Tuesday, December 31

Monday, December 30

A Good Story

Exodus 14
 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Saturday, December 28

Colorful Creation

All pictures found on the web.


Wednesday, December 25


Friday, December 20

Thursday, December 19


Many of you know that I have been living in Colorado for the last year and few months. This year I am doing Missional Track in DLA, and since this program is part time, I got a job in the Kid's Club at 24 Hour Fitness. Last year I did the full time program. Anyways, about a month and a half ago I decided that I wanted to surprise my family by coming home for Christmas. So, I asked for the time off work and bought a super cheap plane ticket. Then I started telling my family that I didn't think I would be able to come home. Then two weeks ago (the begging of December) I called my mom up and told her that I found out from work that I would not be able to take the time off work, and I would have to stay there for Christmas. I did a pretty good job convincing her!
Now, I knew I would be coming home, but I needed to make sure that 1, my family had no hope that they would see me for Christmas, and 2, that they would be home the day I came home.
To make sure they would be home, I told them that I was sending them a package and they needed to be home the day it got here because they would have to sign for it.
The last two weeks I was in Colorado it was really hard to keep up the story that I couldn't come home, because I had to sound sad, and bored, and lonely. I did get sick during one of the weeks so that helped me sound miserable.
Next thing I needed to do was get a ride home from the airport so I could surprise my family by showing up at the front door. I called up my buddy Kelsey AKA Swimtrot from camp. She came and got me and drove me home.
When I arrived at my house a went up to the front door and rang the doorbell. My sister thought it was the "package" I sent them. My mom came to the front door and opened it. She stood there for a couple of moments and just stared at me. Then she asked me, "What are you doing here?"
Nobody had any idea that I was coming! This was a great surprise!

Wednesday, December 18

Small Business for a Big Cause

A friend of mine is making earrings to raise money for a missions trip she is going on this next year. This is a great opportunity for a small team to go over to the UK and share the love of Jesus to people who may have  never had someone show them God's love! Here is her website! Go ahead, take a look!

Wednesday, December 11

Friday, December 6

Ready to Date

Are You My Future Husband?
by Phylicia Duran

I stumbled through the door of the gym at 4:30 AM, frizzy hair jerked back in a stripey highlighted bun, no makeup, and barely awake. I smiled wanly at the desk attendant, rattling off my ID number – “13447.” – like a sleepwalker. He looked different than the usual early shift guy – maybe it was his hair with a slight Jimmy Neutron flair.

He spoke to me while I signed into my post-workout relaxation technique, the tanning beds. “Do you go to Liberty?” he asked. I did a quick self-eval for Liberty-logo gear – no lanyard, jacket, alumni shirt, backpack… nothing. It’s a good guess if one lives in Lynchburg that Liberty is somehow your affiliate. “I work there, and I graduated from Liberty.” I replied. We made some conversation about Liberty before I went on to my fake bake and left for home.

Five days later, Mr. Morning Shift was looking a little too chipper for 4:30 AM. When I walked in the door his face lit up. “You’re here! The highlight of my morning.” He said.

The only way this face is the highlight of your morning is if you have seen no faces at all between 12 and 6 AM, I thought.

Instead I smiled, signed in, and walked to the bathroom with a rock in my stomach. Should I have mentioned Mr. M earlier? I’d only just met this guy! We’d only made small talk! I’d had him in mind for at least three of my girlfriends!

Slightly freaked out at his apparent interest I sweated out the anxiety on the treadmill, dreading the sign in sheet for the first time in my suntanned life.

He was just as chatty when I rounded the corner. I knew I had to head this off or it was headed to worse places, so with the casualness of a Wild West gambler I hinted that my dearly beloved had just graduated from Liberty himself with an (ahem) computer engineering degree. He pushed the tanning sign in sheet toward me. “Lay down or stand up?” he asked, and that was all.

The next morning I received a very chilly greeting. Either his hair didn’t come together the way he pleased, or I was no longer the highlight of his morning. Any hint of kind customer service had vanished, and in its place was a sour Planet Fitness employee punching in my ID and asking if I wanted my tan full time or eleven minutes. What happened to Mr. Nice Guy?

Mr. Nice Guy didn’t view me as a person. He viewed me as a Potential.

The truth is, I have done exactly what that desk attendant did many times over, and now I know how all those poor, targeted guys felt when I did it. I dread checking into the desk! It’s pretty much the most awkward thing since my Finding Nemo Darla-esque braces in 10th grade.

I touched on this topic in the post I Like Him. Now What?. We get attracted to a man and consequently become social chameleons, adapting to his preferences; changing ourselves; picturing a future with him. Then the walls come crashing down and not only are we disconcerted, we begin to hate the guy who dared wreck the dreams he knew nothing about.

This is what happens when People become Potential. When we view guys as potential mates or dates, we place expectations on them that they know nothing about and therefore can never fulfill. We are disappointed when our hopes are dashed and cannot treat the young men with any respect due to our own embarrassment or vulnerability. And it’s not even their fault!

When I first met Mr. Planet Fitness, I didn’t view him as a potential date because I know I am reserved for someone else. But judging by his reaction when I mentioned Mr. M, he viewedme as a ‘potential’. While I was at ease talking with him, like I would any desk attendant, he was talking to me with other intentions. Even though he didn’t know me enough to make any judgment of character, he was interested in using me for the purpose of attention.

When I turned up taken, I no longer served his purposes, so I was no longer worth his time.

We do the exact same thing when we set our sights on a young man, running him through our mind-mill till we’ve ground every Future Husband quality out of him. This is a source of much confusion and heartbreak in the lives of young women.

When we fixate on a person, we do three things:

1. We make him an idol.

“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human.” (Isaiah 44:9-10)

The craftsmen are only human. We are only human! We don’t know the best choice for us. We don’t know what a guy is like until we have spent time with him as a friend. Placing him on a pedestal of attention steals attention from the one who really deserves it: our Savior.

2. We set up false expectations.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

When we fixate on someone, we make plans that may never come to fruition. It is out of our control. These plans contain the human variable; a person who owes us nothing and can do whatever he wants. Plans centralized in a person will fail, but plans founded on a God who knows the future will bring hope (Jer. 29:11).

We should be busy about the plan of God for our lives, to be a worker who is not ashamed of her actions and emotions but is actively serving her Lord.

3. We try to play God’s part.

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)

When we fixate on a person, we in essence tell God, “I’ve got this! I know this person is the answer to my prayers. I am going to spend my time thinking about him, dreaming about a future, and making tentative plans in case you come through on my terms.” We would save ourselves a lot of disappointment if we let God be God. We plan the broad way we go – dedicating our relationships to the Lord – and still try to establish our own steps to get there.God wants to have both our ways AND our steps along the way.

What can we do to be confident, capable women in this area?

1. We can make him a friend.

One thing I find helpful is to consider each man I encounter to be married. Just as I am dedicated to Mr. M, I consider these men dedicated to another woman. They are taken; reserved for someone else. Even when I was single this enabled me to remember my male friends are not my possession; they are God’s men. I could be their friend, but it was up to them whether I was worthy of pursuit. Dreaming about it did nothing but set up unrealistic expectations.

When we emphasize friendship with our male friends, we are treating them with the respect and brotherly love we owe them as Christian women. We reject the world’s method of ‘go and get ‘em’ and patiently wait on God’s timing and choice.

2. We can find out God’s plans for us.

Yes, we can know God’s will for our lives. But it’s not going to be a scroll that drops from heaven with a blueprint of the next twenty years. God’s will is revealed step by step, in the moments of need. God gives enough grace for our present circumstance, not enough for tomorrow or next week. Just so, he only reveals enough of His will for us to take the next step.

As we know God we discover His plans. He will slowly reveal which people will stay in your life and which will leave. There are people I thought I’d be friends with forever who I have no relationship with at this time. Others who didn’t fit what I had pictured have changed my life forever by their influence! We do not know what is best for us until we are at God’s feet asking. He wants to tell us, and we don’t have to guess!

3. We can play our part in God’s will.

This is the time to make the most of your skills.

Phylicia, if you harp on ‘skills’ one more time I am unfollowing you!

Sorry girls, I’m going to harp on this like Cupid and his lyre.

Every woman has skills, talents, and gifts. However, many girls and young career women shove their talents aside after 8-5 and spend their time on TV shows, romance novels, parties and shopping. I too enjoy a good Gilmore Girls series and can shop with the best of them! But I also realize that in the end my body houses a soul, and that soul has a purpose. And that purpose is running out of time.

Some view this as fatalistic, but I would challenge you to think differently. We only have one life to live and have been given gifts to live it. They were not given to us so we can bury them in pleasing ourselves and our Christian friends. They were given to us so we can actively live out God’s purpose in the years we have on earth, so we can prepare to minister to our community and someday-families, and make God’s name apparent by our character.

For me, this is cooking, cleaning, bringing meals to the sick, leading a group of 25 kindergarteners, or counseling a girl in a therapeutic horseback program. For others this is painting, teaching single moms money management, serving with Compassion International, facilitating showers and parties for loved ones, or singing at church. What God gives you to do will be specific to who you are and where God has you. This is our part in God’s will for the world.

Love God, and love people. As women of God people are not there to serve our purposes, lined up for our ‘potential’ future plans. Capable women do not let emotion dictate their actions. Confident women know their God-given purpose and rest their hope in Him.Complete women don’t need back-up, fall-back, potential mates lined up because they are God’s ‘priestess queens’ (1 Peter 2), free to serve others without partiality.

Did you read that? You are God’s royal daughter! He would provide no one but the best for you, and in your own mind you won’t find him. But God will.

“We have fixed our hope on the Living God, who is Savior of all men, especially of believers.” – 1 Tim. 4:10


Monday, December 2

20 Things Every Twenty-Something Should Know

First things first, most twenty-somethings are too hard on themselves.
It’s one of the downsides of a youth-obsessed culture. We tend to think if we haven’t published our first book, planted our first church or gotten married by the time we’re 30, then we’re on the fast track for a lonely, penniless death which will be mourned by none. Sure, some people get famous when they turn 25. Some people also swim across the English Channel.
Your twenties are a prime time to explore and grow, without all the baggage that comes with settling down and making your mark. (Jesus Himself was an unknown carpenter in a reviled corner of Israel until He was 30.)
That said, there are a few things every twenty-something should know how to do.


1. Make a Great Breakfast
Ideally, you should be able to craft a great meal for any occasion, but this is the most important meal of the day and so, it’s the one you should have down. Use real butter, large eggs, fresh mushrooms, cheese, whatever, but know the ins and outs and invite a lot of people over to eat it with you regularly.

2. Argue Kindly
An increasingly rare trait, but you’ll be better for it. Learn how to have your own opinions (and make sure they’re actually yours—not just something you “heard somewhere”) and how to put them firmly and politely, in a way that invites spirited conversation. It's a rare and wonderful thing.

3. Hold a Conversation With Someone of Any Age
Whether the person you’re talking to is eight or 80, you should be able to hold a meaningful, intentional conversation with them. Remember to ask a lot of questions, be more interested in who they are than in who you are, and strive to make their day.

4. Parallel Park
Nothing menial about it, and not nearly as hard as it looks. Practice a little. Become an expert. Dazzle your friends.

5. Defend Your Media Choices
Whether you like Kendrick, Kings of Leon or Ke$ha, you should be able to articulate why. The media we consume affects us, and you should be able to explain to yourself why you’re listening, watching and reading the things that you are.

6. Limit Your Online Life
This cannot be over-emphasized. The inability to manage an online presence has toppled promising careers and made fools out of otherwise competent individuals. You should have a good grip on how often you use social media and what you’re using it for. If you find most of your free time spent on the Internet, it’s time to make some choices. If you’re checking your phone at every awkward pause, delete that Facebook app.

7. Approach a Stranger
Whether it’s for directions, a favor or even just to pass the time on an airplane, knowing how to strike up a conversation out of the blue is a marvelous skill. Ask them questions (don’t lead with information about yourself), be approachable (not aggressive) and look for clues that they’d rather be left alone.

8. Stand Up for Yourself
Whether it’s your boss shooting down an idea before you've explained it or a guy shouting rude comments as you’re walking by, you should know how to keep from getting walked over.

9. Say “I Was Wrong”
A relationship squabble. A professional tiff. A theological debate. Whatever it is, you should always be looking for where you might have messed up. “I was wrong” is a magical little sentence that diffuses conflict and brings peace to any situation. You should have it at the top of your go-to phrases.

10. Brew a Great Cup of Coffee or Tea
Look. Once and for all, turning on the coffeemaker and brewing a pot of coffee is totally fine. But you should also be aware how to make a perfect cup of coffee or tea. For yourself. For your friends. Do a little reading. Perfect your technique. It’s a skill you’ll be glad you have forever.

11. Tip Generously
What’s just an extra buck or two to you can completely make your server’s day. Make it a habit to tip generously and, if you’re really feeling daring, write a brief thank you note on your check.

12. Maintain a Mentor
Your twenties are a great time to invest in a mentor. Find someone you want to be like—be it your pastor, a friend or even a peer—and commit to meeting with them regularly. It takes a little humility and a lot of dedication, but there is no ceiling to the value it will add to your life.

13. Bite Your Tongue
Know how to pick your battles. It’s OK for you to be right without getting everyone to admit you’re right. It’s OK for you to be offended by something without everyone knowing you’re offended. Understand when you should go to bat for what you’re thinking and when you can let it go.

14. Stay Well Rested
Late nights will come (if you’ve got kids, they’ll come pretty frequently) but our generation has forgotten the value in a good night’s sleep. Push yourself to go to bed earlier. Utilize your downtime wisely. Resting is just as important as being productive. In fact, you’ll be more productive if you are resting well and often.

15. Respond to Criticism
Defending yourself against criticism is easy. Graciously accepting it is harder, but the improvements it can make to your life and work are wild. Remember that criticism usually isn't meant to be a personal attack and, if you can learn to take it in the spirit it's offered, people will have fewer things to criticize you about in the future.

16. Write a Cover Letter
Filling out an application is a pretty simple process but, in all likelihood, the job you really want is going to take more than a list of references and previous employers. Cover letters require some effort, but it can be the difference between “don’t call us, we’ll call you” and “when can you start?”

17. Be Alone
The Millennial generation prizes community, which is very good, but it tends to come at the cost of fearing loneliness. The truth is, being alone can do you a lot of good. Be able to sit quietly—reading, writing, praying or just listening to the silence—and use that time to truly evaluate how your spirit is. Loneliness is exercise for your heart. Do it regularly.


18. Recommend a Book, Movie or Album
It's harder than it sounds. It’s easy to sound like a pretentious snob or a gushing fan when you’re telling someone to check out something you love. Be able to explain not only why you love something, but why you think someone else would love it.

19. Prioritize the Important Over the Urgent
There are two types of demands on your life. The first and easiest to focus on are the urgent: paying your rent, getting ahead in work, etc. The second and much harder to tackle are the important: your spiritual life, your relationship with your family and looking after the health of your soul. Know the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and know which one matters more.

20. Hold on to a Good Friend
There’s going to be a lot of transition in your twenties as both you and your friends float from job to job and location to location. You’ll have to say a lot of good bye’s in the midst of it all, but you should know when you've found the rare friend who you don’t want to lose, and you should be able to prioritize staying in touch with them beyond the occasional text message.