Neoblogs: A New Home

We are currently in the midst of recreating our blogosphere in hopes to bring back the many neobloggers in the fellowship.

  • New additions include now a base site that displays all the most recent posts from current authors.
  • Linked sites for better navigation
  • Updated user functionality for both readers and authors

If you would like to start your own blog or migrate your existing blog back to our new home feel free to contact me at interns@neoxenos.org

Current users may also contact me for support with updating themes and looks for their blog site.

To access you blog site just click you name listed on the site to take you to your blog page, then just click the login link on the side!

UPDATE!!!!

As those of you who have blog sites may have noticed, you should have received an email to set up a new password. This was cause by a transition in our database to make future endeavors much simpler. If you have ANY issues logging in please contact me.

As far as linking social media with your blogs, we will be using Jetpack, you can find this on your dashboard. To do this follow these steps:

1) Log into WordPress and go to your dashboard
2) Towards the top left-hand side click on the “Jetpack” tab
3) It should go to a screen with a giant banner saying to log in with your wordpress.com credentials, along with 6 bubbles of options below it. Click on the giant banner to login and create a new user for yourself (its really easy)
4) After this go back to the previous page and click on the “Sharing” bubble.
5) Once there drag in the social media forms you would like, i.e. twitter or facebook. Make sure you are logged into those accounts. Then simply click the connect button.
6) Before you save at the bottom make sure to change the “Button Style” to “Official Buttons” and then on the “Show Buttons On” section, click the “Posts” tab.
7) Then save and it may take a few minutes to show on your blog, as always if you have any issues, shoot me an email (interns@neoxenos.org)

The Fight to Fill Your Head!

A couple of days ago, I finally decided to pull the plug; I deleted Snap chat and Twitter from my phone. (SHOCKING.) I still have Facebook and Instagram. My goal is, in one year, to have deleted all other apps but Facebook. (It just is so useful to communicate with people.) I still allow myself access to Twitter on my laptop and I’m assuming that alone will cut my usage of it by 75%. Why did I do this? I came to the conclusion a while ago that not only was I spending WAY too much time on my phone, I spend MORE time on it than ever before! (My addiction is growing.)

As the months passed, I continued telling myself my phone usage wasn’t that big of a deal. I mean, it’s MY down time. I think it’s fun, relaxing, and refreshing to spend mindless time on my phone. Why not get some down time for my brain? It went on like this for a while until one day I “woke up” from an HOUR session thinking, “Where did the time go? What did I just look at?” I realized I had opened one app, closed it, opened a different one, gone back to the previous one, opened another different one, etc. That was the reality of that hour: over and over again, checking for anything new, anything stimulating, anything to entertain me. And I wasted a whole hour. What did I do? Nothing. I filled my mind with literally nothing.

That’s sad. I am sad that I wasted time. Time that could have been spent with someone, thinking about someone, listening to a teaching, reading a book, studying the Word, actually hanging out with a person… Any number of more productive options! Instead, that hour was spent on social media/email/Pinterest/games/etc. – being mindlessly entertained.

It’s remarkable to see how far technology has gone to draw us in. I look at younger generations and I tremble: do they even know what they’re up against? Do I even understand the extent of our culture’s ability to suck mind power away from people? I can’t begin to imagine the extent, but when I try, and step back to analyze the situation, I am struck by fear. Not only is it social media, but articles, images, songs, TV shows, video games – there are so many things fighting to fill our heads.

The question is – what will we let win the battleground of the mind?

Whatever we choose to fill our heads will rule our life. Whether that is social media, video games, Netflix, online shopping – where we put our focus becomes the most important thing in our lives. Isn’t that scary? If I fill my head with useless shit I will miss opportunities, I will become numb to certain ways of thinking, my critical thinking skills will dull. I have no responses to certain people/situations, I become lazy, more selfish (than usual), heartless, obsessed with material things, wanting immediate pleasure. I’m speaking from experience, here! That is what happens to me when I don’t take the time to train my mind or when I let it run unleashed.

Take a look at these verses. They illustrate the effect our thinking has on our lives: 

  • Romans 12 – “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
  • Matthew 6 – “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
  • 2 Corinthians 10 – “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Are we going to let these things rule and waste our lives? There’s a wonderful book published in the 70s titled “The Christian Use of Emotional Power” wherein the author describes how our thoughts control our feelings which control our actions. This book convinced me that the infantile motto “I can’t control how I feel” is false. You can. Because you CAN control your thoughts. (**For the most part.) I know, every emotional teen girl would punch me for saying that, but it is possible! This truth set me FREE. Of course, it was a struggle and it continues to be a battle, but controlling your thoughts can change your life (see Romans 12 again.)

To my fellow iGen and Millenials, I hope you can also decide to win the fight that is happening to fill your head. You can take control not only in your emotions, but also in what you DO and what you let your mind SEE – you are the gatekeeper for what enters your head and you can police what is going on in there. It is your greatest weapon. Let us not be sucked away, sucked in, then thrown away by the trash we encounter. Rather, let us fill it with truth, with challenges, with gratitude.

Slowly, but surely, you will experience an enormous weight lifted from your mind, the freshness of clear-thinking, and the ability to become more like Christ.

In my experience, this is what you will encounter:

  1. It’s hard.  It is not easy. Easy is: I want to think/feel/do whatever I want! But is easy what is best for you? Is doing whatever comes naturally the best for you? (No – see Jeremiah 17:9.) But God himself says that change in character takes trials/problems – AKA things that are hard.
  2. It takes self-control.* This is an area I fail at a lot. In my initial campaign to regain the battlefield of my mind, I took some extreme measures – some of which I still use to this day. I took breaks from the internet. Crazy. But necessary to take action like that! Accountability helps. My friends have even changed my social media passwords and held onto them for me for a month at a time so that I physically could not log myself in. Drastic times call for drastic measures. How does any good change of character come? Galatians 5 says, “the fruit of the spirit is LOVE, joy , peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” – Self control? Hmm. Interesting. Doesn’t seem to fit there, yet it’s there. Something to think about… But also involves the next point:
  3. It takes prayer. Why not ask God for help gaining control of our mind? Staying away from the trash we like to fill it with will take breaking our flesh. I believe nothing good happens without God, so to change in this area, we need God’s help!
  4. It takes vulnerability. In order to “set your mind on the things above” instead of what’s on the earth (Colossians 3) means we have to regain control of our minds, and subject ourselves to God’s truth. Wait, who am I to differentiate crazy thoughts from the truth? Sometimes it’s really hard when you’re so close to the situation to tell between strong emotion and truth. That’s where PEOPLE come in! Hey, we have friends for a reason! They are there to sift through your thoughts and emotions WITH YOU. It’s loving for them to do so for you and it’s also loving for you to go to them with your sin. Getting it all out in the open creates an atmosphere of acceptance and vulnerability that is freeing and full of love – what God wants for us in the Body of Christ!
  5. It will transform your life. I wish I could replay some of my crazy teen years for some of my new friends… would they even believe that girl was me? Of course, I am still far from perfect, but when I think about all the amazing things God has done to me I cannot help but shout to him for joy. Thank you, Lord, for setting me free from the slavery of my mind! Thank you for giving me clarity in my thoughts! Thank you for continuing to confront me with this issue that will always be a struggle! Thank you for your truth which is so much greater than anything else I can choose to fill my mind with.

Lastly, the fear I have most for us young, easily distracted, entertainment addicted people is that we’ll have calloused minds unable to be “shrewd as serpents”. With all of the issues piling up around us, on us, and on those we love – we can’t afford to have our minds taken out of the fight…

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

 

*If you find yourself struggling with phone addiction (yes, I said addiction, ugh) check out these tips. I’ve not only deleted some apps, but turned off notifications and set my phone to gray scale. I think these restrictions are useful and would fall under the self-control point of this journey. 

**I acknowledge that there are certain thoughts and feelings we cannot control. These may occur from circumstances outside of us (such as abuse or even spiritual attack.) But for the purpose of this article: I’m talking about selfish things we let our minds think, which many of us think are uncontrolled, but are actually able to be tamed.

*** More food for thought: People are starting to question social mediaYup, this is the worst app for you.

P.s. Thank you Zak, Alex & Megan for editing!

“Old friend(s)”

Sidewalks, beaches, cliffs & more/
Challenging each other to all out war…
Walking to your houses around the block/
Late night hikes, a scare plan to shock…

Growing up and seeing so much change/
In us, in life, in our group – it can be strange…
We’d stay best friends forever, all of us would/
But I think it’s better that we didn’t, even if we could…

I’m so glad you’re still here today,
I can simply reach out with something to say
& you’d be there for me, like you were for years,
Always ready to laugh or with open ears.

Sometimes, I get sad that we’re so close yet
So far. But I get to watch & smile. Cause we met
& my life was saved because of you –
My childhood, teenage, lifelong crew.

And all the breaking, fighting, laughing, changing we’ve been through –
I can’t wait to look back, recount it, to hold, all of you…
In heaven (of course) when we’re done doing what we’re bred for,
When we’ve finished our race & when we’ve won.

2017: Experiencing God

2017 was a whirlwind year full of a lot of change. There were times when I was depressed, joyful, hurting, excited, hopeless, hopeful, etc. However, I don’t want to write about those emotions necessarily. Currently, I am in a discipleship with Greg and he always has this famous question: “Where is the Lord at in this?” It’s a great question that anyone should ask their friends or consider for themselves. So often we go through everything in life and all we can think about is the here and now. Everything is about me. The “big picture” is simply out-of-sight. God is out-of-sight.

For example, perhaps someone is in dire need of a job but cannot seem to lock one down. They might ask, “What’s wrong with me? Should I give up? I’m just a terrible interviewer.” The question should be asked, “Where is God at, in getting this job? What is He trying to show me? Is God trying to work on my character in some way?” Maybe you are having a tough time in a relationship and things just aren’t working. It’s very easy to just think about you and the other person. Nothing else matters. How can we fix this? How can we make things right? The better question would be: How is God working in our relationship? Is he even working in this relationship? What is God teaching me in this relationship?

When Greg asked me the question, it started to make me think more about God and how his hand is active in my life. It helps you understand God’s true character. Sometimes when people say they don’t want to follow the Lord, some will say “it’s just too hard”. Perhaps they feel that God is cruel or doesn’t care. This is a sign that they are unaware, or have forgotten God’s character.

I want to share just a few of the things the Lord has shown me this past year regarding his character. Of course these are things I have to still remind myself of all the time. I’m in no way a master of God’s character now or something. But if you are reading this, I want to encourage you to think about God’s character.

God loves failures.

I hate failing. I’m a control-freak-perfectionist and when I screw-up, I get angry at myself. God has shown me that failure is okay; multiple times this year. God has been working with failures since Adam and Eve. Why am I any different? One of Satan’s biggest lies is that God won’t use failures. Failures are useless. It’s so untrue. Look at pillars of the Bible like Paul and David. We all know both of these dudes were major screw-ups. Yet, the Lord used them in powerful ways!

Psalm 40:2-3 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

That’s what he does. My good bro Adam E commented recently on an Instagram post of mine mentioning “The ministry of brokenness”. That has a far more relatable ring to it than “The ministry of perfection” does it not? The Lord wants us to be okay with failure and come to Him when we fail so that he can show us His power.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Can you look at your failures with a smile and praise God for how he worked through it? Can you be okay with your imperfections so that God’s power can work? Do you look at failure with shame and self-loathing? Where is God at in your failure?

God is the only one worth worshiping.

We as humans put stock in so much on this earth that will, in the end, fail us. Whether it be a career, school, a spouse, a romantic relationship, a friendship, you name it. We all have our idols. For many years I thought that my idols and God could coexist just fine. In my own head, it worked. The Lord made it explicitly clear this past year, that it doesn’t work. It was a very difficult thing to accept at times.  Regardless, we cannot deny the fact that these things we idolize just don’t deserve the same worship God does.

I love Job 38-41 as it has a very long rhetorical interview between God and Job. I encourage you to read it. It’s quite funny actually. In essence, God lays out his resume and Job barely knows what to say. It’s funny when we try to tell God, that he’s wrong or that we know what’s best. We might not say it outright, but when we have an idol, we are essentially saying, “this will fulfill me more than you Lord.”

Have our idols created the heavens and the earth with words? Have our idols resurrected from the dead? Are idols free from imperfections? Can our idols care for nearly 7.5 billion people at the same time? Do idols remain the same overtime? The answer is no.

James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

God is graciously patient.

I get pissed when someone doesn’t move at a green light a few seconds after it has turned green. I give them the good ol’ “bipp”. It’s a beep that’s not quite a beep because beeps are rude in America. Just a friendly “bipp”. Something I’ve seen with God this past year is how freakin’ patient and gracious he is with people regardless of what the situation is.

It’s so easy to put God on the back-burner sometimes. We start dealing with things coming our way, and don’t even give God a thought longer than 30 seconds. If a friend doesn’t talk to you for a while because they are selfish, it hurts. I think to myself, “What happened to our friendship? What’s their problem?!”. When we pull that on God, he says, “It’s cool. I’ll wait for you. I want to give you good things. So whenever you want good things too, just let me know.”

God really showed His patience and grace in my life this past year. He gave me a fresh start in multiple ways. I hurt some people and screwed-up quite frequently. Still do! On the other side of that, I’ve experienced so much forgiveness from people I’ve wronged. I know God’s at work there. I’ve experienced grace to levels I don’t feel like I have before. Raw-undeserved grace. Something I’d like to mention is the home church switch that occurred early last year. Coming into Smash, I was under the impression this would be a temporary move so that I could “get my shit together”. While some of that is true, it is just the start of what was one of the coolest gifts in my life.

About 9 months in, working in Smash has been life-changing. I can clearly see how masterful the Lord is. He put people in my life who are different. He put challenges in my life that I’ve never had to face. He gave me MORE relationships with new people that I love and cherish. He has shown me the power of prayer time and time again. The list goes on. I love Smash and it’s my home church now. If the Lord wills it, I’d love to be in Smash for a long time….until we split again of course!

I know many others who have experienced this type of grace this past year also. It’s just really sweet to see that happening.

2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Anyways, here’s to a fruitful, growth filled, failure filled, and grace filled 2018!!!

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2017 – woah…

What a year. What – a – year! I look back at 2017 in total shock & awe. WHAT just HAPPENED? First of all – it flew by. My 25th year of life made me feel very old, but very young at the same time. And talk about HILLS and VALLEYS! Oh my… There were SO MANY ups & downs. I can’t believe it! I really, really can’t.

Here are a few highlights (& lowlights?):

  • We went to Israel! – Definitely one of my favorite memories. Fun, emotional, educational – this trip really was one unlike any other. To see where Jesus walked was an honor & a privilege. It really solidified the person of Jesus (as Paul Miller would say.) I learned a lot, too. Being a visual person, it’s crazy to see God’s words alive – literally! Even today, seeing the nation of Israel really helped me understand so much of his word. 
  • We bought a house! Yeah, that’s right. And looking for a house in itself had a lot of lows. It revealed my character… It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t looking forward to it. But then, actually moving into a home with my husband to start a life in a neighborhood where we will raise a family that will, god-willing, be grace soldiers is actually very exciting. And our house is awesome & cozy. I love having people over, I love being able to feel at home & I love having a spot to grow with Zak to lay the foundations for what is to come. 
  • I was depressed for 7 months… Oddly enough, I literally can name the day it started & the day it ended. It was like a cloud hovered over my mind, weights were on my arms, & a rope around my throat. That’s how I felt & functioned for 7 months. Every day I was on the verge of tears, I was utterly hopeless. It wasn’t like any other depression I’d been through in the past. It wasn’t self-inflicted… It was pain. And loss. It was an inability to understand certain situations – losses, failures, setbacks – truly painful, hopeless things that happened in ministry & in my personal life. Basically, I got to the point where I was no longer clinging to Christ, I only had one finger tip on him while I was completely turned away. (All the while I was trying desperately to find a reason to turn back.) 
    • But, in July, I was freed from depression! It’s true – one day, it stopped. I’m still unsure of the exact reasons for when/why/how it began/ended/was, but I know this: I wasn’t believing that God was working in my life. One of the things that freed me from my depression was actually living in full trust that He was there & He was all I need. It sounds so utterly simple – that’s because it is/was. I got to a certain point that I had certain expectations of how God should look, what fruit is, & what it is to grow… When those things weren’t happening & when the opposite started to happen, I lost it. “How could God leave me here? I must mean nothing to him. I must be the stupid, useless bitch I & everyone thought I was all along. Why even try. Life is meaningless.” – Thoughts I had every day. (Yeah, still as dramatic as always.) Anyway, the moment the depression was lifted, the moment I had a joy in my heart that has literally not gone away since July. It’s unreal. It’s like nothing in the world could take me out as long as I know God is with me & I am His. Like – WOAH.
      During this time I had the privilege of studying 1 Samuel in IP. I got to teach one of the craziest stories of David’s life – 1 Samuel 27-30. Everything is falling apart for David (once again, but this time, he really did it in for himself.) Then, this happens: (30:6-8) 

David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?” And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”

From these verses, even after everything David did, he finally turned to God for STRENGTH & then for GUIDANCE. So, I started doing that. Everyday, I’d pick up the Word & ask God the same two things: 1. Can you please strengthen me w/ your power today? 2. Can you please give my your guidance? (NOT mine, not what I think or how I think it should be… YOURS.) It’s been wonderful.

  • I celebrated my one year anniversary with the most sacrificial, patient, wonderful man I have ever met – my Zak! He’s truly been the more amazing than I have ever imagined. The daily tiffs & miscommunications are interesting, but we’ve become a team. To be known by someone & still loved is truly awesome. I thank God for Zak & for how much more God loves & knows me.
  • I made it through one year of working for IGL! I love IGL. But it’s been a battle for me to give up certain things in a career shift like this. I complain about it all the time when in reality, I have been blessed to work for an organization that is doing such amazing things AND I get to work with some of my best friends!
  • New people came into my life! The first was through our Discovery Group – it’s a Bible study, but rather than being taught what it says, people who are curious can come to the Bible & find the answers themselves. We did this last year, too, Jeri & I. It failed. By the end, we started with 6 & ended with 2 – the two of us. But this year, God has brought us a bunch of ladies who want to know more about him! It’s been SO CRAZY to see what his word does! Literally. We just show up, open the Bible, & the Spirit freaking moves! A couple girls started a relationship with Christ this year through this little hang out time! Wonderful. Also, my longtime friend accepted Christ! She then proceeded to give up her lifestyle of leisure & partying in Florida to move to Ohio, move into a ministry apartment & join our discovery group! It was an amazing miracle I had no part in but have been able to take great joy in. Lastly, I was invited to join the middle-school ministry. I love them – I love seeing how perceptive they are to real life even though they’re so young. I love seeing God speak to them. Even though it’s just beginning, I can’t wait to see what else God does through these girls.
Here are a few takeaways: 
  • I am powerless.
  • I have peace.
  • God is a great best friend.
So, yeah. It’s been a crazy year!  I hate New Years Resolutions, but I do have some goals I want to be talking with God about:
  1. Think of myself less. Love more.
  2. Become less materialistic.
  3. Read more. (Thinking of instead of doing a poem a month, rather publishing book reports on my blog. This would be very anti-Elli, but would be a good way to visualize goals. Idk.)
  4. Have a more grateful heart.
That’s it! Here is to 2018 – “But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15
Thank you so much, Father!

December

Sadness

It is there.
As I mask it with ribbon & tape,
It lives.
As I use these gifts & song to cope,
It prevails.
As I wish & wonder & hope,
It doesn’t go away.

It’s still there –
The fact that life… sucks.
It hurts. It squashes. It burns.
People pass & they… hurt.

Such a small word for something so…
Mighty. So altering, so meaningful.
Hurt.
Oh, the pain they feel – I feel.
I wish I could take it away!

But it won’t go away.
Maybe it will & then –
It comes back! Something new
To torment them.
And it sucks.

I wish I had the words for them,
For me.
Yet as I see the pain many see,
Sometimes it doesn’t sting.
Sometimes, I can smile.

Sometimes, I can breathe.
I can take in the beauty around me
Without seeing the death.
I can hear the sweet songs
Without the sad notes.
I can be rid of this prevailing reality –

And be consumed in a warm, never-ending embrace –
One shoulder I can cry, whom strokes my head,
As he wipes every tear from my eye,
He says he’ll get me through the pain,
And bring me to the end.
Where joy lives and where he conquers death.

(Those are the words I have… Thankful for the Prince of Peace sent to the world to rid it of all the sadness – someday – and presently, to give us hope & peace while we wait for eternity.)

November

Nothing out there for me

Trying, trying, trying to find

Something, something, to fill my mind.

 

With no answers, there is no end.

With no answers, what can be said?

 

Making up what I can to satisfy

The wants of my open mind.

 

But nothing will fill that gaping hole

That tries and wants and needs full.

 

It’s all just nothing out there,

Where they claim to bear

…nothing.