Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Words of wisdom from a man named Og

Before I even try to create a convincing excuse, let me apologize.  It has been WAY too long since I last wrote.  For this, I am SO sorry!  With four tests are ahead of me, time management is still a skill that I am trying to learn.  Now that I have given the excuse, here’s what you are really here to read…..

The other day, I came across this amazing quote by a man named Og Mandino.  For those that love quotes, search for him on a website such as  Anyways, my new and favorite quote by Og Mandino is below:

“Count your blessings.  Once you realize how valuable you are and how much you have going for you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward in the life that God intended for you with grace, strength, courage, and confidence.”

Now, I once was made fun of for being the incredible optimist that I am; however, who wouldn’t LOVE to live with this quote as their motto?  Who wouldn’t love to know that they are valuable?  Whenever it is dreary outside, don’t we always begin to wish for the sun to shine again?  Most importantly, don’t we all dream, hope, and pray to live with grace, strength, courage, and confidence?

If Og Mandino is correct, the first step we must do is to realize that we are valuable.  When he says that we are valuable, Mr. Mandino is saying that we are valuable to God!  “Count your blessings!” he says.  He also says to realize that we have so much going for us in life.  This is so true.  God promises that he has a plan for us in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans that I have for you.  Plans for a future and a hope and not for evil.”

If you feel as though you have been wandering around listlessly these days, listen to Og.  He may have a funny name, but for this, you must give him credit: he has an amazing way of encouraging all of us with words of wisdom.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is it time for you, too?

One of my favorite movies of all time is Elf. Shortly after Buddy the Elf, Will Ferrell, arrives at Gimbles’s “North Pole,” Buddy hears news that, quite literally, has him jumping for joy. “Santa,” he is told, “is coming to town.” A childlike smile overtakes his entire face. “Santa,” Buddy exclaims, “I know him. I KNOW him!!!” Even the bells on his over-sized, elf shoes join him in this joyous chorus: “Santa is coming to town.” With all of his heart, Buddy loves Santa, and he is extremely proud to tell anyone and everyone.

My whole life, I have been involved in church. I have claimed to love Jesus with everything that I am. Never before, though, have I ever jumped up and down shouting, “Jesus, I know Him! I KNOW Him!”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” -2 Corinthians 5:17

I realized today that I should no longer be ridden with the expectations of this society. These old ways of mine—being worried about whether I have a great body, whether I am beautiful, or whether I have value—all these have passed away, and the new has come. It’s time for me to become consumed with God—His love, His grace, and His mercy. It’s time for me to let go of my worries about what others think. After all, “God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). It's time for me to love God more than I love my own self.

Like Buddy the Elf, I can exclaim, "Jesus! I know Him! I KNOW Him!" because no longer do I rely on others for my value. I rely on God. I find my beauty in God. I find my acceptance in God. I find that I am made perfect in God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I also know that I have value from God because He sacrificed His very own son in order that I could "become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a great reason to be overflowing with joy.

It’s time for me to show that I am proud of my faith. It is finally time for me to shout from anywhere and everywhere, to anyone and everyone, at any time and every time, proclaiming the good news. It is time for me. Is it time for you, too?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"In quietness and in trust shall be your strength."

Does it ever seem as though this world is constantly changing? As we are getting older, we are getting closer and closer to the reality of our lives: time waits for no one.

In the midst of our various changes--changing majors, changing friends, changing worldviews, even changing bodies--there is one things that stays the same: God.

Go ahead and exhale deeply! Relax and have faith! Everything is under God's control. He has the plans for your life in the same hands that created it. God assures us in Hebrews 13:8 that "Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." From this verse and the verses below, we can trust in Him even when everything seems uncertain.

"For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope...You will call upon me and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

"Therefore, we do not lose heart. We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:16, 18).

"In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:15).

Whenever the world seems too hard to handle, take a moment to pray. Daily, I wear the charm of my favorite prayer, and it reminds me to rest in God's presence and to trust in Him alone. The prayer that I adore so much is the Prayer of Serenity.

"Lord, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Even for just a minute, clear your mind and your heart of all their burdens and pray this prayer. Return to God and rest in His presence. In this quietness and in this trust, you will find the strength to withstand even the toughest storms of life.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Living in the garden among the thorns

This past weekend, I made a quick trip home to Nashville. While I was there, I searched deeply within the passage regarding Adam and Eve. I came across an idea so profound, and it relates directly with the series on Satan and sin.

After their creation, Adam and Eve lived in Eden with God. Surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees, they were not even bothered when God instructed them to enjoy every tree except for one, the tree of knowledge. After all, God was sufficient for them and there was so much other beauty to enjoy! What was one tree in the midst of a forest?

The other thing about Adam and Eve was that they were naked. Naked! When we think about what this symbolizes, we realize that Adam and Eve lived in complete freedom. They were free from shame, free from judgment, free from the worries of the world! After all, they were living in the Heaven on Earth.

Unfortunately, we know what happened next. Satan came. You can find the story in Genesis 3; however, I will paraphrase it. Satan told Eve that if she ate the apple from the tree of knowledge that her eyes would be opened, having the same knowledge as God, knowing good and evil. After she ate the apple, she gave it to Adam; he ate some, as well. Just as Satan had said, their eyes were opened. Ironically, they realized that they were naked. As a result, they hid from God in the garden.

Once God finds them, Adam exclaims that they were naked. Here is where God’s question is very interesting. He asks them, “Who told you that you were naked?” The definition of their being naked is defined by their new knowledge of good and evil. Something else to think about… Anyways, after Adam and Eve confessed to eating it, God gives them their punishments. God was gracious by clothing them and then said, “Man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

Most of us have always thought that God was sending them away simply because he was proud and angry—stealing their candy, if you will. Remember, though, that Lucifer was sent to Hell for valuing his knowledge and worth before God’s. He became the devil for that! Basically, Satan was luring Adam and Eve to join him as rulers of hell and to live forever in evil by acquiring complete knowledge of good and evil.

God, however, steped in to protect us! He saved us from Satan by sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden. God didn’t want for us to follow in Satan’s footsteps and to share the same fate. The only way to protect us from Satan was to send us from Eden.

Every day, we experience many desires. We long for what we can’t have and for what is deemed sinful. We are tempted daily and often fail to resist. I will write on this tomorrow. For now, remember that our Father in Heaven loves us SO much, more than I can even express in this blog. Pray about how this post relates to you while trying to live in the Garden among the thorns.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Satan: PB&J, a bonafide meltdown, and how this relates to the war of the world.

Imagine being a gourmet chef.  Known for your grand reputation, you are asked to cook in a competition sponsored by the Food Network channel.  The chef that you will be "cooking" against is revealed and, to your chagrin, he is a 7 year old!  The competition: to make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the world!  

You’re feeling pretty smug as you straighten the tall, silly white hat on your head.  As sure as your ego, you know you’ve got this competition in the “lunch”-bag.  First, you spread peanut butter on toasted French bread and add a few dashes of cinnamon.  Instead of the classic grape jelly, you drizzle honey and add a layer of quince jelly.  Grape, after all, is too cliché and below a chef with skills like your own.

On the other hand, the little boy’s sandwich is simple with one twist: peanut butter and grape jelly on white bread.  The boy’s secret ingredient is two handfuls of Goldfish between the slices of bread.  To finish the sandwich, the boy smashes it until the Goldfish break and the jelly oozes over the crust-less bread.  He serves it with a glass of cold milk.

It is time for judging.  The judges reveal their scores… 

The boy wins the competition!!!  The judges laugh at you and say you need to learn from this kid.  While kicking and screaming, having a bonafide meltdown, you hear the producer yelling for a commercial break.  As you are carried away by security, you remember that the show is being aired live on national TV.

Lucifer experienced embarrassment and shame on a much bigger scale than this.  Rather than losing some silly PB&J making contest, Lucifer is seen as lowly and as dirty as the ground to which he is thrown.    

He had been known for his perfection.  He was a captain of an army of guardian angels, yet God threw him to the ground for he had become proud.  “I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you…All are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever” (Ezek. 28: 17&19).  God had cursed this ground as a result of the deception of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  God cast Lucifer to Hell, but God also sent him to dwell within his own, original curse forever.

While sitting in his new kingdom, Satan developed a hatred for God we cannot fathom.  His mission became this: to avenge the embarrassment from his fall by destroying God's creation.  To this day, Satan resides in Hell with wounds of his broken pride.  With evil and sin, Satan lures us for he knows we are the crown of God's creation.  Satan lures us for he also knows that we are weak. 

 For this, we should despise him, run from him, and avoid sin at all costs.  Satan has waged a battle to destroy God’s beauty, power, and truth; the battle is here on Earth.  

Who is Satan now?  Satan is this: an evil villain that attacks God by attacking us. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Satan: A Victim to a Hardcore Superhero

Up until this past summer, whenever I thought of the devil, I pictured a little, red man with a pointy black mustache and eyebrows. His pitchfork was almost as sharp as the horns on his head. His tail was so scary it must have been ten feet long and prickled with spikes drenched in poison. His smell? A person’s nose would tingle from the sulfur and smoke in the air once the devil was 2 miles away. To me, Satan was merely an evil Disney character.

Until we understand who Satan truly is, we will not be able to recognize evil and sin in all its forms. Therefore, this week we will be discussing Satan and move towards the nature of sin.

For today, let’s get the background on Satan. Stasi Elderidge revolutionized the way that I see Satan in her book Captivating. “You may know that Satan was first named Lucifer, or Son of the Morning. It infers a flory, a brightness or radiance unique to him. In the days of his former glory…many believe he was the captain of the angel armies of God. Satan fell because of his beauty. Now his heart for revenge is to assault beauty.” This excerpt is based off Ezekiel 28: “You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones…Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (Ezek. 28:12,14,17).

Woah! If this is your first time to hear some of this, it may be information OVERLOAD. It definitely was for me, so let’s break this down. First of all, Satan’s name is Lucifer, and he “was the model of perfection.” Said simply, Lucifer got cocky and believed that he was at the same level of holiness and power as God. Lucifer’s love for himself made him lose sight of God. What did God do with Satan next? “I [God] threw you to the ground…By sin after sin, by your corrupt ways of doing business, you defiled your holy places of worship. So I set a fire around and within you. It burned you up. I reduced you to ashes” (Ezek. 28: 18).

Here is the background on Satan. If you have even just a minute, read Ezekiel 28:11-19. It’s amazing to actually see Satan, the devil, for who he actually is. If nothing else, you should read this passage because it proves our Father to be one hardcore superhero.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It was a blessed night.

While I was running this morning, I realized just how selfish I was last night. Don’t get me wrong, in many ways I needed to feel all of those emotions. Identifying what is filling you with fear, doubt, or sadness is a crucial step in moving forward. However, in all of my thinking last night, I was only concerned of myself. I know I talked about this in a previous post, but here is another example of how easy it is to think only about our own selves! There it was, Saturday night, and I was grieving over this past relationship.

This morning before church, though, I realized that I should have been celebrating! God has brilliantly designed each and every relationship in our lives. Each one has a purpose. From these relationships, we have the opportunity to learn many lessons about life, about love, and about God himself. This past relationship of mine taught me so many great things in all of these areas! I am a better person today for having had it, and I am nothing but grateful now for having been given that friendship.

What I also realized this morning was that it was time for me to let go of my biggest fear—the fear of being alone. “Perfect love drives out fear. A fearful life is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4: 18). I said this last night, but it brings true hope and encouragement to me now. I was not living fully in Christ’s love last night, but I as a type these words right now, I vow to live my life in Christ’s love with every breath that He gives me.

To all of my friends that have helped me make this transition to State, I am so blessed to have you. I am so sorry that I have dwelled in the past at times rather than move forward. I see now that it is my time to let go. We have great times before us, and I see now that it is our time to celebrate!

In some ways, last night was a rough night, but in many ways, it was a blessed night.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

God Is Greater than Our Worried Hearts

Tonight is Saturday night. It is 7:30pm, and I am curled up on my bed, listening to music, and writing this post. What is wrong with this picture? I am crying.

I crave depth. Whether it be in a favorite quote, a song’s lyrics, or a conversation, I crave the feeling of my soul being stirred. When I am talking with a person, I desire to reach that person on a level beyond superficial conversations and fake words. Maybe this is why I am terrible about texting and answering the phone.

But what does all of this have to do with me being alone and crying on Saturday night? After all, I have friends. I could pick up my phone right now and call about 15 different people and make plans to hang out. For some reason, though, I feel more called to turn off my phone and avoid their texts.

Last year, I made the best friend that I have ever had in my life. Was the relationship perfect? No, it was far from that. We challenged each other. We had fun, we fought, we made mistakes, and we learned. Sometimes we just sat in silence. He was the first person that I ever sang and played my guitar for, and he was the first person to ever make me feel beautiful within my own skin. Many times, we wiped tears from each other’s eyes when life seemed too hard. He knew me better than anyone else ever has. He was the only person that ever took the time.

Where did we go wrong? Sin crept into our relationship. Sin destroyed this beautiful gift that God had given to us.

As much as I used to hate him for how he has hurt me, I know that I also have hurt him. I find myself wishing to talk to him, but I am afraid by the very thought of hearing his voice again. Tonight, I find myself grieving over the loss of this friend.

But tonight, I also find myself in the arms of my Savior. His face, I cannot see it. His arms, I cannot touch it, yet I know they are wrapped around me. Tonight, I find myself comforted by the only guaranteed force: the love that our Father has for us.

This post is much different than all my other ones. It is not filled with funny quotes or jokes. Rather, it is filled with my true heart’s conviction:

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first” (1 John 4:17-19 The Message).

No matter where you are tonight, I pray that God’s love will work within you as it is working within me. Tonight, rest with me in the promise that, “God is greater than our worried hearts” (1 John 3:20 Message).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Pray It Forward to Pay It Forward"

In the movie Pay It Forward, the main character, Trevor, is assigned an extra credit assignment: to “think of an idea to change our world and put it into action.”  Most of the class complains to the teacher saying the project is too hard, crazy, and a “bummer idea”.  Trevor, however, creates a revolutionary plan: to “pay it forward.”

The basis for this idea is simple: to help three persons in a way that they cannot help themselves.  Each person should then do something for three other people.  Like a line of tumbling dominos, kindness spreads to many by one gentle tap: one person’s acts of kindness.

Trevor’s idea is great, and if actually put to practice, would have a huge ripple effect on our campus.  With a little variation to this idea, we can “pay it forward” to more than three people.  We can “PRAY it forward to PAY it forward.”

Why “pray it forward?"  Prayer is the most precious gift that we can give someone.  To pray for someone means giving that person—with their worries, their struggles, even their sources of joy—over to God.  We can pray for someone else when they don’t even realize they need it or when they are convinced God isn’t even real.

Right now, imagine the struggles that you are going through—whether they be related to school, money, family, friends, health, God, etc.  Now, consider that every single person around you has just as many, if not more, trials in their own life.  Imagine praying for all these people that you don’t even know.  Imagine praying that no matter what their struggles may be, that God will work through them and be glorified in the end. 

Prayer heals.  Prayer enlightens.  Prayer inspires.  Prayer moves.  Prayer penetrates.  Prayer gives the blessed assurance that God is always at work within us and through us.  Prayer allows us to step outside of our own problems and see that our lives have nothing to do with us but everything to do with God.  Prayer, my friends, is powerful. 

Ghandi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  God has given us a similar purpose: to be the change He wishes to see in the world.  Together, let’s pray it forward to pay it forward.  Let’s be the change.  Let’s pray.

~Video Clips from Pay It Forward

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"If you ain't first..." well that's just fine.

Over this past weekend, I had an epiphany. I’ve been living like Ricky Bobby! While I have absolutely no intention of praying to “Sweet, baby Jesus” or naming my children Walker and Texas Ranger, we’ve both been living with the same mentality: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Haven’t we all found ourselves living by this quote? Whether it be in an intramural kickball tournament, our academics, or by getting asked out, we are either a winner or a loser, on or not on the Dean’s list, noticed or not noticed by a special someone. We find our self worth in all of these different things and become dismayed or burned out when they don’t satisfy us. Even if they do build our ego, we soon are in search of more ways to satisfy our desires and sense of self.

Personally, I have struggled with this quite a bit! Last year, I had my first boyfriend. We spent too much time together, though, and my academics and other friendships suffered. This is just one example; however, it shows how focusing on our own desires leads to a dead end. Where I went wrong was that I was focusing on my own self. I wasn’t focusing on God.

C.S. Lewis once said, “If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for a different world.” This is so true. We have all been made for a different world. We have been made for heaven!

So how do we proceed? “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (1 Corinthians 4:18 NIV). In other words, we need to:

"Let go and let God."

“If you ain’t first…” Well, I’d like to say that is just fine. God is first anyways.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Let It Fade"

The other day, I was in my car, and I felt the need to just "go." Down the roads of Starkville, I went driving. With the volume on 18, I blared music and got lost in the openness of the road, the glow of headlights on the pavement before me.

A song came on, one of my favorite Jeremy Camp songs, "Let It Fade." The volume went up to 22. The words go something like this:

"Have you been walking on a surface that's uncertain?
Have you helped yourself to everything that's empty?
You can't live this way too long.
There's more than this, more than this.
Have you been standing on your own feet too long?
Have you been looking for a place where you belong?
You can rest, you will find rest.

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offer be your saving grace.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade, let it fade.

Have you been holding on to what this world has offered?
Have you been giving in to all these masquerades?
It will be gone, forever gone.
It will be gone, it will be gone

Let this old life crumble, let it fade.
Let this new life offer be your saving grace.
Let this old life crumble, let it fade, let it fade.

Are you carrying the weight too much and running from the call?
Let it fade."

This song reaches a deep place within me every time that I hear it. To "Let it fade"--isn't this something we all wish that we could do? He says it so simply, yet he says it so perfectly: "Let this old life crumble, let it fade. Let this new life offer be your saving grace. Let this old life crumble, let it fade, let it fade."

Take just a minute to think about how this song relates to you. "Are you carrying the weight too much and running from the call?" That call is His plea. Let Christ reach you where you are. "Let His new life offer be your saving grace.
Let this old life crumble,
Let it fade."