Sunday, February 8, 2009

He Remains the Same

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death,
You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

This past week was a crazy week, to describe it vaugly. It went from one extreme to the other, constantly finding out new information, learning a lot, facing challenging circumstances, becoming excited about the future and terrified all in different ways. A couple weeks back I wrote a blog about my dad and how he thought he was going to lose his job, and I was praising God that he didn't. I also wrote in the blog about what would happen if my dad had come home that day unemployed, how it would have all "still been about Jesus". It's amazing to me how God uses me to write to myself in the future. It's happened more than once before, where I will journal something or share something with a friend, and after some time has passed, I look back on it and see the "application experience" God was preparing me for. Looking back on that blog I wrote a few weeks ago, it couldn't be more perfect for this moment and time in my life. My dad called me this week, and "broke the news to me". The thing he had feared just a couple weeks before when I wrote this note, happened. I keep reading these words:

"Even if my dad had walked into our home this afternoon, unemployed, it would have still been about Jesus. It all revolves around Him, in all of His glory. God does have control, so what good would it have done for me not to trust Him? If it is going to go His way no matter how much I worry, or fret, or try to change things, in the end, His way goes. Over the years I've learned to truly trust in the plan that is HIS. Yes, even if that means facing and enduring the things that are completely unknown. At least I know who my Provider is. Whether I have the money to pay for the next semester's education or not, whether my dad's income ceases while trying to raise his kids, or whether he gets to keep his job and is offered better benefits. . .whether death comes to our closest loved one or whether a dear friend gives birth and life to a precious soul--no matter what the circumstance--I've come to see all these things as blessings. Some are slightly disguised as our eyes are blinded to God's plan, but they all were in the works from the beginning."

This was what I wrote...but more like what God wrote to me, before it even happened. At least I know who my Provider is. It's true. And I have the freedom and joy of getting to know Him more and more each day. I will choose to do that, and trust in it all. I think I decided to write this note tonight because I have no doubt that God wants His children to know that He is always there...always providing...always worth trusting...and ALWAYS faithful. And incase you may be forgetting, or losing sight of that at this point in your walk...I wanted to remind you. Just as I've been reminded.

He is good. . .ALL the time.

We sing it and read it over and over, but do we mean it? I know I do. He doesn't change, even when my circumstances do. He remains the same. And that's comforting, for sure.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Dream

Yesterday I took a nap after my classes until dinner. I was very tired. I found myself falling into a dream. I wish I could remember all the little details because I know that there was more to it than what I can remember, but from the things I can remember, I wanted to share.

I was in this pretty big building with a bunch of other people. I remember recognizing a few individuals, but I can't remember who they were. Everyone was wearing the same colored clothing besides me and one other person. The other individual and myself were in different colored clothing from each other and from all the other people. I recall her wearing a red and white polka-dotted dress, and I think I was wearing green. Everyone was trying to figure out why we were dressed in different clothing, and why they were all dressed the same. After a while they realized it was because all the people dressed the same weren't trusting and following Jesus, even though they thought they were. I remember falling to my knees and praying for them, and as I began to pray the lady in the polka-dotted dress came up, took my hand, and kissed me on the head. Following her, each and every other person in the room did the same. As they kissed me, or made contact with me in some way, I watched as their clothing changed into their own, as if they had finally found their identity in Christ. I began to weep in my position on the floor.

That was the end of my dream as Amy woke me up for dinner, but I was just fascinated to find myself dreaming such a thing. I don't doubt it was any coincidence. I just need to keep praying. . .

Friday, January 9, 2009

A World that Doesn't Revolve Around Me...

Last night I was praying that my father wouldn't lose his job, and I woke up this morning to find out that what my dad had feared would happen this morning at a meeting, did not. I am thankful on so many levels. I've walked through a lot of things the past 18 years of my life and I've learned that it all revolves around Jesus. Even if my dad had walked into our home this afternoon, unemployed, it would have still been about Jesus. It all revolves around Him, in all of His glory. God does have control, so what good would it have done for me not to trust Him? If it is going to go His way no matter how much I worry, or fret, or try to change things, in the end, His way goes. Over the years I've learned to truly trust in the plan that is HIS. Yes, even if that means facing and enduring the things that are completely unknown. At least I know who my Provider is. Whether I have the money to pay for the next semester's education or not, whether my dad's income ceases while trying to raise his kids, or whether he gets to keep his job and is offered better benefits. . .whether death comes to our closest loved one or whether a dear friend gives birth and life to a precious soul--no matter what the circumstance--I've come to see all these things as blessings. Some are slightly disguised as our eyes are blinded to God's plan, but they all were in the works from the beginning.

This morning when I woke up, the sun couldn't have been shining more obnoxiously in my face. And then I thought how sometimes I feel like God does that when we go to count our blessings--He couldn't be more obvious. But in our own ways, we turn to our other side, or we place a pillow over our eyes and go back to sleep. We ignore or purposely block out the way we've been blessed, and focus on the ways we "have not". Thank you Father for opening my eyes to see your work in my life. Thank you for all the things I've endured, only to realize their immense blessing now as I pray this to you. I pray that you would miraculously work in the lives of those reading this, and open their eyes to see your light. You are working, it is just up to us to look Your way. I pray that we would realize that, and continually remove the pillow from our eyes, and wake up. I love you so much. Thank you for blessing my life so richly, and thank you for those blessings yet to come. In your precious name I pray--amen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

What A Gift

It has been such a long time since I've written on here. Between schoolwork and the business of everything it's been hard to find time to blog. I don't know how many people keep up with this anyway, but so many things have traveled through my head that I wish I could write them all down right now, right here.

I am officially finished my first semester of college. It seemed like the longest AND quickest time to pass in my life. I love being back at home...just resting, not having to worry about schoolwork, and simply enjoying the spontaneity of this break. Christmas came and went so quickly. It's amazing how we work so hard to get everything ready for one day and then it's gone in a flash. I think Christmas Eve was the best day. I spent most of my time at the church helping out with all the services. I've really enjoyed these Light of the World sermons, especially when Christmas is involved. During the Christmas eve service Joe talked about darkness versus light and defined them both. He described darkness as anything that hinders us from moving closer to God and enjoying Him. That can be anything and everything. It's amazing how easy it is to fall into darkness. Even as I do this Reset experiment with the middle and high schoolers I find myself so consumed with the things I am doing that I pretty much ignore God. It's not that I'm doing it on purpose more than it is just a habit that I've made. The whole purpose of this experiment, however, is to break that habit and form a new one by taking that reminder and listening for God consciously...and I think it's working. Anyway, Joe also described light as the remarkable discovery that we find life through a personal relationship with Jesus. It's so interesting how as a believer I can still experience many times of darkness and days of light. This relationship that I've been offered in Jesus is a gift...something I can choose to be a part of or not. Something that really struck me though was when Joe talked about this gift. He reminded me how a gift is always something that is free, and to say the words "free gift" together is to be redundant. He talked about how there is something in everyone that is fascinated by gifts. . .and it's so true! Who doesn't enjoy a nice gift? We all love them! And the best part is that we never give money back to the person who buys a gift for us...that would defeat the purpose of a gift. We aren't worthy of any of the gifts we receive, they are just given with grace. For God to send His son to die on the cross in place of us is His "free gift" to us. God took advantage of our endearment for gifts and gave us just that, a preciously wrapped gift in the form of a baby, so that when we really unwrap the entire thing, we see just how much we love it, and are forever grateful for it. I hope you were able to unwrap the gift of baby Jesus this Christmas and meditate on its value. God sending His very own son to this earth with the very purpose of His death in mind from the start is love. And for Him to show up, not as this mighty man, with a big and bold entrance (which He could have very well done), but in the form of a weak, innocent baby in a little stable in Bethlehem is genius. Pure genius.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Have A Reason to Sing...

Okay so its been almost one month since I've updated. It's amazing how fast time goes (but also how slow it goes...) depending on what I'm talking about. School is crazy, both in a good and bad way. I am learning so much as I shared in my last blog, and I just got my Western Civ test back on Tuesday (yes, the class I was so nervous about in the beginning) and I got a B+! It's not necessarily the grade I am so excited about, just the fact that I am improving and learning A LOT! But this also means I have to keep it up for the rest of this semester and next semester as well (a continuation of Western Civ with the same Prof). I know I can do it though. Anyway...I've constantly thought about blogging especially recentely as I've had many new things revealed to me. I've had a lot of thoughts but everytime I go to write about them on here, something new comes to my mind...there are so many things to think about! Don't worry, it's a good thing. So where do I start? I don't know...I'm just going to ramble for a bit...keep reading if you wish :)

God has opened my mind to new things and has paved a new path for me in direction. I know I don't have to figure it all out right now but the truth is that it's all been right there, it's just a matter of me tapping into my passions and figuring out exactly what they are. I am looking into communications. What is better than learning about how to communicate for a lifetime? haha. I enjoy talking, writing, acting and I know it couldn't hurt to see what that means for me. I've thought a lot recentely about what it means for me to talk like Jesus and about Jesus, not just show Him through my actions, although all these are VERY important. I want to be able to stand up whether in front of a group of people, or in a simple conversation with one person, and I want to be able to share God's truth. This is something I've always wanted, it's always been my passion and I can't escape that. What does that mean for me right now? I'm not sure...but I'm definitely exploring it and talking to God about it. It is a journey, that's for sure...

Something else that I've run into a lot here at Houghton are many conversations/arguments where people are discussing God and our response to Him. It's as though they are trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong in how we respond and worship to Jesus. There's a lot to that, of course, but there's something there that doesn't settle right with me. This morning at breakfast I sat down with a group of people who were discussing worship and the songs that we sing. They were talking about how a lot of the songs we sing these days do not emphasize the "bad". By that they meant that most songs are only proclaiming our hope and delight, and there aren't songs that speak of our "authentic emotions" as they put it. They said that it is rare that we find songs that speak of our anger at God or disappointment or whatever the emotion may be. I agree that there aren't many songs that say that, however I disagree with the fact that the lyrics in songs are not authentic because I believe they definitely are. I totally understand what they are referring to when they say everything always seems "happy" when they listen to a Christian radio station, but at the same time it's not necessarily that they are trying to portray a "happy" emotion as they are trying to portray a hopeful lifestyle, an alternative. Although the psalms are filled with songs expressing anger and frustration towards God, and we should be authentic in that sense, I truly believe that the songs we sing in church, the songs we hear on the radio, or the songs we sing to while we get ready in the morning are not being dishonest, or lacking authenticity be any means. I believe they are filled with truth and praise all the same. I've heard many people tell me that when they are in church sometimes they just don't sing the songs because they don't want to sing anything they don't feel or mean, which I've done before as well, but at the same time we can still sing songs of praise (even when we are mad, frustrated, upset, etc with God) because we are singing words that express our desire to want to be free of the anger, we sing because we long to worship God because He is worthy of our praise, not because we don't feel like it. He just is worthy. We can still sing truth to God without being completely pleased with Him...we still love Him, don't we? When I am upset with my dad, for example, I don't really want to yell and scream at him, although it is human of me to do so...but in the end I still love him. The same thing happens with God. We can yell and scream at Him, God can handle that, He wants us to be authentic with Him, but we don't desire to be angry with Him and sing songs of hatred, we desire to still worship Him and love Him despite it all, in light of what He's done for us. I don't think we are being dishonest when we sing songs of worship when we aren't exactly feeling what we are saying, we sing because we desire to worship Him and we long for Him to intercede. We can still be honest with God on paper, in prayer, and in song...but I don't think it's wrong to have all these hopeful songs that speak of God's immense love, hope, and glory. When we hear them on the radio, although it can be a bit cheesy at times (a little too "lovey-dovey" if you know what I mean), I still think that those stations are there for more of a witness than anything else. I love singing hopeful songs because it put things into reminds me that I only have Jesus, that I am unworthy, but I am still loved...that I have a God who died for me, and now He's worthy of all of me. Although songs are the smallest amount of worship...He's still worthy of it.

All of my life, in every season, You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Little History...

For the past seven weeks I've been taking Western Civilization. I'm not much of a history-buff, probably because I've never really had a very good teacher, so I've never really learned a lot. This year is different. I've got one of the hardest professors here at Houghton, but you know what? ...I am learning a lot, and that's what this is about. There are a few things that worry me about this class regarding my grade and how that will affect my GPA, therefore, affecting whether or not I keep the scholarships I need to maintain to stay here. That's uncomfortable, but as I wrestle with this, I know that I am here to learn, and I am learning a lot in this class...more than I ever have before. Anyway, we just started learning about the rise of Christianity. This is a really captivating topic for me. Today we talked about the bible, and how the books that we read in the bible today, actually made it there. It's so interesting how they determined what books were the "canon" and which ones were not. It's amazing how the Romans deliberated and argued for centuries about whether Revelations should be a part of the bible, and even Hebrews and 2 & 3 John. Many books were dismissed...but all the ones we know today made it through. How did this happen? ...It is said that these deliberations and arguments about what books should be a part of the canon was guided by the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder? Of course it was! It's just so fascinating for me to learn about the oringinal documents that have been passed down from generation to generation, in which now sits on my desk right next to me. The following reading is from my western civilization textbook. When I was reading it for homework one day...I was just very fascinated.

"Christianity grew slowly in the first century, took root in the second, and had spread widely by the third. Why was Christianity able to attract so many followers? Historians are not really sure but have offered several answers. Certainly, the Christian message had much to offer the Roman world. The promise of salvation, made possible by Jesus' death and resurrection, had immense appeal in a world full of suffering and injustice. Christianity seemed to imbue life with a meaning and purpose beyond the simple material things of everyday reality. Second, Christianity was not entirely unfamiliar. It could be viewed as simply another eastern mystery religion, offering immortality as the result of the sacrificial death of a savior-god. At the same time, it offered advantages that the other mystery religions lacked. Jesus had been a human figure, not a mythological one. Moreover, Christianity had universal appeal. It was not restricted to men. Furthermore, it did not require a difficult or expensive initiation rite as other mystery religions did. Christianity gave new meaning to life and offered what the Roman state religions could not--a personal relationship with God. Finally Christianity fulfilled the human need to belong.
Christians formed communities bound to one another in which people could express their love by helping each other and offering assistance to the poor, sick, widows, and orphans. Christianity proved attractive to all classes. The promise of eternal life was for all." Western Civilization, Spielvogel

Cool, huh? One more thing that I learned today during my professor's lecture was about the paper that these scriptures were written on, the pages bound together to create the bible as we know it today. The scriptures were not just written on any ordinary paper, but extremely expensive paper...paper that they only used for extremely important documentation. They knew that the canon was important. They knew that these words held good news for the world, and for the rest of time on earth. That's pretty incredible. My bible is the real deal. The same words that brought hope to people in Rome, brings hope and encouragement to me that's cool.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Giving Grace Freely

This has been one crazy week. Homecoming was this weekend, and I have never seen a school so prepared and fired up before. My Thursday night, Friday and Saturday were pretty much booked all the way through; something was going on at every moment of the day. It was a lot of fun to be a part of Houghton's 125th Anniversary. I've been taking today off to rest, like usual, but I am worn out. It's going to be hard to "catch up" on sleep if you know what I mean. Anyway, there was a lot of stuff that happened for homecoming and everything that I could blog about today, but I really just wanted to tell you about a lesson I learned this week.

This week, I learned exactly what it means to give grace. I've given grace before, but for some reason it was much harder this time around. This week I was challenged to give grace in a way I've never had to before, and it was a real challenge. But to truly give grace is always hard, isn't it? Or is it? I think the more we become like Christ, the easier we find it for us to gracious. Naturally, it is very hard to give others grace, no doubt, but this process doesn't come easily because we're not Jesus. We need to study, learn, and follow Jesus in order to start to take on His ways and act like Him. I learned this week that in the hardest times...the times where a person or group of people repeatedly disappoint you, the times you find it hardest to forgive, the times where you find yourself surrounded by the lies of another person...these are the times where true grace shines brightest. When I looked up the word 'grace' in the dictionary, I found many varying definitions. One that stuck out to me read: "divine love and protection bestowed freely on people". That's a good definition. But that forced me to look up the word 'divine' which was defined as "of or pertaining to God; extremely good, unusually lovely". Grace is extremely good love, that of God, which is bestowed freely on people. Wow. That's an even better definition. This week I was taught how to do that, I learned how to give grace...not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

I wanted to be a child of God, mimicking His ways. My heart hurt, but I needed to move beyond that, and it required a strength beyond my own. What was interesting when I looked up the definition for grace, there was a second part of the definition that is so obvious, yet disregarded by many, even myself. It read: "grace: an excellence or power granted by God". That is probably the most important part of grace. The fact is that we can't do this act without God's power. It isn't our nature to give grace, mercy, or to forgive. When we do it, we do it because God gives us the strength and the power. Most importantly, we do it because God gives us grace everyday. I think that's what stuck out most to me, the fact that I should give grace freely because I get grace freely. It took a while, but I finally realized that it was something I wanted to do. If it meant being like Christ, adopting His ways, living like Jesus did, then I was all in. It was dumb not to do something just because it was hard. . .it was because it was hard that I knew I needed to do it. The way Jesus lived wasn't easy, which leads me to believe that all the things that I instictively want to shy away from, are probably the things I should be facing head on.

This week I learned how to give grace, and I don't regret it at all, although it's still hard to do on a daily basis, I am learning. I can't forget that I am given grace every day by a God who doesn't have to, but chooses to.