Audience of One.

Three years ago, around June 2014, I felt 6 little words stamped right on my heart by God.

“You have an audience of One.”

I even thought about writing a blog about what those words meant, but every time I began to write it, I would get distracted and never finish… A majority of this post was written 3 years ago, and looking back now, I think it’s because I hadn’t fully understood… and maybe I still don’t have a full understanding, but I feel like I understand well enough to put it into words.

So I’m going to try to tell you the story without sounding like a crazy person, which I’m sure many of you who have read my previous posts already assume I am one, so here goes nothing:

Around the 4th of July 2014, I texted my friend who I had worked on the Christmas play with the previous year, because after like 3 nights of staying up until 2am and saying “next year, we’re starting in July” I just wanted to check in and see if we were going to be doing the play again…

And she said “Uhh… no, I need a break.”

And I said “lol”

Fast forward 2 weeks, I had a message on my voicemail

“Hey Sam, when are you available to meet to talk about scripts for the Christmas play.” Bwahahaha…

So, after 2 weeks of looking, but not finding a script that was “Christmas- but not cliché,” we decided to take a story we loved and had considered for the previous year, and adapt it into a Christmas play…

The story is Max Lucado’s “You Are Special” and I’ll let you look up the full synopsis somewhere else, because someone who is better at summing up things than me wrote one somewhere. But basically, it’s a story of how a little wooden doll learned to drown out all the voices around him, except for the voice of the woodcarver who carved him, to find true peace, love, and acceptance.

Now if you think this is the moment I caught on to the “audience of One” message from June, you’d be wrong… because I didn’t make that connection until much later.

So, I got busy with writing and making schedules, and my friend handled a lot of the actual work: asking for things and getting things approved, because I’m shy and don’t do well with talking to people on the phone… And we both were thrown for crazy loops beginning around the end of August, all the way through to the night of the performance, but somehow we got everything done… and by “somehow” I mean by the grace of God… because there was literally no other way… I mean, the week before the performance, I was on crutches with pneumonia at the same time, we had no props painted and zero costumes made… #Miracle

Anyway, in November, I was at a ladies’ bible study/training and one of the ladies was asked to share some of her experience after serving in ministry, and for some reason I decided to record what she said on my phone… and do you know what words came out of her mouth?

“I’ve learned that I have an audience of One.”

Whoa! I remembered the words written on my own heart five months earlier and… then finished eating my bowl of congee…

I’m not a total dunce, I knew then that those words had significance… I just was worn down from months of being in a season of constant change and heartache… so I thought “well, my life isn’t really a show worth watching, so You should just change the channel or get a refund for Your ticket.”

It felt like the next month was on fast forward up until Christmas Eve… The night of the performance… I was excited and nervous and I’m pretty sure I had an ulcer and lost half of my hair. I was understandably going a little nuts so I decided to head down to the church 2 hours before anyone else was scheduled to get there. I needed quiet. I needed to be alone.

Since we were a few stars short for the costumes,  I was sitting at the soundboard and listening to worship music, cutting out these little fabric stars… except, I wasn’t. I mean, everyone who knows me, knows I’m not the craftiest person… so these weren’t stars… they were some sort of quadrilateral blobby things… and after the tenth star that had one point completely lobbed off by my unskilled, useless hand, I just stopped and said “Why can’t I do this simple little thing? It’s not like it’s even that hard. Any idiot should be able to handle this.”

And if you were wondering, this is the moment when I finally understood why we had chosen this play, and why God had written those words on my heart 6 months before… because in that moment, I felt like I had done my best, and it still wasn’t good enough. I felt like the fact that I couldn’t cut out stars, somehow made me… less…

In that moment, I had an honest, desperate desire to hear what God thought about me…  not what great plans He has for my future, or if He’s had time to think about cluing me in on winning lottery numbers … I just wanted to know if He thought I was as useless as I felt, surrounded by those 4-point star-things. And as clearly as I could hear the music playing on my phone, I heard God say  “I would never think that about you.”

And so I cried for while, and got back to cutting out stars… that looked a bit more like stars this time… at least they seemed to look ok from the stage… (You can watch the performance here… it’s just a cellphone recording, so you might need to turn the sound up)

And now it’s been years since then, and most days, I can’t even claim to be any less of a mess… but if I hadn’t fully grasped the fact that God is not only keeping an eye on me, but He’s cheering me on, I probably would not have made it through the trials of the last few years.

But God already saw my future, and He prepared my heart ahead of time, so that even when I’m limping along, I know that the only voice that is allowed to speak in to my life is His.

The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.

– John 10:27-28 AMP

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Speak Up.

I really love my mama.

She knows who I am, but sees who I was created to be, and she reminds me of who that is all the time.

This used to drive me nuts.

I am a person who is very black and white. Things either are or they aren’t. So when I would say “I’m sick.” and she would come back with “No, you are healthy and strong. You walk in perfect health.” I felt like she didn’t listen to me. When I would complain about someone or something, she would always counter it by reminding me of something good. And I would think “MOM. I JUST WANT TO COMPLAIN.”

And that’s the problem. Why would someone want to complain?

Because there are power in our words, and if we can keep speaking negatively about ourselves and our situation, the enemy holds the power over those things.

If something is clearly wrong, I don’t need to say it’s wrong. If someone is bothering me, I don’t need to tell someone else about it. The phrase “misery loves company” is so true. Bitterness breeds like rabbits and spreads like wildfire.

Almost all of James chapter 3 talks about taming the tongue. He compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship, and how such a little piece of the ship can completely change its direction. James also points out that you cannot get fresh water from a salt spring, or an olive from a fig tree. So if you are speaking negative things, it’s a pretty good indication of what is in your heart.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “believer”, think about people who recite affirmations to overcome depression and eating disorders. Think about how when something terrible happens, people say “It’ll be ok.” Compliments, praise, encouragement… we like to speak into others’ lives.

Words have power to change us.

In America, I think sometimes knowing we have the “right” to say something prevents us from asking ourselves if it’s right to say it. I’m not trying to suggest that speech should be censored by other people, but I am saying, should we be censoring ourselves?

As a Christian, I believe that what I say does matter. It not only changes a situation, but it also reveals my heart.

As someone who has a very sarcastic sense of humor, I have a hard time taming my tongue… because even though I don’t really mean what I’m saying, I’m still putting those words out there for someone to misunderstand and see me in a light that I never wanted to be seen in.

As someone who is non-confrontational and vents to release frustration, I have a hard time taming my tongue… because sometimes I convince myself that it’s better to air out my frustrations, not realizing that I’m planting a seed in someone else’s ear that can grow into a whole different issue…

So is making a joke or venting really worth it? No.

Words have the power to change things.

God spoke the world into being. Jesus cast out demons just by telling them to get lost. The apostles just said “Get up and walk” to a lame man, and he did.

So what would happen if we all started speaking up instead of down?

What if we started realizing what is coming out of our mouths is a reflection of what’s inside us… and maybe realize the problems around us aren’t being solved by our negativity… One of the seven habits of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind… so if we look at something and say “it’s never going to happen” are we really going to work as hard to see that it does happen?

I’m not talking about lying to ourselves just to make us feel better… I’ve been really disappointed by some things going on lately. But instead of saying the country is doomed… I can instead use that breath to say a prayer. I haven’t been the best at doing this- especially lately- but I know it is better to pray than to complain… so this is my new goal…

 “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:7-8)”

sigh… I never said it was going to be easily achieved… help me, Lord…

 

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. –Luke 6:45

 

 

 

 

What Are The Chances?

God is so cute.

That’s a phrase the worship pastor at my church likes to use when God does something unexpected… and not seemingly in a good way, but in the end, it’s better than you first thought it was going to be.

I’m sure there’s a better way I could’ve written that last sentence, but I’m heavily medicated from having major surgery. So cut me some slack, yeah? Because I’m going to tell you an awesome story.

Remember that post… the one where I was yelling at God… yeah. That was fun. And probably pointless for anyone reading, but very therapeutic for me to write. Who knew 4 months after the post, and 8 months total of waiting… I would finally have a praise report about my stupid, dumb, deteriorating ankle.

But I do.

Because I did not want this doctor. I wanted my doctor that I’d had for the past 11 years to do my surgery. Not someone new who I didn’t know and didn’t care how highly recommended he came.

But apparently- this doctor is one of the top in the world for this procedure. And you know what? He said my surgery was the best he’s ever done and he’s the most excited about my recovery than he’s ever been. And he wasn’t just saying that…

Because I apparently not only had a deteriorating ankle bone, but it also is deformed (go figure) in that it has a very odd (unique, maybe) shape…

And two months ago, when they called and said they had a donor, only to call back 20 minutes later to tell me it wasn’t viable, turned out to be a good thing, even though I was upset at the time…

Because the donor bone I got, had the exact same deformation in the bone, and fit perfectly, kind of like Cinderella, but more gross and kinda creepy if I think about it too much (but I am very grateful for the donor and hope to reach out to the family if that can be done with a bone… it’s not really the same as an organ… but just as life changing for me).

And I can’t stop asking myself, what are the chances?

There is no way for all this mess to come together in the end, and have an outcome far exceeding any expectation I ever had.

There are so many unexplainable things in my life. Things that are just too good to be true, and too good for me to have even imagined. I know there are probably some who would look into my life and still see all the mess… but for me, I’m choosing to see the blessings and praise Him while I’m waiting for the rest to catch up to the promises He’s already declared over my life.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters –Romans 8:28-29

Trusting The Shepherd

This isn’t your average New Year’s Eve post… Sure, most people take stock of the year, what went well, or not so well, and turn them into resolutions for the next year…that they probably won’t even keep…

But sitting here tonight, I find myself desperately looking back over the year and wondering what God is trying to do in my life…

Because just last night, driving home with my sister after going to the movies, I told her how frustrated I feel with my whole leg situation…

It’s been 4 months…

4 months since I found out that my ankle is basically deteriorating…

4 months of waiting on God to heal me…

4 months of waiting for the doctors to tell me more than just “well, we don’t really know what to do”…

4 months of being told that I don’t have enough faith…

4 months of being told to “suck it up.”

And after complaining to her, she asked me “Well, what do you think God is trying to do through this situation?”

And I kind of just disregarded her question, because honestly, I just wanted to vent last night…

Fast forward to this afternoon: My knee on the opposite leg is sprained and they want to send me for an MRI in a week, and told me I should stay off my feet for a while, because obviously I already have the other leg to worry about.

What?!

No.

This is not ok.

I do not have the time, nor the patience for this to be happening right now.

So now I’m asking:

God, what am I missing? Who are you trying to be for me in this moment? What are you trying to tell me? I promise, I’m listening!

Stop.

Stop what?

Stop complaining.

Stop worrying.

Stop getting caught up in the busy work of life, and just sit with Me.

I literally can’t do anything but sit right now, God.

I know.

So, a little less Martha, a little more Mary?

Yes.

I don’t know how to do that…

That’s why I’ve had to go to extreme measures…

…The Shepherd sometimes has to break a wandering lamb’s leg in order to teach it to stay close…

 Now do you see?

Did You have to be so literal?

Did you have to be so stubborn?

Touché.

 

Here’s to 2015… a year that’s starting with me stopping… and listening… and learning… and Trusting The Shepherd.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever

 

 

 

 

 

Casualties of Change

I took the long way home the other day, and it brought me past my childhood house. I didn’t have a Miranda Lambert moment and knock on the door, but I did notice I dropped below the speed limit (probably to the annoyance of the driver behind me) and took in the view.

Everything about the exterior is different. The fence is now made of wood, not the low wire fence that my basset hound used to be able to jump… well, not really jump, he would lean on it until it bent down for him to step over. They painted the house brown. Not a nice brown, but this kind of gross tan. And they tore out the lilac bushes and Asian pear trees that my mom had planted. They probably replaced the front doorknob that didn’t even lock… neighbors and friends always just came and went, and sometimes the wind would blow in a squirrel… or a bird… and that dang basset hound did nothing about it… he was still a good dog, though.

I don’t blame the new inhabitants for making it their own. It’s theirs now to make memories in. They are unaware that the improvements they made to their house would make someone passing by feel a little bit sad… And the neighbors that used to barge right in have all moved, so it’s probably best if they got a doorknob that locks… who knows who’s living in that neighborhood now…

I’m not reminiscing for the sake of reminiscing… this was just one more thing lately that reminded me of the cost of change.

Maybe it’s just the visual changing of the seasons, but it’s beginning to dawn on me how much has changed… in the last month…year…decade… 25 years I’ve been on this earth… The funny thing is, most change in my life, I haven’t been consciously aware that I’m changing just as much as the people around me…

I don’t know if this is going to sound weird, but in my head, I’ve always felt like a stepping stone for other people… like I’m always there to take the weight of their latest problem, and then they just walk away… But lately, I’ve had a new way of looking at people as stepping stones in my own life, not in a “I’m gonna walk all over someone” kind of way, but in a “people in your life help you make it to where you are going and it doesn’t have to always be forever” kind of way…

I guess for me, I just have always seen people as cornerstones, foundational parts of my life that aren’t supposed to move or walk away… but things change. Lifestyles change, relationships change, needs change…

And it’s taken all this time for me to realize that I’m ok with being a stepping stone in someone’s life, and it doesn’t have to make me feel small or unimportant… Because I can’t be anyone’s cornerstone… and I don’t want anyone to be mine… except for Jesus… because after all, He’s the only one who is never going to change, and never going give up on me. He’s the safest choice to build my life around.

But even though I’ve come to this revelation in my own heart, it doesn’t mean I still am not sad when things change… when people move on… when I move on… Change always comes at a cost, even happy change means we are leaving something behind… pushing someone aside… And we’re not always aware or concerned with the “old” parts of our lives, apart from the fun stories we tell around the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So I guess there are really two reasons for this midnight blog…

1. To recognize that there are casualties of change, and that they often go unrecognized, so I should remember to see the value in each person in my life today, because tomorrow one of us could be pulled in another direction…

2.  To remember that even when someone walks away, that it doesn’t have to shake my whole life… because they were never supposed to be my cornerstone anyway… and if I treated them as such, I need some repentance and time in the Word…

 

Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem,
    a firm and tested stone.
It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
    Whoever believes need never be shaken. —
Isaiah 28:16

 

Shine

I’m super excited for the upcoming weekend. It’s Easter! Yay! But even though I love celebrating Jesus overcoming the grave every year, this year I’m especially excited.

The college/young professional ministry  that I’m a part of is going to make this weekend about serving the homeless.

Ever since we got the idea in our minds, I’ve kept thinking about the story of the Lost Son from Luke 15: 11-31.

Obviously the point that Jesus was trying to emphasize is that it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, the Father is always ready to welcome you back into His kingdom.

We can also learn from the brother who stayed, who had a bad attitude when he saw his father welcomed back his brother without hesitation. Sometimes our humanness shows through more than Jesus when we start looking at what God is doing in the lives of others, when we aren’t seeing much going on in our own lives.

But while these are probably the most obvious lessons Jesus was teaching us, this isn’t the part of the story that has been playing over in my mind these past few weeks.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

In the New King James Version, it says in verse 13 that he spent his money on “prodigal living.” That’s why some people call this the story of the prodigal son… but Jesus never called him that. Jesus has a way of separating our actions from who we are. He sees us as we were created to be, not the mistakes we make on the way to finding out who that is.

Why can’t we as humans separate someone’s bad choices from who they are? I mean, there’s total denial of someone’s issues… like the mother who doesn’t want to believe her child has an addiction, so she just overlooks it… but then there are those rare people who can see the person inside that doesn’t want to be stuck in a perpetual mess. They don’t want to keep doing the wrong thing, but they don’t know how to escape the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

That’s what I’ve been focusing on as I prepare to serve the homeless population this Easter weekend.

Did some of them make bad decisions to get in this situation? Yes.

But Jesus talks about how the man wasted his inheritance, but then a famine also hit the land. Maybe he would have been able to gain back some of what he lost, but then disaster struck, and he couldn’t get back on his feet.

How many times in our lives have we done something stupid, and then felt swallowed up by the waves that came as a result of that decision? I may not have made any mistakes that landed me on the streets, but I know what drowning feels like. I know what it  feels like to struggle against pride to solve a problem I’ve created myself…Don’t you?

And maybe I’m over-analyzing this portion of the story, but in verse 16, it seems like Jesus made it a point to mention that this man was hungry and no one did anything about it. Maybe the people in that country were just like us in their thinking:

It’s a recession, I can’t afford to spare anything.

They should’ve made better choices.

They could work or get another job, they just choose not to.

They’ll just waste what I give them on booze or drugs.

Not my problem…

We have so many reasons to remain indifferent to the suffering of those around us…To condemn them to remain in their situation.  But then should we really be surprised by the world around us growing darker? If we won’t be a light, who will?

So, this Easter, I hope you shine.

I hope you remember that Jesus died for you, not the “highlight reel you” that you show people on Facebook, but the real you. The one who struggles and falls short.

I hope you remember that He died for the people whose struggles and shortcomings are more public, and that right now they are just a little lost, but not beyond reach.

And I hope you remember that He overcame death so that we can overcome our sin.

Happy Easter!

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16: 33

 

 

 

I Am.

Today, as I was driving to caregroup, I was talking to myself… like I always do when I drive. (what? it’s just thinking aloud, right?)

But today, I wasn’t being very nice.

I’m lazy.

I’m ungrateful.

I’m undisciplined.

I’m judgmental.

I’m too negative.

I’m a complainer.

I’m fat.

I’m dumb.

I’m not like this other person.

I’m just…not enough.

God calls Satan “the accuser.” The Accuser likes to tell us all the things we’ve done wrong to make us feel bad and keep us stuck in our sin. If we are convinced that we are “bad” we stop seeing the point in trying to do good. We don’t have a reason to struggle against our chains.

Just a warning, this isn’t going to be a very sophisticated blog post.

But isn’t that what we want? Something simple to fix all our problems? A lot of times when we think of encountering God, we have an expectation of discovering something deep and profound, instead of something that’s been staring us in the face all along. And tonight, simple was just the thing I needed to keep the accusations of the enemy from sinking into my heart and condemning me into feeling like less than I am.

Tonight, all we did was have prayer and worship. No fancy lesson with a profound message… just singing and talking to God who, despite everything, delights in me.

By the end of the night, when I got in the car to go home, the first thing that came out of my mouth was:

“Thank You, God.

Thank You that Your mercy is fresh every morning.

Thank You that You provide for me.

Thank You that You comfort me.

Thank You that You surround me.

Thank You that You love me, even when I’m bad, even when I’m angry, even when I don’t deserve it.

And thank You that Your love is enough to pull me out of wherever I have been.”

And that reminded me of Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks God who he should say sent him and God answers “I am.”

God could have been more specific… and yet He couldn’t have been more specific. He could have gone down the list of all that He is…

I am your Provider

I am your Healer

I am your Banner

I am your Creator

I am your Savior

I am your Redeemer

I am your Peace

But in an effort to save time, He just said, “I am.” Because He is everything. He is the giver of the very breath we breathe, and He created us with the intention of being involved every time we take a breath.

And isn’t it comforting to know that the same God who was with all those people throughout the Bible is the same God who is with us today?  He never changes and His promises are true. So on those days when you can’t seem to remember anything good about yourself, or you have someone reminding you of all the times you’ve failed… start remembering who God is, and He will remind you of who you are.

 I am praying to You because I know You will answer, O God.
    Bend down and listen as I pray.
Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
    By Your mighty power You rescue
    those who seek refuge from their enemies.

Psalm 17:6-7

Holier Than Thou

There are days when people are jerks.

Being human, I want to be a jerk back.

But I’m usually not.

I usually vent to a close friend (or 9), and move on.

I tell myself to be “the better person”, turn the other cheek, and forgive (that pesky F word!).

When it’s the same person doing the same thing over and over and over and over again… I remember that Jesus said to forgive someone 7 x 70 times (That’s 490 times)…

When I start keeping track, God tells me that I should love those who hate me…

And then I remember that verse in  1 Corinthians that says love keeps no record of wrongs…

And I’m back where I started telling myself to be “the better person.”

Maybe some would call this a “Holier Than Thou” attitude… except I’m not trying to be better than the person who is harassing me…  I’m trying to be better than myself.  I want to be “the better person” that God pulled me out of my sin to become. I am not self-righteous, but I was given the righteousness of Christ to walk upright, no longer a slave to sin. And while I’m still getting my bearings from being chained down for so long, God has grace enough to catch me every time I stumble.

So every time that I get upset and want to give to someone what I think they “deserve” I remind myself that I deserve hell. If God hadn’t pulled me out of my old life, I would still be headed in that direction. It is with that heavy conviction that the desire to pray for those who persecute me begins to stir in my heart. It is with that knowledge that I can willingly forgive any trespass against me, because I know that the same was done for me when I didn’t deserve it.

Sometimes I wish God wouldn’t give me the things I ask for in the moments when I’m feeling pretty strong in my faith… because it’s in those moments when I ask Him to make me more like Him… but God doesn’t just snap His fingers for requests like that. He will give opportunities to grow into those characteristics. And even though I don’t enjoy the opportunities themselves, I’m thankful that He loves me enough to refine me a little more each day, so that I can be a little more like Him.

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:15-16

Cheap.

Valentine’s Day bothers me. Not because I’m terminally single, but because it feels cheap. It’s an opportunity for companies to make money by defining love as a transaction. And I’m not upset because people capitalize on our own willingness to sell ourselves for temporary enjoyment of fleeting pleasures…

It upsets me because that’s all people think love is.

Love is not a debt. We don’t owe it to anyone. It can’t be bought. It’s a gift that is freely given… without expectation of getting anything in return.

But who does that these days?

We’re all jaded and only looking out for Number One. That attitude turns “I love you” into “I love you because…” That is conditional love. It’s why we see more divorce in this generation than ever before.  I love you because you make me happy. I love you because you are beautiful. I love you because you make me feel safe… But once the conditions are no longer fulfilled, we decide we’re not in love anymore and are free to walk away.

The real problem is that we are trying to find fulfillment in another person. We all have deficits in our lives, holes that have been created by our past experiences that we desperately try to fill so that we can feel at peace. Peace meaning nothing is broken and nothing is missing. So we go to the junk pile of human solutions to try and complete ourselves. Ultimately, you can find something that will tide you over for a while, but it’s never enough and it never lasts. We seem to have a stupid cycle of settling for a while, then searching for the next thing as soon as we can’t stand settling any more. Like we believe that if we just wait long enough, that the love story from the movies will be played out in our own lives.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? The devil always plays the same trick on us… making us believe that we’re missing something… when we’ve had all we needed from the very beginning… And we buy it every time…

In this generation, people think of God and they think He’s all about rules and regulations… No drinking and partying, no sex until you’re married… and it has to be with the same person for the rest of your life! (gasp! the horror…the horror… (heart of darkness reference! +10 points from my 12th grade English teacher!))

But it’s  funny that Jesus boiled down all the “rules” into two commandments in Mark 12:30-31

  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

And it’s also funny that God boiled down the sins of the world into two wrongs in Jeremiah 2:13

 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

God is love. He loved us first so that we might love one another. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins… even the sin of forsaking Him. That doesn’t even make sense in my tiny human brain. He told Hosea to marry Gomer (what an unfortunate name) so that He could illustrate how He loves His people, though they continue to whore themselves out to other gods, false idols that cannot give life, and to show that He would take them back no matter where they have been…

Where have you been? Did you even know that you are dearly loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe? That there is no price He wouldn’t pay to have you back? And this love is given even without your reciprocation. It’s unconditional, no strings attached, you don’t even have to say “The Sinner’s Prayer” (though if you feel compelled to accept Christ, I highly encourage you to do so.)

So if you are so loved, why would you want the fake candy-coated version that eventually leaves you with wide hips and tear-stained cheeks?

That’s what this blog post is really about… our willingness to pay for a cheap imitation of love, when the real thing is free and waiting for us.

Another thing I feel like God has taught me a lot about His love is the chance to give it out. I work with kids with autism.  A lot of people would call my kids  “unlovable” because they break every nice thing you buy them, they throw disproportional temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, some kids will never speak or show any sign of affection towards you…

But it’s when I am forced to listen to all the faults of my kids, I start to look at myself… I’ve wasted countless blessings in my life, I complain to God when my “plan” for my life isn’t going the way I think it should, and if I’m really honest… I forget to pray more times than I remember… but God still loves me, even though I don’t deserve it. And it is because He loves me that I am able to give love to those who some would deem “undeserving” of love. And it’s not a love that can ever be repaid or reciprocated… it’s simply given because I have it to give.

So, based off of that knowledge, that is why I think Valentine’s day is cheap. It’s commercialized and done up to make you feel like you HAVE to do something… I’m not saying that you can’t buy your wife flowers or write down all the things you appreciate about your husband… but maybe ask yourself where that love is coming from… is it from a broken well? Or is it from the wellspring of life? Is it Living Water or radioactive water? All I’m saying is that if you need a “holiday” so that you can buy a greeting card with words someone else wrote to express how you feel about your significant other… you might want to check your heart… And if you think buying someone a Vermont Teddy Bear is a good idea… it’s not.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8

Shields High

“I want to fight.”

The most beautiful words I’ve heard come out of Buck Sexton’s mouth (whoa, feels weird to not put an “@” in front of his name…). I want to fight, too. Almost 2 months ago, I wrote a post about King Josiah. I ended with the words, “I want to fight. And I want to win.” So when Buck said those magic words during his show, I felt like a match was struck. For so long I’ve been waiting to hear someone else, someone who has an actual voice, say those words. (You can listen and download Buck’s show from September 21st here.)

I think most of us are tired. We hear all that’s wrong, but we don’t hear solutions. We see the corruption, but we can’t see a clear answer. We’ve been driven to our knees, but we don’t know what to pray for anymore.

I tried to get involved during the primary process last year. Usually no candidates come to Washington state. I thought it was exciting that Rick Santorum made a trip out here. Too bad we got him the worst venue, right smack dab in the middle of the armpit of Washington (oh, hey Tacoma!). It also didn’t help that there were Occupiers camped out, either. Aside from my sister and I, the occupiers were the youngest people there. I made a comment about how embarrassed I was by my generation. A dude gave me a hug. It was kind of cool.

So then, even though I was slightly discouraged, I went to the caucus. It was held in a nursing home. I was the youngest person there by 40 years. I wasn’t upset that I was the youngest person, but I was upset that no one my own age cared enough to show up. So then things got started. We talked about this issues, went down the list and took a survey. When it came time to discuss the candidates, I was ready to leave. We had to pick 3 delegates, so we all had to talk about who we were going to throw our hat in for. Aside from a couple Ron Paul’s, the majority of people said Romney. I would be cool with that, if they thought he was the best candidate for the job, but here’s what they said, “Romney is going to be the frontrunner anyway, so we might as well vote for him now.”

Maybe I’m crazy, but I think that the primaries are where we fight for who we actually want, not just who we think is going to win. I’m not ok with merely winning seats for people with an “R” attached to their name. This is supposed to be a representative government, but I don’t think most Americans feel represented in the government. We like to complain about how it’s “politics as usual” but we keep doing the same voting as usual. We don’t look at all the candidates, just the top two. Why? Why do we keep letting these phony, career politicians buy the election because we are too lazy to actually do our own homework. We only scan the items listed on the ballot for things that tickle our ears, but we don’t read through the entire proposal to see if it’s actually a good or bad thing. That’s why politicians can capitalize on our ignorance and take away our freedoms and continue to rob us blind in the form of taxes.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being told that I need to compromise my principles to win elections. I hear people talk about how there is no in-fighting amongst the democrats and that’s why they keep winning… well good for them. They are dumb enough to not know that they aren’t actually being represented. But I am not dumb. I know what’s going on. I can see it.

Here’s what I’m going to do about it.

First, I’m going to keep praying. We’ve been so busy trying to not offend people that we’ve been taking God out of everything. We’re not supposed to mix religion and politics. Too bad. I’m getting God involved. This weekend we had a lesson on Nehemiah. When he saw that his country was being destroyed, he prayed this prayer:

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” Nehemiah 1:6-11

It’s not fun to think about repentance. Even when we think about not being perfect, we like to think “well, it wasn’t THAT bad.” If you read further in the book of Nehemiah, you see that he kept getting God involved, in every step of the process. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Then, I’m going to stop waiting to hear what the experts have to say and start doing my own homework. I’m still going to keep an ear out, but I’m not going to let their analysis hold more weight than my own conscience. I’m not going to apologize for the decisions I make on the ballot. I’m not going to feel that twinge of regret that comes when checking a box next to a candidate that doesn’t represent me, just because everyone thinks he’s going to win. I hated it when people said “A vote for anyone but Romney is a vote for Obama.” No, it wasn’t. Do I wish we had someone who isn’t Obama in office right now? Yes. But telling people that their votes don’t matter is wrong. It’s not wrong to vote for someone who represents you. If we don’t start being more selective, every election is going to be a “better of two evils” battle.

Also, I truly believe that thinking we know the outcome determines how hard we’re willing to fight, whether consciously or sub-consciously. I like the story of Elisha talking to King Jehoash. His enemies are closing in, so Elisha tells him to get an arrow and strike the ground. Jehoash struck the ground three times. Elisha then is like, you dummy, you shouldn’t have stopped, because for every strike, God would’ve handed you a victory. You can read 2 Kings 13 if you don’t love my retelling of the story. Basically, the point is that God does crazy things and we can never know how things are going to turn out. We’ve just gotta keep pounding the ground. Maybe we’re going to lose, but I say all the time that I’m #RideOrDie. I would rather come back on my shield, than be someone’s slave, but I have faith that if we stop doing what we’ve always done, we’re going to start winning.

#ShieldsHigh

My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
–Psalm 7:10