Sunday, July 18, 2010
I have the most adorable 10 year old son, whom I love terribly so. He is so smart and so funny and so very sweet; there’s just one thing, he always has food on his face or a juice mustache just above his lip. Now, it doesn’t really bother me, and it obviously bothers him even less, but my oldest son just can’t stand it. “Mom, make him clean his face, it’s so gross,” is his constant complaint with regard to his youngest brother.
Finally, the other day, I sat down with my oldest son and asked him, “Why does this bother you so much?” He explained to me that he didn’t really know why. He said it didn’t really bother him so much when his brother was younger, because he thought, “Surely, some day he’ll realize how dirty his face is – when he’s older.” But, as his brother grew older, he just kind of came to the realization that it’s not that his brother doesn’t know that his face is dirty, it’s that he just ignores it and expects and wants everyone else to do the same.
I smiled and hugged my oldest son and then I asked him, “Do you think that I don’t know that his face is dirty or that he ignores just how dirty it is?” So my oldest son thought for a minute and said, “Well, no, you notice everything and you used to always make me wash my face when I was his age.” And I agreed with what he said, but then I said,” But son, when did you start washing your face for yourself?” He thought about it for a minute and then with a little smirk he said,” I don’t know for sure. I just remember looking in the mirror one day and realizing that my face was really dirty, so I used some soap and water and washed it. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Man, I wonder how long I’ve looked like that!’ And I remember being surprised that you hadn’t said anything, but I just figured you thought I was old enough to remember to wash my own face.”
I raised my eyebrows and then winked and said, “Exactly!” It took him a second, but then he said,” Ohhhhh, I get it now.” And then I asked my oldest son,” So, now that you are older and wiser, do you just ignore it when your face is dirty?” “Mom,” he said,” you know the answer to that.” “Yeah, I do,” I said,” and aren’t you glad you’re growing up? And guess what? So is your little brother – every single day.”
I think we all can kind of be like my youngest son sometimes, especially when it comes to our sin. (I know I can, anyways.) Although we are called to lives of purity, of cleanliness, of holiness; sometimes it’s just easier to ignore our sin, than it is to cleanse ourselves of it.
I overheard my oldest son ask my youngest son one day, “Why don’t you ever just go and wash your face?” And my youngest son just stopped for a second and took in a deep breathe and said, ”Because, it takes too long and it means I have to stop playing and I don’t really want to.” And I think we also can have that same attitude about the sin in our lives. We know that it’s there, and we know how to wash it away, but we just don’t want to, for a number of reasons: we’re having fun in our sin, it’s not convenient, we would have to give up doing something that we’re enjoying, etc. Or, even better yet, as my youngest son sometimes puts it,” But Mom, I just got comfortable, do I have to?”
I think we all can sometimes be like my oldest son too, though. I think we can be really good at seeing the dirt on someone else’s face or the sin in someone else’s life, but we completely overlook that which is on our own face or in our own lives. We can be like those that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 7:3-5, when He says, "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.” I think sometimes that we forget what all we have been forgiven for, all the dirt or sin that Jesus has removed from our lives, and we need to be reminded of Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1-2, “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.”
Ultimately, only the blood of Jesus can cleanse and purify us, as it says in 1 John 1:7-9, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We are further cleansed and made holy “by the washing with water through the Word,” as it says in Ephesians 5:26.
So God’s Word and His Holy Spirit are like the soap and water, but we have to apply them to the dirt of our sin; that’s a choice that requires action on our part. It means we have to make the time to read our Bible and let God speak into our lives. The Word is also like a mirror, revealing to us the dirt of sin on our faces. When it does, rather than ignoring it, we must confess our sins to the Lord, apply His shed blood as our source of cleansing (by forgiving ourselves and receiving His grace), and take the necessary steps to avoid that sin in the future. This can only happen through relationship with Jesus, which is available to each of us, if we just will ask Him into our lives (please ask me if you do not know what this means). In the end, we need to check the mirror for ourselves, checking up on our own dirt of sin, and if we notice it in others, we need to simply pray for them, trusting in the transformational power of Christ, both for them and us. “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts [a] ;
you teach [b] me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:1-12).
I am often accused of optimism. And while at a loss, most of the time, navigating how to respond to such a label, I can’t exactly disagree. I'm guilty. So shoot me. You see, in prime cliche fashion, my glass really is half full. I like it that way! While I acknowledge the pain and evil on this globe we call Earth is vast and deep, my experience proves that fixating on the problems never provided solutions. It doesn't really fix anything! What if we were to take a step back? One step out of the mire and eyes set on something more beautiful. Would that make a difference?
I am convinced that the objects you fix your eyes to, and the direction in which they are moving, makes all the difference. You can’t escape it. For where your eyes are fixed there too your feet will move. The promise of a fantastic view, will keep your feet moving upward-- past the shaky knees and screaming lungs one switchback after another. The promise of prestige will keep ones feet quick up the ladder of success. The intrigue of a connection will move sweaty palms and an awkward pick-up line across a crowded room. It’s simple. The things that captivate our affections and hold our attention will move us to tangible action-- in the direction of that object.
What about the bigger things in life? What about when life seems to be hard? What if we were to fix our eyes on beauty? On things that are most beautiful? Eyes lifted from the bad we find in this world, and fixed on the one thing that is most beautiful. Wouldn’t that change things? I have to argue, yes. Not only does it change things... it makes like just a bit sweeter!
You see, there is a beautiful Creator. One who has fashioned the world in which we live. One I have decided to fix my gaze on. One, who has captured my attention and wooed my affections. It is this Creator who has ordered and orchestrated the natural beauty I find in this world. The same Creator has also fashioned the people who fill it with capabilities and passions that reflect his grand beauty. Human hands, hearts, and minds capable of creating impressive beauty of their own!
Yes. People are hurting. Yes. People are hungry. Yes. People are dying. Starving. Suffering. I get that! I see it, and it settles deep in me. But, I have been created in the beauty of the Beautiful One, and live in a place surrounded by that same beauty. My hands have been empowered and I've been given a new heart motivated to create beauty of my own. So, with one foot in the mire, getting dirty for things that have caught my heart, I am steadfast. I am strengthened and excited! Beauty is present! It is transformative, increasingly so, in the most dire of situations in real, tangible ways. I am an agent of that! In the daily moments Beauty has the power to change things. It is on this I have chosen to set my gaze. As I do, it is changing me. As it does, the more I have to share. The more beauty in this world, the more it is changed for the better. How could it not? That is something worth getting fired up about!
In light of that, optimism is inevitable! Good things are happening and the promise of greater things is real, even when things look bleak! There is hope in that! Optimism, or maybe joy, is the fruit of that promise!
So, let my culprit be momentum, and beauty my charge-- not to positive naivety, but to action! Radical, joyful, awesome, powerful action with eyes set on that which is most beautiful! Life really is good! And Beauty really does change things!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Have you truly wrestled with your fear of death in an attempt to defeat it in light of Christ's victorious resurrection? I haven't. Death, particularly my own or my husband's, has entered my mind before, but I do my best to not dwell on it. Maybe you have had a life-threatening dream (nightmare) before, or you have meditated on death at the funeral of a loved one. But have you - you young, 20-something, healthy, female - truly wrestled with the fear that comes with recognizing the fact that you will die at an appointed time? The time that my fragility (and in turn, God's sovereignty) was most fresh on my mind was when I was left alone in the dark on the rough streets of La Paz, Bolivia. My brave, 19 year-old stupidity brought me there and now I was surrounded by mean men waiting to subdue me. I remember thinking how I was completely powerless to stop their attack, so I put my eyes to the ground and watched my feet step-by-step move down the sidewalk as God sovereignly protected me and rescued me from that situation.
This FEAR that I have tried my best to stay away from, has plagued me of late and I have had no choice but to face it. My husband and I are currently working in the slums of one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Rio de Janeiro. "If your planning on travelling to Brazil, think twice. It's not a matter of where your mugged, it's when." (travellinginsurance.org) There have been moments where I have been nearly paralyzed with fear- watching a man being robbed at gunpoint 20 feet behind me in broad daylight, walking side-by-side with the leader of one of the most powerful and violent drug trafficking factions in Rio, who is responsible for countless brutal murders. And other moments where I cannot escape the constant stench of death and sin- working with slum-dwelling moms who have each suffered the death of at least one child, often more; or standing at the foot of a mudslide that murdered hundreds of poor people in their sleep.
But friends, do you know what the most sobering part of all is? That you, in sunny San Diego or quiet, suburban League City, are no further away from death than I am in the hands of our sovereign God. YOU are not in control of your life, God is. He is in control of everything!
Colossians 1:16a, 17b
For by Him all things were created... and in Him all things hold together.
If you allow the fear of death to rule you, it can begin to feel like this,
Psalm 18:4-5The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
I have felt this way. I have given into anxiety. I have given into fear. But know that it does NOT end there,
Hebrews 2:14-15Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Christ] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
We were, and if you do not know Christ you still are, subject to lifelong slavery through our fear of death. But now, thanks to Christ's "once for all" atoning sacrifice for us on the Cross (Heb 7:27), this fear no longer need paralyze us! Did you know that Christians are still being crucified in South Sudan? That distributing a Bible in North Korea merits execution? That over the past five years over 300 Christians were martyred in Colombia, a "Christian" nation? Being a Christian has never been and is still not safe. Paul lived his life with death constantly crouching at his doorstep, but this actually gave him comfort, even more, it gave him JOY. Why? Because "to depart and be with Christ" is "far better". (Phil 1:23) The substitutionary atonement that Christ accomplished on those wooden planks that dark, stormy day in Calvary gave Paul, and still can today, give us, hope. When we, my fellow believers, exhale our final breath on this earth, we do not die, we live in communion with Christ. Is this your greatest joy? If so, then you can affirm along with Paul, that "for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21)
Paul lived with a crazy insane dependency on his Sovereign God. In Daniel 3 our friends whose names no one can pronounce properly, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, understood this acutely. When their earthly king forged an idol of gold and threatened to throw them into a inescapable pit full of fire if they did not deny their God by worshiping this lesser god (how many times have we done this sisters?), they proclaimed with superhuman courage, "If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Oh how easily we give into the slightest anxieties and fears, making excuses for our doubt.
Sisters, Satan would love for us to continue living in denial of his furious plot to kill us. Your mortality is real. You will die one day, but that is when you will rise again with Christ. To acknowledge your imminent death gives Christ even more power in your life because He has already conquered it. Give him this power in your life, and begin living to die.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
*I understand that you may have a lot of questions. I want to hear them. Feel free to comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Putting our complete trust in God is often a very difficult thing. It is much easier said than done. We are told to trust in the Lord with all our hearts, but when it comes down to it, are we really able to trust Him completely? For a long time I struggled with this. I wanted to trust God with my life, but I would pick and choose which parts He could have. The one area I was struggling to give to God was my dating relationships. I wanted to do that part my way, not Gods.
We may pray for Mr. Right to come our way, but are we willing to first give our hearts 100% to the one who loves us far more than any man ever will? Have we laid down the desire to be loved by a man, at the feet of Jesus who sees more beauty in us than one would see in a field full of blooming daisies?
For many of us, God is just waiting to be first in our lives. This carries on even after we have found our Mr. Right.
I have been married to my best friend Marcos for almost three years now. Together we have a baby boy named Boston, who is 6 months old. Thankfully, God's hand was in control of all of this.
Life may not always go my way, and life is full of uncertainties, but I have a constant in my life that will never change... and that is the love and security of Jesus Christ.
Four years ago, God was doing some major stirring in my heart. I was in a relationship with a great guy, but I was not growing spiritually in the Lord. I was doing what so many young women do; I was putting this guy before Jesus. I found my comfort and security in this guy, and Jesus was jealous for me.
When I finally gave up chasing a feeling that just wasn’t there, I gave myself to Jesus. Completely. He was waiting for the chance to love me, fill me, and romance me in a way that no man on earth ever could. He was waiting to be my redeemer, my lover, my refuge. When I began to experience Jesus overtaking my heart, I also learned that He wanted to take away the boyfriend I had in my life. This was hard to hear, but I obeyed. I broke up with him, and it was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I knew in my heart though, that he was not the person God wanted me to spend the rest of my life with.
To this day, I have never regretted that decision to listen to the Lord. Even though I could not understand at the time what God was doing, I knew that if I was walking with Him, I could not go down the wrong path. I am still amazed at the strength and peace God gave me to get through this difficult situation.
I began to read God’s love letter to me (the Bible) and I began to feel beautiful and loved in a way that no man, not even my future husband could make me feel. I began to serve Him and make him my everything.
Not long after, God showed me who my future husband was going to be; someone I least expected...a simple, humble man who loves to serve the Lord. He doesn’t have a lot of money or drive a fancy car... he doesn’t have the biggest muscles or a foreign accent, (although he does kinda look Italian ;) but he does respect me. He cared about my purity before marriage. He cares about honoring me before the Lord. He knows my beauty is not just what shines on the outside, but what is hidden deep within my heart. He encourages me everyday to grow in the Lord. He works hard to provide for his family, and he is faithful to those he loves. He is also my best friend in the entire world. God certainly knew what He was doing when He brought the two of us together.
My husband is not perfect, but neither am I, which is why it is necessary for God to be number one in both of our lives.
We are two sinners saved by grace, living everyday to make ourselves, and others, more like Christ.
Be patient sister. Give your heart to Jesus before you give it to that next guy. Seek Him first and watch him change your world in amazing ways. Be obedient, even if that means going against the grain of what society tells us is ‘love’.
A BOY will tell you what you want to hear, have sex with you, and leave your dream of marriage lingering in the wind.
A MAN will tell you even what you don’t want to hear, marry you, keep you pure in the eyes of the Lord, and make love to you the way God designed it.
(Hebrews 11:6) "Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek Him."
Monday, May 17, 2010
I used to think of myself as a patient person...then I prayed for it. After that it was as though God began to give me every available opportunity to learn just how impatient I really am. Whether it be getting caught behind that ridiculously slow driver that is barely crawling down the street or having to deal with that individual who clearly set out to push all my buttons that day, patience can be learned in a variety of ways.
For me, it has been hardest to learn in relation to my future. I'm the kind of person that likes to plan. I schedule everything in advance and am definitely not a fan of spontaneity. So, when God began to tug at my heart, as far as the calling He has placed on my life, I was more than ready to do what I needed to do in order to accomplish that goal. Little did I know that I would have to wait for it.
Waiting is not an easy process. Waiting PATIENTLY is even harder.
"Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He will strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!" Psalm 27:14
God rarely fulfills His promises when we expect. Sometimes it's years before we begin to see His plan unfolding before our eyes and even then it's usually just a glimpse, but not one minute off that time is wasted. It's in that moment when we are able to grow in our faith, patience, and trust in Lord.
These past few months have been nothing but a growing and stretching process for me. I used to think I had my life pretty under control. I knew the basic direction I was heading and what I wanted for my life. Though my life hadn't panned out quite the way I had imagined or in the timing I had wanted, I was patient in trusting my Father who held my life in His hands. Or so I thought until my life took a detour and I was struggling to hold all the pieces together.
"A man's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9
Planning in itself is not a bad thing. It's when you and I begin to take our lives in our own hands and stop waiting patiently on God to guide and direct our footsteps is when it becomes a problem. I have come to grips with the fact that I was doing just that. I've always had my life planned out, but somewhere along the lines I put God in the backseat and thought myself more capable of handling my circumatances. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God has clearly showed me that I am not in control of my life, but thankfully, He is.
No matter what comes my way, it's all for a specific reason designed by Him. Nothing I go through is ever a surprise to Him. Everything passes through His hands first. Throughout this process He has been faithfully teaching me to trust Him, to rely on Him and His strength, and to have patience while I am in this waiting period.
No, I have no idea where I will be four months from now. Yes, my life seems to be a huge question mark at this point. But, for the first time in my life, I'm ok with that. I know God is in control and I know all He wants is for me to come along for the ride. Part of the joy in the destination is the journey getting there.
"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6
The work He is doing in us is not finished. We just need to stop interfering with the process and allow Him to work...to have patience and wait.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Have you ever been so hungry that you walk to the refrigerator, pantry and kitchen shelves in hopes of the perfect meal to satisfy your taste buds? Have you ever done that time after time after time (in one day) hoping that (supernaturally) something new and different will suddenly appear in the shelves or the cupboard space of that kitchen? Doing the same things over and over again expecting a different result. Been there, done that? Ditto.
This weekend I went to a jr.high retreat with 5 other leaders in hopes of teaching these 30 girls something worth while. We had workshops, purity talks, experiments, hikes, etc. One project included each girl carrying a back pack filled with a few large rocks. The girls had to walk around the entire weekend with these (during lunch time, runs, chat time, etc.) in order for them to experience the feeling of carrying a burden (literally). By the last day they were tired, weak and ready to give up. The rocks were there to symbolize the burden we (so stubbornly, I might add) carry on our own.
How often do we go into new relationships, friendships, circumstances and trials using the same methods as once before? In order to change something about the outcome of a particular matter, something different must be done to begin with. While we are hungry for something more, something deeper, something different, we lack the
Why are we as women so scared of taking steps in order to ensure the sanctity of our hearts? Have we been let down? Has God been unfaithful, or has He not fulfilled a promise? Never. When we equate God as though He is that of a human (bearing only human qualities) we degrade His very value, worth and POWER to our lives.
God is more than words on a blog, a cross around your neck and songs sung on a weekly basis, but rather a King worthy of our love, trust, commitment, loyalty, SERVICE and most importantly time.
We cannot expect to grow more as an individual learning to live a life pleasing to Him if we are ignoring the very true, real and literal words that He has given us to live by (a.k.a the BIBLE). God will truly give you the desires of your heart, but will you commit to leading a life to the words prior to such?
"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
I’ve always been told that commitment is one thing you can’t fake. When you say that you will be there, you will or you won’t... if you say your a Christ follower...you are or you aren’t.
This past four months of my life have truly tested just how committed I am to many things. I was confronted with two main things that I could choose to lose or gain from. I knew going into grad school that it would be rough but I had never imagined the amount of work that would be needed to succeed. Undergrad seemed to be somewhat of a breeze because little effort was put into getting the grades I wanted. Now it’s a completely different story and I was forced to either give up a lot to hopefully be able to succeed.
Not putting in the effort in the beginning really hurt my grades ... I was distraught not understanding what it was that I was doing wrong or why the material wasn’t clicking. I eventually hit a point after mid-terms where I faced a wall way to big for me to climb alone. I broke out into panic and started to question whether or not I was doing this for myself or if it really was something I was doing for God to better his kingdom.
Of course, I thought that the best idea was to turn to the people that I cling to in this world...my mom, friends, mentors, sister ... etc but what I forgot to do was rely on the only person that could be there for me in EVERY possible way.
"... those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Romans 8:1-7
Luckily those great people I turned to directed me straight to God’s word and gave me verses that provided more strength and reassurance than any individual on this earth could offer.
“Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7
"Consider pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3
Although we will all face trials in our lives that will cause us to really evaluate just how committed we are to Christ and it’s in those times when God will grant us the peace which will exceed our expectations.
I cannot tell you how I could have gone another day let alone the rest of the quarter without the help of him because I know within myself that it couldn’t have been possible with only my strength.
How committed are you? When you face trials in your life who do you turn to? God wants us to run to him to find comfort and reassurance.
God provided for me when I needed it the most and it was in Him that I found my strength and had GUTS!