There are a lot of things that are hard about being human. Life is messy. Sometimes it’s hard. And at times it just sucks. I think that the hardest thing about being human is emotions. Emotions are powerful! They can be debilitating. Sometimes they can’t be contained. Now before I go any further I will acknowledge that there are plenty of good, positive emotions that arty the same attributes as the bad ones. For example, pure joy can overflow and cause tears of happiness. But there are also plenty of “negative” emotions that are just as strong, if not stronger. One of these is anger. It can be ugly. It will control the mind and the tongue, causing thoughts and words that are not truly reflective of the person speaking them. Sadness, hurt, pain and loneliness kind of all wrap up into one big pile of messiness that can weigh down and smother ones spirit. I think that one of the hardest feelings I have dealing with is when someone I love is experiencing sadness or pain. This feeling should really have a name of its own. I have learned how to cope with (perhaps not in the best way) my own emotions…but for me to watch someone I love suffer through anger or sadness is nearly overwhelming. But the flip side is even sweeter too. The joy of watching someone you love be at peace and filled with their own joy is amazing (sorry that word is so overused). So I’m not really sure what my point is (if there is one at all) Exocet that I am truly fascinated with the ability to feel things the way we do as humans. It makes me wonder how Jesus dealt with his array of emotions while he was human. The Bible talks about his anger. And sorrow. And grief. And yet we know he never once sinned even as he dealt with those emotions. I’m fascinated by his mind and his thoughts. And it brings me comfort to know that since he did walk the earth as a human that he felt the same things I do. He understand my prayers when I ask for help dealing with my human emotions.
I am not a Bible scholar. Ok, there. I got that off my chest. I grew up memorizing a weekly Bible verse, I went to church camp, I competed in Bible Bowls, I could sing the books of the Bible frontwards and backwards…and I’m still not a Bible scholar. But since I have made an honest, committed effort (with God’s guidance and help) to remain in the Word through daily Bible study, I have gained so much! Before I go any further, I understand that everything is relative. The things I am starting to glean from the Word are not earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination. But, they are small things that I believe God wants me to learn – on my own – as I study each day. All of that was a set-up to share a new understanding I gained while reading in the gospel of John this week. John 12:31 says “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Growing up in youth group we sang a song with this verse (I don’t think I ever knew exactly where it was located in the Bible). But when we sang the song I understood it to mean when Christ was lifted up to Heaven to be with God – men (people) would follow Him. As I read it now – and really think about it, the meaning has changed. Jesus, when speaking of being lifted up, is not talking about his ascension to be with God, but rather he is talking about being lifted up on the cross. As a form of execution, being crucified on the cross was an excruciating form of torture meant to bring great shame to the criminal. But that does not hold true for Jesus. When he was lifted up (on the cross) it was to bring glory to God by fulfilling his wondrous plan of salvation for humanity. It was not to draw shame and ridicule and guilt. It was to draw ALL to him. Because while NONE of us are worthy, ALL of us were included in this plan to cleanse us. He was lifted up and sacrificed in order to complete God’s plan and to draw all to Him to receive the beautiful, undeserved gift of salvation.
Today is my first day of summer break. Going to bed last night was so nice. I wasn’t worrying about lesson plans, or meetings, or tests. I was only worried about what I would be doing with my first day off. However, my alarm was still set or the same time as always…4:20am. Why? Everyday that Brian and I have been married, we have made it part of our daily routine to start our day with God. We spend time drinking coffee, reading our daily devotional, and then jumping into the Word. This is a non-negotiable for us. Now, please know that I am not tooting my own horn, or patting us on the backs. I’m really just trying to share how this time in the Word has completely changed my heart, my mind. my relationship. and my life. It is not enough to rely on the hour a week in church to be your time studying or learning. Our walk with God requires that we spend time with Him in His word every day. Jesus says in John 8:31 “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.” Jesus’ teachings are so plentiful and numerous and there is so much to be learned from the many parables He taught. But we must “remain” in the Word. The word remain shows up over and over in the Bible, especially in the book of John. In chapter 15 Jesus uses the image of a vine and the branches. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” So not only do we spend time or “stay” in the word, but we are to “remain” in Jesus! And the most amazing and reassuring promise, if we dwell, or abide, or stay in Him…He will dwell, abide, and stay in us. It’s such a comforting thought to know that Jesus will dwell in us. We can dwell in Him in many ways. Prayer, study, reading His word, surrounding ourselves with people who are like-minded and who will build us up and encourage us. And our lives will show that He is in us. “Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). For me, I know that as I spend time with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, He is in me and I am in Him…and the peace that comes from that time, is well worth the sacrifice of a little sleep.
I love the way that God works in my daily walk. He must often sit back and shake his head and roll his eyes while he waits for me to catch up with him. I wonder if he gets a good laugh at my expense when I finally get the message he’s been sending me. I’ve got to believe that he is so patient as I try to think my way through things, around in circles, and then get myself out of the way and do it his way.
Lately, Brian and I have both been feeling the tug to do something. We know that God is wanting us to reactivate our ministry and to begin to serve again as we were before. We feel our “time off” was needed in order to establish our home and minister to our new blended family, but we have both been feeling the stir. Brian is reading Steven Furtick’s book Greater, and read a section of it to me yesterday about how God calls people. Often it is with one word. To Abraham, that word was “Go”. To Peter, that word was “Come”. We then asked each other what God’s word is for us right now….we both feel like it is “Move”. Not in the “start wrapping dishes and packing boxes” way…rather in the “get out there and love on some people” sort of way. It’s time for us to move.
Ok…so we’re going to move…but what does that mean?? Could we have some sort of google directions. Maybe an instruction manual. Or better yet, God, just give us the whole plan -start to finish- so we know exactly what it looks like. How many of us don’t act because we want to big picture? God doesn’t want us to know the whole story because he wants us to step out in faith and move. He will give us what we need as we need it along the way.
We talked all evening about what this moving will look like and what it could mean and how do we get started. And we still don’t have God’s blueprint for it all, but we know we have to move. It just takes small steps to make a move. We aren’t being asked to change the world all at once…just to take a step. Just to move.
As I sat down to study this morning, I had this move thing on my mind. Still not sure of what it looks like or which direction to move in….but knowing that we have to move. I read a verse in James that has me more certain than ever that God is in control and is really speaking. James 4:17 says “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do, and then not do it.” Ok God, I hear you loud and clear. I know that what we ought to do is to love those around us and share the gospel with them through that love. I don’t know if that means more food packages, or clothes, or what it really looks like, but I know what we ought to do. And we are going to do it! We are on the move.
It has been a very long time since I have blogged. I find myself wondering sometimes why that is, but at the same time I do not beat myself up for it either. Life has been very good – and very busy lately. In the course of just a few months, I got engaged, got married, became a “step” mother to three new kids, and moved all seven of us into our new home. Blogging fell to the wayside as we navigated through all of the changes. And quite honestly, nothing has seemed so urgent in my thoughts and prayers that I was drawn to blogging – until now. As most followers of Jesus, I am constantly working on growing closer to God, listening more carefully to the guidance of the Spirit, and praying for wisdom from my heavenly Father. At times, I feel like I have come a long way and I see myself becoming the Godly woman I know I was called to be…but at other times there are things that I still struggle with. It’s times like those that I am so thankful for the fact that God loves me even when I struggle. He even loved me when I was still broken. God showed that great love for me “by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8). That is a great comfort to me as I continue to grow in His love. I am still very much human and broken. I have been battling a situation lately that makes me just want to yell and scream and really let people know what I think about the way that I they have made me feel – based on their actions and hurtful words. I have had to walk away, bite my tongue, pray, look the other way, pray, bite my tongue some more. There is something just basic in our nature that leads us to want to seek “revenge.” Or to “have the last word.” Why is that? As I have fought my way through these ugly emotions, I have turned to God’s word for my guide. Recently I have felt “shunned” by some people whom I considered to be friends (and brothers and sisters in Christ). The broken me wanted to just let them know all about how shameful and hurtful their behavior was…..but God told me this…”If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Now – that is a bit dramatic for this situation, perhaps – but is it really? Do I consider them enemies – no….but the point is – revenge or pay back is not ever the answer – be it friends or enemies. I am supposed to take the high road. I have to remember that we are ALL sinners and that Christ died for ALL of us. My job is not to judge, or take revenge. Yea, but they hurt me! Why can’t I just send a little email and let them know how disappointed I am in them…but God says something different. God tells me to “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, and so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3: 13). It’s so much easier to point out other’s faults when I am the one who feels wronged. So much easier to judge another’s actions when I am the one who is hurting…but God says, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37). I certainly want my Father in heaven to forgive me – so I must be able to forgive others…..even if they don’t ask for forgiveness. Even if they don’t acknowledge hurtful actions and words…I have to forgive them. I may never again have the chance to speak my mind or share my feelings. There may never be reconciliation…but there must be forgiveness. Reconciliation takes two, forgiveness takes one. I have to be that one if I truly want to live the way that God wants me to live. As I have dealt with this situation over the past few days, I have learned so much about myself and the person I really want to be. I will not say all of those things that I wish I had said. I will not speak ill of anyone – regardless of the way they speak of me. I will ask the Spirt to guide my steps, thoughts, and words. And I will take the high road.
“When you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. Discipline creates desire, not the other way around.”
I recently came across this quote and thought it was perfect for my goals for the summer. I started my very first week of summer break with the goal of working out a minimum of 4 times a week. Now, throughout the school year my alarm tears me out of sleep at 4:30 every morning. And here I was setting a goal to get up at 5:00am (sleeping in for a half hour) at least 4 times a week in order to get in shape and change my lifestyle. Which leads me to why this quote seemed so appropriate for me this summer. There have been many mornings that I do not feel like it. Many mornings. But I kept telling myself that the more disciplined I could become toward my goal, the more desire I would have to keep at it. It has truly been a phrase that I believe has made a difference…but not just toward my physical goals. Another goal that I have set for myself (and I think most Christ-followers do) is to be more immersed in God’s word – in order to be closer to Him each day. I love to read and study and learn…and I cannot even name the closeness that being in the word has brought me. But I’m not going to lie – sometimes it is hard. At times the frustration that I feel trying to “understand” outweighs the feeling of closeness that I get. One of my Bible study groups right now is studying the book of Isaiah. Let me just say that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know so much. It has been such a challenge. But the same principle that I have applied to my physical way of life has been so beneficial to me growing my spiritual side. There are times when I don’t feel like sitting down and trying to understand or to apply the word to my life. That’s the truth (and I feel guilty for saying that)…but the more disiciplined I become in my time with God through his word, the more desire I have to do it more. God has planted that desire in my heart to learn and study and spend time with him. It has been an amazing transformation for my spiritual life. The times that I don’t feel like it are few and far between in both my workouts and my study time. I see and feel the physical benefits of my early morning workouts, and I see and feel my relationship with God and the conviction in my heart growing as a result of my time alone with His divine teachings. My desire to serve God and to share Him with others is stronger than ever before. So glad that I came across this quote and that it has made such an impact of my every day.
Recently I made a day trip to Columbus to attend a workshop for school (people who think that teachers don’t work in the summer are wrong). As I was driving home enjoying the quiet of the car I noticed a GIANT billboard that read, “If you died today, do you know where you would end up?” Less than a mile later was another GIANT billboard that read, “Hell is for real.” I thought about these obnoxious signs most of the way home and for several days since. Now, before I go any further, let me say that yes, I do believe that hell is real and that it is serious, etc. That debate is not my purpose here. Continue reading