Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saying the Wrong Thing

Has anyone else gone through a phase of thinking:
o      "Boy I hope I say the right thing at the right time."
o      "I hope I give the right answer.”
o      “I really don't want to give the wrong one and affect this person's view of me." 

I have said (and sometimes still say) things like this in my head, fearing that what I have to say is “the wrong thing” or “the wrong answer.”

If you do this too, then...

STOP!

I have often heard: "What other people think or say about you doesn't matter. Be you!" But it's easy to forget to apply this message to our own lives. 
I’ll lose sleep over giving “the right answer” to a question from my parent, teacher, friend, etc. asking myself, "What if I say the wrong thing? What if I don't give them the answer they're wanting to hear?" only to discover that they just wanted my best answer, not "the right answer."

Here are the lies we believe when we worry about saying what others want to hear:
o      My thoughts and opinions don't matter.
o      I'm not smart.
o      What people want to hear is much more important than the truth that needs to be shared.

That last point is important, because it’s a HUGE trap we can fall into if we're not careful. 

The Pharisees fell for that trap: “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5a, ESV). They walked around preaching the Law, but they never worried about speaking the truth. It’s no surprise that the Pharisees were angry and offended when Jesus corrected them, speaking the truth in love:

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.’ Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?’ He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit’” (Matthew 15: 10-13, NIV).

Jesus never stopped speaking the truth just because the Pharisees didn't want to hear it or because they thought it was the wrong thing to say. He cares a lot about what each and every one of us has in our hearts and on our mouths—we just have to be careful that it won’t defile us and our audiences.

You see, we're not always going to be right when we speak, but we're much better off when we focus on giving our best answers and speaking the truth in love.

Read this carefully: 
You shouldn't have to worry about giving "the right answer." Give your best answer. And if you're wrong, then accept correction with grace.

Here is the truth that fights with the lies you’ve been believing:
o      Your opinions DO matter. 
o      You ARE important.
o      You CAN share what you think and what is true without having to worry that people will think any less of you.

Look for the people in your life who:
o    love you for your opinions,
o    encourage you to speak out the truth,
o    and lovingly correct you when you're wrong.

The people who aren't helping you towards Christ will shut you down for speaking the truth and sharing what's on your heart.

Overall, just do your best and be your best. Never stop sharing what's on your heart.

Blessings!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Delight

"Bliss."
1. supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment
2. (Theology) the joy of heaven
3. heaven; paradise

Synonyms: joy, happiness, delight.



"Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you."
--Psalm 84:10-12

I used to think of bliss as a distraction from the important things, but really, bliss is that place one step away from experiencing heaven. 

Bliss happens when you delight yourself in the Lord.

I read the passage above this morning in my quiet time, and this part stuck out to me: "no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless...blessed is the one who trusts in you."

God really does love His children. He doesn't spoil them, but He surely likes bless them...just because. 

For example, yesterday, while I was walking my dog around in my backyard, I saw that my favorite tree had almost lost all of its leaves. Looking down, I saw a multitude of beautifully colored leaves and collected a few:
 
Aren't they lovely?

They remind me of how beautiful God is and that while the world is constantly changing, there are still things that never change like beauty, love, truth, and goodness. 

My point is: delight yourself in the Lord

God gives blessings everyday, but it's hard to always recognize them. That's why it's so important to be on the lookout for the things that will catch your eye. They just might be presents from God telling you that He loves you and thinks you're amazing. :)

"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." --Psalm 37:4

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Two Poems Diverged

One of my new favorite movies, Dead Poets Society, mentions two poems that have struck me in these last few days. One is an excerpt from Henry David Thoreau's Walden about why one would go to the woods, and the other is a poem by Walt Whitman called "Oh Me! Oh Life!" which answers the ever-popular question, "Why are we here, in the world, and what is our purpose?"

The reason why I mention these two poems together is that they both attempt to answer this question with two different perspectives.

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear, nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to 'glorify God and enjoy him forever.'"

Thoreau makes a very good point, that we are here to choose life over death, and to avoid the realization at the end of our lives that we had not lived.

Unfortunately, he says that "most men...have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to 'glorify God and enjoy him forever.'"

What a shame, to believe that such a glorious calling is nothing but a hasty conclusion!

If I were to visit the woods, this would be my purpose: to enjoy God and glorify Him. At this season of my life, I praise God every day for the trees. The leaves and their colors are absolutely captivating, and it my heart skips a beat realizing that God made me ruler of all of it (as well as you!); that you and I are in fact the crowning glory of those beautiful colors on the leaves, the constellations in the stars on the dark night sky, and the brightness that overcomes the cold morning air in the sunrise at the beginning of every day: that all of us were made to top those beautiful sights, and to give our glory back to the Lord (2 Peter 1:3-11, ESV).

I disagree with Thoreau: this is not a hasty conclusion at all. I did not come up with that conclusion on my own. It is in fact what I was assigned to do by the Voice of Truth Himself on the day He gave me breath (Jeremiah 1:5, ESV; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, ESV). It's not a conclusion I made for myself: it's a calling.

I believe that Walt Whitman describes the facts of life much better: that amongst our hurt and pain, our hearts cry out, "Oh me! Oh life!" and "what could I possibly be good for?"

"O Me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring-What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer. 
That you are here-that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse."
Whitman knows quite well that we are sad wretches, searching around the earth for an answer to what we are good for, what we were made for, and why we are here, still daring to live. The answer: that we're here! That we are a part of a beautiful story set all around us, and we are important characters in it! And that our lives will contribute a verse to the greatest play of all time.

As Professor Keating very well stated, "What will your verse be?"

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Pet Peeve and an Encouragement

I've been seeing memes and pictures like these on the internet lately:





I'll be honest: I don't like being told that my faith is weak just because I don't hit the share button.

At the end of the day, I know that my faith is defined by how I live, not by how many times I "like" or "share" these kinds of posts. I believe that it's better to show Jesus in my everyday actions than to nauseate people with "Re-share for Jesus!" posts. My hope is that Jesus' presence in my life is perfectly obvious without my having to re-post these pictures all over the Internet.

A lot of the pictures I see are also quite discouraging. In fact, if I were a non-Christian coming across these photos, I'd probably be buying into the stereotypes that the world makes for us: "Oh, those Christians are always guilting people into their beliefs. They're such hypocrites! Isn't their religion about loving and encouraging?"

I'm not trying to be harsh on people that put pictures like this on their social network feeds. If their goal is to share Jesus with others, then I applaud them for having their heart in the right place.

The problem is that these kinds of pictures do not accomplish the goal well.

Here's a simple question: if you want to introduce others to Christ, is guilting them or pressuring them the right way to invite them into a lifelong, loving, committed relationship with Him?

I don't write this post to be judgmental, mean, or preachy. I'd like to gently remind my fellow brothers and sisters to think before you post, and continue to build each other up in Christ.

Blessings!

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." --Ephesians 4:29

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Season of Change is Coming Soon

I was just thinking a minute ago about how seasons sometimes have subtitles.

Winter: the cold season and the season of Christmas, the new year, and even Valentine's Day. (A thought just occurred to me about Valentine's Day. It is a holiday in which we celebrate love, but we celebrate it in the middle of winter--it's cold, nasty, and difficult. Doesn't that in and of itself represent what love is all about? How love is about caring about someone or wanting the best for them, even when it's cold, nasty, and difficult?)

Spring: the season of new beginnings, life, and resurrection. (Obviously, that would be why we celebrate Easter in this season, but we also celebrate Mother's Day, and late into the season, we celebrate Father's Day. We celebrate the lives of those around us in the spring.)

Summer: the season of EXTREME heat, and the season of rest. (I find a lot more pictures of the beach and vacation articles on Pinterest during this time of year, don't you?)

And finally...

Autumn (I like the name autumn better than fall!): the season of change and color.

Autumn is not here yet, but it's coming soon. (Did you know the autumnal equinox is next Tuesday?)

I always think that this time of the year is strange--when we are all ahead of the autumn season. School has started, so all the parents and students are saying, "It must be fall, since we're getting into the school routine and starting sports [and other extracurricular activities]." I have even seen Halloween decorations and specialty costume stores put up. My grocery store is covered with candy bags decorated with spiders and ghoulish faces on them. Halloween commercials are now found on every television channel.

Yet, when I look outside at my backyard, the tree is still green--not a hint of orange, red, or yellow. All the bees are buzzing around flower bushes, the sky is still as blue as a robin's egg, and it's 86ยบ at only one o'clock in the afternoon.

Autumn usually means that I don't have to see ants crawl into the side of the house. It means that I get to enjoy how the wooden fence in the backyard gets wet, dark stains from the hundreds of raindrops and how the cold foggy mist feels on my face after a rainstorm. It means that I can wear sweaters, scarves, fuzzy socks, boots, and blue jeans every single day of the week, and so will everyone else I know. It means that I can bake pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and drink caramel apple cider at coffee shops. Autumn is the season of reading books next to a fireplace, sleeping with extra blankets, and enjoying comfortable walks outside, knowing that it won't be too hot or too cold.

No wonder we are all ready for the fall...but it's not here yet!

Right now is the season of patience. It's the season where farmers are preparing their fields knowing that it will rain soon, and there will be plenty to do when harvest comes. Right now is the season where everyone wants something in their lives to change, and they anticipate it wholeheartedly.

It reminds me of the seasons of life we have with God. How we impatiently anticipate a change that God is about to grant to us, but He hasn't quite decided to do it yet. It's that difficult season of waiting.

Right now in my backyard, it's still extremely hot. The tree is still green, even though I really want to see it turn orange and red. I likely won't see the flames blazing in the fireplace this evening, and I didn't notice any fog or mist in the atmosphere early this morning.

But I know all of those glorious things about the season of change are coming. I trust God that He's going to give us those gifts...in a little while, but not quite yet.

What do we do in a season of patience? What do we do when we're waiting on God to bring change into our lives?

We pray, we breathe, we worship, we meditate on God's Word, and we take in the gifts that He's already given us for right now.

I heard this at church yesterday: waiting on God is not necessarily the same as waiting in line. It's more like how you want a waiter to serve you when you are at a restaurant. Waiting is the act of serving God, not a lack of action on God's part.

The gifts that I can appreciate about my backyard right now is that the tomato plant is still producing yellow and red cherry tomatoes. The tree may not be orange, red, and yellow, but throughout the summer, I've seen it in dozens of shades of bright and dark greens. I've seen tons of squirrels and birds visit the tree and appreciate it more than I have. I have enjoyed the feelings of putting my hands in cold water, and seeing how my face looks when it's sun-kissed.

I still anticipate, but I can still appreciate. And that is the beauty of patience, even when I long for the season of change.

"O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'" --Isaiah 25:1, 9b

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Saying Good-bye to Peter Pan


I have a confession to make: I get upset, tired, and angry from time to time.

The other day I had a heated discussion with my mom (ok, it was more of a one-sided rant) with me going on and on and on about how terribly miserable I am and how difficult my life is. (I'm sorry to admit that I say stuff like that.)

Then my mom said three words that no child in the history of mankind has EVER wanted to hear from a parent: "Then move out."

I froze. "What?"

"Move out." She went on to say that she didn't exactly mean "Pack your things and get out of this house right now if you don't like it here. Good luck making it on your own." She didn't mean that at all.

She meant that I am pitifully dependent on my family...for pretty much everything.

I'm seventeen, and my habitat has been about the same as it has been since I was ten years old. My parents drive me everywhere, because I do not have a license. I can't go anywhere without having a family meeting and looking at our entire schedule. I can never say, "Hey, I'm going out of the house for a little while," unless I'm going to walk the dog, go for a run, or ride my bike...in the neighborhood.

I hardly ever go anywhere by myself because I usually go to events that my parents have planned for the whole family. Probably the only places that I go voluntarily are the gym, the library, school, church, and youth group. But then, I can't go to any of those places (except the library) without someone driving me (and then a family member usually attends those places with me). I'm at home a lot because I haven't been getting a driver's license so I can go to community college or get a job so I can make friends with classmates and co-workers.

This is my life right now, and the truth is: I've never really been bothered by it until now. I've always been comfortable following my family around like a dog on a leash, being driven everywhere, never having to worry about leaving the house.

My entire life is the definition of DEPENDENCE when my growth as a teenager demands that I find INDEPENDENCE. This doesn't mean rebelling against my parents, it doesn't mean "looking out for #1," or deciding that I'm right and everyone else is wrong.

It means deciding how I want to make an impact in the world, making decisions for myself, learning my own life lessons, and taking steps toward surviving as an individual under God...leaving childhood behind and becoming an adult.

Friends, this is a terrifying mission to accept.

Do you know how birds learn to fly? Young birds spend the beginning of their lives being fed by their mother and never leaving the nest. All they know is that tiny confined space consisting entirely of little sticks, cotton, and leaves. All they know is life with the other birds in their family. When the bird is ready to fly, do you know what happens?

It's quite fascinating: the mother starts to push her child out of the nest. And I don't mean a little shove to say, "If you want, you can go." No! I mean, the mother flaps her wings uncontrollably, kicking and pushing that little bird out of that nest. That's not saying "Hey, if you want, go ahead." That is saying, "Go. Go. Go now. GO! Fly, it's time. Right now. Ready, go!!!"

You know how that little bird responds at first, "What are you doing? Stop! It's too high! I can't! Please, I don't want to go. I'm scared!" Then finally, the mother gives one last push, and this story can have one of two endings: 1) either the bird decides not to fly and falls to the ground, hopeless, and in a lot of cases, dead; or 2) the bird starts to flap its wings and flies away--it soars in the air, leaving its dependence on its family behind, and discovering independence.

The process of independence is a little different for human beings, because leaving the nest and growing up doesn't traditionally happen within a few minutes. One thing I do know now is that I have to stop refusing to grow up, like Peter Pan. It's a great thing to accept adulthood--after all, most of my life will be spent as an adult--that is, if I decide to leave childhood behind. I think growing up will be a great adventure--an adventure that Peter Pan was too afraid to experience.

It will probably be another year or two before I leave my parents' house. I still have to graduate high school, I still need to get a driver's license, I still need to get a job, and find an ambition with which to glorify God (some people call that pursuing a career, but I think an ambition is more than that [this topic may be another blog post in and of itself]).

Now is the time where I begin taking the steps to accepting the challenge of growing up. It's the time where God writes the final pages of this first chapter of my life. Now is when He helps me figure out what's next.

Yes, the words "move on," "move out," "time to grow up," and "leave the nest" are terrifying.

On the other hand, I hear these strong words from God and the people who are ready to support me and cheer me on as I accept the daring challenge of grasping independence:

"You are ready. It's time to fly."

 "For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
--1 Corinthians 13:9-13

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Letter to the Readers: Another Blog!

Hello readers, and happy summer!

I have an announcement to make. You may have noticed another tab on the top of the page labeled "Victorious Notebook."

That, friends, is my new blog!

Victorious Notebook is a "spinoff" blog for my reading and writing projects, which I want all of you to be a part of. The first post explains everything, so if you're interested in following the blog, please go to the link at the top of the page and read the post titled, "Welcome to Victorious Notebook!"

I'm very excited to have another outlet for writing, and I hope that you will enjoy it too.

Thanks!

--Hayley