Monday, October 29, 2012

The Glory Of God

            I have been very challenged lately by the thought that everything we do should give glory to God. Everything meaning…everything. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says:

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

            God cares about something as insignificant as eating giving glory to Him? Wow. That should tell us something.
            This verse has been on my mind a lot the last couple weeks. And several times, I’ve found myself asking, What does this do to give glory to God? For someone who wants her life to glorify Christ, it’s been surprising to see how little my life glorifies Him.
            Some people might say, “It’s impossible for everything you do to glorify God”, but I don’t believe that’s true. God doesn’t ask the impossible of us. Actually, let me rephrase that: God may ask the humanly impossible of us, but He promises to give us the strength to do the impossible if we ask Him.
            If we ask him. That’s the key. So often, we don’t ask God for things, because we somehow think we can do it on our own, or that God is bothered with our requests. Which is completely ridiculous. God plainly tells us that it gives Him pleasure to give us what we ask of Him, if it is a truly good thing. So by not asking, we are actually withholding pleasure from Him.
            Some might also say that, since God asks the impossible of us, that we shouldn’t take the words literally. But considering what I just said above, we can throw that idea out the window. It brings God pleasure to give us what we ask for, so it would be illogical to assume that His words aren’t literal just because the command is humanly impossible to carry out. Also, we should know God well enough to know that when He says something, He means it. God’s not playing word games, or offering a suggestion. This verse is a command – do all to the glory of God. I believe that we need to take this seriously.
            And it is hard. It’s hard to go against your fleshly desires. But if we truly want to glorify God with how we live, and live totally for Him, then we must kill off our sinful flesh.
What would it look like if we lived exegetically? If we put aside our culture, our traditions, our preferences, and just went to the scripture to see what God says. What would our lives look like? Radically different, to be sure.
And yet, this is how we are called to live. This shouldn’t sound strange or radical; it should be how we live. God says that if we love Him, then we will obey His commandments.
Are we doing that?

A Walk Through Nature

          I went on a walk this morning. I couldn't resist the draw of the sun shining through the clouds, light reflecting off drops of dew, trees boasting yellow leaves. I took my camera with me, and I thought I would share a little bit of the beauty I experienced with you. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Writing + Insanity = NaNoWriMo

            A few weeks ago, I said I would tell you guys about NaNoWriMo. Well, here is the promised explanation.
            NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s run by OLL (Office of Letters and Light) and takes place every November (there is also a special NaNoWriMo called Camp NaNoWriMo that takes place in June and August for those who are unable participate in November).
            NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. That may or may not sound hard, but let me assure you, it’s hard. You need to average 1,700 words a day to make that goal. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears are shed in the process (the blood is from rubbing your wrist raw on the edge of your keyboard).
            But it’s so much fun. Thousands of people do NaNoWriMo (last year, there were 300,000+ folks participating, from all over the world), so you’re not alone in you writerly struggles. On your personal page, there is a graph of statistics, showing your progress, your average, and when you’ll finish if you maintain that average. You also have a place for a personal bio, and an excerpt from your novel (this year, you can also show your book cover, which I’m super excited about).
            You can update your word count as often as you want. There is a status below your profile that says how many words you’re at. Once you attain 50K, that status changes to “Winner”. Yay! 
            As far as I know, there isn’t usually a prize for NaNoWriMo (aside from a cool looking certificate saying you won). I think that some years they don’t do prizes, and some years they surprise you. That’s what happened last year. In early December, I got a message on my NaNo saying that I received a coupon for CreateSpace (a self-publishing company run by Amazon) that would pay for five copies of my book. So because I completed NaNoWriMo, I got five free copies of my book! It was so awesome.
            So that’s NaNoWriMo in a nutshell. I am about to embark on this crazy journey once again, in just six days. I’m so excited! Thirty days of writing insanity – of ridiculously late nights, typing, backspacing, key-board pounding, laughing, crying, schedule-cramming, and best of all…
            Thirty days spent writing my book and getting to know my wonderful characters. ::sighs:: Oh the bliss.
            If that doesn’t make you want to do NaNoWriMo, I don’t know what will. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You Love Me Anyway

            My self-esteem as been at an all-time low these past five months. I’ve been angry with myself, frustrated with my failures, missing Josh, and just overall depressed. Not very fun.
            And I just can’t understand why people like me. That probably sounds really stupid, but it’s true. People tell me they love me, and I’m like, You love me? I can’t find anything in myself that’s even likable, much less lovable. People tell me I’m beautiful, and I go look in the mirror and try to find what they see. Still haven’t found it.
            We look at ourselves differently then other people look at us. When I look at myself, I see everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Other people only see what I show – which usually isn’t the bad or ugly (and any good I have isn't my own - it's God's). There are some people to whom I’ve been able to share most everything (awesome ones, you know who you are. I LOVE YOU!!).
            While musing over the words above, another thought popped into my head.
            God loves me.
            God loves me – even though he sees all the filth, all the sin, all the ugliness in my life…He still loves me. Wholly and unconditionally. He died – suffered the most brutal form of death - for me. Just the thought of it shakes me.
            Here’s an excerpt from a journal entry written on March 4th.

We had church communion today. And as I sat there, staring at the cup of grape juice, I could see Jesus – the whip lashing across his back, renting open his flesh. The blood spilling out. And as we started singing the last song, I just started crying. Tears ran down my face. Suddenly, the enormity of what He had done just dropped on me. He did it for ME. Why? WHY?! Why God? Why did you choose me? I’m absolutely nothing… I don’t understand…

            And I don’t understand this passionate, infinite love. And I never can, because I am a finite being. But when we accept and embrace God’s gift… He shares that love with us. He loves us, and gives us the power to love others. It’s such a beautiful thing.
            I would like you to go listen to this song. It’s really amazing, and encompasses what I've just written.

In closing, I would like to say that I am so thankful for all the people who love me for who I am. I know I’m not perfect, I know I make mistakes, and I know that sometimes I’ll let you down. But your love means so much to me. Thank you for all that you have invested in my life.
And thank you for telling me I’m beautiful. Because I am.
I am broken and beautiful.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Depth of A Reflection

            Grey clouds blanketed the sky. Darker clouds loomed ahead, warning of impending rain. Thunder rumbled faintly in the distance.
            A dirt road wound its way through the countryside. Trees lined either side of the well-worn path, offering shelter should it be needed. Autumn had worked its wonders, and the trees were now boasting bright orange and crimson leaves.
Although charmingly placed, this road was not used often; there were many potholes, which made the road unpleasant and impractical for travel. It would have made a wonderful Lovers Lane, but for the potholes. They resulted in many a twisted ankle, and so the road became deserted.
            Well, almost deserted. Ever and anon, a young person would wander down this path, seeking refuge in its quiet. For although this road was not good for walking, it was good for sorting one’s thoughts.
            On this cool autumn evening, a young girl - about sixteen - was walking down this road, deep in thought. She stared vacantly ahead as the question that had been torturing her for years presented itself again.
            Who am I?
            Her steps slowed, and she came to a standstill. Who am I? She longed to know the answer. All her life, she had been a nobody. She’d lived in the shadows, alone and unnoticed. There wasn’t anything about her to make her stand out. Her features were ordinary and she wasn’t good at conversation. No special talent had evinced itself in her life. She was just…normal.
            Thunder again rolled across the sky, breaking open the clouds. Rain came down in torrents, soaking the ground in moments. The girl remained where she was, unmoved by the rain.
            What was it like to be loved? Accepted? All she had ever known was the rejection of the world. What did I do wrong? She had wondered, time and again. Had she committed some terrible deed? All I want is for someone to accept me for who I am. Is that so much to ask?
            She continued walking, and almost immediately stepped into a large rut full of water. Stepping back, she bent and looked at her reflection in the murky water. She gasped with horror at what she saw.
            In the reflection of her face, she could clearly see every sinful thought she’d ever had. Her face itself remained immobile, but the images, her thoughts, raced by like a movie. She grimaced and looked away, ashamed and appalled by what she saw.
            Surely…surely people don’t see that when they look at me. She ran further down the road and looked into another, smaller puddle. A chill swept over her.
            Blood ran down her arms. Blood from the wounds she’d inflicted on herself. She could see every cut. The sight of her opened scars made her sick.
            Do people really see that? Do they know what I’ve done? She hurried to another puddle and hesitated, afraid of what she might see. Tentatively, she peered into the muddy water.
            Her face was…hideous. Grotesquely misshapen, smeared with mud. Her hair was knotted and caked with dirt. Never had she seen anything so ugly.
            With a sob, she turned and ran. Ran from who she was. She constantly stumbled in potholes, getting covered in mud. A couple times, she glanced down at puddles as she ran past. They contained more images of her life; of her sins. Tears streamed down her face as words rang in her mind…
            This is who I am. This is why no one loves me. I’m dirty, ugly, perverse... I am despicable.
            Her legs gave way beneath her, and she landed in a crumpled pile on the side of the road. Sobs wracked her body. She hardly even felt the rain pelting her prone figure. All she could do was think…and remember…all the evil things she had said and done. They pressed on her spirit like a weight, dragging her down.
            Dizzily, she raised her head. There was a puddle right in front of her, at the base of a tree. Only…this one was different. Was it just the mud…? She reached out and dipped a finger in the dark liquid. No – it was blood. Thick blood, a richer crimson then she’d ever seen. Curious, and somewhat apprehensive, she looked into the pool of blood.
            Her face stared back at her, completely normal. And yet…there was something different. Her eyes. They held peace; they shone with a contentment that she’d never felt before. Her whole face was transformed by it.
            The rain slowed, as did her pounding heart. She gazed at her reflection, longing for that peaceful face to be hers. Dared she hope? Her eyes ran up the length of the tree that the puddle lay beside. She stared at it, warmth suddenly flooding her cold and hungry soul.
            It was a cross. Tall, cruel, roughly hewn, and yet so beautiful. She remembered the Man who had carried that cross…remembered the gift He offered. Could it really be? Could it be that He was truly willing to take all her sins upon Himself? No. She looked down. Why would He? No one has ever cared about me before.
             She looked into the blood again. There it was; that peace. Contentment. Behind her reflection, she could catch a glimpse of something else. Someone else. A kind, loving face, with eyes immeasurably deep. Inviting; calling to her. She found herself drawn to Him.
            Oh, God…do You really love me? Are You serious? Quiet began to settle on her. She scooted over and leaned her head against the cross, still gazing at His face. I’m willing, God. Whatever You want… Just let me feel like this forever. Love me.
            A tear stole down her cheek. Now, as she sat looking at her reflection, she knew that this was her true appearance. All the other puddles…they were the past. All their ugliness, He had taken upon His shoulders. She no longer had to bear there weight.
            This was what it felt like to be free.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

When They Look At Me

            I love people. I love watching them and wondering what their story is. Perhaps that’s the writer-side coming out of me, but people are so interesting and diverse, that I can’t help but feel drawn to them. When I watch them, I wonder, Why does she wear those kinds of clothes? Or, Why does he look so sad? Or, What attracted her to that kind of man? Or, Why didn’t he look in the mirror this morning?
A few months ago, a friend and I sat downtown and made up stories about each of the people who walked by our bench. It was so fun. I could seriously do that all day.
            But what about their real stories? The other afternoon, while at the store, I realized that, just by seeing people, we can learn so much about them. I heard a toddler cough, and knew that she had a cold. I saw a mother scold her little girl for running off, and I knew from her tone that she was anxious and tired. I saw an older man put his arm around his wife, and I knew that he loved her.
            And it made me wonder. When people look at me, what do they see? What do they see in the way I speak, move, dress, act, look? Do I look like a regular fifteen-year-old teen? Do I look irritable? Unloving? Careless? Do I look like I’m trying to gain attention? Do I look like everyone else?
            Or do I stand out, because I’m different?
            I’m not saying that we need to be totally absorbed in what other people think of us. That’s vanity. But I do think this is something that we need to be conscious of.
            We are made to reflect the image of Christ. Our sole purpose is to love God and others, and show people the way to Christ. Whenever we step out in public, we are showing people who we are. In the way we act, the way we dress, the way we speak… Everything we do gives the world a glimpse of who we are.
            What do they see?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

To Live Well

Six months ago, my brother Josh wrote a blog post titled To Die Well. He had no idea that he would meet death less than a month later.
In his post, Josh describes what he thinks would be dying well. Allow me to share some of what he wrote:

Will I die in an explosion saving a woman and her child from a car engulfed in flames? Will I throw myself in front of a truck to save a child playing in the street? Will I die protecting my family from an intruder in my home? Will I take a bullet to the head while standing between a sick thug and the woman he intended to rape? Will I give away the last parachute or life ring? The last piece of bread? The last ounce of water? Will I freeze to death having given away my last piece of warm clothing?
Will I sing songs of praise as I am burned alive for refusing to deny the One who endured far worse for me…?

In the next paragraph, Josh goes on to say that he wants to die a martyr. To “die for the overwhelming love of Christ and the honor of bearing His Name and image”. What an amazing death indeed.
But Josh was denied this desire. Instead, he slipped on a mossy rock and drowned in the Rogue River. His death wasn’t anything honorable, anything noteworthy. It was an accident – a misplaced step and a churning river. He wasn’t performing heroics; he didn’t die to save a life. He didn’t die defending his Maker.
He fell into a river.
So why has Josh’s death made such an impact? Why have so many people been changed through the death of this young man?
Because he lived well.
Now remember, I lived with this guy for nearly fifteen years, and believe me, he had his share of faults. But he still strove toward godliness. He struggled to overcome, and now he has. He stands faultless before the throne…just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes.
If Josh knew that he was going to drown in the Rogue River that day, honestly, he probably would have been irritated. What an underwhelming death (to use one of his favorite words). But if he had known how many hundreds of lives would be influenced and change through him, I think he would have been more than glad to die that death.
What I’m getting at, is it’s not about how we die. Dying well means so much more than how we spend the last few moments of our life. To die well, we must live well.
            But what does it mean to live well? To live well, we must die to ourselves and our desires. We need to surrender everything to God and trust in Him wholly. Don’t hold anything back. God wants all or nothing.
            We’ve got to get our priorities straight. We need to stop chasing after the things of this world, and re-center our focus on Christ. In the end, nothing in this life matters. Once we begin to understand the greatness and reality of the life to come, we’ll also start to see the transience of this life. We don’t know how much time we have. We could live to a ripe old age, or we could die next week. We don’t know. Don’t risk not giving everything to Christ; it’s not worth it.
            Living well is living for Christ. If we understand and apply this truth, then God will be pleased. And it can be said of us that we died well.

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”
                                                                                                ~James 4:14

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Life At The Present Moment

            A quick, random update on what my life is like right now.

            -I’m very happy that it’s autumn. I love the turning of the leaves, the nip in the air, and just the overall feel of it. It’s about time to unpack my warm pajamas (the house has been about fifty-five to sixty in the mornings. Sooo cold!!).
            -I hate Algebra. With a passion. Oh, glorious day when schoolbooks shall be forever put away! (that was not supposed to rhyme. Ha! I’m a poet and I didn’t know it ::pauses:: Yeah…I didn’t laugh either).
-I’ve been reading a lot lately. So far, I’ve read thirty-six books this year (an all-time low for me). In the last few weeks, I’ve read The Help, Pride & Prejudice, and I’m working on The Moonstone (it’s a great book so far). I’m also working on reading through the whole Bible. I only have a book and a half to go!
            -SUPER excited about NaNoWriMo starting!! (if you don’t know what that is, Google it, or just wait a couple of weeks. I’ll definitely be writing about it).
-My feet have been very cold, compelling me to wear socks – which is annoying, ‘cause I like being barefoot. ::sigh:: Oh, the trials one must endure…
-I’ve been having fun singing, even though I sound awful. But sometimes, the passion-filled words of Taylor Swift just cannot be repressed (actually, I don’t sing Taylor Swift very often…first popular artist that came to mind :P).
-I really wish there was a Dutch Bros. in Rogue River ::sigh::.
-I love the smell of Old Spice. After Hours rocks!!
-I got a kitten last Sunday. His name is Fitzwilliam Darcy. I love him to death, but he’s needier than an infant! I have to let him sleep with me to get him to shut up at night. But he’s a sweetie, and I love him to death. J
-Had a dream the other night that two of my friends and I were in District 12.
-I really need new jeans…mine are about to wear through in multiple places.
-I just finished a series of Francis Chan sermons on the book of Haggai. Very convicting.
-I think I sprained my toe. :\ It hurts rather much.
-I would loooooove some ice cream right now.
-You probably don’t care about any of this. Too bad. ;)
-I’ve been having spontaneous bursts of inspiration lately. I’ve thought of several different ideas for funny videos, and have a rough idea for a new book. Happy day!
-My new favorite word: Ooo-rah. Actually, it’s not very new, and it’s not my favorite. But it’s still pretty cool.
-I love captions. ::smiles:: Just sayin’.
-I’m really tired. I believe I am going to retire…Thank you for listening to my late-night ramblings. ::yawns:: Farewell!
October 4th, 10:55 P.M.