Friday, April 11, 2014

Bloom! Music Picks

 photo musicpicks-1.jpg

We thought it'd be fun to share some of our favorite songs lately and how God is using them in our lives!  Maybe you'll discover a new favorite or two as well!

Cornerstone by Hillsong - I love hymns because I love how the Bible passages find their way into the melody and this song is currently on my mind for the beautiful mixing of old (hymn) and new (rifts and all). I love the simplicity and depth of its lyrics, that Christ is our Cornerstone.

Forgiveness by Matthew West - Forgiveness is a thing that I've been given freely by Jesus but I do admit, it can be hard to give to someone else. This song is a good reminder of how important it is to a Christ-perspective on things and other people because seeing people through His eyes of grace really does change our response.

Hide Away in the Love of Jesus by Sovereign Grace - This is a beautiful song that refreshes spirit and encourages me to continually hide myself in Jesus.

Ten Thousand Reasons by Matt Redman - A friend of mine grinned when she saw that Ten Thousand Reasons was playing in my room. She told me, "You're always listening to this one!"  So true!  I love it because it reminds me to praise the Lord at all times!

Long Way Home by Steven Curtis Chapman - This is such a sweet and uplifting song that helps me by reminding that even when life seems confusing or things go wrong, God is still there.

Nearer My God to Thee by the Piano Guys - I love this arrangement because it's such a beautiful and fresh spin on a popular hymn.

I Will Praise You by Rebecca St. James - I discovered this when it came out a few years ago, and have loved it ever since. It always shifts my perspective away from myself and back to God: that He is worth praising even when it costs.

Good Morning by Mandisa - I just found this song, although I'm sure it's been out for quite awhile. Nevertheless, it's a great way to start my day as I turn up the radio and head to work, reminding myself that God has good plans, blessings are in store and the day truly is a gift. Plus, it just has a fun and pump-up sound.

Both of my song picks were played during my graduation slideshow. I had open heart surgery the day after I was born. It is truly a miracle that I am here today. I attribute my life and lack of further complications to the faith of so many that prayed for me.

That's What Faith Can Do by Kutless - This song reminds me of my difficult start in life and that there will be more difficult times, but that through my faith in, God will lift me up again.

Live Like That by The Sidewalk Prophets - In a way, this song is my "life song".  I truly want to "live like that". This song reminds me why I'm here - to make an impact.

Do you have any favorite songs to add?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Guy/Girl: Links

 photo 5a58b75e-ef3f-4ea4-8c9e-6ab8c2598176_zpsca3a0a29.jpg

For the third post in our Guy/Girl series, we're sharing some thought-provoking links from other authors on the topic. So take a look, read them, and pray about what they say. I thought they each had good things to say, but they aren't flawless. Check them against the Scriptures and let us know what you think!

 -8 Things to Convince You of a Man's Character
 -8 Things That Reveal a Woman's Character
 -Qualities of a Guy Worth Dating
 -Qualities of a Girl Worth Dating

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Footprints

A snippet of where we've been around the web recently...

FAQ on Syria - The war and refugee crisis in Syria is still happening, even though it's been a bit overshadowed in the news lately. If you need to be caught up or want more information, this handy guide from World Vision explains the impact on refugees and what they are doing to help. If you are so moved, you can also donate to their efforts here.

What about Bob? - Bob Goff's perspective on whimsy and Christianity is a favorite of ours here at Bloom! Several of us have read and loved his bestselling book Love Does and highly recommend it. But what if you aren't, you know, a hyper creative lawyer who can wrangle with the Ugandan law for justice? Donald Miller's article on Relevant Magazine showcases some ways we can live out the vibrant and engaging love of God wherever we are.

Smart Money, Smart Lady - "Managing finances is about more than just writing checks - it's about defining your values and goals, and holding yourself accountable to them." Thoughtful advice from the delightful Darling Magazine.

5 Things Christians Should Know about Depression and Anxiety - We don't talk about this as much as we should in the church. And I'll add a sixth important fact: More people struggle with this than you realize. It's a very real and exhausting battle, and one that doesn't heal quickly or easily. If you, or a friend, have depression - give lots of grace, support, and encouragement, and simply be the great friend that you are.

True Beauty - If you're looking for the next book to read, check out Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre's new release. The Girltalkers have long been a favorite of ours, and they bring fresh perspective and wisdom to a subject that is constantly mixed up, over debated...and of utmost relevancy and importance.

Have a lovely weekend!
Megan, Joanna, Krista, Victoria and Emily

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tales from Taiwan #7

Dear sisters,

One particular aboriginal village here in Taiwan has stolen my heart.  I'm not sure when it happened...

Maybe it was when little arms reached out for me, giving a new twist on my name, "Jo-nan-na!"

Or maybe it was when I saw one girl get sent to the local store to buy her parents yet another alcoholic beverage.

It might've been on my very first trip in the spring of 2013, when we shared the Resurrection account with the kids.

Or perhaps the village grabbed my heartstrings when I held dirty hands, saw their torn clothing and despite it all, watched their faces transform into huge, rambunctious smiles.

Whenever it was, I'm not completely sure. But I am sure of this - God knew. He knew the kiddos in this village would snuggle their way in my heart.  He knew He could shine through me in the dark streets.

Don't get me wrong - it's not all romantic missionary work. It's not all smiles and happiness and sunshine. There are hard times, sad times, and discouraging times, too. There are times when I feel so empty and dry that I wonder if I can continue.

That's when His gentle and strong voice speaks. And as I come again and again to Him, He keeps filling me up: Romans 8:38-39, Galatians 2:20, and John 13:34-35.

So every time I walk the dirty village streets, I ready myself: I keep a smile on my face because it's Him, not me. I make sure my arms always ready to hug at all times. A prayer for His guidance on my lips always. Words to always point back to Him.

One of our readers, Abi, sweetly asked me to share some prayer requests with you all, so I will. Thank you, Abi, I was so encouraged at your request!

~ pray for my aboriginal village. Pray for Jimmy, JackJack, Fanny, and countless others. My friend and I visit them weekly and share the Bible with them. Pray that the lessons we share would be like seeds planted in their hearts.

~ pray for good health and energy for my fellow workers and myself. We often struggle with sickness here and we need lots of energy to teach, love on, and interact with kids 24/7.

~ pray for Taiwan, because so many people are in bondage to fear of the gods and goddesses here. They often give food sacrifices, burn incense, and many other rituals in my city. In another city where I used to live, during one temple festival (just last month), people still slash themselves with swords, walk on burning coals, and throw firecrackers at each other (catching themselves on fire) - all to appease their gods and goddesses. Pray for the truth and love of Christ to shine through all the fear and evil.

Thank you, sisters!  I'm grateful that our Savior is truth and love and light and life!

For Him in Taiwan,

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guy/Girl: The truth about compatibility

 photo 0f14fcd0-4fad-457a-b79f-9e168b6786e7_zps59c16198.jpg

This is the second installment in our Guy/Girl series.  In this post, Krista discusses compatibility, the truth of it, and what really matters in relationships.

We live in a world where we have become used to things getting tailor fitted to us and to our satisfaction.  We buy clothes and can easily get them altered.  We can pick and choose ingredients or meal components when we eat out for dinner.  We can easily pick and choose which music we want to listen to while we are at the gym or driving.

Compatibility is all around us and is fast becoming one of the priorities that people look at when finding friendships and guy/girl relationships.  Culture has also started to highly value marriage compatibility, as various media sources suggest.  It is common belief that meeting a person who measures up to certain requirements (similarities in personality and hobby) will mean that a marriage will turn out better.  However, since Genesis 3, Romans says that because of Adam and Eve, the whole race fell (see Rom. 5).  This means that since then, sin entered the world, making human relationships difficult and complicated.  Therefore, an implication is that whenever there are two people dating, they are immediately incompatible and conflict can easily build up.

Before you lose all hope, though, there is good news!  Jesus came and died for our sins on the cross and we can receive a new heart with a personal relationship with Him.  The Gospel is what allows us to love others and help fix our friendships and relationships because Jesus becomes the rightful center and focus of it.  Our God-given desires now allow us to focus on loving and serving others rather than loving and serving ourselves.

What does all this mean, then?  This means that when we enter into a dating relationship, we do not seek to be served or satisfied by someone's list of qualifications or similarities that we share with them.  Sure, we can always be grateful and rejoice in enjoying such relationships, but our perspective should be focused on glorifying the Lord.

This means that Biblically, compatibility can be defined simply as this: a Christ follower should date and marry a true Christian as well.  It sounds simple, but it can be a command from Scripture that we can struggle to follow (see 2 Cor. 6).  Charles Spurgeon was noted to have likened dating/associating with an unbeliever to be like one person on top of a table trying to pull another person up onto the table.  It's more likely that the person on top of the table is pulled down, rather than someone getting pulled up.  It may seem like a hard rule, but dating an unbeliever is never worth it.

Rather than focusing our efforts and time into finding someone who fits our self-imposed checklist, God commands us to marry only another Christian and love them (see 2 Cor. 6).   This means that compatibility is not a given but rather something that you might have to work for.  It is only possible through Christ's continuing work in our hearts.

Dating is a modern society's way of meeting people of the opposite sex and introduces a possibility of a committed relationship.  While its practices are not necessarily rooted in Biblical tradition, I do believe that Christ can redeem a dating relationship.  How?  First, Christ-centered dating is focused on glorifying the Lord by pursuing a committed relationship with the possibility of marriage in mind.  Second, a dating relationship can be redeemed when the girl and guy are wise during the process and open to God renewing and transforming their mind according to the Bible.

Join us again soon for part 3 of our Guy/Girl Relationships series!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Guy/Girl Relationships

 photo 5a58b75e-ef3f-4ea4-8c9e-6ab8c2598176_zpsca3a0a29.jpg

Guy/girl relationships from a Biblical perspective.  It's one of the top requests we received during our giveaway and survey last November.  Definitely a hot topic, one that everyone seems to be talking about and yet everyone wants to know more, too.  It's something our parents discuss, our pastors preach on, and our peers giggle about.

In fact, the media loves guy/girl relationships, too.  We see movies and tv shows portraying flirtations and romance.  We pass by magazines which detail 9 ways to catch a guy, 27 ways to know he likes you, and 39 ways to dress seductively.  We delve into books where physical intimacies like kissing and such are the norm - and even expected before marriage.

The problem comes when we take in these shows, movies, magazines, books and whatever else the world throws at us and allow them to shape our beliefs and actions.  When this happens, what God says on these issues falls into second place.  Definitely a problem since He is supposed to be first in our lives as believers!

So what do we learn from these various forms of media?  That relationships are focused on self, on physical attractiveness and intimacy, and on what I can get from the other person.  Take a look at most any Hollywood couple and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Their lives, their relationships, and almost everything around them is collapsing and falling apart.

Then there's divorce.  We hear about that lot, too.  More and more couples are divorcing, the polls reveal.  They are taking a precious covenant and tossing it out the window.  They're taking what God Almighty designed as a lifelong commitment and treating it like trash.  Pretty soon they've left their spouse and have hooked up with someone new.

So, what does the Scriptures say about these current issues?  How can we know what to do, what not to do?  Is it all about rules, the heart, or what?  How do we know if we're focusing on the right things?

Because ultimately, these guy/girl relationships need to be about Christ: pleasing Him and honoring Him.  And we can't do that if we haven't spent enough time in prayer, in His Word, and in godly counsel with Christ-like mentors.

So this March, we're going to set aside some time to learn more, to pray about it, and seek Christ and His Word.  We're inviting you to join us as we search the Scriptures and pray!  Tune in again soon for the second installment in our Guy/Girl series.  Until then, girls, may He guide you and give you His wisdom and understanding!

Friday, February 14, 2014

love & singleness

Is there a more expected, and kind of awkward, day of the entire year to talk about love? And singleness?

Probably not.

But you, my lovelies, have requested that we talk a little bit more about love. And guys, relationships, God and singleness. And I'm glad you asked, because it's well-worth talking about.

Whether you are single and happy, longing for the future, or struggling to trust God with your relationship status - or all of the above - how do you honor God and live out your full self when you feel you have a heart full of love and no one to give it to? Or when you're lonely...again? Or simply left out?

There's no magic formula. And I'm not pretending I know all the answers. But one of the most important things for me remember is simply this: God has good plans. 

He hasn't forgotten you. He chose you and then gave everything he had to rescue and win you. You are precious to him.

You can offer your heart as a sacrifice to him, no matter what it is and what you feel like. Sometimes that is an every day or every minute prayer - but it is one he honors. Trusting and leaning on him is a gift we can offer, but it must be done by choice. We rarely feel like it.

And then?

Remember that relationships are gifts because they were designed to be community, drawing us closer to God in unique ways. But it is only one type of community. The fact that you are not dating or married does not change who you are or what you have to offer so many people. You can still pour out love and receive delight.

Probably one of the most surprising discoveries I made after I started dating was the fact that I was still me. I don't know who I thought I would turn into, but I was still the same girl who loved to sleep in, bounced when she got excited, was by no means an impressive cook and was laser-focused on personal goals like writing my thesis and competing at a higher level in ballroom dance.

Yes, relationships and marriages are designed to shape and change you in healthy ways. But your personality, the things that you invest in, and the things that are important to you? That probably won't change. Look for opportunities to invest in the things that matter to you now, no matter what they are.

You are not a half-person right now. Relationships are not the answers to life - they are a piece along the journey.

And my favorite promise, in any stage of life, has been to remember C.S. Lewis' thoughts: If we find in ourselves a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world. 

Your deepest longings, that you think perhaps a relationship can fulfill? It can't.

It's a longing for God. And sometimes, that ache won't even be met by a vibrant relationship with Him - because it is still not the face-to-face closeness and intimacy we were meant for. It's a promise we carry in our hearts that we are not yet home, and to keep seeking.

One day, we are promised that all will be right - so much more than right - and the ache will be gone.

In the meantime? God is not done with you yet - and he's not done writing your story, either.