Posted in Blog, Life, Remembering

You want me to pray???

Recently I saw a Facebook post reminiscing about the times in youth group when the youth leader asked for a volunteer to pray and there was dead silence. I can certainly remember those moments, and often I was one of the silent ones. On the off chance that the youth leader called on me or I volunteered, there was a brief moment of panic. If I’m honest, there’s still that moment of panic when I’m asked to pray aloud today. My question is “why?”. Why are we afraid to pray aloud? It’s just talking to God after all. I do that frequently, so what am I afraid of?

After some soul searching, I have come to the conclusion that I think for me it’s a fear of the people listening more than a fear of talking to God. I panic that others will think my prayer isn’t “holy” enough or long enough. Maybe I won’t use the right words, or maybe I won’t have any words at all.

This morning I was reading the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches the crowds how to pray. If pointing out that pagans pray so that others can hear them wasn’t enough explanation, Jesus follows up with an example prayer of his own. Guess what? Jesus’ prayer isn’t long and drawn out. It uses fairly simple words and has a pretty straightforward message.

This example gives me courage that when I feel like talking to God, I should do so freely whether out loud or in my head. After all, when I’m praying aloud, it’s God’s ear that matters, not the ears of others.

Posted in Work

BCM Update and Prayer Requests

These past few weeks have been good on campus. The BCM have met three times on Monday nights for dinner and Bible study. We even have a couple new faces this semester. We’ve been studying through The Gospel Project from LifeWay. A local church was willing to give us their previous quarter’s books so that we can use this study for free. So far we have looked at God and why he should be praised according to Psalm 148 and Job 38. The next week we hit it hard with Satan’s fall as described by Isaiah and Ezekiel. This session produced many good questions about the origin of evil and showed us how God triumphs over evil. This coming Monday we will be back in Genesis 2 and Psalm 95 and discussing how God lovingly made this world for his people. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first to co-teach these lessons to what are essentially my peers, but it has proved to be an educational experience. I’ve learned about preparing lessons, seeking God’s guidance on what to say, and searching the scriptures when questions are posed.

In addition to Monday nights, the women and I have been meeting on Tuesday nights in a dorm to study Biblical truths about our relationship with God presented in a book called Spoken For. This book is written by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Bethke. It has nice short chapters that we all read prior to coming together and wonderful discussion questions. The best part about this book is that it points us back to scriptures that we can use to remind ourselves how God views us. Many in our group come from broken families of one sort or another and/or have been in romantic relationships that left us feeling less than. We are using those experiences and heartaches combined with the stories told by Robin and Alyssa to compare with how God has never abandoned us or hurt us. Of course God always wins! The book and the conversations that follow are healing to the heart for everyone in the group. I’m thankful that God has placed this group of women in my life. I don’t think I’m really leading this group as much as this group is leading itself. Even if we all separate after college time ends, I look forward to worshiping Jesus in heaven with these ladies.

Finally, I spend my time on campus manning a prayer table on Tuesday afternoons. I stake out a spot for three hours where I have an open invitation to prayer and requests. I ask for prayer for this specific ministry. It’s not been as fruitful as I’d like. It’s a busy time for this location but many students simply walk by without stopping. I’ve only had a few people stop. I know God can use it for even a few people, but it would be encouraging to talk with more people. It has been a bit of an eye opener though. Of the few people who have stopped, a couple have not exactly been open or understanding of the gospel. One girl stopped and asked if she could say no to prayer. I replied that she could, but I was a bit shocked when she wrote on the paper that I shouldn’t pray for her and proceeded to sign her name. Of course, I prayed that God would soften her heart and provide an opportunity for a Christian to talk with her. Another student stopped with a couple of prayer requests and I was able to talk with him about his faith. He believes in God and Jesus as God’s son but he also believes there are many ways to heaven. I pray that I will be able to talk with him further when he doesn’t have to rush to class. Please pray for me here at this table, that I would be bolder in talking to people and that more students would stop to talk and pray. I know God can use this table.

Well that’s about it for an update. I hope your January is turning out nicely.

If you feel led to financially support my missions work on this college campus, please visit my website.

https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/EKU/CathyHughes

Posted in Life, Weather

Do you have any sleds for sale?

I do not normally post about things that happen in my life, but tonight the story is too great to pass up.

Today I went sledding. The plan was to meet some friends on the big hill near campus and use these old lunch trays that were hiding in our dorm kitchen. They worked well last time so even though there was twice as much snow this time, we figured they’d work. While waiting on our friends, my roommate and I started trying the trays out near our dorm on a smaller hill. There was a cute little child and his father just a little ways over. The father let us use the sled (the child got more enjoyment out of watching us go down the hill than he did going down the hill himself). When they were ready to head out, the father (who turned out to be a professor) said we could borrow the sled and return it tomorrow. The child was a bit hesitant and even shed a few tears. The father was insistent and convinced the child that he needed to share.

We went sledding. The sled worked much better than our lunch trays. The snow was perfect and packed down enough. Some kids had even built ramps to jump over. We piled on and soared down the hill. It was grand fun.

Until it wasn’t. Until we put three people on the sled and hit a stick. Then it felt like a rock dropped in my stomach. That child cried because he didn’t want to share his sled. We were going to make him never want to share again if we returned a sled with a hole in it! The kid might be in therapy until he’s 25 over this incident. Okay maybe that thought was a bit exaggerated (in our defense we didn’t have that thought until much later when we were on the hunt for a new sled). We made a few more trips down the hill. Why not? We’d already broken the sled so we knew we’d have to buy a new one anyway so might as well enjoy the time.

Then the hunt began. In still wet clothes we loaded up to go to Walmart.

To find out that they were out of sleds.

As was every other store in our small town. Well Ace Hardware had some sort of roll-up sled but the guy on the phone said he was leaving in about 5 minutes.

Let me just say here that the internet and smart phones are very useful. While I continued driving, my roommate was calling every place she could think of that might sell sleds. The lady in Dollar General told us to try Ollie’s in the next town over. So we called. After convincing the guy on the phone that we didn’t want sweatpants, he said that they had sleds. Thank goodness! We hopped on the interstate with high hearts.

Until we started looking for an address. Turns out smartphones are not always so smart. My roommate had called the Ollie’s in another state. The one in the town we were heading towards said they were out of sleds. Must not be snowing in the state next door or maybe they already own sleds.

Hearts sunk again and freezing cold (we’re still wearing wet clothes at this point), we start trying to call various places in this new bigger town. Finally my roommate decides to call a lady from our church who she claimed “has all the answers.” The lady suggested Lowe’s. Since we were almost to Lowe’s, we decide to forego the call and make the trek in the store.

I’m sure the store employees thought we were crazy when we all started giggling over a stack of sleds in the front of the store. I can picture us now: three college girls in wet clothing and no gloves giggling over a pile of sleds while trying to find a green one. We couldn’t find a green sled so we settled for the tye-dye sled that had green in it.

Lesson of this story: Buy your own sled.

No really. I think the lesson is that God does answer even the smallest prayers. We were feeling very anxious wondering how we could face this professor and tell him that we broke his child’s sled. God provided though and led us to the right place. He used that lady from our church. He provided what we needed at that moment.

Posted in Bible Study

Lessons from Hannah

Last night as I started reading 1 Samuel, I found myself really relating to Hannah. It’s always amazing how I can re-read a passage of scripture and relate it to a part of my life like I’ve never related it before. That’s God.

Hannah suffered emotional pain during that first chapter. She was not given the desires of her heart and to top it off Penninah was cruel to her and reminded her of her lacking. Sometimes I just do not understand why I don’t have something that I really want and that seems to be in line with God’s will. The thing is that God has a perfect plan and I can’t understand it. I’m glad though for times when he’s either made me wait or not given me something I want because usually in the aftermath I can see a bit of why it worked that way.

Hannah’s first response was to cry. That happens. “Each time Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.” (1:7).

Then she turned to God. That’s a good response. Hannah was encouraged by God and by Eli, who blessed her desire and her prayer.

She received what she wanted. Now that doesn’t always happen but God has it all under control.

Another cool part of this story is that Elkanah supported Hannah’s promise to God when she chose to give Samuel back to the Lord. That’s how a husband should be.

It seems risky on Hannah’s part to make a deal with God, but she was wholeheartedly willing to be faithful to that promise. That’s what is important. Don’t make promises, especially to God, that you can’t keep.

Finally, her faith is demonstrated in her prayer in chapter 2. She reminds herself and the readers that “all the earth is the Lord’s and he has set the world in order.” (2:8b). To me that says “God has it all under control.”

So next time you’re feeling down and ignored by God, remember how Hannah reacted. Be faithful to believe that God has a perfect plan.

Posted in Class, Movies, Music

Good Conversations

The semester is quickly (too quickly) coming to a close.  The classes I have had this semester have been enjoyable for the most part, and I am going to miss some of my professors.  I’m also going to really miss my friends over the summer, although I have some awesome plans for the summer.  There is one class in particular that I have enjoyed that covered theology as it is represented in films.  We watched some great films like As Good As It Gets, Cool Hand Luke, Benny and Joon, and To Kill A Mockingbird.  Most recently we watched The Third Miracle and my discussion group started discussing prayer.  We asked questions about what can be prayed for and how to pray.  The professor, who is incredibly intelligent, was in the group as well.  He made the distinction between praying for something and praying to see how God is already working and for the ability to join in.  For example, I could pray for someone to be healed or I could pray for the wisdom to know how God is working in that situation.  That reminds me of this song by Brandon Heath:

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend-acquaintance about God’s will and just God in general.  I wasn’t having the greatest day, and without having to know what was bothering me he just started talking about Jesus.  It was good and uplifting.  At one point he said that when he is feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, he starts praying.  He doesn’t complain to God but instead starts thanking God for what He blesses this friend with.  That reminds me of a quote by Jason Gray: “I think we are tempted to imagine it’s our circumstances that determine our quality of life or our joy but in truth I believe it’s gratitude that makes our lives sweet.  We may not be able to change our circumstances but we are empowered to nurture our grateful heart.”  That is good advice and I’ve seen it work.

Overall, I’ve just had some good conversations recently.

Posted in Bible Study, Music

Nothing is Wasted

I’ve noticed recently that I have a few mantras that I tend to say to myself or to other people.  One of these is “it’s a heart matter”; another is “it’s all gonna be okay.”  The one I recently picked up is “God uses everything” or “nothing is wasted.”  I’ve believed this for a while, because I’ve seen in my life how God uses even the most sad or upsetting of situations for his glory.

Recently, I thought life was horrible to me and I didn’t understand a number of particular events.  I thought that God had given me too many heavy burdens and heartaches to bear.  I thought He was answering prayers and then taking back whatever he had given me.  I was hurting, upset, and feeling miserable.  And to top it all off, I felt guilty for not trusting God to have it all under control.  I know that in my mind; it’s just hard to live like it sometimes.

Then I started thinking through the situations that I felt were unfair to me.  When I started thinking clearly about it, with an open mind, I realized how God worked in those situations.  For one thing, in those situations I cried out to God quite a bit to bring healing to my heart.  I also asked God to heal those people involved in the various situations.  Through these situations, I have had several good conversations with people about God and faith.  That is how God used what I thought were unfair hurtful situations for His glory.

Go God!

Philippians 1:12  And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.

Posted in Life

A Tragic Mistake

I recently ran across an interesting story written by Langston Hughes.  Basically the story was about how when he was younger, he was placed on the front pew at a certain age and there was the expectation that he would “get saved” that day along with the other children.  He waited and waited and felt no need to do such a thing.  His aunt and the preacher pleaded with him as other children went to the front to “get saved.” Here’s the very end of the story:

I heard the songs and the minister saying: “Why don’t you come? My dear child, why don’t you come to Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you. Why don’t you come? Sister Reed, what is this child’s name?”

“Langston,” my aunt sobbed.

“Langston, why don’t you come? Why don’t you come and be saved? Oh, Lamb of God! Why don’t you come?”

Now it was really getting late. I began to be ashamed of myself, holding everything up so long. I began to wonder what God thought about Westley, who certainly hadn’t seen Jesus either, but who was now sitting proudly on the platform, swinging his knickerbockered legs and grinning down at me, surrounded by deacons and old women on their knees praying. God had not struck Westley dead for taking his name in vain or for lying in the temple. So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I’d better lie, too, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.

So I got up.

Suddenly the whole room broke into a sea of shouting, as they saw me rise. Waves of rejoicing swept the place. Women leaped in the air. My aunt threw her arms around me. The minister took me by the hand and led me to the platform.

When things quieted down, in a hushed silence, punctuated by a few ecstatic “Amens,” all the new young lambs were blessed in the name of God. Then joyous singing filled the room.

That night, for the first time in my life but one for I was a big boy twelve years old – I cried. I cried, in bed alone, and couldn’t stop. I buried my head under the quilts, but my aunt heard me. She woke up and told my uncle I was crying because the Holy Ghost had come into my life, and because I had seen Jesus. But I was really crying because I couldn’t bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, that I hadn’t seen Jesus, and that now I didn’t believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn’t come to help me.

All too often this similar thing happens for church kids in the United States.  We grow up in churches and when we hit about the age of 12 or so, people start expecting us to make that decision.  I know this because I remember that pressure.

The problem with this expectation of children is that action is forcing God.  We can’t predict when God is going to move in someone’s life.  Just because they have been going to church their entire life does not mean that they are ready to make that commitment at a magical age.  God has a plan for each of us and that includes the time when we accept and commit to follow Christ.  The only thing we as Christians can do is encourage the children to listen, make sure they’re hearing the gospel message, and pray that they will listen when God does work in their hearts.  They’ll know when that time comes, whether it’s when they’re 12 or 27.  It’ll happen when God knows that they’re ready to accept him.

The problem with this urging that happened in Langston Hughes’s life and many modern church kids’ lives is that it leaves many confused adults.  They grow up in church, go forward to pray the prayer with their friends at a certain age because that’s expected, and then leave home to find out that they really don’t want that kind of life.  It has to be a personal decision.  Otherwise, it leaves confused young adults who don’t really know why they believe what they believe and at some point they start questioning their own beliefs.  (speaking from experience once again, but thankfully I decided to keep following God).

I’m not sure where I am going with this, but maybe this story/reflection will help someone.  Maybe you teach children and need to remember this.  Maybe you are a child and don’t like all of the pressure.  Maybe you’re a young adult who needs some assurance of their beliefs.  Whoever you are, turn to God for guidance.  Let him answer your questions.

If you want to read the entire story (which I suggest), I found it here:

http://www.courses.vcu.edu/ENG200-dwc/hughes.htm