Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Letting Go

I once heard a story regarding a lone mountain hiker. The looming cliff edges dropped endlessly on either side, rough and rugged and sure to bring death. Lugging a pack heavier than himself, he hiked steadily on, ignoring the beauty around him simply to arrive at his destination. A worn boot slipped on the gravel, his whole body catapulting downward. Reflexes will toned, he desperately grasped the rushing rock wall before him and watched the heavy pack hit the valley below and shrew its contents like paper. His breath caused his chest to rise and fall, parching his mouth of saliva in his fear of witnessing what could become of him if he had not caught the rock, if he let go. Muscles burning, he instantly started shouting for help, praying his cries would echo enough to attract another's attention. Minutes passed before a strange whisper traveled down the rock walls, causing slight shudders to shake his body.

Do you trust Me? Relief poured through the crevices of his mind, simply glad to know Someone had heard him. Yes! Yes! I trust You. Silence answered his response, worry furrowing his brow. You knew Me once, My child. Do you remember? Thoughts raced through his head, the many verses ingrained repeatedly in his feeble mind since childhood. Yes! I remember. I have always known You. I just do not always need You. The same whisper answered his honesty. Do you need Me now? Do you really trust Me? Desperation trickled into his voice, muscles ready to give up to fatigue. Yes! Yes! I trust You. Help me! The next words barely reached the man's ears. Then, let go. The silence, from both man and Whisperer, washed over the entire valley. Suddenly, the man shifted his weight on his hold and shouted again to the emptiness. Is anyone else there?!

Granted, the story itself is not true, but the message it carries is timeless. The words continued to echo in my mind for the following hours, haughtily berating the man for ever denying God's help and complete control over his life. What kind of Christ-follower would do such a thing, would deny such a miracle, would deny the extended hand of the Lord? Then it hit me: I am the man in that story. You are the man in that story. We are the man in that story.

How many times have we allowed our trust in the Lord to be based on the security of what He requests of us? How many times have we allowed ourselves to miss out on amazing opportunities, miraculous discovers, and pure friendships simply because we let our minds talk us into being useless, inadequate, too exposed, or not ready? The Lord did not call qualified men to follow Him; He did not chose the men pouring with wisdom and knowledge in every aspect of His law. He chose a former slave to save Egypt, He chose a fearful Queen to save her people, He chose a prostitute to be included in Christ's linage, He chose a man on the run to save the people of a sinful town, He chose a invisible young woman to bear His Son, He chose fishermen and a tax collector to follow Him. The Bible is full of ordinary people, of people who did nothing more than live their everyday lives, talents, and passions out for the glory of their Lord, even though no one else saw.

God did not chose people who knew much; He chose people who could learn much. He did not chose people who had it all figured out; He chose people who relied completely on His all-knowing plans. You are a Peter, a Joseph, a Mary, a John, a Joshua, a Caleb, a Jonah, a Matthew, a Ruth. You are just like the people of the Bible. You were meant for so much more than this life, so much more than what you are now. He longs to grow you, build you, push you, stretch you, change you, fill you, hold you, strengthen you. And one thing stands in your way. . . do you trust Him?

I am not talking about the kind of trust that thrives when you are secure in your job, when your marriage is amazing, when your plans are working out, when your passions are getting fulfilled. I am talking about the kind of trust that stands when you are stripped of your possessions, when you are stripped of your job, your wife, your finances, your country, your dignity; when you are all but hanging from a cliff, muscles cramping, eying your scattered dreams on the valley below you. Will you trust Him then? Will you let go? Will you, in your feeble, human understanding, let your mind settle on the thought of falling thousands of feet and not knowing if you will come out of the other side alive? Will you face that situation with tears of joy at His whisper and listen with an undying faith and trust in His goodness or will you instead turn to another simply to salvage what little life you have left?

Folks, what captivity do we subject ourselves to? How can we scream our freedom with chains still around out neck because we dare not trust, dare not fall, dare not seek the impossible? In every event in life, there is one choice you have to make at every corner, one decision. Will you trust and follow Him or will you trust and follow yourself? Life is not a science. The Lord Himself has said that he who loses his life will find it. He is your refuge; He is your strength; He is your faithful; He is your all. I don't know about you, but when I am hanging from a cliff looking thousands of miles downward, I pray with every piece of my heart that my trust, my faith, my hope in Him is strong enough that I will let go, that I will fall. What about you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Complete Abandon at the Foot of the Cross

Regret. You all know the feeling from your very core, filling every vacant corner of your floundering mind as soon as you discover that something could have been done differently, done better. A task assigned to you days ago failed to be completed to perfection, and the lectures from others have only begun. Yet, the voice that does the most lecturing, far more than any single person, is the voice inside your mind, wrecking havoc and tossing guilt in your face. It causes a divide in your thoughts, pulling your focus away from the tasks at hand to mentally correct your mistakes permanently apart of a past. As natural as this reaction may seem, have you ever considered how unhealthy it is? Look at what you are filling your mind with: anger, frustration, regret, possibly denial. Yet, God calls us to fill our minds with the good, with the reality of hope, love, and forgiveness. Why do we succumb to a lesser version of who God is calling us to be when we do something wrong, when we fail Him?

Please, do not mistake me here. Pondering on our actions of the past, learning from their consequences, and implicating lessons learned in the future is an absolutely necessary process to recognizing God's hand in our lives and growing in Him. But prolonged time spent looking in the past, discovering every possible angle we could have gone, and deceiving our minds into thinking that dwelling on that is part of the learning process hurts us and hurts our relationship with the Lord. God has chosen to look through Jesus, to look through Jesus's death on calvary, instead of our sinfulness. For us to chose the path of regret and self-beating only draws our mind away from the reality of Christ, from the reality of what Christ did for us. It deadens our inner balance, threatens our peace, and gives a foothold to the devil.

I speak of this with such urgency and forthrightness because I have been there and still go there. The temptation to rely on my own good works over God's grace is so real in my life, so raw. It has nothing to do with how confident I am in my Lord, my Salvation, and who I am at heart. It has everything to do with my desire to follow and please God taking precedence over my need to seek continually forgiveness, address sins, and recognize that perfectionism will not be the result. A mixture of apathy and pride guard this all too familiar thought-process, holding captive the true potential God has for me. It spreads seeds of doubt on the soil of my life, and it takes such careful steps to not let a drop of water fall on those seeds. I want to be a good example, live as a good example. Yet, at the same time, I do not always want to address the dark places of my heart because I know that which is hidden there will threaten to shake my foundation. The question I ask myself nearly every single day is will I rely on myself, on my own wisdom, or the wisdom of God in any given situation.

See, the line between pursuing good works and pursuing God is such a fine one. It is a line draw in sand and winds will eventually blow enough grains of sand into the crevasse to make it all but disappear from our sight. And every day we will inch closer to that line, simply to make sure we know where it is at. How utterly foolish. We should be running from that line. If the tidal waves of life are all that meet you upon running, meet them with the confidence that you are in God's ways and in His power and in His grace. The surface of His grace and His love for you will never crack and will hold any and all weight over the surface of your good works absent of grace. For every moment we live in this life, it is vital, necessary, to constantly bring the reality of the cross, what Christ did for us, to the very forefronts of our minds. Because, trust me folks, our feeble minds forget that reality all too often and get far too comfortable in our current lives and our current ways. Each and every one of us is all to grow, to grown in the Lord every second of every day. You cannot do that when you focus on doing good over seeking Him.

Our growth in Him directly corresponds with our willingness to seek Him with utter and complete abandon, to hold His love and grace so close to our hearts that we see everything else through that bright light. My heart is weak, my mind easily swayed, my ways flawed, my dreams tinted with impossibility, my footsteps uncertain, my thoughts marked by sinfulness, but not so are His. His heart is strong, His mind firm, His ways perfect, His dreams awe-inspiring, His footsteps deep and set, His thoughts pure. I do not know about you, but I want His; I want Him. And the only possible way I can draw close to Him and tap into His ways is by letting His love and His grace be my guide and letting His love for me grow with so much vigor that I cannot help but follow the ways of the good.

I reach out to your hearts with a plea today, with a hope that all ears would listen. We are not called to dwell on the past, to dwell on the actions of who we were days ago. Each minute we live is put into the history book of all time. The great men and women of history were not marked because of their failures so much as they were their ability to overcome failure and live a life that spoke to so many people in so many different ways. We have that opportunity standing right before us, waiting for us to cross the threshold between simply good to being great. We cannot look back; we can only look forward. Your future is not in your past; it is not in the hour that just passed. Your future is completely and totally enveloped within His presence, His hands, and His suffering for us. That is what we are called to. That is what we should pursue. That is what we should fill our minds with. We are the Lord's children, and we are His alone. Remember that fact whenever you are tempted to get by on your own dealings; whenever tempted to practice self-lecture; whenever tempted to draw close to the line in the sand. Dare to be bold; dare to live in His confidence; dare to be His.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Between the Rocks and Waters

A good friend of mine, Katie Daniels, so graciously honored me with a poem recently. Her thoughts triggered by some of our conversations, she built a beautiful piece of lyrical writing about who I am to her, who she sees me to be. I thought the best way to communicate my appreciation for her heart and time would be to simply turn it into a guest post on my own blog. Thus, without further-to-do, here is the said piece of artwork:

A deep pool of still water
You keep your secrets
A solid rock in turbulent streams
You keep your knowledge

Questions, doubts and answers swirl in the waters of life
Tossing, turning, asking and weeping
Our hearts laid bare to the sky above
Not daring to trust, not wanting to know

There must be someone we can trust!
Someone who sees! Someone who knows!
We cry to the sky, to our God.
Help us!

Peace and serenity, hiding the troubles below.
A riptide can pull you under if you swim too deep.
Look to long and you’ll fall in and drown,
For none escape that silence

A silence that holds secrets you do not tell
Until the time is right and we will know.
A solid rock. We hold fast. We trust you.

Do not keep your secrets simply because there are no ears.
You have friends all about you, some in places you cannot see.
Your silence is your mystery; it gives us strength.
Your knowledge is your stillness; it gives us hope.

Thank you, Katie!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Of Writing, Of God, Of Marriage

*takes deep breath* If some of you have been looking forward to another one of those long posts of mine, you definitely have one coming now. I thought about making this into two separate posts, but I think everything just connects so well that it might be better to tell it all together. Grab your cup of coffee and your laptop. . . this may or may not take a while.

First off, I am sure many of you are anxious to know how NaNo is going. Believe me, God has blessed me beyond measure with my writing abilities and my capacity for truly pouring heart and soul into every page, every word. I hit about eighty-thousand words in total, and then slowed down drastically, partly due to illness and partly due to some exciting offers and opportunities God has been handing me left and right. This past month as been no less than breath-taking to be sure when it comes to all He has given me.

Yet, in the midst of all He has given, He has taught. In the midst of all He has developed, He has also torn down. In the midst of glory, He humbled. I am sure most of you have noticed the new blog look, if you are reading this post right now. The new blog look comes with a change in mind, change in heart, change in purpose. The teen years are definitely years when the most growing and shaping can occur, if willing. Folks, I am going back to my roots, to who I am at heart. But, at the same time, I am seeking balance for some new ideas that have been cultivating themselves in my heart, within much unwillingness I might add as well.

On invitation of a good friend, I have decided to explain what I have meant in the past by saying that 'I do not want to get married.' I think I have a much better phrasing for that now: 'I do not plan on getting married.' However, do not jump ahead of me here, not yet. There is much to tell in this tale.

Years ago, on the day that marked the start of high school and the start of my journey as a Christian, I pledged to not accept or even ponder on the idea of dating or courting until I had solidly graduated from high school. Those four years turned out to be a lot easier than I would have thought. The people surrounding me within the public school system did little to encourage me at all in wanting to pursue relationships, often times pushing me away to the point that I became a rather hard person to even be able to deal with a lot of situations at the level that I needed to. Honestly, I wanted nothing to do with guys. I could get by in my own way, in my own timing, through my own methods. I was a strong girl; I never reacted emotionally to situations (still do not); I never let anyone be disillusioned in thinking they could beat me in sports or subdue me in any way (still do not); I never let others' opinions phase my choices based on insecurity (still do not). I walked into an atmosphere where my only protection came from me and the only protection for my friends came from me. I did not take nonsense and still will not.

Yet, as hard as I fought the juices of feminism that ran through my veins whenever permitted, I never truly conquered it, never truly wanted to. I still believed myself to be unfit for the home life, wanting nothing to do with men or children in the future; it just was not my thing, if you get my drift. I am sure that it did not help I was far from a people-person, preferring my home and seclusion more than with a group of people; give me nature, give me my writing, but please never give me a party. Despite it all, God has started a work in my heart I will never forget, a work of moving me from denying the goodness of this world as a result of the evil I have seen.

As much as I hate to reveal it, I have discovered that marriage may be a good thing, relationships may be a good thing, a future as wife/mother may be a good thing. A great deal of this proof stems from some amazing friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who have spent over a year in proving that there is good out there in this area just as much as there is evil. For the first time ever, in my life, I can honestly say I have come across a few guys I can consider 'good.' And what a miraculous discovery that was.

In all of this, I am probably greatly straying from my points, but I am attempting to take you on a journey, on my path of reasoning. God has changed my heart, my desire to live forever single and turn down any and all potential guys on sight. Instead, He has replaced it all with a faint hope, a glimmer of something more possibly lighting my world in the future. I can say this much; I will never give up my love for adventure, for the outdoors, for the physical labor, for sports. It is not in me to give up my passions simply for a change of heart, as I do not believe I must in order to follow God's calling. I am not changing who I am; I am changing how I view a specific situation.

So, my passions to be a totally career focused woman. . . changing. My passions for the specific careers I have spelled out I will still pursue whole-heartedly, but I am willing to change those plans should God change the direction of my life. Okay. . . you want it straight? I would like to be a wife and/or a mother in the future. But, I will say it this way. . . good luck finding a guy that would like to have a wife like me. I say that not harshly or with any amount of pride, but honestly and as forthrightly as I can. I will not be planning my life around marriage. I will be pursuing my dreams and if God choses to bless me with marriage, then so be it. I will not drag my feet and state an absolute no anymore, I promise.

So, all in all, my first post back contains a few different subjects, but I think the point remains steady through it all; God is still working in my life and changing my heart one piece at a time. Not only that, He is proving that they are pieces I can accept. I fully realize I am one of the most stubborn girls some people will ever meet and yes, that translates into my relationship with the Lord at times. At least this time, it only took me two months to accept, contemplate, pray, and read about the change rather than a year. God is so good!

Up until now, it has been all about me, but I want to speak to you all directly in regards to what I have learned. Not only have I learned to recognize Satan loves to tint what is good, but I have also learned that we, as humans, sometimes avoid the good the same as evil in order to avoid any possibility of falling, of failing. Not only have I learned that God can change my heart and plans drastically within a short amount of time, but I have also learned that He can change my heart without changing my love for certain activities or hobbies of mine. I do not have to change to fulfill a plan of God's; I simply have to be willing to move when He calls and go wherever He calls. Everything else. . . will fall into its place.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taking a Pause. . .

As some of you already know, I will be spending the entire month of November writing and writing and writing and writing. . . and I think you get the idea. A few friends of mine had spoken of NaNoWriMo before, but due to my school schedule and sports and speech competitions, I let the competition/challenge pass me by last year. Though some had said I should continue with it and just set a lower goal, my character simply would not allow it. I am an all or nothing person. I either put every single breath of life into something I love and want to succeed in or I do not put any effort in it at all. In case you were wondering, it does definitely form a rather insane lifestyle choice for me, but the aspiration and enjoyment I glean from it cannot be surpassed. Therefore, I will be completing NaNoWriMo this year, but with my own purpose and my own twist to the whole situation.

The entire premise of NaNo centers on writing a 50,000 word novel within thirty days. You cannot work on a halfway finished novel or combine a bunch of your old works simply to make a new work. . . no, that is cheating, my friends. You must start from the very beginning, from the very first word, and write a full 50,000 words of a novel. I will admit; such a high number seems like a monumental goal. But, for me, with six hours of a day dedicated solely to writing as it is, 50,000 words is not nearly enough. Thus, I have decided 100,000 words, most likely increasing to 150,000 words in the near future, is a reasonable goal for me. Such a goal requires five dedicated six hour days a week for three weeks, 10,000 words a day (sometimes it will only be 5,000 words mind you), two chapters per day (sometimes it may only be one), and one week of rest within the month of November. If you thought I represented insanity before, what think you now? But, wait. . . there is more.

The novel I am writing for NaNo is not just a combination of words I hope to file away for future reference or proof that I had achieved my goal. This novel will not stay hidden within my computer files like the rest of the ones I have written do. It will be sent out in hopes of publishing, in hopes of achieving something I believe God has laid upon my heart to pursue. Such a bold step into the world of actually copyrighting my work rather than just handing it out to people will not be easy, will not be achievable without faith in my Lord. While nothing is impossible with God, nothing is possible without faith. For me, this is a leap of faith, both in the manner of achieving 100,000-150,000 words in a month and seeking publishing, but I will do it. I will do this for the glory of my God.

However, I must ask you all to wait patiently on me during this time. I will not be posting on my blog at all for the month of November, as I do not wish to stifle my creativity more than I already do for the numerous other outlets I currently write for. I will be neglecting my blog for the time being, four whole weeks to be exact. Once I enter the editing process on my novel, I should be able to come back and post for you all again. I beg tolerance of you while I disappear for a while. If you would like to comment with encouragement, as many of you have so blessed me with in the past, I will definitely be reading every single comment and smiling at your kind words and thoughts. Your thoughts and prayers for this endeavor hold more value than anything I can think of. But as of now, this will be the last you hear from me for a while.

Disclaimer: I only post this to keep everyone updated. Please do not in any way feel discouraged if your word count is less than mine. I have every confidence that you are trying your hardest and are doing fantastic jobs and would love to encourage you in continuing that! Your success is not based on mine, but on your own goals and your own heart in doing it for the glory of God. Please do not feel compelled to try and catch up to me simply for the sake of feeling you need to in order to succeed. Keep up the awesome job you all are doing! :D

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How My Passion for Writing Began

I am sure that many of my readers on here have noticed by absence for the last few weeks. My disappearance did not so much result because of busyness as it did for a lack of really having anything to convey to you all. Therefore, I took the liberty of simply asking folks, the ones who came to me that is about being gone, what they would like to see, since I was clearly fresh out of ideas. I must say, the response came as a rather large surprise, in that they all wanted to know a little more about me from a personal perspective. And so, the most common question asked actually became how my interest and my love for writing even came about. So, in an effort to answer that question, here is my exposition:

The beginning of my writing years does not receive an actual pinpointed date, but more of a general time frame. Ever since youth (by youth, I'm looking at elementary school level), reading any book I could lay my hands on became a rather large fascination to me. In fact, come twelve to thirteen years old, I had completely read and absorbed every single book deemed a 'classic.' I developed such a love for the fluidity of the old writing style that modern books gradually became rather distasteful actually.

But, when I entered my high school years, I hungered greatly for fantasy, science fiction, historical biographies, and theology to no ends. I read numerous, piles upon piles, of theology books and fantasy books and science fiction and historical biography books, falling in love with the writing style and feeling drawn to the very worlds these authors created and/or depicted. Within a year, I added Dekker and Peretti novels to my collection, intrigued by the darker side of fiction as well. With my yearly quota of books reaching about a book for every day of the year, sometimes even more, I had pretty much exhausted my interests and left with little to read and soak in that attracted me. Thus, I turned to writing. Freshman year of high school marked the beginning of my writing period, starting out with essays for school deemed amazing and slowly increasing into novels. By the summer after Freshman year, I had set a goal to write two full sized novels (80,000-150,000 words) every single summer of my high school career. And accomplish that goal I did.

I began to fall in love with poetry, seeing as I had wore out my fictional references. Seeing as my Mother is actually a poetry writer (she has a collection of over three hundred poems, all written throughout her adult years), I decided to try my hand at that. And, believe it or not, I succeeded, developing over one hundred poems of my own written over the past three years. Around Junior year, I began an official editor for many of my classmates and teachers, thriving in learning and perfecting the art of grammar. About this time, I really feel in love with writing, head over heels in fact. I would write something every single day, whether it be an essay, article, tutorial, forum post, or chapter of a novel currently being developed. My life became one of fantasy worlds and drowning out all noise simply to write anything and everything. I soon joined several teen-lead magazines and publications and started a blog. Unbeknown to me, my articles were circulating the internet with people I did not even know. But, I simply continued to write, always accepting and adoring any new critique on my writing from all who gave it. It became my greatest desire to simply improve and hone my writing skills above all else.

About Senior year, I sought chose a career field that I wanted to enter in and start college for. Since I possessed such a passion for writing, I wanted to become a journalist, a writer as my first choice. But, as I got to thinking, I realized that writing is more of something I do all the time. While I wanted a career that used my skills for God's glory, I also wanted to seek a career that would challenge me and combine a number of my skills. For these reasons, I decided to pursue a career in law, utilizing my writing, speaking, memory, and people skills all in one. However, I can firmly say that while law is a huge passion in my life, I do fully intend to become a writer, a published author of novels. And I will put my heart into that because it is a very monumental goal I hope to achieve for His glory.

My perspective on writing has greatly changed, as I no longer see it as something I do simply for my own benefit. I now recognize it as being a way to speak to people, to reach the hearts of many whom I may never meet. With this in mind, I still continue to write, with much more purpose and resolve than I ever have before I might add. If you must know what I have written in the past, here is the list: fictional novels, non-fiction books, tutorials, essays, articles, reflections, reviews, critiques, poetry, short stories, and posts on forums of course. I hope to add to that list as I continue through life, as I hope to add to my knowledge and skills in the field of writing. Even if the career in law does not pan out, I firmly believe that God will continue to direct my heart in the path of writing, as He has continued to do it for many years now; though, I am always subject to change.

I guess, in conclusion to it all, I would like to encourage anyone reading this to pursue your passions as I have mine. This life is too short, too valuable, to be lived doing something God has not laid on your heart and equipped you with doing. Don't settle for others' dreams of what your life could be; dare to dream big and to pursue those dreams with your whole life. You never know; your journey through life and how your love for something started may be the very path given to you in order to prepare you to live out that passion. While my writing story comes from a personal standpoint as a result of being asked a specific question, my overall message is not one of myself but of what the Lord can do through a mere human being like myself. He is doing the same kind of amazing and mystifying work in you, in past, present, and future. The question is not what can you do, but what is He calling you to do? That, my friends, is where our eyes should be focused.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Passion Is Found

Death. Such a cheery topic to think about. I remember in school when the teacher asked the infamous question of who in the room has some reservation about dying. I watched as every hand in the room was raised. . . except mine. The teacher looked at me for a moment and then dared to ask me why I had not risen my hand. With a small smile, I simply said: "I live today purely because I am given another breath of life. My purpose in life is not to fear or think of death, but simply to choose each moment based on whether or not I am honoring my Lord. And whether or not that brings me to death on this Earth, in the end it only matters that it was about Him." The teacher kind of smiled at me and asked whether or not I would ever miss the opportunity to live to an old age and die with many grandchildren. And I simply shook my head and said: "To be honest, ma'am, I never considered living to an old age. I have just sort of assumed that I would die before then." I think I left her speechless with such a contrary view towards life. I knew that many students in that room lived with a invincible kind of attitude, that they would always have tomorrow. And what I said that day, brought silence to the room. They did not know what to say to someone who spoke of dying as an event that was to happen within seconds rather than years.

While I am about four years older now, I still live my days expecting death to be a reality that may be just around the corner. I stand thankful for the four years the Lord has given me after that speech in front of that class. And I can tell you for sure. . . I'm still living, loving, and laughing. But there are times when I wonder what I truly want out of this life. There are days when I make the same plans that everyone else makes: education, career, finances, and so forth. Then, there are days when I wonder when it will all end, when I can finally just pursue my one passion without everything else getting in the way. See, I don't fear death nearly as much as I do a worldly life. I am always told that everything in this world takes money. No, it doesn't. I can leave everything I own right now, walk away with the clothes on my back, and leave this nation to another and will probably find a place somewhere. I already have a home in Heaven, and it is waiting for me to return. Until then, I am simply a traveler seeking a place to exist for the time being. My impact on this world may be small, it may be large. It does not matter. All that matters is that I make the choice every second of my life to live like it were my last in the Lord's name.

I cannot even begin to describe the passion that simply takes hold of my heart these days. There is this feeling that my life is whole lot simpler, a whole lot more real. I have given up the planning step-by-step for the future or hoping that there is one. I simply listen to the calling of my heart and go where the Lord has given me a passion for. I live each second striving to make the choice between Him and the world in everything I do. I live and breath purely because of His grace and His love for me. I live with a drive that I want my life to mean something, mean something for Him and no one else. This life is not enough for me. This trivial existence on some planet is not enough for me. I am left suffocating when I live within the boundaries of this world. But, folks, Jesus is enough for me. Jesus holds the keys to my adventures, triumphs, and failures. Jesus is my all.

And I stand here to tell you that this life, if not lived within His life, is not enough for you. You will grow faint and weary; you will stumble and fall. But, not I. I will soar on wings like eagles. I will run and not faint. I will walk and not fall. I live within a power is the so much greater than I; so much more inspiring and breath-taking than I. I grow weary when I try to fix things myself. I fall when I try to take Jesus's passion out of life. I stumble when I silence the songs of His praises and His promises upon my lips. I cannot stand still. When I gave every piece of my life to my Lord, something greater, something more powerful than I can describe took place in my heart. I found the adventure, the thrill I had been seeking for years.

See, we do not tire or fade away when the passion of Jesus Christ grips our hearts and lives. How can we? We become a temple, a holy body in which His spirit dwells in. And as the spirit grows in us, so will the passion. God has the power to do absolutely amazing things in our lives, and things not necessarily noticed by the public. When you give Jesus your all, you cannot prepare for where He will take you, on what awe-inspiring journey you will take apart in. I stand here and I make a choice, every second I live and every second death comes closer to reality: will I let His passion be silent or will I shout it to the nations at every opportunity? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. What about you?

Monday, September 20, 2010

I Am Just Me

My mind and heart have been wrestling as of late. I feel called in different directions, pursuits, passions, talents, and careers. I often pray fervently as I consider the conversations of my heart and the arguments of my mind. I search His word for some purpose, something that can provide a clear arrow one direction or a clear arrow the other. In the end, all I find are the continual callings of the Lord and the passions He has laid upon my heart. However, something seemingly more binding than the Lord has been stepping in to stop my dreams or to hold my passions at bay. It seems that the voices of people echo in my ears more and more these days, the voices of people of radically different opinions. I have people tell me that my beliefs are so liberal and are not God's design, that my actions are destroying my chances of being the woman God called me to be. I also have people tell me that my beliefs are far too conservative and that I am limiting myself from ever becoming who I was meant to be. I have friendships and acquaintances that love me and care for me, but only if I conform to who they want me to be, who they envision me becoming, or who they think they can change me into. While I am a strong and stubborn person at heart, I will be the first to admit that the voices of those people echo through my mind as I wrestle with career and future decisions.

A few days ago, I finally just sat down and said 'enough.' I am done with trying to become a me that people want me to be. My fears of what people think or what they will think or what they are thinking about are doing nothing but holding me back. My allowance of their voices to carry so much weight in my decisions in life are doing nothing but making me an indecisive person. My temptation to go with the people's opinions is doing nothing but drowning out God's opinion. I am God's child and that is who I find my identity in. My heart is being continually shaped by His grace and that is what defines me. My life is a reflection of His power and His love and that is what people are to see. It does not matter where I am called to serve His kingdom or what He has gifted me with as far as talents and passions go; all I need to do is learn to use what He has given me entirely for His glory. And while many people may have good and honest intentions in saying or coaching how they do, their opinions may just lead me away from who I was called to be. I am me. I will always be me. I have always been me. And that me will never be the me you want me to be; it will always and only be the me that God wants me to be.

See, I do not fit in with the stereotypical woman ideal. I do not plan on getting married. If God brings a godly man into my life in the future and He leads me then towards marriage, then I will probably consider getting married. But, I am not and will not plan my life around that. I have never really felt the desire or calling to learn the techniques of providing and running a home. Can I do it? Yes. But do I do it as of now? No. Instead, I desire a fast-paced and challenging career life. I love to learn and work. After many years of prayer, I still feel strongly called to a career that will most likely place me in a leadership position and will require full-time commitment on that level. Can God change my passions for that? Absolutely, but He has not yet. To some, this may seem like I am entering a man's realm rather than staying in the designed household realm for women. But, let me show you the flip side. I certainly do not exhibit the ideals of a worldly woman either. I greatly respect and recognize the leadership of men, as God has given them a role of leadership in family and in the workplace. I do not seek a career simply to prove to the world that I can do it better than a man. I do not look for ways to hold power over men that is just sickening and horrible. Let's put it this way. . . I am neither. I firmly and completely believe the living radically for Christ means not letting stereotypes lead your life, and that is what I stand on.

When I look around me, I see so many people that befriend others simply because they fit a stereotype or some preconceived ideal. I tell you. . . It makes me sick. My heart just sinks when I see someone probing someone to become something they are not. Friends are not people who coach you to become someone else; friends are people who will stand by your side, no matter who you are or who you will become, and probe you to pursue God with every piece of your heart. Each and every one of us, man or woman, will be called somewhere, somewhere different than the person sitting next to you. And it is not our job to stand in the way of that calling (unless of course it is something completely against biblical standards); instead, it is our job to support, encourage, advise, and listen as the person seeks to pursue God with his/her all towards that calling. I don't know about you, but I know that with me, I desire people who love me for me. Yes, God will continue shaping and changing my heart, which will in turn shape and change my future. But, in the end. . . if you can't love me how I am now, you won't love me in who I become.

I am radical. I love my Lord, and I seek to love Him with all my heart, mind, and soul. And while I realize that my decisions in life may not sit well with certain people, that is not my concern. My concern is that I use the gifts, the talents, the passions, the directions, and the paths that the Lord has laid before me, and that I use them to further His kingdom with every breath within me. I may not be designed to be a household runner at heart. . . but He can use my drive for a life of stress and career to bless others at His will. I may not be designed to naturally adore and simply seek to be around all children. . . but He can use my passion to lead people and to teach people in ways that will show His love to others uniquely and beautifully. I may not be the type of person some of you envisioned me to be. . . but He will continue to draw me closer to the me He envisioned me to be. My definition of living radically for the Lord is simply to follow Him, in all I do and in all I dream of doing. If your calling is to be a wife and mother, I am so blessed to know you. You ladies bring balance and gentleness to this world that I would sincerely miss otherwise, and I want you to know that so it does not seem like I am undermining that path in any way. I just am simply not called that way, at this point and time in my life.

Basically, the message that I want you all to take from this: when you get to know me, I hope that you get to know the real me; I hope you don't get to know a vision of who I can or will be. When you get to know me, I hope you see the Lord's hand moving in my life much more powerfully than my personality or my position in life. When you get to know me, I hope that you do not try and classify me in some stereotype. When you get to know me, I hope you become inspired and feel completely comfortable to be the real you. When you get to know me, I hope that my life on the inside matches my life on the outside. No matter what I choose to do or where the Lord calls me in this world, I hope beyond anything that my heart will be nothing but that of a godly woman pursuing an intimate and all-encompassing relationship with her Lord and Savior. That, my friends, is who I want to be.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trading Dark for Dawn

You know those late night phone calls? The ones that happen at two or three in the morning and you roll over groaning because you know it cannot be good? I get those a lot. The home phone, the phone that we are all lazy in the household and merely look at it waiting for mom or dad to answer it, has only done that a total of five times that I can consciously remember. My cell phone? Well, it has done a little more than that, but still, the times can be counted under about thirty. So, when I say that I get those phone calls a lot, what phone am I talking about? My heart actually.

The phone that never seems to stop ringing. There are just those nights that no matter how many times I roll around and mess up my once military perfect covers, I just can't sleep. The ringing becomes so annoying that laying there is not doing much good. So, you guessed it, I find a blanket and start roaming the halls. My fingers grasp all the night-lights that like to keep the house lit up like a helicopter pad. For the next hour, those night-lights are going to be unplugged from their source of electricity so that I can peacefully navigate my way through darkened halls, stairways and places where seeing your hand in front of you is just not possible.

I like a dark house. I like to stay up late into the night and sleep through the daylight. The darker my surroundings are, the more cloaked and mysterious life seems to be. There is just something about the darkness that fascinates me. Perhaps it's the fact that walking in such blackness forces one to rely on the confidence of footsteps. Or maybe it's the fact that tiny little flaws cannot be noticed to bug you or cause you to veer off course. What about that feeling that there could be someone around the corner that you will not be able to see until it is too late. How about the silence that penetrates everything around you and magnifies every barely noticeable sound? Maybe I will never know why the darkness fascinates me. . . maybe I will never see the light. . . maybe, just maybe I am too afraid to let go of the darkness.

As much as we may like to think otherwise, we live in a dark world. How often do we, us humans, grab a blanket and wonder around the halls at night? How often do we place a trust that cannot be seen or built on the unknown places shrouded by darkness? You remember those night-lights I unplug at night? When I am done wondering, they are still lying on the ground. Only because I have seen and memorized all those places do I know were exactly to place my fingers to grasp the light again and put it back in its source.

There will be times in this life where the darkness seems more appealing. There will be times in our lives where the world calls our heart, within the darkness that already surrounds us, annoys us so much that we dare to climb off the safe path and traverse the walkways unlit. Our hearts' fingers will grasp those lights that remain in our soul and unplug them from the source. It happens. It happens when we chose to go our own way. And in our own way, the darkness leads us astray. Pretty soon, your memory will fail. Your fingers will not find the source. You will be standing there holding a unplugged night-light in your hand. And you, yes you, will not know what's around that corner and will not trust anything but your feet and will not see the hideous flaws as you pass them by.

But, it does not have to end in such a frightening fashion. There is and always has been a dawn waiting to rise and light up your path, but you have to wait for it. There have been so many times in my life when I think I know best. I do not chose to wait out the ringing or to hang up on the caller as quickly as I can. My dreams lie right and front of me. And though God closes doors, I feel that I have the power to open them. Unknowingly to me, I am not opening the doors nearly as much as I breaking through the door. It has taken me so many runs in the darkness of the night for me to realize that maybe I do not know best; maybe dawn is better than blackness; maybe, just maybe, God actually knows what He is doing when He shuts those doors.

My dreams are big, but God is bigger. My hopes are broad, but God is broader. My desires sparkle, but God sparkles more. Before you answer those late night phone calls when you feel that your dreams are falling apart, before you traverse the halls unplugging your very soul from His light, before you get lost and forget about the hope of dawn, let your heart rest assured that if God takes away your dreams, it is likely because your's were too small in comparison to His. Perhaps God knows a dream that would replace thousands of your's. The question is. . . do you have the patience to wait for it?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Life of Authenticity

I used to spend a good part of my days searching for the principles and the ways to implicate the definitions of humility, selflessness, love, grace, forgiveness, openness, and the list goes on and on. But, I could never get there. No matter which road I followed or what tree I chose to climb or what animal track I determined to pursue, I could never get there. I was stuck living a life where I would walk out into the world wearing my shroud of politeness, firmness, and understanding. My chest would rise as I took that deep breath before walking into the door with my smile that I hoped would last me for as long as I needed it. I was valued, thought highly off, and sought after. But, still, something was missing, something big. I was missing me. They were chasing the woman I wanted to be, just as I was. I was chasing authenticity; a heart that backed up every smile, word, and gesture; a hand that moved to help, nurture, and cultivate automatically; a mouth to speak words of comfort, grace, and forgiveness within a moment's notice; a head that filled with pure, praise-filled, and truthful thoughts; a life that simply, yet amazingly, lived only in the pursuit of Christ and nothing else.

I walk down the street and I see a business woman frantically fidgeting with her phone, trying to schedule her meetings within an impossible time frame. She throws me a pasted on smile, one I have seen so many times, and hustles to the next street corner. With that one look, she tells the world that she's not here because she wants to be but because she needs to be. I turn the corner into a local coffee shop and see a young man serving coffee as fast as he can get it in the cup and on the counter. My turn comes and he barely catches my eyes, avoids any conversation, and frowns the entire time he's taking my order. His gestures tell me that I am taking up his time and that this is not where he desires to be but where he told to be. Finally, I make my trip down to the nearest flower shop and there stands a woman, elderly in age, joyfully and agilely choosing the perfect flowers and arranging them gladly while singing her favorite song. Upon the ring of the bell, her head turns and a glint just shines from her eyes as she greets and converses with me out of her own doing. I ask why she would still be working here when it is clear that she need not be, and she just grins and says "But, honey, what else am I supposed to do all day? How am I serving people and living as a light in their lives when I'm stuck all alone in my home?" All I could think when I left that shop was "That's what I want to be."

Living a life of authenticity has absolutely nothing to do with where you work or what your talents are. It does not thrive on the money you make or the people you meet. It does not build a foundation on the conversations in which you display just how well you are connected to hotshots in this world. Your life is about you and God. Your life is about what you make of what you got. You can work the most dead end job in the world and still work it with a joy in your heart and gestures that cannot be matched! I look outside and I see birds that just spend their days chirping away. But, as I listen more closely, I realize that every chirp is a bit different than the next. Yet, they never cease. Their job is to provide song to the world and to liven the world with joy. And they do just that, day in and day out! I can go to church and people are singing loudly and out of tune around me with arms upraised, not because they have to be but because they want to be.

Authenticity does not grow out of some effort of ourselves to achieve the heart of perfection or live a life that cannot be critiqued. Authenticity is developing a character that cannot be denied because it is so real, so graspable, so moving, that it points directly to the Lord. It is developing a heart that cannot be shifted from being in the flow of the spirit. It is values that can be poked at from every direction and be found still standing and firm. It is a life the puts the Lord first and builds everything around it. It is a mind that longs to think on the praises of the Lord and hands the long to move in ways that joyfully display our servitude to Him. This life is not about building a reputation that needs to be kept constantly intact so that people can honor you more. No! This life is about letting God build a deeply set character that not a single person can claim is fake or guarded. It is about God shaping our hearts to become so amazingly real and touchable that we cannot help but be a light for Him.

One of our pastors said something that I will never forget. "I don't know about you, but at my funeral, whenever that may be, I don't want people just talking about how I was a character nearly as much as I want people talking about my character." I feel the same weight on my heart. I do not want to leave a mark on this world that simply says "I was here." I want to leave a mark on this world that says "I am still here." Because, an authentic person, a person who is entirely true to their being and lives out that trueness, giving to all others, does not leave this world all together. That person leaves fingerprints all over the people they touched in their lives, the work they completed in His name, and the places they walked through during their lives. That person shined so completely for Christ that their seeds continue to be cultivated by the Lord for years to come. It is not about what you bring into this world; it is about what you leave behind. And I challenge you, each and every single one of you, to live a life of authenticity. A life that is so real and so touching and so much of Him that your funeral will be a place of blessing. A life that cannot be contradicted or degraded because there was no end to your transparency and willingness to grow within that transparency. Let this life be lived for Christ with such boldness and openness that we become the very definitions of authenticity.

Monday, September 6, 2010

We Are Called to Be Ourselves

A couple days ago, an acquaintance of mine came up to me and said "I need to talk with you about Christianity." Of course, me being how I am said 'absolutely' and followed them to a quieter place to discuss it. And the conversation went something like this:

"I hear so much about 'becoming more like Jesus' and taking on the characteristics of the Savior from so many Christians. Yet, I am not looking for that. I am not looking for becoming somebody or taking on characteristics of someone else. I have tried that so many times throughout my years and it has never made me happier or more satisfied. Yet, Christian's claim that taking on the characteristics of someone else, this one person, is supposed to fill me up? I really don't get it. I don't want to become someone; I want to be who I am and stay that way."

"I see what you are saying, but I think you have it all wrong. God isn't asking you to change who you are; God is asking you to follow Him. Jesus isn't looking for a duplicate of Himself; Jesus is looking for someone who is willing to follow Him in achieving the same purpose in life. Sometimes people make Christianity more into a religion than the relationship it actually is. Religion demands you change; relationship gives new direction."

"Okay, so am I actually supposed to change?"

"No, you are not supposed to change. In fact, you cannot make yourself change. The change happens as the Lord shapes your life around His purpose."

While there was more to that specific conversation, this little bit started me thinking. I find so many Christians who are seeking change and cloaking themselves with rigorous schedules or enhanced knowledge simply to get further towards that change. Sometimes we naturally begin to equate 'becoming more like Christ' to 'changing who we are.' We make Christianity a religion rather than a relationship. We create expectations for ourselves that cannot be achieved by ourselves. And we deceive ourselves into thinking that God will help us achieve what we have now set out to accomplish.

Let me explain it this way: come to the Lord as you are, with the characteristics that you already possess, and continue to possess those characteristics throughout your relationship with Him. God is not going to strip the characteristics you already have in order to make you a brand new person, but He is going to give you a new purpose for which you are to use those characteristics for. Before you were brought into His grace, the purpose by which you lived your life by amounted to nothing other than self-fulfillment and sin. But, upon entering into a covenant with Christ, the purpose by which you live your life becomes one of glorifying Him and being a light to Him. Those same qualities you possessed before are the same that you possess afterwards. However, the purpose with which you implicate those characteristics and the goals in which you strive to achieve through utilizing those qualities changes.

If you are naturally sacrificial in nature, then you will continue to be sacrificial, but to a different end. If you are naturally an introvert, then you will continue to be an introvert but to a different purpose. If you are naturally a talker, then you will continue to be a talker but to a different message. If you are naturally a wood-worker, then you will continue to be a wood-worker but to a different result. Your identity and who you are will never be lost; they will be redefined. You can be your complete and total self with the Lord, but do not expect to stay the same throughout the relationship. God loves to let His light change people by the way of making each and every one of their individual characteristics be a magnetic to Him.

I know in my life I run across people who have completely different qualities and beliefs on certain issues than I do; they have different strengths or outlooks. Too often a time have I looked at their qualities and coveted them because I think they are better or more developed than mine are. Recently, I have begun to fully realize that if I took on their qualities, I would lose my identity and end up pursuing another identity. When we are walking with Christ, we do not lose our identity; we give it a new focus. My tendency to give up my life for another without hesitation is a gift from God that I can pursue all for His glory. Another person may view my attitude as reckless and that view can be used for the glory of God as well. We are not all to become clones to one another; we are to provide balance to one another.

That is why the body of Christ, the church, is so important; that is why fellowship is so important. Where others go one way, there is always someone else who goes the opposite way. And we need those people to occasionally knock sense into us and realize that we may not be using our qualities to the glory of the Lord as much as we think we are. The whole message of Christianity is not to change into another person but rather to let the relationship with the Lord of Heaven and Earth change the ideals that we so desperately pursue, to change the direction we are headed. So, we may all take comfort in the fact that we are not called to be someone else; that is religion. Instead, we are called to pursue something else; that is relationship.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Purpose in the Blur and the Stillness

I sit here late into the night (or more appropriately, early in the morning) just pondering life and what it will be like over the next few months. I am an odd person in general when it comes to life. The more things I have going on and the more stressful and aggravating deadlines I have coming up, the more efficiently projects and goals get accomplished. In fact, the busier I am, the more I get done. However, when I hit dead times in my life when my schedule is fairly flexible and is not run in a military and uncompromisable fashion, I actually get less done and want to do nothing. I get bored; I get slack; I get lazy. I deal with life the best when the next week's schedule is anything but predictable and when the schedule is filled with so many things that getting them done seems impossible. I thrive in an insane and impossible lifestyle. Without that insanity and commitment to things that are coming up impossibly fast, I get bored and slack off; I give up really pursuing those goals because I lose focus and purpose.

And what am I doing as I am thinking about this subject? Sitting here. How ironically appropriate to the coaching that I am about to give here. See, I have begun to realize that life is not a game where the events and problems come to your doorstep. Most of the time, we have to go find them. Yet, we spend so much of our lives pining away over what we could do and what opportunities there are out there and waiting for them to approach us before we can approach them. It is interesting how a lack of courage, commitment, desire, truth, heart, and spirit is displayed in such complacent actions within our lives. I will be honest: there is probably not a whole lot I can do outside of what is around me at the moment. However, I can definitely take that step of faith and action and make the most of what I have got right in front of me. That strict schedule that I have put off making for the past so many weeks (okay. . . maybe months or years is a better term) could actually be made and adhered to. Maybe those books on the shelf that I have been 'planning' to read for the last so many weeks will actually get read. Maybe the regular cleaning or exercise program I have been wanting to implicate will actually become reality this time. That is a lot of maybes.

The truth of the matter is that I am never really bored or lacking items to do; I am only lacking interest in what I could do. I spend my life wishing that things would happen and events would take place that would simply spark my interest in life. I sit back so many times and just look at life and ask myself, "What are we fighting for?" I look for purpose, need, response, impact, and eternal meaning in just about everything I do. I will literally slack off on tasks that I deem to be pointless or meaningless. I do not slack off on them because they do not have to be done; most of the time, they actually do have to be done. But, I lose sight of that purpose; I lose sight of what I am fighting for. And as I type this out, I just shake my head at my reoccurring need to always try and find that purpose when the purpose is right before my eyes. I became a Christian because I was looking for something that would keep my interest and something the would fulfill my desire for a purpose in this life. And I found so much more than that in the Lord; I found a love that replaces the need for anything and everything.

But, I forget, as I am sure we all do. I get so caught up in the lesser things of life that I lose my passion and my deep desire to continually fight. I get worn out deep down at heart, fighting against the feeling of inadequacy and pointlessness. And what do I do? I keep fighting, by myself. Instances like these just remind me of how much of a fool I can be at times, of how much I could lose at any moment as soon as my whole life fails to be based upon Him. One of my favorite song that just hits home every time I hear it is More Like Falling in Love by Jason Gray. The entire song speaks volumes of who I really am at heart. I will break rules; I will fight wholesome words; I will cross lines. I need something much more than a religion to satisfy my heart. I need something that is overflowing and something that I can give my whole heart to. I need a relationship the just destroys all needs for rules and boundaries. And so do you.

There is something so amazingly comforting, awe-inspiring, and joyous about Him being the solution to all my desires. Everything I do on this earth stems from the completely fulfilling relationship that I have with my Father. Though my heart is completely and utterly stubborn by nature, He is slowly but surely teaching it lessons through the everyday things of life. I do not need to be super busy or running around like an insane person to get things done and accomplish much in this life. Is it Biblical to work as much as we can with whatever we have for His glory? Absolutely! But, that does not mean that I am to go after life with an attitude of always overloading myself for the sake of having little free time. I will get tired and worn out and I will lose focus. I know that and He knows that. And no matter how often I look at my life and say there is nothing to do, I am wrong. There is always something to do, something to be done, and something to accomplish for His kingdom. I need to let Him be my balancing point. Only through honestly seeking to include Him in every daily decision can I ever find the balance point between busy and lazy. Laziness is not the lack of something to do; it is the lack of desire and effort to actually accomplish something that could be done.

Life is not about going after those things that interest you. Life is about going after anything that needs to be done so that it can be done in His name and His glory. The goal is to be able to lay down at night and say, "Lord, You have accomplished much through me today. While I feel like my free time was almost non-existent, I know that my definition of free time is not Your's. I thank You for all You privileged me with doing in Your name." We have six days of work and one day of rest. Let us not spend our days of work in rest simply because we are too lazy or too busy to actually complete and work on things.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Intertwining of Lives

One of my dearest sisters in Christ recently returned from her missions trip to Africa. I cannot describe how joyful my heart was to have her back and to hear her voice again, but as I read her blog, I could not help but feel my heart just leap in my chest. She described the beauties of the African community and the people. And while I was most definitely blessed to have her back in the U.S., I was also absolutely floored as I thought of the amazing journey the Lord had taken her on; that same amazing journey put a joy in her voice and an undeniable bounce in her step as she returned to her life in the United States. I could say that during those two months I would have loved to have her talking with me multiple times a week or texting me every day, but in truth, I would have loved more to just take the journey with her.

See, those two months of praying daily for her and praying that the Lord would touch and move her heart did not just result in His providence for her safe return home, but it also deeply touched my heart. As I prayed for her, I would imagine and simply contemplate on what she was doing or what she was learning during her time over there, whether she was in boot camp or in Africa the day. It took me literally weeks to finally let the realization hit me that though we could physically not be in contact with each other, we were in contact with each other spiritually every day. And I am sure our Father was rejoicing with us as we walked our different paths those two months together. We believed our thoughts brought memories of each other in the small, every day things, but truly, it was simply the Lord reminding us that He was directing both of our paths with a beautiful and mysterious deliberation. Her journey taught me though my prayer for her while her journey was teaching her through physically taking part in it. Is not our God just absolutely breath-taking? He showers blessings on us so freely when we deserve none of them.

It is with this story that I realized how much each and every child of God is no more than a piece of a large and very intricate puzzle. So many people think that their life is the only life that matters and that they need to live it out to the best of their ability for themselves. Oh, how those people are missing out on the magnificence of life! My life is not worth living if I do not hand over pieces of it to others, if I do not devote time to praying and pondering the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Each person has their own journey to take, yes, but that is not the only journey we are taking. Each prayer said for another, each hand reached out in compassion and love to another, each leaping of the heart for those hungry souls out there, each gathering of His children together holds an amazing amount of power because we learn just as much from their lives, sufferings, joys, mistakes, and successes as we do our own. It is such a privilege, an unspeakably glorious gift, to be a witness to God's hands working in our neighbors, our best friends, and our strangers lives.

In the same way, our lives can teach others lessons. We do not walk our journeys alone; we walk it collectively with every other follower of Christ. We are running for the same prize, ready to be taken to the same home, serving the same Father, being shaped and molded by the same Lord, and being covered in white by the same Savior! Not a single moment of our lives is worth wasting, is worth sitting with our hands in our laps, is worth watching the clock tick away. Our lives impact others more than we can ever imagine. One loving look and word of comfort to a stranger crying at a grave can mean more than a thousand hours of their stumbling through the next few days of grief and learning to live life all over again. Why do we waste our time? Why do we waste our words? Why do we flounder in life when we already know the end?

However, I must caution that we not equate serving the world with all of our hearts with never allowing ourselves time to rest and let His Spirit move our thoughts and longings. We need refreshment, not just every week, but every day. We are weak; we are human. While we must understand the impact that the body of Christ can have on this world, we must also realize our dependence on each other and the Lord's timing. We must not become so caught up in making an impact that our hearts harden to His gentle nudges to rest or to sit quietly and simply listen. Using our time wisely is not being always busy. Using our time wisely is purposely grasping and utilizing every second for His glory, whether that be sitting in a chair and resting for a few minutes or actively studying material for school or getting our hands dirty building houses for those that have none. The question is not so much of time as it is how much we are willing to give up our entire lives in pursuit of His Spirit, His truth, and His guiding.

See, the moral of the story is not that we need to work to be better time managers (though we all can). It is the simple fact that we must be willing to constantly soften our hearts and let our eyes become perceptive of all that surrounds us. It is not about living our lives to the fullest (though that we must and can only do by pursuing Him); it is about being able to let others leave footprints on our hearts. It is about letting every single person and every single person's journey teach us something and to leave an imprint on our lives and hearts forever. The Lord does not only use our personal situations to affect the manner in which we live; He also uses our prayers to others, our aid to others, and our wondering thoughts about others. The Lord used my dearest sister's journey to Africa to touch and move my heart with love for all that surround me, for appreciation for the smallest blessings, and to reveal to me how much further I have to go in letting Him soften my heart. The Lord used my prayers for her to move both of us. What God would do that? What God would find so much joy in moving His children to realize the interweaving of our lives? My God would. The Lord of Heaven and Earth would. The Father of every single human being on this Earth would.

So next time we step outside our door, let us use every second for soaking in all He provides for us to observe and learn from. When an opportunity to aid another presents itself, let us not be hesitant to take it. When we sit down to pray about our dear friends or fellow brothers and sisters or His lost children, let their lives and their plights touch your hearts. You never know; He may change your entire life in one, simple moment.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Morning of Surrender

I sat down in my antique rocking chair ever so slowly. My breathing deepened as I sought the words that my heart wanted to speak to Him that still, dark morning. I was rarely up that early, but I had something on my mind; sleep was just not a possibility. I quietly whispered to Him, "I know you got me up early for a reason, but Lord, I am so tired. I can barely keep my eyes open. So, if I fall asleep on you, know that I still love you." I could almost picture Him smiling down at that statement. If those were the words that came out of my heart in its more revealing stage (the exhausted stage), He definitely had a purpose for that morning.

I did not really have a game plan; I had just woken up from a fretful night of tossing and turning after all. I just basically sat there, in my quiet place, letting thoughts flow through my mind. Numerous and overwhelming instances of failed friendships and of relationships with people of my past just started to burden me. My brow wrinkled, "Lord, I have given up those relationships and are at peace with them. I do not understand why you would wake me up to keep listening to those. It was bad enough that I was dreaming about them." Again, I could see a small smile forming on the corners of His mouth. I felt like shaking my head, but instead I just settled deeper into the chair, pulling the corners of my rather large blanket tighter around me. My heart was groaning and complaining that this was going to be a rough morning.

The puzzle pieces of broken trust, broken commitments, broken words, broken actions, and broken promises just started to fall into place. I was seeing a picture I had avoided seeing for a long time. My heart jolted as my thoughts touched upon each instance where something had been taken from me, where I had let myself be vulnerable in some way. But then, the outside puzzle pieces started surrounding the inside ones. These were different. They were locks, chains, walls, doors, and cells. They were trapping the hurt inside a shell, the shell of a hardening heart. I watched carefully as gentle, giant hands began to take the outside pieces away again. But, the pieces were frantically being put back in place by smaller hands. The larger hands moved to cover the smaller ones, continuing to take the pieces apart and keeping them away. The puzzle, the outside shell, was unraveling.

Honestly, I was seeing my heart that morning. I will admit; I have endured a lot of betrayals in my life, too many to count. I have seen people turn around to be snakes right before my eyes. I have seen people abandon me for the next best friend in line. I have seen the slow backing off of those that just did not care anymore. Each time, I took the hurt like a brick. I disregarded it, figured it was all my fault, and then moved on. After all, who could cause the hurt in these relationships but myself? So, I started to become anything but personal with friendships. I would know loads of information about my friends, but they would know little about me. Deep conversations were never allowed to take place. I had been through the same cycle so many times, endured so many scars, that I was not going back.

And this morning, I was reminded of that because the same cycle was occurring yet again in my life. At that moment, I could not withstand the tears. I had thought I could escape the hurt by trusting in Him and guarding my friendships so close that only certain people would be trusted. I had trusted the wrong people again. To be honest, this one was worse than before. I felt trapped. When I tried to pull away, my heart pulled me back. A bitter root and a sober spirit arose in my heart, threatening all I knew and cared about. My joy in life was mysteriously becoming more and more clouded. I had a choice that morning. I could either drown in the fog or I could climb out of it. I could either continue to fight and close up or I could keep my heart bare to Him and seek to truly forgive and let go.

I took the path I had never had the strength to take before. I chose to forgive. I chose to painstakingly remember all I could and write it down and let it go. It was in His hands. Though I knew I had to get out of the friendship, I also knew that I had to continue to love and to wipe the slate clean. And that I did. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done, but it was a step in life that I needed to take. It meant sacrificing a bit of who I was for another person. It meant looking at the good and loving the good. It meant learning to trust and lean into Him.

Though I was originally afraid of going through the memories, I learned that the Lord was showing me where I had come from. See, I was not strong; I was weak. I was not courageous; I was afraid. I was not bold; I was reclusive. I was not honest; I was deceiving. I was not whole; I was broken. On that morning, the Lord said, "My child, I know you are weak, afraid, withdrawn, dodging, and shattered down in that place, but I need you to go there. I need you to go there because I can fix it. I am answering your prayer that I come in to your heart and heal it and make it new. I am healing it; I am healing the hurt."

While the friendship may not exist or be salvageable any longer, I know that He is there and will be there always. I know that He is just waiting for the moment when I openly and humbly admit that I need Him. I know that there is a healthy way to guard my heart and there is an unhealthy way. I know that there is a chained life and a free life. And the only way I can ever be truly free is when I let Him direct my heart and when I let Him determine how much of my heart must remain guarded and when I let Him be the healer He always wants to be.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Drawn to the Mysterious

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a wagon ride (yes, a real wagon pulled by horses) through the deepest valley in Wisconsin. Sure, I will admit, it was not very deep at all compared to the other valleys I could have traveled through. But, the depth of the valley was not what got me. The walls, made of sandstone, had been carved away by the melting glacier waters many a year ago. One particular place along that valley held the meetings of Native American tribes many years ago. Over eighty years ago, the first people to actually tour the valley walked on foot though the stone encased area, carving their own names somewhere along their journey to signify they had been there. I wanted so much to reach out and touch the walls that surrounded me, to lay my hands on the walls that many hands had touched in the past. Part of me did not even want to be in the wagon; I wanted to walk in the footsteps of those before me. If I listened closely, I could hear the whispers of generations past still echoing off the walls and grasping for the next people that we bound to walk through there.

The feeling is everywhere for me, whether I am walking through antique shops, museums, ghost towns, old buildings, historical documents, history channel recount expositions, the field that belonged to my relatives that are now in Heaven, the trees of a forest that are old and moaning, the mountains that hold mysterious cabins and homes that are not always occupied, the old and abandoned lighthouses; the list goes on and on. Every time I go into one of those ancient places or hear the history of something similar, I want to linger in the moment; I want to let my mind wonder and explore all the possibilities of who and what those people were. What were their thoughts when they walked through this place or experienced this event?

In a world that is always striving to accomplish and develop the new and the better, in a society that is always pushing to know every answer and every piece of logic, I just want to go find a mystery; I want to find something that is not answered according to the book, that cannot be fully known for anyone during their time here on this earth. I want a mystery; I want something I can puzzle over and imagine; I want something that I know the truth about, but can still discover something new every second I think on it. I want something that does not have a logical and planned out answer, something that does not work the same for everyone. I want something special, divine, mysterious, inviting, enticing, captivating, solid, real, and as ancient as time itself.

And guess what? I have that. I have had that. I will have that. And He is right in front of me. He is the Lord. Now, some of you may say that God is not a museum or an ancient house or an antique. You are right; by definition He is not. But, He is a mystery. He cannot be fully explained in a single setting nor in a life time. He is not a by-the-book type of God; He loves to work in everyone's hearts in different ways and at different times. See, God is not science; He is not a logical being that was created at some point in this life. His origins are a mystery. His purpose in every little detail in life is a mystery. His ability to know all of our thoughts and every detail on this planet and in the universe is a mystery. He, the Lord Himself, is one large and never-ending puzzle defining truth itself. That is what I search for and desire. That, I believe, is what every human being searches for and desires.

We all have a heart for the mysterious. Sure, we put all of this effort into finding out the answers to everything around us, but the truth be told, we are not looking for the answers so much as we are looking for experiencing and uncovering a mystery. People are out there looking for the answers to a deep longing, a longing that they cannot satisfy. They are looking for solutions, but pretty soon, those solutions represent nothing but loss to those people. They get their solutions, but they keep searching. And then they feel that they have come up empty and dry because they have not found the solution they were searching for. In reality, they were not looking for a solution or an answer. They were looking for something bigger, deeper, fulfilling, and mysterious; something were all the nuts and bolts could not be seen right away.

A recent survey said the most people in today's generation prefer older church styles, buildings, and services. A rise in the interest for national monuments, historical museums and tours have also been uncovered in the modern generation. There are people out there searching for a mystery and for an history that cannot be fully explained. And folks, we have that mystery. As soon as we, as Christians, tap into the Lord and the Spirit, we become mysterious to the world. Our actions cannot be predicted by the world's standards. Our devotion to something not of this world cannot be explained fully. Our passion for people and for the Spiritual continues to grow. Yet, with all of this mystery, we advocate and cling to one truth. If there are people out there searching for something set apart from the world and something so mysterious that it just cannot be fully explained, then why are we, as Christians, trying to become of the world? Why are we seeking to make ourselves no different from the rest of those around us? Why do we put so much effort into trying to explain to those that complain about us that we are just like them?

Folks, we are not like them. We are different. We do not have to do as the world does and hang out with the people of the world in their ways. See, Jesus had a unique way of touching people. He was set apart from the world in every way. He conducted Himself completely different, yet did not shy away from talking and working with those around Him. The mystery of Who He was drew people to Him. The differences, the unexplainable differences, in His manners were like a magnet. Though mystery was only one aspect of Christ that acted like a magnet, it was a powerful aspect indeed, one that we should naturally hone the closer we become to Christ.

So, the next time our hearts long to go out and watch some movie we do not agree with in order to prove we are just like our friends, let us instead stand firm on our difference from the world. Next time a friend comes up and tells us that we are too withdrawn from the world because of our music choice or our decision to not laugh at crude jokes, rejoice in our difference from the world. Always remember and live upon the distinction between being in the world and being of the world; always be on the lookout for the subtleties in our thoughts that lead us to become more of the world rather than simply in it. Dare to live radically and boldly and let the mysterious surround your entire life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For the Young Ladies

. . . With dazzling smiles and heart-felt wishes from family members, the newly wed couple parted from the gathering into the vehicle that would carry them away into the setting sun.

Does that not seem like a beautifully happy ending to what was hinted to be the commitment between a man and a woman to serve and care for each other in every way possible to the end of their days? It probably is to those who dream about weddings and dream about marriage. Interestingly enough, just a few months ago I would have shaken my head at such a sentence and called it absurd and a waste of words. Oh, how much the Lord has changed my heart in that area. But, perhaps, it might be best that some form of a story be developed so that all may understand.

Let's start with quite a few years ago. At that time, I was a die-hard feminist to the core. I did all things myself; and if it seemed to be an impossible feat for a woman to conquer, you can bet I was on the battle ground, in the front lines, testing that theory for myself. The young men never took those front lines with me. They preferred to stand in the background and let me do the work for them. I was a strong leader and could lead just about everything. My personality and my opinions, while often left unspoken unless asked, were seldom changed and were as pointed as that tip of a knife. I knew how to word things in just the perfect fashion to create a point that could not be argued by anyone but the few brave souls. My feminist attitude translated into my body language and my goals. While it seems silly now, it definitely was not silly to me then. I was defending myself, guarding myself, and proving myself to be able to fend off anything and everything just as well as a guy. I became the protector of my family and my friends. My emotions were buried to the point of no return. To put it lightly, I was a woman out to defy every and all odds while completely shielding myself from anyone and everyone's knowledge of having existed. And to be honest, it worked for many years and the many secrets still remain stashed somewhere in my being.

About five years ago, I finally became willing to give my life to the Lord. Honestly, it did not change my views very much. I was still the strong protector and feminist. I still clung to the beliefs I had always held sacred. About this time, I entered the realm of high school, public school style. The dating game was in high heat and the girls' biggest dreams floundered in the pond of hoping to meet that special someone. And me? I could care less. My crowd consisted mainly of guys, band geeks and jocks. I got along so much better with that crowd than I ever did the girl cliques. Sure, I met a few girls that were what many called tomboys as well that I managed to stand enough to be around. But, for the most part, I let myself be alone and when company was needed or required, the group of guys to my right became my venue of choice. I was happy being seldom invited to events or being rarely called to join in on something. All I wanted to do was go home anyway because school was anything but joy for me at this time.

However, about a year ago, God decided it was time to show me how real people can be and how much I was missing out on due to my prideful and feminist based attitude. A team of people came into my life that I will always be thankful for. Though I have yet to meet them in person, their words through chats and phone calls began to slowly reveal to me a whole new group of people I had never, not once, been in contact with at any point in my life. It took forever for a trust, a genuine trust, to occur with these people, but it did occur for the first time in about eight years of my life. I learned to count on them and I learned that there may just be other people in the world that do not spend their lives finding the next person to use or back-stab. But, their attitudes did not just open the door to trust that had seemed to have long rusted shut, but they opened my heart to being willing to start listening with an non-choosing type of attitude towards God's still, small voice. See, even with God, there were tons of walls, ideals that were not going to be touched or altered because I deemed them my protective gear for living life. Some may find that rather childish of me, but guess what; I was a child simply learning the ropes of true life, His child. And breaking down those walls was something that He was going to do, should I actually choose to listen to His gentle probing.

Oh, but it all gets better. Trusting Him became a desire for Him. A desire for Him became an un-containable thirst for His knowledge. The thirst for His knowledge became a hunger for His ways. A hunger for His ways finally became the openness and implication of His truth that I had long pushed away. My head knew a lot of knowledge about Christianity and knew the scripture incredibly well, but my heart was starving. I thought I had my relationship with Him on the ground and rolling, but I sure did not; I did not even have the power to accomplish such a feat. This last year and a few months has been a treacherous journey of willingly letting Him turn head knowledge into heart knowledge. This last year has been one of letting Him create living and breathing practices from that heart knowledge. And one of those things He changed was my feminist approach to life and my desire to have absolutely nothing to do with the male species other than shallow conversations that said nothing about who I was.

You see, in the past few months, I have realized something about the feminist movement that few may realize. It is not a movement of women striving for equality with men. It is not a movement of women seeking man's leadership responsibilities. It is a movement of broken-hearted souls striving to find something satisfying in life. It is a movement of women striving to rid of their hearts that are interfering with what they think to be their dream of an absolute solution to abandonment, hurt, worldly expectations, popularity, satisfaction and accomplishment. Truth is. . . that movement is draining, hurtful, prison-like, and a slow, painful death to a woman's heart. Trust me; I would know. There is something unique, precious, and just totally freeing about living out God's intentions for women. Sure, this world demands more of women today than it has in the past. Yes, there are more opportunities for women than there were in the past. Correct, women are treated with more equality and held to a higher set of expectations by the world than they have been in the past. But, I am here to ask you: What demands are you succumbing to? What opportunities are you seeking? What equality and expectations are you letting yourself be chained by? Because, God's standards are not prison cells; God's standards are not forcing you to neglect your hearts; God's standards are not making you hunger for more and more of anything you can get your hands on; God's standards are liberty, freedom, and truth.

Some may say that my story stems more from past hurt than from a feminist viewpoint. If that is the argument against my conclusions, then you have just found the root. Feminism is nothing more than covered up scars and pride. A true woman is a delicate creature made to be more open and less able to always hide in shell. Men are there to protect and lead. Woman are special; men are special. Women and men are equal and totally valued by the Lord. When a woman seeks a godly womanhood with a passion, the chains and the limitations no longer exist. True freedom waits around the bend for those who have suffered what I call the abuse of the world's idea of womanhood. Life becomes life and a heart becomes a heart and the eyes truly become windows to the soul, a soul created, formed, shaped, and made vulnerable and beautiful by the Lord himself. Don't let hurt, pride, feminism, or the world chain your heart into a prison where that beauty is lost; don't let anything not of Him harden your heart to the glistening light of His design and purpose. Be the woman and person He has called you to become.