It Is Well with My Soul

“Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul!’”

Horatio Spafford, a lawyer and elder in a church, had a happy life. He and his wife, Anna, had four daughters and they lived in Chicago. He had his family, he had the social status, he had money. He had a cottage where they lived and hosted evangelical leaders and abolitionists. In 1871, he invested in real estate to be used similarly. He had everything most people wanted and then some.

And then tragedy began to strike. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire killed hundreds of people and wreaked havoc on the buildings in the area. Spafford’s real estate investment was gone. In 1873, all of his daughters drowned when the ship that they were on sunk. Anna, although unconscious when she was discovered, was the sole survivor. When Spafford received the news, he got on ship to go after his wife. As the ship sailed over the area where Spafford’s daughters had been drowned, Spafford wrote a hymn: It Is Well with My Soul.

Suffering is what spurred me to be a Christian; suffering is what caused me to doubt my faith; suffering is what drew me close to God again. Evil and suffering is one of the biggest objections I’ve heard of anyone having to Christianity, and it’s a hard one to grasp. I get it.

This semester, I’ve been having a really hard time with anxiety. Some days, it’s not awful. I just feel a little sick and I’m fidgety and nervous. Other days, I’m shaky, fatigued, sick, panicky, and getting out of bed is just kind of hard. I can’t pinpoint a reason; I wish I could. Some things seem to trigger my anxiety and make it worse, but I can’t cut out things and just make it disappear. Home is about 4 hours away, and I don’t get to visit home much, so I was really looking forward to Thanksgiving break.

Probably about a week ago, give or take a couple of days, my mom called me to let me know that my grandmama was having trouble breathing. They gave her morphine and she seemed to breathe easier, but she was asleep. Mom wasn’t sure if they should call it sleep or a light coma. She wasn’t very responsive. Dad thinks we might have her for the next week. Grandmama is in her late 90s, and she has Alzheimer’s. She hasn’t been able to talk coherently for a while, and she hasn’t know who I am for longer.

My parents went to Durham today to see Grandmama. I wanted to go, but since I woke up feeling sick, I didn’t want to put Grandmama at any more risk. They’ll be back later tonight.

As I sit in the house on Thanksgiving by myself, waiting for my family to come home, I’ve thought about how things haven’t gone the way I thought they would this year. I’ve been having a lot of discussions with my friends recently and I thought now would be a good time for a blog about thankfulness in harder times.I want to do a few blogs on it, but before I get to the logical side or the emotional side, I want you to know where I’m at. Know where I’m coming from.

My stance can be summed up well by Romans 5:1-5:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

God hasn’t failed me yet; I rejoice in suffering because I know that God uses those things to shape me and others. I’m sad about my grandmother. I have fond memories from my childhood of making chicken and dumplings and huspuppies with her in the kitchen. My anxiety is difficult with everything I’ve had going on. Nevertheless,  I’m thankful for the suffering, because even though I don’t always understand the reasons, I can always look back and retrospectively see how God had His hand in my life. I’m thankful for my family; they stick together through everything. I’m thankful for my friends, who I can look to for support and comfort and love. I’m thankful for all of it, good and bad.

Now that you get where I’m at, I’ll be doing a few more blogs on evil and suffering with arguments, so stay tuned. 

Mediocrity Doesn’t Cut It

I wonder how many points will get deducted from my grade if I don’t write this last blog (sorry, Dr. Bridges).

It’s not that I don’t want to put my best foot forward. I do, really. But that’s so hard. I have to come up with a topic and write about it in a way that makes sense, and then I have to edit it, and I’m really tired, and my mind is ready for Thanksgiving break, ya feel?

So I called Mom to procrastinate. And she asked me how school is going and how many blogs I had left. Whoops.

It’s really easy to get to the point where I ask myself, “How can I take the easy way out?”. Sometimes, for sanity’s sake, I have to go easier on myself. Sometimes, life just kind of happens. There are times when we fall a little short, but that’s just the way things are sometimes. When you embrace those things as being fine and normal, when you embrace mediocrity and no longer strive for excellence, it’s time for concern.

I’m not talking about homework, although, naptime is temporary, and GPA is forever. What I’m talking about is bigger than that. I’m talking about how we live our lives.

The Bible calls us to strive for excellence. To live like Christ is to not take the easy, convenient way out all the time. It’s to love like Christ loved; it’s to serve others; it’s to spread the Gospel to all nations; it’s to disciple; it’s to be willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, and then to actually do it, if that’s what it comes down to; it’s to trust Christ, and to lean on him, instead of our own understanding.

These things are all those that set us apart. They are things that help us on our spiritual walks, and they are things that help others see Christ in us. They aren’t easy. But living excellently isn’t always easy. Why lower our standards for ourselves when it comes to one of the most important part of our lives, our faith?

Here is a list of verses I found during my Bible study on striving for excellence. I loved these, and context gives a deeper understanding. 

A Letter to High School Students: Navigating Through College

My last blog might have been a bummer.

Okay, it WAS a bummer.

A tl;dr version: this semester has been hard for me, and it caught me off guard. My two biggest dilemmas revolved around community.

I promised that I would write on the solutions that helped me. No, not all of my problems are gone. Yeah, college is still hard. But life is hard, so you just do the best you can and pray about the rest. Here’s what helped me:

1. Schedule times to talk with friends. 

Yeah, your friends have lives. Yeah, you  have a life. Expecting your friends to just be able to sit down and chat any time isn’t going to work. Set times. Friendships take two people and I definitely can see that this semester; but sitting down and texting/messaging/calling a friend to ask him or her when he or she is free and setting up a time has been beneficial. We have a time to talk, we can catch up and maintain a friendship, and bonus: we have something to look forward to. I’ve found that my conversations with friends motivate me. I have to get this done so I can talk to so-and-so. When I talk to this person later, they’ll want to hear about this, so I’ll get it done. It’s a little weird and takes effort, but scheduling times to chat works.

2. Start looking for community early. 

I don’t care if you’re going to a public school or a private school; you’re going to need some support and finding that can be difficult. Start looking as soon as you can.

For me, finding a church was one of my top priorities. I knew the kinds of things I wanted in a church, so I started looking before I even left home. I typed “churches in Boiling Springs, NC” and “churches in Shelby, NC” into my search bar, and went to the website of every church that was 30 minutes or less from the school. I watched sermons.I read statements of faith. I checked out ministries. I knew that if I went to every church that sounded interesting, I’d never choose one, so I narrowed my options. After visiting three churches near Gardner-Webb, I settled into a church, and I couldn’t be happier. The people there love each other, they care about their community, and they help each other in their spiritual growth. It’s a great place to be.

I also went ahead and looked into student ministries when I got to campus. I talked to the people who ran each ministry I was interested in. I tried a few out. I started Bible studies. I asked faculty members about ministries that I should check out. All of these things take effort, but they saved me so much trouble in the long run, and I’m really glad I put in the time.

A Letter to High School Students: What Made College Hard

This year is my junior year of college, but it’s my first year away from home; it hasn’t been all peaches and rainbows and sunshine and happiness, surprise.

I don’t think I actually thought that it would be perfect here. I knew there would be difficulties, but I didn’t really know what they would be or anything. I knew how to college already, so I didn’t figure the education part would completely knock me down, and it didn’t.

Even though college is supposed to be about your education and becoming a well-rounded individual that is prepared for a future of adulting, it’s even more than that. You’re joining a community of people, and you’re going to meet some people who are a lot like you and some that aren’t much like you at all. You’re confronted with new ideas, new atmospheres, sometimes financial challenges, moral dilemmas, stress, new friendships, and all while trying to get good grades.

I’m not falling apart, don’t get me wrong; but some aspects of this semester just caught me off guard.

The challenges that people face vary, but here are 2 of mine:

1. Losing Community Back Home

Okay, so I didn’t LOSE them. I have my friends back home. They love me and care about me and we talk. But it’s different. I’ve known a lot of people who have gone to college and they say that it’s not the same talking to someone over the phone or Skype as it is talking to them in person. I haven’t had a problem with that. I would love to talk on the phone and Skype with people from home, and I do that.

It’s funny how much less that happens than what I expected, though. My friends and I try to keep up, but we’re both busy. It’s one thing when you’re back home and you get to see each other all the time because you run in the same circles and you do the same activities. It’s like my life and the lives of my friends made up this Venn diagram, and there was a big overlapping space. Now, my friends and I still love each other, we have similar interests, and we want to communicate, but we are caught up in so much busyness. We don’t have this Venn diagram anymore; we have some circles that sit beside each other. I do keep up with people, and they try to keep up with me, but it’s really hard to keep up with friends when you are juggling everything you have going on at school, and they are juggling everything they have going on back home.

2. Finding Community  at College

When you’re going through new stuff at college, it’s nice to have friends. Duh. I’ve never had trouble making friends before, and this time was no different; it was finding those right people that was so hard. I go to Gardner-Webb University, which I absolutely love. There are so many opportunities to grow in my faith, and I love the professors and environment. Some people here are actively striving to be more like Christ, and I can look at them and see it; some people want to live more like Christ, but they just don’t put in the effort; some people are just apathetic.

Back home, when you have mentors and parents and friends who know Christ and want to look like Him, it’s easier to make wise decisions when it comes to friends. Luckily, my parents taught me to be discerning and vigilant in relationships, but this time, I’m kind of on my own.

In the past year, I’ve heard a few adults say things like,”Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future!” and “You become like the five people you  hang out with the most!”. And those are valuable things to understand, but there’s a lot of pressure when you are finding those friends and you’re in a community that looks different from what you’re used to.

Don’t despair, guys. I’m still figuring out this college thing, but there are some solutions. I’ll talk about those in my next blog.

 

To the People Upset About the Election

This whole post is going to be difficult because I know people don’t want to hear this. But I haven’t seen as many posts as I thought I would that aren’t attacking any particular party and their reactions to this election.

This week has been interesting. Heck, this whole year has been interesting.

Election years have a tendency to get crazy, but this one took the cake.

We had a woman running for president who has been caught up in a great deal of scandal over the past few decades and who was under FBI investigation twice. We had a man who spoke arrogantly and unkindly towards numerous groups of people, and who got caught up in scandal because of past actions. And that’s all before you even begin to look at political stances and stuff.

We saw more and more people voting third party. We saw a lot of people who didn’t vote.

People were fighting and tearing each other down leading up to the election. I lost count of how many posts I saw on Facebook that either started or ended with something to the effect of “If you’re voting for that idiotic scumbag, then you’re just as bad as he/she is, so delete me. I don’t want to be friends with you.”

Now the election is over. Either the candidate you wanted to win won, or the candidate you wanted to win didn’t.

Of the more popular candidates, Clinton and Trump, there were two slogany motto things I heard a lot: “Stronger Together” and “Make America Great Again”.

Unfortunately, the reactions I’ve been seeing since Tuesday don’t show strength in unity among the American people or greatness. It’s sad.

Know my point in this post. I get some people are scared. I get some people are angry. I get some people are sad. I’m seeing it from multiple angles because of my diverse friend group. This post also isn’t about how republicans reacted when President Obama was elected and reelected, or whether or not people rioted back then. None of that is the point. If you read this post and you bring up those things as argumentation, it’s a red herring. Don’t bother.

This post isn’t aimed at democrats. It’s not aimed at republicans. It’s not aimed at third party voters. It’s not aimed at people who didn’t vote. It’s aimed at the people who are acting maliciously because they are upset.

I understand the reactions. Well, I don’t completely. But I see where people say they are coming from and I understand that sometimes we act in ways that we shouldn’t when we’re upset because we think it’ll change things.

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s book entitled Strength to Love, which appears to be an excerpt from one of his sermons, he wrote, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

This time is a time for dialogue. This time is a time for encouragement. This time is a time for learning and love. I’m not saying to take everything that happens and pretend it’s fine. I’m not saying to pretend your feelings aren’t there. I’m not saying to not stand for truth.

What I’m saying is that there’s a point where the divisiveness is just ridiculous. We can’t just all turn on each other. We can’t just fight tooth and nail all the time, lashing out, calling names, writing people who we’ve always loved and who have always loved us completely out of our lives because of an election and then expect things to get better and for everyone to be happy.

You know that thing that people say about how it’s not what happens to you in life that matters, but how you react? I’m not saying that what happens to you doesn’t matter at all; but our reactions have very serious consequences.

For an election year where I heard more than ever that we need to love and bind together and be strong and be great, I’m surprised at the lack of love.

Regardless of how people acted before this election year, during the course of the election year, or even now, we need to act out of love.

To the people who are upset about the election who are lashing out, please consider and pray about this passage and its application in your life. MLK Jr. was so right. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

“1 Corinthians 13-The Excellence of Love

13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body [a]to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of [c]prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I [d]became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror [e]dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the [f]greatest of these is love.”

 

 

Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God- What Caused the Universe?

I’ve been talking about S.U.R.G.E. for a while, and you can check out those blogs, starting with this one.

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that we determined with Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s S.U.R.G.E. acronym that the universe had a beginning. Cool beans. So the universe came from somewhere, but how? What’s the cause?

First of all, let’s clear up a misconception. The universe couldn’t have been self-creating. Something that doesn’t exist at all can’t create itself. If it exists, it’s already a thing. If it doesn’t exist, it isn’t capable of making anything. The universe had a finite beginning point. If there was a point where there was no matter and space or remnants of a universe, how could the universe possibly create itself?

Okay, so the universe isn’t self-creating but it had a beginning. To determine what caused it, we need to look to see what is in the universe. There’s space, matter, time, change (since it is a product of time), and in the natural world. It’s safe to say, then, that whatever caused the universe to exist would have to be outside of what is found in the natural world. Think about it, if the universe can’t be self-creating, this idea makes sense.

The universe also needs a great deal of energy to function properly, so whatever caused the universe would have to be able to provide the energy as well. There’s also a lot of information, so whatever caused the universe to exist would have to be able to make the information.

Taking what we know about the characteristics of the universe’s cause, we can conclude that whatever propelled the universe into existence would have to be spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, powerful, and intelligent, and since this is the natural world and the cause would have to be outside of the natural world, the cause would have to be supernatural.

Science can’t deal with the supernatural, so we have to turn somewhere else. Three of the best fields that we can turn to are philosophy, theology, and ontology (which is a branch of metaphysics). If you ask experts in this field what they would call a cause that is spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unchanging, powerful, and supernatural, they would all call this source a God.

Oh, snap. Isn’t that cool?

Some people see the idea of a Big Bang as being contrary to Christianity.  Big Bang does not pose a problem for theism at all because the scientific evidence I showed you in SURGE means that the Big Bang would have to be an effect of something trying to make the universe exist, rather than a cause. It’s the whole “God spoke, and bang!-it happened” thing. Since we know what existed at the beginning of the universe, we can determine the characteristics of the cause of the universe, which match the characteristics of a God.

Scientific Evidence for God-Great Galaxy Seeds

I’ve done a lot of blogs on this acronym. Check em’ out, starting with this one. 

Now, we’ve made it to the last letter of Norman Geisler and Frank Turek’s acronym, S.U.R.G.E. We’ve talked about how Einstein had a theory that said that there was a finite beginning point for the universe and how the second law of thermodynamics, universal expansion, and  radiation afterglow corroborate this idea.

Today’s lesson is brought to you by the letter “G.” 

If you watched the video, sorry. I couldn’t resist. That’s my childhood.

Moving on.

G stands for “great galaxy seeds”. We covered before how space and matter are co-relative, which means that they all exist at the same time and they came into existence at the same time. But it’s one thing to say that there’s space and matter, and another thing for them to actually come together to form something.

If you’re going to have all this matter and energy come together as planetary and stellar bodies, you have to have cool areas within that initial explosion so that matter can become solidified. When you look at the pictures that we have of the radiation afterglow, and you measure the temperature throughout the expanse,  what we find is cool areas and hotter areas which would allow for planetary formation. Basically, then, when we look at images from the Cosmic Background Explorer, we see evidence in the cool areas of galaxy seeds, which is where the galaxies began to form. We can actually SEE a beginning.

So that’s S.U.R.G.E. Science shows that universe had a finite beginning point. That’s pretty cool, but where do we go from there? What caused the universe to come into existence? On the next episode of “Jenna Writes Science Stuff”, I’ll be talking about that, so be on the lookout for my next blog!