Monday, July 17, 2017

God, the Giver of Peace

The last month has been pretty rough. Or at least by all accounts it should have been.

I feel that, up until now, I haven’t handled trials in my life very well. I was wondering if I would ever have a time where I go through them praising God for His goodness in spite of my circumstances. I finally understand it.

Fort Washington Way in Cincinnati
It all started on my way home from Northern Kentucky one Friday afternoon last month. I’d been there since that Tuesday, I had nothing to do that Friday, and I wanted to get home. I knew there were storms coming, but I’d never had trouble driving in the rain. The downpour started as soon as I left, and it made for a slow and treacherous pace. I went up I-471, then exited onto Fort Washington Way in Cincinnati to get on I-75. As I rounded a curve, my car locked up and spun to the left. It then completely switched to the right, which was when I hit the wall on the left side of the bridge. I pulled over to the right side and sat there. My hand shook a little as I grabbed my phone, but honestly I was pretty calm. I typically am in situations like that.

I called the police and waited for an officer because I was in the emergency lane of I-471 as Columbia Parkway merges. He told me it looked okay to drive, and I began a slow pace home.

The rest of that day I spent laying on my bed doing absolutely nothing. I was frustrated. I honestly didn’t know whether it was anything I could have prevented or if it was road conditions my car didn’t handle well. Either way, I knew I didn’t have the money to make repairs. It was driveable, but the back left corner was banged up. I had a long drive to Columbus and back the next day. By then I felt better, but I was still a little frustrated.

Christian music has carried me through a lot of these troubles, and it was at this time that I began to obsessively listen to United Pursuit. You would have to listen to them to know that, besides the lyrics, there is a beautiful serenity to their style of music. I was comforted by words like these:

“And there’s hope found here and now, here within the real.
In the midst of all we've done, all we've given up on.
He was with us every step, feeling what we feel,
When your soul was buried down, burdened by the long road.”

“When our plans become the casualties of getting through the day
And we begin to know our weakness,
And denial isn’t strong enough to hold our fears at bay,
And we can’t escape our emptiness.
I am looking for a Savior I can see and know and touch,
One who dwells within the midst of us.”

United Pursuit
“It doesn't always work like I planned it.
I've seen a lot of good things,
A lot of things
Been out of my hands.
Even when I don't understand it,
We have all got choices to make
And this one is mine:
‘Even now, here's my heart, God.’
Seems that all you do is so hidden.
Sometimes I'm left to wonder,
‘Are you working at all?’
But even in the darkness I'm listening
To your still small voice
In the distance.
I heed your call!
‘Even now, here's my heart, God.
Even now, here’s my heart, God.
Even now, here’s my heart, God.
I’m in love!’”

“Your love is sweeter than honey.
Your love is stronger than death.
Your love lifts me of my burdens,
And teaches me to dance.”

I could go on. It was an incredible peace that washed over me. I didn’t really understand it. I had almost conditioned myself to force myself to feel bad in those situations, but I just couldn’t. I looked at what could have happened. There could have been a car next to me that I could have hit. There could have been someone that came around the curve and hit me. I could have been injured, which I wasn’t at all. I could have not been on a bridge and flipped into the median. I could have hit the wall with the front of my car and did more damage. I could have been undriveable. It was really one of the best scenarios under the circumstances. If it weren’t for God’s peace and joy, it would have been so much more difficult to face this. I’m still not sure what it will cost or if I will be able to get it repaired, but I know He is with me.

I began working for a company that accumulated soccer statistics, and have been going to games in the region. Most of the work has been fine, but Nippert Stadium, current home of FC Cincinnati, has been terrible. For some reason, my cell service is bad there, and it affected my ability to call the game. My second time there, the match went to extra time, and I had to stand up at the top of the stands to get decent reception. I still had to call the game over the phone because of the internet service. Where I had to stand gave me a poor view of the field, and this caused me to mess up a key call. Under company policy, they penalized me for 75% of my pay for the match, and it stopped my bonus run. Essentially, this cost me around $150.
Nippert Stadium during a FC Cincinnati game

I’ve struggled financially for part of the summer, so that was a big blow. And that night I was pretty mad about it. I didn’t have any cash on me, so I had to park almost half an hour’s walk away in a free garage. It was a tough time going back. But God, the sovereign giver of peace, helped me through it. It just refused to phase me. And that wasn’t my willpower doing that; it never has helped me before. No, that was the work of my Creator, my Savior, my Lord. And how have I gotten through this time? My grandpa walked up to me at church and handed me $100, and my grandparents and parents have randomly given me cash besides that. That literally was the difference in me getting by until I was paid.

God is so faithful, guys! These times should have been awful, but He gives joy in trials! There was never a time He was not with me.

“Sometimes this world brings trouble I find so hard to bear.
I know I could not make it without Jesus being there.
It’s so encouraging to know, how ever deep we’re in despair:
Jesus never fails.
So what can I do to prove to you; tell me how can you deny?
No untold facts, no mysteries, it’s all so cut and dried.
On the witness stand of your life, I’ll be the first to testify:
Jesus never fails!”

All the good You've done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see.
You're the only one who brings me to my knees.
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth;
So I kneel before You, God.
I lift my hands cause You set me free.
So I shout out Your name.
From the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours. I am Yours.
All that I am
I place into Your loving hands.
And I am Yours. I am Yours.

“Promise maker, promise keeper:
You finish what you begin.
Our provision, through the desert:
You see it through to the end.
You see it through to the end.
The Lord Our God is ever faithful,
Never changing through the ages.
From this darkness, You will lead us;
And forever we will say,
‘You're the Lord Our God.’”

“By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat.
The resurrected King
Is resurrecting me.
In Your name I come alive
To declare your victory.
The resurrected King
Is resurrecting me.”

I find vulnerability with others an important thing in a Christian’s walk, but it’s not easy. Nevertheless, God has been teaching me some things, and I want to testify. I also want to testify that it hasn’t been all bad.

Last month I was able to go to a concert for which I was really excited with my good friend Megan, and it didn’t disappoint. I had so much fun and got to talk with her about a lot of stuff. A couple weekends ago, I got to go down to Louisville and spend a few hours with Sara and Monica after I hadn’t seen them in person in a month-and-a-half.

A couple friends of mine will be getting married this weekend. I was scheduled to leave for Arizona Thursday morning and get back to Dayton Saturday evening. I already had the flight scheduled when they told me the time, and I was going to miss the wedding. They have been good friends and an awesome example of a healthy, Christ-centered relationship, and I was really sad to have to miss it. I checked with the travel agency, who after calculating said it would cost me an additional $230. I called Delta, and they said it would cost $270. It seemed like I wouldn’t be able to change it. But prayer can accomplish what we can’t. One day, I got a random call from Delta saying that they had overbooked my flight, and they offered me a $200 travel voucher if I could switch my flight. Not only do I get to be back in time for the wedding, I also get $200 towards another flight later this year. I had to call them to let them know, and their response was, “Isn’t the Lord good?!” So I’m finding out…

As the trials continue, so does God’s faithfulness. I developed interest in a close friend of mine and struggled with whether to ask her out. I feared messing up a friendship and how it could affect our friends around us. But I carefully decided to take the risk. I didn't want to look back and not have tried. It was one of the tougher things to work through. But God gave her the grace to say that nothing changes and our friendship would continue to grow. And God has shown me the value of the support of a few key people.

The next day, we had to take my mom to the emergency room. I had gotten eight hours of sleep total over the last two nights, which made the whole day tougher, and then this happened too. I didn’t think it was anything life-threatening, but it was so sudden. I remember walking around the waiting room saying, besides my prayer for her, “God, how much more can I be pushed in these weeks?”

On what was an otherwise-fun camping trip this past weekend, there were a couple unfortunate incidents. First, I was attacked by bees after I started chopping a dead limb off of what was apparently their tree, which led to several stings to the forehead. It also made for a humorous moment when my friend and I heard a drone and mistook it for a swarm of bees. Second, our group was cited for camping and building a fire in an undesignated area, something we’d never heard of being enforced. That cost me $80 to the federal government.
Red River Gorge

So it hasn’t exactly been the most fortuitous few weeks. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I faced such a string of trials. God has and continues to help me past them. That has always been the case. What is different lately is the peace that I’ve had through them. Nothing seems to affect me negatively for very long. Past that peace, I’ve had joy. At about two a.m. the night we camped out, we began to spontaneously pray as a group. It had to have went at least half an hour. I prayed that we would be an encouragement to each other and that we would help each other through trials and the season of life we’re in. I don’t remember most of what I said, but I do remember saying that “we just look stupid” to the world. Here we are laughing and dancing and experiencing joy in the face of stuff that really sucks. Stuff that, if we were bitter, that feeling would be validated by most. We just look stupid to people that haven’t experienced the love and grace that God bestows upon us. To have peace and serenity and joy in trials is something that, at least for me, is not possible apart from a relationship with God and Him giving us His sight and His priorities.

So I’m all for looking stupid. That’s a difference the world should see.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Calvinism: Contrary to God's Character

Since the start of my undergraduate education, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different Christian beliefs. This has created interest in, and has sometimes forced me to, examine these beliefs to see if there is any credibility. One of the major ones I’m familiar with now is Calvinism.
John Piper is a prominent Calvinist preacher beloved by many

I’ve learned the core beliefs of Calvinism through study and debate with friends. I’m not saying that there aren’t passages that seem to support their beliefs or that I have all the answers off the top of my head. But the biggest argument against Calvinism is the reality of who God is as explained in the Bible. This is not an in-depth analysis of TULIP; perhaps that can come later. Rather, I want to look at a few key attributes of God that conflict in a major way with the Calvinist definition of “predestination”. These make it just about impossible for me to ever think God chooses ahead of time who will go to Heaven and Hell:

“For there is no respect of persons with God.” –Romans 2:11

“Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.” –II Chronicles 19:7

“Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment…Shall even he that hateth right govern? and wilt thou condemn him that is most just? Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked? and to princes, Ye are ungodly? How much less to him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? for they all are the work of his hands.” –Job 34:12, 17-19

“And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear…” –I Peter 1:17
“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons…” –Acts 10:34

In the article, “God is no Respector of Persons,” Caleb Colley says:

The Greek word translated “respecter of persons” in the King James Version of Acts 10:34 (“God is no respecter of persons”) is prosopolemptes, a word that refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face instead of at the facts of the case, and makes a decision based on whether or not he likes the man (Lenski, 1961, p. 418).

Thus Calvinism meets its first contradictory truth in the Bible. The belief is that God makes His grace irresistible to some so that they must become Christians, but others He refuses. This would show an obvious respect of persons with the Righteous Judge. He who does not respect persons will not predetermine different eternal fates for people. To arbitrarily choose Hell for one person and Heaven for someone else most certainly does not hold true to what His Word says about Him.

Colley also opens up a number of verses that show the free will of man:

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve…” –Joshua 24:15

“For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings…” –Isaiah 7:16

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” –Matthew 23:37

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” –Revelation 22:17

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” –Ezekiel 18:20

Every person is responsible for his own actions. Furthermore, every person has the opportunity, of his own free will, to choose to accept or reject God’s mercy.

I have been told that I diminish God’s sovereignty by believing so strongly in free will. On the contrary, it makes the better case. If God chose ahead of time, there would be no need for prediction. But when God does not choose for people, but still knows who will choose of their own free will, His sovereignty is put on display. God is entirely possible of knowing who will be saved without actually forcing them into Heaven.

Under the reasoning of Calvinism, God created Adam and Eve AND caused them to sin. It wasn’t enough just to know; He had to do it. James 1:13 tells us that God does not even tempt us with sin, much less force us to. God created Adam and Eve, yes, knowing that they would sin. But He did not cause them to sin. In the same way, God created me knowing that I would be saved. But He did not choose salvation for me.
John MacArthur is another prominent Calvinist preacher.

Furthermore, the Bible’s promise is clear on the availability of salvation:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” –John 3:14-16

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” –Romans 10:9-13

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” –Revelation 22:17

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions…And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered…” –Joel 3:28, 32

Peter applied Joel’s message on the day of Pentecost, the springboard of those events to come:

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” –Acts 2:21

Let’s examine the Greek word translated “whosoever”:

Pas – all, the whole, every kind of

The word pas has the denotation of parts of a totality. The context of John 3, as we all know, is of the whole world. Hence, anyone (“all”) on the Earth who believes on Jesus “will have everlasting life.” This is a fatal blow to a belief that claims God is partial to some but not all. Calvinist Bibles must come with a lot of asterisks.

As I mentioned, Calvinism is a perverting of God’s nature. Possibly the hardest thing a Calvinist must grapple with is a special attribute of God:

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” –I Peter 3:9

In the midst of discussing God’s coming judgment, Peter was inspired by God to pen these words. God’s justice demands that He punish the wicked (Nahum 1:2-3), but His love for the chief of His creation is mighty. He is merciful well beyond what we deserve (Psalm 103:8). He desires to know us. Every one of us. God wants “whosoever” to repent and begin a relationship with Him. He does not desire for anyone to go to Hell.

Under this attribute of God, if He were to predestine us He would predestine us all to Heaven. But the Bible is clear that there are people who face eternal punishment by God. If you are not a Calvinist, the explanation is very simple. God wants us to repent and turn from our destruction. But He is just and will punish the sinner. Although He wants us to be saved, He will not force us, but rather gives us the free will to choose to come to Him – just as He did with Adam and Eve in the beginning.

We have equality in that we are all born sinners and are all in need of God’s mercy. Calvinism destroys that equality under the belief that God has predestined some people to go to Heaven, and has chosen others to go to Hell. This also makes the Great Commission pointless. Any arguments I have heard about God still allowing us in His plan are rather unconvincing, since these same individuals believe that the “elect” have already been chosen. If our fates are sealed regardless of what we do, evangelism is pointless. In fact, any service to God is pointless. But since Calvinism is an unbiblical belief, there is no reason to explain away massive parts of the Bible that speak to God’s merciful nature, our free will, and the command to tell the world about the life they can have through God.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Importance of Fostering Relationships with the Opposite Sex

Some of the most valuable relationships I’ve had during college are with members of the opposite sex. In high school, I didn’t have as many of these types of friendships, but as I’ve grown I’ve found it easier to relate to women. In fact, I sometimes feel as if I relate better to girls than I do guys.

I’m not sure exactly why this is, though I have my theories. It doesn’t really matter. But these relationships have taught me that it is valuable to foster relationships with those of the opposite sex. There are things that female friends offer that male friends don’t, and vice versa. Deny it if you will, but men and women aren’t the same. Our minds are wired differently. These aren’t major differences, but they are important. Women offer men a different perspective. Girls are generally more emotional, more excitable, more empathetic, more nurturing, and more caring. They also offer different experiences.
Nate, Jacob, and I went to West Virginia to watch Kelly and Sami play in
NKU's first NCAA tournament game.

When I am about to make a dumb decision, it has usually been a female friend that has spoken up and encouraged me not to take that action. Recently, on a camping trip, a male friend had the brilliant idea to walk across a hot coal of our fire. It was a couple female friends that pleaded with him to not do it. He did, and he understood why they told him not to.

In college, men are usually transitioning away from home and to a more independent life. Their mothers are still there, usually, but college men don’t see them every day, especially those who leave home for college. I have a working theory that men subconsciously use female friends to fill the roles their mother once primarily filled. I have had female friends that have been nurturing, that have called out bad decisions, have offered advice, and so on. These are things that male friends could not provide or would have a different perspective about, and that’s perfectly okay. But that’s why it’s important to have friends of the opposite sex.

These women also model what a biblical woman acts like and behaves like. Sure, it is possible that a man could enter into a romantic relationship with one of them, but for most or all of them it is a platonic love. A deep love, but nothing more. These women serve as the model for a woman with whom a man would begin a romantic relationship. Women are also wonderful counselors on relationship issues, as they bring the perspective of a woman.

I’m very grateful to the girls that have been close friends over the years, especially lately, and these ladies serve as great examples to drive home this message. Brooke, Sara, Monica, Kate, Natalie, Seanna, and Megan I have great trust in, and they’ve been there for me. Brooke, Sara, Monica, Kate, and Natalie I’ve turned to for advice on a number of things.

This was a dance party 2 1/2 years ago. Brooke is behind me in green.
I remember when Brooke initially came to the BCM, and how quickly she has grown. I have long trusted her with anything, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve went to her for advice. I can think of at least three other guys that can say the same, so she’s a textbook example of a girl whose friendship has meant the world to guys around her. I’m not sure I know of a better listener, and someone who has probably heard some pretty stupid things but always responds with grace. I also respect that during most of her time at NKU she has had a serious boyfriend, but never let that stop her from being close friends with other guys, which unfortunately is not the case in all relationships. Seeing her always brightens my day.

Sara, Monica, and I at the 2017 March for Life
I often group together Sara and Monica because, well, they’re often grouped together. But together or separate, I have as deep a level of trust in them as anyone, female or male. I have spent such a great deal of time with them that I’ve formed a deep bond. I first met them at an orientation when I was working a table for the BCM, never knowing that this would be us almost three years later. I still have a note Sara dropped in my car when she saw me parked by the Rec Center. Sara and Monica have been the most interested in pro-life ministry, in part due to Sara’s remarkable testimony. I’ve had the privilege of training them, serving alongside them in a few outreaches, and attending the March for Life twice with them. It was at the last March for Life that I fully realized (1) what a blessing they are and (2) how much I would miss not spending as much time with them. We spent hours at a time with each other, including a heart-to-heart conversation in our hotel where we explained how much we meant to each other. And they do mean a lot to me.

Initially, Kate was shy, and she didn’t like me. Both of us have changed over the years, and we grew closer. I really don’t know when that shift happened; all I know is that we’ve been good friends for a while now. She’s one of the few people that matches my level of physical affection, and it’s always nice to have that kind of person in your life. Kate’s maturity and no-nonsense advice has been a help to me over the past year or two. One time I asked her if my attitude on something was shallow. “Yes,” she replied. She has the uncanny ability to be very sweet and very blunt at the same time. I think Kate’s caring and nurturing abilities make her an ideal model of a Christian woman.
Natalie and I at IHOP late one night after an adventure

I’ve known Natalie the least amount of time out of these five, but she was quickly able to earn my trust. She is one of the most caring people I know, always perceptive to the feelings of others. When we’re out on adventures (late-night hikes of some sort), she recognizes when someone is uncomfortable and works to help them, even offering to stay back with them so they both don’t have to go and aren’t alone. I know I can trust her to be understanding. It was cool to have a friend that had just graduated, one that I could talk to about my soon-to-come graduation. It was equally cool to have someone that, after we stayed up until three a.m., could put extra espresso in my coffee in the morning before work or class. I am typically not easily excited, but I’ve learned to show it a little more from being around her. I’ve been with her when she hears an incredible story about how God has worked, and her reactions show her joy. When she shares stories of her own, her animation is telling. She really has a love for Christ and His church. I’ve watched her mentorship of younger students and how much they admire her. Their admiration is earned.

Seanna (closer) and Megan are in the back.
Megan I feel is similar to me in a number of ways. We have similar backgrounds, similar upbringings, similar experiences in public schools. We’ve faced and face similar problems. I wanted to support her through these problems, but it is often she who has supported me. I still remember exactly when we first “met”, during my freshman year when I went to a bonfire at her house. Her sister was actually the one in college, and she pointed out Megan laying in a hammock in the front yard. It was not until this year that she came to NKU and I got to know her. I’m thankful for the experiences that we’ve had on adventures and playing soccer together, where as the goalkeeper I got to order her around on defense.

MisterWives recently released a new album, which includes the song “My Brother”. When I heard it, I thought of all these girls that have been there for me through hard times. Written from the perspective of a female to her male friend, Seanna called it “the perfect nonromantic love song.”

“…Oh, my brother, it pains me to see you here again. And oh, my brother, I’ll take this road with you until the end. And I’ll never leave you, I’ll never leave you, I’ll never leave you…”

Then there is the benefit that I hope I have in girls’ lives. I like to call them “my girls” due to my use of “girl” as an endearing term. These are girls that are younger than me that are like younger sisters; I protect them and try to mentor them. Mentorship, like friendship, is something that shouldn’t be limited to the same sex, though it may take different forms. Sara, Monica, Seanna, Lexi, Char, and Rachel are very special to me and have had a unique impact on my life.

Sara (right) and I (in the tie) after speaking at a Planned Parenthood protest
On that March for Life trip, a friend of mine thought Sara, Monica, and I were siblings. (I don’t know if I look Hispanic or they look Caucasian.) Until I was back around my sister this summer, I didn’t realize how much truth there was to that. They ask me a lot of questions, including advice and clarification on difficult matters. I’ve been able to help Monica with some of her law school preparations. When they toured Washington, D.C., I was at a conference. I felt a little lost without them around, and regretted I was not there to protect them (I gave them my pepper spray). When I got back to my room at NKU, they sent me a text that read, “Thanks for being our big brother,” to which I replied, “Forever and always.” They are the only people that made me cry when I said goodbye before I graduated. When someone asked me the one person I would miss the most from the BCM, after some thought, I said one of them (I won't say which; they're both close). Seeing these two grow, and knowing that I had some part in it, was one of the most rewarding parts of my college experience.

Seanna and I at a Passion concert; I'm
wearing her artwork
I’m not really sure why Seanna and I have gotten along so well. I wasn’t sure at first what to make of her quirks, but I’ve grown to like them. We think our relationship started to take a turn when we went to Dairy Queen after a worship service, and she was the only one in my car. (In fact, she’s probably ridden in my car more than anyone else.) Our conversations we were able to have probably set us on the path to a closer friendship. This grew exponentially at Beach Reach, where on the first night we were on a street team together. I was able to clearly see that there was a deep spiritual side to her as well. I’ve also found her to be very emotionally perceptive. As I sat by her during the last service down in Panama City, she noticed that I began to cry (I promise it doesn't happen that often) during the worship set and put her arm around me; this later turned into an embrace as the last song finished. She is also very physically affectionate. Seanna has a beautiful way of phrasing her words when she’s serious. I’ve come to love her artwork, particularly one series entitled “A Way Out”, where she creates symbols of the struggles her friends have and includes a keyhole on each of them, one that can only be unlocked by Jesus. The one of herself involves a testimony similar to mine, so much so that I bought a tank with the art on it to spark conversation. There have been a couple times when she has actually corrected me when I have been wrong. I will also forever be the first person to take Seanna to Red Lobster, where I changed her life as much as she’s changed mine.

I first met Lexi at the Converge Conference, our BCM fall retreat this past year. I’m pretty good at perceiving who I will get along with, and she seemed like an immediate candidate to become one of my girls. I drove her back to her dorm afterwards, and I knew I had a new friend. I was soon after impressed by her speaking skills at the freshman takeover Engage worship service. I still don’t think she understands why I call myself old, but after a few more years of college, she will. When I spoke about abortion at Engage, I ran into her in the Student Union the next day and we had lunch together. She had more questions, and I was impressed by both her interest and attentiveness as she took notes on what I said. I’ve grown fond enough of her that I risked (and did) incur the wrath of a professor because I talked to Lexi a few extra minutes and was late to a class. I was walking across campus one day and ran into Lexi. After talking to her a few minutes, she randomly gave me a tight hug and said, “You’re amazing. You’re like a big brother; I’ve never had one of those before.” Honestly, I’m not sure what prompted it, and I don’t mention it to talk myself up. This is what can be a reality with relationships with people of the opposite sex. There is such value in the way in which they touch our lives.
Char and I during our Created Equal internship

“Char” is actually “Charity”. I’m the only one that calls her Char (“chair”). I interned with her at Created Equal the summer after my sophomore year. I had the tendency to shorten names as a sign of endearment, so I began to call her Char. I felt a special responsibility for her; she was the youngest member of our team, the only one still in high school at the time. I already knew by this point that, for whatever reason, I get along well with girls that are a few years younger than me. Char was the person who solidified this. I wanted to protect her and mentor her, so I intentionally did so. We grew closer over the summer, and it was sad to separate from her at the end. At that time, she didn’t have any technology access. No social media, no phone, no email. So I began to correspond with her the only way I could: hand-written letters. Our relationship can be summed up by the time when I explained to her that she was one of my girls:

Char: I know. I miss you so much. And now I am actually an adult so you can call me kid but it won’t be true 😂😂

Me: There's an official name now. You're one of my girls. Female friends that are younger than me that I get along with well and protect/mentor them like an older brother. There are only six of you right now, so it's pretty exclusive.

Char: Ah 😂😂 That actually makes me feel really special. Yea you've always felt like that to me. And I’ve always felt like I can tell you anything and I'll never be judged. Just given honest and caring advice. That means a lot.

I took this picture of Rachel during a mission trip in Cleveland.
Rachel and I hit it off immediately when we met each other. I’m not even sure on how many mission trips I’ve served with her; I think it’s four or five. What I do know is that we grew close quickly—even for mission trips that already bring people together—until she became one of my best friends at Created Equal. The last Justice Ride I was on, which was last summer, I was coming straight from Cedarville University after taking the LSAT. The Justice Ride had already started, and Rachel was texting me the whole way up there, wondering when I was going to arrive. When I got there, she was the first person to greet me, running towards me and giving me a big hug. Some of my favorite moments with her were when we worked together during anti-abortion public outreaches. We seemed to flawlessly play off each other’s arguments as we spoke to pro-choice individuals. I remember one time in Washington, D.C., I was talking to a man who eventually said that he believed I was wrong as a man to tell women they shouldn’t abort their child. This is a really flawed argument, and Rachel jumped on the opportunity to explain that she is a woman and believes exactly as I do. As she made her points, I stood in admiration of the teamwork that was possible through our friendship. Her willingness to stand for innocent human beings in spite of opposition long ago won her my respect.

These represent who are currently my closest female friends, but they aren’t all. Sarah, Mackenzie, Kelsey, Bethany, Lisa, Turner, Kelly, Sami, Elle, Kelsey, Megan, Alisha, Sarah, Jordan, Macy, Haley, Molly, Stephanie, Joy; the list could go on. I’m not quite sure where I’d be without these women in my life. They have helped my growth as much as the men around me have, and they’ve done it in ways that men could not have. My experience has taught me that it’s vital to foster relationships with people of the opposite sex. This should be done naturally; there are people that we are naturally drawn toward and with whom we will get along. If you get along well with someone of the opposite sex, just let the friendship happen; don't fear the idea of being close to them. There are tremendous benefits to these relationships, as is evidenced in my life with the girls I know. I want to express my thanks to them, and my desire is to see these types of relationships help each other blossom into all God has intended us to be.