Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All My Needs?

Until recently, you hadn’t given much thought to what you’d eat or wear. You just headed to the fridge or went out for pizza when hungry. That was before your Dad’s company down-sized and he lost his job. For a while, there was enough money in savings, and you barely noticed any change. Your parents talked a lot, but stopped when you came into the room. Lately, you’ve noticed many changes. Dad doesn’t go on as many job interviews. You never eat at restaurants anymore, and hamburger is appearing for supper more and more.

One day you spotted Dad looking in the paper at real estate ads. "Are we selling our house?" you ask nervously. "Will we have a place to live? Please tell me what’s going on!" Together your parents sit down with you. They explain that you need a smaller house, may sell one of the cars, and the family vacation has been postponed. Your stomach knots up in fear, and yet you can’t help noticing that your parents seem very calm. Your dad explains when you ask. "I know God will supply everything we really need," he says. "Philippians 4:19 says so. I am doing my best—and so is your mother—to seek God’s will in where to live and what jobs to pursue. We’re praying and trusting God to provide. I know he will. He’s never let us down before."

You wish you had your parents’ faith, but you do feel calmer because they seem so sure. Several days later, you come home to find a "For Sale" sign in the yard. "We’re down-sizing too," Dad says, "and we’re moving closer to my new job!" You all celebrate with hot dogs by candlelight, laughing and praising God for his provision. And you’re grateful for both of the fathers who take care of you!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dress for Success

You’re late for church again, and as you hurry toward the youth building, you spot a girl in your group with her arms full. The large flat box she’s carrying looks like a donut box. Trying to buy popularity again, you think, slowing down. You’ve watched her for several weeks. She was new to the church, but everyone knew her name by now—especially the boys. She always brought food, and they swarmed around her at every meeting. You understand that she wants to be accepted, but in your opinion, that’s not the way to go about it. Most of the girls could barely stand her now.

You see her trying to balance the box of donuts and her Bible and get the door open. Maybe she’ll spill them on the ground, you think hopefully. Then you hear the unmistakable nudge from God. If she were in a wheelchair, wouldn’t you hurry and open the door for her? Do you have to like a person or feel superior in order to be kind to someone? Ouch. You decide to "put on kindness" and hurry to open the door. You even carry her Bible for her as you enter the youth room together.

"Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12 NIV) The next time you’re dressing for success, give less thought to your color scheme and more thought to the character clothing you want to wear. Envision yourself dressing in a shirt of kindness, a hat of patience, a coat of gentleness, a skirt of humility, and shoes of peace. Now that makes a godly fashion statement!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Way to Go!

Samantha wasn’t athletic or pretty. She couldn’t sing, play an instrument, or create art. But Samantha was very popular. Why? She loved others, and she showed it by encouraging people. She cheered hard at the baseball games. She attended her classmates’ concerts and complimented them on their band and vocal solos. She noticed when people looked sad and did her best to cheer them up. She didn’t do it to be popular, but people loved having her around.

How can you be an encourager? Notice when someone tries hard to accomplish something. Say, “Great job!” or “Way to go!” Also, find someone going through a hard experience that you have been through yourself. If your parents were divorced a few years ago, and a classmate is now coping with it, you can offer encouragement. Let her know that things will get better. You could also tell her about the comfort you received from God, who is the best encourager of all: “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 TNIV) Make it your goal to encourage someone in your family or at school every day. One surprising benefit will be that your own joy will greatly increase.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who? Me?

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve could eat the fruit from any tree they liked—except one. But Eve disobeyed God’s command and ate the forbidden fruit. Adam also ate it. When God confronted them, Adam blamed both God and the woman for his own sin. (“It was the woman that you gave me who brought me the fruit.”) Eve had her own excuse, and she blamed the serpent. (“He tricked me.”)

You might find yourself making excuses for your problems too. Maybe you’re naturally shy, and your goal is to blend in and not be noticed. However, you’re very lonely this way. “Everyone’s so unfriendly,” you tell her mom. “They stare right past me!” Only after an honest discussion about your behavior at school can you see your part in the problem. You admit that you don’t look at or talk to people. You avoid groups and disappear by herself. Finally you decide to take responsibility and change. After a few weeks of forcing yourself to talk to your classmates, things changed. Your unfriendly classmates magically transform into fun friends!

The game of “poor me” and “it’s your fault” got started in the Garden of Eden. To this day, people blame their problems on others. They blame their parents, their teachers, and the world in order to shift the responsibility. Some people prefer to believe that something else is controlling the outcome of their lives. However, we must stop blaming others and study our own behavior instead. Take personal responsibility for change. Then you can turn around and head in the direction of God’s good plan for your life.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Are You Calm in a Storm?

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!--Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

You're playing softball in the vacant lot next to your house one hot Saturday afternoon. You bat the ball hard, sending the softball in a straight line to your best friend. The ball slips between her hands and hits her in the eye, knocking her flat. Dizzy and head pounding, she lies there as you and your sister lean over her. Your wide-eyed sister Lily screams for your mom. Your best friend starts to cry. You can see she is getting worried, so you take a deep breath, pray for God's healing and strength, and pat her arm.

You calmly tell your sister to go get your dad. After Lily runs off, you tell your friend, "I'm sorry. Just relax and close your eyes. My dad will be here in a minute." Your peaceful attitude helps your friend calm down. You spread peace to your friend, staying calm in the middle of this "storm." Focusing on God's strength and care will keep us calm. And when we're calm, we think and feel better. So do the people around us. Let God's peace fill you at all times.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Biting Off Too Much to Chew

Amanda took on too much work. When her science class had team projects, she wanted to do an excellent job—and the others let her. She organized the meetings, did the research, typed the reports, and made the displays. When her youth group collected food for the homeless, Amanda went door to door every night after school and all day Saturday. She carted the canned goods to the church in her brother’s wagon. She went along to deliver food to the shelter downtown. The following week, due to exhaustion and a weakened immune system, she caught a nasty virus. Amanda meant well, but taking on too much responsibility hurt her.

Moses once did the same thing. Moses tried to handle all the questions and problems of several million Israelite people. From morning to night, he wore himself out listening to all their problems himself. It was too much. He couldn’t handle it alone. He needed a plan to share the work with others. “What you are doing is not good,” [his father-in-law told him.] “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18: 17-18 (NIV)

We need to use wisdom when agreeing to jobs. If you “bite off more than you can chew,” you may end up sick (and unable to do all you promised.) If your job turns out to be more time-consuming than you expected, it’s all right to ask for help. Amanda needed to learn that she couldn’t do it all. Sometimes we feel if we don’t do it all, it won’t get done right. Sometimes that’s true—but usually it’s not. We can let others help. It’s great to work hard, but find a healthy balance.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Power Source

Alexis had great intentions for her summer job baby-sitting three small neighborhood children. Their mom didn’t want them watching much TV, but instead to play at the park, go swimming, and go to the library for story time. When Alexis accepted the job, it sounded like fun! Imagine getting paid to go to the pool! It was a shock to discover how much hard work was involved in “playing” with kids. At the pool Alexis didn’t lay out with her friends—she entertained for endless hours in the baby pool. At the library, Alexis didn’t browse through the stacks of novels—she tried to keep the baby from eating the board books and screaming. At the park, she never sat down—she pushed two kids on the swings while keeping the baby from eating sand. “I quit,” Alexis finally told their mom. “I haven’t got the strength.”

Instead of leaning on her own strength, Alexis needed to ask God to work through her. “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13 (TNIV) God gave Alexis the desire to do an excellent baby-sitting job. He also wanted to supply the energy to do the work. Pray and believe God for the power to do the job—and then do it well.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

New Cover!

I love the new cover for What's a Girl to Do?
For the rest of the series, go to Girls Connecting with God.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Roll the Dice!

In biblical times, the lot may have been several pebbles held in the fold of a robe and then drawn out or shaken to the ground. It was a common practice for making decisions, like throwing dice today or flipping a coin. However, God—not chance or luck—is in control of how things turn out. (Proverb 16:33)

You love the new house you’re moving to. Finally you’ll get a bedroom of your own, apart from Emily, your younger sister. One bedroom has a tiny window, but the corner bedroom has two huge windows with trees right outside. In your mind, you’ve already decorated that room. When your family moves in, though, Emily wants that bedroom and refuses to take the other room. Your parents say that since you’re the oldest, you can have first choice. “That’s not fair!” Emily cries. You think about it for a moment. “Let’s try something that is fair,” you say. “Dad, flip a coin for us, okay? Emily, do you want heads or tails?” You trust that God is in control. If he wants you to have the corner room, you’ll get it.

This is what people in biblical times did when they cast lots. What was the point of casting lots to make decisions? It was fair—and it stopped people from fighting. “Casting lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart.” (Proverbs 18:18 NKJV) The next time that you and another person want the same thing—the last piece of pizza, choosing the TV channel, or picking a movie—try “casting lots” and bring peace to the situation.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Going Backwards

People who follow God for a while but later return to their old ways of sinful living are sometimes referred to as “backsliders.” A backslider’s life is eventually filled with negative consequences. Megan was sad when her friend Tia stopped coming to youth group, where they had both sung with the praise band. Megan continued to sing on youth night, and eventually the band was asked to perform in church. Months later, the group made a music CD. Bit by bit, Megan’s dream of being a Christian vocal artist was coming true. And Tia? The new crowd she hung out with preferred parties to church, and one night Tia was injured in a car accident. The driver was underage and drunk. Tia would be in therapy for months to regain use of her legs.

What happened to Tia was the result of her own actions, not a punishment from God. Actions have consequences, either positive or negative. If a farmer planted weed seeds in his field, he would harvest a worthless crop of weeds. It wouldn’t be God doing anything to him. It would be the result of his own actions. “Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you.” (Jeremiah 2:19 TNIV) Sinful living simply has its own consequences.

So pull out the weeds in your life. Plant healthy seeds in their place. Then get ready for a harvest of blessings!

Friday, February 26, 2010

He's Got a Plan!

"‘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.’" (Jeremiah 29:11 )

Are you wondering what to do with your life? Do people ask you what you want to be when you grow up? Maybe you have no idea! But that’s okay—because God has a plan for you. And it’s a good plan! He plans for you to grow and thrive. His plans include good things like peace and welfare—not disaster and evil. He has plans to give you hope—something good to look forward to in the future. His hope is more than just wishing for something. Having God’s hope means you expect a good future and wait for it with anticipation, like a child waiting for Christmas.

You go to visit your aunt out west every summer, and you look forward to it all year. You know she has a good plan for your summer visit. You've experienced many fun things every time you visited there. Once you explored Indian ruins and met a Native American girl who showed you how to make turquoise jewelry. Once you went white water rafting with a guide and saw the most spectacular scenery. What would this summer’s trip be like? You had no idea, but you knew it was going to be good. You trust your aunt—and you’re not disappointed. When you step out of the car, you’re met with the news that you’ll be spending a week at horse camp, learning to ride—something you’ve always wanted to do.

Sometimes we find it easier to trust people we can see than to trust God. But God never lies, and God is love. We don’t always know or understand his long-term plans for our lives, but we know every idea God has for us comes from love. We can trust him. We can look forward to our future with joyful anticipation.

Be excited! The God of the universe has a very special, very unique life just for you.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who Did It?

Your family is having some tough times since your dad lost his job. It’s hard just paying the rent and buying groceries. When the overnight class trip to the state park is announced, you hear it with a sinking heart. The whole trip costs “only” $65, but you know it might as well be a million. You can’t ask your parents for it. You don’t want to see the embarrassment and hurt on their faces when they have to turn you down. Instead, you pray. “Lord, you know I’d love to go on this trip with my class. Could you show me a way? Please give me money for the trip.” You know that if God wants you to go, he can make a way.

Even so, when the answer comes, it astounds you. Your painting for the local art show wins first place, and someone offers to buy it—for $75! When your friends say, “Man, are you lucky!” you don’t just smile and agree. “It isn’t luck,” you say. “I prayed for money to go on the trip, and God did it for me.” You give God the credit. “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” (Psalm 126:2 TNIV) Pray for help, thank the Lord for his answers—and remember to tell others who made it happen!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ain't I Grand?

Alyssa had no idea she was puffy with pride. She was just excited when her teacher decided to publish a two-page weekly classroom newspaper. Alyssa loved to write stories, she always got A’s in English, and she knew she was the best choice for editor. Alyssa wanted the newspaper done right. She told the teacher that she was the best person to be in charge. When Kylie was chosen as editor instead, Alyssa demanded to know why. Mr. Jackson shrugged. “Kylie’s grades aren’t as high as yours, but she works better with people. She listens to them.” In other words, Kylie wasn’t too proud to consider her classmates’ ideas.

How does God feel about the proud, overly self-confident person? “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” (Proverbs 3:34 TNIV) Why is pride such a big deal? A haughty, stuck-up person finds it impossible to be kind, gentle, or forgiving. Pride also causes us to think we can run our own lives without God’s help. Even the devil—who started out as an angel in heaven—let pride ruin his life. (When he decided he wanted to be God himself, Satan was thrown out of heaven forever.) So does being humble mean you will crawl on the ground like a worm all your life? Absolutely not! “When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.” (James 4:10 NLT) Be humble—and let God raise you up in his time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Owning Up

We’re all tempted to lie when we get caught. Maybe you baby-sit your little brother Jake on Saturday while your parents work. While he watches cartoons, you close your eyes for a minute. An hour later you wake up to an empty room and blaring TV. There’s no Jake to be found. Running outside, you spot him at the picnic table, arranging flowers. “Oh, no!” you whisper. Jake has picked every one of your mother’s prize roses and is making bouquets from them. Later, when confronted by your mom, you say that you were outside with Jake, ran indoors when the phone rang, and by the time you got back outside, he’d cut all the flowers. Mom doesn’t buy it, and you feel guilty.

“The Lord detests lying lips.” (Proverbs 12:22 TNIV) So the next time you do something wrong, confess it instead of covering up. You’ll feel much better. Apologize. Make things right if you can. Then put it behind you and move on.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Take a Break!

Olivia wished she could get some rest. Middle school was harder than she’d expected. Her projects and papers took forever. Add to that practicing her flute, going to gymnastics lessons and piano lessons, baby-sitting on weekends to make extra money, and youth group—and she felt like she was going to lose it. The commandment to rest one day each week was given for our good. God knew if we didn’t get away from our duties to rest, we would simply come apart at the seams. If your mind is focused 24/7 on your schoolwork and activities, it leaves little time to focus on God and his Word. Cut back on activities until you have time to rest one day each week.

Jesus was also concerned about the apostles getting too tired. Once they were so busy that they weren’t taking time to rest. “Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” (Mark 6: 31 TNIV) Someone once joked, “Seven days without rest makes one weak.” However, it’s true. You can’t be strong and exhausted at the same time. So follow God’s plan, and rest one day a week. If you do, you’ll enjoy the other six much more!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Crossing the Finish Line

Zoe accepted a summer job on her uncle’s farm. He needed crews to detassle seed corn. Zoe was eager to begin. At thirteen, the only other summer job available was occasional baby-sitting. But working away from the city, out in the fresh country air, sounded heavenly. She could work on her tan while she earned money! However, Zoe soon learned that field work under a blazing sun was hard work. Harder than anything she’d ever done. Her arms ached from reaching overhead to pull tassles off the cornstalks. And forget the tan! She was covered from head to toe to avoid tiny cuts from the sharp-edged corn leaves. She wanted to quit every time the alarm rang at 4:30 a.m. But she stuck it out, unlike half the crew who quit. In the end, she finished the job, drew her wages, and received a hefty bonus besides!

Life is full of starters, but how many actually finish? “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” (Acts 20:24 TNIV) We must determine that we will finish our course—and finish strong. The prize is only awarded to those who cross the finish line. So run your race with determination. You can finish with joy!