Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Walking Sanctuary


 
 One of the perks that comes with being a student officer of a university club is access to a nice little office right outside the business department. Its small but cozy and has a computer and a spinny office chair, and I have a shiny key on my key ring that opens the door. Even though I share the office with the other student officers in my organization, I'm usually the only one in the room when I first open the door. Stepping in from the tile hallway, the comfortable, quiet office is always a welcome reprieve from a bustling school day.

     I use my time in the office to answer emails and work on homework, like a good future businesswoman should. When I want to feel like a real professional, I bring a cup of coffee. However, lately I have started adding one more item to my backpack when I head in for my office hours. My Bible.

     Bible time and normal life usually end up being pretty separate. As a Christian, it is crucial that time spent in the prayer closet takes even more priority than time spent in church or corporate worship activities, so setting aside Bible time is one of the most important things you can do...but that's a topic for another blog post. Usually when it's 'Bible time', I grab my copy of My Utmost for His Highest, my prayer journal, and my marked-up, highlighted, dog-chewed Bible and go find a little sanctuary in my room, outside, or in our dorm prayer room. Occasionally, I even brew a cup of tea. 

     Now, let me tell you; that makes for a picture perfect Bible study sesh. A "snap a pic and put that on your Instagram and show the world that you are both holy and Pinterest-worthy" kind-of perfect. Moments like that bless and recharge my soul...and compared to those beautiful, devo-friendly environments that I build, an office room, no matter how homey, seems like a strange choice.

     After all, office time is work time. Desk space is productivity space. Placing a Holy Bible on top of a stack of budgets and test reviews seems to be crossing some sort of line. But the only line it's crossing is the line we've built for ourselves between 'physical life' time and 'spiritual life' time.

     If you're like me and grew up in a faith environment, you have heard endless times not to "compartmentalize" your life. Well, that's because it is important. When you love and serve Jesus, He begins to seep into all the areas of your life...but sometimes it is nice to intentionally bring Him in, too. And that's why I like to plop my Bible on top of my business law textbook.

     Any place can be a temple. Thanks to the God who ripped the veil, we no longer need to be in a special sanctuary to approach the Lord. We can bring Him into every moment. One of the best ways to do this is by letting the way we treat others reflect our faith. Another way is by keeping our heavenly communication channel with the Lord open throughout the day. However, still another is fitting in time between life's daily tasks for a little reflection. 

     Most Christians set aside time at the beginning or end of their day for God...but there is something strangely significant about giving Him the power to interrupt it. Taking a 40 minute break between tasks to read a passage or journal keeps the Lord at the forefront of your mind and brings Him into your day.

     Right before I sat down to write this blog post, I reviewed a 3 page study guide for my first semester exam tomorrow. Now I'm writing about what the Lord is teaching me. It may seem like an abrupt shift; but God is as present now as He was several minutes ago when I was trying to cram my mind with details about general partnerships and tort laws. When you are following the Lord fully, everyday life segues naturally into the so called "devotional time". 

     So I challenge you: stick a Bible in your backpack. You don't need to find a 'temple' before you can approach the Lord; your heart is a temple. Bring the sanctuary with you. And don't miss out on the little interruptions of the holy. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jump then Fall


                                                     another day, another journal entry


i am currently following lovegodgreatly.com 's Bible study on wisdom. this entry corresponds with the assigned scripture passage for today, but the material in this response is my own.

Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."

I'm not great at handing things over. As an aspiring businesswoman, I'm trying to train myself in the art of delegation; but instead of feeling relief when I hand a task over to competent teammate or coworker, I often feel more like I'm handing over a precious child. My precious child.

It will be faster if I do it myself. It's easier for me to do it. I don't want to inconvenience anyone. That's what I tell myself. But what my reluctance is actually communicating is, I can do this better.

I'm learning every day how to accept help from the hands that reach out to guide and walk with me as I grow in my education and career path. The problem? When my let me handle this tendencies leak over into other areas of my life.

Control is comfortable. Control feels safe. Control is also an illusion.

There is no such thing as control. As mortal humans, here are too many factors outside of our reach for us to even pretend to be in control of life's situations. However, I continue to delude myself by clinging to the imaginary jurisdiction that I believe lets me direct exactly how my life will play out.

When I choose control over God's prompting and direction (which often involves a lot of unknowns and good dose of blind faith), I am essentially saying I can do this better.

In her blog post The Trust Fall, Lyli Dunbar compares Proverbs 3:5 to a summer camp game that involves falling blindly backward from a ladder into the hands of waiting friends. The safety net formed by teammate's arms is the only thing that keeps the blindfolded person from falling straight to the ground. There is no room in the situation for a 'half fall'. You can't keep one foot on the ladder and let the rest of your body fall backward.

That's how trusting God works. You can't trust in Him with 'all your heart'...and still cling to shreds of the mirage called control. You have to jump with both feet. It's impossible to lean on your own understanding while also leaning fully into the arms of God.

Ready for some hard truth? Your 'own understanding' will let you down every time. As Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes understanding." All wisdom comes from the Lord. Without Him, it's only a matter of time until the ladder we've built from our 'own understanding' falls - and sends us tumbling to the ground.

I don't know about you, but I would rather jump into the arms waiting to catch me than wait for the fragile structure I've built to fall away.

Sometimes we're afraid to jump and leave behind the plans we've built. Sometimes, we still find ourselves saying I can do this better.  This comes from the fear that God's plan won't take us where we want to end up.

I can't promise you that everything will go the way you've planned if you just take that jump. But I can promise you that when you trust the Lord with ALL your heart, He will lead you in the way that will accomplish His holy purpose and fulfill the desires of your heart. Jumping is scary...but it's a lot less scary than clinging to that rickety ladder.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart...and He will make straight your paths."

Amen.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Mud of Grief





this content also appears in a feature on my friend Melissa's blog at http://bibleandtea.blogspot.com/  on December 3rd, 2016 under the same title

"Pain demands to be felt." – John Green, Fault in our Stars

Do you know how to grieve?

I would dare to say that our culture is terrible at grieving. And I think that sometimes it is because we don’t have to.

Distraction is readily available. Americans are busy. Work, school, and socializing leave few gaps where we are alone with our thoughts, and even those gaps can be filled with media. An episode of Netflix and scrolling Instagram before bed, and you’re asleep before you’ve had a chance to spend a quiet moment. We don’t have to think if we don’t want to. We can distract and forget…for a while.

But, eventually, pain demands to be felt.

‘Grief’ is often associated with death, but I want to include anything that brings heartache. Breakups. Family issues. Labels. Failure. That deep, old hurt that we shoved under the surface so that we could pull ourselves together enough to keep breathing – and now keep stuffing deeper so that we don’t have to look at it.

We need to learn how to grieve.

Step 1) Acknowledge pain.

No matter how big or small your circumstances, your feelings are equally valid. They may not be logical. They may not be reasonable. But they are there.

Denial never works. You feel how you feel. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can start taking steps to freedom.

Cry. Sit and let your heart ache. Yell. Write. Whatever you need to do, as long as you are feeling. No matter how well you think you are repressing your feelings, I promise you that they will come out eventually in one way or another, whether you recognize them or not – and they probably already are. It’s nice to deal with them on your own terms instead of letting them begin to change the way you treat others or how you score on your college tests or how you take care of yourself.

It’s interesting how much power something loses when it is brought out into the light and named. Identify what you are feeling. Give it a name. If it is appropriate, share it with someone you trust. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable enough to allow someone else into your place of hurt. Grieving is not a sign of weakness; rather, it requires extreme strength. Facing your feelings may bring up layers of pain and confusion. But you have to open up the pile of broken pieces if you want to begin allowing them to be pieced back together.

Step 2) Get out of the mud puddle

It’s really important to spend some time wallowing, but it’s equally important not to stay there.
So many people get trapped in the first step and spiral into self-pity and hopelessness and frustration.

Pain demands to be felt, but your hurt can’t make you stay in that place. It doesn’t have that power over you. In order to stop being the victim and take steps toward healing, you have to step out of that mud puddle.

The problem? Mud is sticky. It can seem fruitless to claw ourselves out of the mire.

This is where God comes in.

Honestly, He has been there the whole time. Through the cause of the pain and the feeling of the pain and the healing of the pain. But it is when we are in the dark, sad place of opening past scars that we truly realize how exhausting and futile it is to try to pull ourselves out of the hurt.

The reason we can’t lift ourselves out of the mud of our pain is because we aren’t supposed to. We don’t have to. The Lord is stretching down a hand and all we have to do is let Him lift us.

Bask in His love. Read His word. Even if the feeling isn’t there, rely on His promises and who He says He is. Saturate your life with truth, even if the truth doesn’t penetrate to your emotions. Take an act of faith and choose to believe what He has said about who you are and how He loves you and wants to heal your broken pieces.

We can’t change ourselves. Pray and allow God to touch those soft spots. He wants to heal them.
And then, get up. Keep walking. Working through pain isn’t instantaneous; it won’t go away right away. Actually, it may never go away completely. But it doesn’t have to control you. Once you are out of the mud puddle and walking again, it is time to work on the next step.

Step 3) Forgive.

Forgiving those who have hurt you deeply is extremely hard. Forgiving yourself is even harder.
Once again, this is not something we can do on our own. Forgiveness requires a supernatural moving of God in our lives, but if we never reach forgiveness we will never truly be free.

Without forgiveness, it is impossible to move forward. Bitterness, guilt, and anger block us from healthy relationships both with others and God. If we don’t kill it, harboring unforgiveness will begin to eat us from the inside.

If you’re trying to forgive by convincing yourself that what was done to you or the things you’ve told yourself weren’t actually wrong, stop. They were wrong. You were hurt, and your feelings are valid. We already dealt with that in Step 1, don’t go backwards.

If you’re trying to forgive by forgetting, stop. It doesn’t work. You can stuff memories and feelings for a short time, but they always come back. Tying pieces of a broken pot up in a cloth sack may hold them together and hide them, but underneath the pot is still broken.

If you’re trying to forgive through sheer willpower, stop. It is impossible to forgive a deep wound through your own strength. Stop exhausting yourself. The Lord is willing to help you; accept it.

People like to build us up and encourage us by saying, “you can do this!” My encouragement to you today is “you can’t do this.” Stop trying to forgive in your own power. Allow the Lord to come in begin to change your heart. It is a process, and it may be a slow process, but through the healing God even the deepest cut can be mended.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Journal Thoughts: The Separation




journal entry, January 3rd, 2017

I usually wait around to fix everything before I come to God, but that's backward. The problem with sin is that it keeps us away from the Lord, so that is what we need to confront. If we let sin separate us from God, the devil wins. The reason he wants us separate is because He knows sin is powerless against the Lord. We must find that balance between remorse over sinning and the shame that keeps us from God. We must trade guilt for repentance, we can't just let it sit. And if we're unwilling to make the trade...what lie are we holding on to?

Monday, January 9, 2017

This Chapter


                         dramatic looking-out-into distance photo from back when I was warm


     2016 gets a bad rap. Between the election and Carrie Fisher the world seems about ready to give up; and really, can you blame them?

    The thing is, 2016 wasn't great for me either. In fact, it was probably one of the hardest years of my life. But it wasn't all bad. After all, it drove me back to my journal, which has resulted in the poems and devos and snippets that I'm posting on the blog. Truth is, the Lord used 2016. Which doesn't mean I don't hope 2017 will be better.

     I have high hopes for 2017. Expectations, even. Things are going to be better. Even if they aren't, I'll be ok...but gosh, I think we could all use a break, don't you? I'm doing my part by applying the lessons I've learned through 2016. Honestly, I can tell my confidence is down a little. I'm treading carefully and evaluating even small decisions in detail. But it's what I need to do until I get back on my feet.

     Here is the one thing that I am SURE will make a difference; I am going into 2017 all prayed up. My heart is for the Lord's will to be done and His will to be accomplished and for Him to lead me in assisting that mission. I so desperately want to be the woman I have been called to be, but the truth is, I don't really know how to do it on my own. I think I know that path...but I've been wrong before and will continue to be wrong until my eyes are refocused.

     So this year I make a pledge. I make a pledge to stay focused, with my eyes firmly on the Lord. I make a pledge to live out what He is teaching me. And I walk into 2017 with an open heart, ready to learn and grow. I rebuke the fear that drives me to take things into my own hands instead of leaving them where they belong; in the hands of the Father.

     I wish you a blessed 2017, and it would be my joy to walk through it with you. Lets come together with one mission, and I believe the Lord will do amazing things.

___________________________________________________________________________________


     As I continue to seek the Lord and His wisdom, I will be following along with Love God Greatly's Bible study for the next 6 weeks titled "Walking in Wisdom", and I encourage you to join me! Check out their website to get started. I'll be sharing my thoughts on the blog periodically, so get ready to a healthy dose of some Proverbs wisdom!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Finding Holy



this content also appears in a feature on my friend Melissa's blog at http://bibleandtea.blogspot.com/  on June 25th, 2016 under the title 'Cup of Heavenly'


Colossians 2:6-7 –

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

I have this phrase printed on a thrift store mug with golden paint marker in my dorm room. One of my favorite things to do is wake up slowly on a Saturday morning and stick that mug under my one-cup coffee maker. I listen to it bubble and brew and drip while I make my bed and throw my hair up in a messy bun. Then I tuck my yoga-pant clad legs up under me in my desk chair, open my Bible, and sip my dark-as-night morning brew. I think about the day ahead, and that quickly, I’ve made a decision.

Without even realizing it, I’ve set the course for my day by the actions I’ve chosen to take, the thoughts that have entered my head, and the thoughts I’ve allowed to stay.

Christianity is not a passive religion. Anything that threatens to change someone’s entire view of the world as dramatically as the sacrifice of Jesus couldn’t possibly slip into a life ‘accidentally’. You don’t accept something as counterintuitive as divine grace by just ‘letting it happen.’ Following Jesus is a choice. It has to be intentional, by its very nature.

The entire concept of salvation is built around a choice. The gift of Jesus’ sacrifice is free (that’s what makes it a gift, right?), and that’s what makes grace amazing. However, one thing is required of us before this gift becomes our own, and that is a choice. Freely offered redemption does us no good unless we choose to accept it. It just sits there, under the tree in its wrapping paper, waiting to be opened.

This is basic and earth-shattering all at once. This is justification. This is the one time act of accepting purpose and salvation and life through Jesus.

But, it doesn’t end there.

Because with justification comes sanctification, and this is where the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus begins. And it isn’t just a one-time choice.

It’s a daily choice. It means waking up in the morning and saying, “Today, I choose Jesus.” And it means doing the same thing the next day, and the day after that. We have to choose Jesus every day, because if we don’t, a purpose-driven life is not the default. Human nature is the default, and human nature brings with it unlimited dangers – including the trap called passivity.

How do we intentionally make Jesus just as much a part of everyday as a morning cup of coffee? I’ve been learning lately how to find Jesus in every moment of every day. But, Jesus-sighting rarely hit you  in the face like a talking donkey (let’s go back to those days, amirite?) Today, you often only find them if you are actively looking. See, that intentionality thing again!

Here’s the truth: it’s not hard to find the Holy if you are looking. Here’s how I found the Holy today, in a normal 8 hour work day. And let me tell you, if you can find the Holy in a cubicle, you can find it anywhere.

First, I saw my coworkers. Humans are an amazing reflection of God’s glory! Through doing my job processing mission trip forms, I was able to help youth groups get a step closer to ministering to others throughout the country. Jesus had His hand in that, I know it. When I was doing some marketing research, I stumbled across a church website with a Bible verse on the front page that hit me smack in the heart. I ate some M+Ms, which was just heavenly all around. And when I stepped out the front door, it was raining.

Now, it should be known that rain is not my favorite. I like water – properly contained in lakes and rivers and my water bottle. But after hovering at the door to the office for a solid 5 mins, I decided to make a dash for it. 15 seconds into the dash, I made a choice. I stopped dashing, and when I slowed down, I could see the Holy. The air was a little chilly, and the cold raindrops on the skin were taking my breath away, and that rain smell was filling my lungs, and the sun was doing that lens-flare thing that happens when there is a break in the clouds. Many people would have seen rain. I saw God pouring down a refreshing, beautiful drink on the land He created. I had goosebumps, sure, and when I got on the car my ponytail was less than perfect, but for just a bit, I got to breathe in the Holy.

In any situation, you have a choice. God is there; but will you let the situation cloud Him from view, or will you let Him be bigger than your situation? THIS is what it means to choose Jesus every day.

So, I challenge you. Tomorrow when you wake up, take a moment to choose Jesus. Let Him know that you’ve chosen Him (hint: He already knows, because He knows everything, but He really likes the simple faith it takes to tell Him.) Then, live your day with that choice in the forefront of your mind. Find Him in the moments and the problems.


And have some coffee, girl. Because if that isn’t a reflection of the heavenly, I don’t know what is.