NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Revival

It’s hard seeing disaster after disaster come up on my news-feed and being reminded again and again that this world isn’t perfect and that so many people are hurting. I’ve been reading in the major prophets section of the Bible: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And it struck me how much devastation the nation of Israel had to endure. It reminded me of what has been going on in my world: natural disasters, killings, political unrest, fear and just a sadness that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

And inevitably people try to come up with solutions to these problems. Maybe we need more gun control, or a better education system, or we need to take care of our planet better. I don’t know what ideas will or won’t work. But I know the problem is really so much bigger than any of those things. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try them out, or attempt to make things better. But there’s only so much we as humans can do to change the world.

And this morning, I felt like what God was telling me was that what we really need is revival. We need to turn back to God. Over and over God told the Israelites that the reason He was letting them go through such hard circumstances was because they had stopped following Him and He was reminding them that He really is God. He is patient and loving but He wants us to turn to Him even if it will cause us some initial pain. Because living without Him is the worst possible thing. I’ve heard some people say that suffering is God’s megaphone. It’s His way to get our attention when nothing else will.

I feel like with all that’s going on in our world, that God is calling us back to Himself and a great revival will start. So that’s what I’m going to start fasting and praying for, because I know that what people really need is Jesus. He is the answer to all of these problems. He is our only hope. So if you follow Him as well, I hope you’ll join me in fasting and praying for revival. And if you don’t, I hope you take some time to think about life and where your hope comes from.

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My Story

My church has been encouraging our congregation to think about our story and answer three questions about our life. I thought it would help me if I wrote out my answers and since the whole point is to be able to share our stories with others and listen to theirs, I thought why not share it here? So here’s my answer to the three questions.

1. Why Do I Follow Jesus?
There’s a lot of ways I could answer this, and it might change some depending on the day or what I’ve been reading in His Word or learning at the moment. But one of the biggest overarching reasons that I follow Jesus is because He has promised never to leave me or forsake me. When I was a kid, I was terrified of being alone. I didn’t want to be forgotten or left out. I clung to my family like a lifeline and never wanted to be left somewhere. I had terrible separation anxiety. In fact many times my parents would let me go with them to the adult church services because it was just easier for all of us. But when I learned about Jesus, that He would never forget me or let me down, that I would never be alone if He was with me, it calmed a fear in my heart that nothing else ever has. Because deep down I knew that even though my parents loved me, they wouldn’t always be there for me. One time they forgot me at school, and I know one day they will leave this world and me. But Jesus promises over and over again in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what I’m going through, no matter how I feel, or what I’ve done, He is there. And when I remember that I can have peace.

2. How did you get started following Jesus?
Well my older brother was telling me about Jesus and how if I believed in Him I could go to heaven. And when I found out all of my family believed in Jesus and was going to heaven, well I didn’t want to be left behind. So I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart. Even before that moment, my parents had always taken me to church, but this first step started me on the path of following Jesus for myself. And a as I got older and began to understand more of who God is and who I am and what He’s done for me my faith grew and strengthened and matured. I learned how to trust Him, believe his promises, and obey Him.

3. What has changed since you started following Jesus?
Gosh so many things have changed. I used to be terrified of speaking up, like talking to people I didn’t know or giving a speech in front of people. It’s still my preference to listen rather than talk, but I can talk to people now, especially when I feel God prompting me to do it. And I’ve learned to trust Him in my weaknesses and learn that even though I don’t like to speak in public, He can use if for His glory. And if I rely on Him in it, it’s not as hard. I’ve also grown in not worrying as much. I can still get stressed about things, but it’s easier for me to stop and remember that He is in control and has the best plan. I don’t have to do everything perfectly or know all the variables because everything is under His control. I’ve also learned to be more patient. I always thought I was pretty patient and easy-going, but God has stretched me and grown me in it, especially when it comes to helping people with anxiety. My sister went through and continues to deal with panic attacks, severe anxiety and sometimes depression. And in the course of learning how to encourage, comfort, pray for and come alongside her, I’ve learned how to help when other people in my life also get nervous or anxious. I guess I was the anxious one when I was a kid, but as I’ve grown, God’s shown me how I can trust Him in the midst of it and also help others to trust Him. It’s been really cool to see how I’ve changed but also how He’s grown the people I’ve helped and prepared them to be used by Him as well. I love getting to be a part of God’s family. He’s shown me that not only is He always with me, but I also have a family in Christ, even in other countries. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without Jesus. He is my everything and I couldn’t do it without Him.

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Poem for Victims of Natural Disasters

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There are so many people going through such a hard time right now. Fires in Montana, flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Texas, flooding in India, mudslides in Sierra Leone, another hurricane on the way to hit islands in the Caribbean and possibly Florida. With all of these disasters it can be hard to find hope, to find peace, to even know what to do.

I’m so thankful that it is not on me to save the world, to solve all the problems or figure this all out. God sees everything, each person in need, each problem, each fear. And He promises to go with us through the troubles and provide for us in them. He has unlimited resources, patience, love, and hope. And we can trust Him to do what’s best.

I hope you join me in praying for all of these people affected by disaster and look for the opportunities He gives to get involved and help.

Before I share the poem, I want to share a verse from Isaiah. It’s one that has helped me and many of my friends through hard times in life, whether from an actual natural disaster, or difficult relationships, transitions, or problems in life.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”           -Isaiah 43:1b-3a

And here’s the poem I had written for Flood victims several years ago. I think it still applies today.

A Victim’s Prayer

Why do I sigh at night?
Why is this load so heavy?
I can’t be sure what’s right.
Will You lead me with Your light?

Show me the path at my feet,
make clear the terrain unseen.
Give me the courage to move,
to take a step towards the new.

O God I can’t see the end.
There’s no way that it will mend.
The night is heavy and still.
Please just give me the will.

Help me move, help me go.
Teach me to trust, and to know
that despite my fear
You are always here.

Bring me home, bring me home,
and remind me that I’m not alone.

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Response to Disaster

This weekend has been full of anxiety as Hurricane Harvey headed towards Texas and began to affect more and more people’s lives. As a Christian, I believe that our prayers do have an effect, so most of my response to this storm was with prayer. It’s amazing to me how God let’s us enter into other people’s and place’s problems through prayer. And it was amazing to see how God answered several of our specific prayers about this storm. After the initial hit, we heard that no lives were lost due to the storm, at least for that moment and only one was due to a fire caused by the storm. It also weakened from a Category 4 down to a Tropical Storm very quickly. Unfortunately, many people were still affected by this storm and especially by all the rain that came with it.

So I moved on not to just praying, but being a part of the Body of Christ’s response to this disaster. I donated to the Austin Disaster Relief Network or (ADRN), a group of churches in Austin that have prepared for disasters and are ready to respond when one occurs. And I encouraged my friends and family to donate as well. If you would also like to donate, here is a link to their donation page: https://adrn.org/disaster-relief/hurricaneharvey/  The funds go towards providing essential needs for families affected by disasters and towards long-term care and rebuilding.

I also had the chance to join ADRN at a nearby Red Cross Shelter for evacuees from Rockport. These people had been in Rockport during the storm and their homes were destroyed. They were wandering the streets when the National Guard picked them up and bused them up her to Austin. Many of them had nothing at all, except the clothes they were wearing. Many didn’t even have shoes.

It was such a blessing to me to be able to provide some needed items to these people. We gave out hygiene kits, and gift cards to Walmart so they could go shopping and get some new clothes and shoes and whatever else they needed. We even had several people help organize getting people to and from the nearby Walmart. Many volunteers sat and talked through what had happened so these families could start to process what they’ve gone through. And if they wanted to, we prayed with them.

I mostly was running errands between groups but one of my favorite moments was when one of the volunteers asked me to go get some colored pencils for a family with 2 kids. One was a toddler and the other was an elementary age girl. When I went to the supply area to get the pencils, the lady there said we had toys to give to the kids too. So she followed me back to the family and we gave the kids toys, coloring books, a Barbie and their faces just lit up. The parents were so thankful, it looked like they were tearing up as they told their kids to tell us thank you. I hadn’t realized till that moment what a difference an act of kindness can mean to a family who’s lost everything.

So anyway, if you’ve been watching these storms and hurting for the people affected, don’t let that be the end of it. Do something to help.

I just read this article about all the ways you can help the people affected by this hurricane, so if you need some suggestions read this: http://www.austinmonthly.com/Austin-Amplified/August-2017/15-Ways-to-Help-Hurricane-Harvey-Relief-in-Austin/

And remember that even when what you can do seems small to you, it can be huge to the person you’re helping.

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A Glimpse of Heaven

You may think this post is going to be about the solar eclipse. I really did enjoy getting to see the moon blocking part of the sun (I didn’t see a full eclipse). But this post is about something else.

The past few days have been a crazy whirlwind of activity. I am not going to school this year, but enough of my life revolves around the school system, that it can’t help but get a little crazy at this time of year. One of my favorite things about the new school year is that the church I attend moves up the students to their new grade on the Sunday before school starts. So I got to have fun meeting, laughing, and playing games with our new group of 6th graders.

But what was even better was the surprise appearance of so many old friends on the same Sunday. One of my former students who is now in high school, came back to visit from New York. I haven’t seen her in a year and it was so good to just see her face and hear her laugh. I also got to see a family that has moved to a different church and just adopted 3 kids. We got to celebrate with them and give them hugs. And then my brother and sister-in-law came with their friends too. It was just so cool to see all of these relationships, old and new converging on our time of worshiping Jesus. It felt like I was getting a small taste of what it will be like in heaven when we get to see the generations who’ve gone before us and celebrate together.

And then the next day I got to hang out with my family and watch the solar eclipse, with the right equipment, of course. My aunt from our of town, even came to stay with us.

With so much togetherness, it really made me thankful for all the people God has put in my life and that even though we may live miles apart, or don’t see each other in years, we are still connected through Christ. And one day we will all worship Him together. So anyway, I hope this little post reminds you to be thankful for the relationships God has given you.

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Response to Evil

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Our world constantly bombards us with sin and its effects. Shootings, riots, murders, natural disasters, hate, racism, prejudice, envy, cynicism, pride, selfishness and so much more. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. A lot of times I don’t know what to say, how to react, or what I should do in response to these things I know are wrong.

On the one hand, I want to speak up against the evil, say it’s wrong, and point people to do what’s right. I’ve seen a lot of this type of reaction on social media in the aftermath of Charlottesville. And I agree that staying silent is not the answer, trying to pretend these problems don’t exist is not a Christ-like response. Jesus entered into our pain and problems, into this sin-filled world and He chose to love.

The more I’ve been reading in God’s word, the more I see Jesus not only pointing out sin and it’s root: our hearts. But I also see Him choosing to love the people who are sinning. Along with standing up against evil and saying this is wrong, I think us Christians also need to speak in humility and love and pray for people. Without Christ, this is where we’re all headed; to selfishness, pride, sin, and hurting the people around us.

I could have been one of those people rioting except by the grace of God, I could be a murderer, except by the grace of God. I am no better than the racists, murderers, and judgmental hypocrites. My only hope is Christ, and this world’s only hope is Christ. We cannot make ourselves be good, we cannot make ourselves care for other people, we cannot make ourselves live the way we should. God has to change us at the root of the problem: our hearts.

We have to realize that we can’t beat sin on our own, not in our culture or politics or classrooms, or neighborhoods. We have to let Christ remove sin in our own hearts, and pray, asking Him to do the same in our friends, relatives, congressmen, neighbors, and even in the racists and hypocrites.

And we do not have to despair about what is happening in our country, because we know that this is not our home. Although we can try to make it the best it can be, this place will never be perfect. But one day Jesus will return and He will set up His perfect Kingdom where there will be no more slaves, no more marginalized, no more poor, no more racists, and no more selfish sinners. He has promised His followers this perfect future, and we must believe Him and put our hope in Him. And while we are living here, we must live for His eternal Kingdom and point our world to the only hope there is.

So anyway, that’s how I want to respond to this most recent violence. I’m stumbling and fumbling along to do it Jesus’s way, to love, forgive, pray and seek opportunities to speak truth in love. And even though I fail again and again, He has changed me and He is continuing to transform me. And one day I know He’ll take me home. So I hope this post encourages you today to not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21).

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Gifted and Relationships

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Last night I rented the movie Gifted from Redbox and oh my gosh it is such a good movie! Ever since Chris Evans started playing Captain America, I’ve liked him as an actor and I was very interested to see him play a character in a father-like role. I was not disappointed. He did a great job playing a man caring for his niece and trying to help her enjoy life and learn to connect with people, not just pursue her interest in math. This movie did a great job of showing how life is more than just success, fame, and accomplishing a goal. Being smart is not everything and having a gift doesn’t mean you’re different from everyone else. We all need family, connection and relationships.

Our society puts a lot of worth in what you can do, if you’re really good at math, or sports, or some other niche we’re told to pursue that. But this movie reinforced that human interaction and relationships are just as important. The girl, Mary, learned how to defend others, have compassion, forgive, and take a break to enjoy a sunset with a loved one, not just solve math problems. Life is so much more than work, success, and getting ahead. And I loved that this movie reinforced that.

God made us to live in community, to have relationships with people and with Him. And without that, our lives are empty, even with all the success. Just as Solomon wrote “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Though this is not a Christian movie and this message is not clearly expressed, there is a very interesting conversation between Frank (Chris Evans) and Mary (Mckenna Grace) about the bigger questions in life, like God and faith. I may not agree with everything said, but it was all very sincere and showed the importance of something beyond success.

I also loved seeing Frank dealing with the conflict with his mother in a mature way. Many dramas tend to overdo the tension between family members in this sort of story, but while there was tension, you could still see that they were family and loved each other. Also, Frank expressed well the normal fears that all parents have, wondering if they’re doing the right thing and wanting to do what’s best for their child. In the end he realizes that he really can take care of Mary and is the best person for the job. One of my favorite scenes is when he realizes her cat Fred was taken to the pound and he races over to save it from getting put down. It was such a heartwarming conclusion and then he goes even further and takes the two other cats that were going to be put down that same day.

There are a few inappropriate scenes, hence the PG 13 rating. But I’m willing to look past them for the heart of the story, and now that it is released on DVD, those scenes are easy enough to fast forward through if you find that it’s an issue.

I don’t want to give away the whole plot, I’ve probably already given away too much, but I just loved this movie so much. It’s sweet, heartwarming, funny, and well it made me shed a few tears as well. I hope it gets nominated for an Oscar because it’s honestly one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.

Plus Chris is friends with Mckenna in real life. Here’s a video of them answering some questions together so you can get a taste of what you’ll get if you watch the movie.

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I Love to Laugh

I’ve been reading the Brotherband Series by John Flanagan recently and I was struck by one character’s action. The whole group or brotherband as they are known were worried about one of their group who was injured and left behind to recover and also missing the constant bickering that usually came from that member’s presence. So this character, Thorn, decides to create some bickering with another crewmate’s help and soon everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves again.

I’ve also been rewatching a lot of Marvel movies with my sister, and each of these movies intentionally adds a lot of comedic scenes and moments into their plots. I think this is part of the reason that they are so well liked.

We all like to laugh, to smile, to experience joy. It’s part of our human nature. Now laughter may not always be the appropriate response, it could be seen as offensive or hurtful in certain situations. Just as Solomon writes there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4a). Sometimes it is not a time to laugh. But laughter is important. Whether it’s laughing with friends at an inside joke, or a funny line in a movie, or book, or just at a punny situation, laughter is part of life. And often, it’s the best medicine.

Laughter breaks up boredom, releases tension, heightens enjoyment and has many other physical benefits.

So I’m thankful for all the people that make me laugh: my family, friends, and even the comedians online or on TV. I hope you have a good laugh today. Remember to enjoy life, laugh at the awkward situations you find yourself in, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Sometimes all someone needs to brighten their day is a little laughter.

So here’s a clip to help you laugh a little today. Enjoy!

 

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Mission Trips

It’s summer time and many people are going on short term mission trips. Often it’s students, sometimes it’s adults, but there always seems to be some sort of mission trip going on. In the past year I’ve seen more and more articles about why people should not go on short term mission trips. When I first read them, I thought a lot of their reasoning seemed valid. It costs a lot of money to travel and if that money was sent to the local missionaries instead of paying for a plane ticket it could really help them out.

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I feel like I disagree. Mission trips, even short ones can be very good and useful in God’s Kingdom. I agree with a lot of what is said in these articles. I can definitely see how these trips can turn into tourist vacations, and hurt rather than help a local community of Christians. But I think the articles are overlooking something important.

Why do we even go on mission trips? What is the purpose? If the purpose is only to make yourself feel good about helping others, I can definitely see their point of being able to do that in your own community and not needing to raise a lot of support money to travel. But what we do as Christians is a lot bigger than just human plans, and helping people. We’re following Jesus’s plan and building His Kingdom. I don’t know why He chooses to do things the way He does, but I don’t doubt that His is the best plan.

Before I’ve gone on any mission trip, I’ve done a lot of praying, asking Jesus if He wants me to go. Because at the end of the day, people’s opinions about your trip whether they think it’s great, or a waste of money, doesn’t matter. What matters is if you are obeying Jesus. Money is no problem for Him, it all belongs to Him anyway. If He wants to take you half way around the world, He will provide a way, and if He wants you to stay where you are and reach out to the people around you, He can help you be bold and live differently. So ultimately, it’s not about us and what we think, it’s about Jesus and what He wants. This is His kingdom after all, not ours.

But I can also see a few advantages to mission trips, that are harder to recreate if you simply stay at home. One is your level of comfort. You can definitely find ways of being uncomfortable in your own city, but leaving your country is a big step. And God does some of His best work when we have to rely on Him. It’s easy to try to handle all the little problems of life yourself, when you’re at home, but when you’re in a foreign country, can’t speak much of the language, and don’t have all of the things and people you normally rely on, it forces you to seek God more consistently and desperately.

Also, there’s something special about traveling with a group of people. Because you spend all of your time together, on planes, buses, and walking through foreign streets, you really develop close relationships which is harder to do at home. Because you’ve all committed to go together, you learn to rely on each other, open up to each other and disciple each other. You can do the same things at home, but it really helps when you’re cut off from your normal routines and forced to actually spend time with people. Traveling also tends to limit your use of certain technologies like text messages and phone calls, so that you can focus more on where you are and what you’re doing at that moment with the people around you.

And lastly, going on a mission trip opens up the opportunity for you to meet people you otherwise would have never met and develop lasting relationships and a deeper interest and care in their ministry. It’s one thing to read a newsletter from a missionary you support, it’s a whole other thing to spend the day with them; seeing what they do on a day to day basis, who they interact with, what situations they face, and how you can better support, encourage, and pray for them. I have developed several close relationships with missionaries and I care more about what they’re doing because I’ve seen them doing it. I might never have supported them and continued to care for them, if I hadn’t gone on a mission trip to where they are serving.

So, I guess what I want to say is, even if you have reservations about a mission trip, or someone else’s mission trip, remember that it’s easy to judge, it’s harder to obey, then pray and ask God what He’s doing and ask if He wants you to be a part of it.

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Going to Church

Recently I’ve been thinking about why so many people don’t go to church anymore. There can be many reasons for it: getting scheduled to work on a Sunday, moving to a new town and not connecting with any of the churches there, being hurt by someone at a church, or having a baby and not having the energy to go. I don’t know everyone’s reasons for not going but I’ve noticed several of my friends and acquaintances struggling to make it to church on Sunday. It seems to be a widely spread phenomenon. So, I just wanted to share a few reasons why I think going to church is important for believers and if you’ve been struggling to go to church, or have a friend that is struggling, maybe this can help in some small way.

1. It’s important because God’s Word says it is important.

In one of the early letters written to the Hebrew church, the author writes “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Jesus also says “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) He doesn’t tell us to follow Him by ourselves, but with other people. In fact He even says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) People should be able to recognize us as followers of Jesus by how we love other believers. But that doesn’t work so well if you cut yourself off from gathering with fellow believers at church.

2. It’s important because the Church is a body that supports each member.

As Paul writes, “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5) We all need help. Even if life is going well for you now, eventually something will happen. It could be losing a job, a loved one, getting sick or depressed, or a number of other things. When you have a tight knit community around you, there are people to support you emotionally, financially, or in whatever way you need. And if it’s not you who needs help right now, it could be someone else in the church community who needs your help, encouragement, or expertise. But if you’re not there, the whole church loses out.

I’m sure there are many other reasons to go to church, many other passages in Scripture to support going but ultimately, each person has to make their own decision. I can’t force anyone to go to church. But in my own life, I can’t imagine trying to follow Jesus without the help, support, encouragement and guidance of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I really do feel like they are my family. They know me better than some of my relatives in my blood family. But feeling a part of the family means investing in relationships, it means going to church consistently and getting involved in groups outside of Sunday. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it is worth it in the end.

So if you’re still looking for that community, keep looking. If you have a church, keep going. And if you have friends that don’t come, keep inviting. Don’t give up.

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