Sunday, November 22, 2009

Give Thanks

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and made Israel to pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
- Psalm 136

We read through this verse in Prayer Group on Thursday and it's kind of stuck with me since then. I love how all the stuff that God has done for the Israelites is sandwiched between the 1st three and the last verse of this chapter. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever...Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. It's been a reoccurring theme in my life lately. Be thankful for who God is not what He does. Because the things that God does are not what makes Him God. He's not God because He forgives, but He forgives because He's God. He's not God because He loves, but He loves because He's God.

It's a simple concept, really but it's so difficult to grasp. Because as humans we have all kinds of expectations. For other people and for God. And when those expectations aren't met, well that's when we struggle to be thankful. Focusing on what God does for us - it'll get us in trouble during those dark periods of our lives. And we all have them. Don't even lie.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
-Philippians 4:11-13

I want to be there. Thankful in hunger and need. Thing is, I really can't say I've experience those things. Not that I haven't had dark periods, but honestly I've never really been lacking in anything. In the midst of writing this post, I've been talking to some of the lovely ladies on Bloom who have reminded me just how blessed I really am. I do have a lot to be thankful for and I need to be aware of that. However - I also need to realize that the only reason any of it is there for me to enjoy is because it is a blessing from God. And the only reason God blesses me is because He loves me. And He loves me because He is God. And that is what I need to be thankful for. The other stuff, it doesn't matter. Really. Because it's not eternal. But God is. And I praise and thank Him for that tonight.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Potatoes and Pandora

I had big plans for today. Cleaning. Laundry. Homework. And then I woke up sometime after 11. Which doesn't really happen to me that often. And it kind of threw me off. Since I was starting late, I figured I'd just focus on getting some research for this paper on health care reform I have to write for my Medical Sociology class. And then I remembered that my church is having a Thanksgiving dinner and service tomorrow night. Being a Baptist church, obviously the dinner's a potluck. So, I decided that since I've been going there for over a year now, I was in a position where I should probably make something for the potluck.

Thing is I don't really know how to cook a whole lot. I mean, I can cook up some chicken and vegetables for a wonderful dinner. I can throw stuff in a crock-pot and have a lovely meal waiting for me after class. I make a mean quesadilla (just ask Sadie) and eggs with salsa (ask Katie Jones about this one). I'm not a BAD cook, but I will most certainly be calling my mother multiple times a day in the days leading up to the first Thanksgiving meal I have to host - which hopefully will be a while from now. So, I called my mom this afternoon asking for the recipe for the only Thanksgiving food I think I could actually pull off - potato rolls. Best rolls ever!

I had everything I needed already in the apartment except for potatoes and yeast. (Yeah - I even had crisco - how random.) So I went upstairs to see if they could help me out. Because I'd kind of already decided I really didn't want to leave the apartment all day. Katie Jones was able to provide me with some yeast, but I was still potato-less. Which normally wouldn't be a problem. But when you're trying to make potato rolls it's kind of important to have the potatoes. So, I began texting friends to see if they had a potato or two that I could borrow. Mind you, these were all friends who live in the apartments, but they're not in my building. That's why I texted instead of actually walking across the courtyard. Told you - I had already made up my mind on the lazy day thing. Unfortunately, potatoes do not seem to be a staple food for many college students and I could not find one. Luckily, my dear friend Beth Babcock was on her way to the store and offered to buy potatoes for me. I have such great friends!

So, my day of big plans turned into a day of research and searching for potatoes (let's not lie, mostly looking for potatoes...) while listening to Christmas carols. Yes, I'm sure you're shaking your head saying something like, "It's not even Thanksgiving yet. Really, Christmas music?" But, in my defense, it's Pandora's fault. I was trying to get some Relient K to listen to and Pandora offered me the choice of a regular Relient K channel or a Relient K (Holiday) channel. Well, I was just so excited about the prospect of hearing some of Relient K's best holiday music that I couldn't resist. And now I've been listening to Christmas music. All day. Oops.

Except that really, I love Christmas music. Especially the kind that makes you think about Jesus. Because it makes you think about your Savior in a way that you really can relate to Him. We're going through Hebrews in Bible study this semester and the running theme is the supremacy of Christ in everything. But as important as that is to realize, I really like that the author reminds us Jesus was human too.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" - Hebrews 4:15

I love that my God has lived life on this earth. And not the life of a God. But the life of a servant. And I love that Christmas is a time to remember this. And even though it's not actually Christmas time yet I kept thinking about this as I made potato rolls tonight. Ok. I haven't actually made the rolls yet. The dough is rising in my fridge so I can cook the rolls tomorrow before dinner. Still.

I have to remind myself a lot that God is so much bigger than His acts. That I need to focus on loving Him for His character, not just what He can do for me. And taking time to just think about Jesus. It helps. I mean, He's better than a personified version of God. He is God. And yet, He's human. Maybe He made potato rolls for His church. Maybe He needed a lazy day and texted all His friends asking for potatoes. Probably not. For so many reasons. But still - it helps to think about it. Makes it a little bit easier to relate to this Holy God I serve. Especially when I spend my day looking for potatoes and listening to Christmas tunes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I remember learning that Google could be used just like a dictionary if you typed "define:" in front of a word. Blew my mind. Google just typically blows my mind. It's insane all the stuff you can do with Google. For real, I wish I invented Google. If I was one of those crazy smart teenagers, I probably could have. Correction - I would have had to have been an extremely smart 7 year old. The real inventors started working on in it 1996. (Yes. I did just look up Google on Wikipedia to figure that out. Sidebar: Don't even get me started on Wikipedia.) Can I just say that as I read back over this I just realized the ridiculousness that is the phrase "I would have had to have been..." Sorry for that...

But, I did not invent Google. I am not a super smart and rich 20 year old. I am just an average college junior who wants her life and earthly relationships to be defined by her relationship with her Heavenly Father. Which is really where the title of the post came from. But then I added the colon, and it reminded me of Google. Hence the tangent.

It's been a great weekend. The long kind, that seemed to go on forever and it was very much welcomed. It was a weekend of life chats, Hugh Grant, jell-o, photo shoots, truth and dare, meetings, Princess Bride, lock-ins, coffee (with great creamers...), Mexican food, sleep-overs, ding-dong ditch, and Jack Bauer. The kind of weekend where friends are truly cherished and God is glorified in conversation and action. Where these two things are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand.

At one point this weekend, a friend of mine asked me to define my relationship with another friend. This completely caught me by surprise and I rambled and bumbled through an answer and ultimately came to the conclusion that I don't even know how to describe what a "good friend" is let alone my friendship with a specific person. It caused me to doubt the strength of my relationship with this friend --> because somebody outside of the relationship didn't understand it and I couldn't adequately define it for her.

"Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?" - Isaiah 58:4-7

I first came across this verse at the end of freshman year when I was looking for verses to encourage me in my position as missions coordinator and then again the other weekend in one of the breakout sessions at (the retreat formerly known as) Axis. The day after the aforementioned conversation (really? I'm somebody who uses the word "aforementioned"? I'm not sure how I feel about myself right now...) this verse was again laid on my heart. I recalled this passage during the prayer meeting at church Saturday morning when the speaker was talking about her last trip to Haiti. Later that afternoon I went out on a photo shoot with one of my roommates for her final project in photography. She's trying to take pictures of her friends in relation to their faith so I brought my Bible and journal along for the shoot. In the midst of all the laughter and craziness that ensued, I was sitting up against a tree (with a very wet behind - it'd been raining for three days straight up until Saturday...) looking once again at this passage from Isaiah, thinking about how God turns our definitions upside down all the time. Just like He told the Israelites they were thinking about fasting in the wrong way God has given me a new way to look at not only my friendships but my definition of my myself.

In Sunday school this morning we talked a bit about how we often define ourselves by the things we do. I'm a biology and sociology major. I'm a student. I'm unemployed. But that's what I am - not WHO I am. For about 6 months I had a name-tag on the back of my Bible and I joked that it was because I found my identity in Christ. It was a lame reason to have a name-tag on my Bible but it's not a lame idea. Last spring, Sadie and I did a great post answering questions from Noelle's pre-engagement book and one of the questions we answered was who are you. Very childishly we both responded with preschool songs (I am a promise and I am a C(hristian)) but really - that's who I am. I'm a daughter of God. And that should be where I find my identity.

I don't need anything other than Christ to sustain me so why should I need anything else to define me? And if my relationship with Him defines me, then any other relationship I have should also be defined in such a manner. It's ok that relationship dynamics have changed. Because I've changed. She's changed. I'm going to bet that you've probably changed too. We have new perspectives on our lives and we've grown in our own relationships with God. And it's only right that any definitions of our friendship should change with that. Really - every aspect of our life should. I can't claim to have that down, but I am trying. And my prayer has been that God would continue to grow me in this. Not for the sake of my own righteousness but because of His great mercy (Daniel 9:18) for His glory.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Yeah...I know. It's been a while. But for some reason, at 1:45 in the morning, more than 6 months after my most recent post, I feel compelled to spend some time here. On this blog. With anybody who even remembers this exists (kudos to you if you do...). And of course. With the Big Guy.

I mentioned to a couple of people at (the retreat formerly known as) Axis that I was in a bit of a funk that Friday night. But as I really sit back and think about things I realize that "funk" has been a part of my life for quite some time now. I mean, I can't even know exactly where it started. So this where I am tonight. Sitting at my kitchen table. Surrounded by my Bible, a glass of orange juice, tissues (for the stuffy nose I'm currently experiencing - I've never really been the type for tears) and my cell phone with the alarm set to wake me up for class (in case I fall asleep out here - it's happened before. Usually I wake myself up and am able to crawl into bed, but I'd rather be prepared...). Ready to work through this funk.

Now, this current funk, it's not really a me and God funk. Trust me, I went there this summer. God and I had some LONG talks this summer - we'll get to that in a minute. It's a me and people funk.

Ok. Backtracking. Last spring, on the mission trip, I had some great God moments where I truly believe He was opening my eyes to ways I can combine some of the many gifts He's given me. It was awesome. I had all these ideas of where God was taking me in the future. But I took over these plans. Which is so not ok. I wanted to get started now. I wanted to see things happen by my timeline. I'm pretty sure God was shaking his head and chuckling a little bit. In the most loving manner of course. My focus shifted. I became apathetic about school work. My life was about relationships and ministry and my future. I mean, it sounds good. Except for the part where I took over. Remember that? Yeah...I kind of left God in the dust and headed down this path that I was sure was the one God was directing me down without actually consulting him about it. I thought I saw a short cut. And I took it. Problem with short cuts is they're very rarely actually shorter than the original route. But I was convinced that I knew what I was doing. So that was Spring Semester. I ignored school work, skipped all kinds of classes and spent my time investing in people and the ministry at the BCM. Except I wasn't seeking God in any of this. So it didn't exactly turn out as I had hoped.

As summer rolled around I was feeling pretty good about things. I'd patched up some broken relationships and strengthened existing ones. I'd served on leadership in the BCM, stepped aside and applied to be a Bible study leader. Life was great. School was out. I was preparing for my trip to Italy. I had plans to hang out with friends from home and from school - it was going to be an awesome summer. Then grades were posted. And I saw my GPA. I'm pretty sure my exact thought was "oh s***". Yup. And I don't swear. Not to be all high and mighty, but I really don't. Then, "ok, maybe it's based on cumulative, not yearly. yeah...that's what it is. i'll be fine". So I pushed the thoughts of grades aside. After all, it was just a small part of life. What was it really going to matter in the long run. A week or so passed and I got a letter from the school. Telling me my yearly GPA did not qualify me to have my scholarship renewed. Again, "oh s***". Now it was real. And I had to tell my parents. Yeah...that took a couple of weeks. And it wasn't even on my volition. I'm not proud of it, but by that point I was just so ashamed of how I'd behaved all semester. And God and I had had some crazy long talks by this point. Because really, this was not good. But one night at dinner (luckily my sisters were both gone) my parents asked me about my grades. They'd been asking for a while and I keep pushing the subject away. But I couldn't escape at this point. I broke down in tears and told them what had happened.

It a couple of days to work through everything. But my parents and I worked out an agreement on how to handle everything. Then I started really preparing for Italy. Which was AMAZING. For so many reasons. But mostly because this is where God and I worked through a lot of our issues. And by our issues, I mean mine. Because come on. God's perfect. He's not exactly prone to issues. So after all this crazy stuff with school, I was pulled away from all the Christian Fellowship I knew and thrown into a country where most people are "Catholic by birth" but a lot really don't know Christ. Anything and everything that I could cling to aside from God Himself was essentially pulled out from under me. I didn't have a weekly Bible study to attend. I didn't have people to talk to about what was happening in my life. I didn't have a church service to facilitate my worship. I had to sit down and make time to be in God's word. I had to pray and bring everything to God directly. I had to find my own way to worship when seeing His amazing creation and how He was working around me. It was AWESOME! When I came back to the states it was with the realization that God really was enough. And that He is big enough to work through my mistakes. As numerous as they may be.

So where does this funk come in? Because as I said, God and I, we're good for the time being. But really. Right now, it's just me and God. Which is a good place to be. But not when its not just me and God. Not when there are friends who deserve to know what's pressing on my heart. Not when there is a ministry in desperate need of His presence and love. When it's not just me and God, it shouldn't just be me and God. If that makes any sense. People have told me that they don't know my heart. Or that I'm hard to understand. And I've always shook my head at them and thought to myself that they really just don't know me or don't care enough to look deeper. I've always been one to gage a person's heart based on their actions. But that can be deceiving. I pulled it off last year. So this funk. It's me trying to find the balance between me and God and me and God's people. If by some miracle, you've made it this far, ask me about it. The funk. The realizations. The me and God thing. Because it's got to be a part of my whole life. It's not good enough just to be me and God when we're alone. Those things that were pulled out from under me for a month, there here now. And they're not bad things. They're wonderful things when God is there. So ask me where God is in those things.