Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Seth's Journey: Part Three

The man sat on the ground with his back to Seth, speaking with his followers in between bites of his meal. Seth paused on his way up the hill. One of the men around the teacher noticed him and beckoned for him to continue. The rest of the group silenced and turned to look at Seth.

He swallowed and climbed the rest of the hill, avoiding the eyes of the Rabbi and his disciples.

"What is it, son?" the Rabbi asked. His face was weathered, but gentle and kind.

"Um, I wanted to ask you something sir."

"Please sit down."

Seth obeyed.

"Now, what is your question?"

Now that he was here, Seth didn't know how to say it - he wasn't even sure he wanted to any more. "Um, well, this morning..." He glanced at the teacher.

The man didn't speak and neither did his followers. They all watched Seth. So they all saw a quick tear slip down his cheek to the ground.

"This morning my mother died. I heard you speaking in the market the past two days, telling stories. I don't know what to do. She just died. And I wasn't there to say goodbye because I was listening to you."

"What is your question?"

Seth shook his head.

The teacher laid a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry that you lost your mother."

"Couldn't you help him, sir?" one of the men spoke up eagerly. "Isn't there something you could do?"

The Rabbi looked at his disciple. "His mother was already dead. She has only died physically."

Seth brushed another tear away and looked into the man's face. "What does he mean? Could you help me?"

"No, son, you must suffer this."

Seth leapt to his feet. "You're supposed to be a great teacher! Isn't there anything you can say? I came to you for help and you offered me nothing! Only that I must suffer." He swept one last angry glance around the circle of men and stormed back down the hill.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Mirror, Mirror

You're beautiful. (Or handsome - girls aren't the only ones who struggle with their looks) The problem is, it can be hard for you to see that. You know that one friend of yours is prettier and that other one wears nicer clothes. So, if you're not up to that standard yet, how could you even consider yourself beautiful?

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. - Proverbs 31:30

We've all heard the verse. Every time the topic of beauty comes up, someone reminds us that it isn't all there is to this life. Of course we know that. So why are we still so concerned with our looks?

I'm writing this for me as much as anybody else because this is something I've struggled with for a long time. I envy the girl that hasn't. Why shouldn't I do what I can to become prettier? It would make me feel better and I want to look good to the people around me.

Hm. I want to look good to the people around me.

Since when has that been the right reason to do anything? We all know this, too. Don't change yourself for other people. But we still want to.

If we know all these things, why do we still want so badly to be beautiful (or at least reach the point where we consider ourselves beautiful)? We know it's deceitful and vain and we know that we shouldn't be trying to impress other people with our looks. But we still want to.

It all comes down to sin. (Doesn't everything?)

Vanity is not okay. Vanity is nothing more than pride - it's caring about what other people think about our looks. In most cases, vanity is also dissatisfaction with the bodies God's given us. We wish we had bigger eyes, clearer skin, straight hair. Then we would be pretty enough.

I was recently given a prayer journal and told to write in it every day. It's helping me to grow in my prayer life and, I think, my relationship with God. Which means it's made me realize some things about myself that I'm not too happy about. One of those is my vanity. I wrote out a prayer asking God to take it from me. I really wanted it to just disappear. Then about a week later (when my pride hadn't just vanished), I wrote out a different prayer. This was one of confession.

Because vanity is a sin, we can't just act like it's only a problem common to teenage girls and it's not really a big deal or just something we should be pitied for. It is a big deal. We are telling God that we are not satisfied with the bodies he lovingly crafted for us; that we would rather humans think us beautiful than our Maker. And that's wrong.

At the same time though, vanity doesn't just disappear into thin air, never to be seen again. We can want it to, but it's a process. We don't grow all at once.

So while we're all growing together, let's all remember together that we are beautiful in God's eyes. Cheesy? Maybe. But you know it's true. And you know that charm is deceitful and you know you don't have to make yourself look different for other people. Our bodies are for honoring God, not gaining attention.

Mirror mirror, mirror on the wall
Telling those lies, pointing out your flaws
That isn't who you are, that isn't who you are.
It might be hard to hear but let me tell you dear
If you could see what I could see I know you would believe
That isn't who you are, there's more to who you are!

...I see you dressed in white, every wrong made right.
I see a rose in bloom at the sight of you, oh so priceless!
Irreplaceable, unmistakable, incomparable,
Darling it's beautiful. I see it all in you
Oh so priceless!
- "Priceless" For King and Country
(and no spoilers - I haven't seen the movie yet :)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

See you later, beautiful.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Seth's Journey: Part Two

Seth tried to look normal as he walked through the house. If he looked like he was supposed to be there, no one would notice.

As he turned the corner to approach his mother's room, he heard voices. All thoughts of pretending to belong vanished. Seth flattened himself against the wall just before the turn and listened.

A man's voice spoke. "Will she be alright?" It was his father's voice, but something was different. It didn't hold the authority it usually held, but rather desperation and worry.

A sigh. "I don't know. I've never seen anything like it. I don't know what to do for her."

"Please! You have to do something! You've been our family's physician for years. You can't just let my wife die." The speech had gradually faded into a whisper.

"I'm sorry Scipio. There's nothing that I know to do. I'll come back every day and examine her. If anything changes, send for me immediately."


"Thank you."

"Of course."

Footsteps slapped against the stone floor and Seth turned and ran out one of the servant's doors into the courtyard. A few of the slaves gave him odd looks.

The fact that Father was so upset unsettled Seth. He was the strong one who always had it together, no matter what. What was wrong with Mother?

He ran out of the courtyard and toward the marketplace. Seth had never really learned the lesson he was supposed to from punishments for going there. Instead, it now seemed like a secret forbidden place. Well, maybe not secret, but at least forbidden.

He wanted the anonymity of the crowds for a few hours so that he could think.

Even from a distance, the marketplace looked quiet. Upon arriving in the midst of it, Seth could tell that the teacher from the day before was there again. "Rabbis" the Jews called them. He told another story. Seth scoffed at the childishness but allowed himself to listen.

"The kingdom of Heaven is like the master of a house who hire laborors in his vineyard," the Rabbi said. "He hires some in the morning and sends them out to work in the fields. A few hours later, he goes into the marketplace again and hires more men. He sends them out to work as well. He does this two more times throughout the day."

Seth stood on tiptoe, straining to see above the crowds. He couldn't quite get a glimpse of the man.

"At the end of the day, the master paid his workers their wages. Every one of them received the same amount - those who had worked all day and those who had only worked an hour."

Righteous indignation on behalf of the workers hired in the morning rose up in Seth. He was a Roman and he knew what was just. This wasn't it.

"The workers who had worked longer grumbled and complained. When the master of the house heard about their grumbling he asked for an explanation. They told him that it was unfair that those hired late in the day should receive the same payment as those hired early." Seth nodded.

"Then the master asked them if they had not agreed to work for one day's pay. They had. He told them that he could pay the others as he liked - he had paid the first men what he agreed to pay them. It was up to him how to spend his money. He could choose to be generous with it if he liked. So the last will be first and the first will be last."

The Rabbi turned to his disciples and they moved away from the market. A few of the listeners chased after, some falling at his feet. The rest of the people went back to their business.

Seth just stood there. Every bit of justice printed into him over the years cried out against the unfair treatment of the workers. But what the master had said about it being his money and he could choose to be generous also made sense.

Seth began walking, trying to puzzle out the story. A minute later, he came upon another Rabbi. This one was gray haired and flung his arms through the air as he spoke. His disciples listened eagerly, but all of the other people on the street continued with what they were doing. Seth stopped to watch.

This one did not tell a story, but rather told what would happen if anyone disobeyed the laws of the Sabbath. Not nearly as entertaining.

Turning to walk home, Seth decided to return tomorrow. Maybe the Rabbi from the market would tell another story.

In the courtyard, he found Juliet sitting under a tree. He rushed over to tell her about the Rabbi and his story.

Juliet sniffed and wiped at her eyes when she saw him.

"What's wrong?" Seth asked.

"Sit down."

"Why?" Seth sat down.

Juliet stared up at the deep blue of the sky and took a deep shaky breath. "Mother died today."

"What?" Juliet may have spoken in a whisper, but Seth knew exactly what she said.

She turned to face him. "Mother died today. There was nothing the physician could do. He still doesn't know what happened."

Seth stood up. He paused and then walked deliberately toward the street.

"Seth? Seth! Where are you going?"

He didn't answer.

A moment later, a hand touched his shoulder, bringing him to a stop. He stared straight ahead, refusing to move or speak.

"Where are you going?" Her voice quaked.

"I'm going to ask someone a question."


"A Jewish Rabbi." Seth gently pulled his shoulder from her grip and walked out of the courtyard.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Seth's Journey: Part One

Seth licked his lips, tasting the dirt and grit covering his whole body in a film. The evening sun relentlessly bore down on him and he felt a drop of sweat run down his back. Why did it have to be so hot?

The position of the sun, though, reminded him that he was supposed to be home. He quickened his pace, pushing through all the Jews in the marketplace. There sure were a lot of them. Seth looked around, irritated by the crowds. None of them were moving. They weren't going around buying things like you were supposed to in a market. Instead, they stood still.

As he kept shoving through, a voice grew clearer and clearer above the rustling and whispering of the unmoving Jews. Seth caught a glimpse of a man in the middle of them all, talking. He was surrounded by people on all sides.

Seth stopped working his way toward home. What could be so interesting that all the people had stopped their work to just listen?

Apparently not much. The man told a story about some ungrateful servant who demanded payment after his own debt had been canceled. Seth shook his head and kept going toward home.

He took a deep breath before going inside. By now, it was almost dark and he knew his father would be angry with him for staying out so late. He was a Roman citizen and as such, he didn't need to mix with Jews. According to his father, anyway.

Seth tried to sneak in quietly, without being noticed, but it didn't matter. His father paced in front of the door. Seth's entrance made him look up.


"Good evening, father." Seth didn't look him in the eye, knowing the irritation and impatience he would see.

"Where have you been? It's dark out and you should have been home hours ago!"

"I just went for a walk."

"A walk? Among the Jews? I told you to keep your distance! There are plenty of Roman citizens nearby. Play with one of them!" His voice was still relatively quiet. Seth wasn't sure whether that was a good sign. Usually, by now, his father would be yelling and Seth would wear the obligatory look of remorse while feeling no such thing. But he wasn't yelling.

"I'm twelve. I think I can take care of myself!" This change in the pattern gave Seth the courage to test limits.

"No!" His father put a hand to his head and rubbed his brow. He sighed. "I've told you not to go walking in the market place before and I won't tell you again. Those Jews aren't happy that we're here and I don't want anything to happen to you. Go to bed." He walked away, leaving Seth to marvel at the ease with which he escaped the encounter.

The next morning, Seth ate breakfast with his sister. 

"You could slow down a bit," Juliet scoffed.

"I went to the market yesterday."

"Oh." She knew that would mean no dinner and her growing brother was probably starving. "See anything interesting?"

Seth shook his head. He paused in his eating. "Oh, wait. There was one thing. A man was speaking - telling a story - and all the Jews had stopped to listen. It was strange." He shrugged and went back to eating before remembering something else. "Who was that coughing all night?"

"Don't talk with your mouth full." Juliet lowered her voice. "It was mother. She got sick yesterday. Father's very worried. The physician doesn't know what's wrong."

Seth looked at his sister. "Is she going to be okay?"

"We don't know." She lowered her eyes. "Finish your breakfast."

To be continued...

Let me know what you think!


Friday, February 10, 2017


The perusal of the teen sections of our local libraries and bookstores has become increasingly depressing. Every third book is a convoluted romance and the ones in between contain vampires, violence, and poor writing.
What happened to all the good books?
I’ve always been an avid reader and realizing the depravity of the books offered to people my age was quite a shock. How am I supposed to find something good, clean, and wholesome to read in the midst of all of this - for lack of a better word - garbage?
Walking through the teen section of my library only renews my longing for something more. Why can’t anyone write something good for teenagers?
Wait a minute.
Why can’t I write something good for teenagers?
Writing is also a passion of mine and recently, I figured out why. I want to provide excellent things for people to read. I want not only excellent stories, but excellent characters, excellent words, and excellent morals.
I know the kind of book I want, so why don’t I write it? There are others like me out there - sick of the sin dripping through all the dust jackets encasing the stories aimed at people our age. I’m not the only one feeling the evil thrown at me all the time.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Kind of a cheesy quote, once you’ve heard it enough times. But it’s also a convicting one. If we want something different, let’s make it.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
What we read shapes what we think and God tells us exactly what kind of thing we’re supposed to be thinking. It’s not the kind of thing given to us from media (including books) on a regular basis.
So why don’t we start creating our own books to read? Clean books. True books. God-honoring books.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s going to be a long process. I hear it’s a lot of work to get a book published and it won’t happen overnight.
But will you work with me? All of you who desperately want to see their name on the spine of a story, will you join me in changing what’s given to young readers everywhere?
The only way to do that is to write. Pick up your pen, open your laptop, put ink in your quill. Work on your craft. Work bit by bit. Day by day. And maybe, someday, we’ll see our names there, in little letters, below a title we worked so hard to create. And when our brothers and sisters in Christ open the story we brought into the world, they’ll read new things. Encouraging things. Hard things. But good things.
It’s not going to be easy. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We want good things to read. Let’s go make them.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Take Care of Yourself

Everyone has a lot going on in their lives. Teenagers, adults, parents, everyone. Often, busyness means sacrificing something in order to make it all fit. It's only natural: there's too much to fit into a day, so you pick something to forgo. I am all for taking out the unnecessary things - it's something I need to work on and grow in myself. But today, I want to ask you to not get rid of taking care of yourself.

In the middle of all the things we have going on, there are a lot of obligations: to school, jobs, friends, sports, family, etc. So, when making room for all these things, it's easy to choose (whether on purpose or not) to stop caring for yourself properly.

A lot of times, this sounds selfish to me. I'm not supposed to be focused on taking care of me, myself, and I, right? There are other people around me and they're supposed to receive my love and attention.

And yes, that's true. Jesus tells us to love one another - it's how the world will know who we are. But now I want to ask you, can you really love your friends, family, coworkers, and that random person in Kroger to the best of your ability when you're tired and burned out?

The answer is no.

Taking good care of yourself isn't just something that's responsible and will make your mom happy when you go to college. It helps you to show God's unconditional love to the people around you. Plus, the people closest to you can usually tell when you're not doing a very good job of it.

There are a few major areas that each of us needs to focus on in ourselves before we can properly pour into other people:

Please please please do your devotions! As a sinner with ideas of my own, I skip mine way too much. But when I spend time with God in the morning, that's a peaceful time that starts my day off right. And not everyone's devotion time has to look the same. You don't have to spend exactly thirty minutes reading, twenty two praying, and ten and a half singing worship songs. I usually read a chapter or a section in the book I'm going through (Psalms right now) and then write a prayer in a journal a lovely friend gave me. It doesn't take very long, so please spend time with God. He cares about you and wants you to love others in a strong way that can only be done by His love flowing through you.

Everyone knows that if you eat the right things and get some good exercise, you'll feel better. So just do it. I'll admit, discipline is hard for me in this area. I like stay up late reading or watching a movie and then get up early to get started on things. So, yeah, add good sleep to the list of things to make sure you get. We all know that we feel a lot better and can focus on other people more when we're not tired, eating right, and getting a little bit of exercise. I know it might be hard to do all these things, but it's worth it.

This one's pretty simple. Stay home and read a book. Take a nap. Watch a movie. Go for a walk. Make cookies. Do something you really like to do. But do it by yourself. Let yourself not be at all concerned with what anyone's going to think. Maybe even skip a party or social event if you don't have time for this one. I'm not telling you to have no social life - that's important too. But make sure you get some alone time every once in a while.

I am not saying these things in order to be presumptuous or look like I've got it all together myself. I'm doing it because I know what it's like to not take care of myself in these ways and I've seen my friends struggle with the same things. It's not good and won't get you anywhere you want to go. So today, I ask you again to please take the time to take care of yourself. It's not selfish and it's definitely worth the effort.