Saturday, December 31, 2011

The LDI Chronicles: Where we find our worth.

By Danielle C.B.

During LDI God has been teaching me so much about His character, my worth in Christ, His sovereignty, and His goodness (among many other things)!  One big thing for me is that I find my worth in relationships very easily, and I often will feel pangs of loneliness because I’m not in a romantic relationship.  God has shown me that this stems from a lack of faith in His plan for my life. I may not know what the plan that God has for me is, or even be entirely hoping in Him at all times of my life, but I do need to know that God is good.  I need to meditate on the truth that God has a great plan for me, and that He will bring all things together for my good so that I may more fully and effectively worship Him and further His kingdom on earth.  Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

While I can easily say that God is good and has a plan for me, I have to ask myself daily if I am living in a way that reflects that truth.  Do I really believe that God is big enough and good enough and loving enough to have a great and perfect plan that has me single at this time of my life?  If so, how is that being reflected in my life?  Dallas Willard (author of Renovation of the Heart) says, “The single most important thing in our mind is our idea of God and the associated images.” 

What is my idea of God and what images do I associate with Him?  Through all of my work and reading associated with LDI, my false ideas about God are being slowly but surely (and sometimes very quickly) destroyed and replaced with new, good, Bible-based ideas of God and His character.  While my knowledge of God will never be totally complete, I’m at least making steps toward having accurate (though not all-encompassing) ideas of God. 

I don’t want to be stuck in patterns of behavior that allow lies to take root in my life, and I don’t want to be stuck in patterns of behavior that lead to me finding my worth in my relationship status.  To prevent that from happening I need to continually be built up in the Spirit and allow God to change parts of me that might be hard to change.  I need to expect that pain will be associated with this change, and that it’s going to be hard sometimes, but that ultimately God will produce characteristics in me that will take away some of that pain, and the pain will become a memory instead of a present truth.  Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

If I expect never to feel worthless or lonely again (whether single or in a relationship), then I am fooling myself, and I will fall harder the next time. I need to be proactive by preparing myself for those lies to creep in.  I need to have a tool kit of verses and truths in my memory bank, and I need to have people to hold me accountable.  I need to find my entire identity in Christ before I get to a point where I am struggling with unhealthy thoughts again.

I also have to acknowledge that I can do nothing without God, and it is only through Christ in me that I will find even a small amount (let alone a large amount) of victory over lies that have crept in over the years.  Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”  (Matthew 19:26)   Even though I must do work and be active in my pursuit of the Lord and my victory over sin, it is ultimately God who will bring about any victory. 

I have been finding great victory through accountability, as well as alone time with God and reading the Bible, in my feeling of self-worth.  As much as I would welcome a husband if it is of the Lord, I will also welcome singleness knowing that it is of the Lord.  All I can do is pursue God fully, and He will take care of me.  He will bring someone along when and if He sees fit, and if He does not bring someone along He alone will fulfill my emotional and spiritual needs.  I must first learn to rely only on God for that kind of support before I would be even close to ready to be a wife, and I feel that I am learning more and more what that looks like.  I am, day after day, learning to put my worth, identity, and confidence in the Lord rather than in what people think of me or my relationship status.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year, New Resolution

By Laura S.

Has anyone ever kept a resolution? For a whole year? Why do we put so much emphasis on this one time of year? I’m not sure why, but I continue to make a new resolution year after year.Last year I realized that any time of year could be the time for a New Year’s resolution. It doesn’t have to be January 1. This took a lot pressure off. Second, I decided I wanted my resolution to mean something to me. I don’t want to shoot for something and then a week later fizzle out because my motivation wasn’t there anymore. I had to choose something that impacted my heart. Thirdly, I knew I couldn’t do this for a whole year without a community.

One of my favorite movies is The Holiday. It is a classic chick flick. Sure, some people hate it, but sue me. I love Kate Winslet. One of my favorite parts is when this old film writer is talking to Kate Winslet about main characters in films. He encourages her, despite her poor life circumstance, to be the leading lady of her own life, to have gumption. This really struck me to the core, maybe because I am a woman of spunk and sass. I am twenty-five, single, and living modestly in one of the most amazing metropolitan cities, seeking adventure. This old film critic made me realize I believed the lie that as a Christian woman it wasn’t politically correct to be a woman of gumption.

Low and behold I was not the only lady at Hope thinking these same things. Around this time last year, I persuaded my two very good friends to dedicate the next year of our lives to ‘Gumption and Adventure.’ And so it began. Here is a picture of us on one of our many adventures to the top of the Foshay tower all dressed up for my ‘Gumption and Adventure Birthday Celebration.’ I highly suggest wearing high heels on top of the Foshay. 


So what about this year? How could I possibly follow up on a year like that? Well, I think I may have outdone myself. But here goes. First, like last year, I’m checking my attitude. My heart is in a good place. Second, I’m looking for meaning. For me, this means understanding what freedoms I am not living in with Christ. There has been one area of my life in which I’ve struggled a lot with this past year. Poor choices about caring for myself. I really love to care for people well, but it is exhausting and I usually leave nothing for myself. So I’ve decided to make choices this year with the belief that Jesus can give me everything I need to make good choices. Lastly, I’m doing this with a community.

For a while now, a few friends were toying with the idea of doing “The Biggest Loser” together. We all watched the show and now we want to do it ourselves. I’m excited because I understand this isn’t about just losing weight, it’s about a lifestyle change and forming sustainable habits all in light of the gospel. Don’t get me wrong I, in my flesh, will hate every second of it. This will not be easy, but there are so many reasons (current and future) as to why this is so important for me. I need my identity to be more like Christ and less like the lies I believe.

This is going to be my biggest challenge yet. I haven’t decided if I’m going to have a set goal or not. All I really want is to feel confident in my jeans no matter what the size says. I want to feel healthy, be a good steward of my body, and view myself as God does. The Biggest Loser challenge is open to anyone who’d like to join. Here is the link on the City.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wonder Woman trades in her golden lasso for something better

By Kari K.

Superhero [soo-per-heer-oh]: A character who possesses extraordinary or superhuman powers (dedicated to protecting the public). 

While I believe that the last part of the definition is important, for this post, I’m going to just stick with the part that talks about extraordinary or superhuman powers.

I want to start with a little story. Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She was given so many great things in her life: a beautiful family, some pretty great friends, a house to live in, food on the table, and clothes on her back. The other things she was given were the ability to talk and communicate super well, even to manipulate others and situations.
She was given athletic talent that she pursued over 13 or so years. She was given every opportunity to help serve the communities that she lived in through various organizations. She was given lots of leadership skills, ones that people normally have to work at to achieve, but she just had them. Mostly though (or at least she thought) she was given extraordinary powers that resembled a rubber band. She would be able to metaphorically stretch herself so thin by participating in all these different opportunities and activities, not receive any rest, rely on her own strength, and snap back into place immediately. Really, when people looked at her, they thought she was Wonder Woman, and she liked that.
Fast forward 23 years. You may or may not have guessed it, but that little girl was/is me. For the past 23 years I’ve lived my life as Wonder Woman. I even sometimes marvel at all the things I did in a given day. I would wake up in the morning, grumble at the idea of school, but eventually put on my big girl pants and Wonder Woman costume for the day. I never wore anything but a positive attitude because trying to explain to people why I was down wasn’t part of my persona. The people needed Wonder Woman, so I gave them Wonder Woman.

Most of my self-worth had been wrapped up into the things I accomplished. It was wrapped up in how much I worked, how many raises, promotions, ‘good jobs’ and pats on the back I received. Much of my self-confidence was wrapped up into how people viewed me, treated me, and accepted me. And pretty much all of that self-worth and self-confidence came tumbling down when my strength could compete any longer, when I would fail at a project at work, receive anything lower than a B in class, or hear that someone thought of me being anything less than awesome. When those things happened, Wonder Woman no longer existed, rather a normal young woman with sin and struggles. I didn’t like that. I didn’t know who she was.
And then just last week, I learned one of the best lessons any young woman could learn: I learned how to kill the Wonder Woman inside of me. The Wonder Woman that I have been idolizing for the past 23 years is being put to rest.
How did this happen you might ask? Through a series of really tough, faith-building events I would say. The last couple weeks have been ones that I hope not to relive, but they have been oh-so-good in so many different ways. The Wonder Woman in me thought that I could go days on end without opening up my Bible and getting filled with God’s Word. The Wonder Woman in me thought I could go days on end with only a few hours of sleep a night. The Wonder Woman in me thought my prayer life could go on hold for a few days while I dealt with things. The Wonder Woman in me desired to be that rubber band I held so near to my heart. I wanted to know that I could act according to my own desires and will. I wanted to know that I could control my mind, my heart, my soul, my actions, my everything. The Wonder Woman in me wanted to be invincible so, so badly, and I failed so, so miserably.

And yet God used that time to bring me closer to Him. As I lay sobbing and wrestling for some sort of hope, God quickly comforted. He didn’t yell, He didn’t condemn, not at all. Rather God allowed me to experience the deepest Grace I have ever experienced in my life. God opened my eyes and showed Himself off. He showed me how deeply I need Him, how much He wants me to throw up my hands and surrender to Him. He showed me the community of people, the Gospel friends, who He’s given me to love me, encourage me, and remind me that the best thing about me is how God pours out His Grace. I know that I’m not invincible, but I serve the I AM who is.
While being Wonder Woman was nice for a season, it doesn’t work any more, not since Christ took hold of my heart. There is no point to live under my own strength, to try to go without rest or Scripture. There is not point of me trying to be invincible because I will fail ever time. So Wonder Woman, I’m done. I’m done idolizing you. I’m done thinking that I can do life on my own. I’m done thinking that "invincible" is my middle name. I don’t have extraordinary or superhuman powers, no, but I have God.
And let’s be honest, God is all I need.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Keeping the faith

A view of Paris from Notre Dame.
By Amy D. 

Aside from the study abroad office e-mails meant to warn students of the dangers of acting irresponsibly in a big city, I was nervous about what would happen to my faith when I made the decision to study in France. France, unfortunately, doesn’t have the best relationship with religion; a largely “Catholic” population, the first thing my host mom thought of when she talked with me about religion was the crusades and a refusal to believe in science. I was expecting to have to work and struggle to keep my relationship with God afloat, to find a sincere “body” I could find worship with.

Firstly, I should explain why I am in France. A confession: I am a literary theory and gender studies student in France. This part is extremely typical in France. The atypical part: I am also a Christian. These disciplines tend not to always coexist in perfect harmony. In France, philosophy is everywhere; each part of the city breathes with a different story of philosophical thought. But until coming to France, I nearly had a personal crisis every time I tried to ask God why I was filled with his passion for studying something so controversial, so seemingly not “Christian.” 

University of Paris Dideort, where I was a student.

Yet, when I tried to study something else, I always felt God pulling me back. When I came to Church 72 rue des Sevres, I saw how the pastoral staff worked within the French culture of Philosophy to preach the Gospel. The first sermon was on the literary theory of Genesis 1-3. The next used vocabulary specific to Derrida. The next quoted Sartre. What I admired most, however, was the spirit with which the community at this church approaches God. The small building houses a mixture of people firmly situated in Christ, and people honestly seeking a relationship with God.

Notre Dame
I really should know better than to think I have the power in my relationship with Jesus Christ. Through the grace of God, my time in France has been filled with floods of God sending me his love and ways for me to share that love with others. I found a great church in Paris my first week, the American Church in Paris. The service was filled with American music, the service was in English, and it was the perfect way to start my time in Paris.

However, due to host family obligations, I soon needed a church service at another time. Luckily, a friend in Cru gave me a contact in Paris, who works with AGAPE, the international version of Campus Crusade. They let me tag along on some of their evangelical work at the French university where I take classes and some of their small group and “English club” sessions, where I was blessed to meet not only the talented and inspired people on their team, but also see the hunger that even the most seemingly detached students can have to know more about Jesus Christ. It was the first time I not only had experienced evangelizing the Gospel, but also the first time I deliberately mixed my academic and spiritual life, something I had wanted to do for a while, but never had the courage to do more than just mention my faith in passing or invite some friends to church. God works in some pretty mysterious and not-so-mysterious ways. AGAPE also gave me the name of a small church here, one that has pastors who are American, but whose service is entirely in French. After the first sermon, I knew I had found my Parisian home.

Through the church’s small group for young adults, I have had the opportunity to grow spiritually with other French youth in the church and to connect parts of my life I previously thought were irreconcilable. My faith in France feels revitalized in way completely different than I have ever experienced, which has been an amazing source of support as I am away from my incredible Christian support system and family back home. In fact, it may be in part because I am forced to be, at times, a bit of an “island” in France that this faith has grown into something much more than I can explain.

I’ll be honest; there have definitely been times abroad when I have felt uncomfortable about my faith. For example, debating religion with my Muslim host father and atheist host mother, whose only previous encounters with religion were stories of hypocrisy and judgement. I think I take for granted all too often how “normal” it is in the United States to at least have the label of a religion, albeit maybe not in academia. 

In France, there were many times, sometimes even around my fellow Americans, where I felt the societal “un-coolness” of being a Christian, and could feel stigma after stigma being slapped on me, not to mention the times where it was difficult, as always in my academic life, to stand up for what I believe in above all and to make that a priority before everything else. I could constantly feel the tug-of-war of ambiguity that life can bring: making decisions between courses and going to church or Bible studies, and treading the line between supporting a friend who was seeking after Christ in ways that pushed herself away with love, and with the honesty that Christ demands of us. And I am positive that I did not always make the choices that showed the love of Christ like it deserves to be shown. But what is undeniable is that I have been so incredibly blessed to find Christ’s love and grace pouring out of Paris, even when I didn’t expect it. God’s grace has blessed me and followed me, even to France, and showed me that Jesus’ disciples are everywhere, a body alive, moving with the Spirit, and ever-growing with the spread of the Gospel.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out At Work By 30

by Laura S.

As I pulled up Facebook a few mornings ago, I noticed that a good friend (and fellow Hopester) had posted this Forbes article on her page. After reading it, I couldn’t help sharing this with you women. Being 26, I hear about "career burn-out" from so many of my friend’s, both believers and non-believers. Yet at the same time, I see and know so many other women who are not as greatly affected by this. Why is this? Where is the gap? I know the Forbes article is not perfect, but the idea behind it made me wonder what the rest of Women at Hope are thinking. 

Let's talk about this! Why is there this gap, and how do we as women and Christians live in the tension? We want to know what you think!