Thursday, May 24, 2012

Absolutely the Coolest

Sometimes, no, wait, all the time, I'm utterly astounded by Jesus' goodness, His love, His never-failing faithfulness to us. His care and provision for us never fails, He comes through every time. It's beautiful and wonderful and exciting to see, to experience. My heart is bursting with joy for all the things He has done. There are so many little things, small ways He shows His care.

I recently discovered that there is a Disney quotes Twitter feed, naturally I started following it. I saw a quote from the song "That's How You Know" from the movie Enchanted, it said, "He'll find a new way to show you a little bit every day/That's how you know.../That's how you know he's in love."

The little blessings Jesus gives us, the ways He provides for us - in huge and small ways - remind me of that song. Daily He finds new ways to show us how deeply He love us. Blue, sunny skies when our hearts are grey and rainy, the perfect song playing at just the right moment to speak to what is on our hearts, His care shown through the kind or encouraging words of a friend. There's no denying - He's in love.

He's in love...with us! How incredible! It astounds me, amazes me, excites me. Seeing the way Jesus shows us that love, the ways He answers prayers, the ways He provides, it's just the coolest. It is so cool to see Jesus provide, that's all there is to it.

I've seen a lot of that provision recently, in small and large ways.

Like this coming Monday I'm running the Bolder Boulder this weekend. It's a 10k run in Boulder, Colorado that I really wanted to run ever since I learned about it last year, but really couldn't afford (why is it so expensive just to run?) So I decided I'd just save and do it next year...until one of my friends won a free entry, was unable to compete due to an injury, and gave me the free entry! So I'm running the Bolder Boulder. I didn't even pray to be able to run it, and Jesus still provided!

So I've been praying for money to be able to pay for college, and was proactive too by applying for a few scholarships. Months later, I hadn't heard from either one and figured I hadn't received them. I put paying for college and paying off loans before they accrued too terribly much interest into God's hands, knowing He'd help since He knew I definitely couldn't afford it on my own. Then I found out, my mom had forgotten to tell me I'd gotten one of the scholarships! And on Monday I got a call from the other scholarship I'd applied for, I got that one as well! To top it all off, the award ceremony for the second scholarship (from the ISA Houston) is on June 6, right after I'm done with finals, and my grandpa is paying for me to stop in Houston on the way back to St. Louis, go to the ceremony, and spend time with he and my grandma. I'd really wanted a chance to see them soon, as we usually only see them once a year and for a limited time at Thanksgiving. What a blessing!

And now for the icing on the proverbial cake of Jesus' beautifully sweet love and provision.

So one of my friends, let's call him Chip Wazowski since his real name can't be revealed at the moment, has been raising support for a summer missions project overseas, the location also cannot be revealed. A little over a week ago we were talking and he told me he still needed about $1,000 in support. Despite the large sum, I was sure God would provide if He wanted Chip to go on the project. I spoke to my friend again on Tuesday night...he still needed $1,000 and was supposed to leave Thursday morning. He needed $1,000 in one day.

Chip wasn't worried though, he said he wished he knew what God wanted for his summer - whether he was to go overseas or not - but he knew God would provide one way or another. I promised to pray for him, and prayed for peace and provision for my friend throughout Wednesday. I know I wasn't the only one lifting his support-raising and summer plans up to the Lord. Then I logged onto Facebook later last night and saw a status on Chips page - he was going on project!

He told me all the money had come in on Wednesday, people he hadn't even asked and barely knew had given him money! It was the coolest thing ever. Sitting there on my computer, hearing Chips story over Facebook messenger, my mind was blown by Jesus' answer to prayers. I was sure God had planted a desire to go serve through this trip on Chip's heart, and if God wanted him overseas, God would provide the money. And He did!

One of Chip's friends still needs $3,000 for the same trip by Saturday. If you can support him monetarily, message me and I'll send you a link to his page, and if not then pray, because prayer is powerful. Pray for the whole group going, that they will be strong in the Lord and spread His love and His message to the people in the country they are going to, that His glory would be known throughout the world.

Jesus is the coolest, providing the absolutely most amazing love, care, grace, and provision for us, His utterly undeserving and totally unworthy children. His love never fails, and His faithfulness is unyielding.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Things, Moments, Sights I Love

Sun shining through the reflectors on bike wheels, little rainbows dancing on the ground.

Seeing those little helicopter seed things that cover the ground, littered from the trees, and remembering childish moments in Russia with my little sister and nanny.

Running through sprinklers, drops of water glistening like falling diamonds in the street-lights.

The cool embrace of the swimming pool, enveloping me in sweet silence as I glide through the water, back and forth, back and forth, alone with myself, a few moments of peace.

A sky blue with deep navy and turquoise, dark clouds almost indigo smeared across the sky, a sliver of moon making blues and hues vibrant.

Long talks with dear friends extending late into the night, open hearts, sharing everything, nothing secret, nothing kept.

Dresses and skirts swishing around bare feet and ankles, warm summer breeze brushing by.

Familiar songs, once played on constant repeat, Fall Out Boy's serenade reminiscing the past, still knowing every word.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sticks and Glue, A Duct-taped Life

You said
you'd never leave or forsake me
when you said,
this life is gonna shake me
and you said
this world is gonna bring trouble on my soul
this I know

when everything falls apart
your arms hold me together
when everything falls apart
you're the only hope for this heart
when everything falls apart
and my strength is gone
I find you mighty and strong
you keep holding on
you keep holding on

when I see
darkness all around me
when I see
that tragedy has found me
I still believe
your faithful arms will never let me go
and still I know

when everything falls apart
your arms hold me together
when everything falls apart
you're the only hope for this heart
when everything falls apart
and my strength is gone
I find you mighty and strong
you keep holding on
you keep holding on

Sorrow will last for the night
but hope is rising with the sun
(it’s rising with the sun)
and there will be storms in this life
but I know you have overcome
You have overcome
when everything falls apart
your arms hold me together
when everything falls apart
you're the only hope for this heart
when everything falls apart
and my strength is gone
I find you mighty and strong
you keep holding on

when everything falls apart
your arms hold me together
when everything falls apart
you're the only hope for this heart
when everything falls apart
and my strength is gone
I find you mighty and strong
you keep holding on
you keep holding on

This is legitimately my new favorite song, along with Oxygen by Building 429 and You Love Me Anyways by Sidewalk Prophets. It's been playing in my head all week, reminding me of truths I frequently fail to see. 

We sang this song a few days ago at Cru. As I sang along to the "when everything falls apart/your arms hold me together" part, I felt this deep sense of longing - longing to be held together by something other than myself. Longing to be okay with things falling apart because I had Jesus standing behind me to hold onto the pieces when my hands couldn't grasp them. Longing to not feel like the weight of everything being okay was on my shoulders. 

And I had a bit of an epiphany then.

See, I trust God, I really do. I trust that He will provide for my needs, plan my future, lead me and guide me and be there for me at every twist and turn of the narrow road. I mean I have my points of doubt, questioning, and struggle, but overall I have been blessed to trust God with my life. 

But I'm still resting in my own strength a lot. I've gotten into this mindset where I feel like I can't ever be sad, where nothing can ever go wrong, where if I have doubts, questions, or begin to struggle, I have to fix it myself. I seem to have convinced myself that if I'm going through a rough patch, it means I'm not trusting God the way I should be, it means I'm not resting in Him, and it means I have to fix it before I can talk to people about God again, before I can live my life, before I can even fully go to Him. I'm afraid to admit that it's been a bad day/week/month. I'm afraid to admit to a struggle - unless I've already figured it out, sought out the root of the problem, and at least started the process of working to fix it, or allowing God to fix it. 

Whenever people ask me how I'm doing, I feel obligated to always be doing well, to be happy, to be relying on God, for everything to be fine and dandy. If I say anything less, I'm not living for Jesus, I'm not fully committed, I'm failing Him and I can't do that. 

So I don't let myself have "bad days." Or at least, I try not to. But the moment it's "not allowed" - it becomes all the more problematic. I find myself in a state of battle and frustration with myself. I'm angry with myself for struggling or being down, feeling frustrated, like I'm failing God and not allowing Him to be my everything. 

And most of the time, He is! I love Jesus more than anything. I want to live for Him, I am passionate about learning to be like Him, my heart beats for Jesus and my soul longs to know Him better. But I'm a human. I am so sinful, so broken, and so imperfect. And the result of that is I will mess up. I will fail. I will have bad days, questions, doubts, struggles, and I will have many times of not relying fully on God. And that's okay. Because sometimes everything does fall apart. Sometimes life just sucks. If someone dies, I can be sad about that. If a friend leaves, I can cry. If my heart gets broken, I'm allowed to feel that pain. If I'm just overwhelmed with school or finances, it's okay, because those can be hard things. 

What's important isn't the falling apart bit, it's the being held together line. It is okay for things to fall apart, but what's essential is that I rely on Jesus, give Him the broken pieces of my heart, my life, my soul, and let Him hold them together. I can't hold it together myself. I can duct tape, super-glue, sew, and splint my broken life back together a thousand times and it will never stay put. Only Jesus can be the glue that holds me together, whether I'm happy or sad, broken or whole, scared or overjoyed, He is everything, and that truth is all that matters.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 28 - I'm hungry.

Jesus walks through walls - Luke 24:13-53

The adventure begins. The disciples finally understand and believe that Jesus is not dead, that He conquered death, and that He is God. They finally believe, and now they're ready to start the rest of their lives, for Jesus' death was validated by His resurrection. Dying for our sins wasn't enough, He also had to conquer death. 

One thing I love about this passage, too, is how the disciples and men Jesus met on the road couldn't see that it was Jesus until their eyes were opened, their hearts made ready to receive the truth. Jesus doesn't tell us everything, we don't get to know all the details. Sometimes we can't see what's going on, understand the circumstances of our lives or why things happen, but we have to trust that Jesus knows best! It will be revealed to us in time, or maybe not, but either way, Jesus is good and He knows what's going on, so we can follow Him knowing He won't lead us astray. 


-Sometimes we struggle with seeing God's hand in our lives. What "sign" would you ask God to do in your life to show He is active and cares about your relationship with Him?

It depends on the circumstance. Sometimes I've just asked for doors to be opened or closed, to hear something, see something, usually more ambiguous things. I've never asked for a "please drop a purple and blue flower down infront of my feet right now if you are there." I think that is testing God. There's a fine line between asking for a sign to be directed with and testing God by demanding that He shove something under our noses. Faith has to be part of it, we can ask, but He doesn't have to answer the way we've asked Him to. He always answers, though, in some respect, He's always there, we just have to open our eyes and ears and minds and hearts to actually perceive, not just to see what we want to see, but see what He wants us to see. 

-Jesus said He was hungry. How does the humanity of Jesus draw you closer to Him? In what ways do you struggle to believe that Jesus truly understands your humanity?

Jesus walked on this earth, was tested and tried, struggled and died. He was so perfectly human and so perfectly God at the same time. This really does connect Him to us, He's personable, approachable, comfortable, a friend and father. I've never really struggled to believe that He can understand my humanity, I know He knows everything and thus understands my struggles and pains. 

-Why do you think Jesus needed to recount with the disciples all the reasons He needed to suffer and die?

Because they clearly did not understand it yet. They were still blind to the fact that He was God, that He had to die, that it was prophesied and He was fulfilling the Old Testament. They needed the information put very straightforwardly in front of them, they weren't able to put the pieces together. And I think we all need that! It's so easy to be blind to the truth that's staring us in the face, so easy to turn our brains off to the things we don't want to see, don't want to understand, or just refuse to put together. 

-God is the one who needs to open our minds to understand. How does the truth affect what you ask for in prayer?

It definitely changes my prayers. Instead of just praying for myself or my own desires it allows me to pray for God's desires to be manifested in my life. For His heart to become my heart, for me to change to be there person He wants me to be rather than just being who I feel like I should be. Knowing who He is changes everything because He becomes the center instead of the focus being on me, me, me. 

-What do you need to praise, rejoice, and thank God for?

Everything! Seriously, though. That's been something I"ve been trying to work on - thanking God for everything. Not just "finding the silver lining," but trusting that everything can and will be used for the glory of God, that He will use bad things for His good. It's really great, just being able to look at life from His lens and see so many areas He has blessed me. I don't think we realize how much He has done for us, because we're so used to looking at things through the world's lenses. Instead of thanking God for blessing us with scholarships, we pat ourselves on the back for working so hard in school and being recognized for good grades. Yes, we worked hard, but who gave us the intelligence, the diligence to get those good grades? Yeah, that's right, Jesus! He has done so much, He is always watching out for us, and He should be praised for that care constantly. 

-Who do you need to pray for or tell about this wonderful news?

 Everyone! Can I keep just giving incredibly generic answers and skirt the real issues? Hah. Anyways. Yeah, as I've said before, this is definitely an area I need to grow in - telling the wonderful news. I love Jesus, and I talk about it all the time...with other Christians, on Twitter, and on my blog. This wonderful news sharing needs to become something I do more in "real life" with the people who really need to hear, because that's why we're still on this earth. After we come to know Jesus, why don't we just go directly go Heaven? I mean that's where we'll end up eventually, right? Why not go there right away before we can sin anymore? Because we still have a job to do, to go out and be ambassadors, to be Jesus' disciples, and share the wonderful news, by living radically different lives for Him, for His glory, not for our own.

-What do we learn about Jesus here?

As usual - He's beyond amazing! But in addition to that, we learn that He understands that we are often very simple and don't understand what's going on. And He still love us even though we close our hearts, eyes, ears, and minds to Him and His truth. He tells us what's going on, reveals to us what we need to know to continue in the faith. He understands us, even if we don't understand Him. 

Day 27 - Resurrection day.

WEDNESDAY -- This will be posted tomorrow, I'm too tired tonight to finish. :)

Hokay. Here goes...

Jesus rises from the dead - Luke 24:1-12

Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! Not only did He die for us, but He conquered death, too. If Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, He would have just been another martyr, a wonderful human who died for what He believed in and the people He loved. But that wasn't the end of the story. The sorrow of death was defeated by the joy and victory of eternal life! Oh happy day.


-Jesus conquered sin and death. How do you experience this truth in your life? Where has He conquered sin and death in you?

One really cool way I've seen Jesus conquer sin and death in my life has been this year. I'm naturally a worrier, and during midterms and finals times, generally found in a state of extreme stress, lacking sleep and greatly lacking in essential Jesus-time. So during winter quarter, I really began praying about it. I'd heard a number of talks about how stress wasn't trusting God and was therefore sinning against God because it wasn't putting everything in His hands. I wanted to trust God and stop thinking and worrying about doing poorly on exams, getting bad grades, my GPA dropping, losing my scholarships, and thus having to leave DU (snowball effect commences). It was wearying. So I began to earnestly pray to be able to trust God. And I was able to, my worry left, but my stress didn't really. I accepted to that I could only do my best and believed Jesus would do the rest, but I still felt utterly overwhelmed by the mountains of assignments. There was no peace, no rest. But I trusted God! I didn't know what else to pray for, then I realized - peace. So I began to seek God's peace, and He granted it. Since then, I've been nearly stress and worry-free. Granted, it pops back up, but usually for brief periods of time (a few hours instead of many days). God has set me free from my chains of stress and worry, about school, finances, and my future. He has given me such beautiful peace and the ability to rest in Him and really trust His plans for my life, even if they're difficult now (primarily the financial ones), and that He knows what my future will look like and all I need to do is live in the moments He has given me now and leave the rest of my life up to Him, to be revealed to me when the time comes.

-Like Mary, do you have a heart to run and tell others? Why or why not?

I'd like to think I do. I think often I have the heart...the problem is whether or not the actions follow. Too often I struggle with caring too much what other people think of me. Fearing that they may judge me, label me as a "fanatic" or "Jesus freak" (in a not-good way), I stay back, keep my words to myself, allow my faith to be an internal me-thing, instead of the driving force of my life that shines out in all I do. I'd like to think I have the heart Mary had, to dash out and spread the beautiful news of Jesus' love and victory over death, but I realistically know that I have a long way to go. Jesus will help me, He will change me, that I believe.

-How does Peter's reaction demonstrate his love for Jesus?

He didn't care that the news sounded like nonsense, if there was any chance Jesus was alive, he was going to find out! Peter ran to the tomb, probably giddy with the thought that Jesus might be alive, and also terrified that his hopes were in vain. But whether he was doubtful, afraid, or just curious, he ran to the tomb to find out for himself, unwilling to just label the women who reported the news as "crazy" or "delusional" and pass their words by.

-In what areas of your life has Jesus made you most alive? What dead places need to be taken to the Lord and made alive?

He has really given me a heart for the lost, broken, and abandoned people. I have a passion for adoption that Jesus gave me when I was pretty young, and more recently He's planted in my heart a passion for those in slavery as well. But an area I need to be made alive in is actually living out these passions for Him. Too often I do things for my own glory, to build up my own self-image. Though I know these desires, at their root, come from Jesus, it can be easy to make them about myself, how good I look for caring, how servant-hearted I seem, how great it is that I want to help, but no. It's about Jesus. This is His heart, and He has shared those passions and desires with me so I can further His kingdom, for His glory, not my own.

-How does the empty tomb change your view of eternity? Of death and dying?

I don't know. I've believed in Jesus' death and resurrection for as long as I can remember. In my perceptions of the world, death, and life, Jesus, Heaven, and hell have always been part of the picture.

-What hope does it bring to you that Jesus is really alive?

So much hope, so much joy! Not only did Jesus sacrifice His very life for me, but He rose from the dead and finished paying for my sins, allowing me the chance to one day actually meet Him, and God, and live with them in their glory, praising and worshiping and just being with them. It's going to rock. And Jesus made that possible! It's beyond awesome, it makes me so happy just thinking about the beauty and glory of the cross and salvation.

-Through the Holy Spirit, the risen Christ lives in and though us. How have you experienced this reality?

One just by knowing that God is with me at all times. He's there when I just need a strong hand to hold me up, when I need a comforting arm wrapped around me, when I am overjoyed with something small or something huge, He's there for me to elatedly relay the story to. He's there when I'm afraid, angry, sad, frustrated, questioning, doubting, overjoyed, thrilled, frustrated - for every emotion He's there for me to talk to about it, and that is beyond comforting. But He's also there to help me grow, to tell me when I'm wrong, to speak truth into my life. I truly believe I've heard His voice a number of times, comforting me, giving me a promise, and telling me my sin or failure to believe and rely. Sometimes I feel like He speaks to me through my own voice of reason, helping to direct my thoughts to the appropriate place, and at others times I've really heard His audible voice. And at other times, His presence is just so strong, I can just really feel Him there, His power, grace, and majesty surpassed by none.

-What do we learn from the empty tomb about Jesus' power and authority?

It's awesome! Jesus conquered death, He is utterly powerful and has authority over everything, even over death and sin. He is the most beautiful, wonderful, powerful, great God we could ever imagine. He's so beyond awesome I don't think we could possibly fabricate Him, He's too complex, too wonderful. He is absolutely the God of the universe, and I am so blessed He calls me His.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 26 - It is finished.

Jesus finishes the work - Luke 23:26-49

One of the men crucified beside Jesus mocked Jesus, taunting Him, "if you really are the Son of God, save yourself," he said. The other man seemed to understand what was going on a little better. He rebuked the other man, reminding him that they were getting what they deserved through this punishment, but that Jesus had done nothing wrong, He didn't deserve to die, He wasn't getting a "just punishment" for He ha done nothing to merit punishment. That man was saved through his faith, Jesus said they would meet again in Heaven.

After Jesus gave up His spirit and died, one of the centurions who had been part of the crucifixion, maybe even helped nail Jesus to the cross, said, "surely this was a righteous man," and praised God. He realized the truth too, he recognized the savior, and he too was saved.

How much Jesus loves us, He forgave everyone there and asked God to do the same, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Through His life, death, and resurrection came the salvation of the world.


-Why do you believe some of Jesus' closest followers were standing at a distance?

I don't really know. Maybe they were afraid of being associated with Jesus for fear they too would be hung on a cross to die. Perhaps they weren't allowed nearer by the centurions guarding the scene. Or maybe they just couldn't bear to be that near to their dying Jesus. I don't think I would have wanted to see Jesus' suffering and death so up-close, I would have wanted to cry from a distance, weep and mourn and hide my face from that awful sight.

-What thoughts enter your mind as you consider the freedom we have in approaching God because of Christ?

Joy, thanks, and a realization of how deeply unworthy I am. Wonder and awe at the beauty of that freedom because it is so undeserved, because like the robber recognized, I my just deserve would be death for my sinful nature, but instead Jesus took that and died for me. All my sins upon His shoulders. He sacrificed everything for our freedom, that's the beauty of the cross.

-In your prayer life, how do you exercise the freedom to approach God with anything? How much are you experiencing the freedom that Jesus provided for you on the cross?

I pray a lot, often when I'm walking to class, running, swimming, or just privately in my room. I tell God everything, possibly sometimes too much. Not "too much" in the sense that God shouldn't know some things - God already knows everything! - more like I can fall into not revering God the way I should, using Him more as a diary to channel all my thoughts and feelings. Pray includes what should be there - praise, thanks, request, confession - and what maybe should be kept to my written diary - complaints, random thoughts, drama, etc. My prayer can often be too casual, I need to appreciate that freedom to approach God with anything and be a bit more reverent of the holiness of that connection and remember the price Jesus paid to grant that freedom.

-What areas of your life are difficult to daily crucify to Christ?

Self-centeredness. My goal is to wake up each morning and my first thoughts be on Jesus, praising Him, thanking Him, and dedicating the day to Him. Too often I find myself just thinking about me, typically how much I'd rather still be asleep, or about my day and what I'm going to do or wear. Time flies by and I realize I haven't given Jesus one single thought yet.

-The cross is the finished work of Christ. What areas in your life do you need to believe God when He says, "it is finished"?

In the times when I'm not strong enough, when I'm not strong enough to keep pouring into a one-sided relationship, or a person is just too frustrating, when I don't understand something, school is too overwhelming, the burdens of bills and payments are too much, all the things I cannot do alone, I have to just give up. I need to believe that Jesus takes all my burdens so I don't have to do anything on my own. He knows the end results of all the things I am questioning or when I'm still struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. "It is finished" says I don't need to see the light, but simply trust that it's there and Jesus will lead me through the darkness.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Day 25 - Betrayal.

I don't know the man - Luke 22:54-62

Peter denied Jesus. I know I'm guilty of being a wee bit judgmental of him for that. How could he do that to Jesus? How could he deny even knowing Jesus? After all Jesus had done...
But let's face it. Reality is, every time we sin we deny Jesus. When I choose to act upon my own feelings, thoughts, or initiatives rather than by Jesus' standards, I'm denying Him. I'm telling the world that I don't know Jesus, that He isn't in my life, that His laws and loves don't matter to me. We deny Jesus every time we choose to live our way instead of His way. We're just like Peter, maybe even worse.

Thinkin it through:

-How does sin in our life communicate denial of Jesus to those around us?

It says we care more about ourselves than Jesus. Our sin shows that we have placed ourselves on the pedestal, elevated our own interests above the interests of God, said that Jesus doesn't matter. We deny Jesus because we deny that He is important to our lives. We choose ourselves over Him, and in that, we betray Him too.

-Jesus restores us and wants us to know that He loves us unconditionally. In what areas of your life is it hard to receive God's unconditional forgiveness?

One area that has been really hard for me is with my family. I know I've been one to frequently lose my temper, fail to spend quality time with them when I had the chance, not be the best big sister I could be. I regret that now that I'm in college and realize how precious that time with them was. But I still find myself frustrated and annoyed at my younger siblings far too often. I find myself lashing out with my tongue, not treating them with the respect and love they deserve (or sometimes don't deserve, let's be honest, but then again, we don't exactly deserve Jesus' love either!), or loving them and being a good example. I've beaten myself up about it a lot, and it's a weak area Satan knows to latch onto. It's definitely an area I need to receive forgiveness in and move on from, recognizing my failings in the past and using the lessons learned to not fail in the future.

-Unconditional means you need not do anything to earn God's love and forgiveness. What actions or activities do you do out of an attempt to earn God's favor or forgiveness?

I think I'm more one to beat myself up when I fail, whether I fail friends, family, or feel like I've failed God. When my pride or sinful nature takes over and I find myself thinking unkind thoughts, failing to trust God wholeheartedly, doubting, getting angry or frustrated, whatever, I'm more likely to retreat from God a little, try to "fix myself" before I can go back to Him, because I am mad at myself for not being good enough, because I feel like I should be, and when I'm not my natural instinct is that I"m not working hard enough, and thus to work harder, rather than give it up to God. I need more often to simply take my sin and give it to Him, accepting the forgiveness and grace He's already shown me, and knowing that I am not good enough, and the beauty is that He loves me still.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 24 - Body and blood.

Jesus prepares for the cross - Luke 22:7-38

Passover, breaking of the bread, Jesus announces that He will be betrayed by one of their own. He gives the disciples last words of wisdom, though even in His last moments they bicker about who would be the greatest in His Kingdom. He reminds them that the first shall be last, that the servant shall be first, that though they might think the one seated at the head of the table was the greatest, that He came as a servant. "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves." He tells them, what was written, prophesied in times past, would come to pass that very night - He would be betrayed and die for the sins of the many who had and would betray Him too. 


-Jesus said that He "eagerly desired" to eat with His disciples. Do you believe that God eagerly desires to commute with you? How does this play out in your prayer life?

I do believe that, but I forget it far too often. Too many times prayer becomes about me praying for myself or the people in my life, circumstances that directly affect me. Or praising God, but still very one-way. I'm always talking, conversing, or making some sort of noise. I forget the listening part of prayer, and I forget the being part of prayer, just being with God. 

It reminds me of once when I was specifically working on listening in my prayer life. I was laying outside, cool grass on my back and warm sun on my face, eyes closed, ears desperately straining to hear God's voice. I was all prepared, and so sure that I would hear something huge, wonderful, that God would really tell me something tangible. I tried so hard to still my mind and listen, and it was so hard. I didn't get it, what was the point of listening if God wasn't saying anything? And then all I heard was, "just be with me, just be with Me." And that's what I did. I laid there in the grass with God and we were just there together, no words, no praises or requests, confessions or thanks, just being, delighting in one another's presence. 

I won't forget that moment, and it's a practice I need to make far more habitual than it currently is. 

-What does the shed blood of Jesus accomplish for us? Why did Jesus' blood need to be shed?

This could be a dissertation or a shorter, simpler answer. I'll stick with short and simple - because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Because without Jesus' salvation, without His death on the cross, without the shedding of His blood, perfect and holy, we would die. The wage of sin is death, that's what we deserve. Christ's blood paid the debt, purchased our freedom, so we could choose to live, and live a life with or without Him, He gives us that option, He paid for us so we could be free of sin, and it's up to us who we choose - Jesus or ourselves. 

-How eagerly do you find yourself longing for the coming feast, when we will eat and drink with Jesus himself? What things in your life keep you from getting excited about that?

I was just thinking about that this morning! I'm just excited to be able to praise and delight in Jesus all the time, and to be surrounded by others also constantly delighting in our beautiful savior. I think right now my own sin and selfish attitude keep me from that. I get consumed with my own interests, keeping me from focusing on Jesus. 

-Jesus gave His life for us. What must that have meant to His disciples who personally witnessed that? What does it mean to you?

I can't even imagine being there. Just seeing it in plays or movies is intense. Realizing how much Jesus sacrificed and endured for me, it's astounding. And it means I want to give Him my life in return, because it's all I have to give, and for such great love for me, I want to give Him everything I have. That kind of love, it's incredible.

Day 23 - How much is a mite, anyway?

Totally thought I'd posted this yesterday, whoops! So...pretend it's Saturday ;)

Giving all you have to give - Luke 21:1-4

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 
 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  
“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  
All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; 
but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” 

"The widow gave all she had because God was worth all she had. This is the heart that Jesus wanted to highlight - a heart worth preserving for all eternity."


-How often do you give all you have to God?

Not often enough. I mean there's always more I could be giving, I definitely have excess, though sometimes I like to think I don't. Compare myself to half the rest of the world, and I'm a rich man. However, I don't think this means God always calls us to empty our bank accounts into the offering plate each Sunday, rather, it is about the heart. It's about being willing to empty our bank accounts, live on next-to-nothing (or nothing!) and always trust that God will provide. If we feel a little twinge to give, a desire to put more into the offering basket, sponsor a child, donate to an organization, or support a missionary, and the "logical" part of our brain says "you don't have the money for that..." - I think our automatic reaction should be to give, if the excuse we have for not giving is that we "don't have enough," God solidly reminds that He will provide enough, our job is to trust. 

-It's clear from this story that God is not concerned with the amount you give, but with why you give the amount you do. What might be the hardest thing to give over or give back to God? Why?

I think for me it's people. I want to hold on to them, their love, their friendship, I don't want to accept the possibility that if I relinquish a difficult or struggling relationship to God, the answer might be, "it's over, time to move on." 

-Financially, what could you be giving (even now as a poor student) to show God's worth to you?

I could be giving more, and I've been praying a lot recently about how much and to what/who God wants me to sacrifice. I don't want to just be tithing money, I want to be sacrificing money, choosing to live more frugally and with less things so that I can further His kingdom. That's usually how I tithe. Instead of giving 10%, I pray and ask God how much He wants me to give. Granted, it's usually above 10%, but I also know God will provide. So when I put that $20 in the offering basket that I was going to use for something else important, God will give me another way to pay. He always provides. I know that. 

-How hard is it for you to trust God with the financial areas of your life? How often do you come to prayer asking for His provision? 

It used to be a lot harder than it is now. God has definitely given me the ability to rest in Him and have peace in trusting in His provision. My family is low-income, I'm paying my own way through college, and we don't have money for a lot of things I'd like us to have money for (like removing my troublesome wisdom teeth). It's been hard, realizing how many loans I have to pay off, health and medical things I'd like addressed and can't pay for, but God has helped me rest in Him and know that He'll provide. It's not my burden. My burden is to trust, do my best, and He'll do the rest. 

-God loves widows, orphans, the poor. He wants to take care of them. How much do you trust that God will care for your needs as well?

I trust Him, totally. Sometimes I still get stressed, worried, a little scared. Because yes, putting your life in someone else's hands can be frightening, terrifying at times, but also incredibly exciting. In those moments of doubt and fear, I just have to go back to the cross and place those burdens back on Him.  

-What does this passage communicate about Jesus?

He cares so much more for the heart, for the thought, for the person we are, than what we do and how we appear. It's not what we've done, it's who we've become. 

Washing Away

Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 22 - I'm the most humble.

Jesus exposes spiritual pride - Luke 20:20-47

Sometimes it's so hard to separate this world from God's world. All we know is earth, everything we know is in earthly terms, our perspectives are formed by what we know of this world, and God doesn't fit in that perception. God is not of this world, He cannot be defined by our understandings. That can make living for Him hard, it's a whole different way of thinking, a whole different mode of being, than what we or this world are characterized by. Often times, it doesn't make sense to people, who we are or why we've chosen the paths we're on. It can be complicated, difficult, even awkward at times (like explaining why you aren't concerned with future plans because "God will tell me what to do and when to do it," yeah, insurance agencies don't quite understand that one). We aren't to worry about how people view us, or what they think of us, our treasure is stored up in Heaven, where we will be like the angels, the children of God.

And as an extension of this, we are called to be humble, for God is the author of all things, and we are His children, the sheep of His pasture. What we wear, what we say, how long and elaborate our prayers are, how much we talk about our humility or how much money we donate, that's not how it works. We are to pray in private, give in secret, let God see our hearts and not boast about it. Our personality, knowledge, gifts, resources, these are all from God, so that we can boast in Him, our beautiful Father in Heaven.


-In what areas do you strive to excel? In what ways can you seek to bring glory to God instead of yourself?

Everything. I am an success-driven person. Not necessarily in a "get to the top" kind of way, more that I hate failing, because I hate disappointing people, and I hate not being good enough. It's a problem I'm slowly working through, slowly being a key word there. But some of the biggest areas of striving to excel would be: school, art, and in my walk with Jesus. None of those are necessarily bad things, until they become ultimate things, until I'm so focused on not failing and doing a good job and that becomes the point, instead of simply doing my best, letting Jesus do the rest, and bringing glory to His beautiful name through my actions. I can get so caught up in wanting people to see me as being good enough, and that's what I focus on, so succeeding becomes an idol, failure my greatest fear, and at that point God has been so removed from the picture and I can find myself, yet again, on the me-centered throne of Katydom.

-Jesus brought religious pride into the spotlight as an example of what not to do. Why do you think that is?

The pharisees were the religious gurus of the time. They were the pastors, deacons, youth-group elders, whatever, they were the ones people looked up to as religious and wise. Everyone knew who they were, and everyone could see their pride when it was compared to the humility of others. Jesus knew people would be able to identify with that example, many people had probably had their fair share of feeling "not good enough" compared to the oh-so-holy pharisees of the time.

-How do you struggle with humility before God and others? Why should your attitude before God be a humble one?

Honestly I get to a point of pride with my faith far too often. I feel like I'm doing "so good" with Jesus and having just such a great relationship, living such a great life for Him, and then I realize that and start thinking about it and how great I am doing and it stops being about how awesome Jesus is and about how great I am. I want people to be impressed by me and my walk with Jesus, I want my prayers to be so heartfelt and full of joy in Jesus, I people to see that I have a loving heart, a passionate spirit, that I"m just so focused on God, but too often for my own glory rather than His. It's so, so easy to get caught up in that trap, to make my relationship with Jesus about how good I look instead of how awesome He is. And He is beyond awesome! My attitude should be utter humility because Jesus is so perfect and I am so perfectly flawed. He is so good and I am so drenched in sin and unrighteousness. I am so unworthy, yet still He loves me, yet still He sacrificed His life for me, yet still His blood poured out to wash away my dark stains of sin and shame. That is why I should be humbled before Him, because I do not deserve to be anywhere near Him, yet He welcomes me into His arms and calls me "friend," "daughter," and "beloved."

-How does Jesus model humility before God and others? How has His life influenced your desire to do the same?

Throughout Jesus' time on earth He was constantly giving all the glory to His Heavenly Father. Jesus gave God credit for His words, miracles, thoughts, and actions. Everything was the will of the Father. Jesus didn't take the credit. And Jesus was so servant-hearted. Here was God in the form of man on earth, the King of the universe! And He was serving, washing feet, healing the blind, preaching until His tongue was dry and His head heavy with exhaustion, yet He never stopped serving. It's like the song Humble King

"Cuz You are the God of the broken
The friend of the weak
You wash the feet of the weary
Embrace the ones in need
And I want to be like you Jesus
To have this heart in me
You are the God of the humble
You are the humble King"

I want to be humble, rid of my sin of pride, wholly focused and centered on living and loving for Jesus - no thought or care or worry of my own. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 21 - Jesus is king.

Jesus enters Jerusalem - Luke 19:28-44

When I did The Thorn in April, this was my favorite scene - the Triumphal Entry. It was just so full of joy. We were shouting and praising, jumping up and down, frantically waving our palm branches back and forth. It was a taste of what it must have been like during the real event. I imagine the excitement one has at a concert, seeing a loved singer or musician, the excitement for Jesus' entry would have been exponentially greater. Even just acting it out, it was such a joyous scene. So much excitement, so much promise, so much hope, the happiness was infectious. 

But there's a confusing part of this scene in Jesus' life, too. See when Jesus said He was the King, the Messiah, the Savior - the people thought He was coming to conquer the Roman empire, overthrow it and establish His kingdom on earth. Jesus did come ton conquer, to conquer sin, and to establish His kingdom in people's hearts, to set their eyes on the true Kingdom of Heaven. So as the people praise Him, call Him "Lord," it is with a different praise in their heart than He deserved. This is why the pharisees rebuked Jesus, they knew He was calling Himself God and they didn't agree with that, but Jesus kindly reminds them that if His disciples and the people were silent, then the rocks themselves would cry out. 


-The people shout, "Hosanna!" which means "the Lord saves." What is it that you need the Lord to save you from?

Not being 100% totally, absolutely, utterly focused on Him with my life. I spend far too much time concerned with me, myself, and I, with my future, my interest, my feelings, my whatever. I need to be saved from narcissistically  putting me on the throne of life instead of daily recommitting my life to Jesus and putting Him in the center. And sin, of course. I think, too, getting caught in the trap of just asking forgiveness for sin, rather than truly repenting, which means not just saying "sorry," but also changing. Forgiveness is a request, repentance is an action.

-What is it that caused the people of Jerusalem to miss the point of who Jesus really was?

They weren't willing to see who Jesus truly was. They were so focused on who they thought Jesus should be and what they thought He should be doing that they were blind to what His purpose for the world truly was. 

-How can your heart sometimes mislead you to believe the wrong things about Jesus?

Seeing the world through me-glasses instead of Jesus-glasses results in a complete misconception of Jesus. And stubbornness, wanting Jesus' plan to be one thing and being blind to what He's truly saying. There has to be willingness and trust to believe the truth about Jesus, to relinquish self and focus on Him and His purposes, willingness to do whatever He asks, go wherever He says to go, say what He wants us to say. 

-Scripture tells us if there was no one to praise Jesus, the stones would cry out. How do you communicate to Jesus in prayer how wonderful and awesome He really is?

I think this is where we take the verses about being like children to heart. Jesus is so incredibly amazing, no words can truly express that. We should approach praising Jesus from a place of humility, no big fancy words or gestures, just simply praising, telling Him He is good, recognizing the wonderful things He has done in our lives, and using whatever talents we have been given to glorify Him - music, art, whatever. The key is not to keep silent, and to make praise about Jesus, not about us. It should be a time of joy and delight in our awesome Jesus.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 20 - Never give up, ever.

Jesus teaches us about persistent prayer - Luke 18:1-30

Jesus tells his disciples to never give up, never stop praying. He promises that He will bring justice for those who cry out day and night. Jesus emphasizes the importance of humbling ourselves before God, "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." For only God is good, and if we think ourselves high and mighty, we will be humbled. Jesus emphasizes this when He talks to the rich man, reminding him that only God is good. We are to follow the commandments, and above all, give to the poor, for we are to help those who cannot help themselves, just as Jesus helped us. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus, never stop praying, and live a life dedicated and sacrificed to Jesus. 


-What do you deeply want God to accomplish in your life?

I want God to change my heart to being fully focused on Him, to take away all the self-centered parts, to make me into the person He wants me to be, someone who cares about others above myself and loves freely, without restraint or second thoughts. Most deeply, I just want God to use me to make a difference in some shape or fashion.
But what I want most deeply is for God to heal my little brother and the strained relationships in my family. That's as in-depth with that prayer request as I'm going on the internet. I also have a number of friends and family members I (try to) pray for daily. 

-What does the widow represent to us as disciples of Jesus? What attributes were probably true of her that need to be true of your prayer life and approach to the Father?

She is persistent, she doesn't give up. She knows what she wants and she won't stop fighting for it - even if fighting just means begging for it. She's patient, too. Though she doesn't see the fruits of her labor, she continues working towards her goal. She doesn't stop just because she's being told "no" or lose hope. Now there is obviously a point when we should stop praying. If God is telling us "no" then that's the answer. We may not understand it, we may think what we're asking for is a good thing, but if God is saying "no" then it means we have a chance to see Him provide for us, it means He has a better thing for us. But we are to be persistent in our prayers, asking for things and continuing to go to God with our requests, even if we don't see results now, like praying for a sister, brother, or grandparent who doesn't know God. Years of prayer may not seem to be making a difference, but we shouldn't give up on them, or on the work God may be doing in their lives. 

-Never giving up takes discipline and consistency. In what ways do you struggle to build those things into your prayer life? Why do you think it is so hard to stay persistent in prayer?

It's just easy to give up when results aren't immediate or readily seen. Like this person I've been praying about for at least two years now. I go off and on remembering to pray daily for them, simply because I'm not seeing any results, any difference in their action or personality or how they communicate with me, and it is disheartening at times. It's easy to lose hope when results can't be seen, I'm the kind of person who wants results, and if I don't see them then what I'm doing clearly isn't working, so I move on to the next attempt. It can be hard to constantly ask, beg, plea for something and not see or hear anything. 

-Prayer is a powerful thing - it can move the heart of God. What would you ask God for if he told you the answer would be yes? What's keeping you from asking again and again?

I would ask for justice for those enslaved. I would ask that everyone in the world open their hearts to Jesus and know His love. And I'd ask for Alex to be healed. And I am asking for that last one, daily. But I think the other requests I balk from because they're so unreasonable and huge, because if God made every person love Him then there would be no free will, and because I don't think He'll do it, because often God lets us learn things ourselves, screw our world up massively, because that's how we learn. So maybe I don't ask because I doubt, not His ability, but that He will do it. I recently read a challenge to pray for the world everyday, though, even though that is a huge undertaking and seems unreasonable, irrational even. Because often that's what faith is - unreasonable and irrational. So I've actually been trying to pray for the world now, because that's God's heart - this world full of His children - and so it should be my heart too. 

-What do you have trouble believing God for?

The practical aspects of provision. I know and believe that God provides for our needs, I don't doubt that, but sometimes the actual feeling and seeing that provision is hard to believe in, because living by faith does seem so irrational and illogical in worldly terms. Sometimes I have trouble believing in that. 

-Who in your life models the persistence of the widow?

I'd say the closest would be Leanne Downing. I've never met someone so connected with the Spirit, so confident in Jesus and His provision for our lives. She really follows God's voice, and it's been very inspirational. 

Prayer is so important, so powerful. In the past months I've been thinking about prayer and its power more and more. God has shown me where my prayer has been very weak and self-focused, and I've been trying to pray in different ways - focusing on God and His kingdom vision, rather than my own, praying for my goals to align with His, praying about and for others rather than all about myself and my own spiritual growth. Prayer is something we can never stop growing in, we can never be "perfect prayers" - God is always teaching and growing us. It's our personal, direct contact with Jesus. He contacts back in many ways, different for every person and for every individual's personal walk with Jesus. I know I've personally heard Jesus talk to me a couple of times, and they remain some of my best, most wonderful memories, though they happened in times of pain and sorrow, because Jesus became so real for me, I felt Him and His voice and His love and His comfort so clearly and strongly, and that was through prayer. We can't get enough of prayer, we should never settle into the lie that we needn't persist. Jesus persists in pursuing us, and we should persist in pursuing Him.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 19 - My roommate is a punk.

Jesus teaches us about forgiving others - Luke 17:1-10

So I really like what this study has to say for this day:

"When someone sins against you, Jesus says, even if that person is a repeat offender, you must forgive him or her. Why? Because we are all repeat offenders, and God continues to forgive us. Therefore, we must do the same.

Forgiving others has nothing to do with earning merit with God. It has everything to do with continuing the pattern God sets for us. As Jesus has taught and proclaimed the kingdom of God, whatever else we may know about life in the kingdom, we know this: the very atmosphere is one of continual grace and forgiveness, freely received and given."

Questioning and Contemplating:

-Often our own struggle with certain sins yields impatience with others struggling with the same sin. What is it you find hardest to give grace to? Receive grace for?

I find it hardest to give grace to people who are really self-centered, who talk about themselves all the time, complain a lot, and don't have regard for other people's feelings, thoughts, or interests. I really hope that's not a reflection on me, but there's a good chance it is. I know I can be characterized by complaining often, which is something I've felt convicted of, as well as spending far more time thinking and talking and being interested in myself than I should.
I think what I find it hardest to receive grace for is failure and doubt. When I find myself stressed or struggling to trust God's provision, I beat myself up about it. I know that God will provide, but sometimes my head takes over my heart and tries to be reasonable in areas where only faith will do. And I get frustrated with myself and rather than taking it to God and admitting I'm struggling, I tell myself I shouldn't be feeling that way, I know God will provide, and try to trust in my own strength, rather than giving my inability to trust to Him and allowing God to change my heart and make me utterly dependent upon Him. That was an especially big struggle this past week.

-Causing others to sin seems to be an even greater offense than the sin itself. Why?

Maybe because we can take accountability for our own sin. If we sin, we suffer the repercussions, we are the ones who must confess and repent, but if we cause someone else to sin, then they must be punished for it too. It's like if I choose to smoke, then I'm knowingly putting myself at risk. But if I choose to smoke around someone else, then I'm putting them at risk as well. And if I get my little sister addicted to cigarettes too, then she's also at risk and harming everyone she smokes around. It's a chain effect.

-In what ways does Satan cause you to stumble and sin? What are some ways you may have caused others to sin and need to be asked for forgiveness?

Satan feeds my pride, making things about me instead of about God. Even when I'm "doing good" with God, it becomes about me and how good my walk with God is, instead of how awesome His grace in my life is, how wonderful His love and provision and forgiveness are. Satan tells me I'm not good enough. He tells me I'm not wanted, that no one needs me, that I'm failing God and then tries to make me do it in my own strength (pride again!) instead of leaning on Jesus. And when I'm tempted to gossip, Satan whispers in my ear that it's okay to talk about that person, complain about that incident, because I need to talk about it, gotta get it off my chest - and then I draw whoever I"m talking to into it as well.

-What does this passage communicate to us about Jesus?

That He does not tolerate sin, but also that He eternally forgives us. Also that faith is required to forgive and be forgiven, and that faith only comes from Him. He is a good God, but He is also just and straightforward - sinning is not okay. Causing others to sin is not okay. And we must forgive others their sin, just as He has forgiven us. No one is better than the other, we can't think we're better because we've been forgiven and redeemed and thus are "too high and mighty" to forgive others. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we are all on the same level of being lost, helpless, and drowning in sin and only God can save us and forgive us.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 18 - Lost trucks.

Jesus teaches about the Father's heart - Luke 15

And the angels rejoice at the repentance of one sinner, the salvation of one soul. That's how much we're valued. There is rejoicing when one of us is saved. I think that's pretty great, it makes me feel good at any rate, knowing that God cares about me that much. No matter how worthless I feel, I'm still important in God's eyes. 

Digging and Delving:

-Who do you care about enough to go after?

My initial response: everyone! But then I thought for a moment. Who am I really going after? Who am I pursuing? If I believe in Jesus so firmly, why am I not "going after" more of my friends and family to tell them about their beautiful Savior? Perhaps I'm not caring enough. I can't force anyone to believe anything, but I can be more loving, more serving, and "go after" the people I say I care about. Actions speak louder than words, maybe my actions are merely whispering now. 

-What is the heart issue Jesus is trying to identify here?

He's identifying the common doubt in His care, His love, and our own value. But He's also identifying our pride. Like with the elder son in the Parable of the Lost Son, the elder son is angry at the Father's joy over the lost son's return, but Jesus says, "it doesn't matter what you've done, who you've been, or where you've gone, you are mine, and I love you, no matter what." God's love isn't some special privilege we've somehow done enough to earn, it's a free gift we are utterly undeserving of, and we cannot forget that. 

-Is there any nuance of difference among the three different stories?

There are some differences. The Parable of the Lost Sheep emphasizes rejoicing more over one sinner who repents than 99 righteous people who don't need to repent, because they haven't been lost.  
The Parable of the Lost Coin reminds us that God has lots of other "coins" (people who have accepted His love and are no longer lost), but He still wants to find all of His lost children, and He searches carefully for us, rejoicing at every coin He finds.  
The Parable of the Lost Son really emphasizes the joy and forgiveness God shows us, despite what we've done. The lost son betrays his father. By asking for the inheritance before his father dies, he's essentially saying, "I wish you were dead." 
Despite this great dishonor and insult, the father still gives the son what he wants and lets him go his own way. The son makes bad decision after bad decision, and eventually realizes how much he's screwed up. He goes back to his father and doesn't even ask for forgiveness, maybe he's still too proud, but instead he asks to be one of the servants, just so he can have food and a place to stay. 
But the father won't have any of that. He gives the son clothes, and not just that, but the nicest clothes, his own robe. The father has a party and kills the fattened calf, much to the chagrin of the elders son, the self-righteous one who has always "done everything right" but without joy (which is a whole nother topic in and of itself). 
The father is just so happy, so full of joy that his lost son is found. The insults and disrespect are forgiven and forgotten, the son is home. 

-Spending time with sinners meant Jesus was speaking words of truth tho them. They wanted to listen. What keeps you from speaking truth to those around you who need to hear it?

Fear. Fear that they won't want to hear it and will cease to be in contact with me. Fear of pushing people away by coming across as judgmental or hypocritical. Fear of scaring people away from Christianity rather than bringing them closer to Jesus. Fear of failing. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear people won't want to hear about Jesus. Fear people will judge me. It's all fear. Some founded, some not. And that fear needs to become trust, trust that God will give me the words to say and the times to say it. Willingness to get out of my comfort zone and say what He wants me to say, do what He wants me to do, and go where He wants me to go. I need to change, give up my fear, it's a slow process, but I think God is slowly changing me. 
-There was no shortage of people coming to Jesus looking for forgiveness. Why were these people successful in getting an audience?

Because they wanted one. They wanted to speak to Jesus, they were seeking His forgiveness, repenting of their sins. Jesus wants us, He finds us, and if we're seeking Him, He's always there. 
-What is it about repentant sinners that causes all heaven to rejoice?

Because it means people who were enslaved to sin, trapped by Satan's lies, and bound in the enticing addiction of sin have recognized their enslavement and desire to be free. It means that someone has opened their hearts to Jesus and want to know Him. It means that a lost sheep, coin, son, and child has been found. Like we rejoice when we find something lost, Jesus rejoices at the finding of His children.  

Paper Crown

Two days flew by, and not a thought had been given to my routine study of Luke. Meetings, homework, studying for exams, and, let's face it, fun with friends, had taken over, scooping me up in a whirlwind of events and general business, completely removing my focus from what was once the most important and looked-forward-to part of my day.

What happened?

It was Saturday night or (very early) Sunday morning when I realized I hadn't done my Bible study or blogged about it in two days. So I made a quick excuse to cover my tracks (probably the post right below this one...) and continued studying. Brushing the most important thing - God - from my mind and saying to myself, "I really have to study for this biology exam, and God understands."

And while studying for my biology exam was quite important, I should never have put it above God. Even if I didn't have half an hour to blog, I should still have taken time to be in God's presence, pray, and fellowship with Him. I put God on the backburner, and for that, I am sorry.

But it wasn't just this weekend, the whole past week has been off. I couldn't pinpoint it, but I just felt a little off-balance, like I was standing in Tree Pose in yoga class with my eyes closed, wobbling side to side, arms awkwardly stiff in the air and trying to regain composure.

See, ever since the Thorn I've been on such a Jesus high. Every morning I've woken up just so full of joy because Jesus is beyond awesome. I've been so filled with awe at His great love for us, and I completely believe that joy and awe was given to me straight from God, He has allowed me to be full of delight in Him. Even when little bad things happened or a day was just mediocre in terms of events and difficulty, it was still an awesome day, because Jesus just rocks.

I guess I started to feel pretty good about that. I was doing good with God. I was happy, full of joy in Him, passionate and alive and so ready to do His will. And then this week I just didn't feel quite up to par. I was tired, busy, minorly stressed, and getting a cold (sniffles and sneezes, ew). So I got frustrated with myself. When I woke up and started thinking about me, myself, and I instead of Jesus, I gave myself a little pinch, snapped the proverbial rubber band on my wrist, and tried to direct my thoughts to being more God-focused.

But the moment it starts becoming about you instead of God, it becomes even more about you. So I tried to think more about God and just be happy in Jesus like I had been, and the more I tried the more I failed, and the more frustrated I became with myself. I had been doing so well! Why couldn't I just be the good, happy, Jesus-centered, passionate person I seemed to be last week?

And then, over the weekend, I began to understand, I was beginning to lean on my own strength, hold myself up high, instead of leaning on Jesus. I was happy, I was passionate, I was delighting in Jesus, I, I, I. I wasn't giving everything up to Jesus anymore.

Life had been feeling so easy, I was flying along at a high of 75, and I had stopped giving everything to Him, stopped relying on Him. I was making it about me, how good I was, instead of how good He is. 

And that realization was freeing. Letting go again, begging forgiveness for my self-centered actions and mentality, for making my walk with Jesus about how good I looked instead of glorifying Him. And I confessed my pride, again, and once again, dear Jesus forgave me.

It's amazing how He does that, always forgiving.

No matter how many times I put myself back on the throne of my life, make the world in my mind revolve around little ol' me, He let's me do it until I get so dizzy from the self-centered revolving that I fall off that silly chair. Crashing to the ground, my paper crown of selfishness and pride crumples. Jesus picks it up, smooths it out, folds it up, and puts it in His pocket, I'm forgiven and free once more. He picks me up and rights the chair. With a hug and a kiss on the forehead, like any good father gives a fallen child, He says, "it's okay, I still love you, I always have." And the chair becomes His throne, the center once more.