Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are you settled?

"While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”   
Mark 2:15-17

I've noticed this horrible pattern in Christian social circles, specifically of those in college, and this pattern consists of becoming complacent with the environment around us. We start our freshman year eager to meet everyone and everything, excited about this new world around us, exhilarated with the idea of starting over. We meet someone new daily, whether it is in our first college lecture, or in Rattler's on a 2 a.m. junk food raid, and bam- we have ourselves new friends. We smile at every person, welcoming them into our lives without a second thought, we sit for hours listening to others share their lives, we have no boundaries on friendship. And then something shifts. We join organizations that encourage selectivity and close bonding, find friends who are just like us, and instead of treasuring those bonds for what they are, we cling tightly to them, making them our identity and security blanket. 

We become complacent.

No longer do we see strangers around us as potential people to meet. No longer do we reach out to people to boldly share Christ. No longer are we aware of our surroundings.  We're settled. We have everything we need. We spend time with the same people day in and day out, let our organizations identify us, and rarely let others outside of our "circle" in. Why is this? 

We as Christians are scared. We're scared of branching out for fear of shaking up this settled life we live, while claiming we put our fears in God's hands.  Common conversations range from "Why become friends with that unbeliever if they can't pour into us?","Why hang out with them- they're in (insert group)- we don't really click.","I only date (insert name of organization)'s." or "Oh..they won't fit with my friends.."

Let me tell you something that's going to make you uncomfortable, fellow brother or sister: when we refuse to step out of our comfort shell and dive into this lost world, we are failing to accomplish the mission of Christ. Sitting in Bible study will not make you a better Christian. Only spending time with fellow believers will not build your faith. Refusing to join an organization because it isn't under the name of Christ does not positively set you apart as a Christian. Bible studies are wonderful vessels to be poured into and to connect with those around us on a deeper level, but it shouldn't become our hiding place. Strong Christian friendships were designed to spur you on in your faith, not to encourage you to settle. Organizations are incredible ways to share His love, whether under a Christian name or not.

We look like snots when we refuse to let others into our "inner graces". I'm sorry, but tell me how that reflects the nature of Christ. The lives we should lead are not cookie cutter. Don't for a second think, "Nope, this doesn't apply to me"-  this message hits close to home for me too, or else I wouldn't be writing it. It's 2:02 a.m. the night before Thanksgiving, I should be asleep, but I just can't let another second pass without sharing my own conviction to you. Because I know without a shadow of doubt that it's coming from our mighty God who LOVES us passionately- He doesn't want to see our time here wasted. Remember who gave you this life in the first place. 

Bottom line, we need to LOOK UP from our circles and realize this world is so much bigger than we can even grasp. We need to stop thinking we are the 99%. We need to branch out for the sake of His name. 

I don't know what that looks like for your life. For me, realistically it means I need to make sure I forgo comfortability for the sake of sharing His message. God blessed me with incredible friendships, but I can't abandon that gift by forgetting about the world around me either. I understand that you may not be able to verbally tell every person around you about this precious Savior of ours, but that shouldn't stop you from simply loving everyone you interact. Look up, look around, everyone needs some love. Everyone needs HIS love.

Now let's go break some boundaries.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Beauty from Ashes

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed." 
 Psalm 34:18

For the past three weeks, I've sought comfort from this verse, simply because it acknowledges the main idea that someone- God- understands our pain. He gets our hurt. We don't have to sit and vent to Him, or wait for Him to ask what's going on in our lives; He just knows. No explanations, no questions asked. Heartache is one of those emotions that is nearly impossible to sum up in a word, but is universally understood on a deeper level among cultures. 

 I've been going through this incredibly rough period of complete spiritual warfare, and I just haven't been able to shake it. Satan has come in every shape and size in the attempt to destroy my hope in Christ. I've battled rejection, embarrassment, discouragement, and exhaustion so many different times in such little time, yet I'm so thankful that my hope in Him is not shattered and never will be. Now my confidence, passion, and enthusiasm? Yeah, those are a little shaky right now, but I have full faith that there is purpose behind my broken heart. 

"We are pressed on every side of troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies."   2 Corinthians 4:8

The key part is the last verse- " that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." Isn't that the main goal of being disciples of Christ, so people can see Christ through us? 

"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness."  2 Cor. 12:8

I had the incredible pleasure of getting to just sit and drink some awesome Mugwalls coffee with my sweet friend Jordan Knesek, and she reminded me that our relationship with God is strengthened most when we realize how much we really need Him. When we are completely crushed, beaten down, and empty is when He can do the most work in our lives.

God's work during this challenging time in our lives is similar to the process of refining metal. The metal may look all shiny and clean on the outside, but deep down it contains dross- a contaminating, worthless chemical product that hinders the metal from being pure. The technician must put the metal into a 1000 degree fire, in order for the dross to separate from the metal, and once that stage is finished, the technician devotes to scraping away the residue to reveal a pure, glowing metal. 

In the same way, we are that piece of imperfect, unrefined metal. God, the Master Technician, puts our lives under fire, because He knows that through our trials (the fire), the dross (our weaknesses and problems) we will be removed, transforming us to be stronger and purer like His precious Son.

OK, if that didn't make sense, here's another analogy. Have ever burned yourself? The other day I somehow burned my CHIN with a CURLING IRON. I know, what the heck. Over the past few days, it hurt worse and worse, and the burn evolved from "barely there" to a big, red scab on my face. Real cute. I tried everything I could to cover it up, or speed up the process, but time is the only thing that could heal it. Finally today I noticed that it was getting better, and noticed the skin is, believe it or not, healthier. Sometimes our trials burn us and leave some scars, but we can have hope that healing is the true result from any trial, and it will only strengthen us.

"...When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."   James 1:2-4

If you're in the middle of a battle- in whatever form- physically, emotionally, spiritually- my encouragement is for you to take heart-for He has overcome the world (John 16:33), and never forget that He is God, He LOVES you, He won't let you down. 

"And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?"


Monday, August 1, 2011

Cheap Romance

My precious Mama always taught me to control my angers and frustration before speaking, yet I could never slow my roll when it came to writing. So here I am... taking the time to not only make a blog, but devote the time and energy to writing it all down. I've always thought my words weren't important enough to publicize to the world, and to a limit, I agree with that. I don't plan on spilling every one of my heart's desires, or venting about worthless things that exhaust my energy- that's what a diary is for, silly goose. In a world that hardly gives a glance to privacy, we've thrown off any hindrance of keeping things precious, such as our thoughts. But... I do believe in using words to heal, inform, and energize, and that's my hope for this strange thing called a blog. 

Now enough of that.  

Tonight, my parents turned on the TV, and I excitedly squealed, "Oh!! The Bachelorette Finale is on!!" Not paying too much attention to it, I started to multitask (nothing new), until I heard Ashley (the Bachelorette for all you reality tv foreigners out there) begin to explain to her family that she and Ben (her potential "fiance") liked to talk to each other sometimes in their puppy voices. No dog involved.... just them. It was at that point that I quickly debated being entertained or disgusted by the lack of depth or even maturity in this relationship that America was fawning over. According to the filming schedule of The Bachelorette Season 5 with Jillian Harris, filming lasted from March 13th the April 24th. You do the math, and let me know if you think that is long enough for someone to get to know twenty eligible men in order to find "the one". Now now, before you get all upset with me for downing quick relationships, hear me out. I understand those beautiful testimonies from couples who met, got engaged, then married in a month or so, and continue to have a loving, committed relationship after all these years. They're rare, and they do exist. But let's get real here- a "bachelorette" has to get to know 20 guys in that short of a time frame, dates most of them simultaneously, THEN decides which one she should marry? Right, that's realistic. What message are we sending to young girls? 

What happened to romance? I'm not talking about lust, flirtation, attraction, or even truly liking someone. I'm talking about that  Christ centered, trusting, and wholesome romance that we look at and can't help but feel the warmth of their love. We admire the love of our grandparents and other cute elderly couples- classic, pure love, spread across decades, but when did we stop thinking we can't have that for ourselves in this crazed era of the fast and furious? When did we stop thinking that this precious kind of romance can't be achieved? 

I wish I could say I've achieved it, but alas, I'm single with zero prospects, and with no ideas of marriage any time soon. I spent all of high school and the beginning of college searching, nearly begging, for attention from things that won't last, and I'm regretful I wasted that time. High school was miserable enough- adding teenage angst and heartbreak was just a formula for disaster haha. Now in life, I have to make the daily choice not to chime in with the complaints of girls my age griping about "being single", because my romance with my Savior is becoming more than enough. Rather, He's become my life over these past few months. 

At the beginning of this summer, a very important woman in my life encouraged me to find purpose in Christ. I never thought that would mean surrendering my entire heart...including my dating/marriage hopes and dreams, to Him, but I would never make the choice to go back to the empty, half-lived life I had before this summer. Sure, I had Christ, and I was growing in my faith, but I have never experienced a Romance with Him. I never thought it was even possible to have. Friends, the best news in the world is that it is possible, and not just that, but attainable. 

The Lord tells us in Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love...". His love for you goes above and beyond any love you can achieve on this earth. While you wait for a romance in this life, I encourage you to first fall in love with the One who knows you intimately inside and out. Pursue this relationship 

 13 For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you 
   when I was made in the secret place, 
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
   before one of them came to be. 

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! 
   How vast is the sum of them!
                                            Psalm 139:13-17
I know, you're sitting there going, "yeah, this is great, but how/where do I even begin?!" Our precious God says in Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." So that's my advice- seek Him out, and let Him take hold of your heart. Surrender it all, lay it all down. Nothing is hidden before God, and I promise you He isn't sitting there pointing a finger, or turned away from you and your heart!! Give Him a chance to win over your heart. We've all made the mistake of giving a piece of our hearts to a cheapo who doesn't deserve it- take the chance and give your whole heart to the trustworthy God who created you. Cheap romance will never hold a candle to the unfathomable love Christ has for you! 

"To fall in love with God is the greatest of all Romances..."                                                                                         
                                                                              St. Augustine