Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Highlights of 2015







My Top 5 things that happened this year:

1. I switched my major to Nursing and Global Comm. Development ! Scary, exciting, and fun!
2. My best friend got married (big deal ;))
3. I got the privilege of being spiritual director at summer camp, helping create a play, and leading kids to Christ.
4. I learned more about fitness and became a personal trainer.
5. I got my drivers license, turned 21, and moved into an apartment  with some friends.

So ya praise God. He has been good to me and He has blessed me abundantly more than I ever could have imagined. And He has given me the MOST AMAZING friends and family in the entire universe =)

Humble -- it hurts

"The sign that God is at work in us is that He is destroying our confidence in the natural virtues, because they are not promises of what we are going to be, but only a wasted reminder of what God created man to be. We want to cling to our natural virtues, while all the time God is trying to get us in contact with the life of Jesus Christ— a life that can never be described in terms of natural virtues. It is the saddest thing to see people who are trying to serve God depending on that which the grace of God never gave them. They are depending solely on what they have by virtue of heredity. God does not take our natural virtues and transform them, because our natural virtues could never even come close to what Jesus Christ wants. No natural love, no natural patience, no natural purity can ever come up to His demands. But as we bring every part of our natural bodily life into harmony with the new life God has placed within us, He will exhibit in us the virtues that were characteristic of the Lord Jesus.And every virtue we possess-Is His alone."
You don't think it's painless do you? To die to self, to take up the cross of Christ, and become a servant.
By all means I haven't attained this nor I am close. Yet when I asked God to start (and really meant it) yikes God started His work all right. And it is definitely His signature. No regrets because it is far better than I could have ever imagined. Yet oh how humbling the journey has been and how hard it is to be humbled- how hard it is to die to pride- to myself. 
For me this is the cost- the cost is my pride. My pride is my everything. 
For before I asked God to take it all away:
I felt strong. I felt capable. I felt athletic. I felt smart. I felt highly qualified. I felt like a good person, a faithful God follower, a descent woman.
And ever since I asked God that day in Peru 2 years ago as I prayed (laying in a dirty smelly orphanage teared eyes with a sky full of starry wonder) I prayed God take it away. Take away the comfort because I want what you have and that day I asked God to break my heart. It wasn't the first time. But it was definitely the hardest. That night I lay it all before God- my career choice, my future, where I would live, if I would be a missionary for life, if I would date or be single- I layed it all on the table.
And since then God began His work, chipping away at my prideful heart and saying "let me strip away everything you call your own and make you empty until you choose me" and let me love you while I do it.
And it is hard, it is painful, it is difficult to die- to give up worldly desires.
Yet compared to the cross of Christ, it is nothing. Compared to heaven and the hope we have in Jesus, it is worth every struggle. For this sacrifice that I may make even though it cost me everything is worth nothing compared to the joy and hope I have found in God, compared to His promises, compared to His love. I will endure anything for His sake and His name because He alone is worthy to be praised and by God's grace, I will endure it joyfully =)

FEELINGS

You know the feeling. I don't want to pray right now, I don't feel close to God, I don't feel like opening my Bible. Instead I feel like (you insert the blank).

According to the Myers Briggs personality test, I tend to value thought and reason over emotion. Yet that does not excuse me from making stupid decisions due to uncontrolled spirit of mind. I often find myself watching a feel good movie that isn't best for me, eating something that does not nourish my body, saying harsh words that do not edify others, or stupidly making comments or texts that I do not mean. Why? Because it feels nice, it feels right, at the time it is what I want and it seems ok. And I don't feel like praying about it.

Yet Proverbs 12:15 says that a fool is right in his own eyes and Proverbs 14:12 that there is a way that seems right to a man that in the end leads to death. And James 4:7 that if we could only learn to submit ourselves fully to Christ the Devil the one who is tempting us would flee.

If we want to follow God then we must learn to not live by feelings and instead to live by prayer. Indeed we cannot be ruled by our stomachs, our lustful minds, our intemperant spirits- but we must learn to submit each and every part of our body to Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says that we should learn to pray without ceasing. To which my selfish soul asks the question "How can I pray when I don't feel like praying? What do I do when I don't feel God?"

And the answer I know from the bottom of my heart is..
Pray anyways. --That this time when you don't feel God is when you need to pray the most.

A quote from Shade of His Hand says "If a man cannot prove his religion in the valley, it is not worth anything."

Our relationship with God is not based on feelings. At times we will feel the more in love than we could ever express but at times we will not feel God and I believe these are times when we must know God, remember God, what he has done for us and how faithful He has been and we must be faithful to pray anyways, to love anyways, to read our Bibles anyways.

For the Devil is at work. This is war. If he knows that we live by feelings he will do everything in our power to make us not want to read our Bibles or pray.

So let us rise up. Let us overcome. Let us not act by feelings or impulses but by the power of Christ.

Are you ready?

Often I find myself asking God questions and telling Him that I want to know His plans for me. What am I going to do for my career? Who am I going to marry? Where am I going to live? Am I going to be a missionary? I hate not knowing... Sometimes I get so impatient.

I sometimes tell myself if I could just know exactly what was going to happen, then my life would be simpler. But then I realize that if I knew what my future would bring I would probably be scared to death. And what if I wasn't ready to know or to do this career yet, to meet this man yet, to live in this place with this certain responsibility yet? And what if it didn't matter so much about what I want and what my dreams are, so much as what God wants and how I can follow Him.

Already I have seen God's fingerprints in my life in such crazy ways. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that God is real or that it has been Him who has his hand on me. He has taken me to places I only dreamed of doing and transformed my character literally into a different person with different values and a different college major. Yet the more I know God, the more I realize I am so far away from Him. The more I know, the more selfish and rebellious I realize that I am. And each day as God increases awareness in me, I must arise to choose to follow God to this new thing.

Something I learned in a sermon the other day is that God wants three things in order to reveal His will to you. Now I don't believe that God goes through the checklist and I think sometimes He just shows you because God is God and does as He thinks and knows best. But it makes sense that God desires these three things from us:

*Obedience
*Purity of Heart
*Desire to follow God and do what He shows

The first of these is obedience. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to Christ. We are not our own we will always have a master. The difference is that one master chooses to love us and adopt us as children while the other chooses to manipulate and use us for his own good all the while destroying us.

Do we obey God in the things He has already revealed to us? Are we following the truths that He has shown us? The little things matter (the music and movies have been a big temptation area to me lately). God is not going to continue to reveal more truth to us if we cannot show Him we are willing to obey.

The second of these is purity of heart. What are our motives? Why do we really want these things? What are the desires or thoughts behind them? If we are seeking selfish gain, worldly possessions, or side idols we are not purely seeking Christ and His direction for our life? If we are saying "Now, now, now" then maybe we are lustfully or selfishly following emotions or fads. For impulses are often not of Christ but the things of God are patient, clean, purified by time of trial.


In Ezekiel 20 the Lord God says "Have you come to inquire of me? As you live, I will not be inquired of you." He tells Israel that He will not answer any more questions for them- that He will not reveal anything else to them. It continues to talk in Ezekiel about the reason for this and it is because the Israelites have been rebellious, they have not obeyed what God has already asked them and they are not ready to obey something else.

Finally, if we want God to reveal His will. He must ask us "Are you ready for my answer? Are you ready to listen and obey?" If we are not to that point yet, then asking God will do no good for I think often He wants to bless us or teach us yet we are not ready to listen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I don't need you

"I don't need you..
so I don't love you
and I don't want you."

Isn't this one of the scariest phrases in the world? You don't often hear it put quite so bluntly to words. Yet you see it time after time all around you with relationships that fall apart quite too smoothly, like cotton candy

And honestly why are we surprised? We are a generation that is taught from a young age not to give our money to things that won't generate income. Taught not to let ourselves be taken advantage of, but to work our way to the top of each pyramid (climbing at the stake of others if necessary). Isn't this college? How to move to the top of the educational and then professional food chain? We are taught that independence is glory because we should have control. That we should seek self fame, a selfish safety net, and seek someone to marry who will fulfill our self needs and desires. We should seek a help-mate. We should love things that help us and most importantly the basics- things we NEED. 

And what do we rich Americans need? Well to most of us: we need a daily shower hot water of course, nice soap (hotel samples do not qualify), bread (multigrain) and butter (to taste), varied nutritional index of foods, soft mattress, and a non-leaking roof, a warm heater, and there's a few others of course. Yet although we have quite the list that many people around the world would never even think to include on their "needs" checklist, we still have everything. We have presents under the Christmas tree, bright lights, and cookie cut outs, food for days not just a meal, and toys to entertain and when we look up at the Giver of all Good gifts we tell Him "I don't need you." 

I don't need you right now God. I'm doing just fine.
You can keep your extra eggs til a famine comes on my land or my mom Sally dies of cancer but right now God I'm just fine. I've got movies and music for days and clothes to look cute all winter so God just give me chance to live young and free and do what I want too.
God my life looks just fine right now. There's alot of things I still want to do before I die, places to see, people to date so God you don't need to come so soon. I'm happy. Really I'm quite content in my selfish life of insecurities.

And we are stupid, foolish, and unprepared- sleeping with our eyes closed as the Devil pulls toy out of toy out of his toolbox and laughs happily for he has gained our hearts once again.

And the clock ticks and Jesus calls out "Sanctify yourselves, take up your cross and come follow me. For I am coming soon to take you who are pure in heart home."

Yet we are not ready.
For we do not think we need God.
And we do not know love
Thus we do not realize the danger we are in

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Wedding



I went to the most beautiful wedding today.

It was gorgeous- I wish you could see pictures and I'll post more later. There were flowers, open windows with gorgeous glass and greenery, an elegant chapel, bridesmaids and groomsmen looking their Christmas best- and then a stunning bride and groom.

The wedding was perfectly planned and thought out. Dances were rehearsed, dress rehearsal was performed, hair and makeup done early in the morning..

So that everything could be in the place for the big day: when Hunter would marry Kaitlyn and they would be set apart as husband and wife forever.

It was a joyful event full of laughter, tears of joy, friendships and family. This union was long awaited for.


Isaiah 62:5 says "For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.

Like this wedding, there's another wedding that's coming quite soon.
I know the groom and he is preparing to come for His bride.

This groom is no ordinary man. He is a King himself, royal, majestic, just, and righteous. He comes for only the purest brides who are willing to serve Him with a loving heart- brides to whom He has fallen in love with and she Him with as well.

This bride will be clothed in white- with a robe of righteousness that has been made pure and holy by the blood of the prince. The bride will be no ordinary human but one of grace, one of justice, one who loves his neighbor, one who has love written all over her. The bride will have prepared for the wedding by cleansing herself properly from injustice, from unsure thoughts, lust, secular desires. Instead grace will be manifested from her lips. She will be beautiful awaiting the coming of her King- He will be her only desire.

She will say her vows that she has studied and memorized- not because of duty- but out of the love in her heart. Together on that day He shall come in the clouds and every eye shall see Him. He will come for His beloved. What a glorious day that shall be when we shall be united with the lover of our hearts and souls.

Matthew 25 talks to us about the ten virgins and the five who were ready for Jesus' coming. My question for you today is Are you ready for the wedding?

Our time here is short. The music is sounding. Our Savior- the hope of nations is coming. Are you ready? I pray we'll both be ready for that day.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Brave


"You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave. You make me brave.
No fear can hinder now the love that made away"

What's the scariest thing about ISIS?
Or the tough part about the Crusades and Dark Ages?
It's that religion and the surrendering of God one hundred percent somehow takes away all fears. It literally makes people fearless and crazy, willing to do anything for the name of Jesus or the god who they may believe in.

And this is nothing new. If we look at the Bible we see many of Christ's disciples doing crazy things. We see Paul- totally fearless- not afraid of shipwrecks, prisons, beatings, torture. We see Daniel not afraid to pray even though they said he would be thrown to a pit of lions. Shadrach, Meshach, Obednego, Rahab, Joseph, Esther, Ruth-- we see no Biblical cowards.
For if we know Christ what can mortal men do to us?
Yet sometimes I wonder if we, the current generation, has become quite timid and lost quite a bit of this fearless faith.

"I wouldn't want to offend anyone so I won't share with them what I believe"
"I'm afraid that I will step on toes here."
"I'm afraid for the children in the church that if we bring homeless people off the street they could be hurt."
"We wouldn't want to send student missionaries to dangerous places around the world."
"Have a backup plan just in case it (our prayer)  doesn't work"

What happened to prayers to raise people from the grave?
From interceding with power instead of stuttering thank you's when we are unthankful.
What happened to honesty with our brothers and sisters in the faith?
What happened to fearless followers of Christ who died singing hymns while burning at the stake?

1 John 4:18 says "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out all fears."

Satan wants us to be afraid. He wants us to be afraid of terrorists, crimes, calamities. He loves it when we watch horror movies so our brains will become fearful and distrusting.

He wants us to be afraid of the End times- guilting us that we haven't spent enough time with God or our faith is not good enough.

He loves it when we are fearful for when we are afraid we are self-absorbed. We build walls around us and enlist our own army to serve for our benefit and our weapons in case we must fight. We assume that people have done something against us and choose not to forgive them. We call our-self victims instead of choosing to become rulers of sin and darkness.

Fear takes advantage. It manipulates. It takes over our mind and our choices and forces us to do things we wouldn't normally do- because we are desperate. We are scared.

Love on the other hand 
Gives us choices
It looks at all people with kind eyes and chooses to forgive the ways they have hurt us
We choose to become a part of the healing of their lives and stories
Love makes us champions- to rise above our own weaknesses
Love gives us joy and peace
Companions to dance with, to laugh with
Freedom and faith
That no matter what may come
Nothing will separate us from our lover
And the love of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For me personally, I am finding that the more I follow Jesus, the more I become fearless and bold. I used to be afraid of the medical field, of snakes, of cutting my hair short, of standing up for myself or speaking about Jesus to people. Yet all of these fears, I have faced with the help of Jesus and by God's grace I am overcoming.

Choosing to pursue a career in a medical field where I am not comfortable is not easy but stepping out of your comfort zone, taking that leap of faith to wherever God may be calling you, is always worth it. I have never experienced more of Jesus than when I was most afraid, most in need, and I let the Lord deliver me. He has never failed me- not once- but always has come through for me time and time again. So that I can declare surely the Lord is good and loving. Surely He will provide for me and He is enough for whatever my fear may be.

I encourage you to overcome your fears today. Not by might, nor by power, but by the strength of the Lord God almighty =)


Friday, December 11, 2015

Mary did you know

Mary did you know?
that your baby boy..
would one day walk on water
would save our sons and daughters
has come to make you new
would calm a storm with his hand
has walked where angels trod
Is Lord of all Creation
would one day rule the nation
Is heaven's perfect lamb


Mary did you know?
That your baby boy
Would die the most shameful naked death
Would spend his last moments with the people he tried to save
Spitting on his face
And shouting curse words at him
Calling Him a liar for the miracles He had done to save them
Beaten, mocked, bloody, worn
He would die

Mary how could you have known?
And what would you think if you did know?
Would you have done anything differently?

But Mary did you know
That your baby
Would overcome the grave
And prove to be a Savior
Show that He is Lord over death, over pain, over shame
Over suffering, over murder, over sinfulness
And that He has the keys to eternal life forever

This is the Jesus we serve. This is the Jesus I know.
So how dare we tremble at the trials in front of us?
How could we stand back and not proclaim in a loud voice to the nations
Do not fear for my King saves
Why are we worried or stressed
Why are we crying like those who have no hope?
For our Savior is ruler over the dead.

Today I saw a beautiful baby in the Nicu.
I also met a woman in labor and delivery in the hopsital whose baby had just died.
As she told me I was stunned
What can I say to this kind of pain?
Except for the name of Jesus-
That He is Savior.
That He is the God who does miracles.
Who raises the dead, who sets the captives free, who heals the sick
That's my Jesus.




Monday, December 7, 2015

college in perspective

I was talking to a guy in the gym the other night when the conversation turned to Christianity and he recited a scriptural reference to the verse. Immediately I was taken back. I mean, I know scriptures but I don't always remember their references and their are not that many people at our school who can quote the Word of God.  As I continued to talk to Him, He added about four more scriptural quotes to our conversation and I was like "Ok, this man knows his stuff." But then two minutes later he mentioned he was a theo major and I had to sigh.

Are the only people who memorize scriptures these days pastors?
What if we studied the Word of God as much as we studied for our classes?
What if we stressed out for our sins as much as we do for finals?

Honestly, I believe it is so easy to turn our college degrees into bragging rights, trophies, and idols and studying into selfishness..
"What's your major?" becomes your identity- it's who you are- and it shouldn't be- because it was never meant to be about us.
In fact if we look at Jesus, He was the carpenter, the untypical Rabbi that said ANYONE (not just the best students) could follow Him.
Everything we do should be about making us less and Christ more.

If we don't know our Bibles then how can we stand up for what we believe?
If we aren't spending time in the Scriptures every day then how we can love people throughout our work?

This video is really good. I encourage you guys to check it out and to remember to glorify God in everything you do (eating, sleeping, studying, flirting, working out, talking, and serving). https://vimeo.com/128292930

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship.




Friday, December 4, 2015

What is Christmas?

It seems that without a blink, Christmas is here and there and everywhere. In every store, every tree, lights on the house, and music on the radio. And I'm left thinking just a few simple thoughts..
Where did Christmas come from?
What's the point of all this holiday cheer in the midst of a suffering world?
And finally, how do I have time for Christmas, when I'm just trying to survive school?
I spent Thanksgiving with the family this year all the while having about 20 hours of homework to complete during break and little holiday spirit. I was exhausted- worn out from college and I didn't care about seeing the lights or watching the Grinch but just wanted to breathe again. And yet here it is the festivities and holidays in full season swing.. and before we know it Christmas season will be gone and this spirit of community and opportunity to get close to family will be out the window. I was listening to Mary Did You Know and The Little Drummer Song on Youtube by Pentonix (great stuff!) and the Little Drummer Boy song starts like this..
Come they told me Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
A newborn king to see Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
Our finest gifts we bring?
To lay before the King...
So to honor him Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum
When we come...
So here in the beginning of this song we are talking about searching for a Savior. We are looking for a light in the darkness- following a star of promise. But we are not just following blindly, doing our selfish thing, but instead we are searching for a gift. A gift that is not something money can buy for we do not have much, not something to work for, but something that is worthy of a King- of a Savior- of whom His feet we are not worthy to wash.
We ask what finest gift can we bring? For we want to please our King. To be Holy for Him, to give Him our best.
I think we easily forget this part of Christmas. This great search for Jesus- that isn't quick mind you but takes days, months, sometimes even years. The giving up of our finest possession- the thing we hold most dear to us- the choice to surrender everything, in order to give the Savior we are searching for with everything our best.
Maybe Christmas isn't just about lights, music, and hot cocoa. Maybe it's not about friends and family whom we haven't seen in so long. Maybe it's more. 
We can't forget that Christmas is a journey to our Savior. A journey to the cross of surrender. Of surrendering our fears, our shame, anything that hinders our walk with Christ, of surrendering ourselves fully . 
Only when we learn to embrace Jesus and truly give Him our finest gift will we find the joy and - peace He promises to give us. For truly in this suffering world, these end times, we must look for an answer for ISIS, for the shootings, for the tragedy, for the sick, for the broken families... 
And Jesus- our Savior- who promises us that when we seek Him we will find Him and that He is with us- Immanuel. Truly Jesus is our only hope and joy for this season of Merry Christmas.
So may we stop running around like soldiers with our heads cut off shopping, doing homework, baking, working too hard- whatever you do this season- and may we quiet our minds and hearts and pray for the spirit of Christ who sometimes speaks in whispers to come to us and dwell in us as we surrender our finest gift to Him.
May God bless you this Christmas season and may you find Him- may you find it- the joy of Jesus Christ. 
Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Remind me what matters

Sometimes I have to remind myself
That everything I'm doing doesn't matter
If I don't remember
Why I'm doing it

That loving isn't walking by
and smiling and saying hello
That caring
Comes from the heart
And can't be faked with a smile

I have to remind myself that my GPA doesn't matter
If I fail to represent Jesus

That each patient at the hospital
Is a human being suffering from one of the worst days in their life

I have to remind myself that when I'm stressed and in a hurry
So is the rest of the world
And that other people
Have bigger problems

So if I can remember
to be thankful
To smile
When I am so afraid

To hug people instead of hating them
To listen to stories when I have no time
And to remember that I have a Savior
Who loves me
Enough to die on the cross for me

If I can remember that
Then maybe I can get through this day
Not just to cross off more things on my to-do list
But to praise God and glorify Him in this life
That I will only live once

Help me to remember God what really matters.

So you want to help the poor?


What is the image you have of the poor? When you think of Africa and India the BoP (Bottom of the Pyramid) approximately 1.4 billion people receiving less than $1.25 a day what comes to mind?Maybe you see hands reaching up, asking you for money, begging. Maybe you see crying, family members dying, suffering and pain.

And then you envision yourself? A superhero. Flying in to Africa or India prepared to hug the children (take a selfie of course) , feed them food, buy them brand new toys, and change their life for the good. Even though you are only prepared to spend a couple weeks living with them in their misery. You are making a great sacrifice indeed (or so you are reminded by 10 other church members who applaud you when telling children's story from the pulpit.)

You want to help- that's why you do it..
 Well at first you really do. At first you think you can make a difference and you have a genuine love for the people. You want to be Jesus' hands and feet.
That's how it starts (hopefully) and that's great because Jesus commands us to help the poor (and not just when we feel like it). He says that whatever we do and don't do for them we do for Him and goes to show us that how we treat the "least of these" is a salvation issue. For if we know Him surely we will love our brothers.

But then you read the Bible verse that says "the poor will always be with us". You look at the statistics of 5 billion people earning less than $40 a day while you the top of the pyramid makes so much money. And you start to feel a little guilty- like maybe you aren't giving enough.

You go to church and they shove pamphlets down your face showing you pictures of children wearing nothing but bones an dying of thirst from unclean water. You go to your school convocation with five more ways you can do something to make a difference. And so you leave a dollar here and there, to justify your guilt, and continue to live a rich, "blessed" life- the way God wants you too right? You leave some money here and there, do your school's community service project, and you even go on a mission trip. Helping the poor one step at a time? You think?

Yet we have a problem.

The cost of short term missions every year is around nine billion.
The US issues around 50 billion a year in foreign aid.
There's more than 17,000 charities that represent more than 30 billion collectively in revenue.
Somehow giving money doesn't seem to be solving the world's problems..
Short term trips and charities (while not all bad) don't seem to be the full solution either.

And we have an even bigger problem.

The poor are not miserable people living miserable lives crying out for our help. The poor do not want money or bread sent to their door *. The poor have families, they have relationships, they play soccer, they do their hair. The poor are probably on average happier than most Americans who while having everything still have not discovered how to have joy.

We typical Americans know almost nothing about the poor. The poor are individuals. They are families. The woman who needs to find water to give to her child in Africa is completely different than the South American who has been raped and is fighting to get through college. We cannot just travel over to another country and think that we will be of service. Especially if we are not asked.

So if you want to help the poor...
If I want to help the poor..
Maybe I should help myself first.
Maybe we should learn to love- to love God.
Because in a world where everyone is suffering,..
Where everyone is poor. Because we are all lacking something are we not? We all have needs. The poor just have bigger material ones that are life and death

In a world where we are all drowning..
If we don't have Jesus Christ
If we don't listen Him
If we don't follow Him. If we don't love Him enough to hate our selfish ways. If we are not prepared to give everything up and to love others enough to listen to them, to see them for who they are, to take time to study about what they really need..
Than who are we to try and help them?
Who are we to help the poor?

*Note not all points are fully evidenced. This is an unedited, opinion paper about my personal reflection on poverty.