Yesterday, I woke up before 6 am without the assistance of an alarm or any type of discomfort. Instead, my body decided it was rested, and so my day began. I did my daily workout, sat down with my journal, colored pens, and bible, and found that we had orange juice in the fridge (which we never do). At 8, I headed over to my neighbors’ house to begin my long day of babysitting. When I walked in, I was surprised to find that the kids were still asleep. I had a bowl of Kashi cereal and then walked into each of their rooms to wake them up. When I opened Derek’s door, I found him hugging a pillow while sunlight spilled over his face. I couldn’t wake him up; he was too adorable. After some probing, Stacey woke up and poured herself a bowl of cereal in the cheeriest mood I’ve ever seen. Derek came out of his room too and curled up on the couch with me. After breakfast, I took some old 2 liter bottles and cut them in half. I secured a hand towel to the opening on the bottom with a rubber band and then filled two bowls with diluted dish soap. They dipped them in and blew monster bubbles which they then chased around the yard. They were exclaiming, “it’s snowing in july!” and my heart was already exploding with joy. This kept them entertained for almost an hour, after which they decided it was going to be a craft day. We headed over to my house to find random paints, papers, and cardboard. They sat next to me at my computer while we looked through some different craft ideas, and then we headed back to their house. We made homemade rainbow popsicles which were fun to eat, but even more fun to make. A few hours later, we sat outside licking our popsicles and then hopped into their pool. Derek swam for the VERY FIRST TIME without his floaties, and a huge smile never left his face–except when he was really focused on not drowning, which was a lot of the time.

It was a perfect day.

 

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Idols. Functional saviors. Gods “on potty break”. Idols are the core of all sin. Every sin we commit is rooted in idoltry. Even believers who appear to be doing everything right struggle with idoltry. When we gossip, steal, or lie, there is some idol–some motivation for our actions–that persuades us to do so. We want to please our friends, our parents, ourselves, etc. Not spending sufficient time reading God’s word? Not talking to God enough? Not giving money? Not serving or giving your time? Time and money are spent on what we value most, and often times, this is not our Creator. What do you think about when you get dressed in the morning? What do you think about when you are driving to work/ school?

I was babysitting three beautiful kids on Friday, and the topic of heaven came up. The kids wanted to know why I was reading my Bible. They wanted to know more about Jesus (they had heard some of the basics) but more than anything, they wanted me to describe heaven. I flipped my Bible open to Revelation 21 and started reading, but the kids were quickly distracted.
“Will my mom be in heaven?” Megan asked me.
“If she believes in Jesus and asked Him into her heart, then yes, she’ll be in heaven.” I replied, unsure of how this conversation would progress.
“But, we’ll get to live with mom and dad, right!?” Megan looked at me fearfully.
“I… I don’t know. But you won’t be sad! You’ll get to be with God and with Jesus, and They are EVERYTHING that you will ever want!” I knew that this truth would go over her head. It’s something that I fight to understand everyday.
“Will there be stwangers in heaven?” Joseph, the youngest boy, asked me. “Will there be stwangers and wobbers?”
“Only people who believe in Jesus will be in heaven, so nobody will ever hurt you or steal from you.”
“… so, no wobbers!?” Joseph lit up and began pumping his fists in the air. “I’M GOING TO HEAVEN, AND THE BEST PART IS, THERE WON’T BE ANY STWANGERS OR WOBBERS!”
I smiled. This conversation seemed innocent enough in the moment, but then the older boy spoke up.
“You said the streets would be made of gold, right? And there will be jasper? Is jasper expensive?”
“Well, I…” I began to respond, but he interrupted.
“So I’ll be rich in heaven? I can buy anything I want, any time I want? That’s AWESOME!”
“Well, you…” I started, but Megan joined in.
“I’m going to get a laptop! And I’ll buy everything I want! I want to go to heaven right now! Well, as long as mom and dad are there with us”
“No, you…”
“AND GUYS, GUYS, THERE WON’T BE ANY STWANGERS! YEAAAA!”

It was a cute conversation. It was unashamed excitement about heaven, but for all the wrong reasons. Within 5 minutes of accepting Christ as their personal savior, these kids had already turned from what mattered. I don’t think they can really understand what it means to be excited for heaven simply to know God. I struggle to love God simply for who He is and not for the “perks”. And God gives us gifts that we are invited to love and enjoy, but we so often place these things above Him. Hearing these three innocent kids be so vocal about what mattered to them, Megan–family, Joseph–safety, and Christofer–money, broke my heart. It broke my heart because I could relate. It broke my heart because I know God’s promises and love so much more intimately, but I still struggle with something so fundamental.
It broke my heart because I know that it breaks God’s.

I was tidying up my room today when a small flurry of excitement rushed through me. I realized that it was Sunday, which means that tomorrow morning, a garbage truck will stop in front of my house and pick up the bags of waste that I removed from my room. This might seem like a really stupid thing to be excited about, but I must have forgotten to take out the trash last week, and I hate when my trash can is full. Then a thought hit me: God picks up the trash whenever we want. We don’t have to wait until Monday morning to get rid of all the old tissues and crumpled Honey ‘N Oats wrappers. I can ask for forgiveness at 4 am on a Tuesday night, and God will come and take the trash out of my life. I don’t have to let the waste sit there for a while, cluttering my heart and spreading germs, but instead, I can go to God at any time and be entirely refreshed, renewed, and awakened.

This is nothing new or especially profound, but I am so thankful for a God who is there for me ALL THE TIME, no matter what. I’m glad He doesn’t just fit me into His schedule (like I so often do to Him). And above all, I am unspeakably thankful that He is willing to take out the trash for me. If He hadn’t given up His life, I would be forced to let all of my sins, shame, guilt, and sorrows simply fester in my heart. I am nothing without Him. I am NOTHING without His sacrifice. I am nothing without His grace, mercy, and love. I can run into His open arms at anytime and He’ll remove the trash and squeeze my heart to beat with His. Incredible.

Can a psychopath, who is immune to emotion, feel the Holy Spirit move in them? Can a psychopath be saved if they have no sense of right or wrong, consequences, or fear? These are the thoughts that find their way into my brain and take long strolls between my ears for hours at a time. I’m saying this with great ignorance and insensitivity, but can a psychopath, while they are in a state of psychopathy, really honor God?

I have too many things on my mind right now. I have been filling my brain with books, songs, and scripture, and any ability I may have possessed to organize my thoughts is now completely gone.

So instead of over-analyzing, dissecting, and resolving the thoughts that are currently milling around my noggin, I’ve decided to just list some of the provocative ideas and let you munch on them as well.

The Spirit vs. the Kick Drum by Derek Webb
[just watch it and pay attention to the lyrics]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qe5VXedwoZU

Allowing somebody, one mere person, to believe that he or she is the vessel, the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche. It’s like asking someone to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos and it creates all these unmanagable expectations about performance. I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years” (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love).
^^If you look at that concept through the filter of taking credit for the work of the Spirit instead of creating art, then maybe  your thoughts will go down the same path that mine did. Or maybe not…

ChristianAudio is giving away the book “Stuff Christians Like” by Jonathan Acuff for free right now, and I listened to the whole thing in 2 days then went and bought it in print because I liked it so much. You should listen to it. I laughed out loud a couple times, and silently chuckled about a million times.
http://christianaudio.com/free

The book “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. I’m just starting it. I’m loving it already.

The other two things that are dominating my thoughts right now simply go beyond what a short summary can hold. I’ll list them, but there will definitely be posts to come that will expand upon these layered ideas. First, as a bride of Christ, I am essentially an unfaithful whore. That makes me feel disgusting and ashamed, but that’s kind of the point. Christ still opens His arms to me and forgives me. He reminds me that He’s all I need, and still I run with lust toward things of this world. Gross. Second, life is a lot like a road trip where we are in full control of the car, but fairly unaware of our surroundings. I’ll leave it at that, haha.

I’ll be in Kentucky all next week serving on a team of about thirty-five high school students and staff. See what we’re up to each day at kentucky.blogspot.com!
<<——- Or just click that link.

All of my college admission decisions came in today.

I pray so often for God to break me and humble me. This past week, I have begged God to wreck my world. I want Him to destroy the things that distract me from His perfection and glory.
I came to a realization as I was praying. If I really let God take over my life, to break me and humble me, then I need to completely let go of my college plans and my desire to end up at some ivy league school.
Because honestly, ambition and success are my weaknesses. It’s not money that I’m after, but achievement. It pulls my attention from Christ. It pushes me to be selfish and arrogant. And so, why would I long to go to an ivy league college?
The colleges that I wanted to attend were the exact places where my greatest weakness would be viewed as my greatest strength by everyone around me.
And so, after a full day of asking God to speak clearly to me, I receieved college decisions, and I didn’t get accepted to any of the places that I had originally hoped for. But, I am ecstatic because now I will be going to U of M and I’ll be close to HPBC. I can graduate in three years, and I’ll be surrounded by friends and SCS alum that will keep me accountable.
I often wish that all temptations could be pulled away from me, and while my own ambition and drive will always be a temptation, I can praise God because He took away the temptation of a pretentious school that I am not mature enough yet to handle. I would constantly be pressured to be the best, and I naturally feel defined by my accomplishments instead of finding pure joy in the fact that I am NOTHING and God still gave everything for me.
I was accepted to UMich, UChicago, and waitlisted to Johns Hopkins.
We serve an incredible God, and I honestly couldn’t be more excited right now that I don’t even have to struggle with decisions about next year. God is so great, and I stand speechless in His grace and mercy.

For a while now, I’ve had a strong desire to pick up people at bus stops or on the side of the road and offer them a ride. This little goal of mine has always been met with negative feedback due to the obvious danger it presents, but it something that I fantasize about nonetheless. It seems like such a great opportunity to talk with a stranger and show love in a very tangible way. Being a teenage girl, however, this isn’t the wisest of things to do.

Last night, I was finally faced with the chance to cross this goal off my bucket list. I was with three guys with whom I had just led worship at a church in Detroit, and we decided to go grab a bite to eat at TacoBell before heading home. We went in, and another man stepped in the doors after we had all sat down. He took his food to go and walked out the door. About fifteen minutes later, our group finished, threw away our trash, and decided to head back to our church to put away some equipment. When we stepped outside, the man whom we had seen some time earlier was standing in the parking lot looking frazzled. Apparently, he had borrowed a friend’s truck and it had randomly broken down. He asked for a ride, and I leaped at the opportunity.

After moving random chord sheets, a stack of worship CDs, my SCS sweatshirt, and a pair of boots to my trunk, I let the man into my car and had Ian, one of the guys that was with me, jump into the backseat. With my keyboard taking up the majority of the space in my small Scion, the man had to pull his knees towards him to fit into the passanger seat. He smelled like smoke, talked with a weird accent, and swore a bit, but I was SO excited to be helping him. He talked about his day, complaining that his phone had died, his car wasn’t working, and then his friend’s car broke down. He insisted on paying me $40 for driving him. I tried repeatedly to make him keep his money, but he just stuck it in the port on my dashboard and told me to give it to “God”. I played the Passion 2010 album the whole time we were driving, and I turned it up when we had a break in conversation. I don’t know that he listened. I don’t think he cared all that much. I would do it again regardless.

I often over analyze things, and I think differently than many people. Whenever I meet a new person, I immediately wonder how they think, what hardships they might be enduring, and what encounters they’ve had with God. It’s crazy that God designed every aspect of them and is trying to reach them at that very moment. It’s even crazier that, as a follower of Christ, I am called to be a tangible representation of Him. In our every interaction, we either build people up or tear them down. We are given a chance to breathe life into individuals around us with simple words and acts. I don’t often put myself out there. I am too insecure, selfish, arrogant, or just plain lazy. We are called to act though. We are called to live out our faith. We are called to live radically for Christ.

Instead of having a bucket list that features things like “own a motorcycle”, “go skydiving”, and “raise a puppy that dominates at agility competitions” (Yes, those are all on my unwritten bucket list…), shouldn’t my one goal be to surrender everything to Christ? I’ll still always have those little goals that I dream about. I’ll still be thrilled when I finally own an australian shepherd and I train it to be incredible at agility and fly ball. However, the goal of loving Christ the way He has called me to love Him should be my highest priority. It is a life-long journey. I find things in my life everyday that I realize I need to change. There are so many areas where I need to practice submission, discipline, and patience. It’s interesting that the more I try to give up to God, the more freedom I actually find. I find liberty and joy by surrendering my control. If I wanted to have the most exciting life possible, then my bucket list should simply say, “surrender every single thing to God.”

Driving home a couple of days ago, I had the Hillsong album ‘This is Our God’ blasting through my speakers. Desert Song came on and I was struck by one of the lines. I have spent a lot of time dissecting this song and finding scriptural references for the things it says, but I had always passed over this particular phrase.

“And this is my prayer in the battle/ when triumph is still on its way./ I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ/ so firm on His promise I’ll stand”

As I chewed on the thought of being a conqueror for Christ, an odd image filled my mind that left me feeling simultaneously convicted and excited. I am conceptually aware that there is a spiritual war being fought, but I don’t respond to this fact in the way that I should. The way I see it, I am a soldier on the battlefield surrounded by warriors in white in black. As both sides are fighting, I am often very neutral about whose side I am on. Dressed in a neutral hue of gray, I stand dazed on the field. In my right hand, I hold a white flag high above my head, but in my left hand, I cling to a small black flag of which I cannot seem to let go. In some selfish, arrogant way, I think that both teams are fighting over me. I waste so much time being unsure of which side I should fight for that I don’t notice my own teamates being captured around me. I don’t run after the people clothed in gray who are being slaughtered and torn apart by the soldiers clothed in hopeless black. I watch them die because I am too fascinated with my little black flag to drop it and fight. I watch my own friends throw down their white flags, but because of my own fear of getting hurt in the battle, I simply stand and watch.

How can I be so focused on stupid idols, my little black flag, that I don’t even flinch when I see my own friends getting attacked in battle? How can I be so lazy that I don’t run and stand by their side? How can I care so much for my own comfort and image that I am willing to watch people with no teammates by their side walk straight into a sea of black, and not even bother to run over and stretch out my hand to help pull them out!? Even worse, how can I hold up both flags at the same time and try to fight? When I engage in a conversation that is centered around gossip, aren’t I running onto the field with a black flag held high? Aren’t I pulling my teammates down with me? I am such a useless warrior when I can’t even commit to one team!

However, the conviction I felt as these thoughts swept over me with painful clarity was immediately followed by a sense of irrepressible joy. I already know who wins the battle! When I focus solely on Christ, he can grant me the strenth to run on the battlefield with His name held high, and I can be conqueror for Him. I am running into war knowing that my team has already won. Not a single thing out there can hurt me. Not one bullet can puncture my armor. Not one swift swipe of a sword (alliteration… ahhh) can possibly bring me down. So, why would I ever consider standing on the field with two flags and an unsure expression? I want to be a selfless warrior who fights with joy for the Father that loves me and offers me protection and redemption. I want to be a true conqueror in Christ.

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
      we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

If I am a conqueror, what have I to fear?

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b)

I love the game Team Fortress 2. I go through phases where I play it for hours a day. The purpose of the game varis depending on which server you join, but for the sake of a soon-to-be-mentioned analogy, let’s say that I am playing Capture the Flag.

When I join a CtF server, I am immediately informed of the objective of the game. I am told that I need to break into the opposing team’s castle to steal their “intelligence” and return it to my base. I must work with the other players on my team to achieve this goal, and we will all be awarded with points if we succeed. I click on a door to join a team, either Red or Blue. After just a few minutes of playing, one thing is made quite evident: not everyone on my team has the same objective. Through my Logitech speakers, I can hear the obnoxious obscenity of a 12 year old boy who thinks he’s cooler if he runs around insulting “noobs” and objectifying women. He does not care about winning; he feels as though he’s won every time he gets a laugh. Then there are the snipers. Oh, the snipers. They accomplish nothing for the team other than killing opposing snipers. Honestly, all of them could be removed from the game, and the rounds would play out quite similarly. The snipers’ only goal is to get lots of kills. They don’t care about the intelligence. They feel as though they’ve won every time they look through the scope and click a millisecond faster than their opponent. (Don’t get me wrong, the sniper is one of my favorite characters to play in TF2!!) Also, there are hackers. They find their way into impossible places and just stay there to show off their hacking skills. They feel as though they’ve won every time someone asks them how they got there, but they aren’t getting the team any closer to the intelligence. Lastly, there are the achievement-seekers. They kill mindlessly just to try to get achievements. They don’t care about capturing the flag unless that is a required aspect of an achievement they are trying to get. They feel like they’ve won every time a trophy appears above their head announcing that they are the proud recipient of yet, another achievement. The truth is, though, they aren’t winning.

I’m not sure how far I can stretch this analogy, but bear with me nonetheless. As believers, followers, and mimickers of Christ, we are called to live and think in a spiritual realm while surrounded by a physical world. Earth is not where we belong, and in some incomprehensible way, it is not as real or as important as the world that we can’t see. It’s almost as if it is a video game in which we control a character. The goals of this game are somewhat unclear if we don’t know who to believe. We hear advice from our friends, family, televisions, billboards, teachers, and all outlets of media and advertising. We are told to work hard, make money, find people who accept us, gain fame, earn respect, maintain power, get/give love, etc. We are all trying to figure out how to “win” at the game of life–to find what brings us joy and fulfillment.

If we love God, then we acknowledge that He brings us more joy than anything else. If I love God, then money loses its appeal. If I love God, then all of the things that are tempting to pursue in the game of life would become meaningless. If I really do love God more than anything else, then I could lose my home, my mind, my friends, my family, and every penny in my bank (which is not many) and still be satisfied because the ONE PERFECT THING remains. He always will be there. If I love God, then I would sing about Him all the time. I would declare His truths to the world, even if it meant that I was regarded as gullible or crazy. If I love God, then I’m guaranteed to “win” at life because He’s already given His love to me. So often, however, I try to gain achievements and snipe random players, neither of which are drawing me any closer to succeeding. Even though I know exactly what the objective is in this life—to seek and love God with everything I am—I often get caught up in the game. But if I love and worship God, then I have to commit to having Him as my number one priority above everything else.

“Worship is simply about value. The simplest definition I can give is this: Worship is our response to what we value most. That’s why worship is that thing we all do. It’s what we’re all about on any given day. Because worship is about saying, “This person, this thing, this experience (this whatever) is what matters most to me…it’s the thing I put first in my life.”… As a result, worship determines our actions, becoming the driving force for all we do” (Louie Giglio, WIRED for a Life of Worship).

So here’s the challenge I’m facing. If I love God, then every single thing I do on Earth should be to glorify Him. If I TRULY love God, then it won’t just be my ideas and intentions that put Him first, but it will be every single thing I say and do. I will seek to lose all desires for things that I know won’t last. I’ll eventually log off of Team Fortress 2, and when I’m playing the game, that thought is always in my mind. We’ll all be “logging off” of life soon (in the great expanse of eternity, our years on Earth are so little…) and everything we do here to gain extra points or kills or respect (analogously speaking, of course) will have NO VALUE FOR US IN THE END.

There is a quote that I think acts as a great source of conviction and awakening as to what I actually pursue in life. I feel like I often love God for His “stuff” instead of being madly in love with HIM alone.  I heard a sermon on it at my old church a few months ago, and then I came across it again in the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It is a quote by John Piper in his book God is the Gospel, and it forced me to consider what I am truly pursuing, what I truly worship.

“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”

So if I love God, then everything changes. I don’t ever need to be disappointed or feel empty because a life seeking after our perfect, righteous, beautiful, creative, glorified King is the most fulfilling life I could ever consider.

Random Thoughts, Organized