I was standing alone in the youth room of my church. Or at least it was my church. That room was where I had taught many lessons and played many games with the church’s junior and senior high students for over a year. That room had been one of my favorite places. But now, it was a reminder of what I was about to face. In only about 15 minutes, I was going into a meeting with the church’s elders. Under other circumstances, this would not have been a big deal. I had known most of those men for several years and considered them to be friends of my family. But now it was different, because four days earlier, these men dismissed my dad as senior minister of the church after 17 ½ years.* The reason for the meeting was to see if I would be allowed to finish the school year with the youth group that my ministry partner and I had dedicated over a year of volunteer time to build up. I had so many emotions running through my heart and my mind, I didn’t know what to make of it.
This scene happened only a few months ago. I do believe that it has become one of the defining moments of my life. I believe I will still think that 20 or 30 years from now. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, because the pain of the loss and separation were so fresh. But by God’s grace I walked into that meeting and was granted my request. The only stipulation they gave is that they wanted to make sure I would get plugged into another church, since they figured it would be too difficult to attend with them on Sunday mornings. When I told them I had a plan to look at churches in the area, they all stated how much they appreciated my willingness to come to the meeting and finish the work I had started, despite the difficulties of my circumstances.
Some of my friends or members of that congregation have questioned why I chose to stay a little longer or how I could bring myself to even go to that meeting. Some of you who are reading this post may be wondering the same thing. But as I have looked back on the last few months, I have come to realize that I began to find healing faster because I chose to face a painful situation head on instead of hiding from it. It’s something that author Levi Lusko coined as “running toward the roar” in his book Through the Eyes of a Lion [click link to read my review]. Facing that meeting changed everything for me, and I want to share about three things that have happened in my life because God gave me the power to “run toward the roar.”
I Learned How to Forgive Despite My Feelings
The night after my dad told me he had been let go, I couldn’t fall asleep. So I turned on a movie that addresses the issues of loss and forgiveness. Amish Grace is a film based on the true story about the Amish school shooting of 2006, in which a local milk truck driver in Pennsylvania entered a one-room school house with an arsenal of guns. He let all the boys and the teacher go, but took ten girls hostage. He eventually shot all ten girls before taking his own life. In the end, 5 of the 10 girls died within 24 hrs of the shooting, and the others survived with serious injuries. Obviously, it was a devastation to the Amish community, but they responded in ways that the world did not expect. In the film (which was slightly fictionalized), you see some Amish elders, including Gideon, a father who had lost his daughter, go the wife of the shooter to consul her and tell her that they had chosen to forgive Charlie, later that same day. The rest of the Amish community seems to support this decision to forgive, except for Gideon’s wife. Ida cannot let go of her anger, believing that choosing to forgive was betraying her daughter. She takes out her anger on the shooter’s wife when she runs into her. Ida is so bitter, she even makes plans to leave her Amish community and taking her surviving daughter away from her husband.
But the most powerful part of the film for me is at the end. Right before she plans to leave, Gideon asks Ida to go to a group meeting with a grief counselor, which would include other Amish parents that had lost children and the wife of the shooter, Amy. The audience learns that Amy is in the same place as Ida, not knowing how to forgive her husband for what he did to the Amish girls, and what he did to her and their children. At this point, an Amish mother who had lost two daughters shared a thought that I don’t know if I will ever forget. It was exactly what I needed to hear after everything that happened:
Every morning when I wake, I expect to hear Anna and Lydia singing together as they do their chores. But the silence reminds me that they’re gone, and I become so full of anger, I can barely breathe. But then I offer that anger up to God and I forgive. Sometimes, I have to do it again in an hour, and again an hour after that. But if I didn’t do that, I don’t know how I would ever breathe again.
As I was lying in my bed at 5 am still unable to sleep, I knew that kind of forgiveness, the kind that would compel most of that Amish community to attend the shooter’s funeral, or the kind that compelled Ida’s daughter to tell the man about to shoot her that she would pray for him, was the kind I had to challenge myself to have, no matter how painful it would be. So when I finally sat down with the elders, this is what I told them:
Just like they say love is not a feeling but a decision, I believe that forgiveness is a decision we sometimes have to make despite our feelings. I have been very hurt by what has happened and I am still healing, but I want you all to know that I have made the decision to forgive you.
It was difficult to say, but I said it, even with tears in my eyes. I said it because I was compelled to demonstrate the same grace that I would hope someone would show me, the same grace that we all want but never deserve on our own merit. The same grace we can only receive as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We all need grace, but we struggle to give grace. We get so caught up in the guilty party’s offense that we cannot see past ourselves. But the sacrifice of Jesus was an offer of grace for every person who accepts it and then shapes their life in response to it. We don’t get to pick and choose who receives God’s grace, and neither should we. Part of dying to ourselves, as we are called to do by Christ, is choosing to give grace to anyone in our lives that is difficult to love or forgive. I hope that sharing this story will help you learn to do the same thing.
I Found a New Calling In the Midst of My Healing
Most of my friends know that since I started high school, I’ve wanted to become a music minister or worship director. In fact, I could have told you my plan the day I started high school. From then until I graduated from college in 2014, I never deviated from that plan. But when I was completing my music ministry internship the spring before I graduated, it became apparent that some gaps in my proficiency and personal training would prevent for pursuing music ministry after I graduated. I was so confused. I had pursued God’s calling as faithfully I knew how and I was still unable to devote my career to ministry. As a result, I really struggled with what I should do with my future when I moved back home. Although I was involved in music ministry, I wasn’t getting paid, and went back and forth from being in leadership to just being a participant. I struggled to find a job. Any job. It was a very difficult and uncertain time.
But I didn’t realize what God was doing behind the scenes to prepare me for something greater. Just as circumstances required me to take a step back from leading in music ministry again, an opportunity opened up for myself and a deacon to take over leadership of the youth ministry. In some ways, it surprised me. Although I had been a youth sponsor in college, I hadn’t really been involved in organizing a youth group. But I believed it was a need I could fulfill with Todd, so we jumped into it. We did what we could to teach but also have fun with our teens. It wasn’t easy, even for Todd who has youth ministry training, but after about a year, we really began to see great things happened in our group. We began to see growth in our numbers and in their understanding of their faith. Todd and I were both excited about what God had in store for our group in 2018.
But at the end of January, everything changed overnight. When my dad was let go, I was immediately afraid of what would become of the youth group if I would not allowed to return in light of what had already been planned for the spring. Only a few days later, I was given permission to finish out the school year. But the few days in between when I didn’t know were some of most emotionally trying days I’ve ever faced. After that was said and done, I came to realize how much I cared about our students and how much I had been devoted to the ministry. It made me think that maybe I could find a future in doing this kind of work as a job. Only about 3 weeks later, we took our Jr. High students to a youth conference in Cincinnati. Over that weekend, Todd and I had some honest conversations about the direction I was going with my life in regards to ministry. By the end of that weekend, I came to a major decision:
I want to become a youth minister
Some of you that have known me for a while might be shocked to hear me say this. Honestly, I’m still kind of shocked to be saying it. But as I look back over all of my ministry experiences, I now recognize that God was preparing my heart to work with students when I wasn’t looking. I attended a Jr. high conference at as sponsor my senior year of high school. I helped with a large Jr. high girls lock-in with a local Christian venue my freshman year of college. I spent about a year and half in college (minus the summers) working with my brother-in-law’s youth group, including teaching Jr. high Sunday school. When I was on my internship, I taught in a high school small group since my cousin was the youth minister. Before I officially became a youth leader, I had already lead two girls Bible studies and had attended a few youth conferences as a sponsor. It ends up adding up to a total of about 4 years I have spent volunteering in youth ministry. It all happened when I wasn’t looking, because God was subtly guiding me to a different future than I saw for myself. It’s something I would have never considered a year ago, or even 6 months ago. But God used my ability to trust Him during a painful trial of my life to help me find my new calling. I believe He can for you too.
I Found Healing Through A Surprising Friendship
I have said this before and I will say it again: community is an indispensable part of the Christian life, especially when we are going through trials. But unfortunately, most people don’t treat it like it is. In my post “Why This Millennial Isn’t Leaving the Church,” I mentioned my high school friend who claimed that because he was enrolled in a Christian school, he didn’t need to go to church. But in the end, he walked away from the faith when he left the school a year later. Adapting this kind of mentality is not just wrong, but it is dangerous, especially if you are going through personal struggles. The Christian life was not meant to be done alone, and this has been proven to me so clearly over the last few months. The day after my dad lost his job, many of the friends went out of their way to see how I was doing. Some would eventually invite me over to their house to spend time with them just so I could talk. Many of my friends have gone above and beyond to make sure there were they when I needed it. I am so grateful to each and every person who has been there for me through this difficult season. But in the end, the friend who has been there for me the most was not one of my girlfriends or even a friend my own age, but it was my ministry partner Todd.
I clearly remember talking to him on the phone the night after my dad was let go. I could hear the sympathy in his voice. He expressed genuine concern for myself and my family, since he is also a good friend of my dad’s. He wanted to support whatever decision I made. But what I remember the most clearly is when I told him the elders were planning to meet with me. His first words were, “I need to be there.” There were several reasons he told me, but the primary one, one that he didn’t verbalize, was that he did not want me going into that meeting alone. When the meeting came, he sat down next to me, listened to the plan I shared with the elders, and when the elders asked his opinion, he replied, “I’m just here for emotional support.” After the meeting, we walked out into the foyer and I asked Todd for a hug. Before that moment, I don’t think we had ever hugged. Although we had a mutual respect for each other, we just had not gotten to that place. But now, we were. I don’t know if I will ever forget that hug. It was probably one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever gotten in my life, and was a precious memory of the support he was giving me during such a difficult time in my life. All I could manage to say was “Thank you Todd. Thank you.” In that moment, although I knew the next few months would not be easy, I knew that I would not be facing any of it alone.
Now I know that one of the reasons that God wanted me to stay a little longer was so that Todd could walk through this trial with me. God brought him into my life for such a time as this. He continues to assure me that he’s not going anywhere once I finish my work with our ministry, and that he is looking forward to seeing what God is going to do with my life. Although I am sad that our ministry partnership is ending, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our friendship will continue. I hope that anyone that faces similar trials finds a friend that is able to do the same thing for you. If you do, don’t ever take that friendship for granted. Thank God for that friend often. I know I do.
I believe the God I serve is able to make something beautiful out of the broken. I choose to believe it, even when my feelings try to convince me otherwise. In some ways, He already has redeemed parts of what has happened to me and my family. I would never have concerned youth ministry as a job or have become better friends with Todd if I had gone through all this. But in other ways, when the pain is still difficult to face, I choose to believe that God will redeem all of it in His time. That brings me comfort and peace when it’s not easy to find. In the meanwhile, He promises to be ever-present in my pain. He knows my pain because He’s experienced pain. He doesn’t want me to experience it alone. He doesn’t want me to be paralyzed by my circumstances. He wants to use it to mold me into the image of His Son. That’s why we all have to learn to “run toward the roar.” Because that will be the best way for God to redeem our broken story.
[*Note: If you know the names of any of the people or places involved in this incident, please do not comment or share them. I still love and respect many people at my previous church. It is not my intention to demean the eldership or the church itself. I am just stating what happened as it impacted my life personally. Please respect my family’s privacy. Thank you]
This book has been on my review radar for a long time. I have always loved the work of Dannah Gresh, but had never read anything by Nancy DeMoss (crazy, right?). It wasn’t until they announced that were going to me updating this book that I finally found the motivation to sit down and read it. When I did, I was so compelled by its powerful truth. As an adult reading a book written to teens, I was challenged by lies I believed at that age and that I struggle to believe now. As a youth leader, I was moved to work towards debunking these lies for the girls I work with whenever I have the opportunity. Through all of it, I was inspired to see life through the lens of truth, which is the Word of God, and to encourage other young women to do the same. This updated edition will help a new generation of young women stand on God’s word as their source of truth and value. This book is a must read for every Christian girl by the time they reach high school ~ Bethel
Women today are bombarded with so many lies about their identity. But many of the lies they believe started to take hold of their lives in their teenage years. They disguise themselves as fact that we must embrace to be accepted, but when we pursue them, we find that we are just as unfulfilled and confused as we were before. This is all accomplished by the work of father of lies, who will do anything to keep you from learning and embracing the truth. It learns these girls in bondage to fear, anger, and loneliness. It makes us ask the question: how can we discover the truths that will set young women free?
In the book Lies Young Women Believe, Nancy Wolgemuth and Dannah Gresh walk through the lies that hold teen girls and young adult women in bondage, but then reveals the powerful truths that will set them free. These women walk through the nature of lies and the source of the lies: Satan, the deceiver. Then they walk through 25 different lies that they observed young women struggle to believe. Lies about everything from God and faith, to relationships, to our usage of media. They share stories of real young women and even share stories from their own lives to illustrate how these lies hold many young women captive. They speak to girls with the honest voice of loving conviction they need to hear in order to stand against the lies they’ve believe. But beyond identifying and addressing the lies, Nancy and Dannah also offer hope by sharing the truth that will set them free and giving practical ways for you to abolish the lies and embrace the truth in their own lives. The updated edition of this book brought many of the examples and illustrations up to date, which includes some new perspective from Nancy since she was married after the original release of the book. This book has power, a power to transform the next generation of young women into incredible tools that can be used for His kingdom. I give this book my highest recommendation to any teen girl about 13 or older. I also highly recommend this resource to any youth leader or youth pastor that works with teen girls. Get your copy today!
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review
This is an awesome book. From the time I heard they this book was happening, I was so excited. When it came out during my last semester of college, I finish it in only a few weeks’ time, even on top of all the reading I had to do for class! I was already a big fan of Jeff from his YouTube channel, but seeing Jeff’s heart and life story written out in this way was a confirmation of why I enjoyed his work so much. This book is still in my opinion of the best books written from a millennial viewpoint of the subject of Christianity. Jeff’s desire to help his audience find a more intimate relationship is undeniable and that desire guides his audience to a good place when they are finished. Especially after I helped launched two of his other books (It’s Not What You Think and Love that Lasts), I definitely recommend this book ~ Bethel
Religion has been around for a long time, but most of us don’t really understand all that it implies in our world today. Although the essence of religion was created by God, what it has become is a far cry from the vibrant relationship He wants us to find in His Son. Through human misunderstanding, practicing religion has become distorted into a list of rules that are impossible for us to keep in our imperfection. There have been many consequences to this distortion, including many falling into either theological arrogance (assuming they can earn merit with God through rule-keeping) or making the choice to give up on religion (because the standards are impossible to achieve). These two extremes create tension, and everyone in between feels like they are caught in the middle of the hypocrisy or ignorance of those involved in the argument. It makes us ask the question: Is there something better than the rule-keeping of religion?
In his first book, Jesus > Religion, Jefferson Bethke helps us understand that there is a big different between the rule-keeping of religion and the freedom in obedience we should have in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. After his spoken word on the same subject when viral (Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus), Jeff decided he wanted to write a book to further explain his position. The result is a book that takes much of what we thought we knew about Christianity and turns it on its head. He breaks down many of the issues that subscribing to a religion brings and points to the greater ways that Jesus taught throughout His ministry. When we are able to truly learn that we have receive grace as soon as we accept it, it will allow to live a more abundant life that is not bogged down by rule-keeping. However, we do also learn that grace doesn’t absolve us from sin, but instead allows us to have hope that we can remain anchored in Christ, even if we mess up, as long as we have an attitude of repentance. These truths and much more are told within the framework of the spoken word that inspired the book as well as personal stories from his own life that make his points relevant. Although this was Jeff’s first book, published when he was only twenty-three, this book has a wisdom beyond his years. His theology is strong, but his writing is understandable to everyone and relevant to all of us. I honestly think that every Christian needs to read this book. Get your copy today!
When I first read the description of this book, I was drawn to it. It seemed like a book worth checking out, so that’s what I did. It was a book that took much longer than I expected to complete, but I was so grateful when I did. I enjoy the perspective of both Chris and Megan as their poured their hearts out onto the pages of this book. I completely relate to a desire to want to help women see their beautiful, their value, and their potential in Jesus, not in the answers our culture tries to provide. Although a few of their theological points were a little off and their some of the point of view shifts were a little confusing, I enjoyed the book and got a lot out of it. I also really enjoyed the chapter written by their husbands at the end of the book. If you have struggled with making peace with your reflection, this is a book I would recommend ~ Bethel
“Beautiful” is a word that is overused and even misused in our culture today. Women in our world are constantly bombarded by messages that distort their understanding of beauty and self-worth. It makes many of them desperate reach for idealistic goals that no one can achieve and may even cause self-harm in the process of getting there. This often results in an obsession over our reflection or a hatred of our reflection. Either way, so many of us don’t know how we will ever see ourselves as beautiful. It makes us ask the question: Can I really make peace with my reflection?
In the book Beauty Begins, Chris Shook and her daughter Megan Shook Alpha help their readers make peace with their reflection by finding the places where beauty does begin. This mother and daughter team walk through the lies that our culture sends that distort our perception of beauty. They help us identify our struggles in this area of self-worth, demonstrating that the scars from this area of brokenness can heal into something more beautiful. Finally, they encourage their readers to rebel against the mold that our culture tries to put them in. We are reminded that when we focus on our internal beauty through our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, that will be what will make us the most beautiful and will leave a legacy that honors the Lord. All of this is done in the context of Scriptures and stories from the lives of both Chris and Megan that make the truths they present stand out. When you come to the end, you are given hope that beauty can be found outside of our culture’s cookie-cutter mold, a beauty that will last into eternity.
This book is honest and relatable in so many ways. This mother-daughter are a great pair for this project and you will hopefully be inspired to find true beauty, if you take the time to read. I would recommend this for girls about 15 and older. Get your copy today!
*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program for the purpose of this review
Male-Friendly Rating. This book is a great option for fathers and husbands trying to understand issues related to beauty in our culture, especially since there is an addendum written by the authors’ husbands, Kerry Shook and Jordan Alpha, as a challenge to men. Even if their just read that portion, it could be of great value to them
Personal Rating. I had two critiques of the books. First, there were moments while I was reading that I struggled to identity the narrator’s voice between the two authors. Second, there were a few comments made throughout the book that I disagree with from a theological point of view. Aside from those small issues, this is a great book that I would recommend.
This book is incredible. From the moment I first heard about it, I knew that it would be. When I first signed up to participate in Moody Publisher’s Blogging Review Program, this book was absolutely at the top of my list. Being a single woman who’s never even been on a date and had so many questions I’ve been afraid to ask, this book was exactly what I needed to read at this time of my life. Although the bible study format is not my favorite setup based on personal preference, the study is a great opportunity to really dive in to these topics to build a solid foundation for our sexual theology based on the truth of God’s word. Personally, I wanted to consume the material so much, I read the book in only a week (about one week’s worth of material per day), which could be an option for you too. This book really inspires and challenges you to heal from past brokenness and draw into a deeper relationship with Jesus. I would totally recommend this book to college-aged girls without hesitation. ~ Bethel
Women long for intimacy. It’s been that way since the beginning of time. Those of us that do not have that in a physical relationship struggle with how to fulfill these longings in a legitimate way. But most of us don’t even know where to start. We struggle with understanding how our sexuality can even be a part of our lives in a God-honoring way if there we are not married. This can often result in shame and the decision to compartmentalize our sexuality, to the point that we become “sexual atheists,” choosing to shut God out of the bedroom completely. It makes it harder and harder to determine what is and isn’t true, often because we are afraid or even embarrassed to ask the right questions. It makes many young women ask the question, “Can I be sexual, spiritual, and single at the same time?"
In the book study, Sex and the Single Girl, Dr. Juli Slattery guides her readers through 6 weeks that will answers your toughest questions, challenges your perspective, guides you towards healing and freedom, and helps you draw closer to God. Through 5 days of reading and questions for 6 weeks, Juli helps us understand why our sexuality matters, helping to understand the beauty of God’s grand design. She walks us through sexual boundaries, and helps determine where they should fall by creating a biblical grid. We learn to discern the difference between temptation and sin, and Juli gives us tools to stop temptation before it leads us to sin. Then Juli helps us come back to the feet of Jesus, understanding that our sexuality is part of who God created us to be, and no matter what we’ve done with it in the past, it can be reconciled to bring us into a more intimate relationship with Him. This is all done within the context of a study that guides readers through Scripture to support it. This book is profound. It answered so many of my questions by directly addressing single women. It helped me see that I can be sexual, spiritual, and single at the same time and still honor God in the process. I would recommend this book to any young woman 18 or older. Get your copy today!
*I received a copy from the publisher for the purpose of this review
Personal Rating. My only criticism of the book is that the study format was not to my personal taste. I personally absorb more from reading a book straight without stopping for questions. However, I also recognize the value of writing this as a study, especially in a group setting. Aside from this, I give this book my highest recommendation to any adult single woman, hands down!
Living in the Redemption of the price Jesus paid for you and me.
My name is Bethel, and welcome to my site, Princess Worth Dying For, where I hope to share Christian reviews, Christian Spoken Word, and a Christian Insights on everything from modesty to musicals. My main focus on this blog is book reviews, and the main focus of my YouTube channel is spoken word, but I do crossover work with both.
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