Thursday, December 30, 2010

On The Failure

oh....Dear........Father. My emotions are so raw right now. My thoughts are harried. My heart beats in a confused rhythm. The wounds still fresh. 

Sometimes I just don't know what to do with myself. My failures stack one on top of another, again and again, as if attempting to mimic the tower of Babel. Dumb idea, I know. But my sinful nature seems to definitely has a mind of its own--and a very powerful one at that. 

WHY, GOD, WHY do I keep doing the things I hate--the evil I see within me? Why do I cling so tightly to the Law of Sin and Death?

How is it possible to know the good I need to do, and even to WANT to do that good, but to fail to do it. 





But alas, I know the truth of the matter. I am sinful. I fail. I will keep failing. But I am not a FAILURE. My identity is found in You alone. 

What a wretched woman I am!! Who will rescue me from this body of death?! THANKS BE TO GOD! for it is through the grace given me by Jesus Christ our Lord. 

On His Leading

Jesus is calling, saying, "My child, don't look to the left or to the right. I am leading you along a path which is for you alone. No one else will ever experience what I have in store for you. All I need from you is your hand tightly in mine, your eyes fixed on me. It may seem difficult to be living in a way that is becoming more and more set apart from this world. This is not cause for fretting--that only leads to evil. Your path will increasingly diverge from that of others. But you know what? This actually gives you even more freedom to love people. 

Today, stop and take the opportunity to rejoice in the intimate communion we share. Experience my peace and be filled with eager expectation of losing yourself in Me."

Monday, December 27, 2010

On Setting Aside Busyness

From December 19 Jesus Calling

Do not be weighed down by the clutter in your life: lots of little chores to do sometime, in no particular order. If you focus too much on these petty tasks, trying to get them all out of the way, you will discover that they are endless. They can eat up as much time as you devote to them.

Instead of trying to do all your chores at once, choose the ones that need to be done today. Let the rest slip into the background of your mind, so I can be in the forefront of your awareness. Remember that your ultimate goal is living close to Me, being responsive to My initiatives. I can communicate with you most readily when your mind is uncluttered and turned toward Me. Seek My Face continually throughout this day. Let My Presence bring order to your thoughts, infusing Peace into your entire being.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

On Jesus, Always

Jesus says, "Why do you rely on imperfect human beings to fill and support and strengthen you? There are so many reasons you know this to be an unwise decision. First, it is unfair to put such a burden on them. You know and they know there's no way they can be your everything, all the time. People fail. So why place your trust in them? 

I beseech you to trust in me. My deepest desire is that you would long to spend every minute you are drawing breath with me. I know you love your husband. That is so good. I am honored by the cherished relationship the two of you share. You seek me together. You build one another up. You are a positive example of marriage and thus of the Bride of Christ and My Father. 

No matter how much you love you husband, you cannot look to him to sustain you. You mustn't place your need for security and peace in his power. Yes, he will do his best to provide for you and he does deserve your trust. But, daughter, I will never fail you. You know this, don't you?"

Yes, Jesus. I know. 

"Then come to me. Turn your needs over to me--I will fill them to overflowing. I will give you purpose. I will give you peace. I will always listen. I will never fail."

Jesus, I'm so sorry. I know you deserve my everything. You shouldn't just be a priority in my life. You should BE my life. I want to make YOU the one I long to spend every waking minute with. I want to think of you first when I have exciting news or a devastating blow. Forgive me for replacing you. Be my everything. Now. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

On Respect

Jesus calls husbands to love their wives. We women are pretty good at demanding that, right? If the men in our lives don't tell us enough or show us enough, we can beat them into the ground. We would never take the excuse, "Well, I told you I loved you on our wedding day, shouldn't that be enough?" That's crap. So how much more should we run from the lie that we will respect our husbands as we see fit. As long as he's taking out the trash when I want it done, as long as the towels are folded correctly (MY way), as long as helps without me asking, as long as he works hard and makes plenty of time for me, as long as he's not stupid for not stopping to ask for directions, THEN I'll respect him. 

NO. Jesus calls wives to respect their husbands. He's a smart one, our Creator. He wired us women to need to feel loved, so he commanded men to love. He designed men to function fully only if they feel trusted and respected, so he commands women to respect. Simple. 

I shared a bit of my personal story over yonder, and I may (I hope to) continue to share the wonderful truths I learn in Shaunti's book, For Women Only

But for now, I will tell you what I am telling myself--
respect your husband simply because he's your husband. 
trust his judgment (even when it has to do with laundry or dishes or directions).
defer to his judgment (stop cutting in and correcting him).
stand up and support him publicly and privately. 
seek a change in heart--ask Jesus to move you from making an effort to trust, to give you a heart that truly trusts him.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On Teen Pregnancy

I admit. I don't always stop to think about the passage of Scripture I'm reading. It's easy to just skim past them after hearing them again and again and again for years. But the Word of God is living and active--and it applies specifically to me today in a way it didn't three years ago. And twenty years from now, that same passage will be filled with God's Spirit and working in my life in a new way once again.  

I was reminded of this as we enjoyed a beautiful Christmas musical presented by a church in our conference. It depicted the story of Mary and Joseph in a fresh way, delving into their thoughts and emotions, the criticisms and pressures felt by the onlookers. And it made me think. 

My husband has been writing a modern day version of the Nativity story for our teens to tell our congregation on Christmas Eve. (I won't go into the reason he's still working on it, other than to say I may have bumped the power button while dusting, causing him to lose his almost completed work.) As we talked about the details of the birth of Christ and what the implications would be if it occurred today, in 2010, I was struck by the thoughts running through my mind. 

If one of my teen girls came up to me and told me they were pregnant and then went on to say it was the Son of God in their womb, I'm fairly certain I would call them crazy. 

"WHAT IN THE WORLD are you talking about, Girl?! Honey, if you're pregnant, it's ok. We can deal with this. We'll help you through it."  

"Melanie, I am still pure, I promise you. An angel of the Lord appeared to me and scared the crap out of me. He told me I was going to give birth to son--God's son. I know it's unbelievable, but it's true. I've never been so certain of anything ever before."

"You've got to be kidding me."

"Don't you remember all of those Old Testament passages we've studied together? So many of them talk of our Messiah and give details on his entrance into this world. THIS is IT. I've been chosen. Will you support me?"

Wow. I never thought about it like that. It's easy to believe a story that happened thousands of years ago. But taking the concepts and applying them to my reality points out my lack of faith. It helps me identify with Mary's family and friends. And yet it shames me. Why wouldn't I believe her?

God is so good. He chooses those who are weak, those who the world ignores, rejects, despises. He choses those who have nothing so that when His Will is accomplished, everyone will know it was God's work--not man's. To Him be the Glory. 

Jesus, I pray you would continue to reveal your story to me in new ways this Christmas. Open my eyes to the truth and bring my spirit closer to the faith I lack. Amen. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Routine Blows

I mean seriously. Granted, I could probably have worded this blog title a little more appropriately...  I just figured why bother being demure when I'm about to post about how getting situated and all nested in is terrible for your spiritual life.

Lately, I'd been getting situated in a routine where I was really productive. I was getting a ton done, getting talks and studies ready for Youth Group, memorizing scripture with the teens, and in general doing all the things I thought I should be doing.

Somewhere along the line, I feel like I've forgotten to stop and smell the roses. I forgot to enjoy the feeling of the arctic chill when I walk outside and I'm honestly cold. I forgot what satisfaction there could be in doing something well...and something out of the ordinary.

Right now, I feel like I need to mix things up a bit in my life. I've gotten situated in this whole "sub to earn money, spend the rest of your time on the Youth Group" thing going. Then the last few weeks have been crazy, what with Thanksgiving and the National Youth Worker's Convention we went to. (Thanks, Spring Arbor FMC for paying our ticket cost!)  All that break in routine just made me realize how unsatisfied I am with it. We weren't meant for consistency.

As humans, we seem to crave stability, safety, and predictability...but I wonder why we think it's important. Why do we need to know where next month's meal is coming from?

Now don't get me wrong, I have money in the bank in case of a 'rainy day.' But that doesn't mean that I don't question why I feel like I need more stability. If we really trusted God, would we need the money in the bank to feel secure? Why in the world do we value our routine and shelter in it like a suit of armor? Why do we as Americans put so much time and effort into walling the moving Spirit of God out of our lives and decisions?

So I'm here to tell you that I think routine isn't just overrated, it flat out blows. I think that routine is Satan's way of getting into our psyche. If he can get us to value our routine, then we'll do our part to silence God's voice when He tries to move in our lives. I don't want to block God out.

God, mix up my life a bit, I think it'd do me some good.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I need to remember this blog title...

 ...because often enough I try to just let Jesus come to me.

I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I play bass guitar, I baptise (which was awesome...Christopher Brian is now a baptized member of our church family!), and I listen to one of our teens preach the Sunday morning sermon...I spend a relaxing afternoon hanging out with my brother, and then I lead almost 20 teens in a study of Chan's book 'Crazy Love' before shipping them all back home to start their weeks.

Sounds like a great day...until I realize that I've forgotten to spend time alone with God.

In the middle of doing so much work for the church, I forgot to invite God to spend the day with me. It happens far more than I would like to admit. I get too busy, I get too tired, I get too...something. And I let my first love slide.

So this is my friendly reminder to you all. Don't let the opportunity to spend time reading God's word slip by. It's too good to let go. It's too important to put off. It's too vital to not drink in every chance you get.

So go find your bible and read for a bit.

Philippians 2: unity in the Church

First, I apologize for my GEPC negligence. I was sick this week. But also just lazy. Neither are really good excuses. I've missed it. 

Philippians 2 is one of my favorite chapters ever--verses 6-11 in particular. 

 Who, being in very nature[a] God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; 
7 but he made himself nothing, 
   taking the very nature of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness. 
8 And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself 
   by becoming obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross!

 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place 
   and gave him the name that is above every name, 
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
   to the glory of God the Father.

I memorized verses 7-8 when I was a young girl but seeing them in context is incredibly powerful. Verses 6-11 were required memory for everyone in the worship arts program at SAU--under the belief that our lives as worship leaders ought to be lived in complete humility. 

We are called to be like Jesus--not just to read these verses and be moved by the humble choices of the Son of God, but to be driven to action. Jesus was willing to become our only hope of accessing the Father--by coming to earth (that had gone from perfection at creation to sinful and polluted), in the form of human being (GOD in the form of the created), lived the life of a servant (the lowest status of human life), and obediently followed his Father's will to the cross (a sinless man dying a death of the worst criminal). FOR ME. For YOU. 

But back up few verses---"your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (which is described in verses 6-11.) woah. Talk about high calling. 

Back up a bit more--to the beginning of the chapter. Paul is beseeching the church body to live in unity, in love, all for Jesus. How often do you encounter conflict in the church?--most likely over issues that should not be issues at all. Gossip over this one thing this one person overheard this one time. Assumptions in the reasons for changes made by the leadership. Hurt feelings and no willingness to resolve conflict. I can imagine Paul's frustration with at least a handful of the churches he's shepherding. THE POINT IS JESUS, PEOPLE. It's not about YOU. or ME. We are to go out of our way to live in complete humility alongside each other; to pursue our own interests last, to rid ourselves of our desires and pursuits of selfish gain. We are to be like minded--to be focused on Jesus only. And subsequently living out the purpose of Jesus with selflessness and love. Because the point of your entire LIFE is Jesus. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

That little two year old in your ear...

You know, the flu did something to me this week.  It gave me time. I had a ton of time to sit around, lay on the couch and lie there. The first day this was great, we caught up on some TV we'd been meaning to watch, maybe a movie. Then day two...and day got a bit boring.

So I immediately started trying to think of things to do, things I could be productive on. I tried to stay busy. Problem was that I was so sick there wasn't a whole lot I could do. So I ended up lying around, sleeping, and reading.

There is a question that I had in all this though...Why don't we like to be quiet? Why don't we like to be alone? Personally, I was forced to face my inner toddler. And I don't like listening to him.

My inner toddler may be an odd way of phrasing it, but that's what I call the corner of my brain that says 'Why? Why? Why?' constantly. Normally this isn't a problem because we can just drown out our inner toddler...but every once in a while, I slow down enough he starts it up all over again.

For instance, if I'm being particularly angry at someone, and I'm reveling in my sense of injustice...the toddler ruins it all by sneaking up on my psyche and asking 'Why?'  The conversation would go something like this:

Me: I'm so ANGRY how could they POSSIBLY think this is a good idea! Are they crazy! I'm so MAD!
Inner Toddler (IT for short): Why?
Me: Well because they're doing it WRONG!
IT: Why?
Me: Because my way is better!
IT: Why?
Me: Because it works better! We have to do it the best way!
IT: Why?
Me: We can't just do it a way that isn't the best!
IT: Why?
Me: Because...*stomps off angrily*

See, I'm convinced that if you listen to your inner toddler enough, you'll realize eventually that 90% of the things we get all worked up over are really not important. So what if you have a better way of doing things? Maybe it's not the point. So what if someone else is immature and hurt you? If it's on purpose and they refuse to apologize, there's nothing for you to do but let go, forgive them, and hope they realize their mistake later. Anything else and you're just not obeying God.

So often we work and work at maintaining our sense of 'us vs. the world!' mentality. We've got it all worked out...and if other people would just listen...

But here's a question: How often do you think other peoples' Inner Toddlers defend you? 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Washington Monument

Something has been bugging me lately...I've been hearing quite a few people ask me why God allows bad things to happen. How in the world can an all-powerful God who loves us allow life to be such crap sometimes? (no, this isn't brought on by my recent bout with flu, but it's hardly an antithesis)

I know all the standard replies...God loves us, but He doesn't control us, so other people can make bad choices that hurt us...or maybe it's a result of us not making the right choices, and God doesn't take away consequences...or maybe we just don't have enough Faith and God is trying to make us better people.

They all have an element of truth in it (huge pun there that you may get in a bit here), but I've had something else strike me recently. And it came in the form of the Washington Monument. (Don't worry, I'm speaking metaphorically, I didn't actually get hit in the face by a piece of weighty American History.)

Did you know that the Washington Monument isn't made entirely of stone?  Did you know that the cap of the monument is made of pure aluminum? As in the stuff that we use to wrap up our food before we stick it in the oven? Even more strangely, did you know that Aluminum was more valuable than gold at the time the Washington Monument was built? (click for details!)

True story.

The obvious question is WHY.  Why was aluminum so valued, when we use it and throw it away now? You have to admit, it's pretty...but it's also common. The reason aluminum was so valued was that it was hard to make pure. Aluminum ore was easy to get your hands on, but the process of taking a rock with some aluminum in it and making a block of pure aluminum was difficult and expensive.

The reason aluminum was valuable was that you had to work to get it just right. (obvious spiritual metaphor enters the scene)

But because I don't like leaving even obvious corollaries goes nothing.

Maybe there's evil in the world partly because God could make right behavior easy...but it's more valuable if we have to fight for it. We all know from personal experience what happened to that wonderful cap of expensive aluminum on the Washington Monument...aluminum became easy to get...and it became cheap. Shiny...but mostly worthless.

Who would really be all that irritated if someone stole a wad of aluminum foil? Probably not so much.

So here's my thought. Belief in God is cheap. The bible says that even demons believe. But right behavior isn't cheap. Obeying God in the face of evil in the world is hard. Trusting in God no matter your circumstances is hard. It takes work, it takes time, and it takes a deliberate Faith.

There's a quote from a movie that I like watching...based around a guy who turns his world upside down by "letting that which does not matter truly slide."

So here's my question: Does evil in the world matter in the long run? If we can agree that evil in the world is a product of sin, which God shouldn't change our opinion of Him. Our life shouldn't be about trying to fix this world, but bringing ourselves as close to Him as we can, and dragging as many people along with us as possible.

Evil in the world makes truth, light, and right that much more valuable. Righteousness is worth something not just because it's good...but also because it's not evil. It's in direct contrast against everything we see, so we cling to it.

So go and do good today in the face of evil...because it's hard...but it's the right thing to do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Galatians 3

I am totally loving Galatians 3. This passage connects to Genesis 15, Levitcus 19 and Romans 4. In college I spent hours and hours dissecting these pericopes in completing my exegetical assignments. I absolutely loved it! I could spend hours more diving into this chapter, but I'll restrain myself. 

Yes, this chapter in Galatians is a bit ridiculous to follow--what with Paul's commentary style--but its words are so freeing! How similar are we to the Galatians? We are constantly striving, forgetting how we've been forgiven, neglecting the power of Christ and the Cross. How dare we! Paul gives these people (and us!) a smack in the face to bring them back to reality. Of course it's not because we follow the law that we've been justified and forgiven or seen miraculous signs! That's nonsense. God does not give us His Spirit because we have suddenly because completely adept at following the law. Not even close! 

Paul hits home with these Jewish believers when he reminds them of their forefather, Abraham. It is with him that the plan of redemption started rolling. God gave Abraham a promise--that ALL nations would be blessed through him. It's a little bit impossible to be the father of all nations, don't you think?! But God knew better. His plan was greater and widespread. 

While the world was waiting for the Seed, the Son of the Man, the Messiah to show up, the law was in place. This law wasn't instituted as the end-all of salvation. It was necessary to keep us sinful humans under control. But the law became something God never intended it to be. Staunch Israelites and Jews made adherence to the life the goal in and of itself. They became nit-pickers. They lost the spirit of the law--that God wants us to be holy as He is holy

When Jesus showed up on the scene, He became the fulfillment of the promise God gave to Abraham. No, this fulfillment did not oppose the law, but in fact brought it full circle. NOW, everyone could become heirs in the promise of Abraham and subsequently become his offspring. The law was no longer the point. Salvation by faith in Christ was the purpose of God's plan for our redemption. Christ did not abolish the law but gave us a means of actually achieving what the law was set up to do--make us holy. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Galatians 2

This chapter seemed totally new to me. I know I've read it a hundred times, and I've quoted many of it's verses, but the context of the words seemed to have escaped me. Here's what I observed in my morning reading of Galatians 2--

Paul had a FEAR! This stuck out to me a new way because most of Paul's writing describes the boldness or peace that comes from God. Even in times of trouble, he shows how graciously God wants His followers to live. Paul's been through so much as described in brief in I Corinthians 4:11-13, but this is the first time I remember Him admitting fear. He was fearing that his work was in vain--even after he penned the words, "Your labor for the Lord is not in vain" in I Cor. 15:58. This gave me a bit of comfort, realizing that Paul is, in fact, human.

On top of that--they were dealing with spies. Yes, SPIES! And these particular spies were checking up on the "freedom" they had in Christ. This makes me think the spies and their leaders were straight up jealous of the lives led by the disciples of Jesus. Sure, they wanted to take prisoners, but that's beside the point (or at least beside my observation. ha!)

-God works in the Jews AND the Gentiles. vs. 4
-I want to be known as a pillar of the faith. vs. 9
-I love how they slip this in--remember the poor always. vs. 10 
-It's kind of entertaining to read as Paul gets caught up in his former Jewish zeal. vs. 11 and on. 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Paul's consistent theology--that the law is not what redeems us, but it is Christ who came to fulfill the law in us (that is, to have us be seen as holy before of God.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Galatians 1

Starting today I am joining Jenilee and Christina in their month long study of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians--Pauls Epistles. These are four of my most favorite books in the Bible. I have spent much time in them in the past--but it's been a while. I look forward to revisiting their truth and application to my life. 

I love the contrasts between verses 3-5 and verses 6-9. Paul begins this chapter by greeting the Galatians with the grace and peace that accompanies any follower of Christ. He gives the Gospel in a nutshell--"Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present age." This sets me up to believe the Galatians a great godly people. But NO! 

In the next paragraph, Paul wastes no time. He immediately jumps down their throats for their disdainful decision to believe in a different Gospel. Though Paul does admit that they've likely had the wool pulled over their eyes by another who calls himself God's servant, that is never an excuse to abandon the Gospel of God. 

He says even if Paul himself or an angel begins to preach a different gospel they should run from this falsehood, and the preacher will be eternally condemned. This is not a light matter. 
I love verse 10b--"If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." It is the perfect introduction to the next section. Paul was quickly becoming one of the greatest Jewish leaders of his time. He had a zeal that could not be held back. He believed in the strict enforcement of the ancient Law of Moses and he would stop at nothing to see "justice." This included the persecution of the followers of Christ Jesus. 

But then, Paul himself received the call from God. He immediately gave up his status among men and began preaching the Gospel of Christ. He was no longer living to please men, but to serve God. 

This is the concept that strikes me at my core. We followers of Christ are not called to live out the American dream. We are not called to be comfortable. We are not called to be rich or famous or noteworthy. Though many of us would desire the praise of men, the entire point of the life of one called by God is to boldly preach Christ crucified and to live out the changes only God to bring to a life even in this "present evil age" (vs4)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On rest...and focus

You know, I've realized in my many many years on this earth (Soon to be 24 of them) that there are a few things that Christianity just doesn't do well.

We are absolutely terrible at learning from those we disagree with.

I've went through life cursed with an overabundance of confidence. I frequently joke that my left brain killed off my right brain shortly after birth. I don't have a whole lot of respect for an argument unless you can make it logically, and from a sound premise.

Unfortunately, Christians allow ourselves to fall into a pretty deep pit...every theological or moral discussion we enter into starts with "God says" or "The Bible says."

I'm waiting for that last sentence to sink in, and just checking to make sure that I haven't offended everyone to the point that they quit reading...yet.  Maybe there's still time for that.

I think that every time we start an argument with our interpretation of the Bible or of God...God winces just a little bit. I think that our reliance on our religion's truth being an accepted and foregone conclusion for everyone isn't an endearing little's a dangerous flaw.

To explain that sentence, let me be a bit more blunt. When we assume that we're talking to people that believe that the Bible is true, that there is an Absolute Truth, and that there is a God...we're subtly implying that we can't prove these things.  Worse yet, we're implying that we can't make an argument for what we believe unless you agree with our perceptions of God, the Bible, and Truth.

That gives those that aren't already Christians free license to ignore us as a marginalized, irrelevant oddity that will go away in time if we're only ignored and patronized for long enough.

I'd like to propose something different.

The Bible is God's Word. God is Truth. Truth is the most important thing we have, because it leads us to a right relationship with our Creator.

If we really believed those three statements, then shouldn't Christians be leading the charge into Scientific inquiry, logical argument, and passionately (and respectfully) debating facts? Shouldn't we be the most assured, the most logical, and the most fearless investigators of all things Truthful?

Paul went to Athens. He found an altar with the inscription "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD."  Rather than dismiss the Athenian beliefs as wrong and sinful, he set out to show them that he knew exactly who that unknown God was. Rather than run from understanding those who disagreed from them...Paul sought to understand them, and explain how their own experiences and beliefs led to the God of the Universe.

How often do we seek to understand those we disagree with? How often do we dismiss them as being wrong, sinful, misguided, or simply stupid? Shouldn't we, as loving children of God, be the first to seek to understand and sympathize? If we are to effectively love our enemies, shouldn't we understand them first?

I realize I started talking about this from the perspective of my own experience, being Science and Logic. But what about that insensitive person at church that just keeps grating on your nerves? Do you really understand where they're coming from? What would they say about you, if they were to be asked what they really thought? If you don't know, then you haven't made anywhere near a decent effort to bridge that separation. The Church needs to stand unified, and we can't afford your petty squabbles to get in the way of the greater Work of God.

As a society, I think Americans severely undervalue peace. We've become accustomed to having our secure borders, our victorious armies, and we like being able to assert our will. We were shocked and appalled when the two towers crumbled on September 11th...and we saw it as only fitting when we started a war on two different fronts to punish those responsible.

We've taken that national perspective, and we've gotten very good at creating a nation of individuals. We've created a Church filled with individuals...which has resulted in a group of individuals gathered in a church building.

Subtle differences, but they are there.

We devalue peace, so we assert our will.  When things don't go our way, we try to arrange those around us to fix the issue. We never stop to realize that we're attempting to arrange other peoples' lives to make ours more convenient. We've lost the art of compromise.

The old phrase goes: "Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater." I think that we've strayed one way or the other. In convincing the Church in America that we have let some of our moral boundaries slip, we've become obsessed with keeping the baby in that the expense of the fetid pile of sludge the kid is now sitting in.

It's time to change the water...clear the air...relax and let things go.

To quote a movie, "To let that which does not matter...truly slide."

If you are not being sinned against, why hold a grudge? If someone is doing something in a different it working well enough? Then why not let it be?

Let the chips fall where they may.
Focus on what matters.
Pray more.
Read your Bible.
Care for others...
           ...more than yourself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On Individual Purposes

Jesus says,
"I know you because I formed you. I knit you together in your mother's womb. Your life has a great purpose. Though you are unable to see what I have in store for you, it is great. My plans are far more astounding than you have ever thought or imagined. The only stipulation is that you stop trying to out-do me. You know better, my child. You have seen me provide for you, protect you, preserve you over and over again. You have been thrilled with my work, so you must stop worrying. 

The plan I have for you life is completely unique. You are not meant to live in another's shadow or follow in someone else's footsteps. Look to me. Hold tightly to my hand. Sink deeply into my arms and you will not be led astray. Yes, your path may seem strange at first, even to you. Others may criticize you or question you, but remember Noah and Moses and remain faithful to me. 

In the end, after we have taken every road you never would have anticipated, through the bushwhacking, the low visibility, the rough terrain, the blue skies, and the sunsets, we will have reached the top of one of the mountains and you will see WHY. Breath in the glory around you and take me with you tomorrow." 

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the Beauty of a Woman

Jesus says, 
"I created you.
I had a plan and a purpose for you life even before you were a dream in your parents' subconscious. 
You are beautiful. 
You are wonderfully made.
I knit you together, stitch by stitch, placing every limb, every bone, every organ, exactly where I wanted them. 
I make no mistakes. 

When I was forming the land and the sea, 
the birds and the fish, 
the sun, moon, and stars, 
the animals and plants, 
I wanted to save the best for last.
I created man in my image, but I knew it was not good for him to live on his own
Though Adam knew no different, I knew he would not be complete without a counterpart. 
Together, the two would more perfectly display my qualities. 
He would be strong. 
She would be sensitive. 
He would rule with power. 
She would reign with grace.
They would fit perfectly together and, in my image and because of the capacity I gave them to love, they would be given the ability to create life. 

And so, I created you. 
As a woman, you came from man, because the two of you were made to be reliant and inseparable.
You were given my image, my glory. 
It is in you that I display my breathtaking beauty. 
You are the crown of creation. 
And only then did I say, 'It is very good.'

Yet you reject the very body I created. 
You look in the mirror and ignore all that is perfect and look only at what you wish to change. 
You see flaws. 
I see unique beauty. 
You complain. 
You believe the lies Satan whispers in your ear, telling you how ugly you are, how you are too fat or too skinny, or how you'd be better if only you had that jean size or that cup size or that hair color. 
And the more you listen to his deceit, the more difficult it becomes for you to hear my gentle voice. 

I weep when I see you degrade yourself. 
I am saddened when you don't trust my Truths. 
I make no mistakes. 
I made you wonderfully--exactly as I intended. 
What right does the creation have to question the wisdom the Creator? 
Believe me when I say I take great delight in you. 
Embrace my all surpassing love. 
Know it as yours and float in it." 

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

--Learning to embrace my beauty,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Loving Others

Sometimes I mess up. 
Sometimes I know I really messed up. 
I let my emotions get the best of me.
And, even worse, I take my negative emotions out on others. 
It's a sad and embarrassing story. 
But true. 

The world would not judge me for the way I handled myself today. 
After all, I was completely justified in my reactions--
I had been been with teenagers since 6pm Friday. 
Said teens were at our house until 11:30pm and many stayed the night. 
I had to wake up at 4:45am.
I had to leave home at 6:00am with 8 teens in a 3 car caravan. 
No one was communicating. 
Everyone was making different decisions that I would have made (a.k.a. they were making the "wrong" decisions.) 
We got super lost. (And it might have been my fault.)
The people in charge were keeping things from running timely, according to my standards. 
Everyone except me loves eating at Taco Bell. 
I HATE eating at Taco Bell. 
OUR street was closed due to an accident. 

And so on and so forth. 

Yes, most people would understand my frustrations, my attitude problems, and my impatience. 
And many would even excuse my bad behavior. 

Jesus was disappointed in me. 
He watched as I let my temper loose on my loving husband. 
He was saddened when I didn't smile out of the joy that should have been made evident through every hardship I experienced. 
I didn't consider those irritating situations to be opportunities for growing in grace. 
To consider it pure joy to face such trials--in order that I might gain perseverance and that much closer to being mature and complete. 
Nope. I made the wrong choice and stepped further from the way Jesus laid out for me.
He gave me plenty of opportunities to let my conversations be seasoned with grace

I believe you don't want me to dwell on my failures.
You sent your Spirit to encourage me.
You wish to bring to light what desires to be kept hidden in the darkness of my shame and despair.
I want to learn. to change. to grow. 
To show you that the motives of my heart are of unswerving love for You,
and out of that abundance, my love for others will overflow.
Help me, Jesus, to recognize opportunities for maturity--knowing full well their challenge. 
I want to be different
I want my love to make YOU evident to those who wouldn't otherwise believe. 

Use me. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Bearing with the Bothersome

My thoughts are flowing right alongside Kevin's
Ever since I had to do some serious conflict management on Sunday morning (and night), I've been thinking about how God wants us to live at peace with everyone.
This does not mean to shove things so far under the rug that we forget about them. 
Because in doing so, we're actually fostering bitterness.
And bitterness not only tears us apart from our core, but it lies dormant until another sliver gets shoved into our fingertips, and then another and another, until we are so full of ache and pain and anger that we explode on the last person who offends us. 
This is not how we are to live. 
Jesus, via James, addresses this issue when he says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from the desires that battle within you? 
You want something, but don't get it."

Most of our conflicts are rooted in selfishness. 
And that selfishness may not be evident, but I believe it's selfish to shove the issues under the rug. 
It's selfish to "fake the peace."
It's also selfish to blame the other person for your pain and suffering.

We must approach the offender with LOVE. 
Explain our feelings, the way we interpreted their words and actions--not condemning them, but revealing our own hurt. 
Prayerfully, they will see where they felt wronged and where they acted out in sin. 
Forgiveness is requested and granted. 
And though the situation may still ache for a while, because true forgiveness has been granted, each party is able to leave with a clear spirit.
And eventually..move on. 

Yes, conflicts may divide even the closest of friends for a time, 
but the other issue is simply that we don't always get along with certain individuals. 
They get under our skin and irritate us to the point of frustration and anger. 
We can NOT let this happen. 
The New Testament reminds me often that we are to "bear with one another."
We are commanded to lovingly put up with those who bother us, those who just don't get it, those who start arguments because they have nothing better to do.

We will never reach the level of forgiveness God has bestowed on our lives, covering ALL of our sins, 
so we might as well suck it up and keep forgiving.

On Conflicts...and long-suffering

Recently, I've been reminded of how Christians tend to be. Unfortunately we're not all that different from everyone else when it comes to how we handle conflict. I think the sheer number of denominations (and non-denominational churches) in America should stand as a pretty fair witness to our inability to resolve serious conflict.

But rather than pine over a solution I'm not likely to find, I want to talk a bit about what I've been thinking about...personal conflict.

Matthew 18 shows us the way to handle this.  First one-on-one, then taking along another (uninvolved) party, then take it to the church, then just let it go and move on. The Bible says to treat him "as a tax collector."

Rabbit Trail: How do you treat the IRS?

I wonder how many church splits Matthew 18 could have fixed. What if Christians actually bothered to take the Bible's 'guidelines' as mandates that we are REQUIRED to follow? See we Americans tend to look at the Bible as a list of suggestions that we can pick from, like an all you can eat buffet. We take heaping piles of God's promises of prosperity, and virtually ignore the meat and potatoes of Christianity...Forgiveness and Service.

God says that if we don't forgive our brother, we won't be forgiven.
God also says that if we don't Love our brother, we don't really Love God.


Beyond that, 1 Corinthians has some interesting things to say about conflict. The Corinthian church was having an issue of lawsuits between believers, so Paul wrote to encourage them, saying "Why not rather be wronged?" Interesting thought. How many of those 'big deal' conflicts that we get into inside (and outside) the church could be solved if we were to simply let go of our sense of entitlement when it comes to how other people 'should' treat us?

Now I'm not saying you never mention it to them, but say I go to my friend Tom, who's been a terrible jerk to me. I tell him that I've been offended by how he has treated me, and I ask him to stop. He says to shove off, because I was a jerk to him first (which I obviously would disagree with). Instead of getting into an argument about who was more wrong...why not apologize for whatever we did to offend him, restate that we would like him to change...and then move on without demanding an apology on the spot.

Lets look at that situation from their point of came and said they were wrong...they get to say you were wrong...and you apologize immediately. Then you politely ask that they be nicer, or stop whatever it was that made you feel bad in the first place.

You're a whole lot more likely to get somewhere with them if you're nice, eh?

But even if Tom doesn't get the point...and he's horribly stubborn. It's still better to let it go. You could demand that he change, and spend your time being frustrated by it...or you can be patient and let it be water under the bridge. Either way, you're unlikely to get him to change his behavior, so why not decide to focus on other things? As Christians, we're more effective when focusing on what we can do for others rather than on what we wish other people would do for us.

Stop being selfish when you're just leads to more fighting.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On All Things for Good

This afternoon, Jesus reminded me of his everlasting promise--
To be completely realistic though, I have been learning and recognizing that lesson over and over again in recent days. 
He cares about the tiniest details.
He uses our most mindless mistakes to bring Him glory. 
He patiently moves us from our lack-luster plans into His unimaginable greatness. 

It's SO AWESOME when we recognize those moments--
those times in our days when something cool happens and then a light goes off--
this was God. 
He cares this much more me

I encourage you to take notice of the small joys in your life. 
Some good things may be realized quickly. 
The song on the radio. 
The friend you bump into. 
Other blessings may take months or even years to come full circle. 
Meeting a new friend in choir.
Sharing just one semester with her. 
One year later, she discovers you live down the road. 
Two years later, she's become the friend you needed. 

All things for the good. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On the Foresight of Jesus

As I opened my favorite devotional (Jesus Calling) today, I read these words that went straight to my heart:

"Be willing to follow wherever I lead. Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace. Though you don't know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of My richest blessings are just around the bed: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith--not by sight. This doesn't mean closing your eyes to what is all around you. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul."

Oh, Jesus, how perfect those words fit into my spirit today. 

By now, you may have noticed the trend in the words I've used to describe my life. I'm giving up my rights. I'm following Jesus no matter what the cost. (Or at least I'm striving to do that wholly.) I'm no longer letting myself get bogged down with the demands and expectations this world has for my life. I'm listening closely and looking intently at Jesus as He leads me down this path for His name's sake.

Today Jesus reminded me of these things...
...that He knows exactly what's coming and because of that, I don't have to even think about it. I can just follow along for the ride. And along with that, my heart was convicted--to live in this present moment--not for what may or may not come in the future. But the best, most glorious promise I was met with today was that what is awaiting me is an extravagance I cannot imagine. God has some of his richest blessing waiting just ahead. 

My job? To focus on the life He brings to me today. To be specially attuned to His voice so I don't miss a turn. To be joyful up the mountain side when I could give in to fear, and then when I can see His plan clearly to be perfectly content and truly thankful.  

And really it all begins with thankfulness. 
I am thankful for this new day. 
Thankful for God's omniscience. 
Thankful for His faithfulness. 
Thankful for His peace. 
Because when I pray for His peace, I'm not asking for Him to become what I need Him to be. No, I should be thanking him for being Peace and asking for the grace to experience what He has been to me all along. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

After some prompting...

...Mel has convinced me to put all my devotional thoughts in here, so we can have one spot to point people to if they want to read up on all things where Kevin's brain and Jesus cross. Have mercy on our souls. =)

That said, today Jesus taught me about faith, crisis, and priorities. (I'm also starting to make a conscious effort to say Jesus instead of God...makes it a bit more pointed...Jesus is a person, and God is too easy to translate into some abstract idea.)

This morning, I read Genesis 22. Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his only son.

I can't imagine how it must have felt hearing God ask you for the one thing that you value above any other.
Knowing that you have to obey...when it costs you everything in this world that's important to you.
How do you think Abraham felt when Isaac looked at him and asked "where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

Abraham's soul was probably torn to shreds when he had to hear his son say those words. But because of that sacrifice, God promised to bless all nations through Abraham's descendants. Jesus came through Abraham's faith. God had a plan.

For those of you that watch Glee, the show has some awesome music. If you like solid vocal performances, it's got the best vocal music on TV. Tonight, they had an episode where one of the characters (can't remember the guy's name) was convinced that God was answering his prayers that he was offering to a grilled cheese with a picture of Jesus burned into it. (affectionately dubbed 'grilled cheesus') While this is going on, another character, who was an avowed atheist, was going through the struggle of a father who was in a coma.

As comical as the first situation is, it's almost as sad as the second. These two characters needed to get together. The first needs a dose of reality, while the second desperately needs Faith in a God that matters.

The bright spot in this episode wasn't the music or the amazing name of 'grilled cheesus' that I'm going to use and abuse for at least a was the reaction of many of the students on the show that had Faith in God. They rallied around their friend who didn't believe in a Loving God...and they showed him God's love by caring for him and his dad.

So because I'd like to pretend that this is a nice polished blog, I'm going to try (hopefully not in vain) to tie these two ideas together in my head. I wish I were more like those students that effectively shared God. Why can't I offer Jesus to my friends? or even acquaintances?

I think the answer is that I'm afraid of what it will cost me. I'm taking classes to become a pastor, and I've done some really crazy (or maybe even stupid) things because I believe Jesus called me to. I've done a lot for Him, and left a lot behind. But there's always something more Jesus wants to call me to do...and I'm constantly finding myself reluctant.

I want Abraham's Faith. I want his dedication. And I can't get them myself.
God, make me fanatical enough to sacrifice ANYTHING on the altar.
Don't let me hold back.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who are we, anyway?

So many of you all know Mel and I quite well, and for those of you that don't...our personal blog links are on the bottom right side of your screen at the moment. Mel has a blog that's updated daily (if not more often, it seems) and mine hasn't been updated in a very long while.

Our lives have been turned upside down, inside out, tied in knots, and then used as a pinata. Not only that, but the pinata was then doused with lighter fluid and set aflame. But don't worry, it's a spiritual fire, and all that was just a metaphor. We're fine, I promise.

While we're working together on making this whole Youth Group endeavor work. Mel is the organized, individually caring, female nurturing half of the leadership...and I'm still trying to figure out what I do well.

I'm challenging, volatile (just look at my blog subtitle), vocal, and logical. I've been accused of being heartless, uncaring, a jerk, ruthless (sensing a theme yet), and mechanical.

One thing I've been learning lately is that God called us to serve Him in our own ways. I thought my way was to be a BioPhysicist and try to do research while helping out with Youth events at the church. Turns out that God just wanted me to throw caution to the wind and work for him.

Here's what I want out of this blog: I want it to get in your face and challenge you. I hope that after reading a few of my posts, you'll get the impression that I'm a ruthless, unselfish, cold, logical, fanatically devoted follower of God. Yes, I see each of those as strong points, not places where God is working on "smoothing me out."

I think I'm going to start a purely devotional blog of my own. One where I can just spew all sorts of thoughts on what I've been reading...on how Hagar was defended by God, and maybe that means that even the Palestinians in the Middle East are deserving of God's love...not just the Israelis. But all that for another day.

This is where I'll type up my running commentary on my relationship with God. This is where I'll put my musings, challenges, hopes, and dreams.

It all starts with this Youth Group.

God has given me a job...and I can't help but feel like I've been given the sword of the spirit, and it's now up to me to defend these teens from all the crap that life has been throwing at them. Girls have been told they're too fat, too skinny, or their noses are too big. If they're attractive enough, maybe they've just been called a slut. Guys have been told that they're lazy, that they're not expected to amount to anything at all, and that God doesn't have a plan for them.

That's not how it works.
God is better than that.
We are better than that.

Girls, you are beautiful women of God. The Bible says that true beauty is found in Him, and not in your pants measurements or bust size...or how much you're 'expected' to show them off. You want to catch the right kind of husband? Learn to love God, dive in your Bible, and get your sense of worth from Him. Hold your heads high, know God loves you, and give Him everything you have. He'll keep you safe.

Guys, God is your commander in chief. He's the one you want to follow. His jobs are not pointless. You are not incompetent. You have a job to do. People may not get this, but God and I know that you're looking for something to do in your life, and you want to fight for Him. Be righteous. Do the right thing. Protect the defenseless. Lead the charge against Evil, and don't tolerate evil in yourself. We are Righteous Men of God. It's time we stepped up and acted like it. The world needs us.

If you're reading this, and you're feeling like it resonates with something deep inside you, that's God trying to get your attention. The Bible says that we're supposed to throw off every single thing that holds us back so we can chase Him and do His work.

Lets do this.

On Following His Crazy Path

God has been working in incredible ways. 
I have never experienced Him so intensely in my life. 
But I don't think that's because because He's suddenly showing up as He never did before; no, I believe I'M the one who has changed. 
I have made the conscious decision to remain open to His Word, His whispers, His proddings in my heart. 
This contact was always there. 
My life was just too noisy. 
too structured. 
too selfish to notice. 
I deliberately ignored Him in the past. 
I pushed Him away, moved my heart far from Him. 
This was for my own "protection." 
It hurts to be moved, changed, altered in ways you never prepared for. 
But I've learned I'm learning that staying the same, living life according to my plans is what ends up hurting me. 
God's plan will always, always win in the end.
So why fight it?

I've given up. 
I'm no longer making plans. 
I'm experiencing God. 
Listening to His (sometimes frustrating) exhortations to do this or not to do that. 
I'm trusting that if I'm obedient to whatever crazy path He sets me on, He will provide. 
He always has, he always will. 
He is always faithful, always loving, always having our best interest in mind, always protecting. 

So why waste time living a life of endless striving and anxiety?
Just give up. 
And follow Jesus.