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Monday, March 18, 2013

Stepping Out Boldly

Once a month, I give the children's message at my church. This opportunity is one of my favorites that I have ever been given, and following is (basically) the children's message I gave this past Sunday (St. Patrick's Day). I feel like it was meant for more than just the children. God teaches me so many things as he prepares me for talking to those glorious kiddos. I did modify this a bit, since I have a different audience here, but the message is the same. I spoke to the kids and not about them, obviously, because they were in front of me. I wish you could all see their eyes as they yearn for knowledge about God. It is such a joy to talk with them each month.

Back-story: I walked into church wearing the usual slacks and nice shirt. Black and grey color scheme. Bright, sparkly, green flip-flops.

The Tale of the Sparkly Green Flip-Flops
You know, it's a funny thing, what happens when I wear my sparkly green flip-flops. Everyone looks at my feet. Everyone. Some people look at my feet and you just know, by the look they give me after they finish gawking at what I have chosen as my shoes-of-the-day, they wonder why I am wearing them. Some people are so curious that they actually ask me. It doesn't matter if it is St. Patrick's Day or not. I guess because they make a bold statement. They are rarely practical or rational. Especially today, when I wore them in the cold, they were not practical or rational. (At this point, a young boy chose to point out to me that flip-flops are for the summer. Thank you, beautiful child, for helping me point out the irrationality of these shoes and why people might question my wearing them.)

There are actions we do in life that show we are Christians. (Now, those that are subtle serve a purpose, loving others and following in ways that are less noticeable are severely important so that we do not seem like the Pharisees.) Some actions we choose, and I use the word choose because these often require a big decision, are big, bold, noticeable actions. The actions that make people wonder why we do something, even sometimes to the point that people might ask why we do them, these actions are tools that we can use to bring about opportunities to share the gospel. Tell people why we do these things. Because Jesus. That's why. These actions often seem as if they are not practical or rational. Moving across the world to a country dangerous for Christians. Loving someone who has wronged us. Showing grace and mercy.

One of my most constant prayers these days is, "Use me, God. I have hands that want to serve you. Please, use me." Sometimes, I feel like God replies with, "Well, I'm trying, but you have to recognize the opportunities I'm throwing at you." Sometimes, my actions aren't big enough. God could have used me more in the moment, but I didn't allow it. I have to be willing, actually having those serving hands I tell God about, to take the bold action that is needed sometimes. I don't need to wait around. I need to do it.

These things don't have an age when they begin to be practical. People say that children are the "future of the church." Yea, well, people say that college students are the "future of the world" and such. When I hear that, I usually pat my face, and even the face of the person next to me if I know them well enough. Then I think something along the lines of, "Future? I feel like I'm here now; I'm present!" Children are not only the future of the church. I see the children looking up at me during a children's message, sitting on the step of the altar, and they sure look like they are in the church at the present moment. Think of David. Small but mighty with God on his side, David was able to conquer Goliath. Children are each a David. It's remarkable, really. Every month, at the end of my children's message, I ask the children to repeat after me while we pray. Every month, they repeat after me. It's pretty cool. So, if I, human, ask these kids to repeat after me, and they do it, I think they know at least a little bit about obedience. If God, then, asks them, as he asks all of us, to step out in faith, these small but mighty children have that power. They have the power to step out in faith right now.

Imagine, if kids were doing things, loving those who have wronged them, inviting friends to church, talking about Sunday School lessons with their friends at school. Imagine how one David could become even one more David, spending that many more years in love with Jesus, coming to church, learning about God. Imagine that over and over again. These kids can start with bold actions now, and grow into actions even bigger, more irrational, more able to bring about a conversation about God.

God says to step out in faith. And I say, do it in your cool shoes. The ones that will be seen and give you an opportunity to share what you know about God and how you know his love.
When I wore them in the cold, they were not practical or rational,
but they brought up opportunities to talk about why.
God, thank you for showing us how to love others irrationally. Help us to follow Jesus' example. Use us, God. We are your children. We have hands that are willing to serve you. Help us to be mighty through you like David was. Use us, God. Use us to further your kingdom. Help us to seek out opportunities to share your love with others. Help us to be bold in these opportunities. We love you. Amen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wasting Life

A few weeks ago (I started putting the date at the top of my notes this week, hopefully it sticks so I actually know when I learned things), I was at a meeting when my thoughts went into a tangent about what I "waste" my life on. This tangent was relevant, but we will get to that. It started off something like this:

I never have free time (That is false, but I feel like it often). What do I do with my life?

  • Teach dance. Okay. That's not a waste. I love those kids.
  • Direct children's choir. Also not a waste. I love those kids, and I very much love talking and singing about Jesus with them.
  • Work in an "office." Not a waste. Probably some of the best time I have to clear my head, and the conversations I have in that office have helped shape me quite a bit these last few years.
  • School. Not a waste. I love music. I love learning. Learning is important.
  • Friends. Not a waste. Relationships are important, and I, as a self-denying-but-really-everyone-has-always-known extrovert, feed off the energy from interactions with people (although not in large groups, so I still hold my introvert quality slightly true).
  • Alone time. Not a waste. Desperately important, and I realize it more and more as my days become more filled.


Okay. So none of those are wastes. Am I truly wasting my life on anything? What else do I do with my time? Where are places that my thoughts often wander? (My thoughts for this one kind of continued on one particular part of my thinking patterns. Maybe you'll see why.)

  • Stressing. Oh yea. Hand over the crown. I can worry like nobody's business. About things that I can't change. About events that are months away (oh heyy, junior recital). About the weather. You name it, I've probably worried about it at some point. If I stress during alone time, it does not count as alone time. I'm supposed to be listening for God and getting into his word during that time, and let me tell you, it's hard to hear him over all the worries.
Or you can try my way. Probably not your best bet though.
So back to the whole, "This tangent was relevant," thing...

What had been said was "If Jesus never came, never died for our sins, and was never resurrected, then our lives have been a waste...but this is only true if we are living our lives for Christ." Or something to that effect...

I don't want my life to be a waste in any sense, except for the one that was said. Now, I really do believe that I have been placed in each of my jobs, classes, and friendships for a purpose. Whether that purpose is for my personal growth or pouring out or whatnot varies, but the only thing I thought of I to which I hear God saying, "I wish she wouldn't. Doesn't she know me?" is stressing. The one area I had thought about that I need to cleanse myself of because it is not from God, but from myself, is my stressing. God says I can trust in him. He has a plan for me. A purpose. My worrying does nothing. He says instead to pray. I continue to worry. So basically, I have taken anything I worry about and said, "Nope, God. You can't have that. These things are too big for you." Wow. Selfish. Denying. I need to get over myself. Give it over to God.
Source
If I could take that time that I waste with worry, and instead devote it to prayer and living for Christ, those moments will definitely be one step closer to being centered completely on Christ. And that is one step closer to a life completely centered on Christ. A life not wasted in the slightest.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Making Time

This past semester has taught me well that time is not infinite.  I have this inability to say, "no" to people, accompanied with a yearning to try new things, and therefore...

Last fall, I embarked on a few new journeys.  I started teaching "acro dance."  (Say what?!)  I began an internship directing a children's choir at a local church.  I made new friends that I would not trade for the world.  I took an acting class.  I performed on the piano for the first time in ten years (only for peers, but hey, that's a start).  I started reading for pleasure once again.  I gained new leadership roles.  It was a whirlwind...partially because

I also continued on journeys already started.  I finished my junior fall semester as a vocal performance major.  I worked impromptu hours at an office nearby, filing and invoicing, and finding random jobs.  I kept in contact with friends that have graduated.  I kept friendships with those far away.  I worked at relationships surrounding me every day.  I cheered for Ravens football.  I prayed for God to use me.  I ate endless amounts of nutella & queso (okay, so maybe that's a more recent development).

Alright, so maybe I haven't been up to very much.  Rewind.  I've actually been the busiest I think I've been in my entire life.  What I realized though, is that I get to choose how I spend my time.  I also realized that everything requires effort, and without effort, things might fall through the cracks of time.

Balancing new journeys with the ones I am already loving has been interesting; I might even say a struggle at times.  Yet, somehow, in the hustle and bustle of everything, and in getting too caught up in temporary stresses, I managed to come out completely in love with every second.

Once I recognized that I am the one choosing how my time is spent (even though some of my hours are set in stone, I chose those responsibilities), I realized that life is always like this.  If I don't like what I am doing, or I should say, if I don't feel as if I am doing what I am supposed to, I can change.  I have that ability.  I've used it in large ways before, switching to study music.

Recognizing with my new schedule (that is still ever-changing, and I honestly don't know how that is possible) that time is not infinite, and that I can't just "find more," has really opened my eyes to the need to make time for the things that matter to me.  I'll be the first one to tell you how much growth has occurred in every area of my life once I started to make time and not find time.

I can't just "find more."
Source
I encourage you to look into your life.  See if you are sacrificing times that you would rather make sacrifices for.  If so, make time for those things.  It is your choice how you spend your non-infinite time.  Don't let the things that matter be the ones that fall through the cracks.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Getting Lost

I feel like I've brought this up once or twice.  Actually, I know I have.  I get lost A LOT.  Now, I do look at directions and have a GPS, but I just can't seem to make everything work together to get places.  I just get lost.  It happens.  All the time.  & I'm more than okay with it.

Take today for instance.  I got lost on my way to church.  I know what you're thinking. Haven't you been to church before? Well, yes.  But I had never driven myself to this particular church, and I have zero sense of direction in case you hadn't picked up on that.  So, here I am, or there I was, rather, driving around on these back roads of cow-country, thinking to myself, Yea!  Maybe the church is on this road!....no...this is the end of the street.  Dang.  Well, that car turned right, so maybe if I turn right it will take me to church.  I'm not even kidding.  This was my logic.  It was purely by the grace and goodness of God that I arrived not only on time, but a couple of minutes early for church this morning.  & while I may not have taken the normal route back to campus afterwards, I got there just fine too.

I also got lost two weekends ago.  Going to visit a couple of friends in their apartment, I kid you not, I ended up at an abandoned slave jail.  Do these things happen to everyone?  I casually turned around and drove a few blocks before calling my friends to find out exactly where I was supposed to be.

Last but not least on these "getting lost adventures" is one that happens weekly.  As in, it happens every week.  Without fail.  I attend one weekly meeting that is not on my campus.  Now, it just so happens that on this same evening, I work at a church in the same town as the meeting is held, and I get finished about three hours before I need to be back.  Naturally, not wanting to waste gas, I find somewhere to be during these hours.  It's typically a coffee shop.  I mentioned that I have THREE hours, right?  Okay.  So, I sit in this coffee shop for about TWO hours before packing up my work and heading out.  Because I get lost EVERY WEEK.  It doesn't matter if I take the same road or a different road.  I get lost every.single.time.  I can't figure it out.  Anyways...

There is a point to all of this.

Obviously, I could probably save myself a lot of hassle and stress* by having someone tell me how to get to this meeting easily or by actually following directions or by actually utilizing a GPS...but I don't.  & that is my choice.  Honestly, the meeting is probably a pride-thing.  I WILL get there eventually without getting lost.  The rest of it?  I enjoy the sense of adventure that comes with each bend in an unknown road.  I like seeing the sights along the way, enjoying God's creation that He has laid out.  I wouldn't see half of it if I always followed my directions strictly.

*Thankfully, since this tends to happen fairly frequently, I don't typically become stressed when I am lost.  It is not something I recommend for the easily-flustered.

I'm okay with leaving earlier than most in order to get somewhere.  It gives me more time to talk with God and think through my thoughts.  There are very few times in which I actually prefer to be alone.  Driving is one of those times.  Partially because my random straying from the path tends to stress out the people with me.  I can drive and think and pray and sing and lose myself in God.  I love to get lost in God most of all.  It's often on these crazy drives that I can sit back and sort through all of the things He has put in my life lately. & let me tell you, He is blessing me abundantly each and every day.  Without these times of adventure and solitude, I feel like I would miss most of God's blessings.  A lot of these blessings come during the adventures.  Like I said, God's creation would remain unseen to me without them.  I love His wondrous beauty that is around every corner, with every changing sky.  I've been known to sit and try to get my bearings for twenty minutes, only to look up in complete awestruck wonder at how God has painted the sky anew in that short span of time.  I wouldn't trade that for being on the 'straight and narrow' any day.

Please.
So I challenge you, friends: Go.  Get lost.  Have an adventure.  Get lost in God, so much that the only way you get where you need to be is through Him.  He will ALWAYS come through, and He will ALWAYS bring you to where you need to be, even if it's not where you originally planned.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Once Upon A Time

I'M BACK!  & I mean that in every way.  I wasn't exactly planning on taking a leave from the world of blogging, but once I had fallen behind, I decided that maybe it was for the best for me to take a step back.  That being said, it's time for me to JUMP back in.  Quite a lot has changed since I last wrote here.  I have learned a lot since I last wrote here.

Once upon a time, I had hinted at a certain "no-spend summer" that I was planning.  I will be the first to tell you that I didn't make it.  It is not an impossible feat, but I didn't make it.  There were a few factors that play into this.

#1:  Sometimes, things break or run out.  My first purchase came at the end of June.  It may have even been July.  I bought a new watch and deodorant.  After forgetting to take off my watch at swim time one day, it decided to delay itself by a few hours every morning.  The second hand just wasn't quite keeping up.  Oops.  The deodorant is fairly self-explanatory.  I will say, however, that I knew this would be an issue going into the summer (having essentials run out).  I rationed shampoo, conditioner, and soap like never before.  While I was always clean, I was always acutely aware of just how much I was using of everything.  It was hard at times, and when one week of camp ended without me having any soap (a camper had mistaken mine for theirs), another counselor was kind enough to share for the last week.  I am very grateful for those times when my need was seen and met, although that was not always the case.

#2: We live in a society dominated by spending.  Now, I love my co-counselors.  However, I found it tough to refrain from spending sometimes when the staff would all plan a dinner out or a trip to Sonic.  It was also difficult to explain that I was choosing not to spend, not that I couldn't spend.  People were offering to pay for my dinner left and right, but that wasn't the point of this experience.  God worked a lot through showing me areas in which I can cut back.  He also worked a lot through showing areas I can give, which brings me to my third point.

#3: We often become consumed by our own priorities.  It was the last week of camp, and a group of counselors was planning to go to New Orleans.  I was obviously not planning to go so that I would not spend money.  Let me say that again.  It was the last week of camp, and I was not planning to spend my last weekend with my friends because I didn't want to spend money.  After a lot of thinking and praying, I realized that this thing I had started to learn to give more of myself to important things was taking away from a chance I would never have again.  Money had become a controlling factor in my life in the exact opposite way that it had before.  I was going to put money before relationships.  I was ashamed.  God has definitely granted me the gift of compassion, and I was letting this experience slip between my fingers without a second thought.  By Thursday my mind was made up, and I left with my friends to experience this beautiful city on a trip that I will treasure forever.  I honestly can't even fathom not having gone.  I got a lot more out of that weekend than the money I would have saved could ever buy.  I watched loving Christians help out a stranger in need.  I saw a city unlike any other and the different cultures that interact there.  I ate in famous restaurants and hole-in-the-wall local favorites.  I listened to performances by musicians who truly love what they do.  I laughed and smiled and walked through the rain and the sunshine with the best friends.  & I wouldn't trade any of that for any amount of money.
New Orleans 7/28/12

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summertime

Randomly driving home the other day, I decided that my summer needed a theme.  I think I finally have one.

No Limits.

There will be no limits:
to the amount of fun had,
to the amount of growth that happens in campers & counselors,
to the amount of sunscreen used,
to the amount of s'mores eaten,
to the number of smiles shared,
to the number of pictures taken,
to the number of letters written,
or to the amount of tie-dye worn.

& there will be no limits placed upon God's works.

I really am looking forward to this summer.  & I am super excited about this theme!  I encourage you to find a theme for your summer.  One that excites you.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

All for the Glory

Of God.  Not glory that I will receive.  Not for the glory of my name, my school's name, my family's name, or even my church's name.  For God's glory.

ALL for the glory.  Not a little bit of my summer.  Not just the music I sing or listen to. Not just the prayers I say.  Not even just summer.  All of the time, everything I do.  For the glory.

I don't say that to be self-righteous.  I say it because it's what needs to be.  I say it to remind myself that my life belongs to God.  To remind myself that it has to be all, because even all isn't enough when you really think about it.  Enough.  That is a word that is a little scary to think about. God has done more than humankind could ever deserve, and there is never enough to be done to glorify Him enough.  That is why it ALL has to be for the glory.  I can't clear myself for the week by going to church.  I can't clear myself for the day by praying in the morning.  I can't clear myself.  God clears me.  Every moment.  I am renewed in Him.

I can't claim to be Christian.  "Christian" means "little Christ."  I am far from being a little Christ.  I can't pick and choose some areas of my life to be Christ-like and allow other areas to be influenced by the worldly things surrounding me.  That in and of itself says that I am not a "little Christ."  If it's not ALL for Him, I am not living out the true meaning of Christian.

I can claim to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind.  I can claim that I belong to Christ.  I can do everything for His glory so that others may see His power and majesty and love for this world.  God has given me EVERYTHING.  Everything I have and am is because of Him.  Shouldn't I live for Him and Him alone?  Yes.


All for the Glory.  Yours, truly.