Watching Allie Grow

One of my favorite parts of the Keynote Summer Project is coaching students in communication skills and watching them grow as a result. As we ask them to do something many consider scary—speaking in front of a group of people—God uses it to help them grow not only in their speaking abilities but in their poise, their confidence, and even in their faith.

I think of Allie, a sweet girl in Swerve, the band I coached. When communication drills started, she admitted that she hated public speaking — it made her so nervous she felt sick to her stomach. During drills the next week, she shared a wonderful story of how God met her in the midst of loneliness and depression. We (the staff members involved with the team) felt God leading us to ask her to share it during concerts. We wondered, would she accept, or would she be too fearful?

No only did she accept, but she was excited about telling people her story combined with a gospel presentation! I had the privilege of helping her edit her talk, and I saw firsthand how her fears had been overcome by a desire to tell others how they could find the acceptance and forgiveness she had found in Jesus.

Swerve’s first concert was at an at-risk youth home for about 55 students. Here’s the story from keyboardist/vocalist Lauren.

Initially it was somewhat discouraging because it didn’t seem like they had much interest in the concert or message. It was difficult to keep spirits up without much reaction from the audience. However at the end of the concert the students were so appreciative and we found that 12 of them made a decision for Christ. An encouraging comment card from Tom said that the concert “just made me think about how great it is to be alive.” Our host informed us that Tom came from a home where he was unloved and was hard to reach since being on the campus. Tom has been struggling with depression problems and he expressed how encouraging it was to hear the music and Allie and Nate’s stories. This concert taught us that even though our audience doesn’t seem to be engaged it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit isn’t working.

More than 1 in 5 people indicated decisions for Christ, and God specifically used Allie in that process! I’m so proud of her for stepping out in faith!

Please pray for God to continue using Swerve and the other four student bands during their tours. Thank you so much for your partnership in God’s work!

Peace in Affliction

Over the past couple of years I’ve experienced a lot of change and loss. I switched departments and job responsibilities twice, several close friends have moved out-of-state, an older friend died after months of illness, and a beloved church closed. As I’ve grieved through the various losses, God led me to a little book called Let Go, a collection of letters written by a 17th century archbishop named François Fénelon.

The second letter was titled by the editors, “How to Bear Suffering Peacefully.” That caught my attention. Then as I read, a couple of sections jumped off the page at me:

“We can add to our God-given cross by an agitated resistance and an unwilingness to suffer. This is simply an evidence of the remaining life of self…when you receive your cross unwillingly, you will find it to be doubly severe. The resistance within is harder to bear than the cross itself! But if you recognize the hand of God, and make no opposition to His will, you will have peace in the midst of affliction…But usually we want to drive a bargain with God. We would at least like to suggest some limits so that we can see an end to our sufferings. We don’t realize how we are thwarting the purposes of God when we take this attitude. Because the stubborn clinging to life which makes the cross necessary in the first place, also tends us to reject that cross–at least in part…may the Lord deliver us from falling into that state of soul in which crosses are of no benefit to us. God loves a cheerful giver, according to St. Paul in Second Corinthians 9:7. Ah! What must be His love for those who, in cheerful and absolute abandonment, give themselves completely to be crucified with Christ!”

God reassured me that He was aware of my pain and in His sovereignty He had allowed it; it was, in Fenelon’s words, my “God-given cross.” I could resist the pain and prolong it, ot accept it and allow God to use it as His tool to remove more of the old self-life and make me more like Jesus. I wonder if that’s what Paul was getting at in Philippians 3 when he said this:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11, NIV)

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