On His Love for Me (1 Year sans Purity Ring)

Fourteen year old me went through a pure freedom class (like oh so many others) and at the end did what everyone else did and chose to get a purity ring and make the commitment to go along with it. Sixteen year old me recommitted to the promise and bought a new prettier ring.

Eight years of wearing a ring later, 22 year old me decided to take it off.

I don’t hate my purity ring. In fact, I really don’t hold much resentment towards anything I was taught about it all when I was younger – I don’t feel as though I’ve been hurt because of the popular teachings of the day (though I recognize many were). I’m also not going back on the commitment I made, nor am I necessarily saying other people should stop wearing theirs. The literal only reason I took it off is because I was tired of waiting. Tired of the physical reminder of my single-ness, tired of weighing life decisions by “what if I meet someone?”, and tired of feeling like I was watching my life go by as I sat around.

So I’m still waiting but I’m not waiting. Which has got me to thinking – if I go through my whole life single (which we know can’t be a BAD thing because Paul says so in 1 Corinthians 7), am I missing out? Is God depriving me of something that would make me more complete?

No, I can’t believe that. First, because God is good and has set good plans for me to walk in that will bring him glory (Ephesian 2) – if me being married will bring him more glory, then that’s what will happen. Second, because marriage doesn’t make us more complete as humans – we are still the same messy incomplete humans who are unfulfilled and incomplete without God. So if that is true, then I can I not experience all the fullness and love I need to from God? God IS love after all, so don’t all forms of it come from him?

And so I come to this fall, ruminating on a year without a purity ring, and I find myself pondering the love God has for me. All my married friends tell me about how God uses their marriages to draw them closer to him and experience his love in new ways, So I’ve found myself listening to love songs (because lets be honest, like 95% of all songs ever are about this, and somehow they all ended up on my fall playlist…), and instead of lamenting my life (don’t lie, you know what I’m talking about), I’m trying to see if and how they relate to God and my relationship with him.

It’s been wildly different than doing this with worship songs because I find the secular songs sing about slightly more tangible aspects while worship ones stay really abstract. It’s odd – you would think it makes it easier to put God in a box with the tangible, but singing so abstract-ly sometimes makes him seem so much farther off, rather than close.

It sounds a little unorthodox until you realize that generally what people are singing about and looking for is a missing part of them, a person who understands them, a person who loves all of them, someone who encourages them to be a better person…and last I checked God fills all of those boxes. In fact, he does more. He loves with a passionate love, an endless love, a perfect love, he casts out fear, he is a rock when storms come. His love is fierce and it is tender.

I read a book by Greg Paul called Close Enough to Hear God Breath when I was university (he also wrote God in the Alley, both of which I would recommend). In it, he explores the aspects of “divine intimacy”, and one of the pictures I still remember him describing is God holding us close to him as a father holds his child to his chest and we can hear the softness of his breathing and his whispers to us over the noise of the world. (I would quote him here but my friend has had the book for over 3 years and “doesn’t know where it is”).

One of my standout songs from the last month has been Everywhere by Michelle Branch. It challenges me to think about how God is everywhere around me and in everything I see, but it’s the bridge brings it together for me:

And when I touch your hand
It’s then I understand the beauty that’s within
It’s now that we begin
You always light my way
I hope there never comes a day
No matter where I go
I always feel you so

Is there anything more beautiful than the love God has for us? I am thankful to see the reflection of it in relationships here on earth, but everything is only that – a reflection. A still from picture that lacks the vibrancy, nuances, and life that the real thing has. Seeing the glimpses reminds me that there is more to come. That his love is deeper still. It reminds me that the most important thing to do is to live for him and with him beside me everywhere I go.

Contentment vs. Complacency

Lately when people ask me how I’m doing, I say I’m doing great. I’m content with where I am and what God has done to get me there. Which sounds super great. Except yesterday I realized that my contentment may have been masking something not ok – complacency. Yes, I’m ok with where I am, but did I reach that point by looking at the good things I have been given (partially) or by resigning myself that this was good enough and ignoring the goals, opportunities, and people God put around me to pursue and engage (…)?

Yesterday I was reading Isaiah 1 and verse 27 stood out…

Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent by righteousness.

In the midst of the storm they were about to face – being torn from their way of life and land – God promises that in the end they will be restored. But the restoration comes with a price.

Justice is the fair treatment or lawfulness of actions – and in this case God acts as the righteous judge in determining the price that must be paid for the sins that have been committed. He even says earlier in the passage (verses 12-15) that he is tired of their burnt offerings and feasts (note: these are the things he says will be pleasing to him in Numbers, among other places). Is God being duplicitous? No, that cannot be, so what is he saying instead? Let’s look at the following verses (16-17)…

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause. 

I think, as with every time God tells the people of Israel about his precepts and his desires, he wants authentic worship. He wants them to be pleased with their stature before him, to recognize his awesome power, and to bring (along with their burnt offerings) a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Then, from that place of understanding who He is and who they are, to move forward and bring his love, justice, and mercy to the world.

So what happened?

The people of Israel had become complacent in their place. They weren’t content with what God had asked – sure they kept doing the things they were supposed to, but they weren’t satisfied anymore. And hey, maybe, like me, they thought they were content. They thought they were down with what was going on and ever so slowly they started drifting without even noticing. Little by little you stop dwelling on his words, thinking about what you’re doing, noticing those around you…and instead you start thinking about other things, going through the motions, and suddenly you really don’t care about that widow -you’re too busy strolling through your day to day actions “living”, revelling in our saved-ness and neglecting what comes after the salvation and hoopla along with it.

As I read the chapter I couldn’t help but be reminded about how we ourselves are saved through justice and redeemed through righteousness. Our sins deserved the ultimate sacrifice of death; and the only way we could have been redeemed was for someone to pay that debt. God just didn’t blankly forgive our sins – as a just and righteous God he couldn’t do that. A debt needed to be paid. The full payment was accepted when Jesus died for us, taking our sins upon himself, and by that justice we are saved. We are reinstated as a people right with God and we can come to him with our broken and contrite hearts.

However, just like the people of Israel we are also called above the physical actions of our lives and the routines of Christianity. We aren’t supposed to just physically take part in communion, but to consider the significance of it, and repent of our sins before taking it. We are still supposed to confess our sins to God and we are still supposed to turn from evil and run in the opposite direction. Plus, we are supposed to move beyond that and act in our lives. We are to do all the “one anothers” – serve, love, encourage, etc. We are supposed to be trying to see the kingdom of God here on earth, experiencing his goodness and sharing it with others.

We too are not to be complacent, but to be content. Yes, to be content, but not to be content with being complacent and staying where we are. Obviously we will be content when we are complacent because when we are complacent we don’t need to deal with the harder questions or care about the state of those around us. We can be blind to our own sin and parade around our status in life because “we’re happy here.”

Just because I’ve made it this far doesn’t mean that this is as far as I’m going – God still has more for me. He has more adventures, more things to learn, more people for me to meet, and more souls to save in the world, more justice to bring to those who cannot take it for themselves. My contentment is to be IN Him, what he has given me and where he has placed me. Yet I am still to be longing for a fuller communion and deeper intimacy with him. I am still to be carrying out his justice and mercy to those around me and I am still to have a desire for more of him, less of me, and to see his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So: are you content or complacent?

On Fear

I’ve read this one article a few times, and seen it shared on various platforms as well in the past few months. The first time I read it I skimmed it and thought parts of it were ok and parts were meh. Then I read it again later and saw some things that maybe I should be taking to heart. I’m all about practically applying head knowledge, so I decided to try out the first challenge — eliminating fear, scared, and terrified from my vocabulary. Well, I tried…

When I started trying to get rid of those words, two things started to happen.

  1. I started being more aware of when I used those words. And felt those feelings. And how often I had them. And it sucked.
  2. I started thinking more about why I was afraid. Picking apart my fears. And it both sucked and was awesome.

So it sucked because I felt a little bit like my fears were dumb. I mean, real talks. I’m afraid of driving. Not like the childhood “I’m afraid of snakes and spiders” feeling (this is still relevant – I don’t like these animals thx). I’ve felt fear in a crippling, heart wrenching, sometimes-I-can’t-even-think fear. Sometimes it would keep me awake at night. Or, debatably worse, it would hit me while I was driving. (I have other common fears too, but this is the most predominant in my life right now).

It was awesome because I started wondering why I was afraid. And seeking ways to not be afraid. I realized that no matter how hard I tried, I was still going to FEEL these feelings. I can’t stop feeling them, just like how when something you find funny happens you can’t not be amused. You found it funny, therefore, you are amused. It is how I deal with the feeling that matters.

When you’re amused you can smile, laugh, type “lolololololol” into your phone etc. You can even whip out the smirking emoji. When I am afraid, I can dwell on my fear and let it overwhelm me, or I can harness it, and turn it around into prayer and praise to God.

Last weekend I was in a foodcourt at the mall with a bunch of other people and a little girl. While we were there, the fire alarm went off. No one was worried, and the staff made announcements over the PA system that there was nothing to worry about currently. The little girl, however, didn’t understand or trust the announcements and was scared. It took a lot of assurances from her mother for her to calm down and eat her lunch without worrying about how we were all going to get caught in a fire. (Also the fire alarm stopped…)

When I am afraid, I am turned inward to myself. When I am not afraid, I can turn outwards to others. When I am scared I am only thinking about the here and now. When I am not scared, I can remember there is a larger story I’m a part of that I can’t see. When I am terrified, I can’t see what is going on around me. When I’m not terrified, I can see other people and things that God is calling me to pour into and serve.

It isn’t easy. I’ve been dealing with this particular fear for a long time and I don’t think I would have been very good at this “let it go” stuff at the beginning. But working through it and starting to approach it with this mindset has helped me. It’s also crossed over into other fears I have — being single forever, not making enough money to support myself, those darn snakes that are everywhere and nowhere..

If I believe God is in control of my life and knows what he’s doing (if I believe he is who he says he is — and if he wasn’t why would I put my faith in him?????), then I do not need to be afraid. I may still have the feelings of panic and fear, but I don’t need to let them dictate my life and make my decisions for me. I need to put them aside and let God dictate those decisions instead. And I hope that one day, in the face of fear, I will not be afraid.

 

When Being Washed by the Water Hurts

Even when the rain falls
Even when the flood starts rising
Even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water
– Needtobreathe

Sometimes I don’t want to read my Bible.

Sometimes I don’t want to pray.

Sometimes I don’t even want to leave the house on Sunday and go to church.

Sound familiar?

One of these is blatantly obvious to everyone else when we do it, so most of us just suck it up and do it to save face (at least I do). The other two are hidden, and if we skip them, no one is the wiser. Sometimes we can even skip them for weeks and months on end without anyone figuring it out.

However, the longer we spend away, the harder it is to come back. The longer it’s been since I picked up my devos the more I look at them and go “Well, one more day won’t set me back too much” until it becomes “I’m too far behind to even bother now…” The whole time we inherently know that we need to read it again. We understand the importance of sitting down and praying. But we also know that it’s going to hurt to start again.

In Ted Dekker’s series “The Circle Trilogy” (except it’s 4 books???) he has a beautiful analogy for this my friend reminded me of yesterday. When the world has “fallen”, they have to wash themselves in a lake daily to remain human. If they don’t, they begin to dry out and become gross and flakey. One can go a few days without washing, but the more you go without, the less you want to wash because the water is going to sting. A lot. In fact, if I remember correctly, it almost burns when you go in after a long period of being away.

It’s like that for us too: the first few plunges back into the water after avoiding it is like getting a child to wash on bath day. We don’t want to be clean, in fact, we’ve started to not notice the dirt we’ve been wallowing in. And the dirt isn’t too bad, or so we think. The end result is great, but there is pain to get there – we have to get wet (and soap. And potentially a lot of scrubbing).

It’s true that we’re washed by the water, and that no matter what comes our way Jesus is with us, but are you really walking with him? Or are you just waltzing around pretending to be washing yourself daily, but hiding behind a pretty outer appearance? It’s all too easy to hide the dirty, dried out inside (I know I do it too).

It’s hard to start again. Especially when we don’t have any desire to start again. We know it will hurt, it will sting, it will burn.  But like an obedient child on bath day, we have to start. We know we need to wash, so we need to pour the water, get in the tub, and wash.

Facades & Nail Polish

I did my nails in a French manicure the other day for an industry event. Now it’s half falling off but I keep forgetting to grab the nail polish remover. However ugly I think it might look to see the pretty (and fake) nails juxtaposed to the original (and slightly dirty – how do people keep their nails clean? I just don’t get it) got me thinking though.

French Manicure

I painted an picture of what I wish my hands looked like overtop of what they actually are. This is similar to the image I try to paint around myself sometimes (who am I kidding, a lot of the time) when I’m talking to someone or getting to know people. “You don’t like country? K me neither……”

But is that really ok? Do I want people to know me, or a fake version of me?

I’m not saying we should be hanging out dirty laundry out for everyone to see it (please don’t), but I do think that we can be avoiding the joy of having someone know who we really are and still liking us. We forget that we can be pretty awesome people just by ourselves. I dared myself this fall to not text one of my friends unless what I was saying was legitimately what I would have said in real life if I wasn’t afraid of being judged for what I really thought. It’s really hard. But they’re still my friend (I think?) and it encourages me to continue to have the same vulnerability and honesty with other people in my life.

But I think this needs to be taken a step farther.

As hard as I try, I know I still slip up and cover up parts of me I’m ashamed of or think would be best left unseen (bear in mind there are still some things you probably shouldn’t share with everyone). But I know still that there is one who does see behind my facades, Every. Single. Time. The fact that God can see everything about me and still chooses to love me is just astounding sometimes.

I read Lamentations this morning, and I was reflecting on the acknowledgement of our sins. We can put up walls and masks that other people never see through, but God can still see through them. He can still see the ugliness inside, and he loves anyway. He sent his son to earth to die for me. He came to die for the sinner, not the righteous (Mark 2:17).

If having a person know things about me encourages being me, then knowing that God loves me even still is more so.There is such freedom in knowing that you are loved for who you really are. It goes beyond loving yourself and moves to the desire to be better and strive for godliness. We are loved when we succeed, and loved when we fail. And we can rest in knowing this as we try to do what we are called to do.

I hope that this realization empowers you to be you today; and to be a better you, relying on his strength, tomorrow.

The Will of the Lord (Acts 21-22)

“Let the will of the LORD be done” – Acts 21:14b

Paul’s dependence on God in everything he does reminds me today that i should be trusting in that plan instead of my own. In reality, it makes sense. Trust in the all knowing mind of God, or the shallow, narrow mind of me. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to do what God wants (like speaking to a mob of angry people), but God still uses Paul’s willingness and status as a Roman citizen to further the spread of the Gospel.

It reminds me to double check myself. Are there things that I can be offering to God to let him use right now? What am I holding onto that he could be using to touch other people? At camp it’s easy to give pretty much all of your time, but in real life I feel like I’m a lot more selfish with things and time. And yet I can still grow and learn how to let him work in everything i do.

Glory to God (Acts 11-12)

“But the word of God increased and multiplied” – Acts 12:24

I find it so cool that God continues to do amazing things in Acts. In today’s reading, this is primarily focused on getting Peter out of jail and bringing the good news to the Gentiles. Whenever I read about grace being extended to those who were not of the Jews, I feel a particular sense of happiness, because I know that this is why I am able to approach God freely today.

What I love most about all the things that God is doing, is that they all bring HIM glory. Yea, it’s super cool that these things happened, but the end result is always for him. Persecution happens. But the Good News spreads. God is always glorified.

In death, in life,
I’m confident and covered by the power
Of your great love!

Bigger Picture (Luke 23-24)

It’s crazy what some people will do to save their own skin. However, despite the torture, mockery, and pain inflicted on Jesus during his death, he still managed to reconcile leaders and convince people that he was the son of God. So the Pharisees lost completely in their quest for maintaining their power, and God won in managing to bring more glory to himself. God 1 Pharisees 0

At the end of chapter 24, Luke writes about how the minds of the disciples were opened to the scriptures and that then they understood everything that happened.  I’ve written before on how ridiculous it seemed that the disciples didn’t really get it before, but at the same time it was probably best this way. Can you imagine knowing that the person you follow is actually going to die? I would have significant problems with that. But after he’s died and come back to life it is much easier to swallow, if you can swallow the whole coming back to life thing. God 1 Disciples 0

Both of these things serve as a reminder to me today that God’s plan is way bigger than my plan. There is so much more “rightness” about how God’s plan played out than how the people then thought it should, and I bet in 10 years I’ll look back on this part of my life and say the same thing. Because in my tally I started before, it’s really God ∞ Everyone else 0. I mean, who else could accomplish all that in dying and THEN come back to life and do more?

Saved Workmanship (Ephesians 1-2)

Call me crazy, but I never realized Ephesians 2:8 and 2:10 were together. Clearly the numbers say they are, but it hasn’t clicked before now…so the passage standing out in the passage today (meta-passage? passage-ception?):

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10

 

Verse 10 itself is one my favourite encouraging verses. I stumbled across it at camp (I feel like I always reference camp) and it was a reminder that both me and the kids that I was serving were the workmanship of God. Definitely worked on my tired heart to be able to try to serve the campers better that week.

Moving onto today … if we are saved by grace through faith, then it is not conditional on anything I do or have done or will do in the future. The combo of this truth with the fact we were created for good works in Christ Jesus just ties it together even better. Especially after Paul goes through the gospel foundation in chapter 1 and expands on being one in Christ later in chapter 2. I think what I’m trying to get at … is that little pieces just keep falling together as I read through this plan. Kind of crazy how these things happen!

The Overflow (Matthew 17-18)

Whenever I try and imagine what the transfiguration looked like, I always end up imagining something like in the “reveal” scenes from Touched By and Angel. However, I’m 98% sure none of you know that show since its 10 years old, so here’s a picture.

touched by an angelBasically they suddenly have light shinning around them….I couldn’t find a really good picture 😦

 Anyhow, back to the Bible

It is interesting that the disciples that didn’t go up with Jesus to the mountain don’t have faith enough to cast out a demon. They too were traveling with Jesus and seeing his miracles, why couldn’t they do it? I heard a sermon once that used the two “camps” of disciples as an illustration of people who were either A. filled with God’s presence and worshiping, and B. not filling up on God’s presence and relying on themselves.

The disciples who went with Jesus, while they tried to build tents (not so sure why), were spending time with him in God’s presence. I would be willing to bet that they had more faith after that than the ones who stayed behind, and probably could have been able to cast out the demon (they had already been told they could earlier in Matthew). It’s so easy to think we can do things on our own, especially in this culture, when we should be relying on God to do things so that the actions we do point to him.

I have to wonder though, why did he only bring three?

I’m not 100% sure what the implications are for verses 24-27 with the sons/others thing, so ……moving on

Chapter 18 covers a few aspects of Christian living:
1. Humility
2. Avoiding being tempted to sin
3. Taking care of “little ones”
4. Forgiving

All of these actions can be sort-of done on our own strength, trying to be “good” ourselves, or they can come from an overflowing heart. The latter is better.

Just like how the disciples who spent time filling up on God had more faith etc., if we spend more time with God and seeking after a heart like his, it becomes easier to take care of others. When we come to deeper understandings of the gospel and how much we are forgiven, forgiving others comes easier (unlike the man in the parable who clearly has some issues).

Over and over again in scripture (both OT and NT), God calls into question our hearts, or comments on the status of our hearts. David is king because he is a man after God’s own heart. in Hosea, God asks for “steadfast love”  instead of sacrifice (6:6), and wants people to call to him from the heart (7:14a).

I’m left at the end of this passage wondering “Where is my heart today? Has it begun to drift away from the fulfilling presence of God? How can I continue to go deeper in my relationship with God”

As a note to my fellow Bootcamp-ers, I will be away this weekend and catching up on the posts when I get back, so either Monday night or Tuesday. Looking forward to see what you learn while I’m away!