Whole Bible, Thirty Days.

66 Books. 1, 189 Chapters. 31, 102 Verses. All within a span of thirty days.

To read the Bible in its entirety in a mere month seemed like an impossible challenge. I had read the whole Bible, from beginning to end, only once before…but that was over the course of an entire year. The idea to accomplish in 30 days what I had just barely been able to do in 365 would never have crossed my mind at all if it weren’t for my (extraordinary) former youth pastor.

While scrolling through Facebook months and months ago, I stumbled upon her post stating that she was going to take on the Whole Bible in Thirty Days Challenge. I was shocked by this, not only because I had never heard of the Bible being read so quickly, but also because this aforementioned former youth pastor has five very young children! I remember thinking to myself, “If she has five kids to care for and is still able to do this, what is my excuse?! All I have to take care of is two cats!” 

However that post, like most I see on social media, was soon forgotten. Months went by and I truthfully didn’t give it another thought. But in the fall of 2017, something began to shift in my prayer life. I started praying the same prayer over and over: “God, I want to know You.” In Scripture, we are told consistently that God knows us, even before we are formed in the womb. (Jeremiah 1:5) He knows every hair on our heads, every fiber of our beings, every depth of our souls. God knows us fully and He knows us intimately. And with everything in me, I want to know Jesus like that too.

I long to know my God inside and out, like He does me! I desire more deeply than I can express to explore all of His characteristics and to sift through His infinite layers. As I began to express this desire more and more in prayer, I began to ask God for practical ways to know Him more deeply and intimately. For a response, I simply heard: Dive into My word. 

It was in that moment that I decided to attempt the Whole Bible in Thirty Days Challenge, which I strongly felt the Lord remind me of. Honestly, I didn’t really think I could do it. I was behind on my reading literally on the very first day…Not a very promising sign. There were several times I almost quit entirely. Thankfully, I had a strength far more sufficient than my own to rely on and solely because of Him, on that thirtieth day I finished the Bible in its entirety.

In hindsight, I am so thankful that I kept on reading at the early hours of 2:00 and 3:00 am, even though at the time all I wanted was to give in to the lure of sleep. I am so thankful for the dinners and hangouts I passed up on to read, although at the time all I wanted was a night off with my friends. I am thankful because in a mere thirty days, I learned more about God and His word than I ever had in a year’s worth of Bible and doctrine classes.

Firstly, His word and our faith go hand-in-hand. Now, I know that we as Christians are all supposed to read the Bible and the majority of us probably do…sporadically. Or maybe we read it every single day…religiously, so religiously that it’s become a dull routine. I’m sure, at least at some point in our lives, we could all admittedly relate to either (or both) of these statements. I know that I personally had been in a bit of a biblical slump before I began the thirty days. In fact, I don’t think I had even touched my Bible in two solid weeks! So often, the importance of reading scripture takes a backseat in our faith to other important things such as attending church, praying, cultivating fellowship, etc. I mean, after all, we all pretty much know what the Bible says. However, in the past thirty days, I have come to the conclusion that reading scripture is less about knowing what the Bible says, but more about living what the Bible says.

His word is what fuels our faith – it explains, encourages and, most importantly, empowers! As a car without gas cannot go very far, so is a Christian without the word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:17, we are told that God uses scripture “to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.” Essentially, without scripture, we simply will not be equipped, or by extension able, to do the good works that God has called us to do! (If that doesn’t capture our attention I don’t know what will.) I have seen the evidence of this in my own life. In this past month, I have picked up a hitchhiker, laid hands on a co-worker in prayer, and done countless other things that were way out of my comfort zone…Things I know I ought to do, but actually do rarely if ever. However, in being submerged in the Bible literally almost all day every day, I found myself filled with faith and able/equipped to do what I have always known I should. Reading the Bible is directly related to living the Bible. 

Another thing the Lord has shown me in the past thirty days is that praying before reading the word is key. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitude of the heart.” When was the last time you read your Bible and felt your soul penetrated? The Bible isn’t just some book – through God, it has the ability to convict, challenge and change. Yet so many times, when I sit down to read the living, breathing word of God I act as if it’s some ordinary book from the public library. Every time I crack it open, God could speak to me through it! Every single time I flip a page, my soul could be penetrated, my heart could be changed, my faith could be filled! If that’s the truth, then I need to come with that expectation every time and pray. Every day for thirty days, before I started my reading, I would ask that the word would truly come alive to me. I would ask the Holy Spirit to penetrate my soul. What a difference that made! Verses I had just read over before, now I was thinking about for hours; some I was even weeping over. Even when I wasn’t reading, I couldn’t get certain passages out of my head. I was even dreaming about the things I had read!

Lastly, I have learned from the Whole Bible in Thirty Days Challenge that there is time to read the Bible every single dayI have used the following excuse more times than I like to admit: “Well, I would’ve read my Bible, if only I didn’t have so much to do today!” Let me tell you, in the past month I have taken my Bible literally everywhere; it has accompanied me to work, to restaurants, to parties, even to the bathroom! (Possibly too much information, but I think it made my point.) No matter where I was, or what I was doing, I had the time to read. Our days are filled with a few spare minutes here and there, and if we’re being honest, typically they are spent scrolling through social media. If I have the time to answer that text or watch a movie on Netflix, I have the time to crack open my Bible. We always have the time for what we make time for.

I was truly astonished at the end of the thirty days when I examined my Bible, only to find that it was absolutely falling apart. I’ve had this paperback bible for over five years, but after thoroughly reading it for a mere month, the spine is broken, the pages are wrinkled and some are even torn. Thirty days, opposed to the five previous years, did that! How convicting, but how eye-opening. When we prioritize the word of God, the result is evident…in our lives and our Bibles. Whether it be the whole Bible in thirty days or one psalm in thirty days, the amount read is irrelevant. What matters is that each and every day, we are allowing the word of God to mold, shape and change us.

 

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20 Things I Learned at 20

A couple of days ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday. Multiple times through out the day I was asked by different people the exact same question – the question we have all undoubtedly been asked on every birthday we have ever celebrated. “Do you feel older?!”

I never really know how to answer this question. I don’t think anyone wakes up on their birthday and just feels older. Nothing about the actual day changes anything. Yet, when I pause to look at the past year as a whole, and actually reflect on all that’s changed and all the ways I have grown – I can undoubtedly say that I do feel older. Not necessarily because of date on the calendar, but because of all that I was taught at age 20.

So I made a list, in between bites of leftover birthday cake, of all that I learned (the hard way) this past year.

20 Things I Learned at 20:

 

1.) Be exactly where you are right now. 

This is such an important one…and such a hard one.  Sometimes the season of life that you’re in, to be quite frank, isn’t the season of life that you want to be in. This was absolutely the case for me this past year! I would catch myself time and time again trying to rush through this season, to skip over the parts of life that I found to be less exciting, so I could get to the next season…the better season…the more fulfilling season that was surely lying just ahead!

In doing so, however, I was missing all that God was trying to do in this season, which I quickly realized I would never get back. I was robbing myself of all the highs and lows of the current season the Lord had for me by not really being present in the present. God has a purpose for every season, but if we’re not really there, we could all-too-easily miss that purpose entirely! There will always be a next season, but for now, let’s be fully and intentionally here in this season. As Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

2.) Make more time for people. 

I remember the day so clearly. I had a to-do list as long and as wide as me. My whole day was going to be filled with errands. I had groceries to buy, deposits to make, bills to pay, a church to clean, a party to plan and baking to do. My phone went off in the midst of my hustle and bustle. The text I’d just received read, “Can we talk?” I didn’t have time to talk. I didn’t even have time to respond. To be honest, I was even annoyed at this friend for adding one more thing onto my to-do list.

Then, conviction hit me like a ton of bricks, and with that conviction came perspective. From an eternal perspective, which would be of greater value: using your day to make that deposit you’ve put off three times, or using your day to console and pray for a friend who’s struggling? The answer is obviously a no-brainer. Tasks are just tasks at the end of the day, and no matter how urgent or pressing they may seem, I promise you they’re really not. Prioritize God’s people, not tasks…Even when it seems like you don’t have the time. Make the time.

3.) Follow through and do what you say you’re going to do. 

We do not serve a flaky God, who says one thing and then does another. My God is a promise keeper. He stands by His word, always. (Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”)  This is clearly not the case with humans, however. I began to notice this year that I am genuinely surprised when someone tells me they’re going to do something and actually does it. I am surprised when plans are put into action. I am surprised when people don’t forget to meet me, or call me back, or follow through with their commitments.

But I think our word is a valuable thing and it shouldn’t be treated so flippantly. If God’s words are always followed by action, then mine should be too. If God is consistent, then with all that I have, I want to strive to be consistent as well. Consistency is rare. Consistency is surprising. Consistency is key. If we truly want to represent a God of His word, then let’s become men and women of our word.

4.) If you don’t know God’s love, you cannot possibly love anybody else.

Growing in and understanding God’s love is a lifelong journey, without question. I cannot pretend to fully understand “how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is.” (Ephesians 3:18) Yet I do know what my life was like when I had no understanding of God’s love whatsoever. I know all-too-well the cheap imitation of love that our society tries to sell us. I bought into it for years and years. Until the day I personally encountered God, the God who literally is love.

Looking back now, I realize I hadn’t the slightest clue what love was or what it looked like! I didn’t know how to love others or even receive love from others. Only in knowing the God who personifies love, can we ever really love or be loved. (1 John 4:19 – “We love because He first loved us.”)

5.) Being “successful” in the Kingdom trumps being successful in the World.

I was once considered successful by the world’s standards, back when I was a freshman at a prestigious university, fast-tracking so I could attain my bachelor’s degree in three years instead of the typical four. You would never guess it if you were to look at my life now. I literally scrub toilets and change dirty diapers for a living. I live at home with my parents (yes, still). By no one’s definition would I ever be called successful…No one’s, that is, but God’s.

Believe it or not, I truly believe that I am successful. Not by the world’s standards, but by the kingdom’s standards. I love God and I serve Him wholeheartedly where I believe He has placed me. I am obedient to Him and His word: I honor my parents, I serve His church and I care for His children. It’s not always very glamorous (especially when I’m covered in spit-up), but it glorifies Him. And in glorifying Him, I have found a deep fulfillment that simply never came when I was living life according to the world’s standards. (I realize I may very well be the only individual to ever say that scrubbing toilets yields great fulfillment, but regardless, I stand by my statement.)

6.) Who I am is more important than what I do.

The American culture in particular seems to have this complex that you are defined by your profession. So often young children are asked what they want to do as a profession when they are older, but rarely (if ever) are they asked about the kind of people that they want to be. Eternally speaking, how we supported ourselves financially during our time on earth is of little consequence. My identity actually does not lie in my profession: I am not just a cleaning lady or a “glorified babysitter.”

My identity really lies in who I am in Christ. My character, not my job title, is what truly defines me. Instead of gazing outward at all that we could do, let’s instead fix our gazes inward at all that we ought to strive to be.

7.) He sees you when no one else does.

If only I had a dollar for every time I have said to myself in the past year, “Am I invisible?!” I have really struggled with feeling unseen and unheard, even at times by those closest to me. I’m sure, at least on some level, we can all relate to this feeling of being ignored and unrecognized. It’s not at all pleasant – in fact, it can be quite painful.

Yet, I have found, there is actually a quiet sort of beauty in invisibility. Because even when no one else sees you, even when no one else hears you…He does. He misses nothing, not a single breath you breathe, not a single word you say. And since He is the only One I am living for, I have learned to become content in having an audience of just One.

8.) He appreciates you, and that is enough. 

Because He has the eyes to see you when no one else does, He also has the eyes to appreciate you when no one else does. When everyone forgets to say thank you, He thanks you for your sacrifice and your service. When everyone else takes you for granted, God knows how much time and effort you put in. Your blood, sweat and tears do not go unnoticed or unappreciated by Him. To be noticed by the God of this universe is no small thing, nonetheless appreciated! And I have found that is more than enough to carry me through many late nights of hard work that seemingly goes unnoticed by all… except Him.

9.) It’s okay to be REAL with God.

It’s more than okay, actually! God wants a real relationship with all of us – a transparent, vulnerable friendship that holds nothing back. This means speaking our minds to God. This means allowing ourselves to ugly-cry at His feet. This means actually voicing our frustrations to Him. It is okay to get messy before the Lord – I promise you that He can handle it. I even believe that He delights in it! He wants to be close to you, intimate and personal with you. That means inviting Him into your messiness. He doesn’t want people that have it all together – He just wants to be together in the messiness. Period.

10.) God is more human than we think.

Not a blasphemous statement, I promise. Jesus was 100% God, yet at the same time, He was 100% human. Sometimes I think we forget the latter. When we forget the latter, we often forget how easily Jesus actually relates to us. He is no stranger to anything that we are facing in this world. Rejection? He knows it all too well. Betrayal? Pain? Heartache? Loss? Check, check and check! When we choose to be intimate with Him, we aren’t crying out to some distant God in the sky who cannot empathize with us. We are actually crying out to Someone who has walked every step not only ahead of us, but beside us!

11.) Vulnerability is key to having REAL relationships with people.

We not only need to be vulnerable with God, but with His people. This was a hard pill for me to swallow. I used to purposefully only let friends get so close. As an extrovert, I liked having people around – I liked having someone to joke around and laugh with. But I didn’t like people really knowing me – vulnerability seriously scared me. All of my friendships, as a result, were surface-level.

God really challenged me this year to let people in for real. At first, I was really hesitant. I was afraid of trusting someone, allowing them to get close and getting hurt in the process. But what I’ve learned is that real relationship always involves risk. However, the risk is worth the reward. With a trusted few, I now have real relationships with people who really know me and do life with me.

12.) In our Christian walk, storms are bound to come. 

No one is immune to them. Choosing to follow Christ doesn’t guarantee an easy life – quite often, it guarantees the opposite. Regardless of why or when storms come, they will inevitably come. Will they be trying? Yes. Will they hurt? Yes.

However…

13.) God is good, even when circumstances aren’t. 

His goodness does not depend on our present circumstance, and His goodness does not depend on our inability to understand. He is good always, not just because the Bible says it, but because time and time again I have seen Him work all things together for good. Even the things I deemed impossible and hopeless. Again and again, regardless if the circumstances ever really change or not, He proves Himself to be good in the midst of the trial and at the end of the trial, proves His goodness triumphs over all things.

14.) He is here with us in the midst of storms, and that’s enough. 

Immanuel – “God with us.” Of all the names given to God in the Old Testament, this one is undoubtedly my favorite. God doesn’t promise us the absence of storms, but He does promise He will be there with us. And honestly, that’s enough! We don’t necessarily need our circumstances to change – what we undoubtedly need is God, always.

Author Alicia Britt Chole once posed the question: “If God’s presence has led us into trying places, is there really any other place we would rather be?” I struggled with that question a little bit, but came to the conclusion that there actually isn’t any place I would rather be. Even in the midst of the storms of this past year and all the heartache and pain that came along with it. If that’s where God’s presence has led me, and He is there with me, then that is where I want to be.

15.) I don’t have to understand.

It is okay to not understand everything, or even anything! I don’t always know the why or the when. I don’t always understand the purpose behind the things that are happening. In this past year, it’s not that I’ve stopped wanting to know. Of course I still do. I want to understand, but I have learned that I don’t need to and I can be at peace with not understanding.

When I don’t understand, He understands. He knows how it will be used and He has a perspective far greater than my own. It’s okay not to understand, because the One who understands all is worthy of our trust and our confidence.

16.)  A deep joy can still be found on our hardest days! 

On the messiest, ugliest, hardest days, there is still joy. When the storm is at its worst and it seems there is no possible way out because all you can see is more storm clouds up ahead…there is still joy. And I’m not talking about a laugh or smile here and there, occasionally interrupting your pain and suffering. I’m talking about a deep, resounding joy that will not leave. An illogical joy that makes no sense when you look around at all your trials and tribulations. But regardless, it is there. It’s ours for the taking!

The source of that joy is undoubtedly Jesus. When I thought I had no reason left to sing, He became my song. When I thought there was nothing left to hope for, He was my hope. And when I thought I had nothing left to smile over, He became my joy as well.

17.) Hold onto His promises…But don’t carry them.

Almost a year ago now, the Lord gave me seven very large promises. As a disclaimer, I should probably state that of these seven promises, none of them have (yet) come to pass. The time between a promise and its fulfillment is, to put it mildly, challenging. In this season of in-between, my present reality was essentially the polar opposite of what had been promised to me. With each passing day, I found myself believing less and doubting more. The promises were so big and they felt difficult to carry. I felt that I was being crushed under their weight. But if I could no longer carry them, what could I do with His promises? I couldn’t forget them or pretend I’d never heard them. I couldn’t walk away from them. I felt stuck.

Then, through a dream, the Holy Spirit directed me towards the story of Mary in the Bible. Now there’s a woman who knew a thing or two about big promises and waiting on their fulfillment! I began a thorough study on Mary’s life and in Luke, I stumbled upon two monumental verses. Luke 2:19 & 2:51. Both talk about this idea of Mary storing things in her heart. For me, this was a game-changer.

We are designed to hold onto God’s promises undoubtedly, but I don’t believe we’re designed to carry them. I believe we’re designed instead to store them. In carrying the promises, I was buckling under the weight and crushing myself needlessly. In storing the promises, I am able to hold onto the promises and believe in them without bearing the weight of them. Instead, the weight and responsibility of them is given back (rightfully so) to the Promise Maker. He will carry the promises to pass –  that’s His job. And I will faithfully hold onto them in my heart – that’s my job.

18.) Don’t get discouraged when His promises take time to come to pass. 

C.S. Lewis once said, “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” We serve such a good God, and He doesn’t put desires or dreams in our hearts to torment us. He doesn’t make promises without the intention of fulfilling them. Likewise, He doesn’t make us wait for no good reason. Even if we don’t understand it, He has a reason. We serve a God who delights in giving His children good gifts, a God who loves keeping His promises! So if there’s delay, we can trust that God has a specific purpose for our season of waiting.

19.) God takes His time…and that’s a good thing! 

You can’t rush God. If you try, I dare say you will probably prolong things even more, because instead of submitting to Him, you are resisting Him. Simply put, God has a perspective we just don’t. He knows the full picture. He knows the exact moment on the exact day that the pieces will fall into place and He knows why it must be that exact day, and not a moment sooner or later. Isaiah 55:9 – ” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ “

We must trust His ways above our own – they truly are for our benefit. Likewise, we must trust His timing, for His understanding is far greater than our own.

20.) Faith is believing without seeing. 

As believers, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) It would be nothing at all to take a first step of “faith” if we were able to see ahead of us the entire path that we would walk. Faith is taking that first step when you can’t even see beyond that first step. In the midst of trials, unfulfilled promises and hopes deferred alike we are all called to do one thing: keep the faith. We are called, in spite of the present reality that we do see, to believe for what we do not see. ( John 20:29 – “…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”) That is to truly trust the Lord; that is to truly walk by faith and faith alone.

 

 

 

Wrecked in NYC

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It was the first of three mission trips Momentum (the gap-year program through my church that I’m currently enrolled in) would take part in, but it was my first mission trip ever. Naturally, I was a little bit afraid. Then I received our NYSUM (New York School of Urban Ministry) outreach itinerary and went from afraid to terrified. I had been afraid to minister to the homeless – I was terrified of evangelizing to random strangers in Central Park.

But even more than I was afraid of aforementioned random strangers, I was terrified of missing out on what God had called me to do in this city because of my fears. So for a solid two weeks before we left for New York City, I would invite God to feel free to challenge and change me on this trip. I told Him that I wanted to leave the city different than I entered it. I wanted to see the brokenness of the city; I wanted to feel the depravity of the homeless people we’d be ministering to. I said that wanted Him to mess me up, to “wreck” me, so to speak.

A word to the wise: Be careful what you wish for.

Fast forward to our very first outreach.

We had been taught the homeless ministry basics earlier that day: Always pray in groups of two – never leave a team member alone. If the homeless are on the ground, you kneel down with them and ask permission before invading their portion of sidewalk, which to them is their “home.” Really listen to them – they hardly get to talk to anyone. Never give them money. Late that night, we were stationed outside of a homeless men’s shelter with food, clothes, Bibles and bottled water.

I contentedly stood towards the back, passing out water and searching for the right size coats, while the rest of my team talked and prayed with the homeless men. Then, our NYSUM outreach leader, Luke waved me over to join his side as he was beginning to pray for a homeless man named Nelson. And just like that, I was thrown into homeless ministry. There’s no easing your way into it – either you’re totally in or you’re totally out.

After we had finished praying for Nelson, in the bustle of all the homeless, I caught sight of a tall, African American homeless gentleman leaning against a sign and smoking a cigarette. I approached him and began to ask if he needed various items. He had dinner already, he had a coat and already owned a Bible. It began to look as though I could offer him nothing, but I asked if he was thirsty and he did say I could grab him a bottled water. Before I walked away to grab him a bottled water, I told him my name was Chelsea.

He responded, “I’m Tim.”

TIM?! Here’s the significance to that name: Every single time I would pray about this New York City trip, I would always hear the Lord give me the name Tim. Over and over. Tim. Tim. Tim. Tim. Tim. Every time I brought up New York City in prayer, it was met with the name Tim. And now here was Tim, in the very flesh.

On the inside, I was freaking out but on the outside I remained calm. “I’ll go get you that water, Tim.”

When I came back with the water, Hannah (best friend/fellow Momentum student) joined me and Tim. It didn’t take much small talk for Tim to begin opening up and sharing his story with us.

Tim told me and Hannah how he was once a millionaire who mismanaged his money and made bad investments. He never married or had kids and his mother died recently – he has two siblings, but one is in Florida and the other lives in New Jersey. Tim got a job in New York City, but was laid off mere weeks after moving there. He hit rock-bottom when he became homeless.

Hannah and I began to question if Tim knew the Lord and he told us that he grew up in the church and that he still prays, but I could sense a hesitancy within him. Tim then admitted that he’s seen such evil that he has begun to question goodness.

In one instance, Tim was climbing up the stairs to the shelter he stays at and saw ten men in a circle, just watching as one homeless man beat another one to a bloody pulp. Tim couldn’t believe that everyone was just standing there watching, so he broke up the fight and dragged the bloody man out of the circle.

Another injustice Tim was particularly disturbed by occurred when local hospital employees dropped off an elderly lady at the doors of Tim’s shelter and left. The elderly lady was then turned away by the workers of the shelter because this was a men’s shelter. The workers told her to walk to the women’s shelter twenty blocks away…Late at night…In a rough neighborhood. So Tim took it upon himself to walk her all the way to her shelter and all the way back. (This man is a man after my own heart, let me tell you what.)

Tim told us that the shelter was just so bad and this world was just so evil that he didn’t know how God could allow it. Hannah explained to Tim that God gave us free will, always hoping that with it we could choose Him. She went on to say that Tim is being used as a light in this shelter and by consistently choosing what’s right and good that he’s showing God’s goodness – Tim himself is the living proof!

Then Tim dropped the bombshell. “I don’t want to be here anymore.”

“Here in the shelter?” I asked sympathetically.

Tim replied, “Here in the shelter, here in this city, here on Earth.”

I paused, trying to process if he really was saying what I worried he was saying. Hannah, who clearly catches on quicker than I do, insisted, “No Tim, you can’t do that. Don’t think like that.”

Tim insisted that he had thought it over and had already decided to kill himself. The sooner the better. This man, who somehow stayed good amidst all this bad…This man, whose name God had been speaking to my heart…This man, who I spoke with for hours and had grown to love…This man was going to take his own life. I couldn’t hold in my tears.

“Oh, don’t cry honey,” Tim comforted me, even though he was the one who was clearly suffering.

“Stay right here,” I told him. “I’ll be right back. Do not go anywhere!”

I hurried over to my pastor/mentor Greg frantically, asking how much a bus ticket would cost because I just had to get Tim out of here. As it turns out, all that I had still wasn’t enough. I cried tears of desperation and began to tell Greg about how God had been speaking the name Tim to me and that I had to somehow intercede and save this man’s life tonight. I told him that I just knew I was supposed to give Tim everything I had in my wallet. Although it was against NYSUM rules, Greg encouraged me to obey God and tell Tim about how I’d heard his name.

“Tim, there’s something I have to tell you,” I said as I rejoined Han’s side. “I’ve been praying about this trip for a little while now and for the people we would be meeting. And for the past week, every time I would pray for this trip, God kept telling me the name Tim.”

Tears began to flow down his face as he asked incredulously, “This was before tonight?”

“Yes, about a week ago. God spoke your name to me and I just need to tell you that God has been seeing you in your hardship. He sees you right where you’re at and He wants me to be a blessing to you. So I’m going to give you everything I have in my wallet and I want you to put this in your savings. I want you to use it to help you get out of this shelter.”

I extended the fifty dollars towards him and Tim, crying, shook his head, “No, no, no, I don’t want you to do that.”

“She wants to,” Hannah insisted.

“No,” Tim cried.

I put the money in his coat pocket and zipped it. “God told me to, Tim, and I’m not one to disobey God.”

Tim wiped at his tears and insisted, “But there are so many more deserving people.”

“Not to God – He sees just you when He looks at you, Tim and He’s had you on His heart. He loves you and wants to bless you.” Tim broke down at this realization and asked us for prayer.

Hannah and I then prayed for Tim – for strength, for his family, for his financial and home situation. Afterwards, Tim looked me in the eye and said, “What you have done for me..is so kind..I don’t understand it. No one has ever done something like that for me. Your faith has made me stronger. The love you have shown me has made me stronger.”

I pulled him in for a hug and whispered with a lump in my throat, “You can’t hurt yourself, Tim.”

“No,” Tim whispered back, “No, I won’t. I have hope now.”

After we hugged goodbye, to say I was “wrecked” would be a major understatement. I sobbed relentlessly. God used me in such an amazing way – a man’s life was saved that night and God used me to do it. Terrified and unqualified me. But then I remembered a quote I’d seen on Pinterest several times: “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” I may be weak and cowardly, but regardless, I am called and that alone qualifies me to do great and mighty (and seemingly impossible) works through Christ Jesus.

I prayed for God to wreck me. I prayed for Him to show me the depravity of the homeless and the brokenness of the city. And clearly, He is a faithful God who answers prayers. He sent me the most amazing person I’ve ever met, trapped in the most heartbreaking situation I’ve ever seen. And in a single instant, I saw God change everything – Tim’s heart, his circumstances and even his beliefs. I still haven’t completely recovered emotionally, but I am so glad that I asked to be wrecked. That willingness to be used (and wrecked by extension) for God’s purposes opened me up to the most amazing experience of my life.

With all that I am, I want to pursue being used by God like that. Not just on trips. Not just occasionally. But every day, I want God to know that I’m available and willing to be wrecked for His kingdom’s cause. I was merely wrecked in New York City on a trip, but my prayer as I write this is that my fellow Christians will join me in inviting God to wreck them daily in their own hometowns.

 

 

 

 

Momentum (n): Driving Power or Strength

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Momentum.

It’s merely a word. A word average in both length and usage. You study momentum in physics and maybe throw the word around every now and again in reference to a race or perhaps a political campaign. It flows out of your mouth with ease in this kind of context – in this context, it really is just a word.

Then, one day, momentum isn’t just a word anymore. It’s a name – a name of a gap-year program through your church that you feel called to. Momentum suddenly doesn’t roll off the tongue. It gets choked over and swallowed down for weeks, then eventually months. Many tears are shed and many prayers are said, all over Momentum.

Momentum suddenly has multiple meanings in your life. There’s the meaning within the classroom, and then there’s the meaning that involves sacrificing real, tangible things for Jesus.

Saying yes to Momentum meant I would have to leave behind St. Lawrence University and my generous scholarship. Saying yes to Momentum would subject me to ridicule from friends, family and even perfect strangers. Saying yes to Momentum would cost me money, time and a lot of effort. Saying yes to Momentum would lead me to places that intimidate and frighten me, like Gulu, Uganda. Saying yes to Momentum would declare publicly that my faith takes precedence over my education. Saying yes to Momentum would disrupt the status quo. It would go against the grain. Saying yes would mean heartache. Saying yes would mean sacrifice.

And I said yes.

One day, I stopped choking and instead coughed up the word: Momentum. It came out as a mere whisper to my pastor at first. “Greg, I’m going to do Momentum.” My volume began to rise as I wrote the word down – Momentum – in a letter of explanation to my parents. Then I began to shout it from the rooftops, loud and proud, to anyone who asked me about my future plans.

I’m not writing any of this to defend my decision – it doesn’t need defending. I’m writing this to explain and, hopefully, inspire.

When I first heard about Momentum, it was because one of my very best friends, Jenna, was joining the program following our high school graduation. And I admired her for it. Jenna, the smartest girl I ever knew, was postponing college to study the bible for a year and grow in her faith. How honorable. How sacrificial. How Jenna. How not Chelsea.

Fast forward to my second semester of college…And something isn’t right. I’m unsatisfied. I’m unhappy. I’m restless. When I say restless, I don’t mean I was fidgety or uneasy. I mean I did not rest. Night after night, as I went to lay my head down on the pillow, regardless of the day I had, I would sob wildly. I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t find peace.

It didn’t add up – I was doing well in my classes, I had friends at college and I was making my parents proud. I loved my job, I loved my church and I loved my life. Why then, did I feel so empty? Why wasn’t my heart at peace? Why wasn’t I happy anymore?

I read through the Bible, searching for answers. I prayed over it constantly. And I got my answer: God wanted me elsewhere. He didn’t want me to be peaceful here because it wasn’t where He planned for me to be. To me, this meant that I must be at the wrong university. I contemplated transferring to a bible college downstate – surely that would appease God and finally I’d be able to sleep again.

Then I was at dinner with my youth pastors, Greg and Jess, when Jess dropped a bombshell. The Holy Spirit had communicated to Jess that I should sign up for Momentum next year, and if I did, I would do a complete 180 degrees and become a whole new person. I told her I couldn’t leave college. I told her I couldn’t risk my scholarship. I told her my parents wouldn’t be on board. I told her I was too scared. They said they understood, but insisted I should pray on it.

That same night, I was back in my room when again the wild sobs of discontentment took me over. I decided to take their advice and pray over Momentum. “Is that where you want me, God?” I asked the question, but didn’t really expect an answer until I heard the still, small voice deep in my heart: Yes.

Yes?! God must’ve misunderstood me. He must be confusing me with someone else. I was already enrolled at this big, prestigious, expensive university. I already had a plan: journalism major, religious studies minor. I had already committed the next four years of my life. Didn’t God know that I was too smart and had worked too hard in school to not attend college? Didn’t He understand that this plan of secondary education had been set in stone since I was a small child? Didn’t God see all that I would lose if I did Momentum?

Yes, He knew all of that. He understood every bit of it. But He was asking me to choose – follow Him wholeheartedly or halfheartedly.

Following Him halfheartedly was easy and comfortable. I could follow my exact life plan of college, career, marriage and babies without God’s input, but still enjoy God’s perfect love and grace come every Sunday morning. Following Him wholeheartedly would be hard and require a whole lot of trust. I would essentially be handing God the keys and saying, “Here, You can drive.” I’d be giving up the picture in my head of what my life should look like for a life only God could picture.

But did I really want any of the things I thought I wanted, like a career, marriage and babies, if Jesus wasn’t at the center?

I turned to my life verse. Jeremiah 29:11 – ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” I’d read the verse a thousand times, but had I ever really believed it? Had I ever really believed that I could trust God’s plans? Had I ever really believed His plans were good, with no intention of harming me? No, I hadn’t. I was scared of God’s plans for my life because He hadn’t consulted me in making them. What if He called me to be a missionary and I’d never see American soils again? Or what if He wanted me to become a nun and never marry or have kids? But as I read through Jeremiah 29:11, I began to believe that maybe His plans really were for my good, that maybe they really would make me happy.

Psalm 37:4-5 only reiterated this: “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this.”

God not only has all these good plans for my life, but He actually wants to give me the desires of my heart! Choosing to follow Him wholeheartedly may mean my life won’t look exactly as I pictured it, but now I realize that’s not a bad thing. Choosing to follow Him wholeheartedly may lead me to places I wouldn’t have expected and to people I didn’t plan on, but God’s plans are better than any plan I could’ve ever imagined! God knows me better than I know myself, and He knows what will really make me happy. He knows where I need to be when I need to be there, because He sees the whole picture while I see one small piece! His plans for my life will yield more than just good things and my heart’s desires – they’ll yield fulfillment. In knowing that I’m fulfilling God’s will for my life, I will be fulfilled.

And so, a few months ago, after a powerful worship service, I went to Greg and said yes to Momentum. But in doing so, I said yes to more than just committing a year of my life to Jesus. I said yes to a whole life, lived dutifully and beautifully for Jesus. I chose to follow God wholeheartedly when I chose Momentum, and I would never, ever go back to following Him halfheartedly because “Jesus is worthy of all our devotion.” (Radical, David Platt)

Momentum. It’s a word, yet it’s so much more than a word. Momentum has taught me to trust God and yield to His will. Momentum has taught me that following Jesus is hard and sacrificial, but rewarding and fulfilling like nothing else. Momentum has changed my whole life, and the program doesn’t even commence for another three weeks.

Momentum (n): Driving Power or Strength. This is a definition that I’m beginning to live out in my own life, and I pray that others will too. Chasing after Jesus with a driving power and strength. Following Him wherever He leads with a driving power and strength. Trusting in Him with all of my power and strength.

Choosing Not to Date, but to Wait.

Waiting is not a popular concept in this culture – we want everything to come ASAP and with as little effort as possible. Automatic streaming, online banking and overnight shipping have absolutely THRIVED because of human impatience.

This overall impatience hasn’t merely affected how business is conducted, but how relationships are conducted as well. Waiting for the one person God meant for you is thrown to the wayside due to loneliness, societal pressures and personal insecurities.

I know what our culture is telling you. You’re incomplete because you’re without a boyfriend/girlfriend. Through catchy love songs, suggestive advertisements and corny chick flicks, you’re consistently told day in and day out that you’ll never be happy or satisfied without someone to keep you warm at night. But this idea of someone to keep you warm at night quickly transforms into anyone to keep you warm at night.

Before I was saved, I fell victim to this lie that our culture tries to sell us. I truly believed that because I’d entered high school as someone who’d never had a real boyfriend, that there must be something wrong with me. Was it my nose? The way I dressed? Cosmopolitan told me I wasn’t unattainable enough and to be unattainable was to be sexy. Seventeen told me I wasn’t flirtatious enough and that boys only wanted what they couldn’t have. I followed some of their recommendations, but still nothing worked. I went to dances alone and was consistently overlooked by my prettier peers. I even remember crying to my mom one night because all of my friends were getting boyfriends and that I would be forever alone. My Pinterest wedding board would never get put to use, I’d have to adopt if I ever wanted children and I’d die surrounded by cats. (Overdramatic much?)

Then, it happened. I tripped and fell into a boy at a party. We started talking and he told me the things I’d been dying to hear (from someone other than my mom) – that I was pretty and a real catch, that there was something special about me that set me apart. He was older, on the football team and I was head over heels. Finally I had a boyfriend! Finally there was someone to escort me to prom, to take cute couple photos with, etc.

And we did photograph well together. And he did hold my hand and take me to prom. So why wasn’t I happy? Deep down, I knew he wasn’t the someone for me but just a random anyone to fill a void. Deep down, even without God’s presence in my life yet, I knew I was settling. Because I couldn’t bear to be alone, I settled for a nasty temper and weekly arguments. FOR ONE YEAR AND EIGHT MONTHS.

As a non-believer, my self-worth, satisfaction and fulfillment all had to come from somewhere/someone. For me, it came from my boyfriend. I exalted him, allowed his word to take precedence over anyone else’s, and even presented sacrifices to him (i.e. my virginity). And in return, our culture told me he was supposed to make me whole and fix me in ways that only God can.

I was saved right after my one-year anniversary and after eight months of following Christ, was inevitably dumped. I remember feeling so used and abused afterwards – I had compromised my purity OVER HIM?! What a waste! I used to be filled with such shame over my sexual immorality that I (again) had myself convinced that I would be an old cat lady simply because no Christian man would ever marry me as a non-virgin.

Thankfully, my faithful Savior has broken that ungodly belief off of my heart and has convinced me that I not only will be someone’s wife someday, but that God will bless me with a love story that will reflect His love. But with that truth comes waiting.

A love comparable to God’s love for you takes time. Time is required for a confidence in who you are in Christ to be established. Time is required to teach you how to guard your heart and preserve your heart’s purity while dating. Time is required to bring both you and your future spouse to the same physical, emotional and spiritual place.

While waiting, it would be really easy to date casually or engage in flirtations here and there. Just “to have fun” or just “for a confidence boost.” But that is neither using this period of waiting to glorify God and your future spouse or trusting fully in God’s perfect plan. God WANTS you to experience marriage and a love comparable to His if you desire it (Psalm 37:4-5) but dating casually is like knowing your dream home is all yours once the renovations are done yet still house hunting – it’s pointless and a mere product of impatience!

The day will come. You’ll meet someone and you’ll think, “I could really see us serving Jesus together.” You’ll pray about it and receive the green light from God that changes everything. And it will be beautiful and unique, just like your own personal story with God.

In this time of waiting, however, I cannot encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ enough to give up house hunting, trust in God’s plan for your life and simply wait.  Remember, “Patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you’re waiting.” (Joyce Meyer)