Posted in Devotion

Don’t Be Like Scout

I was just informed that today is international cat day. These holidays don’t mean a whole lot to me, but my friend wanted to know if my cat, Scout, knew that today was a holiday in honor of his kind. My response was that Scout thinks everyday is International Scout Day.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my cat, and he brings me great happiness, but he doesn’t understand that he’s not the center of everything. In his mind, I should be ready to snuggle or play with or feed him when he’s ready for those things. Maybe some animals can sense their owner’s emotions, but he could care less if I am laughing or crying. In Scout’s world, it’s all about him.

Don’t be like Scout.

The Bible stresses humility and kindness toward others. In Philippians 4:3, Paul writes “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves“. The center of our world shouldn’t be ourselves; as believers our central focus should be God. After that we should strive to view and treat others the way God sees them. That includes the people we like and the people who get under our skin. We should be slow to judge and quick to serve others. It should be in our hearts to sacrifice of ourselves to serve others in order to glorify God.

In essence, don’t be like Scout, waiting on others to serve and love you when you need them and then ignoring their emotions and needs.

Posted in Devotion

Seeing Through God’s Lens

I want to see the world through God’s eyes and with the Bible as my point of reference. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about seeing other people with God’s eyes, but lately I’ve been impressed upon to open my eyes a bit more and see everything and do everything through the lens of the Bible. As a Christian, God calls me to act, think, and speak differently. Everything I do must reflect God appropriately. That means that wherever I go, whomever I come in contact with, and whatever social or career roles I serve become a means for sharing the Gospel message.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Why is this necessary for a Christian? Why can’t I simply go to church on Sunday, maybe serve in some kind of ministry, and read my Bible in the morning? The answer is found in that verse: be transformed. To transform is to change entirely. The kind of change God wants from me is the kind of change that requires me to think about everything from a Biblical standpoint. When I read, I should ponder if the text supports or disagrees with what I know about the Bible. When I speak to people, I should try to be a loving example of Christ. When I pick out clothes, I should remember that God always sees what I wear. When I teach, I must remember that everything I say or do is being filtered by the young minds in front of me as truth; I want to be sure I’m speaking and acting in God’s truth.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 5:45

In order to do this, I must study the Bible and spend time with God in order to discern how his truth guides me. Without God, I am nothing but a feeble attempt at being good. With God, I can be a light that shines brighter than the closest star. I want all parts of my life to reflect God. That means I must examine my heart and ask God to make me clean and pure in thought, deed, and word.

Posted in Devotion

Falling in Love

I remember the moment I accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I really fell in love with God. When I accepted Christ and his gift of salvation from my sins, I said yes that I wanted to start this relationship with him. I acknowledged his pursuit of me, recognized that he wanted to show me love, and desired to learn more about him. That was a decision, but after that it has been a journey of first learning how to be in that relationship and eventually falling in love. It really has been a sweet, sweet time, but it’s also had its rocky moments when I started to stray.

God designed relationships between men and women to reflect his relationship with us. There is a pursuit, similar to how God draws us close to him, and then a period of mutual attraction and interest, much like the time when we are learning about God before complete acceptance. Eventually a decision is made to establish a relationship (the DTR as it might be called), which resembles the moment of acceptance of salvation. After that, though, the couple has to figure out how to be in a relationship, and the relationship grows to love. Through watching movies and people in my life, I know that part is sweet and can also be rocky. Falling in love and maintaining love in a relationship is an ongoing choice to forgive mistakes and see the good in the other person.

Just like in earthly relationships, figuring out the relationship and falling in love with God can take time and work depending on the individual’s background and experiences. Take heart in your relationship with God if you feel like you are messing up on your end or don’t love him enough: God is better than any earthly partner. He’ll never give up on you no matter how long it takes for that falling in love stage to come to completion or how many times you allow something else to become more important than your love for him. God is faithful to forgive, and his love is deeper than any earthly relationship will ever offer.

**By no means am I trying to trivialize a relationship with God to fully resemble human relationships, which are easily flawed. Know that my experience with relationships is limited to the little I’ve experienced and what I’ve watched in other’s lives, but I pray some of this gives you hope and encourages you to fall more in love with God each day until we reach heaven and can love fully like He does.

Posted in Devotion

Steeping My Tea

Yesterday I heard a metaphor that I think will stick with me for a while. When I go to make tea, I boil the water, pour it over the tea bag, and let it steep for several minutes. Alternatively, I could boil the water, pour it in the cup, and dunk the tea bag in and immediately take it out. That wouldn’t make very good tea, though.

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Similarly, I have two options for how I spend time with God. I could take brief and irregular dunks into God’s word and say short prayers sporadically. Alternatively, I could saturate my life with God’s word, spend time pondering the application in my heart, and communicate consistently with him through prayer. Which will make me a better “tea”?

One way to “steep my tea” a bit stronger is to be involved in a good church that challenges me to spend more time with God (and I feel blessed to have one right now).

“I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8)

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

When life gets crazy or my schedule gets interrupted, I’ll make a cuppa and remember that in order to be fully “steeped” I have to spend time in the living water. No one likes weak tea, and God doesn’t like a half-steeped follower.

“Send our your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.” (Psalm 43:3)

Posted in Devotion

A Fairy Tale Ending

Someday I’ll wake up to a letter saying that my long lost relative is actually royalty (probably in England), and this letter will reveal to me that I’m actually a princess. It’ll be just like The Princess Diaries. I’ll have princess lessons, and, of course, I’ll be a natural. A fancy hair dresser and his assistants will make my hair and makeup fancier than I’ve ever known. I’ll charm all of the dignitaries. It’ll be magical.

Isn’t that every little girl’s (and obviously some big girls’) dream?

My friends and I pretended to be princesses while we hiked Princess Arch.

It’s a nice dream based in some very real truths. The core of this desire is to be seen, valued, and beautiful. (I can’t speak to understand the male brain, but I’m sure at least part of those desires exist for him as well.) We want to be princesses because God placed that desire in our hearts, and it can only be truly fulfilled by him.

Ladies, we already are royalty! We may not have crowns or castles or even a Prince Charming, but our Father is a King. He’s the High King of everything. He created all the other kings and will one day rule supreme over all the Earth and heavens again.

If we’re already royalty, we should act like it. We’re princesses training to be Queens. We have the ultimate kingly Father as our role model, and he’s given us his Spirit and instruction manual as a guide. We should walk with dignity, kindness, and joy, knowing that the most Royal Wedding is being prepared for us. We are seen, valued, and called beautiful. We are children of the King. Just be patient, keep practicing using the instruction manual he left us, and know that one day God will call us to our heavenly castles where we can worship the king and realize our true regal identity.

P.S. Guys, I think you can claim this royalty as well and live like the children of the king that you are.

Posted in Devotion

Stuff

As I sit in my comfy chair and look around my house, I am amazed at just how much stuff I have accumulated in the short 26 years of my life. Then I think about all of the stuff I’ve had over the years and discarded. I think about the trash I’ve created, and the material possessions I’ve wasted. I’m hit with two thoughts:

  1. I am extremely blessed.
  2. What is the purpose of having all of this stuff?

That second question is what has plagued me this summer as I’ve spent the time doing the “spring cleaning” that I didn’t have time to do in the spring. I have more clothes than I can wear in a month, more books than I could read in a year, and more plates than I use regularly. Some of the stuff surrounding me is needed for physical necessity, some for emotional necessity, and some for creature comforts. But is there a point when stuff starts diminishing my life rather than improving it?

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

This advice from Jesus follows directly after teaching the disciples to pray and directly before telling them not to be anxious. The line between just enough stuff and too much stuff seems to lie in the heart. When the stuff in our lives starts to distract us from God or cause us to be anxious then it becomes a problem. We must decide if we are surrounding ourselves with stuff because it helps us to live a more productive life or if we are masking our anxieties about the future. Are we holding on to things because they bring us joy or because we’re afraid of forgetting who we are without them?

One of the hardest things for me to let go of is books. (No big surprise there right?) I’ll read a book, enjoy it, and want to keep it not because I’ll ever read it again but because looking at it helps me remember the euphoria I felt while reading it. There’s a fear of forgetting the pleasant times spent reading. There’s also a bit of pride in owning certain books that make me feel cool or intelligent. Both of those reasons reveal a small heart problem.

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There’s nothing wrong with owning stuff, and in my humble opinion, I could be collecting worse things than books. The problem with collecting stuff is that the stuff starts to take precedence in my heart instead of looking forward to God’s plans. It’s easy to become obsessed with getting the next big thing to impress your friends (or for me, owning the book that everyone is impressed with). As a believer, I must remember that the stuff I accumulate on earth does not define me nor will it make me happy (the loads of unbought books and other junk in thrift stores attest to that fact).

My identity and joy rest in God. The stuff may bring me little bouts of happiness, but that happiness is short-lived compared to the eternal joy I will experience in God.

Posted in Book Review

Southernmost: Controversial

There are some books that become more than just leisure reads because they open internal dialogue as well as create space for external dialogue. Silas House’s newest novel Southernmost does just that. The novel centers around a country preacher whose estranged brother is openly gay. After a huge flood covers his community, religious people in the community begin to think there is a connection between the legalization of gay marriage and the flood. There is great turmoil within the main character’s church when he speaks out openly in favor of loving the gay couple who have begun attending their church.

As always, House’s writing style is incredible. He creates scenes that are crystal clear by vividly describing the scenario. The plot is developed in such a way that the reader can feel the turmoil within and around the characters, much the way the opening paragraphs describe the flood waters rising. Hints to the culture arise through references to songs, poems, and news create a multi-sensory reading experience. For its literary quality alone, it’s a good book.

The parts that created the most turmoil in me were the beliefs expressed within the book. Now I am a reader who is okay with reading viewpoints that contradict my own, but when a writer expresses clearly controversial topics, it is good to create a space for dialogue. This book obviously expresses the belief that the gay lifestyle is acceptable and a couple of methods that churches tend to use to respond. While I do not think the gay lifestyle is pleasing to God, I can see some valid points in the book about how the church should respond to people living this lifestyle. In the book, the preacher remembers the experience his brother had coming out to his family, which eventually led to the estrangement of his brother from the family. When a gay couple comes to their house during the flood seeking shelter, he feels a conviction to help them while his wife feels strongly that sheltering them would equate with condoning their lifestyle. In this instance, I would lean more toward the preacher’s perspective. There are ways to show love to people who are living with sin, whether it be homosexuality or lying, that don’t require us to condone the sin. The church in this novel wants to throw the men out and shun them, but to me that doesn’t show the love of Christ. Jesus mingled with sinners in order to show them the forgiveness and redemption of God. As a church, we don’t have to condone their sin nor do we have to judge them; our job is to love all people in order to point them to God, the ultimate judge of souls. If we love sinners (because we must admit that we still sin even after being redeemed by Christ), we can point them toward God who can work in their hearts to bring them to righteousness better than our condemning words could ever do. For more on this topic see the book Messy Grace and my accompanying post about the book.

Another more troubling aspect of this book are the spiritual aspects presented through the character of the preacher’s son. There are several chapters entitled The Everything that show the turmoil about the son’s beliefs concerning God. At one point the boy says “Dad I believe in God, but I don’t believe in church.” At another point the book narrates, “The ocean is a mystery and so is God. They are both so big we cannot see all of them at the same time but we can catch pieces of them her and there. Justin believes God is big like the ocean. Even bigger. But lots of people don’t. They think he’s small enough to fit in a church house or an offering plate or an ancient book. He’s not, and his mind is even bigger than him.” At this point it just seems like the boy is trying to figure out who God is in relation to the religious fanatics in his church who turn away his dad for preaching a message they don’t like. At this point, I was standing okay with his turmoil, but then about halfway through the book, the boy begins to think along the lines of what I understand to be pantheism. The most telling quote that demonstrates this belief is “This is the kind of talk that would horrify his mother, but he believes God is in everything and everybody. Pieces of him. He doesn’t just mean the spirit, he means the actual chunks of God… The ocean is God but so are we all.” While God’s nature is expressed in nature and God is omnipresent, the equation does not go the other way. Nature and humans are not God. That leads to worship of things other than God, which is idolatry. For more on this, check out this very short and to the point article.

Finally, there is a part of me that wonders if there is a small commentary on the effect of broken homes. The boy only begins questioning his faith when his parents have such trouble that causes them to split. The young child watches his father question his faith and his mother cling harder to hers and tries to make sense of what he should believe. No one thinks to talk with him about what is really happening in his world, so naturally he starts to try to figure it out on his own. I’m not saying that divorce always leads to losing faith in God, but divorce definitely affects children in all different ways. In this instance, it seems to have led this small child down a path of spiritual ambiguity. If there had been someone to guide him through this process, he might have known the truth about God’s nature rather than the conclusions he came to on his own.

While I respect the writing and opinions of this book, it is not a book I would openly suggest to anyone. If you choose to read it, appreciate the literary value but be cautious of the theological impacts. Be sure to keep your eyes fixed on God while reading. It’s a good book for creating dialogue, but, if you are a believer of God, take caution in your dialogue so as to demonstrate love to those who disagree and maintain your own beliefs.