Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Love Never Fails

I've noticed a trend recently that genuinely breaks my heart. It hits me when I read quotes like this one from a Baptist pastor in California in reference to the attack in Orlando, “Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? No...I think that’s great...The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.” This is a preacher, a man called to love and serve God and his congregation, calling for a mass killing of human beings. The Orlando attacks aren't even the most recent. It seems like there's a new story every day about someone who has been hurt out of fear and hate. We just keep hurting each other for stupid reasons: sexual orientation, religion, skin color, nationality...the list never ends. And with every new terrible event, there is a bombardment of hate speech spewed all over social media. People react out of fear, and fear causes us to behave appallingly.


"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15


Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst; me, Rachel Claire Cockrell. I am the worst sinner. I am worse than all of you. I talk about this verse a lot, but that's because I think it is so crucial for Christians to embrace.


I need Christ in my life more than anyone else. There is not a single homosexual, Muslim, alcoholic, grocery clerk, adulterer, republican, transgender person, cheater, teacher, liar, bigot, immigrant, racist, democrat, thief, prostitute, or next door neighbor who is worse than I am. I can do nothing but embrace my weaknesses because they serve only to magnify Christ's power and grace.


I am no better than anyone else. The only significant difference in me is that I have found the Savior. I am washed by the blood and covered in his grace (cue the gospel music). I am clean; not because of anything I have ever done, but because I have accepted the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. My only goal should be sharing that knowledge with others. Our goal as Christians should never be to exclude, condemn, or judge those who do not have Christ in their lives. On the contrary, we should love those people. We, more than anyone else, understand how deceptive the enemy is.


When we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else in an attempt to make us feel like we are better, then think about what we, as Christians, could do for Christ! Think about how many more people would feel the love of Christ. We forget that this is what he was known for. He wasn't known for his condemnation. He was known for love.


Loving others is how the world will identify us as Christ followers, and unfortunately there are too many Christians out there who spread nothing but hate. We have to stop assuming that we know what God is thinking, that’s just arrogance and pride, and we are called to be humble. We have to stop assuming that we are here to tell everyone what they are doing wrong. I have to stop assuming that I am a better Christian or a better person than anyone else.


To the LGBT community, to the followers of other religions, to the person who feels like a failure, to the next door neighbor who feels judged, I apologize on behalf of all self-proclaimed Christians for the way we have treated you. Please do not assume that we follow a God who condemns the way that we have. God is love. Period. Jesus loves you for who you are right now. We would have you believe that he doesn't. We would have you believe that Jesus only loves you when you've changed, when you look just like we expect you to. This is a lie. Jesus loves you exactly as you are right at this moment. I am sorry at how often we forget that. We assume that we have to tell you all about how the Bible says whatever you're doing is a sin, but the truth is we should be loving you and showing you how much Jesus loves you.


I have no right to tell anyone else how to live their lives. All I can do is tell you what a difference Jesus has made in my life. All I can tell you is how much more fulfilling it is to worship and follow a Savior who sacrificed his life for me, because he desired a relationship with me that much. That is our calling as Christians, to spread the gospel and to share the love of Christ. We are to hold other Christians accountable in love (which is key...anything not done in love is useless), but we cannot judge those who do not have Christ.


Love never fails. It didn't fail 2000 years ago on a cross when a man who was far from ordinary because he was fully God and fully man decided he loved me enough to die so that I could have a relationship with him. Love succeeded when he chose to take me as I am. Love succeeded when he decided that I was worth his sacrifice, even though I am the worst of all sinners. That is our focus. We have to remember that we need Jesus’ love and sacrifice just as much as anyone else. We need to remember that Jesus loved the prostitute, the adulterer, and the tax collector exactly as they were, with no strings attached. Jesus said it himself in John chapter 13, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If we spew hate, fear, and judgement, then we look nothing like Christ.


Show everyone who Christ really is. He is love. He is forgiveness. He is truth. And thank goodness he separates the sinner from the sin, or I would be more condemned than anyone else. I deserve Christ’s love less than anyone, and yet I have it. How could I not share it?


So, how do we change the current culture in our country? What is the solution to the division and the hate and the ridiculousness?

Love.

We. Have. To. Love.

We have to love the way Christ loved. We assume that in order to love we have to agree. That's not true! Christ didn't agree with the adulterous ways of the Samaritan woman at the well, but he still treated her with love and respect. We will never reach the masses for Christ; we will never be able to convince anyone that there is anything worthwhile about Jesus until we learn to love the way he did.

I don't care about what the rest of the world does. But Christians, I'm calling you out. Stop spewing hate. Try for some empathy. Learn how to love. Show the world who Christ really is.

Love Never Fails

I've noticed a trend recently that genuinely breaks my heart. It hits me when I read quotes like this one from a Baptist pastor in California in reference to the attack in Orlando, “Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? No...I think that’s great...The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.” This is a preacher, a man called to love and serve God and his congregation, calling for a mass killing of human beings. The Orlando attacks aren't even the most recent. It seems like there's a new story every day about someone who has been hurt out of fear and hate. We just keep hurting each other for stupid reasons: sexual orientation, religion, skin color, nationality...the list never ends. And with every new terrible event, there is a bombardment of hate speech spewed all over social media. People react out of fear, and fear causes us to behave appallingly.


"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15


Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst; me, Rachel Claire Cockrell. I am the worst sinner. I am worse than all of you. I talk about this verse a lot, but that's because I think it is so crucial for Christians to embrace.


I need Christ in my life more than anyone else. There is not a single homosexual, Muslim, alcoholic, grocery clerk, adulterer, republican, transgender person, cheater, teacher, liar, bigot, immigrant, racist, democrat, thief, prostitute, or next door neighbor who is worse than I am. I can do nothing but embrace my weaknesses because they serve only to magnify Christ's power and grace.


I am no better than anyone else. The only significant difference in me is that I have found the Savior. I am washed by the blood and covered in his grace (cue the gospel music). I am clean; not because of anything I have ever done, but because I have accepted the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. My only goal should be sharing that knowledge with others. Our goal as Christians should never be to exclude, condemn, or judge those who do not have Christ in their lives. On the contrary, we should love those people. We, more than anyone else, understand how deceptive the enemy is.


When we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else in an attempt to make us feel like we are better, then think about what we, as Christians, could do for Christ! Think about how many more people would feel the love of Christ. We forget that this is what he was known for. He wasn't known for his condemnation. He was known for love.


Loving others is how the world will identify us as Christ followers, and unfortunately there are too many Christians out there who spread nothing but hate. We have to stop assuming that we know what God is thinking, that’s just arrogance and pride, and we are called to be humble. We have to stop assuming that we are here to tell everyone what they are doing wrong. I have to stop assuming that I am a better Christian or a better person than anyone else.


To the LGBT community, to the followers of other religions, to the person who feels like a failure, to the next door neighbor who feels judged, I apologize on behalf of all self-proclaimed Christians for the way we have treated you. Please do not assume that we follow a God who condemns the way that we have. God is love. Period. Jesus loves you for who you are right now. We would have you believe that he doesn't. We would have you believe that Jesus only loves you when you've changed, when you look just like we expect you to. This is a lie. Jesus loves you exactly as you are right at this moment. I am sorry at how often we forget that. We assume that we have to tell you all about how the Bible says whatever you're doing is a sin, but the truth is we should be loving you and showing you how much Jesus loves you.


I have no right to tell anyone else how to live their lives. All I can do is tell you what a difference Jesus has made in my life. All I can tell you is how much more fulfilling it is to worship and follow a Savior who sacrificed his life for me, because he desired a relationship with me that much. That is our calling as Christians, to spread the gospel and to share the love of Christ. We are to hold other Christians accountable in love (which is key...anything not done in love is useless), but we cannot judge those who do not have Christ.


Love never fails. It didn't fail 2000 years ago on a cross when a man who was far from ordinary because he was fully God and fully man decided he loved me enough to die so that I could have a relationship with him. Love succeeded when he chose to take me as I am. Love succeeded when he decided that I was worth his sacrifice, even though I am the worst of all sinners. That is our focus. We have to remember that we need Jesus’ love and sacrifice just as much as anyone else. We need to remember that Jesus loved the prostitute, the adulterer, and the tax collector exactly as they were, with no strings attached. Jesus said it himself in John chapter 13, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If we spew hate, fear, and judgement, then we look nothing like Christ.


Show everyone who Christ really is. He is love. He is forgiveness. He is truth. And thank goodness he separates the sinner from the sin, or I would be more condemned than anyone else. I deserve Christ’s love less than anyone, and yet I have it. How could I not share it?


So, how do we change the current culture in our country? What is the solution to the division and the hate and the ridiculousness?

Love.

We. Have. To. Love.

We have to love the way Christ loved. We assume that in order to love we have to agree. That's not true! Christ didn't agree with the adulterous ways of the Samaritan woman at the well, but he still treated her with love and respect. We will never reach the masses for Christ; we will never be able to convince anyone that there is anything worthwhile about Jesus until we learn to love the way he did.

I don't care about what the rest of the world does. But Christians, I'm calling you out. Stop spewing hate. Try for some empathy. Learn how to love. Show the world who Christ really is.

Friday, August 5, 2016

My Summer Book List: Part 4


Don't miss out on the first 3 parts of this series!
This is the fourth and final installment of my summer book list series, and this will be the longest one so far since I've waited so long to add this one. I apologize in advance.

The summer ends, for me, on Monday. I'm bummed and excited all at the same time. I'm currently reading a young adult novel called Feed by M.T Anderson, recommended to me by my friend, Lauren. I think I might be able to finish it before Monday if I really get on it, but I wanted to go ahead and get this out before then, so it won't make it into the series. However, it is my 30th book of the summer, which is a goal I wasn't sure I would be able to accomplish. That comes out to about one book every other day, on average. 

I really love to read. I'm not sure if you could call fast reading a talent, but I guess I'll take it. But let's get into this...

13. The Last Star by Rick Yancey
This is the final book in The Fifth Wave trilogy. I really enjoyed the series. I still haven't watched the movie (I'm afraid that'll ruin it). This series had a pretty awesome ending that makes the reading worth it. I don't want to say too much more, because I gave you a good idea of what the series is about in part 3.

14. The Stand by Stephen King
I haven't read many Stephen King books, just two others that I can think of off the top of my head. But this one was my favorite so far. It's huge. If you aren't a reader you'll hate it because it's so long. And in typical Stephen King fashion the storyline drags out for ages. This is a post-apocalyptic America where a virus has wiped out 99% of the population. All who are left are having some crazy dreams tugging them west, either towards an old woman who could be their savior, or an evil man who could be their downfall. This is a wonderful portrayal of good vs evil. The characters are rich and well-rounded and the story will suck you in immediately. The one problem I have with Stephen King is probably the same problem most people have. He struggles with his endings. The story will drag on forever and then the ending will seem to leave a little to be desired, almost like he's never sure how to end it so he just keeps going until he can't keep going anymore. This one ended in a way that I enjoyed, but it was a little beneath what my expectations were. In spite of that, I loved it. Great book.

15 & 16. Queen of the Tearling and Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  
The Queen of the Tearling is a trilogy and I had to read it because there is a movie coming out supposedly starring Emma Watson as the main character. The third and final book, The Fate of the Tearling doesn't come out until November and I'm about to pre-order my copy on Amazon. This series is incredible. If you love fierce, independent female leads, a little bit of science fiction, and a little bit of fantasy, then you will love Queen Kelsea and her continuously uphill struggle to save her kingdom from the evil Red Queen (who has some serious mommy issues). This novel is set in a future that looks more like the past and I promise you will fall in love with, not only the setting, but the story and the characters as well. Kelsea is strong, intelligent, and a bit stubborn. Think Katniss Everdeen if she were queen of her own country. Disclaimer: this series is labeled young adult fantasy, but there is relatively liberal usage of the F bomb and a few sexually suggestive situations. So, I'm a little more inclined just label it just plain old adult fiction. It's no 50 Shades of Grey, but I'm not sure I would want my 13 year old sister reading it just yet. It's a wonderful story, though, and I highly recommend it.


17. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is one of those books that you finish, put down, and have to take a second to digest. The novel focuses on 3 friends who grew up together at a kind of boarding school. They are told their whole lives how "special" they are, and they have a pretty good idea why, even if they aren't quite able to grasp it. This is a novel that shows how scary and inhumane our future has the potential to be. I wouldn't be surprised if it provided some of the inspiration behind the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman (which I will get to in a moment). Ishiguro is an incredibly talented writer. I believe everyone should read this book.

18. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I read this book because I've never read it before, which seems like a sin for an English teacher, and because it's the 2nd most mentioned book on the AP Literature exam. Since I'm supposed to be teaching AP Lit next year, it seemed like a good idea to start reading the books most frequently used/mentioned in the exam. I love the Bronte sisters and their stories. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels of all time. Since almost everyone has heard of this book I'm sure I don't need to give a lot of detail on what it's about. I love good character stories, and I think this was a good character story. I hated the characters, but I also loved them, and that's a hard feat to accomplish for a writer. The love story of Catherine and Heathcliff is infamous, but I saw this book as more of a cautionary tale to certain character flaws. If you like the classics and you haven't read it already, I recommend it.

19. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
I had so many people recommend this book to me that I had to read it. It's the first in the series and I can't wait to read the rest. My sister had to read this book in her 7th grade English class. It's also labeled as young adult fiction, but the themes and ideas presented in this book are so beyond just young adults. The premise is that the second civil war in America was fought between a pro-life and pro-choice army over reproductive rights. In the end, the two sides compromised. They determined that life was sacred from the moment of conception until the child turns 13. A person has 13 years to prove their worth, to prove that they won't waste their life. From the ages of 13 to 18, a person can be "unwound." In this future Shusterman has created, all parts of the body can be transplanted to someone else. If a child is unwound, all of his organs and body parts are donated. This story focuses on 3 kids who, for varying reasons, are set to be unwound. This is a novel that will break your heart and make you think about what life really means and how ethical some decisions are. It's amazing. You should read it.

20. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
There is no better book to end my summer book list series on than another installment in my favorite story of all time, The Harry Potter series. I can't express to you how excited I was when this book was finally dropped off at my house. I devoured it in 2 hours. I know my love for all things Harry Potter probably makes me biased, but I loved it. Anyone who loves the old story needs to read this script. You do need to keep in mind that it is a script not a novel. It is intended to be acted out on stage, and that makes a difference. It's a much shorter read because of that. But the story is, in true J.K. Rowling fashion, wonderful and riveting, and our 3 favorite Gryffindors are all grown up and exactly who you would expect them to be. I don't want to give away any of the plot of this story because part of the magic is not knowing. This was the perfect way to close up my summer of reading.

Now, I know what you're thinking. She said she read 30 books and there's only 20 listed! I left out some books that I re-read, and I also counted all 7 Harry Potter books as one. 
I don't restrict my reading to only in the summer, so if you need any book recommendations or you're wondering if a book is worth reading just let me know. Shoot me a message on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rachelclaireunworthy/ or leave a comment on the blog. I love talking books, it's one of my favorite things. And I love sharing my favorite books with my favorite people.
So, with that I say goodbye to summer. Now it's time to start getting ready for the 150 or so 11th graders who will be blessed (or cursed....) to be in my class next year.

Keep reading!

My Summer Book List: Part 4


Don't miss out on the first 3 parts of this series!
This is the fourth and final installment of my summer book list series, and this will be the longest one so far since I've waited so long to add this one. I apologize in advance.

The summer ends, for me, on Monday. I'm bummed and excited all at the same time. I'm currently reading a young adult novel called Feed by M.T Anderson, recommended to me by my friend, Lauren. I think I might be able to finish it before Monday if I really get on it, but I wanted to go ahead and get this out before then, so it won't make it into the series. However, it is my 30th book of the summer, which is a goal I wasn't sure I would be able to accomplish. That comes out to about one book every other day, on average. 

I really love to read. I'm not sure if you could call fast reading a talent, but I guess I'll take it. But let's get into this...

13. The Last Star by Rick Yancey
This is the final book in The Fifth Wave trilogy. I really enjoyed the series. I still haven't watched the movie (I'm afraid that'll ruin it). This series had a pretty awesome ending that makes the reading worth it. I don't want to say too much more, because I gave you a good idea of what the series is about in part 3.

14. The Stand by Stephen King
I haven't read many Stephen King books, just two others that I can think of off the top of my head. But this one was my favorite so far. It's huge. If you aren't a reader you'll hate it because it's so long. And in typical Stephen King fashion the storyline drags out for ages. This is a post-apocalyptic America where a virus has wiped out 99% of the population. All who are left are having some crazy dreams tugging them west, either towards an old woman who could be their savior, or an evil man who could be their downfall. This is a wonderful portrayal of good vs evil. The characters are rich and well-rounded and the story will suck you in immediately. The one problem I have with Stephen King is probably the same problem most people have. He struggles with his endings. The story will drag on forever and then the ending will seem to leave a little to be desired, almost like he's never sure how to end it so he just keeps going until he can't keep going anymore. This one ended in a way that I enjoyed, but it was a little beneath what my expectations were. In spite of that, I loved it. Great book.

15 & 16. Queen of the Tearling and Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  
The Queen of the Tearling is a trilogy and I had to read it because there is a movie coming out supposedly starring Emma Watson as the main character. The third and final book, The Fate of the Tearling doesn't come out until November and I'm about to pre-order my copy on Amazon. This series is incredible. If you love fierce, independent female leads, a little bit of science fiction, and a little bit of fantasy, then you will love Queen Kelsea and her continuously uphill struggle to save her kingdom from the evil Red Queen (who has some serious mommy issues). This novel is set in a future that looks more like the past and I promise you will fall in love with, not only the setting, but the story and the characters as well. Kelsea is strong, intelligent, and a bit stubborn. Think Katniss Everdeen if she were queen of her own country. Disclaimer: this series is labeled young adult fantasy, but there is relatively liberal usage of the F bomb and a few sexually suggestive situations. So, I'm a little more inclined just label it just plain old adult fiction. It's no 50 Shades of Grey, but I'm not sure I would want my 13 year old sister reading it just yet. It's a wonderful story, though, and I highly recommend it.


17. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is one of those books that you finish, put down, and have to take a second to digest. The novel focuses on 3 friends who grew up together at a kind of boarding school. They are told their whole lives how "special" they are, and they have a pretty good idea why, even if they aren't quite able to grasp it. This is a novel that shows how scary and inhumane our future has the potential to be. I wouldn't be surprised if it provided some of the inspiration behind the Unwind series by Neal Shusterman (which I will get to in a moment). Ishiguro is an incredibly talented writer. I believe everyone should read this book.

18. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I read this book because I've never read it before, which seems like a sin for an English teacher, and because it's the 2nd most mentioned book on the AP Literature exam. Since I'm supposed to be teaching AP Lit next year, it seemed like a good idea to start reading the books most frequently used/mentioned in the exam. I love the Bronte sisters and their stories. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels of all time. Since almost everyone has heard of this book I'm sure I don't need to give a lot of detail on what it's about. I love good character stories, and I think this was a good character story. I hated the characters, but I also loved them, and that's a hard feat to accomplish for a writer. The love story of Catherine and Heathcliff is infamous, but I saw this book as more of a cautionary tale to certain character flaws. If you like the classics and you haven't read it already, I recommend it.

19. Unwind by Neal Shusterman
I had so many people recommend this book to me that I had to read it. It's the first in the series and I can't wait to read the rest. My sister had to read this book in her 7th grade English class. It's also labeled as young adult fiction, but the themes and ideas presented in this book are so beyond just young adults. The premise is that the second civil war in America was fought between a pro-life and pro-choice army over reproductive rights. In the end, the two sides compromised. They determined that life was sacred from the moment of conception until the child turns 13. A person has 13 years to prove their worth, to prove that they won't waste their life. From the ages of 13 to 18, a person can be "unwound." In this future Shusterman has created, all parts of the body can be transplanted to someone else. If a child is unwound, all of his organs and body parts are donated. This story focuses on 3 kids who, for varying reasons, are set to be unwound. This is a novel that will break your heart and make you think about what life really means and how ethical some decisions are. It's amazing. You should read it.

20. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
There is no better book to end my summer book list series on than another installment in my favorite story of all time, The Harry Potter series. I can't express to you how excited I was when this book was finally dropped off at my house. I devoured it in 2 hours. I know my love for all things Harry Potter probably makes me biased, but I loved it. Anyone who loves the old story needs to read this script. You do need to keep in mind that it is a script not a novel. It is intended to be acted out on stage, and that makes a difference. It's a much shorter read because of that. But the story is, in true J.K. Rowling fashion, wonderful and riveting, and our 3 favorite Gryffindors are all grown up and exactly who you would expect them to be. I don't want to give away any of the plot of this story because part of the magic is not knowing. This was the perfect way to close up my summer of reading.

Now, I know what you're thinking. She said she read 30 books and there's only 20 listed! I left out some books that I re-read, and I also counted all 7 Harry Potter books as one. 
I don't restrict my reading to only in the summer, so if you need any book recommendations or you're wondering if a book is worth reading just let me know. Shoot me a message on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rachelclaireunworthy/ or leave a comment on the blog. I love talking books, it's one of my favorite things. And I love sharing my favorite books with my favorite people.
So, with that I say goodbye to summer. Now it's time to start getting ready for the 150 or so 11th graders who will be blessed (or cursed....) to be in my class next year.

Keep reading!