Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why I Object...


We have all received those fliers in the mail--"Discount Christian books!", "Buy in Bulk and SAVE!", or "NEW From Your Favorite Authors!". While there is nothing inherently wrong with the Christian fiction industry (weeeelll...), there are some things I have learned from experience, my mom's wisdom, and Scripture and want you to know and hopefully avoid. (Disclaimer: this is not really a critique of any particular books. This is me asking you to consider new levels of brain-purity. I will explain. I may or may not offend you. I have offended myself. All I ask is that you hear me out.)

If you know me, you know that I am an avid reader. Well, there was a time period where a friend of mine introduced me to a series of "Christian" novels that will remain nameless. I do not blame her for this at all, mind you. Every single one of them was a 'marriage of convenience' story. The plots were not exactly believable...but I read two of them and stopped in the middle of the third. Why did I not finish the third book?

Whether the nice married lady who wrote the novels realized it or not, her books had a very distinct message: love equals hopping in bed together. (Gasp!) But I am not kidding. These books are very popular in the Christian market too. But what other message can I get out of a book that reaches its climax in the romance department when the two formerly bickering and 'in this marriage for the sake of my kids' main characters jump in bed together? Of course the book isn't explicit. Otherwise the Christian publisher would not have published it. But the story, that message, and that scene have already done their damage in our minds, haven't they?

Look, just because the characters are married does NOT mean that it is okay for me to have that in my mind!
Here is the biblical principle that shows what I mean. Song of Songs 2:7 says: "I charge you, O daughters of not stir up or awaken love [or desire] until it pleases."

This is a command we girls would do well to heed! Only you know in your own conscience what stirs up or awakens your desires. Basically, this verse says "Don't do it! Do not read, watch, or listen to anything that will prematurely stir up passion in you. It is not what God designed. Keep that desire for later, when you are married!"

It is exactly like Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:12: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

It makes a lot of sense for Paul to say "all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful". Indeed, a great many things are extremely unhelpful to our consciences, our hormones, and our poor teenage girl brains! So Paul resolves, "I will NOT be brought under the power of any"!!

I urge you-- do not let yourself be unwittingly brought under the power of your desires. You are so much more able, clean, and free to serve Christ when your mind is not focused on things that will 'not please' in this time of your life. All those things do is distract us from "single minded devotion to Christ Jesus".

One very practical way to not be brought under the influence of those things that are so unhelpful to our consciences is to think seriously about what you read. I weeded out my bookshelf and threw out books that my conscience said "NOT helpful!" to. You really have to listen to the Holy Spirit to tell you. If you feel that guilty pricking, don't justify the book! Chuck it! Here is Abigail's principle #1:

NO BOOK, MOVIE, SONG, OR FEELING IS WORTH A DIRTY CONSCIENCE!!! 1 Timothy urges us to flee youthful lusts. Let's do it!

Principle #2: (This is actually My Mom's Wisdom #1)

This area is where your choices may divulge from your friends, even close ones. Remember that your conscience, brain, and heart are just that: YOURS. Do not let someone else's choices dictate to you what is right or wrong. You can feel your conscience's prompting. Obey it. I promise you that it will always be so worth it. I am by no means the perfect example of this, but I have tried it and I am telling you, you will feel much freer and cleaner! :) Whenever your friends or even older people you admire greatly are doing, watching, reading something that you know is wrong for you, remember: Others may, you cannot. They may not be sinning by reading whatever book it is, but you will if you disobey your conscience. So just simply value the thing that is much more long-lasting.

I hope that this post has been encouraging and maybe a little convicting. Like I said before, I have offended myself. I did not want to examine my reading so closely. But it was necessary for my conscience. It just might be for you too. Mind you, I am not perfect at this! I have slipped, and disobeyed the Holy Spirit's prompting, but I am forgiven and desperately want to obey the next time and be continually purified. Join me.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Newsflash: We Have NOT Arrived

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers,  I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

Has it ever occurred to you that the Christian life is one of constant striving? According to Paul, there never should be a place where you can sit back, relax, and announce that you "have arrived". Nobody, not even the 'greats' of the faith like Hudson Taylor, Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham "have arrived". In fact what makes them so 'great' in our estimation may be the fact that they would be the
first to admit it. Can you take a guess at the one Person in all of history who "arrived"? Yup. Jesus Christ.

And what is Paul saying my life goal should be? To paraphrase v.12: to find out why Jesus saved me. To find out what He saved me for. Cause there is a reason. There is a plan for you, a purpose, a job God has for you and you alone to complete to bring Him glory. It is what He created you for and it is why He saved you. It is your life's goal to find out what "it" is.
Exclamation mark.

Oh, it is hard to pull yourself free of the mindset that you are "better" and more "mature" than others, and therefore it is okay to sit back and drag your feet a little spiritually. Maybe not fight sin as aggressively. Maybe not pursue Jesus, the Lover of your soul,  like He is everything you need and want.

I understand how difficult it is, especially if/when you are in fact more mature than the other kids in your youth group. And if you compete in NCFCA, that may place you on another level in your mind.

But don't be mistaken.
Please don't be mistaken.

God's calling on you is just that: on YOU!! And only you. He doesn't care how you line up next to your sister, or brother, or peers, or anyone! He cares how we line up next to His Son. "What!?!" you say. "How am I ever going to be that perfect?"

Precicely. God's goal is to conform us to the image of His Son. We only get finished in heaven, so it makes sense that Paul would say "forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead".

Paul is saying; "Look! I am not finished yet! I haven't arrived! So I am going to strain and press on and forget what is in my past so that my eyes can always be fixed on the prize: Jesus Christ!"

So this is my plea to you, fellow young person: Don't waste the opportunity you have to press on and strain forward. There are 2 reasons you do this:

>"to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me"
>"to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus"

Make those things your life goals!! Resist the temptation of allowing yourself to think that maybe you "have arrived". Make it your ambition, your abiding zeal, to attain those 2 things above. It will take a lifetime. But it will be worth it. Please join me.

P.S.--There is one major thing that will always help "set you straight" when it comes to how highly we think of ourselves. Look to Jesus' example in His Word. If you stay in the Word, chances are you will also stay in the right frame of mind. :)
 Listen to My Pastor's recent sermon on this passage (Phil. 3) It is an exposition of what I just talked about. It is super helpful.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stink-bug Mercy

(The below is, oddly enough, a very freeform poem written from the perspective of a stink bug I rescued from the inside of a window about a month ago. I thought it illustrated God's redemptive, pursuing mercy towards us.)

Zipping through the air
Saw the hole, not the screen
Dropped right in; such fun

Other bugs were in there too
Had a blast
Till we realized the obvious truth.

No way out
That we could see
Only a pile of dead bugs on the sill
At the base of the screen.

Fate realized, the others rebelled
Wasted their strength
Attempting to fly out of that
Impenetrable screen.

Some fought long
Some short
All fell.

Same answer:
No way out
The pile grew
At the base of the screen.

Why I didn't try to fly
Like crazy
Don't ask
I knew I had it coming to me.

Sat and waited
Buzzed around
Wished, hoped, looked
For an exit.

Bright and white It floated
Toward me
Looked familiar yet

The Thing came towards me
I ran away
Up to the top of the pane.

Thing pursues
I run downhill
Scared now, shaken
Attempting to survive.

Thing now in front of me
I back up
One leg no longer
Can stand on anything.

What's happening?
I back up more
Away from the Thing
And fall

Into open air!

I gasp
Tumble free
Looking back
I see the hole in the screen.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Esau and Purity

Did you take a look at my title and ask yourself, "how do those things relate?" Well, let me explain...

(below is actually something I had written down a few months ago, and wanted to put on my blog)

"What will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matt. 16:26b
Hebrews 12: 16, 17 says that Esau was wicked. Why? Because he sold his birthright for food. (Note: Esau esteemed his birthright so lightly that he would sell it to satisfy his stomach's temporary cravings) The verse goes on to say that when ("afterward") "He wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears." Cross references to this might include Jerimaiah 5:25.
When I read the above verse tonight, I thought, "What's like selling your birthright today?" Purity. The way Esau flung away his birthright--esteeming it so lightly--to satisfy a momentary desire, and then  could never get it back is so similar to the way many people treat their God-given, "birthright" of purity today.
If you guard and highly value your purity, in the long run this will yield great joy and blessing. But if you choose, like Esau did, to toss your breakable birthright from God in the gutter and treat it like dirt...all because you want the "food" of your desires more...then it is over. The truth is that nothing can ever be the same again. Can you:
~be forgiven by God? Yes.
~not repeat the sin? Yes.
But you can never get the maiden birthright, that beautiful, pure innocence back. As Hebrews says, "he found no place for repentance,  though he sought it diligently with tears." See, there are some mistakes, some sins that once repented of will not largely affect your life forever. But your purity is too sacred to fall under that category. You will never be able to retrieve the loss of this birthright. Esau never did. Yes, you can be forgiven! But not even by seekig diligently with tears can you recieve back the same exact crystal clear, shining birthright. So esteem this purity gift highly. It is not to be played with.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

In the Refugee Camp...

Decorating flip-flops with Syrian women

       I had the opportunity to go with some women to the refugee camp here. We did a craft with the Syrian women; 'making' flip-flops. Someone had donated a ton of shoes, and so we had beads and fake flowers, etc. to decorate them with. The women loved it--and it was practical, too, because they all need shoes very badly!
I did not take pictures of the camp itself--don't ask me why; I just didn't! But this camp looks like all of them: thousands of dirty tan tents with UNHCR printed on the side, gravel, dirt, dust...little Syrian kids running around everywhere; adorable and dirty. I will say that my admiration of the UN went up several notches. They seem to be doing a pretty good job dealing with the massive influx of refugees from Syria, considering everything.

The lady I came with had promised a Syrian woman that she would come visit her tent; this was a big deal to her--they are all super hospitable! So when we were done with the crafts, the Syrian lady--I will call her 'Lisa'--got in our car and showed us the way to her tent. According to the woman I came with, this particular family had kept their tent and little children remarkably clean. There were a few flies buzzing around, but that was it as far as "squalor" goes :) A large group of other Syrian women came too, and so we sat around, chatting, smiling, and drinking first juice and then coffee (like I said, these people are super hospitable, and even if that was the last of their coffee or juice, they would have made us drink it!). I think we were in Lisa's tent for about an hour. When I say chatting, I did not talk much, except to one woman right next to me who knew some phrases in English. Mostly I listened to the banter in Arabic, and one of the people I came with (I'll call her "Betty"), would translate for me and tell me what was going on. Betty's Arabic was very good, by the way! A thirteen year old girl in Lisa's family had been in a room (in Syria) with about 13 people when a rocket or a bomb hit it. Miraculously, no one was killed and this girl was not injured. I assume that the family left Syria soon afterwards. The woman sitting next to me asked at one point; "Do you like Jordan?" and I said, 'yes, I like it a lot!'. She told me, "Syria is much better!" :) They love their country. Apparently Syria is much more beautiful than Jordan--lots of women are saying that!

I have been amazed by the strength and resiliency that the Syrian women I've met have shown. They may have had their homes destroyed and family members in the army, or many harrowing and difficult experiences in their past, yet they are able to sit around, smoke a cigarette and laugh and joke about their husband maybe getting a second wife or how their sister married a really ugly man (he was bald, apparently), and yet he was very good to her and the family loves him!! It is really impressive. Though the pain is deep inside, they manage an outward appearance of strength. It is that pain deep inside that only Jesus Christ can heal.



Monday, April 8, 2013


I promised to put up here they are! :) These are from the whole time so far here in Jordan, semi-chronologically.
(my dad on the night we arrived--VERY jetlagged!(view across a field looking towards town)
(Me with 'Annie' [front] and 'Susie' [back])


(Me and 'Susie' in the sand--she liked to "eat" rocks :)

(Joshua and 'Natalia')

('Susie'! Pray for her to be adopted by a Christian Jordanian family--Jordan won't let Americans adopt children from there-- IDK why...)

(My Mom by the gate of the compound)

(View of Amman, capitol city of Jordan)

I will put up more later! Ma'as salaama!



What to do...

What do you do when your house is bombed by your own government? Run, of course. To a refugee camp of 20,000 across the border in Jordan. Your husband was injured by the bombing--his arm is broken or dislocated or something--you don't now quite what. Your one  year old baby girl gets sick from all the dust in the camp; she coughs and vomits. Your other children, one boy, one girl, are experiencing nightmares and will be permanently traumatized by what happened to them. Then you hear from a friend that they have settled in a small village about 30 minutes from Amman, the capital city. You and your husband decide to move there. He goes to Amman to get medical care for his arm, and you take your children to this village and rent two rooms below a pharmacy. You have nothing but a few UNHCR mats and some blankets, and maybe some cooking utensils.

This is reality.

And this is Nafal's story. My family and I met Nafal and her children (Abdullah her son is pictured above with my brother Joshua) yesterday when we went with an aid worker to distribute mostly non-food items to Syrian refugee families in a village in Jordan. We met 5 other families with terribly difficult situations as well: one Syrian mother told us that her husband had gotten a job but had lost it, and now they could be kicked out of their apartment if they cannot pay rent; in one family (extended family as well-- 3 families in one 4-5 room apartment), the father was shot in the lower leg and had received surgery, but he still cannot walk without a crutch.

The organization that we went with to visit these families gives things like table-top gas stoves, diapers, and sometimes non-perishable food (if you were wondering, we gave all of the above to Nafal's family). My dad (as a doctor) was able to examine the Syrian man's leg, and also in that same family their was a baby with severe cleft palate that he saw--this baby will need multiple surgeries just so that he can eat solid food. He also gave Nafal assurance that her baby girl was just suffering from allergies due to the dust, and did not have pneumonia.

As you can see, the Syrian situation is severe, and is getting worse by the day. These people need not only physical provision, but the hope that Jesus Christ can only provide. He is the only one who will be able to satisfy their longing for protection and safety; for love and healing. Pray for Nafal and her whole family--her husband Kefah, son Abdullah, and two girls--to come to know the love and protection that is only ours through Jesus Christ our Savior. May He be known by them as the Healer Restorer, Comforter and Protector.

 (This is the place where the 3 Syrian families lived together--in just part of this house. This was the guy who was shot in the leg.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lam-af-ham.... Day 2

Lam-af-ham... "I don't understand!" Hopefully I can remember this phrase because I have realized that my very limited Arabic (yes, no, hello, goodbye, thank you, please) is not quite satisfactory!

 I went into town yesterday with my dad and another doctor who knows Arabic to get some groceries. I wore a headscarf because this is not the capitol city and pretty much all the women cover, unless they are a tourist and then they will stick out like a sore thumb... and everyone stares at them! So, especially having slightly reddish hair, I stuck to the more "incognito" option! :) Sidenote: I am really thankful that I have dark eyes and eyebrows! With most of my hair covered, I look fair skinned and not Middle Eastern, but I don't look too unusual...this is nice because as some people know, I prefer in certain situations (cross-culturally in particular) to NOT stick out! :)

About the town: If you have ever traveled internationally you will have noticed that certain things we are sooo used to in the States have no practical bearing anywhere but in Europe (where they came from originally...) For example: Landscaping. Even a very "low-class" American has some sort of idea of how to make his house or apartment area look a little nicer. Here: who cares!?! It is the desert; only scrubby trees (like olive trees) grow naturally. Okay, there is some grass and etc., but all in all beautification of your lawn is decidedly odd unless you are very wealthy.
Another observation (and when I put up pictures you will see this): LITTER. Try to think on this: litter is non-existent here. What do I mean? There will be empty lots in town with 2 trash cans. People will lob their trash bags in the can's general direction, but in the end the whole lot has a good smattering of black bags (and it is really windy here, so they blow around a good bit). The maintenance guys come...and they simply drop a match into the trash bins, burn what's in there out, and let the whole process happen again (See, 'beautification of the town' is not very high on the priority list).  So: trash? To be sure--lots and lots of it! But litter? Nah! (or la, in Arabic) The joke someone told me today was that the national bird of Jordan is (translated from Arabic) "The Black Bag" As I said, they blow everywhere. Save the planet?!!? LA!!!! Man-o-man, I love this place! :)

So, there was your Middle-Eastern culture lesson for the day. Glad I could be of service ;)

Ma'as-salaama (goodbye).

Salaam From Jordan, Ya'll! :) DAY 1

Salaam, Marhaba... or Hi Everyone! I wrote this yesterday, the 4th. (we did not have internet that day)
Well! We have safely arrived in Jordan, and are (sort of) over jetlag. The time here is 1:45pm—for you all, 6:45pm or something like that! Our travel was safe; we slept on the 11-hour flight here, or watched movies (Bourne Legacy and Wreck It Ralph!!!), etc. When we arrived in Jordan, all our luggage was waiting for us—so no lost bags J One hitch was that when you come out of customs and have your luggage, you sort of walk out and see a big group of people holding signs for companies, hotels, groups, and people’s names. This is because most groups send a driver to pick you up at the airport. Well, we saw no signs for the hospital, so we were a wee bit concerned! But my dad bought a phone that will call in-country, and we called the person who was in charge of getting us in. He said the driver was there—we just had not seen him!

The ride to a restaurant where we met some expats we knew was epic! In Jordan, there are few stop lights, and forget real speed limits; these are suggestions! There is a general two-lane idea, but a conglomeration of vehicles using horns and brakes liberally is more exciting. People generally pass on the right, but honking as you speed pass is the best option ;) All that to say, I enjoyed the ride! Somehow I had an innate confidence that the driver would not crash or fender bender anyone, which was fortunate…

We are in an apartment on a beautiful compound—no grass, of course (this is the desert, after all) but lots of olive trees! Today we woke up with the sun, got ready, ate, and my dad, Joshua and I went out to find our way around this place. Right next door (attached to our apt.) is the school for the compound. We met a lady there who showed us the way to the hospital (my dad stayed there and saw patients), and Joshua and I went with her to take three little girls who are staying at the hospital to the playground. One was 'Susie', an adorable little thing who is just about to walk on her own. She was abandoned—her mom died, dad took off somewhere, and no relatives. Another was 'Annie', a sweetheart about 4 (but short for her age), I think. She was seriously malnourished, and had several major and many minor fractions in her bones, and way depleted in Vitamin D when she came to the hospital. Now she has just reached the right D levels, and is walking, but is bow-legged and off balance because of the fractures. Her family now wants her back to beg in the souk (market)! I don’t know what will happen there. The last girl, 'Natalia', was between 14 and 16, they don’t know because she came to the hospital when she was 1 or 2, and had been abused by her dad. Whatever he did to her has caused blindness, and some sort of disability that reminds me of cerebral palsy. She was so sweet! She has been at the hospital for like 14 years. We took these girls and had a ball playing with them in the sand!

Now I am sitting in our apartment, writing this. There is a big windstorm right now—coming off the Syrian desert. But the weather is really nice! Tonight there is a prayer meeting we will be going to, and tomorrow some friends of ours will come visit us, and we will plan our outings to the refugee camp with them. It is about 20 or so minutes away from here, I believe.

So, that is all for now! Hopefully I will update many more times, and with pictures!

Monday, March 25, 2013

In Preparation...

Packing now... Lots of vari-colored and non-matching clothes are flung all about our dining room. My mom and I are trying to figure out outfits that are conservative enough but also wearable! (Girls, you know what I mean...) One of the main challenges is that shirts have to be almost mid-thigh in length to be worn with pants. My grandmother has lots of Indian tunics that work well in that regard, so that has been super helpful! Anyway, we will see what ends up in our luggage on the flight to NY, and from there on the Royal Jordanian Airlines to Jordan! I am excited! (Side note to guys--you have it sooo easy when it comes to packing for overseas travel. No shorts, and you are set. Be thankful! ;)
But in all seriousness, please be in prayer:
-for all the workers we will be there to bless and reinforce. May we truly be able to be a help and not a burden in any way. Pray that my whole family will have a servant's heart like Jesus exemplified, washing His disciples' feet!
-for the patients at the hospital, that my dad will be able to show the love, mercy, and light of Christ despite the language barriers.
-for all refugees and Jordanians that we come in contact with; that God will prepare their hearts to see Christ's love in and through us, and that supernaturally we will shine for Jesus like never before.
-for boldness for me and my family to speak the truth of the gospel when given the opputunity.
-for spiritual protection, and physical strength...ask God to bind Satan over our whole trip. he has been defeated already, but he sure doesn't act like it!
-Most of all, for God to be glorified, and His will fulfilled.

Thanks for being my "rope-holders" as I seek to be the hands and feet of the One who has set me free.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Welcome to a Strange Dichotomy...

In early April, my family and I will fly to Jordan to work with a relief organization and some friends of ours for about two weeks. Then we will return home, and a week later, I will compete at a regional speech competition. Strange? Maybe. Wierd? Not for me. Part of my heart will always be in the Arabian desert, so returning may be tough but rewarding I hope. I do live a double life in some respects--I am involved in things right here in the US while part of me always wishes to be "over there". Somewhere in the Arabian Gulf, somewhere shining a light amongst a people who sit in darkness.
Wait! you say. The US is going down hill-- we need people to stay and fight for America: land of the free, home of the brave! I will give you two reasons. One is that simply I am not called at this point in my life to "fight" for America. Oh, I have. I campained for Romney, for a pro-traditional marriage ammendment in NC, and stood outside of an abortion mill. It is not that I do not want to "save" America. God has called me to a different battle ground. Not everyone can fight all the battles needing to be fought all across the earth. Someone needs to stop hunger, another stop abortion, another save sex trafficking victims, another stop the Supreme Court from destrying all our freedom. But also someone to seek and save the lost in the Middle East. Do you see? This--all these things--are the job of the Body of Christ as a whole! I can be called to do one specific thing and you to another. Together we can further God's kingdom and live for His glory.
My second reason may sting:America is so rich, so obese spirtitually!! We have more than 10 or fifteen versions of the Bible, Churches everywhere, and a bunch of apathetic people sitting in church and living like heathens. I have a passion for those who have never heard the gospel--never even heard that Jesus was more than just a prophet! Someone does need to awaken this nation that has become so slothful. But at this time in my life, I have not been asked to. Don't get me wrong--it is nice to be out witnessing and the person you are talking to knows a few of the 10 commandments! But the US is so sickeningly apathetic when there is SO much availiable to them at any given moment. Someone in the Middle East can go their whole life, die and go to hell before someone reaches them with the gospel, and the average American can turn on their TV and watch The Bible.
God has given me a special part of His heart for the world---when I see this couple walking, black and white, I see a lost, sick soul needing Jesus Christ. And so I will go if He will send me.
Thanks for hearing me out. This is me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Real Essay

 Today I was assigned by my mother (of course...I am homeschooled...) to write a "meditative essay". And to all you nerds like me out there, here is something you might like to know: the essay (which literally means "to try") was invented by Michel de Montaigne who said that, in essence, his essays were about himself. "So, reader, I am myself the substance of my book, and there is no reason why you should waste your leisure on so frivolous and unrewarding a subject."
This form of writing was self-revelation, not encumbered by all the rules you and I are familiar with (the essay has, seemingly, morphed a bit). Montaigne had created something revolutionary. His aim was "to spy on himself from close up. This is not my teaching, this is my study; and it is not a lesson for others, it is for me." He says that "These are my humors and opinions; I offer them as what I believe, not what is to be believed." 
 And I could say that this is the aim of my blog: to muse on life, God, and random things; while you, the reader, may know that these are merely "my humors and opinions; I offer them as what I believe, not what is to be believed."