December 30, 2010

Raise your glass

I said this a few posts ago, but it is so good to pause and reflect.

The past month has been insane, but especially the past week has been a tornado - with Christmas, crazy work schedule, driving in snow and ice, etc. etc.

I came down with a gnarly head cold at the tail end of this, and so my first day off of work this week I did nothing but sit on the couch, watch My Fair Wedding with David Tutera (new season starts on Sunday!! get excited), made a huge pot of minestrone, and then had a few surprise visits from friends. It was amazing, especially since I normally cannot sit still for more than 30 minutes, and that's on a good day.

All of this to say, I took another moment to look back on 2010 and see the growth, changes and amazing things that I've seen from God.

Years ago I started writing a letter to myself at the end of each year - sort of a recap of the year, as well as a prediction of where I'd be in a years time, as well as I what I was hoping for in the coming year.

I wrote one this month, and it really does some good to look back over the past year. It reminds me to count my blessings, to see growth, and it reminds me of God's insane faithfulness.

I sat down and read a few of the letters from 2006, 2007 and 2008 . . . and they are hilarious. All I really wanted to accomplish in 2007 was to go to another AFI show and get another tattoo. How's that for priority? Love it.

And then I think . . . if I've come this far in the last 4 years, how amazing will it be to look back on this night in 4 years' time?

Have you ever written a letter to yourself? There's even a website to do it . . . FutureMe.org, where you can have it emailed to yourself in ____ amount of time. And it's legit.

Whether you do it on paper or email, it really helps you to see how much changes and how much you grow over time, more than you tend to realize.

So here's to 2011 . . . another crazy amazing year, whatever comes our way.

December 11, 2010

Drive

Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
. . .
"Drive" - Incubus

First off, shout out to http://kateelizabethconner.com for encouragement and inspiration that is much needed!

It's funny how easily I let my fears drive me, instead of being content and resting in the peace of Christ.

After all, this is supposed to be the season for peace, is it not?

Instead, I let my distractions and busy schedule steal me away from meditating on the character of God and His promises in the Gospel. Upon waking this morning, I hit the ground running - errands, laundry, baking up to my eyeballs (I never want to see another m&m or Christmas sprinkle again), and cooking food to last me through the week . . . paired with dwelling on my fears and guilt makes for a lousy saturday afternoon.

I finally sat down from mental exhaustion and my aching back - and, as inspired by Kate's post this past wednesday, started to write out what specific stresses and fears have been plaguing me lately.

As I find it true every time I stop to face whatever is ailing me, my problems all stem from (surprise surprise) unbelief . . . unbelief that God is who He says He is, that I am secure in His grasp, that He has given me every reason not to fear, that His Gospel is true.

It should come to no surprise that the first thing Satan said to Eve in the garden was conducive to this very unbelief - "Did God really say, 'You must not eat . . ." [Genesis 3:1]

I hear echoes of that conversation in my own life . . .

-Did God really say that He would provide for you?
-Did God really say not to fear, that He is with you and goes before you?
-Did God really say that you have been forgiven and reconciled?
-Did God really say that He works all things together for the good?
-Did God really say that He loves you?
-Did God really say that He is completely sovereign?

How can I battle this unbelief? It's simpler than I sometimes realize . . . by taking a moment to pause in His presence and lay my fears and failures at His feet. To take time to dwell in His word and trust that He is who He says He is. To rest in the Gospel and allow the peace of God to permeate my soul.

Lately, I've been freaking out about circumstances and the uncertainty of the future . . . and that I've sealed my fate because of my shortcomings.

But God reminds me . . . if He gave me what I needed most when I was dead in my sin - Himself, how can I fear that He would withhold anything from me? How can I doubt His character, His goodness, His sovereignty, His love?

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
-Romans 8:32

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
-Matthew 6:33-34

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
-Matthew 7:7-11


But above all, resting in the Gospel . . . in the peace that comes from being brought into relationship with God - and realizing that He has already given me what I need the most.

December 6, 2010

Bleeding Love

Do you ever have those moments where . . . your parents are actually right about something? And you actually took a moment to listen and process what they're telling you?

It's a little surreal, isn't it?

Well, they recently confronted a subject that we've been in and out of dialogue about for years. In the past, I always just turned a deaf ear or immediately put up defense - but for some reason, I actually absorbed it this time.

Which led to some inward probing of my heart, my attitudes, my perspective . . . and consequently revealing of unchecked sin.

I have allowed walls of pride, bitterness and stereotype to build slowly over time - not fully aware of the repercussions of my attitudes. It was as if I were blinded to those walls, whilst stacking brick upon brick, fueled by fear, insecurity and misconceptions.

Then one day, you wake up and realize how closed off and cold you are.

Instead of facing my fears and embracing awkwardness, I flee from anything that makes me nervous, approaches vulnerability or threatens my pride.

This only causes me to become further calloused and enclosed, in a silly attempt to protect myself.

Over the past year, I have embraced many things that intimidated me or set my nerves on edge. And through those experiences, you learn and grow more than you may expect.

I want to continue to push myself, to face the fears, embrace vulnerability instead of shutting it down.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." - -- Ambrose Redmoon


I have asked God to reveal the sin in my life, the things that I have been putting between Him & I.

Well, here it is staring me in the face - my pride, my fears, my flawed attitude.

Now that I have recognized this, it's time to take action. Thankfully, I am not in this alone. God promises to walk with me, guide me, provide for me, sanctify me.

I am learning that life is a process. You don't just wake up one day, having "arrived" and conquered everything. It takes time. Just like I didn't wake up one day able to run a 10K - it took time to prepare, build, train.

I wonder if that conversation between my parents and my ability to listen wasn't God's way of further sanctifying me and drawing me nearer to Himself.

I have been asking God to break me of my pride and bitterness . . . today a passage from Philippians came to mind. If Christ humbled Himself to live and die for the world, if He came to divide the wall of hostility between God and the world, then how can I not be affected? How will my heart also not be transformed to be more humble, open and gentle? If the first step is recognition of sin or acknowledgment of a problem, then it would seem the second step is confession and allowing God to transform my heart so that I can move forward. And trust Him that He will work through me, give me the courage and ability to move forward.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

-Philippians 2:1-13

November 30, 2010

I can't live . . .

. . . if living is without you, ninja.


my food processor is called the ninja. And it has rocked my world.

November 29, 2010

It's dangerous business walking out your front door

I was talking with some friends recently, who inspired me.

The idea of becoming more bold, and trying things that you were previously gun-shy of.

I realize that my immediate response to something that scares me, intimidates me or presents difficulty is "I hate it/that's stupid/I refuse to do that/I can't do that."

Anything that might make me vulnerable, I shut it down on instinct.

For example . . . I think I'll look silly doing yoga, I'm unfamiliar with it, I think it's not beneficial (without knowing much about it) so that automatically makes it stupid and on the list of things that I will not do.

Well, 1 month later and I'm glad that I tried something new. And who knew that you could get a stronger core and work on your strength training while doing yoga? I'm hooked now.

I can also be very hesitant about taking on new challenges or responsibility at work (or anywhere for that matter) because it's intimidating. But once I do it, I come away having learned something new, expanding my borders, gaining confidence along the way.

I should try more things that scare me more often. There is so much to learn from trying something that you may have shut down before. It's so easy to have preconceived notions or expectations, fears that will all come falling down once you face whatever that thing is.

This process teaches so much about life, about yourself, humbles you and changes you for the better. It's still scary, but I just pray for the courage . . . courage in the face of my fears, however silly they seem.

I don't want to live in a world that is shut in, rigidly enclosed by my walls of self-defense and insecurity.

I'm just thankful that being in your 20's is still relatively young . . . sometimes I look around and wonder how I got here. But I woke up this morning, thankful that each day is a new day . . . maybe it's not too late after all. Kind of like Scrooge when he wakes up at the end of A Christmas Carol, and he hasn't missed Christmas, or a second chance at embracing life.

November 28, 2010

in the dark

I usually hate driving in the dark.

I remember driving from home to college in the dark and hating it . . . mostly because when I made that trip after the sun went down, I felt like I was never going to get there. I guess the absence of seeing trees, landmarks, signs, etc. makes it feel like you're just in a tunnel instead of on the interstate.

I was reminded of that last night. Our church parking lot is not well lit at all. For instance, walking back to my car, I couldn't really see 2 feet in front of my face. It was pitch black.

I could hear my heels clicking on the pavement and I could feel the wind in my face, yet it was reminiscent of driving on I-40 at night . . . it felt like I was again in a tunnel, or maybe worse, as if I were on a treadmill in the dark.

I could feel myself moving, but in that trance-like moment, unable to differentiate between expenditure of energy vs. actually getting closer to my car.

I think that life is like that sometimes. We can feel our muscles flexing, the wind in our face, the days passing by . . . but unable to differentiate between random movement and actual progress forward.

November 18, 2010

Slow down

Sometimes you need to pause and reflect.

I thrive on a packed schedule. I love to be constantly in motion.

Living that way makes it easier for me to forget how God has worked in my life over the past year. It allows me to take things for granted and I'm so busy that I don't have time to stop and think.

It's so easy to look at my life and get stressed about the future. It's also very easy for me to get bored . . . whenever I do have a minute to breathe, I get bored or restless.

I am presumptuous enough to predict my future. As if I really know what's going to happen tomorrow. Yet, I am sure that 25 years from now, things will be exactly the same. I'm just betting on it. Yup, that's it. My circumstances are set in stone. Done.

It's so silly. And prideful.

It is a blessing to live day to day and to enjoy each moment as it comes. Yet how often do I do this? I also realize that I may never get this time back . . . so I should enjoy it. I want to enjoy this "pasture" of sorts and be attentive to what God is teaching me.

If I don't listen to God now, when will I? I assure you when things get busier I will likely be too caught up in my circumstances and life to be still. I might find myself in a whirlwind and wonder - why didn't I spend more time with God when I was more free?

As J.D. has said, God teaches and prepares us when we're in our "pasture." This time is not to be wasted, even though I feel like my pasture is eternal.

How can I enjoy it, learn in it, not waste it?

One way I think I'm being told to slow down is my knees.

You know . . . I am a firm believer that unless I am drenched in sweat and ready to collapse, I didn't get a good workout.

That viewpoint may be changing. My body is rebelling against me. I don't know if it was running, cycling, or lunges & squats that was the initial injury. But . . . even the elliptical can hurt now. I have got to be a little more sensible before I end up with knee replacements at age 40.

This could quickly turn into an exercise rant, so I will try to be concise. I have started doing yoga, and I love it. One of the things yoga teaches is to be patient, respect and listen to your body. (which does wonders to your diet habits as well) I have got to listen to it . . . I need to slow down and not feel like I have to run myself into the ground every time I cross the threshold of the gym.

I will also say . . . if you do power yoga or strengthening yoga, it can be very challenging. I never thought I could get such a workout from doing yoga . . . but it's changing my mind.

So . . . slow down. Take a mental health day. Take time to thank God for what He has blessed you with . . what He is teaching you, and how He is growing you. You have more than you realize! Reflect on what you do have. It is too easy to focus on what we don't have and become discontent.

free to fall

I was jammin out in my car the other day when "fantasy" by Mariah Carey came on.

Can I say how much I love that song?

Songs like that and "Teenage dream" by Katy Perry remind me of falling in love.

Reminds me of how an ideal relationship could work . . . and those moments when you allow yourself to fall in love, let go of your inhibitions, holding nothing back . . .

I realize that's how I want to be with my Savior. I want to let it all go and fall recklessly in love with Him. I don't have to hold anything back from Him - He knows it all anyway. I truly am safe there . . . and I know that He will always be faithful and love me no matter how flawed, human and sinful I am. To rest knowing that He will never leave or abandon me. So I can be free to fall.

October 13, 2010

road trip what

I like to live in Sarah world . . . where I'm a sweet, angelic nice person, seeking after God.

Enter family road trip.

Exit fa├žade.

Seriously. Nothing like a road trip or being around family for extended periods to bring out the worst in you. Put the two together and it's dynamite for tearing down my walls of illusion.

I drove down with my dad, and I forgot how picky I am when it comes to stopping during road trips. He didn't want to stop at subway for lunch so I suggested we stop at Arby's in hope that they had tuna salad on one of their market fresh sandwiches.

Well, not only did they not have any pescatarian or vegetarian options, the whole joint smelled like a giant armpit. So what did I do? Sat like a hoodie-clad, moody teenager with my sulky eyes while I ate my protein bar and stared at the floor.

Lack of sleep, lack of vegetables, gross rest stops where the soap smells like old man cologne, eating only protein bars for lunch and being bored really whips me into bad shape.

I also get discouraged and frustrated when I feel like the spiritual leader in the family, or fear that they look at me as this cracked out, uber religious, rule-following girl.

It really doesn't help that I have an irritated, bad attitude there too. I just want to shake people and plead/yell at them - "Why don't you want to go to church? Don't you have any reverence for God? Don't you want to seek Him? Why aren't you in a small group? What are you doing with your life? What's wrong with you?!"

Like Hillary Faye in the movie Saved!, when she throws the Bible at Mary while screaming, "I am FILLED with the love of Christ!!"



I'm sure that would get me places.

I went to church with my Aunt & cousins, and it's funny how the preacher talked about what I really needed to hear.

Evangelism is heavy on my heart and I just have no idea how to do it, especially when I just get such a bad attitude.

We've been talking about this at Summit and in small group, and the preacher was talking about how you can't scream at people, scheme about it, Bible thump, etc. - none of those work (and I knew that, I just needed to hear it).

When we are loving, compassionate, generous and honest - that's when there can be an impact. Not when you're self-righteous, yelling at people or hostile.

It's also realizing that God pursues people individually and that it's between Him and them - not a conference call with me as some kind of third party. Trusting those people to God, not thinking that it's my sole responsibility that they get to know Him.

Just seeing myself in some of my worst states, seeing my own sin - it's a miracle He loves me, is so faithful and wants to use me, so how can anyone be too messed up for Him to rescue and redeem?

Again . . . nothing like a road trip and family to show me how dirty and sinful my heart truly is.

My sister was telling me about her boyfriend's grandmother . . . how kind, generous and loving she is, and how she will just be going about her business but randomly stops to put her hands on my sister and pray for her, then continues milling about the house.

I thought about how beautiful that is, and how I long to be a woman like that. To make a positive impact, not drive people away.

I think part of the problem is that I'm terribly impatient - I want to see dramatic change when I want to see it instead of trusting God to work in the lives of those I'm praying for. I just need a reminder that He is the one who created them, that He loves them more than I ever could, that only He can change hearts . . . and it's on His timeline, not mine.

September 28, 2010

je ne sais pas

So . . . I am of course still thinking about how bored and pointless my life seems right now.

I was thinking about it today and trying to surrender these thoughts to God, and I just really feel like He's telling me, "Seek Me, get to know Me before you worry about everything else."

And honestly, I want my life to honor God. I want my life to be worship to Him in response to what He's done for me.

And . . . it's completely logical for me to get to know Him before I try to take on the world and get preoccupied with life. How can I do what He wants me to, if I don't even know His heart? And who's to say He's not preparing me for something I can't see or testing my patience right now.

If J.D.'s sermon on Sunday about Esther taught me anything, it's about God's sovereignty. How He will accomplish His purposes and His plans . . . and how he uses our mistakes and circumstances to do so if we're willing. I really would love to know beyond a doubt that I am here for a reason, in my circumstances for some kind of purpose. To know that I'm where I am "for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14)

But first and above everything, God calls us to seek Him. The first and greatest commandment is to know Him and love Him with everything (Matthew 22:37-38).

I know that He will grow me, sanctify me and use me if I'm seeking Him and willing. After all, He promises to do so in scripture (Phil 1:6).

Sanctification is like . . . I thought of this phenomenal analogy today as I was driving home from the gym. I used to drink diet coke like it was water. Seriously. Ever since my freshmen year of college, I would drink at least 1-2 a day and my body craved it if I didn't get my daily dose. I could even put away a 2-liter in less than 12 hours if I felt like it. I decided a few months ago that it probably wasn't good to constantly pump artificial sweeteners and extra caffeine into my system, so I decided to give it up. It was really hard at first and I wanted to punch my fist through the wall the first day sans diet coke, but by the end of the week I felt absolutely fabulous . . . and I still have it every now and then, but hardly ever.

I quit craving it. Now, I honestly crave water (it sounds weird, trust me . . . I used to hate drinking only water, but now I love it) . . . and I was craving water when I left the gym, so maybe that's why I thought of this analogy.

Anyway, Sanctification is like craving water. God changes our hearts so that we begin to think like Him and desire what He desires. Instead of our selfish desires (like diet coke), we start to take on His desires (like water) . . . and He uses that for His purposes. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, that's all I got. Not to say that I've figured out my current dilemma, but that there's hope in the midst of confusion and chaos.

September 27, 2010

25 going on 26

Oh. my.

I remember in college when it was unheard of to go to bed at 11pm because it was too early. I remember staying up until at least 1am every night, no matter how early I had to get up for work or class the next day.

Now here I am, age 25, getting cross-eyed at 10:30pm out of tiredness.

what is going on??!!

Anyway, I was thinking today . . . what is the point?

Sometimes I just feel so bored with life, I start to question my purpose, I question if I'm doing anything worthwhile, why am I here? I just feel like my life is so random and pointless.

I was watching Iron Man last night and one of the characters tells Tony Stark not to waste his life. I know it's totally cheesy, but it made me think.

I really don't want to waste my life. I don't want to live for myself, and I want to have purpose.

I just wonder if there's a reason that my life is so seemingly uneventful, or if I'm to blame for mediocrity and the boredom that I encounter. Is God teaching me something in this season, or am I just not living to my potential?

I just have a hard time trying to understand this. I also have a hard time understanding God's sovereignty. If I know that the creator of the universe is in control and in the details of my life, then I can rest, knowing that He's calling the shots. I can rest knowing that there is purpose to even the seemingly boring periods.

And yet, I must admit that I'm content where I am right now. I just haven't seen crazy dramatic things happen lately so maybe that's why I'm questioning purpose.

But I still struggle with wondering if I'm missing out on something, if God wants to do something through me that I'm just too blind, disobedient or ignorant to see.

I don't really know what to do with this other than to lay it at His feet and trust in His timing. I don't know what to do during this season than to seek Him and try to get to know Him better, even when I don't understand the details of my life. To trust that He is sovereign. To know that He is infinite and operates on an eternal time line, while I am finite and have a limited point of view.

This is my Father's world
Let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet

August 31, 2010

marriage sermons

I would like to preface by saying that I think marriage sermons are great. They remind us of what Biblical marriage looks like, and helps us hold a high standard for this beautiful and sacred institution.

But I must say, that sometimes it feels like my singleness is being rubbed in my face.

Our pastor has been going through the 10 commandments, and this past week J.D. preached on the command, "thou shalt not commit adultery." A majority of the sermon was focused on sex and marriage, as one would predict.

Naturally, he pointed out how earthly marriage is given to us an analogy or a picture of God's relationship to us . . . and how the intimacy found in sex is a picture of the intimacy we have with God.

But it did catch me a little off-guard when he said that, (within the confines of marriage) sex is an echo of God's love and a taste of the divine.

My immediate thought was - awesome! Here I am, single and in the world . . . and what if I never get married? Well, I'll never experience that picture of God's love, I'll never be in that exclusive, married-people-only, inner circle of understanding the Gospel. And I'm totally missing out.

It makes me feel that my relationship with God is hindered because of my singleness.

But then again, Paul did say that it is good to be single - it allows us to be single-minded toward the Lord and to focus solely on our relationship with Him, versus being in a relationship and having our time and devotion divided between God and a husband.

So who knows. I don't think that it was anyone's intention for us single people to feel on the outside looking in, discouraged, or that we're missing out of a deeper relationship with God when these sermons are preached. And yet, I am left feeling that way sometimes.

I guess it's a good thing to be more concerned with the status of my relationship with God because of my relationship status, than to be primarily concerned with my relationship status. (if that makes your head spin, just read it again . . . or email me to ask what I meant - I promise I'm not trying to be confusing.)

I guess what I was trying to say is that my concern is . . . does my relationship with God depend on my relationship status? If I get married, will it allow me to gain a deeper walk with Him, whereas being single will inhibit that?

Also, I have the tendency to believe that relationships just aren't for girls like me.

That relationships are for those girls who really stand out. For those girls who are a size 0. Those girls that draw all the men like a magnet. Those girls who are really good at flirting. Those girls who look cute 24/7. Let's face it - there are waaayyy more Christian girls than there are guys, so you must have to be one of those girls - you gotta make the cut. I guess I just don't stand a chance.

I could ask these questions all day. But more importantly is for now, to rest in Him. To look to Him with my questions, my doubts, my cynicism, my frustrations. To allow Him to heal these things. Because He's the only one who can handle all of it. He's the only one who can have that complete intimacy - to know me completely and love me anyway . . . the way no human can. Also, to trust that He is in control of my circumstances (including my singleness) . . . so there's gotta be a purpose to this, yes?

August 27, 2010

if I was Amish . . .

I'd be tworkin' a straw hat.

Just kidding. It would not be attractive.

Anyway . . . last weekend I was in Ohio with some lovely friends, passing through some Amish country. Which sparked some interesting conversation and thoughts.

They pointed out to me that Amish people live simple lives because it allows them to be closer to God.

That makes SO much sense to me, actually. Not that I'm going to trade in my honda for a horse & buggy, but it just reiterates a few truths to me.

There are so many distractions in this life that allow me to be far from God. Busy schedules - social and work, TV, radio, pop music, facebook, texting, blogging, traveling, the gym (oh, especially the gym) . . . so many things occupy our time and distract us from a relationship with our Creator.

Other priorities that call to us . . . so many crazy, cluttered things in this life are trying to take us away from God. And not that these things are bad, but when we pursue them more than we are pursuing Him, we get into trouble.

Am I more concerned about growing in my walk with God, which is infinite and eternal, or things of this life, like the pursuit of being hot by spending hours at the gym each day(well, OK - 4-5 times a week)? Which, is totally finite and futile . . . (because let's face it, when I'm 60, there will be no hope of having a bikini body)

burdened

The longer I walk with God, the more challenges seem to cross my path . . . which is a sign of growth, so I guess I can be thankful amidst the difficulty.

God puts us in community and fellowship for a multitude of reasons, and one that seems to be put on my heart lately is accountability.

As I read through 2 Kings, you can see a pattern of kings in Israel and Judah . . . all who fall short and do evil in the sight of the Lord. Even the ones who are pleasing to God have a few unrepentant sins. It would appear that they are not allowing God to take full reign of their lives, they do not fully surrender every area of their lives to God.

How relevant this is to us today. How reluctant are we to give God every area of our lives? As much as we don't want to acknowledge it, I think we all tend to have a piece of ourselves that we tell God He can't touch.

God, I'll serve you on Sunday, but I can't afford to tithe . . . God, I'll be faithful in attendance to my small group, but I won't open myself up to be held accountable. God, you can tell me where to work and where to volunteer, but I get to choose who I date. etc. etc.

I have definitely been there. And I know enough now that God doesn't just want us on Sunday, or for an hour in small group. He wants all of us, all of the time. That's what He desires - that intimate relationship, daily walking with Him. How can that be obtained if we refuse to let go and surrender all to Him?

On the outside looking in, I can see friends and acquaintances following destructive patterns, habitual sin, unrepentant sin and areas of life that are not surrendered to God.

Yet, how can I know if and when it's appropriate to confront? I am by NO means perfect or even good. My heart is wretched and filthy . . . the only reason I am walking with God is because of His initiation and action in my life. I struggle as much as the next person. I know that we are called to hold each other accountable, but how can this be done without appearing self-righteous, snobby, or condemning? How can this be done in love? How can this be done the way God asks?

I know that sitting idly by while those that I love are turning from God is just as bad, if not worse, as openly waging war against God myself . . . but how do I approach this without destroying a friendship or appearing self-righteous?

July 26, 2010

My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131:1-3

It's funny how I stress out about the dumbest things sometimes.

Like the gym. I hate joining/canceling these things because it's like buying a car. Why must gym staff hassle and be so pushy? Anyway, it's stressing me out, and it's silly. You would think I'm making the decision of who to marry. But I'm not - I'm just trying to make a decision of what gym to belong to.

It's funny how the busyness of life (even just running errands or choosing a gym) can take over and cloud my mind. There are distractions everywhere that cause restlessness within me.

I often feel like busyness = worth. I also hate sitting still. I wrestle with feeling like to rest or sit still is the same as being idle, lazy and complacent.

Sometimes the things that I think I need to do can wait. I tend to fight it, but when I do take that time to sit quietly before God, He calms my soul and gives the grace and strength to move forward.

Whether that means figuring out the future, or just the day-to-day things.

You are my God
My hiding place, My safe refuge
My treasure, Lord, You are
My friend and King, Anointed One
Most Holy . . .
Because you're with me,
I will not fear.


"I Will Exalt You" - Hillsong

July 12, 2010

Hurricane

Caught in between knowing You and trusting me
Come on take a ride out of the in-betweens
Now I know I need You

When I can't see, I will trust You
And when I get weak, I trust You
And when I just can't let it go
I trust that You are in control

Shelter me so I can find some peace
Grabbing hold of You is letting go of me
It's easy when I remember I possess all that lays beyond my grasp
Your power commands the weight off my back
"I Trust You" - Skillet



The future freaks me out.

Especially when I start to get restless in my circumstances. I just want to know what the next step is. When I can't seem to find any direction, I conclude that I must be doing something wrong, and that's why God hasn't spelled it out for me.

I forget things like . . . maybe I'm here for a reason. Maybe God is doing something in me that I just can't see.

Or maybe He's teaching me to be content. Maybe He's teaching me to be faithful and patient when I can't see, when I'm bored, when things look bleak, and when I don't understand.

Instead, I feel like running and being "productive" is much more important. It feels like doing works and keeping my schedule booked is more valuable than just spending time at His feet.

I have a very hard time sitting still. I love having a job and schedule that keeps me constantly moving. I have a very low tolerance for boredom. I had to go to the coffee shop today just to get away from the black hole of busyness and distractions in my apartment and on the internet.

I want more than anything to be on the path that God is calling me to. What if, instead of searching for the next tangible step, I just rested? If I took a moment to seek His face? (Plus, how can I effectively serve God if I don't know His character or what He truly desires?)

In the past, I have found that when I do slow down and set aside time to spend with Him, the next step flows naturally . . . but only after I have purposefully sat still at His feet.

Yet, every fiber of my being groans against this . . . I just want to stay moving.

I also want to just freak out about the future versus trust God with it. Somewhere, my circumstances are blowing up and a dismal picture of the future is painted in my imagination.

I start to rely on myself and my viewpoint, my resources, my knowledge, my ability to predict the future. My fears blow up and suddenly I've taken God out of the equation.

I forget that He will be right there with me in the future, no matter what it holds. I forget that He is the only one who can save me from myself, and who can handle my fears, my hopes, my future.

I'm reading the book, "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World," by Joanna Weaver and it's pretty awesome.

In one of the chapters I just read, she talks about fear versus concern. She quotes Gary E. Gilley who states, "Worry is allowing problems and distress to come between us and the heart of God. It is the view that God has somehow lost control of the situation and we cannot trust Him. A legitimate concern presses us closer to the heart of God and causes us to lean and trust on Him all the more."

I have to throw out a few other quotes from her in the chapter . . .
"fretting magnifies the problem, but prayer magnifies God . . . So much depends on our perspective. If my God isn't bigger than life, then my life is bigger than God - and that's when anxiety takes over."

It's funny how hard it is to trust sometimes. It helps to look back and see those tangible moments in our lives when God has provided for us, or shown His faithfulness. That helps us trust Him with our future, but it's still scary. I know I want to be in control, I want things to happen on my timetable, and I want to see into the future. Yet, it doesn't seem to happen that way.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
. . .
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
-Matthew 6:25-27, 32-34


And what if, during this weird phase of life . . . instead of freaking out about it, what if I did seek His face? What if I did seek first His kingdom and righteousness? What would that look like? What if I sought to use this time wisely?

If I first worked on my relationship with God, and went from there? If I started to see opportunities to love and serve the people that are in my life now? If I could see the freedoms and advantages in the single life, rather than despairing over it and wishing for the next step to be spelled out?

What if I chose to trust rather than freak out? If I chose to see possibility and opportunity rather than despair?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
-Proverbs 3:5-6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7

July 11, 2010

Uncalm


One of the things I hate about Raleigh is that there's no room to breathe. Sometimes I feel like ocean water runs through my bloodstream and my soul belongs in a coastal town. I really miss Wilmington sometimes, and how easy it was to just escape at the beach. In RDU, there's no place to "escape" . . . the closest thing I've found is one of the lakes around here, but I feel like I'm gonna get snatched when I go there by myself. Nothing compares to the smell of the ocean, the sound of the surf and the feel of the breeze tousling through my hair. I feel like I can truly "let go" when I'm there. I just get frustrated when I try to do that here. Awesome.

A perpetual prayer of mine is that God would reveal to me the areas of my life that I'm not following Him . . . and more specifically, the idols and false gods that I'm chasing after.

Well, I must confess that a constant idol is the scale, the size of my jeans, and the mirror.

This is not new . . . it's something that I've struggled with for as long as I can remember, and I think it may be every woman's struggle.

It's funny how much control one seemingly small area of your life can have over you, and how quickly it can take over and choke out almost everything else.

I realize that a lot of my life is driven by fear and guilt. This being one of them.

I weigh myself every week, and the number that it reveals to me sets the mood of that day, or even that week. It's funny how that number has power to make me either depressed or somewhat content.

I constantly evaluate everything I put into my body, and I generally feel guilty about it. I am driven by obligation in my food choices and workout habits - obligation that is generated by guilt of what I've eaten, or fear of that number on the scale or the size of my clothes.

I remember in college that this struggle led me to a lot of tears, rage, and hatred towards myself. I will say that it has improved since then, but still has a hold on me.

I was eating dinner with my mom a few months ago, and she asked me why I felt like I needed to lose weight. I guess I didn't have a good reason for her - I think I said something like, "I just do." She asked me what number on the scale would make me happy. I told her a number, but then I changed my mind a few times, as that number got lower and lower.

Since that time, I've actually reached that number (well, the first number anyhow), but I'm still unhappy. I will never be satisfied with the number, no matter how low it gets. When the scale tells me a "good" number, I don't believe it. No matter how many people tell me I look good or thin, I cannot listen. I don't believe them, I brush it off.

I realize that I will never be satisfied with my weight or appearance . . . at least in the state I'm in now. I'm perpetually chasing after something I cannot obtain. It really makes no sense . . . yet it restrains me, tells me I'm not good enough, tells me that it's the reason why I'm unhappy, tells me that it's the reason I'm single, etc. etc.

So what is the answer? Well, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to wrestle with this the rest of my life - but how do I get out of it's grip and power over me?

I have to understand that my value, worth and identity cannot be found in my appearance or weight. That He is the only God who will satisfy when I am in His presence. That He offers rest, while my endless pursuit of "beauty" will never give me what I'm looking for. That my appearance or opinion of myself cannot satisfy my soul's longings.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
-Matthew 11:28-30

Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
-John 10:7-10

July 10, 2010

people are people

"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
-Brennan Manning

I recently heard a comment made about professing Christians . . . how a majority of people call themselves Christians, but a small few actually are living in consistency with that claim.

It was a comment made by a co-worker, about co-workers.

I have to admit that it bothered me to the point that I had a dream about it last night . . . and I fear that I'm one of the people they don't see as truly living out what I claim to believe or follow.

I started to fear that my actions/words aren't lining up with my beliefs - and that maybe I just need to try harder in front of this person, or anyone, for that matter.

I've wrestled with that thought, and I know that ultimately it's really between me and God. God is the only one who knows our hearts, our true motives, what we're truly seeking in this life.

Plus, if I tried to impress this person by trying to "act Christian," then I'm really idolizing that person's opinion and chasing that rather than seeking God's opinion of me (and after all, isn't His opinion of me infinitely more important than anyone else's?).

I also firmly believe that none of us have the authority or ability to judge where a person's heart is. You never know what someone is going through, or what they're trying to work out. We also have to remember that we're all broken, sinful people - and God is ridiculously faithful to us, though we continually stray and run after false gods.

I want to live a life that displays the Gospel, a life of thankfulness and worship in response to what God has done for me. I want the way I live to reflect that, and I hope it does . . . but I also know that I am a work in progress, and that I've got plenty of flaws.

I do, however, hope that this comment can challenge me more than serve as a discouragement. I want God to show me the areas of my life that I am holding back and haven't fully surrendered to Him. I want the way I live to show off the Gospel, not turn people away.

You know what else is slightly amusing . . . is that for being a people who believe in grace, we sure do suck at loving each other. Christians are horrible at loving each other. I think that some of the most difficult people I've encountered are Christians. You think I'm lying, but I'm serious!

Again . . . we are all just people. Broken, flawed sinners in this world. Thank goodness we have a God who loves ALL of us . . . even when we're in our worst self-righteous states, or when we're spitting in His face. No one is too far from His love, His unfathomable faithfulness and grace.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
-Isaiah 53:6

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
-Romans 3:22-24

June 15, 2010

Now on a more serious note . . .

(I had to get all of the unrelated stuff out in the last post, so that this one will be mostly business).

I had a fabulous discussion with my small group, as we are going through Romans, about faith.

More specifically, how there is a difference between believing in God and believing God.

I tend to have this hate/love relationship with Tim Keller . . . as it's his study that we're going through. However, this week's study was really good.

We went over Romans 4:1-25 this week. He points out that faith = trust God's promise to save, and that, "saving faith is a 'trust transfer.' It is the removing of one's hopes and trust from other things and the placing of them on God as saviour."

he goes on to say,

"It isn't a general belief in God that saves, but it is believing God when he promises a way of salvation by grace.

Saving faith is not faith in God in general. You can have lots and lots of strong faith that God exists, that he is loving, that he is holy. You can believe that the Bible is God's holy word. You can show great reverence for God. Yet all the while you can be seeking to be your own saviour and justifier by trusting in performance in religion, performance in moral character, performance as a parent, performance in vocation, etc.

To say saving faith is a "trust transfer" is to consciously see where your trust is, and remove one's hopes and trust from those things and to place them on God as saviour in particular (not only on him as God in general)."

He says, that what is means to "believe God" includes . . .

"1. To not go on feelings or appearances. Faith is not opposed to reason, but to feelings and appearances. Faith is going on something despite our weakness, despite our feelings and perceptions.

2. To focus on facts about God . . . faith is not the absence of thinking, but rather is a profound insistence on acting out of measured reflection, instead of just reacting to circumstances.

3. To trust the bare word of God . . . it is taking God at his word even when there is nothing else to go on, when feelings, popular opinion, and common sense seem to contradict his promise."


Yes . . . what a difference it is to believe God . . . to abandon self-trust and self-sufficiency. Not to just co-exist with God (as just believing in Him would permit us to do), but to believe what He says and know that He is walking with us daily. Even when nothing makes sense, even when our circumstances suck. To know that He is the one who promises to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), that He is the one who promises rest to the burdened and weary (Matthew 11:28-30) To believe Him when He tells us that we are His children, that we are saved, justified, adopted into His loving care, brought into covenant with Him forever (Ephesians 2:12-13; Romans 5:1-2, 6-10; Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 3:26-29)

What would it look like to really, truly believe Him?

To trust Him with every aspect of our lives, to trust Him with our future? To believe Him when He says He cares for us and will provide for us (Matthew 6:33, 1 Peter 5:7, Proverbs 3:5-6) And to stop leaning on our own understanding? To live in His reality?

And to remember that He is the God who created the universe, the same God who led Israel out of Egypt, the God of Abraham, the God who raised Christ from the dead. He's the same God who, with an outstretched arm offers us relationship and life . . . and who we have access to daily. Kind of crazy.

June 14, 2010

Armageddon It

The title of this blog has nothing to do with anything, other than the fact that I just can't get enough Def Leppard.

Last night, I made the mistake of wearing a halter top outside . . . only to wind up with no less than 10,000 mosquito bites on my upper back. it's pretty awesome.

Julie is my hero for sharing recipes that are not only absolutely delicious, but healthy (or in the case of desserts, moderately healthy) - I made her version of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, which are nothing short of amazing. You substitute a smashed banana for butter, and so I thought that since these were "healthy" cookies that I'd go overboard and eat about 12 of them. I don't think the banana negates the sugar and the chocolate chips. Oh well, you only live once.

In my never-ending quest to be healthy, I decided to go a week without artificial sweetener last week. Now, I've been drinking diet coke since 2003, and I've been a splenda junkie ever since it debuted . . . I drink 2-3 cups of coffee (at least) daily with splenda, I drink at least 2 diet cokes a day, I love light 'n fit yogurt and sugar-free "desserts" like jell-o pudding. Not to mention crystal light and other diet drinks.

Day one of no artificial sweetener sucked. I was probably growling at people, my head hurt, and I really just wanted a diet coke, people. I've been wanting to give it up for years, but never had the desire or will power until lately. Day 2 of no artificial sweetener was fabulous. I don't know if it was psychological, but I felt amazing. I made it through the whole week, and now I've decided to quit for good. I just use raw sugar in my coffee and drink unsweetened iced tea (fruit herbal teas like blueberry or rasberry, mmm) and water throughout the day. It's pretty awesome - it forces me to drink more water, which is always a good thing.

Also, I read that drinking diet soda or using artificial sweetener actually causes you to crave sugar more. I never believed it because I would just end up craving more diet drinks, yogurt, or sugar-free pudding most of the time. But, it's totally true. I usually have a wicked sweet tooth, but last week I didn't really crave sweet things.

Now, if I could eat purely organic and natural everything, that would rock. However, that's a little bit too expensive and impractical. So I think I'll stick to cooking more, eating more vegetables and only using raw sugar. Yeah for being healthy :-D

On another note, I love tattoos. Whenever I'm around a friend who has tattoos, it makes me want another tattoo. But then I see old people with tattoos that are totally blurry and unrecognizable . . . and I quickly change my mind.

BUT, if I was to get another one, it would be a compass or a ship on my left foot (my tattoo is on the right side of my body, so I'd have to even things out by getting one on the left!). I just think ship tattoos look pretty sweet, not to mention the pirate affiliation. I had a discussion with some of the girls in my small group on Memorial day and decided that I'd get a Jesus pirate pedal boat tattoo. Wouldn't that be awesome? I bet that I'd be the only one you knew with that. Juuuust kidding.


In all seriousness, I think I'd get a ship tattoo and somehow tie a verse in . . . or, I would get a compass tattoo and reference how the trajectory of my life is toward God . . . or maybe a giant magnet since He's pulling me closer to Him. Too bad compasses and magnets aren't as pretty as a big ship.

May 30, 2010

hello fascination

disclaimer: this post is totally unrelated.

But on a serious note, God has been really teaching me (and I've been re-learning) of His unfathomable faithfulness and love. Just the fact that I've been struggling to know the Truth is confirmation that His promises are true, that I really am His child, that I have been called according to His purpose . . . and that He makes covenants with messy, broken sinners like me. (Galatians 3:26-29, Colossians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 5:21, John 10:14-16,27-29, Ephesians 2:12-13, Ephesians 3:17-19, Acts 17:27, Romans 5:1-10, Romans 8:15-16, 28-29)

Now with the unrelated content . . . I've been inspired by Julie & Christen to just write out some recent thoughts that are floating in my head.

I just bought this CD:



it was a compulsive buy at Target, and I must say that I don't regret it. I will say that the original songs are of course better, but I'm impressed with these covers. It also has me listening to some newer punk-pop, post-hardcore/screamo, alternative bands. Which reminds me of 4 years ago when I went to a ton of shows . . . including my AFI tour . . . yes, I saw them 5 different times in 4 separate states in 2006. And got a tattoo.

So listening to this music makes me feel young. And makes me start to want another tattoo.

I'm about to be 25 . . . and I almost feel old. Is it weird that I like to listen to music that makes me want to jump off of things? That I think about getting another tattoo? That I want to go to shows? That I want to wear my chucks and cutoff jean shorts? I feel like these things are inappropriate for my age, but it might just be in
my head.


I want to be young. bah.

Back to classic rock . . . I do love it. It reminds me of my dad and my childhood, because I heard it a lot growing up. So I associate Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Journey, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones (OK maybe they're not technically classic rock), ZZ Top, etc. with family and home and the olden days.

I associate AC/DC, Def Leppard and Van Halen with Wilmington and going out downtown . . . and some of my favorite people that I hung out with in college. I also confess that I love the smell of smoke (cigarette smoke, that is) for a few seconds. It just reminds me of those times too.

Listening to alternative rock, pop-punk and post-hardcore/screamo takes me back to hanging out with one of my best friends from Wilmington (Amy), going to shows, summertime and going to Warped Tour. I miss those days.

I love summer . . . so much. I love laying out at the pool, beach trips, grilling out, wearing tank tops and skirts . . . driving around with the windows down, blaring
Sublime and 311.

Sometimes I feel like I have ocean water in my veins. I went to Wilmington last week on a whim, and it was amazing. I needed to break away, and it was perfect timing. I wish that I lived at the beach, and I miss the feel of living in a coastal town/city.

Sometimes I feel like everything is so random. Why do I live here? I love my church, my friends, my roommate, this city, my job, the clinic that I just started volunteering at, etc . . . but I feel like those things could be acquired anywhere. If there's no purpose or reason for me to be here, why am I here? If I could find good friends, a good job and a Gospel-centered church anywhere, then why am I here? Maybe if I'm not married in 2 years I should just say screw it and move to a coastal city.

But if I knew there was purpose, it would give living here more meaning and I'd find a reason to stay.


May 17, 2010

I've dug up miles and miles of sand
Searching for something I can't see
And I've just got bruised and battered hands
And a brand new void inside of me
Complete with walls I did create
From all the earth that I've displaced
A mess that I have made from what
I've just let pile and pile up

I have not been abandoned, no I have not been
Deserted and I have not been forgotten

I need you
I need you here
I need you now
I need security somehow
I need you
Like you would not believe
You're the only thing I want
Cause you're everything, everything I need

Explore the cave that is my chest
The torch reveals there's nothing left
Your whispers echo off the walls
And you can hear my distant calls
The voice of who I used to be
Screaming out "someone, someone please
Please shine a light into the black
Wade through the depths and bring me back"


"I Need You" - Relient K

---------------

All I need to know is that God isn't going to abandon me.

All I need to know is that I belong to Him, and He won't let me go . . . that I'll never be able to escape His love or grasp. To know that He really is sovereign, and that the dumb, seemingly pointless things in life really do have a purpose.

It's funny how easily my mind scrambles the truth. How quickly I believe the lies.

How difficult it is to stop striving. How difficult it is just to rest and believe.

This whole thing is aggravating yet comforting in a way. My restlessness to know the truth, to know more of God is a confirmation that He's drawing me nearer to Him, and that I do really belong to Him.

Why else would I be searching? If God was not actively working in me and stirring me to know Him more and to grow in my faith, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be going through this.

May 16, 2010

under pressure

I really want to go to bed right now, but I gotta get a few things out of my head first.

I was driving home tonight and the top 40 station plays the club mixes on saturday nights, and little Justin Beiber came on. Now, can you imagine people grinding hard to poor little 10-year-old Justin Beiber? It just seems wrong . . . at least juxtaposed.

Anyway, that's just a side note.

One of my favorite places to cry is church. For a lot of reasons, I think. Because during that time purposed for worship songs, meditating on God's word, and how often God speaks through our pastor - I like to get emotional during all of that . . . and also because no one is really looking at you. It's like crying at the movies.

I've been thinking and wrestling and struggling a lot lately, which is good.

It's good to see that I'm human. I'm messy. People are generally messy, actually.

I want to retire the plastic smile. Why should I put on a front? Why not be real, vulnerable and transparent - even when it's scary? I think that can speak more to people about what God is doing in your life - when you can be more honest.

If you're bringing all of your questions and struggles and baggage to God, trying to work it out with Him. When your problems don't get cured overnight, and they don't just gloss over . . . and you're laying it at His feet, trusting that He'll walk with you through all the crap.

Acknowledging my weaknesses, faults, bad days and humanness causes me to see my need for a savior. It forces me to rely on something outside of myself. It opens the door for me to rely more fully on God - which is something people need to see.

I want to just surrender. To let go of my guilt and my never-ending quest called perfectionism. I am trying so hard to be perfect, and I'm the only one putting that pressure on myself. No one else expects me to live up to the unrealistic standards that I've created. I've been struggling to be self-sufficient without fully acknowledging it.

Being a christian doesn't mean I have it all together or am perfect. I think it means that no matter what, I belong to God.

And I did nothing to deserve that relationship. That He reached out to me when I didn't even know who He was. That He initiated the relationship and He reconciled me - and I have done nothing to earn it.

So . . . I can rest, knowing that I am fully loved and I am His, and nothing is going to change that.

I am just thankful that God is bigger than my questions. He's bigger than satan, who keeps on making me question my identity and worth. He's bigger than my doubts, my desires, my fears, my anger, my frustration, my sin, my pursuit of perfection. There's nothing too big for Him, there's nothing I'm gonna throw out that He can't handle.

It's just so hard sometimes. I hate wrestling with the bigger issues. I hate questioning. I can't handle pat answers. Just because you think or say it's going to be OK doesn't mean that it will be. I can't handle a random verse taken out of context . . . I have to really sit down and digest it to get the answers I'm searching for. All of these things frustrate me, but I can take it as a sign of maturing. It's like a love/hate relationship . . . growing pains.

Back to being OK with being human . . . why would God send His Son to die for people, if they could be self-sufficient or righteous on their own? God created us . . . He knows we're messy, sinful and rebellious, yet He wants us to be reconciled to Him anyway. The whole grace thing baffles me, in a mysterious beautiful fashion.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:4-9

May 10, 2010

Remember To Feel Real

See all those people on the ground
Wasting time
I try to hold it all inside
But just for tonight
The top of the world
Sitting here wishing
The things I've become
That something is missing
Maybe I...
But what do I know

Without it all
I'm choking on nothing
It's clear in my head
And I'm screaming for something
Knowing nothing is better than knowing it all

I'm on my own . . .

"On My Own" - The Used

--------------------

I'm not used to it, you'd think I'd be by now
The ins, the outs, the ups and the downs

I wanna make a mess
I wanna blow off stress
I wanna stoke the fire
Just creatures for a while

It comes and goes it comes and goes
Sometimes I go a little crazy . . .

"Creatures (For A While)" - 311

--------------------

And this is how it feels when I
Ignore the words you spoke to me
And this is where I lose myself
When I keep running away from you

And this is who I am when,
When I don't know myself anymore
And this is what I choose when
It's all left up to me

Breathe your life into me
I can feel you, I'm falling
Falling faster
Breathe your life into me
I still need you
I'm falling, falling
Breathe into me

And this is how it looks when
I am standing on the edge
And this is how I break apart
When I finally hit the ground

And this is how it hurts when I
Pretend I don't feel any pain
And this is how I disappear
When I throw myself away

"Breathe Into Me" - Red

--------------------

Sometimes it's a beautiful thing to be broken.

Sometimes I someone to tell me that I am human, and that it's OK.

Most of the time, I'm trying to be perfect. I feel like I have to have it all together, especially since I'm in a leadership position. I feel like I always have to be 100%, always happy, always pouring myself out.

I hate it when people ask you "how are you?" and you can't tell the truth, so you swallow that lump in your throat and say "good, how are you?"

When I'm upset, I don't want to burden other people with the truth. Because it's not convenient. I'm not OK . . . I'm upset and mad at life, but we don't have an hour to talk about it, so I tell you that I'm fine and put this plastic smile back on my face.

I also feel guilty for being upset at life. Because our joy is to be found in the Lord, I feel like it's a sin not to be in a constant state of contentment.

But I'm not always happy and I'm not always content with my circumstances. In fact, I get pretty pissed and depressed about it sometimes . . and then I get upset at myself for being upset. I feel very guilty about it.

And the cycle continues. It's a never ending cycle of discontentment, guilt and depression.

And then I need someone to talk to, but feel that I can't . . . because I don't want to bring someone else down, I don't want to take up someone's time, I don't want to be needy, I don't want to be a burden.

So I keep these erroneous, twisted thoughts in my head, where they only keep brewing and exploding and getting worse.

I feel like I have to be constantly pouring myself out, and so it's not OK for me to take time for myself, and it's not OK to be inwardly focused. Life's not all about me, and I can't be selfish.

And then I try to run away from all of it just to breathe and talk to God about the cluster/cycle/insanity, but there's nowhere to breathe here because the beach is two hours away and I have too many time commitments for my schedule to allow that trip.

Oh, and then I feel guilty for trying to escape because escapism is not the right way to deal with life.

And I continue to feel guilty about being upset at life in the first place.

And then I get mad at stupid things like gel pens from target and the coffee shop not having skim milk out by the half & half, and feel guilty for not recycling the cardboard box my printer came in . . . when you start getting mad at pointless things, that's when you really know something's wrong.

And then I have no idea why I feel so guilty about all of these things in the first place. I don't know why I have this illusion that I need to be perfect and happy 100% of the time.

I really need someone to save me from myself and from these thoughts . . . to thrust me into reality and out of the twisted world that's in my head . . . I hate how I have so many questions that I can't answer, about life and God and purpose . . . how there are certain questions we will perpetually wrestle with in this lifetime.

I just need to sit down and listen to God . . . it would just really help if the beach was here.

Back to my first thought, it is a beautiful thing to be broken. It reminds me of my need for God, and it allows me to run to Him for complete healing . . . even if the pain of life does not fully subside. I think God gives the pain more of a purpose, and He heals us . . . but I don't think He expects us to have it all together . . . otherwise the cross would have been completely in vain, and a million other reasons.

May 4, 2010

Thriller

I have totally been feeling like a zombie lately . . . as I mentioned in my last post.

I also must say that sometimes a blog is like the contents of your brain exploding onto a keyboard . . . and so this post might be a little lengthy.

It's funny and aggravating to me how easily I fall into a rut and get caught in old patterns, old struggles, run back to those idols that I thought were conquered.

I have been so bored with life, so inwardly focused, so discontent with my circumstances.

Chasing after the same old things . . . seeking to find meaning and purpose.

My thought processes and patterns catch me off guard. I was at church, of all places, and realized that I've been judging God's love for me based on my circumstances.

I, without being fully aware of it, was believing that there was something wrong with me, a reason that I'm not good enough, that God was withholding blessings from me. I'm just not in the right place spiritually and so God has been holding back.

Once I realized my futile thinking, I was a little taken aback by it. God displayed all of His power, love and grace on the cross. God's love for me will never, and has never changed . . . nothing I do or don't do could ever change that. If He saved me when I didn't even know Him - if He gave His own son for me when I was dead in my sins, then how could I think that He would withhold anything, or love me less? He cannot give me anything greater than what He's already given me in the cross. He cannot bless me with anything greater than His presence.

It's far too easy to count the tangible things and quickly start wondering why you don't have certain material blessings. It's far too easy to chase after the things that promise fulfillment in this world.

And then we wonder how we got back to this place. But I'm not fooled . . . I know it was because I haven't been spending as much quality time with God. I've been letting the little things get in the way . . .

Looking for meaning and fulfillment in validation and approval from other people, from my outward appearance, from being busy . . . I think those are my biggest struggles, at least when it comes to idols. And then buying the lies that are so convincing - that I'm not good enough, that there's something chronically wrong with me as a person, that I'm not doing enough.

But perhaps if I got back to where I need to be . . . perhaps if I found my identity, my meaning, purpose and fulfillment in God - it would free me from the boredom and discontentment in life I've been feeling. I would become so enthralled by Him and satisfied in Him. That I would remember life is not all about me - it's about a greater story and I can be a part of it. That my heart and desires would align with His. Perhaps if I turned to Him, I would be filled to the point of overflowing . . . and instead of being irritated or frustrated with people because I'm not getting something from them, I would be enabled to love them and pour myself out for them. I would be able to rest, knowing that my identity and approval is not dependent on how well I do at work or even in a ministry, or what people think of me. Instead of being a vacuum, I would be constantly outpouring.

People, relationships, a number on a scale were not meant to give us meaning. God is the only one who can fill that void . . . and the only one who can keep providing and supplying for our needs. It's just funny how often I have to be reminded of that.

And yet, He's always there when I finally get my head on straight . . . never to say "I told you so" or to condemn me. God is not controlling, and He allows us to choose our paths, even when there are not so good consequences. God forgives us of our sin, and not only that, but he absorbs the hurt and pain we bring upon ourselves as a result of the sin.

The Gospel is such a beautiful, captivating mystery. And humans are funny little creatures.

Sometimes I get mad because it's not easy. It's not easy to be awake. It's easier to be a zombie. It kind of sucks to be a zombie though, because you become calloused, bitter, disgruntled, discontent, and full of despair. It's harder to be awake and to be seeking after God. I think satan tries to throw everything at us to prevent us from getting to know God, and that's why it's so easy to be a zombie. I gravitate towards what satan tells me, especially when he tells me that I'll find fulfillment in this world, and that I'm worthless. What J.D. said this past weekend does make me feel a little better - that life as a christian is struggle. I get mad at the struggle, but if it's normal for us to struggle, then I guess I feel like I'm doing something right.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .
- 1 Peter 5:8-9


Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
- Ephesians 5:15-16

May 2, 2010

Sometimes

Sometimes, and it actually feels like most of the time lately . . .

I find it so easy just to coast through life. I think I have a really low threshold for boredom and some ADD tendencies . . . those two meshed together are a fabulous recipe for complacency, falling into a rut, and dying spiritually. awesome.

Sometimes I feel like my eyes have started to glaze over and there's just a hollow presence beneath them . . . or like that one scene in Tommy boy where Richard tells Tommy, "I think your brain has a thick candy shell."

Anyway, I find it so easy to get caught up in the little things, all of life's distractions, my own personal agenda. Before I know it, I'm entirely bored, discontent and inwardly focused. I also find myself being indifferent to things that I was once passionate about. I lose sight of the bigger picture, I lose sight of God's heart and desires for not only my life, but for the lives around me.

Somebody just needs to clap some cymbals above my head and wake me up. Life is too short to just sleepwalk through it and let my inward desires and insecurities take the reins.

Jesus didn't die on the cross for lukewarm followers or disciples. I also think it's hurtful to God when we react to His grace and love with indifference, or flat affect (to throw a medical term at you).

Like J.D. said in his sermon this weekend, you're either actively growing spiritually or you're rotting away and being sabotaged by death.

How true . . . and how I can see this in my own life.

What is the cure for this? To become so enthralled, captivated and consumed by the Gospel . . . to let it transform my heart and consequently my paths, my perspective, my day to day decisions and actions.

I really like Paul. I just thought I should give him a shout out. I like what he writes in Colossians, particularly Colossians 3.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . ."
-Colossians 3: 16


Yes . . . I need to let His word dwell in me . . . I need to seek Him daily, I need to get into the scriptures daily. Spending time with God and reading His word is the primary way that He transforms me and reveals Himself to me. With this comes the changes in my desires, the changes or my priorities, the changes of my actions, the removal of my complacency.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
-Romans 12:2

April 28, 2010

something to chew on

I'm going to quote part of one of Jon Acuff's posts from today. Please read the entire post here, but I just had to post some of it because it's too good not to read. It's really something that I need to hear, and mull over.

The Gospel is such a huge, powerful, beautiful, mysterious thing that I know I need to meditate on daily . . . and I'm amazed at how much I still have to learn. Here's the excerpt from his post:

I believe we risk a great danger when we try to say that people “go a little too far with the whole ‘Christians are covered by grace’ thing.” And the danger is simply that we downsize grace.

We establish a limit to grace and God’s love. We start to draw boundary lines on grace and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of thing happen.

There was a guy in the Bible who was the worst. He was such a failure. He lied once and got an entire village murdered as a result. A priest and his family were killed because of his lies. He committed adultery. He cheated. He trusted in his own strength instead of the Lord’s. And when he did, when he failed, thousands and thousands of people died as a result. His family suffered from incest and murder and his hands were so covered with wrongfully shed blood that eventually God wouldn’t let him do something really important.

Now imagine if that person was a commenter on Stuff Christians Like. Imagine if they confessed to homicide and adultery and a laundry list of other sins. I mean there have been some crazy comments on this site, but no one has ever said, “I saw this girl online and thought she was really hot, so I slept with her, got her pregnant and then arranged on craigslist for her husband to be killed.” But this guy, the guy in the Bible, he could have left that comment. And if he did, would you or me or the writer of that email instantly think, “He didn’t take grace too far?” No, we’d be horrified. We’d be terrified.

So how is he referred to in the Bible? Here is what God says about him:

“I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart,”

What? Are you kidding God? David, the murderer? The adulterer? That can’t be right.

Surely David himself knows what a mess he’s made. Aren’t we all our worst critics? David knows that there is blood on his hands. How does he describe himself in Psalm 26?

“Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.”

No. No. No. David hasn’t led a blameless life. He hasn’t trusted in the Lord without wavering. He ran away and got people killed by trying to cover up his tracks when he was afraid. How can David say these things? How can God say these things?

Because grace is scandalous.

Grace does not make sense to our tiny human brains. We can’t control it. We can’t draw boundaries and borders on it. And when we try I think it breaks God’s heart.

I think we insult the cross when we act as if we can “out sin” it.

I think we wound our father when we think we can “out filth” his love.

I think we hurt our Christ when we believe that we have found the end of his grace.

I know, I know, I know that it is possible to mistreat the Lord. To blasphemy his name with our actions and our attitudes. David certainly did and he paid the consequences. I don’t think we get discipline or grace. I think we get both. I think discipline is a by product of grace and in my own life I have received large amounts of it.

But above that, I think God understood the grand risk when he offered us grace. A book called “True Faced” called it the New Testament Gamble. I think God knew the risk that we’d misunderstand grace and try to take advantage of it. I think he knew we’d try to find the limits of it with our sinfulness. Which is why he made it limitless, which is why he made grace infinite and never ending.

I don’t know what you’ve done. I don’t know your life or the bumps or bruises. Maybe you actually have murdered more people than David. I don’t know. But I do know, as many readers pointed out on this post, we serve a God who accepts our repentance and confession. We serve a God who when offered a chance to reveal himself to Moses, chose one thing to show, the most important thing, his goodness.

We serve a God who “rises to show us compassion.”

A God who delights in you.

A God who sent his son to the cross not to show the end of his grace, but rather the beginning.


http://www.stuffchristianslike.net

I heart pandora

And I'm not talking about the planet where the Na'vi live (although that's pretty cool), I'm talking about pandora radio. I have a station that mostly plays Bob Marley, Sublime, 311, Slightly Stoopid, etc. It makes me feel like I'm at the beach grilling in the summertime with a slight breeze blowing through my hair and a drink in one hand. Fabulous.

I haven't blogged in nearly a month so I feel OK with rambling about pointless things as an intro to this post.

I straight up lied at the dentist today. The dental hygienist asked, "you're flossing, right?" and in my head I was saying "no way, lady!" but with my mouth I quickly said "yes," without even blinking. She was nice enough to accept my sheepish response, but my gums don't lie . . . the dentist called me out on it. And then proceeded to tell me how why I should bring floss when I'm backpacking in the deep woods (and how I could fashion a toothbrush out of twigs and other miscellaneous shrubbery).

I don't know why I'm so afraid of getting found out sometimes that I deny my actions with my words, but then something gives me away, like my sore gums after the ole floss and metal pick routine. It's like when you're a little kid and you've got your hand in the cookie jar. Who even owns or uses a cookie jar? Cookies stay fresher if you keep them in those nifty re-sealable packages. I don't buy cookies. Unless I plan to leave them at someone's house. Bogus.

I have recently indulged in reading a little blog called "Stuff Christians Like." It's pretty hilarious - I think everyone should check it out. It's funny because it's true, and sad because it's true. But, there's also some pretty enlightening and convicting stuff in there. I am a huge fan. I think a few favorite posts are the side hug reference and of course the one about Lady GaGa.

I have a hate-love relationship with Starbucks. I hate it because it's a ginormous chain, it's way too trendy, corporate and expensive. I ADORE indie/independent coffee shops, they are my first choice. However, I love Starbucks because it is so close to my apartment, I love the way their coffee and espresso tastes . . . and I love that on tax day, they had free coffee for anyone who brought in their own travel mug. I love that they normally give a discount if you bring in your travel mug instead of getting a paper cup. I love that it only costs 50 cents at the Starbucks at work if you do this. I love how much more their coffee seems to wake me up than other coffees I've tried. I love getting their sugar-free hazelnut in that coffee. I love that they have me thinking more "green." (I think I'm falling into the trap of trendiness - but at least it's for a good cause, right?) . . . now I want to start bringing my own bags when I go grocery shopping too. Oh my.


*end of ridiculous random junk*

I read 1 Kings 1 today, and it's funny how you can miss so much when you read more than just a passage or a few verses at a time.

The commentary that I like to follow zoned in on one verse in particular that King David says to Bathsheba as he is about to hand off the throne to his son Solomon.

And the king took an oath and said, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from every distress . . ."
-1 Kings 1:29

And I just have to quote Chuck Smith because I could not say it better than he does regarding this passage:

"What a glorious testimony that is. Now he didn't say the Lord kept my soul from all distress.

A lot of times people have a mistaken notion that God somehow is going to give me divine immunity from problems. That somehow I'm going to be immune from any kind of distressing or vexing situation. Not so. As a child of God, I face many distressing situations. I have no immunity from problems, from sufferings, from hurts. Nor will you. But I do know that God will deliver me out of all my distresses.

Now you see, the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian isn't the fact that a Christian doesn't have distresses and doesn't have problems because I have just as much distress and problem as an ungodly person has. The only thing is I have One who redeems me out of them all. The ungodly not so. They've got to make their way the best they can through them or perish in them or whatever. But the Lord will redeem my soul out of all distresses."

Sometimes I definitely feel like as a Christian, I should never be angry, depressed, emotional, hormonal or crazy. If you've ever listened to a Christian radio station, maybe you feel like you should be just as sugar-coated and happy all the time as the DJ's or songs they play. But it's just not true. Life isn't easy - Christian or not. We definitely have problems and hardships, we just go through them differently. Going through crap with God by your side is a lot different than going through life's crap by yourself. And I think that's what the difference is supposed to be.

March 31, 2010

Burn Out Brighter



Live, I wanna live inspired
Die, I wanna die for something higher than myself
Live and die for anyone else
The more I live I see this life's not about me

Don't wanna leave this world knowing I breathed in vain
Looked out for myself, so sorry, so ashamed
Don't wanna leave this life knowing I barely tried
To chase down all my dreams that I hid away on the inside

"Burn Out Brighter" - Anberlin

This past weekend I had the privilege of being part of the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC with some amazing girls. There were over 40,000 participants in the race - it was such an awesome experience!



Looking at the aerial shot, it reminds me of how wonderful it is to be a part of something bigger and greater than myself.

It is too easy to believe that I am the center of the story . . . that it's all about me. My priorities topple over, and I become too focused on my circumstances (and those things I think I need to be happy). And let's face it - just like the Motion City Soundtrack song, the future freaks me out. I let fear and worry about provision take the wheel without even realizing it.

God has been gently reminding and directing me of where I need to be. My job is to cast my cares on Him, focus on getting to know Him and to align my life with His purposes and His kingdom. When I am doing this, I find that He gives fulfillment and everlasting joy that nothing in this world could ever provide (and that He takes care of me and provides better than I could have done on my own). His plans are infinitely better than anything I could come up with on my own . . . living for Him and His purposes - living for something so much greater than myself brings amazing freedom and joy.

The church is such an opportunity to be part of something greater. I'm so thankful that through our church, we have the opportunity to be on mission for God, to be committed to living for greater purposes. Not only to do life with other people (let's face it - life is better when shared), but to desire to see this city transformed, lives renewed, to be an extension of the Gospel to our community. We get to see God work in our city, we get to see Him work through our friends and our church. We get to be a part of what God is doing and we get to know Him more which is such a bigger blessing than the accumulation of stuff or status for myself.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
[Matthew 6:33]

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
[Psalm 37:4]

Plus . . . if God is for us, who can be against us? If we align ourselves with His plans and His will for this world, we can be confident and secure - after all, God is sovereign and we know that His purposes prevail.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!
[Ephesians 3:16-21]


Blog Design by Caked Designs