Sunday, January 27, 2013

How will I have time for that?

I have so many dreams and aspirations for my life, but so much of the time I have a hard time seeing how I will accomplish everything in what seems like so little time. Work is busier than ever, I need to visit my family, and my house needs cleaning. I have a stack of books on my nightstand and another three e-books in progress on my Kindle. I need to exercise and I need a haircut. I am tired, so I drink coffee in the morning, and I go to bed right after dinner most nights – even on the weekends. And still, some of the things I meant to do today, this week, this month, or last year still haven't happened.

A couple of weeks ago, God spoke to Mike and I about some of His plans for our lives. He told us of wonderful things, and reminded us of our greater calling. He called out to us the way a good Father does – praising our God-given talents and strengths and speaking of things to come with exciting expectation. He proved how well He knows us by talking about the areas of our hearts that we keep secret – even those areas that are to the point of secrecy that we aren't fully aware of their continued existence.

The Holy Spirit has a way of pricking our hearts, and when He does we begin to understand our true identity in Christ. It can be a painful experience, but just like a finger prick, it's only enough to bring the blood to surface for a moment. It brings a level of awareness of ourselves and we might even feel vulnerable when it happens. If we turn our ear toward His voice, we begin to understand who we are in the spirit, not just who we are in the physical. I believe that God puts things in motion in the spirit realm before it manifests in the physical realm, which is why we must have faith in the unseen.

Because of this divine setup, sometimes receiving an encouraging, hopeful word from God can be the start of a challenging period of life. He says I will do great things for the Kingdom of God, but how will I have time to work on that? I hardly have time to go to the grocery store! I get anxious to see things unfold, but His ways are not like ours. We tend to think in the natural and believe only what we see, and this mindset actually keeps us from walking out the dream He has for our lives.

by Audra Lynn
(Listen to the song here.)

How I long to see the picture finished
Painted as a perfect portrait
Void of all the mysteries of my life

The cares of life bend every corner
Taking me in wrong directions
Can I walk despite the pain and strife?

But what is life without all the yearnings of the heart?
And who am I to doubt all You have in store for me?

So I will take up my cross
And I will follow, I will follow
Day by day and choice by choice
I will follow, I will follow

I will enter by the narrow way
For Your cross is the better place
I will follow, I will follow

Come and take me by the narrow gate
For Your cross is the safest place
I will follow, I will follow

Your cross, it is the sweetest place
Your cross, it is the sweetest place

My Prayer
God, I choose to follow You and trust Your Word. I can't see the road ahead, but I don't need to see it in the natural physical world to take the next step. Thank You for reminding me of the call You have on my life so I can embrace my true identity – the one I have in You, in the spirit. Show me day by day and choice by choice how I can push those promises in the spirit through to the natural. Amen.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blood is Thicker Than Water

It seems like more and more lately, God is speaking to me about various areas relating to family. It's almost as if all of the little lessons here and there lead back to the act of restoring my family–and really all families. I want to share what God has been teaching me.

There's something that's different about the relationships between family members versus those relationships between friends. We all hear people talk about how "blood is thicker than water" and we accept mentally that even when we don't get along with family, we still have a special bond.

But what about accepting it on a deeper level–on a level that we really feel that truth resonate with our heart and soul? What can we do to make that connection on a heart level?

I see three main actions that can move us into that place of really getting it–even if our families feel divided or not on the same page.

1. LOVE. Love IS the answer. Love never fails. Take off the blinders–whether those blinders are there from your own selfish acceptance of lies from the pit of hell, or from stories passed down or across to you from another family member–take them off and replace them with a lens of LOVE. You'll see that person for all the good that they are as one of God's beautiful creations–they might be a beautiful mess, but they are His nonetheless.

2. HONOR/RESPECT. I believe honoring or respecting someone even when they seem not to deserve it can turn a hard situation into an amazing pivotal moment. I believe honor received turns into strength. So many people make choices for themselves out of a place of shame. Shame makes us hide things. Shame impairs our ability to communicate well. Honor says, "none of that matters to me and I want to know you more." Honor lets someone feel safe to open up and stronger than their demons. It empowers them to overcome shame, and in turn nurtures the ability to give honor and respect back to you and others.

3. FORGIVENESS. Don't just "let it go," but actually pray a prayer of forgiveness. It can sometimes come across as an accusation if we approach someone and tell them we forgive them for such-and-such–especially if there's a disagreement over who was wrong. If someone is apologizing, then I think it's important to tell them that you accept that apology and that you forgive them. If they aren't apologizing or it's over something you have held against them for years, it might be better to start with telling God you forgive them. Pray about whether you should have a conversation and ask God to show you the right moment and give you the right words. You could end up pleasantly surprised with an apology from them before you even bring it up. When we forgive others, we do something that's hard to comprehend. I think it's something like opening the door of a cage. God can get His hands on the situation when we allow Him to by forgiving others.

Obviously these three actions can be keys to resolving conflicts and restoring relationships of any kind. Love, honor, and forgiveness go such a long way above discord and differences of opinion. Set your family on the foundation of the truth of the Word of God by applying biblical principles to every interaction (difficult or pleasant) and watch miraculous things happen.

Family is our roots–restore those relationships so that you have that solid platform to build a good life on. It's important to stand on the foundation of family (and family on the foundation of Truth) in order to fortify every other goal and dream in life–we can't do it alone. In fact, even after I wrote this blog Friday night, I attended a graduation ceremony at Baylor University Saturday morning, and one of the speakers reminded the law students of that fact–they didn't get here on their own, and it's important to recognize that we need family.

Do you have a family member you clash with? How do you deal with family conflicts?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A New Expression of Love

This weekend I've been more contemplative than usual. Weekends are typically calm and quiet for me lately. If I haven't got plans to go out of town for a family visit, I tend to spend several hours at home alone. It's nice in the sense that I get to relax and unwind my thoughts–I have had a hard time getting work off my mind lately, and it seems I let go best when I do a little housework or go to the gym. But on the other hand, I guess I've been feeling a little lonely during this time. Mike works most of the day during the weekend, and our weekdays are filled with work, school, and commuting.

Yesterday was Saturday and I was alone until Mike got off work and came over around 7pm. We went to dinner with some of our best friends and I enjoyed that very much. We are planning our wedding, and it tends to be the topic of conversation often–as it should be. My life is blessed beyond measure, so I shouldn't be able to find anything to complain about, right?

While driving home, my mind became my enemy and depression began to settle on me. I don't normally deal with depression, but I couldn't even muster the words to express how I was feeling. Mike and I sat in silence almost the whole way home, and then in the moment I hugged him to tell him "bye", I couldn't seem to end his embrace. I actually stood inside his arms–mine folded across my chest as I rested my head on his warm and sturdy frame.

All I could manage to say was, "I don't know what's wrong." Tears began to flow and I tried to explain my odd behavior. The basic thing it all boiled down to was that I felt unhappy with my day-to-day existence.

"I feel like I don't have anything to talk about outside of work. I don't want to talk about work, so I don't have much to say anymore. Even our time together is spent relaying the details of things we experienced throughout the day–we aren't experiencing much together. I'm bored with myself."

As I allowed these strange words to spew from my mouth and the tears to soak into his t-shirt, he held me close and listened. Once I had said all I could think, he began to encourage me and talk about ways we could change our situation. He talked about solutions. He had answers. He held me until I could see the truth about who I am and about why we are where we are and how we stay the course and continue to run towards our goals–both as individuals and as a couple.

This moment not only changed me, but it laid out another level of understanding and clarity of the love God commands of a man for his wife. I will be his wife very soon, and this messy moment showed me how much he really does love me. The Bible says that love edifies. To "edify" means to "build up." Even when I am wrong, love builds me up and lifts me above deception I allow myself to believe–like I did yesterday. God used this to show me how much I can trust Him. It's God that has brought me to this man. My God's love for me is even expressed through my husband-to-be!

God has spoken to me in such a dynamic way about His love for me as a Father. Healing has come in a complete way. I see now that He is about to unfold an entirely new expression of His love for me. I'm so thankful for my God and for His intense love! And I'm thankful that I will soon be married to the man that God knew I needed all along.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Learning the Strength of My Temptations

I picked up C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity again last night, and am really not sure how I set it down so long! The last time I read from it was in December, and I'm just over halfway through it. Every page is loaded with what I feel is rare wisdom shared in a clear and direct way.

He writes about how we only understand the strength of temptation when we finally stand against it. He explains this well by comparing the battle to a man walking against the wind. You don't know the strength of the wind if you lay down–you know it when you fight it.

This got me asking questions. Why should it matter that we know the strength of our temptation? What would be the benefit or purpose of knowing how strong our opponent is?

My pride answered this question first. I thought, "Well, if I understand the strength of my temptation and continue to stand against it, I can be reminded of how strong my character is and even be encouraged that I am being a good person." I hate to admit that, but that was my initial thought.

Thankfully, I was having this conversation in prayer, so I was listening for His voice, too. He quickly convicted and corrected me. "The purpose of knowing the strength of your temptations is not to remind you of how good and strong YOU are, but to reveal how good and strong I AM." Back to my senses! This is "mere Christianity!" I KNOW I am nothing apart from Him, but apparently I'm tempted to believe otherwise.

Last night, that reminded me of how good and strong He is and that ultimately it boils down to the fact that every bit of our life is to glorify Him–even our temptations can lead us to more truth if we remember that our strength is in Him. Who am I if not for Christ that is in me?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Looking for Purpose

A manifold purpose is clearly evident in all of creation, yet still so many of us question our own purpose. Some even convince themselves of the lie that they have NO purpose.

Simple creations have more obvious purposes than complex ones. Man is the most complex creature of all, so why wouldn't it take some time to understand our purpose?

Have patience for understanding to come. Only the Creator knows of every capability, every area of service you are perfect for. He knows every action that inspires your reaction, and every short path to the solutions to problems you face today. The only path to understanding–to TRUTH–is through the way of the Creator. Your Creator has every detail of your existence mapped out on the palm of His hand–etched into the flesh of His heart.

Seek your answers from Him alone. He's the only One with the original blueprint of your mind, heart, and soul–you want to understand purpose and truth for your life, so go to the source of Life and Light! Go after the Creator ALWAYS–every day! You will find all truth, life, and FREEDOM.

Friday, December 17, 2010

More on Tradition

Saturday, the week before Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to be a part of a historical moment in college football history. If you have ever been to Kyle Field in College Station, TX for a Fightin’ Texas Aggie football game, you know that the crowd can really get loud! This week was especially mind-blowing though, because they broke an all-time record for student attendance to a college ball game--there were 31,005 students! The overall attendance topped 91,000 people, which is definitely the largest crowd of any kind that I have personally been a part of.

The Texas A&M Aggies hosted the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and the game was high-energy the entire time, even though neither team scored a single touchdown. The fans kept the volume high, and the Aggie football players pumped the crowd for more after almost every single play. The defensive lines for both teams were really rockin’ this day--the only points scored were the extra points on the oh-so-close fourth downs. It was a great game! Ags pulled off the win, 9-6. Awesome!

I’m so glad that I was not only able to watch this game, but to be immersed in the Aggie culture. You may or may not know that Aggies are very...unique. First of all, they have “yell leaders”, not cheerleaders. These men with military haircuts wearing solid white uniforms run back and forth along the stands, using various hand signals to lead the fans in a variety of cadence-type yells. It seems that everyone knows exactly what to do, and are right on cue every time. When quarters end, the entire stadium is full of people rocking back and forth, singing in unison. Most fans have a small white towel that they swing around in a circular motion almost constantly as they do the yells. With that many people swinging a towel around, from a distance, it looked like confetti wiggling all over the stadium! After the win, the entire student section plus some others swarmed the field. It was really a sight to see!

There are still so many other traditions that the Aggies have carried on throughout the years, and as I reflect on them all, it has caused me to realize how much weight these long-practiced customs actually have. Traditions are more than just things we do because they’re “what we’ve always done”. That phrase has really never meant much to me anyway because I am such a logical thinker. I can’t justify doing something just because it’s what we’ve always done. As I ponder the Aggie traditions, I see some things that spark a new desire in me to uphold traditions of my own in other aspects of life.

We continue traditions because they honor those that paved the road for us. What makes a tradition special is its ability to transcend time, but only as long as the ones that carry it never set it down. It must be passed from generation to generation, but even when you pass a tradition on, it stays with you, too. It’s as if it has a way of stretching indefinitely, but never wearing thin. In the same sense, it can increase in richness and expand in complexity, yet never become a burden to those that hold it. A tradition honors any man or woman who ever had a hand in carrying it on because it actively shows others that the original intentions, purposes, and goals of those it represents were worth noting then, now, and always.

I am realizing that traditions are not only crucial to our future, but are the very thing that give humanity the cohesion required to endure all forms and levels of hardships. Without traditions, we lose touch with the generations that went before us. The original intentions, purposes, and goals become a faded memory to one generation, and then complete unknowns to the next. Without traditions, we can quickly lose sight of why we do the things we do, why we fight for what we fight for, and why we love who we love.

Some would argue that traditions can become a meaningless, mindless, religious, routine. They might say something about how times change, and so should we. They may say that we have to adapt to the evolving world around us, but I am convinced that even in an ever-changing environment, we must still have some constants. It’s not simply that we are afraid of change--it’s about upholding honor for those that cleared the path for change!

Let’s look at the family unit, and remember how family traditions make us feel. Most loving (and fighting) families have a tradition to get together for a special meal at Thanksgiving or Christmas. If for one reason or another something interferes with that tradition, even a dysfunctional family feels a sense of loss. Why? I believe that when we honor a tradition even as common as a Thanksgiving meal, we honor each other. Our actions speak a message of love, and also give value to the purpose of the older generations. Without that tradition, the honor that once flourished, now wilts in the heat of whatever that interference may be. It could be uncontrollable circumstances such as a death in the family, a new job, or that someone moved far away. In these cases, it certainly brings on feelings of disappointment, but sometimes interference with our favorite traditions comes in the form of a careless, forgetful moment. If we forget the objectives of those generations that went before us, we may decide that it doesn’t matter if we carry out the traditions that they started. As long as we can remember and honor previous generations, we will always have a solid foundation to build a new thing upon.

I’d like to point out these same principles as they apply to the church-going experience. Some parts of the Body want to modify the culture around Christianity to “change with the times” and “stay current with the culture,” while others feel like any deviation from the old model of “church” is sinful. If traditions are a way we can honor the previous generation, then we should certainly keep them and remember that our elders made it possible for us to be innovative in our approach to gathering with other believers. We must keep the original intent and purpose of gathering (to interact with, share and support other believers) and I believe that continuing some traditions is the way that we honor and keep our predecessors’ goals on the forefront of our minds. We can build a new thing upon this core foundation that was set in the past, and still have the freedom to be who we are. We don’t have to be stuck in a religious rut, but we should still carry on the traditions of old.

I’m asking myself, “Why do so many people these days feel like that going to church is a waste of time and an empty experience?” Could it be because many of the churches out there are afraid to allow some innovation to be stacked onto their tradition? Or on the other hand, is it possibly that they have only conformed to the culture of the day and let the traditions that honor the previous generation fade?

I think the Aggies have the answers to these questions--whether they be asked about the family, the church, or any other unified group. It’s not just about belonging to a “group”. It’s about surviving every hardship we could ever face as God’s creation.

Honor those that paved the way by upholding their traditions of old and by building a new, innovative tradition upon that solid foundation. We need each other. We need all generations working together so we can endure and prevail against anything!