2013: Reflected. 2014: Resolved.

Yesterday, on the last day of 2013, we took the time to remember the year and all of the memories that made for a bittersweet ending.

An important part of moving forward to a new year is reflecting on the past.

I haven’t truly taken the time to examine my heart in a while. I try to avoid the confrontation as long as I can by filling my life with busyness, hang outs, superficial conversations, fun activities, and mindless distractions.

But I have not stopped to take stock of my own soul.

Now at the end of the year (and the beginning of a new one) I have no choice but to come face to face with myself.

God has been teaching me this year to ask myself not, “Does what I’m doing matter?” which is a question that has haunted me for years.
But rather, understanding that what I do doesn’t matter as much as why I do it.

So now I ask, “Why do I do what I do?” And why do I do things I don’t want to do and don’t do things I want to do? And how do my wants align with what God wants?

What is my motive in every act? In every thought? Where is my heart?

Why do I give gifts?
Why do I work?
Why do I post pictures?
Why do I go to class?
Why do I social media?
Why do I keep up with friends?
Why do I attend church?
Why do I say I love you?
Why do I write?

In every good thing, do I do it to glorify Him? Or glorify myself?

My pastor asked us a question a couple weeks ago…

“Are you living with a pure heart?
Are you truly seeking Him?”

That caused me to pause and examine my heart.

Is it pure? Are the actions and behaviors, thoughts and attitudes which are pouring out of that heart….pure?

And I was faced with the overwhelming verdict that I was found wanting.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

(Psalm 139:23, 24 NIV)

Some days I get so mired in the ugliness and brokenness of the world and in people. How cruel people can be to one another. How full of anger and bitterness and unforgiveness. Even in such a beautiful season, the sin of the world is heartbreaking and depressing.

But at some point I realize it’s all pointing back at me. I am ugly and broken, cruel, angry, bitter and unforgiving. My heart is a dark place sometimes.

Every season, every day of my life God shows me some new, yet undiscovered corner of my heart that hasn’t been swept clean in years. It’s full of the cobwebs of envy, self-pity, depression, or self-righteousness.

Every so often I have to pause long enough to examine my own heart and seek grace for those times I run away with the above mentioned thoughts. I need to pause long enough to move on to the next life-giving thought that I am a new creation. That I once reflected the brokenness of the world, but that brokenness was made whole through Jesus Christ.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

-Ephesians 2:4-5

Now I can choose to live a life free from envy, self-pity, depression, and self-righteousness.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;

old things have passed away;

behold, all things have become new.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

So how do we pause in 2014? How do we take the time to examine our hearts and move forward in the freedom we have in Christ to live new lives?

We become sensitive to our hearts through prayer. The more you avoid it, the more desensitized you become to the condition of your soul. When we pray, we form our thoughts, whether pure or impure, holy or unholy, righteous or selfish, and we allow the Holy Spirit to shape and correct our thinking to conform us to God’s will.

I encourage you, reader, to talk to God this year and allow prayer to keep your heart moving towards Him. Prayer keeps us moving. Don’t stop moving.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

-Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

Yesterday, on the last day of 2013, we took the time to remember the year and all of the memories that made for a bittersweet ending.

Today, we begin our resolutions. We look forward to the future. To trying new things. To having new experiences. To starting over.

“Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.”

-Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?”

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

In 2014, I resolve to be open to whatever new, uncomfortable, exciting challenges and adventures God has prepared for me this year. I know the same awaits you. Let’s adventure together!

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Publishing Your Failures

These days, its easier than not to promote ourselves lavishly, wildly, and unrestrained all over our social networks. Give me your Facebook newsfeed and I will show you. Give me your Instagram feed and I will like you. Give me your Twitter profile and I will…. oh wait you don’t have a Twitter handle?

Anyways, with the ubiquity of all these various mediums to broadcast our every success you would think people would be inspired to be honest, open, true to themselves, and genuine with their representations. But that has always been the downfall of browsers of the internet – you can be whoever you want, so why wouldn’t you want to be someone else? Someone better.

We have this god complex that wants to show people we are invincible. That our lives are not the shambles and broken pieces of our mistakes or otherwise humdrum, dull vaccuums of consumption that they are when you step away from social media. The tedium of success theater is wearing on our hearts and minds. That is why you see so many people taking “Facebook sabbaticals” and “Instagram leaves of absence”. We are constantly bombarded by evidence of how our lives are somehow “lacking”.

We are afraid to be vulnerable with people in person even less than we are afraid to be real and genuine online. Because of the lack of control. We cannot control relationships. Particularly our online ones. Case in point: How many Facebook friends do you have? How many of those do you talk to? How many of those do you have a non-web based relationship with? A friend told me yesterday Facebook scares her because of the immediate and hugely open amount of access people have to her when she was on Facebook. Anyone can “know” you.

But if we only publish our successes, do people really “know” us? Or do they just know the version of us we choose to project? Knowing people takes more than evaluating their most recent picture of some grand adventure from which we assume huge amounts of information about their character, likeability, personality, social status, success factor, and friendship capability.

Knowing people is hard work. Many of us would rather “like” a status or “thumbs up” a picture instead of calling up an old friend or going outdoors to make a new one. But it is worthy work. It requires publishing your failures. It requires being the open, honest, real person you can’t be online for fear of rejection, retaliation, confrontation, or condemnation. Establishing lasting relationships is literally the hardest thing you can work on in this life and the most rewarding.

 

I encourage you to step away from the computer today, but not in bitter scorn of the way its ruined your life or given you a sense of insufficiency, but stepping away while using it as a tool to connect with someone who sparked your interest, whom you find genuine and worthy of your time, who is worthy of the greatest investment you can make with your life.

Take Facebook and make it happen away from Facebook. After all, that’s what it was meant for.

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Quitting isn’t Easy

People like to say it’s the easiest thing in the world to quit. But sometimes quitting takes more courage than sticking with it.

Quitting can be the hardest thing in the world; don’t discredit the quitters.

Quitters have the courage to step away from something they’ve invested their hearts in,
Invested time,
Invested dreams, hopes, and expectations,
Invested money,
Invested relationships.

When something just isn’t working anymore, despite giving it your all, it’s ok to walk away.

Take some lessons, take some wisdom, chalk it up to life experience.

But don’t let it take your life.

Why Me, Lord?

What have I ever done to deserve kindness from you?

DCB

On Perspective

Here’s another edition of:

“Thoughts on the drive home” by Yelena

I read a quote once that essentially said, do not place too high an importance on things that don’t matter or you can lead people astray as to what is truly important in life.

Oh here it is,

“Since every man is obliged to promote happiness and virtue, he should be careful not to mislead unwary minds, by appearing to set too high a value upon things by which no real excellence is conferred.”
– Samuel Johnson

And I think of how often I question God’s purpose and even God’s existence when I confront the everyday hurts and battles and commonplace struggles of life that we all experience.

If every time they run out of my favorite pastry at Starbucks it prompts me to scream at the sky, God why do you hate me today?!

And if those every day things that we all deal with…
(being denied the indulgence of a fierce love for Starbucks pastry)
cause me to fall into a crisis of theology then how will I face the bigger struggles of life that have yet to come?

So maybe it’s just about learning to trust God in those little things, the common ordinary everyday things, that helps prepare me to deal with the bigger things when they do come.

Like the heartbreak of a father leaving should have prepared me for a relationship ending, but sometimes God works the other way around and shows me that instead of holding onto a fear of losing, I ought to cling to the only one who will never shake me, no matter how much I shake my fists at the sky.

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The days they are long, but they are good.

“How do you deal with the pain?”, she asked him.

He responded, “I just don’t think about it.”

It seemed so simple.

And yet, she couldn’t put him out of her mind.

____

3 months later.

Peace. like a river. and she barely remembers that conversation except in snippets of her imagination.

Her vain, perpetually embarrassing, imagination.

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Brokenness Part II: Finding God in our broken relationships

Henri Nouwen once said, “Our life is full of brokenness—broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives?”

-from Relevant Magazine article: 5 Things I wish I had known about break ups

As I write this, I am sitting at a desk with a post it stuck on a bulletin board in front of me.

It reads: “Kintsukuroi: (n) (v); “to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

kintsukuroimeme

I was reading the Psalms today and came across this verse:

“You have taken from me my closest friends

and have made me repulsive to them.

I am confined and cannot escape;”

(Psalm 88:8 NIV)

In this Psalm, David feels far from God. His relationships are broken. He has sinned beyond what he thinks can be repaired. He has lost those closest to him. He is a broken man. I find in all areas of my life, I can sympathize with David more than anyone else in the Scriptures. God has allowed me to be broken so much, but just like a beautiful kintsukuroi, I am more beautiful for having been broken.

Divinely timed – I also came across this video clip today of a sermon on broken relationships. And the main catch comes in the last minute.

“We still know them by name. The people we thought would be by our side and stand with us through thick and thin. But something happened. Maybe it was our fault. Maybe it was beyond our control. Either way, the people we thought we could go through anything with are no longer there. Best friends. Close family. Valued co-workers. But why did it have to happen this way? And where is God in the midst of these broken relationships? In this clip from our series Hebrews 12, Pastor Steven explains the greater purpose we find when someone we love leaves our life.”

Skip to the last minute – Finding God in our Broken Relationships

Main takeaway –

It’s through losing the person I thought I couldn’t live without that I find the God who will never leave me. 

“God used every relationship in my life that was shaken to point me toward the only unshakeable relationship that I’ve ever had in my life and that is my relationship with Jesus.

and he is my friend that sticks closer than a brother.

and He is the one that picks me up even if people forsake me.

when my friends talk about me.

when people misunderstand me.

when i’m criticized.

when people aren’t patient with me.  He is patient with me.

When people give up on me, He never gives up on me.

When people desert me, He’s stood at my side through it all.

And so I have a relationship I can count on, I have a rock I can go to.

And its through losing some of the relationships that

I’ve thought I needed the most that I’ve discovered

the God who is closer to me than any human being

could ever be.”

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You are Free

As I was driving home I was thinking about Jesus and Him dying for us and all and reflecting on how much power, in a sense, God had to give up to let Jesus die (yet at the same time maintaining all the power that ever was).

God took a huge chance. He said I will let my son die, in order to save the world. But its not a guarantee. Its a risk I’m willing to take. They may or may not choose to follow me or accept what I’ve done for them. I really want them to choose me and love me and follow me, but it’s not a formula. I want them to want to love me.

I gave them that freedom when I created them. They don’t have to love my son. They can go off and do their own thing.

To love something so much you’re willing to let go control and allow the freedom of the other person to decide in that situation, that’s really hard. You don’t know how it will turn out. You can only trust in God. So in deciding to send Jesus to save those who would take it, God could only trust in himself (I’m glad He did).

People always say, if you love something let it go. The act of letting go is such a huge leap of love. you’re literally saying I love this person so much that I am trusting, not that he will come back to me, not in myself to bring him back, but that you love that person enough to allow their free will to exercise itself. That’s essentially what God was doing/is doing/does. He wants us to want Him.

If you love a bird you don’t cage it. That is selfish, you can not enjoy that bird doing what it was created to as long as it is not able to do what it was created to do. That bird was created to spread its wings and be a bird. Not a souvenir on your stand for your admiration. You set it free because you love/value/cherish that bird’s ability to freely exercise whether she will stay or go. When she soars in all her beautiful song, how much greater will your satisfaction be to see her doing what she was made to do. And in that, she is free to choose who she sings her song for.

The biggest lesson I’m learning from my last relationship is that…

Love controlled is not love. Love demanded is not love. If you have to demand love then it isn’t love. Love is given freely and willingly. Love in its essence is free. It is not love if it is anything else.

“…I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds.”
(Ezekiel 13:20 NIV)

No soul flies free without Christ.

Why does God allow us to be broken? A meditation.

This post isn’t an answer to that question. It’s just a consideration. A reflection. I don’t know why God allows me to be broken so painfully sometimes. All I can do is look back and see how each breaking point has changed me and grown my desire for Him.

I guess there is an answer then. He wants us to love Him more. more than anything else.

Desert Soul by Rend Collective Experiment (listen below) is my favorite song right now because it seems to speak clear into this season of my life and explain everything.

Reminiscent of Ezekiel 37 The Valley of Dry Bones 

“while I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.”

“So I prophesied as He commanded me; the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.”

“Look how they say: Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished; we are cut off.”

“You will know that I am the Lord, My people, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

This is the cry of my heart today. Thank God for music to give us the words to speak when we don’t know how to figure out what we’re dealing with. Thank God for His Word and for the promises He keeps to us. When we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will not disappoint.

_______________________________________________

/my cry:

I love you Lord.

But I want to love you more.

I need you God.

But I want to need you MORE.

I’m lost without your creative spark in me.

I’m dead inside.

Unless your resurrection sings.

I’m desperate for a desperate heart.

I’m reaching out, I’m reaching.

All that I am is dry bones without you Lord,

a desert soul.

I am broken, but running toward you God

You make me whole.

You are exactly what we need.

Only you can satisfy. 

_____________________________________________

/God’s response:

He gives strength to the weary soul. [Psalm 119:28]

He has an abundance of steadfast love [Psalm 5:7]

He hears when I call to Him [Psalm 4:3]

He will bring it to pass as I commit my way to the Lord and trust in Him [Psalm 37:5]

He will lead me and guide me for His name’s sake [Psalm 31:3]

He is my refuge in times of trouble [Psalm 37:39]

He has all my desire before Him [Psalm 38:9]

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“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” C.S. Lewis

darkness for stars

Sometimes its best to learn to be grateful for what you have, so that you don’t have to learn that once it’s gone.

The following blog post is from one of my favorite blogs ever… all about grace.

>> http://outsideairblog.com/2013/08/03/lost-found/ – subscribe if you enjoy.

By Kari Ann

Sometimes you have to lose something to really understand just how valuable it is. It’s so easy to take things for granted, so easy to complain and grow dissatisfied with what we have. And then, when it’s taken away, we realize just how much we actually had to be thankful for.

Twice recently I’ve had something that was very important to me taken away. One of those things was later restored but not before I learned through heartache and tears to be thankful for what I had in the first place. The other thing has not been restored and I don’t know if it ever will be. What I do know is that losing these things taught me more than having them ever could.

Heartache is a terrible and brilliant teacher. I have learned much from the good things in my life, much more from the hard things. Perhaps it’s the desire to never go through such things again that moves us and makes us grow and change amid trouble.

In those moments when the things I loved and wanted were lost (and I’m not talking about material things, by the way) all I wanted was for life to go back to the way it was before that moment. I saw how good I had it, how much I had to be thankful for, and would have given anything to put it all back together as it was.

But even though I can’t change the way things are, I can learn and grow from the trouble—and really, it would be a waste not to.

This loss has humbled me; it has made me more thankful for what I had and what I still have. I hope these lessons stick. I hope I don’t have to learn the same hard lesson the same hard way.

I have much to be thankful for, a big beautiful life to live. God, help me never to forget.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you
learn.” C.S. Lewis

>> http://outsideairblog.com/2013/08/03/lost-found/ – subscribe if you enjoy.

“Experience: th…

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