Before 2014 ended, I already wanted to commit the new year to growing in my love, passion, and thirst for the word of God. I've always been a bit lethargic about consistently reading and meditating on Scripture, and knew this wouldn't be the easiest goal for me to accomplish on my own.
Enter the @shereadstruth app. I never thought I'd become a fan of reading the Bible on my phone, but this app makes it ridiculously easy. All the different devotionals and reading plans offer various areas of focus and encouragement. (I've been enjoying the #365daysoftruth plan and the mini #hymnsII devotional series so far.) It offers understandable translations, making it easier to simply focus on the words and meaning of Scripture, and to cross-reference with other versions.
Here's to a new year of growing in grace and the knowledge of my Lord, my Love.
You went by quickly. Everyone says that at the end of each year, but this was the first time I knew what it felt like.
I have to be honest, I won't miss you terribly. You were suffocating, stressful, confusing, and lonely. I had never cried so much before in my life till you came around. You taught me lessons that, in a perfect world, no one would have to learn. You kicked my butt, and seemed to enjoy it at times. You were, officially, the worst year of my 20 year old life.
But time outran and beat you.
Hello, 2015. You fresh, white, clean, beautiful new year. I made it. I'm here. Just a young woman who's tired of being tired. Hungry, but scared. A dreamer, but a control freak. A heart with such a capacity to love to loss so hard, it scares itself and backs away at the opportunity. I don't know what you got up your sleeve, but I think we're going to be friends.
Leaving the old behind . . .
1. I experienced darkness of the soul like never before at the beginning of 2014. After the torrent passed, my eyes were opened more clearly to see and truly feel the pain of others. It taught me to be a listener rather than an answer or explanation, and showed me the beauty, tenacity, and strength of the human spirit.
2. I grew up in church my whole life, and consequently was taught that certain thoughts and feelings were sinful and to be left alone, avoided, stuffed down. I never really agreed with that, and last year I indulged myself with the freedom to think, feel, and live every human emotion in all it's color. All the ugly ones. Suicide. Hate. Anger. Confusion. Loneliness. Jealousy. Desire. I would rather be a Christian who allows herself to experience the muck of life completely and fully, but turns away, repents where needed, and seeks shelter under the Shadow with a whole heart, than one who denies out of fear that certain mindsets, emotional patterns, and mental disturbances are not relevant to the human experience in the name of religion, tradition, "well, they can snap out of it."
3. I started the weekly tradition of taking myself out somewhere I genuinely enjoy being. Local coffee shops and cafés, parks, used bookstores. It gives my brain room to breathe from the hum-drum of everyday life. I enjoy being by myself, and have learned more about my tastes and preferences regarding the most important things of life: food, literature, and the type of company I aspire to keep when invited out with others.
4. Saying no will not kill you. No to a toxic relationship, a job that makes you feel less than what you are, a community that tries to force you into a mold you don't fit into, to going out with friends because you really need a night to yourself. Life is too short to not take charge of it every now and then.
5. I found my "signature" beauty product brand and I feel like all those classic glamorous women of the golden age who always had their iconic product or perfume - Givenchy, Chanel, Esteé Lauder, Marc Jacobs. Except I'm poor, so I settle for Fresh products and Target-distributed body spray.
6. I discovered so much new, beautiful music. Next to writing, music is my second favorite medium of communicating to and with others. If you have access to my playlists, you have access to my life story and heart (naturally, there's only, like, three people who fit this category). Favorite artist I came across was, hands down, Broods. Synthy, solid beats with imaginative but relatable lyrics and beautiful melodies - this is 100%.
7. It's okay to make your own family. Sometimes the people who genuinely hear what you have to say and care for you aren't the ones you live with.
8. I took a year off college for all of 2014. It was not in the playbook, but it was exactly what I needed. I was able to focus on my heart and health, instead of schedules and deadlines and "the future." Probably one of the best decisions of my life.
9. I got to see both my out-of-state best friends in the same year. Didn't mind it one bit.
10. I went to Peru for the second time. The missions team was much smaller than my first trip, and it was the best week of my year. Every day, something happened that let me know I was exactly where I needed to be, whether it was in personal prayer, something a team member would say, or what the Lord did in ministry on the street that day. I had never felt so at home.
11. I started volunteering with a local anti-trafficking organization, North Star Initiative. Their vision is to build the first rescue home in the Lancaster County region for women who have been used and abused, and restore them to their full physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual potential. I was able to network with others passionate about the same cause, attend informative events and conferences with the leadership, and even helped out with a photoshoot to publicize their t-shirts.
12. I figured out that part of being an adult is being confidant enough to not feel you have to explain yourself to everyone who asks about your life. You don't have to air your secrets and dreams to the first person who asks, partially because you need to keep some of them for yourself, and partially because that person probably doesn't really care, they're just nosey and bored.
13. At the same time, being an adult is knowing what parts of life are worth your opinion and comment than others. World issues, philosophical debates, theological divides, political stands - know what you believe, stay open-minded, but don't feel the need to answer every in-and-out of a discussion. It's okay to cause waves, to make people uncomfortable, and to genuinely not know what you think about certain things.
14. I decided I want to always be able to work for my life. Not just in the sense of earning a paycheck, but to know that I struggled with pain and came out on top. I didn't shy away from hard questions and decisions. I took risks. I earned the respect I received based on how I respected and loved those around me. I want to sink into my bed every night and feel the quiet glow of satisfaction that I did, in fact, fight for the day, made the most of every moment, intentionally chose to make my life my own. I hope to never settle into an entitled mindset, feeling like I deserve every good thing that comes my way. The only thing in life you will ever deserve is to love and be loved. Anything beyond that is what you make of it.
15. And through it all, He was good to me. My Lord, my Love, my God. He was faithful, truthful, comforting, gentle, my Rescuer, my Sustainer. He fought for me when I hadn't an ounce of strength left. He kept probing, creating, molding, breathing new life into my dry, cracked little heart. I do not lie when I say I would not be standing at the beginning of a new year, had it not been for the hope of Himself. His presence. His hand. He is good, he is faithful, and I am His and He is mine.
Here's to a fresh start. A new year filled with life, love, and Light.
Hey, mr./ms. theologian, regardless what you've been told it's okay to stand speechless, in awe. it's okay if you can't capture every intricacy & complexity of His infiniteness. it's okay if you can't see past the horizon of His timelessness. it's like trying to empty the ocean with a tin cup. good luck. take your head out of the books and go gaze at the sunrise. go stand before the Grand Canyon and let your heart rise in praise.
between you and God, your lack of words say much more
than your carefully crafted doctrinal statements.
I often wonder how Thomas felt when he realized the One who breathes
stars to life
stood before him?
I'm sure he wasn't pondering propitiation or predestination.
every fiber of his being was collectively composing a divine chorus
too complex for words,
a pleasing fragrance of sweet incense,
like birds floating on the thermal updrafts of his heart.
this is our reality:
two-thirds of the world's Christian population will never have access
to that systematic theology.
I don't condone the abandonment of intellectualism,
but we can't allow it to paralyze our hearts.
let's pursue Christ as He intended from the start:
all your heart all your soul all your strength
and with all your mind
and love your neighbor
so, forgive me for the blunt asking, but:
is your heart and soul pursuing Christ with the same intensity
as your brain?
Hebrews 11 has been a meditation piece of mine for the past week or so. It's one of the more iconic passages of Scripture; pastors love to teach on it, pointing out all the amazing heroes of the faith, tying them into the beginning of the following chapter, to the "great cloud of witnesses" who are cheering us on as we run our race.
I think basically everyone who ever reads that passage gets caught up in thinking, "wow, these people really had their life together. I'm supposed to live up to that?" I've thought that too until just recently.
It's interesting . . . if you know the original stories of the people found in that chapter, you know it actually wasn't all that spiritual and holy and righteous as Hebrews 11 makes it sound. Take, for example, what it has to say about Sarah.
"By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised." (vs. 11)
"Judged Him faithful"? Sarah laughed in denial at the promise, from what I remember (Gen. 18:1-15).
Or what about Moses?
"By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible." (vs. 27)
Um, Moses fled Egypt because he was afraid. He had just murdered a slave driver and once word spread of the crime, he fled for his life to the desert (Ex. 2:11-15).
And one more example for good measure - the children of Israel.
"By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned." (vs. 29)
When they discovered the Egyptians had tracked them down and they were caught at the sea, the Israelites were freaking mad, right? They accused Moses of purposely leading them to their death, and gave into despair and fear (Ex. 14:10-12).
The dichotomies between the real-life accounts versus the stories told in this chapter of faith make me wonder that, perhaps God thinks of and remembers our stories differently from what we feel and think while we're going through the banality of life?
Maybe in the midst of the despair and hard questioning - He keeps track of the fact that you still directed your questions to Him even though you didn't understand, not your doubtful thoughts.
Maybe in the midst of the sin and shame - He remembers that you still had the boldness to look to His face and seek out His mercy and forgiveness, once again.
Maybe, when you're kicking and screaming in the fight of surrender, He might be chuckling to Himself, too excited to see your face once He's calmed you down long enough to see and receive a greater treasure He can't wait to delight you with.
Or when you're in the thick of spiritual warfare and you're so numb, you just end up standing there, not having another ounce of strength left to keep going? Maybe He just likes the fact that you recognize you're weak, unlike you, badgering yourself about being weak in the first place.
Anything viewed from an earthly perspective can look and feel pretty bleak. We give in to worry, doubt, fear, temptation, addictions. We get angry for no reason. We get frustrated with our inability to figure things out on our own. We get impatient and sometimes make stupid decisions. We careen around in life, and when we finally chill out long enough to see what is going on around us, our eyes open to just how self-destructively we can handle ourselves. We wonder how in the world God can turn our stories around, how exactly He plans to complete the good work He's already begun.
Thankfully, God operates from a heavenly perspective, and sees us in a complete opposite light than how we view ourselves. He is our Father, and delights in calling you His child and treating you as such. He is creating, probing, molding. He doesn't give up on you. He doesn't get discouraged by our humanity.
No matter the circumstance, in the midst of the weird confusion - we can rest ourselves in the fact that He's up to something good. All He calls us to do is love and live in Him. The rest is in His court. He is faithful, He is good, and He can be trusted. He is making all things new.
1. You're inspiring. 2. I like your voice. 3. You're strong. 4. Your ideas and beliefs matter. 5. I'm so happy you're alive. 6. You have important things to say and you deserve to be listened to. 7. You have a kind heart. 8. You make me feel at ease with myself. 9. You're down to earth. 10. You are a deep soul. 11. You're refreshing. 12. Our conversations bring me joy. 13. Thank you for caring so much. 14. You have an understanding heart. 15. You matter to me. 16. You're intelligent. 17. Your passion is contagious. 19. You're humble and confident. 20. You're creative. 21. You're so talented at ________. 22. I don't get tired of being around you the way I get tired of being around other people. 23. You have great taste in ________. 24. You're so good at loving people. Thank you for loving me. There's more to a person than their cool glasses or hairdo.
The past few months have been pretty intense, emotionally, for me. I've experienced gut-wrenching loneliness, being misunderstood, depression, and I'm not ashamed to say it, suicidal thoughts.
While I am coming out of that hole fairly quickly, this phase has caused me to rethink my views on sadness, darkness, the meaning of I hate my life. As I look around me, I've noticed that Christians, and really people in general, have a pretty low tolerance for pain and brokenness. It's not so much because we don't accept it as part of life, we just don't know how to handle it.
A friend of mine once noted that, perhaps the reason we people are so clumsy around tears and grief is because Yahweh never intended for us to know pain in the first place. The Garden was a refuge of joy, freedom, peace, tangible bliss. With the bite of forbidden fruit, all perfection became blurred, and Life As It Should Be became a figment of wishful thinking.
In a world of superficial happiness and fake "fines," society has forgotten how to mourn and feel deeply. And for those who do have the guts to let their heart breathe, oftentimes the emotions overtake them, leading them to cynicism, numbness, and even death.
Even in the Church, the upbeat messages of "rejoice always" and "God is love" override the realities of "weep with those who weep." When a fellow believer is buried under with trials and tribulations, Christians are known to slap an applicable Bible verse on the wound and continue walking along. Even the one bearing the pain himself, he can feel isolated, like something is wrong with him. The cultural expectation to always be happy has seeped into the Church and with its message, a disrespect for burden bearing and sorrow has been the byproduct.
The humanity of Christ has been a comfort to me as I've walked through this season. He did not think of Himself so high to be removed from emotional pain and rejection. "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" - the Son of God was moved to tears when his friend died, He was forsaken by His Father, even as He hung dying, He was scorned. "Therefore, it was necessary for Him to made in every respect like us, His brothers and sister, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. . . . Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested" (Hebrews 2:17-18, NLT). He was good enough to feel every torment and ache known to man, so that He might rescue us and offer true rest for our souls.
Looking at the example of Jesus, there is no reason why we can't be a little more noticing, more urgent to care for another's pain. Sometimes a quick prayer and Bible verse isn't what is needed; dare I say, most of the time that's not the case. But to sit still, let them talk, hold them, let them cry, cry with them - this is humble service to the heart that is battered and torn. In so doing, we bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.
as noted from personal experience and general observation: just because your heart's desires differ from your neighbor's doesn't mean yours are wrong. always buy at least ten peaches when you're at the grocery store - you eat about two a day. when things don't work out between you and a man, that doesn't make the man a bad person. I know you hate talking on the phone, but lots of people in your life enjoy it, so stop ignoring calls and put up with it. stand up for yourself if you feel like you're being taken advantage of. don't get picky about drink orders when someone else is buying. stop telling people it'll be okay, and instead just sit still and listen. pray. be okay with telling people that you'd like to be a wife and mother someday. don't worry about their response. don't date someone if you can't see a future with them. it's unfair to both of you. always keep fresh plants or flowers in your house. drink more water. be kinder than necessary to your coworkers. trust those that tell you you're not being a burden. develop a keener eye for photography, both as the viewer and the taker. go to bed earlier. honor your word. do life in a way that you find yourself saying you're welcome more than I'm sorry. (photo)
Let me preface this by saying that I fully believe in the home. I believe in daughterhood, wifehood, and motherhood. As a young woman working towards a degree in government, however, I have had to wrestle with the variety of questions debating whether it is a woman's place to hold high office. And, as promised in a former post, here are my conclusions. Woman is arguably the most controversial figure ever created. Pages upon lectures upon books upon pop culture magazines obsess over the way women must behave, dress, and look. Querelle des Femmes - "that woman problem." In Plato's Republic, we can read Greek philosophers puzzling over the place of women. They noticed that although women are naturally of a more delicate and nurturing build, women are equal to men in intelligence and possess some strength and skills that the male gender lacks. Should the ladies then be allowed to have a hand in public policy, they mused.
First Lady Abigail Adams, an intelligent and forward thinker for her time, once asked her husband to "remember the ladies" and their keen perception of and contribution to building the government. She also admonished him that women would one day rebel if they weren't given a voice in the electorate. Like a practical, present-thinking man, John Adams laughed it off. Though we can only speculate, I'm particularly curious as to what would have happened if Adams had taken his wife's advice.
Perhaps if American women had the right to vote from the beginning, the Marxist-feminist rebellion against God's law would not have had such a momentum in our country. The entire anti-feminine initiative (a la Margaret Sanger) would not have had an appealing, unifying leg to stand on.
And then we come to the glaring question: Are women biblically qualified to vote or hold political office, or is government inherently unfeminine?
To answer this, the question of what femininity is must be examined. The feminine nature is the distinctive compliment to the masculine counterpart - the queen to the king. According to Scripture, to be feminine encompasses being an elegant supporter of civilization (Psalm 144:12), co-ruling the earth with the man (Genesis 1:26-28), and serving as an encourager and being a keeper of the domestic realm (Titus 2:4-5).
With those concepts in mind, I did my own "study," examining the variety of women found in the biblical narratives and their influence they had in society; you'd be surprised at what you find. Righteous women of the Bible:
- Feared God and defied political authority to stand up for life (Exodus 1:17, Exodus 2),
- judged, prophesied, and summoned soldiers in Israel (Judges 4),
- were intelligent and knowledgeable enough of current affairs to conduct diplomacy with national leaders (1 Samuel 25, 2 Samuel 20:16-22),
- warned the king, summoned officials, ordered fasts, feasts, and the writing of public records (Esther 2:22, 4:5, 16, 9:32),
- and appealed to the king for their property (2 Kings 8:3).
The Bible never accuses these women of sinning, despite the fact they they clearly exerted authority in the civil government. While studying these historical precedents, it is also important to note that these women never compromised their femininity. They showed up fully as women, not pseudo-men.
We know from Genesis that woman was created to be a helper for the man, and together they were supposed to have dominion over the earth. Because women are told to be keepers at home (Titus 2:5), many have come to the conclusion that the home is the exclusive place for the woman, and she should never show up in the public sector. But if this system of reasoning is accurate, then it should work for the man's place too. If the man is the public sector being, then, following the same train of thought, the man's place is exclusively the public sector, so he should never show up at the home.
It's quite obvious that something is off with the man's version. Men are supposed to show up at home (1 Timothy 3:4) - but they are supposed to show up as men, not pseudo-women. Because the Bible sharply delineates the roles of the masculine and feminine within the institution of marriage, family government is one sphere in which the woman's presence has been accepted and promoted throughout every wing of the Church.
But have you ever wondered why we don't expect women to successfully rule alone in the home, yet expect men to successfully rule alone in the public sphere? Does it make sense for only one human domain - the home - to belong partly to the woman, but the others to be under the sole jurisdiction of the man?
The authority structure of Yahweh-Christ-Man-Woman exists according to 1 Corinthians 11:3. But it appears to me that a fallacy takes place when people argue that this automatically discredits a woman's participation with state affairs. For example: Women are said to fulfill roles in the home government within the authority structure, and fulfill roles in church government within the authority structure. Logically, it would follow that women can also fulfill roles in state government within the authority structure. However, in the fringe Christian conservative community, they promote that women are to be entirely absent from government.
This apparently stems from fear that women in civil leadership positions are an abomination to God and therefore bring a nation under judgment, based on a lament from the prophet Isaiah.
"My people - infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.
O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths."
~ Isaiah 3:12 ~
Obviously, it is a shame to men if women and children have to step up and do the dirty work for them. To be honest, I believe men will always be ahead of women in government and politics. However, after close examination of the Scriptural precedents of feminine leadership, women in government power is not the judgment-inducing factor. Quite the contrary; the presence of righteous women in government generally means that the men are in need of serious help because they are in a declining civilization that is already under judgment.
Once after a rally Sarah Palin spoke at, Penny Young Nance of Concerned Women for America stated, "Conservative women are not afraid to embrace their femininity." Conservative radio host, writer, and homeschool mother Dana Loesch says that "motherhood is a political act, period." Like it or not, you have to admit that women have more clout on social issues such as abortion, marriage, and educational choice. A woman can say things to the face of government establishments that a man cannot without being labeled as "sexist" or "ignorant."
Those who refuse to support godly women in government are entitled to their opinion, though I do have one question for them, especially the men who promote such thinking: What have you personally done to successfully influence the government in the past, and are you actively continuing to influence public leaders now?
These are my own personal findings and convictions; certainly not something I plan to force on others. We all must look directly at what God's Word says and ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes. It is very tempting to read things into the Scriptures that simply aren't there because of the human desire to make things easy, cookie-cutter, systematic.
Jesus never said, "Turn your brains off and follow Me." Every decision of our lives will require critical thinking. Think, pray, and search the Scriptures. When we put our preconceived notions aside and seek only God's mindset, we will discover world-changing things.