Today is my Son’s Last Day of Middle School

short pencilMy son dumped out the contents of his backpack. Minutes before it had been the contents of his locker. He glanced at it, and with a crooked grin asked if he could burn his books from school this year.

That request was DENIED.
I am not that cool of a parent.

He walked off laughing and went outside to play ball. I sat down and stared at the beautiful mess he had just heaped into my dining room.

Tattered notebooks, stray exam reviews, short pencils with well-used erasers, beat up journals, and a hacky sack that had faired rather well cluttered the table. I began to feel nostalgic as I wondered where the time had gone.

It seems like yesterday he was small enough to fit in my lap, where I could play with his toes while he cooed at me innocently.

Now he is a wanna-be book burner.

Thirteen is a curious age. He is old enough to stay by himself, but yet he still calls if we’ve been gone “too long”. He will not acknowledge us in public, unless he needs permission or money so he can do what “everyone else” is doing. He doesn’t care about clothes unless he looks different than his peers. He eats, and eats, and eats… and then goes two days where food isn’t important at all.

My son is smart, funny, gentle, and kind. He is a good student, and a great friend to his peers. He is an old soul, a deep thinker, and notices everything.

He is changing.

Lego’s are a thing of the past. We are giving away children’s books and replacing them with teen and adult series. He gazes at girls a little longer than he used to, although he still is not quite confident to do anything else, even speak.

He is growing up.

High school starts next year. There will be dances to attend, and games to cheer for. Classes will be more difficult, and he will get more responsibility and more freedom at home. He will join clubs, and be involved in more activities. He soon will have friends that can drive.

He will always be that “Little Boo” on my lap.

But it’s fun watching him struggle out of the cocoon.

He is growing, but not yet grown.
He is changing, but yet is still the same.
He needs us, and even still wants us around.

Every night my husband and I have the privilege of praying for my son before he goes to bed. Every night we thank God for him, and ask that he will be made into the man God wants him to become.

We as parents also have the responsibility to model integrity, perspective, and our own faith.

We still have more impact over him than anyone else, even his peers. I know this because as a Student Pastor I tell people this all the time. I studied it in school, and I’ve seen it proven true.

So today is the last day of Middle School. It’s a big world out there. And I am so thankful that God gave him to us so we can walk with him through it.

Bring it, High school. I, my husband, and “Little Boo” are ready. Just don’t come too fast.

Let us enjoy summer first.

Remember

crossesToday, we have a guest blogger. It’s my husband, Cory Pitts.

“…and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life.”  Genesis 9:15

Remembering is an aspect of God’s character. The fact we are drawn to remember is because we are made in His image. Today I think of all the men and women who gave their lives to protect the United Stated of America. I look back and am thankful for their sacrifice. To die in the service of one’s country is to die for one’s countrymen. Those who have gone before us in this manner deserve to be honored. Their sacrifice was great.

As pictures of soldiers flood my mind I wonder, “What would they say?” “What would they want us to remember?” They would want us to remember them. They would also want us to remember why they gave up their lives. To remember the people and overlook the purpose is not sufficient.

What is the purpose for which they gave up everything?

“One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

So today we remember. We remember because we are made in the image of God. We remember the fallen. We remember why they sacrificed.

To the families, grieving loss even now. God remembers you.

13 Things To Do This Summer

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 2.34.08 PMI’ve created a list of things we need to do this summer, taken from Ecclesiastes. After all, there is a time for everything…

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This Summer…

1. Birth a New Idea.
Who says we are too old to dream!!! Haven’t you heard about the 96 year old that graduated from college? Pick something you want to do and go for it.

2. Let Negativity Die.
Quit looking in the mirror and only seeing the wrinkles, the fat, or the receding hairline. God loves you and created you for a purpose. Stop focusing on yourself and focus on who God is and can be in and through your life.

3. Plant… Something.
A garden, flowers, an idea for a date night with your spouse, a new concept at work. But by golly, plant SOMETHING!

4. Pluck the weeds from your life.
Weed out something in your life that is choking out something better. TV, social media, things you shouldn’t be involved in – you get the idea.

5. Kill what is killing you.
What is one thing in your life you can give the ol’ heave ho? A bad friendship? Extra pounds? Poor eating habits? Watching other people live their lives while yours passes you by? Dump it. Start over. Why NOT now?

6. Heal from Your Past.
Tired of that lifelong struggle? Go see a counselor. Begin to work through issues that are keeping you from being free. Put your past in the past, and don’t let it hurt you in the present. I know it is easier said than done, but you do need to address it, and you have to start somewhere. Start here, and start now.

7. Break Down Emotionally, Weep, and Mourn.
The saying is true – sometimes you just need a good cry. Allow yourself that. Get some kleenex and face those hard times. Feel them so you can work through them. That is important so you can…

8. Laugh and Dance so you can Embrace Life and others in it.
Here’s your challenge. When no one is home, get that hairbrush and turn up the tunes. I don’t care if it’s Bieber or Bon Jovi. Dance like you mean it – you know you have awesome moves. If you really want to get crazy, get the whole family in on the groove!

9. Get and Keep something New.
Parents usually buy for our kids first. At least once this summer, go shopping for you. You don’t have to break the bank. Ladies, just one new shirt can make you feel amazing. Guys, one new toy can bring back the boy in you. God is what makes you who you are, but one good new “thing” can bring a little fun in your life.

10. Lose and Cast Away Out of Date Clothing.
Do your kids a favor – get rid of that outfit. You know the one. If you did the above, you’re replacing it anyway! But get crazy -clean out your closet, your junk drawers, and yea, even your garage. After all, your stuff isn’t what makes you who you are anyway.

11. When you Get Angry, Don’t Fly off the Handle.
There is a time for silence. Think before you speak. I’ve always said, count to ten if you’re angry, 100 if you’re furious, and if you’re about to pop, count to 1… and pray. If you just can’t take it anymore, stop talking to the imperfect person, and start talking to our perfect God. Let him guide your words in hurtful and angry situations. It ALWAYS turns out best that way.

12. Hate the fact you haven’t said I Love You enough.
Because “I Love You” can never be said too much, And for those of you who once told your spouse you love them and “they know it”… no, they don’t. TELL them, people!!!

13. Choose Peace, not War, in your Life.
Peace can only come from God. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, is best interpreted as “complete wholeness”. It’s impossible to have a warring conscience or relationships in your life and be completely whole. This summer, look deeper into God’s word, and ask Him to help you live in peace with others and yourself.

Turn Charity Upside Down

Homeless manWhat are some examples of “Charity”?

You may have said giving money to various organizations or people.

Dropping off canned goods, clothing, or blankets to a homeless shelter.

Donating your time or skills for the betterment of society.

People who need charity may be completely destitute, or simply be a single mom with several kids who works three jobs and is trying to make it. The social definition of charity spans a gap wide as the type of people who need it.

The Biblical mindset of charity is different than today. It is more encompassing and expansive in the emotion of the word.

The Hebrew word for charity is tzedakah.
The concept of this term is heart and action going hand in hand.

To view charity as plain generosity is like saying football in the south is just a sport.

If you are not from the south first let me apologize God put you somewhere else. Second, in the south football is not a sport. It’s a way of life.

Go Seminoles.
Roll Tide.

Tzedakah comes from the root tzedek, meaning justice or righteousness. It is a picture of righteous behavior by a person. Tzedakah is doing things for others to help create a just and kind world.

This concept goes beautifully with what Jesus said was the greatest commandment.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40

We love God by loving others.

You were created for relationship.
You were created to love, and help, and encourage God’s people.
You were created to live out Tzedakah.

Do you know giving is one of the 613 commandments in the Bible? Sure, it didn’t make Moses “Top Ten” list, or the title of the “Greatest Commandment” but it is in there several times.

Many early sages before Jesus taught tzedakah was the most important commandment. In bible times it wasn’t an option to live out tzedakah. It was expected.

Tzedakah is showing love for your fellow man by joyfully helping when he is in need. With this mindset, the recipient is considered to be helping you out by accepting your kindness. In allowing you to be kind, he is empowering you to show God’s love through your actions.

He is letting you live out your faith.

I love it when God’s word takes our understanding of things and turns it upside down. We view charity as helping others from our abundance. It’s more than that.

Charity ultimately is about the heart of the giver… not the need of the recipient.

5 Things High School Graduates Need to Know

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 9.20.30 PM1. Don’t Be Stupid.

This is my number one youth ministry rule. Why? Because it pretty much sums up how we should live.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

To fear God is to live out your reverence for Him. It also is sprinkled with the good old fashioned realization that God can be a God of wrath.

This is like when you avoid doing something wrong because you know your parents would kill you if you got caught. The fact they can absolutely ruin your life is important to note as well. Not that God can ruin your life, but you can by bad choices.

Know what you believe, and stick to it. Don’t bend your convictions for others, and don’t get manipulated into not living out your beliefs. In short, be wise how you live.

2. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

You are about to have more freedom than you have ever had in your life. Just because you are able to do whatever you want, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

You can stay up until 3am, but should you?
You can go to that party, but should you?
You can make out with your honey in your dorm room, but should you?

Before you leave for college, get a sheet of paper and write down on it what you will and will not do. Once you have it, put it in your Bible. Be specific about the following:

Dating and physical boundaries
Language
Church attendance
Study habits
Class attendance (hint: GO TO CLASS!!!!!)
Computer viewing
Drinking/ Bars/ Parties
How to resolve conflict with your roommate

Keep this in your Bible for the next four years, and don’t waver from it. If you feel bad about what you are planning of doing or not doing and have a problem with putting it in your Bible, then maybe you need to go with a plan B that is more Christ-like.

3. Know that loneliness is part of the experience.

Up until now, you have friends you’ve known most of your life. You’ll make new friends in college, but it is different.

Your family isn’t around the dorm room when you need them.

You’re going to feel lonely at times. Learn how to handle loneliness now, because you will have lonely times in your life.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. Psalm 25:15-18

Don’t lean heavily on texting old friends, facebook, or facetime.

Cling to God and His Word. Rely on His strength. Let Him meet your need and He will take away your loneliness. Sometimes He will be enough. Sometimes, He will provide friends to walk with you.

4. Don’t rebel against what you know is right.

They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.’” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. Isaiah 45:24

Raging against God with the way you live your life will only bring you shame.

You know what the Bible says about how you should live. Don’t act like you don’t.

You have a brand new chance to make a first impression. If you’ve messed up in the past here’s your re-do. If you’ve played it straight, keep it up.

You’ve got nothing to prove, and everything to gain by being a person of integrity, honesty, purity, and faith.

5. Stay involved in Church.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52

This is key to keeping you on track.
Don’t just go to worship. Find a college ministry that is awesome.

Campus ministry is not enough. You need a faith family to help you grow, and you don’t need to get out of the habit of going to church.

If the church offers adopt-a-student be the first to sign up. This is free food and laundry people, plus you’ll have a family away from home.

Keep up your quiet times, and develop Christian friends. Stay on the track you are on in your faith, and you will continue to grow and mature in Christ.

Thanks Mom for Not Making Me Be Quiet

My mom is awesomomme. She is a wise, Godly woman, and has a scripture reference for every situation. She understood me even in the years when I didn’t understand myself.

She has always let me be me. I’m glad mom didn’t try to fit me into this misunderstood stereotype…

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

This verse has been shoved down Godly women’s throats for ages. Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with scripture. But well-meaning people who don’t know Greek, or the culture the Bible was written in, have twisted it into something it wasn’t intended to be.

How many times has it been misquoted, teaching Godly women must be quiet, mild, shy, and serve with a smile.

What if our gifts don’t lie in those areas?

I am loud.
I am annoyingly bubbly.
I am a tell-it-like-it-is speaker.
And God made me this way.

For me to sit back and be quiet, just because I am a woman, would be wasting the gifts and abilities God has given me.

The Greek word for gentle used here is praus. It comes from a root that is difficult to translate, because it means more than meek and is a hair off of what we know as gentle.

It is a mighty gentleness that is confident and powerful because God is in it and behind it. It is power without harshness.

So what does it mean to have a quiet spirit?

First, back to my mom. My mom knew – from birth – quietness is not a virtue of mine. I talked in school. I talked with my mouth full. I even talked in church so much once my dad had to come sit in between a friend and I in the middle of a sermon on a Sunday morning.

He walked down in his choir robe from the choir loft.
That was not a fun day.

But my mom knew I loved God. And has always been behind me. She would never want me to be quiet.

The Greek for “quiet” is hesuchios. It is a picture of stillness or tranquility. It describes a quiet calmness in the depths of a person’s soul.

That is a calmness of spirit, not of mouth.
Or personality.
Or drive.

A calmness of spirit comes from a confidence knowing God is in control because you are choosing to let Him be Lord of your life.

My mom taught me to let God be God in my life.

My mom taught me to attempt to be a person of mighty gentleness.

My mom taught me to have a tranquil spirit by understanding that God is a God of love, peace, forgiveness, and mercy.

My mom taught me to be the person God created me to be, and to not try and fit inside a societal box of perfection or being what people thought I should be.

And thankfully, my mom taught me to never, EVER, shut up when it comes to telling people about Jesus. She wants me to shout it from the rooftops about God’s love. And she taught me that by living it out her self.

Distracted from Real Life

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 10.37.28 AMI’m gonna say it.

Google Glass freaks me out. The whole concept is weird. You want me to put on glasses so I can ignore my present reality to see other things on a computer screen that are secondary to my current reality?

Um… WHY?

Wouldn’t that distract me from people I’ve chosen to currently be with? Wouldn’t my focus be divided, and “real” life pass me by?

Believe it or not Christian do this all the time with our salvation.
We miss it.
We get distracted from it.
Or, we just flat out ignore it.

I know what you’re thinking, “What is she talking about? I know I’m saved…”
Of course you do.  But, do you live like it everyday?

Modern society is rooted in the Greek culture, and there is lots of good to come from that. However, the flip side is we tend to see the world as basically… evil.

The spirit in which the Bible was written is different. It comes from a Hebraic culture that sees the positive, and gives human life great value. Creation is viewed as beautiful and pure.

Greeks think of “me”, whereas Hebrew thought sees things communally as “us”. Do you know most of the “you’s” in the Bible are plural, and not singular? Yet since we read the Bible through a Greek mindset, we personalize it to “me”, and thus sometimes avoid having to play nice with others. This is not good for the unity of believers.

Greeks see knowledge, power, and prominence as the key to life, where as Hebraic thought tells us it found in relationships. Greeks have a linear viewpoint, but the Hebraic concept is more circular and sees things from several angles.

Hebraic thought is a much gentler way to view the world.

Modern Christians focus on salvation as something to be experienced after death. This is also based on Greek patterns. We are taught to live a God-fearing life, and when we die we will be with Jesus forever.

I hate to tell you this, but that mindset is really flawed.

Once we have Jesus in our hearts, salvation and our new eternity begins.

Eternity is now.
Salvation is now.
Victory is now.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest placeand gave him the name that is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:9-13

When we understand eternity begins on this earth, faith becomes more of a priority. Salvation is not a future reward, it is something to be experienced every day. Salvation doesn’t just save you from hell, it can help save you from bad choices, bad relationships, and a bad outlook on life. Salvation, and eternity are now.

John 17:3 says, Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Eternal life is knowing God. It is deepening that relationship. Stop getting distracted from what is really important. God wants you to live NOW. He wants you to love NOW. And he wants you to know, salvation is NOW.

15 Things I Know About God

victoryMinistry can be down right fun.

Youth camp. Praying with someone when they receive Christ. Being there for a birth, or a marriage, or hearing every detail about a proposal. Getting excited with teenagers for their first date, or when they get their license to “finally” drive a car.

F-U-N.

But then, I also walk with people through the tough times. Broken marriages. Broken families. Hospitalizations. Watching people make bad choice after bad choice, even when they deal with consequences. Test results. Pain. Psychosis. Hard hearts. Death.

These last four weeks, my ministry world has been consumed by the difficult.
It’s not fun.

In fact, it is heart wrenching.

I’m tired. I can’t think of anything to write. But they say, “Write what you know”. So, that is what I am going to do.

I know God is sovereign.
The question to ask is not “Why” (unless you and I want to be stuck in a slump hunting for an answer we’ll never find)

But

“What do we do now?”

That one has an answer.
Always, an answer.

I know God is love.
People may not always live out God’s love, but God does. And His love never fails.

I know God is with each hurting person.
Even the ones who are mad at him for their own actions that went against His will.
Even the ones who haven’t done anything wrong but are affected by something or someone out of their control.

I know God is bigger than anything they are facing.

I know God is compassion, and judge, and truth, and peace.

I know God heals, one way or another.

I don’t know why adults act like children. I don’t know why people blame God instead of cling to him. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, and I don’t know why we’re here to see what we do.

But I know God is good.

I know God never changes.

I know, without a doubt, God is GOD.

He is with us, for us, and in us.

I know God beckons us.

I know God yearns for us to be in relationship with Him.

I know God completes us.

I know He died for us, but didn’t stay dead, and rose again so we could be with Him forever.

I know, because of what Christ did for us, we have victory.

Victory now.
Every day.
In every circumstance.

And that friends, is what I know.