Go F*** Yourself.

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I bet a lot of you clicked on this solely on the fact that “F***” is in the title.
Well, folks, it’s not what you think.

Free.

Go free yourself.

Almost always we are our own limitations.  We place ourselves within made-up parameters so that we never go very far.  So many times we, as humans, are so afraid of failure or rejection that we put on our own shackles, just to hold ourselves back to a level far below our potential.

Don’t be like that.  Unlock those shackles you clasped around your own feet.  Break down those invisible walls.  Reject those parameters.

Go. Now.

Go free yourself.

You were made for beautiful, wonderful things.  Big or small, you are filled with purpose.  You are full of life.  You have been given talents and passions, dreams and capabilities to make a difference, to be a help.

What are you waiting for?

Be free. 

“You are not limited by us, but you are limited by your own affections.”
(2 Corinthians 6:12)

“For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.”  (Galatians 5:13)

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

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A Letter To Preachers (Warning: Blatant Honesty May Offend You)

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Dear preachers,

I’ve heard more of you preach than I can count in my lifetime, so I would say I’m a rather experienced listener.  I’ve come to the realization that, perhaps, you need some raw, honest feedback.  I suppose I ought to give you such instead of waiting for someone else to.  Please note, though, that this does not apply to all or many of you, but to the ones it does — oh, we all know who you are.
First of all, can you do your congregations a favor and STOP WITH THE THEATRICS?  Seriously, we all have televisions or YouTube.  We don’t come to you for a show.  We come to be taught the holy Word of God.  I don’t really need to see you jump around stage or walk up and down the aisle slapping hands or strutting about.  You don’t have to stand still or anything, but remember you aren’t an actor up there.  You are a teacher appointed by God Almighty to tell people about His Word so that they may draw nearer to Him — act appropriately.
Next, I have a little news for you: we can hear just fine.  If you want to scream then please for the sake of our ears turn the microphone off!  My grandfather is in his 70s and you are even too loud for his ears.  Unnecessary, sir!  I don’t think a single person comes to church with the mindset of “I sure hope the preacher verbally assaults my ears again this week!”  So just calm down on all that yelling.  (Your bulging neck veins and tomato red face will probably appreciate it, too.)
Thirdly, we can keep up.  I’m sure you do those dramatic ten second pauses in the middle of your words and sentences (especially at the end of the sermon) to make sure we can keep up with you.  How considerate!  I must tell you though, it’s more annoying than helpful.  We can keep up with you at a steady pace.  All those pauses just make me think I’m listening to Obama give a speech.
Also, you don’t have to wear that suit jacket.  Listen, I am a gal who loves a man in suit and tie.  Truly, I do.  However, if you are going to be sweating through the whole service – ditch the jacket.  I appreciate your style and effort to look nice, but the streams of sweat down your face make it hard to concentrate on then content what you are yelling.  You’d look a lot better and feel a lot cooler if you simply dressed for function rather than style.  Your congregation will not mind, or at least it shouldn’t.
Lastly, what is with the whole drawn out altar call?  I understand wanting people to come forward if the Lord is leading them to.  I get it.  I want that too!  But, after three invitation songs and a few more yelling fits of yours about hell and damnation, it sounds more like a threat than an invitation.  Last time I checked, God didn’t ask us to manipulate others by inciting fear to make them come to Him.  Nor did He say, “harp on and on until you make your congregation bored or annoyed so much that they will kneel just to make you shut up.”  Let’s be a little more on point, please?
Just one more tip for good measure: you should never make your congregation leave feeling like crap.  Don’t confuse this with me being against stepping on toes.  Step on toes.  Dance on them.  Lay the Word of God on our hearts so that we feel the Holy Spirit stirring.  Welcome conviction on your congregation.  But NEVER let us leave without giving us the hope, the redemption, the message of love.  God didn’t end with condemnation, but rather grace.  Mirror that.
I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job.  These are merely suggestions.  A little constructive feedback, if you will.
I would just like to end this in saying that I am thankful that God has called so many passionate, fired up Christians to teach His Word.  It is an honor to be called to be a preacher.  I respect you all a great deal, so please do not take this as a rude or disrespectful article.  It is neither.  Any good preacher will always want to improve.  I am merely trying to help you do so.

Sincerely,
Preached At

Why God’s Calling Is Greater Than My Plans

The day that my whole life changed...

The day that my whole life changed…

It is an honor to be accepted into a good law school.
It is an even bigger honor to be given a scholarship to law school.
I have been honored, but more so blessed.

I finished 1L Orientation week last Friday, which means a week spent at the law school 9am-4(ish) being “broken in.”  Mock classes, real classes (just Legal Research and Writing), lots of networking, case briefing, listening to speaker after speaker, being given a ton of new things (mailbox, locker, passcodes for material, class lists, etc.), and anything else you can imagine to go along with an orientation for law school.  It was a good week, sort-of like “law camp.”

I learned that law school isn’t as scary as people try to make it sound, or at least it doesn’t seem like it.  I found that going through orientation I am even more confident that I could succeed in law school.  (Please don’t mistake this confidence for arrogance.)  I learned that as pretentious as a lot of law students are, there are still the good ones in every class.  I think I found those “good ones”, too.  I now can say without a shadow of a doubt that I know I am capable to get through law school, and probably even enjoy almost all of it.

To all of the beautiful friends I made in that one week: I barely know you but I know you have a BIG future to walk into.  Each one of you is going to go on to do great things, either as a lawyer or as something else.  You hold a place in my heart and I will be praying for you all as you go through this law school journey.  You have a good community in the U of A Law School Class of 2016 – take care of one another (especially of my dear friend and roommate, “T”).  Friendships are never by chance, so know that God above put each of you in one another’s path for a reason.

I asked my Heavenly Father to let my law applications find favor.  He did.  I asked Him to provide – He did.  But then I asked for something else:  I asked for Him to give me complete and total surrender to Him and His plans for me.  I asked Him for direction.  I asked Him to use me right now where He knew I could shine brightest for Him.

It’s true what they say:  “Don’t ask for something if you don’t want it.”

I wanted God to give me what I asked for: a surrendered life, obedience, direction, guidance, which all comes down to: a calling, His calling for me.  Right now.  In this moment at this exact second in life.  Every single day.  Every minute.  Every moment.  That’s what I wanted and that’s what I continue to ask for.

The thing is, after I started asking God for that which is listed above and truly meaning it, something changed.  My carefully laid out plans didn’t seem quite as significant as they once had.  In fact, I couldn’t help but think there was something BIGGER planned for me, if only I let Him do the planning.

That’s when I realized:  law school isn’t the biggest plan for my life right now.  Read those last two words again.  Right now.  I have no doubt that God gave me a passion and capabilities for the law.  I have no doubt that God set everything up for me from my inquisitive nature and natural inclination to persuade to placing me in undergraduate classes that taught me basic skills needed for law school success like how to read court cases and brief them (thank-you, Dr. Hacker).  I sincerely do not doubt that at some point in my life I will go to law school and become a lawyer.

However, the question is when.  I have been struggling for weeks with the decision to go ahead and attend law school or not.  It’s hard when you have an amazing opportunity and confidence in yourself to fulfill the responsibilities therein, but yet you don’t feel at peace with going through with it.  It’s hard to willingly exile myself from this community of beautiful, big-hearted, wonderful people I just barely became a part of.  It’s hard to leave something I enjoy and am capable of doing.  But guess what?

Faith is hard.

If I truly have the trust and faith in my God that I claim to have, I will trust in His plans for me and confidently hand over my own.  Yes, I have a lease that I signed for a year in Fayetteville that I either have to pay or get someone to take over (if you or someone you know is interested in an awesome apartment, let me know — please!).  Yes, I have no job lined up, especially here.  Yes, my savings are getting smaller and smaller since I haven’t been employed since May.   Yes, it’s scary to give up your careful and well-made plans for uncertainty.  But that’s what faith is.  I can’t see the future, but I have faith in God to provide for me to follow the path He has laid out for me.  I don’t know what is going to come my way, but I trust that God does and I have faith He will carry me through it.

Now, let’s talk about what faith does.  Faith moves mountains.  Faith heals the sick.  Faith overcomes death.  Faith makes change.  That’s who I want to be:  a world changer, with the most literal definition possible.

I wear a ring every day that says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Pretty simple, right?  The change I wish to see is people treating one another with love and respect and genuine care for their neighbor.  I wish for people to look for justice in the right places and lavish mercy on one another.  I wish for people to know that there are second chances.  I wish for people to know that it doesn’t matter what you “can” do – it matters what you are called to do.  I wish for people to know that there is a mighty God who loves them more than anyone or anything ever can.  I wish for each person to know that they are important.  I wish for people to know how precious each one of them is, a preciousness that is not contingent upon their past, what they have or have not done.  If I embody those wishes every day and spread that to the lives I meet, I think the world would change – at least for some people.

I’ve been thinking long and hard for months now about this thing called the World Race.  Some of you, if you know me well, know about The World Race.  I mentioned it several times between last winter (or late fall) and now.  For those of you not acquainted with The World Race, it is a mission trip in which you go to 11 countries in 11 months spreading the love of Jesus.  This can be seen in a lot of different ways – prison ministry, helping build or rebuild homes/churches/schools, playing with kids who often feel unimportant and unloved, caring for and helping widows, teaching English, etc.  It’s an all-together amazing ministry.  If you have time and would like to, check out the website:  www.worldrace.org

I know that following God’s plans for our lives and living like He wants us to is not always found in mission trips.  I know that ministry is found everywhere:  in an orphanage in Romania, at a church in Turkey, in the slums in Thailand, or even somewhere like the classroom of a law school.  There are no parameters to where you can minister to people in action.  I mean, we see from the Bible that Paul even made prison a place of ministry.  I want you to be clear that I’m not saying that I could not spread the love of God in law school or that doing so there is less of a ministry than on the World Race or any other mission trip.  It’s not.

But, and that word is such a “changer” in and of itself, I believe God calls us to our ministry wherever it is and it’s high time I start listening to that calling.  To illustrate, there is a fantastic woman that I worked for all through college named Linda.  She not only became like a second mom to me, but she was (and still is) a spiritual rock for me.  I have no doubt she is for others as well.  Linda isn’t a preacher.  She isn’t in some forgotten, impoverished community sitting down with people who never heard of a man named Jesus and telling them the Gospel for the first time.  Linda works on a college campus at a science research facility.  She lives the Gospel everyday by loving those she works with, works for, and those who work for her (like me).  She prays diligently for those that intersect her life.  Her calling is there.  She knows that.  She lives that.  And trust me when I say, it’s a beautiful thing to see and be a part of.  (Thank-you, Linda!)

I want to be like that.  I want to live according to my calling.  I want to be able to act with love and patience daily to those I encounter.  I want to feel the divine calling of God with each person He places in my life and each step I take, whoever and wherever that is.  For me, I think my calling is the World Race.  Right now – not five years from now.

Now, the World Race is a process:  you have to apply and be accepted into a Route.  Then, you have to be properly vaccinated, get a passport if one is not already had, acquire the necessary gear, and the big thing – come up with the funds.  The World Race is not free.  The monetary cost is  $15,500, without figuring in travel insurance or any “spending money” during those 11 months for things like shampoo, soap, socks when what you bring wear out, and other things.  That’s a lot of money for a just-graduated-college twenty-two year old like me.  The government will give you loans to go to law school, but not to fund an 11 month mission trip.

So here we are:  I have withdrawn from law school to pursue my calling to go on the World Race.  I have no job (I’ve applied places, I promise), I live 4+ hours away from my family and all the people who love me, and I am stuck with this lease until July 31, 2014.   I want to leave on a World Race route in this upcoming year – 2014.  I’m going to try to be that change I wish for in 12 countries – starting with this beautiful place I call home, the United States of America.  But until I embark on the World Race, you will find me not in law school.

Ending note:  I sincerely apologize to all of you who may feel disappointed in my choice.  To every classmate, friend, family member, and past professor – I can only hope that you can support my calling as you have my plans that I had made for myself.  I can only pray that each of you who may feel some sense of betrayal (trust me, I almost feel like I’m betraying myself) can realize that God has bigger plans for me than either you or I could dream up – and I want those bigger plans.  Also, don’t give up on me being a member of the law community.  Just because I am not starting my law career (which begins as a 1L, per the words of orientation speakers) this year does NOT mean I won’t in a future year.  I hope as much as many of you do that my future will include law school.  If any of you want to hear a more detailed account of things, just let me know and we can discuss it all.  For all of you who have been generously supportive of law school, thank-you.  It means a lot to have so many people believe in you.  Truly, it does.

There will be more to come…

This Person: Advice to Myself

Don't stand at the horizon and look back -- look forward.

Don’t stand at the horizon and look back — look forward.

There’s comes a time when you realize you aren’t sure what happened to your old habits, old characteristics — and you miss them.  The good ones, anyway.
You miss…YOU.

I used to think everyone was inherently good.  I used to never tell secrets because I grew up realizing that people are never as trustworthy was you want them to be.  I used to want to help people no matter if they were rude to me, nice to me, or seemingly worthless individuals.  I used to guard my heart so well that I could never get broken — but that came with a price.  I used to say what I thought because I had innocent, naïve, loving thoughts.  I used to welcome anyone and everyone as a new friend.  I used to go after whatever I loved, whether I was good at it or not.  I used to chase joy instead of reputation.

When did I become someone who forgot these things?  Someone who lives differently, and loves selectively.
I’ve become vulnerable, but for the wrong reasons and to the wrong people.  I forgot how much I know that trusting someone wholeheartedly is a great risk, reserved only for ones I know are worth the risk.  I became someone who doesn’t always use words kindly.  I have become a person who is no longer all inclusive to others; someone who runs from others as soon as they offend or hurt me.  I’ve become someone who chases a “good reputation” and lives in fear of doing anything that might “look bad,” rather than chasing joy and delighting in my freedom.

My advice to myself?
Love inclusively.
Trust carefully.
Search for the good in someone until you find it.
Forgive always.
Help whenever you see a need.
Use your words kindly.
Never fear.
Chase after joy.
Be bold enough to embrace failure.
Be true to God.
Dream big.  And bigger.
Be free.
Pray harder.
Never give up hope.

The truth is, sometimes I just don’t know what kind of person I’m becoming.  The person my parents are proud of?  The person my friends are entertained by?  The person chasing after success?  The person afraid of truly going after her dreams?  The person who looks good on paper?  Or the person doing all she can to become who she wants to be — not who her world and the people in it are trying to make her into?
For now, I’m going to take my own advice and see what happens.  After all, the one person you know you can trust is yourself.