Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Seeking Communication with God: UPDATE

Amanda gives an update since her orginal post Seeking Communication with God.

Q: Can you, in a few paragraphs, give an update since you first wrote your post?

A:God is incredibly faithful. In what I had anticipated would be a long spell of loneliness, He has instead showered me with loving kindness. In the absence of what I once held dear, I am infinitely better off.

I am aware that I have made some events public I never had to share; nobody who reads this blog would have been the wiser had I acted as if nothing had gone wrong within me, but now that I have claimed God’s grace, I am all the more spurred to make my calling and election sure. Like the soil Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13, I had been rocky and thorny soil, fair-weather and forgetful, but God has broken up my fallow ground to plant Himself in good soil.

In my original post, I was careful to give God all the credit for my coming-home; He opened my eyes so that I could see just how far I had strayed from Him. But faith must be supported with virtue, that is, my continual obedience in response to His grace. It has gotten easier in some respects, because God is teaching me the joy of sanctification as well as the work that is involved. My time in prayer and in the Word, meditating and memorizing, is precious. I am surrounded by like-minded people and am more blessed by this than I can say. Charles Spurgeon said, “The habit of communion is the life of happiness.” Communion with God and communion with fellow believers, what I was made for, has transformed my inner life. I am more pleased and less surprised every time it is confirmed that I do not want to go back to what I once was.

I am still continually confronted with my ever-present sin and having my faith tested and stretched. There is no rest from the consciousness of God. If I am to live my life well, I must daily remind myself that everything I do should be because I am conscious of God, who He is and what He’s done.

I am currently being challenged by John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life” and by Hosea 10:12, which reads, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap steadfast love; Break up the fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD that He may come and rain righteousness on you.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Film & Theology - Inception

The Men of Hope and Women at Hope are once again proud to present a Film and Theology night at Hope on Friday Night, September 16th. Our film this time around will be Inception

Every year I (Tim) try to choose films for our discussion that pose an interesting question or deal with spiritual reality in a thought provoking way. I think this film does both, with an outstanding screenplay, a great cast, and steady direction by Christopher Nolan. You won’t want to miss this one!

Seriously—a good time is sure to be had by all as we watch this film and then spend time discussing it afterward (If you haven’t already seen the film, check out the trailer below). Come at 6:30 for good seats and to get snacks. The film will begin at 7:00.
Speaking of good seats…we have done this in the green room downstairs in the past. But, I’m anticipating a pretty good turnout for this one—and we just got a brand new projector!!— so we’ll be watching the film in the sanctuary.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Footloose and Fancy Free: Tales of a teacher on summer vacation, Vol. 3

By Laura K.

This is one of the first summers I have entered into with pretty much no agenda (I guess I don’t really consider Europe to have been on my agenda – it was more like a fortunate pocket of adventure in the midst of a summer without plans).  You might wonder what else I have been up to, and I will probably tell you, “Not a whole lot.”  Forced relaxation is a beautiful thing.  I will not complain.  I did a lot of reading, baking, and picture taking.  
As I am writing this blog post, I am up at the lake with my family looking out at this: 

 and enjoying true outdoorsman pursuits such as bass fishing while leisurely sipping iced coffee:

These pursuits have left me with plenty of time for reflecting on my summer.  When I look back on the last couple months, I am not so much impressed by the number of cupcakes I baked, but by the quality of the friendships I have been blessed with over the course of the summer.
A while back, Steve used the phrase Gospel friends in his sermon.  Gospel friends are the type of friends that have been pouring into me this summer, and the type of friend I want to be toward others.  Some of the friendships I’ve been enjoying this summer are friends I have known for years.  Other friendships I wasn’t expecting or planning, but I feel lucky to have them in my life.  I am excited to share with you lessons I’ve learned and ways I have been blessed, encouraged, and challenged this summer.
Gospel friends pursue Jesus alongside you.  I met two of my best friends fourteen years ago during my freshman year of high school.  One of these friends just had a baby this spring, and the other is due this fall.  I was in both of their weddings, and we were roommates during our senior year of college.  To sum up, we have done a lot of life together.  With uncooperative schedules over the past few years, I haven’t seen as much of them as I would have liked.  This spring, one of them asked me if I would be interested in doing a Bible study together this summer.  Thinking of potential scheduling conflicts, I was hesitant.  Then Steve preached on intentionally pursuing holiness.  I felt encouraged and challenged to be more intentional in my walk with the Lord.  We decided to start our Bible study the following week.  I have loved diving into God’s Word with these ladies.  For a while now, I have felt challenged to start memorizing Scripture again, and I am glad it turned out to be a part of our weekly study.  All three of us go to different churches in the metro area and I love that we are able to pursue Christ together. 
Intentionality matters.  Friendships don’t often happen by accident.  In every friendship I have, I can think of that initial meeting, and that initial conversation of, “I think you are neat.  We should be friends” (Don’t laugh – I have said similarly awkward things to people, and now we are great friends).  It also takes intentionality to develop a friendship.  It means a lot to me when people find it worthwhile to get to know me.  How am I doing lately in being intentional in my friends’ lives?  
Gospel friends speak truth into your life.  I need friends who encourage me, challenge me, and cheer me on through both the good times and the hard times.  It is important to have friends who are willing to speak God’s truth into your life when you need to hear it.  It is also important to be willing to BE that friend, even when it isn’t the easy road.  
Gospel friends are vulnerable and real.  Don’t settle for a surface level friendship.  This doesn’t mean go around sharing your deepest darkest secrets with everyone you meet, but it does mean be willing to share your heart with your friends and be honest about what is going on in your life.  Share, but also listen.  
Gospel friends challenge you to live in a manner that honors the Lord by first demonstrating their own pursuit of Christ.  I see women who are pursuing holiness and who are purposefully spending time with the Lord each day.  I see God working in their lives and working through their lives.  I see these same women as some of the most enjoyable, funny, down-to-earth, and generally awesome people that I know.  I see them and I say, “Wow, I want to be like that!”  I watch how they live, how they interact with others, and how they seek Jesus.  Their lives inspire, challenge, and teach me.
Gospel friends pray for each other.  Do you have friends who pray for you?  Do you pray for your friends?  I have friends that bless me so much by praying for me.  They are also friends who, when I pour out my problems to them, support me, pray for me, and gently remind me to turn to Jesus.  I appreciate that so much.
Gospel friends have fun together.  I have a friend who says, “When in doubt, do it for the story.”  I love finding random and ridiculous adventures.  Sitting and chatting over a glass of lemonade makes me equally as happy.  I love to laugh, and I love to have friends who want to live life beside me.  
You never know where you will make a new friend.  Hope CC is chock full of fabulous ladies, and here are a few places where I have met some awesome friends: spring retreat, small group, Christmas cookie baking, teaching Sunday school, and Beth Moore Bible study.  This isn’t necessarily a post to plug Women at Hope events, but I have met some amazing women at these events.  Whether or not we become besties (I hear that is the “in” lingo now), I am so encouraged by meeting women at Hope, hearing their stories, and doing life together within the context of our church community.
If you do meet someone at the Women’s Slumber Party or a game night who you think is fun, here are my personal recommendations on what to do next: 
1. Work really hard at remembering their name.  Then ask them to remind you when you have forgotten.  It’s okay.  They have probably forgotten your name as well.  
2.  Friend them on Facebook and stalk their interests and vacation pictures (Okay, you can skip this step if you want – surprisingly enough, stalking is not actually a necessity to building a strong foundation for friendship).
3. Don’t wait too long to call them up, talk to them in church, write on their wall, or send a singing telegram that says, “You are fun, and I think you would be a fun friend.”  Chances are, they will be excited at your message, return the sentiment, and you two can plan a time to get together and become friends.  
I can think specifically of at least four friends I have made using this method (or having this method used on me).  I am not saying that you should spread yourself thin with more friends than you can count, but I am saying that new friendships are wonderful, so be open to finding them.  
Summer is drawing to a close.  I can’t sit here reflecting on my summer of no commitment forever.  Those energetic little kindergartners are waiting for me just around the corner.  When I look back at this summer, I will see the mountains of Austria, the loons up at the lake, and the faces of countless friends who poured into my life this summer.  I am blessed.
Now go, tell someone you think they are neat, and be a Gospel friend, pursuing Jesus alongside one another!  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2011 Slumber Party is Coming Soon!

Check back weekly for some pretty fantastic promotional videos!  The Women at Hope Leadership team is super excited to show you our video making skills.  They're great.

Look forward to 2011 Slumber Party registration opening in September!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Labors of Love: Taking care of the body (and bodies) God gave me

By Kaelin I.

My last year of high school I surrendered on and off to an idolatrous eating disorder. 

I knew the statistics. Recovery rates are minimal, and relapse is common. So, around the time I came to know the Lord I became increasingly concerned about this particular sin.  With all the data stacked against my recovery, I asked God to take it away. I knew I could not do it myself.  I also asked Him to replace it with a desire to fuel my body correctly; to respect it, and nourish it.  This post is not a testimony of my eating disorder, but I wanted to give the background on the beginning of my love of learning about food and how it works in the body. 

God promptly answered that prayer.  While it was a little hard for me to let go, it is not something that troubles me at all today.  In fact, I am pretty repulsed by the thought of harming my body in that way.  However, as someone who grew up eating lots of Hershey’s syrup and candy, learning how to “fuel my body correctly” has been a long process!  Nonetheless, this summer has been yet another opportunity for me to continue on my quest for healthy eating and general care for not only my body, but some very special other bodies, too!

For the last 7 or so years of my life, I have eaten a salad nearly every day for lunch.  Here is just one of the zillion salad and salad-like creations I’ve come up with.  This one is spinach leaves, strawberries, apples, walnuts, carrots and I dressing I made out of almond milk, strawberries, dates and cashews.  

Luke (our 3 year old) even eats salads now.  He’s been extra excited about the food that comes from our deck “garden” (a couple of planting pots on our deck).  This year, we grew cherry tomatoes, green peppers and basil.

One of my main goals is to make veggies and fruits interesting and appealing.  We all know we are supposed to eat our vegetables.  Just knowing that sentence isn’t enough for me sometimes, so when I read these books: Eat For Health, and Disease Proof Your Child,  I was very excited to put my knowledge into practice.  I do have one small critique his books, FYI.  Fuhrman seems to really like soy milk and soy products a lot; us not so much. We’ve been sticking to almond milk.  We also enjoy cow’s milk, preferably the full-fat kind.  I do have another book I really like: Food Rules.  This one is short and a pretty easy read.

Luke was very enthusiastic about eating this veggie-man sandwich!

A couple of months ago, in our Costco Magazine of all places, I found a recipe for making “healthier” Red Velvet Bars.  The recipe is mostly beets and beans.  I added more beans and more beets to mine.

It is super yummy and perfectly messy for a little guy.  So I decided not to slam my one year old with sugar for his first birthday.  He got the Red Velvet instead! (Note: mine looks brown... that’s because I skipped out on the food coloring when the only bottle of red coloring I could scrounge up was one from my landlord that looked like it was from the 1930s... didn’t red food coloring cause cancer then??  I’m not sure, but anyway, brown was fine with me and now we just call them “Chocolate Bars”.)

Luke and Corban had a joint birthday party this year, which was a fantastic time!  Yes, we still served the regular, sugar-me-up type cake as I am full aware that not everybody is as excited to get healthy as I am.  But this year I did give Chocolate and Vanilla alternatives.  I already told you about the chocolate, and the vanilla was from a recipe that Becca Goodpaster passed along to me, called “White Bean Vanilla Cake”.  I experimented a little and came up with my own version of vanilla frosting using cashews, almond milk, vanilla and dates.  My husband, Paul, really likes the vanilla and was trying to serve the  healthy cakes to all the guests!

Chocolate Bar
Looks the same...

Got any more?!

My most favorite kitchen tool?  Well, I have two, really.  First is my Oster Mechanical Food Steamer.  There is something so much different and so much better about a freshly steamed vegetable.  We like steaming broccoli, celery, artichokes, squash, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and fruits for pureeing. My whole family loves Brussels sprouts now!  That amazed me, because I remember gagging on one at the dinner table as a kid. The steamer also cooks rice, which I am so happy about.  I hate making rice in a pan.  All I do is throw the rice and water into the steamer and it’s perfectly done without me ever stirring or tending to it.  I can easily cook fish and other meats, too.  I’ve also never found an easier, or better way to make corn-on-the-cob.

My other most indispensable kitchen appliance is my blender!  I use it so much we were seriously considering saving up the money to buy one of those professional Vita-mix type ones.  But, we got a perfectly reliable one (that even does nuts and large quantities of frozen strawberries) from Costco.  Wow, I just realized I’ve mentioned Costco a lot in my posts this summer.  I really don’t work for them, or get money from them or something.  We just shop there a lot!   

Here is the beginning of a Veggie Meatloaf from Fuhrman.  Yes, it does have ground beef, but is probably 60 percent veggies.  Tasty, and a great way to sneak some veggies in for the boys. Sometimes I have to blend at my desk if I cook at night because my children’s bedrooms are right off our kitchen!

We also made a Quinoa Loaf.

The other thing we have been doing a lot of this summer to energize our bodies is bike and walk!  I love where we live for that reason.  We have walked and biked all over the U Of M Campus, Downtown, along the River and through the neighborhoods. We also walk to Aldi and Target.  It’s been a great way to meet some more of our neighbors, too.

If we protest our naps at home we can always take them on the road!
I do have to mention that I am unbelievably blessed by a husband who has fully supported and accepted the daily salad routine, as well as all the other crazy health experiments that have come out of our kitchen.  To my very great enjoyment, Paul and I talk about food and health quite a lot.  He is actually going to be teaching an Education Hour this fall at Hope about food called, “Eating to the Glory of God.”  I’m excited about it. I will be there as much as possible if the two little ones are doing ok.  Join in if you can!

Us after a date night so generously given to us by Eric and Naomi Glidden (and me wearing a dress from the Hope Women’s Clothing Swap! Thank you Suzanne Anderson!)

Something that is really great about nourishing our bodies and exercising is the pure sweetness it is to have the occasional indulgent treat.  Our family would have fit in well back in the day when going out for a soda was special!

Wow, ice cream is from the Lord!
I know that eating healthy will not save us, nor will it guarantee a longer, or even healthier life.  God will take us when He will, we still get sick and our bodies are still decaying.  But, as for my family and I, we’ll still be eating and nourishing our bodies the best we know how given the knowledge we have.  I think my favorite Hope sermon quote ever is this one from Cor: “It’s kinda like when you’re sitting down to a meal at McDonald’s and you ask God to bless the food to your bodies, and God’s like, ‘Would you give me something to work with?!’”  I laughed so hard I kind of embarrassed myself.

After all has been said, I just can’t end this Healthy Body post without sharing a little confession: There may have been a few Rolo's and possibly some Werther’s eaten during the course of writing this post!  Paul just came in laughing at me and asked, “Are you eating candy and writing a post about healthy eating?”  Um, yep.  You caught me.  I guess I’m not perfect yet.

Well, that’s the last of my Summer 2011 posts in the Series: Labors of Love.  We do have a family blog in case you’re interested in checking it out.  It’s .  I will not promise to have super current posts.  Truly, the “Kaelin” section has been neglected!  Ah, inspiration comes and goes, and really, a lot of the time the moment the inspiration comes I’ve got a sink full of dishes, a squabble in the living room, a tea pot screaming on the stove, a house to whip into shape and dinner to make. It’s been fun, see you around Hope!

Friday, August 12, 2011

So, you're going to be an architect? - post 3

By Sara M.

"She wondered at herself, at how quickly her mood could be transformed. Her worries did not disappear, but slipped back, their emotional power temporarily exhausted."

Ian McEwan, from the book, Atonement.

There is this bike bridge not too far from my house that I love. I happened upon it once while on an aimless run around my neighborhood.  I've never fully crossed it, I have no need to; I just like to go there to sit, to think, to be. Something about being within a balance of noise, motion, and my own stillness creates an oddly safe space for me. So I went there again yesterday, needing a moment without distraction or possible interruption.  The mini film is meant to document those emotions of tension, exhaustion, and momentary relief.

Link to Sara's video: Slipped Back.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Season Softball Wrap-Ups!

Women’s Team

The Women’s Team lost their last 3 games of the season with scores of 13-3, 9-3, and 8-4. Overall the season closed with only one win in the scorebooks, but the ladies improved their skills over the season and enjoyed every game.

Here is the team

Hope I

Hope I loves giving play by play game feedback, so get a cup of coffee and read on to see what happened their last few weeks of games (there are some exciting moments, it’s worth it!):

July 10

Game 1: Lost 8-9

We fell in yet another close 1-run game. Unfortunately what stung worse than the narrow defeat was what else we lost in this game one match-up: two players to injury. In a terrible collision just behind second base, brothers Craig and Kyle Muckenhirn, probably ended one another's seasons with a couple of broken bones. At full sprint they ran into one another chasing a pop-up behind second base. They each fell hard to the ground, and when all the blood was cleaned away and x-rays taken, Kyle had a severely fractured nose and several facial lacerations, and Craig also had some facial lacerations and a fractured left leg (the fibula to be exact). An unfortunate mark on what had thus far been a fun, healthy season. Please keep these two gentlemen in your prayers!

Game 2: Won 15-8

In a valiant show of team solidarity after losing two guys in the first game, Hope I came through with some big plays and some big hits, rallying to take game two. Playing with two guys down and pulling out a win showed great team unity, and the injured players were quite proud of them!

July 17

Game 1: Won 13-11

With only 7 guys from our active roster able to make the game, Hope I turned to some outside help, and former Hope CC softball giants, to scratch out a well deserved win in game one. Pastor Cor took a two hour break from his sabbatical to come through big in right field and at the plate, and former Hope softballers Mike and Adam also brought great lift to the team! They were able to string together some nice innings offensively to take the early lead, and through some great defensive plays were able to hold on to St. Stephanus' late inning rally attempt!

Game 2: Lost 8-13

The heat and humidity got to the teams bats in game two. Sadly the team stranded a few too many runners on base, leaving the bases loaded and bounding into double plays in more than one inning. With only 8 runs on the board they could not overtake the St. Stephanus offense, and fell in game two.

July 24

Game 1: Lost 4-2

With many of the guys out with injury, the bats as a team decided to mirror that feeling, and failed to come alive in both games. Hope I lost game 1 of the evening 4-2, which is an amazingly low scoring game for softball! Fortunately they knew they could play defensively with anyone in the league, they just need to find their bats again!

Game 2: Lost 4-13

Same old, same old: Great pitching and defense, but they could not manage to string together any hits.

The Hope I Men’s team wrapped up their regular season with a record of 3-17.

Hope II

Hope II is quite the opposite of Hope I in one way – they don’t love to share all of their game play by plays.  Find someone who played on Hope II and they may be able to give you a nice synopsis of the end of the season!

Hope III

July 11th

While the overpaid professionals got paid to compete in a Home Run derby, Hope III put on one of their own with Jared Daugherty, Eric Mullins, and Hugo Klaers all hitting home runs. They also racked up quite a score, beating their opponents by a score of 22-13. Then a handful of the team went out afterwards to enjoy some manly fellowship at Buster’s.

July 18th

Even with the heat index at 108 degrees, Hope III sweated their way to another victory with a score of 19-2. With only one game left for the season, they were tied for first place with a record of 9 wins and 1 loss!

July 25

The last game ended in a loss but the team again enjoyed food at Buster’s after the game. The team seemed to be most thankful to have the opportunity to get to know one another better through playing the season together.

Hope IV

July 10

Staying steady in 3rd place in the D league, Hope IV had two very lopsided games against the number 2 team. They won the first game 14-2 and lost the second game 19-3. The team was missing two of their best players but thankfully had great reinforcements.

July 17

It was hot and humid... When it started to rain a bit one could hardly notice a difference. But... they won two in a row 16-4, 15-8. Not bad!

July 24

Two wins to finish the season: 14-7 and a come from behind 17-14 win. The team was happy to be seeded second in the end of the season tournament due to their good record. Manager / Pastor Trike made his first games of the season (and became playoff eligible) and brought the chatter to the infield that they were missing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Do you trust me? UPDATE

Laura updates us from her orginal post here

Q: What’s changed since you wrote your blog?

A: In the days and weeks following my writing the blog post, God clearly directed that my season of living in Romania was coming to a close. He guided me in narrowing down the many options of what to do next. Moving back to MN to pursue teaching in the public school system was the direction he pointed. God’s leading and timing are far better than what I could have imagined.

Instead of taking a short trip to pack my belongings in Romania, I was asked to teach for the last two months of the school year at Bucharest Christian Academy. As soon as I landed in Bucharest, I began to pack up my belongings and to say goodbyes to people, places, and things in the midst of teaching part time. There was no possible way to take everything with me. Furniture had to be sold, cupboards and closets emptied, bags packed, and other possessions given away. It was an incredibly painful process. A dear friend and member of my small group made the journey to Romania to see my life, help me pack, and graciously walk by my side through this difficult transition. On June 8, I left Romania. For the first time in many years, I left without knowing when I would next return. Suddenly, I was walking away from the only home I’ve known since graduating from college. In the midst of this massive transition, I had no clue as would happen after August 31, the date of my resignation from ReachGlobal. Once I landed in Minnesota, I knew I would need to find a job, place to live, car to drive, computer, etc… But, in God’s graciousness, that list didn’t include searching for a church or small group to attend.

Q: How has posting this blog benefited you?

A: For me, posting on the blog was a chance to process through what God was doing in my heart, and share it with others. It also allowed me the opportunity to bring some questions and fears into light instead of allowing them to remain hidden in darkness.

Q: What joys have arisen?

A: There’s an incredible joy of looking in the rearview mirror and seeing God’s hand at work, to know that I can’t take any credit for the way He supplied for my needs or how He moved in my life.

Q: What’s next?

A: Looking ahead, I know that I need to continue to seek God more and deepen my relationship with him, allowing the truth of what He’s done in the past to enable me to trust Him more fully with the unknowns of the future.

It’s still about trust. I landed knowing that within the next 2.5 months, many pieces would have to fall into place. Focusing on the unknowns was like picking up heavier and heavier weights. The morning after I landed, I received an email offering me a teaching position at a charter school in St. Paul. Though I had planned on a quiet, calm transition, I found myself wrapped up in major decision making while grieving my departure from Romania and dealing with jetlag. My heart was torn as I considered this school and interviewed at a second school. The following week I made the decision to accept the position at Nova Classical Academy in Saint Paul. The biggest piece of the puzzle was in place. Still, others remain and weigh heavy on my heart and mind. It’s often a conscious choice to choose trust and rest instead of worry and striving.

It’s difficult to leave a place that felt comfortable, where I had a job, lovely apartment, and felt like a functioning adult to return to the US to once again feel clueless. In the midst of those feelings, I’m learning to continue to ask for help and pull on the knowledge and experiences of those God has placed around me.

As I look back on the last twelve months, there are many specific ways that God has shown himself faithful in my life. I need to choose to remember those as I hold out my needs to Him.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer in the City: post 3

By Anna Z

Challenge Question: I was asked to maybe be on the worship team for our weekly meeting this Tues (I play the guitar… kind of). Will I do it, and if so, will I not make too much of a fool of myself?

Answer: Boo-ya. This was the second time I played in the band.

Today is July 25, 2011. This blog post is actually posted two weeks after I initially write it.

People keep asking me, “How is Summer Project? I want to hear all about it!!” I don’t know how to answer this question.

I had this idea to go through each week I’ve been here and talk about what happened, but then the Spirit told me I had to do something else.

For those who are curious, here is a short overview of my schedule:
Each week we do something different during the day. The evenings are usually the same. Monday nights are Bible Study. Tuesday is Weekly Meeting night (just like Cru weekly meetings). Wednesday is Reflection Night- required time to spend with the Lord. Thursday is Training night; we usually have speakers come in, staff speakers, or (since the staff left two weeks ago) student speakers. Friday and Saturday nights are either a project social or an outreach. Sunday we go to church together, have a free afternoon, and then we have meetings for committees (prayer committee, outreach committee, social committee, or weekly meeting committee).

For the last six weeks, my ministry team has been doing various work with four different ministry organizations and churches throughout Milwaukee. Mainly we do vacation Bible schools, but we have also helped out at a Life Transformation group for adults with mental illness and history of drug addiction. We have also had various outreaches which include making gospel bracelets in parks around the city and sharing them with children, a picnic on the 2nd of July at a park, beach outreaches on Lake Michigan (who said you need to go to an Oceanside project to get a beach?), and helping with Super Saturday, a ministry event through the Milwaukee ministry organization, City on a Hill.

Now, onto the good stuff!! I feel like I have learned a lot of essential and basic things about God and my relationship with Christ over the summer. Living in the inner city is hard. Living with women who shed light on the lies I believe is hard. Doing ministry is hard. All around, Project is the hardest thing I have ever done. The hardest, but most rewarding and life changing experience I have had thus far. Tenth Avenue North does a great job of putting what I have learned into words in the song By Your Side.

Why are you striving these days, Why are you trying to earn grace?
No matter what, my performance as a member of this project, as an action group leader and discipler, will not make me better. How well I do means nothing. I cannot earn God’s love. I cannot earn Christ dying on the cross for me. Why do I think my performance is what matters? No matter how well I do, without Jesus it means nothing. Without Jesus, all I do is a slap in the face to God.

Why are you crying?

Things are hard. I know this, very well. Being surrounded by Christians does not make things all hunky dory. Christians have problems. Lots of them. Do I not trust that Jesus is with me? Holding me up? Giving me strength? Do I not believe that He is so in love with me that He would chose the cross?

Let me lift up your face, Just don’t turn away
Doing things on your own will not work. Turn to Jesus.

Why are you looking for love, Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?
Frequently, I seek approval from others through my actions or through my personality. I didn’t know this until I was on Project, but I often think my personality is the only thing I have to offer. I did not think of myself as beautiful. It was, and is, a process of finding my worth in Christ. The Holy Spirit makes me a child of God. Only by this am I beautiful. Christ takes my broken pieces, puts me back together, and makes me beautiful enough to reflect His wonderfulness.

Because Christ makes me beautiful, I had the confidence to cut off all my hair.

To where will you go child, Tell me where will you run, To where will you run?
No matter where I go, if I bury what ever is happening, try to drown out everything by avoidance, or go to others before Christ, I feel unsatisfied. The most essential thing is to turn to the Lord, but that seems to be the first things I forget. “He is the only true source of truth, love comfort, peace, etc.” – Jordan Noblitt. I received this little nugget of wisdom right after it became apparent that I was pouring into everyone around me, but not taking time for myself with God. I was pouring out, but not coming back to Christ to be filled. God is ridiculous, right? He always knows exactly what I need to hear when. Crazy, just crazy.

And I’ll be by your side, Wherever you fall, In the dead of night, Whenever you call
Christ will always be here for me. No matter what. He loves me. That is it. He loves me so much, and just wants to know me.

And please don’t fight These hands that are holding you, My hands that are holding you
Often I do not want to run to Christ because I am afraid of how little faith I have. Matthew 17:20 says, “He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” It is not my faith that matters, it’s whom my faith is in and where that faith comes from (Ahem, Jesus, ahem).

Look at these hands and my side.
The cross is horrific. We talk about the site of our savior’s graphic, gruesome death so often that it loses significance in our minds. The only perfect person had nails; let me say that again, NAILS driven into his hands and feet. He was then hung; let me say that again, HUNG by these nails in the sky on a wooden cross. This is one of the most torturous and humiliating ways to die. Our Savior did this for us.

They swallowed the grave on that night, When I drank the world’s sin.
The horrible wounds inflicted on Christ save us. Everyday, they save us. Nothing else.

So I could carry you in, And give you life.
Christ is the only way I can do anything. He gives me life. Our world, atmosphere, and the fact that my head doesn’t explode, is because God designed everything with perfect precision.

I want to give you life.
Christ wants to know you. He wants to know me. In His eyes, I am the most valuable thing in creation.

Cause I, I love you, I want to know you that I, I love you.
It’s so simple, yet so hard to believe that Jesus loves me. The God of the Universe, the Savior of the world, loves me. It’s one of the first things you learn as a Christian, God loves you. It is so significant, yet when you tell someone this they often respond, “Yeah, yeah, I know.” Why don’t we start jumping up and down, freaking out about the fact that God actually and truly loves us? This is crazy!! God loves you. Commence cheering.

A big lesson that I am constantly learning is stepping out in the love God has for me. How am I showing the love of Christ to others in my everyday actions?

I’ll never let you go.
No matter what, what we’ve done or haven’t, what we’ve said or haven’t, what our heart has felt or hasn’t, Jesus will always be with me, and always want me.

And I’ll be by your side, Wherever you fall, In the dead of night, Whenever you call And please don’t fight These hands that are holding you, My hands that are holding you.
Psalm 73: 25 – 26, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my hear and my portion forever.”

This summer has been a crazy rollercoaster. I have learned so much about people, but so much more about myself. God has changed me through this experience. I am looking forward to the last weeks here, enjoying my fellow project mates and continuing to seek God in everything. As far as going home and back to school, I’m freaked out. I’m so excited to see my friends and share what God has been teaching me. But I am also nervous. How do I go back to a life I already know as a different person? How will God take what He’s done and apply it to campus? What will change? How can it not change?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I’m perfectly okay with that because I know my God is sovereign. As long as I cling to Him, He will protect me and provide for me. Even though it will be hard.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What NOT to wear…isn’t that a show on TLC?

By Naty

Have any of you seen the TLC show called what not to wear? I have seen it a handful of times. While I find it interesting that Clint & Stacy help the hopelessly fashionless find a new look that suits their unique frame, I find myself resisting the urge to watch for one primary reason…I fear ending up on the show. I can just imagine my husband (who seems to appreciate my love of hoodies) and friends (who, I’m not going to lie to you, seem less than content with my passion for graphic tees and hoodies) collecting secret footage of me in my very worst moments. It can be an absolute disaster at my house, the grocery store, or dropping my kids off at school. I know you are thinking, “Wow Naty, you always seem so wonderfully put together at Hope.” Well, my sparking personality might just be compensating for my lack of fashion sense. You might confuse my t-shirt slogans, bright white teeth, and keen sense of humor for stylish tops, classy make-up, and fashion know-how respectively.

Why do I bring this up? Well, on this blog we have seen a couple of great posts with thoughts on considering what we wear says about us as followers of Christ. The first is from Rachel, which is worth reading just for the title “If only Eve hadn’t eaten the fruit in the garden, I could just run around in my birthday suit.” And the second is from Seth responding to Rachel’s post (in a very touching way) on behalf of all the guys at Hope Community Church.

In the true spirit of blogging, another woman at Hope found a great article on another website discussing this same topic, and I think it is worth sharing with all of you. I personally like this article because it ties together the topic of “what to wear” and many of the ideas we discussed during the Song of Solomon sermon series this past spring. I value keeping those ideas in the front of our minds and in our regular discussions. As much as we like to have original material for this blog, this one is worth copying for you to read right here, of course, giving credit to the original author. The Song of Solomon series brought up so many topics that for many women have been hard to talk about in the past. Well, I want to encourage all of you to keep these topics in the light…

Just don’t put me on TV in my sweat pants and oversized t-shirt, OK?

Lust: Not for Men Only
by Carolyn McCulley

We're well into the heat of summer now, and that means many churches across the American landscape have, at some point, reiterated the modesty message for the good church ladies everywhere.

Wait. I can actually see that eyeroll of yours even from here. But, friends, don't click away just yet. Because I am going to go where large swaths of American church culture need to go on this topic … but often don't.
I'm talking about lust. And women.

For the past eight years, I've had the privilege of writing two books and hundreds of articles and blog posts for women, which then led to numerous speaking engagements. Right from the start, I noticed a trend at each event, whether in the U.S. or abroad. Invariably, one woman would wait to talk to me until the bitter end, because she wanted to confess something that made her feel doubly shameful. She wanted to talk about her lust and sexual sin, a struggle she was sure was hers alone among the women in church.
How did these women arrive at this conclusion? Because for years most churches herded the men off to talk about lust, while gathering the women to discuss modesty. While those are valid and much needed messages, they are incomplete for the culture in which we now live.

To understand the times, let's look at the messages women have absorbed in recent years. There are stripper pole classes at the gym and women's magazines with screaming headlines about sex and seduction techniques. The morning talk shows candidly discuss sex toy parties. "Sex and the City" becomes a major franchise while "Girls Gone Wild" captures drunken sexual escapades among college students. Abercrombie & Fitch markets push-up bikini tops to 8-year-old girls. Lady Gaga bursts onto the pop music scene wishing she could shut her Playboy mouth. Not one item is sold in the mall without an erotic image. And women are increasingly immersed in online porn.

This highly sexualized culture is the new normal for young women who grew up in the ethos of third-wave feminism's pro-porn, pro-sex work stance. So normal that when I spoke at a Christian college earlier this year, one woman raised her hand to ask, "So are you saying that it's bad that there's too much pornographic influence in our culture? But shouldn't women embrace their sexuality?"

Um, yes. And yes. That answer highlights the problem: the counterfeit has usurped the authentic. Sex is God's idea and his good gift to be properly stewarded within his design. For that reason, the church should be the most pro-sex group there is. We have a message of hope and redemption in the morass of sexual confusion. But first we need to help the women who are confused and in our churches right now. Here are four points on how to do that:

1. Give the truth about sex and why it's attacked.
Let's start with that modesty message. If it's framed as a simple "don't tempt men" message, it is incomplete and easily dismissed. We need to back up and explain first what is good about God's gift and how it is distorted in a myriad of ways. We should equip young women to be discerning about the spiritual battle raging around sexuality. The Adversary has no need to improve upon his first character assassination of God. Contradicting God's boundaries and insinuating that he is holding out on his creatures is nearly foolproof.

2. Teach young women not to mistake broken for normal.
Then we need to teach young women how rapidly our culture became porn-saturated in only one generation. That's often news to those who grew up in it and therefore they often don't understand the brokenness that follows in the wake of the sexual imagery they accept as normal. As John Piper says, lust is the realm of thought, imagination, and desire that leads to sexual misconduct—and young women often overlook how their drive to be sexually desirable is smack in the middle of that realm.

When young women understand the cosmic consequences of sexual sin, the worldviews that shape our consumption of sexual messages today, and how God's glory is under spiritual attack, they will not mistake any modesty message for a frumpy fashion campaign. Nor will they resent the men around them for being impediments to whatever is stylish. Instead, they will be sobered by how Satan still "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8)—and that men and women alike are fair game.

3. Stop thinking that only men have seeing problems.
Let's not assume that immodesty only affects the eyes of men. Women are becoming increasingly visualized as well, and can be distracted in similar, though perhaps not identical, ways. We also need to remember and help those women who wrestle with same-sex attraction. After I mentioned this recently at a large conference, several women came up to say this is their temptation and how hard it is for them to be open about it in the church. They fear misunderstanding, judgment and gossip.

4. Create a culture of light.
We need to clearly teach that lust is a human condition, not just a masculine one. Knowing God's glory is at stake, we need to create humble church cultures where secret sin is not kept in the dark, but rather brought into the light. If we rightly understand the doctrine of sin, we should never be surprised by our own temptations nor by the confessions of others. We should want to create "safe harbors" for God's people to confess, repent, and welcome accountability for change. The roaring lion waits in the cover of darkness to attack what he finds there, but "whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God" (John 3:21).
Let us help the women in our churches experience the freedom of living in the light.

Carolyn McCulley is an author, speaker, and documentary filmmaker. She has written more about third-wave feminism in her book, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World.