We live in a world of sin and imperfection. I am a child of God striving each day to live out my calling. Welcome to my blog where you get the inside scoop of this Youth Pastor's world!
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Forever In Your Heart!

For the past month I have struggled with how to help my best friend move forward since her mother passed away, and this morning I woke up thinking about Nicole and her family and how this past month has flown by and yet has drug on. I've wanted nothing more than to write some kind of tribute to the amazing woman that mothered my best friend, but every time I tried to write it, there were no words. There was nothing I could write that was worth saying. This morning I was in that position again, trying to figure out how to comfort my friend, when the only words I could think to say were the ones everyone says when someone dies, and they aren't really all that helpful. I sat at my desk praying for words to comfort this extension of my family and my heart. I truly feel that these words I was given are a testimony of LaDonna to her family from God. I could see her face and almost hear her voice as these words were written down, but the comfort and the peace that I felt was nothing short of God Himself. I pray these words can instill peace to those who read it, as it did for me as I wrote it. <3

My Dearest Family and Friends,
  If only I could show you what it looks like on this side of the Pearly Gates. Everything the Bible says is true, and so much more.
  Before I let go of my Earthly home I was scared of the unknown. All those doubts that sneak in, in our weakest moments were fighting for my attention. As I lay there in that hospital bed listening to those I loved most laugh and talk about our life together, I wanted to hold on so much more and stay with that laughter. Then that laughter would quickly turn to tears as you all struggled to say goodbye and return to the lives you have been called to live. I knew my time was  near because I hated holding you there.
  God has called each of you to such great and mighty things, and who am I to stand in your way and hold you back? You must continue the journey of life even though mine is through. I may not be able to hold your hand or answer your call, but I will always live with you through the laughter and the tears.
  If I could give you anything today as you struggle to move forward, it would be the relief from this grief that holds you tight. It would be reassurance for the lonely days of fear, when you're reminded of all your failures. You are beautiful my dear one. You have much more in you than you'll ever know. This life you are living is not all there is. The life you are given with your last breath is worth every tear, heart ache, stress, and fear. Don't give up on your journey just because mine is through. Your life really is worth living. You have a job to do, hold your memories of me dear, but don't let them hold you back. Cry your tears of grief and pain as you go and make a difference in the world. Live a life that will keep on growing far after you rejoin me.
  I love you my dear one, and though I can't hold you through this pain, God, our beloved Father has you wrapped up in His arms. If only you could see this place you wouldn't be sad for me. You would rejoice and be glad. This place we call Heaven is the home I have always longed for. It really is peace that passes all understanding and a place with no more tears or sadness. Hold on my dear one until it is your time to let go.

Forever in Your Heart!


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Finding Peace in the Moment

The background on my computer is a rotating file of pictures of my life with Adam. They always make me smile. And some days I find myself just watching the pictures rather than focusing on work. There is a beauty in a picture that doesn't show in real life. The picture captures a moment, and you can read a lot into it, but what you can't see are any of the fears, stresses, worries, or things that preoccupy the mind and often ruin special moments. They don't capture the texts, emails, phone calls, with stressful or bad news. Because we don't share photos we don't like. I definitely don't hang on to them, if I look fat, tired, worried, or anything but happy.

So on a day in the midst of a time that feels like pure chaos, I find myself almost jealous of the me in that picture. Because that person is enjoying a moment of bliss, chaos free, stress free.

Today I find myself wanting a drama free day. Which could only really happen if I managed to sleep all day, because the Lord made me a thinker and I can't turn my brain off.

So today I'm going to be thankful for pictures that remind me just how much life goes on. They remind me of the peaceful and blissful moments, and help me find those moments when things seem to be swirling around.

Photo Cred: DacandAlisha.com

This was the picture that stopped me today. I just want to be in this moment, right here with my husband. Lost in each other's eyes and feeling like the two most special people in the world. This picture looks like bliss, peace, and love.

What you can't see is how cold I was, the stress and chaos of every wedding day. the trying to squeeze in the pictures before the guests get too impatient and start leaving. But none of that mattered in this moment. I remember this moment, it was captured well. This moment in time will be what I need today to push through. This reminder that in the midst of what can be the most chaotic day of your life, you can find moments like these, the camera doesn't always capture them, but they are all important and define our lives.

Be sure to cherish these moments. If you don't notice them, and they aren't photographed, you can easily miss them.



Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Grace

Grace, a word I have always understood as God's Riches At Christ's Expense. I am starting to understand this word on a deeper level.

Somewhere I decided that my life was ministry, not just my job. Which means that everything I do becomes a part of my ministry. I decided this way back when I started this blog and that is why it is titled Agape Dreams. My earthly dream is to live in such a way that people seek God and His unfailing perfect love.

Well recently I have had the opportunity to learn about Grace in a new way. I don't think we will ever fully understand the gift of grace while living on earth but when you are presented with the opportunity to try to give grace and show grace to someone who won't accept it, it starts to make more sense.

On the cross, Christ offered us a gift. This gift is unlike any other. The youth group and I have discussed this as the most beautifully wrapped present you can imagine, sitting there with your name on it. You didn't have to shop for it, you didn't have to pay for it, it is just there for you. We all have the choice whether or not to open it. And even after we have opened it we have the choice whether or not to let this gift become part of our lives. This gift was paid for on the cross. This is the gift of grace. We have the choice to do with it as we please.

So what happens when we choose to use this beautiful present as a football, and kick it around, rather than what it was intended for? Is there a line? Does God ever draw a line in the sand and say this is it, you have chosen not to accept my gift, therefore I take it back, and you can spend eternity without it?

I believe the answer is yes. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus tells us that there will be a separation of the sheep from the goats. Sheep know their master's voice and follow where He leads. Goats are stubborn and do things their own way. The Bible also talks about an unforgivable sin, which is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. And to truly do that your soul has to deny the Holy Spirit. There is a line, thankfully I'm not God, and I don't have to draw this line.

But there are times on Earth when we are presented with opportunities to share Grace with other people, and sometimes we have to continually watch them take that Grace and throw it back in our face. And sometimes we are presented with the decision of drawing a line in the sand and saying this is it. There is the line you can't come back from.

This was a line I had to draw a week ago with someone I love more than I understand. And putting my foot down and drawing that line was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is very obvious that I am grieving right now, and even a week later I can't get this off my mind. I find myself doubting my decision to draw the line and walk away.

But the truth is, that I love this person enough to let them make this choice on their own. And my line in the sand is not eternal, it is more of the Prodigal Son story and I have to let them go, and pray that hopefully they will see the light someday and come back.

My question for awhile was, "Is there a line between grace and stupidity?" Is there a point when what I'm considering grace is not helpful for anyone involved. Is there a point when I just have to walk away and let them do with my gift of grace what they will? The answer is yes. There is a line, and for each person that line may be different.

The thing I have to remind myself is that even though God draws the line, it doesn't change how much He loves us. His love never changes and is always there waiting for us, but true love has to be a choice, and not one made for you. Which means when I made the choice to walk away last week, it didn't change my love for this individual. I still love them, and always will and maybe one day they will see it, but if not they taught me a whole lot about grace, and this amazing gift that God has given us, and how we don't have choose it. And as heartbreaking as this situation was for me, I can't imagine how heartbreaking it is for God. His line is eternal, when people cross it they're really gone forever, and I'm sure that breaks His heart, quite possibly more than watching His son create this amazing gift on the cross.

Grace, how will you use this gift that has been given to you? And how will you show it others? What does Grace mean to you?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Adam's Sermon 10/11/15

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out of the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” – Brennan Manning
The biggest turn off to Christianity is Christians? How is that possible? Christians are Christ followers; they live their lives imitating Christ. They are loving not condemning. They are doers, active in making a difference in the world. You can tell who they are just by how they carry themselves and interact with others. They pray for others and genuinely care about the well being of the people around them. A Christian is more than just a good person but a person with a special light about them that can only be explained with Christ. A Christian looks like Jesus.
If that is true then how are Christians the ones turning people away from Christ? Jesus tells his disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. He didn’t say take my name, create a religion, sit in pews, sing some songs, listen to a message then go on about your life like nothing has changed.
He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus carried his cross right up to death’s door. He didn’t get there with a nice house and car, the perfect clothes and money to spare. He got there bruised and bloody. He was covered in dust and dirt with his clothing stripped to merely rags. Somewhere this message became warped. Take up your cross became a fashion statement and we wear them around our necks or on our clothes. Following Christ became filling the pews, staying awake for the sermon, and then beating the church across town to lunch so we don’t have to stand in line.
As Christians we are called to more than this. We are called to a life of being uncomfortable, a life of getting our hands dirty, and breaking our bodies for the cross we have been asked to carry. Christianity is supposed to be more than something worth living for but something worth dying for; which is exactly what the world is looking for. Something worth living and dying for; a cause, a mission, something to fight for. Not another set of rules and regulations they’ll never be able to live up to. That is exactly what the world had before Jesus came.
We are called to be different, to be set apart; to live in this world but not be of it. We are called to live a life of conviction. Our relationships with Christ should be more visible than any other relationship we have.
A relationship with Christ is a marriage, something we’re supposed to fight for. In Joshua, God commands him to be strong and courageous, not to be frightened or dismayed, for He, the Lord our God, would be with him wherever he went.  Joshua was a warrior, he led the people of Israel through battle. We have a war in front of us too. A war against evil and darkness, a war against apathy and indifference. Casting Crowns said is so well in their song Courageous.
Insert Courageous here!
So how does this mission minded United Methodist Church make a stand? By being courageous and not afraid. By being willing to be loud for Christ. By putting our feet on the ground and getting our hands dirty. The average United Methodist Church in America is 94% White, 56% Female, and 32% 65 years old or older. Look around, I’d say we’re pretty average. In America the people who consider themselves unaffiliated with church are 68% White, 57% Male, and 72% ages 18-49. That is the population we need to be reaching.
I am someone that fits that statistic, I am white, male, and between the ages of 18 and 49, but I consider myself affiliated. But I haven’t always. I grew up in the United Methodist Church, my father is a pastor, and I spent my time like a lot of PK’s in the pews napping through my father’s sermons. I enjoyed youth group, conference youth activities, camp, and would occasionally sing a special on Sunday mornings. Over all I was a pretty active youth. Then I graduated and started doing things my own way. My faith life took sort of a back seat. Then I moved this direction and my personal life collided with this church. I started spending time  with the youth and it reminded me how much I wanted and needed God in my life. So I restarted my faith journey begging God to give me my dream job and getting angrier and angrier each time the answer was no. To the point that the darkness took over and moved into my life full time. This darkness was so great that I ceased to function and merely existed on this planet. It wasn’t pretty in fact I was quite ugly. And I did my best to put the light out around me, all the while being frustrated with myself for doing so. It was a constant battle.
There was a light in my life that wouldn’t go out, wouldn’t leave me alone, and wouldn’t quit fighting for me. It turns out there were multiple lights but one in particular was the  most annoyingly bright. There was a battle in my home for my soul. A battle between light and darkness. The Star Wars fan in me sees this as an epic light saber battle. A few months ago the light won and has helped me come to this place where I could get up here in front of you.
Marriage to Christ is a lot like the first few months of mine. A marriage to the light and in order for that marriage to work the light has to win and when it does it is called to shine so bright and beautiful people can’t help but be drawn to it. Jesus tells us to shine like the city on a hill, leading others into relationship with him.

Christianity is called to move, breathe, to love, and fight. Christianity is called to be real not just a church service. It took the light of Christ shining in my face daily for months for me to become more than a statistic. It is going to take you being the light of Christ for others for our church to be more than a statistic. 

A picture we took after church. After Daddy did a good job sharing his message!