Monday, October 21, 2013

Early Hour

I have to keep a journal for an English class I am taking.  We're encouraged to use our creativity in the form of poetry and drawings, so I wrote a silly poem in the style of Emily Dickinson.

I do realize my poem isn't even about death, so that's a pretty big difference between me and the "other" Emily.  But here goes.  The poem is about my 8am class.  I'm blessed, right?

Early Hour

Walking in the Morning
Sun's whisper and caress -
On one hand I am weary
On the other, Bless'd -
The Early Hour aching -
How it stings to rise!
Thankful for the Learning 
My tired Body cries -
I will awake each Morning
Walk the way to Class
My Life — that of the Student
To Learn, my Noble Task -

September 2, 2013

Two years ago: He was ALWAYS there.
Three years ago: Leave an anonymous letter of encouragement.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Unveiled: Molly

Today's guest-blogger for the Unveiled Project is the lovely Molly!  She is exuberant and vivacious, a worshiper of Christ with so much joy inside her heart that it overflows everywhere she goes.  I am so excited to hear what Molly has to say today.

Hi, my name is Molly!

I love listening to and creating music.  I love swinging on all types of swings, having picnics, going on adventures, taking spontaneous trips, laughing, reading good books, and drinking coffee.  I like surprises and pretty things and autumn.  I always keep a kite in my car (whose name is Max, by the way), just in case it's windy.  My favorite color is yellow, although sometimes I prefer blue.  I love the mountains and camping and climbing rocks and swimming and being outside.  I love giant storms - I like listening to the sounds and watching pounding rain and lightning.  I like to listen to sad music.  I like it when it's really cold but I'm bundled up and warm and cozy.  I like the smell of fires and anything chocolate.  I like lots of things.

I am a junior at Texas A&M University and I am nineteen (but almost twenty) years old.  Most importantly, I love my Lord and Savior.  He has adopted me and made me His daughter.  I want to go everywhere and love His people - I would love to be a missionary.  I trust that He has a plan for my life, even though I don't have a clue what that plan is.  I am passionate about His word and His people.

I've never had a boyfriend.  My (nearly) twenty years has been a sweet season of singleness.  I'm not here to tell you that you should date Jesus or that singleness is the answer to your problems - but I will say that God has a lot to teach us in both seasons of singleness and seasons of dating and eventually marriage.  It's all part of His plan to sanctify us and make us look more like Him.  Life has all different seasons - my life has had seasons of change and seasons of pain and seasons of general comfort.  And God has used all of them to shape me and teach me and grow me.

What does the phrase "guard your heart" mean to you and how do you practice this?  How would you define this Biblically?

Okay, I am personally guilty of using the phrase "guard my heart" as kind of a joke.  Whenever someone shows me a picture of puppies or something else that triggers my typical girly love of all small or fluffy things, I've been known to laugh and say, "Guaaard my heeeart."

Christian circles throw this phrase around quite often as a matter of fact.  We are constantly told to guard our hearts - but what does that even mean?  I am a counselor at a summer camp and this summer, God showed me that I didn't actually know as much about this as I thought I did - looks like it's something we get to keep figuring out more and more as we go.  I grew up attending church and so I heard Proverbs 4:23 a lot.  Like, a lot a lot.  I wanted to pursue the Lord in all I did, so I knew I needed to guard my heart.  I mostly thought this meant from boys.  But the problem was that I tried to guard MY heart.  I tried to do it in my own strength and in the way I thought was best.  I thought that guarding my heart meant avoiding hurt by putting up walls.

I love the Oh Hello's and I love their song, "Hello My Old Heart."  One of the lyrics in that song says, "Every day I add another stone to the walls I built around you [talking about their heart] to keep you safe."  Seriously, great song, great band - go listen to them.  However, that is not actually what guarding your heart should look like.  That is definitely the approach I was taking.

I have literally run in the opposite direction if a boy showed interest in me (like a dead on sprint, I'm not kidding).  I was careful about what I would say and sometimes I would try to avoid my brothers in Christ all in the name of guarding my heart.  God revealed to me this summer that this was a MAJOR control issue.

I was reading through the book of Isaiah and God decided to use chapter 30 to speak directly to my stony, "guarded" heart.  The chapter starts off by saying, "Ah, stubborn children."  It goes on to reprimand the Israelites for carrying out a plan for their own protection without consulting God.  It wasn't His idea for them to run off to Egypt where they thought they would be safe!  He had way better plans for protecting them!  The next few chapters were full of words that God used to reveal my stubborn heart and my desire to be in control so that I wouldn't ever get hurt.  The Lord showed me that I was holding onto my heart too tightly.  I should be less concerned with how I can protect MYSELF and more concerned with loving others - God makes it clear that loving others is our priority, second only to loving Him.

So what am I saying, exactly?  That you shouldn't guard your heart?  No!  Proverbs 4:23 still clearly commands us to guard our hearts above all else, and 1 Peter 1:16 reminds us that we are called to be holy.  But as you guard your heart, make sure that you are constantly surrendering it to the Lord.  Ask HIM to protect you and to do what is best for you.  There may be seasons of hurt - that's okay!  God uses even painful seasons to shape us to be more like Him.

Guarding your heart isn't avoiding a broken heart; it is pursuing the Lord and focusing on His good things.  Colossians 3:2-3 says, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things, for you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."  2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to take every single thought captive to obey Christ.  So think about what you think about!

Nothing should have more of your affection than Christ Jesus.  If we are pursuing Him first always, we can trust Him to "guard our hearts" and to give us opportunities to share His love with those around us.  It's not about boys, it's about pursuing purity of thoughts and actions.

What is the most difficult part of finding satisfaction in the Lord through singleness?  How have you learned to find fullness of joy in Him?

Do you feel like there are seasons when EVERYONE is beginning relationships, you attend a bridal shower or engagement party at least once a week, and your refrigerator is covered in save-the-dates and wedding invitations?  I know I do.  To me, seasons like this are when I find it most difficult to keep my satisfaction steadfastly in the Lord in my singleness.

In all honesty, I am absolutely NOT ready to be walking down the aisle tomorrow!  My life is so full right now - God has given me deep friendships and community, and I have gotten to experience all kinds of stuff during my time in college so far.  No part of me legitimately wants to fast-forward this unique and exciting time in my life.  And yet, when I see so many people going on dates or falling in love, it is hard for me not to give into the temptation to believe that God is not doing what is best for me - that maybe being in a relationship would be better than the incredible season of singleness that I find myself in.  That thought process is completely my ugly pride.  How could I ever think even for a second that I might know more than the sovereign Creator of the universe?

2 Corinthians 10:5 comes in handy again here.  It commands us to "take every thought captive to obey Christ."  Every thought.  All of them.  It is normal for us to long for intimacy with a man.  (Although this will never be a substitute for intimacy with God.)  That is how we were created!  And when this season comes in the Lord's timing, it is AWESOME!  So we will definitely have thoughts from time to time of longing to be in a relationship!  When those thoughts come, we have a choice.  We can either choose to negatively dwell on our singleness and not be content in that.  Or we can set our minds on God and all the many blessings He has given us - how He is protecting us and growing us right now!  How He has given us ministry right now - we don't have to wait until some other stage of life to minister to people!  He longs to use us right now!  I promise you this: being used fully by the Lord always brings fullness of joy.

A practical way to fight our fleshly desire to be discontent is to make a list of the lies we are believing and then COMBAT THEM!  How do you combat a lie?  With truth!  We know that the Bible is 100% true, so it is our best weapon against lies!  When we believe lies about our singleness or anything else for that matter, we must turn to Scripture.

I like to make a list of the lies I'm believing and then write the truth from Scripture that combats those lies right next to it!  When they are right there next to each other, the truth wins every time.

What does waiting mean to you?

Okay, so I know this asked me what I personally think that waiting means, but I did some homework.  I wanted to look up the meaning of the Hebrew words that we translate as "wait."  I took this from an article on

In the NASB the word most often translated "wait" in the sense of waiting on the Lord is the Hebrew qavah.  Qavah means (1) "to bind together" (perhaps by twisting strands as in making rope), (2) "look patiently," (3) "tarry or wait," and (4) "hope, expect, look eagerly."

The second most frequently used word translated "wait" is yachal.  Yachal means "to wait," or "hope, wait expectantly," and is so translated in our English Bibles.

What  sticks out to me in these definitions is the expectancy.  What does it mean to wait expectantly?  It's not this idea of sitting around in a doctor's office waiting for our name to finally be called so that we can accomplish the purpose of our visit.  It's more like when my parents would leave me at home as a child to clean my room while they went to the store.  I knew they were coming back!  I didn't waste any time (okay, sometimes I wasted time... but I shouldn't have!), I cleaned my room!  I wanted them to come home and find that I had accomplished the task they had given me.

As we wait for the Lord and for future seasons of our life, we need to be active.  To me, waiting is doing something now!  The things I'm doing now are preparing me for the future that I'm waiting for!

What advice/encouragement would you give to girls who are pursuing holiness in singleness and relationships?

Regardless of whether you're single or in a dating relationship, something I want to encourage women to do is continuously seek wisdom.  James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

How can you seek wisdom?  First and foremost, seek wisdom from Scripture.  The words in the Bible are inspired by and directly from God.  By spending time in the word, we grow in wisdom.  Secondly, I would encourage you to seek out wisdom from older women who are more mature believers and have experienced more life than you.  I'm not even twenty yet, so while I can tell you about things that God has revealed to me, I still have a ton to learn!  We can learn so much from older believers.  We see Timothy learning from Paul throughout the Old Testament.  Find someone who can give you mature perspective founded in truth!

Also, I want to encourage you to remember Ecclesiastes 1:9.  "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."  The hard things we go through are not unique.  Tons of your sisters are facing the same struggles - whether struggling to be joyful in singleness or facing difficulties and temptations in relationships, you are not alone!  God has named you His daughter and you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart!  So keep on striving towards Him!

Two years ago: Homesick
Three years ago: Donate clothes to a shelter.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

7: Waste

My friend Sammy and I are undertaking Jen Hatmaker's 7 Experiment, a seven week fast from excess.  Our first week, we fasted by only eating seven foods.  Our second week, we only wore seven articles of clothing.  Our third week, we gave away possessions.  Last week, we fasted from seven forms of media (the hardest week by far!).

This week is a fast from waste. 

I struggled with whether or not I wanted to share anything at all about this week's fast.  I have been completely honest and open about the last four weeks, so I'm going to be transparent about this one as well, even though it may bring on a bunch of negative responses.

I'm not enthusiastic about this fast.  In fact, I'm a few days in and I'm still not sure how it's going to work.

Jen Hatmaker chose to fast by being proactively eco-friendly, such as only driving one car for a week, composting, buying locally, shopping thrift, and etc.  These things just don't work for a college student!  I only have one car already.  I have to take a test thirty minutes away in another town this week, so I can't give up my car.  Composting is unrealistic for my life.  I make very little money as a college student and have the schedule of a crazy person, so buying local/organic won't work well.  And finally, I just gave away half my clothes, so there is no need for me to shop from a thrift store!  Basically, this week is going to be complicated. 

Sammy and I chose to give up things that could harm the environment.  I am giving up paper towels, disposable plastic bottles, soda cans, plastic grocery bags, styrofoam cups, and sandwich baggies.  Sammy is replacing the last item on that list with washing all of her dishes by hand.  And our seventh thing will be to plant a garden together in Sam's backyard.

The thing is, we are Texas girls and college students.  We survive on fast food and efficiency.  While we love the earth God gave us and love the idea of having a garden and eating organically, going green isn't always an option for our lifestyles right now. 

This last weekend, we went to a Rice Festival that was a celebration of cajun food.  We'd been planning this trip for over a month, so we decided to shorten our fast to the week days, because there was no way to avoid styrofoam and paper towels at this festival if we were going to eat anything.

We're trying to stay motivated this week, but as another round of exams and all-nighters tumbles into our laps, we're already tending to cheat a little by choosing paper cups over styrofoam (because hey, they technically aren't bottle, styrofoam, or can, okay?) and napkins instead of paper towels.  My mom is out of the state for the next several days, so she is taking a break from the 7 Experiment altogether and will be re-joining next week.

I'm being honest here.  This is how we're skimping this week.  This fast simply hasn't convicted my heart yet like the others have.

Perhaps we haven't gone into this with the right mindset, and I'm reading 7 and its workbook and trying my best to understand the points Jen is making, but I just haven't gotten it so far.  While I hate the idea of oil spills and littering, I don't have a problem with using paper towels and sandwich bags.  I'm sorry, eco-friendly people.  I'm sorry.

So I'm asking the Lord to teach me something over the next four days, to break my heart for what breaks His, to change the aspects of my lifestyle that do not glorify Him, despite my lack of motivation and conviction.  His grace extends much further than my fickle emotions.

So we'll see.

If you have any ideas of how we could approach this fast differently, you are very welcome to discuss in the comments.  Be sure to remain respectful and kind in regards to the beliefs of others, green or not.

One year ago: A Taste of Encouragement
Two years ago: Creepiest Puppy Ever
Three years ago: Leave an encouraging Bible verse

Monday, October 7, 2013

Letters for Lavin: September

Every month of 2013, I am sending my sponsored daughter Lavin a letter and sharing it here on this blog.  I get so many emails and comments asking for ideas about what to write and send to your sponsored child.  Hopefully this can give you some ideas.

If you don't sponsor a child and are feeling a call on your heart to do so, check out Christian Relief Fund.  You can completely transform a child's life for $35 a month and continue to pursue a relationship and mentorship with them through letters.

This month, Lavin's letter was simple.  Her card was orange, which is the color of hope for AIDS orphans in the horn of Africa.

Inside the card, I wrote about:
  • Thanking Lavin for her letter!  I feel special when I know she received my letters.  I want her to have that same joy.
  • Encouragement for her to study.
  • I gave Lavin Scripture and promise verses for her to read.
  • I updated Lavin about my life and the classes I'm taking in school. 
  • I ended the letter with a few questions so Lavin can have ideas of what to write the next time she decides to compose a letter.
Inside the letter, I put:
  • Three photographs of me and my siblings (with names and ages on the back)
  • Hologram stickers
  • Two Silly Bands that represent my university

Notice that everything fits flat into the envelope.  This is very important to keep postage inexpensive.  Otherwise, your sponsorship organization may not be able to send the letter.

I know some of you sponsor young children.  In these cases, it's very difficult to know what to write because they are just learning to read and often don't understand a lot of English.  This month, I wrote to my sponsored son, David, who is four years old.  Here are some ideas for your letter.

I kept the front of the card simple, without words, and instead put an animal that David will know well: an elephant!

I kept the inside of the letter very simple, so that it'd be easy for the teacher delivering the letters to read to David if needed.  I even drew a little picture on the inside.

Inside the letter, I shared:
  • A picture with me and each of my siblings, with their names on the backs
  • A picture I took of David when I met him this summer!
  • "Football" stickers.  Kenyan kids love to play soccer. 

Have you written your sponsored child this month?

Two years ago: Jack the Mountain Goat
Three years ago: Donate $5 to charity.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Waging War (Seven Fast)

My friend Sammy and I are fasting from Media this week as part of The 7 Experiment Bible study by Jen Hatmaker.  While I did not post any blogs (nor check my comments or view count) for the entirety of the week, I did keep a daily journal.  Here are a few of my thoughts from Wednesday and Thursday.

Day 6: Wednesday

Dear adoption blogs, I miss you.  I read you diligently every day, even though I'm just a kid and still ages away from being legally allowed to adopt a child (Hey Em, you're turning 21 in less than two weeks... surprise!).  Regardless, your words of hope and familial love have warmed this lonely college student's heart.  I have only two more days to go without your adorable stories, insight into God's heart for the fatherless, and photographs of rainbowed families.

I went to a worship night tonight for my Life Group.  I led for half of it, but for the last bit, I got to sit back and listen to songs play sweetly from speakers across the room.  Songs I love, like "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle and "Mighty Hand" by Jon Thurlow. 

While doing my Bible study, I read John 17:13-18, which says, "I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them.  I have given them Your Word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

A quote from Jen Hatmaker about this passage that left me thinking hard was: "I grew up in a Christian culture that valued a sequestered worldview.  'In the world, not of the world' was the mantra that kept me separated from 'sinners,' isolated from complicated questions and quarantined with other believers.  ...A heavy emphasis on morality reduced my concept of discipleship into simple lists; do this and be esteemed, do that and be condemned.  ...I artfully skipped over the part where Jesus said, 'I am not praying that You take them out of the world. ...As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.'  I avoided this concept, preferring a protectionist view point, meaning pull out, detach, ignore, disengage, disconnect, wall it off.  ...But Jesus chose a different way to protect us: truth.  Evidently He deemed that enough to anchor us."  

I've grown up with this perspective.  A fast from media has many people expecting me to step back and say, "Now I see.  Media is of the flesh, not of the Lord.  Movies are bad.  Music is bad.  Facebook is bad."  And that simply is not true.  I'm fasting from media to refocus my heart on Christ, but media in itself is not sinful or wrong.  In fact, it is a resource that can be used for God-glorifying things.

Jesus didn't pray that we would leave this world.  He sent us into the world armed with truth.  And as I go out into the world, including the one of social media and internet, I want to be fully equipped with the truth of God's Word and the love of Christ.  Not naively boxed away into a Christian closet, but aware of the darkness and ready to fight against it with light. 

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus said, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."  In the words of Jen Hatmaker, "Maybe remaining culturally savvy, sharp, and discerning, shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves is an advantage."  

Am I going to go immerse myself in pornography and listen to music riddled with degrading messages just because I'm a member of this world?  No.  1 Corinthians 10:23 says, "'I have the right to do anything,' you say—but not everything is beneficial.  'I have the right to do anything'—but not everything is constructive."

Am I going to intentionally become more aware of the hidden messages the media is throwing at me, like, "Everybody has sex.  You deserve to buy whatever you want.  Without friends, you are nothing."?  Yes.  I want to know the lies being slipped into those advertisements, materialistic messages, and even my classroom lectures so that I can stand against them with the truth of God's Word.  "The marriage bed should be kept pure.  Those who give to the poor will lack nothing.  Your name is inscribed upon the palm of His hand.  No other thing gives you worth."

It was a good day today.  I'm learning.
Day 7: Thursday 

I think I was tempted the most to cheat today, believe it or not.  The knowledge that the end of my media fast is coming up in ten hours, eight, six, four, has left my hands twitching near my computer, my brain murmuring, "Emily, it isn't that long until tomorrow.  7pm is practically midnight.  Go ahead and watch a show.  Go ahead and check your blog comments.  If a thousand years are like a day to God, then three hours must be like less than a millisecond."

Let me clarify: the point of my fast isn't ritual, legalism, cheating or not cheating.  The point is giving my word and sacrificing something to the Lord, saying, "I want to be uncomfortable for an entire week if it means worshiping You, focusing fully on You."  It's giving up something I thought I needed in reliance of the sustenance of my Father.  And He's been gentle with me this week, helping me to push past my silly temptations.

Out of the four weeks I've now fasted from excess in a row, the Lord has answered prayers the most clearly during this one.  Two specific prayers have been answered in the last few days.  I don't think it's because fasting from media is any more significant than the other fasts, which have all been transforming and challenging in varying ways.  But perhaps it's because I was the most frustrated this week, the most weary and desperate.  I've had to sit back and listen to the Lord in silence instead of fleeing to my own resources, and His calm voice is what I received instead of my usual accompanying noise.

I've been attacked viciously the last seven days.  Sleep has come sparsely.  I didn't sleep last night at all.  Not a wink.  As the alarm on my phone sprang to life at 6:30, I was still staring blankly at the wall.  Insomnia leads to exhaustion, which brings spiritual and emotional fatigue, not only physical weariness.  I'm most often attacked through anxiety, and I like to retreat from those feelings by escaping into movies and loud music and social media connections with my friends.

With all of that stripped bare this week, I was forced to face my anxiety, totter under sleeplessness and frustration, and finally collapse at the feet of God in utter desperation.  I'm tired.  I'm weak.  I can't do this on my own.  Not just the fasting from media, but taking care of me.

I like to cling to my own sense of control when I feel overwhelmed.  I like to think I used to struggle with these things and now I'm strong and independent, when in reality, it's a daily transformation to be more like Christ.  Jesus is gently loosening my grip on my self-centeredness and holding my trembling hands in His.

"You are Mine.  You are secure.  I will give you rest.  I will give you peace.  I'm giving you life to the fullest, Emily." 

As I end this week with only an hour and a half left to go before my fast is complete, I'm not left feeling a hatred or disgust for media.  Media is a tool that the Lord uses to connect people, to bring families closer together through shared photographs on Facebook and movie-watching experiences, to raise awareness about all sorts of issues, and to share His love.

How many times have I been truly blessed or challenged to be more like Christ through a blog, email, comment, or Facebook status?  More than I can count.  Media is a wonderful resource.

But media can be time-consuming and addictive.  It often projects false ideals and tempts its users to become inwardly-focused and hungry for constant digital interaction.  It leads people to covet (try looking for home design ideas on Pinterest, if you want to know what I mean), gossip, and fly into impulsive rages and arguments about silly things.  For me, media sometimes brings a weight of guilt when it shouldn't.  If I don't read and respond to every email or comment I get on my blog, if I'm not keeping up with what my friends say on social media, I feel bad.  I shouldn't feel obligated to keep up with media more than I do my face-to-face interactions.

There are good and bad sides to media consumption, just as I've also come to realize there are good and bad sides to food, clothing, and possessions.

The most important thing is placing the Lord first in my heart and allowing everything else to fall into place behind Him and people.  I want media to be a tool to grow nearer to my Creator, not a stumbling block that distracts my attention from Him.

As I finish this week, I'm meditating on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, which says, "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

I refuse to allow media use in my life to be an addiction, coping mechanism, or distraction from the Lord.  Instead, I pray that it will be a resource to help me demolish every pretense in my life that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and an encouragement as I work to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ, online and off.

What has the Lord showed you this week?

One year ago: The Room
Two years ago: Plus-Sized Mannequins... or Not
Three years ago: Leave an encouraging note on the mirror.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Becoming Less (Seven Fast)

My friend Sammy and I are fasting from Media this week as part of The 7 Experiment Bible study by Jen Hatmaker.  While I did not post any blogs (nor check my comments or view count) for the entirety of the week, I did keep a daily journal.  Here are a few of my thoughts from Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Day 3: Sunday

This evening I received an email from Facebook; in its title it warned me that I had a whole bunch of messages and notifications pending.  I can't escape from social media even when I've escaped from it!  My curiosity has been piqued.

The sky a couple of days ago. Beautiful, right?
Sammy and I went to Deaf Church this afternoon.  I don't know American Sign Language extremely well, but I'm learning and I enjoy attending this diverse church.  Christianity Today wrote in an article a few years ago, "Christian deaf ministries estimate that only 1 percent of American deaf children will attend church as adults. Less than 7 percent will ever have the gospel presented to them in a way they can understand."

This information is flooring.  We have an almost entirely unreached people group in our neighborhoods.  There is a large and vibrant Deaf community in my town... and in my hometown as well.  The fact that 93% of deaf adults will never know the Gospel clearly breaks my heart.  As a Christian who knows fairly passable sign language, I am failing my job.

This is why Deaf Church makes me smile.  I plan to blog about this more in depth sometime, but today I wanted to talk about worship.  At Deaf Church, they hold worship before the sermon: today it was two songs that were played from YouTube lyric/music videos.  The church stood and signed the words together, led by a woman standing in the front.

This week, I've been encountering forms of worship I don't experience often enough: worship in silence, worship in undivided attention.  A community gathering to worship the Lord in sign language is something sweet to my spirit on this otherwise media-free day.

The Lord has answered one of my prayers.  Inquiry was a reason behind my fasting over the last three weeks.  I've been aware of God's answer to my question for a while now, but after a long phone conversation today with my sister, I'm even more certain.  What's neat is how this media fast came into play.  I probably wouldn't have made the phone call if it weren't for my texting restriction; both of our lives are hectic.  But I had free time without social media, I couldn't text, and so I called, and the Lord used this to further His plan.  God is faithful.

Day 4: Monday

I went to Life Group tonight after class.  We had a time of worship where songs were played through an iPod.  I wanted to exchange those brief fifteen minutes for hours.  It felt exhilerating to hear music, so sweet to be able to stand and praise God through listening to lyrics and instruments lifted in worship to Him!

During discussion time, we read John 12 and then discussed what passionate worship means.  I've known this for so long, but it's easy to forget that worship comes in so many other forms than listening to worship music, or even playing it on my own guitar.  Mary of Bethany worshiped through humility and a sweet act of love as she poured perfume upon Jesus' feet and wiped His feet with her hair.  The crowd in Jerusalem worshiped by taking palm branches and shouting, "Hosanna!"  David in the Old Testament danced, sang, and played instruments before the Lord.  Without access to my iPod or iTunes this week, I've been confronted with new ideas of worship over and over again.

Sure, there have been evenings that I've sat with my guitar and ukulele and played praise songs until my voice wore out.  I've sang all sorts of acapella songs in my quiet car.  But sitting in silence and meditating on the Lord's goodness is worship.  Time spent in prayer is worship.  Giving away possessions to people who are loved unfailingly by God is a form of worship.

I love music.  I love worshiping through music.  But it isn't the only way to praise my Creator. 

Sammy called tonight and said, "I really just want to listen to music.  I'm willing to come over to your house and listen to you play the guitar if it means listening to music."  I get it!  My eyes are craving some screen time.  My ears are craving some of my favorite beats.

I didn't know how to respond, so I finally said, "I guess just try thinking of all the reasons you're not listening to music."  We laughed at my Jesus juke and she's definitely going to use the same thing against me the next time I complain. 

So I will.  Here's a short list of why I'm not turning to media today.
  • God has asked me to be still.
  • Music is not my coping mechanism.  TV is not my coping mechanism.  Quality time with my Father is what gives me peace and security.
  • If I can't give up something for a week out of a worshipful spirit, that thing is teetering dangerously close to idol-status in my life.  Not okay.
  • Boredom is silly.  Media is not the only source of entertainment in my life.
  • Jesus gave everything for me.  I can give up these things. 

Day 5: Tuesday

I am weary.  I only got a few hours of sleep last night, I attended three college classes, and then I went to math tutoring.  As I arrive home late this evening, I have a headache, I'm exhausted, and all I want to do is crash in front of my computer and watch an episode of some television show.  Any show.  I just want to stop thinking.

My mom called me and said that she has been so tempted to just cheat on the TV aspect of her fast for one day.  Just for one day and then she'll keep fasting until Friday.  I was secretly debating the same thing in my head.  It isn't like I even watch TV that much, but when I've had a long and stressful day, the idea of relaxing through media is just so appealing.

I know all of this sounds silly.  It shouldn't be a big deal to unplug my screens for a week, and in the grand scheme of things, it isn't.  But today I'm just tired.  I don't want to read.  I don't want to study.  I don't even feel like spending time in the Prayer Room (just being honest here).  But I'm about to tune my guitar and head there anyway.  My frustration means it's time for another heart check. 

No more complaining, Emily.

Last night, I was was reading the end of the book of Mark.  In chapter 14, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray.  His agony was heart-wrenching, yet His steadfast obedience did not waver.  "'Abba, Father,' He said, 'everything is possible for You.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what You will.'"  Jesus brought His disciples to watch and pray a short distance away, but their eyes were heavy.  They fell asleep time and time again.  Jesus spoke to them and said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  These words hit me hard tonight. 

My spirit is willing to fast.  The idea of giving up media in order to focus more of my thoughts on Jesus fills me with a delight and a desire to please the Lord.  But my flesh is weak.  Not just a little bit weak.  I described the weariness I'm feeling today to my friend Stephanie as "an ant trying to lift a car."  I'm just so weak in my flesh, and when I am feeling discouraged, the enemy works even harder to try to make me stumble.

Would the Lord extend His endless grace and compassion upon me if I were to break fast at five days instead of seven?  Of course He would.  This week isn't meant to be legalistic.  But I'm still not going to break fast early.  Not because I'm obligated, but because He is worth it

Jesus sacrificed everything.  He was spit upon and mocked and killed like a common criminal.  He died with a great cry, giving Himself as payment for the sins of this broken world.  He gave it all.  Putting this into perspective, yeah, I can certainly sacrifice relaxing this evening in front of a computer screen.  I can give up daily comforts as a form of worship to the One who gave it all.  My sacrifices are dirty rags.  He desires the devotion of my heart.  Undivided love.  And that's why this media fast is important to me.

John 3:30 keeps running through my head.  "He must become greater; I must become less."  If me becoming less means unplugging, disconnecting, and sacrificing my comfort in order to praise Jesus more and more, so be it.  He is worth it.  He is worth every moment.

Two years ago: We found the missing link!
Three years ago: Leave a dollar

Friday, October 4, 2013

Recovering Addict (Seven Fast)

My friend Sammy and I are fasting from Media this week as part of The 7 Experiment Bible study by Jen Hatmaker.  My seven media sources I chose to fast from are Facebook, Twitter, iPod/Radio/iTunes, TV/movies/Hulu/Netflix, iPhone apps (minus a select chosen few, like the Maps and alarm apps), texting, and posting/reading blogs.  

While I did not post any blogs (nor check my comments or view count) for the entirety of the week, I did keep a daily journal.  Here are a few of my thoughts from the first two days of the week.

Day 1: Friday

At midnight, I shut down my computer, turned off the data and wi-fi on my phone (I'm so glad I did; I keep unintentionally trying to open my favorite phone apps out of habit.  I have a problem, y'all), and then I sat back and wondered what on earth I was supposed to do next.

Really.  I had no idea.  I just took the exams for all of my classes, so I really don't have much new material to study.  I could have gone into our Prayer Room for a while, but I am a sinner who consistently forgets about that room in my house (yes, of course I could have prayed anywhere).

I ended up wide awake at midnight and wishing I could put in a movie until I fell asleep.  Instead, I wandered outside barefoot, dragging my longboard behind me.  After longboarding for a while, I made myself some decaffeinated chai tea and sat down to read the Possessions chapter of The 7 Experiment.  Then, in a fit of conviction, I organized the bags and boxes of possessions to give away.  I finally settled on reading some of Les Miserables, showered, had a quiet time, and headed to bed.  I won't tell you the time.  I'm an insomniac, alright?

My early afternoon was spent taking my possessions to shelters and a high school, which passed the time happily.  Sammy and I had our weekly Bible study, discussing our possessions fast from last week.  Sammy will be fasting this week from books, texting, iPad apps (she wanted me to clarify that she doesn't have an iPhone and never will), DragonVale, YouTube, music, and Facebook.

It's hitting me hard that I so often say (and mean it) that I long for the Lord to create in me a pure and devoted heart, but with my focus pointed in a thousand different directions, even my longing itself is broken.

Hello, my name is Emily and I am addicted to social media.  And Christ is working on that this week.

Day 2: Saturday

Without my iPod or iTunes playing the last two days, my world feels very quiet.  I'm so very used to the crooning of voices and the strum of guitars as my background noise.  Sitting in a room without it feels a little awkward, which bothers me.  Silence should not feel uncomfortable.   Stillness is a Biblical concept.  I'm realizing that the lack of quiet in my life is something that has kept me from hearing the whispered voice of the Lord.

Of course Psalm 46:10 comes to mind, which says, "Be still and know that I am God," but another passage that has been on my heart the last two days is from 1 Kings 19:11-19.  "The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.'  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave."

The Lord often speaks to my heart through music, but He also whispers in the silence, murmuring to my heart in songs I can only catch if I turn my own noise off for a while.  He asks me to sit quietly with Him and simply know that He is powerful and worthy to be praised.

My front yard after a long rainfall today
Job 26:14 says, "How faint the whisper we hear of Him!  Who then can understand the thunder of His power?"  The glory of God is more magnificent than my human mind will ever be able to fully grasp.  He is the Creator of the universe; one who lives outside of time itself; one who loves me, clay and all.

This morning at sunrise I helped out at the filming of a promotional video for a worship event on my college campus, and afterwards, we had a worship session, cameras off.  After spending the last day and a half away from music, the sweet sounds of guitar and voices lifted to heaven swelled my heart with so much joy.  Silence is of the Lord.  Music is of the Lord.  Both glorify Him.  I desire to learn from both experiences.

A hard moment from today was that I didn't watch the A&M football game!  As much of an unenthusiastic football fan that I am in general, I really do enjoy watching TAMU football.  A little bit ago, I was told we won against Arkansas, so I cling to this piece of knowledge with happiness.

I have to admit that not tweeting a word since Thursday bothers me far more than it should.  (I've ended up calling and telling my mom bizarre stories every few hours instead of tweeting them.  Hi, Mom.)  Here are some of the "gems" I've been itching to post on Twitter today.
  • My roommates and I had a board/card game night.  I won all the games.  All of them.  #success
  • I nearly broke my arm by whacking a metal bar in the couch. My elbow looks like it has an elbow. The sofa is no longer my safe place.
  • In the last 2 weeks, my neighbors have hosted belly dancing & salsa dancing performances in their yard w/ live music. #livingtheretiredlife
I'm so very sorry, Twitter, that you didn't get to taste this beautiful content today.

One year ago: Mirrors
Two years ago: Hotel Swimming Pools
Three years ago: Hug a Stranger