Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We’ve Moved!

Posted: January 1, 2014 by clairer in Uncategorized

Since I am now far past being a teen and basically no longer a college student, after five and a half years this blog has pretty much outgrown its title “TeenFaithTalk.” It’s time to start some new adventures in the Christian life and to discover what walking with God through this season of change looks like. So…this year, I’m introducing On the CrossRoad! Same blog, different address, different title. See you over there!

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Happily Ever After?

Posted: June 7, 2012 by clairer in Uncategorized

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved to read mysteries – working my way up from the Boxcar Children to Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie. It’s funny when I think about this being one of my favorite genres because…well, usually I hate unknowns (and, of course, mystery novels are full of unknowns). Anyone who has watched a movie with me knows this. I want to know if it’s going to have a happy ending, who dies, who lives, who gets married to whom…everything, before the movie is barely underway. But with mystery novels, it’s different. I’m content to sit back and enjoy the story – I never flip to the back of the book to see if a favorite character is still alive. I was thinking about this the other day and wondering why there’s such a difference between how I read mysteries and watch movies and I came to the conclusion that the reason I can “enjoy the journey” with mystery novels is because I choose books where I trust the author.

Yes, I’m one of those readers who devours every single book by an author before moving onto a new series. The way I figure it, I’ll stick with any author who can tell a good story – someone who has perfect timing, who gently weaves each small detail together, and who brings each mystery to a satisfactory ending. Each time I pick up an Agatha Christie book, no matter how suspenseful the book may be, I can just enjoy it because I know that whatever happens, Christie ensures it’ll be good.

But, as I’ve pondered this a bit more, it occurred to me that what Agatha Christie can do with fiction, God does with life. In Hebrews 2:10, Jesus is called “the author of our salvation,” and in Acts 3:15, Peter refers to him as “the author of life.” As our Creator and Lord, He is writing a unique story for each of us.  And, as in the mystery books I love to read, my life is a story…a journey. Unfortunately, I’m often not as patient with life as I am my books. I’ve always been the one who wants to get ahead…never quite content with where I am at the moment. When I was little, I always wanted to be doing whatever my older brother was doing.  When I was in high school, I wanted to graduate. When I was in college, I wanted to get an internship. As an intern, I’m excited about getting a job. Each phase in my life is easily overshadowed by the anticipation of – and longing for – the next chapter.

I guess I’m always thinking ahead mostly because I’m concerned about how my life will all turn out. Sometimes I think that if I could just know what God has in store for my life, I’d be happier – even if it was just having basic questions answered with no specifics like…will I get married?…have a career?…impact the world? Unfortunately, though, God doesn’t give me the “heads up” on any of these things.

But, stopping to think about it…would I really want Him to? When I’m reading a mystery, I don’t want to know “who-done-it” before the end of the book. I don’t want to know who gets knocked off or who is lying…at least, not before it’s time for me to know. That would spoil the ending and take most of the fun out of reading the book.

It’s the same with life. God doesn’t tell us how our lives will unfold…and really, we shouldn’t want Him to. In the same way that you don’t ride the roller-coaster for the sole purpose of getting  to the end, in life it is important to embrace the twists, turns, bumps, and climbs that come our way right now.

God has created us to enjoy life – to enjoy the journey. He is the author of our lives and one we can always trust to bring a good and satisfying ending to our story. So pull up a chair, sit back, and enjoy each and every plot twist as it comes along – He’ll make sure we live happily ever after.

Why…?

Posted: February 27, 2012 by clairer in Uncategorized

Are you ever tempted to ask, “Why me?” I hate to admit it, but I am. I get sick right before a test…why me? One of my best friends moves away…why me? An application for a college, scholarship, or internship is turned down…why me? Awhile back, I was asking this question day after day as I felt like God was strategically stripping away everything of value in my life. Why me? There were some days when I felt like I was living my mini version of the book of Job. Job lost everything before his famous encounter with God in Job 38. He, too, asked “Why me?” But as I was reading through my Bible, I realized that, although Job is often highlighted for his suffering, this pattern is far from abnormal in the lives of those God chooses to serve Him.

Think of the heroes of the Bible – from Noah to Abraham to Jacob to Joseph to Moses to David to Daniel to Esther to Peter to Paul. These biblical heroes are often studied for God’s blessings on them or for the successes that God granted them. These heroes saved the Israelites from slavery, annihilation, and starvation. They were saved from angry Pharaohs, lions, and floods. They witnessed to the nations and performed miracles before thousands. But too often, I think we focus on these successes and blessings and forget how these heroes got into these situations in the first place.

Flip through the Bible, select a biblical hero, and nearly every time, you will see someone who lost everything before being used by God.

  • Noah watched the earth – his roots and his possessions – be swallowed by a flood.
  • Abraham was called to leave his home, his family, his gods, his lifestyle before God promised to make him a great nation.
  • Jacob fled from his home – abandoning his mother and father – with no possessions or friends, sleeping alone in the wilderness with a rock for a pillow.
  • Joseph was sold away from his family into slavery and entered Egypt with less than nothing.
  • Ruth’s husband died and she left her family and home to travel to Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi.
  • David fled for his life from Saul and was left with no home, no possessions, and even had his wife taken from him.
  • Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were seized from their homes in Israel to serve the Babylonian king.
  • Esther was torn from her home and family in order to be added to the king’s list of candidates for queen (running the risk of forever living in the king’s harem).

…and the list goes on and on. Nearly every Biblical hero not only suffered but lost everything before being used by God? Why? Why them? Why would God allow His greatest servants to suffer before using them for His purposes? It seems to me that if God wanted to attract people to serve Him, it would be better to bless them abundantly before recruiting them. But that’s not how God did it. Why? I believe there are two main reasons.

First, I think God allowed these people to lose everything in order to show them where true value lies. God took away everything else that these men and women could have been tempted to value – family, honor, security, possessions, health.  All that these individuals had left was the only thing of lasting value that could never be taken away – a personal relationship with God. This knowledge of the worth of a relationship with God helped these biblical heroes to accomplish God’s purposes later on. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8) Those who had already been emptied of everything were willing to sacrifice all to do God’s work.

Secondly, I think that this emptying set a standard of God’s provision for these individuals to look back upon when things became difficult later on in their journey. Take Moses, for example. When God called Moses to His service, Moses had just gone from riches to rags. He had been a Prince of Egypt, and suddenly, he was an outlaw reduced to seeking refuge in the desert, caring for dirty, smelly sheep. It’s hard to imagine a greater reversal of fortunes. And yet God took him from that position and led him to accomplish the impossible: freeing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. God proved Himself faithful in Moses’ hopeless situation. This was something that Moses could look back to when he found himself in desperate situations again and again. In the same way that the Israelites could look back to the separation of the Red Sea as a reminder of God’s provision, Moses could trust God to provide for him in the years ahead because of what God had already done to provide for him in the midst of suffering.

So why do I find it encouraging to realize that biblical heroes suffered just as much – and certainly more – than I ever have or will? Well, maybe it’s just that, as the old proverb goes, “misery loves company.” However, I think the real reason is that seeing how God worked things out for these individuals gives me hope for the future. Each of these biblical heroes suffered at the beginning of or even before the start of their ministries. Though they lost everything initially, God used those sufferings to strengthen them to serve Him in spectacular ways throughout the rest of their lives.

I guess that this realization just makes me appreciate that the discouragements and difficulties that I experience in my life now could be God preparing me for His future call upon my life.  It makes me change the “Why me?” question to ask “What can I learn about God and His mission for my life from this experience?” It causes me to say – when things seemingly go wrong – that God is at work accomplishing greater things than I can possibly imagine to give me a future and a hope.

24/7: 7am – Glorified Commute

Posted: January 25, 2012 by clairer in Uncategorized

You see all different types on the metro – the white-collared and blue-collared workers, the grandparents and the students, newspaper readers and kindle users, veteran commuters and “newbie” tourists. People come from different backgrounds and are headed toward different destinations…many with their iPods in and their phones out – engaged in their own little world. But yesterday, one man wasn’t…

Early in the morning, as I found a seat in the already-packed metro, I sat across the aisle from an older, heavy-set woman. She didn’t look destitute, but she certainly didn’t seem terribly “high-class.” She kept on talking to the lady behind her (whom she obviously didn’t personally know) about how she had fallen near the escalators and how worried she was about a scrape. Maybe it’s just a pet-peeve of mine, but personally, I tend to have little patience with random people on the metro talking to me – especially about their personal lives. Honestly, I felt worse for the woman having to listen than the woman who had supposedly fallen.

When we arrived at our first stop, a middle-aged military officer in full camouflage boarded and joined the “listening” woman in her seat. I felt bad for him…wondering if he knew what he had gotten himself into. Sure enough, right after he sat down, the woman started telling him how she had fallen and how she was worried she wouldn’t make it to work. I expected him to ignore her or at the very least gently subdue her and put her off. However, to my surprise, the man responded, not with annoyance, but with genuine sympathy and respect toward the woman. He listened to her, addresser her as “ma’am,” and to my complete surprise, promised to make sure she got to work. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later, the man got off at the woman’s stop (which was clearly not his own), took her by the arm, and, presumably, guided her to her place of work.

I found this brief encounter to be so convicting. In the city, I am surrounded by a culture of self-advancement and self-absorption that is so easy to be sucked into. When I’m on the metro, I watch people scramble for seats instead of deferring to the person next to them. They put in their earbuds and seem to forget about the world around them. On the escalators and on the street, people quickly walk to their offices without giving a second thought or glance to the homeless people or even to the other businessmen and women they are passing by. And yet, for just one morning, a man put aside what was easy and convenient for himself. He went out of his way to love his neighbor and to count someone else as more significant than himself.

Ever since I started my internship, I’ve been thinking about 24/7 – about how I could be glorifying God throughout my day, and even at 7am on my daily commute. This man gave me my answer: by being considerate of others and by not falling prey to the self-absorption around me. On some days, that might mean giving up my seat. On others, it might mean letting someone else board the crowded car before I do. On some other days, it might simply mean smiling and greeting someone, or being a listening ear…even if I’m tired and bored. As Christians, we are not called to be self-absorbed commuters. We are called to be different – to lay down our lives for our neighbors. And that starts with even the smallest areas of life…like riding the metro.

24/7: Learning to Glorify God All Day, Every Day (Series Introduction)
24/7: 6am — Wait in Expectation (24/7 Part I)

Lessons from Sunrise: Light to My Path

Posted: September 21, 2011 by clairer in Uncategorized

Of my college routine, one of my favorite parts is my daily morning walk. I like these walks not so much for the exercise, but because every single morning, I get to watch the sun rise. Sunrise is an amazing time of day — the slight chill in the air, the fading moon, the lightening sky, and the reflection of the sun on the lake. But here’s an interesting thing about sunrise: in order for me to get to appreciate the sunrise, I have to walk in the darkness first. I have to wake up before the sun and start my walk in darkness…and only then can I appreciate the coming sunlight.

If you’ve lived for any amount of time, you have probably encountered some trial or difficulty at some point — your own personal time of darkness. Perhaps this took the form of an illness, a family member or friend’s death, a pattern of sin, financial trouble, relational conflict, or just day-to-day difficulties. Have you ever wondered why you had to walk through this time of trouble?

I certainly have. Over the past couple of months, amidst some great times and tremendous blessings, I’ve still had to walk through some periods of darkness. Again and again, I’ve asked God why. If God loves me — really loves me — why would He have me experience this darkness? If God is powerful — really powerful — why couldn’t he just keep me having a perfectly easy, comfortable, contented life?

At the moment, I don’t really know all the reasons why. Maybe someday in heaven I will see God’s full purpose. However, I think one reason God gave me the darkness was so that I would fall in love with the light that God has provided for my walk through life.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” God has provided a light to guide us on the darkest paths in life! But here’s the thing: a light doesn’t do too much good in full sunlight. The light is still there, but we’re less likely to use a light or appreciate the light during the day. We need the darkness to appreciate the light.

In the same way, I think periods of darkness in our lives help us to fall in love again with God’s word. I know that as I’ve walked through my struggles, God’s word has daily become sweeter and more and more encouraging to me. I crave God’s word because it gives me a solid foundation — a real grounding in a situation that seems insecure and shaky. Verses that I used to just skim over take on whole new meaning…and all because I am able to apply these verses to the trial that I am walking through.

I haven’t enjoyed these trials, but I am becoming increasingly thankful for them. God has been using these difficulties to draw me closer to Himself. His light is shining brightly, and I can see it all the more clearly because of the darkness….just like the sunrise.

Waste of Worry

Posted: September 6, 2011 by clairer in Uncategorized

As a perfectionist, I spend a considerable amount of time worrying about achieving certain set standards for myself. This is seen most clearly in my school work. There’s an essay due next week…will I get it done in time? There’s a test tomorrow…am I prepared adequately? I haven’t finished all of my reading assignment…will I look uninformed when my professor calls on me in class? There are endless worries and concerns, and once one assignment is finished, another worry is there to take its place.

I was particularly struck by this endless cycle of worry when I was reading through some of my old diary entries. Again and again, I read about my worries about biology tests, literature papers, and geometry problems. I worried about getting my work done and about getting good grades. Something that stood out to me as I read these entries, though, was how small and insignificant these assignments and grades now seem in hindsight and how much time I spent worrying about something that was here and gone.

Thinking back to just my second semester of my freshman year, I wrote eight essays (and six journalism articles), took twelve tests, and wrote 137 pages and 35,371 words for assignments. I spent an accumulation of hours worrying over each assignment. But now it’s all over. The grades are in, the due dates passed, and the transcript updated. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you at this point (just a few months later), what I got on most of my tests and papers. Those assignments and grades all blur together — they are all just drops in the bucket. I spent an awful lot of time worrying about something that was here and gone.

I think this is something that we all fall into too often. We spend time and energy — we preoccupy our minds — worrying about the inconsequential things in life. Jesus tells us to “not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy.” I think this applies to more than just investing in material objects. I think Jesus is also telling us not to invest in anything that is solely worldly.

Let’s look at it this way: just as passing time will destroy our material possessions (so it would be a waste to treasure and invest in those things), passing time also causes our trials and concerns to fade. Spending time worrying about those trials is essentially “treasuring” and investing time and energy in something that is temporal. What a waste of such precious and God-given resources!

Not only am I investing in something that will fade away, but also I’m not doing anything of value in even human and worldly terms! I can’t even make anything better from my investment in worrying. Essentially, worrying does absolutely nothing productive. As Jesus said, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” So I am not only spending extra time and energy on something that will quickly come and go, but I am pouring this energy into a useless pursuit. It is as if I am trying to collect something as useless as sand in a bucket with a hole. I not only waste my time shoveling sand…I end up with an empty bucket.

But how would our lives be different if we stopped worrying? What would happen if we invested our time and energy in something that was actually effective and productive?

God has given us a set amount of time and energy in each of our lives. We choose how to invest that time and energy. We could spend these resources on worry and end up with an empty bucket and a few remaining grains of sand or we can spend that time studying Scripture, investing in people (who have eternal souls), or pursuing vocations for the glory of God. It’s impossible to do both – to worry and to lead fruitful lives for the kingdom.  Maybe that’s why Jesus told his disciples not to worry, fret, or fear so often in the gospels.  The answer is simple, and it’s always the same: trust in the God who is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good.

Such a Time as This

Posted: August 19, 2011 by clairer in Uncategorized

With the start of the school year just around the corner, many of us are finding our circumstances around us changing. Instead of lounging on the beach, we’ll be sitting in class. Instead of hanging out with friends, we’ll be meeting for study groups. Instead of pleasure reading, we’ll be reading textbooks. Moving back into the daily grind can be challenging and I won’t be surprised if in the next few weeks, I find myself wishing I could be outside doing something fun instead of sitting at my desk studying. However, as we move into our new routines and new schedules, I think it’s very important that we remember to ask ourselves a question: whether or not we’re happy in our circumstances, is it possible that God has put us into these situations for such a time as this?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Esther. I love it not only for the bravery Esther showed, the irony of the plot, and the faith displayed by Mordecai, but because it shows how God sovereignly places people in just the right places in order to accomplish His will.

Esther was not living in the most favorable circumstances imaginable. True, she was queen (which is a lot more comfortable than being a slave), but she was an orphan queen in a foreign land, married to a man with a large harem.  She was snatched from her people, and was living under a false pretense (she told no one she was a Jew). She could not come to her husband without fearing for her life. She would have had every right to question God’s plan for her life — especially after being approached by her cousin Mordecai about petitioning the king for the life of her people (a life-threatening task). Yet God placed her in these circumstances for a specific purpose: to preserve the lives of the Jews in Persia. As Mordecai said to her, “And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)

God had orchestrated the events of Esther’s life in order to ensure that His purposes would be accomplished. But this isn’t something that God reserves only for Bible times or only for “important people’s” accomplishing extraordinary feats (like preserving a race of people). God still puts us in situations and circumstances for specific purposes in order to accomplish His will.

I have been personally reminded of this as I’ve just arrived back at college. Although the road was not always clear, God has orchestrated events in my life to bring me to this place.  Because this is where He – in His sovereignty and wisdom – has placed me, then I need to be on the lookout for what He wants me to accomplish for Him while I am here. Who has He placed in my life that He wants me to reach out to? What struggles have I been surrounded with that I need to use to grow in my faith? What tasks or activities would He like for me to do and how would he like to use these things in my life and the lives of my friends?

As this new semester is beginning, we need to remember that God has placed us wherever we are for such a time as this. We just need to ask ourselves why, and then, like Esther, be faithful to boldly step out and act upon what God has called us to do.