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

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Welcome to the Twilight Zone: A Metaphor Based on My Experience at "The Tower of Terror"

Disclaimer: This is a post about one of the experiences I had at my Disney World vacation last summer. If you've been waiting for a post like this one, this is the chance to start reading. 

However, if you're bothered by spoilers or long articles, this might be a post to skip. 

While I do make some exaggerations in this article for humor and descriptions, I'm not trying to make everyone believe that The Tower of Terror is the worst ride ever, or that no one should ride it. 

I think it's a great experience for everyone, even though I didn't enjoy riding it the first time.

I'll also be sure to write about other fun experiences I had at Disney that will not be long, spooky, or have spoilers! :)

Life as a student in the month of May is a lot like the experience of riding "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" at a Disney park. In other words, "terror" definitely warrants the name.


The Tower of Terror reminds me a lot about what the month of May is like for high school/college students. So, I'm going to walk you guys through the first time I rode the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride and how it's a metaphor for my life right now as a student.

So you're walking in to this condemned place, feeling all jittery and excited like: "Oh my goodness, this is going to be a fun ride!" But I'm not a normal person, so I was interviewing everyone in my family who has ridden the ride before:
"Are you sure it's not scary?"
"My word, this is a tall building!"
"Is this even safe?"
"Ummm, why are there screaming people in the open window under the hotel sign?"
That's right, dear readers, the people who are currently on the ride are clearly visible and screaming looking out of an open window of this condemned, creepy building. And then the window mysteriously closes....
"Hey Mom, I don't know if I want to go on this ride."
Dad says, "Don't be ridiculous, it'll be fun."
Right. Of course. This is Disney World after all. Nothing to worry about.

Anyway, you finally get into the part of the line where you're inside of this creep-o place, and your first glance when you walk through the doors looks like this:


Yeah....is anybody else noticing that there are NO guests walking around the lobby of this hotel?
Is anybody else checking out the uncanny amount of cobwebs in this room?
Has the health department ever known about this?
And the question that of course, I'm thinking is: Why in the world am I still here?
Oh that's right, it's a Disney World ride...moving on. (At this point my dad is excitedly pointing out all of the special effects, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm going insane, or if I'm totally overreacting for no good reason.)
  • Student-life metaphor: You've been at school for a long time now (kind of like how you've been in line for a long time) and things were going pretty ok all year. It's been exciting and scary, but you've been doing really well. You start to think, "hmm, this is getting kind of creepy, maybe I should start preparing for the worst now" but of course, if you struggle with chronic procrastination like I do, you're not going to be thinking about preparing for the worst now, because you're being distracted (kind of like the absence of hotel guests and amount of cobwebs in the lobby). And...you just wait until the worst does come. It can't be that bad...
You walk in to this chamber of darkness and old books, and an old television set in the corner of the wall magically turns on and guess what program we're about to watch? The Twilight Zone! Cool, you've heard of this show! Hmm, never seen this episode before...

Rod Serling shows up on the screen and says,  "You unlock this door with the key of imagination, beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into . . . The Twilight Zone." Wow, this is going to be a good episode.

"Hollywood, 1939. Amidst the glitz and the glitter of a bustling young movie talent at the height of its golden age, the Hollywood Tower Hotel was a star in its own right..." Hey! That's the hotel we're in right now! Wait a minute... Are we in a Twilight Zone episode?
"The time is now, on an evening very much like the one we have just witnessed. Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard because in tonight's episode you are the star. And this elevator travels directly to...The Twilight Zone." Oh goodness. We're in a Twilight Zone episode. I guess I like The Twilight Zone, but I have NEVER wanted to be a part of it!

  • Student-life metaphor: Things are starting to pick up now. A little more stressful, some things are still familiar, but your teachers and assignments are now surprising you a lot like how the familiar storyteller Rod Sterling is surprising you with your participation in an episode of a story that you really DO NOT want to participate in. A storm is brewing, but you're still paralyzed by all of the surprises.

The creepy bellhop that led us into the library is kicking us out of the room because the video is finished, and we are now being led into a boiler room...getting in line to go on some really creepy elevators.

You look down right next to you, which happens to be right where the elevator generator is, and uh...there's sparks coming out of it, and...let's just say it's seen better days.

This is Disney World. I'll be safe. It's fine.

You're up. Time to get into the elevator. (I was sitting in the far back row on the left between my grandpa and my mom.) Thank goodness there are seat belts on this thing, and you immediately make the decision to buckle up, because you'll take any safety precaution you can get at this point.

Another bellhop checks to make sure that you're all buckled up and safe, she says some obvious safety stuff like hold on to the arm rests, don't unbuckle, and good luck.
Thanks, bellhop. Luck is exactly what I need right now...not.

  • Student-life metaphor: This is the part of the school year where you know you're about to take your last steps, if you will, and the rest is the ride to the finish. It's a little scary. You know that this ride is about to take you to summer and no homework and everything you've been waiting for all year long. But it's also a ride that takes you to final exams, missing your friends, finishing up every last assignment down to the last minute. But you're not giving up now. You're getting on this ride. The only thing that anyone can do is to wish you luck and make sure you buckle up.

The doors to the elevator close. Here we go...

All of a sudden you hear Rod Serling's voice: "You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone."
Oh boy. You can feel the elevator rising and all of a sudden, you can see down a long hotel corridor, and some ghosts say hi. Well, actually they don't really say hi, they wave at you...and wait a second, are they inviting you to come with them?

  • Student-life metaphor: These ghosts kind of remind me of the college students who talk about how miserable their life is during their final exams and end of the year stuff, because their end of the year always comes before we do. Those poor students always remind me that I'm about to go through the same difficulty very soon.

Lightning flashes, the ghosts are gone. Good thing too, because they were starting to freak you out.
Then the hallway disappears. All that's left is the window at the end.
What's going on here?
You see some really pretty stars and darkness, and then the window begins to move...
It quickly evolves into the window from the opening of the Twilight Zone--and the window shatters!

Stuff just got real.

Rod Sterling's back: "One stormy night long ago, five people stepped in the door of an elevator and into a nightmare. That door is opening once again and this time, it's opening for you."

Two words go through your head: Oh, crud.

KAPLAM! The elevator plummets (on my ride, the first drop was all fifty feet. The absolute lowest it can drop). It goes SO fast, that your bottom starts to come up off of the seat, only to be stopped by your seat belt (I told you those seat belts would be a blessing). You hold onto those armrests for dear life, close your eyes, and don't open them up again until you know you're safe.

The elevator rises and falls, rises and falls. Now, windows are starting to open up when you rise, and then drop. You can see the whole park from those windows--not that I would know, because my eyes were completely shut and my head was down the entire time.

My grandpa kept trying to take my hand when we were near the window and said, "Look up! It's great! Look up!" My only response was keeping my eyes shut and my head down, as I shook my head "nuh-uh, I can't. No way."

  • Student-life metaphor: You get hit hard with reality. Yes, you're coming to the very end, but your life is at its highest stress level that it's ever been. The best way you can handle it is to keep your head down, keep moving, keep studying, finish what you can, and don't stop until the last day of school is over. Each day feels like a harder and harder challenge to make it to the end. Fortunately, you have people with you trying to get you to enjoy the ride as you're trying to get to the end, but sadly, sometimes we still keep our heads down, and miss some of the good things.

Up and down, up and down, up and down. You're starting to worry for your life, it's so scary. You're even praying when you can. Up and down, up and down, up and down.

You finally go up and then come back down for the last time. It's over. You can open your eyes now. You're taking deep breaths. You're alive!!!

Rod Sterling's back again. Where was he when we were plummeting 50 feet?
"A warm welcome back to those of you who made it--"
Gee, thanks.
"--and a friendly word of warning, something you won't find in any guidebook: the next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling, or you may find yourself a permanent resident...of The Twilight Zone."

One of the first things you get to see before you exit is the picture of you "enjoying" the ride....or screaming your head off.

I still remember my picture on The Tower of Terror. As I said before, I was sitting in between my mom and my grandpa. They were holding my hands as I had my head down facing my knees, and eyes completely shut. Everyone in my family was saying, "Hey look! It looks like Hayley's praying!"
My response: "I was!!!"

  • Student-life metaphor: It's the last day of school and life is looking up for a change. Everyone is congratulating you, and maybe in some cases, you're graduating! You're looking back on the last few weeks, and the only thing that you can say is "Thank goodness I made it out alive." You get a whole 3 months before you'll have to experience anything like this again, but in the meantime, you can enjoy summer vacation. Hooray!

As my family and I were walking out of Tower of Terror about to move on to the next ride, I ran up to my dad and started talking about how SUPER SCARY that ride was. Who knows why, but he began to explain why Tower of Terror is his favorite ride, and you begin to wonder why people volunteer to get on a ride that will make you so stressed and terrified.


  • Student-life metaphor: Have you ever wondered why people volunteer to put themselves through high school and college, often willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars that will take their whole lives to pay off? Yet, when we think of school, we groan at the thought of it, remembering how difficult and scary it is?

On the ride home from our second day at Disney World, I looked at an advertisement billboard for Tower of Terror, and I looked at my mom and said, "You know, it's a good feeling when you conquer your fear by doing something that you didn't want to do. I can now say to myself that I rode a really dark, tall, and scary ride for the first time."


  • Student-life metaphor: One of the things that an education provides is being able to conquer our fears, and train ourselves to do hard things that we normally wouldn't ever want to do. For example, I'm about to finish a pre-calculus class, which was beyond a doubt one of the hardest classes I've ever had to pass. But even though I'm going to remember how much I struggled, I'm also going to remember how good I will feel when I finish it. And hopefully, I will remember the times where I worked as hard as I possibly could to conquer that fear and difficulty, and how it was all for the improvement of my mind and soul, and for the glory of God.


I know that many of you are about to enter finals or summer vacation, and I hope you all remember during this time that God is always there to help you and strengthen you, and that while something may be difficult and scary, the reward of conquering it is indescribable.

Another moral of the story is to not go exploring in creepy, abandoned hotels...
Unless, of course, they're at Disney World. :)

Questions for the Reader: Did you have any super scary and difficult classes this year? Have you ever been to a Disney park? Have you ever ridden a really scary ride like Tower of Terror? (Please tell me all about it in the comments, I love reading your stories!)

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 
--2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

So Much Like You (A Poem)

I'm surprised to find myself posting this poem.

I have a friend who is really into poetry, and I've been thinking about writing more poems myself. 


Today, I had a random urge to write a poem....and I came up with this. I haven't written a poem in FOREVER, mainly because I'm really bad at rhythms and rhyming things, and word choices, and iambic pantameter vs. trochaic hexameter,  stressed vs. unstressed syllables, and line lengths, and subtle vs. not-so-subtle symbols, and things like that.

The really cool thing about this poem is that it sort of turned into my own little psalm of praise, and it talks about how awesome it is that we are made in the image of God.


Feedback would be nice, and if you guys would like to see more of this sort of thing, please let me know! :)




So Much Like You

(a poem inspired by Song of Solomon 4:7)
by Hayley Robinson

“All beautiful you are, my darling.
There is no flaw in you.”
Oh, these words are so thrilling,
and how wonderful, that they should come from You.

You, a majestic and perfect God
who loves me for me and never changes.
How often I’ve fought
to never be thought
of as the strangest.
Yet, You have always sought
and have always pursued me.

You, perfectly and amazingly generous and good,
Who knows all things before they occur,
And so often I nod off to sleep,
Falling into a place where all is a blur
And then I forget who I am in You
Until You help me remember.
Without You,
I never could.

All beautiful am I?
Lord, how undeserving of these words am I,
that You of all beings--
You, among all things--
should find me flawless, perfect, and beautiful…
That You should find me
to be

So much like You.

You, who created time and space,
You who put the stars in place,
You who made the world with Your breath and Your word
With Your words and Your breath, O Lord,
You made the entire world!

You of all beings--
You, who are beyond all things--
Created me
So that I could glorify, worship,
and always be

So much like You.

“All beautiful you are my darling.
There is no flaw in you.”
Yes, Lord, I accept it now.
Surely I must be
If my place is to bow
before You.
Surely You created me
to be

So much like You.

And if my place is to be like You,
Then of course, I must be without one flaw,
Even though I’ve broken every one of Your laws.
You’ve so graciously forgiven me.
And each day you give me the chance to be

So much like You.

To breathe,
To act,
To speak,
and to always be

So much like You.

Question for the Reader: Do you like my poem? :) Do you write poetry? Who are your favorite poets? (Any Dr. Seuss, Emily Dickinson, and George Herbert fans out there?)

"And God saw that it was good. Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them." --Genesis 1:25b-28a

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Where is Death's Victory?

I wrote this post last night, and this morning at church we sang this song:
"Oh death, where is your sting? Oh hell, where is your victory?...My God is not dead, he's alive! He's alive!"I think this is one of the best messages about Easter.

It's 10:27 pm, the night before Easter, and I've been thinking a lot about some of my secret fears.

One of them, I think I conquered today: for about a year now, I've been working on a piece by Charlie Parker on the alto sax called "Dewey Square." It's very difficult, and for the last few days, I was a little afraid to perform it...what if I messed up and completely ruined it? What if I'm not as good as I thought I was? What if all of that practice goes to waste? What if people think I stink at it? What if I made a mistake choosing to play the piece?

But I knew I had to.

Maybe I'm making this too sentimental, but when I first heard the original recording, I fell completely in love with it. It was fun, it was light, it was quick, and it felt like a song that entirely expressed overwhelming joy...and it's jazz. :)

So I learned it.

And then when the recital was coming up, and it was time for me to pick a tune to play, I couldn't choose any other one but Dewey Square.

Finally, approximately 5 hours ago as I write this, it was time for me to perform. I had never been so nervous leading up to a performance in my entire music career, probably because I've never worked so hard on a piece leading up to a performance before.

Let me introduce you to one of my secret fears: disappointing people. This falls under the same category of  perfectionism and unnecessarily killing myself to make everyone like me, when it will inevitably never happen.

When I walked on the stage for the dress rehearsal, a wave of peace overcame me, and the rehearsal was practically perfect. At the final performance though, I was a little bit more nervous knowing that this was "the real thing." I messed up a couple of times, but hardly anyone noticed. When I watched my dad's videotape of the performance, I could tell where I messed up, but I knew that was only because I was the one on stage.

Afterwards, I felt so happy to have finished it once and for all. I found myself asking, "Why was I ever nervous and afraid in the first place?"

Tonight, I just finished watching "The Book Thief." As some of you know, the story is narrated by death, which for most of the film, absolutely sickened me. It was gross to hear how death would think of a person and his/her life in general. It was quite condescending.

The very last line in death's narration was this: "I am haunted by humans."

Isn't that perfectly excellent? I could not have been more happier about that statement when I heard it.

After all of the revolting language that death had used to describe mankind, the truth comes out: death is afraid of us.

This leads me to my confession of another secret fear: anything related to death, ghosts, horror, or evil that is invisible to me, or surprises me.

It's a funny thing about fear though: fear is something that often comes from something we feel threatened by, or unloved by.

For most of my childhood, I have hated Halloween, especially haunted houses, haunted house rides, ghosts and disgusting, horrifying images on the neighbors' houses, and worst of all: people who would invite me to stare all these things in the face...and enjoy it!

The reason I dislike these things so much is because they are the absolute opposite of who God is. God is life. Those things are death. God is love. Those things are fear. God is amazingly good. Those things are dripping with evil. God looks out for me, and keeps me safe in His arms. Those things want nothing but harm for me...or at least want to laugh at my fear. God says, "I love you, I will keep you safe, and all is well. You are so important." Those things laugh at me and try to make me feel small.

When I heard that death is haunted by humans, I rejoiced to God.

THANK GOODNESS that Jesus has overcome the dead. Praise the Lord that Jesus overcame death, giving us the privilege to be sons and daughters of God: which gives us MUCH more power over death.

And that's why death is afraid of us.

Now I can go to sleep tonight knowing that I need not be afraid of death. In all of my years being afraid of things relating to death, I know now that death is much more afraid of me, taunted by me, and hates me, because through Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection, I am no longer a small, meaningless lie, like death is.

Because of Jesus, we now represent death's greatest conqueror, which we also celebrate in Jesus's resurrection today:

LIFE.

Happy Easter!

"When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." --1 Corinthians 15:54-58