Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Humble Friendship

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about my attitude about friendship and relationships (almost a trite topic, eh? ;-)).

I realized that I don't necessarily enjoy the fact that being looked upon as "just a friend" in some sense seems to delegate me to a lower position in the affections of others. Isn't it true that when certain people express disinterest about considering more than friendship, we can feel "not good enough" or "less qualified" ? To be treated as no more important than any other, to take the lowly position--this can be difficult.

In a sense, though, doesn't this seem to be a struggle between grateful humility and selfish ambition? When it really comes down to it, isn't it so much better to be called up, to be summoned to a higher position not because we were striving to please others, but because other people recognize Christ within us as we let our focus rest on Him rather than on impressing others? Because I'm a girl who appreciates it when men are the initiators of advancing relationships from friendship to romance, I have a great opportunity contentedly be a servant in relationships, without needing to try to gain a higher position for my own self. (if only I always were faithful to use the opportunity! ;-)) The goal doesn't need to be to draw attention to myself or to climb to higher places in my own strength because of my own desires. In relationships and in every area of life, too often when we seek positions in our own strength we see that the consequence is being delegated to a low position in the end.

It reminds me of the parable in Luke 14, in which Jesus admonishes us not to seek the high positions for ourselves, since when we do so, we only put ourselves in danger of being publicly humiliated and humbled. It's better to be content with humility in the first place and to be exalted in due time.
"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be
exalted.” (verse 11)


I'm not saying that once we're content with friendship, we'll automatically be exalted to the position of marriage. ;-) All I'm really saying is that right now we all have different opportunities to rejoice in the positions God has called us to. Since what He's called me to today is friendship and Christ-like agape love, rather than human romance, I've got the chance to be joyful in this state. Friendship is a great gift, and while sometimes we may desire more, if we don't give thanks even when we're in a more humble state in man's affections, we won't really be fit to be exalted. Anyway, no matter how humble our positions ever are here on earth--whether our humble places be in the realm of our jobs, relationships, or any other area of life--none of that really matters so much when we consider the fact that we're never in a low place in the affections, concern, and thoughts of the God of the universe.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You. Ps. 139


I don't know if I could really ask for anything better than this--to know that God's thoughts towards me are more than the sands of the sea, and that He's with me and thinking of me wherever I am, whether I am humbled or exalted!

"I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11b-13

That's the kind of attitude I want to have.
No matter what state I'm in, I want to be content and to remember that my strength is in Christ. Yesterday I needed His strength. Today I needed His strength. Tomorrow I'll need His strength. In the humble positions I need His strength. In the exalted positions I need His strength. In friendship I need His strength. If I marry, I'll need His strength...no doubt about it. ;-)

May we always be humble in every place He takes us.
May we never exalt ourselves, but do all for His glory alone.
May we find joy in His loving wisdom as He brings us through different seasons! =D

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Thoughts on Sarcasm

Sarcasm was the topic of discussion recently in an online forum I'm part of, so I started giving the topic some thought...
It's actually something that's bothered me for a while, but it's difficult to make sure I don't misuse sarcasm. I try not to use it too often, but sometimes I definitely make the mistake of using it inappropriately, still. ;-)

If I allow sarcastic speech to become a comfortable habit, I know that I’ll end up hurting peoples' feelings--it's happened in the past when unwise sarcastic comments have slipped out of my mouth. I can think of situations when I just went too far and the sarcasm became hurtful. Sarcasm can even be an easy way for me to insult someone in a way that appears to be merely silliness or good-natured fun. It can be tempting to use it that way, since it’s easier than being obviously unkind and simply saying, “I don’t like this about you,” or, “You really bother me.” ;-) If my heart isn’t right and if I haven’t given any negative thoughts over to God, saying something negative about someone in a sarcastic way is just going to be a manifestation of my wrong heart attitude.

Perhaps it can be beneficial if used in an uplifting, fun way. Merry hearts and laugher are like medicine! Yet I probably have seen more hurtful sarcasm than beneficial sarcasm. I’ve even observed from a distance a couple of marriages in which the couples call each other names and mock each others’ faults through sarcasm. How opposite that is from acting in a way that will show others we’re Christians by our love.


When I'm not sure if sarcasm is something my speech should
not be, Scripture tells me what my speech should be!

Ecc. 10:12 “Words from a wise man's mouth are
gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.”

Prov. 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Matthew 12: 34b-37 “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken…"

My words should be gracious. They should bring healing rather than pain. They should consist of good words, coming from the overflow of my heart. I’ve seen some silly sarcasm among friends that wasn’t out of line with those things, but I’ve also seen sarcasm that seemed to be just the opposite of what our words should be.

I know that we’re supposed to love with our actions, not just with words. But since words can show our heart, it does seem important to let our words and hearts reflect the love that we should already be showing in our actions!
As I was thinking about this and looking up some Scriptures, I came across Job 12:11, which says this: “Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?” When David talks about the words of God in Psalm 119:103, he says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Wow, that’s the way I want my words to be! So often I fall short of speaking in a Christ-like way. If someone tested my words just like they taste food, they wouldn’t always see that my words are gracious, healing, and from a loving heart. But I really do want others to “see that the Lord is good” when they taste my words! I need to make more careful choices about when I’m going to use sarcasm and when I’m going to refrain from it. Too often I let words leave my mouth without reigning them in first, saying what I don't want to say, and not saying what I do want to say! God, guard my mouth!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Catching Snow

Sometimes I wish my little sisters could be tiny again. ;-) video

Monday, August 27, 2007

Perfect Love

I've been thinking lately about how immature my love must be, for I'm seeing that my human ability to love is polluted with fear. Perfect love is supposed to cast out fear, not to tolerate fear, and certainly not to cause it. ;-) I've been thinking about how ironic it is that often when we feel ourselves beginning to care about someone in a more intense and intimate way, our feelings are surrounded by fear-- fear about what the other person thinks about us, fear regarding our own vulnerability. How imperfect our (my!) treatment of love can be.

First of all, I see how often I'm selfish when it comes to my relationship with Christ. How many times must He be saddened because I put other people or things first? I wonder if it's ever hard for Him to see me make mistakes because of how fervently He desires for me to be more mature and more like Him in His perfection. He must see how much more of me there is that I could give to Him, how much more faithfully I could do Him good and not evil all the days of my life (Prov. 31). I remember times in the past before I really had a relationship with Him when I was afraid to tell Him certain things, afraid of what He'd think if only He knew that I thought the last church service was...boring. It was as if He didn't know; I was treating Him as if He were under the delusion that I was a lot more flawless than I truly was. ;-)

And sometimes these things seem to carry over into my relationships with other people. I wish I didn't care one iota if I were to become of absolutely no reputation, as did the One I should be striving to emulate out of love unaffected by the world around me. I need to work on allowing Him to eradicate selfishness from within me. In my own struggles to love people like He does, it seems to be the main cause of the fear that taints. If I would only keep my mind even more stayed on Him, I'd find peace so much more perfect, peace not disturbed by emotions. I need Him to teach me to love people without caring whether it ever benefits me. I want to be able to love simply for the sake of loving. I want to love in the greatest sense of the word, in a willing-to-lay-my-life-down for the sake of my friends way, even in the every-day sense of thinking of them first and giving of myself time after time when it seems like it might be easier to just demonstrate my love for them once and for all with a single sacrificial plunge. If I allow my friendships to be self-centered, I'll fail miserably in keeping the two greatest commandments--to love God first and my neighbor as myself. I want to love in a way that doesn't seek it's own, that doesn't think evil, that isn't easily provoked, that isn't envious, that suffers long, that does a good job of covering sins, that bears, believes, hopes, and endures.

Love covers a multitude of sins.
Love leaves no room for a multitude of sins.

Help me not to fear...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You're a holy God, so make us wholly Yours.
You are our provider; you give us everthing we need.
Even when it feels like there are things we lack, we know that You withhold no good thing from us.
The things we see as lacks can teach us. They show us just how much we need You.
And even when this life on earth is hard and we're reminded that it's not our home, we know that You are preparing a place for us.
Prepare the people for that place.

Turn wrong directions into Your will.
Help us know that Your faithfulness is not disproved when we face trials.
Give us Your vision even in the fog of circumstances and emotion.
Remind us that blessing comes in many shapes. No earthly pleasure can match the joy of Your embrace.
And You do promise to provide for us, and we're encouraged by Your provision in the past.
Yet we know the spiritual is even more vital than the physical.
If we ever hunger, don't let us forget that our souls can eat of Your bread and drink the living water no matter where we are or what we face.
You say the righteous soul shall never famish. Let us feed on Your faithfulness, and as we grow in our trust of You, may You fulfill Your purposes for us. Teach us patience, and enable us to delight in the way in which You lead us. Be our help. Give us the desires of our hearts. Shape our desires.

Help us mature when we face disappointment. Help us grow satisfied in You alone as we face feelings that tell us that others prosper more than we. Those who despise You sometimes flourish. Yet what we possess in righteousness is greater than the treasures of many wicked, for our treasures are everlasting, imperishable, unable to be stolen. The wicked may appear as strong trees, and yet look how they wither (Ps 37). Keep our leaves ever green as we trust in You and are fully sustained by the streams of living water from the Rock of our salvation (Ps 78). We know not the limits of Your salvation and righteousness, for they are boundless. We walk in Your unlimited strength (Ps 71).

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Faith

Israel, awed by Jericho’s wall,
Knew force alone would fail.
God’s orders seemed unusual—
Just walk—and you’ll prevail.
God’s children probably wondered
If orders that seemed so meek
Could destroy a mighty city
Of mockers who thought them weak…
Still they marched when God commanded,
Shouted at trumpet blast,
Saw a stronghold circled in faith
Fall to the ground at last.
When David guarded little sheep
And sang out in the field,
His brothers saw him as unfit
To fight with God as shield.
It looked absurd to see the boy
With slingshot in his hand
Challenge the Philistine warrior
Of build and armor grand.
Yet his strength lay not in slingshot
Or king’s armor lent by Saul—
A little pebble flung in faith
Is what made a giant fall.
You ask if I can conquer
The foes I face today,
If wind blowing hard upon me
Wouldn’t sweep me right away.
You say that I’m mistaken
If I think I shall prevail,
As you look at all the battles,
Storms, mountains I must scale .
How can I claim the victory
Of battles yet unfought?
My enemies have chariots,
Fleet steeds for the onslaught.
My gates, they are surrounded
By warriors so strong,
Rich with plunder from past victories;
Loud rings their battle song.
But do not be confused: although
I’m weak, you may be sure
That I’m protected by a fortress,
Tall, strong and secure.
No, I do not ride a chariot,
Or have a lance of steel—
But my God’s a man of war who
Crushes evil with His heel.
You ask how I know I’ll triumph?
And I say, see my shield,
My sword, my captain—He’s the one
Who for me wins the field.
For though I may strive and labor,
I can’t win on my own.
Yet when I rest my faith in Christ,
And walk His path alone…
And walk though I can’t see victory,
And walk when things look grim,
Then I know that I will triumph
For my faith rests in Him.
by Holly (5/07)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Show me, that I might obey...

God, show me.
Do I need to surrender?
Tell me what it is you want.
Please.
I may need help to obey,
But first I need to know
What obeying means today.
I'm willing to give things up,
But I can't give them up with peace
Unless I know You really want me to.
There isn't any joy for me in making choices
If I don't know which ones bring joy to You.
You might be showing me things, God,
But I'm so unsure.
Help my hearing.
Let me see.
I feel like a broken record, God...
But life isn't always so poetic.
I'm not asking for Your whole plan now, God.
I'm asking for one step to be shown.
I want to obey, God.
With all of my heart, I want to obey.
I do so want my life to please You.
I don't know if my human desires line up with the plans You have,
But I want to obey.
I've seen my own desires changing.
I don't know what that means or where I'm going.
I do know that I want to do what You want me to.
That might mean doing things I would naturally choose on my own.
Or it might mean doing things I've never wanted for myself,
And the only reason why I'd want them now
Is the fact that You do,
And You know what's best.
For I know it doesn't really matter what seems best to me.
My purpose doesn't lie in pleasing me.
Just show me, God.
Show me what You want, I pray.
Clearly. Today. Every day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"What You Possess Possesses You"

Ever heard the phrase?
I’ve heard it stated many times in an anti-materialistic way.
Things bring responsibility. Things claim our time. Things claim our resources.
Our hearts can get entangled and consumed by things.

I don’t think I ever related it to the spiritual side of things, though, until I was writing a post today for the discussion forum in Western Literature class.
We’ve been studying Crime and Punishment. In the end, the destiny of one of the characters is described thus: “He did not even know yet that his new life had not been given him gratis, that he would have to purchase it dearly, pay for it by a great heroic deed…”

The statement itself sounds somewhat incorrect because of the way it’s worded. As followers of Christ, we know that redemption itself is a gift of grace without works, that no man might boast.
And yet, though we can never purchase salvation by our own heroic deeds, in one way salvation is an example of the saying “what you possess possesses you,” for out of us it draws commitment if we are to be known by the fruit we bear and the love we display.

Before we ever do anything for Christ, He loves us and is willing to give us the gift of new life if only we request it of Him. Yet we ourselves are then called to actually live in a new way. We are given Christ and the salvation that is in Him, but after we receive Christ *He* receives us as well. We become His bondservants, not because He is trying to extract payment from us for the life He freely gives, but because this new life is a commitment that inherently drives us to serve God. They shall know we are Christians by the love we now show, even though it was Christ who first loved us and whose first love is the very reason we are now capable of displaying Christ-like love.

With gifts comes responsibility. Along with new life comes the responsibility to actually live in a new way, to allow ourselves to be conformed to the image of the One who redeems but also calls us to higher things. Becoming a person who acts nobly takes practice and effort, suffering, surrender, and willingness to go through pain for the joy set before us.

I don’t want to be attached in this way to any material thing, but I surely don’t mind being possessed by Christ. I want Him…and I love how the feeling is mutual, even though He’s so much higher and wiser. If He entangles my heart in Him, claims my time, asks me to dedicate my resources to Him, that’s certainly okay by me.
He’s the one who gave them to me anyway.

I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Immerse me in Your peace.
It is balm for weary souls.
It is rest from speculation.
It is trust You're in control.

It's hard to trust You, God, when You say, "Put your will there."

My heart is here, not there.
But You are everywhere, and You will be with me wherever You lead me.
Take my heart in Your hands.
Pull out every thought that was born of me, not You.
If You'd just take a scissor and cut off all protruding signs of thoughts astray,
Other people would see them as nipped in the bud.
But You see more than they see, desiring truth in inward parts.
If inner roots that I can't reach need weeding out,
If You need to disentangle thoughts or pull or re-arrange,
I give You my permission.
My heart's Yours anyway.
If the process isn't fun, that's okay.
I don't ask you to take away the pain;
Sometimes it's painful to be healed, and sometimes it's hard to be corrected.
But it's worth it.
Only take away the pain that's caused by lack of trust.
Fear doesn't change the past; it only harms our futures.

Immerse me in Your peace.
It is balm for weary souls.
It is rest from speculation.
It is trust You're in control.
And when my faith is faltering because my heart is here, not there,
Remind me You are everywhere.
You'll never lead me away from You.
And pain doesn't change the fact that in Your presence is fulness of joy.
In Your presence is fulness of joy.
In Your presence is fulness of joy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You know the feeling that you just need to be willing to let God be the one in control?To be willing to do whatever it is He asks, whether it brings immediate joy or the sorrow that we've been promised will be followed by joy in the morning?

I thought I'd been winning the battle of surrender--and I think that in some ways I was, in the initial things God has asked me to surrender. But it seems like we never quite run out of battles and opportunities to surrender to God's plans and wisdom. I'm realizing that after I turn one thing over to God, there's usually something else I need to turn over next, sometimes even another facet of the same issue I hadn't contemplated before when I'd *thought* I'd surrendered and was willing for any possibility.

I suppose that if you've got decisions or battles in front of you, it increases the desire for a listening heart, hearing ears, and willingness...But decisions are things I get tired of encountering. School decisions, even struggles in friendships--these are battles that I'm sometimes so unsure how to respond to, or I simply lack the desire to respond to in the way I know is right. Lately God's been working on my willingness and desire to let Him control all of me, right down to the intangible desires that are sometimes just as distracting as the tangible things I see right in front of me. It can be difficult to remember how wonderful His ways are when they seem hard at the moment.

I thought I'd reconciled myself to doing whatever You asked of me.
I was learning to surrender like Abraham.
But what if You asked me to be like his son?
I myself might feel prepared to sacrifice;
what if it feels like I'm the one being sacrificed?
Make me willing to sacrifice.
Make me willing to be sacrificed.
Make me willing to lay things down on the altar.
Make me willing to be laid down on the altar.
I know You want me to learn
to trust You with the things I care about,
to trust You that things will turn out well in the end
regardless of whether You hold back my hand.
Grant me the faith to lay my future wherever You ask me to.
Grant me the faith to remember, like Abraham, that Your Word is infallible.
He believed as he sacrificed that You were even able to raise his son up from the dead.
He didn't reject Your promise.
He rejected the idea that death was more powerful than Your promise.
Surrendering never negates Your plans.
But it beautifies them.
Surrender may mean sacrifice,
Or it may simply mean being willing to sacrifice, should that be what You require.
Help me even to stop making up my own mind to sacrifice my desires to the death
when all You've asked is that I be willing to put You first.
It might seem holier, and maybe simpler or desirably quick
to just go ahead and kill the sacrifice.
I could sever things with a single plunge.
But that isn't surrender if it isn't what You've asked me to do.
Remind me that You who can resurrect in a heartbeat
also have authority over whether my hand is stayed.
And if it should be Your desire, give me the strength to climb onto the altar myself.
As long as Your plan is fulfilled, so am I.
Help me stop trying to figure it all out.
Enable me to rid my sight of speculation.
It makes it so much harder to walk by light.
In the meantime, help me stop looking for the ram.
Instead, may it be Your face I seek,and Your heart that I attain.

"Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds." (Ps 136:5)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rambly Thoughts on Relationships and on How Much Better God's Plans and Ways Are and on How He Can Do Great Things When We Listen to His Voice! :D

When it comes to relationships, it seems like even within God-honoring relationships we can easily tend toward focusing on ideals of how things must or *must not* take place.
It’s easy to think that something couldn’t possibly be God unless it happens exactly according to our preconceived ideas and the rules we’d made in our own minds. (“God, the person has to have certain outward qualities, cannot be from any other state, etc.”) I think it's also important for us to realize that lack of immediate emotion doesn't mean a relationship is unthinkable, just like the presence of emotion doesn't mean that one is appropriate.

Within the boundaries of Biblical relationships that are in line with God-given guidelines, I think God is more than capable of surprising us by transcending our expected specifics of how things should occur. (When I say that He's capable of transcending emotions, I do *not* mean that we won’t be attracted to our future spouses! I’m just saying God is capable of sparking attraction where we didn’t expect it.)

It’s easy to get so worried about how God will work things out that we’re actually distracted by our own consuming thoughts and miss out on things God has for us, things that don’t always occur exactly when or how we expected. Guidelines are awesome, but once we’ve studied Biblical principles about relationships, walking in line with what God shows us in each circumstance we face is most important. We girls can be consumed with making ourselves the most desirable, most attractive potential spouse for someone and constantly hoping that the right person will show up in the next month or two, when God already has taken it upon Himself to transform us with His beauty if we're really willing to allow Him to transform our lives and make us more like Him. We really don't have to be worried. When we follow Him each step of the way and do our best to be the women He wants us to be, we can grow in maturity and make wise choices, without carrying alone the burden to transform our own selves.  He can show us just what we need to do to be ready for whatever He's calling us to, if we're just willing to sit at His feet and listen.

It's easy as young women to let our feelings determine our desires, when our greatest desires should be to allow God to conform our feelings to line up with His plans. God’s so much more capable of bringing things to pass than we are, anyway, and the things He plans are always so much higher than our own plans. It's true in so many areas of life.

We really should do our best to be prepared for whatever future we think God is calling us to, to be well-approved, and to grow in wisdom and in favor with God and man. Yet as we wait, I think we need to wait even more upon God than upon a future spouse. =)

"As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him."
Psalm 18

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Being Satisfied in Christ, Overflowing with Love for HIM!


We serve a jealous God. I think that it would bring Him much greater joy if we learn to be fulfilled wherever He has us now. Then if He does bring us another person to love, perhaps we'll be able to expand our love and attention to another person without it being as great a distraction as that Paul lamented. I'd like to be in a spot where the love I give to others is the overflow from being saturated in my love relationship with Him. I think we'd be in an amazing situation if our relationships with others didn't detract from our relationship with God.
How difficult, though--I suppose that's why Paul recognized how easy it is for us to be distracted and caught up with others without putting Him first.

It sounds silly, but it reminds me of what I felt like God was teaching me the other day while I was eating a snack. I felt disappointed because it just wasn't as pleasing as I'd hoped. "This is so unfulfilling," I thought. I felt convicted as soon as the thought crossed my mind for even applying the term "fulfilling" to something so transient that could never deserve that adjective on its own.

When I'm having a difficult day, somehow a snack doesn't raise my level of joy in proportion to the difficulty.
If our attitudes are flawed, will a relationship fix all the problems?
If we're already not content where we are, would we really be completely content in a different state?
We might be happier for a time, but the state of being in a relationship is never without its difficulties, either.
Just like the snack couldn't bring contentment, I don't think different relationship statuses can alone bring total fulfillment.
I tend to think that good things aren't as fulfilling as we'd hoped if we aren't already satisfied and content in the Giver of them even before they're given.

God is so good to us!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Are you surprised that I’m confused again, God?
What is it you’re doing with my life?
What is it you’re wanting from me?

I can’t see.
I can't even see what's right in front of me some days.
And even when I do see what's right before my eyes,
I fail to discern sometimes,
Or interpret incorrectly.
I feel like a fool.

I feel.
But vision’s thwarted by my thoughts.
I know the path’s not changing.
It’s my sight that wavers.
Oh, how tears can blur my view of something steadfast.

Catch them.
Catch me.

I need You so much.
I love You so much.
I know you know it;
You don’t forget that kind of thing.
And even if You did, I’m telling You again.

I know you know how much I want You.
Help me show it.
Oh God, help me show it.

I lack eloquence.
But how much eloquence is really needed
For me to remind you that I want to be Yours?

I get tired of confusion,
But not of You.
One day at a time You show me more..

Oh, the theme is old…
Words repeated, thoughts recurring.
One hazy viewpoint succeeded by another.

For life consists of more than just one question.
I don't know what I'd do if You weren't my Forever Answer.I don't know what I'd do without You.

I know confusion doesn’t last forever.
But You do.
A theme may grow tiresome when it's turned to prose.
But adoration is never out-dated.
Uphold me, God, uphold me.