The Crown of Life

Wow, it has been quite a while since I was on here. Lots has happened, but instead of writing the whole long update, I am going to talk about something I read this morning. That seems to fit with the theme of the blog, anyways. (P.S. – I promise to keep up with the blog more this summer. I need to do something other than watching Friends on Netflix.)

So today was a typical, uneventful day. I woke up in the morning and ate some eggs and drank some tea, just like every other day. Then I sat down for my quiet time, thinking it would be just like every other quiet time. But that thought gave me pause – quiet time in no way should be “ordinary” or “normal”. So instead of diving right into my well-worn bible, I sat still and prayed that God would guide my time in His word and give me something to read about that I have been needing to hear. And instead of opening up to the chapter in Romans I am currently studying, He led me to read James 1.

Preface: I love James, but I have only ever read through it, not dove deep into the meaning and application behind its words. I started reading, with my tea steaming to the left of me and my journal on the right, pen poised and ready for writing. But as I started reading, I felt the world melt away. I felt His presence come into the room, sweep me up, and whisper, “Come, let me teach you something.”

I might’ve read that chapter 7 times before I wrote anything down. Wow, what powerful stuff. For everyone that doesn’t have a bible handy, let me recap. James wrote this beautiful letter to the first Christians living on the outskirts of Palestine. By verse 2, he has dove right in and is giving hope to all those enduring trials and temptations – which may be one of the most encouraging things to hear as a Christian today, because I don’t know anyone that isn’t struggling with something. One of my favorite verses from the passage was verse 12, where James says:

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

The crown of life. Sure, we have to endure trials and fight off Satan’s temptations, but we get to spend eternity with the one true King. That is pretty awesome. He then moves on to talk about the difference between listening and doing. Another one of the many verses I highlighted was verse 22, where James says:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

You can’t get much more clear than that, friends. Listening to God doesn’t mean anything if you turn around and completely ignore what he says. Now, I know what you’re thinking – it is much easier said than done. Of course it is! Life is hard and full of suffering and moments of self doubt and failing organic chemistry. But the beauty is that from all this, we get to learn and grow closer to God and our eternal future.

I am going to post this, and things will go back to normal for a while. I’ll be tempted to eat the entire tub of icing in the fridge, and I’ll want to watch trashy TV shows instead of doing something productive or intentional with my time. The difference is that now I have some fuel to help me wage my war – the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

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“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” ~ Isaiah 64:8

Tonight I was reading my Bible before bed, and I stumbled on this verse as I was finishing up Isaiah. I thought to myself – what a cool image! We are put in God’s able hands, and through His strength and His time and effort, we will become beautiful works of art. (Pause to go back to one of my favorite verses of all time ~ “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”). The Lord has really worked in my life, changing and molding me and shaping me into this beautiful young lady, so that I can live my life for Him.

Last week, I went over to an old friend’s house, and he has a ceramics wheel (Is that the proper term? Probably not). Anyways, I was so excited to make my first beautiful masterpiece, so I quickly watched my friend do it, decided it was a piece of cake, and then sat down, confident in my abilities as a potter. Man, what hard work! I never realized how much time, and especially patience it takes for a piece to really come together. I messed up multiple times, got frustrated, and almost gave up. But then I centered myself, and let the patience really guide me. When I was finished, I had a beautiful, albeit lopsided, new salad bowl. I was worried about the lopsidedness, but my friend assured me that it’s uniqueness is what would eventually give it its beauty. I was so proud of that dang salad bowl that I almost failed to realize what had actually happened. Enter biblical metaphor…

1) I spent time and energy making a beautiful piece of art. (God made us painstakingly, sparing no detail.)

2) My art was imperfect, but still will serve the purpose that I intended for it. (God’s art was created in His image, but sin flawed us and made us imperfect. That being said, we are still masterpieces, put on Earth to live a life for God.)

3) It was severely flawed, but its flaws are actually what make it beautiful. (God loves us despite our flaws, and if sin didn’t exists, we would have no reason to be close to God.)

All in all, I love this passage as it shows us humans as being beautiful, despite our flaws. God has spent an infinite amount of time, molding, crafting and shaping us. And He does not stop until it is serving His intended purpose – even if the “clay” resists His initial attempts. There is redemption for everyone, and through Christ, everyone is saved.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Today I have been off in my own little world. I guess you can call it daydreaming, but having little to no contact with anyone else for an entire day makes my brain go places. And for the first time, in a long time, I was really happy to be alone. I didn’t think about anyone else, which was surprisingly very nice. I daydreamed about traveling, just being on my own, and everything else that I am going to do with myself in the coming months and years. I’ve already learned things about myself that I never would’ve found out if I hadn’t taken the time to just be still. I have spent my life so far just running and moving, never stopping to just be. God wants us to be still – to listen to Him, but also to listen to ourselves. That is the problem with living a life that is constantly in motion – you sacrifice some important things in your life without realizing it. It was a nice refresher today to go to class and get things done, but also to be somewhere that I really wanted to be. 

Along with this whole week of self-introspection, I’ve realized some things about my life that I’ve been lying about. I think I am finally ready to do the necessary work in my heart to make the changes I need to make in order to live the life I want to live. Most of the issues are little things that I need to do to make myself stronger physically, but the hard part will be making myself stronger mentally. These parts of me are things that I am keeping, hoarding from God, not letting Him close enough to help me do the painful work that I’ve needed for so long. The number one thing that God has shown me that I need to surrender over to Him is comfort. I like love being comfortable. I am happiest when I am in sweatpants, curled in blankets on my bed with only Netflix for company. I love it, but I’ve realized that I have been spending wayyyyy too much time in my comfort zone. Being close to God is not comfortable. I honestly believe that God’s plan for my life is not as comfortable as I’d like it to me. It will be a tough change, with lots of pain at first, but when it’s over I will see myself in a better place. I can hold myself to higher expectations, seek more out of my life. I am ready for these changes. I am ready for God to chisel away at me until I see myself as the daughter that God sees me as. 

Hopefully at the end of this season of change, I will be closer to God than ever. More of my life will be surrendered to Him, and I will be in a better place both physically and mentally. I am ready to be still, and know that He is God, and that He is in charge of my life. Tomorrow I am going to have my quiet time while I watch the sunrise on the ISAT balcony porch. Today was day 1, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for day 2.

Complete Surrender

When you’re sick, you do everything you can to make it better. You usually know what is making you feel bad, so you have a way of controlling what happens, or at least knowing what is ahead. What most people do no realize is that this tiny bit of control can be such a comfort that some people do not have. They don’t know what is ahead, or what made us sick. Unfortunately, I have been grappling with crippling nausea for a few months now and there is no real rhyme or reason to it. I cut out certain foods to see if it stopped happening, but nothing I tried worked. If only I knew something, then I would know how to make it better. At the very least I would know when it would end. 

But that is not how God operates. God wants us to give ALL of our control to Him, including control of our bodies. This is such a basic control that no one really realizes even exists, but God wants it. Complete surrender means saying, “OK God, I don’t feel good, but you have a plan for this, and it will make me stronger.” And yet, that is SUCH a hard prayer to pray. Anyone that has to deal with any type of sickness knows what I am talking about – you just want some comfort. But instead of finding that comfort in medicine and sweatshirts and soup, we should be trusting God. I am not at all saying don’t take Advil if you have a headache, or eat soup of you have a cold, but God will ultimately heal us. He is the one that can fix our broken human bodies, not us. 

Patience

I think that patience is one of the most underrated virtues. Honesty is valued above anything else – and I agree with that. But patience, I think should quickly follow honesty in the list of the most important virtues. Recently, I have had a hard time being still and just taking in the moment. I treat life like one big to-do list, and it’s starting to catch up to me. Yesterday, my boyfriend and I were driving and he said something pretty interesting to me. That same morning, he prayed for patience for us in church. I immediately became defensive, and told him that I have gotten a lot more patient. But if I really had learned patience, I would have realized that God was using my wonderful boyfriend right there to show me that I was far from being done. I still have a rocky road ahead of me as far as being still and just letting life come to a stop for a bit. So todays goal for the day – learn to be more patient, and also make sure to put others before myself. 

Awards

There is something about a type A personality that is very goal-oriented. This usually means high grades in school and overall excellent performance in whatever they do. Unfortunately, this also means a deep need for recognition, and when none is achieved, we feel empty. There is a void left in us where the praise and recognition of all our hard work should have been. Thankfully, I have learned to fill that void with God. Tonight was my Senior Awards banquet at my high school, and I really didn’t get anything that I was hoping for at all. I worked so hard this year, and I wanted to be recognized for that. I think it’s just nice to take a step back a remember why we are here – to lead lives that are fulfilling to Christ. Without Him, none of this would be possible. I think that I have just begun learning what humility is – and I am not excited for the process.