9 Words that Connect
Walks > Stands > Sits Counsel > Path > Seat Ungodly > Sinners > Scornful
The progression is pretty obvious…
You were just WALKING by – you decided to hang out, STAND around awhile – and before you know it, you were invited to grab a seat and SIT a while, maybe you say, to give your feet a rest.
COUNSEL from the ungodly!? I thought the word counsel was only found in the dictionary of the righteous! But then again, ungodly counsel can sound so good…
If you follow the counsel of the ungodly for long it will become a discernible PATH in your life. Your further submitting to it will show itself in a SEAT at the table. Welcome! You’re part of the crowd!
UNGODLY, SINNERS, SCORNFUL! This progression ends where all ungodliness ends…in a scornful grumbling pathetic state of being where everything is suspect and everyone is a pain!
God loves me, is always with me and has greater plans for me!
GRACE IS POWER
When it comes to grace, people usually go wrong in one of two ways.
We either think that we’re too far gone for it and dismiss it.
Or we take it for granted and abuse it.
While they’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, they’re actually just two different expressions of the same problem:
They both view grace as weakness.
The first group lives as if grace is too weak to rescue them.
The second group lives as if grace is too weak to transform them.
Both are wrong. Grace isn’t weakness.
Grace is power. It is power to save and to transform. To cover all of our sins and remove them from our lives. To get you off the hook and to get you into the zone of transformation.
Check out 1 Corinthians 15:9-10:
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
I love that. First Paul relates with those of us who think you’re the exception to God’s grace. If there was ever a candidate, it was Paul. Not you. And apparently his sin wasn’t too powerful for God’s infinitely more powerful grace. And neither is yours.
Then he comes in and punches those of us who abuse it in the mouth. God’s grace is not without effect. Grace isn’t just a cheap perfume you splash on to cover the stench of your sins. It’s the power to change your life from the inside out.
Grace is power.
Power to save. Power to live right. Power to talk right. Power to walk right. Power to give. Power to forgive. Power to do anything God calls you to do in His name. Power to pray. Power to overcome.
Paul could have lived in perpetual guilt for what he had done. Or he could have taken advantage of what God had done for him. But he didn’t. And look at what he became.
You have the same options.
Embrace the power of God’s grace and imagine what you’ll become.
“Let it go, let it go. You’re beautiful. Let it go, let it go. You’re sensational. Let it go, let it go. You’re inspirational. Don’t let them take your smile away.”
Those words are the chorus to “Inspirational,” an original song written by Susie Shannon, 11, a sixth grader at Hoxsie Elementary School who wants to combat bullying.
As a singer-songwriter, Shannon said composing the song brought her comfort when she felt the cruel isolation of bullying. She’d like to share her music to soothe more children, especially during October, National Bullying Prevention Month.
“The song makes me feel better,” Shannon said. “It makes me happy because I wanted someone there for me and the song was there for me. I just hope to help others.”
“Inspirational” is one of five songs that appear on Shannon’s latest album of the same name, a follow-up to a five-track E.P. she recorded when she was 9. She recently wrote new material, which was produced by Jon Newell and recorded at a Nashville studio.
“It just came to me,” Shannon said of the title track. “After the whole song was done, I’d go to my guitar and put it together. I told my mom that I wrote a song and she said, ‘OK, let me hear it,’ and then she was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty good.’”
Shannon’s mother, Kelly, said she was touched when she heard the song, as it showed her that her daughter was turning a negative into a positive.
“She took her pain and wrote a song about it instead of doing other things that some kids could do,” Kelly said. “Kids are becoming depressed. You see shootings on the news or they are cutting or killing themselves all because they are not accepted.”
But like Susie and other bullying victims, including Michigan teen Whitney Kropp, whose classmates at Ogemaw Heights High School recently nominated her to the Homecoming Court as a prank, are shining through the drama.
For Kropp, members of her community reached out in support, some of them donating styling services and even a gown for her to wear to the dance. Similarly, people have offered Susie support.
Also pursuing a career in acting and modeling, Susie recently starred in an independent film, “Ashes of the Phoenix.” After hearing Susie’s story, the film’s casting director, Avery Fields of Fields of Gold Productions, offered to shoot a music video for “Inspirational” at no cost, with Kelly producing the video.
From there, local entities such as Bishop Hendricken High School, Triple Threat Performing Arts Center, ShoDan Karate and Jordan’s Furniture in the Warwick Mall opened their doors so Susie would have settings for filming.
Throughout the 3-minute-26-second video, viewers see and hear Susie singing her anti-bullying anthem in the hallways of Hendricken, as well as rocking out for fans during concert scenes at the other venues.
“We used rope and benches to make it look like a real stage,” Susie said.
Further, Kelly said many of the children at Triple Threat Performing Arts have been compassionate to Susie’s situation, as many of them are also bullied.
“They all rallied around her when they found out what happened to her,” said Kelly. “She blossomed there because people understood and heard her and supported this video.”
The video debuted last weekend on YouTube, which can be accessed by typing “Susie Shannon” and “Inspirational” in the search field. Since it’s premiere, Kelly said she has received several emails and messages on Facebook from parents who say they appreciate Susie’s efforts because their children have also been bullied.
This brings Susie joy because comforting other children is the ultimate goal. Revenge, said Kelly, is not a factor. By the end of the video, which had 3,030 views at press time, Susie reaches a hand out to the bully figure.
“This song is not about hurting anyone – it’s about building her up and helping other people,” she said.
The video coincides with a documentary that will soon be released. It features people from Warwick and Coventry giving testimonials of their experiences with bullying, as well as general facts and statistics.
“For Susie to hear so many other students talk about it made her realize she wasn’t the only one,” Kelly said.
Kelly also said she and Susie are grateful to Hoxsie principal Gary McCoombs for giving students a special motto: “You don’t have to like everybody but you have to respect them.”
“He’s tried very hard to get the kids to realize that you don’t have to be best friends but you have to be kind to each other,” said Kelly. “He brings in a lot of resources to talk on the subject of bullying. He really cares about the kids at this school.”
For Susie, making music and starring in her own video is a lot of fun. She enjoys the spotlight and is hoping to land more acting roles in addition to being a musician. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of her favorite celebrities, such as Justin Bieber, Victoria Justice and Miranda Cosgrove.
Last year, she completed a six-month course at Barbizon Acting and Modeling Center and most Saturdays she travels to New York City for acting classes. She’s looking forward to January in three months for pilot season, a period when producers submit new movies and audition actors and actresses.
Susie has been singing since she was 3, and started recording when she was 5, as Kelly, also a vocalist, has released a handful of Christian Contemporary albums through the years.
“It’s fun being on the other side watching someone else do it, especially when it’s your daughter,” Kelly said. These days, Susie takes vocal lessons from Kim Wood Sandusky, who also coaches singing sensation Beyoncé. Susie learned to play guitar when she was 7 and takes lessons at Dan’s Music.
“It’s what all rockers do,” she said of her desire to play guitar. “I like learning new chords because sometimes it can be a challenge. Singing and playing guitar are always both so much fun to do.”
When she’s not kicking back with her guitar, she’s practicing karate at ShoDan, where she is a black belt. She also takes jazz and hip-hop classes every Thursday at Triple Threat.
What Is My Purpose?
This is a question that has to be answered. More importantly, this is a question that has an answer.
Your life is no accident. The very fact that you are breathing on this earth is evidence that you were placed here for a reason.
Your personality, your talents, and your inner passion are designed in a specific way for you to live out your purpose. Your life story – how you grew up, what has happened to you, where you are, and even the choices you’ve made – are all part of this special design too. Things that you may have seen as “mere chance” about yourself, are instead on purpose for a divine calling.
The Bible says that the greatest thing we can do with our lives is to love God with everything in us, and to love others as we love ourselves. This commandment is our purpose: to know and love God and to serve those around us. But it doesn’t stop there… because if it did, we would still have a lot of unanswered questions.
We have to know how we are specifically supposed to live out this purpose… and that “how” is our mission.
Your mission is bigger than a career, more profound than just “what you do”. It’s the legacy that you will leave.
My life mission is to inspire, ignite, and reclaim purpose in others, so that they will not waste their lives.
What’s your mission? You’re alive to live it out.
In 1945, an atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, effectively putting an end to World War II. Around the same time, another bomb was dropped smack-dab in the middle of the United States—a cultural bomb that spawned the birth of “youth culture.”
Never in the history of our nation had such a distinct and fundamental change to our society occurred. All of a sudden, parents were dealing with a new kind of son and daughter. Kids now had their own kinds of clothes, music, idols and fashions, not to mention vocabularies.
If you were to mention the word “tween” to the average parent or pastor five years ago, you would be met with a blank stare. In my weekly contact with parents and church leaders within the last year, however, I have found the word no longer requires explanation.
But for those who may still be wondering, here’s what it means to be a tween: Some researchers define this coveted market as pre-teens ages 8 to12. Others stretch the demographic to the age of 14. Whatever the overlap, one thing is clear: Tweens aren’t children, but they’re not yet teens. They truly are “in between,” and parents and churches are feeling the tension—along with the tweens themselves.
So how did this demographic group—which has a very unique set of values and needs come to be? Just a few years ago, the 12-and-under gang spent $27.9 billion of its own money and influenced $248.7 billion of Mom’s and Dad’s spending in one year alone. This “kid-fluence” is expected to grow between 5 percent and 20 percent in the next 10 years, reports USA Today.
Having the discretionary funds available to support the creation of such a “tween culture” is one of the ways we got here. Poorer cultures can’t afford for kids to be tweens or even teens. In most cultures outside of the Western world, kids transition much sooner into adulthood than their North American counterparts; economic realities demand it.
Let’s take a close look at 3 key trends that define the tween generation.
This generation is growing up fast and faces unique challenges unheard of in prior generations. It’s important we understand them—so we can reach them before they need to be rescued.
Tween Trend #1: They’re getting older younger. There’s an insatiable desire within the tween soul to be older, a natural yet dangerous desire when put into the wrong hands.
Marketers have had no problem playing on this desire. Madison Avenue has been successful in creating a “commercialized childhood,” promoting a lifestyle the Joneses would have a hard time keeping up with.
Tween Trend #2: They’re getting faster quicker. In the ever-widening world of sports, our kids are raising the bar and lowering the age limit of what is supposed to be possible athletically. USA Today carried the story of New York’s Danny Almonte, a 12 year old who pitched a perfect game at the Little League World Series. The title of the news article says it all: “The Need to Star at 12.”
When it comes to gadgets and techno-toys, many tweens today are techno-wizard multi- taskers. Many of them, as Ann Oldenburg noted in her article “Follow These Familiar Faces” (USA Today), have “more computing power at their fingertips than was used to get Apollo 11 to the moon.”
In an age of “faster quicker,” adults—and parents, in particular—are faced with a temptation to “check out” of their kids’ lives, as those same kids leave them behind in the technological dust. It has been said a child will ask 500,000 questions before his or her 13th birthday. It would be wise for parents to ask a few hundred thousand of their own.
Tween Trend #3: They’re getting sadder sooner. Where have the days gone when kids played in the fields and on neighborhood streets without a worry by either them or their parents? Those days are history. Our kids live in an uptight world. Eating disorders are being reported among the 12-and-under gang with increasing frequency. Depression-driven diets are producing an epidemic of tween obesity. Rootless home lives and hierarchical materialistic peer groups spawned in the atmosphere of age segregated school environments have taken a toll on the “sadder sooner” crowd.
In a culture hazardous to the health of our almost-teens, the temptation of adults and parents is to underestimate the value of a healthy home life, an extended-family life and a church body life. There is too much at risk nowadays to ignore the importance of these support systems.
In a privilege-saturated society such as ours, the temptation for adults and parents is to give our tweens what they want, when they demand it. The wiser choice would be to give them what they need when they need it. Delayed gratification has always been a character builder.
During the Christmas season, we celebrated the incarnation story of Emmanuel—“God with us.” Scripture records the birth of Jesus and the surrounding drama His coming produced. From the birth narratives, the gospels fast forward us to His baptism by John in the river Jordan, with one exception: the book of Luke, the gospel that emphasizes the complete humanity of Jesus. Luke 2:41 is where the drama begins. Jesus is now a 12 year old. The Son of God, a tweener. Let that sink in!
His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. On this occasion, Jesus went with them, no doubt preparing for His own official initiation into the community of faith. A long story short, Jesus was totally taken up by what was going on in Jerusalem and, in particular, in the temple, which He liked to call His Father’s house. That’s where they finally found Him after three days of search and rescue. His response: “Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s busi- ness?” (see Luke 2:49).
Those 17 words are the first recorded words of Jesus in the Bible—and the last seven carry within them the spiritual DNA to reach a generation of tweens today.
“I must be about My Father’s business.”
Mary and Joseph found their son “in the house.” Let’s believe our sons and daughters will also be found “in the house,” in their Father’s house, helping to run the family business. Who says they even have to leave?
Let’s believe the best for our kids. Let’s help them “live the seven”—the seven words of Jesus at 12, when He, too, was a tween.
Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by danger, evil, discomfort and the unknown. Don’t we use these same words to describe Satan? I think yes!
Constantly, Satan is trying to beat us down by putting fear into our lives. For example, you’re fearful of the dark at night, you’re fearful of your mom’s reaction when she sees a poor grade, or maybe you’re fearful of growing up and continuing on your journey with God. It is normal to be fearful. I, myself, am fearful of many things.
One of my biggest fears is being alone! I always like to be surrounded by company. Although this world has many distractions that can scare us and cause fear, we need not to worry because God is always in control. Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” God guides us through every step we take in life. He always has our back. No matter what situation we’re in, God will be there to help us. Psalm 115:11 says, “You who fear him, trust in the Lord — he is your help and shield!”
God covers us with a strong shield made of his love and mercy. Isn’t this reassuring? Jesus was constantly aware of God’s assurance. Jesus was never fearful. He trusted in God and lived in the moment. It is our job to be like Him and try our best to live in the moment, and not fear. I want to challenge you all to think of God next time you are scared. When we are stressed, it is easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget about God. In reality, you should rely on Him, because you will always be safe when he is holding your hand.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Always do what you are afraid to do.” I know you are probably thinking “What does that really mean?” I think it means to reach outside your comfortable zone and doing something to help others, even if it is difficult to do.
As Christians, we need to reach out to others even if it means feeling uncomfortable so others don’t have to. One way to do that is to reach out to people, share personal experiences and proclaim your faith. God’s put us on this planet to share his glory and fame. So … don’t be afraid to tell other people about cool bible verses you come across or personal experiences with the Lord.
I know sometimes you might feel embarrassed to reach out to others because you’re afraid of what your friends may think. I have had similar feelings of doubt. Just remember, Jesus condemns those who judge and God is the creator of everything.
Without Him there would be nothing. Mark 15:16 says, “Go into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation,” and Mark 13:10 says, “The Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations.” Even if preaching the gospel is not in your comfort zone, branch out. Don’t be afraid. Remember, God is always with you so there is no need to fear.
Weekly Challenge: Tell someone about your faith! Friends and family do not count. Reach out to a total stranger (with your parents permission) and tell them about God!