Posted in Book Review, Devotion

Identity

“The truth is you have been made perfect and are wholly loved. Chosen simply because you breathe, because you exist, because of who created you. I know this world has led you to believe that your worth is measurable. Life has always told you that lie–that you have to work for love or change to be accepted. But the truth is different.” The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

This novel contains a life-giving message about our identity in Christ. Told through the perspective of a rejected young girl in a society where women’s sole purpose is to be chosen by a man and then to be his wife, The Choosing teaches that while God did lay out certain gender roles he did not mean for those to be our identity as humans. Let me explain by getting a bit more personal.

I’m almost 26, and I’ve only dated a handful of times. I’m not married, and it’s not as if I have guys knocking at my door wanting to get to know me. Sometimes I look at myself and wonder, “what’s wrong with me that guys don’t want to get to know me?” I can imagine I’m not the only girl or woman to ask that question. In fact, Stasi Eldredge describes it as the “am I enough?” question asked by every girl or woman (see Captivating if you’re interested in this question more). Her idea is that women are designed with that question inside; hopefully their father answers the question at a young age by loving and valuing the girl. She admits though that often the question is not fully answered, leaving many woman wondering why they’re not enough. Ultimately, it’s God who must answer that question for women. God says to me and all women, “yes, you are enough. There is nothing wrong with you because I created you just the way you are. My Son’s blood covered all of your sins and guilt. You are beautiful, chosen, and loved, my dear child.” Hmm…take a moment to drink that in.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

Even though this novel has a futuristic dystopian setting, the world in which Carrington finds herself mirrors our world in many ways. In this future world after a disease wipes away much of the population, the Authority has set up rules for living according the Veritas, which is essentially the Old Testament.  At a certain age, girls participate in a Choosing ceremony in which they are either chosen by a young man to be his wife or sent to the Stacks to work manual labor. Families are assigned social status based upon where they live. Basically a person’s worth is determined by his or her social status, or a woman’s worth is determined by her ability to attract a male of higher social status than the one in which she was born.

The “truths” in this world match our world in that we are told our identity and worth are dependent upon what we do for a living, our social status, or sometimes even our marital status. Culture preaches that my life isn’t really started as an adult until I marry and start a family. As Carrington discovers in the novel, that’s not the truth. Our identity is not based upon any of these worldly aspects. Simply because I live and breathe, God sees value in me. He chose me as someone worthy of his love. He thinks I am beautiful and worth pursuing. Once we each accept his unearned love, we are free from the bonds of the world.

What if you could abandon all of the labels the world has placed on you? Who would you be then?

Sometimes we forget God’s truths though. We start to chase after a higher paying job, a more esteemed social status, or a relationship. We forget that God has already established our identity, and we do do not need any of these other factors. That’s when we must remember again. As the character called Aaron, who functions as the speaker of God’s truths, says,

Life is a journey of remembering and forgetting one’s true self.

Thankfully God is always there to welcome me back into his arms just like the prodigal son’s father welcomed him.

I am loved, chosen, pursued, and cherished by God.

Posted in Education

Summer Plans

One of the benefits of being a teacher is summers off, and it’s not just because it’s a great time to Netflix/book binge and clean my house. The (somewhat) free summer means I actually have time to breathe and reflect upon my teaching, attitude, and goals. That’s what I plan to do this summer with some binging, cleaning, and travelling thrown in for good measure.

Colossians 3:23 says “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for human masters”. While I agree that times of rest are important, especially for teachers who pour in so many hours and emotional energy for ten months of the year, God makes it very clear that we are to work with our whole heart. He doesn’t instruct me to work for ten months and then forget about my task for two months. Instead, I think he expects me to spend these two months resting and reflecting in order to ensure that I can teach and lead my students better when August comes around.

Practically for me this summer that means reading some teacher books that I never seem to find time to read during the school year, continuing my grad school classes, and spending more time in fellowship with God. That last point is especially important because the school year gets so busy at times that I can easily lose focus on my God-time. I believe the summers are great time to ground myself again in good spiritual habits, sharpen my sword, and shine my armor. My students need someone who is ready to fight spiritual battles with prayer, encourage them when they’re fighting, and speak truth. The only way I can do that effectively is to be sure I am spending daily time with God. If my eyes are fixed on God and I’m working at my task of teaching for Him, the quality of my teaching has to improve because he will lead me to the most effective teacher I can be.

In the next few months, look for posts about how I am relaxing, reflecting, and re-grounding. Yay for summer!

Posted in Life

Facebook

Maybe it’s time to deactivate Facebook again. My heart is drawn there when it’s sad instead of drawn to Jesus. I find myself seeking comfort by scrolling when true comfort comes from Jesus. It’s easy to find myself scrolling mindlessly and letting my more creative outlets fade into the lie of “I don’t have time”. Ultimately it is a temptation to compare and judge myself and others positively and negatively.

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Matthew 18:7‭-‬9 ESV

I need to run from this temptation to waste time, judge others and myself, and worship a false god. It may be temporary because I do see some benefit in having an easily accessible account. I’m praying about the right way to do this or if God simply wants to shift my mindset towards Facebook. I don’t want to lose contact with people, but I have to trust that God will keep the people I need and who need me in my life other ways.

For now I’ll delete the apps, but I’ll keep listening to God about the heart matter and what methods he’ll use to heal me. Pray with me?

Just so you’re aware, I have a cell phone that works when I hold my head the right way and get signal, another number that runs off WiFi, and a landline. I also update on Instagram (where I feel like I have more control over myself) and this blog (where I would love some comments and interaction). I also answer old fashioned knocks on the door if you’re in the area.

Posted in Devotion

My Navigator

My friend and I did quite a bit of traveling this weekend. I drove and she navigated; we know what we do best. As we traveled to new locations or were forced to detour, I pondered how much our journeys mirror my journey with God.

A man’s steps are from the Lord ; how then can man understand his way?
Proverbs 20:24 ESV

Know who the navigator is

On our journey, my friend navigated, and I drove mainly because she doesn’t drive well at night and it was my car. For this trip those were our roles, but this doesn’t mean we couldn’t do the other role just as well. I can read a map, and she can drive a car. For this trip, though, she was the navigator. She told me which roads to take because she held the map.

Similarly, in my own life I have to recognize that God is my navigator. He calls the shots because he holds the master plan. The difference is, though, that God and I can’t switch places. He could do both roles, but I’m only suited to drive through his directions.

The driver has to listen

Since my friend was the navigator, I had to listen. At one point, I had an inkling that I didn’t remember taking this part of the road before, but she didn’t tell me to turn. I kept driving. A bit later, she realized that she’d turned off the GPS too soon, so she redirected us. I had to listen. At another point we were stopped by maintenance men and told to find another route because of a huge wreck ahead. Google maps didn’t comprehend what we wanted, so I really had to trust that she knew how to detour us.

When I’m driving through life, God gives me one direction at a time. I have to listen and trust that he knows the best route. When I go off course for a bit, I have to trust that he knows how to redirect me. When I hit a road block, I have to listen to his guidance on whether to go through it or how to reroute. I have to listen.

As I travel through life, I sometimes want to take control, but I have to remember that the vehicle I’m driving in reality is worth much more and more fragile than a replaceable car. God has only given me one life and one body. My best option in order to avoid a wreck is to listen to my Navigator.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV

Posted in Movies

I’ve got something Rory Gilmore doesn’t have.

If you know me, you know I enjoy the TV show Gilmore Girls. I’ve seen the original seasons 3 times, and I’m on my second viewing of the remake. Every time I relate just a little more with Rory, so it naturally follows that I wonder if I’ll face some of her same trials.

For the majority of her life, Rory Gilmore got what she wanted. At 32 years old Rory Gilmore has a breakdown because her life seems to be falling apart. She has no job, no home, no prospects, and no marriage. Her mother turns down her idea for a book, and the man she might love is engaged. Basically her life is in a deep rut, and she can’t see the sunlight.
For a brief moment I wondered if I might ever have that same point in life. Life has been pretty good to me so far, so it’s possible that some day everything could come crashing down. The world isn’t very nice at times.

Then I remembered God. Even if everything else around me falls apart, God is still on my side. There’s no need to panic. I can breathe easy because I have something Rory Gilmore doesn’t have.

*I do want to take a slight digression here. As I watch the series, there always come moments when I remember that the Gilmore paradigm is completely different than mine because they don’t have God in their lives. It saddens me if it’s possible to feel sad over the spiritual status of fictional characters. Many of their trials and worries could be overcome if they had a relationship with God. In fact, they might not have had many of the trials if they’d been following God’s will for their lives. The show probably wouldn’t have been as popular, but it would have been much more joyful.

Posted in Devotion

“My day is so bad….” “Yeah mine is worse”

Maybe it’s that time of year (school year that is), but lately many of the conversations I have had with people start with a complaint, either from me or them. We’re tired, stressed out, overworked, physically hurting, emotionally spent, and ready for summer break. We don’t mean to be negative, but the fall in Genesis created a world where situations are hard and our bodies grow weary. Our sinful hearts want attention, and, for one reason or another, groaning and complaining garner attention faster than rejoicing.

I do not believe there is a problem with sharing our struggles with one another, but I think there are limits and ways to do it in God’s light. Galatians 6:2 reminds us to “carry each other’s burdens,” so we are meant to be open and honest with each other. This chapter goes on to say, though, that we should be careful and test ourselves lest we take pride in ourselves alone. It seems that at times our “sharing” of burdens becomes a form of pride in how hard our individual lives are. Galatians reminds us that while we are carrying each other’s burdens, we are still responsible for carrying our own load. We are meant to bolster each other up when we have burdens of sins and sorrows, but we are still meant to do the heavy lifting of our loads.

Sometimes we just complain to hear ourselves complain. God makes it pretty clear that he does not like a grumbling heart. Besides plainly speaking it in the New Testament several times, he also provides an account of how he dealt with the grumbling Israelites in the book of Numbers chapter 11. They complained that they didn’t have good food to eat, so God sent down fire. Then they repented, so God stopped the fire. It wasn’t long, though, before the complaints began again. God gave them meat, but he caused it to burn up and become a plague before they could consume it. That’s righteous anger and strong evidence that God does not tolerate whining and complaining. Before I speak my complaints, I want to test them to ensure that I’m sharing them for the right reasons. Ultimately I want to developing the rejoicing heart that Paul talks about in Philippians 4. When I meet trials, I want to be able to rejoice in the Lord rather than complain in the flesh.

This observation of my own conversation as well as the conversation around me also has made me realize just how easy it is to fall into the trap of one-upping one another with our problems rather than listening. Usually what happens when someone shares a burden or just complains for sake of complaining, the listener will share their own similar burden in an effort to relate, but it diminishes the other person’s burden. Just today while walking between classes, another teacher shared that she was suffering from a physical pain; rather than expressing sympathy or pointing her toward the blessings of God, I responded with my own physical pain. How does that kind of response help her at all except make her feel that her pain is less important? I don’t know her motive for sharing this burden with me, but my response should always be one that reflects Christ.

My response should be one that is cheerful and encouraging. Proverbs 17:22 says that a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed heart dries up the bones. This doesn’t mean I diminish the person’s complaint by smiling and telling a joke. It means that in a loving way, I remind them of the goodness of God. This also means that when my flesh starts complaining to myself and hosting its own little pity party, I find a kind and loving way to remind myself of the goodness of God.

I am making two points here I believe. Firstly, we should test our own words before they come out. Before we speak a complaint, we should look into our heart and decide if we are sharing to allow someone to help or sharing because we want attention. If it’s a complaint, we should turn that complaint into a praise to God. Secondly, when someone shares a burden with us, we should respond with Christ’s love rather than one-upping or dismissing their statement. Don’t allow them to continue too long in a pity party, but be sympathetic and loving.

 

 

Posted in Devotion

Whatever

When I was a teenager, the common phrase was “whatever”. When someone frustrated you, you shrugged it off with an eye roll and “whatever”. When something didn’t go your way, you pushed past as if you didn’t care and said “whatever”. When driving on unsalted roads with snow falling quickly, you say “whatever” and convince yourself that you’re not concerned about sliding of the roads into the ditch and freezing to death. Basically “whatever” was a feeble attempt to convince those around you that the awry situation didn’t bother you because you were cooler than that. Today the word “whatever” has been tossed aside in favor of calling unliked situations and things “trash” or “garbage”. The implication still applies though; when faced with tough situations, you brush it off and move on.

Paul offers another way of dealing with the “whatever” moments. He suggests replacing those obnoxious thoughts with new “whatever” thoughts. Take a look at Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This passage is preceded by advice about how to overcome anxiety, so it seems relevant to my high school “whatever” moments. What could induce a “whatever” more quickly than something worrying me? Instead of quelling that worry as if it didn’t exist, I can replace it with a true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, and worthy thought. No need to roll my eyes then. Instead I can lift my hands and rejoice in the God who is bigger than my worries.