Sunday, August 14, 2011

Where I'm Supposed To Be

Do you ever feel like you're exactly where you're supposed to be? It's a great sensation. There are no doubts. No worries. You feel like a baseball in the glove or a basketball in the net - positioned perfectly at just the right time. That's how I feel right now.
At the beginning of high school, thoughts of college began to flood my mind. There are thousands of colleges all over the country - all over the world! I knew there had to be the perfect place just for me. But how was I ever going to find it?
Even though I hadn't found it yet, God had.  Knowing us better than anyone else, He has lovingly mapped out our  lives according to our unique dreams, passions, and capabilities. He has the perfect routes for us to travel and sights for us to see - all we have to do is follow Him.
Following God's lead is simple. He doesn't try to hide it from us - He wants us to find it! All we have to do is seek Him.
And boy, did I seek! I don't believe I've ever prayed about anything as earnestly as I prayed about where to attend college. But I didn't receive an answer right away. While following His lead may be simple, it isn't always easy - especially when He doesn't lead you according to your plans or schedule. It's tempting to get impatient because you haven't received an answer, or to give up on receiving an answer at all. However, Jesus' words in Matthew 7:7 give us hope: Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you.
In the summer of 2009, I went on a mission trip to Guatemala. During that time, I received my answer. And surprisingly, it wasn't the answer I was expecting! In fact, I had thought God was leading me somewhere else. But by the time I came home, I knew God was calling me to Patrick Henry College.
When I began my college search, PHC wasn't even on my radar. A small school with only a few majors, it didn't seem to fit into any of my ambitions. God knew otherwise. And the more I learned about PHC, the more I agreed with God.
Making the decision is a significant step in the journey, but it's only the beginning of an even longer voyage. At least it was in my case. In everything from visiting the campus to completing the application, there were immense obstacles to overcome. With every difficulty, I learned to trust God more and more. And through the entire process, I've learned that God answers prayer, that God is faithful, and that God loves to help us accomplish the impossible!
When I was in Guatemala, one of my teammates gave me this verse: Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for I lift up my soul...Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Psalm 143:8,10. I have prayed this scripture over and over, and as I sit on the brink of a new journey, I can say that God has shown me the way I should go. He has taught me to do His will, and He has led me on level ground! On Tuesday my college adventure will begin, and I know it's just the adventure God wants me to have.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, "...I know what I am planning for you," says the LORD. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you a hope and a good future." God has a perfect plan for your life. It's tremendously better than anything you could imagine! When you seek Him, He will guide you. And you'll be exactly where you're supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Response

I don't need to convince you that America needs help. The only One who can help us is God. Texas Govenor Rick Perry has recognized the critical condition of our nation, and has called Americans everywhere to respond through prayer. Watch this one minute video from Gov. Perry and join the prayer movement on Saturday, August 6th! Don't forget to spread the word!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Price For Freedom

Happy Independence Day! Today, families celebrate freedom with comfortable summer traditions - cooking out, boating, swimming, and fireworks. We play and laugh with carefree hearts, thankful for the blessings of America.
Two-hundred-and-eleven years ago, the freedom celebration may have been a little different. There were fireworks. There was laughter. There was gratitude. But was there doubt, as well? While faces smiled and words rang with pride and victory over the colonies' declared Independence, some hearts may have trembled. As soon as the Declaration of Independence was signed, every American's future was uncertain. But the lives of the fifty-six men who signed were especially endangered.
By signing the Declaration of Independence, the signers were committing treason - a crime which demanded death by hanging as punishment.
Each of them were fully aware of the risk they took - not only for themselves, but their families. They weren't concerned with temporary security or comfort. These men were willing to pay a price for a future of freedom, and that price was high.
For many, severe persecution was soon to come.
Francis Lewis of New York saw his property demolished by the British. Far worse, his wife was captured. For several months she was confined in prison without a bed or change of clothes. Two years after her release, she died of ruined health.
In an effort to see his dying wife, John Hart of New Jersey returned home from his duties, only to be chased by Hessian soldiers. Even as Mrs. Hart lay dying, the soldiers destroyed their home and property. John Hart was forced into hiding, living in caves and forests. When he finally returned home, he discovered that his wife had died and each of his thirteen children had been taken away. He died in 1779, never seeing his children again.
(Many more stories of the signers can be found here. I encourage you to read this brief account.)
As we celebrate and enjoy our freedom today, we should remember that it was not easy to obtain. The freedom we experience every single day was inexpressibly costly. Would you be willing to pay the price?
The men who signed their lives away in 1776 deserved to be remembered.

From New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Matthew Thornton

From Massachusetts:
John Hancock
John Adams
Samuel Adams
Robert Treat Paine

From Rhode Island:
Elbridge Gerry
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

From Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

From New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

From New Jersy:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

From Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

From Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

From Maryland:
Samuel Chase
Thomas Stone
William Paca
Charles Carroll

From Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

From North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

From South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

From Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Power in Prayer

Devoting a day to prayer is a deeply-rooted American tradition. Pilgrim and Puritan leaders often designated days of prayer. During the Revolutionary War, our Founders asked Americans to pray for their new nation. Today, we celebrate the 60th annual National Day of Prayer in America.
Does prayer really work? The power of prayer is proclaimed repeatedly in the Bible.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." Matthew 18:19

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." John 15:7

History itself is deluged with evidence that prayer works. When godly people recognize a need and turn to God, miraculous things happen, for nothing is impossible with God!
America is in dire need right now. Today - this week - anytime, take some time to pray for our country. We grasp the handle to the most powerful tool on earth. Let's put it into action.

Below is a fantastic video by Christian music artist Carman - a video perfectly suited for today. I encourage you to watch it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden's Death - How Would Jesus Respond?

Osama bin Laden, the terrorist responsible for the death of countless of innocents - including three thousand American citizens - is dead.
My first reaction was to jump for joy. There's something so satiating in knowing that he has finally been caught and blotted from the earth - and such a fitting end, too.
But wait - What is the Christ-like response? I don't claim to know for sure, but from what I've read out of His Word, this is what I think.
As much as I'd like to dance around and sing "Ding dong, Osama's dead," there's no denying the words in Proverbs 24:17-18:
"Don't be happy when your enemy is defeated; don't be glad when he is overwhelmed. The Lord will notice and be displeased. He may not be angry with them anymore."
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says to "love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you."
Should we love terrorists like Osama bin Laden? Yes! (And this is only possible with the love of Jesus!) The fact is, God loved Osama bin Laden. He loves everyone, no matter how disgusting their sin. And I believe that even at the last moment, had bin Laden sincerely repented and given his life to Jesus, He would have been saved. It is sad that another soul has been eternally separated from God, and that is certainly no reason to rejoice.
However, Osama bin Laden is no longer able to wreak havoc upon innocent men, women, and children all throughout the world. Is this a good thing? Yes! Is it ok to rejoice in that fact? Absolutely, if you ask me. Justice has been dealt, and the Bible says that God is a God of justice.
"The Lord loves justice and will not leave those who worship him. He will always protect them, but the children of the wicked will die." - Psalm 37:28
"Don't tell the wicked that they are innocent; people will curse you, and nations will hate you. But things will go well if you punish the guilty, and you will receive rich blessings." -Proverbs 24:24-25.
"When the wicked get control, everybody hides, but when they die, good people do well." - Proverbs 28:28
Osama bin Laden was responsible for the September 11 attack on America. After the attack, President George W. Bush said, "I don't know whether we're going to get him tomorrow, or a month from now, or a year from now...But we're going to get him."
It's our leaders' job to protect our nation and the innocent citizen within our borders. I believe we were right to track down bin Laden and other terrorists, and I am proud of the military for their cunning work over the weekend. God promises that He will deal justice. He claims that vengeance is His, and I believe that He can execute His justice and vengeance through human vessels, as in this case.
Isn't God a God of mercy, as well? Definitely. And I believe God did show mercy to bin Laden; it was ten years before he was caught.
Is this a sad day? Yes; an unsaved soul has been lost. Is this a happy day? Yes; an enemy and threat to innocent people all over the world has been defeated. While it may not be appropriate for Christians to jump for joy at the death of an enemy, I still believe it is acceptable for us to praise God for His justice, and give thanks for our courageous, diligent military.
As I said before, I don't claim to have all the answers, but this is what I believe, and I will continue to pray that God will give me His attitude towards this and every situation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Give Me Liberty: A Little Common Sense, Please

Published April 15, 2011 in the Gainesville Daily Register

In recent weeks, economic issues have been served hot off the Congressional fire and into the news. Democrats and Republicans have long battled over budget business, and now they have finally called a truce and made a decision. What does it all mean, and how will it affect the average citizen? I am certainly not an expert in economics, budgets, or deficits. (I’m only seventeen!) Nevertheless, it doesn’t take a genius to understand some basic facts. All it takes is a little common sense.

In 2008, America elected President Barak Obama because, among other reasons, they knew that the economy was in bad shape, and they grasped onto the “hope” he promised during his campaign. They believed him when he said in 2009 that he would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. In 2009, the national debt was 10.6 trillion. Today, it is 14.3 trillion. Four trillion dollars has been added to our national debt in less than four years.
It’s obvious that debt like this needs to be bridled, and for the last several weeks Congress has been debating about a budget plan. Many suggestions were set forth to stop federal funding for certain programs and organizations that are not necessary to America’s wellbeing, like National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood. But for what seemed like ages, no proposition could ever be agreed upon. Haggling back and forth, both parties recognized that if they didn’t decide on a budget, a government shutdown was inevitable.
To be honest, when I first heard the term “government shutdown,” I didn’t even know what that was. I learned that in the case of a shutdown, all government-sponsored programs would temporarily lose federal funding, except for those programs that are essential to the public safety, like the FBI or the military. However, when discussion of a shutdown arose, the President surprisingly claimed that the military would cease to be funded along with other programs. Many were adamant that this was unfair, considering that he refused to stop funding programs like Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio. Refusing pay to the military would also be dangerous for the morale of the service men and women, not to mention the safety of U.S. citizens. It may be inferred that the threat to stop paying the military led to the agreement on the finalized budget.
What does that agreement entail? The new budget allows for 38 billion dollars in budget cuts, which doesn’t even cover a full week of spending in Washington D.C.; the federal government spends 10 billion dollars daily. It has recently been discovered that most of the cuts had already been provided for in prior resolutions, so the actual amount of new cuts is far, far less than 38 billion! Considering that the national debt is 14.3 trillion dollars, this budget cut is like knocking one star from the solar system.
The deficit has now collided with the debt ceiling. Congress can either cut spending – really, seriously, tremendously cut it – or they can vote to raise the debt ceiling. Our President seems eager to raise the roof as soon as possible. According to his press secretary; “We believe that we should move quickly to raise the debt limit and we support a clean piece of legislation to do that.” Should they choose to raise the limit, how will that affect you?
First, let’s consider who will be footing this bill. Definitely not the government. The brunt of this blow will fall upon my generation and following generations. And how will that be paid? Through taxes!
Speaking of taxes, what happened to the tax cuts both parties have promised in recent elections? “How on earth could we afford to cut taxes at a time like this?” some might say. To be honest, cutting taxes would greatly help our economy, and it doesn’t take a PhD to figure that out.
We often hear about the poor being unfairly taxed and the rich not being taxed enough. Some would say that, especially in a crisis like this, taxes should be increased for the wealthy and cut for the poor. Reminiscent of Robin Hood as it may be, that doesn’t make sense. The top fifty percent of wage earners already pay more than ninety percent of the taxes – the bottom half pay less than ten percent.
In the event of an across-the-board tax cut, the rich, who own most of the businesses, would be able to hire more employees, thus lowering the unemployment rate. The economy – and the poor – would benefit.
Singling out the rich by increasing their taxes will lead to more job losses, more people without work, and less revenue circulating throughout the economy.
America, the alarm clock is sounding. It’s time to wake up and face the facts. Why is the President so unwilling to reduce federal funding for programs like Planned Parenthood, and yet ready to stop funding the military during a shutdown? Why is Congress even considering raising the debt ceiling when they’ve already promised us that they will work to reduce spending? Why do some try to increase taxes for the rich when it will only hurt the economy?
Working our way out of this bog will be hard enough; we don’t need to add more mud to the mire. If you and I embrace this common sense, maybe we can send some people to Washington with a little common sense of their own.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Give Me Liberty: Lessons from the Hardwood

Published March 4, 2011

Basketball is my favorite sport. Throughout my middle and high school years, I’ve enjoyed playing on our home school team. When I joined the team seven years ago, I never imagined the enormous affect it would have on my life.
It all began when our home school group decided to organize a basketball team. I’ll never forget our very first practice; an unlikely assemblage of middle school-age boys and girls dribbled up and down a country drive-way, dodging farm cats, cracks in the pavement, and each other. From then on, we held weekly practices in a local elementary school gym. The girls on the team were fortunate enough to participate in games every Saturday at the Whitesboro Parks and Recreation Department, although the boys, who were lacking in numbers, would have to wait a few years before they formed a team of their own. As the years progressed, the “Red River Rattlers” gained structure, accumulating a schedule of games against local schools. However, it was hard to find teams willing to play a brand-new home school team that wasn’t very good.

In ninth grade, we underwent some big changes. We joined a basketball conference just for home school and private school teams, got a new coach, and discovered something – we could be good! That season, the Lady Rattlers felt what it was like to work as a team and win. Quicker than we could believe, we went from being the team that no one wanted to play to the team that everyone wanted to beat.

Through the last four years, we have realized that although we had potential, winning didn’t always come easily. We encountered many obstacles that left us humbled. Last year was especially tough, and we had to remind ourselves that hard work and team work were necessary ingredients to success. The reminder paid off. My Junior year ended like a dream as we fought our way through the state tournament, coming from behind in every game. Never giving up, we survived all the way to the championship game, and won! (We were the first home school team to ever win the championship in the Texas Christian Athletic League.)

Returning to the State Tournament this year, we wanted a repeat. Hoping to defend our title, we entered the semi-final game against our arch-rivals. As much as I’d like to say that we won, we didn’t. And with TCAL’s single elimination policy, we were out. Our season had ended. And for the seniors on the team, our high school career was suddenly over.

Though my last season of basketball has ended, the sport’s influence in my life has not. During the last seven years, I’ve learned lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I’ve learned how to win. I’ve learned how to take a loss. I’ve been taught to challenge myself, and I’ve seen hard-earned improvements.

Our high school coach was full of practical wisdom, but there was one saying we heard more often than any: “No excuses. No explanations. Leave it on the court.” It took a few years for me to grasp what “leave it on the court” meant, but now I understand. It means to go into the game and play your very hardest for four quarters, so that when you step off the court, you can honestly say that you gave everything you had – you have nothing left. The score, he said, would take care of itself, and if we had truly given our all, the “W” or the “L” wouldn’t matter.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned, which really hit home this year, is that victory isn’t determined by the scoreboard. Victory is determined in the heart. Maybe we didn’t win our last game, but with everything that I have gained through being a Red River Lady Rattler, I am most definitely a champion.

I’ll never forget our first season, our state championship, our last game, or my amazing teammates. More importantly, I’ll never forget the truths I was taught in the gym. Those truths do not apply only to sports. In the game of life, you never know what will be thrown your way or what challenges you will face. You never know if you’re about to encounter a bitter defeat or a winning streak. But whether the scoreboard reflects a win or a loss, you can be victorious. No matter the obstacle, give it your all. Leave it on the court. Be a champion!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Consider the Differences

This Sunday will mark the 100th birthday anniversary of America's fortieth President, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Interestingly, the recent talk of the town is how the Obama administration so closely resembles the Reagan administration. President Obama even claims to emulate his style.
And there are similarities to be found. Both entered the Oval Office at a time when recession assailed America.
Reagan was dubbed "The Great Communicator" for his ability to connect with and inspire the people. Obama has been accredited with the same capability.
However, the differences in the two men greatly outnumber the similarities.

Though both faced the daunting task of pulling America out of a recession, the recession of Reagan's day overwhelmed the circumstances significantly more. In November of 2008, the inflation rate was at 1.64%. In November of 1980, the inflation rate was at 12.65%! In the midst of nation-wide fiscal struggle, both Presidents were forced to take action. What did they do?
Reagan cut taxes.
Obama raised them.
While Obama encourages Americans with the promise that the government will make everything better, Reagan declared the opposite. "Government isn't the solution to our problem," he said. "Government is the problem."
Reagan has been accused of creating an anti-government mindset among the American people, convincing them that big government was bad. Now, those same people hopefully proclaim that Obama is getting Americans' heads back where they need to be. But Reagan wasn't the one who planted that mindset in the American brain. It was already there, from the very start. In 1787, the Constitution was formed to prevent the government from over-stepping its bounds. Yes, federal government definitely has a role to play in our nation. Without a strong central government, chaos would reign in the country. BUT - contrary to what Obama touts, strong government doesn't equal big government. And in the words of Reagan, "You can't be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy."
Reagan's strategies proved successful. Under his leadership, the economy began to flourish. Incentive sky-rocketed. And the economy continued to thrive for many years to come.
After two years of Reaganomics, inflation had decreased 8.94%. Two years into Obamanomics, the inflation rate is the same.

In 1980, America's military was weak. Our national defenses were shaky. The Cold War still had half the world walking on their tip-toes, afraid of Communism and the Soviet Union. Reagan put a stop to that. He wasn't afraid to call evil by its name. He believed in peace through strength. During his Presidency, the Cold War ended. The Iron Curtain fell. Many European countries were finally able to experience freedom from communism.
How do Obama's foreign policy tactics compare? Instead of speaking the truth and calling evil by its name, he refuses to call even our enemies enemies! Refraining from using the term "War on Terror," he refers to the current war as the "Overseas Contingency Operation." Instead of displaying strength on behalf of America, he has bowed to foreign kings, honored our rivals, supported our adversaries, and apologized for America to the whole world. Have his methods earned him or America any respect? Just consider the recent State Dinner with Chinese President Hu. The answer? No.

When Reagan encouraged the American people with his riveting speeches, he spoke of the true American dream. That dream was pure freedom - no fluffy additives.
Obama's version of the American dream is a recycled Utopian fantasy - the same fantasy that has led to socialism and communism in other countries.

Reagan revived American pride in the American people. His charisma was certainly a key factor in his instant popularity, but his beliefs are the wheels that keep his legacy turning. Obama may have winning style, but statistics already reveal that his popularity is dropping, and fast. Why? In the words of Ronald Reagan...

"Speech delivery counts for little on the world stage unless you have convictions, and, yes, the vision to see beyond the front row seats."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Distortion of a Metaphor

In a letter written in 1802, founding father and former President Thomas Jefferson generated a phrase that is now extremely controversial. What started out as a literary metaphor is now a misconstrued bamboozlement of the first amendment. Where does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” come from, what was its original meaning, and how has it been warped? The original intent of the First Amendment has been forgotten with more recent rulings, and while the Supreme Court demands their idea of religious liberty, our very own freedoms are being robbed.
In Europe, most national anarchies were intertwined with a state religion; law required that each citizen adhere to that religion or attend the State Church. The consequence of following one’s own conscience was often persecution. Meticulously attempting to avoid that problem in the United States, the founding fathers fabricated the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This means that America will never establish a State religion or church, never impose one belief upon the people, and that each citizen will be free to exercise their beliefs according to their own conscience. The term “Separation of Church and State” is not to be found in our Constitution.
The expression that is now so familiar to us was first birthed in a letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists Association in 1802. He wrote, "...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." Nowhere in our founding documents or in Jefferson’s writings is there the slightest implication that God should be disregarded by the government.
However, in 1947, Justice Hugo Black changed that idea, spurring a new mindset regarding the First Amendment and Jefferson’s metaphor. In the Everson v. Board of Education ruling, Justice Black wrote, "In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'" It is only in recent times that separation has come under attack by judges in the federal court system who oppose separation of church and state." Determined in his deluded understanding of Jefferson’s words, Justice Black ruled in the 1962 Engel v. Vitale case that authority-led prayer in the public school was unconstitutional and a breach of Jefferson’s wall.
That’s exactly where Justice Black went wrong. Since America was founded by godly men who held Christian principles, it is perfectly appropriate for civil authorities, from the President to the school teacher, to publically acknowledge God. In free exercises, such as praying at the start of a school day, the government is not forcing anyone to believe in Christianity or even participate in the acknowledgment of God. No State Church is established. No one’s rights are infringed. The First Amendment is upheld. The problem occurs when law disallows authorities from publically acknowledging God. At that point, they are “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is then that the First Amendment is violated, and the “wall of separation” is breached.
In recent years, more religious freedoms have been threatened. Besides such Supreme Court rulings as excluding prayer in school and forbidding public displays of the Ten Commandments, the display of Christian symbols such as Nativity scenes and Christmas trees are sometimes banned from public property. Allegedly attempting to avoid offending minority religions, the law is often abusing the right of majority faiths. This leads to favoring one religion or set of religions over another. And instead of guarding against the austere enforcement of one religion upon the people, the courts are encouraging it. Whether they realize it or not, they’re establishing a State religion which they require everyone to adhere to. They are imposing Secular Humanism upon America.
“The Separation of Church and State” has become quite a paradox indeed. While endeavoring to uphold this mere figure of speech, the Supreme Court has violated its true intent. America cannot stand by and accept the loss of religious freedom, accept the contravention of the First Amendment, or accept the misinterpretation of our founding fathers’ words. Something must be done to restore their original meaning, and that begins with recognizing the distortion as it transpires.