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.