Monday, September 29, 2008

What Now?

The past year I have committed a lot of time and effort towards self discovery and reflection yet now I’m left with one lingering question. What now? I know that I need to trust God and release the death grip I at times place on ‘my will’ but if focusing on self improvement is the means and the end then what is the point? When or how do I stop focusing on myself so much and start loving others? What will that even look like in my life? A friend of mine said that everyone has a different gift that they can use to make a difference. I believe this is true. I think God gives us different strengths and it is our responsibility to use these to serve Him and others. I know mine; it is teaching. I love it though at times I feel it is a rather sacrificial gift to be a teacher. When I have the summer to lay out at the pool and hang out with friends though I stop looking at it that way and recognize the blessing it is. Of course it is a blessing for other reasons such as making a difference in the life of a child and all that other good stuff. But for now, for today and this week, having the freedom to lay out at the pool in the middle of the afternoon is the blessing.

I keep thinking though that it isn’t enough. I still have more to give. I can still do more. Lately I’ve noticed that I don’t think twice about throwing down a couple of hundred dollars on a new outfit, I go out to eat with friends several times a week, and don’t get me started on how much money I’ve spent this summer on drinks! Oh the precious joy of the perfect, frozen margarita on a cool patio in summer. Does life get any better? I’m definitely not saying new clothes, eating out with friends, or having a happy hour drink are bad things; I’m just wondering if I spend too much money and thoughts on myself.

I haven’t decided the answer yet. Maybe the next death grip I need to release is the one on my money though. I’ve been blessed so shouldn’t I be blessing others in return? I want to be able to have extra money if there is a friend in need. If I hear of a cause worth serving I want to be able to give without worrying how it will effect my shopping. Frankly when I find I have more money in my account than I originally thought it typically goes towards clothing. And if I feel I don’t have much money on a given month suddenly every penny goes to me because the last thing I would dare to cut off in my budget are things I desperately need. (read- desperately want) So it would seem that whether I have a little or a lot my money I typically regard it as mine. I mean isn’t it? I’m not suggesting that I sell all my possessions and live off beans and rice in order to love others with my money though I’m sure God would not oppose such a sacrificial life. I just wonder if I could be doing more.

Matthew 6: 19-21 (NIV)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I cheated a lot in high school. In several classes on end of the year exams I brought a cheat sheet and hid it under my test. One time I even completely written the essay we would write and copied it word for word. No one would have ever suspected me as a cheater. I was fairly sweet in class and always knew the right answers when called on. Teachers loved me.

I’ve noticed that it’s much easier to get away with things when no one perceives you as a threat. No one checks up on you because they don’t see the point. It’s taken for granted that you will not stray from the expected. And so the lies continue without conflict.

Much of college, or all rather, I pretty much lived day to day on what I thought gave me the most joy. This usually meant drinking until I could no longer stand and pretty much partying like a rock star….or so I thought anyways. I still don’t see anything wrong with seeking joy in life. After all doesn’t that make life worth living? Though my definitions of what brings joy have changed since then.

What I miss though about my former life is the lack of conflict. There was no war within my soul on what is the right course of action. Who cares what God or other people think? I grew up in a Christian home and came to realize how truly boring that life was. Needless to say I didn’t put up much of a fight for morality and thusly encountered no spiritual growing pains. No war wounds in the battle for righteousness. In this sense, life was pretty easy.

I can’t say that now. I have now found that there really is a joy in knowing God. A joy that is found in living for Him and serving others. Making that choice and taking that step to not live for myself alone brings me peace and joy. I wasn’t bored because of God before. I was bored in following a bunch of legalistic rules. The problem now though is the conflict. It’s much harder when one makes the decision in their mind to do the right thing. Suddenly life has complications and frustrations that were not so present before. Worse yet I find my strength quickly depletes if I don’t turn to God daily. Frankly some days I feel as though I am climbing a mountain; when before I was content to explore the valleys and plains.

So I guess the question is: why keep going? If one joy is without conflict and the other is then wouldn’t it make sense to follow the path of least resistance? Believe me I’ve pondered this more than I care to admit. However to me the difference, the unbelievably worlds apart difference, is hope. The hope that there is more to this life than what we can see. The hope that God has a plan, one far better than mine. The hope that the perseverance required to continually climb a mountain will one day reap a glorious reward. And so I fight. Fight to not take this life for granted. Fight to love others more than myself. Fight for the desire to love and know God more. I must fight for joy.*

*When I Don't Desire God by John Piper

Ephesians 4:22-24
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 6:10-18
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The To-Do List

Ah the never ending to-do list. What sweet simplicity in being able to itemize my every anticipated action. How on earth would I ever remember that from 7:25 to 8:00 I am supposed to call and comfort a friend if not conveniently noted in bullet form? Am I the only one who does this? At what point though is this often times useful organizational strategy simply a means in which to control every minute detail of my life.

Hmm…possibly when the list begins to look like this:

• Leave work 4:30ish
• Dry cleaning/drive home 20 min
• Run 35 min
• Shower 25 min
• Dinner 6:00ish
• Call “friend” 20 min
• Errands 1 hr
• Walk with “friend" 8:00ish
• Read 30min
• Email/ computer 20 min
• Relax 20 min
• Bed around 10:30 ..(I know I’m a loser but I get up at like 5!)

This is one of my typical after school lists from last year. And that’s just during the week on a day when there is not much to do. This could also be a list from this year if I just change the leave work part to closer to 7. (bleh)

I know I am not the only one who finds themselves consumed with busyness and in response tries to manage their time. It seems like there is a sort of crossing into official adult hood when one has to schedule in “relax.” In a effort to combat this realization of a lack of time, rest suddenly becomes a priceless commodity that, try as I might to obtain, always seems just out of my reach. Now I must work ever harder in order to fit in a downtime. Ironically, I have found that the lack of activity does not necessarily equal rest and peace, my ultimate goal. Sometimes in fact if I have nothing to do that makes me even more anxious. Of course this has been a non-issue as of late as I have been consumed with the busyness of school. In the midst of extreme exhaustion and anxiety this past week I stumbled upon the following verse:

Matthew 11:28-30:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Sounds promising. But what exactly does “come to me” even mean? Well this is my interpretation presented to you in convenient bullet list form. (..drum roll..)

• Stop worrying about the future and trust that God has a plan and that His plan is better than mine
• Enjoy the beauty of today and be thankful
• Read God’s word to stay grounded in truth
• Talk to God. A lot. He listens. Even if you are longwinded like me. He cares too which is even better.

Yes I know another to-do list!! Hopefully though this one enables a peace the other ones always failed to produce.