Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Uniquely Created

God creates each one of us uniquely. No two of us are exactly alike- even identical twins don't have the same fingerprints! So why do I find myself wishing I was like everybody else? Advertising, entertainment, the pressures to produce at work all seem to combine to tell me I'm not good enough, that I need to do a thousand things differently.

In reality, we each have different gifts, gifts that God gave us so that we could fulfill the unique calling He has placed on each of our lives. Our callings may look similar, but we are equipped to do them in the way that God says is best for us.

I've been exploring my strengths and spiritual gifts recently, trying to reconcile them with my job, my goals, and with where God is leading me. I am trying to get a sense of who He means for me to be. I keep coming back to the same conclusion: I am unique. God has created me uniquely and placed me in a unique situation to accomplish unique tasks for him. Even the things that I don't like about my life are things that God has done for a purpose. I don't need to compare myself to others, because God is doing things in my life that are just for me. I don't need to worry that I don't measure up because, as long as I am following Him, I am exactly who and where I need to be. 

Are you accepting yourself as a uniquely created child of God?

Todays' Verses
Psalm 139: 1-5
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pleasant Boundaries

I don't like it when God places limits on my life. He does it often, and each time, I find my self chafing against the restraints rather than embracing my limitations and the spaces that God has defined for me.

When my fibromyalgia flares up, I don't relish the rest. Instead, I resent the weakness. When I can't drop everything and go to a friend in need, I tend to focus on my inability to do anything for them rather than looking for ways to serve the people in my vicinity. When my life doesn't go the way I'd like or doesn't move as quickly as I'd prefer, I get impatient for the future and what might be rather than enjoying the present as it is.

The Psalmist proposed a different way of looking at these things when he said, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places." When I look at the boundary lines in my life, I see them as barriers that hold me in, but what if they aren't trapping me? What if they are teaching me? What if they are sheltering me? I think God places boundaries in our lives to prepare us and to protect us. The boundaries train us and encourage us to focus on His provision and faithfulness. The boundaries keep us in, but they also keep other things out.

Without these boundaries I would rush into things, whether I was ready or not. I would run around, encountering all sorts of valueless things. I would find it even harder to manage my time, to figure out what I should devote my attention to. In short, I'd be a mess.

Today, I am looking at the boundaries in my life and calling them pleasant. I am looking to God and examining my life and looking for opportunities to grow where I am. I am looking for the things that God is teaching me here, rather than trying to figure out where He is taking me next. 

Do you find your boundaries pleasant?

Today's Verses
Psalm 16: 5-6
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Simple Sundays: Celebrate!

It's the end of the semester, and while that means that people are moving on and leaving, it is also a reason to celebrate! The end of the semester, the exciting things that graduates are looking forward to, the beginning of summer!

Today, I made an end-of-semester, congratulations-graduates, we'll-miss-you cake for the grad ministry that I am involved in.  A little well placed food coloring, and ta-da: a cake full of school spirit!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Love is Here

My personality is one that is entirely people-oriented. I can accomplish tasks like task-oriented people, but if I have to accomplish them alone or if I don't see how the tasks will interest, engage, or serve people, I will resent every moment. This is great in a lot of ways: I love to connect with people and I find it easy to do so, I love to plan and host events, I want to be my best so that I can bless others.

The 'dark side' of being people-oriented, however, is that I am also very concerned with approval, with being liked and loved. I crave those things. Wanting them isn't always a bad thing: it can make me work better, try harder, go the extra mile. It can also totally distract from the important things in life. My craving means that I'm  always searching for approval and love from a plethora of people. I want it from my parents, my friends, my mentors, my professors, my advisor, my department. I want it even when I know it's not logical to want it, that those people were never meant to fill that space in my soul.

One of the blessings of the Gospel is that we don't actually need approval or love from any of those people. They will never fulfill us, we will never be whole if we focus on whether others love or approve of us. The only things we need are God's love, His approval. All our sin, all our failing, all our inadequacy are washed clean by the blood of Christ, and God calls us blameless, beautiful, loved. We don't need the love that others can show us, the approval they can offer; we only need God.

Love and approval found in people will always disappoint, but the love of God never fails. We don't need to search for love, because He has already given it to us. Love is here, with Him.

Today's Verse
Galatians 1: 10
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hold My Heart

There are so many heart-breaking things in life, in the world. Heartbreak takes so many forms that, once recognized, it can be overwhelming. Disappointment, conflict, tragedy, and fear lay burdens on our hearts, slice us open, expose wounds we thought were healed, and leave us picking up the pieces of our lives.

Heartbreak can be a lonely place. When it feels like everything is falling apart, like the path forward is no longer clear, or when the path is clear but the obstacles seem insurmountable, it is easy to feel isolated. It's easy to become convinced that no one cares, that we are failures, that we will always struggle alone.

But we are not alone. God draws near to the brokenhearted, he lifts up the despairing. 

There is a song whose lyrics say the following: 

One tear in the driving rain,
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart?
One life, that's all I am
Right now I can barely stand
If You're everything you say you are,
Would you come close and hold my heart?
(Hold my Heart, Tenth Avenue North)

The answer to those questions is, "Yes." God can hear our hearts breaking. He will come close and hold our hearts in his tender, loving hands, all we have to do is invite Him to do so. Even in heartbreak, even when we have so many questions and so few answers, His promises remain. We can trust him to meet us where we are and care for us.

Today's Verse
Psalm 34: 17-18
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Is This Surrender?

I heard a talk recently where the speaker remarked that sometimes the most frustrating thing about our spiritual journeys is that we keep encountering the same problems, the same sins, the same struggles. Instead of being discouraged by an enduring struggle, the speaker encouraged us to see these recurring issues as ways to grow in our faith. Each time we encounter a familiar issue it is an opportunity to 'level up'. These are opportunities to become more advanced, to no longer be beginners in our faith and our spiritual journeys.

Much of my spiritual journey has been characterized by my struggle to surrender completely to God and to His will for my life. In the last year or so, I have been on what has felt like an intense exercise in surrender. I opened myself up to hear from God, and I listened intently for His guidance. I saw God do some amazing things, I heard him clearly, and there were times when I know I succeeded in achieving a whole new level of surrender.

Now, however, I am finding myself confronting this familiar theme once again. It's as if God is saying 'You've been doing great, and here is a chance to advance. Will you go deeper?'

I read today that God created me to be a woman more committed to His kingdom than to myself. I think that this what more advanced surrender looks like. Rather than just hearing from God and being guided by him, I need to be willing to put not just my relationship with Him, but also my commitment to His kingdom, before everything else.

Are you putting Him and His kingdom first?

Today's Verse
Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Catch Me When I Fall

On Sunday, my pastor encouraged us to be like Peter, and 'get out of the boat'. Matthew 14 tells us of a time when the disciples found themselves in a storm, and Jesus came to them over the water, telling them not to be afraid.  As Jesus approached the boat, the disciples were afraid, prompting Jesus to say "It is I. Do not be afraid." Peter responded, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water" (v.28).  Jesus told him to come, and Peter stepped out of the boat. Eventually Peter was frightened and began to sink, but Jesus was there, reaching out His hand to catch him.

I've been thinking about what it looks like to get out of the boat and I keep coming back to the same themes: fear and movement. The disciples see Christ, and are afraid. Peter stands up and gets out of the boat, walking towards Jesus on the water. When He once again becomes afraid, Jesus catches him, telling him to have more faith. That's a lot of action on Peter's part: getting up, stepping out, moving towards. Then there are the actions of Jesus: He comforts the disciples, He calls Peter to him, and then He catches Peter when he falls.

The phrase that continues to run through my mind is, "God will catch us when we trip and fall." He will. The Bible is full of examples of people struggling and of their faith faltering, and God is always there.

In focusing on the promise that God will catch me, I've been focusing on the end result of this whole interaction. I've missed the beginning. I've missed the part that I have to play: I have to get out of the boat. I have to be moving. God will catch us when we trip or fall, but we have to be moving towards him first. I'm a clumsy person, but even I can honestly say that I have never tripped or fallen while standing still.

My desire for safety and my fear of risk are keeping me in place, keeping me from getting closer to God. Peter was afraid, but when Jesus called him closer, he had the courage to get out of the boat. My fear keeps me from stepping out, stepping closer to God and his calling on my life. I'm scared, but Jesus is calling. He says, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

Are you standing still or moving towards God?

Today's Verses
Matthew 14:26-31
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Being Jesus

Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are called to BE Jesus, to commit entirely to the Father, to embody His message of love, to make them known to those around us.

I don't think I've ever comprehended what that means, exactly. In light of my recent revelations about how I have failed to love myself, the fact that I haven't understood what it meant to love God with all I am, and especially to love my neighbor as myself, isn't all that surprising. What is surprising is how my newfound love of self, and my newfound reliance on God, has translated to loving Him and to loving my neighbor. 

I have a number of people in my life who were recently in need of a listening ear. I was lucky: every time, I was able to say, without regret or stress, that there was nothing pressing that I needed to do. I was able to sit and listen.

With every person, I quickly found myself praying, "Lord, give me the words to say. What does this person need to hear? Let me be Your voice in this moment. I am ready and willing to do what you want me to do and say what You want me to say." 

In the wake of my recent realizations about myself, I was shocked to realize that so many people need to hear similar things. We need affirmation. We need love. We need to know our true value.

Are you doubting yourself? 
Are you in need? 
Are you feeling alone? 

This is what God wants to say to you, what He wants you to hear:

God loves you.
You are amazing. 
You are impressive.
There is nothing you have done, or will do, that can separate you from His love and grace.
You are never too much, too needy, too broken, too easy, too…anything. 
You are not alone.
He is ready and willing to meet you where you are.
He has created you uniquely.
He has a plan for you, a plan that is for you and no one else.
He wants you. Turn to Him.

Today's Verse
John 3:16-17 (The Message)
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A New View of Patience

I've been lucky: there have been numerous times in the last year that God has been incredibly clear with me. He recognized how much I needed clarity and was gracious enough to provide it. More recently, however, I've been clinging to the idea of clarity, begging for more. Instead of taking the clarity He has already given me and running with it, I've asked Him to show me again and again, to prove that He meant what He said, to reassure me.

I found Mother Teresa's words on clarity  incredibly challenging when I heard them yesterday. I've been clinging to clarity so that I'll be safe. I've been using my lack of clarity as an excuse to avoid risk. I've replaced relying on God with relying on clarity. I've used the lessons God has been teaching me about patience as an excuse to hold back, to wait until I have a clear vision of what moving forward should look like, to justify avoiding taking any steps forward. I've turned God's lessons on patience and reliance on Him into lessons on fear and hesitancy. 

God says, "Be patient, wait for Me to bring this to fruition" and I hear, "Hold back! Unless you know exactly what to do next, unless you know exactly what the future will look like, you should do nothing, don't even try." However, when God says, "Be patient, wait for me to bring this to fruition," he is really telling me, "You are rushing and you need to slow down. You are focused on what this can do for you rather than how I can be glorified. You are worrying too much, haven't I already handled this?" 

I don't think God ever meant for me to turn His guidance into an excuse for inaction. He never meant for my patience to mean my paralysis. Instead, I think God wants us to be all in with whatever we are being patient for. My new conceptualization of waiting for Him and trusting Him is not that I should hold back, waiting for everything to become clear. Instead, I think God wants us to acknowledge the things we are being patient for and then to run after these things with joyful anticipation, confident that He will bring them to pass in accordance with His will and timing.

Patience is knowing that we may not see results immediately and being full of hope and excitement and dedication anyway. Patience is pursuing our godly calling and the desires of our heart with reckless abandon and not being frustrated when God's pace is slower than we might like. 

Are you using patience as an excuse to hold back rather than step out in faith? 

Today's Verse
Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Simple Sundays: Clarity and Mother Theresa

My pastor used this as a sermon illustration today and it was absolutely what I needed to hear:

When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.
“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.

He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: “Pray that I have clarity.”

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.”

When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

(Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shelter in Place

The news coming out of Boston this morning urges locals to 'shelter in place' as a manhunt continues for the Marathon bombing suspects.  The phrase 'shelter in place' has a spiritual connotation for me today. There are so many ways that the world can be unsafe, that we can come under attack. Luckily, God offers us shelter and offers us protection, right where we are.

When we are distressed, when we are hurting, when we don't know what to do, God is there. He encourages us to turn to Him, to look to Him for comfort and assurance. He goes before us into danger and uncertainty. He is our Rock and our Deliverer.

On days like today when there are so many things to stress about and so few things I can actually do, I am so thankful I can take refuge in the Lord and hope in His assurance. He is my shelter as I remain in place.

Are you letting God's protection encourage you?

Today's Verses
Psalm 18: 1-2, 6
I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold...In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bring it On

I find it incredible, and sometimes unsettling, that my perception of God's calling on my life continues to expand and evolve. Recently I've been very unsure of where God is taking me. I've been trying to identify the themes He's placed in my life, trying to figure out where all this is going, but it hasn't been easy, and it hasn't been obvious. I wonder if God wants me to change my circumstances. As I try to figure out where He's leading me, I wonder if He will use me where I am right now.

The answer? He will.

I've been lucky enough in the last few days to find myself in situations where I had the courage to share God and the love of Christ with people. I was sure of myself, I was strong, I had the guts to be vulnerable and to say what I think.

I found myself bonding with people in new ways. I found myself encouraging others. I discovered a new understanding of what it is to love the people around me.

If this is what it means to pursue God's calling for me, if God wants me to be out there, reaching out to people, loving them, encouraging them, and sharing the Gospel with them, than I'm in. I'm open, I'm looking for opportunities to serve others, and I'm not afraid. Bring it on.

Are you letting God use you, right where you are?

Today's Verses
Matthew 22: 36-39

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sense to the Senseless

I tend to forget that the world is broken. That may sound strange because I am a criminologist/sociologist, and I study deviant people and behavior day in and day out. I think my constant exposure to the worst that this world has to offer only makes me more forgetful. Victims, criminals, and crimes gradually become numbers instead of people. I distance myself from the reality of the horrors of violence and hide behind statistics and theory.

And then someone detonates a bomb at the Boston Marathon and rocks the world.

I lived in Boston for 5 years and it is, in many ways, more my hometown than the place where I spent my childhood. In the wake of yesterday's events, along with millions of other people, I scrambled to reach my friends, remembering all the times we walked downtown and staked out our places along the sidelines on Marathon Monday. I sat in shock as I watched the video footage, as I saw familiar places explode.

I wanted to pray and couldn't find words. I didn't know what to ask for. I struggled to sift through my feelings and make sense of this senseless act. I was later reminded that, really, what I want and need is Jesus. Jesus comforts sadness, He heals brokenness, and He brings sense to senselessness.

This world is fallen, but we have been redeemed in Christ. This world is fallen, but it was never intended to be that way. This world is fallen, but there is hope in the knowledge that Jesus will return. As we move forward, I will remember that wholeness and healing are found in Christ. I will remember the promise of His return. I will look forward to the day when there will be no more bombings, no more sorrow, no more pain. I will remember that, someday, love will reign over all.

Are you looking to Jesus for comfort?

Today's Verses
Isaiah 61: 1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners...to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Take A Moment

Take a moment and be thankful. For life, for family, for friends, for grace. Life is too fleeting to take these things for granted.

Today's Verse
Matthew 5:4 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Simple Sundays: Get Out There!

It is spring! The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, and the weather is warming up. This weekend marked the annual weekend of service projects sponsored by many of the local churches in my area. I got to spend the morning outside, cleaning, raking, and trimming bushes at a local animal shelter with a number of my friends.

Have you gotten time outside yet, now that the weather is nicer? Are you looking forward to volunteering and spreading the joy of spring and the love of Christ?

Get out there! It's fun!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Penned In

I'm beginning to think that fear is like a fence, or maybe a fogged up window. Sometimes my view of the goals that sit on the other side of fear are clear and blocked only by the occasional fence post. Sometimes the fear is more overwhelming, more obstructing, and I can only make out vague shapes on the other side. I can certainly use my imagination and picture all manner of possibilities, but when I go to move towards the other side, the obstacle that is fear is there, stopping me.

I know that fear is holding me back and I've started moving past it in some areas, taking little risks. But in other areas, I feel like I'm just standing still, staring at the fence and wishing it would go away.

Did you know that the sentiment behind the phrase 'fear not' occurs over 360 times in the Bible? One site puts the total at 365, one for each day of the year.  The Word is clear. God does not desire for us to live in fear. Fear is an obstacle between us and joy, love, and patience. It stands between us and progress. It stands between us and surrendering to God's will.

I want to be fearless. I want to be stepping out in faith in all areas of my life. I want to stop over-thinking and embrace the discomfort. I want to rest assured that if I am following God's direction, I will be safe, and I need not fear.

Are you letting fear pen you in? In what areas of your life is fear holding you back?

Today's Verse
Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Need to Know

For so long my life, and to a large extent my self worth, has been found in my academic success. Being at the top of the class, being the student professors told each other about, being the one who achieved great things was how I proved that I belonged. I was lucky because these scholarly pursuits came easily. However, that ease also meant that I wasn't forced to grapple with who I was outside of the classroom. I always had prestige to fall back on, so realizing the idols that success and acceptance in my department had become was a long time coming.

For over a year now, God has used my health to reveal the ways in which I have been placing prestige and success before Him. This process has gradually taught me how to say no, how to ask for help, and how to find my worth outside of grades and performance reviews. This journey has taught me to find my identity in Christ. God has been showing me the gifts He's given me that fall outside the purview of my department, the gifts that have nothing to do with getting straight As.

Today I read that the importance of secular knowledge pales in comparison to the importance of spiritual knowledge. As my semester comes to a close and as the pressure to perform and achieve skyrockets, I can rest easy in the knowledge that the most important things I need to know and learn aren't measured on a 4.0 scale. While I want to do my best, as this is where God is currently calling me to be, my true best isn't found in the classroom or in an essay. My true best is found in Him.

Are you finding your worth in Christ? What are the things that you look to for validation before you look to Him?

Today's Verse
1 Corinthians 2: 2
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Leaning In

I watched a TED Talk on vulnerability recently that really challenged me. The speaker said that we are trained and prepared for struggle, but we are worthy of love and support. Individualism teaches us to pretend that everything is ok, but grace and love and community require us to recognize and admit the ways in which we are not ok. They require us to lean in. This idea of leaning into others and leaning into vulnerability feels like it happens in the dark. I'm not sure what's out there, whether there will be something or someone to support me when I do it. But I know it's necessary. I know I need it to grow.

Four weeks ago I would have scoffed at the idea that I needed to be stronger and love myself more. Three weeks ago that same thought left me feeling at sea, wondering how I would ever build up my inner strength and wondering where I should even start if I wanted to learn to love myself. I started with the Word, diving in, looking for clues to who God says I am. I experimented with admitting to others when I wasn't ok, admitting I needed help, admitting that I didn't have it all together. Today I am so blessed to feel a fledgling strength of purpose and love of self blooming within me.

I'm not finished, not by a long shot, and I know that full well. But God has shown me amazing things in the last few weeks. He has shown me the huge amount of love that is present in my life, the love that surrounds me. Each time I've stepped out in faith and opened up, God has been there to catch me. His Word is uplifting, and His work in my life is evident. I lean into my friends, and they are there. My friends weren't disappointed in me like I feared they would be, instead they encouraged me and affirmed me. Each one is unique, but each has been such an incredible part of this process, in ways they can't even imagine.

Are you leaning on God? Are you building community through vulnerability?

Today's Verse
Ephesians 5: 1-2
Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I've been doing a lot of thinking about what makes me happy and what I want out of life. It has been, and continues to be, a confusing and sometimes even scary journey. God has opened my eyes and my mind to possibilities I never considered before.

The most interesting part of this whole process has been the way God has left things open. It's as if He wants me to open myself up, to submit to His will for my life, whether that means change or not. He is teaching me to rely on Him, for so many things. He is teaching me to accept His view of me and His love for me. He is teaching me that He will provide for my life, that He will guide me. He is teaching me to find fullness and joy in Him, and not in myself.

I am learning to let go, to accept the unknown. I am learning to walk along the path He is leading me down, even when it is hard. I'm learning to relish the learning process, to stop wishing it away, to stop looking farther down the road when I have work to do right in front of me. I am learning to seek Him first. I am learning to trust.

Are you trusting God to lead you and provide?

Today's Verse
Psalm 16:11
You will show me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. In your right hand there are pleasures forever more.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Worth More

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in my faith is my inability to grasp how God sees me and how much he wants to connect with me. What if He doesn't like me when I show Him all my baggage? What if the God of the universe decides I'm too much work, that I need too much from him? What if He decides that I'm not worth his efforts?

It has hit me over the last few days that I am selling myself short. I am under-expecting to avoid disappointment, but that means that I am also under-investing in my relationship with God. This is spilling over into my personal life and I find myself under-investing in relationships that are important to me, with people I care about. I am worth so much more than I think I am.

By selling myself short, I sell God short. God looked at me, called me good, and yet I am currently sitting around saying "No, I'm not." Who am I to disagree with Him? If the God of the universe says that He created me exactly this way, to have these flaws, but to also have gifts, who am I to say that He was wrong? 

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. It's time I start acting like it.

Do you have a sense of your own worth? Are you embracing the way God made you?

Today's Verse
Philippians 4: 8-9
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Connecting the Dots

I am amazed at the ways that God continually proves to me that He hears me, He knows what I need to hear from Him, and He wants me to hear Him. In the midst of exhaustion, frustration, impatience, and pouting, He hears me. He speaks to me.

Yesterday I was having a serious pout. I was exhausted, I'd had a headache all day, and, let's face it, my life is not going exactly the way I'd like. At the core of it all, deep inside, a little voice had spent the day telling me that all the things God has said to me over the last year, the last few weeks especially, were false. I spent the day listening to the voice, letting it erode my faith and trust in God's promises. I spent the day remembering all the things in the past that didn't go my way, the things that still affect the way I see myself, and letting my fears get the best of me.

But God was there. He knew I needed to hear from Him, and He met me where I was. Last night at Bible study we discussed the immense power of God to do immeasurably more than we could possibly imagine. We asked ourselves what kept us from being open to incredible possibilities. For me the answer is clear. I keep my expectations low, my requests small, to keep from being disappointed. That little voice inside me tells me that my past makes it clear that what God wants for me won't make me happy. It tells me that God doesn't want to do things for me that are good, that He can't be trusted.

But that message is based on the wrong information. I've connected the dots of my past in the wrong way. God doesn't disappoint,  he redirects. He doesn't harm, He protects. By changing my perspective only a little bit, and by connecting the dots in a slightly different way I see a message of hope and provision rather than one of disappointment and failure.

How are you connecting the dots of your past? Are you open to letting God do immeasurably more than you can imagine?

Today's Verses
Ephesians 3: 20-21
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wordless Groans

I occasionally find myself in a place where I want to pray, and yet I have no words. There is a yearning within me to be close to God, to commune with Him, but I don't know what to say. I feel empty, in need, but don't know what would fix it. Luckily, Scripture tells us that even when we have no words, only wordless groans, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. When I am weak and stuck and need God, I don't actually need to say anything. I don't need to know what I need or what I am lacking. I don't need to have fancy words. I have the Holy Spirit within me, and that is all I need.

The best part about this is that God can answer unspoken prayers. Even when we don't know what we need, He does, and He can and will provide, in accordance with His will.

So when words are not enough, or when they are too much, we can take solace in the knowledge that God hears us anyway.

Are you in a place where you don't know what you need?

Today's Verses
Romans 8:25-26
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Inside Before Outside

On days like today I have to remind myself that ,before I see results on the outside, I have to be sure I'm changing on the inside. Before I see my life change, I have to change. Before God can move me, I have to let Him move within me. I find it so easy to start to change, to attempt new things, and then to sit back and say, 'Ok, I did it once! What's next?'

Does God make amazing, immense changes in an instant? Absolutely. Is that what He is doing in me right now? Definitely not. I am chafing against the slow pace, wanting to sprint, when I should be treating this journey like a marathon.

By placing one foot in front of the other, making decisions that are best for me, and trusting that God knows what He is doing, I can run this race well. I can accept that changes take time. I can trust that what God has in store for me on the other side of this mountain is worth the climb.

Are you making sure you change on the inside before expecting God to change your outer circumstances?

Today's Verse
Philippians 3:21
He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

To Show You Love

"Everything happens for a reason." This is an idea that I have been a fan of for a long time. What I have never been a fan of, and what I still struggle with, is not always knowing the reason behind the things that happen. It's easy to say everything happens for a reason, but it's hard for me to accept that I won't always know what that reason is.

The beautiful thing is that God often, in His own time, reveals His reasons, and they blow me away.

As I've grappled with learning to love myself again, and as I've wondered why God brought me so low, God has been revealing to me the ways in which He has gifted me, and the numerous people in my life who love me. I realize now that I would not have learned to see these things, let alone appreciate them, if God hadn't brought me to such a challenging place.

A wise friend told me a few days ago to let God love me through the people around me. As I open myself up to my friends, letting them in and letting them love me, God shows me how much He also loves me. I'm overwhelmed by the ways in which God is providing me with a portrait of His love for me.

The best part is that He loves you that way too. There are so many things, large and small, that happen every day that show us God's love for us. I'm so thankful that God brought me to a place where I needed to see His love for me, where everything else was stripped away, and only His love remained.

How has God made his love clear to you?

Today's Verse
Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

He Will Give You Rest

Today was (and continues to be) what I call a 'bad fibro day'. My whole body hurts, I groan when I stand up, and I can barely keep my eyes open.

It can be hard to see and feel God on days like today.  It's hard for me to not get things done, not because I'm procrastinating but because I'm not capable of comprehending anything complicated when my body feels like this, when my medication fogs up my brain. It's hard not to throw myself myself a pity party and invite everyone I know.

I do find, however, that it is easy to rest. If I put aside my massive grad school to do list, it's easy to just chill.  I can take this time of laying in bed to pray, to read my Bible between bouts of sleep, to catch up on emails. I can take this time, use it, and embrace it if I slow down enough.

I think resting, in a large part, means giving up control. I can't control my body or my health. I can't control when my disability will rear its ugly head.  I can't control how my department responds to my pace at work. But God can. God has all things in his Hands. We can give up our burdens to Him, and He will gladly take on their weight.

Today I am resting, giving over control, and letting God handle things.

Are you trusting God with your burdens?

Today's Verse
Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This Is What Love Is

I realized recently (and spoke about it a little) that my views and expectations of what love is and what it looks like have become a bit warped. Being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder for which there is no cure, only symptom management, had a huge impact on how I thought and felt about myself. Interpersonal disappointments taught me not to rely on others to be there for me, to support me.

Gradually, I lost sight of what real love is, what it looks like. I even lost sight of God's love for me, and what that looks like. I spoke with Him, heard from Him, but had lost sight of the nature of His love.

On Good Friday, my church hosted an event called 'The Way of the Cross'. In the sanctuary there was a wooden cross, laid on a platform, and we were asked to pick up a word written on a card that described an attitude that we wanted to let go of. We were then to take a nail, and nail the card to the cross.

I chose the card 'Unbelief'. The word 'unbelief' perfectly describes my struggle to understand the love of God, to believe that His love is mine for the taking, that He wants ME and loves ME. I nailed the card to the cross and moved to the next station, shaking with the emotion evoked by taking a hammer and piercing the wood of that cross, literally laying my sin down at the cross. The next station invited us to do any number of a variety of worship activities, including just sitting and beings still, listening for God's voice.

On the screen nearby, there was a projector showing a series images of Jesus on the cross. As I watched the images change, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that THIS is love. God gave His ONLY son, sacrificed His most beloved child, for ME. Not just us as a whole, the world, humanity, but as individuals. He did it for ME. He did it for YOU. He loved me, He loved you, all those long years ago. He knew me, knew you, even then. He knew that I, knew that you, would be separated from Him without the blood of Christ, and He wanted that to change. Christ loved me, loved you enough to give up His own life, enough to take the weight of our sin on His shoulders and pay the ultimate price. THIS IS HOW GOD LOVES ME, THIS IS HOW HE LOVES YOU.

Overwhelmingly. Sacrificially. Totally.

This is what love is.

Today's Verses
1 John 3: 1, 16
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are...By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us