believer. It's good advice if I remember to use it.
Faced with a horrible, impossible, devastating, ghastly situation?
Step back from the pain when you are able, and analyze through prayer:
1. What did I learn about me?
2. What did I learn about him, her, or them?
3. What did I learn about people in general?
4. What did I learn about You, God?
I found this in an old journal just before I was about to toss it. I don't think I'll toss it now.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Last Sunday night our youth pastor preached on "Why We Don't Hear From God". One reason he shared that we might not hear God was that we don't listen. Too much stuff gets in the way. We're plugged in to a lot of things, or we talk at God and then walk away.
Afterward I got alone at the altar and sat in the stillness. I pray often, but it had been a long time since I had completely tuned out everything and just listened. And I heard from him. Not out loud, but in my thoughts, over my heart, and in that very quiet, wonderful stillness.
Maybe we all need that much more than we realize. I know I do.
Suz - http://realteenfaith.com
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I think it’s because he used to be a pastor in Los Angeles, and he’s seen a lot of heartache among teens and twenty-somethings when they date, and he’s boiled it down to misconceptions about what marriage is supposed to be like.
The other week, he told the high schoolers, “When you date, it’s not how much you like the other person. The question to ask is, ‘Can I live with him/her?’”
Basically, he’s saying that while it’s lovely and fizzy and heady to be in love, you also have to save a part of your brain to ask yourself, “Is this person spousal material?”
I was kind of shocked that he’d pose this to the teenagers, because marriage is probably furthest from their minds. But he wanted them to think about it even now while some of them date in high school.
All the little annoyances your boyfriend does—could you stand them after living with him for five years? Ten years? Like not cleaning his room, or not ironing his own shirts, or refusing to learn how to cook? Would you be able to stand cleaning up after him, ironing all his shirts for him, doing all the cooking no matter how tired or crabby you were?
And can you talk freely with him? Does he talk freely to you? (Which is actually a more important question.)
Do you try not to fester resentment or anger at each other over more than 24 hours? Do you ever fully resolve problems? If the answers are NO, then you have a problem.
Some things aren’t really big deals, but you need to keep things in perspective and cover your thoughts in a lot of prayer to know what you would and wouldn’t tolerate in a spouse versus just a boyfriend.
Our youth pastor was just trying to get the high schoolers to realize that dating is not just for fun, it should impact their ideas of marriage. And even though they might date in high school, they have to keep these kinds of things in mind even then, so that they’ll keep these things in mind as they get older and closer to marriage age.
So, if you’re dating, give your S.O. more serious consideration than how he dresses in Hugo Boss or how he drives a souped up Honda with subwoofers that could shatter glass. Cover your dating relationship in prayer, and ask God to let you know—“Can I live with him?”
Monday, August 13, 2007
In the past day or so I’ve learned a few things about box living that apply to live as a whole. Since sitting here and staring at my boxes has gotten old, I decided I’d share my new found revelations with you.
Lesson #1: You can’t put God in a box. When we first began packing Michael and I grossly underestimated the number of boxes we would need to complete the task. Turns out we have a lot more stuff than we thought we did. On more than one occasion I sat down to pack stuff in a box I assumed it would all fit in only to find that my size estimates were off. Who knew I have enough board games to overflow a medium box?
Often in life I assume I can force God into a box as well. I take the things I know about God and pigeonhole Him into a formula or predetermined pattern of behavior and completely forget that He is God and He can do whatever He wants. Somehow I forget He is all knowing and that He will make all things work together for good in the end even if it doesn’t look like it in the moment.Sometimes it can be hard to comprehend that God is bigger than we can ever understand. The easiest way to deal with this is to start doing what I eventually did while I was packing. Go for the bigger box. If you must use boxes, aim for the super size. God is still going to overflow it. He’s still going to break the mold. He will break your rules, and He will let you get your heart broken in the process. But then He will put all of the pieces back together and make it more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. He’s God. That’s His job. Fortunately for you, it’s not yours.
Lesson # 2: Even when it seems like it, Satan cannot pack your dreams in a box and ship them away. As I sat in my living room packing my life in a box, I couldn’t help but think back to all of the times when I felt as if my dreams were being packed in boxes and shipped away. Back when I was single I hated wedding season. Nothing says depressing quite like getting dressed up to go sit with your other single friends and watch someone else run off with your dream of getting married. I hate when that happens. But, over the years I have learned that for every “no” God has ever given me there have been one thousand yeses. They may not always be for the things I asked for, but they are for things that make my life good—good health, good neighbors, good friends, etc…Think about your own one thousand yeses and your one no won’t seem so devastating anymore.
Lesson 3#: Most people disregard the “Fragile” labels, but God doesn’t. It makes me incredibly nervous that Michael and his friends are responsible for actually moving my boxes from the old apartment to the new house. Why? Because the other day I bought some classic white wooden rockers for the new house and they came in boxes marked “Handle with Care.” But Michael actually picked up one of the boxes and threw it instead of gently placing it down. He says he didn't see the label, and I believe him. But ever since then I have been a pest of a wife in making sure that he knows “fragile” means fragile and that if he—or anyone else—throws my grandma’s crystal they are dead meat.In my life I have had many people who have somehow managed to ignore or misread the fragile label on my heart. In fact, my life still has people like that in it. No matter how hard I try to rid myself of careless people, they keep popping up. They can’t be stopped. If I closed my eyes right now, I could play a slide show on demand of the people who have crushed my dreams and shredded my heart over the years. Some of my wounds have turned to scars, but all scars leave indelible reminders on your heart. In an effort to avoid repeating past mistakes you remember past pains.
Even though people have mishandled my mangled heart time and time again, God has never done it once. Not even when He has made me bleed. A few years ago I endured a very painful time in my life that severed ties and burned bridges. In my recent packing I came across photos from that time, and I took a minute to sit down and study the faces and emotions behind some of those photos before packing them away. I thought of tossing some of them out, but I didn’t. As I looked at those photos, something new began to happen in my heart. Instead of seeing the betrayal of people I once trusted, I began to see the faithfulness of God. He carried me through that time. And now, years later, I am in a place that is far greater than I could have ever imagined back then.
Not only am I free from the bondage I used to be in, but I am also blessed beyond belief. God handled my heart with great care even when others didn’t, and healing has been possible because of that.
Anyway, this blog entry is getting longer than I anticipated (too much stuff for one box, again). But these are some of my thoughts as I am packing up my life and moving. I would love to hear your thoughts too, so feel free to leave a post below.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
I live in Montana ... it's one of the prettiest places on earth, except during fire season. Even though the fires are miles and miles from my home, the sky is filled with smoke. In fact, it's so gray and dark it's hard to see the HUGE mountains from my window.
This reminds me of something I read recently:
"It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
"This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!"
I love that ... by our speech we can send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it. It's a great passage from The Bible.
The Bible? Did that sound like the Bible to you? Where are the thees and thous and hard language?
I was asked this question by some of my teen friends who heard me read this passage. They didn't read the Bible much, and this isn't what they expected.
The verses are actually, James 3:5-12, The Message version. I LOVE the Message because it is the Bible is today's language.
If you don't have this version on the Bible, don't worry. Check it out ... go to:
See that box next to Quick Search? You can change the version. Just go down a few and find "The Message." Then you can enter in some of your favorite passages. Here are a few of mine:
Isaiah 40: 27-31:
"Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
"God has lost track of me.
He doesn't care what happens to me"?
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?
God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
they walk and don't lag behind.
Psalm 119: 9-16:
How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I'm single-minded in pursuit of you;
don't let me miss the road signs you've posted.
I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart
so I won't sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in your ways of wise living.
So how about you? What are some of your favorite verses? How do they read in The Message? I'd love for you to share!
Oh, yes, and remember. It only takes a spark! Don't I know it!
Monday, August 06, 2007
Have you ever rehearsed what you were going to say as you were about to walk into a new situation? The awkwardness and the nerves can tend to dictate what actually ends up coming out of your mouth . . . and whether or not you’re going to cringe at the memory later.
Probably better to laugh.
But seriously, I am new here. I’m Jan Kern, and this is my first post on Girls, God and the Good Life. I’ll be posting on the 6th and 20th of each month, and I’m really looking forward to the dialog.
Just a little about myself . . .
I grew up in a fun neighborhood but not in a Christian home. Right at the end of sixth grade, my parents took me to our (rarely used) living room and told me they were getting a divorce. The reasons would later prove to be very painful for my mom, my sister, and me. By the end of that summer, the three of us moved from New Mexico to California where I discovered peer pressure and choices I never knew existed. I struggled. I made a ton of mistakes. Thankfully, while in high school, someone told me I could find answers and strength through a relationship with Christ. That's another story for another time, but I did begin to learn what it meant to trust God through all kinds of crazy situations.
By the time I was twenty, I was in ministry working with teens and I haven't stopped. I'm now married and have been living and working with my husband, Tom, at a ranch for at-risk youth for the last twenty-something years.
In my posts, you’ll probably hear about our two children—Danny (24), and Sarah (21). I love being a mom! Out of everything I’ve done in my life, that role has been a definite favorite.
Well, our kids are pretty busy now, so I have more time than ever to do some of the other things I love, including to write. I’ve been writing for a while, but I’m excited about my current project: the Live Free series (Standard Publishing). Each of the three nonfiction books in this series tackles a tough issue through a dramatic retelling of a teen's true story. Each also includes the honest perspectives of other teens and young adults. The first book, Scars That Wound, Scars That Heal, is set to release September 3. It tells Jackie’s story and her journey out of self-injury. I’m sure I’ll share more about Jackie in future posts. She has an amazing testimony of God’s work in her life.
OK, I'll be quiet now and let someone else talk. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
I tried to insert this directly, but I am technilogically challenged. So here is the link to view Matrix Ping Pong: http://www.cybersalt.org/content/view/2390/657/
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. Billy Graham, preacher, evangelist, a man in the public eye who has won many to Christ, and whose character has never been questioned.
What is your favorite quote?