Category Archives: Home Stories

How to Save the Planet

Short story: living on the ship has made me more liberal (relative to politics). Also, nationalism nauseates me.
Longer story: Reading the Bible has helped me to see past (umm, ignore) bipartisan lines and make my own decisions about how to live life based on the commands God has given us and the life Jesus has modeled.

Goals for this year:
Be a conscious consumer.
Be an ethical consumer of fashion.
Produce less waste and use less energy.

So how did I get here?
Well, I liken it to this: My boyfriend and I just finished doing a 30 day clean-eating/detox diet. Besides a total 36 pounds lost and generally having more energy, we have also become much more aware of what and how much we are eating. Similarly, I went on an unintentional consumerism detox when I lived in Cameroon. When I returned from my “detox”, I couldn’t pretend that I had not seen what I had seen. I could not simply return home and blindly consume. I want every dollar to count, and I do not want to do harm–either to the “garden” God has entrusted to us or the people within it.

So for the next 7 months, I am going to add one habit per month that will save energy, care for the planet, or care for the people on it. Just to be clear, I know my small efforts won’t “save” the planet. However, that does not affect the conviction in my heart that God has instructed Adam (mankind) to “guard and keep” what He has entrusted to us.*

*”And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and guard and keep it.” Genesis 2:15 AMPC

Apathy prevails no longer.

Join with me as I pursue more responsible stewardship in these areas and freak out the conservative right. Jesus-followers are COUNTER-cultural.

Just like Jesus was. Just check out the Gospels! (Matthew 22 is a prime example. In this example two opposing groups ask Jesus a trick question.) Numerous times, a group would approach him and try to trap him or get him to take sides. Every single time, Jesus’ answer went something like this, “none of the above options are correct.”
Dare to be different, my friends.

June: Use less plastic and disposable paper products.

During the month of June I tried to be very conscious of this. When grocery shopping, I brought reusable bags. When doing other shopping, I’d decline a bag for a single item purchase. Do I really need a bag for that bottle of nail polish? Um, no. In the purse it goes.

Oh, and water bottles. Poland springs does not taste any better than my brita-filtered or cucumber-infused tap water. I use one reusable container throughout the day and refill. There is absolutely no need to waste my money on disposable plastic in this country.

Also, foodware–I could eat those leftovers on a paper plate, or… I could put them on a real plate and throw it in the dishwasher afterwards. Like, for goodness sake!
Paper towels–traded them for real towels. I’m running a load of laundry anyways. Gosh.

So in the month of June, I realized that a few intentional choices can really help make near-effortless changes. It’s not like it consumed more of my time. So what was the big deal?

Paper products I still refuse to give up? Toilet paper.

Sorry trees.


 

Better Together

The Lifeboat Theory integrated into my personal observations and experience:

White.
Female.
Christian.
Introverted.
Conservative.

These words are only a few that one might associate with the person of Kirsten. The world we live in tends toward chaos. In the midst of that chaos I believe we try to compartmentalize and rank people, explain everything and form an opinion as fast as possible. “I don’t know” is an unacceptable answer to life’s questions and problems. Even worse, not choosing a “side.” After all, life is a mere fight for survival, right?

My amateur observations of people groups (and some influential reading material by Ravi Zacharias and Susan Caine) has brought me to this: As a culture we are ok with “light” and, even, “dark” emotions. But we despise uneasiness and confusion. We love loud, assertive leaders REGARDLESS of where they lead. But we almost despise fact checking, measured response and slow reaction.

Sometimes I feel that we’ve decided to treat life like a game of Fantasy Football. Choose your players and then let’s watch and see which of us picked the “right” ones. Oh, and don’t forget that we must argue along the way about how well OUR choices are doing. All in an effort to prove our worth in the “lifeboat.” I’ll explain the lifeboat analogy later.

I am going to say this once.
And then I’m going to say it again and again and again in different ways.

There are not two sides.

As we loudly proclaim our opinions about guns, the womb, finances, health… many of the more reasonable among us will concede mid-argument, “well, I guess that are two sides to every coin.”

Ugh.
Stop it.
It’s a stupid analogy.

And this is why: it perpetuates the idea that for every possible topic, there are only two options. One is heads and one is tails. One is right and one is wrong. One has value and the other does not.

No.
Just…no.

So let’s start again. Those words at the top to describe me? They don’t describe me. You DON’T know me based on the boxes I tick. And you DON’T get to determine my value based on them either. I bet you have some preconceived notions about my political opinions based on the word “conservative.” Ha! You don’t know me. I grew up in a conservative family in a liberal state…who has met conservatives I disagree with and liberals I agree with. And even those words vary in their definition relative to topic, but somehow we have condensed them into two immovable platforms or “sides of the coin.”

Let me challenge you for a second with this quote from another favorite of mine, Donald Miller in Searching For God Knows What:

“I do not believe a person can take two issues from Scripture, those being abortion and gay marriage, and adhere to them as sins, then neglect much of the rest and call himself a fundamentalist or even a conservative. The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, and neglects health care and world trade and the environment and loving his neighbor and feeding the poor is, by definition, a theological liberal, because he takes what he wants from Scripture and ignores the rest.”

I think we should be self-aware of the labels placed on us (by ourselves or others). I also think we should be willing to challenge the things we accept because of them. I’ll use a personal and pretty embarrassing example. I tend to vote Republican. However, I’m not thrilled with our current choice of President. In a dreamy conversation about other people (maybe even a woman!) who might make a good president, my friend Kate mentioned Michelle Obama. And my reaction was, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really trust her.” Like it came out of my mouth so fast. Her response, “why?” Guys, I couldn’t answer. I was appalled at myself. I had just blurted out an unfounded opinion of a person. That is definitely the wrong kind of judgmental. Eventually I remembered that soon after Barrack was elected, my “conservative” acquantainces on Facebook were digging up and slinging as much mud as they could find. I now vaguely remember some opinion piece about Michelle being a Muslim, Black elitist with ulterior motives. Gosh, the conservative base really demonized them. The world was going to end. The Obamas were the anti-christs and our nation was going to enforce Muslim law. Although I remember rolling my eyes at the drama and telling people to calm down, I silently accepted the loud opinions of my “conservative” label. Be willing to challenge your own opinions. Is it YOUR opinion? Or have you only regurgitated someone else’s? I admit, that is the easier route. It is always easier to agree with someone who affirms your value than it is to disagree with them and risk rejection.

Donald Miller poses a question to one of his friends:

“Let’s say I was an alien and I had to go back to my home planet and explain to some head-of-the-aliens guy about what people on this planet were like.” I told Grant I would say to the head alien, “The thing that defines human personalities is that they are constantly comparing themselves to one another.” […] “Humans, as a species, are constantly, and in every way, comparing themselves to one another, which, given the brief nature of their existence, seems an oddity and, for that matter, a waste. Nevertheless, this is the driving influence behind every human’s social development, their emotional health and sense of joy, and, sadly, their greatest tragedies. it is as though something that helped them function and live well has gone missing, and they are pining for that missing thing in all sorts of odd methods, none of which are working. The greater tragedy is that very few people understand they have the disease. This seems strange as well because it is obvious. To be sure, it is killing them, and yet sustaining their social and economic systems. They are an entirely beautiful people with a terrible problem.”

You know what? I agree with the alien. We are a beautiful people with a terrible problem. Comparison and ranking. Always striving to attain more worth for ourselves.

[…] it caused me to wonder if this thing that makes us compare ourselves is what happened at the Fall. It occurred to me that what the alien was saying made sense because now that God was gone, now that He wasn’t around [like in the Garden] to help us feel that we were loved and important and good, we were looking for it in each other, in a jury of peers.”

For every word describing me, there is an obvious opposite. And the more opposite qualities a person has to you, the more of an opponent or enemy they are…right? Although I think we tend to assume this, admitting and recognizing value in someone different does not somehow diminish our own.

As you can see, I read a fair bit. It is by reading material from across the spectrum and interacting with people across that spectrum that I have come to the conclusion that the “two sides” thing is a misnomer. We’re all complex humans, not coins!

Let me introduce a new idea:
The Lifeboat Theory as told by (you guessed it) Donald Miller

“When I was a kid in elementary school my teacher, Mrs. Wunch, asked our class a question that […] went: “If there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in the lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mom, and a garbageman, and one person had to be thrown overboard to save the others, which person would we choose?” I don’t remember which person we threw out of the boat. […] I do remember, however, that the class did not hesitate in deciding who had value and who didn’t. The idea that all people are equal never came up. As I was saying before, we knew this sort of thing intrinsically. Or at least we thought we did.”

What disturbs me most about this tendency in professed Christ-followers is that we have been specifically warned that it is unwise to compare.  2 Corinthians 10:12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. Despite, God’s acceptance of us and provision for us… we continue to fight to keep our place and our status. Indeed, what status could matter except our title of sons and daughters of God?

[…] “The thing is, if people are in a lifeboat, the reason they feel passionately about being a good person and all is because if they aren’t, they are going to be thrown overboard; they are going to be killed. I realize that sounds grim, but I kept comparing, in my mind, the conversation that might take place in a  lifeboat with the conversations I heard at Palio or at Horse Brass [people talking about their status, who they liked or didn’t like]. Because when you really think about it, these wants we have, like wanting to be right, wanting to be good, wanting to be perceived as humble, wanting to be important to people and wanting to be loved, feel perilous, as though by not getting them something terrible is going to happen. People wouldn’t get upset about being disrespected if there weren’t some kind of penalty in play.”

[…] “That is pretty crazy because somebody cutting in front of you [on the road or in line] is only going to cost you a second, but it feels like something more; it feels like there is a penalty for not being respected by other people, it feels like you are going to die unless you get some kind of respect and appreciation.”

“If Jesus was coming from a place where all emotional needs were met by God, His social economy would be shocking and different as the social economy in the Garden […] His values would be different.

[…] He (Jesus) had hunger and thirst and He slept and rested, but He had no regard for the lifeboat politics you and I live within every day. He believed a great deal of absurd ideas, such as we should turn the other cheek if somebody hits us, we should give somebody our coat even if they just ask for our shirt, we should be willing to give up all our money and follow HIm, we should try our hardest to make peace, we should treat poor people the same as we treat the rich, we should lay down our lives for our friends, and so on and so on. It seemed He believed we should take every opportunity to fail in the lifeboat game, not for the sake of failing, but because there wasn’t anything to win in the first place. It was as if He didn’t believe the economy we live within had validity. No part of Him was deceived by its power.”

The two main points you need to understand from the above mishmash of quotes is:
Our fallen system is bent on defining our worth in the Lifeboat from a jury of our peers, but the Lifeboat doesn’t exist! God has parted the sea (despite our sin) and provided us safe passage on dry ground. Truly, God is the only one who gets to tell us who we are and how valued we are. Spoiler alert: what God loves he values. “For God so loved the world…” John 3:16

How dare we diminish the value of another (even unconsciously) when God himself has already defined it by His sacrificial love.

*This is probably the logical end of this blog, but I didn’t want to end on an accusing note. If this topic is intriguing you, please take a moment to consider your labels and the people in your life who are different than you. Then feel free to keep reading as I flesh out why we are “better together.”*




Better Together:

Gosh, if traveling the world has taught me ANYTHING, it’s this:

  1. I love my opposites. And I need them too.
  2. I identify more with the edge of a coin that the side of one
    (if we must keep the coin analogy, might as well change it)

In this next section I am going to talk about myself and my opposites. While this is by no means exhaustive, I hope it lends a glimpse into our need for less division and more unity. This world would be drab and dimensionless if it was made up of only people like me.


So I’m white. In my case, I’m also from a “cold climate” culture where efficiency is king, time is money and achievement is the point. My enemy is NOT the dark-skinned “warm climate” culture where relationship is king, there is always time and family is the point. I need them in this world to remind me that the kingdom of God is eternal and parts of my culture will only achieve for me worthless riches. They need me to remind them that we work for God and not for man, so we should be excellent in all we do.

So I’m a woman. That puts me at a disadvantage, but of course my whiteness partly makes up for that in this world. Statistically, 1 out of 4 of my sisters will be sexually assaulted. The majority of politicians and CEO’s in America are male. My enemy is not men. I need them to see the inherent, not intrinsic value of a woman and keep those around them accountable to that. I need them to lift up and draw upon the wisdom of the women around them. They need me to see the world through different eyes. They need me to remind them of their role “to guard and to keep.” They need me to present solutions that have never crossed their minds. They need me to speak. I need them to sit in the front row and nod their encouragement.

So I’m a Christian. The church around the world is suffering bodily harm (still) for their faith at the hands of those in other religions. The church in the U.S. is frequently attacked for not condoning homosexuality. My enemy is not Muslim. My enemy is not gay. Their existence does not offend me. Instead, it inspires my compassion as I draw closer to Jesus. He denied his deity and became human. He sacrificed his dignity and his life for the CHANCE, that any who look to Him would be able to be a part of something more transcendent than themselves. And he did it all knowing that some would look…and not follow. That reminds me that I must love regardless of response.

“I began to wonder if what we were doing it evangelical circles had more to do with redeeming ourselves to culture than it did with showing Jesus to a hurting world, a world literally filled with outcasts.” Donald Miller, Searching For God Knows What

So I’m introverted. I can spend an entire day alone and not mind. I study without music. Small talk runs me down faster than an intense workout. After I spend time with people, I crave time alone to recharge. I feel like I often express myself better in writing than in anything else. I think long and hard before I make decisions. I collect data. I examine the pros and cons. Multi-tasking is overstimulating for me. However, my enemy is not extroverts. They, also, make up the majority of CEO’s. They take up the most air-time in conversations, are charismatic, full of energy and make quick decisions. Although we perceive these types to be better leaders, it is often only because of our image infatuated culture and the “extrovert ideal”. Making a quick, clear decision is favored over making a better, slow decision. (See how it all comes full-circle? Our “extrovert ideal” practically explains why we chronically jump to snap decisions and solutions. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking about it. Just make an assertive left turn and own it.”)

So I’m ________ political party affiliated. I take personal responsibility for my life and actions. I manage my finances well. So, I basically think that others (and the government) should do the same. I think government is necessary, but that they pretty much stink at running things effectively (haha I wrote this before the government shut down in January). I think the private sector should be in charge of lots of things because business competition leads to innovation and better ways of doing things. Instead, government stagnates. These opinions place me in the conservative category. My grandpas would be proud. However, I also don’t immediately agree with several other stances on the conservative platform. Abortions. I don’t want to ban them. I mean I do for moral reasons, but I think there is a much better conversation to be had about regulating and limiting them to a greater extent. For example, I want the government to stop funding an organization that is wrought with unethical practices (I’m not even speaking in terms of morality). I think if abortions are going to happen, they should be in the light. In regular hospitals. Not clinics in the hood. I also think that organizations such as CareNet should be promoted and more highly utilized. Because crisis pregnancy counseling is a humane act that gives dignity to both mother and child, and organizations like this do an excellent job of actually showing a mother what her REAL options are. Another topic: welfare. Generally conservatives hate it and think it should basically not exist anymore. I agree and disagree. I think welfare is a crutch and that it is 100% the government’s fault for not having a plan to phase out or scale back after The  Great Depression resolved. Now that we are in this predicament, I think there should be finance counseling for those in government housing and assistance in transitioning people into better situations that are not dependent on the government (and my tax dollars). I know people who have been put in a financially difficult situation because they started to earn more money….just enough that their government housing became more expensive without warning. So much for saving up and moving out! Guns. I think they are a necessary part of our culture, but I am repulsed at the apathy that nothing is to be done about the numbers of recent violations and abuses of the right to bear arms. I think something must be done, but that it will take an open-minded person/s to find what that thing is.

In many ways, I and basically any other human are conditioned to believe that we should fit neatly into descriptive boxes and “forsake all others.” Let’s just suppose that there is an evil in the world that seeks to overtake good. Sounds like he/it has a pretty well-implemented “divide and conquer” strategy already in play. Are we going to let that type of division rule our assumptions and interactions with others?

I am a woman who needs men, a Christian who needs the unchurched and an introvert who needs extroverts. I believe the inverse is true as well in almost every category by which we define ourselves.


I suppose much of this is simply opinion, so I’d like to share a couple more things that influenced my mind to believe that my life is better when it is lived in harmony with others and not enmity to my opposites.

The first is the story of two well-known individuals. Their differences worked symbiotically to make history!

“Montgomery, Alabama. December 1, 1955. Early evening. A public bus pulls to a stop and a sensibly dressed woman in her forties gets on. She carries herself erectly, despite having spent the day bent over an ironing board in a dingy basement tailor shop at the Montgomery Fair department store. Her feet are swollen, her shoulders ache. She sits in the first row of the Colored section and watches quietly as the bus fills with riders. Until the driver orders her to give her seat to a white passenger.

The woman utters a single word that ignites one of the of the most important civil rights protests of the twentieth century, one word that helps America find its better self.

The word is “No.”
The driver threatens to have her arrested.
“You may do that,” says Rosa Parks.
A police officer arrives. He asks Parks why she won’t move.
“Why do you all push us around?” she answers simply.
“I don’t know,” he says. “But the law is the law, and you’re under arrest.”

On the afternoon of her trial and conviction for disorderly conduct, the Montgomery Improvement Association holds a rally for Parks at the Holt Street Baptist Church, in the poorest section of town. Five thousand gather to support Parks’s lonely act of courage. They squeeze inside the church until its pews can hold no more. The rest wait patiently outside, listening through loudspeakers. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd. “There comes a time that people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression,” he tells them. “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amidst the piercing chill of an Alpine November.”

He praises Parks’s bravery and hugs her. She stands silently, her mere presence enough to galvanize the crowd. The association launches a citywide bus boycott that lasts  381 days. The people trudge miles to work. They carpool with strangers. They change the course of American history.
[…]
As with other complimentary pairings–masculinity and femininity, East and West, liberal and conservative–humanity would be unrecognizable, and vastly diminished, without both personality types [introvert and extrovert].

Take the partnership of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.: a formidable orator refusing to give up his seat on a segregated bus wouldn’t have had the same effect as a modest woman who’d clearly prefer to keep silent but for the exigencies of the situation. And Parks didn’t have the stuff to thrill a crowd if she’d tried to stand up and announce that she had a dream. But with King’s help, she didn’t have to.”


The second is a speech that inspired me. I’ve heard some people pick apart the words like they’re grading a paper, but I sure would not like that done to me. So, for my sake, take a listen. And note the acknowledgement that unity is what it takes to create change in this world.

Speech Speech Speech!

We are better together.

So let’s stop obsessing about being redeemed by a jury of our peers. We are all equally loved and valued by God. And nobody needs to be voted out of the lifeboat. We are on dry ground.

Speaking of boats, here are some photos of my ship Home!

May Love Make You Whole

Greetings from Cameroon!

It’s been a few years since I last wrote the family Christmas letter, and today I feel inspired to write one for myself. I am not really sure why. With the advent of social media, everyone gets to brag about their kids (and themselves) all the time. If you follow me at all, you’ve seen my “Transformation Tuesday” posts and my blogs about patients in Madagascar, Benin and Cameroon. Writing this will likely reach the exact same audience. So I suppose, I’m simply writing for myself.

Two years ago, I embarked on my first overseas flight with a racing heart. I was stepping into the future I had planned for so long, but I was so nervous. I knew it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing, but I felt so unprepared. As I got my first glimpses of financial poverty through experience with Mercy Ships, I also found richness of relationships. I was heartbroken by stories of hardship and tragedy, but also caught off-guard by beauty. Over the last two years I have seen miracles, incredible faith and courage, countercultural commitment, and a wealth that I envy. I have witnessed love make people whole again.

Let me put it in these terms. Your financial situation is not what makes you whole. Your health situation is not what makes you whole. Love is what makes you whole.

I attended a dress ceremony a bit ago here on the ship. This is when the women with longstanding obstetric fistulas (google VVF) and crew gather and celebrate their healing. The women are prepared for the celebration with a beautiful new dress and all the accessories. After they dance their way into the room of awaiting attendees, they each get the opportunity to share their testimony/give thanks. Most of them are similar. I suffered for X amount of years. I found out about Mercy Ships. Thank you to the doctors, nurses and God for my healing. AND I’ve never experienced love like this before. One woman testified, “When I came onto this ark, I met angels. Angels that took care of me and loved me day and night. I feel like falling sick again so I can come back.” Effective surgery healed these women’s bodies, but love—love made them whole again.

Do not pity the people of Africa. I pity us. We are people driven by lust (of everything) and exhausted by pursuit. We are relationally malnourished. There is no special plant or NGO to combat this famine. The sickness is in our hearts and minds. In a culture—like Africa—  that acknowledges the very real presence of a spirit world, I see the supernatural take place. However, in a nation that avoids the mystical, I see more subversive tactics of the enemy. He whispers into our minds and plants seeds of deception that we nourish. It is no mystery to me why we struggle more with mental illness than most “poor” Africans I have met. We fail to admit that our enemy is real and unrelenting in his mission to destroy. And even worse, we fail to admit our need for an even stronger Messiah.

Very soon we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, but did you know that December 25th is not actually the day of His birth? It is the day that the Three Kings/Wise Men discovered him. Consider this. Our Savior is alive. Has been! But that is not quite enough. We need to find him for ourselves. This Christmas as you give gifts to others just as the wise men gave gifts to Jesus, remember that believing a Savior is at the other end of a bright star in the sky isn’t the point. Don’t just believe. Go find Him this Christmas; and give him the gifts of your heart, soul, mind and strength. He is the only thing that can save us from ourselves.

24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’ Numbers 6

And may LOVE make you whole as you seek Him above ALL else.

I wish you a very merry Christmas,

Kirsten Murphy

Hospital chaplain Clementine Tengue dressing one of the OBF patient for the ceremony
Hospital chaplain Clementine Tengue dressing one of the OBF patient for the ceremony
Hospital chaplain Clementine Tengue dressing one of the OBF patient for the ceremony
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward
Dress ceremony in E ward

P.s. Just in case you actually wanted a summary of my year:

Did my first solo travel exploring Belgium and acquiring a taste for quality beer and waffles. Experienced Christmas culture shock when I came home from Benin. Went on a few dates. Put so much effort into connecting with a community. (It’s so much easier on the ship.) Got more involved at church painting, coffeeing, small-group leading, decorating, greeting, singing, praying etc. Spent a lot of time re-developing relationships with my sisters. Snow skied a LOT. Starting dating someone 🙂 Discovered that I really love a good telling of a true story. Attended my first music festival. Got really attached to a neighbor’s cat, Lionel. Wholly enjoyed small home improvement projects. Explored Acadia for the first time with my family. Came back  to Mercy Ships and jumped into all the things that go on here in the hospital and in the community. I LOVE serving. Currently really missing peanut butter (it’s coming soon), fresh milk, hard cheese and…snow. It has been a great year!

Fake news and Truth-tellers

Advisory: deep thoughts ahead.


It’s one of the first basic principles we teach our children: “Tell me the truth…who really broke the vase.” You would think by adulthood we would all have this down. Telling the truth: good. Lying: bad. Right? Apparently not.

Instead, we become more conniving and refined in the art of deception.

  • We lie about ourselves:

When we walk out into the world every morning, we are putting a certian “foot” forward…maybe our “best” foot, maybe just a slightly enhanced version!
My point is that we control what parts of us the world gets to see from the outside. We dress, talk, and behave in whatever way we need to–to create the person most people see. I’m not proposing that we walk around dressed like a bum or stop using filters on Instagram. I just want us to acknowledge that we probably don’t show our true self to everyone all the time.

In reality, that is wise. Being deeply vulnerable with everyone we meet is neither smart nor productive. However, we DO need to be cognizant that in our small-talk moments, we can put forward a completely uncharacteristic costume to please the crowd–and then never take it off long enough for people to ever REALLY know us. Sometimes we look in the mirror, see our real self, and then immediately forget who we are when we step outside.

Living so long in a costume that insulates from our real self is harmful on a couple levels: We don’t give people a chance to love us. We don’t bless others with the gift of who God created us to be.

Maybe some of you don’t struggle with being vulnerable, but I definitely do. [In fact, this blog post has been only a draft since February. 9 months. It’s as if I had to give birth to it.]
However, the reward of vulnerability is hard to refute. I have been encouraged and corrected in the most loving ways when I choose to come to people with my heart and just start talking, BEFORE I have sorted myself out and tied up my flaws and concerns in a neat little bow.

  • We lie to ourselves:

Our communications director shared several weeks ago a message about growth in community. She used two visuals to help us take hold of it. 1) Flowers grow through dirt. Growing together is messy. 2) Our heart is like a house. We must invite God into each and every one of its rooms. Sometimes we need people to help us “clean house.”

I tell myself far too often that “I’m fine.” Sometimes when I say it aloud to others, it rolls off the tongue so easily because I’ve repeated it often enough to myself. That’s a generic example of course. Realtalk? I let my walls down for the first time in a long time last weekend. And you know what lie came rolling off my tongue? “Invisible,” I said without flinching.
A piece of my identity that I had let take root in my heart almost a decade ago.
As they continued to listen, “unwanted,” I whispered.
I had succeeded (or so I thought) in guarding my heart from the bad boys, but I had let a devastating false truth take root and spread until it occupied almost every room of my heart-house.

Now that those lies have been dug up, the work begins of replacing them with truth. I wonder if there’s more to it than simply repeating positive affirmations. In fact, I know there’s more.

James 1:22-25
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Also, this:
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.” Hebrews 10:25
I cannot express to you how important it has been for me to be in community with people. With people who have boldly gotten to know me. People who have included me. People who have straightened me right out and reminded me who I am in Christ.

  • We lie about the world:

Considering the lengths we go to to hide our true selves from the world, considering the ease with which we lie to ourselves…. is it any wonder that some have taken this to a whole other level with “fake news”? Its no longer enough to manipulate the world’s view of us. Now we have to manipulate the world’s view of others? Sound like middle-school drama to me.

Just as I am thankful for the people in my life who have been truth tellers to me, I pray that courageous truth-tellers will rise up in media.

The truth-tellers in my life don’t go along with a narrative. They challenge my way of thinking about myself and the world. They don’t say what they think I agree with or what they know will please my ears.

These people care more about me than a flattering friend ever could.

A witness saves lives when he tells the truth; when he tells lies, he betrays people. Proverbs 14:25


In ancient times, soldiers wore certain pieces of armor for protection, and some say that the the belt was the most important piece because it held the rest in place. With that knowledge, it’s interesting how the apostle Paul used armor as an analogy of essential qualities a Christ-follower should acquire or possess.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.” Ephesians 6:13-14

As you go into the world today, prepare yourself with the word of God. Don’t merely identify and listen to the truth. Act as if you already wholeheartedly believe it to be true.

Kirsten out.

Look Before You Leap

Thursday, September 7th, 2017


Jumping to conclusions–it is quite a natural thing. All throughout the day, our brain is collecting information and constructing facts. From these “facts” we make thousands of decisions. In a high-paced, information-saturated, over-loaded culture, like the one I grew up in, we construct these facts and make these decisions probably faster than we ought. And there is hardly any margin in our lives to question these things.

I am really struggling to write this piece, because as I write I am questioning my ability to adequately portray something that has become an important topic of internal conversation to me. We have a saying on the ship. “It’s not wrong, just different.” It is a saying partly about life and nursing on the ship, but even more so about living in and embracing another culture. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I don’t know if I could ever snap enough photos or write enough words to describe a culture. Honestly, I know my knowledge of West African culture is minimal at best. Culture is multifaceted, and I only have two eyes.

If you look in one direction only, your neck will become stiff.
-Cameroonian proverb

What I cannot help seeing, however, are the differences.

My plea to anyone new to a different culture is this: don’t jump.
We are bound to identify different aspects of a culture, yes. However, we do not have to put those things into the “wrong” category. Is it unusual to our culture to use an unplugged electrical extension cord as a rope or clothesline–yup. Is it wrong–well, no. In fact, it works just fine. Don’t jump to conclusions.

Is it unusual to our culture to weave through traffic with total disregard for lanes and no use of turn-signals–yup. Is it unusual to stop in the middle of the street to buy new windshield wipers and get them installed while a line of cars build up behind you–yup. Is it unusual to our culture to see a woman pull her (entire) boob out in public to feed or pacify her crying baby–yup. Is it unusual to our culture to carry trays of delicious beignets on our heads–yup. Is it unusual to our culture for a neighbor to accompany a child to the hospital because no family are alive/available to do so–yup.

Although each of these things are different, not a single on is actually wrong. Some may even be better. If we are willing to enter a culture to learn and not to fix, we are much more likely to actually serve it well. We at Mercy Ships are here to serve the world’s poor, not to command it. Many, many things are different. However, we should ask to gain a heart of understanding.

Pride in our own ways will bring about more than just our own destruction, but those of others as well.

Seeking to hear and understand another person BEFORE we aim to teach them anything will make them more receptive as well. Re-evaluate your presuppositions of right and wrong–then walk and serve humbly.


Thus far, I have not truly written to my “home audience.” Many of my readers are from my home country and culture. So, how is any of the above applicable to you? This is the question I have been pondering:

Have I been too quick to assign right/wrong to the culture of those in our American “hoods”? I’m not saying that crime, unemployment, fatherlessness, and drugs are acceptable and good. These are the “bad” things we immediately associate with a “bad neighborhood.” [Although they, of course, are present to an extent in any/every neighborhood.] Regardless of the original intent of “project” neighborhoods, families are not using them primarily as temporary housing before saving up enough to “get on their feet.” People have become stuck here. Now, people willingly choose to stay. The life within the hood, has become a way of life to many–not a stepping stone TO a “better” life. As a result, these communities now have a culture all their own.

A mocker seeks wisdom and never finds it, but knowledge comes easily to those with understanding. Proverbs 14:6

Although there are fairly obvious “wrong” things we often see in these communities, there must also be some things that are simply different and NOT wrong. If we (Christians) are supposed to go into all the world and make disciples, how do we do it…THERE. These are the places right under our noses. We happily send missionaries to Africa, but where are the missionaries to the American ghettos? Hopefully they’re already there. Hopefully the work has already begun and is slowly starting to take root. Hopefully they are only behind-the-scenes because there aren’t any charity commercials talking about the needs in our own country (unless of course it’s about a scared, hungry dog–don’t even get me started).

As I seek to understand and serve with humility the needs in front of me here, I pray that those “in the field” back home would do the same. Wherever your own two feet are planted today, there is your mission field. I pray that, in faith, your feet would walk into unfamiliar places in your own backyard. I pray for hearts that seek to understand before mouths open to speak. I pray for receptive hearts that will answer your inquisitive questions. I pray for partners who are “locals” from the people group God has led you to serve. I could not do my job in the hospital (very well) without my amazing translators and local chaplains who understand the culture.

Programs and charities already exist that give money, computers, mentorship and other pleasant little gifts to “the inner-city,” but I have an inkling that what they need is something money cannot buy.

I don’t know exactly how this would look at home.
[Bringing hope and healing isn’t so easy, even with a fairly well-known surgical ship. Months and months of negotiations and preparation occurs before our floating hospital can sail into port.]
I have some crazy ideas that may be just that (crazy), but so was quitting my job and flying halfway across the world.

So…the sky’s the limit! Or is it?


I hope this post left you pondering and challenged as I am. Funny enough, I wrote this post yesterday afternoon before a meeting that provided the crew with a medical overview of the needs in this particular country and how we have actually asked the Cameroonians how we can best help them. Pretty cool. Steve Shwind onboard has done a great job of orienting us all to the culture at each Thursday meeting. To bring you a little chuckle, let me share this video with you that was shown at the start of our meeting. Years ago a band released a single to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia: A well-intentioned, but pretty ignorant song about Africa. In response, a band from South Africa released a parody video with changed lyrics that is both ridiculous and hilarious. It really shows you what it might be like to jump to conclusions and give “help” based on your own personal idea of someone else’s need. Check it out: Africa for Norway


Also, if you have heard of any events, churches or charities that are making a real difference in your local projects/inner-city communities, please comment about them below so that I or anyone reading this post can get educated and involved. Thank you so much!

How You Eat Chocolate Reveals THIS About Your Personality

I’ve spent a lot of time learning to understand and express myself as an introvert. Over time, I have let go of unhealthy expectations I set for myself. However, instead of resigning that I will “never be ________”, I have learned to humbly ask God to fill in where I am weak and to help me grow in those areas–even if my personality would be perfectly comfortable to just leave it alone.

I’m being vague.
Let me be more direct: Introvertedness is not some magical criteria that excuses me from bringing the gospel to the hopeless. It does not excuse me from a single one of God’s “people-related” commands. Real talk? It doesn’t excuse me from introducing myself to someone new. It doesn’t excuse me from starting or participating in a small group. It doesn’t excuse me from following the Spirit’s leading into a conversation with a complete stranger, or a patient for that matter.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12 (NIV)
I say all this from a place of weakness. I have struggled and failed in each of this things, but through the “another chance” given to me by God I have also tried and succeeded.

I guess the reason I feel the need to express this has to do with the comfortable mentality “well, I don’t do _______” or “I’ve never been good at ________”. While, I don’t believe we are to ignore our personalities and giftings, I adamantly believe that if we raise up our internal preferences above the commands of God and the example of Christ, we are in bondage. Bondage to self. Bondage, in my case, to introvertness. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like freedom to me.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.” Galatians 5:13, 16-17 (NIV)

I don’t always like the Message paraphrase, but this one is pretty good:
“13 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.
16My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit,” Galatians 5: 13,16-17 (The Message)

“Serve one another in love”
I would like to think that serving is something that comes pretty naturally to me. The part I am questioning right now in my life is the “in love” part. I have been told that I love fiercely, and I do see that in myself. For example, I can be pretty intense in my loving defense of people. I do it in every arena. Open your mouth to say anything negative about someone I love or respect…and be prepared to meet the 5’2” version of the she-hulk. So I am capable of love. Promise.

Here’s the real question though, and maybe you all can help me with this.
Do I have to act above my “normal” and love dramatically?
I’m not the girl who gushes over her friends’ instagram photos.
I don’t like to say “I miss you” unless I actually did think of and miss that person.
I’m rarely the first one to say “I love you” in a new friendship.

All that left me wondering, “does that make me a bad friend? Does that make me less of a lover?” [In my head at least, the extrovert world thinks so.]

I was thinking about this a lot on my commute one day, and suddenly this thought came to me. It hasn’t given me solid answers, but I saw just a sliver of God’s grace through it. Here it goes:
I LOVE chocolate. This Christmas I got a container of dark chocolate, salted caramel squares. I had one a day like a it was a multivitamin or something. I would nibble off a corner and close my eyes as I savored the mix of flavours melting in my mouth. Then I’d nibble away, bit by bit, enjoying every millimeter. One day I was compelled to share a piece of this chocolate I loved so much with a friend. I was immediately horrified when they bit a chunk that had to be half of the entire chocolate! And before I could protest, the other half was also gone.

“Don’t Just Hork it Down!”

I am not sure that this is a flawless metaphor or anything, but I do wonder if we each have varying, and perfectly acceptable, strategies for how to share our love or emotion. Apparently, I am one to let an emotion sit on my heart. I prefer to savor the sensation and feeling than to express it quickly and passionately.

Is this another form of bondage? Should I just be more “free” with my thoughts and feelings? I don’t have a perfect answer for that, but because of my firm standing in Christ, I resolve to follow the Spirit’s leading–wherever that may take me.

P.s. Forgive me, but I wanted to see if that baited title would really work haha.  I guess I’ll find out when I post it!

Lean In to Love

A couple weeks ago at Thrive Church, Judah shared a timely message the day before MLK day and five days before the inauguration of, let’s all admit it, a controversial U.S. president.

It was a great message. I was silently beaming with pride that the leader of my church dared to approach such a difficult topic. I’m not bragging, honestly. It was just such a breath of fresh air to have a local church break the silence in a culture grasping for truth.

If you’d like to take a peek, click here:
Focus: Differences (40 mins)
The Cliffnotes (If you don’t have time to watch the message, skim through these before reading on)


The next day, I went to work and took care of my patients as I always [try] to–with excellence and patience.

Trust me, I’m not a perfect nurse, there are some personalities that suck the life out of me and those who just outright piss me off. “No sir, using your incentive spirometer (taking deep breaths) is not severely exerting, and it sure as heck doesn’t substitute for getting your a** out of bed and WALKING.” All thoughts inside my head of course.  First world nursing is…frustrating sometimes. There have been several moments I’ve repeated over and over to myself, “I can’t. I just can’t right now. I can’t deal. I can’t do this.” And then when I truly feel like I’m at the end of myself, “Jesus help me.”

If I’ve learned anything in this last year, it’s that I need to lay down my pride and acknowledge a LOT sooner that I’m out of my depth, out of control, and “at my extremity” as Rees Howells would say. Check out the story of his spirit led life here:
The Man, The Legend
The Book

All that to say, I’m far from perfect and still learning! But I know God created a masterpiece in me. He’s just not done yet.


I would never want you to think my life is success upon success and that every patient adores me, because it’s simply not true. I rub some people the wrong way. I wish I didn’t, but it happens. So now that I’ve laid the foundation and given my personal disclaimer of imperfection, I want to share a particular victory in hopes that it will encourage you.

Monday morning after learning several key points from Judah’s message, I walked into work. One of my patients (I’ll have to limit details for privacy’s sake) was Muslim. It’s not like this was a first for me, but on this day it gave me pause as I sought to apply what I had just heard–had I actually learned anything?

The rooms on my floor are all private, with a wide, cushioned bench by the window for a family member to sleep overnight if they choose to. When I walked in to introduce myself to my patient, his previously sleeping wife sat up from the bench and I saw her beautiful hijab. I have nothing against head coverings. In fact, I think they are often lovely and elegant, even regal. One of my friends, who I met on the Africa Mercy, wraps her hair several times a week and I just love it. But for some reason, on this occasion, my uniform of scrubs with a long-sleeve shirt underneath suddenly felt revealing and immodest. “Is she judging me? Is she watching to make sure this promiscuous nurse doesn’t try anything on her husband?” Again, all thoughts inside my head. Illogical? Definitely. But I think there is something in the human makeup that drives us, rashly, to the conclusion that someone else’s different choices or beliefs is an assault on our own. As if her choice to cover her hair was a declaration that my choice to NOT cover is wrong–because it is different.  How could we both be right? “She must be looking down on me”, I thought. “And her husband too. Why would he respect the instruction of a nurse who is obviously in the wrong?”

Maybe it was my lack of caffeine at that hour, but I assure you those thoughts really did fly through my head in short order. I’d like to say that I stopped myself and thought, “Refuse to stereotype people, Kirsten.” I didn’t. At least not right away. The cool thing about professionalism and nursing is that regardless of the appearance, beliefs, or personality of our patients, our charge to give them the best possible care is the same. So really, I can’t walk away from differences–even if I wanted to. I determined to give them such great care that they’d never guess the stream-of-consciousness thoughts I’d just had.

Throughout the day, I did my level best to be a helpful, encouraging, and caring nurse. I gave them both broad, genuine smiles whenever I walked into the room. I took the time to listen and to explain. When the doctors decided to discharge the patient, I got the paperwork together as soon as I could on that busy day and again, took my time to teach until I was sure they understood all the discharge instructions. I wish I had more time to ask about their lives or their family, but I only got as far as asking his occupation.

When they were all packed up and ready to go, I was with another patient and they called me to their room. And of course I answered cheerfully–not. “What do they want now?” I thought. “What did I forget? I thought I remembered everything!” When I finally got out of the other patient’s room and walked into theirs–hoping desperately there wasn’t an issue with their discharge–they greeted me with the same broad smiles we’d exchanged throughout the day and said, “We just want to thank you so much for taking such good care. You were very good. Many blessings of God on you.” They even offered me a gift as they  wheeled out of there. Like, what?! I had tears in my eyes as I shook their hands and blessed them back. There was such warmth and love in that room. “I can’t. I can’t even. I can’t do this.” You know what I “can’t”? I can’t express to you how amazing that moment was.

Walk toward people who are different.
Don’t stereotype.
Don’t assume what they’re thinking.
Be curious.
Seek to understand.

…because God cares about how much we love those who are different from us.


Leave behind the oppression, fear, or stereotypes of the past. Even if that “past” was only minutes before. Press forward. Lean in to love.

Philippians 3:12-16
13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…

 

Pursuing Higher Things: The Reward

Part Four


In my previous blog post I talked about the different types of “work” God has assigned to those in his family. Here I’d like to list some of the rewards God spells out in scripture. In the category of marriage, many of us have heard that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.” Although I agree, I believe the entire body of scripture directs us to many other blessings to pursue instead of placing all our effort and hope into preparing for and waiting for a significant person to make a lifelong commitment to us.

James 1:12
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

2 Timothy 4:8
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

1 Peter 5: 2-4
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
not lording it overthose entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1 Corinthians 9: 22-25
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

I feel the need to state that this list is not exhaustive. And although these scriptures broaden our Christian sense of purpose from the tunnel-vision of marriage, it is still only four passages out of the 66 books that make up the Bible.

Using just this selection of scriptures, I hold resolutely to my previous conclusion. Aside from the question of relationship status, there are so many other ways to relate to and converse with single Christians. I personally resolve to speak about and encourage others in these things instead.

Finally, I’d like to quote a piece of Jesus’ well known “Sermon on the Mount.” In these verses, the word “blessed” means victorious. Essentially, Jesus helps us to see value in status’s or emotions that we sometimes tend to perceive as “less than” or undesirable.
Take a read with that in mind:

Matthew 5
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s stop making singleness such a thing to be endured. Instead, let’s exhort eachother to run headlong toward the work God has for us NOW that will reward us in ETERNITY. If becoming married happens along the way, great! However, like everything else on earth, it will also end. Let us not be short-sighted in the way we live.

Please remember this:  God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind. Romans 2:11 (MSG)

I think its about time that we choose to live for His approval–and no one else’s.


This is my fourth and final blogpost in my series on singleness as a Christian. Please feel free to comment or message me privately with questions or remarks. I’d love to talk with you.

Next up…
Transitioning back into life on board the Africa Mercy in West Africa!

Pursing Higher Things: The Work

Part Three


“Ok, Kirsten. So there is purpose in my singleness and there is work to be done. What work?”

Roll up your sleeves, beloved. It’s about to get real.

I could basically break this down into two categories. God wants us to:
-Become like Him
-Help others become like Him

If ya’ll would read your Bibles, this would be the end of my post haha. All jokes aside though, here we go:

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NIV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

The Amplified Bible defines reconciliation in this way in verse 18,

“But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].

So here in one passage we clearly see that there is work to be done. Work that God has specifically assigned to us. Work that is not dependent on marital status or even maturity. The one requirement is to be a person “ingrafted in Christ.” (AMP, vs 17). How well do we ask one another tough questions about the last time we attempted to do this…instead of the last time we went on a date? It’s time for Christians to have a more BIBLICAL world view.


“What does God reward?” This is a far more important question than the subconscious (or conscious) goal we have to please others and meet the expectations of the people around us. So for those of us who are single, our objective must be intentionally different than what is natural to pursue. And for those of us who want to love and encourage the single people around us, we should attempt to reform the precarious expectations our young people are trying to live up to.

I hope that the single culture and the attitude toward singles are different for my younger sisters when they enter this phase of life. I hope that they are internally and externally (in the speech and actions of people around them) catapulted into a life of pursuing the higher things. I hope that marriage is something that purely and simply happens in God’s timing instead of being heavily influenced by those who glorify it.

Please, please for the sake of my sisters, ask them about anything other than “when their turn is”…
Ask them about ministry…
ask them how they are doing in reaching out to their friends…
ask them about their spiritual disciplines…
ask them what God is teaching them…
ask them to lead a bible study…
ask them to accompany you to an outreach event…
ask them for prayer…
ask them how they dream of serving…
ask MORE OF them.
Please.

A commitment to marriage and family is a high calling. However, it the does not need to be pursued at the exclusion of all other God-given callings. Frankly, how else will my sisters learn to pursue something other than matrimony is it is given supreme attention.

Reconciliation of mankind to our Savior is the most important thing we could ever do–with or without a change of “relationship status.” In addition to reconciliation, a huge undertaking in and of itself, there are more specific things to be done. Things that require no waiting or preparation. Only DOING.

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Titus 2:1-7 (NLT)

As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.[a] Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,[b] to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.

 

I will be the first to acknowledge that being a good wife and mother are in the list of things older women should teach younger women. AS IT SHOULD! However, do we take notice of every other thing that makes up a God-honoring life? A truly biblical world view requires us to place self-control, faith, love, patience, and hardwork in the canon if topics that we teach eachother. We cannot remove from scripture that which God has breathed.

Simply put, the Bible tells me that I am designed and created for much more than a ring on the fourth digit of my left hand. My purpose, if given by God, must have eternal impact. So with the greatest of gusto, that is what I will pursue. Eternal impact.

Below is my final verse for the night. In Ecclesiastes, a great teacher examines life and seeks to find meaning in a variety of things: knowledge, wealth, a job well done, marriage(s). And these were his final thoughts.

Ecclesiastes 12:8, 13

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion:
Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.

Everyone’s.
No need to indicate marital status.
So, let’s get to work.

Dear Church People… [Use Whatcha Papa Gave Ya]

Part Two


Before reading this, please read my previous post
“Singleness in the Church (good luck with that)”


Dear Church People,

Encourage our young people to hurry, but not towards marriage like it’s the freakin crown of life. God doesn’t award any crowns in heaven to people who managed to put a ring on it. In fact, marriage no longer exists in heaven. Don’t ask me details about how exactly that works. (I haven’t gotten that stamp in my passport yet.)

Let us not debate what we do not know. Let us not be MORE eagerly supportive of an earthly “reward” when there are clearly stated eternal rewards that really should be more fervently pursued than a mortal earth-partner. (I think that’s the realist description of “spouse” I’ve ever come up with haha.) Let us think and dream bigger. Let us think eternal… for ourselves, our youth and the world.

Loveeee,
Kirsten


Before you continue, just know that I am not ONLY going to list some of God’s purposes for single people or the advantages of singleness (though they are significant of themselves). I’m also just going to talk about his purposes for his children. These things are all inclusive. Neither singleness nor marriage are prerequisites for any of them. We are first and foremost, God’s children. Let us not forget that. God is not the disappointed grandparent at Thanksgiving asking if you’re seeing anyone. You are his child, and he wants you to be WHOLE. Marrying someone has LITERALLY nothing to do with wholeness.

First of all, I’d like to touch on a few things from 1 Corinthians, chapter 7 that I believe are misunderstood or improperly applied.

Verse 9 speaks specifically to unmarried WIDOWS and WIDOWERS. So people whose eyes have been opened to the pleasure that is marital sex. For those, Paul’s advice is to stay single if you can (and he gives his reasons a bit later). However, if such people “cannot control themselves” it is better for them to become married again “than to burn with passion.” So just to state it another way, this provision was not given for lustful teenagers, porn-addicted young adults, or fantasizing youth. Unfortunately, that is how I see that verse being applied—to young people that are not controlling themselves as pre-marrieds and then continue to not control themselves as young-marrieds.

Moving on.

Later in the chapter, Paul specifically speaks to “virgins”—so the never-marrieds. He sums up in verses 25-28 that if you are engaged or not engaged to be married is not important and neither is sinful. In the instance of marriage, however, Paul says “but those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” Wow! What a difference in the dialogue! How often are we warned of the trouble marriage will bring? Pretty much never…until premarital counseling or the “for better or worse” vows.

In verses 29-31 Paul gives several examples of how we should live differently in this world. He essentially says that the only thing that counts is obeying God’s commands (verse 19) and doing the work of reconciling the world to God with URGENCY. He basically says “the time is short”, so forget about pursuing marriage, lengthy mourning, happiness, personal possessions or being engrossed in things of the world (the lingo, the lifestyle, the dress-code, the beauty standard, their acceptance etc). And you know what Paul’s ultimate reason is for that? Verse 31 “For this world in its present form is passing away.” What does that mean? It means none of that other stuff (including marriage) will matter for you, the people you could have been a Godly example to or those you could have reached with the gospel. Let me just put it this way. [Pun warning] Hell ain’t lit. Well, it is…but not like that.

Verses 32-34 starts with “I want you to be free from concern.” To summarize, Paul basically says that married men/women will have their devotions divided between God and their spouse. He ends by stating, “I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” All throughout this chapter, Paul repeating over and over that neither marriage nor singleness is wrong, but singleness definitely appears to have less burden and more eternal impact. He does recognize the purpose and need for marriage, but is basically doing what I’m trying to do right now—make people slow down and use their youth for “the Lord’s affairs.” A single woman’s aim should be “to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.”

Conclusion?

Give God all you’ve got. Don’t you dare sit on your butt and wait for Mr. Prince Charming (or Cinderella). If that’s what you’re going to do, you might as well get married ASAP to the next toad that comes along. I’m not going to be that person that calls singleness a “gift”, but I sure have seen its value. God gave you some assets that can only be cashed in while you’re single. So stop hoarding and/or squandering the gifts and opportunities God has given you NOW.

Now, moving away from the chapter about singleness vs marriage…
Let’s take a look at another scipture that speaks of an eternal mindset.

Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6

Often, this verse works its way into sermons that deal with materialism or generosity. Have we ever considered that we may be treasuring marriage ABOVE the eternal treasures God wants us to “store up”? ABOVE the eternal work he wants us to take part in?

Hmm… food for thought.
When we start to think in terms of eternal or kingdom-minded work and reward, marriage suddenly isn’t such a huge priority.
Stay tuned for part 3.
Yeah I know…ridiculous. I can be concise about some things, but apparently this is not one of them! In my next post I will specifically be drawing out the work that God has called us to be a part of and some of the crowns/rewards that God talks about awarding in heaven [spoiler: Being married doesn’t get you one].