Christmas can be a magical time of year. Children are excited, the weather changes (for some), beautiful lights and decorations flood the stores and streets, and many people seem to be in a merrier mood. Of course, this isn't always the case. Some people do not enjoy this time of year-and to them I say bah humbug! For those of us who are Christians, we have an even greater reason to celebrate. I know we have all heard this a lot, but it is important to set aside time to remember how God sent His son to earth to take on an earthly body as a little baby boy, knowing He would one day sacrifice that Son to save us.
This year brought an amazing Christmas Day for my family. After a fairly hectic
month with work, doctor appointments, and crowded shopping, that day was so
peaceful. My brother and I took charge of making the dinner, and he even ground
up the turkey and stuffing so my mom could enjoy it since her jaw isn't fully
healed. We enjoyed gifts and filming the cats (our children) with their new
toys. Then, as my dad was reading about the nativity, it started snowing! It
was a great day that we did not want to end.
After such a wonderful day, I was deeply saddened as I started at work the
following day. Despite the weather, many people decided to take advantage of
the clearance sales, so the store was crowded. But I expected that. What really
got to me is that after such a magical day, everyone was carrying on business
as usual. Customers were frantic and impatient. Drivers on the slick roads were
the same. My coworkers were discussing grievances about the job. It was like
time was frozen in the snow that one Christmas Day, and then it unfroze and
life forgot it. It seems that the music, lights, joyful spirits, and goodwill
all faded in an instant. Why do people allow themselves to forget so
quickly? Why do we change back to our
normal glum selves when the family goes home and the decorations come
down? Shouldn't we have those joyful
feelings and kindhearted nature all the time?
And what about those who don't feel that way even on Christmas? I don't believe God meant for us to get so
caught up in our day to day busyness that we become grumpy, depressed,
stressed-out, or inconsiderate. We need
to not only look at Christmas through the eyes of a child; we also need to find
that childlike faith all year long. So,
as we enter a new year, don't allow the Christmas spirit and its true meaning
to fizzle out. If you are too busy to spend time with God, then you are too
busy! Let us not forget the things God
has blessed us with. As my pastor says, if God doesn't bless you beyond your
salvation, you still have a reason to thank Him. And if you are not saved,
please consider God's gift, it's the best Christmas present of all!
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come
to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as
these. I tell you the truth, anyone who
will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” Luke 18:16-17 (NIV)
Monday, December 31, 2012
Friday, November 30, 2012
So, I noticed how a lot of people were doing the 30 days of thankfulness posts. Well, I decided not to try to keep up with the daily updates, but since it is the end of the month of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share some things I’m thankful for.
I thankful for this time of year. I love the lights and the Christmas songs. The food, the time with family and friends, the reminders that Jesus is the reason we celebrate, and for the kindness that some people decide to share. Thanksgiving and Christmas always remind me of childhood memories of going to my grandma’s house and my family would gather with my cousins, aunt and uncle and enjoy great food, making Christmas cookies, and presents, of course. I really miss those times, and I’m thankful that my grandma was there to orchestrate those activities during my years in Arizona.
I’m thankful for the people I have gotten to know in Oklahoma. I’m thankful for the friends who have stayed close over the years even though we’ve been separated by distance and lack of time. I’m thankful for my church and for pastors who are willing to preach the truth directly from the Bible. I’m thankful for my mom, my dad, and my brother. It has just been the four of us since we moved here, and although we’ve been through many rough patches, I’m still glad to call them family.
I’m thankful to have a job. There are many people who live on much less and can still find things to be grateful for, so I have no right to complain about the things I have been blessed with. I’m thankful that besides a cold or sinus infection once in a while, I have lived a fairly healthy life. I still have the ability to see, hear, smell, touch, think, breathe, run, and I could go on…there are many who have lost some of these abilities or never had them in the first place, so I am definitely grateful for 28 years of good health. I’m also thankful that I was born in a country where we have so many freedoms and privileges. I’m thankful for the soldiers who have fought to protect those freedoms and those who are still fighting or have given their lives for this country. I’m thankful for those who guard and protect us within our own borders: the firefighters, policemen, paramedics, nurses, and doctors. Those who carry out these tasks with honesty and integrity are America’s true heroes.
I’m thankful the beauty of nature. It’s fun observing animals and their quirky habits, especially cats. I’m thankful for interesting weather patterns and clouds. Thunderstorms and snow always create an exciting day. I’m thankful for the beautiful landscapes I’ve observed as I’ve traveled through different states and the pictures I’ve seen from around the world. God has created such amazing sights to behold. I’m thankful for the many different ways people have to express themselves. It’s inspiring to experience the writing, music, painting, or other forms of art that people have made.
There are so many day-by-day things that I sometimes take for granted. In my own selfishness, I sometimes forget what I have been given and only focus on what I wish I had. I'm thankful for the quiet moments to reflect on what God has blessed me with. I'm thankful that He sent His son to die on the cross and rise again to save us from our sins. Without God's amazing love and mercy, I would have nothing. I think taking the time to remember God's love and blessings is the most important part of this season. May God bless you during this coming month and have a Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Prayer for the day:
Help me through this day Lord. Guide me with Your joy and peace. Help me to see Your whispers of encouragement throughout this day. I'm feeling very overwhelmed and flooded with things. Give me the peace of your presence and empty my mind of these worries, fears, doubts, and troubles. Empty all my cares and fill my crowded mind with your presence instead. Please take my desires and feelings into your hands today as I should be surrendering them to You each day. I don't know what Your plans are or where you're taking me, just help me to trust that they are good. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Lately, it seems like trials are just piling up on me. It's kind of funny, because I was praying before the evening service at church the other day that God would take these trials away. Then, Pastor Tim preached directly on that subject. Instead of begging for the trials to go away, we should pray that God would help us learn from our trials and become a stronger Christian because of them. Needless to say, I felt convicted because I had been searching for a way to escape; I was blaming myself and my failures. God uses the hard times to bring us closer to Him and to shine His light to others. He is in charge and He has a plan for each of us. We have no need to be anxious because He is in complete control of the length and intensity of our trials. So, if you feel trapped or worried about the future, fear not, for God knows what He's doing. He wants us to grow and to bring honor to His name. He will use our circumstances, no matter how tough they seem, to achieve that growth and glory in our lives.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Do you ever get the feeling that you've been outdone by someone else? Maybe that's not exactly the right way to phrase it...Has there ever been a time that you have felt down-in-the-dumps depressed and then you come across a story or some news that is far worse than what you are going through? When you hear about someone whose life is harder than yours, do you feel upset with yourself for feeling down about your own situation? Or maybe it's the opposite: Do you ever feel like other people have it too easy and barely have any problems? Of course, there are many different levels of pain both emotionally and physically and each of us handles things differently, so I guess we can't really put our trials on a scale.
God knows everything about us, so He knows what we can and cannot handle. Maybe, when you are in the midst of the fire, you may not feel like you will make it through the flames. But, if you call out to God for help, He will not let the flames completely consume you. He discerns and assesses your situation and knows exactly how much oxygen you have left and when to pull you out. I've heard it said in church that God uses the trials in life to refine us. Just like pottery, we have to go through the fire to become a finished piece. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
Christians will all go through trials and tests of their faith. I'm speaking to myself when I say there is absolutely no reason for us to compare our troubles to one another. Each person is unique and struggles with different things. Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." So, instead of trying to judge what seems fair or who is better off, we should just be encouraging and comforting to one another regardless of our own situation. And when you feel like the flames are surrounding you, just remember all the blessings God has given you.
"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail."
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."-James 1:2-4
Thursday, August 30, 2012
I realized after putting up my post last month that it was my 30th post. The funny thing is that I almost decided to use my 30 Before 30 list for that one. But, at that time, I had not completed it and I had another idea to write about. So, to celebrate the 30 posts I've completed and since it is August 30th, I thought today would be just as good a time to share my 30 Before 30 blog...
A few months before my 28th birthday, I noticed that a few of my friends from college were posting 30 Before 30 lists. I always liked the idea of making lists of things to accomplish by a certain time, and I have no idea why I never sat down and made this particular list. I have always had an ongoing Bucket List in my head, but I have never written anything out. Putting goals in writing is a good step toward accomplishing them, because it holds you more accountable. So, I started making that list, but I didn't finish it until after I posted last month's blog.
Making a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30 was harder than I thought it would be. I wanted to make my goals reasonable; things that could be attainable in 2 years, so that narrowed down a lot of my Bucket List items. I also started thinking about things I had done that I would have put on the list if I'd made it sooner. Before I share my 30 Before 30, I would like to share 15 things I have done in the last 5 years. Some of them may seem silly, but they were definitely on my mental bucket list. Believe it or not, I have done 11 of these things in the last 3 years since I turned 25!
1. Start a blog :)
2. Graduate college
3. Fly in a plane
5. Do a 5k run/walk
6. Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios
7. Use public transportation to get around a city
8. See the
9. Lead a Bible study
10. Complete my first year of teaching
11. Go on a horse-drawn carriage ride
12. Eat sushi
13. Go to church camp as an adult counselor
14. Ride a motorcycle
15. Take dance lessons
As you can see, a lot can happen in a short span of time. I know this hasn't been a very serious or spiritual post so far, but I do believe that God has helped me to see the good in my life over the years. Sometimes everyday life can seem so dull, but then I remember the things I have seen and done and the things God has lead me through. I just made a list of the "big" things, but there are so many things God has helped me accomplish since college, since high school, since I moved to
, since He saved me at age 11,
etc. Just remember that God is always
there with you and He will get you through the trials as well as the good
times. He has plans for you and He will
provide ways to accomplish His purpose in your life. On that note, here is my 30 Before 30 list: Oklahoma
1. Write a book (at least a children's book)
2. Finish a 5k in 30 minutes or less
3. Make a three-course dinner for more than 5 people
4. Read at least 30 books from a top 100 book list
5. Host a party
6. Finish independently reading through a Bible study book
7. Play through a song on the piano that uses both hands
8. Have a 5 minute conversation in Spanish
9. Complete a mission trip or vacation scrapbook
10. Attend a Broadway show as an adult
11. Plant and cultivate at least one garden plant
12. Learn the basics of a third language
13. Plan a week of meals
14. Spend 30 minutes a day working on a hobby for a week
15. Fix and bring a side dish made from scratch to a church dinner
16. Post a video on Youtube
17. Visit the
18. Invest in a retirement account
19. Send a photo or article to a magazine
20. Make up a dance routine
21. Sew a pair of culottes
22. Have a spa day
23. Completely unplug from technology for a week
24. Pay off loans
25. Have a Harry Potter movie marathon
26. Get rid of old stuff and reorganize my room
27. Volunteer somewhere I never have before
28. Play paintball
29. Learn 2 new things to do with my hair
30. Read through the Bible with commentaries
Ta Da! Well, there it is. I'll admit that I took some of the ideas from other lists I've seen. As I mentioned earlier, there are also things I did not include because they were either too hard to accomplish within 2 years or not entirely under my control, such as traveling overseas or getting married. I will try to keep you updated on things I have finished.
"A goal without a plan is just a wish." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" - Dr. Robert Schuller
"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." - Proverbs 16:3
Monday, July 30, 2012
Well, last week I survived my first time of being a church camp counselor. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. There was a breeze most of the week to keep the heat down, the youth got along fairly well, and I wasn't forced to participate in any activities I'd rather not do (like chasing chickens). Our church kids did really well in the activities throughout the week. The Lindsey Chapel Youth Choir placed first in the choir competition and a boy from our group received the student of the week honor above all the other boys at camp that week. There was a lot of fun activities and good, clean entertainment, but the highlight of the week was the preaching. Two kids from our church got saved and that was a great blessing. I'm sure many of the others made commitments to God throughout the week, including myself. I thought I'd share a little bit of what God showed me this last week and I hope that you, my readers, can help hold me accountable.
The theme for the week was "Don't Quit" and they used Galatians 6:9 which says, "And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." It is amazing how God can bring the right messages to you right at the point you need to hear them. I have felt like giving up a lot in the past few years: I've considered quitting my current job multiple times, I have given up on searching for a teaching job each summer after only applying at a few schools, I've considered moving away from a great church, I've allowed myself to get behind on simple tasks like doing the dishes or budgeting, and the list could go on and on. But, through all the ups and downs, I have felt like God is keeping me where I am for a reason. Not just at this specific location, but also at my current job and in my current state of singleness. I still struggle with discontentment, and that is why I have made multiple attempts to get out of these circumstances. I think that by denying my requests for change, God has been trying to tell me that I need to learn to fully depend on Him. In everything. With my job, with my money, with my desire to be married, with my family and friends, there is nothing that God overlooks. He knows everything about me, and He knows exactly what I need and when I need it.
There are so many other good points that were made in the messages I heard last week. Maybe, I will get an opportunity to use some of them in future posts. For now, I'll focus on one. As with all the camps and retreats I've gone to, this one came to an end. Many people go through what they call a "mountain-top experience;" they get all pumped up and ready to make a difference during the event, but then they go home and get hit in the face with reality. One of the preachers pointed out that just because you make a commitment, it does not mean it will be easy to keep it. He said that we would be tested; that our faith and resolve would be challenged as soon as we leave. I expected to be challenged with a bad day at work the day after arriving home. Instead, my challenge was allergies and congestion. I didn't see that coming; I had a sore throat most of the camp week, but I didn't realize it would escalate. Since Friday afternoon, I just started feeling worse and worse, and I spent most of the afternoon in bed on Sunday. It is very hard to keep a positive attitude, encourage others, and stay motivated to a task when you feel like your head is in a fog and your energy is completely drained. I tried to stay as positive as possible at work and church, but I felt pretty rundown by the end of the weekend. Monday did not start out too well either, but now my symptoms have cleared up and I guess this was just a reminder to not take anything for granted, including my health. I hope that even if I don't feel up to par, I can still strive to have a cheerful countenance, to be an encourager, to seek God's truth and will in my life, and to just keep swimming :)
Saturday, June 30, 2012
So, summer just started and we have already caught a glimpse of the torturous heat it is bringing! I thought we could all use some words of encouragement. I wrote this as a response to an email from a friend a while back. (For those of you involved, don't worry, I edited out certain details and names)
Question( reworded): Do you ever feel like life is passing you by? Like everyone else is living while you are at a standstill?
It was funny that she would ask a question like that, because I was struggling with that very thing and I shared what God was trying to teach me at the time. Here was my response:
In times like this it's very hard to press on, I'm still working on it myself. My pastor has preached on Philippians 4, in verses 11-13 it says: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." In the KJV, verse 11 says: "in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." I think that our problem is that we're always comparing ourselves with others. We look with longing at what we want and wonder how others can have it when we don't. But even the people who seem to have perfect lives have their own struggles, some are just less visible than others. Everyone has moments when they desire a better life, but the difference is that those who are most fulfilled in life are the ones who take everything to God. Romans 12:12 says: "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." This may not be the case for you, but I know that my problem is a problem with joy. I allow depression and negative thoughts to take me down. It gives me this self-pitying, sour attitude and people notice. I have been told multiple times to "smile, life's not that bad." I may not be able to control my circumstances, but I can control my attitude. It's much better to remember that God is always in control, in the good times and the bad, and He knows what you're going through. He uses the tough times to bring you closer to Him. So look at the positive things even if they seem few and far between.
I've noticed that the subject of encouragement and positive thinking seems to keep coming back to me. I guess I still have a lot to learn and I'm glad to be able to share these things that God is working on in my life. I hope it's not too repetitive :) If you would like more on this subject, look back at these posts:
Thursday, May 31, 2012
A few weeks ago, I was helping my brother remove some vines that had overtaken the bushes outside our driveway. Those things were tough! Vines have a way of wrapping themselves around and around bushes, fences, trees, or almost any other standing object. They grow at a very rapid pace and will eventually choke out the trees or bushes they have entangled. Pulling out those vines made me think about life. If we don't catch potentially harmful actions, thoughts, or habits at the beginning (when they first sprout), they can eventually grow into big problems in our lives. Take television for example: you might let a cuss word slip by once in a while without turning it off, then you allow more and more in until you become calloused to it, and the next thing you know, a word slips out of your mouth and you wonder why you would say such a thing. Imagine how other sins and addictions start entwining themselves into your life and steadily choke out those moral standards you once held dear. I think of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. The sower had some seeds that he was spreading. "Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants" (Matt. 13:7). "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful" (verse 22). Concerning ourselves with the things of this world can easily keep us away from the things God wants us to do. When we allow habits, addictions, worries, or worldly values to control us, we will not be able to pray, witness to others, or worship God as He has called us to do.
Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful...no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-2,4-5) So, there is a vine we should allow to flourish. God uses challenging situations in our lives to help us grow in Him. Instead of allowing circumstances or sins to overtake us, we should turn back to the One we take root in and allow Him to help us bear fruit in those situations. Here are a few examples of how people take root in God:
*"His delight is in the law of the Lord; and on His law he meditates day and night." (Ps. 1:2)
*"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise." (Prov. 11:30)
*"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Gal. 5:22-24)
Of course, there are plenty of other examples, but part of taking root in God involves studying these topics on your own. "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer," study God's Word, and don't allow yourself to become entangled in the vines of this world!
Monday, April 30, 2012
So, I started my so-called "series" and I thought I was going somewhere with it, and then I made the mistake of not taking down my thoughts for a follow-up. (Life Lesson #5893: Always write down your ideas before they escape)
I was mostly just thinking along the lines that maybe, at least for me personally, it would have been better to take a break after high school. Take a sort of non-paid sabbatical to pray, think, plan, explore, travel, etc. But, the problem for those who went to public school is the push to go straight to college, and I allowed myself to be pushed. My thoughts at the time were: "Most of my friends are going to college, I don't want to be behind," and "What if I can't get any scholarships if I wait." In hindsight, my worries were simple-minded, but I was only 18, clueless and unsure. Of course, now I'm 27 and still feel clueless and unsure. At the time, I thought that college was a safety net. It kept me in the school calendar (with holidays!) and supposedly guaranteed a career, right? We were fed the idea that all you need is a degree and you can do anything! No one told me what the real world was like:
Every month, a pile of bills shows up; in order to get that "dream job" you have to go through job listings, applications, cover letters, phone calls, interviews, background checks, health insurance policies, taxes...; all that free time that used to cause boredom is gone; some of those who get married have to suddenly perform an amazing balancing act with family time, classes, housecleaning, hobbies, etc.; and those who are single realize that social opportunities seem to diminish almost entirely after leaving the school system, and even when those opportunities present themselves, they always seem to conflict with a full-time work schedule!
I'm sure I've left out a lot, but that is only an example of the things that bombard young adults as we enter the adult life. I'm sure there are many older adults who still feel overwhelmed by life and what the future may hold, generally and personally. I don't really have a conclusion to this because life is hard and none of know where we will end up down the road. But, don't lose heart. I'm not going to sit here and give a motivational speech about following your dreams, but there is always hope. I think of two of my favorite Bible verses: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Prov. 3:5-6) and "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11) I know I've used those verses before, but that's why they are some of my favorites. I wish I would have been more driven to seek God's will and godly counsel back when I was making decisions as a teenager. I don't know if I would have done things differently with college and choosing a major, but I think I would feel more confident now if I would have sought out what God wanted instead of what I thought I wanted. I remember going on a mission trip between my junior and senior year of college. I realized that I had not allowed God to make a calling in my life. I was about to finish off my last semester of classes and a semester of student teaching, and I had not given much thought to whether this was where God wanted me. Did He want me to teach or should I have considered missions? At that point, it was too late, I was locked into that major, there was nothing I could change to and still finish in a year. I couldn't stay longer because I had student loans I would have to start paying off. I realized that not only had I not explored more options, but I had not acknowledged God's plan for me; I felt stuck.
As I stated earlier, there is always hope. Things may have gone more smoothly if I would have recognized God's will for my life sooner, but it is never too late to turn back to Him. He can still use these milestones and past choices to bring my life into His plan. Life is still hard and adulthood still comes before we are ready for it, but if we allow God to take control, our lives will produce fruit.
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him..." (Phil. 3:7-9)
Saturday, March 31, 2012
If you think about it, adulthood kind of shows up so abruptly, how is anyone supposed to really know what to do? Up through high school we were treated as kids. Many were spoiled, especially in this age of technology. We had clothes, electricity, food, transportation, and many other things provided for us and we rarely gave it a second thought. I know that some people had a rougher childhood than others, but, speaking for myself, even though I knew my family didn't have much money, I still took things for granted. When we came close to graduation, many of us were preparing for college or a career and some were even planning weddings. Maybe taking care of pets, babysitting, chores, and part-time jobs helped us develop some sense of responsibility, but were we really ready? The decisions we made as teenagers could impact the rest of our lives.
Those of us who went to college may have extended this charade. Staying in dorms, eating at the cafeteria, and following the class syllabus kept us on a schedule that pretty much set itself. At some point before entering college or after finishing the basic classes, we must decide on a major. "What do you want to spend the rest of your life doing?" is a pretty tough question for an 18-20 year old. I think of James Marcia's identity statuses (see chart) that I studied in one of my classes. I sometimes feel as though I fit into "identity foreclosure" because I made a commitment without exploring other options. I went straight to college and majored in education because I thought I was pretty good with little kids. I have a friend who was in a state of "moratorium" until her fourth year of college! Many of us choose our career paths before we face the "real world."
And now I'll go back to my original point: at a young age we are thrust out into the world. We are independent young adults with plans and dreams, only we soon discover that life isn't as easy as we thought it was...
To be continued...
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Sometimes, when I read, I try to rush past the details or the "boring parts" to find out what happens next. I constantly try to get to the climax and closing as quickly as possible. I forget that those details are an important part of the story and it would do me some good to take the time to read them. The details make up the story and you can enjoy the outcome a lot more by focusing more on those details. There's a saying that has to do with that, it goes kind of like this: No matter where you're going or how it all ends, it's the journey that matters the most.
That was part of one of my diary entries from a couple years ago. I kept flipping ahead in this book I was reading at the time because I just knew something interesting was coming. I forgot the fact that authors intentionally include most of those details to build up the storyline and develop the characters. I ended up spoiling most of the story because I kept skipping sections. You know, life is like that sometimes. You come to a point where you feel like nothing interesting is happening, and you would prefer to skip ahead to the next chapter. Philippians 4:11 states, "For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." My pastor likes to bring up that verse a lot in his preaching, probably because we live in a fast-paced society. We want things instantly with a gotta-have-it now mindset. Contentment with what you have and where you are is a foreign concept to most. Some people end up compromising their beliefs, some complain, some want to start all over again, and some just give up. But God probably has something different in mind when He puts us all in different chapters and stages of life. Yes, some are more remarkable than others, but those uninteresting stages can be a time of learning. When life seems to be stuck, maybe it's your attitude that needs to be unstuck. You should look at the hard times or dull moments as a time of character development. You never know what's going to happen next or what your learning experiences might be training you for. That in itself is pretty thrilling if you think about it. We can't see what's beyond the fog, but God can and He knows what He's doing in our lives. I've used this verse before, and it's one of my favorites because of the promise it brings: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) So, instead of focusing on our negative or tedious circumstances, we should look for the opportunities to learn and grow through those circumstances. "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"
***Side note: Happy Leap Day! I know it's almost over now and so is the month, but I still just had to get my February post in. I may go back to further develop this topic again in the future, but for now I hope you all had a wonderful extra day :)
Monday, January 30, 2012
About a week ago, I finished reading a book that was set in Biblical times. More specifically, it is a fictional representation of the life of Jacob's daughter, Dinah. Even though it is fiction, that story made me want to compare it to the real story from the Bible. The next thing I knew, I was pouring through the pages of Genesis and looking at the maps in the back of my Bible tracking the locations and directions of the people. Isn't it funny how it takes a work of fiction to peak my interest in reading God's Word? When I read the Bible before, especially the Old Testament, it seemed like just a bunch of names and rules, and it was like a chore to get myself to read through those lists. Then, every once in a while I came across one of those stories that my Sunday school teacher used to put up on a flannel board. But, there is so much more to it than that. It's all a matter of perspective. You can find stories of victories and defeat, love and loss, good and evil. There are songs, poems, letters, and parables. Those study Bibles have a concordance, maps, and notes for a good reason, so maybe we should use them.
What's interesting (but certainly not coincidental) is that the morning after I finished reading that book, I came across this devotional from Our Daily Bread. Basically, it expanded on what I had just come to realize. Like the writer of that day's devotion, I went through a process from reading out of duty to reading for enjoyment. The Bible isn't just a history book, it is a book about life with God. We can learn lessons from the people in the Bible. They may have looked different and used different customs and protocols, but their thoughts probably weren't so different from ours. They were real people with their own traits, doubts, fears, and struggles. Many of the Old Testament laws are still used to govern us. There are psalms that address joys and sorrows that modern-day Christians can relate to. The New Testament letters address issues among the first believers that churches still deal with today. And those are just a few examples of how relevant and alive God's Word is in our lives.
So, if your scripture reading feels like more of an obligation than a delight, then maybe it's time to find a way to peak your interest. There are commentaries and dictionaries available that can help with words or concepts that are hard to understand. You can use maps or look up information on the background of those times to get a better perspective of how the people lived and where they were located. Most commentaries tell you who wrote the books and the audience they were addressing at that time. Just remember that the Bible is more than just a good story, it's more than just a record of laws and prophets, it is God's Living Word to us.