Helping Girls Discover Who They Are in Christ

When I was a high school math teacher, one of my students made a statement to her classmates along the lines of “High school is the best time of our lives, people.  You better enjoy it.”  I challenged her assertion and explained that she had so many wonderful events in her life ahead of her—college, marriage, and children just to name a few. When she thought it over, she could see that the sentiment she expressed was actually very negative.  Yet, I’ve heard adults make the same comment to their high school children.

For many people high school was a wonderful experience, and they look back wistfully on that period when they had lots of free time to spend with their friends and they were still under the protection of their parents.  Unfortunately, however, high school is a very tough time for many other teenagers.  Some teens struggle with making friends and feel like they don’t fit into any groups. Teens are pressured to wear the right clothing and hairstyles. Girls may be teased for being overweight or not fashionable, and bullies pick on smaller, weaker guys.    Even the athletes and beauty queens are pressured to live up to worldly standards of physical perfection that are unrealistic. It’s no wonder that many teens struggle with low self-esteem.  

In writing and in working with girls in my church, I am passionate about trying to help girls and women discover their truth worth as children of God.  For 32 years, I have been privileged to work in my church’s Girls Ministries program.  I became involved in this ministry while I was in college. My 8-year old sister volunteered me to teach a group of younger girls so they wouldn’t be in her class.  I was available, so I agreed to serve.  It wasn’t long, however, before I realized that Girls Ministries would be one of my life’s missions.  

The Girls Ministries program exist to introduce girls to Christ and to help them find their place and purpose in life.  One of the primary goals is to help girls realize that they are loved and esteemed by God.  Their worth and value as human beings has nothing to do with their abilities, their actions, or their appearance.  They are valuable because God created them and loves them. 

I once heard a preacher say that the most profound message of God’s Word can be summed up in “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  Jesus loves me and Jesus loves you.  He loves each and every girl, regardless of her appearance, her background, her home life, or the mistakes she has made.  This is the message we desire to impress on the heart of each girl. John 3:16 is perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  God loves each girl and His love is so great He sent Jesus to die on the cross for her sins, so that she can spend eternity in Heaven with Him.  

Of course, the girls hear this message in Sunday School and church.  So, why do they need Girls Ministries?  I believe that Girls Ministries is important for girls to learn how to fulfill God’s purposes for them as women.  Girls need a place where they can meet without boys present.  Girls Ministries affords girls an opportunity to be themselves without trying to impress boys and to discuss concerns that should not be discussed in mixed company.  

In a girls-only environment, we address sensitive issues such as dating standards and sexual purity.  We teach them to apply makeup to enhance their appearance and to dress modestly, so as not to tempt boys to have inappropriate sexual thoughts about them.  We give them tools to recognize verbal or physical abuse and encourage them to date only Christian young men who share their beliefs and who treat them with respect and courtesy. We also teach girls that they will make mistakes and they will have to ask God to forgive them.  When they seek forgiveness, God forgives.  However, they may still have to live with the consequences of their mistakes.

“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 NIV) Each girl in our program learns that God has a wonderful plan for her life.  She can achieve this plan if she follows the instructions in God’s manual.  God’s commands are not to restrict her, but to allow her to live life as fully as He has planned for her. A girl who appreciates this truth will not struggle with self-image or lack of worth.  She will realize how valuable she is to the one who created her and she will grow into a confident young women equipped to fulfill God’s purposes for her life.

Unemployment, Cancer, Grandchildren, and Trusting God Through It All

Cancer and unemployment are the difficult things in my life right now, and grandchildren are the phenomenal blessings.  Through these ups and downs, I am learning to trust God and am reminded that he is with me through all the circumstances of life.

A year and a half ago, Steve and I were blessed with the news that our first grandchild was expected.  That joyful announcement came at a time when we really needed some good news.  We were approaching the first anniversary of Steve being laid off, and his parents’ health was of great concern.  The expected baby was a reminder of God’s great love for us. 

The intervening months were stressful as Steve’s unemployment stretched into a second year and his father passed away.  Whenever I felt like life was just too difficult, my spirits would be lifted be the mere thought that a baby was on the way.  Daniel’s arrival ten months ago brought great joy to our lives.  We love that little boy with all of our hearts.  We thank God daily that he is a healthy, happy child.

About six weeks ago, we learned that my sister has breast cancer. Although they caught it early and the tumor was rather small, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and has been diagnosed as an aggressive form. Fortunately, the cancer has not spread to her organs. She is facing months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  It will be a difficult time. I will do all that I can to support her, and I pray that she will experience God’s presence in a new and powerful way as she deals with her illness.

My sister’s cancer diagnosis, along with Steve’s continued unemployment—now well into its third year—can be a heavy burden to bear.  The past few weeks, these burdens have felt overwhelming at times. I know I have to trust God for my sister’s health and my husband’s job situation.  He is faithful to send bits of encouragement to remind me of his faithfulness.  For example, one day last week the number of page views of my blog was unexpected much higher than normal.  I was delighted.  The next day was even better, setting a record for my highest number of views in one day.  It wasn’t a big thing, and it didn’t change any of the circumstances of my life.  However, God used this small thing to remind me of his love for me and to help me feel relevant.

I called my sister today to share with her some unexpected good news Steve and I received yesterday.  She shared with me that the original diagnosis of Stage 1 cancer had been overly optimistic; after her lumpectomy, the cancer was reclassified as Stage 3.  God knew that I would receive this discouraging news today, so yesterday he sent us the good news another grandchild is on the way. 

Little Daniel will be getting a cousin in December.  The new little one is due on December 27th.  A Christmas baby to look forward to!  It doesn’t improve my sister’s health or increase my husband’s opportunities for gaining employment.  It does, however, remind us that we are blessed and have a great future ahead of us.  We will continue to trust God for the strength to face each day with grace, knowing that his love for us is immeasurable.

I Serve a Risen Saviour!

Today is Good Friday.  It marks the celebration of the greatest act of love that the world has ever known.  Jesus Christ, the son of God, paid the price for my sins on the cross at Calvary.  Without Jesus’ sacrifice, I could not have forgiveness for my sins.

Thankfully, Jesus’ death was not the end of his life.   Jesus battled Satan and overcame death and the grave.  On Sunday we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave.  How wonderful it is to serve a Saviour who not only bore my sins but who is alive forever more.

In celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am sharing one of my favorite Easter hymns.  I hope that each person who reads this has received Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness of their sins and the promise of eternity in Heaven.  If you have not done so, please consider doing it today.  Your life on Earth will be happier, fuller, and more satisfying, and you will get to look forward to a future in Heaven.

May you have a blessed Easter weekend.

He Lives

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today;

I know that He is living, whatever men may say;

I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,

And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

Chorus:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart.

Verse 2:

In all the world around me I see His loving care,

And tho’ my heart grows weary I never will despair;

I know that His with me, thro’ all the stormy blast,

The day of His appearing will come at last.

Verse 3:

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing

Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!

The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,

None other is so loving, so good and kind.

Lyrics and music by Alfred H. Ackley

The Delight of Children

Steve and I are in the stage of life where our children have left home and are starting families of their own.  We became grandparents nine months ago.  Most of our friends are grandparents or about to become grandparents.  It is a wonderful time of life.

Yesterday, I attended a baby shower in celebration of the impending arrival of a friend’s first grandchild.  The mother-to-be, Jessica, is a former student of mine.  She and her husband glow when they speak of their son, growing in his mother’s protective womb. Although the child won’t be born for a couple more months, he is very much loved–not only by his parents, but also by his grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. From the first announcement that a child was expected, all who know this family have rejoiced with them and celebrate that a new life has been conceived.

We experienced this same joy and anticipation during the months leading up to Daniel’s birth.  We loved our yet-to-be-born grandchild from the first moment we learned that wonderful news that our beautiful daughter-in-law was pregnant. We waited in eager anticipation for the arrival of the “expected” baby.  Every moment we spend with him is one of joy and pleasure.  We are thankful for this wonderful gift God has given our family.

We spent this afternoon with our grandson and some extended family members.  One of them gave Daniel a beach ball to play with.  Daniel squealed with delight as he held the ball.  When it rolled from him, his father would pick up the ball and bounce it off Daniel’s head, eliciting howls of laughter.  We delighted in watching the pleasure Daniel derived from the ball.  His pleasure was contagious and brought smiles and laughter to everyone.

As parents and grandparents delight in their offspring, so God delights in and loves his children.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!” (1 John 3:1) As much as we love our children and our grandson, our love does not compare in magnitude to the love God has for us. 

God loved us so much that he sent his son to take the punishment for our sins, allowing us access to God and a future with him in Heaven.  “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16) God offers his salvation to all.  God created each person that has every lived to be his child and to enter into fellowship with him. He desires each of us to accept Christ’s free gift of salvation and to become a child of God. 

If you would like to experience the delight that comes from being a child of God, you only have to admit that you are a sinner in need of salvation, believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins, and confess Jesus as Lord of your life.  It’s the best decision you will ever make.  Won’t you become a child of God today?

There’s Nothing Shallow About Having Standards

I just read Kat Richter’s blog “Are Standards Shallow?”  (After I Quit My Day Job) She was responding to being accused of “getting shallow” for refusing to date any man who is not taller than she is when she’s wearing heels.  Kat will probably miss out on dating some pretty terrific guys because of her preference for tall men.  That’s her loss, and it’s her choice.

Having standards is not shallow.  Physical attributes are not standards, however. They are merely preferences.  Any woman seeking a date or a husband needs to have standards.  When I was dating I had absolute standards—my line in the sand that I would not cross.  In my thirty-plus years of ministering to teen-age girls I have encouraged them to decide what their standards are before they begin dating.

For me the absolute most important standard was to date only godly Christian men.  Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” It was important that my future husband share my Christian beliefs and values.  I was not willing to risk falling in love with the wrong man, so I avoided dating non-believers.  I met my future husband in high school. I knew he was nice, but I didn’t know if he was a Christian until I saw him at my church one Sunday.  Of course, church attendance doesn’t equate to salvation, but seeing him at church gave me an opening to ask him about his beliefs.  My interest increased greatly as I realized how similar his beliefs were to my own.

Family values were next in importance.  I love children, and I wanted a man who also loves children.  As the second of nine children, my youngest siblings are considerably younger than me.  I was able to witness how a potential future husband would treat and respond to children simply by taking him home to meet my family.  From his first visit, Steve was comfortable with my younger siblings.  He spent many a Saturday afternoon taking them fishing in the summer and building snowmen in the winter. During our senior year of college, Steve and I took my four youngest siblings to a movie. They kids ranged from 10 to 18 years younger than us.  The next day one of his professors asked him about his children.  I guess he thought we got a very early start on our family.

Another standard was that a future husband prioritize family over income.  I can still vividly remember sitting in traffic on the Falmouth Bridge and Steve telling me that he wanted his future wife to stay home and raise their children. Those words were music to my ears.  Although I was in college and planned to continue my education afterward, I still desired greatly to be home with my children when they were young.  Steve added that being home when they were in high school was even more important. 

We were fortunate to be able to make that happen.  Steve worked hard, and I got to stay home. When the boys went to school, I went with them.  For the next thirteen years, they were either enrolled in a Christian school where I taught or I was home schooling them.  I cried on the twins’ last day of school (as seniors they finished up a few weeks earlier than the rest of the students) wondering how I would be able to come to school without them the next day.  I am so thankful for the time I had with my boys.

Beyond those three standards, everything else was icing on the cake. It didn’t hurt that Steve is tall—a full 9 inches taller than me—and very handsome.  But, I would have loved him no matter what he looked like. 

I maintained my standards and married the love of my life.  And there’s nothing shallow about that.

In Celebration of Kristi

Yesterday I learned that Kristi DeVore Shores’ life on earth had ended. I was saddened by the news that this beautiful, vibrant thirty-nine year old woman had lost her brief battle with stomach cancer.  She was diagnosed with the illness less than three months ago.  As she fought her brave battle, family members and friends interceded with God on her behalf.  On Tuesday God healed Kristi.  It was not the healing we had hoped for, yet it was an answer to our prayers.  When Kristi’s eyes closed, her soul was transported into the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My heart aches for the family she left behind:  her loving husband Ryan who dreamed of growing old with her, three precious children who are young enough to need a mother’s daily care, godly parents who set a wonderful example for their children in their marriage and their daily walk with Christ, and three siblings who have stayed close despite busy lives of their own.  From their Facebook posts, I know the family members are sad, but they are also happy that Kristi is pain-free and they are secure in the knowledge that they will see Kristi again when their time on Earth comes to an end.

There are hundreds of posts on Kristi’s Facebook page and web site.  Some friends share the many ways Kristi touched their lives, while others tell funny stories about her.  Most offer words of condolences to her family.  All loved her and were better off for having known her.

Those of us who knew Kristi have perfect assurance that Kristi is in Heaven.  Kristi is not in Heaven because she was kind or loving.  She didn’t earn her way into Heaven through generosity or good works.  She isn’t there because she was a loving wife, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter, and a precious sister.  Kristi was all those things and many more.  Yet, Kristi knew that she could never be good enough to get to Heaven on her own. Many years ago Kristi acknowledged what is true of all of us, that she was a sinner in need of a Savior.  Kristi believed that Jesus Christ died for her sins and she confessed Him as her Lord and Savior. And because she did, she is spending eternity in Heaven.

Perhaps you’ve been told that there are many roads to Heaven.  It sounds nice and many people believe that.  However, God’s Word teaches us that Jesus is the only way.  “There is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

Where will you spend eternity?  If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation, I urge you to do so today.  The rest of your life on Earth will be better, and you will receive the promise of an eternity in Heaven.

Unto Us a Son is Given

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Each year, Christians all around the world celebrate the birth of baby Jesus in a stable more than two thousand years ago.  For those of us who have made Jesus Christ our Savior by accepting His free gift of salvation, Christmas is a pivotal point in history. If Jesus had not come to Earth as a human baby and lived a sinless life, He could not have died for our sins and we would still be lost.  Through the birth of this tiny baby, salvation came into a darkened world

God used another baby boy to draw my family into a relationship with Him.  My brother John was born when I was 5 years old. Although our mother had contracted rubella early in the pregnancy, John was declared healthy and sent home.  However, we soon learned that John had serious heart defects and the he could neither see nor hear.

John underwent open-heart surgery when he was three months and endured several more surgeries in his first few years of life.  My mother began praying, asking God to heal John.  One day she asked an acquaintance to remember John in her prayers.  The woman proceeded to share the gospel with my mother.  Although my parents had attended church all their lives, until that day neither of them had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

My brother died from heart complications before his eighth birthday.  During his short life, both of my parents and many other family members came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Although we miss John and think of him every day, we know that one day we will be reunited with him in Heaven. 

This Christmas, and every Christmas, I am thankful that the Son of God humbled Himself and became human on our behalf and that God used a blind and deaf child with a bad heart to show my family our need for a personal relationship with God.