Guest Posts

“Keep On”: A Guest Post by Tiffany Wasson

I’m excited to host my friend Tiffany on the blog today! I hope you’ll be encouraged by her words. At the end of the post, be sure to check out all the details on her new book, Running Mascara: Embracing the Beauty of an Imperfect Church.
Anna

P.S. If you’re anywhere near the Augusta, GA, area, stop by Tiffany’s book launch party! It’s Saturday, May 21, from  1-5pm at Barnes and Noble. You’ll  be able to meet Tiffany (you definitely need to meet her) and get a signed copy of her book! Click here for more info!

 

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Keep On

The alarm beeps louder and louder the longer it sounds in order to remind you that it is time to wake up for another day. You cover your head with the pillow to try to block out its repetitive pounding in your ear drums. You do your best to ignore it but your conscience reminds you of all of the others in the house that the alarm might wake up, so you decide to swing your legs on the side of the bed and force your feet to the ground. You wobble to your desk in order to punch the alarm clock to hush its harsh tones and reach for your Bible, knocking it onto the floor.

Frustrated, you turn your lamp on, pick up your Bible, and sit down to spend some time with the Creator of the universe. You begin to pray but you struggle to stay awake. You start to dose off, so you shake your head side to side to stay awake. You want to stay faithful, so you finish up your prayers with another “amen” and you proceed to pry your eyes open in order to make out the letters on the page for a fresh encouragement from Him. You finish up and do your best to tackle a new day.

You go about the rest of your morning routine. You eat your breakfast, grab your keys, and head to your car. Between the house and the car, you say hi to your grumpy neighbor who never says hi back to you thinking that this may be the day that they return the favor, but they don’t. You do your best not to mutter nasty words under your breath as you crank your car up to head to school or work. You do the same thing every day. You always say hi to that person that no one else ever says hi to. You pick up the slack of those in your group study/office. You pray for those constantly that the Lord brings to mind but you never hear of any reports on how these people are doing at all. You get even more discouraged because God doesn’t always answer your prayers the way that you think that He should.

You are tired. You want to quit. You are starting to think that maybe this Christianity thing is just too hard. You want to sleep in every day instead of getting up early because you could probably use the extra sleep. You want to walk to your car and not say hi to your neighbor because it hurts when they constantly reject you. You want to be the lazy one at work/school because it is tiring always being the one that steps up their game. You want to be the person that someone talks to instead of always going out of your way to make someone else feel comfortable. You are exhausted, weary, and keep wondering if anything you do is worth it…if you should keep on doing what you are doing because it all just seems pointless…

Friend, is this you? Are you feeling weary right now? Are you wanting to throw in the towel and quit this whole Christ following thing because it’s exhausting? If you do feel this way right now, let me just say to you that you are not a terrible person! WE have ALL been to the point of wanting to quit in our walk with God. Unfortunately, I have been in this place more times than I would like to admit. But I am here to tell you today to KEEP ON! DON’T QUIT! YOU HAVE NO IDEA THE VALUE OF ALL THAT YOU ARE DOING ON A DAILY BASIS!

I once heard a friend tell a story of a man who went to God and said, “God, what should I do?” God told him, “I want you to go outside, every day, and push on that big rock over there.” So the man did exactly what God told Him to do. He did every day, for a whole year. He was so frustrated because after pushing the rock daily, for a whole year, the rock still did not move. He went to God in anger. He stood in front of Him and said, “God, what is going on? I am so angry! I have been pushing this rock for a year and NOTHING has happened. The rock hasn’t moved at all!” God spoke to him and said, “Child, I did not ask you to move the rock I just asked you to push it. See, now you are stronger because you have been consistent in your obedience. Now, that you are stronger, go do what I have called you to do.”

In this walk with Christ it is so easy to want to quit sometimes because we think that all that we are doing is worthless but trust me when I say…nothing is worthless in God’s eyes and NOTHING IS WASTED! Galatians 6:9 tells us, “So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up” (HCSB). We have no idea how strong the things that we think are monotonous are actually making us. We also have no idea when God will tell us to “Go, do this now!” We have no idea how strong our voice of hope is making the person we say “Hi” to on a daily basis. We have no idea if picking up the slack at school/work is actually making other people realize how they should be in helping others. WE MAY NEVER KNOW, but that doesn’t mean that we should ever quit doing good.

Christian, we have to keep going no matter how tired we are. Not only do we have God that never leads our side and gives us the strength we need when we are weak to help us to keep on going, but we are the hope to those around us. We are here to encourage them to keep on going. We are here to help others get stronger and to maybe even have their breakthrough. See, follow through isn’t just for us…it is for those who God has put into our paths in our lives as well. So, I leave you with these words friend…for the sake of yourself and those around you…KEEP ON KEEPING ON!!!

Love,
Tiffany

About Tiffany

13219929_1097316060314784_608500411_nTiffany Wasson has been in ministry in some form or fashion since she was 14 years old. Her journey started out at Lighthouse Christian Broadcasting in Saint Marys, Georgia, as a youth leader, on air minister, and radio show host. Currently, she resides in Augusta, Georgia, with her husband, two kids, and two dogs. In her daily life she likes to write, run, and laugh as much as possible. Overall she is passionate about helping the church in any way that she can, especially youth groups. She longs to see the next generation constantly looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of their faith (Hebrews 12:2).

 

Find her On Social Media

About the Book

When most people meet Jesus for the first time they are wild and free, passionate, and ready to embrace their Savior; which47bcea_41ade27517ab434a83d79aa375fdb927 means also coming face to face with their brokenness. They are not ashamed to admit that they need Jesus to fix them. However, over time in their Christian walk they start to forget the simple fact that all people are shattered glass, and in constant need for Jesus to be the glue to hold them together. They start to play God and fashion themselves to being this perfect picture of what they think a Christian should look like in order to fit into the kingdom of God, and do His work.

     The danger in this downward spiral is that not only does it cause the Christ follower to fall because they are trying to fix themselves, but it also keeps new people from coming into the Kingdom of God. The non-believer may feel like they are not good enough. Playing the perfect church (CHRISTIAN?) is a dangerous playground. The Bride of Christ must embrace their constant need for the Savior so that more people will fall in love with Him; the One that seeks out the broken to heal them and set them free.

     Do you find yourself running the hamster wheel of trying to be the perfect Christian? Are you exhausted and feel like if you let your foot slip up just once that you will disappoint Jesus and turn the church away from your side? Trust me when I say that you can be free from the vicious cycle of perfectionism. Are you ready to embrace your brokenness and your constant need for a Savior? Only by learning this truth will you truly be set free. Freedom is near…can you feel it?

Buy the Book on Amazon and  tiffanywasson.com!

Guest Posts

Guest Post: “God.Is.Love.” (Part 3)

This is the final post in a three-part series by Allison Vick. Click here to read Part One, and click here to read Part Two.

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“God. Is. Love.” – Part Three, by Allison Vick

So what now? What do we do with this good news? With this Easter story that is being told over and over during this time? What we do is take on a new perspective. We take the cross on as our perspective. When I fail and fall short of what I have been called to do, it’s easy for me to get caught up in shame. It’s easy for me to forget Whose I am and what He has done. See, if I carry this shame it’s like I forget what Galatians 2:21 says: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” So I urge you not to “set aside the grace of God.”

One day, I read an author who talked about how when she felt shame she had to picture Jesus on the cross. To imagine looking at His nail scarred hands. And realizing the truth. That it is finished. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” Your Savior came to redeem you. Walk in His freedom. Walk in His new life. And once we do that we can see others with a cross perspective as well.

Sometimes I come across people and I go, “Well, that person is so against God they will never come to Him. It’s a lost cause.” But I realize it’s not my position to say that. God didn’t look at me and see a lost cause. He looked at me and saw my sin and saw His Son’s perfect blood covering my stains. His daughter redeemed and part of the family. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” So I am starting to realize I need to see people the way Christ sees people. There are people who don’t know the good news of a Savior who came for them. Who don’t realize they can be adopted into the family of God. And see, you and I don’t have to be God. It’s not our job to save someone. But God does call us to share His Word. To share the good news of hope and life.

So now my goal when I see someone is not to jump to judgment. Not to see a lost cause. But to see my Savior hanging on a tree for them the way he hung there for me. And to reach out and share that truth. See, I may not know what job title I will have in one year, five years, or twenty. My life may not look now like I imagined years ago. But I know one thing for certain: My God is alive. My Savior died for me and He died for you. That is all I know for certain. And I will cling to that. I will hold onto that. And my hope and goal is to share that. To love people the way Christ has called me to. You don’t have to know where God is going to place you down the road to begin serving and living for Him. We don’t have to serve to earn God’s love. But why would we not want to serve the one who took our sins? Who loved us no matter what we had done?

So often I let my pride get in the way of sharing my faith. But this life isn’t about me. Galatians 2 says I have been crucified with Christ. That means that MY life is done. My purposes. My will. My plans. They are gone. I am supposed to lay them at the foot of the cross and pick up God’s plan for my life. To walk in obedience and in step with Him. To share the truth with people. Yes, we are sinners. We were unrighteous. Romans 3 reminds us that there is no one righteous. Not even one. That Christ was the only one who was righteous. But if you keep reading Romans 3, verse 24 says, “And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” It’s time for me to stop striving and start loving with the outpouring of love that Christ showed me.

I don’t know how old you are. I don’t know where you are in this journey of life. I am not even sure if you know me or I know you. But I know my God knows you. That He gave His Son for you. And that there is a world full of people out there who don’t have the hope of Christ in their life. I’m ready to start seeing with a cross perspective. To start sharing with people the hope that Christ has given me.

And one more song for good measure :-) Take it in. Let it bring you life and encouragement this Easter season:

“He gave all. Everything. And took my place that I would be free. To see what He’s done. To know why He’s come. What I owe is upon His head. For my account, my Savior bled. My debt it is nailed to the cross. It is all gone, my life has been bought. My debt it is nailed to the cross. He has paid every cost, it is all gone it is nailed to the cross. This record of my sin is cancelled now. All that I stood against is falling done before Him now.”
-Nailed to the Cross, Rush of Fools

I pray that in some way you have been encouraged by the truth of God’s word today and what He says about you. Now what? Let’s go. Go make disciples of all nations. In our schools. In our workplaces. In our churches. In our communities. All we have to do is being willing to go and do whatever He has called us to do. Lets reach out, and show people Who we are living for.

In Christ,

Allison

Colossians 2:13-15

Guest Posts

Guest Post: “God.Is.Love.” (Part 2)

This is the second in a three-part series by Allison Vick. Click here to read Part One.

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“God. Is. Love.” – Part Two, by Allison Vick

We are in Easter season right now. Some people call this the Passion week. When was the last time you were floored by God? Like completely and utterly in awe of who God is and what He did for you?

I had a Job moment recently. I cried out to the Lord with so many questions. So many concerns. So much of just God where are you, and where are you in this? But see, the book of Job doesn’t just lay out all of Job’s concern without reply from God. See, in Job Chapter 38 God says, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” And it continues as God expresses His greatness and His all-knowing power.

Have you ever had one of these moments? Go ahead you can raise your hand, nod your head. Something…Well, see, these moments at first make me want to go crawl in a hole and hope that God can’t see me…and then I realize: Wow. He is right. God is God. I am not. Isaiah 29:16 says, “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me?’ Can the pot say to the potter ‘You know nothing?’”

My moment was God just revealing to my heart that my purpose and my goal is to point people to Jesus, but I was never intended to BE Jesus. See, I am a fixer. I see something and all I want to do is make it better. Right then and there. I hate seeing hurting people and feeling like I can’t do something. I just want to take it on myself.

But God says, I sent my Son to take on the problems of this world. The funny thing is, even if I had wanted to be the sacrifice for my friends and family to take the weight for them, 1) it has already been done. IT. IS. FINISHED. 2) It wouldn’t have done anyone any good. I am not perfect. Jesus had to come to be the perfect sacrifice. All that would have accomplished was what I DESERVED.

But the story doesn’t end there. You and I don’t have to get what we deserve. Louie Giglio said, "Jesus was the innocent one made guilty, He was the perfect one ripped to shreds, He was the one who had no deceit in his mouth…I am the one who put Jesus on the cross.” That is a sobering reality. My sin. My shame. My guilt. Is what put Jesus on the cross. We can point the finger at Pontius Pilate. Point the finger at Judas. Point the finger at the crowd who yelled for Him to be crucified. The crowd who would rather release Barabbas and hang THEIR Savior. OUR Savior.

But see, Romans 5:8 reminds us that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. He came knowing our sin. Knowing what we would do. He came anyway. I don’t know if that is your first time hearing it or your 1,000th. But no matter what, wow. He didn’t see a lost cause when He looked at you. Scripture says He came to seek and to save the lost. He didn’t just come to tell us we were sinful. He didn’t just come to tell us we were doomed. That we were a lost cause. He came to give us hope. To give us new life. To give us a purpose. I don’t know about you but sometimes I am just like, “God I wish you hadn’t had to do that for me. I wish I had done better. I wish I hadn’t failed.”

But it truly is FINISHED.

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Come back tomorrow to read the final installment.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: “God. Is. Love.” (Part 1)

Last summer, my friend Allison wrote a guest post about God’s perfect plans for our lives. Nearly one year later, I now have the privilege of hosting her on the blog again. But this time, she’s here for a three-part series as we focus on what this Easter weekend is all about. Allison’s about to challenge us to truly marvel at all God did for us…and all that He is still doing today.

Part One of the series is posted below. Check back Friday for Part Two, and Saturday for Part Three.

He is Risen!

– Anna

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“God. Is. Love.” – Part One, by Allison Vick

Spoiler alert: Don’t close your ears or your eyes for this one, though. Jesus wins. He wears the Victor’s Crown. Literally no power can stand against Him. We may not know what tomorrow holds or how many tomorrows there will be. But we know the end! “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.” We don’t have to wait until the end to find out Who wins, yet so often we live defeated. We live fearing the future. We live like we don’t know if our God is really going to come through. But He will. And He does.

I know its kind of funny to start with the end, but man, that gives me perspective to know that God is in control. About a year ago, I wrote my first and only blog entry for Anna’s incredible blog, and it was a really fun experience. Here I am, a year older with the same amount of blog experience I had last time…which is pretty much zero. But what I can tell you is I have a heart for the Lord. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 2 as Paul talks about how He does not come with eloquence or human wisdom, and today that is me. I come to you not with profound words or thoughts, but I come with a heart for my God and my King. I don’t have my life all figured out or packaged nicely in a bow, but I am a life that has been radically changed by the grace and love of my Savior and I hope to provide some encouragement in the way that Christ has encouraged me (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

I happen to love music. Love doesn’t even describe how much music means to me in my life. At so many different times and points in my life, I have been encouraged by people using their God-given gifts to write songs that encourage and build up the body of Christ. Now when it comes to actually singing it…I reserve that to singing alone in my car so as to save my dear friends and family the not-so-great joyful noise that comes out of my mouth.

In 2008 Francesca Battistelli released a song entitled “Free to Be Me” that states:

At twenty years of age, I’m still looking for a dream.
A war’s already waged for my destiny.
But You’ve already won the battle, and You’ve got great plans for me…Though I can’t always see.
‘Cause I got a couple dents in my Fender, got a couple rips in my jeans.
Try to fit the pieces together, but perfection is my enemy.
And on my own, I’m so clumsy, but on Your shoulders I can see I’m free to be me.

Well, in 2008 I was a sophomore in high school and 15 years old buying my first ring tone, and this made for a great selection. At the time I had my life figured out. I knew what I wanted to do, and how each plan would perfectly fall in place. Now I am literally at twenty years of age and this song has begun to make total sense to me. I know less now of what my future plans look like than I did at 15, and let’s be real…that’s scary. I’m approximately two weeks from finishing my junior year in college. I have some friends who know exactly what God wants them to do when they finish, and then there are those of us who are still waiting on God to reveal several key pieces before we know what that looks like.

See, I have a passion, and I have a dream. I just don’t really know what that’s going to look like. My heart is to make Jesus known. For people to see a hope and light in my life that could only come from the Lord. Not so my name would be in lights, but that Jesus would shine from everything I do. I want, as Paul says in Galatians 1, “And they praised God because of me.” I want my life to be an arrow made up of broken and shattered pieces rebuilt by the Lord pointing straight to Him. I want to live with the filter to glorify God in everything that I do.

But I, like Francesca, have an enemy in striving for perfection. It always leaves you empty. It always leaves you with a foe named shame. And it never gives life. I wanted to be that person who could tell everyone exactly what I wanted to do when I graduate, and live each day perfectly with a smile on my face at all times. Anyone else? Am I the only one who finds themselves in this never-ending striving that is completely and totally exhausting and leaves you empty?

But God has shown me something recently in my life: I don’t have to be God. I know that may sound like, Duhh Allison, where have you been? But legitimately, the statement heard so often “God is God, and I am not” is actually true! I am not God. You are not God. And you don’t have to be.

I don’t know if you have ever seen a cardboard confessional done, but it is truly a powerful moment as people write on one side something that defined them or plagued them before Christ truly got a hold of their lives. The other side provides a change and a different name or a different identity. See, my front board would read: “Always emptily striving for PERFECTion to earn God’s love.” But if we flip that board over, it reads something like: “Saved by PERFECT grace, the price has been paid.”

Woahhh. I mean like, can I get an Amen for God’s incredible grace?

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Come back tomorrow to continue reading.

Guest Posts

Guest post: “Music”

If you’re reading this, I’m very excited because it means my auto-post feature worked out its issues! As I’m writing this, I’m at home, sitting in my desk chair with my feet propped on my bed. The usual. But as you’re reading this, I’m over 1,000 miles away from my laptop, my desk, my home, my country. And while I can’t predict the future, I have a feeling that while you’re reading this, I’m learning to lean on God and communicate not so much through words as through a language which knows no barriers: Love.

I’ll fill you in on the details once I’m back on US soil, but for now I want to introduce you to this week’s guest poster who volunteered to stretch his writing muscles while I’m off stretching some faith muscles. Eric Dowler and I go to the same church, and I’ve known him for several years. He talks about his love of music in the following guest post, but as someone who has opportunities to hear him play a variety of instruments, I can assure you he really does have a gift. It actually runs in his family, along with a deep love for Jesus. But I’ll let him introduce himself to you in the following post. I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your comments and questions, if you have any! 

In His love,

Anna

“Music” by Eric Dowler

I am a musician—a performer, composer, spectator, applauder, teacher, student, and connoisseur of Music. Sound is my medium. Music is the link between my soul and the world. Oftentimes, through Music I can convey more emotion than with words. It’s how I tell people that I’m not having a good day or show them that my life is full of Joy. It consoles me when I need comfort and encourages me when I’ve been discouraged seemingly beyond repair. It’s a friend that never talks, but always speaks. It inspires me to live. It’s my greatest Passion…and will always be.

Martin Luther was a prominent Protestant protester and professor of theology (say That 3 times fast) in the 16th century. While he spent much of his time combating corruption with the Word of God and writing Theses, he was also a musician and wrote some of my favorite hymns. A quote of his inspires me: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Now that statement isn’t Biblical, but it was said by a biblical man, which holds some merit, right?

Music has evolved quite a bit since 1517, when Martin Luther published the 95 Theses. It used to be heard primarily in chapels and cathedrals—choral compositions and sung psalms. As more instruments and styles were invented, though, music transformed from a reverent form of worship into jubilant dances and entertaining operas; somber serenades and compelling concertos; knee-slapping jigs and pride-swelling military marches. Through centuries of evolution and the work of hundreds of composers and performers, we have the music we know today (though some genres seem to have sadly Devolved into a tragic excuse for Noise). But for the Music that Is still musical, I believe his quote still holds true.

That was a really long way of saying this: We (my bro Marty and I) want you to appreciate Music as a magnificent art form, and if you do, your life will be much richer. If you didn’t already appreciate music as a gift from God (which seems completely impossible, but there are some weird people out there…some of which may have meandered onto Anna’s blog?), I hope you make an extra effort to open your ears—hear the wonderful beauty around you and smile.

Now because Anna’s blog IS entitled “For His Glory”, I reckon I should put a biblical reference in here (which, according to Martin Luther is THE greatest treasure in the world…my writing has So much treasure!). I should teach you what I can about life in Christ. I’m going to base my preaching on a Bible verse, of course: “And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft.”—Exodus 35:31-33.

I know I spent 4 long paragraphs nagging about how wonderful Music is, but there are many more art forms than that of sound—all of which are beautiful gifts from God to us, his children. We humans have 5 physical senses, of course: sound, sight, touch, smell, and taste. Each of these senses yields opportunity for the creation of pleasing aesthetic art. This art is not the accomplishment of mere humanism, though. God has filled the world with talented people like my friend Bezalel mentioned above; evidence of God’s miracle-working walks all around us.

I believe there are several reasons why He has created a world of Art. Art keeps us busy and engages our minds to think at their full capacities. Art gets us ever-closer to satisfying our natural curiosity of the world and ourselves. Art communicates ideas from one soul into another. Art gives us a passion for life and allows us to see the natural beauty in every day. Art connects us to one another across cultural boundaries, language boundaries, generational boundaries, and idealistic boundaries. I love the story a great mentor of mine told me that epitomizes the purpose of Art:

“I played a tune with someone from The Netherlands when I first got to New York. We didn’t know each other at all, but after we finished our duet, we smiled and hugged each other. It was a prime example of how the language of music is so universal. Music heals, saves, and unifies souls.”

How heart-felt and meaningful! I mean, Art is just the Bomb, right? Well, it’s great for sure, but I think the BEST explanation of the existence of art is found in another Bible verse (see: I’m practicing using quotes, for 11th grade AP Lit requires a plethora of them) : “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp.”—Psalm 150:3. See, it’s great to do all the stuff we do on Earth with the arts, but that doesn’t even compare to what we can do when we add God into the equation (of course, He’s God!). Now that’s simple enough, everybody: just whip out your psalteries and praise our Creator with a poetic opus.

Or, do you not have a psaltery? …Right. Well, since neither of us has ever played or held or seen or even heard of one, let’s just make it a metaphorical psaltery. Everyone has one, in That case. You were given a talent; a divinely inspired ability to do Something. You may know what it is, or you may still be wandering to find it, but everyone has one. Of course it takes practicing and nurturing to become its full potential (you may have a gift, but you’ve got to open it), but you don’t have to be a true virtuoso in order to make a difference if you’re doing what God calls you to do.

Just look at Anna’s example; her psaltery is the Pen (or keyboard in this case) and she can sing a very lovely opus with it. One of my mother’s psalteries is the spatula and she can sing a very Tasty opus with it. I’ve seen psalteries in the shapes of crayons, hammers and nails, stethoscopes, and open arms that hug—each with a soothing song of love and comfort; each being played by people that love God and love other people.

Basically, all that I’ve said is supposed to support my 5 theses (95 would take Way too long) :

1. Music—and all Art—is a beautiful gift from God.

2. God has given me the gift (a special ability and affinity) of Music.

3. I try to use my gift ‘For His Glory’.

4. Everyone has been granted a talent of some sort; find it and master it.

5. If your relationship with God is right, you should have a natural propensity to use your special abilities for His cause.

I was a little out of my genre writing something so personal, as I generally spend my time being the Bard of Nivalis (or Leumas Relwood, in the common vernacular) writing poems and stories and songs about fantasy worlds and histories (namely the mighty Nation of Rambonia). Despite this, I hope you learned something about my greatest passion: Music.

Go Forth and Conquer (In Jesus’ name, of course),

Eric Dowler

Gladium, Loquela, des Muses.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: “’Tis the Season to be…Patient

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Hey, blog readers! Today’s guest post comes from my sister, Erin. She’s made appearances on here before, from her first guest post, to the video from the time she taught me to drive stick shift, to the time I let her cut my hair. She’s a nursing student at a large Christian university, but she’s home for the summer and agreed to write another piece for the blog! Enjoy!

– Anna

“ ‘Tis the Season to be…Patient ” by Erin Schaeffer

Sometimes I have a hard time waiting. “Hello, my name is Erin and I’m a human being.” Waiting for the light to turn green so I can take-off with my nonexistent NASCAR skills. Waiting for the spiral on the vending machine to ‘slowly’ release the salted pretzels into my eager hands and please my roaring stomach. Waiting for that grade to be posted so I can shift my unsteady emotions towards sorrow or joy. Waiting for God to answer my prayers. Oh yes, things just got spiritual.

Now, I love Google. It’s my BFFL. Mi amigo. The sugar to my tea. The caffeine to my coffee. The cheese to my easy mac. A spoke in the wheel of my college degree. But just like every friendship, ours is not perfect. For Google can’t meet ALL of my curiosity needs. I can ask Google, “What is the life span of the beluga whale?” But I can’t ask “In what ways will God use me?” or, “When will God answer this prayer that I’ve prayed over and over and over and over and over and over again?” Here’s where waiting comes in. Where life goes from the microwave to the crock pot. From high-speed internet to dialup. From cheetah… to slug.

In the Bible, we can see that Ruth went through a time of waiting. Naomi instructed Ruth to go down to the threshing floor and lay at Boaz’s feet until he woke up. She did not bother Boaz, but patiently waited for him to wake up, knowing that with his awakening would come redemption.

In a similar way, God often brings us down to the threshing floor. Notice it said “down” to the threshing floor. Refining usually takes place at a low point in our life- not a high one. God often brings us to a low point where we feel out of control. Just as the threshing floor was used to separate true grain from chaff, God brings us to this point to refine and purify our faith in Him. During this time He chisel’s away any piece of our lives that doesn’t look like Him. Though we long to feel in control of our life, this is actually a good place to be because it increases our dependence on Him.

Just as Ruth laid at Boaz’s feet and waited, so we must do the same with God. During this time of refinement all we can do is take everything we have (all of our problems or expectations), lay it at Jesus’s feet, and wait. For a while it seemed like Boaz was never going to wake up, but he did! He woke up and saw Ruth patiently waiting there. Sometimes it seems as if God is sleeping (Like we need to ring the little silver service bell to make our presence known). But, unlike Boaz, He’s not sleeping and sees us patiently waiting there.

When Boaz awoke, he measured out six measures of barley and gave it to Ruth. This is way more than she could have accumulated on her typical day of work! In the same way, these hard times of waiting produce more growth in our character than any amount of typical daily living. Though the threshing floor is often uncomfortable, we come out looking more like Christ!

And now for a healthy dose of life-application:

I knew that I was in a place that God brought me to -thousands of miles from home- and I was excited to be a part of His plan. One problem- I tried to direct my own steps. I set out, ready to change the world for God. I knew I was where God wanted me, so I jumped right in. Immediately I was met with discouragement.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve now arrived at the threshing floor.

For two days, God brought me down to the threshing floor. He showed me that I had expectations and goals that needed to be surrendered. He showed me that it was His plan- not mine. Therefore, I needed to submit all of those expectations to Him. I needed to wait patiently in prayer- seeking Him for guidance. God did not call me there to bring my own ideas. He called me there to use me in His plan.

Finally, God brought me up from the threshing floor. I saw God do INCREDIBLE things! He softened hearts, answered unbelievable prayers, and took dead souls and made them alive in Him. Every expectation that I previously had God made look small and unimpressive compared to the mighty works He performed. During my time at the threshing floor, God captured my complete focus and taught me to be more tuned in to His direction. Had I not gone through that short time of refinement, I would have missed many blessings that the LORD had for me because I was not tuned in to His direction.

Although my trip to the threshing floor was relatively quick this time, sometimes they can last for weeks, months, years, or decades. We can become confused as to what God is doing. Here comes the trust factor. The Bible says that God’s word is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). A lamp. Not an overhead light. We can’t just walk in the room, flip that sucker on and be like, “Oh hey, so that’s what’s going to happen in 10 years.” We must walk in the small amount of light that God has given us, and trust Him with all of the darkness. Yes, His ways are mysterious and often do not make sense to us. “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD”-Isaiah 55:8. But is a god who can be completely understood by human minds mighty enough for us to submit our lives to?

So you may find yourself at the threshing floor; impatient and ready to be used by God. Or maybe –like Ruth- you’re waiting for God to redeem a situation. Rejoice in hope (Romans 12:12), knowing that God is refining you to be more like Him. For in due time He will “wake up”, and work though us in ways that are incomprehensible. So fasten your seat-belt and prepare your mind to be boggled; it’s going to be a wild ride!

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope” –Psalm 130:5

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” –Psalm 34:17

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” -2 Chronicles 16:9

“[Jesus declared] I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” –John 15:5

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

Guest Posts

Guest Post: “Blog Post Fun”

allisonanna I’m really excited about today’s post! Not only is it another guest post, it’s also written by someone who doesn’t usually write. Allison and I go to school together, and I met her through BCM. There’s not much introducing I need to do, since she’ll cover it in her post, but I’ll go ahead and say this: You’re about to read a post by a very dear friend who God brought into my life at the perfect time. She has a heart for our Lord, and she’s beautiful both inside and out. She’s one of my faithful blog readers and biggest encouragers when it comes to my writing. She’s also incredibly fun to be around, and she’s not afraid to put me in my place if I ever pick on her or something…not that I ever would ;)

Keep reading to see what Allison has to say!

In His love,

Anna

P.S. After reading this, I think you’ll agree she should do the whole writing thing more often.

“Blog Post Fun” by Allison Vick

Hello fellow readers of Anna’s blog! My name is Allison and I am a junior in college. I am a history major with a certificate in Secondary Education. Long story short… I am not a creative writer. I write historical papers often, yet my good friend Anna has provided me a chance to write to you all even though I lack the experience. With that being said, thank you for taking this short journey with me!

It’s the end of May and some of you are experiencing the first joys of summer, yet others are still working or taking part in dreaded summer classes. No matter which category you fall in or what part of life you happen to be in at the moment, I think we all have experienced the moment of decision-making where you are staring down several different paths. Forget one road diverging. Its like Borges’ Garden of Forking Paths where it seems your whole future will depend on the decision you make at that very moment. And you can see that it will branch off in several directions, yet you don’t have the luxury to see how it all turns out.

I have a hard time deciding where I want to eat at the mall food court, therefore when the time came to make the decision as to where I would go to college, you can imagine that it was a grand time. It just so happens that when you are in the process of taking the SAT or ACT, you are supposed to include a list of colleges you want your scores sent to. Therefore, in the spring of my junior year of high school, at the age of 16, I was attempting to figure out how to make a list of five schools that were a possibility to attend. Though I had made many decisions in the past, this one appeared to be the biggest one I had faced yet. You try to think through campus visits, random pamphlets, college fair visits, school colors, school mascots, and school paraphernalia. I mean, everyone wants a cool logo to wear to his or her high school college day, right? Not to mention keeping in mind distance from home, if they have your major (who knows what your major is when you are still 16?), if their dorms are livable, do they have a Target, Chick-fil-a? You see? It gets complicated…especially when you realize that it is your home for the next four, five, six years. It’s like I am reliving the stress that took place. Now on top of that everyone has an opinion on where you should go. Friends, neighbors, family, and then on top of that they ask you daily where you are going to go and what you will major in. There is a lot of stress in decision-making. Internally and Externally. For those of you who have been in this position before, you know exactly what I am talking about, and some of you may even be in the midst of making a life decision at this very moment.

I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more. I had no clue where in the world I was going to end up. For those of you who don’t know me, please allow me to tell you that I am a planner. Literally. I like to know exactly how each thing will happen, when, and what the result will be. The thought of having no idea how everything would turn out was enough to make my stomach turn. My actual planner is color-coded and has every detail in it. Yes, I wanted God’s plan but I wanted to know what it was and every detail about it. This was a whole new level of trust I had not encountered previously.

Throughout my senior year, the decision day crept closer. I had applied to several schools, and it was time to decide which of those would be IT. I had been on two different visits to two schools that I had for sure decided on. And both visits ended with this feeling that it wasn’t it. It was when I walked onto my school’s campus for a visit that I had this weird feeling. A feeling of home. But not the feeling like it was in my comfort zone. It was a weird, peaceful feeling. This visit came much later than the date I had decided on as to when my decision should be made. And I knew that all of my friends would inevitably disagree with my decision to attend this school. I knew they would think that I was making the safe choice. The choice made by the girl who was so dearly attached to her family and her life in her hometown. Yet I knew that this was the right decision.

It is two years later and I am halfway done with my program at my university. I can tell you that it is by the grace of God that I have had the opportunity to attend this university. I always pictured myself at a Christian school, and I think that a Christian education is something I would absolutely love to take part in…but at this moment in my life, I am at the place where the Lord wants me now. I have had the incredible opportunity to meet some truly incredible and Godly people on our campus through Baptist Collegiate Ministry. And I see God work in the lives of these amazing individuals and on this campus everyday…I can’t imagine where I would be without these people and what they have meant to my walk with the Lord.

God has placed us where we are for a very specific purpose. He has placed us in the mission field whether we are in a foreign country, a college campus, the workforce, or in our “hometown”. He has a fantastic plan for our lives if we give Him control. See, God used this decision making process to show me how much I desired control in my life…how much I gave Him pieces of my life when what He desired was my life. All of it. And looking back on that hard time of decision-making, I see it in a whole new light. He has a great plan for our lives. One far beyond what we can see in the moment. I am so so glad that I am not the planner of my life. Instead it was planned by the creator of the universe. Someone who deserves all glory and all praise. Someone who makes no mistakes and works everything for the good of those who love Him. Someone who turns ashes into beauty.

So today I hope wherever you are, no matter what you are facing…that you can be fully confident and encouraged that the God of the universe cares about you and has a plan greater than anything you can imagine where you are standing right now.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” –Isaiah 55:8-9

Thanks for sticking with me!

In Christ,

~Allison Vick

Guest Posts

Go Teen Writers Blog Tour + GIVEAWAY!

Today is a great day on the blog, because we’ve got a super-special guest post! Authors Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson blog at www.goteenwriters.com, where they encourage teens to pursue their dream of writing by sharing advice, encouragement, and fun contests. Stephanie and Jill are currently on a blog tour to spread the word about their new book, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Novel, and I recently had the opportunity to interview them! I’ve read their novels, so I know that they know what they’re talking about when they pass along advice. It’s good stuff. So keep reading to learn more about their book, as well as some of their personal experiences as writers.

PLUS, they’re generously donating an E-Book version of their book to be given to one lucky reader, so be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the interview!

But first, a little info about the book…

thinline_comps.inddOfficial Blurb:

The question we hear most from new writers is, “How do I get published?”
And the answer is: Respect your dream
Every writer’s journey is different, yet as we’ve reflected on our experiences and those of the writers around us, we’ve seen time and time again that those who are successful are the ones who had the patience and endurance to stick with this writing thing. They didn’t look for shortcuts (at least, not for long), nor did they quit after five, ten, or one hundred rejections.
We can’t make the process easy for you, but it’s our hope that this book will be a tool you can turn to time and time again when you’re thinking, “Okay … what’s next?”
Includes tips for:
-Getting published           -Finding the right agent
-Book surgery                   -Thicker plots
-Deeper characters         -Richer settings
-Weaving in theme         -Dealing with people who don’t get your writing

Click here to see the book on Amazon (available in both E-Book and  paperback).

And now…the interview!

1) Who/what inspired you to be a writer?

Stephanie: My first elementary school emphasized story writing. We had time every day to work on whatever story we wanted, and then the school would “publish” our books for us. I still remember going into the tiny room to pick out the color for my cover and spiral binding. From the first story I wrote, I was totally hooked.

Jill: The Harry Potter books. I was obsessed with how amazing that storyworld was. And I thought, I could do that! Then I tried and quickly found out that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. But I kept at it and didn’t give up.

2) What motivated you to keep chasing your dream, even when it was difficult or discouraging?

Stephanie: A couple things. One was that writing stories was one of the only natural talents I had. I just wasn’t interested in much else, so it’s not like I had a back-up plan. Another is the support of my parents and boyfriend (who became my husband). My parents made it very clear to me that the only way I could disappoint them with writing was to not do it anymore. And my husband would read draft after draft after draft when I was trying to send stuff out to agents. He’s a saint, I swear.

Jill: I’m pretty stubborn. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to succeed. And it also helped to put down my first book and write some others. Once I had a bunch of finished books and that first one wasn’t my whole world, it made the pain of rejection on book one more bearable. And it helped me to think about a career as a writer and not simply reaching the goal of having one book published.

3) How does your faith influence your career as a writer?

Stephanie: Obviously there are many non-Christian writers in the world, but I’m not sure I could do this without my faith in God, and my security in Him. Otherwise I would get way too caught up with my failures and successes.

Jill: Agreed. God helps me remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me, that there is a bigger plan I’m a part of. And that keeps me grounded, especially when jealous or “oh poor me” feelings start to take over.

4) In your opinion, what’s the biggest joy that comes with being a writer?

Stephanie: Ooh, tough one. There are a few, including emails from readers who have been affected positively by my books, which is a hard joy to beat. But the first one that came to mind is the delight I find in the writing itself. I have hard days, of course, but writing is such a joy to me. Even if I never received another book contract, I would write for the rest of my days. I just would be me otherwise.

Jill: Creating characters and taking them on a journey. It’s so much fun. And I agree with Stephanie that it’s pretty awesome to get those emails from readers who loved my book. But if I only got joy from feedback, my life would be pretty depressing. I’d always be waiting for my next “fix.” So I find joy in the freedom I have to create whatever stories I want. It’s a pretty great job.

5) What’s one piece of advice you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?

Stephanie: Oh gosh, there are so many. I’m going to cheat and give two answers. I wish I had known that characters needed a goal. That wasn’t an idea that came naturally to me. My early stories are full of girls who are just tossed into situations. Which isn’t bad, but stories are so much stronger when the main character is working toward something.

The other is story structure. I wish I had understood the basics of the three act structure, because it would have helped me to not chase so many weak ideas.

Jill: I wish someone had told me that my first chapter or paragraph or sentence didn’t matter right then. But that I should finish the whole book, no matter how bad it was. If I’d learned early on to train myself to finish a story and fix it later, it would have saved me two to three years of trial and error.

6) Why do you mentor young writers?

Stephanie: Because they’re awesome and totally fun. And probably because I had nobody helping me along the way, and I longed for someone to give me a few pointers.

Jill: I love to teach. And teens are smart and innovative and hungry. Plus, I’ve got a bad Peter Pan complex. So with adults, I often feel too hyper or wild. But being around teens helps me feel normal. It’s a good match.

7) What’s the main thing you hope readers will take away from the Go Teen Writers book?

Stephanie: When Jill and I first decided to write the book, we spent a lot of time on the phone talking about what the content should be like, how to organize it, who would write what, and all that good stuff. We didn’t set out to write about the concept of respecting your dream, but when we read through our first draft, that was the idea that kept leaping off the page. That if you want to be published, if you want to write stories that influence people, you can’t allow yourself shortcuts.

Jill: I agree. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Respect your dream enough to put in the time to learn how to write a good book. It’s the most important thing any writer can do.

Anna: Stephanie and Jill, thank you so much for the interview and E-Book giveaway!
Also thank you, blog readers, for stopping by to support this book! Be sure to enter the giveaway below, and when you’re done here, go check out Stephanie’s and Jill’s novels!

Jill and StephanieStephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson have written a combined two dozen speculative and contemporary novels for teens. They also blog obsessively at www.goteenwriters.com. When not writing or blogging, they can be found at the teen table at writers’ conferences or wherever chocolate is being given away. Come hang out with Stephanie at www.stephaniemorrill.com and Jill at www.jillwilliamson.com

*E-BOOK GIVEAWAY*: Let’s keep it simple. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below, along with a way for me to contact you if you win (a blog address, email address, etc. You can also email me your contact info privately at aschae92@gmail.com). The giveaway will be open until Thursday, April 4, 2013, at 11:59pm EST. A winner will be randomly selected on Friday, April 5, at which time I’ll contact the winner with further instructions. Good luck! 

Guest Posts

Decisions, Decisions

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a reader who had some really kind things to say about my blog. She also asked if I would be willing to guest post on her own blog. I was really honored by this, and agreed to write something for her.

If you’d like to see my post on choices and indecision, click here to read “Decisions, Decisions.”

In His love,

Anna

Guest Posts

Guest Post: “He is Able”

Note: The month of February was short and busy (kind of like my youngest sister), which means the details of February’s guest post didn’t come together until over the weekend. But I think you’ll agree that, although the post comes a little later than expected, it’s totally worth it (also like Little Sis).

emilyannaToday’s guest post is written by my dear friend Emily, and I’m very excited to share it with you. I can always count on her to give me a listening ear or level-headed advice whenever I have life stuff to sort through. She’s my accountability partner, prayer warrior, and fellow hot tea drinker (basically, if you drink hot tea, we’re automatically kindred spirits). Emily has a beautiful relationship with Christ, and she’s always challenging me in my own faith. She isn’t afraid to follow God’s call, even when she doesn’t have all the answers. In fact, she recently started her own blog called “Not My Own” (click here to visit) which you should definitely check out. She’s using her blog to document her journey of faithfully following God through some very unique opportunities.Thus, for those reasons and many more, I wanted her to share a little of what God is doing in her life on my blog. I hope you’ll find it as encouraging as I did.

In His love,

Anna

He is Able

by Emily Hokrein

When Anna first asked me if I wanted to do a guest post on her blog, I readily said “Yes!”. Shortly thereafter, I realized what this not-so-good writer had gotten herself into, and I quickly began a pleurae of questions: “Do you want it to be serious? Funny? Both? Do you want it to be long, or something shorter?” and on and on my questions went. Anna simply replied, “Whatever you want!”. Okay then, I thought, I’ll just come up with something that has a good lesson behind it (more my cup of tea when it comes to writing), and hopefully makes some degree of sense. It is my hope and prayer that you can get a glimpse of just how great our God is through this post!

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a weekend retreat to the mountains with my sister’s church college group. She drove the first half, and then I, being the sweet sister that I am, offered to drive the second half, which by this point was in the mountains. Never having driven in a mountainous area before, I was understandably a little nervous (okay, maybe a lot), but tried my best to think of it as an “adventure” to help chase away the fears. We were driving west into the bright sunset, when suddenly the Great Smokey’s loomed directly in front of us as far as the eye could see. Cruising down the interstate toward this stunning sight, it was hard to believe there was even a way to get through them, as they appeared to make a very immense wall. The closer we got, the harder it was to fathom how exactly the road was going to get us through the towering mountains. Before I knew it, we were upon them. Sure enough, a little valley suddenly appeared that the road would take us through. The whole drive was like that; just when it appeared there was no way to pass the mountain in front of us, the road would take a turn (and there were many of them!), we would go into another valley, or we would just plow through (aka going through a tunnel). The next 30 miles were some of the tensest of my life, but they were also beautiful and I learned an even greater lesson through it.

Getting through all of those seemingly impassible obstacles in the mountains reminded me of something about our Great God. Just like that road winding us through the mountains, He is our Guide, and He will help us get through all of the troubles and obstacles life throws at us. He is able to make something that seems impossible to get past possible. He is able to provide you with twists and turns in the road when you thought there was no other way to go. He is able to give you the strength and endurance you need, especially when the only option is to go through the thickest and most daunting part (think of a tunnel that pierces straight through a mountain). When something that is before you appears impossible to get through, and you just want to give up because the journey seems hopeless, remember that with Christ as our Guide, anything is possible. The obstacles in our life vary from person to person, whether it is a job situation, a difficult family issue, a pile of schoolwork that seems endless, or anything else you may be facing. I found some really great verses that further show He is able, as I don’t want you to just take my word for it.

“And God is able to make to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:8

“For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” ~Hebrews 2:18

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” ~Ephesians 3:20-21

I want to conclude by telling you about a recent experience where God really showed me He is truly able to do anything. This incident reminded me just how much He can do just through the heartfelt prayers of me and many others. A few weeks ago there was a tragic plane crash in my area. Our local airport generally consists of small planes with oftentimes just a pilot or two aboard. As soon as I heard a plane had crashed, I immediately began praying for the pilot(s) that were involved, as I just assumed it was a small plane with no other passengers. As the details came in later that night and in to the next day, it turned out to be a jet, and that there were several passengers aboard in addition to the pilots. There were sadly fatalities, but, to everyone’s great surprise, there were also survivors. When I first heard it was the two pilots who had survived, I thought that must have made sense as it sounded like it was the back end of the plane that had the most impact. About a day later though, it hit me like a thunderclap. Wait, hadn’t I (and I’m sure many others) prayed specifically that the pilots would survive, as I thought they were probably the only ones onboard!? After seeing the severity of the wreckage, even the investigators were dumbfounded as to how they made it. By this point there were news stories stating how people claimed this had to be an act of God. I believe that wholeheartedly. My God is still in the miracle making business, and He loves to proclaim that indeed “He is able”.

I thought I’d share with you a really great song from Hillsong, which is also called “He is Able”. Click here to watch it. Enjoy!