Pre-break Vacation

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This past weekend, I went to Michigan with seven of my best friends.  It was a great time of friendship building, as well as fellowship.

One of my friends recently turned sixteen, and for his birthday, he wanted to go to a beach on Lake Michigan.  He couldn’t figure out a weekend that all his friends could go, so it never got planned.  Because his mom wanted him to have an awesome birthday, she planned him a surprise party.  On Saturday morning, me and five of my other friends went to this friends house and surprised him.  We drove up to Michigan in my friends big, green van.

It was a road trip like any others with a bunch of teenagers, full of singing, laughing, and teasing.  We arrived at the beach around noon.  After eating lunch, we changed into our swimsuits and tested the water.  It was cold.  Not unheated pool cold, just melted snow cold.  Numb your body cold.  Needless to say, those who splashed others were not looked upon with favor.  Despite the cold, we did have fun.  We didn’t stay in the water long.  We went to the volleyball nets and played nuke’em, a fun game which I would basically describe as volleyball for those who can’t play volleyball.

After a while, we decided to explore the town and find an ice cream shop.  Thus, we walked through the town and found a charming little place with delicious ice cream.  Most of us being teenagers without jobs, only three of us got ice cream.  I got pumpkin pie ice cream, which I shared with one of the girls.  We took selfies like any normal teenagers outside the shop while we waited for one of the guys to buy ice cream.

Before dinner, we decided to go out on this long pier and take pictures.  We walked out onto the pier until we could take pictures with a light house and the rippling water in the background.  The birthday boy got pictures with everyone, we took a couple great group photos, and a few other pictures.  That was a lot of fun.  My favorite picture was one of all the guys doing superman poses in the light of setting sun.

After dinner, we got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen this year.  The colors started out pink gold and faded to purples and reds.  The sun was beautifully reflected in the calm waters of the lake.  I actually have a picture of one of the stages of the sunset, which is pictured above.

Overall, it was a great time to slow down and enjoy the life that we have been given.  I loved being with my friends, and I loved contributing to an amazing surprise for a good friend.  I’m glad for those days, they are truly a blessing from the Lord.  One of the greatest gifts God has given man is friendship.  This was a great way to enjoy this gift.

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Know it, Back it, Live it

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As Christians, one would think we would know the gospel perfectly, inside and out.  The truth is however, that many Christians in the American culture do not.  I believe that it is our obligation as children of God to know our faith.  This does include knowing basic doctrine, but I also believe that we should find scripture texts which outline our faith.

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” -Hebrews 4:12 

Thus, I created a list of scriptures which basically sum up my faith.  Not all of the appropriate scriptures are included in this list, but there are enough from the Old and New Testaments to give a good outline of my personal faith.  For those interested, here is a few selections from my short list:

The Holiness and Character of God (greatly condensed):

Genesis 1:1; Genesis 15:7; Genesis 16:3; Exodus 3:5-6, 13-18; Job 38-41; Psalm 2; Psalm 15; Psalm 19; Ecclesiastes 8:17; Isaiah 12; Jeremiah 22:8-9; Luke 1:46-55; John 1:1-18; Romans 9:1-29; Revelation 4:1-11

The Problem of Man’s Sin and Wickedness:

Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 2:17, 3:1-24; Romans 1:18-32

Salvation:

Genesis 3:15 (first appearance!); Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2-5; Matthew; Mark; Luke; John; John 3:16-21; Romans 5:1-11, 19-20; Romans 6:14; Romans 8; Romans 9; Colossians 1:15-23

Christian Living/Life (this list is really condensed):

Psalm 1; Colossians 3; Phillipians 4; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 1John 2:15-17

My last encouragement for the my brothers and sisters in Christ is to not only know the story of their salvation, but to live in the way sinners saved by the grace of God should.

Back to School Blues

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bored kid at schoolI just got home from a great vacation in Florida, only to realize that I have about a week until school starts back up.  A couple weeks ago I was excited to get back to school, see my friends, and get back to a schedule.  This is not unusual for me since for all my school-age life, with the exception of last year, I have been pretty excited to go back to school.  Yes, I am that kid, the one who has something good to say about every class and every teacher.  This year however, will be different.

I decided I would not worry about looking at my class schedule, assignments, etc until today because I wanted to let myself enjoy my break as long as possible.  This morning, I got my laptop out, got on my school website, and realized that I have an assignment due the second day of class.  Yippee skippee.  After going through all my classes’ syllabuses, supply lists, and welcome back letters, I was panicking about all that I have to do this year.

This is the year I enter the upper-classmen stage of highschool, the eleventh grade.  According to Hollywood, this is supposed to be the most glamorous stage of my pre-adult years.  I feel the glamour for sure, like a fifty-pound backpack.  Besides school, I will be teaching a lower-level dance class at my church.  I am excited about it, but also dreading the amount of work that this job will entail on top of my schoolwork.  This is honestly the first time I’ve ever felt the need to really pray about my schoolwork, I typically have it all figured out.

Earlier this summer, at a worship time at my youth pastor’s house, I prayed to surrender all my hopes, dreams, fears, worries, desires, and my future to Jesus.  Right now I’m praying to surrender my school year, that my work will not be done to impress my classmates and teachers or be forced out to scrape for a certain grade, but that my work at home, in school, in youth group, and at dance will be done out of love for God, to reflect His glory.  This is the big picture that I need to keep in mind this year and always.

To the Dreamers

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We love stories.  Tales of giants, adventures, pirates, princesses, and castles far away enchant us.  We dream with the characters.  We feel their anger, burn with their passion, and cry their tears.  the characters of a good story are real to us.

We know how to fear and hate the wicked villain and pity those in distress.  We weep when the hero gives his life for those he loves.

We like to watch the story blossom before our very eyes.  The best stories seem written for us, a message for us alone.  They are our treasures, locked in the vaults of our souls, feeding our hopes and dreams.

Why do these stories, which take us to places we have never seen, with people we have never met, draw us so?  Perhaps it is because each person’s life is a story, carefully written by the hand of God.  Like a spider’s web, our lives are intricately woven and no one knows where they will lead.  Some stories become long forgotten, others ever remembered, preserved by the minds and hearts of ages.

These stories are all different.  The stories created by men, though in the whole untrue, each carry truth within them.  The most fantastic and impossible often carry the most truth.

As we read or hear stories, we fall down a rabbit hole and navigate a labyrinth with only a ball of string.  We ride in a pumpkin coach and sail on a pirate ship.

The stories that carry us we never wish to leave, dreaming of them after we have turned the last page and heard the last word.

Switching It Up

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I have decided that I should take a break from my normal intellectual, applicable, real-world blogging and post some poetic essays that I have written instead; the soul-food rather than the brain-food.  Thus, expect poems and/or poetic essays on occasion.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Little Guys Can Do Big Things Too

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Often in our day and age, teenagers are underestimated.  Teenagers are not expected to be responsible, manage money well, or care about working hard.  Because the expectations are set so low, teenagers often fulfill those expectations without reaching higher.

Not all teenagers live this way though, and I believe that all teens long to do more than what they are expected to.  Some teenagers have taken action and stepped up past low expectations.

Hoosier Hometown Heroes recently interviewed two teens about their business, called Bitwise Fellows.  This company’s focus is webdesign.  The crazy part is that the entire company is run by highschoolers!

Bitwise Fellows is just one example of teens stepping up.  Brothers Alex and Brett Harris started their blog “The Rebelution” when they were sixteen.  This blog has challenged teenagers for years to step up.

The truth is, many many teenagers have challenged the low expectations set for them.  They have leaped beyond expectations in many areas, including spirituality.

My youthgroup is full of young men and women who want to know God more.  We conduct student led worship at each others homes.  We encourage each other and keep one another accountable.  We serve and go on missions trips.  I know that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, and I know that my youth group is not the only one like this.

Teenagers all over the United States and the world are making an impact.  They don’t have to be held back by low expectations.  They have shown that they can change the world as much as any adult can.

1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 

My Daddy

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I wish I had more time to cram all the things in here that I want to, but I only have so much space, time, and continuous thought.

Sixteen years ago, my dad became a father for the first time, I was his baby.  Since, then, my dad has done his best to love me, provide for me, protect me, and be the best dad ever.  With God’s help, he has done an amazing job.

My dad is gentle and kind, he is caring and thoughtful, he is strong yet sensitive, and when he messes up, he apologizes.  He is the spiritual head of our home, and leads us well.  I am very close to my daddy, and still love to give him tackle-hugs and sit on his lap.

I trust my dad, and I know that he wants what is best for me and my siblings.  He has this whole amazing dating plan.  Good luck to the young men who want to date and marry me or my sisters, you have to pass my dad’s inspection first.

To the man who teaches me how to love God, shows me what a godly man looks like, taught me how to throw a football and play baseball, who compliments me on my cooking, and who insists that I look too grown up,  I love you!

Thanks for all the fun, the love, the hugs, the discipline, and the encouragement.  Thanks for being my father and choosing to be a great daddy!

Love,

Emma

A Lesson From the Smokies

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My family recently when on vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  While there, we went on a hike in Smoky Mountain National Park.  It was a beautiful hike, and on the way up, I thought about how similar the hike was to the spiritual walk of a Christian.  I am not the only one who has made this sort of comparison.  Paul did in Hebrews 12, when he says “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”(ESV).

The mountain itself could be considered time and life, so hiking up the mountain would be walking through life.  The steep upward trails represent the hard times and the trials, which make the level and downward paths so much sweeter.  Furthermore, with a backpack to carry, it makes the upward hike so much harder.  The backpack could represent a struggle or spiritual burden, weighing down the believer to the point of exhaustion.  When a friend carries that burden with you, through prayer and fellowship, it makes the climb so much easier.

One could be so focused on climbing up the trail and making it to the top, that he or she might not stop to see the beautiful view.  Just because we have to go through life, which takes work, does not mean we cannot stop for a minute and look at the big picture.  In fact, if one does not stop to see the big picture, the distant mountain which reflects the one which he is climbing, one would become frustrated by the difficulty of the climb and would be tempted to give up.

One might also be tempted to give up if one hikes up the mountain alone.  Without encouragement from others, a person would feel lonely and have no one to share struggles with, or to lean on when he gets tired.

The climb is tiring and difficult, but it is worth it.  At the top of the trail, our party sat at a beautiful waterfall, a place of rest.  From there, we could see the other mountains.  This place of peace could represent the end of life, as a believer slips from this life into the arms of Jesus.  He is the one who gives his children energy to climb the mountain and the perseverance to finish the hike.  Without the struggles, his people would not realize how sweet rest with him is.  This is why he lets them go through struggles and hard times, for it draws them closer to him.

This is the lesson that I learned while hiking in the mountains, to persevere through trouble, for at the end of this troublesome life is perfect rest.

Emma