Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ugliness Becomes Beautified.

You sinner.
You rotten, dirty scoundrel who manipulates others to get what you want.
You selfish, self-seeking, lazy ignoramus who looks down on others.

Hold on to that for a moment.

Have you ever had a moment in your life in which you realized you actually have become that person? That person who trampled over another's feelings. Have you ever realized you had actually become that person who you hoped would never become public?

I've had that moment or situation, rather, recently. I was confronted on sin that was in my life and was [clearly] affecting others. I remember in that moment being so devastated that I could not pretend any more at how horrible of a person I knew I was. I knew she existed: but I was hoping that no one else would ever know that [but God?].

Your sin will find you out.

My favorite scene in the movie "Meet Joe Black" is in which the character "Death" (played by, drum roll please, Brad Pitt. Ha!) asks Quince how does he know that his wife loves him. Quince's response? " Because she knows the worst thing about me and it's okay."

Enter *sigh* here.

Let us take a moment and let that scene soak in. Who in your life knows the worst thing/s about you? A spouse? Your best friend? Roommate/s? God? Wait, yes, God.

The Gospels are full of moments in which Jesus "perceiving their thoughts.... perceiving in their hearts... knowing what was in their hearts." If those who know you the most only know you by what you say and do out loud: imagine how much more God knows about us?

So back to my opening statements: YOU ARE THAT PERSON. And: SO AM I. It is ugly. Disgusting. Full of complete grossness and depravity. BUT: God brings us beauty in that (or those, rather) moments of realizing our full potential of depravity and ugliness: We were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We have a Helper who is continually with us (Romans 8:26) and a King who is constantly interceding us (Romans 8:34). No man (or angel or demon) can bring any charge against us (who are God's) (Romans 8:33) .

I am giving myself permission to paraphrase Romans 8:33 (again). "Who can tell on you to the King of Kings? NO ONE. NOT EVEN YOURSELF." God has justified you. The simplest definition of "justified" that I remember from school is this: "it's 'just as if I'd never'". That's it. As the Father see's Christ work for you on the Cross: it's as if you had done nothing to deserve condemnation.

Such ugliness can be beautified. Through Christ.

To walk in such grace and forgiveness is difficult. As I shared above, I have been recently confronted by my ugliness of sin and the depths of possibility thereof. However: I have been forgiven. Not just by my God, but by those who did the [right, Biblical thing]. It's hard for me, oh so hard, to walk in that forgiveness... to not feel like I'm walking on egg shells. To not feel like I have to earn forgiveness or grace. But since God does not condemn me: I get to learn to walk (or jog or run or skip!) in His grace... to let Him remind me of such truths as above.

And when one sees and feels such ugliness become beautified: How does one not love the Giver of such beauty?

"God... having forgiven us ALL our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us... This He set aside, nailing it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13b,14)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thirty-One Blessings

I recently turned 31.
And yes, I'm okay with this.
Yes I am 31 and single and have ADD when it comes to where I live and where I work.
I am learning to embrace this.

But upon my birthday I realized that it was time to stop and think through this past year and be thankful for what God has given me. From days and events to people and objects. So, here are 31 blessings that He gave me this past year. (Written in no particular order.)

1.)The ability to run a 5k (Technically this was the day before my 30th birthday: but I'm counting that anyways.)
2.)A part time job in an ESL classroom with Kindergarteners.
3.)A company that wanted to hire me but His quiet and yet forceful Spirit urged me to say no. (So that I could...)
4.)Accept a full-time 1:1 job with a Kindergarten boy.
5.)Health Insurance. (Great insurance in fact!)
6.)Dental Insurance
7.)A day of Jeeping. (Refer to my October 1, 2012 post)
8.)Amazing friends to live with.
9.)The desire to create a disciplined spiritual life.
10.) The ability to buy and make coffee. (Okay, so can I just write that for every day of my life?)
12.) A life in which I have filled 5-6 journals this past year.
13.) Steady pay checks.
14.) Friends whom I consider family.
15.) An incredible, loving church family.
16.) The opportunity to lead worship. (And the chances to even when I don't want.)
17.) Seeing the answers to prayers.
18.) The ability to cry (Okay, so only women will understand this one!)
19.) The ability to laugh (I should say "at myself", but let's face it: it's fun to laugh at others sometimes!)
20.) EMT's. (Not for me.. but a man who had a grand mal seizure)
21.) Parent's who still love me despite my never [rarely] calling.
22.) A God who whispers to people to pray for me.
23.) People who pray for me!
24.) Feeling my heart heal.
25.) Seeds of hope.
26.) The opportunity to go to my camp up in Maine.
27.) Meeting new people who instantly change your life.
28.) Forgiveness.
29.) Friends and family who love me too much to let me stay where I am.
30.) A God who loves me too much to let me stay where I am.
31.) Grace.

32.) A boss who wanted me to back in the Fall.
33.) "Gratitude" by Nancy DeMoss
34.) "When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight For Joy" by John Piper
35.) "Radical" by David Platt
36.) "The Heavenly Man" by Brother Yun
37.) Godly, older women in my life
38.) Inspiring younger women in my life
39.) Hugs
40.) Letters and notes of encouragement

Okay... so I went above and beyond. But I could not help it! 40 blessings does not even begin to number the ways that God has blessed me this past year. The sunrises, sunsets, weddings, conversations I have seen this year do not even begin to capture how God has begun to capture my heart and mind.

So, here's to turning 31 and the God who continues to surprise, bless and walk beside me. My prayer is that you will see Him at work in your life this year at thirty-one ways.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Called Us Higher

I came across a song several months ago entitled, "Called Me Higher", by the group, All Sons and Daughters. I remember exactly where I was when  I heard the lyric, 
"I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside...
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
 but You have called me Higher
You have called me Deeper
and I'll go where You will lead me, Lord"

I stopped what I was doing and said out loud, "Amazing!" God has been showing me that we can not grow closer to Him (and to others) if we are not stepping outside of our comfort zones. How could we ever grow in our relationships if we were never vulnerable? How could we learn to trust others if we didn't have to let [them?] go first? The same is with God. He has called us higher and deeper in our relationship with Him and others. Brother Yun in the book, The Heavenly Man, states, when asked what he thinks about the Church in the Western Culture, "It seems you want to stop and enjoy His presence and blessings too long, and build an altar to your experiences..." He goes on to share that our daily lives are not lived on the mountain tops but along the valleys and the climbs.

I would dare to say that Brother Yun would say, "God has called you higher: and He has called you deeper."

What is He challenging you in? What scares you or drains you to even think about conquering? Is it perhaps that in pressing in to see Christ more that we will have to travel where we have never been before? May we remember that "...Christ Jesus has made [us] His own." (Philippians 3:12b) He will not leave you. He will not stop loving you. But He will also not stop desiring you and for you to pursue Him.... And though we may not see it or feel it in our flesh: In the here and now, and at "the end": He WILL be worth it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Are You Living a Defeated or Conquered Life?

I love movies.

If you knew me, you would know this.
I'm an artist so I feel things in ways that not everyone does. Plus, movies help me escape. And because of this: I often put myself in whatever movie I'm watching. And the result of that: I learn a lot about myself or I learn more of who I want to become.

Today I watched, "Penelope" (with Christina Ricci & James McAvoy). I adore this movie but haven't seen it in some time. And today, one line stood out in particular as the Lord has me on a journey of studying an aspect of Himself. Here's the line: "It's not the power of the curse, it's the power you give the curse."

I was recently reading a blog in which a man was sharing how this is a particular issue in the Church in today's society: We forget that Christ died and rose again to break the power that sin has over us. How often do we as believers walk through our days acting and believing as if we are defeated? Acting and believing as if we are powerless to that which Christ has already conquered?

It's time that we stopped living a defeated life. Yes, we will always battle sin. I believe that some people struggle with certain sins over others. And yes, we do not wrestle with flesh and blood but principalities of darkness... but we also are given a sword to fight with: the Word of God. And prayer. "... and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times..." (Ephesians 6:17-18b)

John Piper in his book, "When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy" has some stellar words on this topic:

"The devil is conquered wherever his design to devour faith is defeated. That defeat is by the cross of Christ and the Word of God."

"If Jesus was Himself the Word of God and could command demons so that they obey Him, and yet He depended on Scripture to deflect the temptations of the devil, so should we."

If we take Christ seriously with our salvation: should we also not take Him seriously when it comes to the reason why He died and rose again for us? Or was the particular sin you struggle with too much for Christ's death and resurrection to handle? I think not. I know not.

May we ever have an increasing desire for His word and His sword for more than just feel-good, self esteem motives. But beg Him to conquer that which Satan and his crew use to drag us down and away from Christ.

"That you may know what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand... far able all rule and authority and power and dominion..." Ephesians 1:19-21 (paraphrased)


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What If Dissatisfaction Is A Good Thing?

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." CS Lewis

Sometimes I can't help but be dissatisfied. Do you know what I mean? I'm sure that most of the time this thought can and is bred out of selfishness. But I was challenged last week to think of this (and sufferings) as a gift. 

The gift of remembering that this world is not our home. 

1 Peter 2:11 (the Message) tells us, " Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul." How beautifully and boldly put. 

I remember in college (I went to a Bible Institute.) I used to really struggle with the concept of thinking of heaven and being with Christ as more amazing than some of the experiences of here on earth. And I remember feeling like such a failure as a believer because of this. And when sharing this with a friend, he turned to me and said, "Shauna: the reality is that even if you feel this way: When you get to heaven-- You won't feel that way." 

Marriage is one of those experiences that I would love to live. Now: before you go ahead thinking, "Shauna: there's more to life than marriage, etc.": KNOW THAT I KNOW THIS. Of course, I'm sure that (if the Lord wills it) I will enter marriage somewhat naive. But for those of you who don't know me and you're reading this: I'm 30 and single. Which, in today's world means that most people my age have been married and are now divorced. Most of my friends have children. I've overheard some horrendous fights. I know of women (believers) who have been physically and emotionally abused and have done my best to walk with these couples. So, again: know that I know that I know that I know that marriage is not the end all and be all of life. 

However, despite all of the negativity that I have shared above: I still have the desire to be married. I'm trying to let God do His best in working through my fears of marriage, but I still have the desire. To serve someone. To love someone. And, well, selfishly: to be served and loved back. I've fought a lot against this but can't help but know that God designed marriage and there is something (obviously) powerful in that. Scripture is so clear about what it is a picture of: Christ and His bride. The sacrifice. The love. The Commitment. The Benefits. 

I pray to be married someday. But, with that, I also pray that God will have His way: as I know (that I know that I know that I know) that His way is best. It really could be in God's best possible plan for me that I never be married. Heck: maybe that's why I have the desire: So that it makes me cling to Him even more. 

But maybe, just maybe..... I have the desire because I know that this world is not my home....For I was made for another. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Choosing Gratitude

"You [can] choose to either be thankful or unthankful,
 to recognize a blessing or to overlook  it,
 to acknowledge a kindness or to mindlessly ignore it. 
You decide." 
                                                       -Nancy DeMoss

I've been reading a lot lately on gratitude (Enter shameless plug here for "Choosing Gratitude, Your Journey to Joy, by Nancey DeMoss.) and have just come to the conclusion that one can never have enough. Especially as a believer. In the last several weeks the Lord has been prompting me to open my eyes and look around and express my gratitude.
It really is a choice. Thankfulness, that is. As someone who struggles with mild depression from time to time sometimes I just can't stand it when someone says, "It's all in your head: it's a choice." Partly, because, well, with depression, it's not that easy but secondly: because I know that they're right when it comes to seeing the good in situations and thankfulness.

I wish I could be super spiritual here and say that I just became really burdened to do word studies on "joy" in the Scripture and just became a Scripture hound; However, that's not it. Between the Lord convicting me on my negativity and the book that I've been reading, trying to choose thankfulness and gratitude has truly been eye opening and has brought a refreshment to my soul.

Life isn't perfect and rosy for me. Needing to find a new place to live, financial plannings and decisions, the possible job hunting, the ministries I'm involved in, the relationships I try to maintain, the burdens on my heart  for life and others, the sins I commit (because, well, I'm a sinner), etc, there's a lot going on and a lot at stake.But I can either look at the circumstances or look at the blessings and trust my Saviour and Provider.
I live under a roof. And a beautiful one at that. I have a car. I have a job. I have insurances. I have friends. Friends who pray for me, listen to me and well, talk to me. I have good health. I have food. I have seen hundreds of sunsets and sunrises. Filled countless journals. Seen the stars in the Southern Hemisphere. Lived blocks away from two different oceans. Watched different cultures. Talked with Josh Groban. (True: But I just threw this in here for fun. hehe.) Smelled the roses. Have been taken on dates. Have cried tears of joy for multiple reasons. Have seen miracles occur. Have had to decide which friend I want to hang out with. (As someone who was bullied as a kid: this still never ceases to amaze me.) I have a God who loves me though He knows just how wretched I am. (Disclaimer: this list could go on and on, from the delicious taste of an orange or strawberry to an amazing cup of coffee to the guardian angel who's spared me from some horrific something or other...)
The reality is: God showers blessings upon us, the saved and unsaved....(Matthew 5:45, James 1:17) Will you choose to be active and look for them and even more: be thankful for them? Or will you turn you head and walk away? The choice is yours.

[Note: There is also a reality that sometimes what we consider as consequences or even sufferings could be considered blessings... but this is a topic that I need to pray and think upon much more before I write about it.]

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Graciousness of God.

The graciousness of God is something that I have been in contemplation of lately. And more specifically: His grace in revealing what is not of Him.

I had an experience a few weeks ago with a good friend in which we have been friends for some time... and yes, I had become the sort of person, nay, Christian, that I had wish I had not become... Needless to say, the Lord had allowed me to finally see for myself the sort of person I had become: I was mortified and made the decision to turn some things around in my life and begin to choose Joy instead of x,y,z... (Fine: let's just say it: negativity, unthankfulness, etc.) Anyways, my friend had made a decision as well: to confront me in each of these issues... but all at once.

It was rough, for several reasons. A.) God had already worked in me and my heart and B.) I had begun to change in those areas.. (and C.) who really does well when being confronted with all the horribleness of oneself?)

This story ends well: We worked through the fight (disagreement, battle, etc, whatever you want to call it) and perhaps are even stronger because of it. But honestly, this story is part of a much bigger story: There was a moment when going through this in which I realized and prayed, "Lord, thank You SO MUCH for not always revealing the worst things about me all at once!" Now granted, I haven't always experienced this, or rather, have handled being convicted so well either (nor will I probably always in the future as well)... but it was an eye opening experience and freedom that I pray I will never forget.

But almost even more importantly, I realized that I want this characteristic of God's to be one that I can and will carry into my current and future relationships: to "speak truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) and to remember that "He who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:16) (Aka: not in one day nor one conversation.)

So: if His work will not be finished until the day He returns and He is just that patient with me: I owe nothing less to others than to extend that same measure of grace to others.

1 Corinthians 16:14 "Let all that you do be done in love."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Year In Reflection.

As I sit here writing this on January 1st, 2013... I am frustrated. To the point of tears. So many things that I wish that I could change, do better at, were going differently, etc. And as I sat here in bed, wanting to do some Jacob-style wrestling with God, God had different plans. And as He brought this past year back to mind, I realize, I have much to be grateful for.

Don't get me wrong, I would say I've been a "pretty strong Christian" most of my life (not perfect: there's a difference there) but always knew that God was present and watching. Not in a creepy way- in a "God-sized way"... 2011 was a year in which I had almost completely walked away from God, but thankfully, He didn't let me, and He loved me just like He loved all His prodigal kids. So, in the beginning of 2012, I was still somehow just waiting for "that punishment from God that I deserved".. and little did I know that He was about to just pour blessings into my life.

Don't get me wrong (again)... things weren't perfect: finances were tight, emotionalism, job dissatisfaction (for the first time in two years) and singleness were very present, but, God brought along new friends for me. The kind of people that you meet and you think, "How have I not known these people my whole life?" To meet the person or persons in which you walk away from the first meeting and say, "I want to be just like him/her: to just have a simple job & yet love Jesus and others while doing it- just like him/her." THAT happened to me. I'll never forget it. In fact, my best friend was there during this meeting, and I remember thinking, "Meeting that person just changed my life." and God saying, "Yup. And I've had this planned since the beginning of time, so, could you cut me some slack in thinking that I don't care for you?"

The meeting and getting to know these people and their friends have, well, calmed me back in to being (mostly) comfortable and confident in who God has made me to be: a simple girl, who loves to laugh, drink lots of coffee, go for rides, enjoy the smell of sweet grass, climb rocks and boulders, wear hoodies & jeans, go to bed early and not really try to impress others: 'cause that's not what life is about. The life that He has called us to live is real: not perfect. But real. To let others in on our lives: our failures, mistakes, rebounds & the accepting of His grace and His blessings. And to remember that all which is good (and bad) all happens within His careful and steady hand and plan.

I would rather not have had my heart broken this year, but God allowed it. I must choose that He is good: not just when giving me blessings, but when He allows heartache & failures to occur. I wish that His plan of changing my career didn't make me look like the worst of employees (less than a 2 week notice): but it did. (And quite frankly: does God care more about my obeying or my appearance?) I wish that I didn't have to rely on God so much (and others) in my  life, but, then again, why not? Would I truly be able to see just how good God is if I never have a struggle? If I had never sinned, would I know His grace? If I had never had to say "please forgive me" to someone, would I see a glimpse of God's glory and His forgiveness?

The list of all that occurred in 2012 could continue.. but my shame lies in not perhaps recognizing all of God's blessings that He gave me because I was so focused on what I didn't think I received.. or thinking negatively on what He allowed. So, despite the pain that I had see this previous year: I am choosing now to believe that He is good. "He is not safe, but He is good..." says CS Lewis. Scripture says, "Lord of War is His Name." That's my God. The One who fights for His Glory and yet sent His only Son to take on my sin of pride, lust, shame & guilt and be nailed to a cross with spikes and a crown of thorns... He loves me. I don't always feel it, or see it, but I am, gosh darn it, choosing to believe it.

"Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-- more than that, who was raised-- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Romans 8:33-35