The Story of the Supposed Missing Kid- or the Lost Sheep (PYFA Vacation Bible School)

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It’s the last day of PYFA and I’m leading children’s ministry. We’re almost done for the day when a frantic mother comes up to me and tells me her kid is missing and more importantly that this is my responsibility. (Spoiler Alert: He was with his father and brother)

You can imagine what happened next. Our volunteers stopped everything and, much like the parable of the lost sheep or the lost coin or the parodical son, we left everything behind for that one out of 80 kids we lost. (I might add we actually didn’t lose him) In that moment it was our responsibility that drove us to search for this ‘missing’ kid, but sitting with my mother she reminds me of how we serve a God who with a much greater love, not responsibility, searches for that one lost sheep. Thinking back I can’t imagine the love and pain God feels for us because he sees beyond our physical circumstance and knows who is truly lost is the crowds. He sees you and I and He, with great urgency, searches for his lost sheep.

Our supposed lost kid was with his father and brother- safe and sound. And I honestly never felt so happy to learn that a child was with his parents! I imagine how great God’s joy is when we choose to follow him and that he chooses to look for us when we’re not his responsibility- he does everything because of love.

This Sunday there is no “Sari Sunday” post. To be honest with you, before deciding to teach, I never imagined myself in children’s ministry; I’m now a Special Education Resident and will be a full time teacher next year at a high school. If anything, my passion is to work with teens, and managing large groups of young kids always seemed as a daunting, if not impossible, task.

When I thought I lost a kid I was filled with feelings of panic, sadness and doubt. This is my future career, isn’t it? But today I learned a lesson of how much it hurts to lose that one sheep in just a VBS. I worry about this VBS when I hardly think of one’s eternity. 

Luke 15: 4-7 

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the [b]open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The Secret to Confidence: Know Your Worth

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Low self-esteem is easier to find than dirt on the subway as insecurity devours our culture, stripping away more than we possibly realize.  Once we forget who we are, we settle for less, we walk hunched over.  Confidence is an afterthought when survival is what we grasp for.  The problem begins because we do not know our worth. 

1.  How much are you worth?

I spoke with someone once about this, I believe it was my brother.  He calculated his worth and pointed out that some people are worth more than others.  How then do you determine yours?

I started a new tradition where I collect all my coins and turn it in at my local bank on my birthday and after Christmas.  It’s my surprise birthday/Christmas gift to myself.  Plus, if I ever find myself really strapped for cash (and assuming I haven’t recently done this) I can cash in my change.

My bank allows me to guess how much money I’ve collected.  I thought I didn’t collect much, it didn’t even really fill the jar.  I guessed $30 thinking I was being too optimistic.  I was wrong, I had collected $60 without realizing it.  I dramatically undervalued how much I saved.

I felt God pleading with me recently reminding me that I am worth so much more than I realize.

2.  Don’t use the wrong formula.  

It’s so easy to forget our worth, isn’t it?  There are all those markers that seem to define us. But, who are you beyond your job, your looks, your Facebook profile or your grades?

So many times I fear that I, as well as many people I love, do the same.  We don’t understand our worth.  We are jars of coins trying to be sold to the highest bidder, never taking the time to count what’s actually inside.

I began a new yearly bible plan, click here for a link.  When reading over Genesis I was reminded of something beautiful.  Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

How remarkable is this?  And really think about this- you are created in the image of the most beautiful God.  How much are you undervaluing yourself?

Thinking back to my conversation with my brother, I may be worth nothing “technically”, but no price can actually be put on your life.  You may try, but no one can ever measure the way you love, no one can ever measure the lengths those who care for you will go.  These barometers forget that because of God, our worth breaks any scale man can make regardless of who you are and what the world thinks of you.

3.  Turn to God

I remember loving myself growing up, maybe a little too much.  I rarely even thought about how I looked like but knew I was special, I knew I had importance.  Then puberty hit and a wave of insecurity came along with it.  I questioned everything I once knew for a fact.  Was I ugly?  Why did others do better than me in school?  Did I really have friends?  I didn’t know it at the time but these were whispers of deceit from the enemy that would tear me down- but not completely.

I wish I could say that at the age of 21 that I am immune to insecurity, that I’ve solved the problem of low self-esteem.  But I too need to stop myself from undervaluing my worth.

The difference now is that I know the truth: that I am worth more than I can possibly comprehend.

Why else would God of the universe send His Son to earth to die for me? Am I worth the life of someone so perfect, so holy….to take the place of my wretchedness, my sin, my deceit, my shame…?

I am worth it. YOU are worth it. You have value much more than you know, so much that He laid his life down for you. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” John 15:13 NIV

So next time when you’re feeling down about yourself, remember that the Creator made you in His image, His beautiful and perfect image, and that your life is worth the price of His Son.

4. The Challenge 

Today I challenge you to look at yourself and let God speak. Look deeply into your heart and hear what God says.  He crafted you, he is molding you as his perfect creation.  Comment below when you do this about how God is speaking to you.

The secret to confidence is knowing your worth.  

If you see yourself through the eyes of the Father, you can be confident in the knowledge that He created you for a purpose, you are beautiful and loved, and you have worth.

Written by Nina Thomas, Edited by Shannon Mathew

Everyone feels sad sometimes

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It feels odd to write down, but it’s so true.  Everyone feels sad sometimes.  I don’t know why I imagine that I am the only person who feels the way I do when I go through rough patches in life.  Sometimes that sadness can seem engulfing and the scariest thing in the world to do is to address what I’m feeling.  The bible says that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing.  But all I want to do is rejoice!

I’m sure that there are lots of people who feel the same way that I do.  I don’t want whatever situation I’m going through to burden others.  I don’t want other people to know that I’m experiencing pain.  And I imagine that everyone really is exactly the way they appear to be on the surface.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Absolutely everyone we meet in life is facing his or her own battle.  And this is all the more reason to love and to love like never before.

My mother was the first person to make me realize this.  She told me to be kindest to the people who seemed the meanest.  Because when you stopped and took time to get to know them, it’s like peeling an onion!  There are layers and layers underneath and everyone has a reason for being the way that they are.

In particular she told me there was a woman who she saw daily who seemed to hate her.  It’s so hard to love those who hate us.  The bible can vouch for this fact.  But she told me that when she learned of the pain this woman experienced in her life, she suddenly understood the bitterness.  She understood it instantly.  And her love for this woman was not in vain, now they’re actually really great friends!

The perfect biblical model for this kind of compassion is embodied in the life of Jesus.  He looked at the defects and the outcasts of the world and somehow he chose to love them.  I guess he saw us in a way that we cannot even see ourselves.  It’s funny because sometimes it’s not even people who are putting these labels and ideas on us.  We do it to ourselves.

If there is anyone like me, who is reading this, please know that you’re not alone.  Sometimes I feel so sad tears feel like tiny needles shooting from my eyeballs.  Or so angry that my veins will burst!  Or even so happy and loved that I imagine my happiness is contagious.  We are not our emotions or our temporary feelings.  Feelings change.  And we are never ever really alone, never at all.

The art of discipline

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Discipline.  This is one of the hardest things in the world to attain.  The above picture is a shout out to one of my closest friends Christine.  She’s studying in a very intensive six year program and I know she reads my blog, every post even.  Keep going love because at the end of the day you work for what you really want.

Something that I’ve been struggling with especially over these last couple of months has been my lack of discipline.  I sincerely have no idea what has been going through my mind lately!  Even those of you who read my blog regularly may have noticed it.  In many ways I’ve kind of just dropped off of the face of the earth.

I was worried about my spiritual growth.  I was worried about what would happen when I started taking classes that demanded more of my time.  I’ve learned that at the end of the day, everything comes down to discipline.  It’s so easy to fall prey to procrastination and wasted time but I urge you not to do so.

There are 14 weeks in a semester, that’s not a lot of time.  If you want to pursue a deeper relationship with God, learn more in your classes and work towards finding your true purpose- you need to put in the time.

Even with something like developing a relationship with God, discipline is the only way to get to know our father.  Pursue him, spend time with him.  Make it a conscious effort and part of your everyday to make God your priority.  I’m going to try to do this and hopefully there will be a visible difference.  No, there will be a visible difference in me.

One thing that really pushes my competitive side was a quote that said something along the lines of, “one day while you slept and did nothing, someone else was working and when you meet that person- they will beat you.”  In terms of our relationship with God, it’s not a competition.  But God deserves our time for no other reason than the fact that he is God.  You become like the things you worship.  And you worship the things you give priority and time to in your life.

Hebrews 12:11

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hey there Delilah?

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I was looking through my checklist of bible passages to read when a passage about Samson appeared.  I decided to keep reading past the passage assigned and I saw something about Delilah and Samson.  I read through it and saw how unhealthy their relationship was.  She was prodding him.  She didn’t really care for him and she betrayed him.  His interests were most important.  She wanted something and that was all that mattered,
I kept looking at that passage trying to imagine myself as Samson.  I’m obviously the brolic one!  The one anointed and ordained by God, right?  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was actually like Delilah and my friends in general are Samson.  My study bible said that Delilah was never mentioned in the bible again after this passage, but she stripped Samson of his honor.  How did one person leak their poison so powerfully into another person’s life?
Sure, it was Samson’s choice!  How could he make the same mistakes over and over again?  Stupid.  Not like I’ve ever ermmm done anything like that before.  *cough*
But how many times have I been a Delilah to the people important in my life.  The best thing we could ever do in our lives is encourage people.  To love people so much that they can feel the warmth of God.  But we’re predisposed to just hate.  
Human beings feast on hurting other and I fear that one day this nature in me will really hurt me or the people close to me.  Little people talk about other people right?  And I stand by the belief that it’s okay to share feelings, but there’s a point where it crosses the line.  I think I should know how to gauge that.
I don’t want to be remembered as someone who broke other people down.  I want to build other people up.  Samson was defeated by Delilah.  But we are made strong in Christ because our weakness is perfected in him alone.
I guess the problem comes when people who are filled with the Spirit stop listening to God.  Then just as Samson, God will leave us and we will not realize it.

I hope this was interesting to you!

Slut Shaming

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When I was looking for pictures to better explain what I want to talk about in this post, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to stumble on the picture above.  Slut.  The word burns to even to write into this post.  And recently there has been an uproar of something called, “Slut-shaming”.  This basically means that women who are considered sluts are, being shamed.  Seems pretty intuitive right?  Well this depends on your definition of the word slut.  Jenna Marbles is infamous for the videos she creates on Youtube.  Well one day Ms. Marbles made a video that struck the interest of Laci Green, causing her to make a video of her own.

In short Jenna made a video describing behavior that she believes “sluts” partake in, while Laci made a video arguing that if men do not respect sluts, they don’t respect women.  At this point you may be wondering, what exactly is your stance Nina?  And in short, I don’t agree with either of these people.  Although they both argue their points pretty well, some of what they each say is hard to chew.

Let’s start with Lacy.  She argues that a women should be respected because she is a woman, her actions are not a part of this equation.  I’m sorry, but I’ve never followed this logic.  As far as I’m concerned just because someone is older than me, or just because someone is a particular gender, does not mean they deserve my respect.  In general, I believe it’s a pretty good idea to simply respect people or give people the benefit of the doubt.  But if their actions do not warrant respect, why should we show respect?

With the same intuition, if someone does not respect themselves, why should I respect them?  If you go into a house, steal something and leave, what are you?  A thief.  And if you dress provocatively and sleep around, what can you expect to be called?  A slut.  Laci starts to go into this whole idea that the idea of being a virgin is too important to society.  Essentially if you are not a Virgin, you are not worthy.  I was so surprised because as someone who chose to take a vow of abstinence, I feel like the contrary is also true.  Being a virgin in this day and age is really hard.  Who’s right?  As odd as it may sound, I think we’re both right in some regards.  A lot of people look at virgins as though they are mythological creatures, literally.  I remember hearing that virgins who are hot are considered unicorns!  There was even a post from Reddit about this, and although the language is questionable, the message is good.

What does the bible have to say about all of this?

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 ESV / 11 helpful votes

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” …

It essentially believes in the sanctity of preserving yourself before marriage.  From a religious perspective, having sex before marriage is not acceptable.  So if this is true, does this mean women should be called sluts?  I know that this is a controversial opinion but, if the shoe fits?  I think it’s wrong when a word like slut is thrown around and used to classify an entire class of women.  But if someone  is acting in a way that warrants being called a slut, how can you be angry if she is called that?  I personally would never call a woman a slut, but I don’t know if I can expect this behavior from everyone else around me.

I remember this girl once asked openly, why should Christians be virgins?  Is it something necessary today in the age of birth control and contraceptives.  The way I think about it, when you have sex with someone just as the bible preaches, you become one with them.  Can you imagine how painful it would be to become one with someone only to break up with them a month of two later?  When you are married you have made a commitment honorable before God.  When you become one, you are supposed to stay as one.

I can agree with Laci about the fact that the word slut shouldn’t be thrown around.  I can also agree with Jenna about that fact that certain actions warrant being called a slut.  But at the end of the day whether or not you are a virgin is your decision.  (in almost all cases)  It’s your decision to accept whether or not having your virginity is a good thing or a bad thing.  Because there will always be people who call girls sluts for no reason.  When that happens you need to be sure of who you are regardless of what other people think.  But then again, that’s just my opinion.

Making time for God

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Quiet Time, oh how I had hated quiet time so very much when I first started doing it.  For those of you who are unfamiliar as to what quiet time is, it’s basically time you spend alone with God.  As an extrovert the idea of spending an entire hour of my day alone praying and reading the bible felt like complete torture.

I love being a part of group discussions, being around people and sharing ideas- but being alone?  No, thank you.  Because being alone means spending time with me and God.  Just the two of us together with nothing else to really distract me from his presence.  All of a sudden those early mornings I would dedicate to God would be interrupted because my bed looked extra comfy.

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It wasn’t until I listened to a Francis Chan Sermon earlier a few days ago that it dawned on me why I hated quiet time so very much.  Quiet time requires me to spend time with God alone and God sees right through me.  I can very well fool everyone I come in contact with on a daily basis; I can even fool myself.  But the one person who sees right through me is God.

That’s so intimidating!  The entire creator of the universe wants to spend time with us!  He knows our innermost thoughts and can see right through every word that we speak.  I remember a friend of mine asked me when was the last time I spent just immersed in God’s presence; I had no good answer to give.  The problem lies in the fact that at the end of the day I didn’t want to spend time in God’s presence.  I wasn’t hungering after him in a way that made me want to spend time with him.

I remember back when I was younger I would spend time in church and our pastor would tell us how important it was to read the bible daily.  My parents sounded like a broken rec93871973452541836_XQzdnpvm_c was ridiculous.  I lacked a personal relationship with God and the extent of my relationship to my father lasted for 3 hours on Sunday mornings.

It was because I didn’t really want to know God that I failed to realize the importance in pursuing him and spending time with him.  The thing is that when we start really developing meaningful relationships with people- we want to spend time with them.  It’s not a chore and it shouldn’t feel like work.  When you like being around someone, you will make time for him or her.  Why can’t the same go for our relationship with God?

When I think about quiet time the first bible character that comes to mind is Daniel.  For those of you who may not know why Daniel was, he was a bad a$$!  When he was in the king’s presence and expected to eat the King’s food- he didn’t.  He only ate things that were pleasing to God and he was actually healthier and plumper than everyone else around him.  It’s kind of funny that being “plump” was seen as such a positive back then!

But back on topic, I want to specifically look at Daniel in the lion’s den though.  A decree was published saying that no one would be allowed to pray to anyone other than the king.  But, how did Daniel, someone so passionate and in love with God respond to this?

In Daniel 6:10 it reads, “…when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

He didn’t stop praying to God just because other people told him that he was not allowed to.  In fact he prayed with his window opened, because he was unashamed of his beliefs.  He knew his relationship with God and he knew that God was much more powerful than the King who told him not to pray.  What I find so funny and even a little bit sad is the fact that if this had happened to me today, I probably wouldn’t have even notice the decree at first.  Sometimes I don’t pray when I am encouraged, how I can pray knowing that I will be persecuted for doing so?

We need to become the Daniels of our generation.  We need to be so passionate and in love with God that we are confident of him and what we believe in.   And the only way we can achieve this is by making time daily for God in our lives.

Hurricane Sandy

I am writing up this blog post on Sunday, November 4, 2012 and I’ll most likely post this tomorrow at my college campus.  I have gone a little under a week now without electricity in my home.  I live in an area that was somewhat affected by the recent hurricane.  Members of my family have stood in line for hours waiting for gas only to reach the pump to learn that the station had run out of gas.  It’s funny because the day before this happened to my dad I was reading in my Microeconomics textbook about long lines at the gas pump and how a lot of gas stations have price ceilings that cause this.  Funny how this piece of knowledge didn’t seem particularly helpful at the moment and not nearly as interesting to my dad as it was to me.

I still have my phone, my laptop, and the ability to go places with electricity for limited periods of time.  Regardless of this fact, this week has honestly sucked.  It sucked because I now have to come to terms with the fact that my conditions are not that horrible but they feel horrible to me.  I just overheard my parents saying that the store ran out of candles.  How does a store run out of candles?  I have never used candles so much in my life, or for any purpose other than making my room smell delicious.

So far all I’ve had to really endure is painfully cold showers, cold food and lots of quality time with my family but I find myself complaining so much.  And being honest the food this week has kind of rocked, I’ve been eating out every meal.  It’s just something about eating Chinese under 3 layers of clothing that makes it slightly less enjoyable.  I’m kind of angry right now that I can’t just go online and check my blog or my email.  I’m angry that I’ve been slowly eating up all my 3G to take cool vintage looking pictures of my cousins on instagram.  Yes, I have time for that and this is keeping in mind the fact that I have so much online homework that has yet to be touched.

I’ll stop complaining right now though for a number of reasons.  For one, complaints on my part do nothing to help my situation.  Maybe if I complained to the right people my story would be different though… Regardless, unto my second point which is the fact that this hurricane made me realize a lot.  It made me think about the things that I value in my life and just how temporary they are.  This time last week people were alive who are no longer alive, homes were standing that are now flooded or burned to the ground.  This time last week some people’s lives were completely different and are now forever changed.  That’s the kind of world we walk through everyday and past a widespread disaster like this, there is no promise bad things won’t happen in our lives.

I realize that it may sound so stupid but this past week I reevaluated some of the things I valued most in my life.  After church service today I was asking a missionary who came to my church about her work in India.  She was working to stop human sex trafficking in India from Utra Pradesh to Calcutta (I think!  Definitely spelled wrong).  She was explaining this whole idea that families are so poor and cannot afford to pay dowries for their daughters to get married.  Because of this when men come to their homes promising to give their daughters jobs in North India cleaning or serving and get paid for this they jump at the opportunity.  They fail to realize that is essentially a scam and the work their daughter actually do is offer they bodies daily for a price.  These are the problems for some people.

When I hear about those types of problems I can’t help but feel like my problems are so small and insignificant in comparison.  Here I was literally complaining that my shower wasn’t warm enough for me while I still had the opportunity to go to college.  I still have a hope for my future while that’s not the case for a lot of other people out there in the world.  After this hurricane I can still say I have a roof over my head, my entire family is safe and the worst of it is a problem that will eventually go away.

This is something I believe I will always struggle with, because I like my life being easy.  I’m reminded of James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  I am also reminded of a verse my friend shared with me that was underlined in her bible to remind her who her source of strength was, “But David found his strength in the Lord his God.”

God could very easily make each one of our lives so easy, but then anything worth having in life would lose its value.  A preacher was saying today that the actual power held in something is not what it can do, but what it cannot do.  If I held my circumstances in my hands I would have buckled a lot earlier with dealing with life without electricity.  I literally did not think I could handle it, but I did handle it and I can continue to deal with it.  This is virtually nothing on the grand scheme of things and I can’t help but want to hash tag first world problems after every sentence I write.

If you feel like things are hard right now, realize that when things are the hardest you are growing the most.  God is not quite finished with me yet, I’d be kind of sad if he was!  There’s always room for me to grow as a person and I’m grateful for every bad thing in my life.  I hope that I can always be grateful.  I aspire to be like Job and rejoice in my sufferings, as small as they may seem.  Because even when things get a little bit hard, its hard for me to praise God.  But I praise God for this hurricane, I praise him for knowing me better than I know myself and for giving me another day in my life and giving me life period.  Because I know that I do not deserve any of these things, but God still gave them to me.