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So…as of yesterday, I have a dog.

Bella is a 9 wk old Border Collie.  She is beautiful.

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(She was sleeping a little awkwardly on my couch, but it was just too cute.)

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This was kind of an impulse decision (not the best way to acquire a dog), but I have wanted my own pet for a very long time.  However, I never thought I would have a dog.  I have never really thought of myself as a “dog person,” but I guess I am now.

Let me just say that pet ownership is much different than I thought it would be.   After not even an hour of having her, she pooped and puked on me (everyone is telling me that it’s training for motherhood).  I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize how vulnerable and raw and unsure I would be.  Granted, it’s only been a day, but I have no idea what I’m doing.  I am trying to figure out how to potty train her and at the same time how to get her to eat.  It worries me that she is so calm and timid and sleeps all the time.  She is utterly dependent on me, and that scares me to death.  What if I’m not enough for her?

I don’t know how to do this.

But, it all goes back to how God is shaping me and changing me from the inside out.  A year ago, I was dead set against having a dog, but my heart has been slowly changing.   God is teaching me about love and compassion and caring for something(one) other than myself.  I want so badly to be married and have a family, and I don’t even know how to take care of this little puppy.  But, I’m learning, and I’m letting myself be taught.  Even if God is using this beautiful little ball of fur to do it.

Anyone know a dog whisperer?

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We are entering a new part of the Alive series at Cornerstone which focuses on prayer.  This morning Rusty preached on the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).  I love taking something I hear so often and really examining it.  It’s almost like seeing it for the first time.

This morning, as I was listening to Rusty, my attention kept getting drawn back to v.11, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Yes, this is a prayer for God’s provision, but it is a day to day provision.  Jesus is giving us an example of how to pray and He pretty much says, “Give me what I need to be sustained today.”  He didn’t pray for abundance; He prayed for dependence.   To ask God to provide what I need on a day to day basis is to pray for total dependence upon Him to take care of me.

This is not how I was taught to pray, and it’s not the attitude most American Christians have.  We want to be well taken care of (money in the bank, food on the table, a car in the driveway, every type of insurance imaginable…), not dependent on God for our next meal.  And, yet Jesus tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

It made me think of this video I saw on Francis Chan’s blog.

Makes you think.

Okay, so I have wanted to write this blog for a few days now, but I couldn’t find the time to get it out…..so here it goes.

Saturday morning the staff and executive council of Cornerstone had our leadership retreat.  We discussed the vision of Cornerstone, where we are heading, and other things that staffs talk about.  My favorite part of the morning was when Josh shared stories from different people whose lives have been changed by God through the ministry of Cornerstone.  I have only been an active part of Cornerstone for four months now, so it was amazing to sit back and soak in these stories of transformation and redemption.  The stories brought tears to my eyes and rejuvenated my heart for ministry.  I wish that I could share them all with you.  They would make you love Cornerstone as much as I do.

Somewhere in our discussion about the common themes woven throughout these stories (love, community, experiencing the love of Christ, feeling welcome, love, non-judgmental attitudes…did I mention love?) someone said, “The church is changing, and that is a good thing.”  Man, those are profound words.  The church is changing, and we can either come along for the journey, or be a hindrance.  I, personally, am excited about the journey!  I hope you are, too.

And do you know who is going to be at the forefront of this change?  The ones who are going to be the face of the revolution?  This generation–people my age and younger– TEENAGERS!

I am so excited to se what God has in store for the church.  I am excited to be leading a group of students during this time.  He is calling His Bride to Himself, drawing us near to know Him intimately, and then in turn, to transform the world.  This is You!  This is me!

What’s so amazing is that this is how God has worked in the past.  Almost every major revival in history was sparked by young people or the major players were young people.  Revivals have swept across college campuses and have invaded youth cultures.  Maybe, the changing face of the church is not just a revival of what we have always done, but a revolution that transforms what has always been done into something new, innovative, fresh, something… well…revolutionary.

This is where Cornerstone is heading, and I am so blessed/honored/excited/humbled to be a part of it.  Man, I am ready for the revolution!

Today I was watching Cinderella (probably not a good idea the day before Valentine’s Day, but oh well).  It’s the classic fairytale–a girl who was put down her entire life and had no chance of ever being anything is chosen by the prince to not only be his wife, but he falls in love with her.  Every little girl dreams of this–the day when her prince will come to rescue her and she will become the princess she was born to be.

I’m usually pretty cynical when it comes to fairytales and romantic movies, because I know that life doesn’t work the way it is portrayed by them.  Relationships are hard work, and hearts are often broken in the process.  But, I think the real reason I struggle with fairytales so much (depsising them, but at the same time loving to watch them) is because they touch a part of my soul that longs for something more.

We all have this deep longing inside of us to be more than we are right now, and we are just waiting for the prince, or princess, to come along and choose us, to desire us.  We want someone to really see us, to believe in us, to desire us, to love us, to chase after us.  I know it’s what I want.

This longing is for more than our “soul mate.”  It is for our Savior.

Many people never get this, and they spend all their life trying to quell this longing with human relationships, marriage after marriage, and many other temporary things.

The truth is that Christ is the One we have been longing for.  He has come to rescue us.  He believes in us.  He loves us.  He pursues us.  He has chosen us, the people who have been put down their entire life and have no hope of ever becoming anything.  He has chosen you!  He has chosen me.

So, maybe life is like a fairytale after all.  The King has come to rescue His bride.  We are His bride.  And, the longings deep inside our soul are the whispers of the One who came to rescue us and restore us to the people we were created to be.

We are doing this mega series at Cornerstone right now called Alive.  Yesterday, Rusty preached on the Old Testament and the importance of understanding it in order to fully understand the New Testament.  Personally, I love the Old Testament.  I love to study it, because it is so amazing to watch God unfold His plan of salvation.  At one time I event thought about doing my Master’s studies in Old Testament, but I just couldn’t pull myself away from youth ministry.

I was having this conversation yesterday afternoon with an amazing group of girls as we began our study of Erwin McManus’ book Uprising.  So many people think that God is all about rules and the “Thou shall nots,” but really He is all about grace and mercy. Erwin says it so beautifully,

“God has been so misinterpreted.  He has been cast as the divine legalist, the eternal killjoy.  It’s as if God spends time in eternity designing straitjackets and molding shackles just for you….God is not a warden, He is a deliverer.  And so earnest is He about you freedom that He was willing to be taken captive and crucified on your behalf just so you could run free.” (Uprising, p. 11)

The entire Old Testament is the story of God’s grace. His deliverance. His hesed.

“Hesed” is the Hebrew word for mercy, and it literally means “the consistent, ever-faithful, relentless, constantly-pursuing, lavish, extravagant, unrestrained, furious love of our Father God.”  Man, if that’s not intense, I don’t know what is.

Throughout the Old Testament, Israel fails over and over.  It is a cycle they cannot get out of.  Israel breaks the Law–punishment comes–Israel repents–God forgives and restores them–Israel breaks the Law again–punishment comes…. It just keeps going on.  But, God never gives up on them.  He always forgives and restores Israel.  And, it’s not becuase they deserve it.  It’s becasue He LOVES them.  It gets me so excited, because this is my story, too.

All of this keeps bringing me back to Psalm 119.  I can’t seem to get it out of my head (which is probably a good thing).  All day yesterday the words of the psalmist were rolling around in my head, “Oh, how I love your Law!  I meditate on it all day long…How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v.97,103).  The Law the psalmist is referring to is the Torah, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Number, and Deuteronomy).  Those books have been so overlooked by Christians in favor of the New Testament.  But, we can’t ignore them.  They are the life-giving words of our Father.  Live in them and let them make you alive!

Just for some inspiration (and a little entertainment), here are some pictures from First Saturday this past weekend.  It’s the Word being brought to life!

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So, I have to say that I love Donald Miller.  I love his books.  I just enjoy seeing the world through his eyes.  I have been following his blog, and yesterday he wrote about how Apple has exploded with sales over the past few years, not because their products are superior, but becuase Apple’s ad campaigns target the insecurities inside of us, and make us believe that if we use Apple products we will be cool.

Now, I am not a Mac hater.  I like Macs, and I am quite attached to my iPod.  But, once again, Donald made me think about why I do the things I do.  It is so interesting how we can be so affected and persuaded and not even realize it.  We all have the desire within us to belong to something.  We want to be connected and to know that we are not alone.  But, that longing will never be fulfilled by a MacBook or the newest iPod touch.  It is one more way we have been deceived.

Anyway, you should go read Donald Miller’s Blog.  He says it better than I ever could.

P.S.–Don’t hate me you Mac lovers.  Like I said above, I like Macs.  Please don’t leave me angry comments.

This morning, I walked out of my apartment to go to work and this is what I saw on my windshield:

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I know that it doesn’t look that bad, but it was much colder than a picture can describe.  It was 18 degrees last night, and was probably only a few degrees warmer this morning.  Brrrrr…. It’s too cold for my blood.  That’s the one thing I like most about the South–warm weather.  But, I will only have to wait it out a few more days because by Sunday it will be in the 70’s again.  It think the weather here is bi-polar.

Tonight was the first night of Journey Bible Classes at Cornerstone.  (It’s really amazing.  You should come!)  As I was sitting there, it struck me that over the past seven years I have been immersed in this stuff, and I still feel like I will never know enough.  As I listened to the same things I was taught in college and seminary, I began to miss the days when all I did was study the Bible.  I had to study then, because I had to pass my classes, but I LOVED it.  I loved that the Bible was my text book.  But, now I am finding it harder and harder to set aside the time to really study the Bible for the pure love of God’s Word.

Yesterday and today I have been sort of swimming around in Psalm 119.  This psalm is so convicting for me becuase of how much passion the psalmist has for the Scripture:

Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.  The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.  I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.  Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.  Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.  Redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may obey your precepts.  Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your decrees.  Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.”  Psalm 119:129-136

Man, I want to be like this guy!  When is the last time I could say that I was longing for the Word of God so much that it was like I was panting for thirst?  When is the last time I had streams of tears flowing down my face because God’s law was broken?

Today I was thinking that when the psalmist refers the Law, that’s exactly what he is referring to — the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Book of the Law).  The psalmist had no wisdom literature or prophecy.  He had no New Testament, and yet he was longing earnestly for the salvation promised to Israel.  I so quickly take for granted the amount of Scripture I have access to.  I have the privelege of seeing a little bit of the bigger picture.  I can see how salvation history has unfolded, and yet so many days, my Bible doesn’t even get opened (at least not for the pure love of the Word).

I do love God’s Word, but I want it to be more.  I want it to be something that I can’t get enough of.  I want to crave it in a way that nothing else will satisfy me.  I want His Word to be contagious in my life, spreading to every part and even infecting those around me.  I want to obey His Word because I love it.  I want it to be my life.

So, tonight we had our first meeting of Life Groups for the youth at Cornerstone. I’m not sure how everyone else’s went, but junior high girls rocked. It was so great to have an apartment full of girls, having fun and digging into The Word (but, now I know not to give them coffee and brownies…it’s a lethal combination–at least for me).

After everyone left, I was left by myself to ponder the nights events.  I cracked open my Bible and began to read Psalm 119.  I love this psalm, and every time I read it I think, “Man, I should read this psalm every day.”  It just puts things in perspective for me, and it makes me realize just how precious God’s Word is.

Tonight when I was reading, I didn’t even get halfway through before I came across these verses, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word.  You are good, and do good; teach me Your statues…It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” (v. 67&71)  This struck me, because I don’t think of affliction this way.  When I am in a crisis, I don’t thank God for it; I am usually praying for God to take me out of it.  But, the psalmist is saying that it was good to be afflicted.  Before he was afflicted, he couldn’t stay on the right path, but affliction is actually what set things right for him.

This is backwards from everything we are taught.  Affliction is bad.  Suffering is bad.  We do things in order to limit suffering in our lives.  But, what if our striving to remove struggles and suffering from our lives is hurting more than helping?  What if we are missing out on God?

The study we are doing during the first six weeks of Life Groups is on the Passion of Christ.  I have spent the past two months immersed in studying the last hours of Jesus’ life, trying to wrap my mind around it in order to write the cirriculum for this study.  In my studying and reading, I came across this quote by Max Lucado:

God was never nearer to us than when he hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden….If it’s true that in suffering God is most like man, maybe in our suffering we can see God like never before.

I think that is what this verse is saying.  We understand God the best in our affliction.  When we are suffering, His Word comes alive to us in ways we couldn’t see before.  When we are broken we are given the opportunity to see God as our Healer.   When we are abandoned, we see God as the One who will never leave or forsake us.  When we are anxious, we are introduced to God as the Peace that goes beyond all understanding.  And, when we are wounded, we begin to understand that He is the One who binds up our wounds.  It is in affliction that He reveals Himself to us.  It is in suffering that we begin to understand God in ways that we couldn’t before.  It is where we meet our Savior.