Sunday, March 25, 2012

Diary of a speech...

For all my speech and debate friends who wanted to know the story of my struggles with my Original Oratory…

February 21, 2012- I had given up.

Over the last three months I had written over six speeches for competition in the category of Original Oratory in the STOA Speech and Debate League, but had never felt a sense of peace or satisfaction in any of these speeches. None of them seemed to be blessed of God. Frustrated and exhausted, I threw myself on my bed sobbing and crying out to the Lord.

“God, I don’t understand. I’m willing to speak on whatever topic you choose, but you aren’t giving me direction. I have prayed, waited, and taken the action I thought you wanted me to take, but you have closed every door. And now God, with the biggest tournament of the year only eight days away, if you want me to give an Original Oratory, you have to give me the new topic by tomorrow morning.”

February 22, 2012- Puffy red eyes.

After a night of crying and praying I walked into the kitchen and my mom called to me excitedly: “Sarah, I have an idea for your speech!” I wasn’t interested. I had tried so many ideas before, why would this one be any different?

“What if you did one on protecting your heart?” she said. “You could talk about what you are always telling me; that love is something we should walk into, not fall into.”

It was an interesting idea, but I had tried something similar before and it didn’t work. So I merely shrugged my shoulders and sat down for our family devotions. That morning my dad decided to listen to a message on love by one of his favorite pastors. As the sermon began, my eyes grew big. He was talking about the importance of viewing love not as an irresistible feeling, but rather a choice. I started to wonder… was God trying to show me something?

Once we were done with our devotions, I sat in front of our computer and as I logged into my gmail account I saw a note from a close girlfriend. Opening it, I found she was encouraging me in my efforts to protect my heart.

I laughed a little, bowed my head with a sigh, and finally whispered, “Okay, Lord. I get it. Emotional purity it is.”

Then began the sensation that would plague me for the next two weeks. My heart started to race with incredible speed. I felt short of breath, dizzy, and at times, lost my vision completely. The attack lasted for about 5 minutes, leaving me weak, shaky, and a little scared.

February 29, 2012- The first day of the tournament.

The time had come for me to present my speech. I stood outside the room with a few close friends. As the last speaker exited the room and I prepared to go in, that familiar feeling hit me again; heart racing, heavy feeling in my chest, shortage of breath, and my vision beginning to cloud. I knew it had to be a spiritual attack. I quickly told my friends and they prayed for me. “Satan has no power over you,” one of my girlfriends whispered in my ear before she sat down.

I walked in front of the judges and began to speak. Suddenly my vision cleared and my heart began to beat normally. I smiled and gave the message God had given to me. When I finished, several young girls came up to me, crying. “Sarah,” each one sobbed. “That’s exactly what I needed to hear right now.”

March 1, 2012- Another pre-elimination round.

The same attack as the previous day came before I walked in the room. But just like the first time, the moment I began to speak, God took away all the physical attacks; my vision cleared, my heart stopped racing, and my breathing slowed. And again, after the presentation I had young women crying on my shoulder, whispering just how much they needed to hear my message.

March 2, 2012- Speech Breaks (announcements for quarter finals)

As I waited to hear the announcements for quarter finals, I suddenly heard a voice inside my head whisper, “I am going to take this speech farther than you could ever dream.” But I thought it was just my own hopes getting the better of me, so I shook off the feeling. Yet there was my name being called. I had made it to the first out-round.

March 3, 2012, 11:00 am- The final round.

I couldn’t believe it; God had taken me to the top 8. Giving it all I had, and fighting yet another one of Satan’s attacks, I delivered my last speech. When I came to the conclusion, I said one of the lines out of order and began to panic. But with God’s strength, I gave the conclusion impromptu style, speaking entirely from my heart. By the end, I was sobbing. As I walked out, so many members of the audience came to share their stories with me and to tell me just how much the speech meant to them. I was so happy. God had used me to touch people. And now I was done. But… He wasn’t.

7:30 pm- Awards ceremony.

When I stood with the other finalists, listening to the names being called from 8th up to 1st, I was so angry at my adversary. He was still attacking me. My heart was going crazy. I was afraid it would grow worse and I’d lose my vision while on stage. We were down to the top two. Then it really hit me… I was in the top two! When the 2nd place speaker was announced, I nearly fainted. I had won 1st place. Or rather, He had won 1st place. As I stood there sobbing, my heart was beating worse than ever. My vision was completely gone again and I felt so dizzy. But I started to laugh.

“Face it, Satan…” I whispered. “You’ve been defeated. My God triumphed!"

To view my speech, go to this link:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reaching for His Highest

I fall back into my seat; stunned. After so many years of waiting, was this moment actually here? Scarcely breathing, I pinch myself, wondering if it is nothing more than a dream. But no, a sharp pain shoots through my arm from where the flesh has been stung. This is reality. I let out a deep breath. A slight smile illuminates my face. “I have done it…” I whisper. “I finally got a blog.”

Shocking, I know. I have considered starting a blog for several years, yet time (or rather the lack thereof) has consistently thwarted my plans. But now, as I finish my senior year of high school and begin preparation for college, I will naturally have much more time to write long, rambling articles that will most likely be read by only one other than myself (thanks, mom). Yet in this first post I shall keep my rambling to a minimum by simply explaining the purpose of this blog and the meaning of its title.

From the time I received Christ as my Master three years ago, He has gently been humbling me by showing me exactly what it means to be a Christian and revealing to me just how far I fall short. For as Christians we are called to follow and obey. We are to be like Christ; to imitate Him. This in and of itself is a huge mission. But I have come to learn there is even more to this calling than we immediately realize.

Many consider being a Christian to simply mean you don’t watch R-rated movies, must save sex for marriage, and go to church every Sunday. Yet being a Christian is so much more than following a list of do’s and don’ts. Having Christ in our lives should change our attitude; our perspective. Sadly, so many Christians (including myself), live a life as though we want to be as close to evil pleasure as possible without actually “sinning”. Yet we should be going the opposite direction, actively fighting to be as close as possible to purity and holiness. It is not enough to just say “no” to sin; we must crave and run after righteousness. This desire for what is right should permeate every aspect of our lives. It should affect what we read, watch, listen to, wear, say, do, and even think!

I hope that this blog will be a place where I can encourage others in their pursuit of godliness by sharing my daily journey of surrendering every facet of my life to the will of God. Each post will center around the mindset of raising our standards. Whether that be a biblical movie review, an essay on theology, or an article discussing what a Christian response should be to various cultural issues.

According to the world, I have extremely high standards. According to most Christians, I have extremely high standards. But according to God's standards, I completely miss the mark. To Him, my good is nothing but filthy rags. It is not enough to meet the world’s highest standard, nor Christian’s highest standard. We must Reach for His Highest.