Monday, September 30, 2013

He Does Not Tire

Today I am giving thanks for the fact that the Lord does not tire of me. I am a constant work-in-progress. Just when I manage to let go of one thing, I find I must confront something else in my life that is displeasing to God. But God is never resentful of me or the work that I must do. He does not begrudge me for not being perfect. He's not looking down at me, rolling His eyes at my ineptitude. Instead He looks on me with the benevolent love of a Father, gently guiding me, pointing me in the right direction and assuring me that He has already paved the way for me.

Even when I am frustrated with myself, He is not. I needn't feel trapped by my sinful nature, for He has set me free. I needn't feel helpless and stuck in an endless struggle to save myself because He has already done so. I may slip and backslide, but He is always there to catch me and pull me upright, to support me, to promote me.

I am what He does, and for that I am thankful.

Today's Verse
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Open My Eyes

I read today in Numbers about a time when the Israelites spoke out against God saying, 'There is no food and no water and we loath this worthless food" (Numbers 21: 5b ESV). The Lord sent serpents who bit the people, killing many, until they realized they had sinned by speaking out against God and Moses and pleaded with Moses to intercede for them with God. He provided healing in the form of a bronze snake, lifted up on a pole. Any who were bitten could look at the snake and be healed (Numbers 21: 4-9).

What strikes me about this story is the complaint of the Israelites. They wail that there is no food, and then that the food that they have is worthless. So really, it's not that they have no food, it's that they are not satisfied with what they do have and want something more or different.

I think about the ways I do this same thing. I catch myself ignoring all the good things that God is doing in my life, all that I do have, and focusing on the things I don't have or the things that might go wrong. I have so much, but tend to focus on the one or two things that I lack, and miss out on recognizing the blessings God is providing. A friend mentioned today that God does so many things in our lives each day, countless things, yet we only notice a few. Today my prayer is that I notice more than just a few. I want God to open my eyes that I might see and recognize His benevolence and be satisfied.

Today's Verse
Psalm 34:8
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Number My Days

I am discovering a new meaning for the word busy, but I cannot regret or resent it. I am so blessed to find fulfillment in so much of what I do, and to see silver linings even in the things that are not so glamorous or wonderful. Even when I am bored at work, as training seems to stretch on endlessly before me, I am listening as others offer much needed and greatly appreciated assistance to the people we serve.

I'm able to spend my free time investing in the lives of so many people and being so blessed by them in return. Yesterday I got free home grown vegetables, a relaxing chat over coffee, and a slouchy couch-bound gab session with my roommate all after work and before going to bed.

I am so grateful for the time I have and the freedom to invest that time in what matters to me. I want my life to be worthwhile, for it to have significance beyond my own self, and thus I need to be a good steward of the time I am granted. The Psalmist wrote, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I am seeking wisdom now. The wisdom to know where and in whom to invest my time, and to invest it with purpose and intentionality that I might best serve the Lord.

How do you number your days?

Today's Verse
Psalm 90: 12
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

You are Faithful

In my impatience and my too-frequent desire for immediacy, it is easy to forget just how faithful the Lord is. I pray, and when my results aren't in-the-moment immediate, I often become discouraged or forgetful that the Lord even hears me. However, over and over again, I am humbled by the way He so clearly sees my needs, recognizes them, sees value in them, and seeks to satisfy them. We do not serve a God who looks on us as needy, high maintenance creatures. Instead, we are His children, and He desires to meet all our needs in the best ways possible.

Last night in a bible study we discussed Jesus' miracle where he turned water into wine at the wedding in Caanan. What has always struck me about this story is that Jesus didn't simply meet the need, providing the necessary wine. Instead, He provided a wine that was of such quality that the master of the feast complimented the host for saving the best wine for last. Jesus didn't jump into help at the first opportunity in this story, but when He did, He didn't do only what was needed. He went above and beyond the call to serve the guests and to bless the people who were there.

I see Him doing the same things in my life, though certainly not on so miraculous a scale as turning water into wine, when I am patient enough to let Him work. Answers to prayer start as a slow trickle, quickly turning into a deluge, and I soon find myself overwhelmed by His goodness and abundance. He can do so much more than I could ask or imagine, and yet I am so quick to forget His power and His willingness to move on my behalf.

Today I am remembering His faithfulness and praising His work in my life.

Today's Verse
Psalms 27: 13
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cast Away

Control. It's what I want, and it's what I'll never have. This is a reality of life. There is nothing I can do, no effort I can make, to be in control of my circumstances. In truth, at the core, I like it this way. I am so grateful to the Lord that He has a good and perfect plan. However, there is a part of me that looks around me and sees my life and says, "No, no, it would be better if you could control this. It would be better if you could be the one with all the information."

That voice is so alluring, so tempting to listen to. If I were in control, at least I would know exactly what steps were being taken to solve problems, right? Wouldn't that be less worrisome? If I were in control, things might go wrong, but I would know exactly who to blame: myself. Isn't that worth something?

The Lord answers these questions with a calm, firm, "No." I wasn't created for control. I was created for dependence on Him. Rather than seeing my circumstances as struggles with giving up control, I want to recast my vision of them as opportunities to practice trust in His provision and faithfulness. He has yet to let me down, and He promises to uphold the righteous with his right hand. Rather than seizing control from Him, I want to let go even further, to cast all my cares on Him, throwing them away from me like a fisherman casting his line.

What cares do you need to cast away?

Today's Verse
Psalm 55: 22
Cast all your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Take My Life and Let it Be

In this weekend's sermon, our pastor told us about the woman who wrote the hymn Take My Life and Let it Be. He told us that she waited upon the Lord with patient anticipation. Waiting did not discourage her, she simply came before the Lord and waited for His voice, time and again, until she heard from Him.

I think about how frustrated I get when I don't see immediate results or get immediate answers to prayer. In the waiting, my fear tends to swell, and I am tempted to seize control and try to arrange things and make them move along by myself. Today, however I am thinking over the words of that old hymn, and letting that be my prayer. That I would submit all to the Lord and wait with patient anticipation for Him to move in my life.

Take my life and let it be, consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move, at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

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.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Just Ask

A friend asked me several days ago, "What do you need?"

I didn't have an answer for her at the time. I wasn't sure. Honestly, I have a hard time identifying what I need and then verbalizing it for fear of being seen as needy or high maintenance. I'd rather grit my teeth and bear it with what I have than need more than people are willing to give. However, this is something that God has been working very hard to rid me of for the last several months. Not only is gritting my teeth and bearing it a sign that I don't trust the people around me to care for me, it's a sign that I don't trust God to place people around me who care for me.

Not long after this friend asked me what I need, I realized that I might not be missing it. I might already have it, I just need to reach out and grasp hold of it.

In the wake of all the transitions in my life, all the new things that I am doing, I haven't lost anything. My old friends are still there - just a phone call away, ready and willing and eager to hear what I am doing and share what is going on in their lives. I have a roommate willing to run to the store for me when I am sick, and who, earlier this week, knew exactly what the perfect end to a long first day of work would be. And, I have discovered, I have new friends, and the potential for great friendships blossoming as well. I want to make space in my life for all these relationships, to build a supportive network, and all I have to do is be open to them.

Vulnerability, getting to know someone, getting support from old friends, all starts with me. If they don't know I need it, how will they know to offer it? But, if I can humble myself and ask, I can trust that God will provide the support I need and that the people who love me will be there for me.

What do you need to ask for?

Today's Verse
Matthew 11: 28-29
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Impostor Syndrome

We talk a lot about impostor syndrome in grad school. Basically, it's the idea that you aren't smart enough to be where you are and, soon, if you don't do everything exactly right, everyone else will realize they made a mistake letting you into their circle. I struggled with that a great deal in graduate school. In reality, I knew I was smart enough to be there, but I looked around me and knew that I didn't care as much or as intensely as the other people around me. I just wasn't as invested, and heaven forbid anyone else find out. Wasn't this what I had promised to do? Wasn't this the plan I had always said I would follow? How could I leave it all behind and start something new?

I started a new job on Monday. It isn't what I want to do long term, as I am hoping to go into ministry, but the great thing is, everybody knows it! I told them so in the interview. I told the interviewers that I needed a job, but that I was hoping for something else to come through later. I told them straight out that I wanted to go into ministry, but wasn't sure when that might happen so I needed a job in the meantime. When the people I meet at my job ask what I'm studying (because most of them think I'm still a student) I confidently tell them that I've graduated from grad school and am working here as I wait for this ministry opportunity to work itself out.

Guess what? They love it! I had multiple conversations just today about campus ministry and what we do and what our goals are. People really seem to want to hear about it! They asked me. All I had to do was stop hiding and stop believing that if people knew what I really wanted they'd laugh me out of the room. Instead, I'm grabbing on to the opportunities that God is opening up before me with confidence and telling the world about it.

Today's Verse
Hebrews 13:6
So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

He Must Increase

One of the key concepts I am embracing in this new phase of my life is that He must increase, and I must decrease. I must increasingly acknowledge my need of Him. I must increasingly practice my trust in Him. I must follow where He leads and not run ahead based on my own whims and desires. I must point to Him and recognize Him for the great works He is doing in my life. I want to share these things with others. I want to give God the credit He is due.

I'm learning what it means to be a good steward of my time, energy, and money. I'm learning new levels of discipline that I never had to learn before. I'm more conscious of what I say and how I say it, and, in many situations, I say less than I used to. I am learning to be more deliberate and intentional in a variety of areas, and in each of those areas, I am learning to trust God to smooth over the discomfort that arises. Tearing down some boundaries and learning where to put up other boundaries is a strange process, but God has been lovingly supportive and faithful as I walk through it.

It's a slow process, often I take two steps forward and then one step back, but the Lord is faithful to continue His good work in me, and for that I am grateful. He is increasing in my life, and I am, gradually, decreasing.

Today's Verses
John 3: 30-31
He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

He is Jealous for Me

Our God is a jealous God. This is something I am reminded of today. He doesn't want my focus, my life, focused on the things He has called me to do or the people He has placed in my life. Instead, He wants me focused on Him. Everything else is secondary.

When I do focus on Him, the tasks still get done and I find life easier to contend with. However, when things begin to seem off-kilter, especially if I haven't changed my behavior, it's often because I've taken my focus off of the Lord and placed it on the tasks and people set before me.

I am refocusing today. I am striving to be less task- and people-oriented and more God-oriented. With my eyes fixed on Him, I know that everything else will fall into place.

Today's Verse
Hebrews 3: 1
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Take Heart

Today is not a good day for me, pain-wise. I've known it was coming; the pain and the exhaustion has been getting gradually worse over the last few days, and today it is full blown, throughout my whole body, including a migraine. It is easy to be discouraged when I'm feeling like this, and it is often difficult to see beyond these immediate circumstances. However, I am reminded of two things today.

The first is that this body and it's ills are only temporary. Isaiah points to Heaven in Isaiah 33:24 where it says, "No one living in Zion will say, 'I am ill; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven." It is a great comfort to me to know that, someday, all this weakness will be stripped away. Like a plant forced to start its growth in a pot too small for the end product, a pot that would never be used to display a beautiful, mature flower, my soul is contained in a flawed shell that is not meant to contain it forever.

The second thing I'm reminded of today is something my aunt said to me recently. She told me that, when things in my life make it too difficult for me to stand, that's ok, because all I really need to do is kneel. This resonated so deeply with me because, while this phrase is beautiful in its figurative implications, I often find it difficult to stand on a purely physical level, simply because it hurts to do so. In addition, for all of us, there are so many things that can drive us to our knees. For me, it's often my pain. For others, particularly on a day like today, the anniversary of 9/11, it is our grief, or our fear, or our weary hearts. But we don't need to see kneeling as weakness. Not being able to remain on our feet isn't an admission of defeat. Instead, we take that opportunity to acknowledge that God has more power than we can ever comprehend. The power to handle not only our pain, grief, fear, and weariness, but also the power to overcome all the circumstances that cause us to feel that way. When I find myself on my knees, I remember John 16: 33 which says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Today's Verse
John 16: 33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Your Will, Your Way

There is a song called Lay Me Down, and the lyrics of the bridge say, "It will be my joy to say, 'Your will, Your way, always." I'm thinking and meditating on that today and realizing that the joy may not come when we submit to the Lord's will. The actual submission, the initial act of surrender can be hard and painful and and uncomfortable. But afterwards, when we are living in accordance with the will of God, is where we find joy.

Submitting to God's will can mean so many things. It can mean giving up things we hold dear, it can mean changing our behaviors or reorienting our lives. Those are not easy things to do, and doing them often requires that we conquer our fears and develop a new level of trust in the Lord. In the story of Saul/Paul's conversion we see an extreme example of the struggles associated with submission turning into a deep, abiding joy. Saul spent three days blinded, praying, before the Lord restored his sight. It was only after that time that he began to preach. Now, once he began preaching and living according to the will of the Lord, it wasn't that he never faced adversity, but Paul often wrote of his abiding contentment and joy in the Lord. He gave up everything, totally changed his life, and found true joy in the midst of all his circumstances.

Are you filled with joy today?

Today's Verse
Isaiah 30:21
And your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Only One Thing

Planning and executing those plans is time consuming and thought consuming. It is worthy of our attention, and when God calls us to do things for Him we should do them to the utmost of our ability. We should to all things to glorify Him, to bring Him praise.

However, I have been thinking about the story of Mary and Martha, and their different attitudes when Jesus came to visit them. Martha was so pleased to see Jesus that she immediately went to work preparing a special meal. When Mary's response was to sit with Jesus, not to help Martha with her preparations, Martha was resentful. When she addressed her resentment with Jesus and asked him to support her and to tell Mary to help her, Jesus told her that it was Mary who had made the wiser choice. He said that only one thing was needed, and He would not take it away from Mary simply so she could help her sister.

As someone who likes to plan and then execute the plan, especially when it comes to things like hospitality, this story of Martha hits home. The last few weeks have been filled with welcome events for the new grad students on campus and in our ministry, and in my excitement and desire to make them feel welcome it would be so easy to continue to plan and execute events without actually taking the time to sit down and just be with them. It's easy to do this in our faith, too. When quiet time with the Lord or our time in fellowship with others or going to church become things we check off our to do list and not things that we invest our attention and intentions in, we risk developing the same attitude as Martha. We risk seeing others around us who have chosen rightly and resenting them for doing things differently. We risk losing sight of the one thing that we need.

Do you tend to be like Martha or Mary?

Today's Verse
Luke 10: 41-42
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Unexpected Growth Opportunities

There are so many new faces to be thankful for my life right now and I am so excited that God is growing not only the groups I am involved in, but also my relationships. Unexpectedly, however, I find that I have forgotten one of the most difficult things about meeting new people: revealing my...quirks. There are some things that go along with having fibromyalgia that are so normal to me that I don't really notice them until new people see them. Even my friends get used to them and they become commonplace occurrences, not meriting attention or acknowledgment - it's just me, and we all know it.

I shiver - it's actually really a twitch. Some people shiver when they get a chill, and it's a lot like that. The thing is, I'm rarely cold, so it isn't actually that I'm cold, it's just my nerves firing, making me shake. A lot of the time I wince when I stand up, or when I sit down, or when I shift in my seat. Some times my joints randomly hurt, and I yelp. And yet, despite the weirdness of all of these things, I forget that it's weird behavior until I'm surrounded by new people.

The great part about this, however, is that, while I have been slightly embarrassed that people notice these things, and while I have avoided the rather depressing "I have chronic pain" explanation, I can feel God stretching my comfort zone. I don't like admitting weakness, period. I don't like people noticing the ways that my condition makes me different. But, as more people notice, I have more opportunities to accept myself as I am, as God made me, and embrace it. I have more opportunities to be real with people, to be honest with them about myself, and to glorify God, to have a positive outlook, and to count all the other blessings in my life in spite of my illness.

How is God stretching you?

Today's Verse
2 Timothy 2: 15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Only God Can

Situations where solutions or goals can only be reached through the power of Christ are both exciting and incredibly daunting. I find myself in a number of those places right now and the realization that only He can bring these things to pass is both freeing but also incredibly challenging. I have to be willing to let Him move in me and to let Him place me where I need to be. No matter how much I try, only He can do the work that needs to be done.

I want God to use me, and my Spirit is willing, but so often my flesh is weak. At times my attitude isn't what it should be to begin with, other times I am simply weary of encountering the same obstacles over and over again. Then there are the times when a team needs to come together, so just having myself isn't enough, and I need to trust that God will raise others up as well.

I read a quote today from Tim Keller that said, "Putting our faith in Christ is not about trying harder; it means transferring our trust away from ourselves and resting in him." When I think of all the goals I have before me, this is key. I don't need to try harder, I need to stop trusting in myself, and instead rest in Him. 

Are you trying harder or resting in the power of Christ?

Today's Verse
Phillipians 2:13
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Like He Sees Me

I really dislike self-evaluation. Whenever I do it, I find that there are two parts of me that go to war. First there is the part of me that wants to think well of myself. That part wants to focus on the things I do well, to recognize that there are areas where I can improve, but to generally be kind and loving towards myself. Then there is the other part. The other part of me doesn't think of well of me. It tells me that honest evaluation is evaluation that lists all my flaws. It tells me that the kind part of me isn't kind, it's dishonest. That it isn't give a fair and balanced review, it's giving a sugar-coated and false picture of who I am.

In these situations, I know that what I really need to do is to not focus on how I see myself at all. Instead, I need to ask God how He sees me. I need Him to guide me, I need Him to help me decide what to say about myself. If I leave it up to me, I'll simply end this task saddened or guilt-ridden. Luckily, God sees all of me and knows all of me. I am forgiven for my faults, yet He is just and so I know that any conviction He places on my heart is righteous. I can trust that, with His guidance, evaluation is not a journey of guilt but one of self-discovery and a chance for improvement. When I see myself like He sees me, even as I am corrected, I am safe, valued, protected, and loved.

Are you letting yourself see you as God sees you?

Today's Verse
Ephesians 1: 4
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Things that Count

It's a new semester here at Penn State and that brings with it all the usual advice for the freshman. The usual things can be heard around campus, in syllabi, at convocation, from the RAs, all trying to make sure that the freshman understand that they need to make their time count. I remember being a freshman in college and being told that, while graduation seemed very far away, the things I did in classes, the work I did (or didn't) do, mattered. The things I chose to put effort into or not would effect the outcome of my college career. I hear those same things being told now, here.

I, however, find myself so thankful that this is not the message we get from God about our pasts. Today I am thinking over parts of my past, and I am so thankful for the redeeming power of Christ. The things I did, or didn't do, don't count against me in light of the blood of Christ. I don't have a cumulative GPA in heaven, where I am constantly working to balance out my failing grades with some straight A semesters. Instead, my past is wiped clean, and I can trust the Lord to work in my heart to change me so that my future might be different from my past.

I needn't dwell on the past and constantly work to compensate for my mistakes. Christ has taken all of them upon Himself that I might be free. I am free to focus on the things that truly count, to praise and bring glory to the Lord in all that I do.

Today's Verse
1 John 1: 7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Proper Rest

In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes, "You cannot have a proper work theology unless you have a proper rest theology." As a grad student, I clung to ideas like this. I knew needed rest, I would even say I yearned for it. To keep my work in perspective, to keep myself sane, I needed proper, God-centered rest.

Now I am discovering how easy it would be to forget the lessons about rest that I learned as a grad student. I am doing work that I love with people that I love. As a campus ministry volunteer, everything I've done in the first week or so of the semester has been incredible and energizing. I've adored every minute of it.

However, today I realized just how easy it would be to never have rest. The more people I meet and connect with, the more relationships I make, the happier I become, and the more effective I know I am in my job. Along with that, however, comes the opportunity to never be still, to always be out (or in) doing something with people, to never take the time to make sure that I am taking care of myself.

Today I am taking the time for proper rest. I want to spend today reflecting on all that God is doing, thanking Him for His provision. I want to make sure that I am focused on Him, that my life is centered where it should be.

What is your rest theology?

Today's Verse
Psalm 62: 5
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.