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02 August 2010 @ 11:11 am
Yesterday at church, our preacher presented a conviction that, honestly, I very much struggle with. He was looking at John 12:1-11, a point in Jesus' life in which Mary anoints his feet with perfume. This is a separate story from the one in which a woman comes in and breaks an alabaster flask on Jesus' feet in front of Pharisees (Luke 7:36-50). In the story he was addressing, Lazarus, his sisters, and Jesus' disciples were in the room, including Judas. He went over each of the people's strengths and weaknesses. Martha (the one that we're told not to be like) sees physical needs and meets them. Our preacher said this was a good thing, that she prepared food and took care of people. Then there is Lazarus, who was reclining with Jesus at the table. He said this was good, because Lazarus was just being there, and we all (at some point) need people to be present. Then there was Mary, who gave extravagantly to Jesus, anointing him with oil that cost almost a year's wages. And finally, there was Judas. He said to Jesus (after Mary had anointed him), "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" The Bible says that Judas "said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it" (12:5-6).

I set up all of this back story up to get to the question that stuck with me yesterday. Our preacher explained that Judas had a heart divided, and he was "never able to remove himself from the front of his discipleship." He was torn between two desires, between two worlds. And then he explained how we can all be like this. He went onto say that we identify ourselves as many things, and those identities often take precedence over our identity as Christians. For example, I often identify myself as a reader who is a Christian, or an artist who is a Christian. I'm a woman who is a Christian. I'm a white American who is a Christian. I am all of these things. But he pointed out that these can all divide our hearts, and when the rubber meets the road, we will choose to obey the thing which we primarily identify ourselves to be.

Sara, this goes along with what you were saying about your dry spell. I wonder if this goes back to this idea. I have thought those exact words that I just wrote in an attempt to normalize and make Christianity a little easier to swallow. I have these other attributes that make up who I am (which is a normal, human thing), but I'm often content and happy to identify myself as an intellectual or an artist or a girlfriend or a best friend or a sister or a daughter over the Spirit that resides within my bones. And that is where my heart is divided. And I honestly am not sure how to fix this.

This song helps me to remember who I belong to:

 
 


'Cause I'm a dead man now
With a ghost who lives
Within the confines of
These carbon ribs
And one day when I'm free
I will sit
The cripple at your table
The cripple by your side


- song by John Mark McMillan
 
 
Current Mood: discontentdiscontent
 
 
19 July 2010 @ 04:17 pm
I'm realizing more and more that being lazy is a lot easier than doing things that actually bring joy into our lives. We like what is quick, entertaining, and easy. Things that require effort, though they have lasting merit, are forgotten or pushed aside. We like to pretend we're the people who do those things that bring us joy just  because we like them. We like to paint. We like to write. We like to read. So we're painters, writers, and readers.

But Facebook and watching  television is easier, so we do that instead.

It's just a little bit heartbreaking.
 
 
Current Mood: discontentdiscontent
 
 
17 July 2010 @ 11:23 am

My dry spell was confirmed Tuesday in my communications class.  We had to write out a bunch of sentences.  She gave us the phrase "I am..." and we had to complete the rest of the statement 20 times.  After I wrote my first 10, she said "You will notice that what you hold most dear will automatically be what you write first and so on down the list."  It wasn't until I got to #15 that I noticed I had not even thought about writing anything along the lines of "I am christian..."  @ #20 I finally wrote that down, but it was more out of an obligated spirit.  I was slowly getting away from God and I wasn't even recognizing it because He wasn't even a part of my thought process anymore...scary.

I had been half-heartedly praying for God to become real again in my life, but it wasn't until Thursday morning that things got a little interesting.  I met with my group project partner and we got on the subject of religion.  Come to find out, she is a Nores Pagainst.  First time I ever heard of this religion, so I asked a lot of questions.  I was extremely interested in what she had to say.  The thought of knowing someone that is as devoted to a religion as I am God is kind of bizarre to me.  Anywho, she went into a long list of things that they practice, but all I kept thinking about was "God use me productively during this time regardless of my lack of relationship with you right now." 

I didn't really use our "religious talk session" as a witnessing opportunity, I just listened and threw my 2 cents in when needed.  Basically, I didn't make a HUGE hoopla out of this situation.  Isaiah 42:2 reminded me of this when it talks about God's Chosen One.  "He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the streets."

Many Christians look at Christianity as a means of winning an argument, and obviously this is a selfish viewpoint.  It wasn't until my group project partner said this comment that it clicked.  Her quote: "I know a true Christian from the fake ones.  True Christians have open hearts, not necessarily open minds, but open hearts."  I believe for me to take her as she was in the moment, a Nores Pagainst, was a huge deal, even though I didn't "win her over" to Christ.  Funny thing is, she grew up in a Christian household and knew scripture better than I did.  She might not have been in the same "religious" playground as me, but who am I to cast her out because she is different from my reference point.  I am saying all this because in past times I would have labeled with a large post-it: "Bad News Jill."

I am slowly coming back to my Spiritually Confident Self.  This time is hard because I am not feeling Him.  I am only knowing that He is God, and knowing something and feeling it is the difference between levels of trust.  I can know that a snake feels slippery, but it is not until I feel that snake that my knowledge is confirmed.  Good thing is,  in this state my faith is tested and stretched for more challenging tasks in the future.  God is bringing me to a new level - I can have faith in that.

What is funny to think about, God is probably using me regardless of my stance with Him.  I might not even know it, but lives are probably being changed just because I am not acting like a worldly idiot. 

& I will leave you guys with this.  In class on Tuesday, our teacher told us that the most successful people in life have a life's mission statement.  So she made us write a life's mission statement for homework. Here is mine:
" I am my Father's daughter, and has life comes I will accomplish with wisdom and strength.  I want to be influential, hope to be influential, and WILL strive to be influential in all aspects of my life."


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Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
 
 
16 July 2010 @ 12:23 pm
I happened to get caught up with my daily reading, only to fall three days behind. But I'm refusing to let that get me down, because it's not a bad thing. Thinking I must read everyday in order to be a good Christian is a legalistic thing. I'm not planning on continually falling behind, neither am I giving up. I'm just going at an uneven pace this summer.

In my head, this blog has always been about reflecting on our readings. If I don't have much to say in regards to our passages, the thoughts of "what am I going to say?" come fluttering in. One thing that I'm starting to come to grips with (and I pray that this realization continues to grow, bloom, and become more and more relevant) is that this blog is not just about accomplishing a New Year's Resolution. I would even go so far to say that this blog is not about learning about the Bible.

This blog is about the spiritual changes within us and the spiritual process that takes place.

Honestly, I've been feeling spiritually dry and washed up at the same time for a long, long time. My desire for God's presence has been at zero. When I've read (especially while in Michigan) I've mainly been counting down the pages. I can only hope that next year (when I read through the Bible again) I can pick up on new things that I missed or even come to grips with things that I overlooked.

Here is the thing: God is great and I am not. I am only great because God said I have worth. And every person has worth. Every. Person.

I started The Ragamuffin Gospel yesterday. Sara, you must read it. At the beginning of the book it says who the text is for. It's a long list. This one feels like me: "It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker." I don't really understand that phrase, but I am inconsistent and I am unsteady. This one also hits me deep within my heart: "It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God." And that is me.

This is what my heart needs, and this is a truth that I'm coming to believe: "It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence. Perhaps it was after meditating on this passage that Morton Kelsey wrote, 'The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.'" (Manning 23).

I want to know about God's grace. I fear that trying to uncover this will make me let go of the tight grip I have on the moral code. I don't want to be like what Paul says about "sinning so that grace may increase." But looking at my sin and accepting that I sin - maybe that's a way to unbind my legalistic heart. Maybe that's the way to freedom.
 
 
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
 
 
07 July 2010 @ 04:21 pm

I'm in Michigan for the week. It's been a blast, but I'm behind on my readings. I'm just finishing up the passages from the 5th. Anyway, right now I'm laying on a towel looking at the lake. The lake that was so much a part of my childhood. It's comforting. It reminds me that although I haven't seen it for six or more years, it's still here. We can return.

Sara, I hope everything is going well. I read your post and I hope you are still loving your summer class. I'll be back in town Sunday.

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I am trying to get back into a better grove with this blogging thing.  To clarify before I get into the meat of this post, I am going to use honesty - not to be confused with self-pity.  Today was a day that I got honest with myself, and honesty was not the dose of medicine that I needed.  For the past few days I have been spending the night with some people here and others there.  While doing this, I have been masking the true emotions that I have been feeling.  It is kinda like an alcoholic drinking to make the pain go away.  I was keeping busy so that I didn't have to think about my hurt.

My parents come home tomorrow from their 2 week vacation, & I couldn't be more relieved.  Not only have I been exhausted but extremely lonely.  I honestly feel like I am fighting this uphill battle by myself.  I call my mom to vent about my frustration with work & money because for the past 2 weeks I have had more conversations with my cat than other human beings, but she just gets mad because I am fussing all the time.  I know that I should have happiness because I am a child of God, but right now I don't have it.  Let's be honest, 100% of my life is not going to be happy.  I do have a joy in knowing that I have eternal life, but in all honesty that doesn't  completely comfort this situation of extreme loneliness.  Coming home to an empty house only to clean up after my brother who has trashed the place is lonely.  Walking through the front door with no one to speak with is lonely.  Having the fear that this could be the rest of my life is lonely.  I'm not typing all of this for people to think "poor pitiful Sara" - I am just being real.  These emotions are real & extremely scary.  In 2 years I will be out of college.  2 years is a short amount of time...then what??? All of this stuff has been hitting me and hitting me hard.  What happens when all my friends get married and I am the only one standing with a single dead rose in my hands??  Where do I go when my parents are gone and I haven't even started a family of my own yet?  School will only take you so far, but family is where the security is at. 

Here is a quote that I read from Mr. Veal's, my former high school librarian, facebook page.  It has much much much to do with my feelings.  Here is the bright light to my darkened day. :D
"It is hard for us to just "be" sometimes. It requires a lot from us. It is much easier to "be something". But activity is sometimes nothing more than white noise to distract us from ourselves. It can be disconcerting to be alone with oneself. It is scary but necessary. "

If i have any confidence, I know that God will get me through this lull.  God is teaching me something, & there is victory on the other side of this storm regardless of if it means being by myself for the rest of my life with some cats to keep me company.  Here is a verse that stuck out to me as I was reading today.  Hosea 13:6 - "When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me."  This couldn't be more true of ourselves today.  I am in need of God to get me out of this uncomfortable situation of loneliness, so I am seeking Him.  Once He revives me,  I will soon forget the very person that pulled me out of the pit.


I am ready to be a 20 year old again. 
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
 
 
30 June 2010 @ 12:04 pm

I am here & bogging.  It has been a while, but do know that during that while I have been doing my readings and learning Many MANY many God things.  This post will be a cute little life summary of the past 2 weeks.

My Sunday School teacher shared this quote with me & it is the theme to what God has been doing to me.  "God has to first soften you to then mold you."  Let's just say that I have been going through the softening part, and it is absolutely & incredibly NO FUN!  I am slowly making it out of this softening stage, but God still has a couple more things He is trying to beat out of me.  First off,  before the summer started I was dealing with a lot of bitterness toward several people....in which not many of these people were aware of.  I started to get tired of my life and started to ask the question, "Well, what about me??  The good stuff always happens to everyone else.  The story of my life..."  This spark of bitterness was the start of this fun and sassy adventure.

My parents left on June 19th to go and visit my New York family in Watertown & this was the first year that I have stayed behind due to school & work obligations.  The couple of days before my parents left I started becoming angry.  Work was becoming hell on earth for me.  Such an oppressive atmosphere was swolling the very person that I was confident in & I needed to vent my emotion to my mother.  WELL, she was so crazy busy getting ready for this 2 week trip & the 2 week trip that she will be taking when she gets back from NY to Africa that she was never available to talk.  This led to me getting angry @ her for not "being there" & later turned into a HUGE HUGE argument between me and her which left us on a mighty good note.  I felt SOOOOO lonely.  I think it is safe to say that I was seriously depressed.  I woke up @ 6 got to work @ 7 or 8, worked till 5 or close.  Went home for enough time to eat, sit for a few minutes and then to bed only to wake up to do the same thing again.  Holy Moly was I overwhelmed with the "old lady" life that I was in.  I am 20 years old, not 40.  & since my parents have left, I do more adult things.  Feed the animals.  Get the mail.  Clean the WHOLE house.  Go to work all day.  Come home to no one.  Quilt to keep me occupied from boredum.  On paper I sound boring, but all of this loneliness was God softening me to bring me back down to earth.  Life isn't about me.  First, life is about Christ & bringing glory to Him & 2ndly, it's about learning to live with people harmoniously regardless of ourselves. 

The softening part ROYALLY sucked!  I cried for a solid 5 days over one thing or the other that happened.  I kept reading through our daily readings but wasn't getting too much out of it.  I kept praying.  I knew that things were going to get better.  Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.  I started to just laugh @ everything.  People would look at me crazy but that was what I had to do to stay sane. 
It wasn't until I started my summer class as of June 28th that I came back alive again.  God knew that I would need a softening to lead into this new chapter of my life.  This is my first class that I am taking at UAH & from here on out UAH is where I will be.  This past week & a half, I have learned more about who I am as a person since being on my own, & I have learned the importance of living for what we are created for - Christ.

In those moments of depression, the last thing that I wanted to do was read my Bible, so know what I did..?  I didn't read my Bible.  Through this siuation, I have found another reason why it is so important to daily read and digest the Word of God.  In those moments of dispair it isn't easy to read the Word, but it is what is stored in your heart that you will remember and bring you comfort.  During all the extremely hardtimes that hit me in the face, I kept thinking of some of the stories I read and how God delivered them from it.  I took hope in those stories & God has surely proven Himself. 

This post is ultimately a "bragging on God" post. 

here are some verses that have helped me through this whole poop process.
Isaiah 7:9b - If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all."
Isaiah 8:16-17 - Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples.  I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.  I will put my trust in Him."
Isaiah 9:4b - "you have shattered the yoke that burdens [me]."
Jonah 2:8 - "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs."
&&&&&
Amos 3:7 - Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan."


Now it's time to go to work. joy. :D


 
 
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic
 
 
Minor prophets! Minor prophets! Yay! Yay!

This is going to be short. I'm not even done with today's readings. I've been playing catch up over the past few days, so I'm just sort of reading without processing. Plus, Kings and Chronicles are taking their mental toll.

I love the book of Hosea. It is one of my favorites. It could even be my favorite Old Testament book. It's a jarring perspective of our relationship with God and our relationship with sin. I was just reading along and not really thinking much about what I was reading other than "Yay, this is not about a king!" I started to get more drawn into the language of the book, and then I hit this verse:

"they exchanged their glory for something disgraceful." (Hosea 4:7).

This verse made me wonder: what have I exchanged for disgrace? What parts of growing into who God wants me to be have I traded for less worthy things?

Honestly, following after Christ is not easy. Sometimes, as Christians, we like to make it seem easy. Well, it's not easy. It's wonderful and I believe it's truth, but it is not an easy path. Hosea is a book that makes us take a close look at our lives and where we have been adulterous toward God. When I turn to sin rather than God, it's a kind of spiritual adultery. It's saying that this pleasure is better than the glory of God. And the thing is, I do this without realizing it. The sins in my heart are masked by many things. Pride being the greatest. God calls us to faithfulness, even though we are unfaithful and we will be unfaithful. And God keeps coming back for us. That's the glorious beauty of this book. We fall. He picks us up. We deliberately run in the other direction, and he brings us back.

Tonight, I've been thinking about a verse in James. It talks about when we look at God's word and we forget what we have read and how it's the same as looking in a mirror and forgetting what we look like. While I read Hosea, I want to remember it and let it impact my thoughts and actions.

This song also reminds me of Hosea:

 
 
 
Current Mood: calmcalm
 
 
26 June 2010 @ 12:28 pm

 
 
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Current Mood: amusedamused
 
 
& 2 Kings 10:28-36; 2 Kings 13:1-3; 2 Kings 13:22-23

So, I haven't been on here in a loonngg time.  Things got crazy....then crazier....& now the craziest it has been so far.  {{& I dont mean crazy in a good way}}  Things have been bad for me, but I guess all of this is apart of the ultimate plan....I don't know.  I have been @ a rocky place in my relationship with God because I don't know if I am doing the right thing.  Since Thursday, there hasn't been a day that I have not cried...well except for today & let's hope not.  I am just wore out..mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Even doing my readings has been hard.  I got behond 4 days.......4 DAYS!  For me, that was ridiculous because I am always on top of everything. 

In today's reading, one verse stuck out to me.  2 Kings 10:31 - "Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God is Israel, with all his heart." 
Even during this drought that I am going through, I still need to think about the Lord.  I still need to follow Him with all my heart.  Things are getting rocky, but I will come out of this stronger and wiser.  I just hope sooner than later.