Coffee with Jesus: He wants to listen!

I was pretty irritated and upset at what I was seeing on my screen. I almost turned off the DVR and deleted the episode. But I held on. Something told me to keep watching.20150426_182458-1

I was watching the latest episode of Mom, a CBS comedy about a recovering gambler/alcoholic woman, Christy, living with her mother, Bonnie, who is also a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. A friend of theirs “found God” while in prison, and now that she was out, she was trying to “drag” them into her Christianity.

While Christy started attending church with their friend, her mother was outrageously annoyed by all of the God and Jesus talk. A good portion of the episode was mocking the Christian woman and her beliefs. Bonnie wanted no part of Jesus because she was suffering so much after the death of her ex-husband, who she was still very much in love with.

But then there was the final scene.

Bonnie walks into the kitchen in the middle of the night to find Jesus sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee.

I was worried where this was about to go.

“Good morning, Bonnie,” Jesus says. “Sleep well?”

“Not really,” Bonnie responds. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard you were looking for me,” Jesus says.

20150426_182543-1“As a matter of fact, I am,” Bonnie says, and Jesus motions for her to sit down beside Him.

After grabbing some coffee, and topping off Jesus’ cup after He asks for more, Bonnie sits down.

Jesus says to her, “So what’s up?”

The audience erupted with laughter.

Bonnie says, “I want to know why you took Alvin?”

Jesus goes on to explain that it was Alvin’s time, that Alvin’s work on earth had been done.

Bonnie then says to Jesus what so many of us often ask Him when we’re in pain, “When does it stop hurting?”

He responds, “When you wake up.”

Bonnie then wakes up in her bed, smiles, looks to the ceiling and breathes a sigh of relief.

I was nearly moved to tears. Why? Because I believe that this scene beautifully portrays what our relationship with Christ can and should be like and the comfort He can offer us.

When we talk to God, it can be like having coffee with a friend. He literally wants to know, “What’s up?” So tell Him.

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

In the most recent episode of Mom, Bonnie is struggling after relapsing into drug and alcohol addiction. She is in bed and yells out, “I give up! Somebody help me, please! God! Anybody!”

And Jesus emerges from the bathroom.20150426_182403-1

He sits next to Bonnie, grabs her hand and says, “It’s OK. We can do this.”

Is there anything more beautiful than that? I don’t know the motives of the writers or producers of the show or where they might take things in the future, but the light in which they’ve presented Jesus in these two episodes makes my heart so happy!

Give your worries to Jesus. He wants to hear them. He wants to sit down next to you, grab your hand, and say, “It’s OK. We can do this.”

“Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

Taking my talent elsewhere…

“Writing.”

It was the number one thing my Spiritual Gifts class revealed about how I could best be used by my church.

See, I've been a writer for a very long time!
See, I’ve been a writer for a very long time!

No big surprise there. I’ve been writing since the day I could pick up a pencil. Actually, my very first book, “Harry Carey Likes Cherries,” was written before I could pick up a pencil. I dictated the plot of the book to my mom, who wrote it down. I did the illustrations.

In elementary school I was the girl who won the system-wide writing contest. Every year. I wrote books like, “Never Let a Turkey Do Your Homework,” “Miss Piggy’s Bad Dream,” “A Painter in Ballet Shoes,” and a poem anthology, “Positively Perky Poems that will make you Laugh and Cry.” If I wasn’t me, I would have hated me. Writing came naturally. It’s always been easy.

I went on to receive a degree in Journalism from Indiana University, and the few years I spent as a writer for a newspaper, I won multiple awards.

I love to write. I love words. I love taking words and putting them together to say something great or heartfelt. And to be honest, I think I do it well. You’ll never find me saying I dress well. I don’t believe I am a phenomenal cook or a great decorator. But I can write well. I thank God for that.

So when I attended the Spiritual Gifts class (which also included an in-depth personality study) and was then told that’s how I could best serve my church, I was elated! I was told that there were a few different ways I could use my gift for the church, so I contacted the people who were in charge of blogging and writing.

I heard nothing.

I wrote to the leader of the class and said I hadn’t heard anything. I wondered if maybe they didn’t get my emails. She contacted them to let them know I wanted to help with any writing projects for the church.

It’s been months. I still haven’t heard anything.

This has been eating away at me for some time now. I try not to be bitter about it. It certainly hasn’t stopped me from attending my church. I still love my church. But I can’t figure out why they wouldn’t want to use me to write some great things for the church.

10849890_10152440272986573_1647218886976012536_nSo then I start to feel insecure.

Maybe I’m not a good writer.

Maybe they think I’m too “edgy.”

Maybe it’s because I’m single.

Maybe they just plain don’t like me.

So I dropped it. They know where to find me. They know what I’m capable of. If they want to use my God-given talents to spread the Gospel, they will let me know. If they don’t, then I will do it elsewhere.

I was at peace with my decision to “let it go,” but then last week’s sermon at church totally threw me off. It was all about our resources, our talents, and how if we are loyal followers of Christ, we will use those talents to grow the Kingdom of God. We read the parable of the talents, about the men who did things with their talents (money) and the man who did nothing with his.

“Don’t do nothing with what your Master (God) has given you!” was the basis of it all.

I wanted to jump up and scream, “I WANT to, but apparently they don’t want me here!”

I was back at square one. Upset, hurt, and wondering why my church didn’t want me to write anything for them.

Then I remembered that serving God doesn’t always have to be through the church. I volunteer twice a week at the Rescue Mission, and that’s not through the church. I am a group leader for Bible Study Fellowship, and that’s not through the church. It’s pretty clear that if God’s going to use my writing abilities for His purpose, it will not be through the church.

And that’s OK.

It’s actually given me a little nudge of motivation. I’ve finally found a book idea that I’m really psyched about. Maybe God wants me to focus on that.

In studying Paul, the book of Philippians, and parts of Acts for Bible Study Fellowship, we learned that Paul had ideas of where he should go to spread the Gospel, but God had something different in mind. God said, “No,” before Paul was given a clear signal of what to do and where. Maybe God is doing the same with me.

I want to write. I want people to read it. I’m not waiting for the support of my church or anyone else. God has given me this talent, and I’m going to use it. Even if it’s just me and God facing this journey together.

There’s no one else I’d rather have by my side.

Cookie-cutter Christians: Why some of us MUST be different

“I’m not like them.”

It’s a common thought I have around big groups of Christian people with a certain personality.

They raise their hands high and say, “Thank you Jesus!” throughout prayer and worship. I partially lift my hands, close my eyes, and silently shed a few tears as I feel the Holy Spirit.

It was at the Spiritual Retreat in October that made me question my abilities to reach the teens in my classes. But God showed me that He will use me for His purpose!
It was at the Spiritual Retreat in October that made me question my abilities to reach the teens in my classes. But God showed me that He will use me for His purpose!

They quote scripture and often pull it into their prayers when praying in front of everyone. I talk to God like He’s my friend, and I suppose I don’t quote scripture to Him because He already knows it.

After my thoughts of, “I’m not like them,” come the thoughts of, “So I must not be as good of a Christian.”

It’s a struggle I’ve had since college. And it’s a false struggle. It’s one that Satan loves to tell me over and over again: “You’re not like them, so you aren’t worthy.”

It hit me recently how incredibly terrible those thoughts are. I know better. I know that God loves me just as much as He loves them, and I know that I don’t have to be like them to be a good person.

But then a seriously disturbing thought hit me like a hurricane: what if some of my students feel the same way? What if I have students who look at some of the “super spiritual” students and staff at school and think, “I’m not like that. I’ll never be like that. So why bother?”

Some conversations with my students this year revealed that some of them have felt that way before.

I knew I needed to say something. God told me I needed to say something. Yes, even though I’m not walking around quoting scripture and raising my hands in worship, I do talk to God. A lot. He gets me. And He knew it had to be said. So on Friday I said it.

The main class I needed to say these things to were my seniors. They’re an interesting bunch. Yes, I teach at a Christian school here in Uganda, but not all of our students are Christian. Many are simply “Christian” only because they’ve been forced to be. There are two boys who don’t even believe in God and have serious issues with Christianity and Christians in general, there is a Hindu girl, some who have a strong faith in God but are not charismatic like a lot of their peers at school, and a few who are.

When I finished sharing, they clapped. That’s a huge thing for this group of ten 12th graders. Their enthusiasm is typically non-existent. But then one of my seniors, who detests most Christians, said, “I just got more from what you said than anything I’ve heard in chapel all year.”

Part of me didn’t want to post that. I don’t want to hurt our chaplain or anyone else who has spoken in chapel. They’ve put their heart and soul into presenting for these kids. However, the fact that he said that completely drives home the point I made to my students: the point they so eagerly accepted and understood.

My overall point was this: Christians are not all the same. We’re not supposed to be.

It’s tough. If the Christians you’re surrounded by all act the same way and that’s just not your personality, it can be discouraging. And from the discussions we had yesterday in class, I discovered that it can be especially discouraging for teens. They think, “I’ll never be like that. That’s just not me to do that or say that.”

And so the next types of thoughts are, “Maybe I’m not a Christian.” Their overly hyped-up Christian classmates also inadvertently make them feel inadequate. They attribute the problem to their “level” of Christianity, when in reality it’s more of a personality difference.

I’m not saying anyone needs to “tone it down” or anything- not students or staff. But the kids who aren’t like that need to know that it’s OK. You can still have an awesome relationship with Christ without being so eccentric.

I also shared with the students the number one way that I’ve shared Christ with people: love. Simply put, love. Love people. Forgive people. Show grace towards people. Have mercy and compassion for people. Love. Love. Love.

I’ve never had someone say to me, “Natalie, thank you for telling me that I need Jesus. It’s made me want to be a Christian.” But I have had people say, “Thank you for loving me and for loving others as unconditionally as possible. I know this is because you’re a Christian, and that helped lead me to Christ.”

 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:14-15

We’re different. God wanted us to be different. While Christian organizations tend to be flooded with similar personality types, sometimes you need a misfit like myself who can reach out to the people who are different.

Do your thing. Be the person God created you to be. Be a Christian and be YOU. Don’t change your personality to match those of people who appear to be “better.” God loves us all the same!

“I’m not like them” is a legit statement to make about how I feel when I compare myself to most of my co-workers. Thank God for that. If I was exactly like them, I wouldn’t have reached some of the students God used me to reach yesterday. The same goes for them- God has used those people to reach many students this year as well! God uses ALL of us.

I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. Part of it says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

I choose to reach people through love and compassion. What works for you? What do you do that brings people to Christ? As long as it does the job, well done! Use your God-given gifts to be a light for Him. And remember, just because you’re not exactly like the Christians around you, that doesn’t mean you aren’t as spiritual or important in the body of Christ. Do your thing. All that matters is what God thinks of you. And He thinks you’re awesome enough that He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

A different kind of Valentine’s Day

IMG_20140214_092651I was in the 8th grade when I had my first Valentine’s Day with a boyfriend. His name was Ben, and we were on our second-round of being girlfriend and boyfriend.

“Check your mailbox,” Ben said when I answered the phone.

“Why?” I asked.

“Just do it!” he said, and hung up the phone.

I walked out to the mailbox and opened it up. Inside was a rose, a card, and a small box. The small box contained a necklace. It was the ugliest necklace I’d ever laid eyes on. I can still picture it to this day. It was a gold chain, and on it hung a gold bow with what appeared to be fake opal painted on parts of the bow. It was hideous.

Ben and I didn’t last. Well, we broke up a few weeks later and then got back together a few weeks after that. This happened probably another four times throughout the remainder of my 8th grade year.

Valentine’s Day has ripped me apart some years and other years it’s made me smile. In college we had “S.A.D.” parties on Valentine’s Day- “Single’s Awareness Day” parties. They involved a lot of booze, dancing and some poor choices. That was ten years ago, and I must say, my feelings about this day have changed drastically.

This is my first Valentine’s Day in Africa, and I feel like it’s the first year I’m truly aware of what Valentine’s Day should be about: love.

When I think about it, Valentine’s Day could easily be a Christian holiday. Do you remember the story from the Bible about the religious leaders asking Jesus which commandment was most important? His response was this:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

For Christians, showing love isn’t something we should just be doing on Valentine’s Day. Showing love is what God wants us to do every single day.

IMG_20140214_092810We also need to take note of the fact that Jesus wasn’t specific about which neighbors we should love. He didn’t say to love our Christian neighbors. He didn’t say to love our American neighbors. He didn’t say to love our straight neighbors or our Caucasian neighbors or our neighbors who don’t do drugs. There are no footnotes in the Bible when it says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” God wants us to love our neighbors, the very people He created, no matter what their situation, race, or sexual orientation is.

Not everyone is easy to love. I know this. I’m a teacher, and I’ve had more than 1,000 students cross my path over the years. They haven’t all been easy to love. But what better way to be a witness for Christ than to love everyone?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

I have a student right now who some teachers might find difficult. He knows he’s difficult, but I tell him on IMG_20140214_092929almost a daily basis that I love him. He’s told me that he doesn’t understand why. It perplexes him how I could possibly love him given some of his behavior. This student is also an atheist. What if I didn’t show him love? What kind of an example for Christ would I be if I didn’t love him?

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about romantic love. It can be about the love we have for all the people of the earth. It’s easy to remember the importance of love as I sit here in Uganda, surrounded by people who were strangers to me seven months ago and are now people I love with all my heart.

Don’t feel sad if you don’t have a “Valentine” on February 14. God loves you more than any Valentine ever could. And if you love Him back, you’ll show love to everyone around you.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-8

Sabbath by the Sea… or the snow, or the desert…

Andy Stanley. Beth Moore. Ken Davis. Jennifer Rothschild.IMG_20140105_081452

The list of inspirational and motivational Christian speakers goes on and on. They present material in ways we’ve never heard before. Their words make us laugh and cry. They are professionals at what they do, and God absolutely uses them to change lives and lead them to Him.

From January 2-6 I was in Mombasa, Kenya on the shore of the Indian Ocean for the World Gospel Mission (WGM) annual retreat. We had a speaker better than any of the ones I listed above. Our speaker was God.

It was different. It wasn’t the typical retreat, but it was exactly what I needed.

“Sabbath by the Sea” was the theme, and it was all about spending one-on-one time with God in whatever way each person needed to. We met in the morning for a brief prayer meeting and then again in the evening. Other than that, it was between me and God. I talked to Him by the pool and as I walked along the stunning beach. There’s something very special and surreal about not only talking to God, but just listening.

Between the prayer meetings and my quiet time with God, I learned a lot about the “Sabbath.” The dictionary defines the Sabbath as “a weekly day of rest or time of worship.” For Christians, this day is on Sunday.

But Sabbath doesn’t just have to be on Sunday. And it doesn’t have to be about going to church.

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also rest from their own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” Hebrews 4:9-11

The first day of retreat was, “An Invitation to Rest in God.” Day 2 was “An Invitation to Receive from God,” and Day 3 was “An Invitation to Respond to God.”

IMG_5228While we can embrace Sabbath any day of the week, today is the official Sabbath. It is Sunday, and it is my first Sunday back in Uganda since the retreat. Tomorrow we start back to school, and I still have some preparing to do before tomorrow morning. However, I find that I have to remind myself to spend part of today resting and talking to God.

Motivational speakers can be great, but I’m very pleased with the fact that WGM let God take center stage at this year’s retreat. Still, I don’t have to be “by the Sea” to have a meaningful Sabbath, and neither do you. You can have a restful and inspirational Sabbath no matter where you are, because God is always there, too.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:7-10

Eight verses for 2013…

As I sit here on December 30, 2013, I am on my bed and under my mosquito net. It is hot out, but we have no air conditioning. I am drinking a Stoney and getting excited about our daytrip to Jinja tomorrow. Life right now is nothing like I ever imagined it would be. 2013 was nothing like I imagined it would be.

2013 was the year I finally answered God’s call and moved to Uganda. But that wasn’t it. So much more happened in 2013 that I never, ever want to forget.

I wasn’t sure what to write in my final blog post of 2013. I thought maybe I could reflect on each month. I debated posting my favorite photos from 2013. Instead, I decided to use some of my favorite verses to reflect on 2013. I have a poster I made nearly a year ago with eight Bible verses on it, and I keep it in a spot where I can read them daily.

Here are those verses, and how they’ve helped me live a no-regrets 2013. I’ve also included some of my favorite nature photos I took this year:

Huntington, Indiana
Huntington, Indiana

“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” Habakkuk 2:3
Patience. It’s something I have always struggled with. I want a boyfriend. I want a husband. I want a family. I want a good job. I have had no other choice than to be patient, and being in Africa has really taught me patience. The things I have wanted most in life are not going to happen here in Africa. I have to be patient. God is showing me how to do that.

Warsaw, Indiana
Warsaw, Indiana

“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:5
Like everyone, I needed saving. Not only did God save me by sending His Son to die on a cross for my sins, but He also saves me on a daily basis. His grace and mercy are why I continuously put my hope in Him.

Victoria Falls, Zambia
Victoria Falls, Zambia

“The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I’ll be honest, there have been a few times here in Africa where I’ve wondered if this is true. Between spitting up blood, countless sinus infections, skin infections, and terrorist threats, I’ve seen my fair share of frustrations in Africa, not to mention how much I insanely miss home. However, I’m always brought back to the truth of this verse. God really is with me, wherever I go. There’s no place so far away that He can’t reach.

Kampala, Uganda
Kampala, Uganda

“Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful.” Psalm 69:16
I have prayed this prayer so often. I can’t even count the number of times I have asked God to take care of me since I got to Uganda. Not only have there been physical ailments to deal with, but mentally I feel like I’ve been beaten to a pulp. God’s love is unfailing, though. It is perfect, and any mental breakdown I have, I know His mercy covers it.

Entebbe, Uganda
Entebbe, Uganda

Submit to God, and you will have peace; then things will go well for you.” Job 22:21
Oh how true this is. I did not truly know peace until I fully surrendered to God in 2013 and followed His call to serve in Africa. I know that when I start to feel restless, it’s because I’m not submitting to God. I know so many people who are restless right now. If only they submitted to Him, they would have the peace that He promises.

Botswana
Botswana

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” Luke 12:31
God knows what we need. And as long as we seek Him and His Kingdom, we will be set for life (and the afterlife as well!). The more I seek Him, the more I see that He does give me everything I need.

IMG_5001

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23
I can honestly say that 2013 was the year I finally did this. That’s not to say there aren’t a few guys who still had pieces of my heart, but I was insanely careful with my heart this year, and it’s a wonderful feeling to know that for the first time in my life, God was the number one holder of my heart. That’s why 2013 was so peaceful and spectacular. I guarded my heart, and it paid off.

Kampala, Uganda
Kampala, Uganda

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.” Hebrews 10:36
This is the verse that will get me through the next five months before I go back to the United States. I believe that by continuing to do God’s will, whether here in Africa or back the US, I will eventually receive the great things He has planned for my life.

Happy New Year to everyone who reads Summit City Single! I pray your 2014 is blessed with the many gifts God wants to give you.

Much love,
Natalie
IMG_20131219_115351 (2)

Shining where I’m placed…

I never really understood how youth pastors did their jobs. How in the world did they spend day after day, weekend after weekend with a bunch of teenagers? How can they possibly enjoy spending so much time with kids?

Sure I realized my passion for working with kids when I was a sports writer in Georgia, especially after one I knew and loved was fatally shot and it turned everyone’s world upside down. I knew then that the times I felt most alive where when I was with teenagers.

The hot sun shines down on Kyampisi, Uganda and all its beautiful trees.
The hot sun shines down on Kyampisi, Uganda and all its beautiful trees.

Things changed. I moved to Indiana, and while I still had my share of amazing students, it wasn’t like it was in Georgia. I ended up leaving teaching, only to realize a year and half later that it really was where I belong.

Here I am now, back teaching high school English, only this time at a Christian school in Uganda. Working with these kids here has made me realize something… I get it now. I get how the youth pastor’s do their jobs. They work with simply amazing kids.

Overall, so far my experience here has been a great one, but there are some issues that are hurting my heart. Issues that are bringing out insecurities in me that I haven’t felt since high school. And it has nothing to do with my students. My students have actually become my escape. I enjoy being with them.

I think some people find it odd. I was told it’s encouraged that we sit with students in the cafeteria, and since I’ve started doing so, my days have been better. Some find that strange, I’m sure, and I almost questioned myself a few times about why on earth I would rather spend my lunchtime with a bunch of teenagers than adults?

We are to shine like a sun over this calm, Indiana lake.
We are to shine like a sun over this calm, Indiana lake.

God gave me my answer when I was reading the book of Matthew the other day:

“You’re here to  be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve kept you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house, be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

God sent me to Uganda to be a light. I will do that in whatever way He wants me to shine, and I honestly feel like the number one way I am to do that is with my students. If people think it’s strange, then so be it. I’m here to be light, to “bring out the God-colors in the world.” And I couldn’t be happier.

God doesn’t give us “suggestions”…

When Jesus set out to gather His disciples, it did NOT go like this:1389725_bible_collage

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into a lake, for they were fishermen.

“I have an idea,” Jesus said as he approached them. “If you’re up for it, you should come follow me.”

Andrew said, “Well, we’ve got fishing to do. Maybe some other time.”

“OK, no problem,” Jesus said. “It was just a suggestion.”

In reality, Jesus said, “Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men.” And guess what? The Bible says that “they immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

God doesn’t give us suggestions. The Bible isn’t a suggestion of how to live, it’s the ONLY way God commands us to live. Today I’m not struggling so much with that, as I am with something else God has been saying to me for years.

“Come, follow me,” He has been saying. Of course He commands that we all follow Him, but some of us He calls to follow Him to more extreme locations. When God does this, it’s not a suggestion. It’s a command.

Has God commanded you to do something? Maybe it’s to let go of someone from your past. Maybe it’s to treat your spouse better or to be more patient with your kids. Maybe it’s to be a missionary in the most remote place on earth. Whatever it is, it’s between you and God and you know in your heart what it is. You also need to know that God isn’t merely suggesting you do something, He’s telling you to do it.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

God’s love on a receipt? Not even close…

I am continuously shocked at the Christians in this world who don’t understand the concept of God’s love and how we are to display it for EVERYONE just as Christ did.receiptgrab

For example, a pastor and a large group of people recently dined somewhere together and were charged an automatic gratuity. This happens a lot with groups larger than 8 or so. Apparently the service was fine, nothing terrible happened during the meal, but the pastor felt the need to leave the message, “I give God 10%, why do you get 18%?” You can read the entire article here.

Wow.

I can only imagine, if the server wasn’t a Christian, what he now thinks about Christianity.

Does a server deserve more than God? Of course not. This pastor gives 10% regularly in his tithes to the Lord. Giving 18% on a ONE-TIME meal really isn’t that big of a deal. To compare it to what he gives to God is simply absurd.

This pastor clearly missed a rather important part of the Bible, and some of the greatest words Christ ever spoke:

“…just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

It’s one thing for this pastor to not leave the server an extra tip since the 18% was already added on. It’s quite another to make a connection between a tip at a restaurant and what God deserves from us, and to then write it on the receipt. What kind of love does that show?

Do we really need to give the world more ammunition against Christians? Will we ever learn that Christ wasn’t kidding when He said we were to love one another and show God’s love to everyone? I can just imagine an atheist reading this article and thinking, “That’s why I don’t believe- self-righteous Christians, who show no love, prove that there is no God.”

One of my favorite quotes comes from Brennan Manning:

“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

It gives me chills every time I think about it, because it holds so much truth. Is it true? Are Christians the reason so many people DON’T believe in Christ? I think it’s highly possible.

I’m not saying this pastor is a terrible person. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be a pastor or that the rest of us don’t sometimes have poor judgment. But I do believe that the biggest step towards being a true disciple of Christ is showing His love… to EVERYONE.

God just said, “Here you go Natalie…”

1395377_the_blood_3Lately I have been anxious. My feelings about certain things and certain people have really been confusing me lately. I was pondering some of the things that were causing a stir in my heart this afternoon, when I realized I hadn’t read my daily devotion yet. I reached for my cell phone and pulled up today’s verse:

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.” Hebrews 10:36

Wow. It’s like God handpicked that verse just for me today. Some of the things I’ve been worrying about are things I’ve taken into my own hands that I need to just let God take care of in His time.

This verse tells me to step back and be patient, so I can continue to do what God wants me to do right now. Then, when the time is right, God will give me what He has promised.

I don’t need to be anxious anymore. God’s got it all in His hands, and things will work out exactly as they are supposed to.