“Click to Listen…”

*P.S.A.* I hate this post already. This is definitely the cheesiest, most emo thing I’ve written thus far. Also, this writing is brief and more of a contemplative monologue than anything. But I said I wanted to write down my thoughts……smart move on my part. So, here are some thoughts to ponder. Enjoy, I guess.

Tonight, I was feeling anxious so I got in my car and started to drive. It didn’t matter where. I do that a lot. Weird, I know, but I actually enjoy driving. It seems most people hate it but I find the solitude of my car to be a very cathartic place. It gives me time to myself, time to think (no surprise there), and time to completely blast music at an obnoxious volume. Tonight I ended up in a random neighborhood and took a walk. I realize this was probably an unwise and slightly unsafe decision, considering how late it was, but I needed fresh air. I left my phone in the car and walked to a dimly lit curb and continued to drink my crappy 7-11 coffee.

***ok, completely unrelated but can I just vent on coffee for a sec? I love coffee. It’s my lifeblood. But flaunting your fancy, organic, whatever coffee at the newest whatever hipster shop you’ve discovered doesn’t make you cool. It makes you annoying. No one cares. I love a cup of quality coffee but at the end of the day, any kind of coffee will do as long as it gets the job done. I’m sure many would firmly disagree with me on this.***

But okay, anyways, upon finding a decent spot, I closed my eyes and tried to shut my brain off and just be still, if only for moment. As I sat, I breathed in a deep breathe of crisp air and started to observe to the noises around me. It’s surprising what you discover when you don’t have a screen glued to your face. I heard cars zooming by, the opening and closing of bus doors, trash cans being rolled in, people talking, the wind blowing….it was really lovely, actually. Then this thought hit me, “You just need to listen.” Perhaps God was speaking to me in this moment, I’m not sure. But I sensed it was important to pause and focus on what I could hear, instead of what I couldn’t.

My life gets wildly busy at times. There seems to be an ever growing list of tasks to accomplish, that for whatever reason, never get done. That’s mostly my fault, seeing as I am a self – proclaimed professional procrastinator. I just keep putting things off, one by one because I know it’ll somehow get done, right? I find I do this with many other things as well and unfortunately, I tend to do this with God. I severely dislike that about my character, like, why do I do that? Why would I close myself off to the one answer to every problem I’m facing? Hearing his voice is such a perplexing thing to say sometimes, because what IS his voice? Ninety nine percent of the time, it’s not audible (I envy the one percent), it’s not loud, and it’s not always clear. But his voice speaks truth, and why would I want to deny that? I’m guessing its because I don’t want it most of the time. Sad but true. But in that moment on the curb, I just felt I needed to be still.

That tug on your heart, the small voice in your head that urges you to do the right thing, I believe that to be God’s voice revealed through His Spirit. It can speak at any moment. Maybe it’s speaking to you now and you’re not even aware. He reveals himself is the most peculiar ways sometimes and it takes an open heart and mind to see it. But openness without willingness is worthless. You can be open to hear the voice of God, but are you willing to listen to what He has to say? Are you willing to meditate on in it? Are you willing to live it out in obedience? These are the questions that stir my spirit in those quiet moments. He has promised that if we can ask, seek, and knock, He will open the door to those who humbly seek Him.

We are so blessed. Like, SO blessed! I can’t comprehend the magnitude of His love and his kindness. As we listen to him, he also listens to us. He wants to know us. He wants to communicate with US despite every mess we’ve made. What a gift. Why would I ever deny this? “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)

I strive to listen and seek Him in prayer. To still my spirit, and listen, despite the chaos. It’s not easy but it is well worth every moment. You should try it too. You might actually hear something.

 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

“I Love You, All Too Much”

As I sit here in my bed, I realize just how much I love the night. It’s in those hours I find inspiration. I suppose for many, it’s a pause from the chaos around you as well a moment to think and relay the occurrences of daily life. For me, it’s less of a pause and more of an unrelenting burst of creative objectives. I do think a ton, don’t get me wrong. As I established before, my mind does wander dangerously at these times. However, I also experience an overflow of beautiful things such as musical inspiration and words teeming of spiritual contemplations (like right now). It’s a time I tend to stop and behold the gift of this life I’ve been given.

One thing in particular I often think of with immense gratitude is just how much love I’ve been fortunate enough to experience in my life thus far. God has placed some phenomenal people in my path that I’ve been blessed to be able to, as singer Nat King Cole so eloquently put it, “love and be loved in return”.  I know this to be true and I do believe wholeheartedly that this is the heart of Father. In fact, I know it is. Jesus says in John 15: 9-17, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Upon first reading this, to “abide in His love” appears easily done. However, I’m sure we all know that this is no simple task. I find myself repeatedly learning this truth daily. Even now I think, what IS love? There are various types. Romantic love, the love of a parent for their child, the love (or perhaps, passion) of a certain interest or hobby, just to name a few. But none of these hold the weight of the love of Jesus. His love is immeasurably more immense than I can even bring myself to think about at times. It boggles my mind to the point of insanity if I think of it too much, simply because it is too vast for my human brain to conceive.

1 John 4:8 states, “God is love.” To know God’s love for us is the closet thing to heaven on earth. I don’t believe God has only given this love for a handful of favored or seemingly “spiritual” individuals but outlines it as an ordinary part of the Christian experience. And fortunately, we can experience this affection in the same way as every believer to come before us. Romans 5:5 says “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  I immediately notice the words “poured out”. His love has been poured out like a flood to our hearts. This suggests that it is a free- flowing love, free of all reservation and restraint. This is what I long to exude in my life; a love so deep that no boundary could halt the outpouring of His love from my spirit.

However, I continue to notice with greater frequency that this love has been seemingly watered down over time. In society today, the word “love” is tossed around with irreverence and a sense of entitlement attached. His love is perceived by many as just something that will enhance one’s present situation. By all means, it something that will greatly increase the path of life. Well actually, it is the ONLY thing that has given us life to begin with and there are vital aspects not to missed. God exhibits an undeserving kind of love, and in order for that to stand true, that would assume, we as humans are not worthy of it at all. It has been given to us sacrificially. So if we are to follow Jesus’ example, shouldn’t we be living sacrificially, as was done for us? Shouldn’t we be not only receiving but repeatedly outpouring that same love onto others?

One of my favorite authors, Dietrich Bonhoffer, wrote in his book “The Cost of Discipleship“, “Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. ‘All for sin could not atone.’ Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin…Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”

God paid a great price to know and love us. It cost him his life, so why would we ever assume that loving in return would be free of any self denial? Would true love let one  blatantly disregard the sin in their heart? On the contrary, our love should be reflection of the atonement made on our behalf which calls us to a much higher standard of living. True love means true justification of sin.

I also see two obvious attributes of God’s love. Firstly, God’s love showcases His goodness. His love is perfect and He treats his beloved his great affection, dealing with us kindly and generously. Secondly, God’s love shows his goodness towards sinners. He has given us his grace, as well as his mercy. He has shown love to who someone might deem unloveable. His kindness and goodness is extended through grace and His compassion and forgiveness shown by mercy. God’s does not love us because we are good, God will make us good because He loves us.

I have not always understood these principals adequately. Of course, we learn these lessons through experience and I can think of several that have revealed my inner struggle to truly love as Christ loved. One experience in particular stands out in my mind. I will try to make this brief…

I have been with the same man for 11 years. In its beginning stages, love is wonderful and you find hardly any fault in the other person. They are sanctified in your mind and nothing can come between you, or so I thought. My husband and I didn’t say ” I love you” until about two and a half years into our relationship (which I know is a very long time for most) and, I fully believed that I was in true, lasting love with him. I was so young and undoubtedly filled with great affection but as I got older, I realized that even after all that time, I hadn’t really meant (or rather, understood) what I was saying. I don’t think I would have laid my life down for him in the face of an impending tragedy. I don’t think I would have freely forgiven him if a problem had arisen. Back then, I might have thought I would because I thought I knew what love meant but I was in love with the idea of love and the idea that there was someone out there who was giving me his undivided attention. Selfishness really exposes itself here. I was only thinking about myself and what I had to gain. I once read the so- called “love chapter” of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. It reads “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”. I would think about my how proud I was of myself, that I was treating my boyfriend with these qualities. *so cheesy, I know. I was 15, ok?* But over the years, I would find myself crossing off a phrase one by one, until I was left reading a passage that defined everything I was NOT doing. It was a sobering moment. That was a turning point for me.

Now when I examine my relationship, not only with my spouse but with family, friends, etc., I have come to understand love’s meaning (or at least, in part). It requires endless sacrifice, forgiveness, humility, grace, and mercy. It’s about reversing the popular mindset from what God can do for me, to what I can I do to serve Him. Not to say that I understand it fully because I don’t believe I will ever have the capacity to do so. I make mistakes. I’m discovering in this particular phase of life, that love, in all its deep complexities, has the capacity to fill many spaces in one’s heart. But the one thing I know, with all certainty, is that God has called me to this charge: “to love one another as I have loved you”. (John 13:34)

I surrender to the fact that I am a daily work in progress. The cost of one’s own life for the life truly intended is a persistent struggle for me. But God, in His grace, is faithful to complete the work He has started. When I think of the cost of God’s love, I’m overcome with gratitude because it is “by grace we have been saved”. (Ephesians 2:5)

 

“Why do I let my loyalties be divided, so that God does not have my whole heart?” – J.I.Packer

 

“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” – C.S. Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

“Knowing Him, Knowing Us”

The mind is an unpredictable place. It seems as though mine has a mind of its very own and will run wild with an inner dialouge I might not have necessarily welcomed. I often ponder small moments, dream about the big ones, as well as find myself crawling my head into a dark space where it could be dangerous to escape. 

But this is when I pause and am reminded (convicted, rather), “Why am I always only thinking about me? How could I be so consumed with myself?” Because frankly, I am (a painful admission to make but probably the truest one I can). I know that the obsession with self kills the soul. So why do I continue? 

Of course, I know the answer. Simply put, I am fallen human who’s desperately in need of saving. I also think it’s because I want validation. I desire comfort and stability. Somewhere inside of me, there’s a belief that I know what’s best for my soul and will do whatever is necessary to obtain it. Basically, I want what I want when I want it. I know we all have this struggle but how rewarding can this be? How could I ever possess freedom in it’s truest form with that perspective? 

I’m not a particularly goal oriented person. I do have goals, of course, but I find that I am not worried with achievement and much as I am with the journey. I desire the depth and beauty of life and find great meaning in the bigger picture. However, I believe what makes life worthwhile is having a healthy balance of an objective big enough to catch our imagination as well as our personal goals and dedication. And what bigger goal is there than to know God?

But what does that entail? Is knowing God a feeling, like goosebumps on your arm? An audible interaction? Is it a vision? Perhaps some sort of intellectual experience? I’ve come to understand that knowing God is a simultaneous mixture of complexity and simplicity. The more complex the object, the more complex our understanding must be. Knowing God goes beyond how you would “know” a friend, a language, or a skill. Firstly,  knowing God would be an acceptance of salvation, believing in His Word and living out its teachings, and living as His Spirit would call you to. There’s great beauty in the second, which is really knowing God deeply in your soul, similar to how a husband “knows” their wife and visa versa. You love one another, continually take responsibility for the other, and unrelentingly sacrifice on one another’s behalf. It’s a mutual connection and intertwining of the mind and heart. 

The obsession with self proves this “knowing” to be a difficult task to carry out. Knowing requires giving time to the one being known. Giving up time on someone else’s behalf requires giving up your personal freedoms. It’s a vicious circle of pride and selfishness. But I believe it can be done. It can be done because God says it can. That’s as good of an answer as I can give. 

In the last year, I faced some highs and contrastingly, several very deep lows (most of which were entirely a result of my own stupidity). I had never felt loss, confusion, and brokenhearted-ness so deeply and I had begun to wonder if God’s promises were too far beyond my reach (or if I was just too stubborn to grasp them). 

In these moments, I believe there are two choices. The first would be indulging in self pity, wallowing in pride, and continuing to live a life with only fleeting glimpses of satisfaction and happiness. The second, although more costly, proves much simpler; acknowledging and abiding in God’s holiness.

But what is God’s holiness? How could I ever be able to comprehend it? How could I ever live with the assurance that He actually is who He says he is? “The holiness of God is not to be conceived of as one attribute among others. It is rather a general term representing the conception of God’s consummate perfection and total glory. It is His infinite moral perfection crowning His infinite intelligence and power” (R.C. Hodge).  I must believe God is holy not only because He claims to be but if I refused, I would be labeling Him a blatant contradiction, which is the complete antithesis of His nature. John 17:17  states, “Sanctify them by the truth, Your Word is truth”.  God himself is truth. His very being defines it.  “When we consider the holiness of God, it may seem impossible for imperfect creatures like us to obey His command to, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). How could we ever set ourselves apart from sin? I can only believe it is by choosing to accept Christ and living in surrender. “I am the Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the father accept through me” (John 14:6).   God knew who He was creating, and I believe He intended for each one of us to receive His holiness. 

Honestly, all I want is to do is live in surrender, especially of my mind and heart. I simply cannot go on living in selfish complacency. It only continues to painfully wear down my body and soul. However, I am becoming grateful for pain because through its refinement comes unexpected beauty. When I think about this, I’m overcome with awe. It brings hope to my spirit. He has so much in store. If we would just focus on acknowledging His holiness, His joy, and His peace and choose to make a daily exchange of our own narrative for His, life will be “immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). 

“We cannot possibly work these thoughts out here. But merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know not merely that we know God, but that He knows us.” – J.I. Packer