The Seven-Question Test: Understanding Why You Have THAT Passion

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Being a leader is something that many of us may never think about in our vocations outside the church. We hear of being leaders all of the time inside the church, but applying those leadership skills to our everyday lives isn’t always something that’s on our mind, simply because sometimes we don’t recognize the need to be a leader when we’re a cashier, waiter, or even a student. But there is always the need for a leader.

The women at Gateway church in Dallas, Texas are currently going through a leadership class that they call Wild. My church, Victory, has adapted and joined in this study of leadership for the high school seniors and college students to teach us how to be leaders, both inside the church and outside.

Recently we learned some of the specific qualities common amongst leaders, whether they be leaders in the church, political leaders, or anyone else that may be in a position of authority. One of the common qualities we discussed is passion.

In our class, all of the students were asked why we had a passion for what we wanted to do during or after college, and when we were asked on the spot, many of us drew a blank as our leader requested deeper answers than “Because I really like it!”. We weren’t really sure how to answer the “why?” behind our decisions, we just knew, somehow.

 

{Continue Reading on Pursue Magazine}

 

The Pookie Tales

 

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     If a cotton ball could move, it would probably figure out a way to become an uncontrollable bouncy ball. In fact, many believe that’s what Pookie is, a cotton ball that learned to bounce. His hyperactive energy has the ability to dizzy even some of the most excitable dogs, even other dogs his size, and especially the humans in his life.

     Clara, the sweet old lady that adopted him when he was but a pup, says that he is the reason she stays fit, not in the way that it may sound like she intends to stay fit for him, but because she must in order to keep from losing him. Pookie’s adventures are one of a kind, and especially the ones that he had before he met the well known Chess, and even though Chess did indeed add more adventures to his life, we are going to focus on the stories of his younger years. The prequels to his fame. The behind the scenes of his puppy-life. The, well, you’ll see, that is if you decide that you’d like to stick around for the story.

Pookie’s Birthday

     The night was brisk and chilly. Not necessarily a cold and dreary night, but neither could one see the stars through the light fog layering the trees. The wind was gently blowing away the rain leftover from the storm earlier that night, creating a cooling mist. It was an abnormally warm summer in New York, so the storm was actually welcomed and if one were to stroll about the neighborhood at this hour, they would not be the only ones.

    However, Fancy, the Williams’ family’s favorite Mini Poodle, was keeping the family from enjoying the cool night like so many others in the neighborhood. She wasn’t doing so on purpose, of course not! Fancy lived up to her name as The Best Groomed, Best-Behaved, and Most Proper Dog of the city (she had the trophies to prove it), so she was certainly not one to create mischief. No, tonight was not chosen on purpose by Fancy, but giving birth to a litter of puppies is not something anyone can choose just anytime.

     Fancy was the prized pet of the house, so when rumors of the small poodle finally having her puppies made it from the maids to the servants to the butler to the cooks, and of course to the stable workers, she was soon the talk of the neighborhood. See, everyone in the dog-show world had been waiting in line for a chance to adopt one of Fancy’s puppies, hoping that her offspring would behold as much eloquence as she, little did any of them expect Pookie.

    Pookie was the first-born, and unfortunately, the only male to have been born in the little of four. After him came, Trish, Lovely, and Willow, in that order. All four puppies were perfect for the dog-shows, being completely white with no blemishes at all (decided after the puppies had grown all of their fur of course), well, all except Willow. She was certainly beautiful, but she had a single black spot on her left ear about the size of a dime that, over time, became viewed as a beauty mark, causing many to request her before her sisters once she turned six weeks old.

    Pookie was wanted most fervently, however, for a few reasons. One being that he was the only male from the litter. Another being that he was the first -born and it is often assumed that the first-born will inherit the most traits of the mother. And the last, being that from the very moment he was born, his eyes were wide open and he was incredibly hyper.

    Within the first couple hours, he had discovered that his legs were meant for walking, not wriggling around helplessly as his sisters used theirs for, and had quickly lost interest in his mother’s milk. The two maids, who were in charge of keeping careful watch of the puppies while Mr. and Mrs. Williams tucked their two children back into bed, quickly realized that Pookie would be the only one needing all four eyes on him.

    Pookie sat at the edge of the doggy-bed, his wet, furless self keeping him from looking like the mini poodle that he was, taking in his surroundings. Something began to beat behind him and he jumped when he saw that is was something white directly next to his bum. It moved when he moved, and that puzzled him. His wide brown eyes, incapable of closing at the wonders around him, studied the white thing carefully. He took a deep breath through his nose and wrinkled it when he realized that the snout on the end of his face had a purpose, to smell, quickly taking his focus away from the white thing near his rear. He sniffed again and marveled at how when his face was turned one way it smelled different than it did another way, and when he returned to the original way, it smelled the same as it had before.

     “Pookie, love” a strange voice called, causing his ears to perk up, again making him realize that when he did so he could hear something, “Come here love, away from the edge.”

     He looked up and saw a larger version of himself, which he knew to be his mother, some things were simply instinct and did not require discovery.

    “Come here my darling, I know that you are tired despite all of the adventures calling out to you.” Even though he couldn’t necessarily understand her, he could sense the pull in her words to return to the warmth of her coddling.

     Without realizing what he was doing, his mouth opened wide, temporarily cutting sound from his ears and releasing something that made him want to close his eyes. He cocked his head to the side in confusion, determined to discover the “whys” behind everything, when he heard the pull in the voice from his mother once again.

     Suddenly desiring to be coddled with his sisters, who were already sound asleep, he waddled back over to his mother and crawled longways on top of all three of his sisters, deciding that being on top meant that he was in charge. His eyes became too heavy to keep open and he allowed himself to fall asleep, somehow knowing that when he woke, there would be more time to explore this new world. Dreams filled his head for the first time and the love for adventure was born that cool day in August.

~Rayleigh

Are ya’ll excited that Pookie finally has the spotlight? I am! I’ve been planning this for a while and cannot wait to take you on Pookie’s adventures!

Learning How to Lead: Guiding a Bible Study

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“Would you like to lead a Bible study this month?”

 

This question is one that will either excite us tremendously, or strike instant fear into us, or sometimes both. Attending a Bible study is one thing, but leading? That’s huge and it comes with major responsibilities. Our immediate reactions might be “I’ve never lead a Bible study, so I’m not equipped enough for it” or “I’m not a leader, no one will listen to me” or even “I’m scared, I don’t know how or even where I would start”.

 

These are all very real, very natural, and very okay responses. It’s perfectly okay to feel unequipped to fill the shoes of something this important, in fact, if we do feel unequipped then that reveals a certain kind of humility that makes us perfect for the task. We just need to make sure that this humility doesn’t turn into fear, keeping us from participating in an awesome experience.

 

Leading a Bible study, or really any event, is a task not to be taken lightly, but not taken too seriously either. Here are some simple guidelines to go by when you’re asked, or want, to be the leader of a Bible study.

Continue Reading at PursueMagazine

 

Please Help Improve Literature Approved!

Even if you’re just a part-time reader of Literature Approved, I would really appreciate your feedback!

Literature Approved

A new year means new beginnings for many, many people, so I would love to extend that onto Literature Approved by asking you, faithful readers, to take a few minutes of your time to answer the following polls. They are simple, multiple choice questions that I’ve made to help Literature Approved continue to be the site that you come to for reviews! I’m sure that you’re all very busy so I understand if you can’t answer all of them and I appreciate, in advance, each and every answer you may provide!

Thank you so much for your contributions to bettering this site!

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Find me at ElizabethNewsom.com!

A dear friend and fellow blogging buddy of mine, Elizabeth (Liz) Newsom, recently asked to interview me about my writing and blogging interests on her blog and I am here to pass along the information that that interview is live on the internet! Feel free to check out my answers to difficult questions such as “who are your favorite authors”, as well as some advice that I was asked to give to aspiring writers and bloggers, by following the link to ElizabethNewsom.com!

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Also please feel free to give Liz a follow as her blog is full of great tips regarding writing, book reviews, and fun polls! Thanks so much for reading!

Being a Receiver and Hearing God’s Voice; Guest Liz Newsom

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the life decisions we have to make as a teenager? Like who we’re supposed to date, what we’re supposed to major in, where we should go to college, or what career we’re going to have? The decisions we make now, as a teenager, can determine our life’s course for decades to come. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone who not only has to handle their future life, but their overwhelming current life too.

As a Christian, we’ve probably brought several of these issues up to God, or even given Him deadlines for when He should answer us. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this: “God, I need an answer by this date, preferably carved into the sky. With lightning.” Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten an answer through crashing thunder or roaring wind, but now I know why.

1 Kings 19:11-12 says, “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”

To hear a whisper, we have to be quieter than the whisper. That’s definitely not rocket science, and I’m betting all of you already knew that, but it’s so much easier to pray to God, to rant, to plead, to beg, rather than listening to Him, which is why sometimes we don’t hear God’s answer. Because we aren’t listening. So how do we listen to God? The simple answer is: be quiet.

We just need to set aside a small amount of time—just five minutes— per day to listen. Please don’t try to do this while multi-tasking, and saying that we don’t have time isn’t an excuse either. Relationships are all about two-way communication, and a relationship with God is no exception. We don’t have time to not listen.

As silly as it sounds, I pretend I’m a receiver in a football game while I’m listening for God. What do receivers do? Well, first of all, their hands have to be empty. If they’re holding something already, they’re not going to catch the ball, which is why I try to just focus on the quiet. I empty my own thoughts, so I can be open to God’s.

Secondly, they’ve got their eye on the ball. They’re looking at it to see where it’s going to go, and their focus doesn’t waver from the ball. Stay focused. Our thoughts are going to clamor for our attention, but they have the rest of the day to be heard. Give these five minutes to God.

Last of all, the receiver is expecting the ball, mentally ready to catch it. This sounds ridiculously simplistic. And that’s because it is, yet it’s just as necessary as the first two steps. We have to believe that we’re going to hear what God wants to tell us. Now, by expectancy, I don’t mean expectations. I learned the difference between the two from the phenomenal book, The Story of With by Allan Arnold. Expectancy is remaining hopeful and faithful, knowing that God’s timing and His plans are perfect and being ready for whatever He brings to us, while expectations set us up for disappointment. Expectations are specific goals based on us and our plans. We can’t expect God to smite us with inspiration every time we’re quiet. If we don’t hear Him, that doesn’t mean we’ve failed or God has bailed out on us, just enjoy whatever time you have with God, even if it’s in silence. If God wants us to hear something, and we’re readily listening, we’ll hear it.

You have huge life decisions coming up and with them, amazing opportunities. Don’t stress about it! If you’ve given everything over to God, then that’s it. He’s got you covered. I know that sometimes it seems God has let you down, but He’s always got a back up plan. If a relationship doesn’t work out or a college doesn’t accept you, just remember: that means God’s got something bigger and better in store.

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Elizabeth (Liz) Newsom is a gifted, young author of clean, enticing romance and a blogger at ElizabethNewsom.com, where she writes creative book reviews, polls, writing tips, and pretty much anything else she can come up with that falls under her hobbies. She is a senior in high school of which she does through homeschool, and has already completed one fantasy romance novel. Please feel free to check out her little piece of the internet by clicking the following link:

ElizabethNewsom.com

{Please leave a comment with your thoughts or further questions!}

A Tree’s Revelation to the Meaning of Faith

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What once started as the tiny seed in the palm of a child’s hand, has now grown into the sturdy, dependable tree that now holds the grown child in it’s branches.

Trees have always fascinated me; all plants have really. I love studying the way that that tiny seed grows. The way the leaves unfold ever so gently and provide the food the tree needs to survive on; the way it produces fruit in some form or fashion to pass along its seeds for new trees to grow; and especially the way it uses water, soil, carbon dioxide, and sunlight as it’s primary needs for survival. But the most profound thing about trees that I have recently learned, is the way they revealed “faith” to me.

My family and I recently acquired two young Cedar Elms, by accident. The way we acquired them is really irrelevant to the story, however, we are unwilling to plant them just yet, as we are only in a rent house and plan to move soon, preferably taking the trees with us. When we ended up with the two young trees, at the beginning of summer, my dad jokingly commented that “these can be our faith trees; the first part of the house we want so badly” and though I considered it a joke as well at the time, I haven’t been able to forget about it. Every time I journey across the yard to water them, for the past few months, I find myself contemplating the meaning of faith and what these two trees have to do with it. I could feel a deeper meaning, a lesson that I knew could be learned, yet I couldn’t access it yet.

So, the mornings and afternoons in which I would spend 10 to 15 minutes in the hot Texas heat to water the baby trees, I would admire them and simply think, trying to learn the lesson that I knew they were going to offer. Well, a week passed with me being out of town and I had forgotten to arrange for someone to water the trees in my absence and therefore on my return, they were well on their way to dying. One of them, which is younger and seems to have the better soil in its pot, was simply beginning to yellow and therefore was a lot easier for me to save. However the older, taller tree, had brown crunchy leaves that fell rapidly with every gentle breeze. This tree was my favorite for some reason, even before the lesson I learned from it.

I watered it fervently, making sure to not over water, yet I knew its situation was dire. I watched its leaves carefully as the dead ones continued to fall, waiting and hoping to see some new green ones sprout. It was almost a full week before I saw the tree begin to improve, the dry ugly leaves had fallen completely and the tree was bare and naked in its pot. But one small branch by one small branch, the greenery began to replenish. Now its lush with leaves just as the other one is, yet this one looks even stronger than it had before.

But while it was still recovering, I finally found the revelation that I had felt was in the midst of these trees. The tree itself is a representation of the faith we have in God’s presence in our lives. Not the faith in God in general, but the particular faith that we have in the way He interacts in our lives.

You see, it wasn’t enough for me to just believe that the tree was still alive, just as it isn’t enough for us to just believe that God cares about our lives. It wasn’t enough for me to have just said “If God wants the tree to live then He’ll make it live” just like it isn’t enough for us to say similar phrases about the situations in our lives. Yes, the first step is to believe, if I hadn’t believed that the tree was alive, I wouldn’t have tried to save it, but action needs to follow that belief. I had to water that tree every single day, once in the morning and once at night, for 4 minutes at each interval. It took only 8 minutes out of my day for me to save that tree. Isn’t that how we need to nurture our faith? By taking the time and quietly studying the Word and contemplating the powerful and fascinating way of God’s nature, isn’t that the best possible way to build our faith in knowing that He will act in our lives? And by studying and inviting Him in, we are making it possible, “cultivating the soil” if you will, to make it more probable that He will act. And all it takes is that little bit of time in the morning, and that little bit of time in the evening.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalms 1:3 (ESV)