Monday, November 17, 2014

Teach us to be bold

There's a ton of selfishness that you see on any given day just by being among college students 24/7. Despite all of the stuff tripping people up, sometimes you'll get glimpses of people that are obviously living a life driven by something completely different. Who are these people and what makes them different? Today I witnessed something I didn't think I ever would on this campus. I was sitting in the union and this student walks in and starts sharing the gospel with people. I was blown away. This guy had no idea that any other believers were in there, he was just doing what Christians do. Why was I so shocked to see someone sharing the gospel? Why is sharing the gospel so rare if it's the only thing that matters? I'm grieved for the people who need the gospel but don't hear it because the very ones that have accepted it won't speak. I used to be without Christ and if I was relying on Christians to share Him with me I'd still be lost. Lord, teach us to be bold.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Am I enough?

I know many people consider me to be a really passionate person, and I would have to agree with them. If you read through my posts you'll find a lot of things that excite me as well as observations that make me mad and sad. I do love passionately devoting myself to things and because I love Jesus, I passionately devote myself to him. As I've walked with the Lord I've learned more about his heart and grown in my complete trust of his plan for me. The Lord and I have developed this relationship where I say, "whatever you ask, Lord" and he says, "Ok Nicole, do this, go here, talk to this person." The Lord has never let me down and there really is a thrill that comes from obedience when you know that you are a vessel for the Lord's love. Then the Lord sees your faithfulness in some "small" things (I'm not sure anything you do for the Lord is ever small) and he presents you with more opportunities and responsibilities. As the Lord gives me more opportunities I need him more and more. I get really weary sometimes from the constant war between my flesh and the holy spirit inside me. My flesh wants to pick and choose what I do for the Lord and the spirit doesn't give me an option. This will always be a struggle until I die. Fixing my eyes, the hope of my heart, and the joy in my soul on Jesus is the only thing that keeps me secure and steadfast. Naturally, a lot of things have changed in my life in the past 4 months and I find the Lord asking me over and over, "Am I enough, Nicole?" To which I always say, "Yes, Lord you are enough help me believe it and help my life to show it." The Lord has brought me through a quiet season it seems. It's not that I can't hear his voice, it's that he has taught me what it means to rest quietly in his presence. It's not that I'm waiting for him either, he's already there. I feel that I'm waiting quietly for him to show me the place, the people group, and the work he wants me to devote my life on earth to. I have to admit that school becomes very mundane day in and day out. I always envisioned myself overseas working with people who maybe had never heard the gospel. Instead I find myself in the bible belt where the gospel is all over the place and people are tired of it. Once someone asked me if I would be willing to leave everything here and be a missionary. My answer has always been YES!! However, the Lord still says to me, "Nicole, am I enough no matter your location?" "Yes, Lord I have learned you alone are enough for me." I guess what I'm trying to get at is that God is the same God whether you're teaching an unreached people group or sitting in engineering classes every day. God hasn't forgotten me and he hasn't forgotten you. There's a song I love and it says, "Here I am calling out Father can you hear me? I don't want to go without you. Here I am can you talk a little louder so I can hear you? I want to hear you." When I first heard that song it said all of the things I felt. I felt like the Lord had put me in a place and then didn't tell me what to do after that. I felt alone. Why would the Lord take away community from me? He almost always answers my questions by putting a verse on my mind. The verse that was immediately on my mind is in 2 Corinthians. The Lord says "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness." His grace, his power, my weakness. Open your eyes and see that those around you need the gospel has much as those opportunities that seem so exciting in different locations. With everything that happens, again, the Lord asks me, "Am I enough, Nicole?" When I look back on my short life here on earth, I want to say, "Yes, Lord you are more than enough for me."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jesus is better

I just wanted to drop in and tell you that the love of Christ is bigger than anything you might be dealing with right now. You already know this but make your heart believe it. There's a song I listened to when I first came to college called "Jesus is better" and my favorite part says, "More than all comfort Jesus is better. Make my heart believe. Than any riches Jesus is better. Make my heart believe. My soul's declaring Jesus is BETTER. Make my heart believe." I can't tell you how many times I have to ask God to make my heart believe that he is better. I struggle and I put things in front of Him and I have to beg God each morning to make my heart believe that anything this world can offer is nothing in light of Him. The glory of God is more. He is more. He gives you rest and grace and one day he will come from heaven and bring us to where he is. I want to be where He is. Friend, don't let anything take the place of God in your heart. Don't hold onto selfish ambition or relationships or academic status. Lay every bit of your life in front of the Lord in prayer. Offer it to him and then release it from your worry list. What really changed me was when I started daily confessing my sins and desires to the Lord. I laid my deepest desires at the feet of Christ. Lord, only you can satisfy. Make my heart believe that and satisfy me with your presence. Friend, there's no greater satisfaction than being in the Lord's will. Ask God to make your heart believe this and he will. He is better.

Monday, September 22, 2014

College update

This is an update for all of the people I wish I could sit and catch up with but distance, time, and life have gotten in the way. I moved to college almost 2 months ago and it has been an interesting experience to say the least. The first few days I lived here I was surrounded by uncertainty and I still am! I just have a better idea of what trusting in God means now. I'm a person that loves structure and God just laughs at me because at least from my point of view I don't know what in the world I'll be doing in a few years. I'm in the same position as every student but a degree isn't my main goal here. I look across this campus and I simply want the people I see to know the love of Christ. The first few days I was here I turned to Acts 17 and studied how Paul proclaimed the gospel to a city full of idols. One of the first things I noticed was that he reasoned with the Jews & God-fearing Gentiles (verse 17). As much as we sometimes want to, we can't give up our efforts to impact other Christians. I was once one of those fake Christians but let me tell you, my parents never stopped praying for me. Don't lose touch with how important the mission within the church is as well as the outward focus. Only when they're paired together do we see revival take place. The second thing that I noticed in Acts 17:17 was that Paul went day by day to anyone that happened to be around him. Don't miss this part- he went DAY BY DAY. He continually went back with a purpose. The events in that chapter have motivated and encouraged me so much. As easy as it is to stop fighting against the status quo and join in with the powerless, lukewarm Christianity we often see, we have to remind ourselves what we're living for. Some days when I'm struggling I remember back to the beginning of this year when I simply prayed for God to show me who He was. I remember telling God I'll go anywhere you lead, I'll do anything you ask, I just want to know you. I want to experience your presence. I remember where my walk was when I prayed that. I've seen how far God has taken me and how close he is to me now. I've seen how he built me then in ways that are essential for me now. When people ask me about boldness I have to be honest and say that what gave me boldness was when I got on my knees and asked. I continue to ask God for boldness and-- good news-- he has an endless supply but have you asked for it?

Brief life update/ things to pray for -
I have a bible study on Monday nights going through Romans. I'm loving that study!
God has given me an opportunity to get to know an international student named Azizah.
I've narrowed my church search to 2 churches now.
Wisdom in reaching a group of atheists here on campus

Friday, July 25, 2014

25 things

Yesterday was my birthday so I spent time reflecting on life. To keep it from being too lengthy I just wrote out some things I've learned this year.

1. Passion without compassion is meaningless. For me, compassion is the highest quality anyone can have. You care so deeply that you HAVE to do something. I can't tell you how much I admire that.
2. Only with God can you be scared out of your mind & still succeed. He really meant it when he said he doesn't forsake us.
3. Expect times of uncertainty. 
4. Encourage everyone. Encourage everyone. Encourage everyone. Be one of those rare people that makes everyone feel like they belong & are loved.
5. My desire for God comes from God. I have to ask him for it.
6. Loneliness is one of the devil's best attacks. Take heart, friend. He hasn't left you.
7. Having times of silence brings about the clearest voice from God. Go in your room, sit on the floor, and listen. 
8. God does not owe me anything.
9. Everyone is searching. 
10. Never underestimate how encouraging a simple phone call can be.
11. Don't underestimate your need for deep times of prayer. 
12. Sometimes community can become a crutch. Get alone with God. 
13. The world satisfies nothing but the devil will tell you it has everything you need.
14. I have no power to change hearts. Only God can do that.
15. When I stop putting in effort, I stop feeling close to God.
16. I've learned to thank God for the saddest times I've experienced because I learned what the comfort of God feels like in ways I can never explain. 
17. Doubting God devastates your relationship with Him. 
18. Being willing to stand alone is completely necessary if you ever want follow God with everything you are. I promise you this isn't something you have to consciously strive for. If you only care about what God thinks then you will be that person without trying. Don't be afraid to be that person. Lead.
19. Listen. Stop speaking & listen to what people are really trying to tell you. 
20. The greatest things I've experienced with God this year came from directly obeying his word. 
21. Love is not something you speak, it's something you show. 
22. Times of not desiring God is something every Christian goes through but no one talks about. You're not alone. I said it for you.
23. Accept people for who they are. I never realized how much it means to people when you simply allow them to be as they are in front of you. 
24. God's love surpasses every boundary that we have set up between us & other people. Love God? Show it. 
25. The things you think about have extremely strong grips on you. Be careful. Don't fall.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What do you have time for?

I got an email from a lady requesting more posts so here's an update. Thank you. 

A question that has been on my mind lately due to some things going on has been -- what do I have time for? It's not so much of what can I squeeze in but more like what do I MAKE time for? Take a minute break from reading this, close your computer, and ask yourself this question. How do you spend your time?

Did you think about how you've spent your time just within this last week? Time is always the first thing people throw at me for an excuse when it comes to doing anything. I don't let it bother me because ultimately you have a set number of years on this earth and I get it if you don't feel the urgency in that fact. You can spend those few years how you want to or you can use all of your short time here to radically change the world around you. I mean radical, insane, indescribable change. For those of you who pursue that legacy with everything you have- don't ever stop. Not even when the people around you give up and you're the only one left. Hold onto what The Lord has compelled you to do and finish it. 
Now I'm left with the question I've always wanted to ask to those who say they don't have time. What do you have time for? We "manage" and "schedule" our time like it's ours or something. Have we forgotten that every breath, every heartbeat, every blink of our eyes was given to us so that we could expand the kingdom? We've been given time. We've been given life. What for? To spread this all-consuming love that rescued us from eternal death and redeemed us to a personal relationship with the very God we disgraced. Doesn't that make you want to DO something? Don't you feel a responsibility to share that with everyone? How can you know that and claim to believe that and then say you don't have time to share it?
A friend once told me to make my "No list" bigger than my "Yes list". I thought ok cool...what does that mean? Your schedule could be filled with all of these awesome small groups and bible studies every night of the week but what time is left to reach the lost? I was talking to a barista one time and she said there were bible studies all the time at the coffee shop she worked in. She told me how she would walk past and listen in sometimes but NO ONE EVER TOLD HER ABOUT JESUS!! Do you see how the "coffee shop bible study" mentality has completely SHATTERED our witness so many times? Make your no list bigger than your yes list. Sometimes you might have to turn down that Christian fellowship to actually DO what they sit around and TALK about. I want you to ask yourself this question and I've asked myself this too-- Am I a friend of sinners? 
Just compare how you spent last week. Are we making time to be around the lost in order to make an impact on them? Jesus himself was a friend of sinners. He went to those places and sat down with them. Are we doing the same thing? How are we spending our time? 
Think of all the excuses you've ever made in your life..if you're like me it's a lot. Ok now think about reading that list off to God. Somehow my excuses just lost all of their importance. So to those of you reading this, I've made excuses and I'm no better but we have to change our hearts. We have to see people as either lost or saved and see everyone as worthy of hearing the gospel. The gospel is for everyone to hear. Jesus is for everyone to know. My excuses are for me to confess and repent.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Life in Tribulations- Kay Lynn Bryce

Let me explain this post... I woke up this morning and I honestly felt very lonely. I gave myself a pep talk and decided I had 2 choices. I could be sad all day or I could take what I'm feeling and use it as fuel to do something for someone else. So I thought about what I could do. I decided to drive to my favorite bakery and get a bunch of cookies and go pass them out to whoever I saw. I went in and bought the happiest looking cookies they had-- sprinkle! The bakery workers filled a bag of cookies and I headed out with no plan other than making someone's day. I prayed that God would lead me to people who needed encouragement. I was driving down Poplar Ave. and I saw a lady sitting on the curb outside of Starbucks. I pulled in the Starbucks parking lot and grabbed my bag of cookies. I sat down on the curb with her, asked her name, and handed her a cookie. She started telling me her story and I asked if she knew Jesus. She said she did know Jesus! After listening to her for a while, she said she wished she could get her story out there. I said well I have a blog and you could post on my blog if you wanted to. So she spoke and I typed and here is what she said. [she told me many things some of them too painful to share with you but this is her story.]

My name is Kay Bryce. I was born with an AVM (arterial vascular malformation) and I found out when I was 34 and am now 56 years old. On the day I found out I had AVM, I was so bad off that when someone finally found me I was dead. I died 4 more times in the ambulance & one more time at the hospital. They got a hold of my sister and I made it to Green Bay Hospital. I was in the hospital 3 months and I had a trach. My youngest boy wouldn't even come up to me because I looked so scary with the trach. To treat me they shaved all of my hair off and cut my head open and put stitches in. I asked them how many stitches they put in my head and they said one big one. I had to go through a lot of therapy. My family left me and on Feb 4 2009 I drove my van from Wisconsin to Memphis. I lived in my van. One evening my van was locked and I went to a restaurant downtown and my van was gone when I came back. I called the police to see if there was a shelter for me and there wasn't one unless I had a kid. I told the cop he must be crazy if he thinks I want a kid to go through what I'm going through. I stayed under a bridge at Lamar Ave. and Bellevue for 2 months. A lot of bad things happened to me in those 2 months. I had to find a way out. Now I rent an apartment.
Today I met Nicole outside of Starbucks and she let me post on her blog. Nicole asked me to share one thing I think society has forgotten over the years. I would tell you that your life isn't as bad as what you think. Just knowing me, my life is 20 times worse than yours is I promise you. I live in Orange Mound but Jesus protects me against everything. Life has its ups and downs but if it wasn't for Jesus I wouldn't be here. I feel that he wants me to talk about what I've been through. I can't walk on my own. I have to use a walker. I can't take care of my kids now. But Jesus has enriched my life a lot. He's brought many people into my life some of them are called angels. I want people to realize that their life isn't that bad. If you're able to walk and talk be thankful. God will be behind you. 

Nicole typing now--Kay had many things to share with me. Some of them brought her to tears and I am truly broken for this lady. She has had a very rough life but it's clear that God has watched over her because she is still alive. What I would like anyone reading this to gather from Kay's words would be that we have to care about people. Kay and I read a passage in Luke over lunch and one verse that sticks out to me is Luke 12:48. "...from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." I've been blessed with being cared for all my life. God has given me much and so I have a responsibility to show love to those who have not. No exceptions. Show love to everyone. God has given much so God demands much. 

^ Kay 
^ my bag of sprinkle cookies

Monday, May 26, 2014

What a night!

I wanted to share some exciting things that have been happening lately! A few nights ago I went downtown with a small group of people to share the gospel with the homeless & give them food. This is one of my favorite things to do because the risk is high enough that hardly anyone will go with us so the ones going really care. We start at 7:30pm & walk around downtown speaking to & serving any homeless person we see until about 1 am or later. I packed a backpack of bibles & we set out. We saw a group of guys sitting on a curb so we stopped to talk with them. As we were talking, some police cars sped by followed by a fire truck. One of the homeless men casually said to us, "Oh yeah before you walked over here we heard 5 gun shots." I thought to myself, "I could really die here tonight doing this" but the greatest feeling was accepting that God has control of my life. I wasn't afraid of what could happen because I knew the Lord called me to follow where he leads- even if that is among danger. It was a moment where I thought, "Wow! This is truly what it means to be a Christian! I'm putting all of my trust in God." I can't keep myself from danger all of my life if I want to give all I have for the cause of Christ. One of the guys sitting on the curb had just gotten released from jail that night & one of our guys shared the gospel with him & he accepted Christ right then!! 
Courtney (middle) praying to accept Christ! Hunter (left) shared the love of Jesus with Courtney and went church searching with him on Sunday. You wouldn't believe the smile Courtney had on his face!! I said, "Man! You're my brother in Christ now! You're no longer defined by your past! Your new life with Jesus starts right now!" I showed him how to share the gospel and he said he has so many friends that he can tell! I walked away so humbled by God's mercy and power! We're such ordinary people but God chooses to use us. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame to wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world & the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are so that no one can boast before Him."
At one point we walked under an overpass where we met a man named Robert. We gave him a sandwich and I was hungry so I stood there with him and ate a sandwich too. In front of us were 6 lanes of interstate and cars were speeding past us. One suburban drove by and all of the windows were rolled down and the kids inside were staring out at us with a look of shock & disbelief. I imagine them wondering what in the world a young white girl was doing eating a sandwich under a bridge. Ha! Around us were cockroaches & broken glass but none of that phased me. Robert is another person just like I am & we were just 2 people eating PB&Js & enjoying a light-hearted conversation. You see, I no longer look at anyone & only see the circumstances they're in...I look at Robert & see a person who has had a rougher road than I've had & who has so much potential as a human being. We hear Philippians 4:13 all the time but I look at someone like Robert or Courtney & think, "THEY can do ANYTHING through Christ who gives them strength." Why do we only want to apply that verse to sports or talents instead of believing that yes, Christ has the power to change anyone.
We kept walking & ran into a girl named Stephanie. I said to her, "Stephanie, if you were to walk over there & get hit by a trolley & die, do you know where you're going?" She said she didn't know where she's going when she dies. She told me,"I want to get this right." I shared the gospel with her and she accepted Jesus right there downtown by the trolley track! Her prayer was so real-- "Jesus, I don't want to live this way anymore..." She gave me the biggest hug! She was so thin and frail that I just broke for her & the life she lives. But you see, what makes me any more deserving of God's love than Stepahnie? Is it because I live in a nice house or I've gone to a good school? She is a living, breathing person just like me so as a servant of Christ, I have a responsibility to tell people like Stephanie about Him. Who's to say they won't respond to the gospel & be saved? We can't count anyone out!! I'll see her in heaven forever now! When we've been there 10,000 years, I won't be thinking about the "risks" I took to share the gospel or the times I was unsafe...I'll look at Stephanie & Courtney and praise God!
 Stephanie accepted Jesus where this picture was taken.

Monday, May 19, 2014

brand new minds

I haven't had a chance to sit down at my laptop in a while! I finished high school last week and I've enjoyed having some time to reflect on my life so far. Most people see the end of high school as starting an uncertain phase in their lives where they have no clue what to do next. I don't consider myself to be in that position mostly because I know that God will make it very clear to me what he wants me to do with my life. Late last night I took a walk and I was thinking over some things and the verse "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" popped up in my head again. That verse is something I've been reading over recently and last night the Lord gave me some insight through that verse. It's found in Romans 12:1-2. Paul starts off by saying "I urge you brothers and sisters in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices." We hear that we should be living sacrifices all the time but what stuck out to me was "in view of God's mercy." In thinking over how merciful he is to us and how his mercies are new every single morning...because of THAT it's our privilege to sacrifice our own plans for His. The fact that if we call on Him and pray for forgiveness he graciously casts our sin as far as the east is from the west! Shouldn't we desire to offer ourselves to Him after all that he does for us even after we disgrace His name daily? I remember a verse in a hymn that says, "Behold the Man upon the cross, My sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers." How many times has my voice mocked God by how I have chosen to disobey Him and grieve Him by my actions? Too many times to count. In view of His MERCY on us. A mercy that we should never have the opportunity to view of THAT we offer our lives as living sacrifices. Once we're dead we can't offer anything as a sacrifice. While we're still living we have the opportunity to sacrifice all that we have for His purpose.
        Then Paul says "THIS is your TRUE and proper worship." So true worship isn't a guitar and a contemporary worship song? Paul says sacrificing your whole mind, my strength, my hands, my feet...this is what it means to truly worship the God that knit you together in your mother's womb. Something else that stuck out to me is that it says "this is YOUR true and proper worship." How many times do we rely on another person's form of worship or their relationship with Christ? I can't take credit for Billy Graham's acts of worship. When I stand before the living God when I die, the ONLY things I can give an account for are the things I myself did for Him alone. I can't say "Oh well my mom took me to church. That was sacrificing wasn't it?" We each are accountable for our own lives honoring or dishonoring God.
     In verse 2 Paul says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND." I've heard this verse so many times but last night I was thinking over those words again and again. "by the renewing of my mind." We become more like Christ not by the changing of our the RENEWING. To make something new again. Our minds are made completely new through Christ. It's bigger than just a's a completely new mindset. Brand new! It doesn't even resemble what our old minds used to be! It's a total transformation! Wow. Just let that sink in.
      The next thing that really struck me was Paul saying, "THEN you will be able to TEST and approve what God's will is." So AFTER our minds have been made new, NOW we can TEST God's will? I can test God's will? What?! I was really thinking over this last night and this morning and I was thinking how do I test the Lord's will? If my mind is renewed daily by His word and fellowship with Him then I will be seeking His will and praying for His will in my life. Psalm 25:14 says, "The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant KNOWN to them." The Lord shares secret things with those who fear Him? AND he makes them certain of his promises? That's a lot to wrap my mind around. God absolutely reveals His will to those who have thrown off everything that hinders them and have filled their minds with what pleases Him. The idea of testing is a continual thing. I haven't just taken one test in my life. The Lord has a plan for every aspect of my life so through prayer I'm asking, seeking, and testing what His will is. As I've experienced already, the Lord will make it very clear what isn't His will. He has slammed doors right in my face and now  I fall on my knees before Him in thanksgiving for His protection in those situations by telling me no.
      The final piece of Romans 12:2 says, "His good, pleasing, and perfect will." Can you imagine God telling you when you stand before Him, "You followed my perfect will for your life! Your life on earth was so pleasing to me!" I don't even have words to respond to that. He has a perfect plan for all of our lives!! PERFECT! Seamless! Without flaw! A different perfect plan for you than for me. Wow! Talk about His mercy!! Those things have been the focus of my quiet time with the Lord lately and I thought I'd share them with you. Be encouraged, friend! I always tell my mom when she's stressed, "The Lord could come back in 10 mins so what does this problem matter?" Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

lessons from the least of these

Someone asked me recently what was the incident that caused me to be passionate about witnessing and I actually have a definite answer for that question. I remember exactly what made me think, "Ok, this way of life makes sense if I believe what the Bible says." A group of us make sack lunches for the homeless once a month for a service project and we give them to a man who goes downtown and passes them out. On that particular afternoon when we finished making the lunches, the man asked if anyone wanted to help him pass them out. I thought why not? So I went. We started about 7:30 pm and I didn't get back home until about midnight. It was so cold that I lost feeling in my hands about an hour into the evening. We each had backpacks and we carried as many sleeping bags as we could and set out on foot. The leader had a wagon with the sack lunches inside. We just walked around downtown and talked to any homeless person we saw. One of the first homeless men we saw needed gloves and one of the guys in our group just took his own gloves off and gave them to this homeless man. We prayed over anyone we met and then kept moving onto the next person.  As we were walking down an empty street, a homeless man started walking toward us. We talked with him and he pulled out his ID and said today is my birthday I'm 52. It was so cold and this man was spending his birthday on the streets alone. We gave him a sleeping bag and then we sang happy birthday to him. That moment was one that impacted me because we're all just people and this man deserves love just as much as any of us do. I understand that choices probably led him to the point of being homeless but putting those thoughts aside, this man is another person just as I am and he's worthy of being appreciated. I grabbed his tough hands and prayed over him. I don't know what it's like to be homeless and I've never been to the dark places that this man had. I'm aware that there may be a time in my life that I'll be hungry and alone depending on where The Lord has me go so I prayed for protection over that man and thanked God for his life. We continued walking and we walked under an overpass and underneath were 4 tents. They were all empty but it was obvious that people lived there. Many times we put homeless people in a separate category so that we don't have to treat them like we would our friends or family. These people that live in those tents on the sand underneath an overpass are God's creation just as much as we are. God looks at them and loves them with the same love he gives freely to all of us. In fact, I think of how much Jesus truly loved the least of these. Jesus mentions the least of these many times and says the things we do for them are the things we do for Him. At one point we walked underneath a bridge where a man was lying on the concrete. His name was Jordan and he was unlike the other homeless men we met. Jordan worked at International Paper a year ago and he lost everything and his family left him. He was embarrassed and ashamed. He looked at me and said, "Why did God allow this to happen to me?" I thought of 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about being under such persecution that he couldn't endure it. Then Paul says "This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God." I told Jordan that God takes things away from us to show us that we really can do nothing without Him. Sometimes God will take away everything we have to get our attention. Jordan actually said that it made sense but he didn't like it. In fact, the Bible says it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Jordan relied on his wealth his entire life and now he has nothing so he's open to turning to God. God will break us down to nothing so that we see his power but also his mercy. Jordan could choose to harden his heart but God's mercy is shown when a group of Christians show up at 11 pm to give him a sandwich and pray for him. At the end of that evening, I went home and knew that this is what my life has to be about. If I claim to believe in a loving and compassionate God then I have to be loving and compassionate. Showing genuine love to the people that society rejects is where God's heart is so that's where my heart is. When you go to the places where they live and look in their eyes, you can't turn away from them. You have to show them that you care because God cares.

Monday, May 5, 2014

when strivings cease

Something that the Lord has really brought to light in my own life recently is the presence of idols. There's a song called "Clear the Stage" by Ross King that says it all perfectly and I encourage you to listen to it. There's a lyric that says, "Anything that I put before my God is an idol and anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol and anything I want with all my heart is an idol." I am extremely guilty of this. GPA, class rank, and running were my entire life up until two years ago. I spent every bit of my energy pouring into all of those things. If I wasn't studying, I was training for the next meet. I ran so much that I developed stress fractures in my shins & the doctor told me, "You have to take a break." He forced me to take 3 months off. I was so miserable and I knew it. I would wake up at 4:30 am and study for hours before I even went to school. I remember opening my Bible and reading how many times the word "rejoice" was mentioned in Psalms and knowing that I wasn't joyful. I would pray, "Lord, I know you don't desire for my life to be like this but I can't let go of any of it." I worshiped my own ability not recognizing that God can take my life at any second if He chooses. When I finally let go of those things, I saw how worthless they were. There's a hymn that I love that says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." Now I look back on how I was hanging by a thread for all those years and what was it for? Those things brought me farther from God instead of deeper in my walk. The question I ask myself often is "Am I trusting God's will?" As a teenager, I watch people throw their whole lives into relationships or talents and lose themselves completely. I did that and wasted a lot of time that I won't ever get back. I had tunnel vision about everything and I didn't have any joy. Thankfully, the Lord revealed that to me and put all of my striving to an end. Now I have such a peace in my walk with the Lord. God doesn't love me any more or less if I have talents or intelligence. It was like I would take my abilities and polish them and hand them to the Lord like, "See? I did this!" and expect Him to be glorified. God is only pleased when our whole lives are for Him not just sections.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

valued advice

I like to listen to what people have to say and I've been given a lot of advice from a lot of different people over the years. However, when my grandparents talk I really pay attention. Growing up in a Christian family I've taken note of how people I respect handle certain things. I'm generally a pretty optimistic person but about two years ago I was a little down so I went to Kentucky to visit my grandparents. My grandma lives in the cutest little white cottage behind a big white house that my aunt and uncle live in. So naturally when I found myself feeling down about life, I packed my suitcase and went to visit that little lady in the white cottage! I needed to spend some time sitting at her kitchen table hearing anything she had to tell me. We spent our mornings talking about the Bible and our family. My grandma shared her testimony with me and then she said, "Nicole, there's a passage in Mark (6:30-34) where the disciples are overwhelmed and Jesus tells them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' I believe the Lord wants this to be a quiet season in your life so he can grow you." In the two years since that conversation with my grandma, the Lord has taught me so much about total dependence on Him alone...not Him plus something else. Many times, things in life get so loud and so busy that it's hard to hear the voice of God. When I find myself getting lost in my everyday life, I remember how peaceful it is to get away from everyone and just seek the Lord. The fellowship of believers is awesome and I love it but nothing can replace those times where it's just you and God. I love that Jesus specifically tells the disciples to come away by themselves. God desires to reveal himself to us in personal ways during those intimate times alone with Him. To me, that side of God is the best. The God that said "Let there be light" and it came to be cares to hear the complexity of my fears and desires? That's true for all of us. Sometimes we go through times of quiet seeking and then we realize that it was really a time of rest. The Lord gives us these seasons in our lives to show us different sides of himself so in tough times we can remember that we've tasted the Lord's goodness.             

Thursday, May 1, 2014

how extreme is too extreme?

The idea of  "too extreme" isn't something that people have the guts to verbally express to me in conversation but their faces reveal it all. Very few people haven't given me the "you really believe that?!" look at least once. My question to the believers reading this is, where does the lasting reward come from toning it down? Where does the "well done good and faithful servant" come in after living a life that always followed the crowd? I can only speak for myself but my passion for the gospel began in the times where I sat alone with my Bible, put the commentary aside, and just read what it said. I don't want to know anyone's interpretation of the Bible...I want the powerful and convicting words found in those pages to speak for themselves. Maybe you have felt the same way at some point. A thought that always crosses my mind is this- if I was still a lost person today, would anyone go even a little bit out of their way to show me the truth? Think about it. There is a church on every corner here...has anyone ever come up to you and asked you if you knew about Jesus? No one has ever asked me if I knew about Jesus outside of the church walls. That's devastating because we claim to not only know this truth but also base our whole life on this truth that could save people. I was talking with my dad about this the other day. I explained to him that the reason I'm willing to go out of my way for people is because I believe that anyone that's breathing is worth it and should at least be given the opportunity to hear the gospel. Isn't going out of "our way" the whole point of being a disciple? I know you're probably thinking, "that's right! everyone is valuable! I agree!" It's easy to agree in our thoughts but are our actions lining up? What about the people that can do nothing for us? How are we treating them? In fact, let's go so far as to say that associating with these people will hurt our reputations. What then? Read about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man is in hell and he knows there's nothing he can do but he begs, "Send Lazarus to warn my five brothers so that they won't come to this place of torment!" Can I tell you that as Christians we are those people sent to warn. That's something we can't take lightly! 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, "We are Christ's ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God." Appeal= an earnest request or plea. God is pleading to a lost world through us. I wonder if the roles were reversed and let's say I switched lives with an much worth would a Christian see in me to tell me about eternity? Would anyone bother at all to invest in me in hopes of seeing me around the throne forever? I think about the rich man begging to have Lazarus warn his brothers and then I read the names I've written down of the lost people I know. What am I willing to do for these people to be able to see them in heaven forever?  How extreme is too extreme?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A lady like Yoni

At the beginning of this year God started convicting me to share the gospel with anyone & everyone. One morning in January I was driving down Goodman Road & I was just praying, "Lord, I know you want me to share with someone but I don't know who." Then I saw the lady in the picture above, Yoni, walking on the side of the road. My first reaction was "No, surely God didn't mean for me to talk to a lady on the side of road...did he?" This particular day in January was exceptionally cold and the wind was so strong that Yoni had a scarf wrapped around her entire face. I kept driving along and then I said, "ok, God" and I turned the car around and drove back by this lady. I rolled down my window and said, "hey, could I buy you a cup of coffee? (Starbucks was nearby)" She said  she was actually headed there. (Yay! Good sign!) I said I would meet her there. When she walked in Starbucks I gave her a hug and asked her name & we sat down with our coffee. (Remember- this lady is a complete stranger.) I started asking her about The Lord & it turns out she has been walking with The Lord for 30 years! 30 YEARS! She lived in Chicago most of her life & experienced a lifestyle filled with gang violence & dangerous situations. She accepted The Lord in her teens & was brought out of that lifestyle. Here I was thinking I would buy this lady a cup of coffee & share Jesus with her but she was teaching me what it meant to trust The Lord! I was so encouraged by Yoni & her testimony! Yoni grabbed my hand from across the table and prayed over me. Looking back, my encounter with Yoni sparked something in me. I prayed for boldness & was able to sit down with a lady I didn't know and talk about Jesus with her as if she was an old friend. I really cared to hear what she had to say and what her life was like & Yoni saw that & felt free to open up. I'll never forget that day with Yoni & I don't think she'll ever know the impact this first leap of faith had. As I was leaving Starbucks that day she called out to me, "Nicole, keep on shining. Just keep on shining." Sometimes when I'm intimidated, I think of Yoni & her saying "just keep on, Nicole." If I ever see Yoni again I'll just say thank you & then ask her if she wants to grab coffee!  So if I could say anything to you reading this I would say stop limiting your sphere of influence to just people you've known all of your life. As you'll see later on in this blog, there are a lot people like Yoni out there that have crazy testimonies & so much encouragement to give. If only we would stop judging people and meet them right where they are...even on the side of Goodman Road.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

my testimony

Amy Harris encouraged me to start a blog so here it is! ( I'll be adding this to my resume.)
 I'm not really that interesting but we'll see how this goes. I grew up in church and did all the things that "good Christians" do so naturally I thought I was a real Christ follower because my life looked like everyone else in the church. I mean I knew who God was and I told people I was praying for them so I was good, right? My safe church life went on like this for years. Things needed to change because my relationship with God was as deep as a kiddie pool and I didn't know how to get out of my fakeness. Four years ago I was fed up with myself and I got real with God. I knew that it was my own fault that I wasn't close to God. James 4:8 says, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." I had all the knowledge about God but if I was honest I would admit that I was comfortable in my fake Christian life that didn't convict me to do anything with God. I let go of what people told me the Christian life was supposed to look like and I read the Bible for myself and found that my life wasn't adding up. I claimed to worship the God that holds all things together as it says in Colossians 1:17 yet all I cared about was myself. I didn't have a heart for the lost and the least of these. The Lord changed me as I realized that all that I am is plain to God as 2 Corinthians 5:11 says. He knew the motives of my heart and still welcomed me back when I came to my senses and ran to Him. Just typing that gives me chills. Man! I'm four years old in my Christian walk and the Lord keeps shaping my heart and desires. In the last year or so God really convicted me about my willingness to share Him with others. When I say "really" I mean He REALLY convicted me. Since then, I've been like a little kid who just trusts their dad to not only protect them but also to lead them. What I do isn't radical at all. I just trust and obey. How can I say I want to go deeper in my relationship with Christ but then ignore everything He asks me to do? Looking like a fool doesn't phase me. I wouldn't trade this closeness with God for anything the world has to offer me. Many times when I've talked about God's love to complete strangers at a gas station or wherever, I've thought to myself THIS is Jesus' heart. This complete stranger that is opening up to me and sharing their pain with me is the heart of Christ. People are God's heart. I want my life to make sense when I compare it to what it really means to be a disciple. I'm not special by any means. It's only the grace of God in my life.