Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cinderella Mornings

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to waste time? 

I've done some productive things today, but I'll be honest, I haven't accomplished much. I'm WAY too overwhelmed by my task list! All I want to do is snuggle my puppy, eat chocolate cake, and watch re-runs of The Carol Burnett Show.

I call mornings like these "Cinderella mornings." 

You can probably relate--those mornings where you look at your to-do list and become increasingly overwhelmed and then become paralyzed by the tasks before you. And then you start daydreaming, because, let's face it, any state of mind is better than the reality you're facing now, right?

I bet you anything Cinderella was like that (yes, I know she's fictional, stay with me). She'd wake up early in the morning, go about her morning routine, deal with her cranky family members, and get started on a to-do list as high as the ceiling in the house...and by the way, Cinderella will be cleaning every inch of it later on! Yet every now and then, when she had the opportunity, she'd stare and daydream about the castle out her window. "Will I ever get out of this?" she thought. "Will I ever see the day where I'll get to spend just an hour in that castle?"

That's when I think about heaven.

It's that place that we think about all the time.

"What will it be like after I leave the world? Will I have arrows that shoot hearts? Will I have wings and play the harp all day on a ceiling?" (Apparently today's theme is ceilings...) No!

Heaven is that place we've always dreamed of living in. It's the most perfect place there is. I think of heaven as the place where everyone gets to sing together in front of God (kind of like church worship service but you can actually SEE God right there!). It might have a small pasture with a summer breeze and cherry trees, and unlimited access to a library with billions and billions of books (happy, thought-provoking, beautiful books). 

And time with God, lots of awesome, precious, endless time with God. La la la... :) <3

And then I think about the evenings in heaven (that is, of course, if heaven has an evening). I've heard that in some cultures in the world, almost every night for family dinner, someone cooks a fabulous meal and everyone eats and talks about anything and everything for hours...and hours...and hours, on a rooftop, surrounded by growing, fresh, colorful vegetables in the night air. I think evenings in heaven will be like that. People spending time with one another in the most beautiful place imaginable, telling stories, sharing thoughts and memories, and getting to know God more, being completely unified with Him.

Selah.

Yup. That sounds way better than making vocabulary flash cards and studying for tests, but I can still have joy doing those things knowing that I won't be doing them forever! In the meantime, I'm setting aside that time for chocolate cake and t.v. re-runs. :)

"Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created." James 1:16-18 (NIV)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome, 2015

Today I'm still reflecting on 2014. I know I should have done that yesterday, but I don't think it's ever too late to reflect.

Here's what I learned in 2014:

  • I learned to be more responsible. It's okay that I'm becoming an adult--adulthood is HARDDD, but it's beautiful. Have I mentioned that I'll be eighteen in only 6 days? (See this post for more about what I learned in becoming an adult.)
  • I learned to forgive and to love. I know that these sound like easy things to pick up, but I realized this year that I had no idea how DIFFICULT it is to really love the people around you, and to forgive the people who have affected your life for the worse, big or small. I also learned how to love and forgive myself, which I had to do before I ever accomplished this with anyone else. I learned that I was a little worse for wear, that I still had a lot of hurt that God's been trying to walk me through, and that if anyone is worthy of listening to for opinions and advice, it's definitely God. He taught me how much worth I have and that it's not about who I have been before or how other people around me have done things that hurt. I'm defined by who I am in God's eyes alone and how I interact with Him.
  • I learned how to be honest about who I am. I learned that even though I'm a messy human being, it's okay to embrace that messiness. I can do hard things. I can make the right decisions. I can do as I ought. I can do my best without worrying how I'm going to be judged by others. All of these things in the end glorify God, and I was never expected to be without mistakes in the first place. When God said "Be perfect as I am perfect" I believe that he wanted us to do our best. To give our 100%. Just show up. Pray. Love. Forgive. Rest, knowing that you gave it your all and asked God to make up for what you inevitably lacked. Ask for his forgiveness (and don't forget to forgive yourself) in the ways that you will inevitably mess up. Ask God to help you learn, help you forgive, and ask Him to still love you and forgive you. That's perfection. It's knowing that because of God's grace, we are able to be His children who do as we ought. "All beautiful you are my darling, there is no flaw in you." We're flawless because we're His children who have accepted Him. (See this post for more about what I learned in being honest.)

Maybe the reason why I keep looking back on 2014 is because it was kind of a train wreck that I can't look away from. 2014 was probably one of the hardest, yet most beautiful years of my life. It really demonstrated what it means for God to make beautiful things out of the ugliest of messes. 2014 was that disastrous train wreck that showed the ways where I was weak, but it also showed me the ways in which God is strong...and beautiful and wise and perfect and loving. And it showed that He can make me all those things too.

Therefore...

Welcome, 2015. Maybe you're an oncoming, ugly and beautiful train wreck just like 2014. But maybe you're a Christmas present that I wasn't expecting. Maybe you're like a giant fortune cookie that gives me a ton of advice or encouragement that I need. Maybe you're like a roadmap that will show me where I need to be going and the steps that I need to take to get there. And maybe you're a travel guide that shows me just how beautiful each of those places on the map really are if I decide to see them in person.

Dear God, 
I pray that 2015 is like all of these things. I know that I'll have a few train wrecks, but will you help me learn from them? Maybe it'll be like spring, where all of the flowers are ruined by pounds of snow from winter and they'll grow again when the sun warms the ground. 
Will you give me fortune cookies that have encouragement and wisdom and gentle reminders--and yes, even hard, painful, killer reminders? 
Will you be my roadmap--a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path--guiding me where I need to go and the steps I need to take to get there? Will you also be my travel guide and point out the ways in which this life is so beautiful and breathtaking, which I often forget to appreciate? 
2015 is no longer the future. It's the present. And you, O Lord, are the hope for the future. A gift full of bright beginnings with grace and love.
I'm ready for another year, only because you're here to help me through it--just like you were always here to help me through the last one.
Just one more question before we go. Am I still young enough for you to hold my hand?
Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Overcoming Evil in Moments of Weakness

I was sad today.

I don't know why.

I have no reason to be sad at all.

All of my friends and family are healthy. Everyone is safe.
I'm healthy. I'm safe.

At first, I thought, "Maybe I'm lonely..."

Yes. Maybe a little. But youth group is tomorrow. My siblings will be home from school in a couple of hours. I have no reason to be lonely. And God's here. He always keeps me company. For crying out loud, I spent nearly an hour socializing with a classmate today. We both live in the same state and plan on meeting in person soon, so I pretty much just made a new friend today! So how is it that I'm feeling lonely?

"It's cold."

Yes. But a sweater can fix that. And the fireplace is on.

"It's too quiet."

I normally like quiet. What is wrong with quiet? And as I said before, my siblings will be fixing that in a couple of hours. :)

So why am I sad?

What am I longing for?

What's going on?

God's here. He's with me. He's keeping me safe, keeping me healthy, allowing me to breathe.

I'm in a warm and loving home.

All is very, very well.

But I still feel empty.

"So what lie am I believing here?" I asked God and my heart.

I have nothing to worry about right now, grace is abounding all around me, it's beautiful (and yes, cold) outside.

Is it guilt? Shame? Envy? Unrighteous anger? Lack of self-esteem? Fear?

I don't know.

There's always a battle between good and evil being fought around us. Evil can stir up feelings of sadness and self-pity even when everything in our heart and soul is screaming God's words that all is well.

Did you know that evil can even mess with us physically?

I've had backaches, pains, and toughest of all, headaches that have been extinguished by prayer and staring demons in the face saying, "Go away. In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to stop and leave!"

Yes, you and I have the authority to do that. Isn't that awesome?

I must warn you, though, evil doesn't always decide to obey you. That's when you pray for God to send angels and to use HIS power to help you conquer evil in that moment.

My headaches and backaches tend to go away after that.

Seriously. You need to try it sometime.

So here I am, fighting this battle occurring in my mind. I'm taking my own advice, commanding the evil forces to depart from me. And praying for angels to surround me. Declaring that I break all agreements with the enemy, that I repent and commit to follow the truth that comes from God. And finally, praying for the Holy Spirit to come into my head, heart, and soul to overcome emotions and feelings of pity and sadness.

And you know what?

He does.

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