Hello Sweet Cheer: October 2012

10.29.2012

The Wonderful (& sometimes small) World of Blogging!


     I love reading blogs!  I follow many blogs focused on various topics; from international adoption to DIY experts to everyday life on a farm!  Although I read a wide range of things, the main thing I enjoy is the subject of adoption. 

     My interest was first piqued by a good friend of mine who went on the same mission trip as me my freshman year of high school, Whitney Pratt.  At the time she was somewhat newly married & in her late 20’s.  As a 14-year-old girl, I just loved that we became friends & she was actually interested in being my buddy throughout the trip!  I kept in touch with her after we returned home & soon found out that her & her husband Aaron were starting the process of an international adoption from Ethiopia!  I was just enamored with the idea!  Since then I’ve been a huge lover of adoption & hope to someday adopt myself! 


     Whitney has an awesome blog that you can check out, here.  I’ve been following since they started it back in 2009.  All the adoption blogs I follow now I’ve found through Whitney’s blog because they are blogs she follows as well!  The crazy, wonderful (and sometimes small) world that blogging is was revealed to me in the coolest way yesterday at church!  Another blog I follow belongs to the Jenkins’ family who recently brought home a little boy from Ethiopia.  Yesterday while attending a fall festival type event at my parents’ church, I SAW THE JENKINS’ FAMILY.  The thing about blogs is that I really don't know where people live according to their blog.  If you don't know me personally the only thing you know is that I live in the US.  Besides that, I could be anywhere.  (I guess you technically know I go to Texas Tech, but you don't know where I'm from originally!)  That's the same for the blogs I follow, I had no idea that this family was from the same place as I am!  It was so crazy & super surreal.  I kind of felt like a creeper & felt an odd nervousness like I was about to meet a celebrity; I’m weird I know!  Long story short, I ended up introducing myself to the mother, Debi, & had a short conversation with her.  It was just so cool to see a family whose lives I read about all the time through their blog standing right in front of me!  They are just a precious family & their little boy is the sweetest!! You can check them out here!

Speaking of the world of blogging…

MY VERY FIRST BLOGIVERSARY IS COMING UP!

     For those who maybe aren’t as well versed in bloggy lingo as others, a blogiversary is exactly what it sounds like, an anniversary for your blog.  I posted for the first time here on Reflections of a College Girl on November 7, 2011.  ONLY SEVEN DAYS until Blogiversary Week begins!

The way it works is as follows:
     The week consists of a post each day with something fun involved.  Bloggy Superlatives, Timeline of the Year in Blogging and Behind the Scenes Bloggy Tidbits are just a few of the many ways we celebrate!  Bloggers with high traffic usually host contests & giveaways during blogiversary week, but since I don’t receive too many comments or have too many followers just yet, I’ll save those super fun things for my 2 year Blogiversary! :D  If you're interested share a link to my blog & get to leaving comments!! ;) I’m still fine tuning what the week in blogging will look like, but stay tuned because it will be a TON OF FUN!

Hope you’re as excited as I am!

:)

Peace & blessings,
Mere



10.18.2012

A Different View on Love


Or “Loving in a way that doesn’t always feel good”

     Alright, I promised yesterday I would be blogging about what I’m learning in relation to dependence on God.  I intend to keep that promise but this morning I’m really thinking a lot about the concept of love.  Give me a few more sentences to keep your attention.  This post probably won’t be what you think it’s going to be.

     Most of the time we think of love in a way that feels good.  We think of love in the form of our friends, significant others, family members, pets, etc.  A love that we give & receive equally.  A love that we enjoy.  But what might we think about a love that doesn’t always feel good to give?  A love that is difficult to live out?  How would you feel about a love that makes you feel uncomfortable?


     I read a blog last night written by one of the students I know through volunteering with WEST Youth Ministry and one thing she said just stuck.  She said, “More importantly, I realized that God planned for that pain in my life so I could grow from it and learn how to love uncomfortably.”  In the context of what she was talking about this made a lot of sense.  I want to specifically pick out the part that says, “learn how to love uncomfortably”.  If you want to read more of what she posted see her blog, HERE.

     What does that even mean?  One definition of love says, “an intense feeling of deep affection”.  Another says, “to have a strong liking for; take great pleasure in”.  Still another says, “to need or require; benefit greatly from”.  (all from dictionary.com)  Clearly this world sees love drastically different from the way the Lord sees it.  Scripture says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13:4-8)  Most of you reading this have probably heard those verses a million times, sung them to three different tunes & had them written on your mirror with a dry erase marker at some point or another.  Here’s what I want you to hear… Love is not about me or you.  Love is not defined by how good it feels or how much we benefit from it.  Love is selfless & cannot be earned.  We are called to love in a way that isn’t always enjoyable.  We are called to love not only the people who we don’t think deserve our love, but also to love when it hurts.  Unconditional love is a pretty well known concept.  Love your annoying siblings, love the people who aren’t always your biggest fans, love people who have sinned against you, love the unloved & on & on.  But even that sometimes isn’t the most radical form of love.  We are called to love even when it makes us cringe.  Even when it might cause or prolong a hurt inside of us.  Even when we won’t be recognized for loving people, or receive some kind of reward because we endured difficult love.  I am called to love the person who has taken the most from me, who has treated me to most poorly, who is cast out by society, who I would be embarrassed to be seen with, who God loves JUST. AS. MUCH. as he loves me.  


     This could get controversial & I'm okay with that.  But we are called to love those people that "the church" has ostracized.  You know what I'm saying.  We are called to love people who struggle with or define themselves as homosexual, people living on the streets who may not be attempting at all to get out of poverty, people who think Christianity is a hoax, people who indulge in & see nothing wrong with sexual sin, people who disagree with every single one of our political beliefs & ideologies.  The list could go on forever.

     The reality is that Jesus boiled down all of God’s law to a few simple sentences.  He said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul & strength, & love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)  There is much to learn from & a lot of wisdom in scripture & none of it should be taken lightly.  At the same time though, sometimes it’s much easier for our human pea brains to understand that simple commandment.  Love the Lord your God with EVERYTHING & love your neighbor as yourself.  That encompasses all that we are called to do in this life.  (Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10)  And the intent, or the purpose, is that God would get the glory through it.  For example, I am called to girls’ ministry.  I am called to love, teach, live, & nurture young women to love the Lord & in that God WILL get the glory. 

     So we know who we are called to love & what might happen or how it might feel when we do, but HOW do we love like this?  I don’t know exactly.  I do know it’s not just being cordial when you see them or saying nice things about them.  I think it’s sacrificial.  I think it’s about petitioning the Lord in prayer, speaking truth about them or about the community they are associated with.  I think it’s about being genuine.  I think it's a heart issue.

     I am in no way an expert at this.  I fail to love people every single day.  I am learning & the Lord is revealing Himself to me.  I hope & pray that this post is in someway significant to you & that it is something you know the be truth.  Also, I hope you didn't hear that loving people isn't sometimes tough love.  There is place for compassion & there is a place for calling people out in love.  I think that may be an entirely separate post!  As always, thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!  Comments are always welcome :)

Peace & Blessings,
Mere
"Tomorrow's freedom is today's surrender!" - All Sons & Daughters

10.17.2012

It's been a while...


     So it's been a little longer than I would like since I last blogged.  The past few weeks have been Crazytown, USA!  Let me give you a little run down.

     I went on Wesley Fall Retreat in Capitan, NM from September 30-October 1, I went on WEST Fall Retreat in Sacramento, NM from October 6-8, and this past weekend my family came into town!  On top of all that, I still work & do school during the week.  I think it goes without saying; my life has been somewhat hectic for a while.


     When I started to write this post I planned on giving you a semi-detailed recollection of the past two weeks.  Now that I’m typing I’m realizing that’s not what I need to write about.  I need to talk about two things.  First, I need to share about what we learned on WEST Fall Retreat, & how it applies to what I’m learning about friendships this semester & then I need to talk about what I’m learning about DEPENDENCE on the Lord.

     First off, WEST Fall Retreat was amazing.  My students seriously rock & I love them a whole whole lot!  I loved that weekend getting to spend time with them & just relax!  Our speaker, Jason Archuleta, spoke on the concept of 1000s, 12s, & 3s.  This is modeled after the way Jesus lived His life & did ministry.  He preached & taught to 1000s, he had close community with His 12s, and he was intimate & transparent with His 3s.  He related our 1000s to the people we can impact through facebook & twitter.  Those are the simplest avenues to reaching 1000s.  Our 12 consists of the people who know us well, the people we spend most of our time with & the people we live our lives along side.  Our 3s are the closest friends we have.  Those few people who know everything about us, everything that’s going on in our life, and who pray for us, call us out on our crap, point us back to the cross, etc.  Obviously those numbers aren’t exact, you may have 8 people in your 12s or 20 people in your 12s.  There may be anywhere from 2-5 people in your 3s.  Those numbers are based off of Jesus’ 12 disciples, and His 3 most intimate relationships with Peter, James & John. 


     This is relevant because this semester I’ve been learning so much about friendships.  I’ve been learning about how to make friends, maintain friendships, and transition friendships.  It’s been pretty tough to be honest.  With this vision of having 1000s, 12s, & 3s I was a little bit frustrated.  For the first part of retreat I was really trying to figure that out.  Who are the people in my 12?  And who is in my 3?

     The background information is that I have never had trouble making friends or keeping them.  I don’t mean for that to come off in an arrogant way, I just honestly haven’t ever thought about the concept of needing to make new friends or foster the friendships I already have with people.  They’ve always just come super naturally to me & it hasn’t even been an afterthought!  This semester, I knew that was going to change!  My best friend Ariel moved home to Dallas, my sweet friend Kelsey got married & moved to Colorado, my best friend & former roommate Malissa got married, & one of my very close friends Claire started to gain a new friend group that I wasn’t necessarily a part of.  None of these changes were negative or bond breaking.  These 4 girls are still a huge part of my life & I love them dearly.  The difference is the dynamic of our friendships.  As we grow, mature, & life happens around us, our relationships just change & that’s completely normal. 

The following pictures are of all the sweet new friends the Lord has placed in my life.  I've known most of them for almost a year, but they are just now becoming some of my closest & most cherished friendships!
 Abby Graham
Erin Davis

     So… due to all these crazy changes I knew this semester would be different in one of two ways: it would either be extremely lonely & a time of learning how to be more independent, (the route I was dreading hugely, but expected the most) or I would somehow by a miracle of the Holy Spirit figure out how to make new friends & find community in that.  Of course, the Lord provided the community I needed.  It’s so silly to think that I was so concerned with having a solid group of friends & honestly didn’t trust that God would provide that for me.  He always comes through.

 Hillary Joiner
Brett Butler

     So finally to the part about what I’m learning… I’m slowly but surely learning how to better communicate with my friends.  It’s especially difficult with those friends who have moved away.  I’m realizing I have to make a real effort to maintain the closeness we had before they left.  It’s really tough, but it’s really good.

 Hunter Garrison
Kyle Jacobson

     Also, I’m learning about NEW friendships.  How awesome are new friendships!?  They’re so exciting and a constant learning process.  I love the newness of them & how I’m learning more & more about these people EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  I’m learning how they work; how their minds work & how they understand things.  I’m learning what they respond best to & how they handle conflict.  It’s such a cool experience.

Jenna Carse

     I guess all of that is to say, I didn't trust that the Lord would provide for me such awesome community.  It's so silly that I didn't because He has always provided in that way in the past & I have been blessed more than I could have ever imagined by these sweet people He has placed in my life!  I am SO incredibly thankful for all my friends!  

     I planned to talk about dependence on the Lord in this post, but things got a bit too lengthy! :0 Oops!  Stay tuned for that post later this week or next!

Peace & Blessings,

Mere

“Make new friends & keep the old, one is silver & the other’s gold. A circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend!”

10.03.2012

Christian vs. Secular Music


Or how do we determine popular bands’ stance regarding Jesus?

Warning: This is a hot topic & you may disagree with me.

     Before you completely disregard this post because you think I’m going to tell you the secular music you listen to is sinful & you must refrain from listening to it, you’re wrong.  That’s not what I’m going to say. But if you were going to leave this page if I said that, maybe you should think about it.  Maybe you should consider if the things you fill your mind with are glorifying to God.

     Anyway, as of late there are a few bands who write music that could be interpreted to have an underlying religious meaning.  Because of the way they write, their work is sometimes viewed as “Christian music”.  I want to bring up this topic because I think that it can be very confusing & sometimes cause us to accept things about them or their music for the sole reason that they are labeled as “Christian”.

     One band in particular that fits this description exactly is Mumford & Sons.  I understand they are incredible musicians & I am all about that.  Am I mentioning their name to tell you to stop listening to them?  Of course not.  That’s something you need to work out with Jesus.  What I am saying is this, how do we determine if a band not formally classified as ‘Christian’, who writes very religious sounding lyrics, is a Jesus professing group?  A good example of the struggle with this particular band is that even though they write these inspirational-almost-about-God-type lyrics, they have a song that has the ‘F’ word in it.  So do we accept that?  Do we listen to it and just give them a pass because they’re “Christian”?

     I did a little bit of research on Mumford & Sons to really find out if they are professing Christians who happen to curse in their music or if their fan base simply assumes that of them due to their writing & specifically their newest album entitled “Babel”.  Not only does the title allude to Genesis chapter 11, which tells of the Tower of Babel, but the entire album is sprinkled with convincing spiritual concepts & lyrics.


Here are a few articles with quotes straight from the members of the band.



     Now, I would say decide for yourself if this is music that glorifies God.  I would never try to say I have all the answers or just listen to what I say without seeking scripture & the Holy Spirit on your own.  But I will share my feelings & convictions on the matter.

     I can’t exactly take credit for what I’m about to say because my friend babyhill told me this a few nights ago.  She said that what we need to be evaluating is their fruit.  We can never judge someone’s heart; we just don’t know what going on in there.  What we can do is look at the fruits of their actions.  Are they producing fruit for the Kingdom?  Are they pointing people to Jesus, either directly or indirectly? 

     Personally, I have hard time looking at a group as “Christian” & as glorifying God when they use profanity in their songs.  Those words grieve God whether they’re in a song or spoken outside of music.  Now some of you might desire to address the argument of curse words.  Is it wrong to curse or is that just the old-timey Christian worldview?  I would say a few things.  First, people who say they are just words are right.  They really are just words.  BUT they are words that in the context of the United States are viewed in a negative light.  They associate you with a different people; keep you from being set apart from the ways of the world, & when you have anger in your heart it sometimes manifests itself in the form of curse words.  So I believe that curse words grieve the heart of God & are not acceptable forms of communication.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

     So are Mumford & Sons Christian?  I don’t know.  It sounds like one or more of them may have some knowledge of Jesus but they are very unclear about what they believe which causes me to be very clear on what I believe about their music.  I believe what they are promoting is “faith” as Mumford says in one of those articles.  Does that mean I believe they are promoting Jesus?  Absolutely not.  I have never followed their music heavily or been a huge fan of theirs, so for me it’s simple, I choose not to listen to it.  Do I think you’re sinning if you do listen to it?  I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  That is up to you & Jesus.

     My encouragement is for you to seek Jesus & ask in confidence for clear guidance on this issue. I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, no I'm not perfect.  Yes I've listened to/liked music with curse words in it before.  Yes, I am writing this to myself as well as you.  Sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings, but I am doing my best to diplomatically speak the Truth of God on this blog.

     What is your take on this issue?  How do feel about curse words in music?  I'd love to hear your responses in the comments below!

Peace & blessings,
Mere

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14

10.01.2012

Fall Retreat, Wesley Style


FALL RETREAT, WESLEY STYLE.

     I’m not exactly sure where to start with this post today.  My heart is so full right now & really I’m still processing a lot of things.  I guess I should rewind to Tuesday of last week.

     Last Tuesday night, a local worship band here in Lubbock, David’s Plea, played a night of worship in promotion of their new album Becoming Less.  They’re super great!  If you don’t know them you should check them out for sure!  They are on iTunes, have a Facebook page and a website.  All of which I’ll link to at the end of this post!

     Anyway, so I wanted to go to this night of worship but being the silly girl that I am, I didn’t want to show up alone.  So I texted a few people asking if they were going to try & catch a ride or just find a buddy to go with.  One of those people I texted was my friend Sarah.  She said she wasn’t going cause she was waiting for Ariel to get to her house.  Now, for some very odd reason I didn’t question her & just said “Okay, have a good night!” & went on to the worship service alone.  This is weird because my best friend Ariel (who is also friends with Sarah) moved home this semester & I hadn’t seen her in months.  I don’t know why but for some reason I just assumed it was a different Ariel, because surely it couldn’t be my best friend, she lives in Dallas!  So I went on with my evening as usual & class the next day. (Side note: That night I had a dream that Ariel came to Lubbock & surprised me. This will be important later.)  So now it’s Wednesday, I headed to class as usual & then to free lunch at the Wesley at noon.  I was sitting there eating my lunch when my friend Chase called me & Claire over because he wanted to show us something.  I don’t even know why I complied but alas, another weird thing about last week.  We walked upstairs & into the intern office when Chase said, “Claire, Meredith, this is what I wanted to show you…” AND OUT POPPED ARIEL!  I know, I know, you all saw it coming.  But come on, put yourself in my shoes, I had NO IDEA.  So Claire screamed & immediately ran up & hugged her.  While that was happening, I LITERALLY stood there, STUNNED, with no emotion on my face.  I really think I was in utter shock.  I’ve never felt that way in my life.  So after what felt like ages Ariel came over to hug me & I just lost it.  I cried like a big huge baby. 



     That was a crazy feeling for me.  Remember that dream I had?  That moment played out EXACTLY how I dreamt it.  She popped out from behind the desk & the entire situation was identical.  Needless to say, I was in a bit of a daze & felt like I was dreaming.  It was a huge treat to get to hug my best friend & spend almost a week with her.  I got to spend from Wednesday to last night (Sunday) with her.  My heart needed that more than I think I realized.  I am so blessed with an incredible best friend who loves me, accepts me, challenges me, & always looks out for me.  I can’t thank the Lord enough for having our paths cross when they did & for allowing us to walk through life together.




ALRIGHHHHHTTTTT.  On to FALL RETREAT!

     This weekend was a lot of things for me.  My heart felt busy.  We went to Fort Lone Tree in Capitan, NM & it was beautiful!  Last time we went there was my first EVER Wesley retreat the fall semester of my freshman year.  I can’t believe it’s already been two years since then…time seriously flies.  Andy Hurst brought the message to us at each of the four sessions we had over the course of the weekend.  I always love his sermons & this weekend was no different.  Ariel led worship with the Wesley band (Dallas, Dylan, Cam & Brandon), which was a treat since she’s been gone!  I got to take an amazing nap on Saturday, get to know the new freshman a little better, spend time in the great outdoors & the wonderful mountains, & just spend some good quality time in fellowship with my community.  It was an awesome time!





     As far as Jesus goes, He was teaching, leading, & growing me all weekend.  I’m still working on sorting things out in my mind & heart, but as of now here’s what I have to share.  I was reminded of the incredible work God does when sin is brought out of the darkness & into the light.  Andy showed us a video of a German evangelist telling a parable at some sort of rally.  The idea was that we all have a house full of rooms & Jesus wants to occupy them all.  He doesn’t just want the nicest room, or half the rooms or even all but one room.  He wants to inhabit our ENTIRE house.  Everything we are, he wants it.  This evangelist spoke about that one room that we keep private.  That one space in our lives that we keep to ourselves & keep Jesus & everyone else in our lives out of. 





     I’ve been there.  I’ve had that one deep, dark sin that I’m afraid to tell anyone.  And frankly I didn’t want to tell anyone.  The truth that I learned about a year & a half ago is that when brought into the light, sin is powerless.  Christ died & rose to save me from the depths of sin.  We are called to confess our sins to God & one another.  I can’t put into words how much growth & change entered my life after I told just ONE person about the room I was keeping a secret.  I felt FREEDOM after confessing my sin.  The weight on my shoulders got lighter & lighter over time & eventually it was lifted completely.  I’ve given it to him to carry, because I know I cannot.  The truth is, Satan delights in our sin.  He tells us lies about it, that people will judge us if we tell, or that no one else struggles with the same thing.  These are attacks from the enemy & I want to encourage anyone & everyone who reads this that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  I promise someone struggles with what you struggle with.  I promise your friends who love you & point you back to the cross will love you through whatever you’re dealing with.  My hope is that we would be bold in confessing & follow through in accountability.  We were not meant to be alone on this earth, we are called in to community together. 

“If you divorce the people of God, if you divorce local community from the Gospel then it ceases to be the Gospel...” – Derek Webb

     This is getting wordy so I think I’ll quit now.  I’ll link the video we watched on retreat, the information for David’s Plea & a great new song I fell in love with this weekend!

     To conclude, there is FREEDOM & DELIVERANCE in confessing your sin to Jesus & others around you.  Be BOLD.  My weekend was great, I am physically tired, but emotionally & spiritually FILLED UP.  I’m overflowing with Joy!

Peace & blessings,
Mere

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"I See Heaven" by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

The parable begins around 23:50