Guest Post: Maggie Yow

Like many freshmen at UNC Chapel Hill, I struggled to find a place on campus that I could truly feel like myself. Everything seemed so new and foreign to me. I had a new room, new church, new friends, new teachers, new classrooms, and a new town. Sometimes I just felt uprooted and then replanted. As I was finding my way around campus, I decided to explore “Coker Arboretum” while walking back from class. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect or if it was even worth my time to go inside.

As I stepped into the arboretum for the first time, I was in awe at how many beautiful flowers, plants, and trees were so intricately placed to create an exquisite garden. Something about being in the arboretum triggered a greater intimacy with God in me. I think this was a combination of the artistry of the flowers, the charm of nature, and the essence of being still on a busy campus. As I spent more and more time in the arboretum, I found that this campus was the place the Lord had planted me for this season in my life.

The significant beauty of the arboretum reminds me of the quote by The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales, “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”  As I found peace in the arboretum, I found peace within my own garden of life. As a Christian, it is important to unpack this concept of blooming where we are planted when we feel uprooted or planted in the wrong place. Finding contentment in our current place can be paralleled to the basics of good gardening.

1. Be Planted Deep

To be “planted” is to be placed somewhere intentionally. When planting flowers, the soil is fertilized, a hole is dug for the seed, then covered up with more soil. If the seed is not deep enough in the soil, it risks being washed away by the rain. Gardeners spend a lot of time strategically picking the perfect place for a garden, preparing optimal soil, and individually placing the seeds where they are supposed to go.

God is like our gardener. He prepares the soil, and then He intentionally plants us there. Whether we feel like we are planted in the right place or not, we are there for a purpose. At Passion 2018, Pastor Levi Lusko said, “Being planted can feel a lot like being buried.” When we are planted deep and feel buried underneath the weight of the soil, we must not forget that God is calling us here for our benefit. It reminds me of Psalm 42:7, “Deep calls to deep,” (NIV). This verse means that “our deep need calls out to the deep kindness of God’s love” (TPT).  We need Him to provide the fertile soil, and out of His kindness, He has buried us deep to protect us and optimize our growth.

“rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:7 (NIV)

2. You Must Be Watered

Once seeds are planted, it takes water to help them grow. Flowers bloom into vibrant colors when the moisture is soaked up, thus a lack of hydration hinders their bloom. As believers, we must also be watered in order to bloom. Metaphorically, this water symbolizes suffering, but it also symbolizes a catalyst for growth in Him.

As I was scrolling through Pinterest one day, I saw the quote “I asked God to help me grow, and it started raining.” This reminded me of the story of Job in the Bible. Job withstood so much suffering that this rain came in the form of a hurricane. As bad thing after bad thing kept happening to Job, I’m sure he felt as though he was drowning in the flood of suffering. However, through the storms, Job came to a place of submission to God’s Holy Will. He not only lived through the rain storm, but he bloomed through it. God sends rain not to drown us, but to nourish us.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 (NIV) 

3. Get Plenty of Sunshine

My favorite days in the arboretum are the ones where the sun is shining bright and all the flowers seem to be facing up towards the sun, as they soak in every last drop until it sets. As Christians, God commands us to do the same. No matter where He has planted us, we must always be in the posture to receive Him. The gift of the Son is life giving.

When I think of the sunshine, I think of walking in the light. We all know that every day and every circumstance isn’t bright and sunny, but we always have the Son, Jesus, to guide us. In order to bloom where we are planted, we must find Jesus in every place. For me, the arboretum was the place that fostered that intimate gaze while planted in college. As Christians, keeping our eyes on Him can bring spiritual peace and control our attitudes. When we dwell in Him, we dwell in the light we need to grow. 

 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

4. Enjoy the Beauty of the Bloom

When I was in high school, I was a dancer. After each performance, I would leave with an armload of flowers from my family and friends, somewhat of a cultural norm in the dance world. I remember thinking one year, “why do all these people spend money on flowers when all they do is die in a week?” I wasn’t unappreciative, I just truly questioned the concept. I tell you this to emphasize the fact that what I was missing was the simple, yet extravagant beauty of the bloom.

Bloom” is an action word, something we must do. To bloom is to produce something beautiful. As believers, we are never in the wrong place to serve God and bloom into something beautiful. Seasons will come and go, and while rain and lack of sunshine are inevitable, each seed is planted with the intentionality to bloom. One of the greatest tragedies is to waste an opportunity and miss the beauty in the bloom. No one delights in the beauty of the bloom more than The Gardener himself, so honor the Lord and grow in the place He has planted you. Your beautiful bloom is the proof that He is sovereign in every stage of life, providing everything you need. 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Towards the end of the school year, there is a lot of uprooting and replanting going on. Whether that be moving from a dorm room to your home, your campus to an internship, far away from your friends, studying abroad, or maybe graduating and moving to a new chapter of life, God could be planting you in a new place. If you’re experiencing a season of rain or a lack of sunshine, don’t doubt the design of His garden. We are called to “bloom where we are planted” as a part of His Garden, not our own. 

Maggie Yow // @maggie_yow

“Being Present”

my new mantra is “being present.” ☀️🙏🏼

A little less than a year ago, I became really convicted about my cell phone and social media habits. I would go as far to say that I was somewhat addicted to this rectangular device. I checked it constantly. I rushed to social media every five minutes. I went about 7 months with no social media. It was wonderful. I chose to go back on for ministry purposes but I made strict guidelines for myself such as who I would interact with, what times I would check it, how much time I would spend holding it in my hand, etc.
My latest conviction is checking the phone in general. I have discovered that 90% of the messages I receive do not require an immediate response. Therefore, my phone no longer receives texting notifications. I am not tempted to check it when it lights up. I am not distracted from being totally present wherever I am and with whomever I’m with. My new reality has been truly blessed by God.
I’m no longer a slave to my phone. I am learning that someone else’s emergency is not necessarily my emergency and that life goes on. I have written so much about being intentional- it was time I took it to another level in my own life. My phone alerts me when I receive a call or when certain people contact me, but that’s it. Everything else can wait. It can wait for you, too. Don’t be a slave to this rectangular box. Be present with those you are around in this moment.
I challenge you to consider how much of your time has been or is currently being robbed by a screen and take a few simple steps to experience this life God has given you and the people He has blessed you with.

Encouragement for the Discouraged Mother

My mother knew that in order to raise children who would choose to walk with Christ on a daily basis, she needed more than rules. She needed to be a living example of a woman after God’s heart.
Your children observe your lifestyle.
After all, it is a direct reflection of your heart. A lifestyle is seven days a week- not just the seventh day. Making the choice each day to submit to Christ can be difficult when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, people (yes, even your lovely children), or anything else we cannot control.
Sometimes I feel like asking, “God are you really listening?” As my heart burns with a desire to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God and to be a solid Christian example for the little ones in my life, it seems insulting to let the thought cross my mind that I might need to jump back into the driver’s seat of my life and let Jesus take a break for a few miles.
           
I was reminded a few weeks ago of John’s doubts while in prison. In Matthew 11:3, John asked if Jesus was really, “The One who is to come?” Note, John had already baptized Jesus even though he felt he was “unworthy to touch His sandals.” John knew who Christ was. He baptized Him in the name of His Father. Lastly, in v. 2, John had heard what Christ was doing while he was sitting in prison.
Jesus never rebuked John for asking questions.
For wondering.
For maybe even fearing a little.
And Jesus will not rebuke us in the moments of life when we just can’t seem to grasp what He is doing and we do not know what we should do either.
           
When my heart is burdened and I can’t seem to release what I know He can hold, instead of bashing myself, I know I should remember how Jesus worked in John’s life. John found himself in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be the forerunner of Christ. He did not stay caught up in his doubt-He continued to love like the author of love. He found faith in our awesome God to be all he needed, and he lived a life of devoted ministry to Christ.
“Truly I tell you, among these born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared..” (Matt. 11:11). 
God strengthened John to fulfill his calling in this life and He will strengthen you, too, as you fight the good fight to raise champions for Christ.
           
Your success as a mother is not dependent on your ability to bake the best cookies, to keep a spotless house, or to be liked by your child at all times. Your success as a mother will hinge on a consistent walk with Christ. Following Jesus will not exempt you from parenting woes, discouragement, or children gone wild, but following Him does mean you are equipped with the armor of God and perfect guidance and direction for each day as you raise your mighty warriors of God.
I encourage you to submit yourself to Him and be faithful to make decisions each day that place Christ at the center of your home. The fruit of God-fearing will grow and bloom in the lives of your children as they watch you trust in The Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding.

Christians Against Culture

Christians aren’t better, just forgiven.

Is our goal to change culture, avoid it, or simply live and let live?

Christ-against-culture people see a clear and unreconcilable division between the goals of Christ and the goals of current culture. Jesus’ words and actions picture a new way of life, a way that is at odds with the status quo.

To pray, “Thy Kingdom Come” is a petition of surrender, a letting go of the objectives of this world in favor of the way of God. You can’t look like the world and have a heart sold out for Christ.

We all fall short of what God wants us to do and to be. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ is radical, wide reaching, and life changing.

Jesus came preaching a gospel that set people free from cultural norms and for new life. The question before us is: Will we follow where Jesus Christ leads? Chances are, you won’t look like everyone else. You might even offend someone.

Jesus’ words speak directly to us. We are now the ones who carry the responsibility of living a life reflective of the gospel and sharing the gospel faithfully.

Just as Jesus challenged His first disciples to believe in Him and follow, so He challenges us today through His word.

GUEST POST {Valerie Dowdell}

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity (love), in spirit, in faith, in purity.

1Timothy 4:12, KJV

Perhaps “young people” have the most crucial role in the church.  That is to learn, work, and grow.  Young people are the next church and their role will evolve as they grow into adults.  

It is vital to the existence of every young person to be mentored and their heart shepherded.  2 Timothy 4:2 tells us that pastors are to,  “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”  God sends us pastors to feed the sheep and be an overseer and to watch for wolves and dangers that want to come in and devour.  

Young people must learn how to revere and respect authority. Respect and reverence are crucial when learning and listening to the mind of God.  Show me a disrespectful young person and I will show you a reckless life.  Being teachable is key to being successful.  My heart goes out to my many friends that are teachers.  When sharing with me their heart, their top complaint is a lack of respect that their students have for authority. They are unteachable. Young people must learn how to be teachable and that is to humble oneself and put idle hands to work. Church is a place where our work will never be completed until Christ comes to take His Bride to our eternal Home.  Every minute that goes by, eternity is nearing.  In John 4:35, God says to us, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”  God wants us to start serving others for the sake of His Eternal Kingdom, now.  

David Cassidy’s death was recently in the headlines and his last words were so profound: “So much wasted time.”  Each of us could say the same for our own lives.  In many instances, we allow ourselves to be sidetracked and derailed by satisfying our flesh, self-sabotaging, or manipulating others. However, the younger we get plugged into a church, God’s word, and salvation through Jesus Christ;  the sooner we can hide His word in our hearts and follow the Holy Spirit.  

God said if any of us lack wisdom to simply ask for it.  There is no age limit on that bible verse.  If I told you I had the formula for world peace and the cure for cancer would you want to know what that was?  Why certainly.  We all know a loved one that has been touched by violence or the debilitating disease of cancer.  Many times violence scars us emotionally and cancer scars physically.  Of course we would share the cure that would save our sons and daughters. Making an eternal difference is the whole reason God has left us on earth.   

We must share what the root of success is and the secret to joy:

Living inside God’s standards and inside His offering plate.  

It is imperative that we trust God and truly worship Him in total mind, body, and spirit. We must be able to hear God’s voice and discern the spirits.  Listen to 1 John 4: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.  Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.   They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.”   

Did you know the part of the brain that promotes rational thinking isn’t fully developed until age 25?  Studies have found that adult and teen brains work differently. The mental maturity is not there for young people in the same way as adults. We must equip our young people with the only thing that will stand with them through the trials of life.   It is important to memorize God’s word early in life and hide it in our hearts for the day of temptation.  There will be no reservations when having the mind and heart of God to live pure and clean as He tells us our body is a temple.  We must renew our minds with His word, and all else will follow.  

In Proverbs 4:23, God tells us everything flows from the heart, to guard it.  “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” God works through the heart, mind, and body.  Satan works on our young people and adults in the exact opposite order.  Satan starts with your mind.  That is why he works through music and visuals.

Satan’s goal is to penetrate and pollute your mind to devour and discourage.  

God calls those attacks fiery darts.  If the devil can get your mind then he can fully control your every move.  

Satan is the master of division.  God brings everyone together in unity, love, and joy.  On the other hand,  Satan’s goal is to isolate you.  God said forsake not the assembly of yourselves together.  There is strength in God’s children coming together, exhorting one another, and loving one another.  The sooner we learn what the full armor of God is, the sooner we will know how to guard our hearts and live successful lives with “real” joy.  We are fooling ourselves if we rely on our friends to lead and guide us in this spiritual walk.  

We must line up all we do with God’s word.  

Then, we must refrain from what we often listen to: gossip poisons, degrading movies and music lyrics poisons, comparison poisons, envy poisons, jealousy poisons, etc. The list is endless.  

How can we know what is good for our physical and mental health if we are not diligently guarding our hearts with the word of God?

Young people have an advantage to learning this because they can walk inside God’s boundaries early in life and save themselves from a life of sorrow.  True joy and freedom is a product of living for God and being active in the church.  God says in His word, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).  There is an advantage in being in the Word of God at a young age.  

As a result of being in the ministry, my husband and I have had the honor of sitting beside many death beads.  Many times people will share regrets and one that always makes the top three is the regret of poor decision making.  Just one month ago, we drove three hours to be with our friend, Henry.  We have been friends with Henry for ten years.  He had a beautiful family and a very full and successful life. Henry did not grow up in a church nor did he spend any of his adult life in a church.  However, he was a kind man with big heart.  But, as a result of poor decisions he had made, he was now on his deathbed prematurely. Henry explained that he started socially drinking which turned into every Friday night with friends and that lead to every day.  Henry said he found himself consuming alcohol from the time he woke up until the time he went to bed.  That type of drinking altered his thinking and decision making which resulted in devastating consequences. He lost his precious family and his health. He looked at my husband and said, “I did this to myself.” He went on to say he wished he would have known God when he was younger and made better decisions.  Henry accepted Christ and was able to live four more weeks as a new creature in Christ.  But oh what wasted time.

It is important for young people to come to know Christ early and to allow the Holy Spirit to lead them into Jeremiah 29:11 for their lives.  God said He has a good plan for every believer!  The devil would have you believe you are not loved, wanted, or accepted.  Young people are vital to God’s work.

I believe it is imperative for young people to be grounded in church early because it is important for them to know how to mourn and be comforted.  Matthew 5:4 states, “ Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Teen suicide is on a rise and at an all-time high.  It is important for young people to know the presence of “the Comforter,” the Holy Spirit.  If only a teenage girl in my hometown would have known about this Comforter.  She took her life when she was in a state of hopelessness and jumped from a bridge on the busy interstate below.  Every day on my route to and from home, I had to drive over the painted circles below that had been used to mark where her remains rested.  For months my heart and soul mourned the loss of this young girl I never met.  If only she would have been introduced to the Comforter would the outcome had been different?

I just saw on the news where a 10-year-old was bullied at school and felt helpless.  That young child, what I consider to be just a baby, came home and took her life.  At ten years old I still thought life was very wonderful.  I loved my church, I loved Jesus, and I loved His people.  This little girl took her own life because she felt powerless and hopeless.  If only someone could have echoed these words to her ear: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God,” (Psalm 43:5).  Her precious little mind wasn’t mature enough to know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary situation.  If only she had been in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God said they “shall be comforted”.  

We must get our young people to God.  They must know true worship.  They must experience the Holy Spirit and they must grow. I compel you to embrace the young people of your church and encourage them to be faithful to God.

God loves the young people of “His” church and they have a vital place in His house.

By: Valerie Dowdell