On my Facebook I have been posting an advent calendar everyday and will do so until December 25. I wanted to share with everyone on here the first seven days. It can be so easy to get caught up in the gifts and food during this holiday season. It is important to dwell on the sacrifices Christ made. Without him this season would not exist and there would never be reason to celebrate.
Just a little something to brighten your day.
Today in Sunday School we relived the story of Jonah. It begins with Jonah, a prophet, being called upon by God to witness to the Nineveh people. This is very unusual. Before the story of Jonah when God addresses a prophet it is to call his own people to repent; that is the people of Israel. These people were not of God. They were more accurately God’s peoples’ enemies. Time and again we read of them and their wars with the Israelites.
Nineveh is the capitol of Assyria in Jonah’s time. In the books of Kings and Chronicles we find gruesome battles between the nations. Jonah is likely to have had friends and family members murdered by Assryians. He probably had friends with treacherous stories of the people. The feud between Assyria and Israel was not some childish nightmare, but rather a real life holocaust. The Assyrians were known for their violence. At the entrance gate of Assyria they placed the heads and skulls of their defeated enemies. It was a source of pride for their dominance.
Thus when Jonah was told by God to enter the city of Nineveh and teach them the ways of God, Jonah ran in the other direction. His hatred for them was greater than his love for God. Eventually Jonah made his way to the city of Nineveh albeit through a large fish for part of the journey. But even after entering the city and having the Ninevites yield to his warnings, Jonah was still angry at God. How could he save such a savage people?
But today I learned of another man in a similar situation during the fifth century. He is a man that was born and raised in Britian to an aristocrat family. Very well to do. At the age of 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland to be a slave. The Irish were seen merely as barbarians and their capture of a teenager would attest to this assumption. During his enslavement this boy grew into a man of God. We know him today as Saint Patrick. His father was a deacon in the church and attending the Roman Catholic Church was a necessity to their status. Despite Patrick’s attendance, God was not a priority nor a reality to him.
But while he was a slave working the fields of a mad-man he knew that God was all he could turn too. In his own writings he declares to praying 100s of times a day and night repenting of his childish ways. After six years under an earthly master, his heavenly master calls upon him in a dream. He is told that a ship is waiting for him and he needs to run for freedom. 200 miles and days later he finds a ship at harbor and is brought back home to Britian. But upon his return God calls him again.
This time God tells him to go back to Ireland and save the people who captured him. Unlike Jonah, Patrick heeds to this call and becomes a Christ-like figure to the barbarians of Ireland. His story is unbelieavble, yet happened and evidence is still seen today. A country who had never heard of a loving, self-sacrificing God got to see his traits with their very eyes through Patrick. I encourage you to read more about him and his story.
I tell you of these two people to ask, who will you be? Will you be Jonah, full of hatred, so much so that you cannot trust God? Will you see God’s work and mercy in action and cry out in disatisfaction? Will God have to throw you into a treacherous trial to perform what he asks or you?
Or will you be Patrick, grateful to be alive and know that your Savior loves you? Will you heed God’s call and run towards your enemies? Will you save those who destroyed you? Will you be joyous at the work of God and his mercy towards those who persecute you?
I know many times in my life I have been Jonah. It is our natural tendency to fall into his steps. But my prayer for myself and for you is to be Patrick. I want you to overcome life’s difficulties by leaning on God’s grace and love. People will hurt and disappoint us, but it is our duty to obey and trust God. For he will never hurt or dissapoint. He is faithful to you, if you are faithful to Him. Let not your pride make you stumble, but humble yourself before God and know that you are no better than your enemy. For each of you is human, full of sin and in need of God’s great mercy.
Today is Friday; 98% of the world’s favorite day. For years it was my favorite day too. School was done for the week, then work was done for the week, and it brought such freedom. But now I am an adult. Twenty-four, married and running my own business. God has blessed me greatly. Nevertheless Friday is no longer the end or beginning of anything for me. Most of the time it just means that when I wake up on Saturday, Glenn will still be in the bed. But he works for a race team, so travel does occur. So occasionally I don’t even get that. I work on Saturdays a bit. I have clients to please and money to make and if I don’t have anything else to do, I will be at my desk making graphic masterpieces.
I say all this not throw Friday under the bus but to tell you my new favorite day of the week. Sunday. This is not at the top of the list for most people. Most people get depression towards the end of this day looking into Monday. And then Christians get up early to go to church. And while this is definitely something we should celebrate, most of us are a bit angry that Sunday is comparable to M-F because of the early wake-up. One day a week (Saturday) is just not enough sleeping in time.
Stereotypically I’m in love with Sunday because of my church. It’s not just my church though. Sunday is a day where Glenn and I get to go into our hometown and spend the day with family and friends. It’s the day of the week that I don’t spend in front of a computer. The day that I feel the most loved. I receive love from my church family, from my parents, from my new parents and my siblings. Not to mention we spend pretty much all day with Ivy Dog.
But in this development I’ve discovered more than just a ranking of the days of the week. I love Sunday because I love being loved. Regardless of the opinions of the world, everyone is yearning to be loved. We want to know that someone accepts and enjoys who we are. We don’t have to perform any miraculous actions, we just have to be ourselves and that is enough. This love is really difficult to find. And those of you who have it, you are blessed. For those of you who feel like it is unreachable, it is not.
Christians, as God’s representatives on earth we are to be the ones loving. God did not give us his Spirit to judge, condemn or hate. He gave it to us to love. We are to love as He loved us FIRST. I see too many people of the faith turning from those who need our love the most. Or instead of turning we condemn. That’s not your job. You are not God. You are his adopted daughter or son. He asks you to love. They will know we are Christians by our love. This is what we are called to do. Instead we are known for our judgments, our closed minds, our unreachable expectations. This may sound radical, but it’s not. 2000 years ago Jesus preached the same thing and he was God, he had the power to condemn and judge, but what did he do? HE DIED. His wretched murder happened so that he could love those who killed him.
So no matter who you are reading this know that God loves you. Know that I’ll love you. I won’t be perfect. I am human and I make mistakes just like you do, but I will do my best to love you with my all. So when we Christians fail remember we’re human. We have just as many flaws as the rest of humanity but hopefully we are striving to love you. So look for our love and look for God’s. You will find it. Humanity may disappoint, but God will not.
PS: Want some more unconditional love? Get a dog.
This weekend my mom and I traveled to Atlanta to retrieve some family heirlooms. We stayed at my Papa’s house (Mom’s Dad) and heard stories of family members who have long since left this earth. It was enlightening experience to hear about the people who I’ve come from yet never met. In the nature versus nurture debate, nature was winning.
The main reason we ventured down south was to obtain my great grandmother’s kitchen table. She is still alive at age 96, but is unfortunately not able to live in her own home anymore. With her heavenly home getting closer, her children thought that it was time to sell her house. But the items within were to be passed to us, the great-grandchildren.
Having recently engaged in the married life, Glenn and I needed a sturdy kitchen table. Having only been to granny’s house a few times in my life, my memory lost me at what the table looked like. My mom gave me few details and I just accepted that I would take it despite its appearance. Honestly I was envisioning a 1950′s vinyl top with bright-colored cushions. I don’t know why this was what came to mind when Granny’s style was never in this direction.
We arrived in Atlanta Sunday evening and I found a beautiful, scratch-less, wooden table. Small enough to fit in our dainty breakfast area, but also large enough to fit six settings. But the best thing about this table is its history. I can only imagine the conversations it’s heard, the food it’s held and the hands that have been placed a top of it.
Of the stories my Papa shared with me this weekend, I know that this table has character. Hands have been held around it; God has been thanked above it; and delicious meals have been consumed on it. I am looking forward to the memories we will make around the table. The dinner parties, the children raising and many more blessings.
I encourage all of you to sit down with your family elders and learn from where it is you come from. Their wisdom is important, but their memories will bring life to you. Whether good or bad each person that has come before you has made an impact, a reputation for your name. Learn who they were, respect them or choose to be different from them. But remember without them you would not be here today.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They are a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.
Proverbs 1:8-9, NIV
I don’t know how many of you know but I’ve converted to a freelance career. God has blessed me abundantly and allowed me to make this change with ease. I have a great husband who supports me in this step and a family that is basically my marketing team. Not to mention all the great friends that consistently use me for their projects when they definitely don’t need me. My support system, my community is outstanding.
I didn’t really comprehend the term “community” until a few months ago. My best friend, my maid of honor, my religion major companion, took me to meet some of her incredible friends that she traveled around the world with. They took part of the world race. And community is a vital part of this race. I sat at a table in an audacious cafe listen to people in my generation talk about their love for God. It had been so long since I was surrounded by my peers and their passion for Christ was filling the room.
It made me ache inside. While I was full of joy in the moment and the group of my sisters and brothers in Christ I was also sorrowful. I thought of my days in college. At Campbell I had an unbelievable community. Every morning that I woke I was surrounded by sisters who loved me and loved Jesus. I knew that no matter what happened in that day I would have someone to turn to who would not only understand in all fullness but would comfort me through it. Campbell brought about friends I had never had before.
I am now in year 3 post graduation and all of those marvelous people still make up my life. There is just one difference: I can’t walk down the hall, or across campus to see them face to face. We’ve all made lives in different cities doing different things. One of us is in Nashville, TN being the most amazing mother anyone could ever imagine. She has a great husband who has become her new community. One of us is a Duke University getting her doctorate in Physical Therapy. She has the strongest mind I’ve ever seen. One of us is in Williamston, NC mentoring the minds of kindergarteners and filling the hole of love in their lives. She is taking every step of every day being Jesus to these little ones.
In our lives now, we have new community. We have family, we have co-workers, we have student peers, but despite the miles between us we have each other. There is something divine about each of our friendships. It makes me think of the New Testament and Paul’s letters. He was consistently writing to his friends all over the land unable to be with them, but nevertheless encouraging them in their daily steps. He was always thanking them for their prayers and their contributions to his life. I’m so blessed to have these three amazing women in my life.
So I write this post to thank God for them. And to thank them for what they are and will always be to me. I love you and I can’t imagine life without you.
I thank my God every time I remember you. Philippians 1:3
So as many of you may know, I am now a married woman. I live in a little ranch house with my husband, and the love of my life, Ivy (our Irish Wolfhound). We are a happy little family of three. The journey to get here was by no means clear cut and the road ahead of us is covered in impenetrable fog. Despite the uncertainty we joyfully keep going. Joy seems like such an alien word next to uncertainty. Yet, it is what we experience.
There is only one reason for this inexplicable joy and that is our trust in God. When the joy fades it is simply lack of trust. God has gotten us where we are and by Him we will continue to move on. The trust in him does not come natural. Rather it comes of remembering what he has done in my life before. I deeply seek a trust that is instinctive, but sin just does not allow it. Today I came across a passage in a book that sums up perfectly what I have been feeling these past few weeks. I have been astonished in the ways God has provided in times of ambiguity.
I have a confession to make. For me, at least, guidance only becomes evident when I look backward, months and years later. Then the circuitous process falls into place and the hand of God seems clear. But at that moment of decision, I feel mainly confusion and uncertainty. Indeed, almost all the guidance in my life has been subtle and indirect.
This pattern has recurred so often (and clear guidance for the future has occurred so seldom) that I am about to conclude that we have a basic direction wrong. I had always though of guidance as forward-looking. We keep praying, hoping, counting on God to reveal what we should do next. In my own experience at least, I have found the direction to be reversed. The focus must be on the moment before me, the present. How is my relationship to God? As circumstances change, for better or worse, will I respond with obedience and trust?
Philip Yancey, Guidance
There is so much in this short excerpt that I could elaborate on, but instead I will allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in your reading and teach you what needs to be taught. My prayer is that you take comfort in knowing that God loves you and is here to guide you. My prayer is that you will trust him despite your natural inclination to take control.
This past few weeks have been rather difficult. Numerous decisions have been made without fully understanding what the results will be. It can be quite unravelling when you step off a ledge knowing not what is underneath you. Yet, through every trembling move God has held me. I would not have made it through this week without the help of a few friends who gave me guidance and lifted me up in lots of prayer. If you don’t have a friend who can go to God on behalf of you, find one. (I would love to pray for you.)
We truly are relational beings. There is a reason the church was created. God created us to be in fellowship with him and with others. We need fellow believers to hold us, encourage us and help us. And at times we need to stand up and do that for others. I am so thankful for my sisters in Christ that have carried me through these past few weeks. And throughout it I have seen God work through them in ways I’m not sure they even realize.
Watching God work in my life I have had one of those 20/20 hindsight moments. It is such a wonderful feeling when you look on your past and see your struggles had a purpose. Rather than thinking, if only I had known this then, I’ve been thinking when the next struggle comes I can have hope that there is a very good reason for it. It has built up a trust within me that God is in control and He is good. It’s not that I haven’t believed that before, but humanity is rather fickle and doubt had crept into my life.
I find that it is very important to record this moment in my life so that in the future I can take hope in it. If suddenly I forget that God is bigger than any of my problems I can simply come to my journal and know that he is going to take care of everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. I don’t want that word to be taken loosely.
He will provide for every single item that accompanies the situation. He will encompass it all. He will leave nothing out. Let me provide a verse for you: “My eyes and my heart will always be there” (1 Kings 9:3b). This verse directly applies to the covenant with Israel and the temple of Solomon. But the Hebrew pulls it into a sense that the English is unable to display. This verse is saying that the Lord (Yahweh) has constant attention on his children of faith and has a deep affection for them.
It is important to note both the eyes and heart. For without the heart the eyes would be frightening. It is not enough that God is in control. It is enough that he is in control and he loves you. He loves you. The Greek word used for the love God has for his followers is agape. Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. This kind of love can only be experienced when in fellowship with God. You will not find it on earth between any two beings. We are incapable of this kind of love in this life. But still we can experience it by choosing to believe and trust our Lord (Yahweh).
So if you are going through something difficult or having to make a decision without a clear path, pray about it and then trust God to take care of everything by pouring agape over your head.
It has been a while since I’ve been on here. Who knew that planning a wedding and getting ready for a marriage would be so time consuming and mentally exhausting? While I greatly miss my pen, I am overjoyed with this new part of my life. The past few months have been the cliché of an emotional roller-coaster. I have watched God bless me over and over, yet worry still consumes my life. The idea of an unending trust seems otherworldly. But I desperately long for it.
I long for God to be near my soul. I long to feel Him everyday, all day. I want to breathe in every moment knowing that He is beside taking care of everything. But despite all of my head-knowledge, my soul doesn’t seem to grasp this each and every day. He has never proven me otherwise, yet I continue to doubt. Why? Some people will tell you it’s sin, some will say it’s Satan. But whatever the opposing force, it comes down to me. I have to make the choice to believe this.
Belief. Faith. These words are so complex. They require much more than a gut feeling or mental knowledge. They require the entirety of everything. It takes me back to my post of Faith vs. Superstition. And when I think of this post and the feeling I have now, I bare confusion. Because as much as I want to feel God near everyday, I know He wants me to feel that so much more. However, biblical understanding teaches me that this faith, this gift, is from God. So why doesn’t he make it such a part of my life? I suppose it comes down to whether I choose to receive the gift. He is holding it out with His hands, but I am choosing ignorance and not graciously accepting it.
If I want it, why do I refuse it?
I think most of the time I choose something else. Whether it be work, play or control. I put other things, sometimes everything, before the gift; because in the moment they seem more important. Yet each and every time this occurs I feel empty at the end of the day. I wonder why I made such a foolish choice.
I follow Donald Miller on twitter. Yesterday I read something beautiful from him: The more room I leave for God, the better my career goes. We don’t need to control everything. God is everywhere, in control of everything. We need to infiltrate Him into every part of our lives. He is not a distraction; He is not of low priority; He is not something we need to “get around to”. He is it. He is the one. He is what this life was made for. We need to pursue Him with everything in us. Our faith, our relationship with Him should be what all our focus is directed toward.
So right now, in this very moment, choose Him. I assure you, you will not be disappointed. He is bigger than everything else.
God’s existence and love displays itself continually in intimate moments of my life. Whether it be a breath-taking sunrise or the innocent smile of a child, I catch glimpses consistently of my Creator. They become reminders that I am the daughter of a powerful King.
But recently I found God in an unlikely place. I’ve discovered His love in a dark corner; a location where many people choose to run from Him. I found God’s unending love in the midst of death.
Death is an inevitable end for all. It is an event no one can escape. From the moment we arrive in this world, only one thing are we assured–we will depart it. Unless we are to fall into the hands of fate at a very young age, we watch people, animals and nature die around us as we grow. Despite this knowledge of truth it is something we never get used too. Each death we encounter stings equally as the last. From losing a grandparent to a life-long pet the soul aches tragically.
Yet this everlasting pain is a gift from our Creator. Why would something we have all our lives to prepare for, something we experience over and over, always bring us to our weakest point? Perhaps it is because while we know the fate is inevitable, we do not believe it. It becomes a battle of knowledge versus belief. Many would say these words are synonymous, but I argue differently. Knowledge is of the mind; but belief is of the heart.
Often these two attributes align, but on rare occasions we find them at war. This occurs at a devastating intensity in the time of death. We must examine further. If we can see that death is inevitable–we feel it, touch it, smell it, watch it, it is too tangible of a reality–how can we not believe it?
God has placed in our hearts a binding eternal force. Each relationship we build with a loved one is not created with an end in mind. Our relationships are not made to have a beginning and an end. They are only meant for growth. Forever. When I ponder the love my fiancé and I share, I cannot grasp it’s end. The thought of death provokes panic. Not being able to touch him, hear is voice or smell his scent again is unbearable. My mind knows that I may have this woeful reality, but my heart tells me our love is eternal. This is true for all my relationships, from my parents to my friends.
So why would our Creator give us such a passionate yearning only to be devastated by the defeat of death? The answer is rather simple. Death is not the end. We are meant to share eternity with our loved ones and the God who gave them to us. A loved one’s departure from us in this world is only temporary. In the next life we will be unified in perfection we’ve never dreamed of on Earth. God made us relational and communal beings for a purpose. His love is so great He gave us a glimpse into our heavenly home by placing eternity in our souls.
The temporary pain of loss we experience on this Earth is but a reminder that we are eternal beings. We are not meant for death. We are not meant to cease. God created us to exist in love forever. So then it becomes a choice. What eternity do we choose? One where we are reunited with our loved ones or one where we are forever desolate and alone? Put like this it seems such an easy choice, but many of us have a difficult time boiling it down. But it is this simple.
Choose your loved ones. Choose an eternity of joy. Choose to spend it with your Creator–who loves you more than anyone you’ll ever know. Choose the man who layed down His life so that you could have this choice.