Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Time Is Now

Contentment. It's something almost everyone I know struggles with. As humans, we have such a hard time simply sitting back and being satisfied with the season of life God has placed us in at this point. So many single people (including myself at times, I admit) have such a hard time finding joy and purpose in being single. They want someone to share their lives with. Granted. That's not a BAD thing to want, but if it distracts from what God wants you to be doing with your life, then it's wrong. Once married, so many people want kids. Once they have kids, they want them to be in school so they can have more free time. Once in school, they want their kids to be out of the house so they can retire and enjoy life. Once the kids are grown up, they want grandkids. Etc, etc, so on and so forth. Why is it so hard to simply be satisfied? Discontentment is a weed, once sprouted, it grows and grows and spreads and chokes out the joy in life. It causes us to spend all of our time commiserating on what we DON'T have rather than rejoicing in what we do!

Don't be an overgrown garden. Stop the weeds before they take charge.

Some of us (*cough*me*cough*) don't like to face our problems. We spend all of our time finding activities to distract us from the work we need to do in our own lives. I'm busy. All of the time. I plan out my days, leaving very little free time. Leaving very little time to be one on one with God. I give myself a few minutes every night to read my Bible and pray, but the rest of the day I'm so caught up in everything I've planned, that I let Him sink into the background. Because if I have even a few minutes to just sit, with nothing to do, it's so much easier for loneliness to creep in. If I just learned to refocus my time alone from thinking about what I don't have (my family, some super rad man, etc) and started to thank God for what I DO have (amazing friends, a good job, a place to live, mad skills, etc.), I wouldn't have to be GO-GO-GO all of the time.

I even get so caught up in ALWAYS having something to do, that I don't realize what things might look like to the outside world. Like, sitting at a bar with a good friend. I might not be drunk, but that doesn't stop someone from seeing me and telling everyone about it. How does that look to people who expect me to live a holy life? "Well if Jaci can be out getting drunk all of the time, so can I!" Poor choice on my part. Far be it from me to willingly lead someone astray. Time to get a grip on my "need" to be busy all of the time. The more time I have alone, the more time I have to spend with God, the easier it is for Him to mold these areas of my life that need so much work.

I'm reading a book called The Resolution for Women. It's pretty fantastic. And eye opening. The very first resolution? "I do solemnly resolve to embrace my current season of life and will maximize my time in it. I will resist the urge to hurry through or circumvent any portion of my journey but will live with a spirit of contentment." Holy wake up call! It's time to start living life NOW, not living for the future or past! God wants us to stand up for Him no matter what is happening. If we are too focused on what we don't have, we won't be able to share what we do have: Jesus.

Be a light for Him today, in the life He has given.



Monday, January 21, 2013

When It Hurts Like Hell

On Friday, I got the news. "Uncle Dave's cancer is back. It doesn't look good." It was a crushing. Literally crushing. I love him so much. My whole family is so precious to me. I don't want him to go through this pain. My heart simply aches for him and the hours of treatment he has to endure in the upcoming months. It hurts.

Three years ago, I got the text, "I'm leaving. I can't do this anymore." After half a year of dating, 5 years of being graduation-party-sharing, death-twarting, "I'll-love-you-forever" best-friends, we had two fights and Matt informed me via TEXT MESSAGE that he was packing up his car, moving out, and launching on a road trip to "find himself." It was a breathtaking, gut-wrenching kind of pain.

Just over a year ago my good friend Ali was taken from life at the ripe old age of 26.

The list goes on. And on. And on.

Life hurts. It's a simple fact. There's nothing we can do to reverse that fact. But we can change our perspective. There is a purpose for the pain. It may not be a purpose that we are ever made aware of, but that doesn't make it any less real. Every experience is molding you, shaping you into the person you will become. The way we deal with pain can bring us to a place living closer to God, or can drag us away. Bitterness and frustration will never lead us to take part in the greater joy that God has planned for us. Trusting God and allowing Him to reveal His plans through the pain will ALWAYS lead us closer to Him, and to His Glory.

God has a plan for our lives.He knows what is happening. He knows why (Jeremiah 29:11). We don't need to understand. We need to trust (Isaiah 55:9-11). Something Pastor Steven Furtick said this past weekend, "Faith is believing God’s promise is bigger than your perhaps (or uncertainty)." Everything He does is with purpose. His plans are for good, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).  "God is standing for your future, in your present, redeeming your past," Pastor Furtick.

As I said, we may never know the purpose for the pain. Sometimes God reveals His plan down the road, sometimes he doesn't. I know that had I married Matt as I (not God) had planned, I would probably not have found my way back to His loving arms. I would probably be at rainbow-fests (or whatever they're called), doing ecstasy and painting my body like some sort of a fruit loop while wearing a panda-inspired fur hat.

If Ali had not been in that accident, I wouldn't have the passion for sharing Jesus' love with the people I care about, because I wish I'd taken the chance to with him.

I may never know the purpose for Uncle Dave's cancer.

But through the anguish, I trust my Savior. He will be with me always, though everything is falling apart, I will be safe in His arms (phenomenal song to be playing right now in Off The Leaf).

As for me, I will live for Him. Heart and soul. When things are good, when it hurts like hell. Heart and soul.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm Not For Everyone

Posting this from my phone, as our Internet has been down for two weeks now...

Something I’ve always struggled with is wanting everyone to like me. Even if they don’t want to be good friends, I just don’t like the idea of someone DISLIKING me. So act like a fool, trying to please people. Making them laugh, going out of my way for them, mulling over the things I’ve said. No matter how much effort I put into trying to get people to like me, there will always be someone out there who doesn’t. Why? Because I’m not for everyone. My temperament, humor, personality are never going to mesh with absolutely everyone in this world.

I think my childhood played a big part in creating this desire. Growing up, I didn’t have many friends. So I would do weird things, dress strangely, act like a goon to try to get people to notice me. Of course, they did. But because I was so odd, they didn’t want to be my friend. They made fun of me instead.  So then in college, I went the opposite way. I tried to be as “normal” as possible. I just wanted to fit in. I did, and I had a lot of “friends”. None of them were REAL friends. Honestly, that’s the biggest problem with partying. People want to party with you, but outside of the weekend, they don’t want to be your true friend.

So I grew up, graduated, and got over it. Though I still struggle with desiring the approval of others (especially those I will probably never get approval from). I have learned to embrace my weirdness. And the strangest thing, I actually have more REAL friends now than ever before! Strange how that works, isn’t it?

My church, Fresh Life, has a “code” that we as members/leaders are encouraged to follow. The second to last point is, “It’s not for everyone. We know not everyone will get it. We are okay with that. Because the stakes are high and time is short, we refuse to back down.” So maybe our way of approaching the Bible and outreach doesn’t appeal to everyone. Oh well. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean we are going to stop doing it. It applies to my personal life too. Just because not everyone in my life is interested in becoming a Christian, that doesn’t mean I should hide it or back down from sharing.

Uniqueness is one of the most beautiful aspects of God’s glorious creation. I need to learn to embrace it. That doesn’t give me the right to be rude or hostile toward people, it just means that I’m allowed to be me. Wherever I want, whenever I want. And if someone doesn’t like the way I am? Well, that’s just tough cookies.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Big Problem

There's something that has been on my heart for quite some time, and I've been putting off writing about it. I want it to be just right, to get my point across thoroughly. It's time to jump in and just write, see where it goes. The topic is judgementalism within the church. Let's face it. It's a problem. A big problem. So big, that it turns people away from the church, keeps unbelievers from even finding interest in the church. It's outrageous, some of the things Christians do in the name of Christ. I'm sure most of us have experienced it. For me, having grown up in the church, I didn't see it often as a child. It really hit in high school. I was a bit of an oddball in high school. I wore bondage pants from Hot Topic, lots of black band tee shirts, and studded belts and jewelry. Dyed my hair blue, purple, red. Those kinds of things. Some of the people at my small town church thought I was going off of the deep end. And honestly, at that point in my life, I wasn't. I was putting my toe in the water, trying to figure out what kind of a person I wanted to grow into. But because I wore all of this dark clothing, some church leaders decided I wasn't welcome to participate in certain church events unless I dressed "normal". Honestly, this kind of judgement was part of the reason I turned away from Christ, from the church. I thought if I was drunk and crazy enough at parties, people would accept me for who I was and keep inviting me to party with them. It worked, I went to a lot of parties, acted like a buffoon a lot, kept getting invited back. The hard part was when I wasn't at a party, my drinking friends didn't want to be REAL friends. They wanted to get drunk together, then live our separate lives during the days. It was more than lonely. It was heartbreaking for someone who was just looking for a place to belong. So after a few years, Jesus found me in a lonely, crumpled heap, crying out for someone to love me. He always has, I just couldn't see it through the sludge being thrown at me by judgmental Christians. Hypocrites really. The Bible (which is to be our standard of living) tells us in Matthew 7:1-5: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

I understand, we are all sinful humans. But I really feel this is one aspect of our lives that, as Christians, we should be EXTREMELY careful about. We have a higher standard of living. Yes, every person on this earth has a problem with judging others. But as a whole, we shouldn't be known for excluding people just because they are different, or just because we think they are being sinful. How is that helpful for anyone involved? It makes the church look pompous, and makes the person being judged lose interest in the One who sacrificed it all to save us from those very sins. Sin is between a human and Christ. The church, as a whole, should be there to support someone struggling with sin. If the sin is dangerous to others within the church, then something should be done. But excluding the person from the fellowship that encourages them to seek Christ, the ONLY Savior from their sin? Absolutely the wrong approach.

A very close friend experienced horrible judgement at the hands of her church some years ago. At this point, she was experimenting with some difficult things, drinking, drugs, the like. One night, she and her best friend were out partying, and her friend decided to drive them home drunk. They were in a terrible car accident, and her best friend passed away. After this tragedy, my friend was completely broken, both inside and out. Her church didn't stand up to support her, be there for her, help her through this hard time, or find help to remove her from this sinful lifestyle, as any Bible believing church should (Matthew 25:35, Galatians 6:2). Instead, they told her that she should "take a break from church". In her darkest hour, the place that should have been there to provide comfort for her, dumped her in the street. Talk about opposite of God's teachings! So now, 3 and 1/2 years later, she is taking the first steps of potentially attending a new church. (P.S. Remember what this blog started out as? Me wanting to invite people to church. Well, this fine lady is my first success! WOO!!!) Anyway...while Christians are encouraged to reprimand each other in love (Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 4:2), we are not called to throw those who need us the most out the door.

I understand, it is difficult living in times like these. Times where we, as Christians, are judged to the extreme. Sometimes it is hard to be public about our faith, for fear of snide remarks, sideways glances, etc. Welcome that judgment, it means Satan is feeling threatened and doing his best to cut you down. God never said being a Christian would be easy. He just said it would be worth it.

To the person seeking the hope and joy of Christ—not all Christians are as hard to please as those mentioned above. It's the bad apples of the group that make the rest of us look bitter. Please don't let the Pharisees keep you from the only true peace you will ever find. Keep searching, the Lord will direct your path.

Christians—live up to the higher standard He expects of us. Accept those who are different from you (Romans 14:1-4) People will notice a difference in you and seek what God, through you, can reveal to them.