Just a note to let you guys know that I’ll be gone for the week (June 15-21) for vacation but SK should be back up and running after that! 🙂 Thanks for your faithful reading and all the kind comments we’ve been receiving.  I’m so glad SK is encouraging you and I hope it gets better and better as the weeks go by.

Have a great week! 🙂

~Keely

Doing What I Hate (and Loving It)

The days grow longer, the sun grows stronger, and we put away our textbooks and number two pencils. The grass needs mowing and the horses lose the last bits of their heavy winter hair, giving way to sleek, shiny new coats. The days grow hotter and we girls paint our toenails in honor of flip-flop season. Summer has arrived.

This morning I went running. I tumbled out of bed, after sleeping in for a delicious extra hour or two, and pulled on my old tennis shoes. Not long after, I was jogging across the road in front of my house and to the ranch driveway opposite. The rolling fields on either side of the dirt driveway are russet-colored…the grasses long and waving, dotted with yellow wildflowers. There were green, benevolent trees and hills surrounding me, and a beautiful azure sky above me. I jogged on, until I reached the end of that long driveway and touched the metal gate with my fingertips. Then I turned around for the jog back. The wind whipped through my hair and the sun was soft and caressing. I put my hand to my chest and felt my heart rate accelerating. I kept on until I reached the end…at a nice, leisurely pace. But at the very last, when I rounded the final bend and saw the road, I broke into a sprint until I reached the end. Then I stopped for a second and smiled. It felt good.

I used to hate running. I hated it so much that it was like the greatest trial of my life to pull on those hateful shoes and run (talk about a spoiled American kid). I never died or got close to it, but I still hated it because it wasn’t entertaining, it wasn’t fun, and it made me tired. There was nothing enjoyable about it, except being done.

It got a little better once I bought my iPod and listened to music as I ran. Still, my relationship with running was love-hate…and very, very sporadic.

Now, I’ve discovered that I like listening to my iPod with friends or on long, quiet car rides…but not while I’m running. I’ve discovered that I don’t have to be entertained or distracted in order to make myself do something I don’t like…and I can actually enjoy those minutes of quiet, away from everything else. I have never been a very good athlete…I am small and tend to get lost in crowd, and as a child, my ankles were so bad that I couldn’t walk long without them hurting badly, which still affects my running. But I know that my short runs in the mornings will help, and I like them now.

There was a point when I couldn’t imagine anything more ridiculous than to enjoy running. Now, I feel happy to have conquered that, at least a little bit. I’ve always liked walking and riding horses, and playing soccer or softball for fun with friends or on teams. But running makes me feel better; it strengthens me. Not only physically, but it helps me get over the idea that I can only do things that I like to do. Sure for a little while in the mornings I’m not doing my most favorite thing in the world, but I feel better for the rest of the day. It’s worth it.

If I play soccer this next season, I’ll be running like crazy, and there will be days when I’ll be tired, and I’ll want to quit. But if I strengthen myself now…make myself used to refuting to the idea that I have to stop because I’m tired…I’ll be ready for those quitter attitudes and I’ll have the mental muscles to kill them. I’ll be prepared. And not just in varsity soccer, but in life. When I do something I don’t like, it’s good for me. And when I do it over and over and over again, because I should, then that has the capacity to change me from the inside out.

You may run ten miles every day…it’s not a problem for you. But you may absolutely hate introducing yourself to people you don’t know. That is your challenge.

And you may be the most outgoing person around…friendly and easy and confident…but you struggle with reading the Bible every day. Your time with God just isn’t as strong and disciplined as it should be, and your relationship with Him is suffering because of it. So pick up your Bible and a Bible-in-a-year program, and stick to it. That is your challenge.

We all struggle with something. We’ll never be strong and perfect and impervious to human weaknesses and failings. That’s why we need Jesus Christ as our Savior. And with Him, we can conquer our pride and laziness and become better servants of His.

My runs aren’t very long (I won’t be going to a marathon anytime soon), but they’re a triumph to me. I still have other things to conquer…like my fear of man, and my hatred of algebra homework. That will come in time. I may never love math, but when I keep doing my work anyway, I’ll get used to it. When I keep consciously making the decision to look to God instead of man for approval, I’ll get stronger in Him. And He’ll give me “fullness of joy” in those decisions (Psalm 16:11). He made a deer cross my path today and sent a wind to play with my hair so that I would like running better. He knows how to reward me. He’s not asking that I like it.

He’s just asking that I do it.

This morning, as I ran, a beautiful doe crossed the road ahead of me. The sight of it just added to my inner peace and happiness, and I smiled. I thought…God must have sent that deer. It was like Christmas day, and He was giving me all these little gifts…the wind tossing my hair, the sweet smells of summer, the clear blue sky…because He loves me.

Keep serving Him, even in the things you don’t particularly enjoy. Quietly obeying Him brings blessings that we’ve never truly experienced before. What a sacrilege to believe that life in His service could be dull or miserable. It is sweet, and rich, and satisfying. And in even the littlest things He is capable of sending deer across our paths, and filling our fields with yellow wildflowers.

 

 

Think About It.

“This country will not survive another generation of Christians that fit in.” ~Joshua Harris

Giving

How good of a giver are you?Giving
 
Do you give of yourself and your resources very often?  Do you do it with a glad heart?  Do you enjoy doing it?  Do you look for opportunities to give?
 
The Bible tells us how much God loves a cheerful giver.  I think sometimes we are tempted to GIVE, but we neglect to do it cheerfully.
 
“I guess I should give this money to the church missionary,” we think begrudgingly.  Let someone hint that we ought to give more selflessly and cheerfully, and we instantly become defensive.  “No way!  I’m already GIVING…don’t ask me to do it cheerfully, too!  That’s just too much!”  But God asks us to do it nonetheless.
 
Why?  God owns the cattle on a thousand hills…He doesn’t need us to give.  But He asks us to, at least in part, for our own edification.  Every time we give, someone once said, we sever the ties that bind us to this earth.  When we selflessly give away the money we were planning to spend on ourselves, we put our heart (and therefore our treasures) in heaven.  When we donate our time to a needy individual, we are doing the same thing.  We are looking to heaven, instead of earth, for satisfaction and joy.
 
The Lord asks us to give cheerfully.  Just as obedience to our parents with disrespect is no good, because it is not true obedience, so giving without gladness is worth nothing, because it is not truly giving.  It is paying dues…like paying a bill that we feel we owe.  It is of no real or lasting value.  So is giving just for “bragging rights” (“guess how much I gave??”).  The Lord tells us that those who give for earthly attention and human recognition should not expect any heavenly blessings…for “they already have their reward in full”.
 
Instead we are to give TO God, FOR God’s glory and others’ good, without expecting laud in return.  And we are to do it cheerfully.  A big order but with God’s help we CAN do it!
 
This week, look for ways to train your heart in giving.  Stop being selfish.  Let go of those things you clutch with all your might, and breathe a sigh of relief as you give it to the Lord.  Don’t neglect your responsibilities or stop being a good steward.  Give with wisdom, but give liberally, as your resources allow.  And know that, even if no one else sees, Jesus sees.  And you will be blessed, if not on earth, than in heaven…where “not moth nor rust destroys, nor thieves break in and steal”.  That is, after all, the only kind of treasure worth having anyway.
 
As Jim Elliot once put it, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Hope For a Generation of Tears

I hardly knew Sierra*.  We’d played soccer together a little when we were young, and hung out from time to time at high school basketball games.  That was about it.  So I was surprised when she came to me, asking me for advice about her boyfriend.  “He’s so suspicious of everything I do…he never trusts me.  I hate it…and I hate the way he treats me.  I feel like I should break up with him…but I don’t know.”

To me it seemed painfully obvious.  I knew this guy had a reputation as a cheater and a flirt.  Any girl with self-respect would know exactly what to do.

“Sierra, you need to move on,” I told her, “This guy obviously is using you, and his suspicious attitude, plus his past reputation, suggests to me that he is the one who may be cheating.  God loves you and values you.  So why are you wasting your time with someone who so clearly is not His best for you?  You’ll only hurt your heart.”

It was like a light turned on for her…flooding her confusion with clarity.  Maybe no one had ever told her before that she was valued and loved by her Creator.  Maybe it had never occurred to her that she deserved respect from guys, and that she didn’t owe them her body or her heart.  But she was so thankful and so accepting of what I had to say.  Soon afterwards, she broke up with her boyfriend.  And that was good.  But what she really needs isn’t a nice guy…what she needs is Jesus Christ.  She’s still lost without Him.

Stories like Sierra’s make my heart ache.  So many teenage girls and guys stumble through these emotional, confusing, dangerous years with little to no guidance.  So many of the teens I know and love spend their weekends partying or risking their lives and the lives of others by drinking or smoking weed and then getting on the road.  Sometimes I get the chance to have a good conversation with them.  Like with my buddy Cole, who grew up with an alcoholic parent who just didn’t care what decisions he and his siblings made, at school or on the weekends.

“People think I’m lucky because my parents have a lot of money,” he confided, “But I’m not.  The way my dad was hurt me so much.  He’s not drinking so much any more, though, and I never drink.  I can, because my parents don’t give a rip.  But I don’t.  I’ve seen what it does to people.”

I knew that Cole would go to the parties where his siblings or friends got drunk, so that he could be their sober driver and keep them safe, when he was only fourteen years old.

Another good friend of mine came to a Christmas Eve service at my church with my sister and I.  Afterwards, Mark* said that he had to leave early for “something”.  I knew that he was talking about a birthday party a girl I knew was throwing.  I remembered reading her open invitation on MySpace.  “Bring money or alcohol,” she had instructed.

“I’m not gonna drink!” Mark said when we asked him not to go, “I’m just gonna hang out.  I promised her I would go.”

“You will drink,” we replied.  “Once you get there, you will.  You won’t be able to be the last one standing…the only sober person.  You’ll give in, just like almost anyone else would under temptation like that.  Be honest with yourself.”

Mark was.  He hung out with some buddies instead.

I was thankful.  Because in the small town where I live, a gut-wrenching number of teen accidents occur.  And almost all are alcohol and drug related.

I remember Ryan*, a freshman, telling me how his older brother’s best friend brought marjiuana to a party.  “I liked it,” he laughed.  I wondered what kind of a person would try to get a kid stoned.  What kind of a role model he must be.

My heart bleeds for the teens I know…the cycle of hidden pain, of futility, that they live in.  Many of them have parents, but live as virtual orphans because their mothers and fathers offer little discipline and love and no guidance.  These young people cover up their misery with attitude; laughing and joking as though nothing could be better.  Getting wasted to dull the poignant emptiness of it all.  Never even admitting to themselves that they are their own worst enemy…destroying their own lives in its earliest, most vital stages with bad decisions that mount and swell and grow and may one day drown them.  This is truly a generation of tears.

All over the world teenagers are reaping the bad decisions of our parents.  We grow up in moral relativism, taught that tolerance is the key to peace and that right and wrong values simply do not exist.  It is hard to beat the odds.  God is gone from our schools…ripped out by the adults who teach that we deserve to make our own decisions about faith.  And yes, we do, but how can we?  When Christianity is regularly mocked and ridiculed, not only in entertainment and the arts, but in those very classrooms which are supposed to be little worlds of open-minded thought?  It is said that we don’t care about the world around us.  Perhaps…or perhaps we do care…too much.  Huge problems are thrown at us…AIDS, the national debt, global warming, terrorism.  Thrown on the shoulders of a generation who is, perhaps, keenly sensitive to the pain of it all.  But we can do nothing.  We feel totally and completely helpless.  Every day brings the report of a new tragedy, a new dilemma…genocide, slavery, natural disasters, climbing divorce rates, abortion, crime.  There’s so much, so much, to do.  Some issues we feel passionate about…we long with all our souls to change things.  But how?  There is just too much.  And so, perhaps, we dull our senses.  Because we know that if we care too much about the things we feel we have no power to change, we will go mad with the misery of it all.

This is a generation in need of hope.  I firmly believe that it is a strong generation…perhaps the best America has had in years.  Brilliant minds and strong hearts fill this nation as never before.  I have seen it…and you have, too.  Many desire to change the wrongs and the sins that would be treated as “normal” (i.e., the growing teenage movement for sexual purity).  It is no wonder Satan would do all in his power to squelch and silence and suffocate our voices…to waste this generation.  We hear adults talking about us with doubt…but let us be optimistic.  Let us apply ourselves and grow and change and become.  In a culture of lies, look for truth…the voice of truth, which is Jesus Christ.  He is the spark of transformation that this lost generation so desperately needs.  And when we find Him, and rejoice in Him, and spread His name…things will change.  The look of confusion I see veiled thinly on the faces of so many of my peers can be changed into a deep and abiding sense of peace and purpose found in the gospel of Christ…who is the great Changer of hearts and souls and minds and men and times.

I have some gospels of John from The Pocket Testament League (www.pocketpower.org).  I know that they have the power to change lives, because they are the words of God.  Just little things I can hold in my fingers…around fifty or sixty thin pages long.  On the glossy cover is a picture of wild horses galloping through a sunlight-stroked, dusty prairie.  And five words: Let God set you FREE.

I plan to give these gospels to my friends…people like Mark and Ryan and Sierra and Cole and all the others I know who so desperately need to be set free from the lies and the threat of futile, wasted lives.  They are lost and this is the Way (Jn 14:6).  I will pray for the boldness and the clarity I so desperately lack (and need) so that I may to share not only solutions to moral and relational problems…but God’s remedy for the great problem of the soul. 

Because I am convinced that all the hope and the change that our generation needs is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In a rugged cross, an empty tomb, and a life lived in worship to a coming King.

 

 

*Names and some details changed

Of logs and specks

“He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it. When our virtues become more mature, we shall not be more tolerant of evil; but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms.”

~C.H. Spurgeon

Daughter of a feminist icon values motherhood

Radical feminist Alice Walker influenced a generation of women through her revolutionary novel, The Color Purple.  She taught that motherhood could not satisfy a woman, and that it was just a form of servitude.  But one women challenges those beliefs: her daughter, Rebecca.  In this article, she describes how, despite her happiness in having a son, her mother disowned both of them because of her fanatical views.  It is a fascinating and enlightening piece on the true effects of radical feminism’s lies and the value of motherhood, although Rebecca is not a Christian and some of her views and decisions aren’t in line with Scripture.  Still, older readers will find this article eye-opening and a tragic description of the failings of radical women’s rights activism.

This article may not be appropriate for younger readers, nor much of this website’s content.