Glory

A poignant question posed

A beautiful message sent

Amid a tender world

Ringing, ringing ethereal

Delicate light not of this world

Gaseous, invisible, barely detectable

Shining, shining iridescent

Its quiet eloquence rides the wind

Its brilliance paints the sky before twilight

Look about and find sprinkled glory

Find a lingering question hauntingly beautiful

Forever, forever answer unabashedly.

Goodbye Shame, Goodbye Guilt

It hit me the other day just how much our society likes to measure us up. It starts with school. Each assignment is measured according to a number and letter system. The higher the number, or lower the letter, the better. It seems like a lot of life includes some sort of grading system like this. It becomes part of our mindset to try to perform well and wonder how we measure up. When we start viewing God as though He’s grading us, though, things go awry.

A big part of why we see God like this is because we focus so little on the relationship, and instead, end up focusing on the action part of faith. We do all the right things because we’re supposed. But living as though God were waiting for us to mess up so He could be mad at us is not good motivation for living a moral life.

In any healthy relationship, the people involved feel free to be themselves. The same thing applies to a relationship with God. He won’t hate you if you mess up, but He will convict and encourage you toward real holy change. Patience is an incredible attribute of God we can easily forget about.

We will mess up; we will sin. This is a fact, not something any one of us can defy with the most meticulous work. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b) If that isn’t encouraging- that we are loved even when we’re at our worst- than I don’t know what is.

You and me will never be “too far gone” to approach the throne of grace. Any moment is a good moment to talk to God. And maybe by realizing His forgiveness and love for us, we can begin to let that define how we see ourselves.

It is the enemy who wants to destroy us with guilt and shame and fear; God brings peace and joy and love. That is the kind of relationship and life we are offered.

Waves That Crash

Over three weeks of the semester have passed. In this time, I’ve made friends and learned some fascinating things, but most of all I’ve been drained. A roller coaster of emotions and stress has drained my energy. Maybe you noticed that I haven’t been posting as often. This is the reason why.

This place of feeling tired isn’t new, and I find that my reaction each time it visits is to carefully control my activities and to dread the coming day or week. To an extent, I think stuarding the energy we’ve been given, along with every gift, is wise, yet always holding back and dreading is no way to live. (Especially in God’s upside-down kingdom.)

A couple summers ago I worked at a summer camp for two months and was beyond exhausted all the time. God came through for me in a way I had never experienced, though. Looking back, I know His strength is the only reason I made it. Each day I made it through and the days added up to two months.

By the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread. In other words, the sustanence for today. Another beautiful truth we are reminded of is that His mercies are new every morning. God doesn’t give us the mercies we’ll need for the whole week at the beginning. Each morning we can look forward with eager anticipation to seeing how God will provide.

I’m learning a lot through this trial, especially about relying on Jesus each day, but that does not negate the dilemma of having less energy. Therefore, for this semester, I will post when I can but that probably won’t be every week.

Hope this post finds you well,

Sarah

Who’s Visiting the Mental Realm

What would Jesus do? A decade or so ago this catch phrase was popular, but now it’s considered cliche. Often we subconsciously ask, “What would mom do in this situation?” or “What would dad do?” or “What would my friend do?” or even, “What would a certain celebrity or leader do?” Sometimes this can be a good thing, especially if they are seeking after Jesus or living in a healthy manor. As a daily habit, though, it can take us off track. I think it’s important to ask who or what inhabits our mind. Because who and what we think about will shape who we become.

So who do you want to become like? Aspiring to have certain qualities we see in another person can be a good thing. We must be careful not to place a person on a pedastool and expect them to be perfect, though. In the end, that only leads to hurt.

I have to remind myself that Jesus is my main example. I’ve begun reading ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ which documents the thoughts and discoveries of Brother Lawrence. As you can probably guess by the title, he was very good at inviting God into his brain-space.

“When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God, a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself.” (‘The Practice of the Presence of God’)

In a letter he wrote, Brother Lawrence freely admitted that the first few years of striving to think of God often was extremely difficult and disheartening. Yet, it had become such a valuable part of his relationship with God and he recommended the habit to all he came into contact with. I think it’s encouraging to know that the mental realm doesn’t have to be won by tomorrow, nor does failure after failure have to make us quit. There is hope for the kind of closeness with God that Brother Lawrence experienced. There is hope that our minds will be filled with good, positive things. There is always hope. So strive towards that hope set before you!

Paul talked about “dying” in suffering like Christ so, “by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11) The road to freedom is marked by this dying; a relationship with God will inevitably come with suffering. Yet, we are not to run from hardship. The battle of the mind is pivotal and we can’t run from the struggle.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12)

The Time Before Marriage

Growing up is strange and one of the most mysterious parts to me is dating and marriage. Dreaming lots of dreams for the future is part of growing up and that includes many you have no control at all over. The dream of marriage is one of those, in my opinion. American culture has placed so much value and attention on being in a relationship, and I have to wonder if it’s healthy. I watch old TV shows and they show a man pursuing a woman. It is so sweet and gets my mind and heart desiring that kind of story- right now. An appreciation for a sweet love story is good, especially in light of how it is a picture of Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-32) When it becomes an obsession, though, it’s no longer so good and sweet. I believe God has a different plan for his people when it comes to the time before marriage.

I was not the girl who planned out her wedding at age 13. In fact, at age 21 I still can’t tell you what colors I’ll go with for my wedding day. (Of course, that’s assuming I will get married.) As a teenager I made multiple lists of characteristics I wanted my future husband to have, though. Looking at these long lists now, only a few of the items still stand.

  • Loves God and has an growing relationship with Him
  • Is a good leader
  • Loves people well

These are fairly general characteristics (yet it’s quite obvious when someone has them). There is a reason why they are so general: God can bring a man into my life who has a million little “perfect” characteristics that I would never ever think of. Honestly, some of the characteristics God would choose, I would not have appreciated as a younger me (including my-age me). (Also nobody is perfect, so that must be kept in mind.) At the end of the day, or life that is, God is much better at writing love stories than I am, so I don’t have to try to create the exact person I’m looking for on a piece of paper.

Even more than love stories, though, God is good at writing stories period. They’re never perfect- just look a the stories in the Bible! So living the single life is more than okay. (Despite what you may have heard at church or elsewhere.) Article after cliche online article tell us how life works and when the best time is to go to college, get married, have kids, etc. Life isn’t calculable enough to fit into any article- it’s amazing and beautiful and diverse- at least when we let God take the lead and stop trying to fit into those guidelines.

God is still good to those who don’t get married. In the season before getting married, and maybe even before seriously dating, is one that stretches our trust in God. So do you believe God is good no matter what? Is God good even if you never say, “I do”? I think that’s a good place to start. Falling in love with Jesus isn’t so much the replacement for a romantic relationship, but the bigger, better, authentic version. To live life everyday out of Jesus’ love makes everything sweeter, whether or not you’re dating or married.

Maybe, just maybe this season isn’t to be treated as one of waiting. What if we viewed it as a time to learn about and use the gifts we’ve been given? What if we learned to live and love well? What if we grew a trust in God so strong nothing could shake us? What if we stopped waiting for marriage to save us, and let Jesus save us and bring us into a fuller life right now?

2016: Heart Change

I almost didn’t write a review of this year. It seemed like it would be a waste of time. But looking back periodically can be a good idea- you will see lessons learned, and how God worked. This past year it felt like Jesus led me along in the things He wanted me to do. Which is probably the way it’s supposed to work… and honestly it’s a lot nicer than trying all the time to make things work out. At the beginning of the year, I was just coming away from all my dreams being crushed and was in a very fragile, defeated place. From there the year turned out to hold what I had been praying and hoping for for years.

My brother, a couple of friends, and I went to College for a Weekend during the Spring semester, which is exactly what it sounds like. After spending most of my time at home for many months, it was a big event. Eating on campus, going to class, attending convocation are a few of the things we did (plus lots of walking!). My friend who didn’t like concerts, and had said she would never go to one, decided she wanted to go to the Rend Collective concert that weekend. Despite my own reservations about the band and attending a loud concert, we went. I’m so glad I took the chance on buying that ticket because God met me that night through Rend Collective’s ministry. Not only were they not burst-your-eardrum loud, but they took time to tell everyday, encouraging stories throughout the show. They pointed out that life is hard, but God meets us in the hard stuff and helps us fight it. Lyrics only backed this message up: “When my fears like Jericho build their walls around my soul, when my heart is overthrown, Your love is my battle cry, the anthem for all my life.”

When I got home from the concert, I was scrolling through social media only to see that one of my long-time friends was in distress-  her older brother had passed on that evening. Other than making big tears flow down my face that night, this affected me in two big ways:

1. The way he lived. In less than 25 years he fit more life in than many do in 3 times that. He loved Jesus and people so well. Over 5000 people came to the viewing. Like, what? Crazy! And they all had a story about what he had meant to them. I remember his transition to this way of living too, because he wasn’t always like that. Jesus was to blame. Through it all, he kept pushing through depression and anxiety. That gave/gives me hope.

2. The way my friend and her family responded. My friend’s mom said her response to the news was, “Lord, bring him back to life. I know you can.” They went through grief and questioning God, but never let themselves question His goodness. His young widow, who had watched him go, wrote a blog post explaining how she had searched out the sovereignty of God a few years before and came to this: that God knows what will happen if we make a certain decision, kind of like how an adventure video game works. That knowledge was a comfort to her now. These things greatly impacted my faith and how I view life. (I wrote a post during this time.)

Life’s Healing Choices was a small group series at my church for healing your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I went for my anxiety, and boy, did it stir it up the first session! I decided I wasn’t putting myself through that level of anxiety on purpose again. With the encouragement of my leader, though, I sought God each week with whether I should attend the sharing session. It was during this time that I learned to do what God asked of me again. I hadn’t fully trusted Him in a while and I was slowly taking steps of obedience- one at a time.

All this time I have recounted so far, I was in emotional pain. But, I was watching God answer my prayers. I would pray verses that the Lord had led me to over myself, family, and friends. There are so many instances when God worked and/or gave me direction, but more often He also changed my heart.

When summer approached, I had 2 projects in mind: making a quilt and learning how to keep plants alive. These long-term goals taught me the importance of enjoying each step of the journey. I also watched a series of lectures on nutrition. This sparked my interest.

My doctor had recommended I have the Body Code/Emotion Code done to release old anxieties (so I would stop slipping into anxiety so easily). I ended up going twice, and learned of many past experiences that had shaped me. This gave me a bit of insight into why I think and act the way I do and also gave me the freedom/ space to change.

My dad was let go from his job, but God gave so much peace during that time. It ended up causing my dad to get a different (healthier for him) job, my mom to get a part-time job, and all of us to grow closer.

College was something I knew God was leading me toward, and I was excited, but I was also quite scared. While anxiety-wise it was the best semester yet, I still fought enormous battles in my mind. God was fighting for me, though, I could tell. That was my main comfort. My favorite part of this semester was that I got to go with my brother and we even were in one class together (along with a friend of mine). Being with people on a weekly basis did me good on so many levels.

Right now, the Lord is giving me a strong desire to dig into His Word and live out my faith. This includes the idea of missions, which I am letting roll around in my mind.

“You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” -John 15:14-15

The main running theme this year was having faith in God. From that root, God worked on my heart, diminished anxiety’s power, taught me to enjoy life more, and brought healing in countless ways. I’m so very thankful for all this year has held!

Peace to You

It’s Christmas time once more! Despite the many almost car accidents that happen this time of year, it still holds a little more joy and peace. Honestly, that’s probably because I haven’t been consistent in preaching the Gospel to myself. This time of year, though, my mind is brought over and over to the wonder of God coming all the way from heaven to walk among us. It’s truly an amazing thing.

Believing in, and contemplating, that action gives me greater confidence that I can trust God. If Jesus went so far to fulfill promises from the Old Testament to restore relationship with us, than I can . Even when circumstances around me would make me question God’s goodness,  I can look at the Gospel feel confident of His love. There’s nothing like the Gospel to give, or restore, faith. And along with this faith comes peace.

Abraham was the man in the Old Testament who is accredited for having great faith.

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised.” – Romans 4:20-21

Faith gives peace because we are sure that God will provide, guide, and protect as we follow Him. The interesting thing is that Paul says that Abraham’s faith grew stronger as he gave glory to God. It makes a lot of sense that when we’re focusing on who God is and what He’s done that we would rest easier in His present and future sustaining grace.

In comparison to Abraham’s faith, I’ve noticed that the people in the Old Testament who did not have faith were afraid and made terrible decisions out of that fear. (1 Chronicles 19-20) So trusting is incredibly important if we want to make wise choices.

The is post has gone a little off the topic of the birth of Jesus… But can we really appreciate Jesus coming without a heart of faith?

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” – 1 John 4:9