Sunday, August 26, 2012


Month 3 of this journey of 7.

This month, the idea is to give away 7 things (possessions) each day for a month or what is equivalent to 7 things per day by the end of the month.

C and I are not being legalistic about this month, as in we are not keeping a tally of everything we give away. Instead we are earnestly praying that our eyes and ears are open to the needs of those around us. We have a growing pile of bags filled with clothes and small household items that we do not wear or do not use often or at all. However, we don’t want to simply pass on the unwanted, old, and useless items, then pat ourselves on the back and call it a day.

I’m learning more and more that a true follower of God lives sacrificially. Giving is a part of living. That means I am to give sacrificially. What if we all lived as people who give the shirts off their backs and the shoes off their feet for all who are  in need? People who give of their own resources in order for others’ basic needs to be met and in order for others to simply feel loved and appreciated. Would not the world be a different place? Would not our community or our church look different if we loved our Creator above all else, above our cars, TVs, smart phones, ipads, homes, etc.?

That is who I want to be. Someone who gives until it hurts, until my time, energy, and money is all spent; someone who loves God and lives like it.

George Bernard Shaw doesn’t sugar coat it:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish little selfish cod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Jesus loves people. He lived a life that proved it. I want that life, too. I want to be a part of that story, living a life marked by love and sacrifice.

Friday, August 17, 2012

When the going gets tough...

...face the tough. I’ve seen that not facing the hard moments just means running from it until it catches up to you.

As I enter my last semester in grad school I’m forced to look back at my journey, both because in the coming months I have to synthesize all my gained knowledge along with my internship experience and because I’m big on self-reflection.

I started grad school about 2 years ago and boy was it tough. The hard part wasn’t really the work. Chris and I were in our 2nd year of marriage, which was wonderful, but we were balancing the desire to spend a lot of time together + our grad school work (each taking at least 2 classes) + pretty much working full-time.

Okay, so not much has changed from two years ago, but it will s-o-o-n. YAY!

A lot was going on during that first year. I was doing a ton of reading for class, completing lots of projects, trying to figure out what it all meant and how the info was supposed to impact my life. I was also figuring out what it looked like to be married, living in Greensboro, away from the close friendships I had developed in Chapel Hill.

My school readings were fascinating, filled with information about finding strengths in people and living a life of purpose, encouraging others to live intentionally. My school readings combined with my faith left me desperately desiring to live out a life of purpose. However, in the midst of it all, I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that I was not equipped to be much of anything. This little voice told me that maybe I’m just not smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, that I had nothing worth much to anyone. How could I be used? Who would pay attention to me?

I fought this feeling and…well, I wish I could say it just took a few weeks and I got over myself, inspired others, and together we all changed the community. Unfortunately, it went nothing like that.

It was a struggle for months and months. Looking back on all of it, I have realized several things. Since I was bummed about the lack of time, skills, or talents I had to offer, I put my energy into encouraging others to use the blessings or gifts that I saw in them. However, though my intentions were (mostly) good + pure, instead of simply encouraging or gently challenging friends to pursue the strengths or talents I saw in them, I probably came across a bit pushy, even judgmental. I saw so much potential in others, talents that they could use for others, time that could be used out in the community serving others, wealth that could be shared with those in need.

My desire to see others use their gifts and talents was and is not a bad thing, but I’m certain my words and actions did not accurately convey my intentions. Instead of lifting my personal worries to God, being an example, and simply encouraging others in their gifts…I complained, my frustration grew, and I focused entirely too much on what I felt I lacked. I didn’t inspire people or even gain pity. Instead, a few friends pulled away.

It was a hard time.

So, what came from all of this?

I’m learning s-o-o many things…

  • I’ve realized the selfishness in all of it. My pride was bloated. Finally the light came on and I realized how much more I need to believe and trust God. He made me just the way I am, no mistakes. He is in control and my life is good, no actually it is great. I can be used and I will be used to glorify Him. I am being used, even if I can’t see the fruit of that. Simply put: more God, less me.
  • There is a way to be an example and to influence others, but at the same time love them and meet them where they are. More importantly, I can learn from others. I need to learn from others. Lately, I can really see how God is working in the lives of those around me and He sure is working in me.
  • When I see someone who may be experiencing what I was, I want to be there for them. Ask them what’s going on underneath it all. I want to listen, to love, to not turn away from them, but together turn towards God. That is community. Being honest, vulnerable, and real enough with each other to face the hard and the ugly, to be the bumpers that keep each other from rolling down a dark and lonely path.
  • When committed to someone or something, fight for it. Whether it is a friendship, my education, or my church, I want to be the billboard for genuine commitment. When it gets tough, I want to dig in and fight for it. That is the kind of thing great people in history have done, greatest of all being Jesus Christ, himself. He never turned his back on what mattered most. 
  • ALWAYS go to God first. He can handle me and all my crazy ways better than anyone else in this life. Vent to God first.  Then, if they ask or I wish to share, discuss it with friends/family. 

There will never be a day when the learning stops. Sanctification, becoming more and more like Christ, is a continuous process. That process can be hard, filthy, and often requires a look into the ugly parts of me, the weak flesh that so desperately needs less of me and a whole lot of Jesus.

I’m thankful for God’s love. I’m thankful He chooses to keep molding this jar of clay. I’m so incredibly grateful for the people in my life that continue to offer support, encouragement, and love. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Grace + Mercy

When Christians, those who follow Jesus Christ, stand up for their beliefs it should not be surprising when the world does not respond well. There will be boycotts, exclusion, discrimination, etc. The bible even speaks of this.

The thing is, when the world stands up for their beliefs or even challenges Christian beliefs and values, how do Christians respond? We know how the world responds. Do we act as the world acts, as if we are of the world? Do we arrange boycotts? Do we discriminate, hate, or judge others? Do we exclude others or belittle them?

How are we setting ourselves apart?

I have a different worldview from those who do not know Jesus Christ or those who have chosen not to know him. I cannot expect others to submit and align themselves with my worldview if they don’t know Jesus, because Jesus is the foundation of my worldview.

In order for others to understand why I believe in what I believe and why my values are what they are, they must understand the foundation of it all: Jesus. And, how will they know the foundation if I don’t tell them?

As a Christian, I want to act as Jesus acted while walking on this earth. I want to love sinners. That includes everyone, every single human on this earth. I want to serve those around me, the ones who are hurting, who feel lost, who feel hated and excluded.

We say that we must hate the sin, not the sinner. But do we throw out the sinner along with the sin when we try to put that saying into practice? We’ve all been there. It is not something easy to live out, but we have to try. I know I want to try.

If you read the bible, Jesus most often rebuked believers, not other sinners. He didn’t dissociate himself from prostitutes, slaves, thieves or other “lowly” individuals, but he embraced them and loved them. He demonstrated grace and mercy, which is entirely different from condoning or condemning.

That is what I want my life to look like: pouring out grace, mercy, and love to all people.