Deep Thoughts

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At the last Bright Lights meeting, we had a spontaneous time of sharing. It was wonderful. Some really cool thoughts and stories were shared and I am starting to think that I can learn more from them than they can learn from me.

One of the thoughts was from my friend Brianne. She talked about how God is teaching her that often the most beautiful things are found in the most dangerous, scary places. She told a story of how she was hiking with her mom, and they decided to chose the scarier looking path (complete with spiders) instead of the well traveled one… and how that led to some beautiful oak trees that made it all worth it.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot since… and it’s so true and so deep. Especially with love.

Love is terrifying. Might as well just say it. It’s hard. It hurts. It’s pretty much… impossible.

That is, without God.

We’ve been talking about God’s love over the past three meetings and… I think it’s finally starting to sink in. For me. I spent hours thinking and praying about it and I finally got to the point where I wept.

He asks that I humble myself–that I stand before Him with no excuses, nothing to hide behind–and admit my sin. To Him. Holy, Holy, Holy. Who cannot bear to look on sin.

That is a horrifying thing to do.

But when I did it, I found, once again, the most beautiful truth of all: He loves me anyway and has made a way; has paid my fine.

His love and my sin stood in such terrible contrast… I saw how unworthy I am and yet I KNEW, deeper than ever, that He loves me. Oh, what a life-changing truth.

And… my heart is being softened, again. I am remembering that I am Loved and because of that I am free to love others.

It hurts. It scares me.

But I am learning, like Brianne, that this path is worth it; that ultimately it leads to the greatest joy and beauty.

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Look Up: Part Two

(Part One Here.)

Yesterday Esther begged me to give her a bath, so I did. She’s really cute. And besides, she did need one.

Before we got started, I explained to her about the water going in her eyes, and how she needed to look up, because then the water would go down her back.

She got a little worried and started talking about, “Water! Eyes!” And I said, “Yes, if you look DOWN it goes in your eyes.” And she was like, “Oh.”

The bath commenced, and before I started rinsing her hair, I talked it through. This time, you’re going to look up, and the water will go down!

And–she actually looked up, and the water actually didn’t go in her eyes!

Not just once, but at least six times. No water in eyes, no wailing.

Finally.

I clap and cheer and we smile.

And I smile inside, too, because I am finally starting to learn to look up again.

Oh, there are still waves, still trials, and I still notice them, still look down sometimes, still get a little scared. But mostly I am looking up at Him, believing that He knows, He is good, and He is working all things together for good. ALL things.

When the feelings start coming and they contradict what He is and what He says, I am learning to calmly say, “Look here. That is not true. God IS good. He DOES know what He is doing. He IS working this out for good. He IS a shelter for those who trust in Him. He DOES accept me. He WILL use this for His glory and my good.”

Faith is our shield. That calm, determined trust in God and His promises makes those attacks drop right down–or, they prevent them from getting deep inside, so they only wound us superficially.

Trust God.

The trials won’t leave. But the devastating part of them will, the part where you crumble and there’s nothing solid left.

And even when you’re there–when everything’s crashing down and nothing makes sense–call out to Jesus. Trust Him enough to say I don’t trust You very much right now, please help me trust You more.

He knows your pain. He lived here. Friends betrayed Him. He was homeless. He was misunderstood. He endured the most horrific physical pain. He felt the weight of every horrible sin as if He had done it. He was mocked. He was weary. He was abandoned (for a brief time, but still!) by His Father. He was attacked directly by Satan. He had at least one friend (John the Baptist) in prison. He was hungry. He was thirsty. He was single for 33 years. His friends died. (Yes, He raised Lazarus up–but He still felt that pain.) He was hated. He loved and was not loved back.

He hates it just as much as you do, sin and its consequences. He hates it so much He went through all of that to free us from it. He loves us so much…

Modesty (again, but different)

So, anyone who has followed me/known me long knows that I have already written and talked and taught about modesty quite a few times. But my perspective has changed lately, and I thought it worth explaining.

When I was around 11, I remember getting ready to go swimming with several other little girls. We were going to change in the same room, until one of my friends mentioned that recently they had been reading (or talking about, I don’t remember which) the story of when Noah’s son looked on his nakedness and encouraged his brothers to do the same–and then was cursed. She said that because of that she didn’t think we should change together, even though we were all girls. We were all still quite young–I was the oldest. We hadn’t even had The Talk yet with our parents. It wasn’t about lust, just about listening to the Bible.

Recently, I read an article on the Rebelution about, “The Other Side of Modesty” (men). I thought it was quite good–and, as one might expect, it sparked some intense “discussion”. One comment especially stood out to me:

Perhaps also missing here is the fact that lust is not an exclusively opposite-sex issue. There are many Christians, myself included, who struggle with same-sex attraction. While committed to living lives of sexual purity (which, for me as a same-sex attracted guy, I believe means either marrying a woman or a life of celibacy), we still struggle with lust just like anyone else. This whole discussion centers around the opposite sex’s response to our clothing choices. But what about me? Is it considered immodest when guys undress in a mens’ locker room? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean the temptation of lust is absent. Am I faced with the choice of avoiding all locker room situations (impractical) or asking other guys to be more modest in the locker room (ridiculous)? Do you see the issue here? As widespread an occurrence as same-sex attraction is (and believe me, it’s widespread), you can’t just think about the opposite sex’s response to your clothing choices (or lack thereof). You never know who you might be causing to “stumble.” If you accept this as a reality (and it is a reality), then by your standards, guys must be careful about what they wear at all times, even around other guys. This starts getting ridiculous!

It kind of threw me for a loop. I hadn’t thought of it from that angle, at least not in depth, and I wondered what kind of implications it held.

And then… I remembered the incident I mentioned at the beginning of this post. And I realized some things about Noah and his sons.

They were all guys. They were related. They probably didn’t (?) have same-sex attraction.

And I realized that modesty is not really about us. It’s not about men doing it for women, or women doing it for men, or anything like that. This is something we do for God. For His glory.

Yes, it has the side effect of us being less of a problem for our fellowman. But that is not WHY. A big part of the why is simply to not distract others from Christ. We can’t stop anyone from lusting, but we CAN be less distracting.

And lust is NOT a problem of clothes (or lack thereof) or bodies or women or men.

Lust is the enemy, the sort-of-opposite of love. The cure is not more clothes or less attractive people or being blind. The cure is LOVE. Love for God, love for people. The cure is to WORSHIP God.

The End.

In Which a Sorcerer Comes to Christ

So, about two months ago, I was asked to pray for a man from Nigeria–Nayon, a sorcerer, who was considering becoming a Christian but hadn’t yet. It is a serious decision for him. Obviously it always is, but in his case, he is risking his LIFE.

I started praying, of course, and found that I had a burden for this man’s salvation. (It’s rather hard to explain… sometimes, when I pray for something, it becomes sort of “mine”–I keep remember to pray for it, and I am invested emotionally in it.) I kept praying, looking forward to seeing what God would do in his life.

About a month after I started praying, I just kind of lost the burden I had felt for him. I wondered if something was wrong with me, or if maybe… he was saved.

A few days ago, I asked if there was any news on him or the other man I was praying for (A chief who has refused to become a Christian… I don’t know if anything has changed with him or not. Prayers for him would be great.).

Today I had been feeling rather down and frustrated… until I got the reply. About a month ago (!) Nayon had contacted a missionary there and said he and some others were ready to become Christians!!!

I am seriously so thrilled. I keep smiling randomly and praising God. It’s crazy, in a way. I don’t even know these people. Why should I care? It’s part of being a Christian, I guess. There is truly nothing quite like knowing that another soul has been saved–and that you’ve gained another brother or sister in Christ. Wow.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Psalm 103:1

Servanthood

So, we had this Leader’s Training with a group of girls from Bright Lights. And one whole session was about being a servant. And I was convicted by this session–you know, back when Hannah and I did the training almost six years ago. I told the girls how God has made a lot of progress with me in the servant-hood department since the last time I heard it.

And then, I was convicted again. There is, apparently, still quite a lot to be desired. (Though this really isn’t surprising at all.)

A few days ago, I was thinking about Things In General Especially My Life. Here’s the condensed, bloggy version:

My life hasn’t exactly gone how I thought it should. By this time I was supposed to be at least courting/dating/whateveryouwanttocallit, maybe even married. I was supposed to be in some sort of important type ministry, maybe overseas. I was supposed to know what I was going to Do With My Life.

And I’m not. Not courting, not married, not in an “important” ministry (by the world’s standards. Or even by the Good Christian Girl standards. I mean I haven’t even been out of the US yet on a short term mission trip!!), and I don’t know what I’m going to Do With My Life.

How depressing.

Or is it?

I kept thinking/praying, trying to sort out what I am doing, what my role is at home, at work, at church, in life. And I finally figured it out. Only took twenty three years…

I’m a servant.

No, a bondservant. For life. Out of choice. Because of Love.

First to Jesus, then to my family, then to the Bright Lights girls, then to my church family, then to… everyone else.

It isn’t even MY life to decide what to do with!

And the past few days, I’ve been consciously, purposefully embracing that role.  Now I keep having this odd thought going through my mind: “Being a servant is the most freeing thing you can do.”

Sounds so contradictory, so insane. Serving others makes you free?? Say what?

Oh, but it does, when your Master is Christ. His burden is indeed light. See, we will have a master. Either we are controlled by our own sinful passions and lusts, or we are controlled by Christ.

Here is the testimony of one who lived a life controlled by his passions, when he was caught and sentenced to prison: “I forgot that what a man does in secret will someday be shouted from the housetop–passion is a cruel master.”

What, then, of Christ? What sort of Master is He? He is a Good Father, the sort that will spank and hug, remove splinters and listen patiently, assign chores and times of rest. What does He desire and work in us? Our holiness. And guess what that leads to? Our good. And guess what that leads to? Joy and happiness of the purest kind.

When you cheerfully accept your role as a servant (And what other role can we take, especially since HE took it upon Himself?), everything changes. When you don’t have your own agenda to look out for, suddenly you don’t mind so much when you’re asked to do a project that will take up many hours of your day and involve a lot of dust and strenuous labor. Suddenly it’s expected, even welcomed. Suddenly it’s not such a big deal when people don’t notice all the things you do. It doesn’t hurt quite so much when you’re corrected. It’s not a problem if you’re behind the scenes where no one knows but you and your Master. Playing with and talking to your little brothers doesn’t seem like a distraction from the Import Ministry (not even kidding, both of my smallish little brothers [I also have a big little brother.] have come over with various things, one a broken car and one an AOE question, while I was writing this sentence.)–it becomes an act of service, a part of your assignment.

Because He sees, and He is pleased, and what more could you ask for?

And if what He wants is for me to stay right here, in this little house with these wonderful people that make up my family, serving in the “little” ministries He has given me for the rest of my daysthen so be it.

I’m not in charge. He is. And He is an AWFUL LOT SMARTER THAN ME. (like, way more than just caps, but I think you get the picture.)

I’m a bondservant and my Master is Good.

And getting that straight has been the sweetest, most freeing realization I’ve had in a long, long time. Maybe my whole life.

Here’s to many more years of joyful servanthood.

Look Up!

“Look up! Find the walrus!”

Briefly, she looks up.

I pour the water, trying to rinse away soap.

She jerks her head down–too soon.

The wailing begins.

I wipe her eyes patiently and explain, again, that if she’ll just keep looking up, the water won’t go in her eyes.

We try again. Same thing. I tell her to look up. She looks down. The water goes in her eyes.

This scene, or one very like it, has been repeated countless times in the bathtub in our home (and I have a sneaking suspicion that it may happen in other homes too.). For some reason, little people find it very difficult to understand that when they look down, the water goes in their eyes and hurts them. This seems very odd to me, since it happens every single time. And yet, they continue. For a while. Until finally, finally they learn.

I was thinking about this recently, after yet another bath time that included this little scene… and I realized that I am like that.

God says, “Look up! Look at Me!”

Briefly, I obey.

And then I jerk my head back down and–whoosh go the troubles, into my eyes, blinding me to His goodness and causing me unnecessary pain.

And He patiently reminds me, once again, to look up.

It’s so simple, really, and so common sense. Yet, in my foolish rebellion, I continue to look back down. And He continues to remind me.  I’m very grateful.

And someday… someday, maybe I’ll finally learn, too, like all the siblings preceding Esther did–just look up.

And keep looking up.

Read S.l.o.w.l.y.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 1 Peter 1:18-19

Amazed? Thankful? I am…

Grace, Faith, Surrender, and Me.

It’s funny… well, maybe not funny. More like odd.

I keep telling God how weak I am and how I can’t do anything right and how much sin is still left and all of that.

And He’s like, that’s the point.

Grace isn’t about me. It’s about Him, doing it all. It’s about me, imperfect, weak, stumbling me, being cleansed and used gloriously by Him. It’s about Christ in me, and I in Him. It’s about emptying myself of everything, good and bad, and letting the Holy Spirit take over.

So simple.

Why don’t I just do it? Why don’t I just let Him live through me all the time?

Sometimes I do–I remember one time on the J127 trip when we were going to redo a yard with a bunch of other people. It was a complete mess. And I remember saying to God, okay, if this is what you want Your hands and feet to do, this is what they will do. And I had an amazing time. I worked HARD for 7 plus hours–so much so that at least three people complimented me on being a hard worker. (This may possibly have stemmed from their surprise that a girl wearing a skirt and what looked like dress shoes could carry 40 lb stones and rip out roots and such. Ahem.) But it wasn’t me, not really. I’m really not a hard worker. I’m actually quite lazy, by default. And it was so wonderful to be used by God like that. Sure, I still got really dirty and sore–but it was such a blessing at the same time.

And I wish that was how it always is–but it just isn’t like that. Why not?

Pride. Stupid, ugly, destructive pride. If it’s all Him, then it’s none of me. I don’t get any credit, I don’t get any glory. If it’s all grace and not works that earn salvation–if it’s surrender to God and letting Him fight through and for me and not even having my own sword (David didn’t)–if it’s all Him living through me and not me living for Him–then it’s all Him and I can’t get any praise.

But I don’t even want praise, not really. I know He deserves it all, and I deserve none. Not of myself.

Sure, He made me and He made good things in me–but I use them wrongly, when it’s me in charge. When the gifts aren’t surrendered and I try to wield that too-big sword on my own, I just muddle everything. And I know that. So I surrender, time and time again. Or at least I try. I try really hard.

But it’s still so hard.

Or is it?

Maybe I just make it hard. Maybe it’s not about trying. Maybe it really is just faith–believing that He really means it when He says that He is in us and we are in Him. Maybe it isn’t about trying hard to surrender–maybe it’s about believing that He will take and keep what I have given to Him. Maybe it’s about trusting that I died and now Christ lives in me.

Oh, Lord, I believe–please help my unbelief.

This is What We Wake Up to Easter Morning…

 

I don’t know, it just makes the whole day start out right. 🙂 This is a joyous day! (Now that sounded old fashioned. Oh well.) Of course every day is a chance to rejoice in His resurrection and to share in the power of it, but there is still something special about taking a whole day to praise Him for it and to dwell on what it means. I’m excited. I hope you are too. 😀