Saturday, February 26, 2011

No Joke.

I have to take care of a Ready-or-Not Tot for my economics class at school.  It cries all the time: while I'm driving, sleeping, taking a shower.  It's torture.  Everyone in my senior class has to take care of one of these babies at some point.  Yesterday, my friend and I were joking around about how much we hated taking care of the baby, and my friend laughed and said something like, "You know what? Life isn't even worth living.  Let's just get a couple of guns and end it all.  We can point them at our own heads- no, I'll point mine at your head and you point yours at my head- and we can die together."

To be honest, I wasn't sure how to respond.  I know he was kidding, but I've been thinking.  At what point is it okay to joke about suicide?  When does it cross a line?  Should it be crossing a line?

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know that a friend of mine committed suicide three years ago.

More than 5,000 teens end their lives every year.  That breaks my heart.  5,000 teens is like a small university being wiped off the face of the earth.  5,000 is nearly double those who died on 9/11.  5,000 is more than many small towns in Texas.  Those were 5,000 kids who had families and friends who were devastated after they learned their loved one was gone.  5,000 is a lot of people, and that's just the teens.  30,000 people of all ages commit suicide each year.

Joking around about suicide, twisting your hand into the shape of a gun and bringing it to your head when you're bored or annoyed, making suicide sound so lighthearted when it should be such a serious thing... this needs to end.  Now.

Suicide isn't a joke.  It ends a life and it emotionally destroys those who care about the one who died.  It's such a difficult thing to heal from.  And as one who has once considered suicide as an alternative to the life I lived, let me tell you... feelings of suicide are no joking matter either.  They're so, so, so serious.  I can't emphasize this enough.  Don't let someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression see you make a joke about suicide and make light of the feelings that are consuming his life right now.

You've possibly joked around about killing yourself before.  You know, before my friend committed suicide, I would.  I'd bring my finger to my head like a gun and say "Just kill me now" if we had a pop quiz or if I had to do an extra chore that day.  I didn't think it was that big of a deal.  Since my friend has died, I've become more aware of the emotions surrounding that subject.  When someone jokes about suicide, I can't really laugh anymore.  I freeze.  Something in my heart hurts.

When we make light of a situation, we're lessening its impact.  Suicide is making a huge impact in the lives of countless people right now.  30,000 lives are ending every year.  Don't make that a joke.



Friday, February 25, 2011


I thought there'd been a change in me,
But here I've fallen once again.
I want them to see me in You,
But I'm nearly drowning in my sin.

I fell before and I fall now,
And yet You still forgive.
How could You give Your precious life
So one like me could live?

Take my brokenness, Lord.
I've seen what I can do.
I cannot do this on my own,
So I give my all to You.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You Know My Name

You Know My Name
I have fallen many times.
I am broken.
I am small.
And yet You say, "You are mine."
You know my name.

The universe is so complex.
Stars and sky,
And then there's me.
Fallen when I try my best.
And You still know my name.

I know I do not look like much.
Just a girl.
Just a child.
Yet my heart you heal and touch.
You know my name.

My shame overflows my being.
I've messed up.
I've failed.
And still I feel the peace You bring.
I'm humbled that You know my name.

I'm the apple of Your eye.
Though I'm clay,
Though I'm sin.
I give You me until I die,
Because You know my name.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Life is Precious

The other day, I talked about how precious life was and how we shouldn't ever waste it.  Today I'd like to expand on that topic a little more.  Your life is valuable.  You're precious to God.  But there are other precious lives that are vanishing every day, and that's what I'd like to discuss right now.

When I see images of the kids in third world countries who are dying from preventable issues such as hunger and malaria, my heart feels like it's literally splitting in my chest.  The children who have died and are dying from starvation and diseases were never even given a chance to survive.  They've been restrained within the barriers of poverty.  Their deaths were painful and easily preventable.  They died without being remembered.  They died without the world knowing they ever even existed.  It's images.jpglike they've been invisible.

It really is.  Look at the photograph to your right.  Don't turn away because it makes you uncomfortable.  I want you to feel uncomfortable.  Allow your heart to start pounding in your chest.  Let chills rise on your arms.  Let your stomach churn and your hands tremble.  This child is dying.  If you're thinking to yourself, "Oh, that's so sad," but plan to do nothing more than think about this image for the next few days or weeks or even months, then this child is invisible to you.

If you see the World Vision ads that appear on the sides of your screen while you're surfing the internet and all you feel is a twinge of sadness before you move on to something happier and less uncomfortable, then these children have become invisible to you.  You're ignoring the deaths of precious children who have a Father in heaven who cherishes them and feels terribly grieved when they die.  These kids may not have anyone on earth who cares for them or remembers them, but Jesus Christ died for them too.

A dying child should make you leap from your seat with shock and horror.  It should make you shout, "No!  His death doesn't have to happen.  None of these deaths have to happen.  I'm going to stand up and do something."  Children are dying.  What are you doing about it?

I went to Kenya, Africa a couple of summers ago.  I saw many things that changed my perspective on poverty and sacrifice while I was over there, but an instance sticks out in my mind especially today.  A friend and I were taking some pictures of kids to send to those who sponsor them through Christian Relief Fund.  We would go down the long list of names and ask the kids who would crowd around us, eagerly waiting to help, to find the child we needed to photograph and interview.

At one point, we asked the kids to bring us a little girl.  I don't remember her name now.  I wish I did.  There were many names we read off that day.  The kids grew silent for a long moment until a young girl finally spoke up.  "She died," she told us in a somber voice.  When we questioned her, the girl's response was, "She died from chicken pox two weeks ago."

She died from chicken pox.

In the world today, there are still little children dying from chicken pox.

I remember that moment quite often.  Children are dying from preventable issues every single day without a chance to leave their mark on the world, without a chance to change someone's life, without a chance to learn or experience new things or to grow.  The lives of starving kids in africa jpgthese children are truly a mist, likes James 4 discusses, but their tragic lives could be made longer than they are now.  We could be making a difference.

James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..."  You've probably read that verse before, but take a moment to read James 2:15, 16, located a few verses down.  "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?"  What good is it?  When you see the images of starving children and feel bad or say a quick prayer for them, in all honesty, what good will that do?  What good is it?  What tangible difference are you making in their lives?

Here's a quote by A.W. Tozer that impacted my perspective on faith and prayer.  "...I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work... Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience."  Here, A.W. Tozer was talking about praying for revival, but the same concept works with praying for God to end poverty.  You may be praying for the starving children, but what are you doing to obey God's law?  What are you doing to help the orphans and widows in their distress?

I read somewhere that if everyone in the word who claimed to be a Christian tithed 10% of their earnings to the church, then we would eradicate world poverty and AIDS in less than a year.

What are you doing to help the needy?

Every minute, more than 110 kids die from starvation, equaling about 160,000  a day.  Each minute, two kids die from malaria.  Every two minutes, a child dies from AIDS.  What are you doing to try to prevent these deaths and save the lives of these little children?  If you're not fighting for the destitute and needy, then it may be time to reset some priorities.

In the ten minutes it took you to read today's blog article, more than 1,125 kids have died from preventable issues.  1,125 babies who are treasured by the Lord.

Life is precious.

It's time to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What I See

Something I wrote for my best friend yesterday. I love you, Ali.
What I See

I wish you could see what I see.
The love,
That others feel around you.
They see Him in you.

I wish you could see what I see.
You're cherished,
You're the apple of His eye.
He holds you in His hands.
He's formed you in His plans.

I wish you could see what I see.
Your worth,
Your value,
Your heart.
There are so many things in you I see.
You are important to Him and to me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's your mark?

Lately, I've been thinking about how valuable life is.  I often hear stories about people who have died in tragic accidents or from diseases.  I see their smiling faces in photographs that have merely snapped a glimpse of who they were when they were still alive.  Life is precious.  I forget that sometimes.

A few months ago, I read about a girl named Shannon Tavarez.  At eleven years old, she'd already achieved remarkable success in her life.  She was Young Nala in New York's Broadway show of "Lion King."  She was known for her big voice, beautiful smile, and determined spirit.  Last April, Shannon discovered she had a serious form of cancer called acute myelogenous leukemia and would shannon-tavarez.jpgrequire a bone marrow transplant to save her life.  Unfortunately, Shannon was part Hispanic and part black, so it was nearly impossible to find a perfect bone marrow match.  Multiple celebrities such as Alicia Keys and Rihanna rallied for Shannon, begging people to be tested and donate bone marrow for Shannon, in hopes of saving her life.  Even 50 Cent offered to donate his own marrow if he was a match.

Unfortunately, on November 1, 2010, Shannon succumbed to leukemia after a six month battle.  Her death was a huge blow for the many people who had rallied for her and tried so hard to save her.  How discouraging!  Shannon was so young.  She had such a promising future.  And suddenly, she was gone.

When I first heard about Shannon's death, I was incredibly discouraged.  "After all that," I thought to myself, "after so many people stood up and fought with her, she still died.  This is one of the most depressing stories I've ever heard."  However, Shannon's story doesn't have to be so depressing.  Her legacy encouraged people to donate their marrow and be tested... and that donated marrow will save lives.  Many celebrities donated their time (and even offered their own marrow!) for Shannon's cause.  Shannon taught so many people empathy and positivity and sacrifice and hope.

Shannon's death was very tragic.  She was only eleven years old... and her death could have been prevented if the right bone marrow match had come forward.  But Shannon stayed positive and strong, and she made the best out of the life she had.

You may be having a difficult time in your life right now.  You may be struggling so badly that you feel like you're drowning in a world where nobody understands, where nobody cares.  I've been there before.  I've contemplated and even attempted suicide.  I've been there.  Life is a gift, but it can be very hard at times.  If you're struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide right now, please remember the value of the life you've been given.  God gave you your life for a reason.  Deuteronomy 14:2 says that the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession.  You're His.  You're valued.  Your life is precious.

Three years ago, a friend of mine committed suicide.  In one moment of recklessness, he ended his entire life.  He stopped the plans God was working in his life.  He abandoned his purpose because he didn't think life was worth living anymore.  Gatlin had so much potential.  He was smart and kind and talented.  But he gave it all up.  It's difficult to come to terms with the fact that your loved one didn't find your friendship enough of a reason to stay alive.  That's tough.

If you or a loved one or an acquaintance is contemplating suicide, please seek help.  Life is precious.  Nothing is worth destroying the plans that God has made for you.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you shannon-tavarez1.jpgand not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  Life is precious.

You may have been walking through life recently, trying to wish the time away.  "I'm tired of high school.  I just can't wait till I graduate."  "Life is so hard right now.  If only I could move forward a year or two."  "I wish I could make time go faster."

We don't know how much time God has given us.  But whatever situation you're in right now, try to savor every moment you've been given.  Today will be the only February 16, 2011 you'll ever experience.  Don't waste it.

You may have fifty years left of your life.  You may die today.  James 4:14 says, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  Make the moments you've got count.  Shannon Tavarez made a legacy with the little time she had.  She changed lives with her determination and her joy.  She helped to save lives by asking people to donate their bone marrow.  She gave people hope.  Shannon's life was short, like a mist, but she made a mark on the world with the time she had.

Make every moment worth living.  Your life is so valuable.  Don't let it go to waste.

How will you leave your mark?

I got the pictures used in today's entry here and here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

All the Single Ladies

For the eighteenth year in a row, I'm single for Valentine's Day.  I honestly enjoy being single, oven on the holiday that many call "Single Awareness Day."  I like not being tied down in a relationship for the last few months of my senior year.  I haven't always felt that way, but I do this time around.  And I'll admit, it isn't that difficult for me to enjoy being single because I'm not much of a hopeless romantic either.

Some of you single ladies who read my blog (sorry, everybody else... but today's post is for the single ladies) may be feeling sad and lonely today.  Valentine's Day may cause your heart to twinge with unhappiness.  So today I thought I'd give you single ladies -like myself- a few options for how to spend Valentine's Day without tears or loneliness.

Arrange a Valentine exchange with friends.
You probably have some fellow single friends.  If you do, exchange Valentines!  Get each other cards and chocolates and little teddy bears.  Just because you don't have a boyfriend or a husband, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy Valentines.  Celebrate the holiday with your friends and enjoy it.

Watch a chick flick with friends.
If you feel like imagining romance, even if you don't currently have some in your life, get a group of single friends and watch a sappy romance movie like The Notebook or A Walk to Remember.  Be sure to bring ice cream, tissues, and a teddy bear.  Make Valentine's Day a night of silly crying and hugging and thinking about what might someday come... so long as you're surrounded by giggling friends who are doing the exact same thing.

Spend time with your dad.
Ask your dad to spend a few hours of Valentine's Day with you.  He can be your Valentine this year.  Go out to lunch or dinner.  He might even bring you flowers.  If you have a father figure in your life, then he can be "the one" this year.  Take this opportunity to bond with your dad.

Celebrate being single and buy yourself something nice.
Are you single and happy like I am?  Then reward yourself and go on a little shopping spree.  Purchase an outfit that makes you feel confident and beautiful, just the way you are.  Buy yourself something chocolate.  Reward yourself a little today and remember that someday, you may be in a relationship, but for now, you're happy riding solo.

Read Crazy Love by Francis Chan.
If you're feeling lonely this Valentine's Day, I encourage you to go purchase Crazy Love and read a few chapters before you hit the hay tonight.  It's a book that will help you grow in a crazy love relationship with Jesus Christ.  He loves you so much that He died for you, so instead of feeling lonely and depressed, spend some time with Him.  Let Jesus be the love of your life.

If you don't have a Valentine this year and you're feeling unhappy and unsettled about it, remember that Valentine's Day is only a day.  It will come and go, just like any other day of the year.  Savor the time you can spend with God instead of a guy.  You can still enjoy your day, even if you're not in a relationship.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why I write about my faith.

Some people have asked me why I choose to write so much about my faith.  Today I thought I'd share my point of view about why I write what I write.

I have a God-given talent. 
I don't mean this in a boastful way whatsoever.  I credit everything to God.  However, I'm not afraid to say that I have been given a gift in writing.  I'm fairly good at writing and I enjoy it.  It's what I love.  The passion for writing that I have is very clearly from God.  I've made up little stories and poems since before I could actually write with a pencil.  I've always loved it, and I know God has given me this love for a reason.  How could I use it in a way that isn't for His glory?  I try to filter everything I write through Matthew 5:14, which you can read at the top of this screen.  I write as a city on a hill.  People know I'm a Christian and I want what I create to glorify God and be a light for Him.

My faith is my identity.
Everything I know and believe and ponder is wrapped around the core of my existence: my faith.  Without Christ, I don't even know what I would write about.  I write about my passions.  My greatest passion is for the One who gave me life.  My faith is a huge part of my identity.  It's who I am.

I try to be a shining light.
Obviously, there are many people of other faiths on the internet.  Not everyone who reads my blog is a Christian.  While I don't want to force my faith on anyone, I do believe my words can be a shining light for Christ.  I also hope the things I write will help to form a more positive opinion about Christians and Jesus than those that many people have.

Writing about my faith gives me joy.
I love to write about my faith.  I honestly do.  I have a passion and a love for Jesus Christ.  Shouldn't I write about what gives me joy?  My messages may not always be about my faith directly, but I do try to filter everything I write through Matthew 5:14, as a city on a hill.

I love writing.  It's a gift God has given me, and I'm so grateful for that.  I still need to improve... a lot, I know, but that doesn't take away the passion I have for writing, whether or not I'm good.  Without writing, I don't know who I'd be or what I'd do.

Do you see?  Maybe you do, maybe you don't.  I write what I love and there is nothing I love more than my Savior.  You might think I'm weird, but that's okay.  I'll continue to write about my faith.  You don't have to read my words if you don't want to.  Could I be more popular if I wrote about broader topics?  Perhaps, but I wouldn't have the same joy in writing as I do now.  I write what I love.  Why would I want to change that?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How small is God?

I have a confession to make.  Sometimes I go quite a while without thinking about God.

I try to start out my mornings thinking about Him, saying a few prayers, listening to some praise music, and smiling at the thought of the God who made me... but I don't always.  Sometimes I'm too tired and hardly think about anything as I get ready for my day.  I try to think about God during my car rides and my days at school, but I often forget and become caught up in conversations with friends, stress about upcoming assignments, and worries about the future.  There are so many things going on in my life that I often forget to think about or pray to God.

You might feel the same way.

There are so many important things in my life right now.  I'm just too busy.  I often don't have time to have a real quiet time with God.  My schedule is really hectic right now.Organizer-Agenda-Planner_72608-480x320.jpg

Is God so small to us that we can so easily put our silly schedules above spending time with Him?

We have a Creator, a Father, a Savior.  We were made to worship Him and yet we forget our purpose in the pursuit of drama-filled friendships and struggles and jobs and grades.  Nothing is bigger than God.  Nothing is worth putting above God.

There have been times when I've gone to youth group and heard the speech about how if we love our cars or iPods or Facebooks more than anything else, then they may have become an idol in our lives.  Perhaps some teens need to hear that speech, but I often would think, "Nah, I could easily give up those things for God.  They're only material possessions.  They don't really matter."

But have you ever stopped to think that your schedule might have become an idol in your life?  Think about it.  If you're too busy to stop and think about God, if there is too much going on in your life for you to spend time with God, if you think about yourself and your own problems more than you worship God, then there is a huge problem in your life.  You're placing your wants and schedule and priorities above the One who created you and gave His life for you.  You're making your priorities and thus yourself an idol.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to pray continually.  Another translation of the same verse says for us to pray without ceasing.  We were made to think about the Lord constantly.  Our purpose is to glorify Him, not to focus on our own schedules.

Putting God above our schedules is much easier said than done.  Life is a big thing and when it gets in the way, it's tough to push it down and say, "No, it's God time right now."  Placing God at the top of your priority list is a difficult habit to create, but it's time to start trying.

Remember to have some sort of a quiet time with God every single day.  Take a slice out of your schedule to spend time with your Father and worship Him.  Talk to Him.  Remember Him.  Jesus Christ suffered and died for you.  The least you can do is spend some time with Him.

I wonder if it makes God sad when He is so frequently shoved into a ten or fifteen minute slot out of a day that lasts twenty-four hours.  "Okay, God.  I've given you a fifteen minute quiet time today.  Are You happy now?  Isn't that good enough?"  God is not small.  He is not insignificant.  He is life-consuming.  He should be the center of our existence.

Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  It isn't that difficult.  It's two or three words long, depending on what translation you use.  Memorize that verse and use it.  Hide it in your heart.  Spend some alone time with God each day, yes, but as you move through your busy schedule, talk to God.  Think about Him.  Let Him fill your thoughts and transform the way you live your life.  When you're consumed with the Lord, your words and actions and heart will change.  You'll glorify God with the way you live, and that's how it's meant to be.

God is not small.  Don't make Him small in your life.

Friday, February 4, 2011

We have the same Father.

Church isn't always a happy place.

As Christians, we should strive to treat each other with love and respect, but I often overhear words of hatred and anger exchanged between believers.
"Christians shouldn't listen to instruments during worship."
"Christians have to worship on Saturdays, not Sundays."
"Christian girls who wear pants are immodest." 

And the arguments go on and on and on.  Some arguments are big.  Some are small.  Many are hateful and filled with bitterness.

bodie-church-steeple.jpgWhy do you think there are so many branches and denominations within the church?  Everybody has differing beliefs, and that's okay.  Is there a definite right or wrong?  Yes.  Do most of these debates truly matter in the grand scheme of things?  No, not really.

Despite our differences, we should accept one another with love, whether or not we agree with every point in each other's doctrine.  Look at Colossians 3:13-15.  "Bear with each other... And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace..."

It makes me sad when I see so many people fighting against each other when we should be of one body.  Why should we squabble like we do?  Why should we burn each other with mean words and hateful attitudes?  Why shun our brothers and sisters in Christ?  Why can't we love each other, even when we disagree?

The other night, I was reading Galatians 4-6.  Its words impacted my heart and made me ache for peace and unity.  Galatians 5:13-15 says, "...Serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other."

I hear so many stories about churches breaking apart, families shunning each other, fights and debates breaking out about such small points of doctrine that they become silly.  In Galatians, the silly conflict Paul was writing about was circumcision.  Some believers had declared that circumcision was required for someone to be a Christian, which defeated the point of Christ overcoming the law.  Their words and arguments were discouraging many new and potential Christians.  Paul stated in Galatians 5:6, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

Do I think debating is wrong?  No, not at all.  Friendly debates are great ways to form and grow what you believe.  When you debate, you realize more and more why you believe what you believe.  However, it's very easy for a small debate to turn into a full-fledged argument.  How can you express your faith and opinions through love while in a conflict?  Here are five points I try to remind myself when I debate with a fellow believer.

No matter what we believe, we should still be unified.
The church was meant to be a place where believers could grow together and worship God as one body.  There will be differing beliefs and varying doctrines, but there should still be a unity that brings us all together.  Jesus Christ died for each one of us and we've devoted our lives to Him.  That is our point of unity.  Look at Ephesians 4:2-6.  "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  We are of one faith.  It's time to act like it.

Anger and sarcasm only makes things worse.
If you struggle with taming your words, I recommend James 3.  James 3:9-10 says, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be."  When you're debating and feel impassioned about your beliefs, it's so easy to become angry that the person isn't saying, "Yes, you're right.  I was wrong."  They may even use their words wrongly and offend you.  No matter how good it sunset.jpgfeels to put down someone else out of anger, your sarcastic or angry words will only hurt the situation.

You don't need to convince anyone you're right.
I know it feels good to "win" a debate, but that feel-good feeling isn't worth an argument.  Which is better for keeping the peace: "I respect what you are saying, but I think we're going to have to agree to disagree" or pushing and pushing at the argument until you're both frustrated and red in the face?

Just because someone believes differently than you, don't love them any less.
Have you noticed that many Christians love on unbelievers in an attempt to be a witness, but often shun other Christians because of minor conflicts in doctrine?  "I serve prostitutes breakfast every Wednesday, but I refuse to speak to him.  He believes it's okay to read the NIV translation."  Isn't that a little messed up?  Yes, we should show constant love to unbelievers and to everyone around us, but we've been called to love each other as well.  I love Galatians 6:10, which says, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong in the family of believers."  Especially those who belong to our family of believers.  We've been called to love each other.  We're brothers and sisters in Christ.  We're all children of God.  Nothing should be big enough to tear us apart.

If it isn't a factor of salvation, it doesn't really matter.
Jesus Christ is God.  He came down to earth as a human and lived without sin.  He suffered and died as a sacrifice for our sins.  Three days after He died, He came back to life and is still alive today.  That's the basics of our faith.  That is what unifies us all.  If we have that in common, we are one body, one faith.  We're united in Christ.  In the grand scheme of things, nothing else matters.

Yes, there is right or wrong.  When you're debating, one of you will be wrong.  However, if debates that do not rely on salvation are tearing apart the body of Christ, then it's time to back off.  Instead of alienating other believers, focus on your own heart and let others live what they believe.  Love.

Ultimately, the truth will be revealed.  When we're in heaven one day, we'll be shown what is right and what is wrong.  You'll be right on some issues... and you may be wrong in others.  But one day, the truth will be unfolded.  For now, let the arguments and strife go.  Focus instead on what sums up what we believe: loving the Lord and loving each other.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What's your glass?

You know, being negative is one of the easiest habits you can make.  It might start out with a bad day or something that makes you pretty mad... and then suddenly, your entire outlook is transformed.  Honestly, is it easier to remember the difficult things that happen in a day or the happy things?

I've noticed lately that many of the people around me are much more negative than they are positive.  I also easily fall into this habit.  I go to school and a friend walks up to me and says, "I'm so tired.  My alarm clock didn't wake me up this morning, so I had to get ready in daisy-glass.jpgfive minutes.  Plus, I didn't get to do my homework last night, so I'm going to fail," and in an agreeing way, I often reply with something like, "Ugh, I know.  I didn't fall asleep until three in the morning.  I'm exhausted.  I hope I didn't fail the test last period."  And so the negativity begins.

This needs to stop.

When we're as pessimistic as we so often are, we're putting down the blessings we've been given by God.  We're ignoring the good things in our lives and focusing on the negative.  Look at the things you do have.  Life, breath in your lungs, a Savior...  There are so many gifts you've been given and those are only a few.

1 Chronicles 16:10 says, "...Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice."

\Sometimes, you gotta vent.  I understand that because I have to vent too.  But when the conversations you have with the people around you become more negative than they are positive, there is a problem.  This week, I challenge you to outnumber the negative things you say with positive things.  If you're feeling brave, I challenge you to not say anything negative at all, at least for an entire day.

Instead of negativity, fill your thoughts with happy things, with your blessings.  If someone hurts your feelings, remind yourself about the friends you do have.  If you wake up late, just think... you got a few minutes of extra sleep.  If you get into an argument, remember that difficult situations sometimes happen, but they don't have to define your day.  When you begin to shape your thoughts to think about joyful things rather than negativity, your entire outlook on life will begin to change.

God created you to be joyful, not down in the dumps and full of complaints.  1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  You were made to be joyful.  Not lonely.  Not sulky.  Not negative.  Not complaining.  Strive to be thankful, even if you're having a tough time.

After all, there are so many things to be thankful for.  If you're having trouble finding them, it may be time to start to change the way you think.

I remember reading Numbers 11:1 last year and feeling shocked.  "Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of water-drops.jpgthe LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp."  God hates complaining.  I can complain a lot at times.  I stubbed my toe.  I'm tired.  I have a headache.  I've had a bad day.  It's so easy to dwell on the negative.  But negativity causes God's anger to burn.

Yes, it's easy to think about how much you don't fit in or how bad of a day you've had or how much you wish you could be doing something else than what you're doing with your life... but it isn't God's will for you to dwell on the bad stuff in your life.  He has blessed you, even if you don't feel like He has.  If you're breathing right now, you're blessed.  If you have one friend, you're blessed.  If you have an education or food to eat, you're blessed.  You've been blessed.  It's time to act like it.

Have you ever known a true pessimist?  You know, someone who can twist any situation into something awful?  Aren't they an irritating person to be around?  Don't they just bring you down?  Try to remember that when you're with friends and constantly complaining or talking about negative subjects, you're bringing your friends down.  You don't want to be "that friend" who brings everybody down with your pessimism.  

You know, your relationship with Jesus Christ should give you joy.  Are you focusing on the joy in your life or the things that make you unhappy?  Which do you think glorifies God more: negativity or positivity?  The Lord has given us so much.  Let's thank Him with our thoughts, words, and actions and try to keep them positive.  Does anyone agree?

Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!     

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Broken Doll

The clouds were dark.

The little girl stood still, silent beneath the rain that struck her skin like shards of glass.  Her hands hung limp at her sides.  She was weary from the struggle it took to merely walk under the force of the relentless storm.

I'm so tired.

water droplets on jpgThe little girl's dress was once white and beautiful.  It had become tattered and gray, a remnant of what it once was.  The girl was ashamed of her dress, of her heart, of her past.  She had been fighting for so long.  The rain hadn't stopped for what seemed like years.

So many mistakes.  So many regrets that brought her to this moment.  The little girl could only stand still; too weak to press forward any longer.  She had struggled long enough.  Fragile, like a broken doll.  Once she was whole.  Once she was beautiful.  Her heart had become only filthy shards that pricked the palms of her hands.  Dirty.  Used.  Ugly.

The clouds roiled above her in an empty, darkened sky.  An angry clap of thunder crashed through the stillness of the air and the little girl fell to her knees.  She tilted her head up to the sky and screamed with all her might.  I've made so many mistakes.  I'm broken.  Worthless.  Ugly.  I can't do this anymore.

I thought I was Your child.

Tears.  Rain.  Cold.  The little girl was fragile and small against the pounding rain of the storm.  It battered her frail form and muddied the tattered edges of her dress.  Where are You?

Slowly, the rain lulled until it came to a complete stop, leaving a damp and muddy ground in its wake.  Are You here?  The girl's knees shook as she struggled to her feet.  I need You.  She lifted her arms to the sky and clenched her small fists.  The rain was gone, but she knew she wasn't alone.  She could feel Him.  She quaked with fear and shame.  Did He still love her?  Could He ever forgive the things she had done?  Oh, what she would have given to feel loved again, to hear the warmth of His voice whispering into her heart.

The little girl's voice was hoarse, nearly gone, but she screamed all the more.

flash of light in jpgI NEED YOU!

With a flash of light brighter than anything the little girl had ever seen before, the clouds disappeared altogether.  The girl tumbled to the ground, covering her eyes with trembling hands.  I'm so broken.  So ugly.  I've ruined everything and I'm sorry...

I still love you.

The words burned through the girl's heart like a hot iron, leaving her winded and gasping for breath.

I've never left you.  You've always been My child.  Will you come home?

The girl was too overcome to speak.  She squeezed her eyes shut and stretched her hands up to the sky, to the light, to the warmth of the love that seemed to radiate all around her.  But I'm undeserving.

You're forgiven.  You're loved.  You're Mine.

When the girl opened her eyes again, everything was quiet.  The light was still blindingly bright, but it no longer hurt her eyes.  The girl stood up slowly, hardly able to take in the beauty of the earth around her.  She was standing in a garden, surrounded by green grass and brightly-colored flowers and a gurgling brook filled with clear, beckoning water.

garden flowers purple jpgA garden restored by rain.

I'm so ugly compared to all of this.  He can give me a beautiful garden, but I'm still broken.  Still worthless.  A tear trickled down the little girl's cheek, but a flash of white caught her eye.  Pure white.

Her dress.  The little girl's dress was white as snow, just like it used to be.

The girl gasped, spinning around and watching the white folds of her dress catch in the sunlight.  As she twirled, a voice murmured lovingly into her heart, My child, I can make anything whole again.  You're no longer a broken, tattered doll.  In My eyes, you're beautiful.  You're My precious little girl.

No longer broken and ugly, but precious and transformed.  Brand new, just like the garden.  The little girl lifted her hands into the air and smiled up at the sky.

I'm Yours.