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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Birthday Letter to Jesus

Dear Jesus,

Happy birthday! I wish I had all the best gifts in the world to lay down at your feet, but all I have is myself. Yet that's all you want. The best gift you could receive from me is me.

Jesus, above all the presents I have ever received; new shoes, new clothes, the promise of another's love...they all pale in comparison to you. Jesus, you are the best present I've ever gotten!

I'm not saying this because it's the thing to say or because I should be a good example to others.  I'm saying it because it's true...because without you, my life would not be how it is today. I wouldn't have grown up the way I did, I wouldn't act how I do, I wouldn't have fallen in love like I have. Without you, life would be a living hell.

You are the best Christmas present ever!

Love,
Angelica

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Process of Elimination

*WARNING: this blog post will deal with more adult themes (relationships and affairs).  No, there are no disgusting descriptions.  Just the topics.  Read on with discretion.  And remember who's writing this...it's naive Angelica.*

Some of you are familiar with the singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran.  He's a Rupert Grint look-a-like, a British redhead, and is widely popular with his song "Thinking Out Loud".  Seriously, if you haven't watched the music video, stop reading this and go find it.  You will die from the adorableness.

His song "Don't", reached the Top Ten in the US in 2014.  It's more intense than your usual break up songs.  It's more of a casual telling of the relationship with a passive aggressive response.  In the original version of the song, he uses the f-word in the chorus.  However, in most of the recordings you find now, particularly on Spotify, the word has been removed.

The first verse of the song recounts how Sheeran entered into this relationship.  And yes, it insinuates some inappropriate actions.  Again, use your discretion when listening to this song, especially with younger children around.

Verse two.  Now, he's describing how their relationship works.  They both make money the same way "four cities, two planes the same day".  "For a couple weeks I only wanna see her".  (Hey, a one woman man, nice!)  Before, he could only reach her by text message, but now "she's staying at my place and loves the way I treat her."  Remember that last part...she loves the way he treats her.  That's very key for the third verse of this song.

But verse two isn't all fine and dandy.  You get to the end and find that he was confused about how she was kissing him.  Should have written it down...

Wait what?  She seems to be awfully fickle doesn't she?

Just you wait.

Knock knock knock on my hotel door
I don't even know if she knows what for
She was crying on my shoulder
I already told ya
Trust and respect is what we do this for
I never intended to be next
But you didn't need to take him to bed that's all
And I never saw him as a threat
Until you disappeared with him to have sex of course
It was not like we were both on tour
We were staying on the same ___ hotel floor
And I wasn't looking for promise or commitment 
But it was never just fun and I thought you were different
This is not the way you realize what you wanted
It's a bit too much, too late if I'm honest
All this time God knows I'm singing...

Trust and respect.  What a concept!  To me, that doesn't seem like the logical reasons for having a relationship that really had no intention of going anywhere.  If you didn't really plan to have commitment in the relationship, then why was trust and respect the reason behind all of it?

Because we want to be wanted.  We want loyalty.  We want honesty.  We want love.  It's inbred in us.  After all, we're made in God's image...and He wants that from us.

I think the line that strikes me the most in this song says "This is not the way you realize what you wanted."  How many times do we call for trial and error in figuring out our lives?  Sure, you might say, "But Angel, all I'm trial and error-ing is my college major!  That's not nearly as bad as figuring out who you wanna date."  No, I agree, it's not.

But it's all about commitment.  Trial and error is so often related to commitment and perseverance through the hard times and bumps in the road.  Commitment through the dry spells and the stormy ones.  Whether it's a relationship, a job, a major, a class, or even something as simple as a five minute conversation.  It all boils down to commitment.

Commitment is scary; it means we have to grow up just a little bit more.  And nobody really likes that.  But owning up to our mistakes is even scarier.  

We are all guilty, in some way, of backing out.  We either get scared of the commitment or we start looking at our options again and decide we want to try something new.  We look around and see all the potential around us and quickly become discontent with our original surroundings.  Now, I know God puts us in places for seasons and takes us out of them for reasons, but I'm talking about when we take control.  That's when things get hairy.  And that's when people get hurt.

Can we be a generation that commits to something?  Can we persevere and hold tightly to the Almighty God even when other people go through trial and error and trial and error over and over again?

Jesus did.

With you.

Yes you.

I want to be like that.

Do you?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I Believe in Love

Now, don't freak out.  This is not going to be one of those mushy gushy blog posts about love and flowers and stuff.  Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely a hopeless romantic, without a doubt.  But that's not what my point is, anything romantic related.

Hopefully, you all know the four different kinds of love (one of them I didn't really know, so it's okay if you only know three.)

There is storge love, which is affection.  Brotherly love.  Love between a family or family figures.  We may not be able to choose our family, but we can definitely choose to love them, particularly when you don't want to.  That's what family does anyway, right?  :)

Next is philia; friendship love.  Sometimes, I think that the bond of friendship is one of the strongest bonds you can have.  Yeah, we all that one friend.  Are you thinking of someone?  You should tell them how much you love and appreciate them...just saying :)

Then there is eros...romance.  Okay all you married and dating folks, you ought to be with me on this one if no one else is...this kind of love is crucial to our very existence.  We are needy creatures, whether we like it or not.  While we don't technically need this love in order to, yes, reproduce, it will honestly make the growing population happier.  And happier people tend to not do so many horrible things.  Typically.

Finally, there is agape, God's unconditional love.  I know I will be absolutely useless in trying to explain this love.  Because I'm useless at understanding it.  Just know that even though you are a pretty crappy person and that you sin...a lot...God still loves you!  Even though you swung the hammer that crashed the spikes into his hands, God still is so in love with you that He wants you to stay with Him forever in heaven.

But that perfect love, as amazing as it is, is not why I'm writing this to you.  No, there is one more love that I believe in.

Tough love.

Yep, I went there.

That love that we all need but never want.  That love that actually is better for us than all of those good loves combined (except God's love,...because it is perfect.)  Tough love is what shapes us and molds us.

And I needed that today.

And an attitude check.

And yes, I made it through my lesson without crying.  Hmm...some of my biggest lessons come from violin lessons...I wonder why that is.  ;)

I have never felt confident in playing unaccompanied Bach.  I don't even know why...part of it is because my teacher is like, an expert on Bach so I'm always paranoid I'm going to completely botch it up and he's gonna flip out.  Okay, that's a little extreme, I know.  And because I'm always a nervous wreck when it comes to lessons on it, I never play it right anyway.  Gee Angel, that logic went far.

Today, Dr. Thompson asked me what made this particular movement introverted.  Thinking he was completely serious, I proceeded to answer with what I thought was truly brilliant; it's a conversation with yourself.  Turns out that was a trick question intended to be rhetorical.

And he seemed so serious when he asked it.

Darn.

We bantered a bit as I tried to come up with excuses as to why this is hard for me.  Yes, I know, that's lame and a really horrible example to others.  I feel bad about that, okay?

After a few minutes, Dr. Thompson said, "I'm going to be mean now."  That just puts everyone's mind at ease.  "You need to completely change your attitude about this music."  Basically, get over it.  Classic Dr. Thompson phrase.  But there's a reason why he tells it to me so much...

He continued telling me that I needed to learn how to love this music and love the lower half of my bow because he has given me the tools to learn it, yet he knows that I avoid it.  Hearing my professor say that broke my heart.  Yeah, he was right.  I am terrified of playing Bach, so I avoid it at all costs.  But that's not how anything gets done, by avoiding it.

I really need to stop running from my problems.  It's a really bad habit.

So there I stood, in my professor's office, broken.  Realizing how I'd disappointed him, even though he wouldn't really say it.  I could see it written all over his face.  No, I'm not a complete disappointment.  He's told me he's been proud of me several times this semester.  But this, this was different.

I think he could tell I was broken, because he added, "Don't tear up on me now!"  A little late for that, but it made me laugh.

"I'm saying this because I care about you.  It's called tough love."  Yes it is, Dr. Thompson.  Yes it is.
And I truly did need it today.  Tough love hurts, that's why it's called tough.  But that's how I'm going to learn and become a better person and a better musician.  So, thank you Dr. Thompson.  Raw honesty is brutal, but after the initial wound has been made, I start to swell with happiness, knowing you care about me and my studies more than just wanting me to get a certain phrase right.

Tough love.  I believe in it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Perfectly Known

Expectations.  They are everywhere.  They are the little fire under our butts as we go through life.  We put expectations on ourselves, our family, our friends, our students, our teachers, our children, those we choose to love, those others choose to love.  We make excuses for the necessity of these expectations, saying having high expectations is going to keep us from settling for less than best. (This does not apply to class expectations, this is merely relating to relationships between people.)

But really now?  I'm a human too.  I know these games.  We just want to avoid being hurt.  We want to keep those we love from being burned or disappointed.  Cramming statements on the lines of a page to keep a record of these expectations is simply this: distrust.  God knows us perfectly.  I mean, come on!  He created you!  He knows your needs absolutely and honestly, He knows you better than you know yourself.  He was there at your conception, and He'll be there on the day your body dies.  He knows every single moment you are going live, every interaction, every conversation.  So what gives us the right to act as if we know what's best for us?

It all goes back to letting God write your priority lists.  Our expectations can sometimes become the center and driving force behind why we do certain things.  But God is sovereign.  Let Him be sovereign.

I have a list.  I have a list of twenty-one things I want my future husband to be.  Okay, to be honest, it's more like twenty-one categories which several points under each number.  Yes, I am one of those girls.  Dreaming up a perfect man and writing down what I want him to be.  Seems harmless right?  All of us have done that at some point; daydreamed about who our future spouse would be, what they'd look like, etc.

So what is the big deal?

When we do that, we are saying what we think we need, instead of being completely surrendered to what God knows we need.  Like I said before, God knows us perfectly.  Hence, He knows perfectly what we need.  We are perfectly known.

So just be.  If you just be you, you are giving God the freedom, which he already had, to do amazing things in your life.  Don't clutter your life with all these...lists.  Just be.  Be wholly surrendered to Him and He will blow your mind.

Now, I'm not saying that it's bad to keep an eye out for red flags or negative character traits, because that isn't.  We're supposed to be discerning and make judgement calls on whether a certain person's company is going to benefit our character and relationship with God or not.  We need to have base traits that we search for so that we continue to walk along the path of Christ.

What will you do?  Will you surrender it all to God?  It's hard!  It's not something I'll be able to overnight.  This will be a daily act of getting down on my knees, bowing before my God and giving Him everything.  All my hopes, all my dreams, all my expectations.  And begging Him to grant me enough faith for the day to trust in Him and His perfect love.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Life Song

Have you ever had that moment when a song just clicked in your head?  Like, a particular line just suddenly made sense, as if the meaning just passed you by the previous hundred times you'd listened/sung the song?  That's happened to me a few times in this last week.

One of the most impacting realizations was in the song "Lord I Need You" by Matt Maher.  You all know the chorus..."Lord I need you oh I need you.  Every hour I need you.  My one defense my righteousness, Oh God how I need you."  It's a beautiful song that demonstrates our human weakness and how much we should and need to rely on God's holy power.

But there is one song in the bridge that struck a new chord (pun not intended) in me.  "Teach my song to rise to you."  What is my song?  I don't believe the artist was completely meaning a literal song with music and melody, although he could have been referring to the song being sung.  To me, though, the "song" is composed of every word I say during my lifetime.  My life song.

My life song.

What kind of a song is it?  Is it a love ballad or an amped up party song?  Is it a fun and chill tune or is it an angsty, angry song filled with a sour attitude?  What is my song?

As bad as this sounds, I don't care about what my song sounds like.  What I care about is what it will sound like.  Will it glorify God?  Will it rise to Him?  Every word I say is a part of my life song.  I can't make it rise to Christ on my own.  He has to teach me how to do that by teaching me patience, faith, understanding, and forgiveness.  Only then will my song rise to him.  My life song.

What does your life song sound like?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How Far Are You Willing to Go?

In the book of Proverbs, there are two key chapters for girls to read.  Everyone knows Proverbs 31; the Biblical example of what a godly woman looks like (which honestly is pretty scary sounding).  There are women's devotionals devoted to this book.  The other is Proverbs 7.  This is the exact opposite of the godly woman.  This is who we need to be teaching our daughters not to become.

This is the chapter devoted to the adulterous woman, the lady who waits until her husband is on a business trip before she goes out on the town and find some poor, naive guy to seduce with her eyes and her voice.  And probably her body too but we aren't going to focus on that detail.

In order to reach my point, a little context is needed.  The writer is saying he saw a simple, stupid youth walked in the direction of the adulterous woman's house.  Then she came out, "dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent".  I don't even want to know what that means.  Because I'm pretty sure she wasn't coming out to the street to scrapbook.  She grabs a hold of the simpleton, kisses him and "with a brazen face", she says in verse 14 "Today I have fulfilled my vows and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.  So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!"

Now, can you find what's wrong with this picture?  There's more than one wacky part to this whole spiel she gives.  First of all, she says "So I came out to meet you".  Does anyone else find this minorly creepy?  This woman has food ready and comes out to meet this guy in the dead of night (that was a part of the context I failed to mention previously).  We have no idea if they knew each other previously, if they'd planned this meeting ahead of time or not, or if this crazy lady makes it a habit to dress provocatively and stand at the corner of her street to entice random guys who look like idiots (or drunks) to share fellowship offering leftovers.  And other things...

But secondly, and this is what gets me every time I read this passage, she says "Today I have fulfilled my vows".  Whoop, she fulfilled her vows, so now she can do whatever the heck she wants.  Hey, she even gave a fellowship offering and has the leftovers sitting on the kitchen table, getting cold.  Why don't you come and enjoy them, and have some fun cuddly snuggle time too.  Because why not?  She fulfilled her vows.  She's done being the good wife for the day; her duty is done.  Over.  Clocked out.  Signed, sealed, delivered to the boss man to review and now she's yours.

But that's not how it works.  

From what I understand about marriage from my parents (because I'm obviously not married), it's not a check list thing.  You don't go down the page, putting an "x" in the box when you get something done.  Made the bed today; that's done.  Went to work to make money; that's done.  Told my husband about the doctor visit I had yesterday; done.  Made dinner for the family; snap it's done.  Yeah, those are all good things and very important, but it's not a series of homework assignments that as soon as they're done, you can go off the clock and play.

We run into the same conflict in our Christian walk.  We tend to mark off the list that we had quiet time and wrote deep thoughts in a journal.  I prayed today for longer than five minutes so that's done.  Now I can go off and do my own thing.  NO!  Pause, rewind, and back up.  Stop that.  We weren't saved by grace to just "go through the motions".  We were saved by grace to live a radically different lifestyle.  The thing is, going through the motions is the easy part.  That's why we give into simply fulfilling our vows: it's easy.

When we live that way, people will begin to doubt who our hearts truly belong to.  The hard part of Christianity is putting in above and beyond what your expectations are.  I'm human.  My expectations for myself in Christ is pretty lame compared to His.  I'm excited when I sit down with a couple verses and pick them apart for you guys.  But He wants, no, He demands so much more.  He demands my life.  That means I can't just fulfill my vows for the day and move on.  That means I can't fulfill my vows because they take all of me every single day.  That's the life I want to live.  No, it doesn't sound fun.  But who said following Christ would be fun?  But it will be worth it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beauty Is As Beauty Does

What is beauty?  Yeah, I know that's a frequently asked question.  There's currently a fad going around Facebook where people are challenging one another to post five pictures where they feel beautiful.  And I'm not saying that's stupid or silly.  I participated too, so don't you worry about it.  :)

However, we don't focus on what beauty is often enough.  Merriam-Webster defines beauty as "the quality of being physically attractive; the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind".  This is the definition society tends to follow.  You look at the font covers of the tabloid magazines while waiting in the check out line at Walmart and you see glaring headlines like "Stars Without Makeup".   (Oh admit it, you look at the covers of the stupid things too.)  Underneath this honestly useless topic are the most unflattering photos of, you guessed it, stars without makeup.  When did we get so focused on covering up our true skin?  Sure, it's nice to cover up the occasional zit now and then, accentuate cheekbones, make your eyes pop with color, but seriously?  Do we have to categorize beauty by the amount of foundation you cake on?  Sure, we tell our daughters, girlfriends, sisters, best friends that they don't need makeup to look beautiful, but our voices our outnumbered by insane shrieks of society.  Is it bad to try to look your best?  No, I don't think so.  But becoming dependent on makeup to make us beautiful instead of allowing our natural beauty to color our cheeks and bring a sparkle to our eyes, that's overdoing it.

Speaking of natural beauty, when did looking beautiful replace being beautiful?  I thought they were supposed to be one and the same.  Regardless of what they should be or used to be, they are now two very different things.  You've seen the movies where there is the incredibly attractive girl who could care less about what other people feel and is a complete jerk to everyone she comes into contact.  Would you call her truly beautiful?  Or does she only look the part?  And then there are those characters who aren't physically attractive (although honestly, that's all a matter of personal opinion and preference), and these characters are simply gushing with goodness and have truly beautiful personalities.  And to the viewer, they either become more attractive, or we stay stuck on the "why couldn't they have picked a cuter actor/actress for this role?"

So what does it mean to be beautiful?  Just as with looking beautiful, that is very objective.  But being beautiful can be boiled down to simply being real.  No one likes a person who is fake or two-faced.  Being yourself is the best kind of beautiful.
Being beautiful is also being kind.  Showing true kindness to others, without expecting it to be shown back, is one of the most stunning attributes of a person.  Loving with a selfless love, doing things simply out of the goodness of the heart, believing the best of others, giving second chances, listening and knowing when to advise and when to stay quiet...all these are beautiful qualities that makes an individual stand out.  (Of course, all these need to be monitored and not excessive, because if you're always giving someone the benefit of the doubt and refusing to acknowledge the sad but glaring truth in front of you, then you need to reevaluate your goodness to make sure it isn't naivety.)

But the most important point I want to make is please please PLEASE NEVER EVER COMPARE YOUR BEAUTY TO SOMEONE ELSE!!!!  It's absolutely exhausting and you will never come out on top.  You will always feel dissatisfied with yourself.  It's cliche to say be yourself, because that's the most beautiful you that you can be, but it's very true.  You are you, so you are your own kind of beautiful.  I cannot stress this enough.  If you try to be like someone else, your true beauty will fade and be replaced by figurative layers of foundation, blush, and eyeliner, maybe even literally.
Let yourself shine through, even if some people make fun of your quirks, your laugh, your size, your optimism, whatever it is.  Be the you God made.
God doesn't make junk.  He makes beautiful things...He made you didn't He?

Hold onto that.  

I don't know where you're at right now.  You may be perfectly content with who you are, which is fantastic!  You may think "My goodness, that is exactly what I keep doing!"  Also awesome.  You may be a guy.

...

If that's the case, start over, and insert "handsome" where "beauty/beautiful" is and ignore all the stuff about makeup.  Unless you're okay with being considered beautiful...then just keep reading.   

So what are you?  A beautiful face or a beautiful person?  They ought to go hand in hand, but our views on outward and inward beauty are so skewed now.  Who will you be?  It's hard to pull away from wanting to look beautiful, I admit.  What?  The blogger has serious appearance insecurities?  Heck yes I do!  I didn't start this blog to lecture you on moral issues that I have no history with.  I started this to share how God is shaping me so that I could hopefully shed some light to others.  

I challenge you to sit down and decide for yourself what you see as beautiful and compare that with Scripture.  Don't be afraid to seek out what true beauty is, even if others may laugh.  Because when someone sees the you that you truly are, they will point that out to you.  And after a while, you'll start to believe them.  You'll begin to see yourself as truly beautiful.  

But don't forget who made you beautiful at birth.  Because you were: beautiful at birth.

"There is no definition of beauty, but when you can see someone's spirit coming through, something unexplainable, that's beautiful to me."  Liv Taylor

“What you do, the way you think, makes you beautiful.” Scott Westerfield Uglies

“No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.” Eleanor Roosevelt

"I sincerely feel that beauty largely comes from within." Christy Turlington

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dethroned

Some of you know that Psalm 42 is pretty much my salvation chapter.  It was the thorn in my side, stabbing the contentment right out of me, using pain to open my eyes to the lies I was listening to.  Over and over I read the first five verses, trying to figure out why they pricked me.

"As the deer pants for streams of water, 
so my soul pants for you, my God.  
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  
When can I go and meet with God?  
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, 
'Where is your God?'
These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
 how I used to go to the house of God 
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? 
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God."

That was when I realized I was listening to the lies of the devil, "You're good enough"; "You're going to church and answer everything right in Sunday School; that's enough"; "You have good morals, you don't need to be reading your Bible outside of church".  This was three years ago at a Student Life conference.  There, I was challenged with the concept of being devoted to God, something that I'd never attempted.  Through the entire week, I  struggled with feeling discontented with my spiritual life, as well as feeling the weight of the lies on my life.  It wasn't until the last worship session--the morning we left--that I made the immediate, somewhat spontaneous, decision to let Christ hold my life.  This was honestly the third time I'd "accepted" Christ, but the first time I'd done so with an unselfish reason.  I didn't know how to do this whole "devoted" thing, but I wanted it more than anything.

I still don't know how to do it.  It's a daily struggle, to devote my life to Christ.  I knew that going into it, but it never really clicked until last night.  I shared my salvation story and these verses with one of my closest friends a couple days ago, and it stuck with me differently than it had the previous times I told the story.  I kind of pushed it away through the day, not wanting to focus on the nagging feeling.  I just wanted to enjoy the day.

But on the drive home alone later that night, dozens of thoughts began bouncing off the walls of my brain.  Now, this is pretty typical of me, but these were more overwhelming thoughts than usual.  I realized that I was starting to revert back to the excuses I'd given into in high school.

Some of you know how lately I've been feeling more driven to God and the Bible, wanting to know Him more.  So why am I still going back to simply being content with my spiritual life?  Because of excuses.  I am the queen of rationalizing.  I give a solid argument (well, I think it's solid...probably wouldn't hold up in any court) for almost any side of any problem I've faced.  But when it comes to God and the Bible, the queen needs to step down from her throne and bow down to the King of kings, no matter what.  I am the deer; I pant for God, yet I don't put forth the effort that I should.  I can't live a life of excuses.  A life of excuses is not worth living.  Now don't get all freaked out on me.  I am not saying that if you're living a life of excuses that you should take your life.  What I mean is you need to end the excuses, not your life.  Excuses keep you from growing in your faith and shining the light of Christ.  Excuses hold you down like shackles.  And if anyone knows me, I hate being held down.

So this is me, again, saying enough of the excuses.  I don't want to live that way.  I want Christ to permeate my entire life, my being, my words, my glances, my everything.  This isn't going to be the only time I do this.  I forget that most of all, that I daily have to wake up saying, "Today, God, I devote my life to you.  Do with me as you will."

So what about you?  Do you hold onto your excuses?  Do you like being a prisoner to them?  I challenge you today to look at how you're living your life.  If you're using excuses for remaining where you are, push them away.  You have potential to do amazing things, but you'll never get there if you don't take the time and put forth the effort to be better than you are.  You are amazing and beautiful and powerful even now; think of how much more you will be if you get rid of the excuses.

Will you stand dethroned with me?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sleepless Ramblings

"Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.  You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.  I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel.  My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you--I whom you have delivered.  My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion." Psalm 71:20-24

There are some nights that I have a hard time sleeping.  Yeah, sure, it doesn't help that I stay up ridiculously late reading, watching tv or just hanging out on Pinterest.  (If you're considering getting an account, walk away now.  It's a wonderful, beautiful, mind-boggling time waster that you won't be able to get away from!)  But sometimes, I can't sleep because my hypersensitive hearing kicks in, flipping the switch on my overactive imagination from "standby" to "overdrive".  I was discussing this with a friend tonight and was presented with the brilliant (and "duh Angel") idea to take a verse of Scripture, memorize it, and repeat it over and over until the fear subsides.  Seriously, why didn't I think of that?  That's a totally me thing to suggest!  *insert embarrassed face here*

So I started flipping through my Bible, trying to remember passages or verses that really struck a nerve with me when I was scared or just having a bad day.  I went to Habakkuk 3 and Zephaniah 3 before heading to the book of Psalms, because honestly, we all know that's the mother lode of verses targeting fear and uncertainty.  I turned pages, not really going to any particular chapter, just looking for underlines and highlights (after all, my Bible is like a coloring book with purpose)!

Then I got to Psalm 71.  It begins with "In you, Lord, I have taken refuge..."  Of course that was gonna pull me in!  As I read on, phrases like "deliver me" and "save me" jumped out, pulling on my shirt sleeves, (figuratively, of course, how creepy would it be if words literally jumped off of a page and pulled on your clothes?), telling me to read on.  There were many verses that I was drawn to, yet I still felt empty.  There was something else I needed from this chapter, and I needed to be patient and intentionally read every word to find the meaning God had for me in that moment.

Then, yank!  Verse twenty: "Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up."  If that wasn't the protein bar of a verse I needed, I didn't know what was.  God spoke to me directly through that verse.  He said, (paraphrasing my feelings), "My daughter, these torments you experience are so that my glory can be proclaimed.  I brought you through the robbery; I will bring you through this."  These "night terrors" I experience some nights aren't fun in the least, but they aren't going to destroy me, even though I sometimes feel that way.  Because God will restore me and I will praise Him for His faithfulness, even though I don't always feel restored.  That's what faith is for.  That's what trust means.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Underrated Notice

"Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be the king of the Jews."  Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."" (John 19:19, 21, 22)

Mom and I have been reading the Bible together out loud for a few years now.  Going to college made for a more complicated nighttime tradition.  Last night, we read John chapter 19.  It was one of those moments where you read a story you've heard thousands of times, but you suddenly see it in a different way.

When I read what Pilate wrote on the sign for the cross, I immediately thought that he was mocking Jesus.  The entire time before the crucifixion, Pilate seemed to be advocating for Jesus to be released as he couldn't find any solid reason for Jesus to be put to death.  He seemed to be acting like the good guy, so why was he putting such a sign up on the cross for all to read?

But then I kept reading.

The chief priests went up to Pilate and started complaining.  "Dude,"--(this is my paraphrase of course)--"don't make it look like you're buying into this 'King of the Jews' junk just because he said so!"  They wanted him to change it, to change the notice to say "Jesus of Nazareth, who claims to be the king of the Jews."  King, with a small "k".  But Pilate would have none of their ranting and raving, instead, he stood his ground.  "Guys, what I wrote on that notice is what I wrote.  I'm not going to change it because it ticks you off."

Now let's stop and think about this.  Pilate is a Roman official.  He's not a Jew.  Pilate is a man of many gods.  This whole "follow Jesus" thing isn't exactly up his alley.  But he is better able to see Jesus than the Jewish priests are because he's not blinded by their same laws and commands.  He sees Jesus' innocence and wants to fight for it, but can only fight so hard before he recognizes it's a losing battle.  So what does he do?  He acknowledges who Jesus claims to be.  He puts it up in big letters on a sign, telling the world that Jesus is the King of the Jews.

What is wrong with this picture?  Is it that the Roman is the one who acts like he believes Jesus instead of the God-fearing Jews?  That's what bugs me.  Shouldn't it have been the other way around?  That's the logical answer.  But God doesn't always work that way.  No, He likes to throw us little curveballs and show us again and again that He is in control and will use people how you would least expect them.  The Jews were filled with Scriptures; they knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards.  The high priests were like the professors with the PhDs.  But sometimes, the less we know, the better we can see.  And I'll let you take that however you will.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Drenched

God's presence can be felt  anywhere at anytime.  But there are those particular places where He overwhelms you with it.  Where you feel like you're drowning in life and blessings.  That place for me was Victoria Falls.

Standing at the bottom at the Boiling Pot, being peppered with the mist of the Falls, brought tears to my eyes.  (I'm pretty sure those were tears.  I'm not entirely sure because my face already had drops of water rolling off of it from the Falls.)  Every day I am met with new understanding of God's creation that takes my breath away.  But there, at the bottom of the Falls, I think my heart stopped beating as I took in swirling water, the majestic mist, the beautiful rock walls surrounding us.


But that wasn't it!  After an exhausting hike back up, our team made it's way to the top of the Falls.  The closer we got, the more deafening the roar was.  Now, as I look back, I realize that it was praise.  It wasn't just the noise the the waterfall makes.  It's so much more than that.  The loud crashing of the powerful water is a response to God.  God created the waterfall and in reply, the waterfall acknowledges the Creator by shouting it's praises.  You may think that's very Anne of Green Gables of me, but it's biblical!  Psalm 98:8 says "Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy."  Creation can and will sing God's praise.  Why shouldn't it?  


God moved in my life in many different ways while in Zambia, but none compare to the awe-inspiring moments at Victoria Falls, where I heard creation praise my Heavenly Father.  Nothing will ever compare to that.  I walked away from the Falls not only drenched with the water, but also drenched with the presence of God.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Little Blessings

Let me tell you a story.  You may laugh, thinking it's silly for me to think that it's so precious or that I shouldn't have been so trusting.  That's okay.  It reminded me that people do still help others that they do not know.

Yesterday I was sitting in the turn lane on my way to a doctor's appointment.  An SUV pulled up next to me where I couldn't see the oncoming traffic past him.  The teenage boy sitting in the passenger seat noticed that I couldn't see and turned his head to look in the direction I was.  After a couple seconds, he turned back around, smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  I returned with a smile and a thumbs up, crept forward and began turning, double checking the clearance.  As I drove away, I was in awe at the simple action.  You may think it's not important enough to have such an impact on me, but it gave me a little more faith in humanity. :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Maybe Not Your Everyday Valentine's Day Post

February...the month of pinks and hearts and love songs and, if you live in the Midwest, snow!  If you're like me, you hate this time of year.  Like, seriously hate it.  More than the Emperor hates Jedis.  It's that time of year when already established couples have an extra excuse to be cutesy and lovey dovey and those who are single tend to get a little more desperate for a date.  Now don't get me wrong, some people are absolutely adorable and I don't mind watching them around Valentine's Day.  Some people are just kinda gross.  Now, I could spend this blog post hosting a pity party for myself but that's not the purpose.

The purpose is instead to show you that there is more to February than the dreaded couples' day.  When we get to February, some people feel that they need Valentine's Day to lift their spirits as the long winter months have become almost unbearable.  Winter, that season when things seem to die and the sun disappears behind clouds.  Winter is usually tolerable from late November until January but by the time February begins, people start getting antsy.  I think that's why so much focus is put on Valentine's Day.

There is so much more to the month of February though.  It's one of those final months before spring begins, the season where all life around us is reborn.  A time of new beginnings.  Now, that may sound extremely girly and cheesy, but that's what excites me about spring.  After being stuck in winter, I feel empty and dry and need new life to feel renewed.  Sometimes I think that that's what Valentine's Day is somewhat attempting to do.  Now before you twist my words to mean something I didn't imply, understand this: this "love holiday" is not all bad.  We just put a little too much focus on it.  Honestly, I don't think you need a holiday to have an excuse to take your special someone on a fancy date or buy them flowers.  There shouldn't be a social pressure to do something like that; it should be out of the goodness of your heart instead of an unspoken guilt trip...shouldn't it?  (For those of you who really like Valentine's Day, that's great!  Glad you make it work well!)

A lot of these thoughts honestly do come out of the pity parties I hold for myself lately.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind experiencing Valentine's Day differently than I have all the other years.  (Although the time I got my license on Valentine's Day was pretty epic!)  However, I want to flip my way of thinking to focusing on a different purpose for this time of year.  This month, I want to spend time preparing myself for the things God is going to do in and through me.  I want to prepare myself for the new life I will have in my spirit.  That's the purpose I want February to have during this stage of my life.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How's Your 'Tude?

I'm gonna shoot straight with you here: my attitude currently stinks.  It reeks.  The odor is toxic and rotten.  It smells of unwashed socks and my soul is full of gunk...oh wait that's the Grinch.  But seriously, I need a MAJOR attitude adjustment!

What is my problem, you ask?  Let's just say I have not had the best outlook on some of my violin repertoire, orchestra pieces we have to play, needing to deal with people respectfully, and giving God control.  Go ahead, give me that judgmental look.  You may be tempted to raise your eyebrows at me the next time you see me.  I deserve it.

My sour attitude sometimes gets the better of me and I complain to anyone who will hear.  That's not fair to them.  Yeah, good friends are there to listen to you and bear your burdens, but they aren't supposed to be completely immersed in them!  They have their own problems to deal with.  I shouldn't be forcing them to listen to my nagging, negative words as often as I do.

What have I done about it?  Not nearly enough.  I'm the queen of excuses, so here's one: I don't take the proper amount of time to sit with God and work it out.  I mention it to Him and pray about it, but I don't do anything about it.  I don't sit and let Him show me what to do.  And honestly, in some situations, I don't want to do anything about it.  I want to be justified in my annoyance and frustration.  I don't want to change how I deal with certain people or change what I think about certain pieces of music I have to play.

But is that the way a Christian should think and act?  Yes, we are human and will resort to our sinful nature at times.  However, that is not as valid of an excuse as we would like to think.  Philippians 2:3-5 says, (I've italicized what I'm going to highlight) "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus."

Selfish ambition will look different in every person's life and stage that they are in.  Currently, mine is using my attitude as a way to get attention from people and to make me feel important.  We are called to live holy lives; that is what Paul is challenging the Philippians with.  Is that how I am living?  Right now, I'd have to answer no.

What is the mindset of Christ Jesus?  He was sinless and perfect.  He had no desire for affection from others that was gained in a less than attractive way.  Christ is the Holy Lamb of God and wants the best for us.  Is that my thought when I begin a conversation with a friend?  Or do I have ulterior motives: to get someone on my side, to say something regarding one of the situations I dislike that will cause sympathy or will be considered witty?

What about you?  What is your attitude like?  What is your selfish ambition?  Do you know the mindset of Jesus Christ?  Or are you on the same boat as me; paddling against the current with one oar of Stubbornness and the other of Negativity as you sail the SS Rotten?  This is my semester of needing an attitude adjustment.  I just need to be willing to let God take my oars and toss them overboard and guide me in the right direction for a while before fashioning me new paddles, ones of Grace and Understanding.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Improvisation...my love as well as my doom?

For those of you who don't know, I recently joined an ensemble called Jazz Combo.  This is a very small group of individuals who read music for the main theme of a jazz tune and then improvise off of the chord structure.  I decided to join this almost on the spur of the moment because I discovered that I really loved improvising.  However, I think that it can better be described as classical improvisation that is up my alley as after being in class for ten minutes I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about jazz improv and was getting killed by the three saxophonists I was creating music with.  Not exactly the best feeling in the world.

I walked out of class that day completely overwhelmed and almost in tears from embarrassment.

The next class period was better; I felt a little more confident in one solo but that was short lived.  I still walked out of class unsure of why I was there and unwilling to look my saxophone friends in the eyes.

Later, however, in a conversation with my roommate later, I came to a realization.  When you look at my MBTI results, I am an ENFJ by two points one judging scales.  That doesn't mean I'm a judgmental person, although I know I have my moments where I can be.  Instead, according to the MBTI tests, judgers are those who like to have schedules and everything organized while perceivers are more of the "go with the flow" kind of people.  When I took the test for my freshman class last year, I had only two points on the judging scale, indicating to me that I could really go either way.

It's the same way with music.  I love having structure; sheet music to follow and learn but at the same time I like having the freedom to do what I want with the music.  That's what I've found jazz music is.  You follow the main melody for a while and then you break off and play whatever you want within that chord or scales relating to the chord.  Maybe this is why I have always enjoyed listening to jazz music.

Improvisation is going to help me grow so much as a musician, but it's going to take a lot of work on my part to become comfortable with all of the details with jazz music.  Sometimes I wonder why I got myself into this, but then I remember my love for jazz and improv and that I will really benefit from it.  So I shall press on!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What an Awesome God

One of my favorite passages of Scriptures is Psalm 107:33-36.

He turned the rivers into a desert,
flowing springs into thirsty ground,
and fruitful land into a salt waste,
because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
He turned the desert into pools of water 
and the parched ground into flowing springs;
there He brought the hungry to live,
and they founded a city where they could settle.

Before you read on, go back and read those verses again.  What do you see?  What is this saying to you?  What does it mean to you?  

To me, these three verses are painting a stunningly vivid picture of the power of God.  Our God is so awesome and powerful that He can make the rivers into something so dry.  He can take a fruitful land wither and die away until it is nothing of use.  But He can also take something so dry and fill it with water to bless the whole land.  He can change the very make up of an environment with His words because of the wickedness or the hunger of the people there.  

I shiver at this power.  But it's not just in a physical sense that He does this.  God can take a religious individual and dry up their spirit because of their wickedness and their defiance so that they can see how much they truly need God and how blessed they were when He showed himself in the way that so many long for him.  He can take someone who is lost and dry and give them life.  He can pour himself into someone who is so hungry for God that they overflow; a parched ground turned into a flowing spring.

This is my God that I love.  Take a moment to revel in the beauty of Him.