Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hate and judgement

Before you decide that you hate someone, before you decide that you absolutely cannot stand someone, before you decide to label someone or judge them, before you decide to keep as far away as you can from that person...remember, you don't know them.

I'm not saying that people are excused from hurting you, if they have done that. I'm not excusing anyone from abusing other people in a variety of ways, whether petty or large. I'm not asking you to go be friends with everyone. What I am saying, though, is that there are so many people who are very good at keeping up appearances and at hiding their dark secrets, and you may judge them without really knowing, for example, that that person is struggling with family issues, or that she has a mental disorder, or that he is a victim of abuse. You don't know whether or not what he/she does stems from such a thing, or even something else. You don't know why she's so moody all the time. You don't know why he acts like such a jerk in general to everyone.

You don't know. So why are you jumping to conclusions? Why are you judging?
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Matthew 7:1-5
Dear reader, please at least take a look at yourself before you start hating on other people. Remember that you, too, have faults. You, too, are nowhere near God's standard of perfection. Remember that He does not require anyone to be perfect, but remember too that as you go around making assumptions about other people, others are doing the same back to you, wondering why you should assume so much.

If you don't believe in God, the same truth still applies. People will judge you for judging others, and who are you, with all your faults, to be judging to begin with? Do you really see yourself as better than any of the rest of us in your morality, your actions, your ways, you with all your faults and imperfections?

I do not deny that I, too, am guilty of being judgmental. But I recognize that I am not right with people when I judge them. I am doing people, and myself, a huge disservice by judging them. Please realize that every moment you spend hating someone is a moment of your life that you toss away as though that minute of your life were meaningless to you, that it wasn't worth anything. Trust me, those minutes add up, and you'll be wondering at the end of your life what you could have done differently with all of those minutes you wasted.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Perspective and eternity

I was lying on my back gazing up at the stars the other night. It was a brisk evening, but I was warm in my hooded sweatshirt and fleece sweatpants and able to just lie there, look up at all those stars, contemplate life, all that good stuff. As I continued to lie there, I began playing around with my vision, trying to focus in order to see more stars, as many as I possibly could. What I quickly found myself realizing was that as soon as I tried to focus more on any one specific star or gathering of stars, and especially as I tried hard to stare at the sky and see all the stars, I could not see that many. When I stopped trying so hard, didn't focus on any one particular star, and simply let the view of the thousands of stars appear, they did.

Of course this is a metaphor in addition to a real experience; what else did you expect of me, Reader, especially after seeing all my previous posts? ;)

Sometimes we do get caught up in all the little things. Our focus shifts onto the worries of our lives, the in-the-moment type stuff, and it makes it hard to see the big picture and especially to live the kind of life Jesus calls us to. I probably posted this verse before, but here it is again... John 16:33 = "'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'" Because Jesus sacrificed His perfect self on the cross (essentially bearing a burden that we should have rightfully bore) so that we could be in a loving relationship with the Creator of the universe, we have the knowledge that He knows the sort of things we go through daily. He was God in the form of a human, taking the form specifically so that He would be able to relate to us! In addition, His sacrifice allows us to have this relationship not only here on Earth but on into eternity.

What is eternity? It's foreverness. It's existence completely outside of time itself. And you get to choose how you want to live it: With God, or without God (Heaven or Hell; that's all those two places are when you get down to it). Everything on this Earth will cease to be of importance in eternity, especially when it all passes away. Keeping a perspective on eternity, the long-run, we can see how interesting it is that humans such as myself get caught up in the everyday, oftentimes meaningless, worrisome little things. For example, I've caught myself becoming anxious regarding drama in my relationships with people, my reputation, my job, my savings, my homework...the list goes on and on!

What it's crucial to remember, however, is that while all of these things definitely have importance and significance in my life, they are all quite insignificant when compared with eternity. These things will all pass away eventually. Right here, right now, they are indeed worth something, but only for the moments that they occur in. God is eternal, and He desires for us to have peace in our hearts regarding life. Peace does not mean easiness, nor does it mean a lack of difficult times. What it means, rather, is an ease of worry.

By keeping our eyes turned towards Him, we can be reminded that there is so much more to life than all this little stuff. I fully believe and trust that one day I will be able to spend eternity with God, and that's something that brings a smile to my face and overrides small anxieties. While we do need to carry on here on Earth and continue living our lives instead of letting them stagnate as we just kick back and admire our God, we can do so while walking with Jesus by our sides, knowing that He, indeed, has overcome the world already and will always be with us through the things we do go through.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


(For those of you who have been putting up with my extremely long blogposts wishing I'd write less, don't worry; this post will be much shorter than the previous few. However, don't expect it to always be this way from now on, haha.)

Technically speaking, we have a set lifespan here on Earth. One day in the future, we will die; only God knows when exactly. Until then, though, we have from the moment we're conscious to the moment we breathe our last breath to make choices about the things we do, choices about the things that are most important to us and that are worth our limited amount of time.

So what are you choosing to do with your time? What deserves your time?

It's hard for me not to laugh at the ridiculous amount of time I spend on Facebook and/or texting on my phone and/or checking my email. When it comes down to the truth of the matter, I know it's really not healthy or worthwhile doing these things every hour I'm awake. The hard part, I suppose, is actually pulling myself away from the social circles these things create for me. But thinking about what I could be doing instead of stalking people's pictures on Facebook really hits me hard, because my time is precious to me, and I really do only have so much of it. I could be spending so much more time reading God's Word if I just cut 15 minutes off the amount of time I spend online. I could be spending a higher amount of quality time with my friends if I chose to do my homework away from them, where I'm not distracted, and then come back to them and hang out with them. I could be spending a lot more time getting the rest that I need in order to function properly if I didn't save my homework for the last minute due to being distracted by things like texting and Facebook and stuff.

Well, what is it for you? What's taking up your time that you wish you could have for something better, more worthy of your attention? If you're comfortable, you can even post a comment about it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Get real

(NB: This blog post is mainly written with a Christian audience in mind, but I don't want those of you reading this who are not Christ-followers to think that you can go through and read this and ignore what I say. I challenge you to look at your own beliefs as well and apply what I say towards that. Test yourself.)

We walk around and say in our hearts that we're Christians. When asked about our religious beliefs, either on paper or by people we know, we say we're Christians. After all, we go to church on Sundays and believe that Jesus is our Savior, pretty much. Maybe some of us even do the right things and try to follow the rules, or act the right way. Yeah, we're Christians.

Honestly, though, what do you really believe? Do you truly believe and are completely convicted in what you say you believe? And do your actions reflect what you believe, or is there a mismatch? If I held you and your beliefs up at gunpoint, would you back down?

Many times, we who say we are Christians will say things (usually parroting them back) that we know we should believe as Christians, but we don't truly believe them. Let's take a couple of examples here, and I ask you to be completely honest with yourself, because otherwise reading this blog post is a waste of your time.
  1. Do you really believe that Jesus is really the Son of God and was crucified in order to carry the weight of your sin for you, an act of sacrificial atonement? And do you really believe He rose from the grave three days later? Seriously, to your average unchurched person it sounds like some sort of odd zombie story; do you really believe in it? And if your answer at this point is still yes, what are you doing about it? If you believe that Jesus did all of this for you, how are you responding to that? If this is all the case, and you believe it to be true from the bottom of your heart, you can't tell me that you can get away with going along with your life as you always have. You can't take something like this for granted. It's as though your best friend just saved your life by jumping in front of a bullet for you. Would you take that for granted, say "Oh thanks" and move on with your life? No, you would be changed in some way. Seriously, guys, if the full weight of what Jesus did for you is something you actually see as true, your life and outlook should theoretically be different from someone who doesn't.
  2. Do you really believe that there is a Heaven and a Hell? (For the sake of the rest of this example, we are going to use my definition of Heaven and Hell, with Heaven being eternal life with God and Hell being eternal life without God, and that's the end of it; aka, no burning fiery pit or pearly gates or crap like that, stuff that has gotten blown out of proportion recently due to traditions rather than scriptural evidence.) If you really believe that there's a Heaven and a Hell, do you really believe that God would ever send someone to Hell? And do you believe that Hell is as bad as it's cracked up to be? Why do you believe that? Seriously, is it so bad to spend eternity without this God? Why should anyone want to live with a God who would send them to Hell anyways? And if you truly believe that life without God is not worth living and would be near torturous in and of itself, are you empathetic enough to understand and believe that there are people in the world who possibly are going to end up suffering because they know nothing of what you believe and know as true? If what you believe is true, and people will end up in this state without God if they don't know this God, and your believe that to be the worst-case scenario, why aren't you sharing your beliefs and thereby showing them a better option? Some of you will read this and think to yourselves that this sounds overly-evangelical and like bible-thumping. I could care less what you think about that, because I know what I just wrote is valid. If you're someone who believes that Hell is an awful place and is in fact the worst place people could end up, why wouldn't you try to show people a better alternative? Does that make sense, or am I not coming across clear enough?
Obviously, if you don't believe any of these things, no harm done. But I am quite sick of the hypocrisy that exists in Christian communities. Did you know that hypocrisy is the number one reason behind why people who are not Christian say that they don't like Christians? Hypocrisy, by the way, is pretty much pretending to have certain values and beliefs that you don't actually truly hold. And I'm not saying I'm not guilty of being a hypocrite at times (prime example would be me saying to someone that God loves everyone including myself, no matter what you do, and then going and hating on myself when I'm alone and feeling like He doesn't love me because of what I've done). What I am saying, though, is we need to carefully consider what we believe and how that affects our lives, because if you really believe what the Gospel says, why shouldn't your life be changed by that? It's kind of shakes up one's world and worldview.

There's a cliche that says we should practice what we preach. I'm suggesting we practice what we believe, because whatever "preaching" you may do will have no effect unless you're actually living it out, and you can't possibly live it out unless you really believe it in your heart. Whatever your beliefs are, I seriously challenge you to take this seriously and take this to heart. And I'm not denying that I myself need to do this as well. So if you're up for it, we can enter this challenge to actually be real together.

Monday, September 5, 2011


I'm 90% sure I may have posted this verse before, but here we go again: Jeremiah 29:11 = "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Within the past month, roughly, I think God decided it would be funny to turn my life upside down: I ended up transferring colleges due to financial issues, ending a relationship due to my attempts to follow the path that I believe I can best serve Him through, forming new relationships and witnessing some very tense moments while serving over in Costa Rica, and beginning to form new relationships with people very different from people I would normally spend time with at my previous school. I vaguely felt at the time, of course, that it had to be done; I could just barely see the path in front of me (I know He makes it so, in order that we have to lean on Him and not our own understanding [see Proverbs 3:5]) and I knew that I simply had to get up the courage and go for it. It was definitely difficult. That being said, I look back now and say to myself, "Wow, it couldn't have gone any better or happened any other way!"

But sometimes situations crop up in our lives that we aren't so sure are actually beneficial. Sometimes we look at the events unfolding in front of our eyes and wonder, "God, what the heck are you doing? This is awful. Why would You ever do this to me? Obviously You're not a good God/You're not listening/You don't see me/You don't understand me/You don't even exist." Maybe your grandmother, the most wonderful woman you have known, is dying for no apparent reason. Maybe you find yourself hating your job, or maybe you lost your job. Maybe you're stuck in the most boring class you could ever find yourself in and now you're wondering how the heck you're supposed to pass the class with at least a C average because it's a major requirement (...yes, I am guilty). For me in particular, and it's something that frustrates me to admit, it's actually been managing my relationships with people, something I'm normally okay at. Yeah, part of it has been due to a lack of sleep and therefore lapse in judgement when it comes to making good decisions and being patient and graceful and such, but another part of it has been due to my own internal conflicts which have caused me to be very vulnerable and needy in one sense at certain times and very reserved and guarded at other times.

There hasn't been a day in the past week, at least, that I haven't asked God, "Why? Why am I stuck in the position I'm in, having said the things I said, having done the things I did? And what do I do now?" But when you step back and look at your situation, no matter what it is, and remember that His plans are far greater than any that a mere human could come up with, it's much easier to just keep putting Him first in everything, knowing that He has a way out as well as a way through (1 Cor. 10:13). Realizing this and thinking about it daily has caused me to have to make tough decisions and have tough conversations, but I know that there's something far greater in store for me, as His princess, daughter, and servant.

This may be a slight side note, but dear reader, if anyone chooses to read this anymore at all, please remember that people are broken. There is not a single person on this earth who isn't corrupt in some way or another. None of us are perfect. Everyone is struggling with something, it's just a matter of what. And you, yes you, are one of these unperfect, broken people. You are struggling with something. But you also have the opportunity to support someone as they move through life. God's plans are something we won't know for sure, and in fact divining His will is impossible, and He makes it so to give us free will. But we can know for sure that His plans do involve us, and involve us being involved in the lives of others.

I dare you to be there for someone.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Breathe, just breathe

There's a song by Superchick called "Breathe" that I highly suggest you check out. Right now, it pretty much encapsulates how I'm feeling. Not only that I need to stop, slow down, and finally take a breath after being a leader for a retreat called Collide, but also because I had something unexpected happen to me early this evening that really shook me.

I could write about so much happiness right now. I could go on and on about how even though I am running on a grand total of maybe six or eight hours of sleep since Friday, I am amazed how much God taught me as a leader and not even a student about his power to work in anyone at this middle school retreat. About how even though my girls liked to try to all talk to me at once so I couldn't hear any of them and liked to talk about anything except what we were supposed to be talking about, they showed incredible maturity when it came to cleaning up and being on time. In fact, these guys taught me a lot, too! They taught me that even sixth graders can have incredibly deep questions (one of my girls was asking what "apocalypse" really meant, and another asked about original sin, while still another asked about how to deal with atheistic oppression). (In fact, this latter girl also brought up a philosophical discussion while we were just hanging out one day about different people seeing colors differently, something I just began learning and thinking about this year!!! Whaaat.) They taught me that even if you just met someone for the first time, you can instantly become his or her friend because of the fact that Christ connects us all as brothers and sisters. They taught me that you can be firm without being strict, that you can be an efficient leader even though you may be less experienced than some of the older ones.

God showed me how he can create a beautiful work of art in even the smallest or youngest of us, just like the boy who shared that poem before we sang "Happy Day" during the worship session today. He placed me in a situation where I had to pray constantly for His hand over my group as well as my own effectiveness as a leader. He reminded me, through a middle school message, that His Word is sweeter than the sweetest honey, more powerful than a double-edged sword, and meant for everybody.

Still with all of this amazingness from the weekend, I find myself trying to stay numb so that I don't have to deal with the unsavory thought of trying to sort through exactly how I'm feeling about this certain event that happened this early evening. I know Wednesday I am going to a small group where I will try talking about it with the pastor and women there, so for that I am grateful and I can look forward to just holding out until then. Thankfully, I know God is here with me and I can turn to Him through prayer and His Word.

So now it's time to stop and take a breath. To step back, deeply inhale God's healing and comfort and encouragement and rest and power and courage and wisdom and love, and exhale worry and fear and discomfort and selfishness and anger and cowardice and ignorance and stubbornness. It's time to breathe in God, the one who first breathed life into us.

"I can't see without Your light/I need You to breathe into my life." -Superchick in "Breathe"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


As the majority of the world knows, the supposed "Rapture" was due to happen this past Saturday, May 21. As we all very well know, it didn't happen, and while I could rant about that whole situation in general, it's not the point of this blog post. The point is, I actually learned something from the whole thing that, dear reader, you may or may not be interested in learning, too.

While people on Friday and Saturday kept mentioning things about the Rapture and such, I either replied with a witty response or just kept mum. However, here were the following thoughts going on in my mind: I know there's not going to be a Rapture because the real Rapture will come when everyone least expects it (see verses in Matthew and the epistles to the Thessalonians) , but hypothetically if it did happen soon, would I be ready? What would I say? How would I react? It was kind of funny because while these thoughts went through my head on Saturday, which was the same day as my boyfriend's prom, I also started thinking, "Well, if it happened today, I'd sure look ready! I look like a princess!"

But herein lies the rub. People don't become a part of God's Kingdom just by looking the part. People become a part of God's Kingdom through faith in Christ, legit faith. And it's the people who legitimately yearn for God wholeheartedly that He brings into His presence. And as I was sitting in my dress, thinking about what would happen if Jesus came back at that precise moment, the convicting thought for me was, "Looking at my life, am I prepared to return home with God?"

Preparation is the key word. "Ready" is a decent substitute, but "preparation" carried the weight and denotation that I'm looking for better. How have we been preparing ourselves for Him? Have we been good stewards of the resources He has granted us? And are our hearts prepared, in the sense that they crave Him more than anything else?

For me, it's a question of the way I live my day-to-day life. When I say that my way of living isn't glorifying to God, I don't mean that I drink or smoke or am sexually immoral or anything like that. What I mean is that I forget that He is my reason for living as I go about the busyness of my day. And that very fact is as appalling to God as much as any sinful behavior!

I can only imagine the awkward conversation that would ensue when I hit the pillow after a long, busy day of everything on my agenda all about me, maybe saying a few quick prayers before falling asleep, if then all of a sudden the Rapture happened and Jesus appeared before me. Oops, sorry Jesus, I was too busy for you? Like that would go over well! Seriously, though, think about it.

When it comes to living life as a Christ-follower, there's no question of means-justifying-ends or ends-justifying-means. The means and the ends always justify each other. This exact reason is why I don't want anyone to think that "getting to Heaven" is so important that we do everything so that we can achieve this. No, no, not at all. Definitely not. (PS: I'm grateful to my friend Kevin for calling me out on this on Monday.) Heaven could be considered the cherry on top of this whole delicious sundae of life in Christ. As Christ-followers, honestly it's rewarding simply being in an amazing relationship with Jesus. And there is much more to be said about this last concept, but that's a different topic for a different day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some thoughts post-Osama

Last night around 11pm, I saw tons of people start posting on Facebook that Osama Bin Laden had been killed via American bomb. At first, I was like, "Okay, ha ha, joke's over, let's get on with it." Then it started dawning on me that it was true (and hammered into my brain by the screams and shouts and music coming from the frats across from where my dorm is). Honestly, even looking past my annoyance with the loud music and celebration until 1AM, though I understand why people are so happy and everything, I could hardly manage even a half-smile. A parade of people stood under my window last night with an American flag, playing The Star Spangled Banner with an accordion and trombone and snare drum and vocals, and I simply watched from above in disconnected silence as a small wave of sadness washed over me. I stopped and wondered why I was feeling so, and then upon thinking about it more I knew why things regarding all of this celebration weren't sitting right with me.

Where is the line between justice and revenge, first of all? It seems like the people whose loved ones were involved in the 9/11 attacks have reason for wanting justice and being angry and having some closure with Osama's death. But what about everyone else in America? Where does justice end and revenge begin? In fact, it shouldn't even be about justice, because guess what, guys:

It's not our job to take care of justice, no matter how badly we want it.

In Romans 12:9, Paul writes, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." Osama deserves and will be receiving eternal death, as far as I see. But guess what? Each of us deserves the same. We are all sinners, in God's eyes, and each of us has transgressed farther than we'd like to think. Without Jesus' sacrifice, we wouldn't even have the chance at eternity with God. Without His grace and forgiveness, we would be in Osama's situation for sure.

God is loving, merciful, and slow to anger, but He is also just. He will make sure everyone receives what they deserve when Judgement Day comes. Don't worry, your enemies will be punished for what they have done to you, but guess what? You will be justly admonished for your own wrongs, as well.

What does this mean for us when we look at Osama Bin Laden's death? While I think we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there's one less terrorist in the world, I honestly think we should also understand a couple of things: 1) God created Osama just like He created you and me, 2) It is God's job to deliver justice and ours to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (see Matthew 5:44), and 3) Our growing knowledge of the sacrifice Christ made for us, of God's grace and forgiveness, should humble us daily and work in our hearts to make us more capable of forgiving those who have hurt us, personally or not. Romans 12:20 says a little more about how we should treat those who we believe to have hurt us.

How we love our enemies says a lot about the conditions of our hearts. It's easy to love those who love you in return, but to love even those who seem like they are beyond forgiveness (which nobody is, by the way; look at Saul/Paul's life!) is something incredibly difficult, even impossible. What it requires is the power of the Holy Spirit.

For more reading on this, check out my friend Alex's blog:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

God's incomprehensibility

Incomprehensible (in-kom-pri-hen-suh-buhl) -adjective

  1. Impossible to understand or comprehend

  2. Limitless; not limited or capable of being limited

If you have not yet read Donald Miller's Through Painted Deserts, I suggest you stop reading this blog post and pick up the book immediately. It's SUPER good. And I'm not quite even a third of the way through the book! You know what that means, reader, right? It means it's definitely worth your time.

Here's why I can be only about a third of the way through the book and squeal about how amazing the book is: I got to chapter five.

"Oooh, chapter five. I totally understand," you say in your head sarcastically with a laugh. I'm telling you, out of what I've read so far, chapter five completely is mind-blowing. As in, while I was reading the chapter, my head hurt because my mind was blown like six times in a matter of a page or so. I found myself actually overwhelmed with emotion and questions and I was screaming in my head, "God, whaaaaaat!?"

Allow me to direct quote, please (if you're not interested in spoilers, then go pick up the book, because this is huge, good stuff):

In the Hebrew tradition, which splintered off into the Christian tradition, which is how I was raised, light is a metaphor. God makes a cosmos out of the nothingness, a molecular composition, of which He is not and never has been, as anything is limiting, and God has no limits. In this way, He isn't, and yet is. The poetic imagery is rather beautiful, stating that all we see and feel and touch, the hardness of dense atoms, the softness of a breeze (atoms perhaps loose as if in play) is the breath of God. And into this being, into this existence, God first creates light. This light is not to be confused with the sun and moon and stars, as they are not created until later. He simply creates light, a nonsubstance that is like a particle and like a wave, but perhaps neither, just some kind of traveling energy. A kind of magnetic wave. Light, then, becomes a fitting metaphor for a nonbeing who is. God, if like light, travels at the speed of light, and because space and time are mingled with speed, the speed of light is the magic, exact number that allows a kind of escape from time....Consider the complexity of light in light of the Hebrew metaphor: we don't see light, we see what it touches. It is more or less invisible, made from nothing, just purposed and focused energy, infinite in its power (it will never tire if fired into a vacuum, going on forever). How fitting, then, for God to create an existence, then a metaphor, as if to say, here is something entrely unlike you, outside of time, infinite in its power and thrust: here is something you can experience but cannot understand. Throughout the remainder of the Bible, then, God calls Himself light. (Miller 60-61)

Dear reader, when I went to bed after reading this passage, I realized that I finally understood what it meant to fear God, as they say in the Bible. Before, I just thought of it either as being in awe or as being scared witless. Now, I understand, but can hardly describe what it is, what I feel, but I know it's what it means to fear God, a God who is completely outside of everything and who Himself is not made of anything because He created everything we know!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Celebration of Hope antics

So my church does this thing called Celebration of Hope, pretty much something where, as a church, we come together to try to raise awareness for global hunger issues and make an effort to do our best to fight global hunger. This leads to seed packing (where you volunteer for an hour or so and either scoop vegetable seeds into an envelope or seal said envelope), donating money (which goes towards equipping people with better housing, better technology, etc.), and the rice-and-beans challenge. Oh boy. What is this challenge exactly. It's technically a fast. The essential idea is to live for five days off of less than $2 a day by consuming beans, rice, and oatmeal in small portions. So, for five days (except for dinner on the fifth day), you get a packet of instant oatmeal for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch, and rice and beans again for dinner. And you drink tap water only. It's now day 4. I have never wanted to eat rice and beans any less than I do now. I even gave in last night to temptation and had sweets at like 9pm (granted, they didn't taste that great because my tummy wasn't used to the food I was putting in it), because I am so sick and tired of rice and beans! asdfghjkl;' (<-- mental frustration) And yes, I was disappointed in myself a bit afterward because I was doing relatively well with the fast. But none of this is the point of this blog post. In fact, what God recently taught me far outweighs the fact that I gave in to temptation, and perhaps God used this temptation as a test rather than true temptation, thus He helped me learn from it. So, the point: We humans are weak. I can tell you that and you might not realize it for a long time, but it's true. We're so easily swayed and persuaded and tempted and convinced. In fact, when we are trying to do something that goes against the instant gratification that society tends towards, we really have a hard time doing it out of our own strength. That's why, dear reader, we need to stop doing such things out of our own strength and doing them our of God's. God grants us access to His strength. It's one of the wonderful gifts we recieve when we become His children. That's definitely not to say that we'll be tempted any less; in fact, we might become even more tempted! But with His strength, we know for a fact that we can overcome such temptation. Why do I say that God used my temptation as a test? I think the test He was given to me was one titled Using God's Strength to Overcome Temptation. As I told you, I didn't exactly pass this one, and I consumed delicious confections that made my tummy hurt a little. But upon prayer and just listening for God's voice to learn what He was trying to teach me (because I had gotten really nothing from Him up until that point), He pointed this out to me and revealed that it was a test to me. And then, when wondering if I should continue with the fast or just give up, this verse floated into my mind: 1 Timothy 6:8 = "Fight the good fight of the faith..." That first part, "fight the good fight," in this particular situation means that I need to see this beans-and-rice challenge through to the end, doing the best that I can as a way to glorify God and understand all that He wants me to understand through this challenge. While finishing up my beans and rice tonight (and feeling awfully, awfully tired of eating them), I realized too that hey, at least I have food. At least I'm not starving. But people all over the world are. I've got the feeling that I'm going to pray differently with respect to my meals after this challenge. One more portion of oatmeal and one more portion of beans and rice to go!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

One life, not many

How many different lives do you have? "Wait a sec, Ashley, I only have one." I'm getting there.

Think of how many different hats you wear in a single day, how many different roles you play. For example, how many of these are you?
  • Student
  • Parent
  • Athlete
  • Sibling
  • Friend
  • Employee
  • Son/Daughter
  • Mentor
  • Leader
  • Christ-follower
Sometimes, I think we compartmentalize our lives. Maybe we think it makes it easier to handle; after all, in other cases such organizational tactics seem to work, right? So we open our "family" drawer, put on our sibling/son/daughter/etc. hat(s), be that person that we need to be when we're with our families. Then when we go to school, we take off that hat and open the "school" drawer and put on our student/friend/athlete hat(s), and be that person that we need to be when we're around our friends, or around our teachers and coaches. Then we go to work, go volunteer somewhere, go babysit, etc., and change hats again. Then Sunday rolls around and we finally put on the Christ-follower hat as soon as we enter the building and take it back off as soon as we leave, because, after all, we have so many other hats to wear.

Do you see what I'm getting at? And I'm no less guilty than any of you who may potentially be reading this right now. I am extremely guilty of compartmentalizing my life. Sure, I try to throw on my Christ-follower hat as often as possible, but when it comes to sticky family situations, I prefer putting the family hat on top, or even completely swapping the two hats. It's always been hard for me to shine the light Jesus placed within me to my family. Maybe you're reading this and can relate. I don't know what it is, but it's just harder talking to people who have known you your whole life about Christ compared to talking to complete strangers!

Thankfully, this week I was hard-pressed by God and supported with accountability by my discipler to not only serve my family, being more Christlike to them, but also talk to them about Jesus. It has been a crazy difficult couple of weeks, and I can't even count the number of times where I've been like, "God, what the heck. Can't you make this any easier!?" But I've come to realize, along with being able to evangelize to my family, that God didn't want me to share the Gospel with them solely for their sakes. He wanted me to share for my own sake, too. He doesn't want us to compartmentalize our lives. He doesn't want us to put on the Christ-follower hat every now and again. He wants us to be Christ-followers first and foremost, have that be the core of our very beings!

What I'm trying to say is, when we stop making the term "Christian" into a role that we play, like "Sibling" or "Athlete" or "Coworker," and when we start integrating our faith into the core of our very being, everything else stems from that. We don't have to hide our Christ-changed selves from the world. Hey, in fact, we don't have to go around evangelizing at the tops of our lungs either. We can just be the people that God made us to be, each of us being a single person madly in love with the Creator of the universe, and let who we are flow out of us into our days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Against versus with the wind

I started thinking about this while spending a morning outdoors in silence about a month ago, watching the morning sun reflect off the waves on Lake Michigan, feeling the winter wind blowing wildly around me.

Think about the wind. Imagine it whipping your hair and snapping your clothes around your body with its chilling force, pushing you to throw your hood up and brace yourself against it. Imagine it taking your breath away and urging you to walk in the direction of its force rather than in the opposite direction. Now imagine trying to walk against that wind. It's a lot harder, isn't it? It's cold, it's rough, it's somewhat bitter and painful. Even though you struggle against it to get to where you want to go, it isn't a pleasant walk.

Sometimes I think we try to go against the wind in our lives. I know I do a lot. We go against what God wants us to do because we know what we want and we want to get it in our own way. We push and brace ourselves past God's whispers and warnings so we can get what we want right now, even if it's not what's best for us. But God knows us so much better than ourselves, and He longs for us to continuously give our lives and everything about them over to Him so that He can make the most beautiful work of art from them, placing you where He wants you when He wants you to be there.

Of course the metaphor breaks down in all sorts of places, but while sitting amidst the wind and the waves I was reminded, dear reader, of how often I try to do things in my own strength against the wind, how often everyone tries to do that. Granted the path following the direction of the wind, the path with God, is definitely marked with its own trials. But it's backed by His will and power, and that makes all the difference.

PS: For those of you who followed my past blog posts...I am going to Costa Rica this summer. Long story short, God is good and always provides.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How struggles relate to childbirth

I was on the phone with someone last night, talking about the subject I had recently blogged about and my struggles, when he advised me something along the lines of the following: You just gotta pray about it, give it all to God, and push through the tough times.

I replied scathingly, "Sounds like childbirth, at least from what I know: Extremely painful."

He then wisely replied, "Yes, but don't you bring the most beautiful thing into the world after?"

This struck me as so true... Through the pain of childbirth, women bring new life into the world. Is this not the same as our struggles? Through the pain of struggles and pushing through them with God's strength and blessing instead of trying to escape from them or hide in fear, we bring new life into the world, too: new life within ourselves. We grow from these experiences like how a grassy savanna quickly and successfully grows after a fire. New opportunities present themselves as we align ourselves with God's will through the struggles. New beauty awakens in our souls as we experience hardships and carry them with grace given to us by God.

Of course, this never means it's an easy thing, does it. I see all of this and I still think to myself, "I'm hurting right now. I want out. It's not a good feeling." But sometimes God's way out of a situation is not to go around it, but to go through it, trusting Him faithfully and relinquishing our grasp of everything we have been holding on to, giving it to God instead. After all, nothing we have is our own; it's all His, down to our very lives, once we have accepted Christ and chosen to follow Him the rest of eternity.

Again, it's never easy. It's not painless. But it's freeing, and it allows God to have His way with our lives. I can't think of anyone more trustworthy and all-knowing than the King of the universe. When we're in His hands, we're in the safest place we could possibly be, even while chaos reigns around us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Spirit and struggles

Last week, I learned and discussed things about the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, with a few people. How He provides us with a direct line of communication to God once we accept Christ into our lives and choose to follow Him, and how He directs us in the way we should go. How God is inside us, not just all around us and in Heaven, because of the Spirit. How we carry a certain influential environment with us when we walk in step with the Spirit and allow Jesus to live through us rather than try to control our own lives, an environment that is influential in a good way (not a bad way like at certain frat parties, haha).

It really isn't anything new to me. I've heard and discussed these things quite a few times before last week, and I understand it about as well as I'm capable of (when you start discussing the Trinity, most logic goes out the window...). And I know that my feeling of being spiritually thirsty as of late partially stems from me not being in step with the Spirit. I know this, and I of course long to be like, "Okay, so I'm going to try harder, and it'll work."

But we gotta remember that we CANNOT do this out of our own strength. There are records of mothers who are capable of lifting cars off their children who become trapped underneath. If they tried to do that at any other time when their children aren't in danger, it wouldn't happen. Obviously, trying to live by the Spirit is different from trying to lift a car off a trapped child, but here's the analogy I'm trying to make: Simply trying harder to live the Christian life is like trying to lift a car up all by yourself. It's impossible. But here's the great part: Christ can live that Christian life for us. If we would just give it all to Him without holding even a little back, He would lift the burden, the car that represents the Christian life.

Now, that's fine, and I understand that, but here's my problem. I don't know about all of you, but it's WAY harder than it sounds to do that, to keep relinquishing daily your worries and struggles to Jesus. And it's not that I don't want to, even. I know there have been times where I have struggled and whined about not wanting to give up my love life or not wanting to give up my future, etc. But right now, my problem is that I am unable to keep focusing on it.

I just found out yesterday that I am both too old and too young to go on the Costa Rica mission trip, even as a translator. I'm too old to be a student, a participant, and too young to be a leader. I was numb from hearing that until I finally lowered my head to my pillow last night. Then I broke down. God, I know my plans are nothing compared to Yours, but I thought this was what you wanted! I thought you wanted me to return! And I feel such a need to reunite with the friends I made there last year. I was planning on going. This, along with the fact that I knew there would be a ton going on this summer at home and in my community, are the reasons why I didn't sign up for the Ocean City project through Cru. Even now I still know I shouldn't sign up this year and that I should wait, but now I find myself wondering, "God, what am I supposed to do this summer!? How am I supposed to serve You!?"

My thoughts are plagued with wondering whether I'm supposed to seek out loopholes in the system or wait on God to provide that loophole to the people running the mission trip or wait for God to provide me with an alternative to going at all. And because of this, because of the feeling that the situation is futile and that I probably won't be going back for a whole 'nother year, it has been extremely difficult between yesterday and today to hear God, to fall into spiritual breathing and walking and living. I just can't seem to concentrate on it.

Why am I telling you this, reader? Why do I bother, when there's a good chance nobody's actually going to read this anyway? Because if you do happen to be reading this, you deserve to know that it doesn't matter how long you've been walking with Christ. Not a bit. No matter how many years you've known Him, you're still going to struggle. I struggle. I'm not perfect. I'm not even close. And you deserve to know that. Because you're not perfect, or even close, either. And isn't it an exhilarating feeling, a freeing sensation, knowing that even people who seem like they have it all together actually don't? That nobody has it all together? Because we have a Creator who does and who provides a way out from under everything that tempts and is not from Himself. Somehow, He will help me through this time that I'm in, I know that. But it's definitely not easy. Reader, know that no problem is too big for God, and no problem is too small for Him either. He wants you to come to Him with everything, at every point of your life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All the poor and powerless

Before continuing to read, note that I have recently finished reading The Irresistable Revolution by Shane Clairborne. I suggest picking it up. The reason why I forewarn you about this post, though, is because many of my thoughts to follow stem from my reactions to ideas brought up in the book.

Injustice is running rampant in society, and it isn't that people aren't trying to do anything about it. It's that not enough people truly know what's happening. People hear lectures in school and sermons in church mentioning stuff about how free trade is good and sweatshops are bad and stuff like that, but guess what? None of that stuff hits home. It doesn't hit heart. It didn't hit heart for me, either, at least until I found myself reading firsthand descriptions of Shane Clairborne's experiences living in the streets and serving lepers and comforting Iraqi families. There is so much wrong with this world, and even though we have the power to stop it, we know it'll take effort, so we just sit back in our own world and ignore our brothers and sisters crying out on the other side of the world. Hey, they're a part of Christ's family too, you know. So stop pretending they don't exist.

God made enough stuff to go around, enough to provide each person with their "daily bread." But when people stop sharing and start becoming greedy and take more than they really need, that's when people start living in hunger and in poverty in the streets. I learned this firsthand in Costa Rica, but I had sort of forgotten as I slowly grew used to the abundance of the United States and the "more more more" society. The homes around me contain enough food to feed four or five families in Africa, and enough clothes to clothe them all as well. We have spare bedrooms and game rooms and two living rooms and two offices and several bathrooms, whereas some people can only manage to get by in a tent in an alley. In fact, not everyone in the United States lives in luxury, either; I have seen my share of homeless people begging for money on the streets of Chicago. But more often than not we just hurry by, forgetting about these men and women as soon as we pass them by.

In Jesus' time, He and His disciples wandered with just the clothes on their backs, trusting that people wouldn't just give them money to get by but would open their homes to them. And they did! We don't see this at all today, do we? We live in our own homes, opening them every once in a while for a friend or two a couple of times a month, or maybe for a family party. But letting a stranger in the home? Never! And I'm not saying we should open our homes to whoever we want. But just while we're on the subject, don't you think that if we ourselves had nothing that valuable that we would be less afraid of letting people in our homes because we would't be concerned about them stealing anything? Anyways, what I want to point out is that people don't truly live in community anymore. We live with our immediate family, and that's it. Or if we're in college, like me, we live with the people in our suites or closest to us on our floors and then poke our heads out to see our friends a couple of times a day. What happened, though, to relying on our neighbors for certain things, and being able to repay those favors with things that we can provide? That sort of give-and-take relationship fosters such relational growth and such interdependence that it becomes almost natural and easier to live in community. Imagine living with some other people unrelated to you in your same-sized home. Redo one of the offices into a bedroom, and the basement into a space for several beds. All of these people have different occupations and come from different places, but they all have something to offer to help everyone live. And they take care of each other, out of love and also because they know that these people will take care of them, too, should anything happen. It's a beautiful image... Now if only we could actually do it!

Shane Clairborne spent a lot of time in Iraq as a missionary. He came back having learned that no, the vast majority of Iraqi people are not terrorists and many Iraqis are not Muslim. And even the Muslims he met were kind to him. He was in Iraq during the period of time after 9/11 when the United States started bombing Iraq. He recalls how he kept getting asked by Iraqis why his country was bombing theirs and how he kept being told things along the lines of, "We're not related to those terrorists who flew airplanes into the towers in the U.S.! Why is your country killing our families?" He even was told something like, "If this is what it takes to make democracy in Iraq, then I don't want it."

I am going to be completely frank: I do not want to be known as a citizen of a country that takes vengeance as it did with Iraq. I love the blessing I have received by living here, that I have enough food and stuff, but I hate belonging to a nation that is deemed a superpower, that pushes other countries around and threatens with bombings. Honestly, you can't make peace through war. So stop trying, America!!! I long for relationships to transcend borders and for countries to be at peace with one another. I long for everyone to have enough, to have what they need, and to care about each other and accept each other above differences.

And I know there have been too many books and blogs written about taking action and not enough action taken, but I just can't stand it. And I am still trying to figure out what steps I can take right now, as a college student, that will make a direct difference. So I am writing first, and doing after.

To download the free song from which I got the title of this blog, go here: