“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee.
This week’s line from the Wesley Covenant prayer says, “Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee.” First thoughts? “Who would want to be ‘laid aside’ for God?” “Why would God ‘lay’ anyone to the side when they have a willingness to please Him?” The
portion of the statement that reads, “Let me be employed for thee” is very easy to agree with, and something that, I think, most Christians would agree with. Any person of active faith would be thinking of how best or how next to use his or her respective gifts to serve God. Furthermore, it is a widely held belief that people are able to act as “ministers” whatever their vocation may be. One can be employed for God in any place of employment, so why would God ever want to “lay” someone aside? Is it for God’s sake or man’s sake? In the Gospel of John, a story is illustrated in which the disciples have just realized that it is none other than Jesus standing on the shore. They immediately start urgently rowing their boat to shore, all the while “dragging the net full of fish.” (John 21:8) BUT "when they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there,
with fish on it, and bread.” (John 21:9) Despite Peter rushing to shore, and the disciples desperately trying to bring their 153 captured fish to the feet of Jesus, Jesus already had breakfast prepared, he didn’t need their fish. There is a deep truth contained in this seemingly simple story. Would it not be satisfactory for the disciples to arrive at the feet of Jesus and say, “Look master, we have caught 153 fish despite a tear in the net!”, and then for Jesus’ response to include amazement at the sheer number of fish they had caught? If Matthew 4:19 tells us that we are supposed to be fishers of men, could this same story not be applied to our life in ministry? Is pride not one of the main struggles of humanity? Is pleasing God not something that Christians strive to do-to stand before God at the end of our life and say, “Look master, I have brought ____ people to you. I have changed _____ people’s lives. I have done my best to show people your love despite any wounds I may have experienced.”? Would it not be entirely too easy for someone in ministry to crave being needed? Self-importance can become intoxicating. It is overwhelmingly possible in this life to forget that we are merely instruments, and for our faith in God to be replaced by faith in ourselves. But Jesus isn’t amazed at numbers, He is primarily concerned with our hearts. Thus, to be laid aside for God is to
recognize that our hearts may not be in the right place and take the time for God to work in us. In this sense, being “laid aside” for God is an act of grace- one that acts for the sake of man. We have to remember that God doesn’t need us, and be continually humbled by this. For some this line may mean that they need to start striving to glorify God in their daily work; for others it may mean being laid aside in their current ministry. Whatever the case may be, the key is to follow Jesus with loyalty and love, and to trust in Him, and to accept spotlight or shadow, prosperity or adversity – all for His glory and for the good of our souls and others. “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” -John Wesley
“I firmly believe that Jesus didn’t just go around telling people about himself. He healed the blind, helped the brokenhearted, freed captives. It would be ridiculous for me to go up to someone that is hurting, and say “Let me tell you about the Gospel”, and then walk away while they’re still hurting. I really don’t like statistics. When people ask me for statistics, to me they’re saying, “Why should I care? Give me a number that’s high enough to make me care.” One. If there’s one person that this is happening to in your city, town, neighborhood, or country then you should care. If there’s one person out there, and we know there is, then you should care.”—CNN Freedom Project
I’ve been staring at this sentence for about a week now. Not quite sure what to make of it. It seems quite simple. But as is my tendency, I over-think everything. On one level, it
can be reduced to accepting and allowing God’s plan for your life to pan out, without question. But I feel like John Wesley covered that when he said “Put me to what Thou wilt, Rank me with whom Thou wilt.” So this must mean something different for us, right? (“Right”, I say to myself.”) In the rest of the prayer, Wesley pairs opposites to emphasize his point that He will glorify God in any circumstance. So why does this line pair together doing and suffering? Seems kind of random at first glance. But is it? Here’s what I’ve come up with: Doing and suffering, doing and suffering. Based off the format of the remainder of the prayer, I’m inclined to think that Wesley associated doing with happiness, and therefore contrasts doing to suffering. Travel back with me to my seventh grade English class; We were reading a short story about the difference between “being” and “doing”. The story posed the question, “Do you want to be a ‘be-er’ or ‘do-er’?” The protagonist in the story definitely seemed to prefer “doing”. “Doing” connotes liveliness and action, whereas being simply implies existence and identity. What I think John Wesley is trying to tell me through this line is that true satisfaction and fulfillment comes not from identifying as a Christian, or someone that follows Christ, but from responding to that, doing something about it. We should be so moved by the love of Christ, that we crave doing things for Him and His Kingdom. When I’m not serving God, I want to physically feel it. I want it to be miserable for me not to be loving others by leaning on Him. Michael Boggs, one of the worship leaders for Kairos Nashville, wrote in his song “More than Moved”, “The cross
that I’ve been carrying often feels too light. ‘Cause those you call the least of these are the ones I’ve left behind. Oh Lord I can sing to you, lift up my voice to you, but worship’s more than sweet melodies. I wanna be more than moved.” When we fail to love like He loved, we get it wrong. This was pointed out in the Bible several times (especially by Jesus Himself). Amos 5:21-24 proclaims, “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religious projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take with your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice- oceans of it. I want fairness- rivers of it.That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” I think John Wesley is saying here, “That’s all I want. But still, this is ultimately about what You want.” Charles Marsh, in “The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today”, says, “The pursuit of the beloved community is about bearing witness to the Prince of Peace in a violent and suffering world.” Wesley viewed religion “not as humanity’s mean of escape to a more tolerable heavenly realm but participation in God’s own redemptive enterprise.” Put me to doing, put me to suffering. When I pray this line, I pray with conviction that God would instill in me passion to receive His love, and be so moved by it, to do something about it.
Put Me to What Thou Wilt, Rank Me with Whom Thou Wilt.
The next line of the Wesley Covenant prayer reads, “Put me to what Thou wilt, rank me with whom Thou wilt.” As I’ve been reflecting on this line the past couple of days, my mind has wandered down a couple different paths. The first, being the most obvious for those who know me, concerns my call to ministry. It’s been about 3 years since I finally
stopped running away from the thought of devoting my life and heart to ministry for the rest of my life. The other day, while I was driving back to Texas, I was listening to some Mumford, and for the first time heard the line “I know my call, despite my faults, and despite my growing fears.” I couldn’t explain it any better than that myself. When I pray, “Put me to what Thou wilt”, I am committing myself to this ministry despite my feelings on unworthiness or my fallings short, and despite any desire I have to run as far away from it as I can. Often I’m consumed with anxiety and overwhelming sadness that I’m inadequate for ministry; But I always remind myself, “God doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called.” Next path- I’m currently in the process of YoungLife “Follower” Training (training to be a WyldLife Leader), and scared out of my mind. To think- I’m gonna be spending most of my time with middle school students and pouring myself into them; I’ll be walking into middle schools all by myself and talking to kids who want nothing to do with me. (Back I go to the bottom of the middle school food chain…hence the “rank me with whom Thou wilt” part of the prayer.) I’d like to add to this prayer,
“Teach me to be humble, call me from the grave, show me how to walk with you upon the waves, breathe into my spirit, breathe into my veins until only love remains.” These lyrics from JJ Heller are part of the reason for the name of my blog. I want to be melted, molded, and formed until only love remains, until only love remains for my calling, until only love remains for those I serve, until only love remains for my Creator, Sustainer, and Friend. Next path my mind has wandered down- people questioning my calling. I identify with Jesus in this experience, for when He was just a child, he is questioned by His mother, and he replies in Luke 2:49, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” They had no idea what He was talking about. The following is an excerpt from one of Howard Old’s sermons concerning following God’s call in our lives. “One of the greatest stories in the Bible is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. It is late in the
day. The hills are crowded with people. The disciples have not made plans for supper. There are no fast food places on the Sea of Galilee. So, Jesus passes a miracle and feeds the crowd with plenty of leftovers for the disciples to take home. As John tells the story, the whole thing was made possible by a little boy who happened to have a small lunch consisting of five barley loaves and two fish. I suppose all of us dream of some claim to fame, of some point in history where we make a monumental difference in the course of humanity. But that is not how it happens. We make a difference by doing what we can, and giving what we have through ordinary ways. Very few in the crowd even knew that the food came from the little boy’s lunch. Yet this child, this boy - whose name we do not even know, whose identity goes unmarked - did what he could and gave what he had. Are you willing to do that? “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” My true identity comes from my Heavenly Father. I am a beloved child of God. My main purpose is to be about God’s business and the main thing is to make the main thing the main thing. Thanks be to God.” Put me to what Thou wilt, rank me with whom Thou wilt. Amen.
I have decided that for 2012, I am trying to start saying the Wesley Covenant Prayer everyday. I have written it on my white board above my desk as a simple reminder.
Therefore, I’m going to take one sentence at a time and write a blog entry about the line. The first line of the prayer reads, “I am no longer my own, but thine.” Coincidentally my favorite Bible verse for quite some time has been Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, that I may no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” For me both these things carry a lot of weight. Bernard of Clairbaux proposed the notion of four degrees of love in the Christian lifestyle- Love of self for self’s sake, Love of God for self’s sake, Love of God for God’s sake, and Love of Self for God’s sake. Now that’s a lot to take in, so let’s break it down. The first degree, Love of self for self’s sake, is carnal love (selfish love if you will). It can be good or bad in my opinion and can be disguised by being vain or just by having a healthy self esteem. In this degree of love you love yourself simply
because you want to have a positive self concept. Who wishes to hate themselves? I’m sure many people do and are miserable because of it. But it is said you cannot love another until you love yourself, which brings us to the second degree of love. Love of God for self’s sake- this is also selfish love, but one in which you want to gain something from your relationship. For example, loving God simply because of the freedom and salvation he offers or the appealing description of heaven in which all pain and suffering and evil has passed. You want to get there, so you love God. The third degree of love is the love of God for God’s sake. In this state, the love for God is simply the result of the idea that God deserves our love because there is nothing not to love. In the same way you love your friends just for who they are, this describes loving God and entering into a relationship with Him because you can’t help yourself! The very descriptions of God flood your heart and you want to know Him and love Him. The fourth degree of love is one in which you love yourself for God’s sake. You are created and loved by Him, and it is out of love for God and his creation that you should respect and love yourself. This is one I have wrestled with a lot over the years. I realize that I am created in the
image of God, that I am who I am made to be in God, and that He is made perfect in my weakness. Yet, it still proves to be a constant struggle to love myself. And it truly gets in the way of loving others (it’s true). Because I do not entirely love myself, I cannot fully be vulnerable with someone else out of fear that, they too, won’t like what they find. So this first line of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, “I am no longer my own, but thine”, serves to remind me of the importance of loving myself. Because loving myself, according to Bernard of Clairbaux, is the highest state of loving God. And because I no longer belong to myself, I am going to do my best to no longer focus on my own insecurities or uncertainty, but rather focus solely on the certainty provided in Jesus dying on the cross for me, and the extent to which He is jealous for me, and to which He loves me.
This is a rough recording of one of my new songs. This one is based both on my difficulty in letting myself be vulnerable with others and off of a C.S. Lewis quote,
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” Here are the lyrics—>
Glass Cage Heart
I’ve been told that my heart is free Is it so? Or is that just how it seems? Free to love and to love freely? Or free from harm waiting for release?
My heart is bound by holding so tightly Love for memories rather than what lies ahead of me. To hold on to the nothing that we have, Or let go of everything we had?
I’m letting go for good of you and me I’m setting out to find the key That will finally set my heart free From the small glass cage inside of me
I did my best in getting over you, It’d do some good if you could do it too. But you never could quite swallow all your pride. You tried and choked, leaving me behind.
My heart was wrapped, and ready to give. Now here I stand trying to forget. Remain untouched in your selfishness You broke my heart but couldn’t care less
I’m letting go for good of you and me I’m setting out to find the key That will finally set my heart free From the small glass cage inside of me
"Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever." -Psalm 28:6-9.
We all have encountered trouble at some point in our lives, some more often than others. However, we all choose to deal with it in different ways. Some of us keep to ourselves and remain silent, while some of us complain to everyone and anyone that will listen. Why is it that we don’t automatically go to God with our problems? We view it as a last resort. God is very being who created us. Who better to seek out in our times of need than God? He can provide strength in us that nothing or no one else can. When I think of God being the strength of his people, the example that jumps out at me is the story of David. He is most often known and referred to as a “man after God’s own heart.” However, if you really take a look at David’s life, you’ll find he was also a man that had his fair share of trouble. He was pursues by King Saul, he barely escaped several assassination attempts, he had to spend much time hiding in the wilderness, his entire family was kidnapped on one occasion, his friends turned against him, and he suffered the shame of having
committed adultery and murder. How was he able to endure all of this junk and still be remembered as a man after God’s own heart? The answer is simple- He went to God with his troubles, his doubts- even in his most vulnerable state. David chose to do so by writing Psalms, all of which have a common theme-put your trust in the Lord and stay close to Him through praising Him and praying to Him. God has the power to erase all of our shame and past regrets. He offers us stability when our entire world is changing. I know that I dont’ stand alone when I say that 2011 was a hard year- one characterized by loneliness, heartbreak, changes, and all around instability. But when I consider all of the things that held me together this past year, they were all things or people that brought me closer to the foot of the cross. This is where I hope to start 2012- at the foot of the cross.
And as much as I would like to say that in 2012, I’m a whole new person and I’m letting go of all the pain I went through this past year and all my fear of the future- I wouldn’t be fooling anyone. Just because it is a new year, does not mean that everything suddenly gets easier than it has been. My scars and struggles still consume me on a daily basis, as much as I try to push them away. And just because I follow Jesus doesn’t mean that 2012 will treat me any better. However, one thing I do know to be true; Because I follow Jesus, I have a purpose, a reason, and a will to carry on in 2012 and overcome these struggles with His help. So I’m starting off 2012 at the feet of my Savior in all humility, simply asking for His strength for this upcoming year. Because all the time, Christ is making me new. He can make beautiful things out of the dust, He can make beautiful things out of us. My goal for 2012, is that, despite anything and everything I may go through, I would still be known as a woman after God’s own heart, praising Him in all that I do.
This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Not just love, but it’s counterpart as well. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand it’s own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
We say “I love ___” many times throughout our daily lives. We say it about our families, our significant other, and God. But do we truly love? Can we honestly say about ourselves, “I am patient and kind. I am not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. I do not demand my own way. I am not irritable, and I keep no record of being wronged. I do not rejoice about injustice but I rejoice whenever the truth wins out. I never give up, never lose faith, I am always hopeful, and I endure through every circumstance.”?The answer to that is a big fat NO. I was laughing about how silly I felt just typing that about myself. If I’m honest, I come nowhere close to that description of love. (Agape love). Rather, I am impatient and always striving. I am selfish and irritable. I hold grudges. I often feel inadequate and give up. I lose sight of what is good and feel hopeless. BUT I have a God that LOVES me. He waits for me to return to Him when I stray off His path. He was selfless in sending His son to die for me. He tells me I am HIS. He has called me by name and made me in His image. He never gives up on me.
In this season of advent, one of the things we are called to reflect upon is love. While we await the coming of Christ, we are called to not only think about God’s love for us and our love for Him, but actually put that into action. I like to “compartmentalize” love in three different ways- my love for God, my love for others, and my love for myself. And while they are all so different- I fully believe you can’t have one without having the other, and that is something I try to remember everyday. So what happens when we fail to love as we are called to? Love for ourselves- In this day and age, pretty much everyone I know struggles with self image in one way or another. It looks different for everyone, but if we fail to truly love ourselves, we will know no happiness. If we fail to love ourselves, only problems can arise. Eating disorders, cutting, substance abuse, and downright misery are all possibilities. I only wish we could listen to what our Creator says about who we are. We are made in His image, and we are who He created us to be. Every mistake we make, or failure we reap only serves the purpose of making us more complete. Often we confuse the true meaning of humility. C.S. Lewis is quoted saying, “Being humble isn’t thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.” There is nothing wrong with liking who you are. It is when we become self absorbed and concerned solely with ourselves that humility ceases to exist and pride sets in. It is honoring to God to hold yourself with esteem. After all, He created us in His image. And it isn’t until you love yourself that you can love others.
Love for others- This is where a lot of society falls short. So what happens when Christians get it wrong? It breaks my heart more than I can say to see people condemn people in the name of God or tell them they are not worthy of God’s love. EVERYONE is worthy of God’s love. LGBT teens and adults, homeless men and women (and God forbid children), people of all ages with mental and physical disabilities- hear me when I say you are LOVED. And I am sorry if people that claim to follow Jesus don’t welcome you alongside them. God loves all of us regardless of what we do. And it is no one’s job on earth to close the gates of heaven to you. This video has been circulating facebook this week, and I think it’s important that everyone see’s it. (CLICK Here) This young boy deserves our love and it breaks my hear that we have failed to do our part in loving him. Our hearts should break for what breaks Gods and be so moved, that we are called to action.
Love for God- This week in one of my classes we were learning about Islam. In my reading I found so many concepts of God that I found to be moving. “God is not something always clear and certain that you only have to look at to see. God is a reality that you have to look for and discover for yourself. The word God is an invitation, like an invitation to a meeting or a party. You don’t quite know what will happen until you go there yourself. ” God is constantly pursuing us, we just have to realize it. In turn, we should be continually pursuing Him. Rabia, a well-known Muslim philosopher put her love for God in these terms- She does not seek after
God out of desire of heaven or fear of hell but solely because He is God. She loved God not for her sake, but for His. We love God because He is God. Francis Chan, a pastor in California, puts it like this, “When you are in love, you go to great lengths to be with the one you love. You’ll drive for hours to be together, even if it’s only for a short while. You don’t mind staying up late to talk. Walking in the rain is romantic, not annoying. You’ll willingly spend a small fortune on the one you’re crazy about. When you are apart from each other, it’s painful, even miserable. He or she is all you think about; you jump at any chance to be together.” We say we are in love with Christ, yet we find ourselves fighting to get up to make the drive on Sundays to spend 40 minutes at church. Those extra five minutes spent in prayer seem unbearable when you’re tired. Tithing that 10% is too risky this month. We let our thoughts be consumed by anything else. We turn down opportunities left and right that could be spent with God. John Piper poses the question this way- “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”
“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it. I believe in God, even when there is silence.”—Scratched on the walls of a cellar in Germany from a Jewish follower hiding from Nazi persecution
r-ee-uhs] eager to learn or know, inquisitive, interest, attention through being inexplicable or highly unusual.
If you never try you never know…I was listening to Nickel Creek’s “This Side” and for some reason the line only the curious have something to find stuck out to me. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to follow them.” Similarly, a friend once shared with me this poem-The man who misses all the fun is he who says, “It can’t be done.” In solemn pride he stands aloof and greets each venture with reproof. Had he the power he’d efface the history of the human race; We’d have no radio or motor cars, no streets lit by electric stars; No telegraph nor telephone, We’d linger in the age of stone. The world would sleep, if things were run by men who say, “It can’t be done.” As my thoughts dwelled on all these things, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own tendency to cling to what I know and what is safe. But Jesus calls me to leave all this behind and live a very different lifestyle. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, You will find me.’” In order to make our dreams come true, we must pursue opportunities.
In order to create lasting relationships, we must be intentional about them. In order to cross the ocean, we must be willing to lose sight of the shore. In order to experience God, we must seek Him wholeheartedly. Many times in my life I have said things along the lines of not feeling God’s presence or feeling distant from God or feeling spiritually dry. But does the emptiness that comes from the apparent absence of God not speak to the power of His presence? And perhaps the moments when it feels that God is the farthest away are the moments when He is closest. Maybe the perceived darkness is just the result of the blinding light of God. I was reminded this week that if I draw near to God, He will draw near to me (James 4:8). Walking in the light, no matter how dark the road has seemed at times, has made all the difference in my life lately. My devotional yesterday concluded with this- “You have realized that needing Me is the key to knowing Me intimately, which is the gift above all gifts.” And as I sat realizing how true that statement has been for me this semester, I thought to myself, Is this not true of everything? Does not all our curiosity stem from our deep need for something?
Something that we cannot provide for ourselves? Let’s embrace our deep need to question things around us. It is not our responsibility to get gifts from God. Often times we forget that we should love God simply because He is God- not because he offers us gifts beyond our wildest imagination, but because He is love. Through my deep need for God, I have been instilled with the curiosity to learn more about Him and His love and that in itself is a wonderful gift. Another one of my favorite lines from a Nickel Creek song, Doubting Thomas, says can I be led down a trail dropping bread crumbs that prove I’m not ready to die? The song wrestles with the very real struggles of faith in heaven, but as I listened to it I couldn’t help but think that it also fits with the notion that we have not truly died to ourselves to walk as a new creation if we are holding on to our past…leaving breadcrumbs to lead us back to our comfort zones once we get scared or lose hope. We must drop our breadcrumbs, past hurts, and scars in order to wholeheartedly follow after Christ. And at times we may feel lost in the wilderness, but if we allow our curiosity to drive us further into the woods, I believe we will find a spring of rest and peace. C.S. Lewis once wrote that
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” In order to fully experience the beauty and love of God, we must be willing to be vulnerable with God and one another. This means we must allow our curiosity to expose us to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, which doesn’t sound pleasant to any sane person living in the 21st century. However, if we continue to follow God then He will bring restoration and reveal to us beauty and opportunities unimaginable to us in the present. So let us explore the road less traveled- with curiosity as our map, Jesus as our companion, and God as our compass.
While I’m in the process of figuring out what to write about, I figured I’d share with you guys some of the stuff I’ve already written. I don’t normally share my songs with that many people so I thought this would be a good way to start doing that. So…here are the lyrics to three of my songs. Enjoy…or not! The choice is yours :)
Black and White I watch the seasons just changing in my head I watch the leaves as they fall from green to red But I know there’s a place where I can go- It’s not to you, you’re more what I’m running from.
It’s a place where nothing’s more than black and white. Outside time and space, nothing more than notes and lines. Invites me in, then sweeps me away Takes away my pain, everything will be okay
Till I woke up this morning, like I always do And like always, my thoughts, they turn to you To how you left me in the dead of winter’s night Not in spring, no room to bloom no song to sing
Of a place where nothing’s ever more than black and white Outside time and space, nothing more than notes and lines Invites me in, then sweeps me away Takes away my pain, everything will by okay
But I fall like the leaves, swept away by the wind of you
Nothing’s ever more than black and white, Nothing’s ever more than notes and lines Invite me in, then sweep me away Take away my pain, everything will be okay.
Tell Me I stood on the steps of your heart Until all had fallen apart Yeah, it came crashing down
I looked in the window and saw That I had been replaced By someone new
So tell me- What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? When I gave you the key to heart and you just threw it away Tell me.
So I turn my back and ran As far as the eye could see To God knows where
Got lost along the way, Wandering alone Both night and day
So tell me- What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? When I gave you the key to heart and you just threw it away Tell me. Tell me what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? When I gave you the key to my heart and you just threw it away
Think.Choose.Love They tell me to clear my mind of everything you And so I try my best But you’ll be running through my head Till I’m running to your arms again Cause the last words that you said Broke my heart and then
I thought a thought I thought I might tell you Of how you might think of me too But you are there, and I am here And all we have is words Pages, pages full of words, I will never send to you
They tell me to make up my mind and just choose Well I choose you. I choose happiness, but just the same, it’s so far away Now all I know to say, Is that I don’t know what to say
I thought a thought I thought I might tell you Of how you might still choose me too But there you go and here I am, with my heart in hands All the pieces shattered around me, This was not my plan.
They tell me it’s better to love and lose Than to never love at all But now I’m at a loss for how to fall out of love Reverse the fall You told me you’d love me always, so tell me now Why does my heart ache?
I thought a thought I thought I might tell you Of how you might have loved me too. We’re a thousand miles apart and I feel it for the first time With the silence between our hearts
Well, it’s been a whole week since I last wrote. And there is much to be thankful for, my friends. But I’ve decided to focus my energy on being thankful for joy. In this life, joy or happiness often seems fleeting. We all feel this way at some point or another…life just seems to have a way of wearing us down in its own confusing way. Just when you find yourself on top of the world, your world completely turns upside down-leaving you at the very bottom. But without our pain or confusion or apathy we would know no joy.
“It takes a night to make it dawn and it takes the day to make you yawn. It takes the cold to know the sun. It takes the one to have the other. It takes no time to fall in love, but it takes years to know what the love is. It takes some fear before I trust and it takes some tears to make it rust and it takes the rust to have it polished. It takes the lost before you’ve found it and it takes the road to go nowhere and it takes the toll to show you care and it takes the hole to see the mountains. Life is wonderful. Life goes full circle. Life is wonderful. Life is so full of love. Life is wonderful. Life is meaningful.” Once you learn to see the beauty in all the little things around you and take refuge in that, you start to experience irreplaceable joy that cannot be shaken. That’s what I’ve found lately. Not to say that nothing gets to me anymore- but the joy I have experienced in the past week alone has been so tremendous that when something happens (that a month ago would have sent me into my reclusive mode) I just remember that life is wonderful- no matter what my present circumstances, spend time in prayer, dry my tears, and get right back up. In the last week, I’ve had so many moments that have brought me joy. From finding creative ways to decorate my dorm room for Christmas with my roommate while listening to Christmas music, goofing off with my friends from YoungLife, baking cookies late at night, grabbing some peppermint flavored coffee at Starbucks with great friends I haven’t seen in entirely too long, getting a chance to share the songs I write with my family, singing with my sister to surprise our family for Thanksgiving, going to see cheesy chick flicks with the girls in my family, going on a hike in the beautiful Tennessee hills with my family, reuniting the friend group for a movie night, eating way too much all week, decorating the Christmas tree, wasting hours just talking with those who mean most to me, getting to stay in town a little longer and watch my church choir concert to kick off the Advent season, but most of all feeling the love and support and encouragement of my friends and family. I love you more than I can say, but hopefully you feel my love from my actions more so than from my words anyway.
Joy. Such a simple, simple word- but we often lose sight of the true meaning and weight of the word. The Greek word for joy is chara. Throughout the New Testament, love and joy seem to work together in the lives of Christians to bring peace in their hearts and minds, resulting in pure happiness. Where love melts the heart of stone and breaks down our walls, joy is able to touch the deepest parts of our hearts. And while joy is presented in many, many different ways throughout the New Testament, every single time the word chara is used in the original manuscripts, it is describing times when people were discovering or accepting Jesus. If you are far from experiencing joy at the moment, let me ask you this- are you waking up everyday and discovering Christ and the beauty of his creation in the little things? Victor Hugo once said, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved-loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Sometimes the hardest thing to do is accept love from someone. My prayer for you, friends, is that you will allow love (either from God or those around you) to penetrate the walls that you have built up. Once you do so, joy will begin to fill you-beginning with the depths of your heart.
About two months ago, this was my devotional…I often read it to myself now as a reminder of how to hold on to my joy and peace- even when everything seems to be tearing me apart. I hope you find comfort in this as well-
“When many things seem to be going wrong, trust Me. When your life feels increasingly out of control, Thank Me. These are supernatural responses, and they can lift you above your circumstances. If you do what comes naturally in the face of difficulties, you may fall prey to negativism. Even a few complaints can set you on a path that is a downward spiral, by darkening your perspective and mindset. With this attitude controlling you, complaints flow more freely from your mouth. Each one moves you steadily down the slippery spiral. The lower you go, the faster you slide, but it is still possible to apply the brakes. Cry out to Me in My Name! Affirm your trust in Me, regardless of how you feel. Thank Me for everything, though that seems unnatural- even irrational. Gradually you will begin to recover your lost ground. When you are back on ground level, you can face your circumstances from a humble perspective. If you choose to thank and trust Me, you will experience my unfathomable Peace.”
As I’m finishing up my days of “Give Thanks” blog entries and transition into something else, I just want to share with you how true I found that devotional to be. Thanking Him for things that seem the very things I should blame God for has brought me so much joy. So, if you’re sliding down the slippery slope, I really encourage you to try this out and take heart.
Love’s taken over me and so I propose letting myself go. I am letting myself go. You are my joy, You are my joy, You are my joy, You are my joy.
I haven’t written all weekend…and this is exactly what
I’m thankful for today. For a break from all the distractions of my hectic daily life and the chance to spend a weekend with no phone or internet, serving God and His people while growing closer to my peers. For the rest. For this weekend being more than I could have ever asked for. I spent this past weekend doing work crew for YoungLife Polar Bear Weekend for YL clubs from all over Texas and Louisiana. It was so exhausting yet so rewarding. And while it wasn’t the typical “rest” that we think of- characterized by peaceful sleeping and other relaxing activities, it was a wonderful opportunity to rest in who I am in Christ and be comfortable in that. Getting to completely goof off with my friends and be loved anyway was so freeing! I also got to have really meaningful conversations with my sisters in Christ and it was amazing to grow closer to these amazing girls- some that I didn’t even know before getting in the car with them! I am so thankful for all my friends that did work crew with me this weekend and for the opportunity to participate in such an awesome ministry! God is doing so many incredible things in so many lives right now- it just put me at peace, acknowledging that He is at work in me as well- healing me piece by piece. One of my favorite “golden oldie” worship songs is “Better is
One Day” by Chris Tomlin. “How lovely is Your dwelling place, Oh Lord Almighty. For my soul longs and even faints for you. For here my heart is satisfied within Your presence. I sing beneath the shadow of Your wings. Better is one day in Your courts. Better is one day in Your house. Better is one day than thousands elsewhere.” These are the words I would choose to describe this weekend. Although I had an extremely long week that included no sleep what-so-ever, I would rather have spent this past weekend doing exhausting work and getting to grow in Christ than to have spent the weekend relaxing in bed, catching up on sleep. Because this is how I get true restoration and peace- from giving my all to God. ”I’m tired of putting one foot in front of the other. I’m weary of where it leads me to. I’m tired of moving on from my Father. Make me rest my head, take a breath or two. Simply stated, simple minded love for You has simply been completely complicated. And I’m finding this daily drudgery is finally catching up to me. It’s time for this abandon to make much of You and less of me. I want to breathe in. I want to breathe in and out again.”
I Can See A Light That is Coming for the Heart That Holds On
You are the light that’s leading me to the place where I find peace again. You are the strength that keeps me walking. You are the hope that keeps me trusting. You are the life to my soul. You are my purpose. You’re everything.Today I’m thankful for hope. As the semester is coming to a close and the holiday season is upon us, it is easy to become stressed out and overwhelmed by the many things demanding our time, efforts, and attention. We are left tired, exhausted, and desperate for restoration. Today I am thankful for the hope that I will find relief from all my temporary sufferings, anxiety, and exhaustion. I am thankful for the weekend and the upcoming break to go home and rest in the love and support of my family. There is no greater comfort than that of being in a place where you are loved and accepted no matter what.
The past two weeks have been jam packed of travel and essay writing and test taking and exercising that I haven’t had any time to truly rest. And let me tell ya, I can’t WAIT! I am so thankful for having that to look forward to. It makes all of this worthwhile and I know it will make the break that much more enjoyable. And if I’m THIS excited to be going home for a couple days….can you imagine the joy that comes from going to our true home in heaven (umm I don’t know…FOREVER?!). Philippians 3:13-14 states, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” My hope is that I can begin to live my life like this daily, always keeping in mind that which offers me hope- the light that is leading me again to peace- amidst all my current, temporary anxiety.
I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on- a glorious light beyond all compare. There will be an end to these troubles, but until that day comes, we’ll live to know You here on the earth.
Today I am thankful for the opportunity to serve. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a church that stressed the importance of mission work and a servant heart. They provided so many opportunities to serve that it became what I loved to do- and how I met my closest friends. Whether it be playing board games with homeless men, playing with inner city kids and showing them the love of God, tutoring inner city kids, participating in various mission trips or a battle of the bands to fight modern day slavery- my church had a way of equipping you to serve God’s people.
Tonight I had the wonderful blessing of visiting a ministry downtown called Beautiful Feet. Their Bible verse is Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings Good News.” They strive to share the Gospel through serving the homeless community downtown. I had the unique opportunity to prepare food for the men and women, worship alongside them, serve them dinner, and then join in meaningful conversation with some of them over food. It was a great night that brought me the joy I’ve been missing from serving others. I had awesome conversation with men I sat with at dinner- they were actively trying to find a job to support themselves amidst trying to help out family members who had suffered from strokes. As I was serving them each dinner, I tried to ask each one their name and introduce myself before wishing them an enjoyable dinner- it kind of shocked me how many of them were surprised that someone was interested in knowing their name. It surely broke my heart as I’m sure it broke God’s.
I feel like there is often a stigma surrounding the homeless community. There’s the always-present dilemma of whether to dish out a little extra cash as you drive by a homeless man or woman holding a sign asking for support, and many times we walk by our homeless brothers and sisters as we explore the city because we feel awkward. But what we fail to recognize is that these very beautiful people are our brothers and sisters too. It breaks my heart how many people are treated as if they are invisible, out of our own selfish shame or “awkwardness” surrounding the issue. We are called to love our homeless brothers and sisters as well. Yes, it may make you uncomfortable, but its so worth it to share God’s love with those who otherwise wouldn’t experience it if it weren’t for you. As Francis Chan challenges us, we need to be putting ourselves in situations beyond our comfort zones in which we will be in trouble if God doesn’t come through.
Don’t know where to start? There are plenty of ministries out there doing incredible things for the homeless community. Here are a few: Room In the Inn http://www.roomintheinn.org/), Beautiful Feet (http://thefeet.org/), The Contributor (thecontributor.org/main/), in most cities there is a Mission or homeless shelter that is always welcoming volunteers, bring left overs from a restaurant or freshly cooked food from home to an area where you know people stand with signs and offer them food as an alternative to money, heck! I’ve even had incredible experiences by just packing a lunch and going up to a homeless friend and eating lunch with them and some of my friends. There are so many ways to get involved- these are just a few. But I pray that we can begin to break down the stigma around the growing population of the homeless community and simply love them as Christ loved us.
Today I am thankful for prayer. Abraham Lincoln, one of the strongest and most notable leaders of our country, is quoted saying, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” If he can admit his desperate need for prayer, then so can I. Philippians 4:4-7 says “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." What I love about this verse is that is does not assume that God is the one causing all of the problems in our lives. Rather it offers comfort in the fact that we do not and cannot understand why we experience such pain. This suggests that we should not ask God to take away the pain or stop the pain-causing circumstances, but ask for peace of heart and mind in such trials. Rather than turn away from God and blame Him out of desperation for a place to set the blame, draw near to Him and bask in His love and His desire for you to feel His love. This is what guards our hearts and minds.
The Bible says “Do not worry” over 365 times- that’s more than one reminder to not worry for everyday of the year. God really emphasizes the need for us not to stress over little things because He is constantly trying to get His point across that He is the One that can provide for us. He cares so deeply for us. Sometimes we fail to realize this, or if we do, we take it for granted.
When something upsetting or annoying happens to us, usually our first reaction is to whip out our phone and text or call our best friend or run to the computer and update our Facebook status. How many times have you heard the phrase, “Well…All we can do now is pray." Or "It’s in God’s hands now..”.?Was it not always in His hands? Has he not been here all the while wanting nothing but the best for you? Why do we view going to our Lord and Saviour, the creator of this entire universe as a last resort? God pleads us to pray about everything. His peace is the only thing powerful enough to pull us through our pain and protect us from the temptations, wants, and desires of this world. This weekend I heard a new perspective on prayer. When someone asks you to pray for them- they are asking you to pray for them. It is when someone is so weak that they can no longer pray on their own that they need you to pray for them. You are praying on behalf of them- carrying their burden in addition to your own. This semester I have had the extremely humbling experience of getting to a place where I needed people to pray for me.
Today I am thankful for all those people in my life that have prayed for me, and continue to pray for me- whether or not I asked you to, or whether or not I knew you did. Experiencing this kind of community of love has been truly humbling. Your prayers have meant the world to me and are making such a difference. Thank you so much to those who love me and to those who make up my army of prayer warriors. You are a blessing to me and my faith journey. I will leave you with some of my favorite prayers written and spoken by people who have walked before me- I am no longer my own, but thine.Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.Put me to doing, put me to suffering.Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,exalted for thee or brought low for thee.Let me be full, let me be empty.Let me have all things, let me have nothing.I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,thou art mine, and I am thine.So be it.And the covenant which I have made on earth,let it be ratified in heaven.Amen.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred,let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, not so much to be understood as to understand, not so much to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we awake to eternal life.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Today I am thankful for unanswered questions. They force me to live out these questions in order to find my own answers based on my experiences. My former pastor whom I hold very near and dear to my heart, Dr. Howard Olds, shared these words in one of his last sermons and they have stuck with me throughout the years-
“Life, what a wonderful four letter word. Life, what an opportunity. Life, what a trust. Life is a quest for answers, answers to problems, answers to diseases, answers to life itself. Life has taught me to live the questions, rather than seek the answers. Life Matters. Life matters in the light of eternity. Live it all. Live it now. Live it for the Glory of God and the good of people. Live Life.” Here is an excerpt from his second to last sermon-
Rainer Rilke writes, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.”
It is human nature to ask questions and seek answers. Take a walk with any child and you will be bombarded with questions. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Where does the sun go when it sets? How do birds know to fly south in the winter?
If you pass that test, there are plenty more to follow. Why did we put granddad in the ground if he went to heaven? My playmate up the street is dying of cancer; does that mean I am going to die? If God is real, why can’t I see him?
Life is a quest for answers, answers to problems, answers to diseases, answers to life itself. But in spite of our scientific savvy and technological advancements and communication miracles, the questions remain and even expand.
So, gradually life has taught me to live the questions, instead of seeking the answers. And here’s how I do it. By faith – faith is a substance of things to hope for and evidence of things not seen. Some faith is easy. We pray for a miracle and the miracle comes. We pray for a good marriage and a good marriage results. We pray for healthy kids and we have healthy kids, but not all faith is so certain. Some faith is born of trust. When God is silent, no miracles happen, cancer comes back, kids run away, businesses fails; we must trust that God will be with us each step of the way.
By Hope – Emil Brunner says hope is to the soul what oxygen is to the body, absolutely essential. In recent months I have struggles with shortness of breath. Sometime it’s a result of anxiety and other times it’s a result of fluid building up in my abdomen. Either way it’s frightening. In moments like that I reach for hope. I remember that God is closer than the air I breathe and present with every breath I take. It often helps my breathing.
By Love – “…and the greatest of these is love.” You and the Church have taught me how to love and be loved. What can I say? It is the most wonderful thing in all the world to love and to be loved. When love grows into commitment and attainment deepens into acceptance, questions lose their urgency and the fear of life fades.
Life matters. Life matters in the light of eternity. Live it all. Live it now. Live it for the Glory of God and the good of people. Live Life.
For the past three years, I have strived to live my life by living out my questions, my doubts through faith, hope, and love. I can still hear the words echoing in the silent sanctuary “God is closer than the air I breathe”. The realness of that moment will always stay with me and remind me that I am never alone. Amidst my questions, God is there.