Teens today are saturated with the pressure that they should be prettier, stronger, skinnier, smarter. And they are collapsing under the weight of all that pressure.
Teens are pushed to be above-average. But the truth is that far more people are average than are above-average. That is, in fact, what average means.
And that’s okay. It’s more than okay – it is from God. God made us for a purpose. HIS purpose. He has works for us to accomplish, a career to pursue, people to impact, and, for many, a spouse to marry. And He gave us each exactly what we need to accomplish those things.
Some people need above-average intellect because the careers God has called them to requires that. Some need above-average people skills because God is going to use that ability in ministry. Others are given above-average appearances because the spouse God has chosen for them is also above-average in appearance. Does that make them better than those of us with average intellect, people skills, or looks? Absolutely not!
God gives us each exactly what we need to accomplish His purposes.
God calls most of us to be “average”. That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard or that we don’t seek to do our best in all things. It is not an excuse to be lazy. But it does mean that we STOP comparing ourselves to others. We stop getting down on ourselves because we aren’t prettier, stronger, skinnier, or smarter. We stop whining about what we don’t have, and we allow God full access to what we do have. We remember that He is in control, He knows best, and He is incredibly good.
The pressure from the world will not go away. But, friends, you don’t need to give into that pressure. You were created for a purpose, and you are perfectly equipped to accomplish that purpose. Be who God called you to be without embarrassment and without excuse. Stop allowing the world to tell you who should be. Listen to the Voice of Truth and follow Him.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11
My daughter, Ellie, a Freshman, is playing varsity softball this year. She has played softball before, but on church leagues where the coaches pitched and everyone got a prize at the end. This is the “real” thing, where girls pitch FAST and teams have to fight to make the playoffs.
I’m not new to being a “sports mom”. But softball is different than the other sports my kids play. There is a distinct language among softball players, a unique cadence to their voices when they’re talking to each other that I haven’t heard in other sports.
I teach all of the girls on this team, and I thought I knew them. But they are different when they’re together. Not a bad different – a “team” different. They speak the same language, know the same secret code words, understand the Coach’s hand signals. They spend time together in practice and it shows on the field. I watch them and realize that they have something I just don’t get, I can’t get (I am ridiculously un-athletic!). They have a unique bond, forged on the field.
As I sit on the bleachers and watch these games, I think of the Christian life. As Christians, we have our own language, we have our own music, we have a Coach whose instructions we follow, and we have a bond that is out of this world. And, like Ellie’s softball team, those on the “outside” sometimes think we’re a little crazy. (Who am I kidding — some of us are a little crazy!) But that’s okay. We don’t need to apologize for being “weird”. We’re in the game. We need to help each other, be ready to catch a ball that flies past the short stop, cheer on that home run, and give a word of encouragement when a teammate strikes out.
So, as the Lady Knights say, “You got this, Babe!” Just keep running toward Home.
There is MAJOR pressure, I know, to have “someone”. Especially when everyone around you seems to have a “someone” and you’re stuck home on a Saturday with Netflix and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
But, if you observe most high school relationships, there are problems: Young couples are often unprepared for the feelings that come from being in a romantic relationship. They can become completely oblivious to the outside world, losing friendships and, too often, pieces of themselves in the process. When girls, especially, come out of those relationships, they are devastated, lost, and, if they’re not careful, look for another guy to replace the one they’ve lost, starting the cycle all over again. As a result, they only see guys as potential boyfriends, and they lose valuable opportunities to really get to know the male species on a deeper level.
On the other hand, there’s the “Friend Zone” – a place that seems, to many, like the “Mush Pot” in the childhood game of Duck-Duck-Goose. This is the place where guys and girls are friends. Just friends. No romantic interest, no clandestine flirting, no wondering what that emoji in that text means. Friends.
But, ladies, the Friend Zone is NOT the Mush Pot. It isn’t negative, it doesn’t mean you’re not pretty or interesting or desirable. What it means is that you have opportunities to get to know guys as people, not as potential boyfriends.
You can get to know how guys think, what they like, what makes them laugh and what makes them angry. There’s no pressure with friends, no expectations. You can go out with no makeup on, eat that Double-Double cheeseburger, ask the tough questions…and it’s fine!
Sometimes, during the turbulent teen years, you can forget that they are just a stage of life — like toddlerhood, elementary school, and (groan) middle school. It really will end! And those who love you want you to look back on these years with more positive memories than negative ones. More growth than regret. We want you to focus on deepening the most important relationship – the one between you and your Savior. We want you to allow Him to develop a strength of character that will be a guiding force as you enter adulthood.
So let go of that “thirst” to have “someone”, and be a friend to the guys in your life. Make knowing Christ your priority. Enjoy this stage of life without striving to leave the “Friend Zone”. You’ll find, in the end, that the Friend Zone is actually a pretty great place to be.
What is Good Friday?
It is the day Christians remember Christ’s work on the cross.
On Good Friday, Jesus was led to his execution. He was sentenced to a death so horrendous that it was reserved only for non-citizens of the Roman Empire. Not even the worst Roman citizen would have to endure this. And Jesus was sentenced for one reason:
Because he claimed to be God.
He wasn’t killed for being a good person, for being a wise teacher, for hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes. He was killed because the Jewish leaders of his day found his claims of deity to be blasphemous. They did not believe he was the promised Messiah. And they understood – rightly – that that is exactly who he was saying he was.
But Jesus was the Messiah. He was God in the flesh, come to earth. He lived a sinless life, qualifying him to be the only one who could pay the penalty for our sins.
Sins separate us from God. But God loves us, and he doesn’t want us separated from him. And so he sent his son to die the death that we deserve so we can have eternal life with him.
This Friday is remembered as Good, not just because Jesus paid the penalty we deserve, but because three days later, He rose from the dead – proving once and for all He is God and has power over sin and death. He is the victor. And through Him, we, too, are victorious. In the words of a beautiful old hymn,
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know who hold the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
I have been thinking a lot about the arts lately – probably because, at our school, we just finished a fantastic production of “Beauty and the Beast”. And in thinking about the arts, I have realized just what an incredible impact the arts had on my education, on shaping who I am. I was involved in plays, in choir, in drama as far back as I can remember. Whether in church, school, or community theaters, I had the amazing privilege of growing up surrounded by people for whom the arts were valued. And, therefore, I felt valued.
I wasn’t really a “well-rounded” kid. Not that my parents didn’t try — they did. I spent a season in soccer only to make one goal: for the other team. I played one season of softball and in all my at-bats, the closest I ever came to hitting the ball was when I tipped it and the ball went flying backward. I was in dance for a few years. Until my teacher got fed up with me trying to tap in my toe shoes. And trip over my laces. And “standing like a wet noodle.” I took piano for a while, too. But I am not coordinated (see above examples), so I never could make my left hand do something different from my right hand. School wasn’t my thing. I hated math and just barely tolerated all the other subjects. I graduated high school with a 3.3, and that was just fine with me.
But I loved performing. I loved singing and acting. I loved being on stage. I even loved being backstage. I ran lights, sound, worked as stage manager, ticket collector, anything they’d let me do. I spent more time at my town’s community theater than I ever did at school. And I loved every minute of it.
And what benefit did I gain from that? I learned to love stories. I learned to work with others. I learned that speaking in front of large groups isn’t that scary. As I grew in my relationship with God, I learned humility, the importance of putting others before myself, the necessity of working as a team. I learned that God gave me the talent that I have, and I can feel His pleasure when I use it.
I am sure I would be a very different person today if it weren’t for the arts. I would feel like a failure – someone who strikes out at home plate, who can’t make a goal, who can’t play piano, who can’t understand theorums. There could have been a lot of “can’ts” in my life. There were! But I wasn’t bothered by them because I had plenty of opportunities to do things I “can.”
That is why I teach arts’ classes, why I volunteer with the arts in church and in the community, why I value the arts. Because the arts are valuable, and they are fun; they are God-given abilities that can be used to help make our churches, schools, and communities better, brighter, and more exciting.
Have you ever gone through a difficult time and some well-meaning person quotes Roman 8:28?
I want to talk about that today. What does God mean when he says “All things work together for good”? If He means, as we often assume, that good circumstances will arise from bad ones, that a “happy ending” will come to our earthly story, that the sickness will go away, the heartache will be mended, the betrayal be made right…then something has gone REALLY wrong. Because sometimes bad things just happen. Even to good people. And there doesn’t seem to be anything “good” about it.
To understand this verse, we need to understand the word “good”. If we come in believing that word means “made right”, then we will be frustrated. There is nothing “right” about a loved one dying of cancer, of a father leaving his family, of the betrayal of a friend. Those are awful. Terrible. Bad.
Instead of “good”, the word may be best understood “profitable” or “useful”.
We must remember that, when the “terrible” happens, God is still in control. He CAN bring beauty from ashes, He can bring good from evil.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean He will change our circumstances.
What it means is He will change our hearts. He will use those instances in our lives to allow us to know Him better, to know His word better, to become better acquainted with His character. He will equip us to help others going through similar circumstances, and He will remind us this world is NOT our home.
Some of us need to stop being angry and bitter because the bad in our lives doesn’t seem to be working out for good. We need to define “good” properly. We need to surrender to God’s sovereignty. We need to long for heaven and store our treasures there.
We need to ask God how He wants to shape us through the “bad” that comes into our lives. How can we grow from this? How can we know Him better? How can we serve others as a result of the trials we have faced? “Bad” can be made useful and profitable if surrendered to the Lord of All. So surrender!
My kids and I got be in the studio audience of “American Idol” last week! What was it like? I’m glad you asked…
It was AWESOME! But let me be more specific….
Getting the Tickets. Believe it or not, they were FREE! I signed us up for tickets a few months ago, on this website.
Audience members are chosen at random. I got the email containing our ticket a few days before the show. It is filmed on a Thursday, so we took the day off school. But it was worth it!
Getting to the Studio. We were told to be in line no later than 2:30pm. We decided to get there by 12:30pm. There were already 50 or so in line ahead of us when we arrived, so we were glad we arrived when we did. Because we stopped on the way to have breakfast with a friend, we left home at 8:30am.
Waiting Part 1. Around 1:30 or so, folks with clipboards started separating those of us in line: cute teens were sent to the front of the line, plain adults were told to keep waiting. Thankfully, as the parent of cute teens, I got to move up with them! I got a ticket and the kids got wristbands. Once we went past the gate (where we saw Nigel Lythgoe, of “So You Think You Can Dance”, drive by!!), we were separated. Cute teens could take their phones and wait to be placed by the stage. Moms were sent around back, no phones, to wait for a seat in the audience.
Waiting Part 2. We waited outside for about an hour an half – me with the old folks and, did I mention, no phones. The kids with their phones in a different area. That was long and dull – especially because, for the first hour, no one around me wanted to talk. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful and we were in a covered area, though sitting on hard metal benches.
Getting In. We finally got in, around 4pm. The adults had tickets with specific seats on them, though we were moved, anyway. (Side note: Taylor Hicks was in the row right in front of me!) The teens were herded in by the stage and encouraged to take as many pics as possible. There was a guy whose job it was to get the teens excited, and he was fabulous!
Demi Lovato! Demi Lovato filmed her songs before the show started, so that happened around 4:15. My kids were right at the stage when she sang, and she gave each of them high 5’s on her way out! They were thrilled. She was amazing, and she seemed very down-to-earth as she waited for the filming to start…and restart.
My Happy Place. So, full disclosure…the whole reason I wanted to go was to see Harry Connick, Jr. I have been a fan of his for 25+ years, and I have never seen him in person. Not only did I get to see him — I was sitting RIGHT BEHIND HIM. And, when he sang, the camera he sang to was RIGHT NEXT TO ME. All the driving, waiting, and phoneless-ness was worth that right there.
The Show. During the commercial breaks, the judges would talk to the kids by the stage and take selfies with them. They would also get “fixed” by their hair and make-up crew (Jennifer Lopez’ crew came every break – though she didn’t need it. She is stunning! The guys’ crews just came a couple times total.) Harry and Keith spent a lot of time just chatting with each other. It was neat to see that they’re just real people, friends who catch up with each others’ lives. They also answered texts, and talked with their kids. Very “normal”. During filming, we cheered and clapped and enjoyed the amazing talent. The
studio is smaller than it looks on TV, so we could see everyone and everything. It was fantastic!
The End. This was filmed from 5pm-7pm, so it could be aired live at 8pm on the east coast. We were back in the parking garage by 7:30pm, exhausted, but thrilled. It was an experience we’ll never forget! The kids were especially tired because, from 4pm-7pm, they were on their feet. They all fell asleep before I even made it onto the freeway. The traffic in LA is always rough, so we didn’t get home until 10:30pm. A long day. But SO worth it.
How am I? You ask.
Busy. I am busy.
Like most people today, I have taken on more than I should, and I am constantly running behind, running late, running on too little sleep.
I should know better. I DO know better. A few years’ back, I got so busy, I was in almost-total burn-out. Months on end with no real rest took its toll on my body, my mind, and my soul. Not to mention my family!!
But that was a few years ago. Time has passed. I’ve forgotten what I learned in that season. I am not in the burn-out stage yet. But I am on that road.
So here is a list of reminders for me, as I seek to free myself from this “busyness” cycle. Feel free to add in any that you think I’ve missed…
- Pick a God. I’ve been reading a book by Kyle Idleman – gods at war. It is convicting, but so good. In it, Idleman argues that we say God is “first” in our lives, but in reality, we are worshipping other gods. For me, the “gods” of Approval and Success are at the top of my list. I want people to like me and think I’m great, so I spend my days “sacrificing” to those gods. If God were really first, it would be HIS good opinion I craved, HIS kingdom I sought. And, in doing that, it would be HIS peace I’d have daily.
- Prioritize. There are some things I HAVE to do. But there are a lot of things I just want to do. And there are things I think I should do. And, if I am worshipping the wrong god, I confuse the three and think they’re all “have to’s”. I burn myself out trying to get them all done. The truth is, though, there are really just a few things I HAVE to do. I need to determine what those “have to’s” are and let some of the others go – even if that means people don’t like me or consider me a failure.
- Just Say No. It’s not just for drugs. It’s not even just for bad things. Sometimes, we need to say no to good things. Sometimes, I need to say I just can’t go to that game because my body needs rest. Or I can’t go to that retreat because I can’t fill one more weekend. Sometimes, I need to say that those papers won’t be graded for a few days because it isn’t fair to my family. For many of us, “no” is a difficult word to say. But it is necessary.
- Say Yes. Too often, I skip the “have to’s” for the “want to’s” or “should’s”. I am up late because of a game or papers or a TV show, and I sleep in, forgoing my time with God. Or I spend all my energy on work and, when I get home, I have no energy left for my husband or my kids. When I have the right priorities, I make sure I get a good night’s sleep so I can get up and spend that time with God. I do just what I can at work, then leave, knowing my family is more important than my job. I say no to the less important so I can say yes to what really matters.
- Start TODAY. I SO want to say, “And I will implement these AS SOON AS…” this project is over, the season ends, this school year finishes. I want to put it off because the gods of Approval and Success scream at me to worship them a little longer. But I can’t. They are false, and they are destructive. And I am tired. So I will start today.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Heb. 3:13
I’d really like to be a victim — to blame those around me for my problems. And, boy, do I try! If my husband would just appreciate me more, if my kids would just complain less, if my students would just listen the first time I explain something…THEN life would be perfect. I wouldn’t need to get frustrated.
But I DO get frustrated! Not because of anything I have done, of course. Because of them.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how others have wronged me. That is an embarrassing truth to admit, but there it is. I think about what I don’t like about this person, that situation. I think about how things should be and get even more upset at how they are.
And the reality is that I have it pretty easy. My husband loves me, and he loves God. My kids’ biggest weaknesses are not doing their chores and occasionally getting a low grade on an assignment. I teach at a Christian school where we have actual rules we can enforce and the students, for the most part, respect those rules.
Compared to pretty much everyone else on the planet, my life is cake. I know.
Yet, I still complain. Still feel sorry for myself. Still want to blame others when I am irritable.
But here’s what God has been trying to teach me: I am responsible for my attitude. I am responsible for my thoughts. I am sinning when I choose to focus on circumstances and other people for my contentment instead of focusing on God.
One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But I often forget the context of that verse. Before Paul says this, he talks about learning to live with plenty or with nothing, about learning to be “content in any and every situation.” This from a man who wrote letters from prison, who had no real home, who was rejected and persecuted and hated for the sake of the Gospel.
“I can do all things” isn’t a mantra meant to enable people to achieve their dreams. It is a truth learned through the fires of testing, that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Tim. 6:6)
So the truth is that I can choose contentment no matter what. Even if I feel unappreciated and unheard, even if circumstances are less than ideal. I don’t get to blame my bad moods on other people. I don’t get to be the victim. The truth is that all of my discontent is, in fact, my fault. God offers the tools to enable me to be content in all circumstances.
My job is to choose whether I will believe Him, or the voices in my head.
Almost everyone deals with heartbreak at least one in her life. Even the most careful, most godly girls. Sometimes, it’s because you made a wrong choice – you went for a guy without consulting God, without listening to parents’ or friends’ advice, and you ended up hurt as a result. Other times, you went in with eyes wide open, seeking God, making wise choices, but the relationship just didn’t work out, for whatever reason. With the former, there is often regret along with heartbreak. The latter is usually regret-free, but still…it hurts. A lot.
My heartbreak came my first year of college. He was a good guy, but we just weren’t right for each other. He realized that before I did. And, if you don’t know this: Being broken up with is SO much harder than being the one breaking up. I questioned my worth, my looks, my personality. I wondered, “What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t he like me?” Because he was a good guy, I couldn’t just say, “Oh, he’s a jerk.” My friends couldn’t say, “you’re too good for him.” I just had to deal with the fact that we weren’t right for each other.
It took a while, I’ll be honest. But in the time it took for my heart to recover, something amazing happened: I discovered the Psalms. I’d read them before, but during that time, I read them, and they spoke to me, ministered to my aching heart, reminded me that others have faced difficulties – far worse than mine – and come through them. I saw how much God loves me, that He is there for me, and He will never leave me. I learned that He is all I need.
Later, when my now-husband and I began to date, and as I grew to realize he was “the one”, I saw why that other guy wasn’t. Dave has personality traits and gifts that fit just right with mine. I also found Dave WAY more attractive than I ever found that other guy. I ended up being so grateful for the break-up. Had the other guy “stuck with me”, I might not have ever met Dave.
So if you’re dreading this Valentine’s Day, if your heart is broken or bruised, take comfort from the Truth that there is One who loves you deeper than you can fathom. He has a plan, even in this difficult time. Cling to His love and His words.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” Eph. 3:17a-18