February 29, 2008

I don't even know...

I want today to be over.
I want to blog, but don't expect wonders tonight.

First, I have a question that I don't think will get answered here, but I'll try. In Luke 7:36-50, the story of the woman crying on Jesus' feet, wiping His feet with her hair and pouring expensive perfume on them is told. It says a Pharisee invited Him to his house, and then when Jesus goes to reprimand the Pharisee for condemning the woman, He calls him Simon. So my question is, is this Simon Peter? Or is this just a Pharisee named Simon?

I really like this story. The woman humbles herself completely before Jesus. She cries on His feet and wipes them with her own hair. And trust that His feet were filthy. The Pharisee recognizes her as a woman who has lived in sin and who isn't worthy to be in the room (the irony is that he was probably more disgusted that she would be in his house near him than he was concerned about Jesus), and he thinks "You know, if Jesus was who He's claimed to be, He would never let someone so unworthy touch even His feet." So Jesus tells a parable about two men owing another money. The man canceled both of their debts since neither was able to pay him back. The question was who of the two men would love the third more, and the answer was the one who owed more in the first place because he had a greater debt to pay.

There is a lot of hope in Luke. So far it's my favorite gospel. There's hope that whether we owe much or little, we are forgiven. (It kind of goes back to the posts Rob did about infinity and the idea that no matter how righteous you are or how unworthy you are, God is an equal distance from both. He is so much greater than us that our sins are minute in comparison). The best part is that there's hope for those who feel like they've done so much that they are unforgivable. The farther away you think you are from saving, the more grateful you will be when you realize that you are saved. I'm a huge fan of Luke.

And one last thing, I think I'm doing better on the whole going-to-God-first thing. I'm still struggling, but I've found myself praying more in the past couple of days and I've been catching myself when I don't go to Him first. Even if it's after the fact, I feel like it's progress. It's funny because if there ever was a week to really go to God first, it's been the past 7 days. God is working big and changing a lot of things. I'm interested in how the next month or so will go.

February 26, 2008


This whole dying thing is really weird for me. My junior year of high school, my friend Brian was in a car crash and was killed. Last year, one of my best friends' aunt passed away. My brother's two friends these past couple months. And today my mom told me that the priest at the Catholic church I grew up in died last week. What the heck?!
Anyways, this is one of my favorite songs that I've ever witness God put on someone's heart. The verses are decent, but I'm pretty much in love with the chorus.

I've been around for a while, watching you grow from a child,
It's gone by so fast
Oh, child, I know you're mine, and I pray for you all the time:
don't let this life pass.

I know that it's hard to believe I'm gone, but soon you will see
how time flies by.
So please don't cry for me. I know that you're hurting, I see,
but I'm ready to fly.

I know you hate goobyes, but love,
I hate to see you cry over things that you just can't change.
I know it's not the same, but I am always on your side,
and I'm waiting for your tears to dry.
I'm here, and I'm waiting with open arms
when you're ready to let go and move on.

It's going to be a little while, but I swear it will come soon enough.
We'll be face-to-face and smile-to-smile,
and you'll have me back, my love.

Losing Sleep

A concept that I've been struggling with a lot in the past few months has been when an idea/movement/concept is so important to someone that "it keeps them up at night." I feel like a lot of people at Elevation church have these kinds of visions embedded so far in their personalities and every day movements that they are constantly losing sleep dreaming of how to make their strategies better. It took me a while to figure out if people meant this literally or figuratively, too. To me, it's both. I'm sure a lot of Elevators literally lose sleep to plans and strategies, but to some it has to just be an expression.
The reason I've been struggling with this is because I feel like I haven't committed to anything in my life that has kept me up at night. I really like the concept though. What got me really excited was finding an example of Jesus losing sleep over something really important to Him:

One of these days, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated apostles.
[Luke 6:12-13]

He spent the entire night praying over who would be the closest to Him in His ministry. He basically spent like 12 hours praying over His own directional staff. And I'm sure He spent entire nights praying over a lot of different things (oh, I don't know...like His own death?). So I'm wondering, when am I going to commit to something so strongly that I lose sleep over it? Maybe not an entire night. Maybe none at all. But when will I find a vision so captivating that it consumes most of my thoughts and dreams?

[Ironically enough, I should be sleeping right now]

What Could Be

An 18 year old kid who was supposed to graduate this year from my old high school was hit by a car last night and died. A month or so ago, an 18 year old kid drank himself to death at Clemson. My brother was pretty good friends with both kids. As much as I feel for the Ben and Andru's families, my heart breaks for my brother. He's just a kid. He's just 17 years old, and I think it sucks that he's having to deal with so much death lately. Andru's sister, Caroline, is my age. And Andru was Michael's age. I can't and don't want to imagine ever losing Michael. It was bad enough when he spent week in the hospital for a busted spleen.

My real problem is that I'm never home to see Michael and we were not raised to communicate emotions and feelings to each other and we never built that on our own. I can't just call him up and ask him how he's holding up and tell him I love him and miss him. If something were to happen to either one of us, I don't think either of us would remember the last words we said to each other. I was thinking the other day that if Michael could see how great God is and if he would choose to live for Him, he would do amazing things with this world. Because I never go home, all I can really do is pray that God would speak and move so strongly that Michael could not deny Him.

I just pray that he would see how awesome and strong God is and even when people die before we think they should, God is working. and God will always have him in His hands.

February 23, 2008

Just As I Am

I've done a post similar to this pretty recently, but the point was reiterated to me tonight, so I figure God's speaking through it.

I just spent an hour or so having an AIM conversation with my friend Heather about me. We were really close friends in high school, and she's this super observant person. She listed pages worth of things she remembers about me. Among them being:
-The way I sit (almost always cross-legged or with one leg underneath me)
-Where my locker was and part of my combination (that one is kind of creepy)
-The way I wear bracelets high up on my arms, not on my wrists (and she remembered exactly what bracelets I wore and where I wore my ring our senior year)
-The way I'm really stubborn when taking food or money from other people (I'll take it, it just takes me a while to get over myself)
-The way always play with my necklaces (which is very sad for me now that I never wear necklaces. So now I usually play with my collarbone or nearby sweatshirt strings)
-The way I felt like God was calling me to other things my senior year so I quit soccer during conditioning
-How I "LOVED" my black bible (which is now my bible covered in duct tape) and
-My favorite and the one that really proves she gets me and wasn't just watching my every move in a stalkerish way:
beautyisinmusic : you always seemed sure of yourself however, i don't think you were
beautyisinmusic : you kind of seemed lost at times.
beautyisinmusic : and like you really needed a good friend

And I just freaking love her. And this all reminds me once again, that God knows me. As much as it blows my mind that Heather has managed to retain so much useless information about me, I know that God knows every single thought, emotion, action, word that comes from me. Lately, I find myself trying to hide things from God all over again. Something in me really thinks I can fool Him. I like how Andy Stanley says "The only healthy and profitable thing to do is to pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. R-rated words and all. After all, He knows what's in your heart anyway."
This is good for me to remember because it also goes back to my last post and praying about everything first. Nehemiah prayed some pretty hardcore things, and He wasn't afraid to. He knew that God already knew what he wanted in the first place. God knew if he was angry or upset or happy. God knows when and why I'm emotional. He knows my favorite color, my 8th grade locker combination, my prideful side, and He knows the way I really am. He loves me anyways. He gave me all the weird quirks that Heather notices. He built me. He crafted me. He loved me as He made me, and He still loves me even if the character traits He put in me have been used for less than good. I seriously love who I am when I look at it in that perspective.

P.S. Anita, if you couldn't tell, I had SO much fun with you, SG and Rylee yesterday and today. Thank you for letting me tag along and love on your girls a little longer than usual. I'm pretty attached to you at this point, too. I'm glad we got to bond. Haha I hope you guys have a great weekend and enjoy Phillip finally being home. And to Phillip, I hope you feel better.

February 20, 2008

Just Pray.

My friend Kathryn wrote me a letter one time (by the way, as a college student with a typically empty mailbox, letters are the way to my heart) in which she talked about how she was going through a period where she just didn't want to be around people. Kat is a people person, so this was a big thing. She felt like maybe by her feeling that way that God was calling to her and saying, "Look, I just want you to want Me and want to be near Me." And lately, I feel like it's not that I don't want to be around people, but I feel like the people closest to me are not as close as they were a month or so ago.
After my Sunday night meltdown, I made a list of things I wanted to change. It broke into 3 parts:
1. Things I can change,
2. Things that only God can change, and
3. Things that I'm already doing well that should continue (because it doesn't make sense to get down about things that should change without having some encouragement in there).
When I told Bradelyn about my list, she told me several times to just take it one step at a time. I kind of brushed it off, but a couple days ago I realized she is completely right. A big list is overwhelming, but taking things one step at a time is doable.

So with three things in mind (the idea of one step at a time, the loss of true closeness with most of my friends, and my trusty journal that helps me see where I've been so I can focus on where I need to go), I'm working on pulling a Nehemiah. When Nehemiah heard that his city and his people's integrity was in ruins, he wept and he prayed. When Artaxerxes began to talk to Nehemiah about what he wanted, he prayed. When his enemies tried to trick and defeat him, he prayed. Good, bad, ugly: he prayed.
I have a tendency to go to people before God when I have a problem. I want to make a new foundation. So my thinking is that the closeness I have with certain people is being weakened because I've been relying on them far too much. I can say that God comes first, but until I start living that, nothing will change. So step one, essentially, is to pray. Through the good, the bad, the ugly: pray.

February 18, 2008

Orange, Splits and Nehemiah

I just wanted to put this out there. I really couldn't help myself. Phillip is a phenomenal family pastor who spoke into a lot of people's lives over the past 3 days. Amplify on Saturday night really helped get everyone focus on the same vision and understand where family ministries at Elevation is headed. There are definitely times when the information we're taking in and the changes we need to make seem overwhelming (it was the same at Orange Tour), but I think overall things like OT and Amplify really help light the fire in the hearts that are going to change our church. Pulse last night, though small, was also really great. A little speaking, a couple splits, a lot of Nehemiah. Good times.

I've been around Elevation for almost a year and 1/2. I've seen a lot of change and a lot of growth. I've been that change. In terms of my spiritual life and my walk with Christ, I've grown up here. But I think that right now is a phenomenal time to join this process of building with one hand and fighting with the other. I feel like we're at a point where we're starting over, especially in family ministries. As a church, God hit all of our goals for year two and now we're launching into our third year at ridiculous speeds. And now it's time for change. To refine our processes and to fix broken windows and combine the church and parents. I'm so excited to see what's going to happen in the next couple months. Because really, what happens in the future at Elevation is interconnected with what happens in my own personal future. God has done great things. God is doing great things, and He will continue to do great things. I'm so thankful that I get to be a part of this particular movement at this specific time.

February 16, 2008

"Something to blog about later"

So I promised myself that I would find some sort of blog topic tonight while I was sitting in Pastor's living room. And I feel like I don't do random "this is what I did today" posts, so I'll take one today. I played guitar hero with Holly Furtick tonight and it was phenomenal!

I'll also do a Thankful Friday/Saturday post. (Why can't I ever be thankful on Thursdays?)
I'm thankful for:
-the kids I get to babysit and love.
-the families I get to spend time with afterwards. Getting to watch Pastor and Eric play guitar hero (with some valiant attempts at a particularly difficult Rage Against the Machine song).
-the fact that God has been providing for me big time in the financial department. The next step in this one is keeping track of tithes so that I can feel like He's in control of my finances rather than just giving them to me.
-the fact that I no longer feel separated from God. HUGE!!!! My inner self has been dancing around since yesterday.
-the smell of my house. I miss being at home in Greenville, and I miss the smell of my home and my family. You never realize things have a smell until you spend significant time away from them.
-AMPLIFY!!! I'm so excited for everything about Amplify: set up, worship, the actual event.
-the possibility of spending quality time with Anita, SG and Rylee next week while Phillip is away.

February 13, 2008

Hey death...weren't you supposed to have some sort of power?

So I was reading through an old journal today and came across a time when I had been reading Hosea. Hosea is an amazing book, and the first verse I focused on after breaking up with Javy was Hosea4:12: [Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her] Because it's about God calling us back to our beginnings and starting over with us and loving us as if for the very first time. I followed Him to the desert and allowed Him to help me start over. So this was a good time in my journal. The next verse that caught my eye was Hosea 13:14: [I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave is your destruction?]

and I love it.
(there's also a Shane & Shane song that says [What matter of love is this that You would say, "your sin is Mine. I'll take it to the grave." Death, oh death, where is your sting today? Death is swallowed up in victory])

I'm so glad that I was reading through my journal and found this today. I feel like this is so random because I've been focusing on Visioneering so much lately. But this reminds me how amazing and big and powerful. God MOCKS death. As humans, we see death as this horrible, inevitable, depressing element in life. But God has taken any power death ever had away from it. He freaking makes fun of death. Like death was supposed to have this huge power and consequence to it, but now it's swallowed up in victory.
I also found something I wrote almost a year ago that is so relevant to what I'm feeling every day today. I'll probably blog about that later. I'm happy to have this random spurt to remind me that I have felt very close to God pretty recently. Also, reading through old journals reminded me that as hard as certain things are for me these days, I have honestly come so far. Praise God for that.

[we love You, Jesus
in and out of seasons
on valleys and on top of mountains
even now, we love You]

February 11, 2008

Emotionally Tied

"Before God can entrust you with the rewards that accompany success, you must be dependent. He brings you to that place by stretching and even straining your faith...So be encouraged. The agony you are experiencing is normal. The loneliness you feel is to be expected."

Thanks Andy Stanley.
There are a lot of things coming up in my life. I may only be a sophomore in college, but real life is quickly approaching. So to me, I feel like everything needs to start falling in place so I can really figure out God's vision for my life. With that said, I feel like there's a huge piece missing. But reading Visioneering (at least the above quote) and talking to certain friends reassures me that the separation I'm feeling from God is:
1. temporary, and
2. for a good reason.

Last night when I was freaking out (because what felt like the weight of 4 years of struggling through my faith and Christianity came crashing down on me all at once after a ridiculous adrenaline rush and a really long day), Rob said something that hit me and really encouraged me. While he was praying for me, he said that I was "emotionally tied" to God and that's why it's so painful for me to feel like I'm not as close to God as I can be. I know God built me with intense emotions that play a huge role in my decision-making and my general life. I know those emotions dictate the way I interact with people, but I guess I forget that that means I have the potential to seriously interact with God in a deeply emotional way. I think God has infinite qualities and characteristics and He put certain, different ones in each of us. These are the traits He's given me, and He's given them to me so that I can use them to reach back to Him. So now it's my job to figure out how to stop those emotions from overwhelming me (kind of like last night) so that I can use them to connect to God like I know He wants me to.

February 10, 2008

I think I'm learning

I've been having a huge problem with feeling God personally lately, duh. I need to hold on to nights like tonight when I'm struggling with that. I had a phenomenal time getting to worship on stage tonight for the live recording. The energy was so intense, and the atmosphere was fantastic. Half the time I was up there I was just laughing at what God has been doing in the past 2 years for us and what He was doing right in front of me right at that moment; He puts so much joy in me. It was a good night. But somehow all of that buildup came crashing down on me afterwards. I don't really know what happened. But I can tell you that Jesus held me tonight.

God held me in the form of two amazing people wrapping their arms around me, praying for me and dealing with my sweat, tears and snot (yeah, I don't care if it's gross, Jesus spit in people's eyes, okay?) I just need to hold on to moments like these where I'm surrounded (literally and figuratively) by encouragement and hope for my life. I have a long way to go and I'm already tired, but I believe God will continue to send me people to hold me and love me and maybe that's how He'll become personal to me again.
...it sucks and it hurts. but there's pain in the process, so I've been told.

P.S. Thanks, Phillip, for sending me home. I'm going to sleep now.

February 5, 2008

We've Lost our Rights

One of the cooler concepts I've read about so far in Visioneering is the one where Andy Stanley says

"As Christians, we do not have a right to take our talents, abilities, experiences, opportunities, and education and run off in any direction we please. We lost that right at Calvary. But then, why would we dream of such a thing? God has a vision for your life. What could possibly be more fulfilling than that?"

God has given us all of these things, not for our own gain or benefit, but to serve Him. He paid the ultimate price in sending His son to die for us, and therefore, we are in debt to Him. He saved our lives. We owe Him our lives. This means that we are meant to use our lives the way He wants us to. So the vision He has for our lives is incredibly important. We can't just run around and do whatever we want with our careers, our marriages, our children, our lives. And this is really counterintuitive because we're selfish and we want to do what makes us happy or what gets us the most money or the most attention.

The best part is that He knows exactly what He wants from us. All we need to work on is searching for that and following through with it.
I'm confident that the past 2 weeks have been a huge jump for me and the narrowing down of my vision. I guarantee that the majority of my blogs in the next couple weeks will deal with vision and what that means and what mine is and how God is shaping me to find it. It's something that has become imperative out of nowhere, but God is reassuring me with people and events and resources to help guide me towards my future. And the future is a huge mix of excitement and anxiety. I'm so nervous for what the next months hold, specifically the summer. I want more than anything to stay here and continue learning from the staff and volunteers at Elevation and push through my doubts to really discover God's specific vision for my life. Just thinking about it makes me nervous, but I've got to remember that God already knows where I'll be and that's what matters.

Anyways, I really just like the concept that when Jesus died for us, we lost all of our rights to run rampant with any idea or ability we discover. They all come from Him, they all belong to Him, and they should all be used to serve Him.

February 4, 2008

Deliver Us

So, because it seems like a direct command from God these days, I've started reading the book of Nehemiah. I've been getting a lot out of it and I'm almost finished, but something stuck out to me in a big way just now.
I'm reading in chapter 9 where the Israelites are confessing their sins and looking back on what has happened in the past between them and God. It's a pretty long reflection that involves God's people working for Him and God's people turning their backs on Him. One specific part in the middle caught my attention and made me realize how back-and-forth we are with God but how He is entirely faithful and forgiving:

They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore You did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, 'This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,' or when they committed awful blasphemies...They committed awful blasphemies . so You handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to You. From heaven You heard them, and in Your great compassion You gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies. But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then You abandoned them to the hands of their enemies so that they rules over them. And when they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven, and in Your compassion You delivered them time after time.

God puts up with a lot of crap from us. Sorry, that's the best way I can think to put it from my perspective. We are so wishy-washy. One day we claim to love and follow Him, and the next we've turned our backs to worship material possessions and people. But God is faithful, persistent and patient. We're going to turn our backs on Him many more times before we die, and He will never let go of us. I read this passage and am amazed by how He is so unnecessarily true to us. He has every right to turn His back on us every day, but He pursues us because He knows we will continue to need Him and turn to Him.
Nehemiah sets a phenomenal example as a leader: he is constantly in prayer and in action for God. He knows that the two go hand in hand. He leads his people on, but he helps them understand that they are so far beyond blessed to have a God who is constantly willing to forgive them. It's the same for us today. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we deliberately go against what He wants for us, and no matter what, when we cry out to Him to save us, He comes to our rescue.

February 2, 2008

Keep Moving

I don't even know where to begin.
Orange Tour was phenomenal. I feel like I'm going to be thinking and talking about it for the next couple weeks (and I'll try and keep most of that to thinking, rather than constantly talking about it, for your sake). And the sad thing is, that right now in this blog, I won't even end up putting anything specifically about what I learned from the conference, mostly because I'm still processing an abundance of information.
I don't know if I've ever understood the concept of becoming truly humble about something. I mean, I understand it, but I don't think I figured out what it would feel like when it happened. But this weekend, I walked around in awe of the position that God chose to put me in for the weekend. I'm almost sure that I was the youngest person in that room. While age doesn't mean much to me here, I feel like that's a way to put it in perspective right now. I was surrounded by people who knew different things than I did. Who knew more than I did. Who saw things differently.
My point is that I'm thankful for the random (to me, not to God) chance that someone couldn't go to OT this weekend and I got to take their place. It helped me understand that God hasn't given up on me and hasn't abandoned me to figure out my life on my own. He has a vision that He's nudging me towards step by small, painful step. He's using events, circumstances, resources and people to help me figure it out. And I feel better about everything now. And the best part is that when you can clearly see Him in the process of mapping out something in your life, it's much easier to remember that He is personal. That He is Love and He has the potential to be my best friend if I would learn to trust on Him before anything else. I feel like and I hope I'm moving forward and for a while I'm done with standing still in my walk with Him.