Blessings and Comparisons

Okay, so all y’all should be used to my extremely sporadic posting by now. Sorry, but I don’t think that’s gonna change. But! I’m back with another post.

I  don’t know about you, but for a long time I’ve struggled with comparing myself to other Christians. There’s one group of girls in particular at my home church that I’ve struggled with comparisons. There’s three of them, two years ahead of me in school, and for so long I’ve looked at them and felt inferior. “They’re better Christians than me, better people than me. Look at how outgoing she is. Look at how people depend on her. Look at how nice and calm she is. Look at how popular she is.” We all know the tune, right? Someone who’s better at whatever we’re weak at. Well, I have a secret for you – most of the time, a weakness is just a strength taken too far.

For example. I am NOT a social person. I’ve gotten a LOT better since being at this residential high school, but I’ve always been the girl who sits outside the flow. I’m the one who is always alone, or if not, I’m certainly never part of a group. I’m the one always picked last in gym (still true, although I was picked not last a couple of weeks ago!), always the last to be chosen for group projects, and always sitting by herself for anything and everything if I could help it. And pushing people away when they tried to include me. I’ve always been scared of people, for no reason. For those who don’t know, I take after my dad a lot. I can’t say he’s ever been scared of people – I suspect maybe not – but he shared his introverted personality with me (I’m just more introverted). However, if you walked into our church and started talking with him, you’d never believe it. He seeks out people to talk to. He asks them how their day is going, how they are and how they feel. And they tell him. So many people tell him what is honestly going on because they know he cares. He makes sure they know. Now, this goes back to intentionality – I’ve written a lot about this, so go check out my other posts – but I think it would be fair to say that this is one of his strengths. He sees people, and not just the people in plain view. He sees the people who are hiding away, as well. I’m not as good at conversing with people (duh). But I know that I want to get to that point. I don’t have to be outgoing, just intentional. Because one day, I want to turn my weakness – how introverted I am – into a strength that allows me to see everyone, care with intentionality, and be a steady force and a steady person because these are skills I’ve had to learn.

On a similar note, one of many outgoing people’s weaknesses is seeing everyone and choosing to interact with everyone. This may seem counter-intuitive, but being on the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve seen it in action. Outgoing people are so energetic, and they flit from person to person. While this means they do talk with a lot of people, often times they don’t even see the introvert in the corner. As someone who’s been so introverted she’d cry when forced to talk to someone for years, I developed my own little air about me. For some people (*ahem* extroverts), this draws the room’s attention to them. Some of it is because they have no problem talking and making noise, but some of it is because they just have this air that attracts attention. I, on the other hand, developed (fostered?) the exact opposite – an air that makes me invisible in many situations. I can be standing right by someone, off to the side, and they’ll ask “Where’s [my name]?” – or, if it’s someone I need something from, they might not even know I’m there unless I knock on their door or say something. I can be in a line or a crowded room and have people bump into me because my presence didn’t even register with them. This has (sadly) dispersed somewhat as I’ve grown more comfortable with people, but it still happens sometimes. And these are the people the extrovert does not see. They are so busy talking to everyone and moving on to the next person or activity or place, that they don’t see the people standing off to the side watching them and everyone else in the room. If they approach, they carry on a brief conversation and forget to come back once they’ve moved on. They don’t check to see if they need help, and even among their friends they are often so ready to move on that they miss when something is wrong and they need to slow down. As an extrovert, that is one of their weaknesses. As an introvert (with exceptions when I’m flustered from trying to socialize), that is one of my strengths. I’ve been that girl in the corner, so I see that girl in the corner.

Well. Back to the main point. Knowing that weaknesses are just strengths taken too far only helps so much, right? I mean, you can see that they have so many strengths, so they must be better at seeing and working on these things than you…not so. Here’s something that I realized recently, and it’s what really prompted me to write this. I am different from them. This seems so obvious, but it isn’t! I am different. I was looking at our personalities – she is more outgoing and I am more introverted, but hah! She sees her friend group and the other major groups, but she isn’t looking around. She sees what is put in front of her, but I look at what isn’t put in front of me! This, by the way is not 100% true – I’m sure she does look around sometimes, and I know that I don’t all the time, but I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that I am better at something. And then I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that our upbringings were different – she with her ultra-involved mother and outgoing personality and childhood friends and clean sun-lit home and desire to try new things and involvement in so much, and me with my introverted but intentional father who made me try new things when I didn’t want to and was willing to help but didn’t necessarily want to lead but could if he had to and my special-needs brother that restricted where we could go and my distinct lack of friends for a long time and my introverted personality and I saw that we were different. I was different from her and she was different from me, so why was I comparing us? Our personalities are different. Our upbringings were and are different. Our parents are different. Our support is different. So, if we are so extremely different, why wouldn’t our strengths and weaknesses and growth be different to?

For the first time, I thought that we each had our own strengths – that her strengths that I saw were not my strengths and they weren’t supposed to be. I wasn’t – I’m NOT – supposed to grow into a carbon copy of her. I’m not supposed to have her strengths, I’m supposed to have my own! If I chase after her strengths, I won’t have time to focus on my own. When God uses me, he doesn’t want her strengths – if he did, he would use her! When God uses me, he wants MY strengths (and sometimes, MY weaknesses). When he uses me, he chose me for a reason. There are things that she can do that I can’t – talking to people, for example. BUT! There are just as many things that I can do that she can’t! And the best part is, I don’t even see all of them yet! I don’t know how I will develop in the future, but I know that I will be different from her (I say her because my ladder of comparison, if you will, went youth group -> group of three girls -> one girl in particular). Even my growth! It’s common knowledge that guys mature slower than girls – it’s why girls sprout up in middle school and guys sprout up in high school. They aren’t worse than girls, they just have different timing. Well, so de we! God’s timing for me, even my timing for me, is going to be different from her timing (ignore the fact that she is two years older than me, please). I’m going to sprout at a different time from her, and she’s going to sprout at a different time from me. And whatever that looks like, that’s okay! If it looks like she socializes better, that’s okay. I can go build up that girl in the corner who’s sad because no one is talking to her. She hangs out in a group, great! I can hang out with people one-on-one. It looks like she sprouted first, that’s fine. I didn’t need to sprout right then, I needed to sprout later. Think about, for example, a rose and a tulip – tulips bloom early in the spring, roses in the summer or fall. Does that mean either flower is better or worse? No! It just means God designed them with different timelines in mind.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but I recently found out about The Bagel Theory (from an email letter from Stephanie May Wilson, who’s letter series she wrote to her single younger self I signed up for, and she heard it from her friend Hanna). Here’s the excerpt that explains this:

“When I was in high school, a musical theater director of mine introduced me to his personal theory I like to call The Bagel Theory.

Hear me out.

All of us musical theater kids, we were all bagels. My friend Chloe was a chocolate chip bagel; My friend Anna was a sesame bagel; I was a blueberry bagel.  You get the idea.  We were all great bagels, but we were each a different kind of bagel.

When auditioning for a certain role, Chloe, Anna, and I could all be up for the same part.  We would all be uniquely great for the role, but at the end of the day, the casting director was looking for a certain type of bagel.  Chloe may get the gig because they were looking for a chocolate chip bagel.  It didn’t mean that Anna or I weren’t amazing bagels. We just weren’t the bagels they were looking for.

Suddenly, getting rejected for a part wasn’t a judgement of our talent or abilities, it was just a reflection of someone else’s preferences.”

These comparisons that I’ve been struggling with are the same thing! In one situation, God might be looking for a sweet bagel, and so he might choose her chocolate chip bagel-ness. That doesn’t mean I’m an inferior bagel. It just means he the sweet bagel was better for the situation than the sour one (I wanna be a cranberry bagel). But, by the same token, sometime later he might want a sour bagel – in which case I would fit the bill better than her. Not because I’m better, but because He needed a cranberry bagel. I could go on and on, but the basic fact is that we’re all different and we all need to be ourselves, because there will always be a task that only we can do or a strength that when needed only we have or even a weakness that is exclusively ours. It would be like comparing a squirrel and a stingray – why would you ever compare them? You don’t judge a stingray on it’s ability to climb trees, or a squirrel on it’s ability to glide smoothly through the water.

She has a group of friends.

I have a best friend who’s so close my whole family calls her my sister/their daughter/their granddaughter.

She’s called upon to lead a lot.

I know how to follow because if I led I’d probably mess up and actually don’t want the job at all.

She’s way ahead of you.

You need to be back further to help out someone else.

She’s smart.

You have a big heart.

She’s confident, but bossy.

You cringe but are careful not to hurt those around you.

In conclusion…sorry this took so long. That’s all, Bye.

 

Pshh! I’m kidding! Kinda. It’s easy to compare ourselves, but we all need to be different. We don’t want to equal up, because if we did we’d lose those specific strengths that we’ll need for where we’ll be. Don’t compare the squirrel to the stingray. It doesn’t work like that. Adios for real this time!

P.S. Go check out Stephanie May Wilson at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/ – she’s an amazing Christian writer who has lots of good stuff to say, and her emails feel like sitting down with a friend over a cup of coffee. Okay, ciao!

Kings and Queens 2

Okey dokey. Obviously, this is the promise continuation of my previous post. Quick review that’ll help with understanding my post today: “The Queen was in charge of the castle. She supported him and offered him wisdom and counsel when he needed it. If the King was away at war, SHE was the one who protected the castle. She was supposed to be just but strict. She raised their children (with help from the maids sometimes). And, perhaps most importantly, she submitted to her husband.”

Let’s translate that into today’s terms. A Queen is in charge of doing her part to keep the home looking good and functioning well. Does this mean a guy isn’t supposed to, say, do the dishes? Fold laundry? Cook? Not at all! But it also means that some days, when he is too tired or too busy, it is the job of the wife to do all of it. Yes, all of it. Sometimes, taking care of the house means doing the taxes or doing manual work. It means you work to keep it running smoothly and your husband will help because he loves you. And even if he doesn’t, ladies you are still responsible for YOUR actions, not his. Support and wisdom. Yep, that falls on the ladies too. Sometimes, your husband will not know what to do. Yeah, he’s supposed to lead the house, but he’s human too. There’ll be times when he feels absolutely overwhelmed. These are the times when the ladies – the Queens –are to speak wisdom into their husbands (or boyfriends – the responsibilities don’t begin when your married) lives. They are to be walking close to God themselves, so that when this happens they can speak God’s wisdom into their lives. Sometimes, this can be as simple as saying “There isn’t anything you can do. Remember that great and powerful God we serve? Yep, gotta leave it up to him.” (Sorry, those of you who like to problem-solve. Good luck). Sometimes it might just mean reminding him that you (or God) love(s) him. Sometimes, this is where you have to be walking close with God so that you can say what God is trying to tell him. Or maybe, if God is being silent, it’s just speaking Godly truth into his life.

Next! Defending the castle. Sometimes, in a kingdom’s history, there were wars. And sometimes this called for the King to go off to war. Sometimes this was to defend his own kingdom, and sometimes someone else’s – yes, boys, you are called to help defend other’s kingdoms as well as your own – but while he was gone, it was up to the Queen to defend the castle in his stead. If all went well, she wouldn’t need to. But as we all know, stuff goes wrong. Life isn’t perfect. And so, even if the Queen didn’t know how to fight (although knowing how to fight was always a bonus), she had to know how to lead. She had to sit in on meetings and participate in them. Where was the castle weakest? What where the enemies troops? Where did her people stand on supplies and manpower? What did they do with the village people? What equipment did both sides have? What was morale like? If they needed something, how could they get it? Maybe there was an unconventional idea that she had to push through. The Queen was in charge of this and so much more. Have you ever noticed that any of the queens you hear of in the distant past you hear of because they did something? Ladies, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that sometimes we  are underestimated. It irritates some of us. But personally, I like it! Let the enemy underestimate me! It’ll make it easier to kick them to the curb. As Queens (or future Queens), we are powerful. We’re not always called to show that power, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The Queens are the ones to defend the castle when the King is away.

The Queen was also supposed to be just, but strict. I’m gonna add some stuff to this: the Queen was supposed to have grace and wisdom as well. Tall order, huh? In reality, the just and strict is usually applied to Kings. But Queens are also supposed to be just, and they do need to know when to draw the line. However, the Queens are ALSO supposed to sometimes give second chances. They are supposed to love. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the bible verse, but the Bible tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. This shows a key difference between guys and gals: guys run on respect. It’s important to them. They need to feel needed. It’s how God wired them. Gals, however, run on love. They need to feel cared for and respected. Not helpless – they aren’t – but cared for and protected. This also means that guys and girls have different strengths and weaknesses. Often, ladies find it easier to express love. They are often quicker to come together in a community for help and support. Guys (to many ladies’ exasperation ;P) have pride (ooooh, I said it). All joking aside, they are less likely to automatically go to someone else and instead often try to figure it out on their own. However, their protective instincts are (or at least should be) off the charts. Personally, I think if the guy isn’t 1) Ready to try and work things out first and 2)Ready to fight in a heartbeat if working things out is impossible, then he probably isn’t ready to be a King. If I ever get married, I want my husband to be the type of man that, if he sees a woman getting harassed or attacked on the street, jumps in ready to do whatever is necessary to protect her. Sometimes, though, that just might mean giving up his pride to avoid bullets flying and potentially hurting someone. And I hope that if I ever get married my husband will be ready to do that too, because priorities. So, to get back on track, Queens are supposed to extend love and grace. However, they are also supposed to know where to draw the line.

Raising the children. In actuality, this is supposed to be a job for both the King and the Queen. They are supposed to raise their children well, in a Godly manner. They are in charge of teaching their children how to be Kings and Queens when they grow up. This includes looking for a King or Queen as their partner when they’re old enough. Teaching patience, wisdom, hope, love…the list goes on and on.  Sometimes, they might need help. Like it or not (usually not), sometimes kids don’t listen to their parents. Sometimes, they just need to hear it from someone else. Here’s the thing. When you’re a King or Queen, you don’t just speak truth into the people right around you. If you aren’t ready to speak truth in unexpected situations with people you may or may not know [well], are you really speaking truth to those around you?

And last (at least for now), Queens are supposed to submit to their husbands. Some ladies might not like this. Don’t take it from me, take it from God. In the bible God sets the husband as head of the house. This means that, yes, the King’s decisions overrule the Queen’s. You can discuss things with him, of course. But if, ultimately, he decides on something else, he is the head of the house. What he says, goes. And now is where, Queens, you want to make sure you are looking for a King and not settling for anything less. If it is a partnership between a King and Queen, both partners will be listening to each other and to the Lord, and often they will come to be on the same page. And here’s something that I think often gets in the way when a Queen has to make the decision to follow her King even when he does something she doesn’t like or doesn’t follow her advise. It’s Faith. Queens are supposed to have faith in their Kings. It’s not comfortable – but then again, is following God comfortable? Marriage is the closest thing we have to the relationship between God and the church. It is supposed to mirror that. And so Queens are supposed to have faith in their husbands. Of course he will make mistakes. He isn’t perfect (surprise, surprise). You make mistakes too, and you are also not perfect. But will yelling at him and getting on his case make anything better? No. When this happens, I can guarantee you he knows that he messed up. You will BOTH benefit more from supporting each other than from tearing each other down.

And of course, your job is not only to look for a King or Queen as a partner. “Why are you waiting to be treated like a Queen when you don’t know how to treat him like a King”. YOUR job, ladies, is not only to look for a King (if he’s a King, he will treat you like a Queen), but to be a Queen. You are ultimately in charge of yourself.

So, I’m thinking of making this a series (possibly featuring a guest King to speak to any guys out there). Let me know what you guys think! I know my thoughts were kind of disjointed both this post and part 1, so I apologize for that. Feel free to offer suggestions or ask questions, too! Thanks for reading!

Queens and Kings

Okay, so I gotta type this quick (I’m in-between classes and I still have to pack to go home). So (some of you will know this from my previous posts) I’m a fan of Jaimie Grace aaaaand…she just released her first new song in three years! Party like a Princess is one of the most repetitive songs I have ever heard, but it’s got an amazing message and beat. Go check it out. Anyway. Here’s how the beginning of the song goes:

When I walked into the party everybody just stopped/Even the DJ wasn’t ready, to see me without/A boy who isn’t ready, to be a king/So tell me why would I be chasing him to be his queen/Don’t you know, who my daddy is/Don’t you know, what my daddy did/Don’t you know, who my daddy is/He paid it all, I’m the belle of this ball, so I’m gonna party like a princess…

This is an idea I came across recently (there’s an app called Sprinkle of Jesus that’ll pop out ‘food for thought’ one or two times a day) that said something along the lines of ‘Why are you waiting for someone to treat you like a Queen unless you know how to treat him like a King’. Ignore the horrible grammar in that sentence for a minute. That idea stuck with me.

Isn’t that an absolutely shocking idea? We are told that the girls should be waiting for someone to treat them like a Queen and not settle for someone who will abuse that. But I also want to suggest this – when society slams girls who are super bossy and overbearing (I’m NOT talking about girls who are just confident in themselves), they are actually slamming them for not being Queens. Because you see, being a Queen is also a responsibility. Think about a Queen of a country (medieval times, not a figurehead like Queen Elizabeth). The Queen was in charge of the castle. She supported him and offered him wisdom and counsel when he needed it. If the King was away at war, SHE was the one who protected the castle. She was supposed to be just but strict. She raised their children (with help from the maids sometimes). And, perhaps most importantly, she submitted to her husband.

I’ll elaborate on this later, in a separate post. But think about that, ladies. Why are you waiting to be treated like a Queen when you don’t know how to treat him like a King?

Continuation

In case you couldn’t tell from the title, this is a short continuation of my previous post.

So I talked about how Jesus hung out with the people who weren’t good enough – the people who would have today’s Christians shaking their heads. Today, I want to apply that to our relationships.

I have a friend. Originally, he is a friend of a friend. And while I’m not super close to him, I would still call him a friend. However, he is gay. And today, I had my roommate (who is not religious) ask about whether or not it was okay for my friend (who is a strong Christian who I admire) to be friends with him. After all, isn’t being gay something the bible tells us not to do (I’d like to point out briefly that the Bible NEVER associates being gay with…well…being. It never refers to it as an identity, only an action)? And yes, it does. And this friend is also “religious” (I only use that term because I’m not entirely sure where he stands in the “religious field”, if you will). I don’t know how he resolves the two, but that’s a discussion for another time. But if Jesus hung out with people like the apostles, what excuse could I possibly give for not hanging out with people we would refer to as “better”? None. The answer is none.

I recently read “The Lipstick Gospel”. And I encourage you to read it as well. But one of the things she talks about is how she thought Christianity was about “old grannies and ugly shoes”…-and how she found out that is isn’t. That it isn’t sterile and clean, but rather messy and dirty. At one point, she used smell references – that she thought Christianity was “boring, plain vanilla” and she was more interested in something “eukelyptic-y” (excuse my spelling). I think that maybe I have been thinking too in line with “boring, plain vanilla”. I was raised in a Christian home, I’ve been a Christian since I was four, and I’m finding out that we are rather conservative. Not that that’s bad – for example, I believe in one-piece bathing suits rather than two pieces, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But sometimes, being raised in a Christian environment, you come to expect the sterile. So meeting the messy – someone who struggles with cursing, or crude jokes, or anger, or anything else – can be a bit of a shock. If you’ve never encountered it before, you might not know how to respond. Or maybe you automatically respond with a judgement about their faith. And by you I mean me. And so we forget that a foundation of Christianity is love and grace. We forget that judgement is not ours to give (James 4:11,12). We forget that God’s love is not sterile and boxed up, but unconditional and without bounds. Something that the writer of “The Lipstick Gospel” wrote struck me: she wrote that “I didn’t even have to give up having sex for God to love me”. She did – because she saw a hint of God’s plan for her life and “wanted in on it”, which is what I believe happens when you’re trying to seek God – but God would love her anyway. Rahab in Joshua 2 comes to mind.

Maybe this thought will be radical for you, but God loves the prostitutes. God loves the drunkards. God loves the unfaithful. God loves the thieves. God loves the criminals. God loves the murderers. God loves the abusers. God loves the rapists. God loves the perverts. God loves everyone. Unconditionally. He loves everyone unconditionally.

Those same people who all too often we hate? The people we look down on? The people we despise? God loves them. Even when what they do makes us sick to our stomachs, He loves them. And we are called to Love them too. Love, with a capital L. Because it isn’t dependent on our feelings, or on them. The love we are supposed to have is supposed to transcend any circumstances, and go straight to the deep, neverending, unconditional love that God has. We are supposed to love like Him.

So to wrap up, just remember. Our faith, as Christians, is not supposed to be sterile. It isn’t supposed to be squeaky clean. It’s supposed to be messy, because we are messy. We are not perfect, so neither should our faith be.

You should read “The Lipstick Gospel”. It’s interesting and has some good thoughts. You can find it at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/lipstickgospeldownload

I’m Not Good Enough

Let me jump right in here. If you’ve read any of my previous posts from months ago, you know that I struggle with masturbation. So this post is largely about some wisdom that was spoken into my life regarding that lately.

I’ve been struggling with masturbation for over a year now. I go through cycles – long period of time with no masturbation, then a short period of time with lots of it. Semi-recently, I’ve come to a spot where many of you may or may not have been – I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough for God’s love. I’m not good enough for His forgiveness, for His grace. I keep sinning! And (if you remember my post about rebellion a ways back, or if you want to go read it) not only do I just keep sinning, I rebel against him. Most of the time when I masturbate any more, I send up a prayer ahead of time apologizing for what I’m about to do. So I keep sinning, and keep rebelling, and then I don’t want to pray. I mean, why would God want to hear from me? I can’t expect him to magically fix it if I’m not willing to put in work as well, and obviously I’m failing in that area. I’m tired of saying sorry and then going back to do it again. At this point, I felt dirty. I felt absolutely disgusting. And eventually, I put it at the edge of my mind because I was tired of considering it and not getting answers. But this past weekend, someone spoke some immense wisdom into my life.

David. David was wonderful, wasn’t he? We, as Christians, look up to him. Sure, the man had some flaws, but he was a man after God’s own heart!

Exactly.

God called David a man after his heart, knowing full well that David would commit adultery in the future. And not only would he commit adultery, he would then commit murder to cover it up. And still God said something that praised David so highly. This wisdom that was spoken into my life meant something to me. It wasn’t a life-changing, earth-shattering thing – you rarely know when those are going on, they usually seem super little at the time – but it meant something. What matters, Wisdom (I’m going to start referring to this person as Wisdom) told me, was where my heart was leaning towards. Was my heart following God?

Soloman was wise. He was blessed by God, he followed God, right? Well…until he fell into idolatry (1 Kings 11). God knew that Soloman would do that far before it ever happened.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a thing on Facebook (amazing, right? I saw a thing. Excuse me, I’ll continue now). This passage that someone wrote spoke about the disciples. It’s message was about judging people who may cuss or do other things that don’t seem Christian after they were saved, and their points apply here as well. (By the way, to give credits, this was by Preston Sprinkle on faithit.com)

We all admire the disciples, right? Especially Peter. Well, he had that one bad stint where he denied Jesus (I’m sensing a pattern here…) but other than that, he was pretty close to Jesus! In Luke 9, he was the one who recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Peter denied Jesus and even cursed himself to prove it (Matthew 26:74). Also in Luke 9, James and John wanted to destroy a whole village because they did not welcome Jesus. Simon “the Zealot” (according to Preston Sprinkle, I have not checked this information) and all the other zealots were basically “Jewish jihadists” who killed people. And Matthew was a tax-collector. I like how Preston Sprinkle described this; he said it would be like “you found out that your childhood friend was making a living…funneling money to ISIS” (side note, if you can look up this article, you should. Preston Sprinkle does a good job putting this information into modern, easy-to-understand terms and the whole article was really good thoughts). That’s five of the disciples right there who would be the LAST people you’d imagine being great Christians, and Jesus chose them as his disciples. In Luke 9 (again) it says that the disciple argued about who was the greatest at one point. Can you imagine that conversation? “Murderer!” “Backstabber!” “Hotheads!”. I can’t help but remember when Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the ill”. There are times I almost wish I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, that I knew the dirt of the world, because then I’d be able to understand God’s grace so much better. But I wonder how much harder my life would have been.

So, yeah, I’m not good enough. But Jesus didn’t associate with those who were “good enough” (we see the pharisees as prideful, bad people, but in that day they were the people who were “good enough”). Jesus associated with the people that would make many Christians today recoil. He associated with the people whose faith would be questioned in today’s world. He associated with those people. So the biggest thing I should worry about is whether or not my heart is chasing God.

You’re not good enough either. That’s okay. Neither were the disciples. Neither was David. Neither was Soloman.

Intentionality

Okay, guys. I know it’s been a while. I don’t really have a good reason, so I’m just going to jump right into my message today.
I’ll try to make this brief. It’s late and I don’t really have that much time before I need to go to bed. But I really wanted to talk about intentionality. I don’t really have any Bible verses because it’s been super busy and I didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare for this post, so you’ll have to bear with my personal thoughts and experiences and stuff I’ve learned. The person whose work with me the most on the idea of intentionality is definitely my dad. I’ve only really started consciously applying it to my life recently, and it I can see the difference it’s made. The biggest part of intentionality or the biggest way I personally apply it has been in my social life. I’m a bit of an introvert – not just a bit, a lot if I’m honest – so my dad’s really weird with me on intentionality in my relationships. And no, I’m not talking about relationships with a guy that romantic relationships. I’m just talking about everyday relationships with friends, with family, with the people around me. Something I started noticing fairly recently comma although before I started applying the idea of intentionality consciously to my life, is how my dad talks to people at church. I am definitely a daddy’s girl; I take after him a lot, particularly with my personality. Hey, like me, is more of an introvert. However, every Sunday at church I see him going around and greeting people with a smile, asking how they’re doing and what’s new in their life. I see him shaking little kid’s hands and making a connection- here’s the kicker – intentionally. Not just with the little kids, either. with everybody, including the teenagers. We just recently got a new pastor at our church, and I see him speaking with this pastors kids, asking their names, trying to remember their names – we both have really bad memory with names – and in general trying to make a connection. Since I’ve noted this – here it is again – intentionality – I’ve started to admire my dad a little more. As he makes the effort to get to know these people, you can see how much it means to them that he cares enough to ask how they’re doing regularly, etc. And I started to realize that I’d like to do that, be that person, one day myself. But when can you say is a good age to start that? This was particularly tough on me at the time because I was starting to at least try to apply the idea of not waiting to my life. Not to say not being patient. But the idea that I can’t wait until this that or the other happens to change my life or some such. Well, apparently my dad rubbed off on me more than I though. I can tell you right now four of the pastor’s children’s names. I’ve spoken with three of them. I’ve been making the (uncomfortable) effort to initiate conversations and get to know them. I’m applying that idea of intentionality, and I don’t even know when I started.
And of course, the idea of intentionality isn’t limited to relationships. There’s a certain popular refrain my dad uses when one of us kids says “I didn’t mean to.” Can you guess? Everytime he responds with, “But did you mean not to?” Again, it’s applying that idea of intentionality.
One more quick example. Back in the fall, when I first started going to the academy, obviously I didn’t have any friends. Nobody did. Well, I have one friend now, and I can honestly say with complete certainty that she would either not be my friend or not be anywhere near as good a friend as she is now if I had not applied intentionality to that relationship. In the beginning, I asked her out for coffee, I talked with her, I tried to make that connection. Later on, I made sure that I checked in with her when I knew she was having some health needs or when she look down. Now, I make a point of texting her every 4 to 5 days just to check in. We live several hours away from each other, but we have some fun conversations over text. Both of us, or maybe it would be better to say neither of us, are super good at replying to text which is why it’s only every few days, but again it’s that idea of intentionality. I intentionally check in with her to let her know that she is valued and that I am thinking about her.
All right. That’s it for tonight. If I can remember, I’ll try to post some Bible verses later. ‘Night all!

Hidden Gem

I get really frustrated with myself sometimes. I was supposed to post this Sunday, and I even knew what to post! Argghh! But it’s getting posted today. So.

How many of you have ever had a moment reading the Bible when you just stumble across a whole random section of it that you can’t remember EVER really reading before? Like, maybe never ever ever? And then it’s like, woah! And of those of you that have, who found a passage that was just a little gem with double the woah factor? Yeah, that was me Sunday. And I was pretty surprised. I’ve been a Christian for as long as I can remember (I was four when I became a Christian; I’m 16 now) and I’m a reader. I’m also smart. So between the reading, smarts, and lifetime of Bible, I’m usually sitting in class thinking I know this story, and I’ve heard these points before (Side Note: that’s pride, people. The “I know the Bible” thing, not the smarts. Stop pride before it starts). But then, I found this little nugget! And it has a name. It’s James. Yes, as in the book of James. (I’m going to smack myself for this, but James the Gem people. James the Gem. Okay, I’m gonna go sit in the corner now. Not really, ’cause I’m writing this.)

Really, you should just go read James for yourself. The whole thing is amazing. But let me highlight a few things that popped out at me.

  • Favoritism is a Sin – Yep. James 2 starts out with calling favoritism a sin. It uses the example of showing favoritism to a rich man over a beggar, but it applies everywhere. Christ’s love does not show favoritism. Neither should we.
  • Warning Against the Tongue – Not as new, sure, but still a valuable piece of advice. Even when it feels like you’re about to explode and you can’t help but think how unfair it is  (especially if they’re being mean to you), hold your tongue. It doesn’t matter who it is, do NOT let something unkind and/or venomous come out of your mouth.
  • Submit Yourselves to God – Seems obvious, but I realized I’ve been kinda prideful lately…instead of submitting. I did a post about rebellion a while ago. That and this are cousins or siblings, who knows. They’re related. I found verses 11 and 12 especially interesting. I’ll give you verse 12: “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”
  • Warning to Rich Oppressors – Yep, this is in here too. God doesn’t ignore those who are suffering under others. He tells them to bear with it. He tells their oppressors, Watch out. Your judgement is coming. Verse 3: “Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.”
  • Other Notes – I was not kidding when I said you should read this book yourselves. It’s extremely powerful. I just wanted to point out a couple other things that popped out to me but didn’t have a whole section. I’m just going to type the verses, since they speak for themselves.
    • James 2:26 – “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
    • James 1:26-27 – “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
    • James 2:8 – “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.”
    • James 4: 5 – “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?”
    • James 5:12 – “Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.”
    • James 5:20 – “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Aaarghh! There were so many more good verses! Seriously, read this book. I love it. Anyways. One of my favorite verses in this book is James 2:26. I have this sneaking suspicion that my spiritual gift is serving – I love being able to help people, especially elderly people and anything to do with children or (ohh, yes) babies (don’t get me started on those cute little bundles). However, there is a problem with that: I am very, very, VERY socially challenged. I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I’m socially awkward. The worst thing in the world for me is having to start a conversation (I can order for myself at a restaurant now without too much discomfort, and just last month I called several places to get myself an internship for school, so I’m slowly improving!). Getting involved with peopleInitiating that? Umm…no. Oh, wait. James 2:6. Wow, okay, I just got sucker punched. There’s also a verse in James that says something along the lines of, If anyone knows what he’s supposed to do and doesn’t do it, he’s gonna get judged. I am caught between a rock and a hard place. But really…there’s also a verse in the Bible that basically says If you have not received, it is because you have not asked! (John 16:24 might be it, I don’t quite remember). Not too long ago I was thinking about how I would definitely join a club that would provide me with the opportunities to help people, that’d be great! Guess what happened. Yep, such a club appeared! (Side Note: While I encourage you to do it, I’m always terrified to offer myself to God to use because I know he’ll challenge me and say, are you really willing? And that usually involves social interaction. He knows where to hit *gulps*. He will absolutely put me between a million different rocks and hard places, and it’s SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO uncomfortable. But I know it’s good for me so I do it anyway. Every once in a while (I should do it everyday. If you need something to pray for, pray that I gain the strength to do that)). So yeah, now I need to follow up on that club. But the thing is, God provides. If you want a service opportunity, ask him. If you want personal growth in Him, ask him (But be prepared to work yourself. He changes willing hearts, but your heart should be willing first). Ask, and you shall receive. Even when it’s uncomfortable and feels like a slow, torturous death, God will help you complete his commands. I know I’m supposed to be serving. I also know I’m not going to lack service opportunities anytime soon.

Anyway! Thanks for putting up with my rambling. Read James for yourself. Let God speak to you. It’s so much more effective than when I do it. Ciao!