100819-07By Andrea Freeman

Making choices. For some, it might seem easy, but for us mortals, it is the worst thing to do. It seems every decision I make has a thorough vetting process through which I weigh the pros and cons, think about how it affects my future, and considering how it might affect others. 
Above all, I worry if what I am doing is a part of God’s plan, and it seems that I might never get a concrete answer. A lot of choices are made quickly with little thought to the consequences, such as picking a cereal to have for breakfast, or choosing what pajamas to wear that night. When I was young, I had a system for making choices: do what I want to do or what my parents would want me to do. But when I started thinking for myself more in high school, I realized that I did not want people to make choices for me. That shift did not start easy.  

At first, I let my friends make my decisions, because I wanted them to like me. Decisions like, how I should dress or what my hair should look like, or even, what classes I should take the following year. If I couldn’t ask my friends, I would ask my parents. I found that doing things because other people wanted me to, did not make me happy. I did not want to be anyone’s doll, devoid of thought for themselves. I did not want to ask for advice anymore, but I had never been taught how to make decisions. So, I didn’t. I froze. Hard decisions like picking a college, or major, or what I wanted my career to look like, went unanswered for so long.  

I was terrified of making a choice I would regret for the rest of my life and being unable to go back. What if God had a specific plan for me, and one wrong move would ruin my life? This buildup followed me for so long, I couldn’t eat or sleep. I had mounting anxiety as graduation loomed closer. I was depressed because I felt like I couldn’t make a choice and that I would die, lonely and unaccomplished because of it. Every night I would pray that God would somehow reveal to me, clear as day, what I should do. My older sister was the one who finally threw me into the deep end. After a family night, she took me aside and set me on a laptop to apply for at least one college. I told her I couldn’t, that I did not even know where to start.  

She asked me what college I had heard of recently that I was mildly interested in. I pulled out all the crinkled fliers and pamphlets at the bottom of my backpack and the top one was Northwestern College. It was a free application and took a short amount of time and little effort. I was surprised and relieved. When we got to the section full of possible majors, however, that relief drained away. I had no idea what to pick. I enjoy so many things, but what would give me the best career, what would make my parents proud of me? Once again, my sister came to the rescue. I had told her I like science among other things, and she knew I liked art. She chose computer science as my major (even though it isn’t what I normally think of at the word science), and art as my minor.  

Looking back, I could have picked undecided, but that was not the lesson I was about to learn. When I visited for the first time, I felt, for the first time, excited to make the step into college life. Terrified, but excited. Finally, it seemed like God was giving me a concrete answer, shouting “Yes! This is the one! This is what I want for you!” I knew, at the end of the day, I was going to Northwestern College. Every day felt amazing, because even if the day didn’t go as I expected or wanted, I knew this was a part of God’s plan for me. I felt so relieved. My first year here was amazing, and I felt great about how it went, but was afraid of where I was going. I considered switching my major and at the end of the summer, decided to switch to ecology, but the classes I wanted to take were full. Once again, I was petrified. I could stay in my current major, but if I decided later that I wanted to change it, I probably wouldn’t be able to graduate in four years. But I couldn’t think of another thing I wanted to switch to.  

That’s when I realized the lesson God was teaching me. God promises that whatever choices you make in life, He will be there with you. No matter what you decide, God’s going to be there with you to help you through it. What I learned, was that the important thing isn’t what choice you are making, it’s that you make it. Being frozen was not going to help me. An answer was not going to fall out of the sky. So, I’m sticking with computer science for now. It may not be where I stay, but that does not matter to me right now. What I have learned is that you must make the decision, even if you are not sure it is the best one, because then you can keep moving forward, learning, growing, and changing. I do not know what the future holds, but I don’t need to! God is taking care of it. My job is just to keep walking through life, one decision at a time.

100819-08By Jeremiah Mitchell

These are three words that have stood out to me in one way or the other. I think that forgiveness is something that we as Christians don’t talk about enough. We talk about how we should feel towards certain topic
s as Christians, but we do not talk about how forgiveness works within ourselves.  

I went through a tough time as a kid. I moved when I was seven to Mansfield, Ohio, and I thought that things would go well for me. I thought that I was going to make new friends, but when I went to class, I was ignored. This happened for the first week. After being ignored I was bullied. One person was behind most of the bullying that I received for seven years at that school. He would insult me, call me names, and make fun of the fact that I would take my faith as seriously as I could. My classmates would regularly use derogatory terms to insult one another, and I would try and explain and tell them that the language they were using was unacceptable. Instead of stopping, they started to call me those same terms. Mostly there was one kid who started to call me those things.  

I was hurt. He would mentally and verbally bully me most days. Some days it became physical as well. I had a tough time dealing with it. We are told to pray for those who persecute us, and to forgive our enemies, but I was not willing to forgive this person. I resented him, and I became bitter towards him. It was after seven long years that I moved away, and that bitterness came right along with me. 

I had been hurt, and now I was hurting myself. I was angry and bitter. I could not think in a positive way about that person, and even about myself at times. I harbored so much bitterness that it felt like a physical weight on my back. I would even make myself sick physically because of how I felt about this one person who had mistreated me. 

I then started to hurt others. I was so angry and bitter that I started to lash out at people who I thought even came close to that in my new school. None of them knew what I had been through, but honestly that was not an excuse.  My bible teacher, and a pastor of a small church pulled me aside and said that he saw that I was hurting, but that I had to forgive, because according to him I was “a pot on a steady boil, that if the heat turned up just a bit, would boil over.” And he was right. I prayed and asked God to help me forgive this person that had hurt me. I, with the help of God, was able to forgive the person who for so long had hurt me. I felt a physical weight leave me, and I felt so relieved.  

Between my junior and senior year of high school, I went back to that school. They were still in session, and I saw the bully I had, he was down the hall. I was so worried. He started to walk up to me, and I could feel the fear that I had felt for so long well up again. But something different happened. He looked at me, and he said “Hey man, its been a while, and I wanted to say I’m sorry for all the things that I did to you when we were younger. I did a lot of maturing, and I realize now how badly I treated you. Could you forgive me?” 

To be able to look at him and say “I forgive you” was such a relief. I meant it too. If you pick up one thing from reading this, forgive. Forgive, because it is what God tells us to do, not just because God wants us to be nice, but because if you don’t forgive, it hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. That bitterness that I carried hurt me, more than anything the bullies I had ever did. I hurt myself by not being willing to let go. Yet I had to look at myself, then look at my savior. God forgave me, even though what I had done, put Him on a cross. If God can forgive us for the sins that we commit, why can we not forgive those who simply hurt us? 

ncourage-template-08By Brad Laackmann 

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 

Trusting in God – it‘s easy to say, but it is incredibly difficult to put into practice. As someone who finds comfort in the certainties of life, I immediately try to solve my situation by myself whenever uncertainties arise. As I enter my senior year, the number of uncertainties may be higher than they have ever been before. Where am I going to live next year? What kind of job will I land? How will all of this affect my family and friends? Whenever others are looking for help or comfort, I will usually tell them something along the lines of, “God will take care of it.” However, how can I expect others to adopt this practice when I find it difficult to do so myself? 

During the spring semester of my junior year, the Northwestern Symphonic Band went on our spring break tour to Spain. As incredible as the history and the sights were, the most memorable moment for me occurred in an auditorium in Madrid. A couple months before our tour, my grandmother passed away after a well-lived journey. The months following her passing were difficult to process, especially with the role she played in my life. During our concert in Madrid, we performed a piece by the name of “Only Light,” a piece we had played numerous times before that night. This time was different, though. In a time when I was struggling to come to terms with the grief of loss, God was displaying a message through the music. Looking back, I know that the message was, “I will take care of it.” I will never know how our concert that night impacted others-that is part of their story. One thing I do know is that God used every part of that situation to bring honor to Him. I was not fully trusting His providence in my life, but He used each note, each person, and each moment to illuminate the blessings of looking to His plans instead of my own. 

Even after that performance, I still struggle at times to see the importance of trusting God in our times of uncertainty. It is much easier to consider how I can plan out my steps instead of turning it over to God. Every time I think about this story, I am amazed by God’s constant reminders to us. Sometimes, the busyness of life blinds us to His messages. However, He is always with us, He will display His love for us in the most unexpected times, and He will provide clarity when the future is unclear. When uncertainties of the future arise, God has continually surrounded me with people and moments that display the extent of His care. In these moments, God gives us the freedom to struggle, to doubt, and to worry, but He will equip us with everything we need in order to excitedly shout His praises again.  

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By Becca Jackson

When was the last time it felt like being “all-in” for God was truly being lived out? Maybe it was a time when you didn’t care how many people were staring at you while you were worshipping Him freely, a time where you spoke the truth of His word without worrying about what your friend was going to say, or maybe it was even a time where you didn’t worry about if you were “qualified” for what you were about to say or do in the Kingdom. As a college student, even at Northwestern, I find myself constantly battling my inner self over what I want to do to worship and glorify God versus what society has deemed “normal.”  

It was about 6 months ago when I realized that I was unhappy with my life. I felt constricted because even though I felt Jesus’ presence and felt his movement in my life during that time I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, but I also struggled with my image and if I was portraying myself correctly. I started to take a deep look at my life and realized I was hiding my faith in a lot of ways and masking almost all my spiritual battles–the exact opposite of what we are called to do as Christians. Talk about a hard pill to swallow. I still decided not to reach out to anybody but decided this was a private situation for me and God to work through.  

I started reading through many different chapters of the Bible about living out our faith, but what really caught me was a sermon I heard by Michael Todd. It’s entitled, “Worship Starts with Love” in his 24Ever, 7-part sermon series. There were so many good parts, but one thing that rocked the deepest part of my soul was when he said, “Our worship is the only gift we can give God.” and then continued to say, “So many people rob God every day of the only thing you could ever give Him.” The conviction kept coming when he said, “The one thing that we can do for Him we won’t, because we think somebody might look at us funny.”  I can’t compare the feeling of this conviction to anything earthly, all I can do is try to process what those words mean to me.   

After hearing that I began to change and although it wasn’t instantaneous, I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m letting myself worship more freely than I ever have before and I feel closer to God. However, I’m not perfect and there are certainly still times I hold back, but CenterPoint this past Sunday was not one of those times, especially when we got to the last song. Whenever I sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” I can’t stand on my feet because that’s our eternal song of praise to God. I will not be worthy enough to stand before Him in heaven, I will kneel before my Heavenly Father in a state of eternal praise. May I continue offering my one and only gift to Him every day.  

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By Kit Fynaardt

Before continuing, watch this video. It
s only six minutes long. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ds9y3lJGig 

Goosebumps, right? The burning bush is certainly one of Gods most dramatic miracles, and there is much to analyze and discuss about how the film Prince of Egypt handled the scene. But Id like to draw your attention to a single detail, a detail that represents one of my most important steps as a Christian. Open the video again, and skip ahead to when God says, I have seen the oppression of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry…” Listen closely. 

Did you hear it? After this line, a cry of pain can be heard from an old man beneath a slave drivers whip. However, you can also hear Moses. You can hear Moses saying Stop it! Leave that man alone!This is more than a vain attempt to ease a mans suffering. Moses is saying to himself: No. No, this is not good enough. This is not what the world is supposed to look like. This pain is not okay, and I am going to raise my voice in a cry so that it will stop.Moseswords were a prayer, and God heard them. I have heard my peoples cry.God says. Moses, I have heard your cry. I heard your prayer that this is not right. I heard you crying out for things to be better. 

Every year we hold a service at ARC where we allow the high school and middle school youth groups to design and run the service. It’s a chance for the adults take a step back and hear a message from the youth, and it was a chance for me to hear my little brother Gideon, a sophomore in high school at the time, say something profound. What he said was this: Humanity’s greatest ability is the ability to be discontent. To say, ‘No. No, this is not good enough.’ To fight for something so that tomorrow can be better than today.” 

The words brought me to tears. Words from my own little brother, whos knowledge and wisdom surpass my own. That day, God showed me my prayer. This is my prayer. This is our prayer: No. This is not what Gods creation is supposed to look like. Our leaders use hateful and discriminatory rhetoric. Toxic masculinity is rampant among young people. Political issues divide family and friends.  Until there is peace and goodness we will cry out to God in prayer until the Lord comes again. God calls us to be discontent. God called me to use my greatest ability to work toward a future that is brighter and more Christlike than the present, and no matter how hopeless it may seem, I know God is with me.