Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oh, is THAT what He said?

I've been interviewing a lot of people for summer jobs lately. A large percentage of the applicants assure me that the Lord has called them to be at camp this summer. Unfortunately I cannot hire all of these applicants, so it would seem one of the following must be true: (1) God changed His mind and doesn't want them to work here anymore, (2) God wants them to be confused so they will persevere and have faith even when things don't go the way they think they should, (3) They didn't hear God correctly, (4) God never told them anything at all about this particular situation.

Since the first two don't really fit into God's character, perhaps the latter are more true of this scenario...

Mostly I just wonder how good we are at playing the God-card. We slip into this place where we convince ourselves and everyone around us that God has told us to do (or not do) something. Lately when I hear this, I want to ask..."Really? Did He really tell you that? How can you be sure it was Him and not you?"

...'Cause I think we're pretty spectacular at hearing what we want to hear.

How many times have you done it?
You start to feel a certain way, you get strange ideas in your head...sometimes they are the things that come to you in worship, or while reading Scripture, or when you're being still, or when you're praying. There's no doubt that it was the Lord, right?

I think, in these moments, when these things that are 'heard' are things that are about who you are in Christ that they are probably true. They are true because Scripture supports them. It gets trickier when the things that we 'hear' are about specific places we should go, specific things we should do, specific people we should (or shouldn't) date or marry...

Don't get me wrong--I fully believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in us and moves us toward action, toward places and people that we need to go to. I just also think that we have the tendency to use this when we shouldn't. Perhaps it's another way of taking the Lord's name in vain...?

I think it's often a dangerous move when we fall into this type of verbiage.
Here's why:
When I say that the Lord has told me to do something, I'm not giving room for anything else to be true. Because if the Lord is unchanging, if He is Sovereign--then this thing must happen. We are suddenly allowed to breach contracts and break vows because the Lord has told us to. You can't argue with someone when they tell you the Lord has told them to do something (even if it's contrary to something they've initially committed to) because then you're arguing against God's 'will' and that doesn't get us anywhere. I actually think this is quite contrary to what Scripture tells us...I think the Lord wants us to be people of our word. When Christians do this I think we often lose integrity and credibility.

And what happens if this thing doesn't work out? What happens if I don't get that job, or if he doesn't want to marry me, or if I get in an accident, or if I can't get that visa, or.....?  I start to question my relationship with the Lord. I start to doubt that I can hear Him at all. And if I can't hear God, if I'm feeling distant...maybe I'm not even a real Christian after all... because God speaks to His people, right? We become these paranoid creatures who lack confidence in Christ because we suddenly feel like we are unable to hear correctly. It's damaging to our relationship with Him.

Sometimes I think we're so desperate to hear from God that it's easy to believe that we have. It's easier to say that the Lord has told us to do something than to admit that we just really want to.

While I commend the confidence of those who declare that the Lord is speaking to them, I wonder if it might benefit the world more if we were truly honest about it.

Instead of saying something like, "I feel like the Lord is telling me I need to leave my job" I might be more inclined to say something like, "I don't know if this is the best fit for me. I don't have a lot of peace about being here- I'm not sure if that's the Lord, or if that's just where I am right now." It's a little scary, because now I have to take ownership for my own feelings and emotions.

Maybe I'm crazy.
Maybe the rest of the world is really hearing from the Lord in unquestionable ways- but what I seem to hear and experience more is a lot of people unsure and acting certain because they think they're supposed to. They think that's the proof needed to assure others that they're really doing this whole Christian thing right.

Friends, it's okay to simply let truth be truth... and to let all the other unknown stuff be unknown. It's okay to not want to do things, or to want to do them, or to want to do hard things because it's the hard thing (I don't believe the Lord always asks us to the do the hard thing). We don't have to convince ourselves or others that it's the Lord specifically speaking in order to be justified in moving toward things that are good and honoring to Him. It's okay to not know if you heard the Lord or not, but to walk in where you think He is leading. Just be ready to also be wrong. It's okay to be wrong. It doesn't mean you need to second-guess everything about your relationship with Him.

I suppose I'd just rather be someone who doesn't necessarily know what the Lord is asking me to specifically do, but someone who seeks to follow Him, seeks to love Him, seeks to love others...someone who honors my word and commitments, someone who is confident in my relationship with Him- trusting that He is loving, He is guiding, and He is full of grace.

But.. maybe that's just me.


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Consumed.

It occupies your every thought.
If affects your every action. 
It causes your pulse to race and your palms to sweat. 
You find yourself saying things you would never normally say. 

Jealousy. 

It's debilitating. It's consuming. It's corrosive.
And it seems to find it's way into my heart through the smallest of things. You too? 

Jealousy is this gross sin that I don't like to confess. While it's still one of those things I can rattle off in a list of my sins without feeling like people are going to judge me too harshly, the reality of what it actually means for me is disturbing. 'Cause when we start to get into specifics of the things I find myself jealous of, I'm left ashamed and painfully aware of my ungratefulness... 

When I say that I'm jealous I'm saying that I don't have what I want. When I say that I'm jealous I'm saying that I want what you have. When I want what you have, I'm not glad at all that you have it because I think that I deserve it. When I think that I deserve it, any kindness I show your way about said issue is probably a bunch of fluff that I don't actually mean. 

And again, I'm a fraud. 
Again the darkness swells around me and I see myself for what I really am: fallen, wicked, despicable, desperate. 

Because when I'm jealous, it begins to affect the way I treat people, it affects the way that I choose to love them, it affects how I feel about myself. It rots everything good, it taints it...and it leaves me obsessed with what I do not have instead of thankful for what I do have (which is so, so, so much). 

Sometimes, instead of feeling the horror and weight of my jealousy, I allow myself self-righteousness and justification to kick in. "At least I'm not struggling with that (fill in any number of sins that seem worse than a little envy)..." or perhaps a, "Well, I really do deserve it because of this and this and this and this and this...." and suddenly, in a moment, I've given in to the darkness. 

It's not to be taken lightly. 
It's not okay. 
Because there have been times when it's all I saw, when it's all I felt, when it's all I was. I became blinded by a fit of jealousy, unable to see the toll it was taking on me and those around me. We become irrational in the face of envy. It's the basic plot line for every soap opera out there. 

So what now? 
I think it starts with recognizing jealousy for what it is and admitting that's what's going on. Just today I caught myself jealous of one of my good friends because I started to think that everyone liked her more than me. I literally had to stop and allow truth to overtake the lie. 

Doesn't it always stem from a lie? 

Today I urge you to consider the envy in your heart. 
Who are you jealous of? Why? 
What do you wish that you had that you don't? Why? 

Instead of allowing ourselves to walk further down a path of darkness and corrosion, I beg you to consider what it is you feel like you're lacking, what it is that you're wanting, what it is that you're needing. Before you move into a place of jealousy, STOP...and really ask the Lord to cloak you with truth. 

The truth? 
Even if you had that body, you wouldn't be happy. Even if you had that body, it wouldn't mean you would get that guy. Even if you had that guy, you wouldn't be complete. Even if you were the most liked person in the world, it won't sustain you. 
Even if you had that job, that starting position, that solo, that lead role, that personality, that hair, that ....(it's exhausting when I realize the multitude of things we can be jealous of...)
It just doesn't matter and it doesn't define us...and the things that we think we would gain by having them are not true

May we not be led astray by our envy any longer. 
Instead, may we embrace what we do have and simply be thankful for it.
'Cause even if we have little, we still have so much...

And may we meet grace again... and again...and again...
Today I am thankful for redemption, for second chances... for a way out of darkness. Again.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Dance, Sing, Live.

I like dancing.

But it's never one of those things that I proudly exclaim a love for... in fact, I feel like I can equate it to picking your nose. Most all of us do it, but we don't like to admit it. We fear what others think if they knew or, worse yet, caught us in the act. Humiliation.

So, while I like dancing...I also hate to admit that I do. I've found that upon revealing such a thing, people expect one of two things from you: (1) to always want to dance any time there's an opportunity or (2) that you're good at dancing. Pressure builds.

There's a list of other things that I enjoy that I probably fear sharing with the world- and I wonder how many of you do the same thing. How many of you hide certain desires or hobbies simply because of the expectation that comes with them?

I like singing, too. And while I sing 75% of what I actually say, I very rarely will attempt to really sing in front of others-- even when it's karaoke time. 'Cause what happens when you give it your all and it's still not impressive?

I want affirmation.
I want people to tell me that I'm good. I want people to tell me that they notice me. I want my work, my accomplishments, my abilities to be acknowledged. Don't we all?

I've been trying to dig deeper though--to dig deeper through the need for affirmation to find the root. What am I really longing for when I admit this need for others to speak value into me? It unveils an insecurity, a lack of confidence.

The silly part (and those who know me can attest) is that even when you try to affirm me, it's never good enough. I'm never satisfied with your words or encouragement... because the reality is that something bigger is still missing.

I've grown weary of this. I've grown weary because these insecurities create misery...and if I'm insecure in everything, I'm eventually miserable in everything. Something has to change. There's a joy that must be discovered, a confidence that longs to surface, and a hope of something greater. A hope of second chances...

I wonder if we took it a step at a time.
If today I allowed myself to dance. To really dance.
Maybe tomorrow, I could find my voice and really sing.
Maybe the next day do something else that I find myself holding back in, instead of being fearful of what others might say or think about me.

The point?
Being truly satisfied with who I am... with who I've been created to be, quirkiness and all.
A step at a time, dwelling in grace and the truth that God loves me just as I am.

Let's let that be enough today.

Go let the world see something about you that you've been hiding...
and may we find joy in the freedom of not holding anything back!


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Chasm

The comment:
I always thought being a perfectionist was an admirable thing.  One of those traits you can use in a job interview as a "weakness"  that you really mean is a strength.  It is a very pretty sounding weakness.  Because saying you are a perfectionist means you care about doing things right.  It means you work hard and don't give up until things are the best.  It means you are responsible and admirable.  Right?  Maybe not...
...Not only does being a perfectionist fill me with fear of failure, it also tricks me into believing this is what others expect from me, even what God might expect of me.  Do I believe that in my head?  No.  I know perfection isn't possible.  I know others don't expect it.  I know that God doesn't.  But my actions seem to tell a different story.
At times, I've rationalized that it is still better to give all my effort always.  But I'm realizing that this whole perfectionist-mind-game might be getting in the way of my relationship with the Lord.  God doesn't ask for perfection from me.  He asks me to admit my need for a Savior, for grace, for Him.  I know I'm a sinner.  I know I'm never going to get it all right.  So why am I still trying to earn grace?
Isn't it funny how much we can recognize something to be true in our head, but it fails to really resonate with our hearts? You can 'know' perfection isn't attainable, but still somehow think it is. You can 'know' that you are loved, but still somehow not really believe that you are. You can 'know' that how you look doesn't really matter, but you spend 80% of your day thinking about what you're eating, how much your exercising, how your clothes feel/look on you. 

There's a disconnect.
A chasm.
Somewhere along the way we've become robots who can readily mouth off the things we know to be true, but we're still striving and searching to be the things we feel like we're supposed to be: perfect, beautiful, worth it. And when we're not--we feel like we've failed. 

If something is true, why can't we really believe that it is? 
And if we don't really believe that it is, why do we say it? Because we think we're supposed to? 

I think this is my reality: sometimes I truly think that I can be perfect. If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't have the crashing moments where I suddenly realize that I'm not (over and over again). It seems that every time I mess up, I make some sort of deal in my mind that I won't do it again...next time I'll do better... next time I'll be perfect. 

Inside my head there is soon a flood of agreements that I'm subconsciously making with myself. Agreements that I can get it right, agreements that next time he really will love me, agreements that I'll be disciplined and not binge or be lazy. Agreements that I have control over all of these things....don't I? 

Gosh, if it didn't always come back to these dumb control issues. 
The stupid part is that I don't have an answer for you. I don't have a way to fix it. I can tell you to surrender it, to let it go... but, sometimes I don't even know what that really means. 

It's almost as if giving up control requires control. It requires stopping thoughts, actions, and words that lead me down a path of believing I can eventually achieve perfection. It requires stopping thoughts, actions, and words that lead me down a path of believing that if I change something that I'll be worth loving. It requires stopping thoughts, actions, and words that lead me down a path of believing that if I change how I look or how much I weigh that I'll be satisfied.


Everything is meaningless, yeah? A chasing after the wind? 
Perhaps life will inevitably be this cycle of strife and surrender- and perhaps that's okay. Okay because, while that's never how it was intended to be, that's how it has to be right now. We're incomplete here. We will always be. Until we're reunited again. 


Or maybe we just pray like crazy that God mends the chasm, the disconnect.... that maybe we can be women and men who truly believe the things we say we 'know' are true. 


... Father, I do believe...
help my unbelief. 

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

When God Calls

I always thought that if God were to just beam down from heaven and tell me what I was supposed to do with my life that I would do it. I wouldn’t hesitate, I wouldn’t question, I wouldn’t fight it. Unfortunately, that whole speaking audibly to me thing has yet to happen…

College operated as a buffer zone for me. I had 4 years to figure out what I really wanted to do (if that whole MRS Degree didn’t work out, that is). I had 4 years to hone in on something I could get excited about and pursue and then get educated in. I had 4 years to figure out what the Lord wanted me to do with my life.

Who was I kidding?
It took me two years before I was willing to even declare a major and at that point I only picked one because it was necessary. The result? A degree I could complete in the 2 remaining years I had left and one that was general enough to ultimately mean nothing: Communications. I still don’t even know what my degree qualifies me for. But, I have it.

6 years later I'm now facing another stage of ‘what’s next?’.  If you think this is the first time since graduating college that I've faced this, you’d be wrong. I’ll save my ‘quitting my current job, moving back home, applying to grad schools, and arranging for a life in Seattle only to change my mind a week later’ story for another day… but the point is that I think we get a tad bit ridiculous when we contemplate what the Lord would have us do with ourselves.

It’s taken me a while to simply be okay with not necessarily having this grandiose vision for my life—to be okay with not having a specific, direct calling from the Lord…and to not let either of those things keep me paralyzed.

‘Cause I think that’s what inevitably happens to us. We get so scared of making the wrong decision with our next steps that we stand still. We get so concerned that we are going to miss out on what the Lord is calling us to, that we miss out on things that we are passionate about and gifted in.

I really do believe that the Lord calls us to things for a specific time and a specific purpose…sometimes. I believe that most of the time He has created us to be people who have hopes and dreams and He longs to see us walk in the fullness of those things…and He longs to see us do them in a way that fully reflects our love for Him and our love for others.

Does it have to get much more complicated than that?

I can grow weary of those who are panicky about their futures because they don’t know what they’re ‘supposed’ to do with their life. You do know. As believers we’ve been given a very specific calling…but it’s one that also usually allows room for us to choose our careers and our locations.

I also realize that as much as I tell myself that I would do whatever the Lord asked, if I just knew what it was…I see in Scripture how that’s not always the case. Check out Jonah. Or Moses. Or Gideon. Or Peter. There’s always hesitations, or resistance, or insecurity, or doubt, or fear, or pride, or just not wanting to.

Man, what if we just took a leap?
What if we just did the things that we really wanted to do—despite the rejection or scorn we might endure? What if we took a risk and put ourselves out there? What if we just walked confidently in the passions and gifts God has given us, trusting that ultimately He will lead and guide, instead of shrinking back in fear of doing the ‘wrong’ thing?

Can you believe that there might be more than one good option for you? Can you trust that God is still sovereign and if you’re living a life that’s honoring to Him that He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him?

Honestly?  That’s what this blog is for me.
It’s a risk.
It’s terrifying every time I post…which means it’s terrifying every day.
I don’t know where anything leads, or what the end goal is necessarily…but I believe this is a step.

Take a step toward your passions today. Do whatever it takes.
Don’t live life stuck in fear of getting it wrong or missing out.

The Lord has called you to great things.
Someone once told me to look at decisions like ice cream—you can choose vanilla, or chocolate, or bunny tracks—it’s all great but you get to choose.
Choose a great thing, out of a many great things!

So take that job, enroll in those classes, go on that trip, study abroad, work at summer camp J, foster that child, go hitchhiking across the country, pursue dancing or acting or singing or sports, move across the world, move to a new state…

And wherever you go, whatever you do—love God and love others. Walk boldly and faithfully in this, and believe that you’re really within His will, within His calling for your life. Perhaps you're doing exactly what you were made to do. 


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Friday, February 24, 2012

The List

Growing up I’d often heard that you should make a list of the things you want in a husband. It would serve to help me never lose sight of the things that I wanted, to never settle, to never give up.

I resisted such a list until my freshman year of college when my best friend from high school and I sat down to figure out what I really wanted in a man. I had grown weary of striking out with the male species. Here’s what I came up with (with no edits, as much as I wanted to…):

Debbie’s “Perfect Man”

1.     Christian (not a baby Christian)
2.     Passionate (growing) heart for God
3.     Be spiritual leader (ground in faith)
4.     Still spontaneous/wreckless
5.     Wants to serve/selfless
6.     Good relationship with family
7.     Good sense of humor
8.     Good communicator (listen/talk balance)
9.     Athletic (better than I am)
10. Likes kids
11. Musically talented (opt.)- harmony
12. Artistic (opt.)
13. Attractive- bigger than me/hairy
14. Compassionate (empathetic/understanding)
15. Loves God more than me- still loves me
16. Patient with my stubbornness (someone I'm able to submit to)
17. Encouraging- words of affirmation
18. Be able to tease/playful
19. Dependent on Christ
20. Be real with
21. More intelligent than me
22. Someone who shows he cares in unique ways
23. Honest/trustworthy
24. Not na├»ve (knows what’s going on in the world)
25. Remembers things
26. Can interact with people
27. Doesn’t breathe loud
28. Isn’t a messy eater
29. Takes initiative/pursues
30. Ability to drive a manual

How’s that for a model of perfection (and someone that can’t possibly exist)? Sure, a guy might have a lot of those things, and maybe even a little of all of them—but in this list I didn’t allow room for imperfection, for humanness, for inconsistency.

Sometimes I think the reason we make a list should be to scratch off half the list. That perhaps we should, instead of hoping and praying to find someone who meets our specifications for what we’ve deemed to be perfection, be willing to recognize that a lot of what we want in someone is unrealistic….and unimportant.

My list reminds me of my superficiality, and how I had allowed myself to focus more on things that don’t matter than the things that do. For as much as I had good qualities that I was looking for in my perfect man (a lot which I really think are important), you better believe that the things that swayed my heart and emotions more were the things that didn’t hold much value.

If I were being honest with myself, I cared much more that my man would come in this perfect package.  There wasn’t a place for loud breathers, or unathletic nerds (but he still had to be smart), or skinny twerps who I could crush in a wrestling match. If he couldn’t carry a tune I’d lose interest, and if he lost part of his taco I’d question his tableside manners.  The funny thing is that even when I met guys who seemed to be the ‘total package’, they were prideful and arrogant and I couldn’t handle that either. Essentially no one could win. No one would ever meet my criteria.

Turns out no one is perfect (no matter how much I still want to believe that’s true sometimes). Turns out that my focusing on such a specific list causes me to overlook the good that’s right in front of me because it’s not packaged in the way that I originally wanted. Turns out that the Lord is much better at picking what and who is good for me. 

If you have a list…
I’d encourage you to re-examine the things on it. What of those things holds eternal value? What of those things actually matter? What of those things will matter when you’re old and gray? Prioritize- what are the things that you truly cannot live without?

If you don’t have a list…
I’d encourage you to potentially make one. Perhaps the reason that you feel so restless in this search for a perfect mate is that you have unrealistic expectations that you’re not even aware of. I mostly think we all have this subconscious list that exists and affects us—so, you might as well write it down and process through what things really are important.

Ultimately- be prepared to throw the list out and trust the Lord to bring you to someone in His time and His way. He might look exactly like you thought he would, he might not. Both are okay. Be open to the fact that the Lord might have someone completely different for you than you’ve always thought, and trust that different might be better.


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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Just Friends?

I used to hate being friends with girls.

They were dramatic and gossipy and poison to my blood. Besides...growing up with 3 older brothers left me with a lack of understanding for how to successfully function as a female.

For example: I feel weird sharing clothes. I cringe at the thought of holding hands with another girl, not to mention all the cuddling that seems to happen these days. I'd prefer to play frisbee in the waves on a beach over laying out to get a tan. I hate shopping. I feel ridiculous wearing a dress most of the time...not to mention walking in heels. I forget to wear jewelry when I dress up and almost never think to pack it when traveling. I don't have 'cute' underwear.

I can recognize that while I'm maybe not 'girly', I'm definitely still girly in almost every other way. But, growing up I chose to think otherwise. I chose to believe that there was no way I could ever identify with other females on a deeper level and so I elected males to be my close companions. There were a handful girls I connected with throughout junior high, high school and college--but on the whole I found camaraderie with the testosterone.

The same question seemed to present itself in all of my friendships: can you ever just be friends with someone of the opposite sex? 


Tricky territory, indeed.
Probably, yes, you can.
But- I think it's unrealistic to say that we're ever just friends with someone on a deep level without ever considering the possibilities. I think it's unrealistic to say that when we engage with someone's heart, that we can keep ourselves from wanting a more intimate connection with them.

So- I suppose I'd have to wonder what we mean by just friends. Does that mean that you can maintain a friendship without either party ever having romantic feelings for the other? If that's the case, I think it's highly unlikely. Lots of times it's just unrequited.

This is me mostly speaking out of personal experience. When I look at the guys I've been friends with throughout my life, I'd be a liar if I told you that I wasn't interested in the possibility of more with the vast majority of them. If they had pursued, if they had made an effort...I would have gone with it. At least for a little while.

Here's why:
I think we build friendship based on some level of attraction for the other person. It might not always be physically, initially, but the more we are drawn in by someone's personality and heart, the more we start to see them in a new light. When we are attracted to people, we want to spend more time with them. Us spending more time with them allows us room to grow in our friendships, deepen connections, and desire more intimacy with them. Before we know it we're standing in front of our best guy friend and realizing that we don't just love him, we love him. And then everything gets crazy...

I don't really think it's something to avoid, to be fearful of, to freak out about. I think it's pretty natural. I will say that it's unhealthy for us to only seek out opposite gender friendships--we need other women (or men, if you're a guy) in our lives.  That's something I've only begun to recognize in the last few years...and I wish I would have done things differently in this regard.

A few words about the male/female friendship:

  • It's always risky. Always. Even if you don't think so going into it-- there's always the chance that he could like her or she could like him....even if you don't find him/her physically attractive. It's crazy the things you begin to overlook when you're able to connect with someone in an authentic way.
  • Liking your best friend isn't the worst thing in the world--if they aren't interested, you can usually continue being friends. This requires an understanding and selflessness on your part. It requires you choosing to continue loving that person, even it means they'll never love you back. It sucks, it's hard... but it's worth it in the end. Eventually you'll be okay and thankful that you're only still friends with that person and nothing more. 
  • You have to be willing to let go....especially when they begin dating/marrying other people. This was the one thing I didn't take into account when I surrounded myself with male friends--I hadn't thought about what their girlfriends and wives would think about them having such a close friendship with another female. Immediately there wasn't room for me, and I had to be willing to step down and respect their relationship...I had to think about how I would feel if I were her and had some creepy best friend trying to claim my man. The opposite is true, too. If you're the one in a relationship, be very wary of how your friendships with those of another gender can affect your relationship...and be willing to sacrifice if it's necessary. Your friends can and should respect the distances and the changes that are necessary as we move through life. 
  • Check your motives- don't become friends with the other gender only because you want to date them. If you're interested in dating them from the get go, be honest about your intentions. 
  • You'll learn and grow a lot from each other. 
  • You might end up marrying each other! 
Don't avoid the other gender simply because there's fear of liking them or them liking you. It happens. You'll survive. They'll survive. Let this be a season of your life where you can simply enjoy companionship without reading into every dumb thing. 

I've been so blessed by the male friends in my life-- and while our friendships have changed drastically (because of marriages, distance, dating), I don't regret having those for a second. 

Cherish them, if you have them...be open to them, if you don't...and always, always, hold them loosely. 


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Falling in and out of love...

Falling in Love...

It's such an interesting phrase. 
This idea of falling makes it seem as though it cannot be helped. It implies a lack of control. We have fallen and we cannot get back up. 

I think my problem with such a term is the emotion that's caught up in it. We allow our emotions to carry us to places that serve only to rip our hearts out of our chests. There's no rational thought--instead there's a hunger for romance, desire, passion fueling us. 

We've attached love to an emotion...and so when all the emotions have faded we then detach ourselves from love. 

"I just don't love him anymore." 
"I've fallen out of love with you."

And, again, it's suddenly out of our control. We peace out because we're unhappy, because we're unfulfilled, because we've been wronged, because the passion is gone, because suddenly the lights turned on and we've realized that he's not perfect. It's gotten hard.

I'd venture to say that this is when love gets real

This is when love moves past emotions into a realm of selflessness, patience, keeping no record of wrongs, kindness...not being jealous. This is when love has everything to do with actions vs. feelings. This is when we realize that love isn't about our happiness.

"I deserve to happy."
"I just want to find someone who makes me happy."

Really?
Do you?

I get fired up about this--because I mostly think we're just a bunch of quitters. I think we've got this notion in our head that love must be wrapped up in how we feel, and if we're suddenly not feeling it, we must get rid of it. 

We get out of marriages, friendships, relationships, jobs, parenting, other commitments because they're no longer making us happy. I have to wonder if the problem isn't with those things, but if it actually resides deep within us (another conversation for another day). 

Love requires a putting on...and it requires making the decision to do so. 

When I tell someone I love them, I don't want them to think it's this supernatural, accidental thing--that can come and go at a moment's notice. What kind of commitment is that?? Rather, when I tell someone I love them I want them to know that it's a choice that I'm making, it's a commitment I'm promising to.  It's more than a fleeting emotion, and it has everything to do with persevering and hoping and trusting.

You're not falling in love. You're choosing to love.
You're not falling out of love. You're choosing to stop loving. 


Put on love today.
Don't give up on loving someone else just because you don't feel like it. 
Do it-- live in it, act in it, persevere through it. 
Not because you necessarily want to, but because you are commanded to. 


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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is Selling Everything Necessary?

Do you ever read books and decide you need to change something about your life?

Perhaps some of you really did kiss dating goodbye after reading Josh Harrison's hit novel. Perhaps some of you got a totally new outlook on the Holy Trinity if you read The Shack. Maybe one of you decided to go be incredibly active in homeless shelters when you stumbled upon Same Kind of Different as Me, or maybe you decided to sponsor a child or national missionary after reading Revolution in World Missions. Or, quite possibly, Forgotten God caused you to remember the third party of the Trilogy that often gets forgotten and, as a result, you invited the Holy Spirit into your life in a completely new way.

I love the way books challenge us, move us, inspire us and bring us to new understandings. What I don't like is the way that we tend to revere certain books or authors as authority.

A friend sent me Irresistible Revolution a few years back, and it was a book I couldn't put down. This man, Shane Claiborne was living a radical life for Jesus in a way that I only dreamed of. He was challenging and cutting edge- he was following Christ. And if he was following Christ and it looked drastically different from everything I was doing, what did that mean I was doing? I felt convicted.

I began to ask myself if I would sell everything I have and give it to the poor. Could I be different than the rich young ruler in Scripture? Could I be found faithful?

I was in a place in life where selling everything I had and giving away all my money was a significant sacrifice--especially just a few years out of being a poor college student who had been completely dependent on her parents. Could I give everything up? Would I? I felt I needed to prove my devotion to the Lord and this was the only way I could do it.

I didn't end up doing it.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realized why I felt okay about not going through with it. I randomly came upon a 'verse of the day' somewhere and saw this:
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
It's part of this passage that we tend to gloss over a lot because we're so used to hearing it. It's the first part of the loooove chapter. 1 Corinthians 13.

Giving all I possess to the poor needs to be more than just an action, it needs to be more than just this thing that I do to be that 'good' Christian I spoke of yesterday. It's a matter of the heart.  If I gave it all away simply for the sake of giving it away, I've gained nothing. I've missed the point.

And this is where books often get us into trouble. We forget to go back to Scripture. We think something sounds good, or that he argued that point well, or that sometimes it's even too far above us to comprehend what that person is actually talking about--so we think they must just know what they're talking about.

We are far too easily convinced.

Don't get me wrong- I love reading and I think there's SO much to gain from the world of literature, but I think there's something to be cautious of, too. Just because something sounds good or sounds right doesn't mean that it is. Just because something sounds good or right doesn't mean that it's what you need to do as you follow Christ. Instead of comparing our walks to how another's might seem, it might be good for us to let our journey with Jesus be our journey.

Before you readily accept the things offered in a good presentation, make sure it's true. Even if you trust the source, no one is infallible- and we're a fool to think otherwise. 


Test everything. Hold on to the good.


And may we be changed, ultimately, by the word of God. 
for the word of God is alive and active. sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fraud.

What would you say if you found out that I was a fraud?
A faker?
A liar?
A two-faced hypocrite?

...A sinner?

What would you say if you found out that I wear a mask?

Growing up it wasn't long before I realized that I wasn't ever going to the best at anything. I wasn't going to be the best athlete, I wasn't going to be the best in my class, I wasn't going to be the best singer, actor or dancer...I wasn't going to achieve those dreams. I just wasn't.

Instead I sought out to become the best Christian. That was attainable, right? That was manageable. All I had to do was read my Bible every day, pray a lot, encourage people, go on mission trips, attend youth group regularly, confess my sins, talk to people about deep things, stay away from 'bad' things, tell my friends at school about Jesus....

A long list of things began to form of what it meant to be a good Christian. I'd read books, and add to my list. I'd hear sermons, and add to my list. I'd talk to friends, and add to my list.

I've always considered myself to be a fairly honest person. But, the thing about honesty is that you can hide behind it. I can tell you a lot about something and make you feel as though I've let you in, when, in reality, I'm still holding back. You don't ask more questions, you don't push the boundaries because you feel like what I've said has been honest enough--what more could I possibly have to hide?

A lot.

The truth is that I am a fraud.
I've spent the better majority of my life trying to be something I'm not.

I'm not a 'good' Christian. In fact, I don't really think the term should exist. 'Cause when we start to label things good and bad, that's when we allow room for judgement to creep in.

In all my striving to be the best at being 'good', all I really became was self-righteous and judgmental.

And the horrifying truth is that I wasn't ever good at being 'good'... because while on the outside I could attain some semblance of what it meant to a thriving believer-- I've been full of doubt, fear, bitterness, jealously, selfishness, apathy, manipulation, lust, pride...misery.

This isn't why Christ came.
He didn't come so I could become a Pharisee--with the beautiful exterior of a white-washed tomb, while inside there's only death and uncleanliness.

I have to start being honest about who I really am. Really honest...not just the honesty that only goes a few layers deep. I think we all need to start being more honest...and letting each other be real, sinful people in need of a Savior.

So, friends... today I'm here to tell you that I don't have it all together. I don't have all the answers. I am a faker. I am a liar. I am a two-faced hypocrite. I am a sinner.

May we meet grace in a new, real, and honest way. For Christ came to heal the sick...He came to call the sinners, not the righteous...and I am certainly not righteous.

Today I'm taking off my mask.
Will you love me anyway?

Will you take off your mask, and allow me to love you?
Just as we are.
May we learn to truly love each other just as we are.


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Purpose.


I think that our purpose, especially for us women, too often gets wrapped up in marriage and meeting the 'right' guy.

I know I've felt like that a lot in life. It was okay to leave high school single, because the plan was always to meet that guy and get married right after college. Then I wouldn't have to worry about what I actually wanted to do with my life, then I wouldn't have to worry about what the Lord was calling me to, because I could just support whatever it was He was calling my husband to. When senior year rolled around, I realized it was too late for that to happen and needed to figure out what I wanted.

But, I wonder if I've just been delaying what I've wanted for so long because I've still been waiting for that guy to come around before I decided to truly start living. Sometimes we're so consumed with this thought that we plan our lives around an idea, failing to register that perhaps there's a different purpose for us.

We're so content to just wait for our soul mate to show up, that we dictate our decisions and our life plans on this hope. We'll make decisions on where to go to school, what job to take, what ministry to be involved in, what events to show up at... all in hopes that we will ...oops! just run into the love of our life. Sometimes we're scared to move forward in something we want because we fear missing out on love.

What if, instead of trying to plan our lives according to what perfect specimen we might run into, we actually figured out what our own passions are? What if we figured out our own gifts, our own desires, our own hopes and dreams (beyond marriage) and were obedient to truly serve the Lord with those things?

What if we stopped waiting for someone to partner with us and journey with us, and decided to venture out into the unknown by ourselves--truly trusting the Lord to take care of us?

I guess I think there's more than love and romance--I think life is about more than that. While, sure, I know that it can be a beautiful, refining thing...I also know that even in marriage, we will soon feel purposeless if that was our end goal.

Today I urge you to pray about your purpose. To pray about your hopes and dreams--that if you don't know what they are, that you would soon develop some.

Today I urge you to ask yourself some honest, hard questions: are you, even if it's somewhere in the back of your mind, planning your life around your future husband (that perhaps you haven't even met yet)? Are you putting your future on hold because you're hoping so desperately that the 'right' guy will show up, that he'll propose, that he'll make the decisions for what's next for you?

Run the race to honor the Lord, above all else.
Believe that He has bestowed you with purpose and passion and given you what you need to walk fully in them. Let us not be afraid to go it alone, let us not be afraid to live boldly in a different plan for our lives.

Different... but will we allow ourselves to believe that it is, in fact, better?


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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ready to Make Nice?

Sometimes I want revenge.
Sometimes I'm so angry, betrayed, and hurt I feel like I can't see straight. In those moments I long to tell the world of all the injustices done to me. In those moments I feel like I have every right to live out of my hurt and bitterness. In those moments I feel justified.

And then a calm voice gently whispers in my ear. It's a voice that I want to shake...a voice that I want to get rid of like I do an aggravating fly that won't stop swarming around your head, no matter what you do. But the voice returns...over and over again.

"Forgive, as I have forgiven you."

I struggle with knowing what that means sometimes. Does it mean life returns to normal, no matter the offense? Is it a state of mind? A condition of the heart? And even if I'm capable of forgiving, could I possibly ever forget? I wish I could.

Instead I find a daily battle before me. A battle of choosing life over death. I realize I am incapable on my own. I'm incapable of ever offering pardon from the crimes committed against me. Because you've betrayed me, you've wounded me...and my scars remain.

I remember one Sunday morning this past summer worshipping with the camp community. The song slowly punctured my heart. 
Let no one caught in sin remainInside the lie of inward shameWe fix our eyes upon the crossAnd run to Him who showed great loveAnd bled for usFreely You've bled for us
I found myself weeping in the back of the room. 
Who was I to pass judgement? 
Who was I to condemn?
Who was I to hold such grievance when it had so clearly already been forgiven?

Aware of my own trespasses and iniquities, I must daily surrender my unforgiving heart. Christ has conquered all...the glory of God has defeated the night!

As I claim these truths over my own soul, I can only declare the same be true for those who have left the scars. There is no one beyond forgiveness--but without Christ, I an incapable of living in the freedom of what that means.

Do I still struggle with what it means to forgive? Absolutely.
But I believe it's right, I believe it's something we've been commanded to do, I believe it's something worth fighting for.

And if someone knows just a little bit more about the love of Christ because of the tangible way I can choose to forgive them? I'll do it over and over and over again. No matter the cost. I must.

Because people are worth it... despite what they've done to us.
They are forgiven. As we've been forgiven.
Jesus, on the cross, means we are forgiven. Jesus, rising again, means we are forgiven.

We are one with Him again.

Will you join me in fighting for forgiveness today?
Will you join me in extending second chances to others today?




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Friday, February 17, 2012

I feel pretty

Do you ever have those days when you look in the mirror and think, 'Oh yeah...it's on!" Those days where you look in the mirror and not only do you not mind the reflection staring back at you, but you actually like it?

In high school I remember getting ready in the morning and feeling highly confident about my appearance. The perfect amount of make-up would be applied, hair lustrously tousled, outfit adjusted...and out the door I'd go. It wasn't until the middle of first or second block when I'd dart to the bathroom and catch a glimpse of myself in the fluorescent lighting of the school's public bathrooms that I'd balk at my reflection and wonder how I'd left the house looking that way.

Ever been there?

It's funny, because I'd spend those first few hours of school truly feeling good about myself and how I looked. I felt like boys were turning their head when I walked by, I felt like I was worth something, I felt like I mattered.

And then, in an instant, it was stripped from me. I'd leave the bathroom feeling assaulted. My head tucked to hide my painted face, my hair pulled back in a pony to maintain the frizz, and a jacket to cover any unnatural lumps. I was a fraud...and sometimes the more effort I spent on trying to mask my true identity, the more clownish I felt.

It didn't always go down that way. Sometimes the assault took place as I peered at myself in the mirrors along with my other classmates while we practiced our dances for show choir. Sometimes it happened in the locker room while I desperately tried to keep all private parts of my body covered in the process of changing in and out of my bathing suit and other girls dilly dallied around me, confidently nude. Sometimes it happened when something was said in jest, but directed my way. Sometimes it happened when I saw myself in a picture. Regardless of how it happened, it always happened. Sometimes it still happens.

I actually would never leave my bedroom without wearing make-up. Having acne as bad as I did as a teenager really messes you up. I was convinced, even after the medicine, the dry skin and eventually somewhat clear skin, that all anyone saw when they looked at me was every deformity on my face. During my first year of college I would sometimes sleep in my make-up because in the dorm setting you never know who might barge into your room in the middle of the night. There were even times I felt like my face was too hideous for even my roommate to be exposed to.

My first summer at camp gave me freedom from this bondage. Freedom only because the nature of my job proved impossible to maintain even the best make-up. No foundation could withhold the sweating and swimming I was doing on a daily basis. So, I gave it up.

And a new confidence formed.
I realized I didn't need to cover myself up. I didn't need to hide. People still wanted to hang out with me! People still enjoyed being around me! Who knew?

Today I want to encourage to take a step back from the mirror. Instead examining every small 'defect'--every zit, every wrinkle, every chin hair, every unplucked eyebrow, every spot, every freckle, every angle...

Step back, and take in the fullness of you, just as you were created to be.

Wash your make-up off... all of it.
Face the world today without hiding behind any mask.

I pray that today would be a day where you feel good about yourself. Not because you're highly confident about your appearance... but because you're highly confident in the Creator who made all things good.

You're worth it.
You matter.

Let's not be assaulted today.


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Thursday, February 16, 2012

"I Put Dating on Hold"

"I've decided I need to be single for a while."

I wouldn't say I've encountered many young women who have 'kissed dating goodbye' necessarily, but I would say that a lot of Christian girls go through a phase where they declare singleness. Sometimes there's a time frame attached to such a declaration, and sometimes there's not.

It's this mark that we are really going to start taking our relationship with the Lord seriously. We realize that men have become a distraction, that we're idolizing them, that we're forgetting our identity is found only in Christ.... or, at least, these are the things we tell ourselves and the circles we hang out in.

I'd argue that it's more an act of control. Because the dating realm is so often out of our control (as in, we are unable to dictate who likes us, who wants to dates us...even, to some degree, who we find ourselves romantically interested in) it becomes much easier for us to cut ourselves off from it.

Subconsciously it's as though the following things can run through our minds when we make such a decision:


If I commit myself to singleness for 'x' amount of time...
...then maybe a man will come along my path after I've fully surrendered to the Lord...
...then my heart won't be crushed every time things don't work out with someone...
...then I won't even have a chance to get my hopes up...
...then I won't look desperate and then I could potentially be even more desirable...
...maybe then I'll feel like my relationship with the Lord is where it is supposed to be...

I think we want to make such a firm commitment to singleness after we've been rejected, when we feel uncertain, when we're lonely, when we feel out of control...

It makes us feel better to be in control of our love life. It makes us feel like we're calling the shots and we can regulate who has access to our hearts. If we can't control it in any other way, at least we can feel like we're the ones deciding on singleness for ourselves instead of letting others decide, instead of continually enduring the torture of feeling like no one ever wants us or that we'll never be good enough.

And then I've laughed to myself, on more than one occasion, when a girl who had sworn a vow of singleness ends up dating someone a few days, weeks, month later.

My point?
Don't make a vow of singleness because you are tired of rejection, hurt, loneliness, never feeling good enough. Don't make a vow of singleness and mask it with overly spiritual intentions. 'Cause, if we're being honest, if the 'right' guy rolled around and wanted to date you, it'd be ridiculous not to (unless you're in high school...'cause then I have a whole other set of thoughts for you on dating).

Be open to a world of opportunity...which also means being open to a world of risk.
Let it be out of your control. Truly.
He's not asking you for singleness.  He's asking for obedience.

After all....to obey is better than sacrifice...


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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brokenness

My oldest brother commented on one of my more recent blogs, and I'm reminded that I have much to learn. I don't have all the answers...and I'm struggling daily to remember the hope of second chances for myself even as I long for you to embrace that truth, too. Thanks for journeying with me. 

One segment of what my brother wrote stuck out to me in particular, as I believe it raises an interesting point: 
In Christian "pop culture" we talk about being broken as if it was a good thing - we say that God is breaking us so that he can rebuild us. I think there is some truth to the idea - although I think we sometimes toss the terms out there without really believing the "breaking" is necessary. Sometimes we just want the sympathy :) I guess I think transformation is what we really want....
I remember coming back from a summer at camp and staying at a friend's house on the journey back to Missouri from Texas. His dad asked me what I had learned most that summer and I remember my response being about brokenness. I longed for brokenness. I felt that in my brokenness there would be a rawness, a realness, an authenticity that I couldn't muster without being shattered...because as long as some part of me still existed, I felt unable to tear myself away from pride and selfishness. 


Is brokenness a good thing though? Or is it simply a necessary thing? 
Is it something that the Lord desires...or is it something that's simply required as transformation ensues? 


My friend's dad challenged me in this. A look of concern came over his face as I told him I was begging to be broken... and I think I get it now. I get that that's not what it's about. I get that that's not what I need to long for. I get how it can be this term we use without really understanding what it means, without really believing the severity of pain and despair that comes with brokenness. 


Brokenness sucks--and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. If you've known brokenness, you know what I'm talking about. But, in the brokenness there's often the rebuilding...and transformation comes about. 


I see what my brother said to be true--that we talk about brokenness as though it's a good thing...but it's not. Perhaps it's sometimes the means to an end, but it seems a bit masochistic to wish this upon ourselves.
So what if, instead of brokenness, we prayed for transformation. 
We can't just rip of the band-aid in one quick, painful stroke. We need to be transformed - and not by our own effort, but by someone outside of ourselves. We were shaped by a force greater than any individual, and our transformation requires an even greater power to correct it.  -My Bro
I don't think the Lord desires brokenness. I think it pains Him to watch us undergo such things...but sometimes it's what's necessary. I think He desires transformation...that He desires us to be willing to change. 


One passage that I think is referred to a lot in terms of brokenness is in Hosea 6... and it's in response to Israel's unrepentant heart.
Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 
Perhaps brokenness is the result of an unrepentant heart returning, not an obedient one earnestly seeking Him? 


Regardless, it would seem that brokenness isn't the end goal. 
Transformation is. 


Don't strive for brokenness.  Strive for a newness in Him...and newness that can only come about through Christ and how He heals, revives and restores so we may live in His presence. 



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