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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Israelite Days

Some of you may have seen my status on Facebook and quirked your heads. "Huh? How is she an Israelite?"

Allow to me shed a little light on the subject. *dramatically pulls light chain* (That's from a movie...do you know which one?)

I was reading through Psalm 78 the other night and was profoundly stunned. The author continuously spoke of the Israelites and how they would constantly forget how God had performed miraculous signs and delivered them out of Egypt, even the generation that was there for that event. The whole first part of the Psalm is all about how we need to teach the future generations of all the good things the Lord has done so that they will keep His commands and they would put their trust in Him.  That's the goal. That's what Sunday School and family devotion time is meant for.

But verse eight says: They would not be like their ancestors—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him." It goes on to say that the people had forgotten what God had done in the presence of their ancestors. The author outlines what God did...all those amazing miracles and signs like the parting of the red sea and the pillar of fire and how He broke the rocks in the desert to provide them with water to quench their thirst.

"But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High. They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved." (Psalm 78:17, 18)

It didn't stop. They were never satisfied. They wanted more and more, ignoring the beautiful things God had done previously. Their doubt and their arrogant attitudes angered God, "for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance." (verse 22) But He still provided for His people, raining manna and quail for them to eat. Sounds a bit like Americans and other privileged people doesn't it? Never satisfied with what they have...

But what cut me the most was the snaky way the Israelites came back to God. "In spite of all of this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe. So he ended their days in futility and their years in terror. Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant." (Psalm 78:32-37)

As Sylvester Stallone put it in the film Oscar, "He flatters you to your face while he sticks a knife in your back." This was the Israelites. This was their attitude. When they were being beaten and defeated, they crawled back to God, praising Him for everything He had done in order to gain back His protection. But as soon as they got what they wanted, they tossed Him aside.

Have you ever done that? I have. And I'm not proud of that. God is my plan L half the time...not even plan B. I try to fix things first instead of going to God in prayer from the very beginning. I forget about the great things He's done in my life. I forget about the great things He's done in my parents' lives. I forget the great things He did in Egypt so many years ago. As George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

I am an Israelite.

But I can't stop there. I can't use my heritage and my attitude as a reason to give up and remain as I am. God gave the Israelites so many second chances, and He has and will do the same for me. God is merciful and just all in one...He will never leave me, not for good. There were times He left the Israelites and allowed them to be beaten back in order to teach them valuable lessons. But He still loved them. A father disciplines who he loves. Yes, I have days where I am akin to the Israelites, but that doesn't mean I always will.

Father, create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10) Father, create a fresh slate, a new attitude. Don't let me fall into the same failures of the people of Israel. Help me to recognize your power and glory daily. Lord, I ask that you would keep me on the right path, always taking steps forward instead of falling behind. I don't want to question what you have done or what you will do. I want to question what your will for me is. Thank you for everything you have done to save me from myself. Thank you for loving me when I've strayed; when I've forgotten. You are so good to this Israelite.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to be a Good Girlfriend 101

I do not claim to be a perfect girlfriend. Heck, I'm not even a perfect person! I lie, I get manipulative, I get angry. Yes, I am one of those people who suffers from road rage and will yell, very loudly, at the idiots on the road. When I get mad, sometimes I want to hit things, but I'm afraid of breaking my hands so I just get grumpy. Sometimes I do hit things. When I get hungry, I get mad. I am one of those hangry people. I have my faults.

And that's okay.

I'm not supposed to be perfect. Okay, yes, that's how God originally intended us to be when He created us in His image, but He gave us the freedom to choose. And we chose wrongly from the beginning. And he knows that. And He loves me through it. That's why it's okay.

But back to the "not being a perfect girlfriend" thing.

Because I've really only been in one relationship (I don't count the guy I liked all through high school...you kind of have to go out for that be a thing), I really am clueless to the workings of a dating relationship. What is this thing called timing? And what is the appropriate amount of time to spend with the other person? Chuck every single romantic comedy chick flick you've ever seen. They aren't a good representation of this. Sure, they show you that couples have problems, but they usually get resolved in under two hours of real time. There's passionate moments of romance, and sometimes ones that really should be ignored, and tense, loud fights that feature a lot of yelling and the occasional violent act of throwing something or punching someone.

Maybe your relationship looks like that. But not mine.

We've fought once, I think. We started laughing in the middle of it when Dallas asked if we were having a fight. So maybe that doesn't count. We have our disagreements, but we rarely are angry at each other and if we ever are, we work it out as quickly and calmly as we can.

So what do I mean by "I'm not a perfect girlfriend"?

Because every day I feel like I'm doing something incredibly wrong.

Like I said, I've never been a girlfriend before. I don't know this thing called personal space. I live with three to five other girls on a daily basis at school. Personal space is curled up in your bowl chair with headphones and Netflix. Personal space is practicing with your back to the practice room door. Personal space is going to the upstairs of the student center where all the mushy couples are making out and setting up homework shop. They won't bother you and you certainly won't bother them.

But when I'm home, with working parents, and quite of bit of spare time on my hands, personal space gets old really quick. And it gets boring. This is when I start to second guess myself. For the last six months, I've really gotten the hang of the long distance, I'm two hours away at school and he's here working my polar opposite schedule so we barely talk during the week. I'm good at that now. But being at home, only twenty minutes away, but often working when he's free and being free when he's sleeping...I don't know what to do with that.

I get jealous when he gets to spend time with friends and I don't get to see him. I get selfish. Sometimes I swear I'm being clingy and I hate that. I hate the negative parts. I want to be a good girlfriend in this regard. I want to be a good example for my kids one day as well as for my peers who are single or in bad relationships. But I constantly feel like a failure.

That's just me. It's all in my head. No one is ever "good" at this girlfriend thing. And vice versa, no one is ever good at the boyfriend thing. We're all really confused human beings that start running around in circles chasing tails we don't even have. That's me when I beat myself up when I shouldn't. Jesus called us sheep. Sheep are kind of dumb when they don't have a good leader. They just kind of wander. And get into trouble. Lots of trouble. Remember the parable of the lost sheep? Yeah, we get ourselves into trouble.

But I've realized the reason why I freak out about if I'm a good girlfriend or not, or if I'm being clingy or aloof, etc, is because I'm not always a good Christian. I start to focus too much on my relationship with Dallas and forget about my first love: Jesus. Jesus is the reason Dallas is even in my life. Jesus is the perfect model for love. Jesus is THE role model.

I heard in a sermon once that your relationship with a person is judged by your communication with that person. That hit me hard and twist my priorities around, but I manually twisted them back to where I was comfortable. God demands all of me, and no, I don't think He sings John Legend. When I signed up for this Christianity thing, it wasn't a half and half, only when I want to contract.

This is for life. Being a Christian is a lifelong commitment to God, and that includes spending quality time with God and communicating with Him. Quality time is my love language...so why don't I love God the way I know best?

Because fill in the blank. Food, running late, sleep, homework, friends, etc. I pray as I go. But God doesn't want a "walk with me" relationship. That's so temporary sounding. Whenever I say that to someone, I am in a hurry and need them to summarize their problem in ten seconds or less so I can give them a five second quip of advice and move on. No, God requires a "live with me" relationship, where I spend more time seeking Him and sitting in His presence than distracted by my own agendas.

Whoa Angel, you went from "I don't know how to be a good girlfriend" to "I am actually a pretty crappy Christian". Calm down girl, you're way to hard on yourself!

So what? Sometimes, you have to criticize yourself in order to recognize your downfalls and fix them. Yes, there is a line of self criticism that should not be crossed...that I cross often. Just ask Dallas. He probably has a tally chart somewhere. I will have reached the 70 times 7 forgiveness model Jesus set in place before we've been dating a year. (No, he does not keep track of those, that's ridiculous!)

What I want you to take away from this is to pay attention to your relationship with God. When you're freaking out over your relationship with someone else, maybe you need to treat God with the same level of importance as this other person. God deserves it. He demands it.

He loves it. Because it's you. And He loves you.