Saturday, August 12, 2017

"I Have This Hope"

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Songs are something that have been able to click with me in many ways over the past several years. Sometimes it is like the song was literally written for me. There are so many I could outline with how they relate to my life and faith, but this is one that I did a Bible study with myself with a couple months ago.

by Tenth Avenue North
As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?
I don't wanna live in fear
I wanna trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen in both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
Through the flood and the fire
You are with me, and You won't let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear, or will You just leave me here?

So whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I'll see Your face

I found so many verses to go along with these lines of the song, and I didn't even have the internet to help me. Just my handy Bible keyword help in the back. Imagine how many I could've found! That just goes to show how relevant the Word is to everyday life.

Through school last year and many things this summer, I have felt hopeless. Depression is a real thing, and it is hard to get out of. Many times and in many situations, I have felt completely alone. However, something always keeps me going. I know that I could not have made it through with such a positive (relatively) attitude if God was not there igniting a little flame in my soul to keep me from totally giving up. He was the only thing I had, and in these times (and helpful now) I saw that He is all I need anyways. If I can make it through the worst of times with only Him and me, imagine how great life can be when I am back on track with friends, family, school, church, and sports! I know that God led me through these awful times so that I can learn to fully depend on Him so that I can have this story to tell. I am prepared for anything that comes my way because I know that He will never fail me and never leave me. I have seen it in my own life and have lived to tell about it, and that is what I intend to do. I am alive, and I am going to tell about it!

Time after time I have gotten my hopes crushed. Literally everything that I thought was good or headed in the right direction. Things would go good and look hopeful, then bang, farther back then when I started. Things get better, smack, back further again. I quit getting my hopes up for anything. This world does nothing but disappoint. It will never give us anything that is certain or totally satisfying. I quit letting myself even get excited and just expected the worst. That can be good preparation to not be let down, but it's not a very fun way to live either. But God. He is certain. He does totally satisfy. He never disappoints. All good things come from Him, and He wants to give us good things. By setting my hopes on His work alone, I am able to find joy in my circumstances because I know that that part of life will not be a failure. 

(To the song...) Heck yeah this life is uncertain. I have questions out the wazoo. Why do things have to keep going "wrong"? Is this even worth it? I have a tendency to act out of and live in fear, but I want to know that God is with me, and I don't have to live that way. His grace is with me in the highs and lows. The hope I have comes from the parts of my soul so deep that it is not of myself. I wonder where that comes from sometimes. I ask myself how I am making it through another day. But it is because I know God is with me through it all. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing left and there will never be an end to whatever struggle I am facing at the time. Still I am reminded that God can calm any storm that comes my way, and one day I will have perfect peace for eternity.

(Now also out the wazoo are these verses, so I'll list the references and a few of the words)

First verse-
Acts 1:7, Isaiah 55:8-9, Job 37:5, 1 Timothy 6:17 "...wealth, which is so uncertain..put your hope in God, who richly provides us with everything we need for our enjoyment."
James 1:2-4, 12, 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, 1 Peter 1:6-9, Hebrews 13:6, Psalm 23:4, 27:1, 34:4, 1 John 4:18, John 14:27, Isaiah 41:10, Jeremiah 1:8, Matthew 10:31, Mark 5:36, Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 56:3, 147:3, Romans 5:17, 20, 2 Timothy 2:1, Hebrews 4:16 "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
Psalm 9:9-10, Ephesians 1:7, 2:7, Titus 2:11, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Chorus-
Romans 5:1-5, 15:13, 12:12, Hebrews 6:19, 1 John 3:3, Psalm 62:5-8 "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock , my refuge. Trust in Him at all times; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge." 
 37:34, 33:20-22 "We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You."
 42:5 "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." 
46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble."
Isaiah 43:2, 1 Peter 4:12-13 "Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed."
Romans 8:35-39, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 147:10-11, Matthew 26:41"Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
11:28

Second verse-
Romans 1:17, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Romans 8:26-27 "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. He who searches our hearts...the Spirit intercedes...in accordance with God's will."
Psalm 30:5 "Weeping may remain for the night, but joy comes in the morning."
Revelation 7:17

Bridge-
Isaiah 40:11, Psalm 145:18, Isaiah 26:3, 1 Corinthians 14:33, Psalm 130:5-6, Proverbs 8:17, 
Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek me with all your heart."

Here was just a little bit of hope from God inside of me shared with you :)
So when you find yourself feeling hopeless and let down by the world, remember that God is always there and will never let you down. 
I have this hope.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Fearless

Fearless by Jasmine Murray Reflection

This song has been one that has resonated with me because fear is the base of most of my issues. Really, though, isn’t it the base of most of everyone’s issues? Fear pushes us into impulse choices and holds us back from taking new or bold steps. FOMO (fear of missing out) is actually a term from one of my media classes. It’s when businesses convince you to make a purchase quickly because if you don’t do it “right now” then you might not have the opportunity. Fear is a common thing, but we should not let it hamper our lives. There is so much more out there when we stop letting fear guide our lives. Fear is the opposite of faith. That quote, “Let your faith be bigger than your fear” is some of the best life advice you could follow.

I wake up, I feel it
Those fears are back again
Can't shake them, Can't make them
Ever fade, Ever end
Am I good enough, Do I measure up?
Feels like a war I can't win

But I wasn't given the spirit of fear
I was given the power of love
Everything I've been fighting against
I'm gonna lift it up

I wanna be fearless
No holding back, No backing down
Fearless
Because I believe You're with me now
Bring on the unknown, Lead me and I'll go
Come set me free
God, I want to be---fearless

These mountains, These giants 
Will fall at a single word
In Your name, In Your strength
I'm more than a conqueror

I won't be afraid
I'll call on Your name
I'll walk out in faith

{Verse one}  Waking up is hard. To try to help get me going, I set this as my alarm song for a while; then I would often catch myself singing it throughout the day. (Side note-if you want to try to make your days more positive, try waking up to a great song rather than a screeching alarm tone!) Whether you’ve had a good sleep or not, getting out of bed in the morning is usually not the highlight of your day. Nights can be rough. Though a great sleep is one of my simple pleasures, night time can also bring me trouble—I think too much, get leg cramps, or have indigestion and stomach aches, or have nightmares, for example. But the night always ends, and there is a new day. Some days are better than others, but some days you really just want to turn the alarm off, pull the covers back up, and not wake up for the foreseeable future. We’ve all had those times. However, when every day becomes a burden, and waking up literally brings you anxiety, that’s a bigger problem. Not wanting to ever get out of bed is one of the signs of depression. I have been there this year. I was exhausted, yet couldn’t sleep, had anxiety and dreams about having to wake up in the morning, and laid there half awake dreading the alarm time and the day to come. Every day was just another day of the same things, and I didn’t want to do it. I tried to have a positive attitude and make changes to make things better, but I just couldn’t get my spirits up. I put so much pressure on myself to meet my own expectations. No one else knew what I was doing or how I was “performing” or held me to any standards or made me do anything (Since I have been on my own not with a team the past several months), but I made myself; I had to keep going because I said so. I was in habits of each day being a certain way, and I didn’t want to see what would happen if it changed. There was the fear. Yeah, I was tired and miserable and obviously, something was wrong, but what would happen if I changed something? It sounds simple, but the mind is a powerful thing. The day-to-day routine and my own pressure on myself was the war I couldn’t seem to win.

Verse one verses:  Psalm 30:5; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 10:12;  Galatians 6:4; Exodus 14:4
(I am noting the scriptures that relate to the sections of the song here not to take up too much space, but I will put more words at the bottom.)

{Intro to chorus} But God does not give us a spirit of fear. He fills us with His love to see things that He wants us to make changes for and do what we need to do. Sometimes we need to stop fighting so hard and let go. I know I do. I am stubborn (get it from my momma!), so you bet I’m gonna fight for it, no matter how small the thing may be. Sometimes, fighting only beats yourself up. When we are being defeated in our own fight, we need to give it up to God.

Intro verses: Isaiah 41:13; 2 Timothy 1:7; Psalm 3:6, 23:4, 27:3; Ephesians 3:18; Deuteronomy 20:4; 1 John 5:4; 1 Corinthians 10:13, 15:57; Proverbs 21:31; Psalm 55:22, 121:1-2; 1 Peter 5:7

{Chorus} I want to live fearlessly! Be bold and powerful! Just listen to that beat. Doesn’t it make you want to bust a move and do something?! God doesn’t want us to be held back by things we are unafraid of or back down when things are uncertain. He is with us through all of it. He wins every battle and has every moment for us planned out for His victory. It can be good for things to be unknown because then we don’t have to worry about planning it. Just go with it. Easier said than done, I know. But when I do best in these situations is when I decide to embrace it as a challenge and an opportunity rather than something intimidating. Take what comes and work with it! Like I tell myself in uncertainty, “When it is out of my control, it is totally in God’s control.” Following where He leads, walking through the doors He opens, can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things if we decide to do it. God often leads us down paths that we would not choose on our own, but that is because He is all-knowing and perfect, and we are naive and make mistakes. When God is giving the hint to do something, trust Him. He can set us free from whatever may be holding us back.

Chorus verses: 1 John 4:18; Matthew 1:23; Hebrews 13:5; Genesis 28:15; Psalm 139:6, 119:105; Matthew 16:24; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 31:4, 146:7; Luke 4:18; John 8:32, 36; Galatians 5:1; James 1:25

{Verse two and bridge} No matter how dumb you think it may sound to someone else, it is between you and God. He knows, understands, and made you uniquely you. It may seem like something small or irrelevant to others, something they don’t give a second thought to, but for you it is big. That happens with me. Considering I’m a runner, lots of things bother me that other people have never even heard of or care about. Example: Extra credit or other various events on campus tended to be at or after dinner time, and many fun things didn’t start until late. Sure the majority of people would attend or participate all gung-ho, but there I would be thinking, “That’s dinner time! I gotta eat! Or I’m going to be in bed before that even starts!” Others would just sleep in if they were tired or stayed up late, but I would get up to run. People are just wired differently, and that is okay. That’s how God made us. We all have our own mountains to climb and our own giants to face. When we make it about Him rather than about us (which is how it is supposed to be anyways), He will guide, provide, and do things that we could not imagine. With Him on our side, we have nothing to fear.

Verse two and bridge verses: Matthew 17:20; Job 9:5; Luke 4:32; Hebrews 4:12; Matthew 8:27; John 14:13-14, 15:16, 16:23-24; 1 Peter 4:11; Romans 8:37, 31; 2 Corinthians 5:7

Again, simpler said than done, but with God there is nothing to fear. We just have to commit our minds and hearts to it. Remember that “The Lord God is a sun and shield, bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11


I realize that altogether that is a ton of verses, so here are a few from each section/topic. Otherwise, opening up your Bible is a good idea.

“…weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“…I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” Psalm 23:4

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18

“…they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then…” Galatians 5:1

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

“What kind of a man is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him!” Matthew 8:27

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name.” John 15:16


“In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

Saturday, April 8, 2017

It's Not Over Yet

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(March 29th-April 4th)
Throughout this year, I have been constantly filled with things that God has shown me and spoken to me, and I have felt so compelled to share. That’s what I love to do, why I chose my major (Communications-journalism and new media). I’ve done my best to verbally share it every chance I get, but I haven’t taken much time to blog at all in the past year or so, but it is a great way for me to share more than the few words of a Tweet or the caption of an Instagram post. I know that God has given me all this to share and the desire to do so to bring Him glory, and I don’t want to waste these opportunities.

One of the strongest ways God speaks to me is through songs. I can find encouragement through the lyrics that I hear on stations like KLove and Air1, but when I go back and really look at them, I can relate it back to Biblical truth. It is amazing how these artists can take their talents and apply it to God and real life like they do. There are some songs that I literally think were written about me.

Last week I was having one of my worst weeks. I was lonely, unmotivated, and feeling physically and mentally exhausted. I didn’t want to do anything and was miserable. I wanted this school year to be over so bad. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through another month and a week. I ended up going home for the weekend on Friday afternoon after being so indecisive all day and having a few mental breakdowns. Literally on the way home I almost turned around twice. (Once I got there, I had a wonderful weekend, though!) So many great songs came on the radio that were very relative to my life, so I kept them in my mind to go back and look at more later. This is one of those songs! However, instead of keeping it to myself, I want to share it. If it uplifts me, I hope it uplifts you. What good are God’s love and blessings to us if we keep it to ourselves?

It’s Not Over Yet
(Excerpts)
They are inside your head, you’ve got a voice that says
You won’t get past this one; you won’t win your freedom
It’s like a constant war, and you wanna settle that score
But you’re bruised and beaten, and you feel defeated
This goes out to the heaviest heart
Oh, to everyone who’s hit their limit
Even when you think you’re finished
Keep on fighting, hope is rising
Out of the dark, into the light
Never give in, never give up, it’s not over yet
Time to put it in your past
Feel the winter leaving, it’s redemption season
Long live the young at heart
Cheers to a brand new start
We’re revived and breathing to live a life of freedom
Until the kingdom comes
We’ll run til the race is won
Don’t you ever give up, no never give up

My mind is my own worst enemy. I think about things way too much. I always compare myself to myself at different times in my life and set standards that I have to meet, always trying to outdo myself. Anything less isn’t good enough. I feel like I can’t get away sometimes, and it can drive me crazy. I look back at other times in my life and where I am now, and I feel like I am stuck and can never be “normal” again or escape whatever challenge is on my mind at the time. (But Philippians 3:13-14 tells us not to look at the past, but to focus on the future that God has for us.) That little voice that tells me “I’m not normal,” “I can’t do this” and whatever else, is the devil trying to use my own mind against me. I’m always going back and forth (if you don’t know me well, I am one of the most indecisive people you will ever meet) with choices, emotions, progress and changes, good days and bad ones, positivity and dread. I want to stay in the light and make lasting changes for good, but sometimes I get so far down physically and emotionally, I feel like I can’t go on. I feel like there’s no hope. A heavy heart is definitely something I can say I have had at times this past year. (Psalm 43:5, 34:18)

I’ve felt like I’ve hit my limit sometimes. By the time last week ended, I was there. I was so emotionally and physically drained, I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the rest of the school year. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know what to do with my life, couldn’t think straight, couldn’t even cry! My emotions had gotten to the point of affecting my physical performance in running and my energy levels, too, which then made me more upset, and the cycle went around. I was afraid I was done, and I wouldn’t be happy or feel good again, like I had gotten too far under.

BUT I know I have to keep fighting (1 Timothy 6:12). There is hope. This darkness we go through will not last (Psalm 30:5). There is always light the day after night (Ephesians 5:8). God tells us “Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded (2 Chronicles 15:7).” Any hard time we come to is not the end. In the midst of struggle, it’s not over yet (1 Peter 1:3-9 is one of my favorites, as well as Romans 8:18-21 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

We all have things we have been through that we wish we could change. I know I sure do. I’ve spent so much time in despair and tears over opportunities I’ve wasted and bad choices I’ve made. We all do. It’s okay to mess up. What’s not okay is dwelling on those mistakes. They are good to learn from but bad to carry around as a burden (Isaiah 43:18-19). God wants to use our mistakes to build us, while Satan wants to use them to tear us down and hold us back from growing and sharing the light of love (Hebrews 12:11, Proverbs 3:11-12, 1 Peter 5:8). We can’t change the past, so we need to let it go. Winter leaving? Literally and figuratively! I am loving this warm weather we’ve been having lately…and that I have come back this week feeling so mentally and physically refreshed. It’s time to be redeemed (Psalm 103:4). With Easter in just a couple weeks, that’s even more applicable, for we will celebrate Jesus dying to redeem us from our sins! However, we have this redemption any and all the time. Embrace the fact that Jesus has wiped away our shortcomings and given us the opportunity to take on new and full life (Romans 8:1-2).

He gives us a new, young, joyful heart that can live for eternity (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Celebrate these opportunities as a new start! I know my parents and I are. Not every “new start” has to be a physical milestone, but some can be. For me, I am rejoicing that I get to start at a new school with new coaches and a new team and new classes. It’s like starting college all over again, but I am so grateful to be able to start fresh. New starts can be made any day at any time (2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10). We just have choose to make the change, delight in the Lord’s work, and go with the flow (Deuteronomy 30:19). (I don’t flow very well, but that is something I have been working on.)

Now this week I have come back to school with a better attitude, a positive and renewed spirit (Job 22:23, 33:25, Isaiah 38:16). Along with a better mindset, my body has felt so much better, too. I am sleeping better, I have energy, and I am enjoying each day more. I know I can live a life of freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 3:12). It will be tough at times, but I can do it. Just having a positive attitude makes a huge difference on how you feel physically as well as mentally (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It may sound unrealistic, “mind over matter,” but it is a real thing! When you truly believe something in your heart, it will spread to the rest of your life (Proverbs 4:23).

As Christians, we have the ultimate goal of Jesus coming again or us going to Him first. Either way, we are looking forward to a place where we will never have to deal with those negative voices, things holding us back, pain, defeat, darkness, or any other negative thing (Revelation 21:4). We can persevere no matter where we are in life knowing that the race we are running (game we are playing, walk we’re taking, river we’re rowing…whatever life comparison you want to make!) will be won when we see Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14, 1 Corinthians 15:57, James 1:12) . Every day and every moment is getting closer to that time (1 Peter 4:7). Following God’s gameplan and the Savior’s strategy, we can’t lose—unless we give up (Galatians 6:9). Never give up (Luke 21:19). God never gives up on us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Romans 8:28).

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Body Issue (ESPN Magazine Feature)

I am in a communications major class right now called Cross Cultural Communication, and each week we have a paper to write on a given subject. This week was a "cultural moment" which could be a huge variety of things! I chose ESPN's Body Issue magazine. I wanted to share my paper with you all because this was an assignment I found very interesting!

The Body Issue
            This title of an annual edition of ESPN magazine could be taken in two ways: one as in an issue of a magazine, the other as an enticing topic. People are self-conscious about their bodies and observant of those around them, much more now than in the past due to the increasing use of social media, societal standards, and comparison issues that so many people develop, especially women. Since 2009, ESPN has produced an issue of their magazine focusing on athletes from all varieties of sports’ bodies by using basically nude photos staged to look “attractive” and reflect their sport as well as each athlete’s confidence as a person.
            The first Body Issue was released on October 9, 2009, featuring three male and three female athletes posing on and off the field in their respective sports. They were either naked with their private body parts strategically covered or in minimal clothing. The magazine still contained the usual sports coverage, but also added another section of more athletes in their birthday suits. Many of the athletes who were asked to participate did so willingly, while some even reached out to ESPN hoping to be included. Different covers were sold, but the magazine featuring Serena Williams was the top seller. The reasoning behind this new feature for the ESPN magazine was an attempt to regain revenue after the financial crises of the previous years which had decreased their ad revenue by 24 percent. It was also intended to rival the highly popular Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and showcase all body types. The outcome was a huge success, bringing in double sales. Ever since this year, they have continued to produce an annual Body Issue. Throughout the years, some of the most prominent athletes in their respective sports have participated including Dwight Howard (NBA), Lolo Jones (track), Shawn Johnson (Olympic gymnastics), Ryan Hall (Olympic marathon), Ron Gronkowski (NFL), Candace Parker (WNBA), and Emma Coburn (team USA running) among many others.
            These highly revealing photos of some of the most talented, respected, and/or looked up to athletes can be highly controversial. Though the private areas are covered, the photos reveal much more skin and body than is usually displayed, even in swimsuits. The pictures are intended to draw attention to their bodies, which can make both the athlete posing and those looking at it uncomfortable. Over the years, body image has become an increasingly touchy subject as eating disorders, self-harm, self-esteem, and the like have become a dark cloud behind the scenes of social media. Although the athletes who posed agreed to do so, this could still lead them to feel like they have to look a certain way, especially if millions of people are going to see almost every square inch of their body. From the perspective of the readers, they will see these athletes who are the most elite, ornamented, and successful at what they do, and think that that is the ideal way to look. The problem with that is that they are the most elite, ornamented, and successful in their field, and their lives revolve around their fitness and sport. This is a tiny percentage of the population, and they have these body types by very specific training by professionals. They are in this shape for seasons, but know they cannot maintain that forever. Bodies need a break, and these elites are elite; that’s what most people overlook. Seeing the Body Issue has potential to give people body issues.
            On the other hand, not all the athletes pictured are like those elite runners, swimmers, gymnasts, etc. who have super lean and thin frames. Other athletes such as some football and baseball players and wrestlers, etc. have larger body frames, which can be beneficial in what they do. These people who posed for the magazine embraced their bodies and showed off what they had along with those athletes of smaller size. It did not matter to them if they carried around a little extra weight; sometimes it even helped them with their success! They were proud of who they were and did not feel pressure to change to show themselves to the world. These people could be admired for their confidence in who they are rather than what they look like. This could be a great influence to others in the world who feel insecure in their bodies and like they need to change to be a success. Seeing the most successful athletes happy with their bodies the way they are can encourage people in the audience to feel confident in themselves, too.
            The most recent edition of The Body Issue (2016) brought NBC to do an interview with the athletes on how they felt about participating. These athletes shared things about their lives to be an encouragement to others. Dwayne Wade from the Chicago Bulls admitted that he has struggled with insecurity his whole life, especially about his outie belly button, until just recently. Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers has always been small and judged for his size at his position of wide receiver, but uses this as greater motivation to work hard and stay healthy. Nzingha Prescod, an Olympic fencer, is self-conscious yet proud about her curves and muscles and wants to inspire other women to feel the same way (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/athletes-share-insecurities-inspiration-espn-body-issue-n605251).  In another interview, Wade also acknowledged that situations like this cause athletes and others in the world to experience more fear and insecurity from being judged by people (https://mic.com/articles/147977/espn-body-issue-2016-celebrates-all-athletic-body-types-here-are-the-photos#.N3TO0w7FQ). ESPN also posted a blog addressing some of the photos and videos that were released on their website from the Body Issue that were taken offensively and considered to have gone too far. People are supportive of the fact that ESPN is seeking to celebrate all forms of athletes’ bodies, but they are not okay with the amount of nudity that has come out to the public recently (http://www.espn.com/blog/ombudsman/post/_/id/723/espn-loosens-standards-with-treatment-of-body-issue-photos).

            Over the past year, especially coming to college and places where people are more open and honest, I have seen that there are many more people affected by body image, comparison, social media, communication, self-esteem, and so many more emotional and mental problems that can greatly hamper the enjoyment of life. Seeing so many things released on the internet, television, and print that would not be considered acceptable in previous years (and not easily accessible if they were there) has shown me just how fast society is changing and accepting more and more things that would have previously been rejected. All these things now brought to light can make people very uncomfortable and set unrealistic expectations for themselves and the world. Sometimes this greater exposure provides great encouragement to the people in the world who are not living the lives of fame, but I can also see the negative and disturbances that can come from any event that begins with a positive idea. As the body issue began as a way to promote ESPN and athletes of all varieties, it can also bring insecurity to those in and reading the magazine.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Power of Prayer

It has been so long since I have made any blog posts, and I have really missed it. Time has just flown by so quickly. I always have homework to do or something to study, and I am one of those people who is afraid that I am not doing something that I should. However, I have had so many things lately that I wish I could share but just haven't. Don't worry; I might write a book one day. (I had a class where we had to create a themed blog, but it had to be Wordpress, so I used it to share a few things that God was working in last semester)

God has been more evident to me this year than ever before in my life. I have felt Him speak and move in ways like never before. Part of this, I believe, is because I have been through some really tough stuff. This has been the hardest few months of my life in every way. A quote that has always stuck with me and has become so much more meaningful is "When God is all you have, you'll realize He's all you need." When you come to a place where you feel so down, discouraged, lonely, and hopeless, and you turn to God, He will be there for you. He always has, always is, and always will be. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8 When things are uncertain, we can know that He is the one thing that we can trust. 

One of the main things that I have experienced this year is the power of prayer. It is indescribable. Prayer isn't just to praise God or to ask Him for things. It is a chance for us to be totally honest in ways that we wouldn't tell other people for shame, embarrassment, confusion, fear, or many other reasons. God understands when we don't know the words to say. He still loves us no matter what we have or haven't done. When we pray like this, it is humbling. It softens our hearts. When we truly mean what we pray, God is so responsive.

We can't just sit back and hope everything works out. We have to use this prayerful heart to also ask for help to be willing. We can't do it on our own, and God won't do everything for us. We have to work together. We have to ask God to show us what we need to do, give us the opportunities to make a difference, make the right choices, etc, and for Him to give us the eyes and heart to see the opportunities that He puts in our path...and then the willingness and courage to act on them! We must have faith to follow even when it is something we are not comfortable with. For things to change, things have to change. Things aren't easy, but when we act on something we feel God leading us to do, once we take those steps, we can feel Him there with us.

This isn't to say that we can pray all these selfish things that we want and if we really want them we will get them. No, this is humbly accepting that we are nothing without God and submitting our failures and hopes to Him so that He can use them to make us fully useful to bring Him glory. When God is at work, it brings a joy that has no comparison. 

Day after day, I am amazed at how I am directly seeing God answer my prayers. Examples? I'd love to talk to you.

Speaking of prayer, a wonderful thing that I've been doing each day is a little devotion from the church I have been going to here in Nashville, Ethos. It is a one-month focus on prayer. I gotta tell you, it has been exactly on point, and God is responding big time.

I can't put words to describe all the amazing things that I feel coming from the Lord, but these are some verses that I want to share to go along with this. I hope it encourages you in whatever your situations may be. No struggle is too much for God. No matter where you are, what you're feeling, just go to God.

Let these words sink in and let your heart fill up.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

"If you believe, you will receive what you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:22

"And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified...You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it." John 14:13-14

"If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:7-8

"...Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask for in My name...Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:23-24

"This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." 1 John 5:14