For the Love of Autumn

I love fall. A lot. I buy the cute turkey towels on the endcaps at Walmart, I wear jeans and sweaters when it’s still 89 degrees outside, and my username on all my social media is varying combinations of the name PumpkinSpiceHedgie—all year ‘round. Even when my friends make fun of me for it (all in good fun, of course), I can’t stress it enough: I really love fall.

You, however, didn’t click on this link to hear me ramble on about how much I love fall. Maybe you’re a spring-lover, or maybe you thrive in the snows of winter. Maybe you just have better things to think about than seasons, and you wonder why people like me get so worked up about the onset of a change in weather. Sometimes, I wonder that, too. So I decided to answer my own question, and—for added challenge—I decided to find Bible verses to match my reasoning. Not for any theological reason; just because God takes joy in our joy, and He’s bound to have something to say about it.

The first thing I think of when I think of autumn is the changing of the leaves. I still get a sense of childlike joy when I walk through a pile of sweet-smelling, crunchy leaves. Even though I live in Texas and the foliage mostly just turns brown and falls off, the trees surrounding my university manage to turn all kinds of bright colors anyway before they leaf (heh, pun) for the winter.

More than that, though, it makes me think of 2 Corinthians 5:17, in which Paul rejoices, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (New International Version). The process of becoming a new person, one whose focus is on God alone, isn’t easy; sometimes, it can feel like you’re just a dead leaf being stepped on. But take heart! God is working to bring something new and better out of you, and just like the leaves will emerge again in the spring, you will find yourself blooming.

Another great thing about fall is the change in weather. As it starts getting cooler outside, there’s nothing better than curling up in a big, soft blanket with a book. It’s so unreasonably hard to leave the safe blanket for the cold that dwells without!

That’s why Isaiah 54:10 stands out to me: “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” When things around us are terrible, deplorable, or just plain unpleasant, God wraps his arms around us like a big, soft blanket.

It’s hard to escape a discussion of fall without addressing the pumpkin spice latte craze. I will personally eat almost anything with the words “pumpkin spice” slapped on the side, so I was determined to find a way to biblically justify the existence and enjoyment of this delectable flavor.

Alas, Jesus never said, “Blessed is the one who drinks coffee somehow infused with cinnamon and pumpkin.” To my knowledge, the words “pumpkin” and “coffee” aren’t locatable in the Bible. What is in the Bible, however, are a plethora of verses about the passionate love God has for us.

“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Think about how much you or your PSL-obsessed friend loves that spicy goodness and multiply that love by thousands, even millions. That’s how much God loves us.

Even though it’s important to remember God’s love and faithfulness all year ‘round, I find it easiest in autumn, which is a part of why I love it so much. Maybe that’s just a “me” thing, and you have something else that gets you in the mood for September 22 to finally arrive. If so, I invite you to share below, but I also invite you to consider these things, as well.  It makes the end of summer a little sweeter.

Written by Catherine

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The Bridezilla of Christ

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by someone else’s wedding.

If it wasn’t the pea-colored bridesmaid dress you were forced to wear (and purchase), then it was the evil seating arrangement that stuck you between your former significant other and her flirtatious sister. Maybe it was the delicious looking buffet that turned out to be completely vegan, or worst of all, the invitation you were promised but mysteriously never received. It’s not always the case, but nine times out of ten it feels as though most wedding horror stories originate from one single entity: a bridezilla. Many people have had their fair share of run-ins with bridezillas whose dream weddings have turned into nightmares. Even if you’re as fortunate as I am and have never personally known a bridezilla, you’ve heard the stories and seen the movies.

A bridezilla demands her way, refusing to sway from her personal preferences regardless of the cost. She bullies others into doing what she wants, and instead of apologizing, she offers empty excuses. Her mind is constantly changing, but she expects everyone to cater to her desires anyway. She is so focused on herself that she forgets about the feelings of her guests, the needs of her chosen wedding party, and even the groom to whom she is to be wed.

I’d now like to take this moment to remind you that one of the most prominent biblical images of Christ and the Church is that of a bride and a groom.

“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name…” (Is. 54:5)

“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband’…” (Hosea 2:16)

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:2)

“‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21:10)

This is an accurate illustration for more reasons than just the good that comes from a marriage relationship. The Church can be one heck of a bridezilla. If you can’t fathom that such a thing might be so, look back over that definition of a bridezilla one more time. Selfish. Demanding. Fickle. Spoiled. Needy. Ungrateful. Unfortunately, that can all describe the Bride of Christ. It’s enough to make any guest in the building flee in fear, and it can quickly drive away even the most God-fearing of saints.

Yet the Bridegoom still loves his bride. Oh, how he loves her!

Bridezilla as the Church may act, Jesus sees the hidden gems that we truly are. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If we think we’re rough around the edges now, remember where we were before Jesus was Lord of our lives. The condition we were in when he invited us to be his bride was worse than any bridezilla you’ll ever meet; we were the essence of hopelessness and death. Yet Jesus loves the Church, holds community with the Church, and fights on behalf of the Church.

For this reason, Church, we, too, must love the Church.

The realization that we as sinners are undeserving of Christ’ love is not shocking; neither is the realization that there is difficulty in loving the Body of Christ. All the same, if we love Jesus, we must love his bride. No matter how many mistakes she may make, if you slander or wound a bride, chances are, her husband-to-be is not going to respond positively to your actions. Though he may not condone her behavior, he will always come to the rescue of his bride. Why do we suppose that Jesus is any different?

If you’re struggling to love the Church, you aren’t alone. Sometimes the Bride of Christ looks more like the Bridezilla of Christ, and it hurts to love her. I’ve been there; love her through it. Other times, loving the Bride of Christ requires that you pull away from unmerited lies of unworthiness and shame and allow yourself to be swept up by the extended, earthly arms of the Lord, his Church. I’ve been there, too; you cannot love the Bride if you do not believe that you, yourself, are worthy of his love.

The ironic thing about bridezillas is that as bad as they can be, people go to the weddings anyway. True friends and family recognize the special nature of weddings and choose life-long love over temporary stubbornness. One glorious day, the Bridegroom will return for his Beloved and make all things new and pure and holy. Until that beautiful wedding day, stay strong, Christians; there will be no bridezilla in Heaven, only the precious Wife of the Lamb.

Written by Savanna

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Shades of Dirt

Ever since I was a little girl, my parents have taken me on mission trips around the nation and into surrounding countries. For some, the idea of being dragged from place to place every summer for the better half of their lives seems exhausting and unappealing, but for me, nothing sounds more intriguing, more comfortable, or more like home.

Traveling has always been one of my deepest passions. I love to see new places for the first time: the way the air smells, the color of the ground, and the mixture of noises that roll down the streets are the very first things I notice and document (because one should always document the brown-ness of the dirt when traveling).  I am a sucker for aesthetics, and there really is something beautiful about observing the physical characteristics that make a town, country, or village unique. However, in the midst of God’s extravagantly stunning terrain, there is something about each new place I visit that never fails to captivate me the most: the people.

I have never journeyed to a place where the people weren’t completely and whole-heartedly hospitable to me. Yes, this might sound ridiculously naïve of me to say because, hello, we’re living in a world where people tend to thrive off of nothing but hating, shaming, and ridiculing others. However, I’m here to tell you that, for the most part, people are generally good at their core, at least to those who are sincerely interested in knowing them.

Don’t read me wrong.

I know that there are rotten people in the world. I know that violence, hate, discrimination, and terrorism are real and prevalent today. I know that the world isn’t full of rainbows and unicorns, and trust me when I say that I know that not everyone is nice, accepting, or honest. I know that the media reports more on arbitrary acts of brutality than random acts of kindness. I know all of these things and understand them to be true, but I also know that warmth and sincerity are appreciated. I know that compassion and generosity do not go unnoticed by their recipients. I know that, by taking the time to truly get to know someone, strangers can be made family.

I could tell you a hundred stories about the mission trips I have gone on, the places I have seen, or the shades of dirt that I have written about in my travel journals, but the thing that I feel most passionately about today is hospitality. Being hospitable is most commonly associated with the idea that one should welcome others into their homes, feed them, and care for them when they are in need, and while that association is appropriate, it isn’t exactly the only way of showing hospitality to others. Hospitality can be as simple as welcoming a stranger into a conversation, showing kindness to the driver who can’t pick a lane, or accepting the fact that someone else can hold an opposing opinion on politics. Showing hospitality isn’t difficult. It isn’t costly or even that time consuming. It’s important, it’s cherished, and it has the power to change someone’s world.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” –Hebrews 13:2

Written by Haley

Image credit: Haley Briggs

Silly Love Songs

“Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what’s wrong with that? I’d like to know” (McCartney, verse 1). Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. It represents something beautiful: love. Love seems difficult to define and to obtain. Sometimes it acts like an emotion, while other times it’s a choice or even a fated destiny. Love can even take different forms linguistically, being defined as either a verb or a noun. Personally, I think that love can have different meanings to different people at different times. In fact, one of the attributes of love I am fondest of is this sort of graceful, catch-all nature it seems to have.

Valentine’s Day has come to be known especially for its representation of romantic love. I’ve always thought that a romantic kind of love was magical. Once upon a time, I was a little girl swooning over Disney princesses as they danced with their princes. Now, I’m an adult with a heart that bursts with excitement as I watch the people around me fall in love, get married, have children, and grow in love day by day. I definitely want to get married someday. I think of marriage as a friendship you’ll never lose and a chosen partnership for life. You choose a person and that person chooses you. Comedian Ray Romano described his own marriage this way: “You wake up—she’s there. You come back from work—she’s there. You fall asleep—she’s there. You eat dinner—she’s there. You know? I mean, I know that sounds like a bad thing. But it’s not” (Raymond, episode 9).

real-heart-hands

Love can also take a much simpler form than a lifelong partnership with a husband or wife. Love can be found in a single act taken by one person on behalf of another. For an example, the week or so surrounding finals last semester was a rough time for me. During my Sunday morning church service that week, I was all but exhausted mentally and physically. An older married couple who are members of my church came to see me after the service to tell me that I’d been on their minds lately and ask if there was any way they could pray with me. Their coming to me and asking to pray communicated so much love to me in that moment; it was exactly what I needed, and it reminded me of God’s everlasting love for me.

Sometimes love is in the thought that one person expends for another. It really can be the thought that counts when it comes to love. In recent years, my siblings and I have begun exchanging little Christmas gifts. It’s my idea because I like buying ridiculous things for my brother and sister. My sister outdid me last year, though, when it came to thoughtfulness. She told me a week before Christmas that she’d picked out my gift and that it was not what I’d asked for. Naturally, I was worried and even a little annoyed. After all, my sister likes to think things through her own convoluted mental processes. She has even told me on several occasions that she cannot predict what I’ll say, do, or want in any given circumstance. On Christmas Day, she presented me with a radio adaptor that would let me play music from my phone through my car’s radio. She remembered that I didn’t have an auxiliary plug in my car and that my grandmother had gotten a Wow Hits 2007 CD stuck in the player years before she gave it to me. She took the time to think about what I really wanted and gave me a stellar gift I still use to this day. When I opened it and realized what she’d done, I felt remembered, considered, and loved.

Love is multi-faceted, easily felt, and always better in excess than in lack. Valentine’s Day gives me an extra reason to celebrate the love of all the wonderful people around me. Love, in all its forms and with all its facets, is a trait to be cherished. It is more than silly love songs; it is the very core of Jesus Himself.

Written by Becca

McCartney, Paul. “Silly Love Songs.” Wings at the Speed of Sound, Capitol, 1976. “The Lone Barone.”

Everybody Loves Raymond, created by Philip Rosenthal, performance by Ray Romano, season 3, episode 9, 1998.

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Mending Failing Friendships

To put things plainly, friendships are hard. While friendships with little difference of opinion can be fruitful, those with many differences are incredible character builders. At times, it may feel like a friendship isn’t worth your time and only brings stress, but through communication, patience, and putting pride to the side, a friendship can turn a corner and prove to be worth the effort.

It is important to have people to turn to in times of trial, but when the people chosen to be a source of comfort turn into a source of hostility, ending the friendship seems to be the logical thing to do. However, cutting all ties with people we are friends with can be more detrimental than staying in that toxic relationship and trying to resolve things.

Recently, the girls in my friend group, myself included, have been experiencing a strain in our friendship. I will not mention names or events that have occurred, but I will say it has led to avoidance, awkwardness, anger, sadness, and bitterness.

One of the girls and I decided to talk to our RA about the things we have been dealing with and discuss whether or not we should discontinue being friends with the other girls or not. She encouraged us through a quote: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.” She said to talk about ideas or ways to resolve the situation instead of talking about the other girls. Talking about what the girls did wrong is merely gossip. It only spurs on the harboring of bitterness. We decided the best way to smooth everything out is to have an open conversation with our RA as a mediator.

There are many obligations demanding our attention: busy schedules, academics, work, volunteer responsibilities, etc., so it can be hard to find time to put aside for spending quality time with friends. Yet, quality time is so important in keeping the lines of communication open. It is important to recognize that sometimes the problem in a relationship can be personal pride. When trying to decide if a friendship is worth the time to fix, we have to not only look at what the other person has done to make us feel a certain way but also discern how we got to that point in the first place.

As a Christian, I am called to love. In the Bible, 1 John 4:20 states, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” If I don’t show at least some effort in understanding how the other person in the relationship feels, then I am being prideful, and for me, pride leads to anger. I struggle with anger. And, when I feel neglected by people, I shut them out and push the idea of repairing the friendship to the side. However, when I do this, it just causes me pain because I lost what could have been a valuable friendship.

Not trying to repair a broken friendship and, instead, removing a person from our lives causes us to have unresolved problems in our past friendships that haunt us and affect us negatively on an unconscious level. Fixing a friendship is usually worth the time and effort. Communication and expressing yourself are essential in cultivating a great relationship, and human relationships are really the foundation of our civilization and a true source of happiness.

Written by Cheyanne

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Giving Up Chocolate is Hard to Do

Easter weekend in the South is always quite an affair. Any proper Southern girl debuts her brand spankin’ new Easter dress, a product of long hours spent online shopping or perusing what the local mall has to offer. As for guys, well, they usually break out the bowties and button-downs in varying shades of pastels. Easter in the South means chocolate (and lots of it – we ain’t ashamed), flowers, Facebook feeds clogged with “Happy Easter!” [insert flower and bunny emojis] or “Easter Sunday with the fam” photos, He is Risen yard signs, and color EVERYWHERE. It’s become quite the cultural event, especially for college students. One hallmark of Easter season is when friends start talking about what they are going to give up for Lent. This is a fairly common occurrence across denominations, even though it originated as part of the Catholic celebration of Easter. For those that genuinely choose to participate in a Lent fast, social media, chocolate, or caffeine are often the targets of this time of “sacrifice.” Some college girls see Lent as the perfect excuse to begin their annual diet.

However, the real reason for Lent is to further one’s relationship with God by attempting to understand, albeit in a minute way, His sacrifice for mankind. Lent mirrors Christ’s fasting during temptation and is a picture of how much He gave up for you and me.  Lent is usually a period of 40 days leading up to Easter; scripturally, 40 day periods served as preparation for something to come.  Noah and his family were on the ark for 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

So what does this have to do with me?

What sacrifices did I make this past Lent season, or can I make in the future, to be a better person? Maybe you’re not into the whole “God” thing. Maybe you find the resurrection of Christ hard to believe.  That’s a certainly understandable and valid viewpoint; nevertheless, one man’s sacrifice for the lives of many ought to inspire me to live in a selfless manner, regardless of my personal religious beliefs (or the lack thereof).  What can I give up to grow as a person, whether I’m catholic, protestant, or couldn’t care less about either one of those lifestyles?

That said, what does this have to do with Southern, college student me?

As I pondered the idea of giving up something for Lent, all the options that came to mind certainly made me cringe a little on the inside. Netflix. Nutella, breakfast of champions. Chick-Fil-A. Starbucks. Social media *GASP*. (Actually, if we’re going to be truthful, it was more like a giant wave of consternation slapping me right in the face. But I digress.) However, I think I was missing the point. Lent and Easter weren’t meant to make life miserable for a period of 40 days so I can remember how miserable Christ must have been. They were meant to remind us that because of Jesus’ incredible, painful, sacrifice, we don’t have to live devoid of hope and purpose and joy. He gave His life so that we don’t have to spend our lives in constant sacrifice, trying to earn acceptance from God or somebody else. Easter and Lent are celebrations of that freedom. So when I give up something as insignificant as collegiate comfort food (as difficult as that may be), I can be reminded of and rejoice in God’s great sacrifice for me. And that, my friends, is the point of Lent – experiencing the joy of His selfless love. This Easter, may you grow into a new and better person, and may you know just how much you are loved.

Ephesians 3:14-19: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

Written by Carilee

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Valentine’s Day For the Rest of Us

Valentine’s Day is a day of love. It’s easy to think about a day dedicated to the celebration of love and mostly focus on the love we have for our significant others (or lack thereof). On the other hand, the love we have for every wonderful person we know, not to mention the love we have for God, is not to be ignored. With that said, Valentine’s Day is a great time to refocus attention on relational priorities and show love to the people in our lives.

As Christians, we are called to love God first and foremost (Luke 10:25-28). As each year of our lives stretches on, we experience amazing, spectacular, awesome days that make us want to literally jump for joy; we also experience terrible, horrifically awful days that make us want to crawl into a deep, dark hole and wait for the sun to show itself again. God made us to have emotions, and it’s truly amazing that we get to experience a whole range of them, but the truth is that it’s our responsibility to train our hearts to have the joy and peace of the Lord even in the midst of emotional storms (Proverbs 7:1-3; Nehemiah 8:9; Psalm 28:6-7; Philippians 4:10-13). It’s important that we remember this and continue to worship and show our love for God, especially when our lives get rough. We can do this by setting aside time to pray, worship, or dig deep into His word. He knows His children, so it’s not like He’ll forget we love Him if we go a day without reading the Bible, but this quiet time is important for us to have so that we can remind our hearts of His glorious goodness through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:3).

The second commandment God gives to His children is to love others (Luke 10:28). We’re meant to love our friends, our enemies, ourselves, and even strangers. That’s a pretty broad group of people, but the ways we can love them are generally the same: we can reach out to them, in big ways or small, and steadily build relationships with them. Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to show our love to the people around us. We can spend the day hanging out with friends (especially if none of us happen to be in romantic relationships), make a nice card as a gesture of peace for someone we’re not on good terms with, or even do some volunteer work to help out some perfect strangers. If we do happen to be spending Valentine’s Day with our darling, we could set aside a few minutes to lift up friends and family in prayer.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is most often associated with the idea of spending quality time with our significant others. On this fourteenth of February if we don’t find ourselves dating or married to anyone, let’s not worry. Any favor we have with anyone comes from God, and He has led the right people to us. If we do have a very special someone, however, that’s great! A little (or even a lot) of romance never hurt anyone. Dedicating a special date to our better halves can be a spectacular way to show them some love. When part of a couple, the important thing to remember about Valentine’s Day is that displays of love are definitely not supposed to be limited to this one day. Though it’s fantastic to use Valentine’s Day to remind our dearests how great we think they are, let’s keep in mind that we can show our love for them all year. Our actions speak louder than our words, so let’s be sure that the love in our hearts rings clearly through everything we do (1 John 3:18).

Valentine’s Day is a super great time to remember the love we have for others and to practice acting it out. Whether we have a Valentine or not, a day especially intended to show all the awesome people around us that we love them is a pretty amazing excuse for a holiday. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Written by: Becca

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