- Phantom of the Opera
Hey yo, it's 2017. I'm posting my goals and resolutions because a) one of my resolutions is to write everyday so I'M WRITING and b) I like sharing my thoughts with people and c) it's good to write things out; it makes things more official.
I split everything up into three categories: spiritual, career, and personal. In each categories are both specific, daily active goals and more abstract, idealistic visions for my life. Everything in these categories can be under the envelope for my "theme" this year.
My theme for this year and my desire is to have a soft heart and mold-able spirit. I want a soft heart towards God and towards people, and to being able to grow and change as I go forth in life. I know my goals and resolutions are lofty. I know I am slow to change and destined to fail. I just hope that I won't give up. That I'll treat every day as the new day that it is. That I'll keep trying to make small changes. And that I'll find ways to celebrate the small victories. And, above all, my prayer is that I'll continue to shake off the things that are not me and become more of who I am.
So, here are my 2017 Resolutions:
1. Read my Bible every day. Right now, my plan is to read one chapter from the Old Testament (starting in Genesis) and to read one chapter from the New Testament (starting in Matthew). I want to read the scripture with curiosity and with a soft heart. Willing to learn and to bend to the will of my God.
2. Pray everyday. I have recently begun to gather prayers from the Bible that speak to different desires for my daily life and long term goals. I want to continue to build upon that. I want to pray out loud the scripture and let that inform my own personal prayers. I want my prayers to be small but bold and mighty. I want to believe big things in my prayer life. I want to pray with a soft heart and bended knees (quite literally).
1. Get back in a spiritual community. This will take time, but I hope to start right away. Hopefully by May I will be in community that encourages me and uplifts me. And that I'll have some new friends to lean on. That might be too ideal. And a little out of my control. But, I will try.
2. I want to desire God above all else. I want to seek Him first. I want to seek Holiness and allow God to change me. I want to seek consistency and faithfulness in my spiritual life (and, personal life as well).
3. I also wrote down "gain a spiritual backbone". I don't really know how to accomplish this -- but I want to be a person of conviction. I don't want to be easily swayed. I want to be secure in God that I stand firm on His rock and am not ashamed of His word.
1. Write every day. I want to focus on the two current projects I have. The first project, I want to start sending it out. The second project, I want to finally finish a freaking draft. I would like to have a specific time when I write every day, so I don't get in the habit of saying "I'll do it later". I want to plan my writing times.
2. Read more plays. Continue to grow my library of contemporary and classic works.
1. Audition at least twice* a month (*I may increase this number)
2. Get a play read or produced this year.
3. Continue to revisit where I am (geographically) and if I want to stay or move locations.
1. Make my bed.
2. Learn to sleep better. I will figure this out even if it kills me.
3. Spend less time on Social Media. I might try to plan specific "social media times".
4. I want to have a Sabbath day. Probably on Sunday. Where I don't worry about working, but rest and do things that refresh me. And have fun.
1. I want to broaden my understanding of the world. I want a more global worldview. I want to learn about other cultures, races, religions, and perspectives. I want to learn how to believe the same things for all people that I believe for myself. I want to have a soft heart for ALL people, even people I disagree with. I want to learn how to do this while also fighting evil.
2. Read 24 books this year. Half of which, I want to be written by people from other cultures, backgrounds, races, religions, and / or perspectives.
3. I want to be financially smarter. Make a good budget. Be frugile. SAVE!!! (I have a specific savings goal that I think might be possible).
4. Deepen the relationships with the friends I've already made. Make new friends.
5. I want to stop saying "like". I want to be more direct. Be more sure.
Lord, help me.
It's Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is always awkward for me because I spend most of the day worrying whether I "reflected enough" on Jesus and "the real reason for the season" while also being extremely busy with all the activities we have planned. This year, though, I haven't had much trouble taking some time to ponder on the year and this season.
Honestly, I had a good year. It was not without it's dark, lonely, and hard days. There were plenty of those. But, in the coming days, I think I will look back on this year with a smile. I realize that I'm lucky. Many friends and close ones will not say the same thing about this year. They will do whatever they can to not look back on this year.
I don't think it's by accident that Christmas is so close to the end of the year. I know Jesus was not literally born on December 25, but it feels like, at the end of the year, we're all desperate for some hope. So, as we reflect on our year and the global and personal tragedies we faced, we can also reflect on the promise of God-made-flesh. The Hope of Glory. Jesus coming as a babe to save us and give us Hope.
I sometimes wonder why I'm still surprised by the tragedies of our world. Life is rich. It's full and flavorful and bitter. The ugly and the beautiful warring against each other. As long as we are on this side of eternity, there is going to be tension. We live in a not-yet-eternity, in a fallen world, in the waiting room of Hope. And God understands. He is not shocked or surprised. He knows. He came and He comes every year to convince us of this.
Life is supposed to be hard. There will be tears and scars and sorrow. All I hope for this new year is that I will stop trying to hide my face. That I will spend every day drawing near to him because He is my refuge. Through the hard. Through the fears, the doubts, the tragedies. Even through the joys and the highs and the good days. I pray I'll still approach the throne. I pray I'll still cling to Him in the shadow of His wings.
I pray that for all. Keep going, weary traveler.
I know the voices in your head are loud
I know the chains on your feet weigh you down
I know it took a lot of strength to get here
but you’re here, so you’ve got nothing to fear
I know your excuses seem valid
I know you’re worried you'll have nothing to say
I know it’s a fight and that’s okay
cause you’re here, so please stay
I know you don’t want to believe the things you do
I know it would be easier not to
I know the night is long you’ve wrestled so
but you’re here, and I’m not letting go
Please, show up
Even if that’s all you can muster
I haven’t known what to pray for many years. I sit near my bed each night and stare at a wall. I conjure up a couple of words that I don’t usually mean. But, today, I start to understand what they mean by the groaning of the Holy Spirit. My prayers are without many words. Just an aching of the heart. A leaning in toward God. Whispering the names of those I love. Begging for relief. Because, I need prayer more than ever right now. I need to believe that God is real. That He is here. And that He is working. That’s what prayer is. It’s a desperation for God. An acknowledgement of some sort of faith. I have no idea what you’re doing, God. But if I don’t trust you are doing something all I have is despair. And so I pray. Because I have not much left.
The number of days
in between these brutal frays
grow too few
we can’t get some relief
it threatens our belief
that hope is here
that God is real
that love can heal
I am crippled by my sadness
I am paralyzed by the madness
I’ve forgotten the face of gladness
It eats at me
like a disease
my eyes glued to a screen
is darkness our new reality?
I can’t get some relief
my joy stolen by a thief
What a mystery
Surely not just my history?
Can it be my present and future
can it close these wounds as a suture
I should number my days
but I am numb in my ways
I should stand and fight
but that demands some might
I am so fragile
with shaken faith for quite awhile
All I can do is keep breathing
Lacking in motivation
to do anything of meaning
Sleeping through the light
Blinded by the night
I hate this state that I relate to
sedated by my own fears
I admit I’m hiding, I’m not
crying for change
or justice for the slain
but I can’t take the berating
and hating and fighting
Sad for the lives I never knew
that left this earth too soon
Sad for the meaningless arguments
That lead us not a step toward agreements
but push us farther into isolation
so much for a united nation
Sad for my personal enemies
Oh me of selfish tendencies
the demons that are stored inside
that I keep alive
because it’s easier than to try
No easy way out
But surely there is something
we can do about
these evil acts
lay off the facts
the statistics, the data
look in the faces
they are not nameless
and weep, that’s a
brother, a mother, a friend
ask for this to end
And Lord, help my unbelief
You are my only relief
I went to India in 2012. While there, I was invited into the home of a family that I, and the people I was traveling with, had met. The second time we were invited and came over, the father of the family said he had a message from God for each of us.
I don't remember what he said about the others. But I remember what he said to me. And I have thought about it thousands of times since.
He told me that many people would move faster than me. That I would see others zoom through life in front of me. And my pace would be slower. But, that I would have the faith to see me through. I would make it to the end.
I didn't know what to do with this message at first. It wasn't what I wanted to hear honestly. But, even though I try hard to not let these words inform the world around me, I can't help but see truth in this message.
I have always felt a little behind. A little slow. I've felt like the world was slipping out of my fingers. I'm a late bloomer. It takes people a little more time to get to know me. I don't impress people the first time I meet them. I'm terrible in auditions and interviews. I don't make friends very easily. When I feel low, I might equate these facts to being less than. Then I remember what he said. And hope springs.
So, I give it time. I keep going. I give myself grace to go at my own pace. I carry the hope of finishing. I keep showing up. I move forward one step at a time. I tell myself that it will be okay. I will make it to the end. I will get to the finish line. I will see things through. I will find what I've been looking for. What I've wanted. I will find life. I will find hope and grace and love. People will see. I will see.
I may be a slower pace but I am not less than.
I've always been really bad at body awareness exercises, which usually surprises me because I consider myself a spiritual person. Or maybe that is my downfall. I felt awkward and didn't know what I was doing most of the time, but I set aside 20 minutes and told my body it could do whatever it wanted. Then I was supposed to try to be aware of what my body was telling me.
I had to be in my room because my roommates were home and the only place I have to sit is on my bed. I wasn't sure which position I should take so I moved around a couple times. I tried to stay "open" but I found myself pulling my knees to my chest. I guess that's what my body wanted to do. I wasn't sure what my body was saying to me (or if it was talking at all). I could hear my roommate talking on the phone. But I leaned in and focused.
My neck hurt. But it's been in pain since November. Maybe I should go to a doctor. Maybe that is the message my body is sending. But, I've known about that pain. I've just been ignoring it. Forgetting for days that it's there until it decides to remind me again.
I found my mind wandering. To my life in Michigan, my dreams of what my life could turn out to be, my loneliness, my fear -- you know, the usual.
Other than that, I didn't really "feel" much or gain much insight.
I wanted to try to connect the dots and come up with something deep and meaningful from those 20 minutes but everything just feels silly. There was nothing deep that happened. It was frivolous and awkward. And I think that is the point. I've been trying to conjure up some answers or explanations and I fumble around with words -- because I have to. People are calling on me to make my answer.
But, maybe it really is that simple. Maybe I'm just trying to find a comfortable position, trying to stay open but sometimes needing to be closed off. And there's a pain in my neck that I've been ignoring. And maybe I should get some help. Maybe I should do something about it.
I've got the answer.*
So, I feel like everyone - everyone - no matter what wing you're on or what side of the spectrum you range or where you buy your groceries - needs to take a chill pill. For real. I think we all need a vacation.
In lieu of just about everything happening on the internet these days, I've been thinking about why we get so mad and riled up. For example, Leo won an Oscar this week (of which he will #neverletgo) and used his speech to bring up concerns about climate change. And, I'll admit, at first I was a little annoyed that yet another Oscar winner was trying to one up the other Oscar winners in how altruistic they are. Let the awards show just be an awards show. Ya know>? That kind of thing. But then I was bothered that I was bothered. Why do I find it annoying? Why can't I be confronted by the harsh realities of the day?
The answer I came up with is because sometimes I get tired of everything -- literally everything -- becoming an "issue". Like, we can't breathe anymore without someone analyzing whether our breath was pro-women, pro-equal rights, pro-civil rights, anti-gun, and pro-environment. Beyonce made a video and then got depantsed with backlash because even her progressive video wasn't progressive. We're also in the middle of one of the weirdest (I think) presidential campaign we've ever experienced. So, we're all thinking about, eating, breathing, and sleeping with the issues of the days. And that can be tiring. And a little doomsday-y.
That led me to another question. Why do I not want to think about the issues of today? Am I too lazy? Too scared? Too closed minded? To helpless? And that is the question I am marinating on for a while.
When someone sees something different than me, can I put myself in their shoes? (I've put myself in Trump's shoes and then I quickly cut off my feet.) Can I explore their side of the issue? Can I stop pretending for one moment that climate change doesn't exist, or that racism is no longer an issue, or that I as a white middle class person have been persecuted? Can I stop being lazy and actually try to do something about rape culture and police brutality? Can I consider that maybe life begins at conception and abortion is not just a women's right issue? Can I see others who are different than me and actually learn about their culture, their background, and what makes them them? Do I have the ability to do this?
I'm not advocating giving in to every little thing because that's what the cool kids are doing. But, I think all of us can do a better job of understanding each other. Take some time to point your fingers at yourself. How can you be more graceful? More loving? More serving? More humble?
Do you wanna know why so many people in this world are committing hateful crimes? How man is capable of such evil? How they can brutally attack innocent people? I think it's because they have let themselves stay angry. Their anger has become a monster inside of them that they no longer know what they do. When someone threatens their way of life, instead of thinking how that person may have a point, they go to facebook or their friends and say "I'm tired of hearing about how them liberals think the world is gettin' hotter" or "I'm tired of hearing about how I need to make room for other people's voices and stories". It might have started as an innocent rant, but now we are seeing the culmination of years of anger not being dealt with. And it comes out harsh. And scary. Don't think that you are safe from becoming just like them. We can't let our anger win us over.
Think. Research. Come up with your opinions but listen first. Then share. Fight against evil and for good. Also, don't stay on facebook too long. It only leads to despair. No matter who you are. And don't trust everything you read on the internet. I don't care what you think or how many articles you shared, only like 2 people were concerned about the starbucks cups.
I admit that I can be a little too concerned of what others think of me, especially unbelievers. I can focus a little too much on seeming cool and okay with everything. I can be fickle in my beliefs. And that is something that I need to figure out with God and allow him to work in my life.
That being said, I firmly believe that what we do in this life is more important than we are taught to believe. And I don't think it's particularly biblical to only look ahead to eternal life. Yes, we need to be ready and to prepare, but God left us here for a purpose. And he created life and this earth and he thought it was good. So, to be like God and to be holy means to also think life and this earth is good.
It always irritates me to the core when I'm in a group of people and the worse person of that group is a christian. They can be mean or rude or outspoken or prideful. They're jerks. And the rest of the group- though definitely not perfect- are more compassionate, level-headed, thoughtful people. I get embarrassed to be on the "same team" at the christian honestly.
(I am making a lot of generalizations and blanket statements, I know, and there are a lot of Christians who are some of the best people I know. Those are the people I want to be more like and surround myself with. But, I proceed.)
We christians are so consumed with our "total depravity" and "no good in me"-ness that sometimes we use that as an excuse to not change. We've gotten this idea that this life doesn't matter and it's all about our heavenly home and we have neglected to just work on ourselves as people. Today. We leave all the work to God. He's "changing us from the inside out." So we let ourselves be the angry, mean, racist, sexist people we are because we are totally depraved. The only good in us is Christ.
We are not good people. We are jerks. And that is not a good thing. That is not just us "understanding who we are a part of Christ". No, Christ came to die for us so we could put those parts of us to death. We won't be perfect, and there are plenty of jerks out there who aren't christians, but we should be the best people in the room not the worst. We should be the kindest, the most loving, the most compassionate, the most forgiving, the most understanding because JESUS was all that to us.
It's not okay to just go around talking about how "totally depraved" we are and do nothing about it. Yes, we're sinful and evil. Fix that. Work towards holiness. And that doesn't mean that we need to be more judmental and righteous and make sure everyone lives to our standards. No, to be more holy means to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. That is God describing himself in Exodus 6. Wanna be more like God? Be that. He says himself to leave the vindication and judgement to him. That's the part he doesn't want us to be like.
There are ways that I could be more unashamed of God and the gospel, but I will never apologize for trying to be a better person and caring about this world or this life. Don't be a jerk. Be a light of the gospel to a dying world. Be kind. Be loving. Help someone out physically, not just spiritually.
I just read the uber famous play by Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,and it's one of those plays that stays with you. For me, it was partly because the whole play I was thinking "what the heck is this play about?!" or "what is going on?!". But, it's also due to the fact that the play is incredible and it's not easily forgettable.
There are a lot of plays I wish I had written. This play is definitely on the list. As a young writer, you hear a lot of "that wouldn't happen" or "this doesn't make sense", etc. I'm not arguing these aren't valid points- because they are- but one day I want to write a play where I get to make all the rules and I get to say what would and wouldn't happen and, when people read it, they say "okay, yeah I believe that."
The given circumstances in this play are kind of ridiculous. The play begins at, like, 2 in the morning where the characters have already been drinking at another party. George and Martha, the first couple, invite over the second couple, Nick and Honey, for there own little after party. They basically drink all night long which means that by the end of the play they are probably three levels past drunk. But, you also believe that they are the most honest they've ever been. You don't for a second think they're gonna wake up in the morning and not remember what happen or just chalk it up to another drunken night. These events have lasting consequences on their lives.
The characters are outlandish but strangely very human. At first, I was thinking that no one talks this way and no one is this cruel, but then the whole time I could picture people I know who are these characters. They may not act like these characters, but they could. And that's the point. Albee was able to write real people who do things and say things that most people would stop themselves from doing and saying. But, they are not too far from reality.
Albee also uses dialogue to walk all over you. It is so weird but it flows so well and the whole time I was just in awe of his ability to take out-of-this-world circumstances, characters, and dialogue and make a beautiful play from it.
I read up a little about the play after I finished because I wanted to try to understand everything. Once you finish the play, in my experience, you feel like you have a better understanding of the whole thing than you did at the beginning. (That's kind of a "duh" statement, but true.) The play wraps everything up so nicely and drops a bomb that destroys everything all at the same time. It's awesome. But, reading about the play, the analysis talks about your typical, familiar story of social pretenses and taking off masks. SO many plays are about that. (It works, I guess). But, for me, what I took from this the most was the power of words and the power we gain through our words. The stories they told, the secrets they revealed, the insults they poured out on each other all were ways to gain power and to keep power. And George ends up winning the power, sorta ironically since he is the weakest at the beginning, by speaking things into existence that, because of the understood "rules" between Martha and George, could not be unspoken. He got what he want through his words. Ugh, it's so good.
Those are some of my initial thoughts and take-a-ways. I'm curious for others who have read this play what they took from it.
This is a weird Christmas for me because I am away from my family and home and in a new town that is about a road long. But, it's okay. I've got my icecream, my favorite artist playing, a puzzle to do, and a couple presents under the tree. I'm debating whether I'll go to the Christmas Eve Service tonight at the Methodist Church. I would like to go, but I am worn out from the week and quiet evenings to myself are few and far between these days.
All that being said, I still want to stop and listen and reflect on the implications of Christmas. I still want to make room for Jesus and remember him on this day.
I was listening to a song called "Belly of the Deepest Love" (by Tow'rs) and one of the lyrics says "I tried to get to you but you came to me instead." I feel like that sums up the good news that the Angels proclaimed to the shepherds and that we still share today. All of history, people have been trying to understand God and work their way into goodness or acceptance by God or people. And there has been varying degrees of success in achieving those goals. But our efforts have yet to get us to God. So, Jesus gave up his throne and came down to us. He walked on this earth. He came to be with us.
He came so He could die for us and make a way, but it is also nice on Christmas to just reflect on the first part: He came.
I don't really know why but whenever I think about that fact, I always am stopped in my tracks. It's the most beautiful story every written, told, and lived.
God did not leave us on our own. He came and He is coming again. And whenever we need him, He is there. He is here and all around.
That is good news and that is enough for me today.
I had a realization today. And not necessarily something that translates for everyone everywhere. Not a profound truth. But, a truth for me right where I'm at. And, it just kinda came out of my mouth. I didn't understand the importance of what I had just said till I really listened to what I said.
I was having a conversation with a loved one and mentor about God's will for my life, a #typical conversations for Christians. I've stopped pretending like I really know what "God's will for my life" even means. I've stopped thinking that I have to seek out some plan. But, I noted that there seems to be two camps: the people who believe God's will for your life is a specific path, place, person, and profession, and then there are the people who believe that God's will for your life is to love him with all your heart, soul, and mind, love people, and do whatever you want along the way. I kinda hope it's the latter, especially since one of my biggest passions is a road that most people think the devil himself laid out.
I was asking her which camp she was in; secretly hoping she'd also say the latter because her opinion holds a lot of weight in my life, even if I can and do think for myself. She didn't have a straight answer, but she was saying that what's most important is staying in the "plumb line": the line that connects us with God.
And that's where my revelation began to take form. I blurted out that I can't say for sure that if I went into "the industry" I would honor God through my job because I don't know if I'm strong enough. But, if I became and accountant or a teacher I also don't know if I would honor God through my job. The job itself has nothing to do with honoring God. It is how you bring your "worship to your work place". It is what you do from 9-5. It is the conversations you have. It is working to please God and not man. And whether you are a TV writer, CIA spy, teacher, minister, or evil insurance worker you can either honor God or not honor God. And I feel like we put down certain jobs so much and we put down the people who go into those jobs. But, why give up the thing that gives me the most life and joy and peace because it doesn't look like I could honor God in it to go to a job I don't like and is not the thing I was "made for" because it doesn't look as evil or dirty?
God's will for my life is to love him, and worship him with everything I do. It is to be an ambassador for Christ. It is to look to him and not to man. To please him and not man. If I can do that as a writer or actor or janitor at the NBC studios because that was what I felt like I wanted to pursue, then I think I have accomplished the will of God. But, if I go and use the gifts I feel like I've been given and never speak of God, never worship him, never pray for my co-workers, and give in to the way of the world, then I would not be honoring God and that would not be his will or best for my life.
Where I'm at right now, that makes the most sense to me. God isn't going to write me a letter with where I am supposed to go with what job, but he has called me to bring him into every job I have and to show the world his light.
I can't justify abandoning certain careers to appear clean. And it's not even about bringing the "light to dark places". I wanna do what lights a fire in my heart and there are people there who need to know the love of Christ. And life may lead me somewhere different. God may slam doors in my face. But, I don't think it's cause God is like "you didn't choose the right career path". Life is fluid. There are rules that were set up by God and they play out. I may never make it where I think I want to go. But, that journey could be a part of God's will. At the end of our life, his main concern was whether we knew him and whether he knew us, not whether we had the right job.
You know how people sometimes start their stories by saying, "So I was in the shower..."? And then go on to tell some grand idea or revelation about life that they had whilst showering. Well, I had a pre-shower moment. (because I'm cool and hipster). I was in the bathroom about to take a shower after a less-than-victorious run and I was reflecting on the feelier things in life. I wanted to write it all out and post it but then I hesistated because I thought that it was too angsty and I am tired of being angsty. I mean, sometimes it's fun because I make fun of myself for it and my friends find it endearing. But, no matter how much I convince myself I'm just writing about my fears or things I'm learning or going through it always comes out so dramatic and heavy? I justify it by saying I'm just being truthful and honest and vulnerable. But, no one else takes it that way or appreciates it. But, then I realized something that stopped me in my tracks. And I unlocked the secret key to the meaning of life! (JK). But, I think I've gotten closer to shedding off my angsty-ness and becoming a more mature, spiritually normal (I won't say healthy just yet) person. I have found the difference between angst and a lesson worth sharing: distance.
I can feel things pretty quickly. And usually the second I feel something my mind goes into inner-monologue mode. Which translates to me immediately wanting to whip out my journal or computer and write something out. Which then leads me to want to share what I wrote because why write something if you can't share it? But, the problem with that, and why it turns out so heavy and dramatic, is because I'm right in the middle of it. The emotions are all around me. I don't have the right perspective. I'm probably feeding myself lies. I can't really write something that speaks to lessons learned that others can glean something from because I haven't actually taken the time to learn the lesson.
When I step back, process what I'm feeling privately and with prayer, and then live I might actually learn the lessons that I was meant to learn and not the lessons I think I need to learn. I need to live through it, get past it, and then maybe sit down and write out what I gained from it. Then, I can write about the heavier, more open and honest and vulnerable things in life without sounding like a junior high kid who discovered the color black for the first time.
So, I will try to live this way. I will try to not give life to my feelings, thoughts, and facts of my life before they are ready to be birthed. I will try to live life before I comment on it. I will try to let God and life and others show me what lessons I need to learn. And I will try to be less angsty as a result.
Or, I should just become a song writer. They can be as angsty as they want and people pay them to do it.
I'm scared for my life. I'm scared I won't work hard enough. Because, I see this life in the distance that I think I want. And I am beginning to see the different roads I hate to travel to get there. And it all seems so good. But, that doesn't mean I'm tempted to want to take the easy way. But, the road is narrow that leads to life. And I know that is talking about Jesus and about Heaven, but I think it fits in other instances too (God can do that). The road is wide that leads to death. Or failure. And a life that is less than. But so many people go down that road or are at least tempted too.
If you really want your dreams, you have to take the narrow road. I am starting to realize you have to live life a little differently. Too often I live by the rule "she's doing it, so it must be okay for me." I have wasted so much time on that excuse. To have life, to do the things that bring me the most peace and joy, I have to work. I have to know that I don't know anything and seek to understand. I have to practice every day. I have to ask for help. I have to read. I have to write. I have to watch those who have gone before me and try to find their footsteps.
But, what if what I think I want is actually not what I want? I'm scared for that too. I think that's why we put off the hard work. Or dread it. We like to keep our dreams in our heads. Sometimes, we don't want our dreams to turn into reality. Because it's so much funner and easier to live that fantasy life in my head. I could spend hours and hours imagining my life. And that brings me a slight satisfaction. But, if I do it enough, I believe it can be enough. Because if I bring this dream to the light and strive for it, I may never get it and it may go away. And that is scary.
Somedays I don't know why I have these dreams. Somedays I am jealous of people who's number one dream is to be a teacher. Or an accountant. I want dreams like that. I don't want to dream to be a writer and actor. I don't want to dream to live in LA. It's too hard. It's too scary. And I'll probably fail. I know that. But it is the "what if" that wakes me up. The "what if" that has gotten me this far. And it is the life lived in between. Who I will be on the other side, no matter the outcome, makes everything worth it. The things I'll learn and the people I'll meet will surely enrich my life in some way.
So, I'll try to take the narrow road. I'll try to fight the temptation to stay on the wide road. To only work half as hard as I should. To not work at all. I'll try to always be a reader and a learner. I'll strive to practice every day. And to sleep more. And to enjoy the life lived in between.
If you know me even a little bit, you probably know a couple things about me: I want not much more in life than to be a hipster and I care way too much about instagram. I try very hard to dress like, talk like, listen to the same music as, and take as good and artsy pictures as hipsters. I want my instagram account to appear in magazines for it's beauty and creativity.
But, I have come to realize that that's not me. In some ways, I am hipster-ish and I am artsy-ish, but I am not what I think I want to become. I have come to find a style that's my own, a personality that's my own, and a feed to reflect my uniqueness. And I'm becoming more and more okay with that.
I like my instagram account. I like it for what it's not. I like it for what it is. I like that I try to only post 4X3 pictures (because horizontal is the best) but every once in a while there is a picture worth posting that is not 4X3. I like that my instagram is mostly big group selfies mixed in with some "self portraits" that are usually as awkward looking as I am. I like that I still try to capture the beauty of every day things just because. I like that instagram is a highlight reel of my life. I am reminded enough about how mundane, boring, hard, and sad life can be. I don't need instagram for that. I need to be reminded more of the good parts that meant something enough to document. I like that I'm slowly accepting that sunsets will always be prettier in person but that it's still nice to take the picture.
I like that it's not a hipster account but it's also not a junior high boys account. (I'm still salty that they will, without a doubt, get more likes than me). I like that I don't have pictures of objects placed on my bed in a certain way to show my "study hour" even though we all know you weren't actually using all those items. I like that I don't feel the need to take pictures of my food. Or my coffee. I like that my account doesn't look like every other single account on instagram. I like that it has multiple colors and is not the same picture over and over.
If that's you, I like that. But, I also think we're more unique than we show through our instagram pictures. I like that I'm becoming more okay with not becoming what I've always wanted to become. And I like that every year I feel like I'm finding more and more who I am.
If this is angsty, sorry.
One of my biggest pet peeves, that I have admittedly done plenty of times but am trying to stop, is when people don't ever really deny you. They deny you under a lot of maybe's and false hopes. When people respond to an invite with "I don't know if I can come." Or "I'll try to come!" or "If I get done with my homework in time!" or "If my only other option is to hang myself, sure, I'll come!" Across the board, people have learned to accept this as a "no", but technically it's not a no. It's a very cowardly way of saying "I don't want to come." I have done that so many times even when I know without a doubt that I can't come. "I don't know if I'll be able to make it because I will be working." I'm so afraid to say no. To hurt their feelings. But, I do have work.
While that is a pet peeve, I think a deeper frustration is how easy it is to flake out on people these days. Back before cell phones, if you had a plan to meet up with someone- if you didn't show you were standing them up. And they might think you're dead. Now, all you have to do is send a quick text "I'm going to have to cancel!" So people follow through less and less and become increasingly flaky. Or, maybe the better way to say it is we make a lot of empty promises. I have done this countless times, but I have also been on the receiving end of it. And I realize how crappy it makes you feel. Especially when you know they're empty promises. You can read it through every text they send promising they will come soon. And they keep pushing back the time. Keep adding on the excuses. Now, sometimes the excuses are real. Like, your friend is throwing up everything inside of them at the moment. And I've had to cancel for health relating reasons in the past too.
I think we just need to be better at meaning what we say. And we need to learn how to say "no". We can't be afraid of that word. But we can't say "yes" in the moment, knowing later we'll find some reason to say "no". If you say "yes"-- do everything in your power to do it. Be there. Follow through. Don't say "yes" unless you know you can and you want to. I know I would be less offended if people outright denied my invitation. I'd still be offended, but it wouldn't sting as bad. At least there is no room for false hope.
Kingdom of God and Grace
This week was slightly different than most because we had a guest speaker: (and a boy! Uh!) Russell Minick! Although, this week was not without tears. He came to speak on the Kingdom of God and Grace and help us define what they are.
He used slides and many of them came from Dallas Willard himself (who Russell knew! AND who graduated from Baylor. Sic 'em.) The lesson was more intellectual than emotional, and I will try to help you understand it. Bear with me because both Russell and Willard are incredibly smart people.
The Bible commands us to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). And, contrary to popular belief maybe, that is possible. Russell says that we make Jesus to be other from us because we blame everything on his deity, but in reality he did everything through his humanity. Chew on that cookie.
Russell said his goal for this week was to clarify the Kingdom and Grace. Here is what he said about these things (and a couple other things).
The Kingdom of God is, most simply, the range of God's effective will, where what God wants done is done. For God, that is probably literally the whole earth. But, it's less about a place and more about a jurisdiction. And the Kingdom of Heaven is interchangeable. Jesus is first and foremost Lord and King (not Savior as we often think).
"The Gospel of the Kingdom is the gospel". Jesus heard and was baptized not to show us but He did it for him. Ithought that was so cool. It was not something I had thought of before. The gospel announces the King of Kings and asks us to change our thinking to align with him.
Kingdom of Heaven is a different sphere, not a different place. It is all around us, we just are not in sync. But, there are specific moments in time when the Kingdom of Heaven and Earth overlap (Jacob's ladder, the tabernacle, Jesus, etc). The "end times", or what you will, will be a reconciliation of Heaven and Earth. It is a going back to our original purposes.
Our original purposes are to Love God, Love others and represent him on this earth. And that's where Grace comes in. We are saved to love well. If we don't love well, we do not understand the gospel. So Church should be about relationships.
We don't contain grace. It is always working around us. It is not a passive thing. It is working in us and through us. It is changing us. It is important for us to not nullify grace so we must work out our salvation. God is not freaked out by our bad habits. But, he empowers our progress with grace.
That's where the Spiritual Disciplines come in. And, according to Russell, memorizing scripture is the most important discipline. So, again, like we've been learning this whole summer, reading the Bible is important.
If you get anything out of this summer, I hope it is a longing to read the Word. Or even just a sense that you should. The longing will come later. Just do it.
Kinda like Russell said about Willard, the truths are actually very simple and what we've known since we began getting to know God. It's just another way to look at it to slightly understand the mystery of God better.
Transforming the Soul, or Gingers Have Souls Too
Hey guys. I'm back from the land of the rich and famous (LA).
So, I went to Sphlashtown yesterday. The kids I was with and I spent a long time at that water treehouse thingy-- you know, the one that has the huge bucket above the playground that is constantly being filled with water until it dumps over and everyone gets soaked. Well, there we are with a huge group of strangers all waiting under the spot where the water would rush down. No one knows when it's gonna rain down, you just have to wait. And then all of the sudden it comes and it is the most water you've ever had poured on top of you. And I was thinking about how silly it is that we would wait for liquid to get poured on us. But, as I was being rained on, I couldn't help but feel like this was one of the best feelings in the world. WHY?! I have no idea. But, for some reason God put it inside all of us to not only need water to live, but to love being in it and having it wash over us. I think he did that so that people for millions of years would have good analogies when talking about God's living water for us. But, it is a good picture of God's living water that he pours into our souls. Our souls cry out to God, waiting for his love to rain down on us. It is our refreshment, our life, our peace, and our joy.
I really enjoyed this lesson. I think partly because Willard kinda takes a break on slamming you down with deep conviction. Instead, this week literally felt like taking a drink of water (my use of water analogies might run dry in this blog........ pun intended..........). I also liked it because it shifted the way I thought about myself and God and the connection between us. Here is the outline of the lesson and what stood out to me:
The soul is a mystery to us all and that is what makes it beautiful. This lesson was not about pinning the soul down, but to give us enough insight into how the Lord uses the soul and to keep us marveling at it.
We have all used the term "soul" about a thousand times. But, I was surprised that I didn't fully know what it was. We all know instinctively it is the deepest part of us. I usually "feel" my soul in my gut. I like the definition I think Stephanie (or maybe Willard) gave us that it is the fundamental, foundational part of who we are. It is your "sim card". The other interesting, important point is that it is not accessible to us. We don't have the same relationship with the soul as we do our emotions, our thoughts, our will, our body, or our social aspect. But, it influences every part of us.
When we think of our soul (the deepest part of us) it would make sense that the soul would be the most central ring in the circle of our life. But Willard actually says that it is the outer ring. Because it is the access point for God. He first comes to contact to us through the soul.
The soul is the access point, and it is also our source for food and drink. One of the analogies for the soul comes from Psalm 1:1-3. We are a tree planted by a stream, and our soul is the roots that go deep under. The roots drink from the water (see, water) and then provide nourishment for the rest of the body. Stephanie shared the analogy of a company as well (the soul is the computer system that allows all the other parts of the company to be able to do work).
Okay so I want to share with you what I understand the soul to be after this lesson. I can't guarantee that I'm right, but here is how I see the soul:
When God created us, He breathed his image and likeness and life into us.* So, every one of us -- whether we believe or not -- has a soul and has a piece of God inside of us. The deepest part of us is the likeness of God. We can't access it, only God can. I think that maybe the soul is the only part of us that was not affected by the fall. It is the only thing in us that can't be evil. It is solely a door way for God to access our spirit and it is a bucket to hold the living water inside of us. We can choose to neglect it and keep the door shut, so that God has no way to pour refreshment and life into us, letting our emotions and will drive us or we can choose to keep ourselves open to the rushing flow of the Lord to take us over. That is why there is a tension inside of us. Our soul and our flesh are literally waging a civil war inside of us.** Our soul is thirsty*** and I think it deeply longs for God, but our mind only feels the longing (which is why we can fill our souls with things other than God). Our soul knows that we need nothing more but a huge bucket of God's peace and love and nourishment to rush over us. To overcome us. Our soul knows it even when our mind and heart do not. Our soul longs for the word like it is a nice bucket of Texas Roadhouse rolls. What we can do is feed it with the word and open up the door into our soul to allow God to come in and keep our soul from shriveling up inside us. When our soul overflows, it will clean out our bodies. And when our soul is healthy, so is everything else in us because we will be submitted to God.
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (KJV).
**1 Peter 2:11
"Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul" (ESV).
"My soul thirsts for you" (ESV).
Transforming the Body
I know what you’re thinking: “You weren’t in class on Sunday?!” Calm down*. Actually, most of you probably weren’t thinking that. Most of you had no idea because you don’t ever notice me in the class and some of you don’t even know who I am. It’s cool, I don’t know who you are either. But, alas, here I am: recapping the lesson because I can read minds and see the future (and/or the past).
Does anybody else secretly want to throw this book in your fireplace and stop this series? I hope so so I don't feel like a horrible person. I mean, I thought I was doing pretty well until I started coming to class. Now, I am convinced of how completely totally depraved and heretically I am. (I am using dramatic language on purpose). It’s annoying.
I thought Ms. Shawn did an awesome job with the lesson. She tackled another super lofty lesson and made it relatable and, just like every other lady who has taught, her personality shown through.
We can’t have full, complete redemption without any of the pieces we have talked about so far. The body being one of them. We can be slave to our body just like we can be slave to our emotions, our thought, or our will. We must not give in to our bodies but we must give over our bodies to the Lord to let him begin a deep work in us. A beautiful, but daunting work. Just like every other element, you can’t just simply throw your body away or even ask for a new one. You’re stuck with the one you got. Uneven nostrils and all. But, the body is amazing. It breathes while you sleep! It doesn’t need us to tell it what to do. It just reacts. And to sum up what Shawn unpacked in 23 (20 pt. font) pages… We have to train and program our body to react right. If we don’t train, we’ll never react right in the moment.
Have you ever thought “Okay next time that happens, I will react this way”. I do all the time and when that thing happens I react in the same way I always do. Cause I don’t really train. I just try to have good will power. Which, we learned last week, no one has good enough will power. Our body is a very powerful tool. But it can be trained. And we must train it.
Shawn used Roger Federer and computer programming as her example of training our bodies. Federer has won like a million trophies for his tennis playing but he has also probably spent a minute for every trophy he’s won (that’s a million minutes) training his body to do exactly what he wants to do under pressure. It’s not easy. Nothing about renovating the heart is easy. And that’s why I want to chunk this book against a wall. But it will be worth it!!!!
God is gonna do his part in caring for our body. But we have to do our part too. Take care of your body. Watch what you put in it (both physically and emotionally and spiritually), watch how you use it, watch what you say to it, and let it use its muscles every once in a while.
(That above paragraph needs its own book in expansion because it is easier said than done. But, alas, I am trying to make these slightly shorter.)
There is hope yet. I like thinking of my body as a computer because it kinda calms my angsty ways. My body is just a machine, it is not a monster that is constantly trying to destroy me. It can be trained like a dog. When you say “sit” the body will sit. (Wow, I was using that as a metaphor but that is quite literal). So once I start inputing the program Holiness 3000, I will output gold and doves and peace and love. Your body is just a machine. You can transform it.
How do we train it? Heck if I know. But, you gotta use it to train it. Journaling is the example Ms. Shawn brings up. The actual act of taking your thoughts through your veins to your fingers through the pen onto paper is a powerful thing. And, it slows you down. (which I hate but I try to do it). Write down Bible verses, say them till your blue in your face. And get on your knees. Make your body low. Pray, pray, pray. And wait. God is faithful to answer.
Also, service. Using your body for someone else’s gain is an easy way to put your body in it's place.
Jesus came down and put skin on his deity and that is more significant than we’ll ever realize. If we want to transform our body, don’t you think we should look at what Jesus did when he had one? Ms. Shawn says that to train our body we have to follow Christ’s overall lifestyle and take on his disciplines of prayer, solitude, fasting (denying the body), etc. And I love that Ms. Shawn says the difference between Federer and Jesus is that Jesus comes inside of us and transforms us from the inside out. Don’t we all wish that Federer’s spirit could maybe come inside of us too? Give me some body coordination please!!
I didn't really do this lesson justice. This just barely touches the surface of the complexity of the body. But, hopefully it will get you thinking and will lead you to the truth. Or hopefully it just makes you laugh.
The will. A much more abstract and wide-ranging topic than I first thought. Also, a more important topic than I first thought. Thankfully for you, the reader, this topic appeals more to my logical, practical, thinking side so it won’t sound like a 13 year old emo kid who just discovered what a diary was (although, as Marilyn pointed out, your thoughts, feelings and will are all connected. So this week is not void of emotion). Marilyn spoke this week and it was a simple message, but a powerful one.
So what exactly is your will? Words that were thrown out were: drive, desire, determination, stubbornness, and control.
Letting go of your own will and giving into God’s will requires trust. You have to trust God to want to follow him. And for someone who is a control freak, like me, I only trust myself. (Who is the LEAST trustworthy person cause I deceive myself like a boss). So, to give up the will is to give up control. For me, at least. But, as my mom said, I am not alone in this. Getting off my chair is really acknowledging that I’m not in control. And saying that I am okay with whatever happens. But, control freaks aren’t okay with “whatever happens”. They want to know what is going to happen. Even if it’s not what I would want, necessarily, I want to consciously decide to do that thing and know exactly the outcome. But, that’s not how God works. And there’s the rub. Giving in to God is supposed to bring you peace but it literally causes me to shake.
I remember my freshmen year of college I had to make a big decision (it was actually pretty petty) and I was kinda new to walking with God through my decisions so I really wanted to be super holy and spiritual and just ask God and whatever he says I wanted to do. But, I was completely riddled with anxiety. The second I would open up my Bible I would start shaking and my heart would pound because I was afraid of the answer. I was “hearing” all these weird things that were probably the devil messing with me. I couldn’t see straight and I ended up making the decision that I would have wanted to make. I think that it was the right decision- for that time- but I never came to a “peace” that that was what God told me to do. But, I thought my heart might actually explode if I prayed about it anymore. That happens to me more than I would like to admit. I want control. I want God to bend to my will and bless me through it all, but I don’t want to bend to his. If I knew the answer to how to fix this, I would. And I would share it with you right here. Alas, I don’t.
Marilyn said that it isn’t about “will power”. It’s about the “want to” factor. Our will, when aligned with God, is our desire to do what God’s will is. And God’s will is the things he wants to see happen in this day and age.
There is a timeline for conquering the will: Willard states it as Surrender Abandonment Contentment Participation.
Surrender: Losing control. (See above).
Abandonment: Living life with open hands as I like to say. Knowing we deserve nothing so being thankful for everything. And living like we know the end of the book (which we do). One of my favorite lyrics in a worship song is from the song Strong Love by Jon Thurlow (everyone admire my hipsterness). He says: “I know the end of the story I come up from the wilderness, leaning on my beloved.” I love that so much. That’s all I wanted to say about that.
Contentment: Peace with God and peace with ourselves.
Participation: God is cool and gracious and loving enough to let us take part in his will. It’s much better than ours.
Marilyn made a good point that it’s not about getting past step one and never returning. You will go in circles with this. You will have to start over. And… I say that to be comforting. To better explain these points, Marilyn made her own timeline: I don’t want to I have to I want to want to I want to I get to.
What would your life look like if you were completely abandoned to the will of God? Think about that. Me? I’d probably have more peace and more joy, which is ironic because those are the things I desperately want. If I am honest, right now I am in the “want to want to” stage and about some things I am in the “I don’t want to” stage. But the first step to freedom is admitting you have a problem, right?
To be honest, I don’t remember where this fit into the lesson because I take really vague, horrible notes, but it’s an important point: We’ve got to talk about what is going on in our head. (Which I hate doing). We have to get it out, we have to process, and we have to not believe that we are the only ones thinking these thoughts. So, start talking about your thoughts (no matter how scary, dirty, awful, crazy they are). Do work today and don’t let this lesson collect dust on the shelf.