Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Run, Forest, Run!

Let me just clear the air before I share these Tuesday morning thoughts, that most of you (my college Bible study girls) could run/work out in circles around me - making me feel not only old but out of shape - so no, this is not a lecture in healthy living! Your dedication to caring for the bodies God gave you is inspirational to me. Let's not even talk about the huffing and puffing involved in my first spin "class" given by one of my college girls...that's another story for another time!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily strangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

Photo credit: www.runwomenshoes.com
It is the first day of the new college semester. What promise this holds for you - God's missionaries on campus! But alongside that promise, my heart writhes in pain with the fear of what you, His precious disciples are about to face. There is spiritual warfare being fought in our world. Simply look around, turn on the news, check your social media feed or examine your own life, and you will feel it. Taste it. Hear it. See it. Loud, clear and pungent, Satan is waging war on God's children. And he has a stronghold on campus life. Even in the short time God's turned this blog in this new direction, I've very clearly poured out the heart I have for the college women I am blessed to minister to. I often try to express to them emotionally how I am old enough to have hindsight perspective, yet young enough to still taste the temptation, pain and struggles they deal with daily. And guess what? It doesn't go away upon graduation. While the battlefield may change, the war wages on.

Set your eyes on Jesus. As though you would focus intently on the finish line of a race; fix your gaze on Him. He has laid the path out for us, but oh how our hearts want to chase other things. What are you chasing after? Perfect grades (guilty)? A friend or boyfriend's approval (guilty)? Social status or popularity because of the brand you're wearing or the car you drive (guilty)? A different body shape or size (guilty)? We are all chasing something. And while we're chasing after the next shiny thing that passes by, God is relentlessly pursuing us. So let's stop running from Him and run to Him. Let's stop running the path we've laid out for ourselves, and instead run the path He's set before us. As I read through this scripture from Hebrews 12:1, I keep picturing the scene in "Forest Gump" when Forest, as a little boy, starts to run and his leg braces fly off.
As you start a new semester, my prayer is that each of you finds the power of the Holy Spirit God has placed inside of you to run the race He's set before you. He will run with you. He is present with us always. My prayer is that in spite of what's chasing you, threatening to catch up to you and run you down (be it stress, pressure, tests, homework, etc.), distracting you from the race...in spite of all that spiritual warfare, that you would hear His voice calling out to you. Just like Forest heard sweet Jenny from behind him yelling, "Run, Forest, run!" May you look up and hear clearly your Heavenly Father's voice calling, "Run, my child, run." All my love and His. xo

Monday, January 6, 2014

Who's Your Best Friend?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

I remember being in sixth or seventh grade and a "trick" going around where you'd ask someone, "who's your best friend," and as soon as they started to answer, you'd jump in, "no, your best friend is Jesus!" [Thanks for going back to middle school with me for a moment there, now let's get back to being "grown" women, who sometimes (more often than not) still act like middle school girls.]

When do you turn to the Lord? Who is Jesus to you? Is He your last resort when things aren't going your way? Is He a Sunday stop to talk to at church but who simply slips your mind when life gets in the way? Is He someone for "religious" people but you define yourself as more of a "spiritual" person (that always seemed to be trendy on college campuses)? Or is He the first One you turn to when you are worried, burdened, afraid, unsure of what path to take? I'd venture to say that if we'd spend less time gossiping with our best friends/sorority sisters/coworkers/Facebook friends/etc. and more time talking directly with our Savior, we'd feel a lot less burdened and a lot more comforted.

I'm not pointing fingers. I am the first one to admit that when I'm upset, I whip out my phone and my fingers get to texting. Most of the time, I turn straight to my husband. Or, if it's a work issue, I swing around to my coworkers and unload. A lot of times, Jesus is the last consult when I'm searching for guidance. If you can relate, I don't blame you. Our world perpetuates dependence on others' approval, others' advice and others' affirmation. Social media is an "acceptable" (another debate for another post) forum for emotion-dumping. Blogs solicit comments, Facebook solicits "likes" or shares, Twitter solicits replies or retweets, and just like that, an entire peanut gallery is seconds away through cellular cyber space. In fact, to get advice from friends, you don't even have to "talk" to anyone anymore. We live in a world of tangible, instant gratification, and "being still" with God just doesn't feel as glamorous (Psalm 46:10).

Friends are a blessing, a true gift from God. Good friends, especially as for women, are true treasures. The cliche promise of "finding your bridesmaids" when going through sorority recruitment as a college freshman isn't so cliche, and many lifelong sisterhoods are formed during the four years spent at college. I believe that God desires for us to seek counsel and build bonds with true, tried friends. Jesus spent His life traveling, teaching, praying and seeking fellowship with His disciples. He ate with them, He told stories with them, He laughed with them, He cried with them, and through those relationships, He models perfect friendship for us. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).

When Jesus needed true counsel, however, when He was so overwhelmed that He was literally sweating drops of blood (Luke 22:44), He left His friends, and sat quietly, alone with His Heavenly Father. And He calls us to do the same. Jesus Christ wants to be the first friend you turn to; He wants to be your best friend. We serve a loving, yet jealous, God, and He demands that we seek and serve Him as the most important relationship in our lives. Before our spouse/fiance/significant other, before our parents, before our siblings, before our friends. Turn to the Lord. Christ is waiting to carry your burden.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Stop Trying to Find Yourself, and Let's Get Lost

A new year, a new blog post. Seems appropriate, right? No, I'm not making a resolution to resurrect this blog, or to post every day, or any other mega-goal that I wouldn't possibly be able to fill. In fact, what I'm about to post (or you're about to read) doesn't really fit under the theme of this blog at all as to what's going on in our lives. However, it already exists, and God's been laying words on my heart to post, so instead of launching a new blog, I'm using this for the time being. For the past year and a half, I've had the blessing of leading a group of college women in studying God's word, and this is my new year's message for them. It simply flowed right out of my on a plane on the way home on 1/1/14. Some might call it word vomit. I make no promises.

Give yourself fully to God, so that He may give His love to others through you.

College is often described as a time to "find yourself," but I would challenge you to lose yourself instead. Lose yourself to God, and He will do incredible things through you.

I remember graduating high school and facing college with a wide-eyed anticipatory stare, like an artist would approach a stark, white canvas. Feeling like I was independently equipped to conquer the world, I set out to find myself: find my career path, find my personality, find my values, find my husband, find my future. Alone on this scavenger hunt journey, I quickly found myself...lost. Without the directional guidance of familiar friends, family, teachers and an environment I'd gotten really good at, and without a conscious thirst to walk closely with The Lord, I was a nomad, a wanderer who was miserably failing at the world's promise of finding myself in college. Maybe you've felt that way. Maybe you feel that way now. Maybe you're 30 years old and feel just as lost, if not more, than you did at 18. Daily you seek and search for the world's promised path, and the only thing you're finding is yourself more lost.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God promises, "For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I'll admit, this is one of the most often quoted scriptures for those of us facing "quarter-life crises." Often, I hesitate to use this verse in discipleship because I feel overly blessed by the plans I'm a part of, and can imagine the jaded "thank you" from someone who sees me as having it all together. Well...no Bible thumping here, I cling to this verse daily. You see, walking a path with God doesn't promise finding the plans we have for ourselves, or the plans the world promises at certain mile markers of life. Instead, walking a path with Him promises to lead us quickly in the exact opposite direction.

Hold up...God wants to take me away from my family, friends, hopes and dreams? Who would sign up for that?!? His promise is that the plans He has for us are so much sweeter. By walking away, we can love better and more freely. "In fact, the more completely you devote yourself to Me [God], the more freely you can love people (Jesus Calling)." Instead of finding yourself, lose yourself in Him and be found! "The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true self - the one I designed you to be (Jesus Calling)." You may feel like you are walking alone, on a solitary path, but the perfect Creator is drawing you closer to others in pure and reckless love; as He loves us.

Let's all stop trying to find ourselves, and instead, strive to lose ourselves in Christ. A new year, a new semester, a new job, a new city, whatever your blank canvas is, rejoice in it! Sit quietly with the Lord, lose yourself in His word, immerse your heart in solitary prayer, silently and constantly throughout every moment of every day.  God created us to love deeply, to do good works, and to carry out incredible plans (Ephesians 2:10). When we want to program our own GPS though, independent of His leading, we find ourselves lost off the grid, doing nothing but wearing ourselves out wandering. Seek God as the one true destination.

I will never be 18 again, facing college with wide eyes and high hopes. My prayer though, for me and for you, is that if we are trying so hard to find ourselves, we would throw up our white flags and, instead, throw ourselves into the arms of Jesus. A Savior who longs to lead our every step, to walk with us, to carry us and reveal to us not what we can do, but what He can do through us. Here's praying for a 2014 where we all get lost.