Monday, November 17, 2014

broken hallelujah

For those who really know me (or those who have been reading this blog for a while), this will come as no surprise:

I like to be in control of things, to know just how everything is going to work out. I like to have a plan.

If you ask my mom, she'll probably tell you that my mantra has always been, "I can do it myself."

I have always been an incredibly independent person. I can usually figure my way through a difficult situation, and I've always taken pride in that. I don't like to ask for help--I'm perfectly capable of working things out for myself, thank you.

Only, sometimes I'm not.

That's something that has taken me a long time to be able to admit (and something I'm still working on, to be honest). I've always tried to be strong, to stand on my own two feet and face whatever life throws at me. The thing is, that's not what God wants from me.

God doesn't want my strength,
because He has more than enough of His own.
What He wants is my brokenness,
my realization that I can't get through
this thing called life on my own,
my willingness to come to Him in humility
and tell Him that it is only His strength that matters.

I've been listening to a sermon series from Dr. Tony Evans called, Joseph: Detours to Destiny. Pop heard part of it and had Mom order it to send to me because it seemed like just what I needed to hear.

It's been wonderful. If your life is on a detour--you know, one of those times when you feel stuck in someplace that's keeping you off track from where you're supposed to be--I highly recommend you listen to it.

When I was listening to it today, Dr. Evans was talking about the fact that God doesn't need my help to get me to where He wants me to be. He doesn't need my connections or whatever I think I can do to hurry things along. My future is in His hands, and He is the one in control. He will lead me to my destiny, and He doesn't want to share the credit with me.

God doesn't need me to do it myself. In fact, He doesn't even want my help.

What He wants is for me to realize that my hands are empty. He wants me to let go of trying to control things, because when I'm holding onto the illusion of being in control, I can't hold onto Him.

He wants me, acknowledging that I am broken and weak, because it is only then that I will step out of the way and let those around me see His strength.

Friday, November 14, 2014

God is there, even in the storms

This life is hard--sometimes unbearably so.

Just yesterday, an amazing couple with a strong faith lost their son to a mysterious, aggressive illness. A sister lost her brother, her kids lost their uncle, some sweet friends lost their cousin, and a whole host of people lost a friend.

Life hits hard sometimes, hard enough to knock us flat. In those times, the times when we need God the most, it's incredibly hard to see Him.

It's like when the disciples were in the boat and a storm came up without warning. They were facing the wind and the waves, fighting desperately to keep the boat from sinking--struggling to just keep from drowning. All the while, Jesus was sleeping. (Matthew 8:23-27)

We cry out like David,
"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." (Psalm 69:1-3)

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered You, O God, and I groaned; I mused and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: 'Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?'" (Psalm 77:1-9)

Sometimes, God seems silent. He seems distant. Sometimes, when life is hardest, it's easy to wonder if He has abandoned us, if He really loves us.

In those times, though, He is still there. Just like Jesus was in the boat with His disciples while the storm raged, He is with us in the tempest.

He is quiet because He knows we need time to grieve, time to be sad and angry and hurt. So He simply wraps His arms around us and lets us cry.

He is there in the silence. He hears our cries and listens to our questions and feels our pain, and He hurts for us. We are told in John 11: 35, "Jesus wept" and in Isaiah 53:3 that He was "a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering."

Our God will never forsake us. He is there, even as the storms rage around us and the waters threaten to swallow us up.

He is there, always.

"The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

to those who have served...thank you.

Veterans Day.

Today is one of those days that are a bit hard for me. Today, we honor all those who have served. Today, we say thank you...

~to all those who have given of themselves for the sake of freedom.
~to all who give up their own precious time to serve and protect.
~to those who believe freedom is worth fighting for.
~to the strong.
~to the brave.
~to the courageous.
~to those who stand on the front lines to protect those they love--and those they've never met.
~to those who are scared, but who do the job anyways.
~to the faithful.
~to those who are tired, but know they'll rest when the job is done.
~to all those who choose to take a stand.
~to those who unselfishly take on an often thankless job.
~to the wounded, some with wounds that everyone notices and others with wounds the rest of us will never see.
~to the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marines.
 
We say thank you, but the words don't seem like enough to honor the sacrifices made by so many.

From the bottom of my heart, though, "I thank my God every time I remember you." (Philippians 1:3) You are in my thoughts and prayers today, and I hope that today you are reminded that, although we forget to tell you, we are beyond thankful that you stood for us.

For those who are currently serving, "be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
 




I Stand
~J. Michael Goins
  US Army 2 Lieutenant
   2nd Battalion, 
   12th Cavalry Regiment, 
   1st Cavalry Division
   KIA 15 August 2004
   Najaf, Iraq



I fail in this fight which embroils me;
I lack the strength to press on.
My spirit is crushed,
My mind full of doubts,
My body rebels,
Yet I stand.

Strength, welling not from within me,
Helps to resist this onslaught.
God lifts me up
From ashes and dust.
He is my Strength
So I stand.

Through the hail of fiery arrows,
Satan's temptations raining down,
God is my Armor,
God is my Shield,
God is my Foundation
And I Stand!

I can't win this battle alone,
But God doesn't require that.
He fights my battles;
He defeats my foes;
He asks just one thing,
That I stand!

"Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand!" Ephesians 6:13

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

looking for the good

I have a love-hate relationship with social media.

On one hand, I love that I'm able to keep in touch with--or, let's be honest here, act like a creepy stalker and look at all their pictures without actually ever being in contact with-- a bunch of people from my past who I would never know anything about otherwise.

I love getting to see baby pictures and wedding pictures and school pictures and albums of beautiful places I'll most likely never get to see in person.

I love reading status updates that show excitement for new jobs, new houses, and new loves.

I smile regularly when I get online, which is wonderful. I like to smile.

On the other hand, though, I hate social media. It becomes an easy place for people to post personal things they would never share with other people under other circumstances, things I would really rather not hear about--or worse yet, see pictures of!

I don't like the animosity that pours out of people online. For some reason, the internet is seen as an anonymous place. That in itself is funny, seeing as how our privacy online is almost non-existent. Besides that, though, people seem to think facebook is the perfect place to gripe about every. little. thing.

Social media has become a free for all where people feel they have "every right" to put down people they have never met while arguing about subjects they would never typically debate with total strangers.

Sometimes when I get online, it seems the whole world is made up of nothing more than
greed
anger
hatred
sexuality
laziness
immorality
blame
fear...

Every once in a while, though, something else shows up. Every once in a while I get to see true beauty in the form of
family
nature
love
God
baby smiles
courage
peace...


So I'm going to look for those things.
I'm going to try to focus on the people who show me that there is still love in the world, the  people who show me what it looks like to live like Jesus in a fallen, broken world.

~The women I know who fight courageously to live and stay unbelievably loving and joyful through surgeries, chemo, and radiation.

~The moms who sacrifice of themselves for their babies.

~The dads who take the time to show their kids how much they like just being their dad.

~The people who love despite being hurt.

~The people who stand for Truth even when it isn't popular.

~The people who take a moment to see the beauty in the world.

Maybe you would like to join me?

Friday, October 24, 2014

religious freedom

In recent years, "religious freedom" has taken on new meaning in the United States. People twist the phrase, even going so far as to form a group called "Freedom from Religion" whose unspoken yet evident purpose is to attack Christianity. There are even those who try to argue that our Founding Fathers were not intending to establish a Christian nation.

The thing is, no matter how people try to twist it, the Truth never changes.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew what it would take for a new nation to survive and thrive. As the authors of Under God stated, "In declaring their independence from earthly power and authority, out Founding Fathers declared their dependence upon the Almighty God: 'with firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.'"

Samuel Adams said, "We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and... from the rising to the setting sun, may His Kingdom come."

Today, society has twisted things so much that it is starting to be okay to practice any religion--
      as long as it is not Christianity.
 
Private business owners are consistently attacked for standing up for their personal belief in the biblical definition of marriage.

Christians are depicted in mainstream media as being full of hatred.

Secular ideas have replaced Christian morals and values on screen, even when Hollywood has taken on accounts from the Bible such as Noah.

Most recently, the mayor of Houston has issued a subpoena demanding the sermons of a group of pastors who dared to make a stand.

Since the founding of our nation, the United States has historically been a place where followers of Christ were free to follow Christ. President Reagan once said, "Indeed, it is an indisputable fact that all the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in [the Bible].

Those of us who live in the United States have been greatly blessed, and we have not faced the persecution that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world face on a daily basis.

Now, it would seem that is beginning to change.

I have a bracelet my husband had made for me, and on it is a quote from Doctor Who: "I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and dreamer of improbable dreams."

In this, I am still an optimist. I still believe our country can get back on track, however far-flung that hope may seem. As God told Israel, "if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I've always been taught, though, to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. In that, my prayer is that we in the United States will learn from the persecuted Church, our brothers and sisters in chains.

May we have the strength of the children who are being told to deny Christ or die--and who are choosing death.

May we be able to stand firm in the face of imprisonment, as those in Iran, China, North Korea, and countless other countries do.

May we be able to keep the "peace which passes all understanding" if we face torture, like our Christian brother Kamal in South Sudan:
video

It is possible that our freedom to practice our faith in God will be taken from us in the not so distant future. It is possible that even here in the United States we will soon face the persecution that followers of Christ have faced since Jesus Himself was crucified.

We need to take a stand. We need to remember the words of Nehemiah 4:14b, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the LORD, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes."

If--when--the day comes that we face persecution, my prayer mirrors the words shared by Dr. Inch once:
"And may you be able to say
that when all is gone but God,
He is enough."

 

Friday, October 10, 2014

what have we become?

We've lost ourselves.

Somehow, in all the chaos and the noise around us, we have lost sight of everything that is truly important, everything that once set us apart.

We have stopped taking a stand, and as a result we have let others walk all over us in the name of "progress."

We have become a country
~which would rather protect a chicken than a baby
~in which people barely bat an eye when a woman publishes a video of herself having an abortion
~in which a woman writes a selfish letter to the unborn child she is planning on killing (one she calls Thing), and gets praised for making a choice "for her"
~in which a boy was given detention for sharing his lunch with a classmate who had less
~with people so afraid of offending others that they hide their own beliefs
~where people are attacked for supporting the Biblical definition--God's definition--of marriage
~where it is accepted and expected for people to sleep together before they are married in order to find out if they are "compatible"
~where parents are not supposed to discipline their children
~where pets are more protected than kids
~in which a woman is praised for having the "strength" to choose to end her own life when her journey gets too hard
~that has decided that the government gets to call all the shots
~that no longer values personal responsibility and autonomy
~where an Eagle Scout got suspended for having a pocketknife locked in a survival kit in his vehicle at school
~in which Christmas decorations are no longer welcome in many public places because they might offend someone--nevermind the fact that they are usually just of Santa anyways
~where hard work is penalized instead of rewarded, and people expect to get something for nothing
picture by Sarah
~in which football players are called heroes and soldiers are abandoned
~where "patriot" has become a bad title
~in which kids are given trophies and medals for just showing up, because the "experts" think that it would harm kids to realize that they aren't always the best at everything they try
 


We have become a country weakened, beaten down, and nearly broken. We are on a downward spiral, and it breaks my heart.

We need to take a stand.
We need to speak up. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

I've been quiet lately...

It's been a while since I wrote here. To be honest, it's been a while since I did any kind of writing. I would like to say that's just because I've been so busy with school, with all the articles I'm reading and everything I'm writing for my education classes. I would like to say that, but it wouldn't be the truth.

I haven't written because I don't want to write what I feel like I should write.

I've been feeling lost lately, in so many different ways. I've started a different career path again with the change over to education and physics. I've ripped out page ofter page in multiple notebooks, with nothing I write coming out the way I want it to. I've started over on at least 3 different stories, but none of them have worked. I've cried out in my prayers, begging to hear from God, but He's seemed silent. My heart and soul feel like they're tied up in knots, and no matter what I try to do I can't seem to undo the knots.

The thing is, I'm pretty sure it's because I'm not doing the one thing I'm supposed to be doing right now.

There has been a common theme to just about every blog or book or article I've read this year (or at least to all of the ones that have prodded at me): Tell your story. It was even the theme of one of my own posts early in the year, one in which I said I had started working on my story.

Over and over again, the words jump out at me. Tell your story. The world needs your story, even the messy parts.

I've done my best to ignore them. The problem is, I'm pretty sure that it's been God's message to me that I've been ignoring. So every time I've called out to Him and begged for Him to speak, to let me feel Him, I've gotten the same response. Silence.

Silence, because He's already told me what to do. He's already made His point, and He's made it abundantly clear. Tell your story. Over and over again, He's used the 2x4 to make it sink in.

But I don't want to.
There--I said it, plain and simple.

I don't want to tell my story, because it hurts. It's messy and uncomfortable and private, and I. just. don't. want. to.

That came out for the first time the other day when I was on the phone with my mom. I blurted out that I knew I was supposed to tell my story, but I didn't want to. Honestly, speaking the words out loud was the first time I even let the idea get fully formed in my mind. I didn't want to admit it, not even to myself.

I've begged and prayed for God to tell me what He wants from me. I've spent years searching for direction, for the next step. For a long time, I had no idea what was next. In many regards, I still don't know what's next. I don't know what will happen once I finish my degree. I don't know where our family will move to next, or where Nathan and I will work. I honestly know very little about God's plan for my life.

But here I am, fighting against the one thing I know I've been told to do next. I'm scared--terrified, truthfully. I don't want to start down this path. I don't want to pull out old memories and uncover old wounds. It feels like I'm being asked to cut open old scars, ones that haven't ever really even healed properly. It hurts my heart to even think about it.

So, I'm asking for prayers. Begging for them, really.

I can't do this.
I can't.
I'm too weak, too fragile, too broken.
Too determined to be strong on my own.

But this whole blog got started because I felt God calling me to be faithful, to step out of the boat despite the storms, to trust Him to guide each step. I want to be faithful. I want to be obedient.

I don't want to write my story, but I'm more afraid of staying in the silence than I am of finding out what other people have to say when they see my mess.

Please, pray.
I need it.