• Everyday Life,  Guest Authors

    A Nigerian Story

    Wow, it has been awhile since I posted. I could tell you that school made me too busy, or I forgot to write, or a host of other excuses, and while those may be partially true they don’t tell the full story. The real reason I haven’t posted in months is that I haven’t felt like I had anything important to say.

    Friends, that has changed. I recently met someone with an incredible story, and his one request for me was to share it. I cannot use his real name, so we will call him F.

    I sat next to F at a meal and he asked me why I don’t eat meat. I gave him my classic answer about factory farming and pollution, and he responded that he doesn’t eat meat either. I asked why, and his answer blew me away. F doesn’t eat meat because in his native country, Nigeria, people kill cattle farmers in order to take over their land, use their animals, and turn a profit. He doesn’t eat meat because he is unwilling to put money into the hands of murderers.

    I am horribly uneducated on Nigerian culture and current events, so I asked him what else went on that people in America wouldn’t expect. He said, “I am a professor and divisional head at a top university in Nigeria, and I haven’t been payed in 9 months.”

    Because he works at a state university his pay is subject to the whims of the government, and right now the government doesn’t feel like paying. F has no living family, but said that this is a blessing because he wouldn’t be able to support a family.

    What struck me most about this story wasn’t the details and actions themselves. What struck me was F’s fear. He cannot tell this story or ask for help because he is a Christian living in the “middle belt” of Nigeria, where persecution from the north is spreading (think Boko Haram). Additionally, he lives under a government that is democratic by name, but can not be said to allow free speech. For example Buhari (before he was president) drafted Decree Number 4. This was when he was part of a military coup. The decree states that “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement […] which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offense under this Decree”. While this decree is thankfully no longer in effect, a quick google search pulls up articles such as Hate Speech Bill 2018: Is Decree 4 Of 1984 Reincarnating? and Memories of Decree 4 as Buhari’s CSO evicts reporter.

    F is at risk of being harmed because of his religion, is not being payed for his work, and cannot reach out to the government for help. He was offered a teaching position in the US, but couldn’t afford to relocate because of his lack of income.

    Most of us heard about the abduction of school girls by Boko Haram in 2014. It happened again in 2018. Now you have heard about a much milder, but still awful, story of everyday life in Nigeria. Here’s my question: how many stories does it take for us to do something? As Christians, when will we begin to see these people as our neighbors whom we are called to love and serve?

    I asked F what I, as one person who lives continents away, could do to help. “Tell my story. If people don’t know what’s happening, they can never help.”

    I’m not here to condemn anyone or say that the people of Nigeria need some white saviors to swoop in a fix things. We all know that doesn’t help anything. I am here to say that the world is full of these stories, and if we just listened to each other we would be taking a step in the right direction.

     

     

     

     

  • Creation Care,  Everyday Life,  Scripture

    You Need to Care about the Earth.

    I’m going to start out by saying that what follows is a rant, and a sassy one at that. However, its a topic that is very important for each and every one of us. Consider yourself warned.

    I am SO sick of Christians thinking that caring for the Earth doesn’t matter. Shouldn’t we all care about the things that God cares about?

    Beginning in Genesis 1, it is clear that God cares about His creation:

    In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

    And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

    And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

    14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

    20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

    24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. (emphasis added)

    The light is good. Earth and water are good. Plants are good. Animals are good. When we pour single-use plastics into the ocean, we are changing an environment that God created to be good. When we block out the stars and skies with smog, we are negating the fact that God created these good lights to be signs of seasons and days for us. When we fill the land and sea up with garbage that kills animals, we stop those creations from fulfilling their God-given duty: be fruitful and multiply. How can animals multiply if we kill them all?

    This message continues throughout the entire bible. Noah is required to take two of each animal onto the arc so that animal diversity can continue. In Matthew, we learn that God cares about the death of a little bird. In the Psalms, animals frequently worship their creator.

    But Erin, the oceans are huge! It’l be fine! Try again.

    But Erin, all that stuff about pollution is just liberal propaganda! Scientists and general citizens all over the political spectrum would bed to differ. 

    But Erin, we aren’t killing that many animals! Hmm. How about the white rhinos? How about blue whales? How about all of the farm animals who die for our food at a rate greater than any other generation in history?

    Many people agree that climate abuse is happening, but still don’t want to do anything about it. The argument I most frequently hear is the “God will save us” argument. We don’t need to care about what happens to this planet because at just the right time, God will swoop in and fix everything. This is a lovely thought, but to me it seems inconsistent with the message of the bible. Yes, God saves us. But never without fair judgment or consequences. In fact, the entire point of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that God is just and cannot let the sins of the world go unpunished. To receive that mercy, we are all called to repent and change our actions. Harming the Earth without a second thought doesn’t much seem like repentance to me.

    This is not an issue that we can ignore. Billy Graham defines sin as “any thought or action that falls short of God’s will. God is perfect, and anything we do that falls short of His perfection is sin.” 

    I am 100% positive that destroying the planet is not in God’s perfect will. Therefore, each action that we take against the Earth, whether its using a plastic straw and then tossing it away or dumping gallons of oil into the ocean, is a sin. We don’t ignore other sins. Why would we ignore these?

    At the end of the day, Psalm 24:1 says it all- The earth is the Lord’s.

    What makes me so sad about this entire thing is that for many Christians it comes down to political party divides. When did affirming a political label become more important than affirming your faith by living the life God calls you to?

    I challenge each and every one of you to make your faith more important than political affiliation, or even family affiliation. We are called to do what is right, not what is easy. Upcoming posts will detail things we can do on a daily basis to help God’s creation.

    If this was confusing or upsetting to you, please let me know. I’d love to continue this discussion and hear what you have to say.

    All of my love,
    Erin

     

  • Everyday Life,  Lifestyle

    Confession Hour

    The largest test of faith I’ve encountered came this summer.

    During the year immediately after my baptism, I lived in constant fellowship with Christians who encouraged my faith and enjoyed going to church just as much as I did. I went to at least one worship night and one church service a week. I ran a faith-based club. Many of my classes centered around talking about God. After that, I spent a month abroad learning even more about God and His creation.

    And then I went home.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love home. It’s great to be able to sleep in, babysit the kids I’ve known since they were born, and go out to dinner with my parents who suddenly aren’t all the way across the country. That said, home is not where my faith flourishes.

    If you know me in real life (or have read my about page) you know that I am the only Christian in my family. My parents are lovely people who enjoy having conversations about faith. My mom occasionally goes to church with me, and our drives home are filled with Q&A sessions and some great conversations. My dad is the least spiritual person I know, and yet during family debates he often utilizes his lawyer-skills to put himself in my shoes and see where I’m coming from. However, neither of my parents will ever come to me and say, “Hey, I saw that there’s a really cool worship night coming up, want to go?” or “I’m heading to bible study, come with me!”

    All of that is to say that when I’m home, I have no accountability from other believers. If I don’t go to church, no one texts me to see if I’m okay. If I don’t show up to bible study, no one is knocking on my door to make me come. It is all on me! I’m not telling you this to cast blame on my parents for not babysitting me, I’m telling you this to admit fault.

    At first, I didn’t realize that if I wanted to engage with my faith over the summer I had to be the one to make it happen. That’s how today, August 1st, I woke up and realized I hadn’t looked at my bible since leaving school. How embarrassing is that?!? A christian blogger who is majoring in religion and hopes to be a pastor hasn’t opened her bible in 3 months.

    This is my public confession: sometimes I’m a bad Christian. But you know what gives me hope? I know that God will never give up on me. And that should give you hope as well. I don’t care how far you’ve wandered, or how lost you think you are. If you turn around and come back, God will always be there. You are not a lost cause.

    I would love to hear from you: Is summer more difficult for your faith walk, or is it easier? How do you make faith a priority when you have no accountability? If anyone wants to help me stay accountable, please leave a comment. I will respond to you and together we can get back on the right track.

     

    All of my love,

    Erin

  • Everyday Life,  God,  Scripture

    Your Salvation doesn’t Depend on Your Good Works, but Someone Else’s Might.

    We’ve all had it drilled into our heads: the gospel means that your salvation was determined by Jesus, not by what you do!

    Amazing, right?

    But too many people take this to mean that they can do whatever they want.

    Here’s the thing: Your own salvation doesn’t depend on your good works, but someone else’s might.

    Let me explain:

    You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. -Matthew 5:14-16

    Christians are supposed to act as the light of the world. That isn’t for your own good. Good deeds aren’t for you, they are for others. We are supposed to let our light shine SO THAT OTHERS SEE OUR GOOD DEEDS AND GLORIFY GOD.

    When you do something good for someone else without expecting anything in return, they will want to know what you have that they are missing. And the answer, of course, is Jesus. Good works were the original evangelism method!

    Imagine if each one of us did one nice thing a day. Just one. For an average lifespan of 80 years, that equates to 29,200 good deeds each over the course of our lives. 29,200 evangelism opportunities for each Christian on this Earth! Think of the changes the church could implement if we all took this calling seriously. What if the church was known as where the nice and helpful people hang out, rather than where the judgmental people hang out?

    This week I pray that each one of us would truly consider the implications of our good deeds. Help someone out, and see where it leads.

  • Collaborations,  The Holy Dormitory

    Announcing a New Collaboration: The Holy Dormitory

    The Holy Dormitory is a brand that makes faith-based clothing and dorm supplies on a college girl’s budget. I will be writing over on their site, and I hope you’ll check it out!

    First of all, their t-shirts are really cute and only $20:

    No one paid me to tell you all any of this, I just think The Holy Dormitory is a relevant brand that more people should know about.

    See my introduction on their blog here.

     

  • Worship Wednesday

    Worship Wednesday: So Will I

    This is a Hillsong piece that I’m sure you all have heard. In fact, you’ve probably heard it too many times and are mad at me for talking about it, but just hear me out.

    I am currently in Kaikoura, New Zealand studying creation care. This is the idea that as humans who are made in the image of God, it is our job and responsibility to take care of God’s creation as part of our worship. Think about it this way: humans are the only creatures we know of that sin. Everything else in this world does what it was designed to do by God, it is only humans who like to ignore the instructions. Learning about this topic put So Will I in a whole new light.

    If creation sings your praises, so will I.

    We should all have that as a goal. If humans worshipped the creator like nature does, how much better could our world be?

    Contemplate that, and please let me know what you think.

  • Worship Wednesday

    The Ascension

    This song is uplifting and fun. I have amazing memories of dancing with Jordan in the back of Elkins Auditorium while a band played this song, and every time I hear it I can’t help but smile. 

    Let us start the ascension,

    Let’s begin the climb,

    Up this holy mountain

    Where your glory shines!

    Further up,

    Further in,

    Just to be with you again.

    Let us start the ascension.

     

    Were fixing our eyes on glory and fire.

    Your name is branded on our hearts.

    You are the source of all we desire.

    Nothing can hold us back;

    We’re running to where you are.

    This is a simple tune about the one thing we all desire: to be one with God. As humans, that is our basic desire. Some people try to cover it by chasing other things, but at the end of the day, we all just want to be back with the one who made us. How amazing that our one desire in life has already been given to us by the sacrifice of Jesus! 

    We can celebrate knowing that our fate is secure. We can celebrate knowing that we are fully known and fully loved. And we can celebrate by running up the holy mountain to be closer to God!

  • Everyday Life,  God

    5 Little Rituals to Enhance your Spiritual Life

    I often find myself feeling stagnant in my faith and wishing for some growth. At the end of the day, this wishing gets me nowhere. What follows is a list of little things that anyone can do to get over the edge of a spiritual funk!

    1. Get away from other people.

    Your distance from God may be caused by bad influences on your life through who you’re surrounding yourself with. Even if this is not the case, getting some space from your people can often offer some perspective.

    2. Try to establish a daily routine.

    It is difficult to find time for God when your life is in chaos! When possible, try to streamline daily activities. By establishing a clear routine you often find little bits of wasted time throughout your day that could be spent with God. Even if it isn’t possible for you to plan your entire day out, try to establish morning and night routines.

    3. Write in a journal.

    Journals can help with spiritual low points in many ways. First of all, if you are distracted or anxious about something in life a journal can help you process and free up brain space for other things. Additionally, you can journal out your prayers and thoughts to bring you closer to God.

    4. Get outside.

    This one is crucial. God created this entire beautiful world for you to explore, why on earth are you sitting inside? Creation is meant to bring us joy and encourage us into praise of the creator. If you are never experiencing creation, it’s no wonder that you don’t feel like praising!

    5. Switch up your media intake.

    This one seems so small, but can help so much. Instead of listening to pop music on the radio while in the car, put on a worship playlist. If you like to watch youtube videos to unwind, watch ones about God. If you want to read, read one of the many books out there written by Christians with the intent of helping other Christians. If you fill your life with things that remind you of God, it will be impossible not to think about God throughout your day.

  • Everyday Life,  Scripture

    Make Disciples, not Christians

    Matthew 28:19-20

    Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    This command is simple and well-known. Most Christians know that we have a duty to tell others the good news of Christ. That said, most people do it wrong.

    In our modern day, there are many people who I lovingly refer to as “Sunday-Morning Christians”. These people go to church on Sundays and probably on Christmas. They say cute phrases like “God bless you!” and “I’ll pray for you.” That said, their lives have never been altered by Christ. Their hearts are the same as they would be if they didn’t show up at 9 am and sing some songs.

    I do not blame or condemn these people. In fact, I don’t think it is their fault that they have a one-way relationship with the Father. I think that the modern church and its members have failed these people. We’ve failed to uphold one of Jesus’ commands because we’ve been focusing on making Christians when we should have been making disciples.

    Christian: Belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Disciple: a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; any follower of Christ.

    Jesus said that we should follow Him. Somehow I don’t remember Him saying that we should belong to His religion.

    It is our duty as the church to show people how transformative a relationship with Christ can be. We have a gift to share, and right now we’re only giving part of it away! Knowing Jesus is supposed to be radical. It is supposed to be life-changing. When you let God into your heart, others should be able to tell that you are a changed person because your actions change.

    The next time someone asks you a question about your faith, engage them. It is great to invite someone to come to your church, but it is better to have a conversation and share your own story. It is great to show someone worship music, but it’s better to tell them about your own worship practices. It’s great to give someone a bible, but it’s better to study it with them.

    Let’s quit making Christians, and start making disciples.

  • Worship Wednesday

    How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

    I know this song is a classic that you’ve probably heard a million times, but have you ever heard the version by Selah? It’s haunting.

    This simple version of the song allows the lyrics to shine, and that’s where this song’s power is.

    I will not boast in anything

    No gifts no power no wisdom

    But I will boast in Jesus Christ

    his death and resurrection.

    What a powerful reminder! Our culture is all about boasting. We display our degrees in frames so that others can see how smart we are. We drive fancy cars so that others can see how much money we have. We post picture after picture of ourselves so that others can see how attractive we are. The truth of the matter is that none of us has anything worthwhile to boast about because all blessings come from God. The only thing we should be boasting about is Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made.

    Why should I gain from His reward?

    I cannot give an answer.

    But this I know with all my heart:

    His wounds have payed my ransom.

    Again, these lyrics are meant to punch you down and keep you there in humility. There is no reason for any of us to deserve such a huge gift from the creator of the universe. We are tiny humans, and nothing we ever do could possibly earn His favor. And yet here we are: His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.

    Our modern church culture isn’t often about humility, and I think that we need more of it. It isn’t easy to get rid of the ego, but it is so powerful and so freeing. I love to sink into this song and truly let go.