Friday, August 27, 2010

Simplicity: What do you think?

I really appreciated this blog post on Christianity Today's "Women's Blog."

"Abundant simplicity is more about paying attention — to what we want and need; what we have and buy; what we spend, save, and give; and our relationship with our bank accounts and material objects. When do money and things enhance our life, and when do they tempt us to envy, anxiety, fear, pride, or selfishness?"

I've often struggled with this idea of simplicity and living with less, and the conclusion I've come to is that it's a process between us and the Lord. It's so important to constantly be checking in with our relationship to stuff and our relationship to God. What things are possessing us? Are we mindlessly living in the land of much-too-much? Unfortunately, our lifestyle doesn't allow much for a reality check. We are so far removed from things that will shake us. For me, support-raising for our job has really changed my view on money and possessions, and my world is shaken every time I am faced with real poverty - such as our connections to the Haitian community or my homeless friend John in South Philly.

Anyways. Please read the blog post and share your own story.
How have you been challenged by God with regards to possessions?
What shakes you into a reality check?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's Not About Me

Working my way through familiar pages, I sometimes sense the staleness in my reading as I don't pause to think of things in context, to weed through my own assumptions, and to understand what really matters.

I consider myself as I read through verses of Samuel and David, of Psalms and Proverbs, of a Messiah come and a Creation restored. I ask God the question, "Will you give me some inspiration? Something to write about?"

Weeks pass by without a sense of what I've lost, until suddenly, I read yet another familiar passage on denying oneself, and then I remember:

It's not about me.

And I thank God that I've been reminded that spending time with the Word and the Lord isn't about what I can get out of it. It isn't about how things apply directly to my life and my concerns and my situation. It's so much more than just me.

And this reorientation of view suddenly makes sense... because without it, I don't know how to read.

It's communion with the Good Creator of the World.
It's learning and understanding and actually coming to know the God who loves us.
It's about Him, and not about me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Right and Wrong Decisions

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:26-28, NIV

I recently found myself in a familiar conversation with a friend: my friend was concerned about (and possibly second-guessing?) some major choices she had just made. Were they the "right" choices? Would she be okay?

I've had this conversation with myself so many times: how do I know if I am making the "right" decision? Will it all blow up in my face? Will I regret it?

As Christians, we seek God first when making decisions -- hopefully the minor decisions as well as the major ones. We certainly know when something is against His will if it is confirmed in the Scriptures. However, we often find ourselves in a dilemma, for most of our modern-day decisions are not outlined in the Bible. Decisions like, "Should we re-locate?" "Should I take this job?" "Should I start graduate school?" "Should I stop graduate school?" "Should we buy a house?" aren't explicitly outlined in the Bible.

I rejoice when I receive a clear answer from the Lord. God spoke clearly to me in regards to quitting acting graduate school, marriage, and trusting in Him. I have heard His voice with regards to these decisions, among others. But sometimes, the answers aren't so clear. How do we make a "right" decision when we feel we receive no direct guidance from the Lord?

There are the practical ways: speaking to friends, seeking counsel from parents and older friends, checking finances, and evaluating multiple situations. But, in the end, a decision must be made. And then, we are haunted by the ever-looming question...

How do I know this was the "right" or "wrong" decision?

It's hard to know when we're doing the "right" things or making the "right decisions," but the reality is that God uses every situation for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Friends, I have made decisions in my life that weren't exactly the "right" decisions -- some were blatantly the wrong ones and against God's will -- but God is redeeming even my worst decisions. We can rest knowing that no matter what, God is using our decisions as a part of His story, and as a part of our own refining process.

He'll use it, we'll grow, and He will be glorified.

Monday, August 16, 2010

But Jesus Withdrew

Stepping outside, I enter into the familiar humid blanket of summer. There's a yellow sky, promising a storm. I breathe in stagnant air, but it's still refreshing.

Inside, I have left a house full of people. They are all people I love, but I feel crowded. I know that I will eventually go back in - and I will talk, and laugh, and commune. But I also know that I receive energy from being alone. I am an introvert, through and through.

I used to fight against my introverted nature - thinking that perhaps it made me "less" of a Christian. It made me less hospitable, less social, less everything. Now, I embrace it. And sometimes I remind myself to embrace it. And sometimes, I pray for the strength to embrace it. "Help me, help me, help me."

Today, as I removed myself from the crowd, I remembered Jesus...

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."
Luke 5:16, NIV

I found so much comfort in remembering that Jesus needed to remove himself from the crowd as well. It didn't mean he didn't love the people in the crowd, but he needed space to withdraw. To pray. To breathe.

Withdrawing allows me to serve and love more fully, because I am more filled.

So when I withdraw, know that it enables me to love you better.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An Audience of One

"How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"
John 5:44, NIV

It's so very easy to live in constant fear of man.
Everywhere we look, we are given a standard to be a certain way, to act a certain way, to want a certain kind of praise from certain kinds of people. It gets confusing. It gets frustrating. Does anyone ever live up to the (multiple/dualistic/superficial/spastic) standards of men?

Why do we get down on ourselves when we don't?

When we look in the Bible, we see a different standard. But how much are we looking to that standard of how to live? Without effort, we are inundated with the standard of man, but it takes effort to understand and digest and yearn for the standard of God. And when you do start to digest God's standard, you realize - "This is impossible. I can't ever live up to this way of living."

But why do we get down on ourselves when we don't?
We have already been told that we can't.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 3:23, ESV

It doesn't end there, though. For although we fall short of God, we do not have to live in fear of falling short.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1, ESV

With this Good News in mind, please be freed of the standard of man.
Live and breathe for an Audience of One.

"This Journey is My Own" - Sara Groves

When I stand before the Lord, I'll be standing alone.
This journey is my own.
Still I want man's advice, and I need man's approval,
but this journey is my own.

Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price?
What would it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life?

So much of what I do is to make a good impression.
This journey is my own.
So much of what I say is to make myself look better.
This journey is my own.
'Cause trying to please the world, it was breaking me down,
It was breaking me down.

Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one,
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one.
Now I live and I breathe for an audience of one,
'cause I know this journey is my own.

Why would I want to live for man and pay the highest price?
What would it mean to gain the whole world, only to lose my life?

You can live for someone else, and it will only bring you pain.
I can't even judge myself.
Only the Lord can say, "Well done."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Out of that Shell

Our God is so relational.
I love learning this truth about Him - because for so long, I avoided relationships.
I would scamper along the street, keeping my eyes down, making minimal human contact. I'd stay packed away in my shell.
I can't really do that any more.

It starts with a question.
"So what do you do for a living?"
It's sort of how we're defined in today's culture - "What do you do?" I've had many simply-phrased answers in the past: "I'm an actress," "I work in a hospital," "I choreograph," "Retail," "Sales," "Customer Service," "Barista," "Student," and now...

"Campus Ministry."

THAT answer takes some explaining.
Because people don't know what that means, or maybe they think they know what that means and I don't quite fit their perception of it, or maybe I've possibly known them for a while and they still don't really know what I do.

Whatever the case, the answer opens up the possibility for conversation.
Conversation leads to relationship - at least, a lot more of a relationship than I've allowed for in the past. Overall, it's really a fantastic thing - especially since most of my job is about cultivating relationships.

And while I struggle to overcome my own narrow view of life, I have to laugh because God has placed me in this position in the first place.
And I smile because I can sort of hear God saying,

"Go on, Rachel, get out of that shell."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Word, and a Simple Prayer

"The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert
by someone who has never been there."
-Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

I praise You, Father, for the struggle.
Use it to Your glory.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Finding Redemption in the Midst of a Panic Attack

It’s in the inching forward of time—the constant checking, the imminent gauging, the impending lump growing larger in your stomach. You think in terms of “how-much-longer-do-I-have-until-“ and nothing else. The world becomes hot and burns you. Your body rebels against you. You feel sick but unable to become sick. Becoming “actual” sick would make the excuses easier.

It’s a waging war between self and mind and body and crazy. You think about harming yourself, and you don’t know why. You curl up as tight as possible to escape the bigness and smallness of the room. If you close in far enough, maybe time and space will evaporate and you will just be surrounded by peace.

When you open your eyes, you realize things are still closing in. Everything in the room seems out of order and disgusting. Immediately, you know you have to clean everything. And so you start, frantically cleaning and clearing away and de-cluttering. But you don’t finish – no, you never finish – because the task is still just too big for you. It’s too overwhelming. So you’ll stop midway, making room for inadequacy to re-settle.

And then you see your husband, and you feel shame. Shame because you can’t be everything you want to be for him. Shame because the harsh reality is that you let him down again. You made him angry; you deserted him. Shame cloaks you and you try to make it up for him, feeling like a fool because you know you just can’t. And so you clean, and you cook, and you dote, hoping that maybe he will see all that you are doing and maybe think you’re somewhat of an okay-wife.

Irrational fears haunt you—trying to convince you that you’ll never really be a full woman. Maybe your house won’t ever be perfect. Maybe you won’t ever have the energy to care for everyone and everything. Maybe you won’t ever be perfect.

And that’s the point.

You won’t.

But you know what? HE won’t either.

No one will.

And you were made for wholeness, but sin has fragmented that wholeness, and that’s why you accepted Christ.

Because you can’t. And it’s not up to you to do.

And so you thankfully give in to this reality – this truth – and let go of the lies,

and praise God for the freedom

to walk and live and breathe in Truth.

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