Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day!

Sometimes in our busy lives of going here and there, working hard or doing
school work, we get caught up in our own little worlds. We think of ourselves
and sometimes forget others. I was thinking the other day when I went to a
restaurant with my dad. I saw all the different people there bustling about,
eating their food, talking to each other and I thought, every one of these
people has a soul. Some may believe in God, and some may not. They only have
a window of time to make their life-changing decision: To follow Christ, or
not to.
The ceiling fan began to gain speed and a shiver went down my
spine. If some of them have never heard about Christ or never will… and
die...then I could remember myself.. sitting here, and not saying a word.
Would it be my fault?
It’s a pretty powerful thing to think about isn’t it?
I mean, even people you pass by on the street you don’t know if they’ve ever
heard about God you don’t know of they are saved or if they ever will be
saved and you just pass right by them.

I think a lot of times we do the same thing with our soldiers.
How many times have you ever caught yourself thinking about the men and
women that risk their own lives for the lives of others and our freedom? I
can honestly say that I really don’t think about them very often. We make up
excuses. “They’re far away” or “I don’t have enough time” or even, “since I
don’t have any friends or family members that are fighting I don’t have to
worry about it.” Another question: How many times do you actually pray for
soldiers? Really think about that. Personally, before I began thinking about
it, I could have probably not remembered the last time I prayed for our
soldiers. When have you supported a soldier? How many soldiers do you think
are actually saved? How many people are actually evangelizing to soldiers?
How many soldiers are going to die – unsaved without anyone who has ever
cared enough to talk to them about God? They give us their lives. Can we not
share the love of Christ with them and by doing so give them their lives
back, their second lives in Christ? Or are we just going to sit back and
watch, while we continue with our own lives, our own cares that are useless
eternally. Watch them die – for us and our freedom, and face their eternal
destinies – without God.

So now I challenge you. Take a few minutes out of your busy day
to actually write a soldier.* Share with him what is happening in the
country that he left to protect us, share with him the love of Christ and
thank him for sacrificing himself for his country.

If you are a soldier and you are reading this, I want to
personally thank you for putting your life online and sacrificing your
safety and even possibly your life for ours. Also, I want to say thank you to all the families of the soldiers who have died in the defense of our beautiful country. We are forever grateful.

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Never forget our soldiers who are fighting for our peace and our freedom.

In Christ,






*Write a soldier!

http://letterstosoldiers.org/write-letter

If you do write a soldier after reading this post please comment about it and let us know! We'd love for you to join us! How many letters can we send out to show that we care?


The video "Remember me" is truly a powerful eye-opener reminding us that we need to remember our soldiers. You can watch it below. It's so sad and beautiful at the same time.

*as a side note, it may be helpful to scroll down to the bottom of the page and pause the blog music. :)






Dear Readers,

I remember very well the day that my father came rushing home from the Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary and told my mother that there had been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. I was too young to understand exactly what had happened, but I knew it was something bad because my mother was crying and she usually doesn’t do that in front of us unless something terribly sad or bad has happened. I went over to my Dad and asked him what the matter was. He said, “There’s been an attack on the World Trade Center,” looking off into the distance and not really paying much attention to me.

“What’s a terrorist?” I asked.

He came back to earth suddenly. “Terrorists are bad people who want to keep government control by making people afraid and hurting them,” he said in words that my six year old mind could understand.

“And what did the terrorists do?” I asked.

“They crashed an air plane into the World Trade Center. They were the tallest towers in the world, Piper, and thousands of people worked there. The towers exploded and many people died. All over America, people are in shock right now. They lost many of their friends and relatives.”

I was appalled and sat down hard on the floor. Dad caught my arm and pulled me back up. “Why would anyone do that?” I asked.

Dad is usually so strong, but I saw tears in his eyes as he said, “Because of sin. People that don’t know Jesus have nothing to live for, so they try to get attention in the wrong ways. There are lots of bad people in the world. These terrorists, these bad people, the wanted to take away our freedom. It’s because we are the freest country in the whole world.” He removed his glasses and put a hand over his eyes. “You’re privileged to be growing up here, Piper.” He set his glasses down on his blue-jeaned knee before drawing me to him. “Listen, Piper. Because Jesus loves you and He lives in your heart, you have all the freedom you are ever going to need. Even if these terrorists invade our country and take away our freedom, you will always be free in Jesus.” He gave me a hug.

Later that week, Mom and Dad were talking in the kitchen about President Bush sending the troops into Iraq to find the people that had planned the attack. They kept using the word ‘soldier.’ I didn’t know what that meant until Daddy explained it to me. If we hadn’t been in such terrible shock and tough circumstances, you would have laughed out loud at the conversation that went between me and my father-- something like this:

“Daddy, what does that mean?”

“What does what mean?”

“That word. You keep using it. Sol-jer?”

“Oh. Soldier. You really don’t know what a soldier is?”

“No.”

“Well, you know how when we are in Meijers sometimes we see men in camouflage--”

“What’s that?”

“Camouflage.” I tried the word on for size as Dad went on.

“Well, anyway, you know how we see men wearing camouflage walking around in Meijers sometimes when we’re there? They are soldiers. Soldiers are people who go to war for us. They fight the terrorists who want to take away our freedom.” I nodded, remembering the meaning of the word Freedom. Dad and I had discussed this in school just weeks before. “They keep our country safe from bad people like the terrorists. They keep America safe so we can say what we want to, go wherever we want, and not be persecuted because of our religion...”

“Those are some pretty big words. Per-suh-cuted? Religion? What do they mean?”

Dad looked red faced. “Forget it. But you know what a soldier is now, right?”

I nodded.

“And because they pay the price of freedom, do you know what we do? Whenever we see a soldier, we go up and thank him for his service. We thank him for fighting the bad people so we don’t have to. Because he’s willing to give his life for us.”

I nodded and broke into a big smile.

A few months after this, in about mid-March, Dad, Mom, my sister Chaia and I were finishing up our shopping in Meijers when I spotted a soldier. He was wearing that ‘camouflage’ pattern that Daddy had told me about. “Daddy, look!” I said, pulling on his sleeve. “There’s a soldier! Should we go say thank you?”

“That’s right,” Dad said. He started pushing the cart that way.

As we got closer, I could see that the soldier didn’t look very happy. His shoulders were bent as though he were carrying a heavy weight on them, and his boots were wet and slushy from the snow outside. As I walked up to him, I was a little scared, but Dad just gave me a nudge and said, “Say, ‘Thank you for your service, sir.”

I went over to the man. He looked so much taller than he had when I was looking at him from across the room. I craned my head back for a better look at his face, and, smiling as big as I could, revealing a missing tooth, said, “Thank you for your service, sir!” just like Dad had told me to.

Dad chose the moment to come up and give his thanks as well. “We really do want to thank you, sir, for your service to our country. We value your protection with all of this crazy stuff going on right now.”

“Thank you,” the man said in a raspy voice. Then, to my astonishment, he got down on his knees in front of me, regardless of the dirty store floor, and held out his arms. I didn’t know what to do, so I hugged him back. His arms closed around me as though they were made of iron. He buried his head in my shoulder and started to sob. I couldn’t see his tears, but I could feel his shoulders shaking. Mom and Dad looked at each other in distress, wondering what they should do. Finally my parents stepped behind the man. Dad started patting his back firmly and Mom rubbed his shoulder for a little bit, saying, “It’s OK, you’re going to be all right,” with tears running down her own face.

Finally the soldier looked at me through his tears and smiled. I smiled back. “I’ve been through a lot. You just gave me a present, do you know that? Something that meant a lot to me.” He briefly touched my nose with a finger and then stood up. “Thank you.”

A few years later, in 2005, one beautiful August morning, it was a bit of a surprise to see a soldier walking alone down the same block as my Aunt Jenny and I. He had that same dejected, tired, sad look on his face as the soldier in the Meijers when I was much younger. Instantly the memory flooded back.

I told my aunt what I was going to do and caught up with the man. He turned in surprise as he saw me. I held out my hand and said quickly, “Sir, my name is Piper Amanda. I didn’t mean to intrude upon your thoughts, but I wanted to say thank you for serving our country.”

He started blinking really fast, and I saw the tears in his grey eyes. He caught my hand and held it fast. “Young lady,” he said, “Did you know, this is the first time that anyone has ever bothered to thank me for serving my country. This means a lot.” A brilliant smile lit up his whole face and he said, “You just brightened my day! I hope you have a good one!” and started walking down the street again. I watched him go, his shoulders back and a spring in his step.

Memorial Day is a great time to reunite with friends and family, go camping, hang out at the beach, or have the first cookout of the summer. In the noise of the holiday we forget to have a moment of silence for those men who we have lost. We always remember this weekend and have a huge celebration, but many times we forget the reason why we are celebrating. We are celebrating our freedom. We are thanking those who have lived and died so we could have this. We are grateful to those who have served our country and have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

It has been said that at least once in their lifetime, U.S. soldiers sign a blank check to the United States of America for the amount of ‘One soldier, up to and including his life.”

Wow.

So do me a favor and thank the next soldier you see. They deserve it.

And let’s also continue to lift them up in prayer. Let’s thank God for the gift of freedom that he has bestowed upon us as a nation, and also to us as individuals who are in Christ. Let’s thank God for the soldiers who are willing to sacrifice their lives for us. Let’s pray that God would raise them up and continue to provide them with courage and strength as they fight our battles. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Group Discussion 01

Welcome to group discussion 01. :)
This week we asked the question: "What has God been teaching you this past school year?"
We each answered the above question in a paragraph or so. After reading our responses feel free to comment and share your own opinion on what God has been teaching you. We'd love to hear from you!
blessings,


Sofia

God has been teaching me a lot during this school year. Some of these lessons include patience and not judging by appearances. Ultimately, both of these things come down to one thing: loving others. I've been taught patience in two areas-- being patient with God's timing and being patient with others. A lot of times I don't like to wait for God to move. I want things to go MY way, in MY timing. But my timing is not the best timing. God has been showing me that His timing is always perfect, and that He always knows what He is doing. About the area of being patient with other people: God is always patient with me, even when I don't deserve it. He overlooks my shortcomings when he could point out hundreds of them. Because of the grace He's shown me, I've discovered that I really don't have a right to point out the shortcomings of others. I need to be patient with them and love them even when they don't deserve it. Which is, to put in one word, hard. The other lesson that the Lord has been showing me is that I shouldn't judge by appearances. At my job, at school, and in other places I come in contact with a lot of people who come across, well, creepy. I don't know about you, but the baggy pants and the tattoos and the lip piercing just turn me off. Several times God has moved me into a position where these people have come to ask me for help and have ended up spilling their hearts out to me. What I discovered there was not someone who was creepy, but someone who was lost inside. I was able to help them and to encourage them. I have also been around people who seem to have it all together-- popularity, good looks, a following, a cool attitude-- but all these things were a mask to hide the brokenness that was inside of them because they didn't have everything they needed-- perhaps a bad family situation or hurting relationships marred their perfect life. Either way, the lesson I have learned is to love people unconditionally because appearances are deceiving. "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

~Piper Amanda~



What I have learned this year...

As I look at a school year gone by, I see that God truly has done work in my life. I think one of the biggest areas that God has touched on in my life is trust. Mostly trusting him for the events that are taking place in the present and the uncertainty of the future, but also trusting in God for the outcome of the certain events that I would like to be able to handle on my own.
Another thing that God has been teaching me is to meditate on certain verses of the Bible that pertain to the areas of life that I'm struggling with. The Bible is God's letter to each of us. I have been encouraged to always look harder, for the verses of what God says to me in every day life matter.


~Ella Grace~


I learned so many things this year that I could hardly cram it all into an
essay, much less a paragraph, but I will try to sum a few aspects of it up
in a few words. This year I learned that God speaks to everyone in their own
special way. We just have to learn to listen to Him and what he wants for
us. I learned that God’s way is always better than our own. He sees the
whole picture, while we only see the present time. Everything happens for a
reason and God has a time for everything and a purpose for everyone and
everything. I learned to be patient and wait what God wants for me, not what
I want for myself and to wait upon Him to reveal His words to me. Faith is a
very important aspect of that as well. We have to have faith in God that He
will take care of us through our times of need and times of trouble, and he
will. Because He loves us.

~Sofia Noel~

Monday, May 9, 2011

God's Authority and Biblical Femininity

What is the Bible made of? The answer to that question is simple,

especially in theological terms. Commands, promises, and parables. A

promise in the Bible is, of course, God promising us something, and

when it is promised it is sure to come. Doesn't the Bible plainly

teach us that God always keeps his promises? Parables are simple

stories or teachings quite similar to an allegory that we should all

learn from. Commands are God's direct sayings for each Christian to follow.

Take the verse Titus 2:4-5 "Then they can train the younger women to

love their husbands and children to be self controlled, and pure, to

be busy at home, to be kind and to be subject to their husbands, so

that no one will malign the word of God." Does it not say for a

woman to be busy at the home, to be kind, pure, loving, self

controlled and loving to her husband? In a broad generalization, if

women more closely followed some of the principles in this verse in today's time, would there

be less divorce or even abortion?

The Biblical woman is called to handle the family, money, make a

home for her husband and children, and take care of the family

property (or in this day and age, tend to the garden and teach her

children). As a man would be neglecting his life's purpose, so a

woman would be neglecting hers if she disregarded her role of

teaching and nurturing her children. The Bible says "Children are a blessing from the Lord."

Isn't it a blessing for the woman who just had a baby to be able to

relax because the sixteen year old girl left everything she was

doing and watched her kids while she rested? Isn't it a blessing for

the mutual out of town friends to be able to spend the night in a

Christian home with 24-7 hospitality?

God has called woman for a greater purpose than working "for the

man" in the public. We have a unique purpose that is too good to be

wasted. A household with a woman who neglects her biblical

responsibilities is usually falling apart or the house itself is

usually a wreck. The biblical woman is called to teach, disciple,

love, care, nurture and bring the gospel to the people around her.

Is what you are planning for your life going to fulfill everything

God is calling you to do in the greatest way? You might be surprised

at just how much strength it takes to conquer what God has called you to do.

Take heart in the big hard things as well as the small hard things

that God calls you to do as you strive to fulfill God's plan for

you. Everything that God has us do for Him makes a difference even

if it doesn't seem to. The world will not become totally devoted to

God by women who neglect their responsibilities but by every child

that comes to know the Lord through the nurture of his mother (and

father), by every conversation about the gospel that is shared over

tea, by every batch of dishes that is willingly washed and by every weed that is pulled spiritually

and literally. Look deeper at Titus 2:4-5. What does it really say? Don't shade

your eyes with what the world has to say. Is it a command, promise

or parable? What is God really calling you to do?

In Christ,


The Death of the Wicked

Sometimes as the sun rises in my bedroom window my mind will roll like

the waves of the ocean. Today is a new day. Anything can happen.

Mainly these thoughts began to come to me after an in depth study of

World War I. :) Rather than writing papers like I should have been, I

found myself wondering what it was like for the people that were alive

during the time of World War I. I thought about what I shock it would

be to hear news of a great war on a day that could have started out

just the same as this one and the next. When you wake you don't know

what is going to happen in that day. It could be a perfectly normal

day, or it could be an earthshaking day like on September 11th, 2001.


It was the Morning of May 2, 2011. I was sleeping in our family room

with my friend, Claire, who had been visiting our family for the past several days.

"You girls need to get up now." Mom's voice sounded in my ear as she

flipped on the light switch. I had been awake for the past few minutes

wondering whether there was anyone else up in our house. Apparently

there was. Claire opened her eyes and we smiled at each other. Rays of

sunlight penetrated the glass windows as the sun painted its colors across the hazy sky.

"Have you girls heard the news?"

"What news?" I asked. News or current events are not something that is

shared in our home often. When they are, its usually something big.

Mom walked toward the stairway and took a breath "Osama Bin Laden was

found and killed." She looked at us, her hand on the railing as she

paused on her way to get eggs for breakfast.

"When? He wasn't on trial or anything?" I asked. I

looked over at Claire whose face was molded over with astonishment. We

both asked Mom questions, but she didn't seem to know many answers.

Mom doesn't really like to keep up with the news. I heard clattering

in the basement and knew that grandma was up and probably had been for

awhile. I could hear snippets of my Aunt Gretchen's voice too, but

couldn't make out what the commotion was about. The most probable

assumption was that it had something that had to do with the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Mom continued down the stairs for her eggs and Claire and I were left

alone in the family room."That was sudden." Claire said trailing off in thought. Neither of us

spoke for the next few minutes as we tried to let the news settle. We

heard more noise downstairs and decided to see what everyone was doing

and possibly learn more information that would help us fit more pieces

into our puzzled minds.

We found ourselves in grandma's room surrounded by Aunt Gretchen, my

sister Amy, and my grandmother. All were watching the news and talking

at the same time. Many times they trailed off forgetting what they

were saying to watch and learn more about what happened. "Sofia, Osama

Bin Laden has been killed!!" Grandma's voice sounded like the excited

ringing of a bell. "I heard." I think the lack of excitement that portrayed itself through my voice

and through the faces of Amy and Claire annoyed her. "Well aren't you excited? He's dead!!"

"Sure I'm excited. I'm excited that he can't kill people anymore, but

I'm not excited that he's dead." Amy and Claire nodded their heads in agreement.

"Why not?" My Aunt questioned her eyes darting from one of us to the other.

"They've been searching for this guy for fifteen years! Fifteen

years!" She echoed, attempting to make her point and hopefully a

lasting impact on our minds. Her comment didn't change any of our

minds. (Just in case anyone reading this is an aspiring poet, I'd like

to make it clear that repetition doesn't always work the way you

expect it to :D)


"We're not to rejoice in the death of the wicked." Amy said, after

clearing her throat. "We can rejoice that he's not killing or

antagonizing people anymore, but I don't want to rejoice because

anyone dies. Whether it be Osama Bin Laden or anyone on this earth especially if they don't

know God." My voice didn't falter as I was afraid it might.

"Because we know where he went." Amy added.

What can be learned from this, when the world is rejoicing in the

death of another man? That man has a soul too like every other human being on earth.

Just like you and me. So did the people that he killed and terrorized.

We can rejoice, but our real rejoicing should be not in his death, but

in the fact that no more of Christ's children are being terrorized by

him. We should also feel sorrow. There was a hushed quietness in the

room when mom left Claire and I to go get eggs. It was a moment of

mourning, and reminding that we need to pray for our enemies and trust

God in the ways that this world turns.

"As surely as I live," declares the Lord God, "I take no pleasure in

the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.


Blessings,



Sunday, May 8, 2011

Purity: for a greater purpose

Many times I have asked myself this fundamental question: "Who do I serve?

Who will be my master?" There is really only one of two responses that

can be taken. Either you strive to serve yourself and the world, or

you strive to serve the savior, Jesus Christ.

Whichever you choose, your efforts, and ultimately your entire life

will be spent on pleasing who you seek to serve. Whether you think so

or not, we were made by God to serve something whether it be Him and

His creation, or the things of this world.

The fruits produced in your life will shine through you and make it

obvious who your master is and who is ultimately in control of your

life. Things like your attitude, the friends you make, what you let

fill your mind, the things you talk about, and the subject I would

like to discuss today: the way you dress.

Now, you may think that how you dress has absolutely nothing

whatsoever to do with who you call your master, I know there are many

girls who may believe that. Truthfully, that assumption is wrong. Once

you have truthfully answered the question above, "Who is your master?"

Take that question deeper and ask something like "Who am I dressing to

serve?" I'm sure that can be a hard one for some girls. Think about

when you get up in the morning and have somewhere important to go,

maybe school, church, or a social gathering. When you're sorting

through your clothes discarding one shirt, then another, what are the

thoughts that flow through your mind? Are you thinking about which

outfit would most impress your friends who keep telling you that you

should really dress more with the style and wear something that would

draw more attention to yourself, or are you thinking about which outfit will keep yourself pure

and keep your brothers in Christ from stumbling?

"Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but

rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother."

~ Romans 14:13

God has a separate calling for everyone, but he specifically calls us

girls to be modest both in the way we dress, and in our hearts.

Modesty begins in our hearts, with wanting to serve God, but modesty

also comes with sacrifice. The real question is whether you're willing

to sacrifice for God and for purity.

As a young girl, I remember being teased because of what I wore, being

teased because I was different, because I wouldn't "go with the flow"

with how I dressed. I remember the looks that seemed penetrating and

judging when I walked into a public swimming pool, and the comments

"Is that your bathing suit?! It looks like a dress. I can't believe

you wear that." Looking back, I can remember one night years ago when

I thought that nobody cared that I was modest. How was I helping

anyone? All I got was rude comments from people, what was the point? I

saw other girls flock to the ones that were immodest, leaving me

behind in the dust of my own world. Alone. I think that this is what

many girls struggle with today and they give up because of useless

desire to be like everyone else. Now that I'm older, I can't believe

that I thought that way that night long ago, and so thankful to God

that I didn't sacrifice being modest for anything else. God has so much more of a calling for us.

We're modest because that's what God calls us to be.

Even if no one else cares and you get teased, be modest for the Lord

and for his ultimate purpose for you.

Although the world pounds with its influence and its desire to fit in,

God wants us to go against that desire, to push against the waves of

the world that flow endlessly. Although it may sometimes hurt now, our

reward is much greater. To strive after what God wants for us, and keep ourselves pure.

Purity is one of God's wonderful creations. It should never be wasted.

The Lord says our body is a temple of God. He doesn't want us to

"sell" it away for useless fads and attention from people He wants us to stay beautiful in His

sight and pure forever.


In Christ,