Saturday, May 14, 2011

New & Improved Blog!

Introducing my new & improved blog:

The time has come to say goodbye to Blogger. I might keep this blog around for the time being, and I may even post my WordPress blogs onto here for those of you who are set in your ways, but I'd encourage you to head on over to the new site!

A new design, music & photography sections, and a clean, fresh look!
Check it out & subscribe to receive my blog by e-mail!

Love to you all,


Sunday, April 17, 2011

10 Questions

I help out with our youth group by leading a small group on Sunday nights, and it has been such a cool "out of my comfort zone" experience.  The girls I meet with are awesome - I love each and every one of them, and am challenged by them every week we meet! 

This week all of the small groups combined to form new "mixed" small groups.  4 students: 2 guys + 2 girls... plus 1 leader.  We were given a piece of paper with questions to ask the students and then we were to let them do the talking.  The purpose of this was to create openness in our youth group, to grow closer to each other, and to gain practice sharing our stories with people.  The leaders were simply there to ask the questions.

As we went through our time together, I got to think about how I would answer these questions too... so, I thought why not blog about it?!   I eliminated some questions that wouldn't make sense outside of a small group setting.... So.... here goes 10 questions:

  1. What three words/phrases would you use to describe yourself?
    Creative, multifaceted (in terms of interests), likes to be in control

  2. Name the song that best describes your life at this moment.  Why?
    "Awake My Soul" by Mumford & Sons.  This song has really spoken to me, specifically as I am going through somewhat of a change in the direction of my life.  It talks about my humanity... how fickle my heart, I struggle to find truth, stumbling upon things I don't know, and showing my weakness.  I feel like I've been learning a lot about myself, and more specifically, how God wants to use me.  Every time I hear this song, I feel reminded that it is my soul that needs to be freed up for God's purpose for me.... and that my love needs to be invested in things that really matter.   One day we WILL meet our Maker, and I want to be sure that I am living my life in a way that is truly alive & vibrant & filled with hope... a soul awakened, if you will.

  3. Describe your upbringing.  How has that affected your relationship with God up to this point in life?
    I grew up in a Christian home.... great-grandparents, parents, siblings, and almost all of my relatives are Christians.  I think as a young child, this greatly influenced me and moved me in the right direction to finding Christ.  I was only 5 when I asked Christ to be in my life.... and then when I was in about 6th grade I re-dedicated my life.  The biggest blessing that came out of this was having a safe & nurturing environment to grow in my faith.  The hardest thing, however, about growing up in a Christian home has been learning to genuinely make my faith my own.  It is so easy to fall into a routine of church and serving and "Jesus talk".  While college removed me from my home, I was still surrounded by Christians, and the temptations were minimal.  Now, after having lived in Los Angeles for a period of time, and after doing a lot of significant traveling in the past 2 years, I have realized how much time I've wasted in previous years preparing my heart and mind and body for the spiritual challenges that would come my way.  I feel like I am still learning the basics of living a different, changed life... and not because of my parents, but because that is what I genuinely believe and trust in.

  4. Describe a time when you were upset with God.  What caused the frustration?  How did you react?
    I don't know that I've ever been truly "angry" with God, but I have certainly felt lots of frustration when I don't understand why certain things happen.  The most recent I can think of are the past 2 times I was in California.  The first was for an (unpaid) internship at a music magazine in the heart of LA.  The second was for a job interview in Oceanside, CA... right in between San Diego & LA. For both of these, I felt like God was opening up doors to get started with my career working in music.  The internship turned out to be incredibly bad.  I enjoyed the people I worked with... the other interns were fun. However, I spent my days basically worked in a mail room... boxing CDs, magazines, posters, etc.  It felt like such a waste of time & money & skill.... there I was with a college degree and loads of experience, only to get put to work doing stuff that required zero skill.  I spent more money than I care to think about during those 3 months, between the $2,000/month rent & cost of living, etc... it was bad.  Then, after the opportunity presented itself to fly to CA for a job interview, only to not even get to the 2nd interview (which would have covered my transportation costs), I was very confused at why.... WHY did God let me spend SO MUCH MONEY, money that took me so long to save, for these opportunities that seemingly yielded no results?  I've since made my peace, and am hoping that God did or will in the future use those experiences for good... either for myself or in someone else's life.

  5. In what area(s) of your life have you experienced freedom that is found in Christ?
    There are many, many examples.... but right now the biggest one is the freedom that I've been experiencing with my career (or lack of one).  I feel like God has really been working in my life to show me that I don't need a big-time career to experience fulfillment &
    excitement towards life and what I am doing in life.  He has shown me how he wants to use me in ministry, even if it means only getting paid part-time and therefore having to continue living at home!  I've felt freed from the expectations of this world, and instead am experiencing such joy and hope for what is to come and how God will teach me, change me, and use me in the upcoming months and years!  Another area I've felt freedom is in physical appearance. I don't know why, but God has blessed me with a beautiful freedom of not being so worried about looks, specifically related to my weight. I am not a small, skinny girl.  I'm actually a short, stubby girl... and no, I don't like it.  BUT, God has freed me from feel self-conscious or depressed about these things, things that are real, hard issues in girls' lives.  I do have days that I do get distracted by not "feeling" pretty... but overall, I feel like God has shown me so many other ways he has placed beauty in my life, and why waste my time thinking about what beauty I DON'T have, when I can rejoice in the beauty that He has given me and wants to use in me!  Now THAT is freedom!

  6. What is one area of your life that God is working on at this stage of life?
    I feel like I kinda already hit on these.... but with the whole "career in question" stage of life I'm in, I've been really relying on God for direction.... this requires significant amounts of patience, hope, and confidence in His perfect plan for my life.  I can feel Him bringing healing from past pain, an excitement for the greater things that are yet to come, as Chris Tomlin says in his song, "God ofThis City"!

  7. What moment in your life would you describe as the moment you truly sold out for Christ?  How did that change your perspective on life?
    Hmmm, tough question.  I honestly don't know that there has ever been some sort of defining moment.  I think it's been a continual growing process.  I think I'd be lying if I said I live truly sold out for Christ.  I am still a selfish being, and while I am learning how to be sold out, I continue to sin and find ways to make life about ME, and not about HIM.  As I've grown deeper in my relationship with Christ, my perspective on life has shifted from being based on the world's view of what a successful, good life looks like.... and instead being based on how much I am allowing God to use me.  I think true fulfillment can ONLY come if you are living within God's will for your life, otherwise you will always be left wanting more.... more money, more fame, more success, more friends, or whatever else you may desire.  I am consistently learning how to better be fulfilled in Christ!

  8. In what ways have you given yourself to be used by God?
    I am trying to surrender my time more and use that time to be more involved with the ministry of the church.  I am serving as a worship leader, leading a small group with the youth, and trying to offer my services as a graphic artist, as inexperienced as I am, to help the church.  In addition, I am trying to help what few local musicians I know through the giving of my time & knowledge about the music industry, recording, songwriting, performing, etc.  The really cool thing is that the more I invest my time in these ministries, the more joy and excitement I have for doing it!

  9. What is the vision that you have for your life from this point forward?
    I'm not sure if this means spiritually or in terms of career/living/etc... but I will go with the latter.  One thing I have discovered is that I really, really love variety.  I have a hard time handling the same day-to-day tasks, and so I would really love to be able to be involved in a wide variety of ministries / activities.  Just as an example, I think it would be really awesome to be able to split my time up between marketing/office work, music, coaching volleyball, working in the church (with worship, student ministries, and everything creative arts related), and then have some free time to do random opportunities that come up.  Eventually, sometime I'd like to be married and later down the road possibly have children.  I even envision possibly adopting a child from another country.  I constantly have ideas of things I'd like to get involved in, which works well in my favor when life is so inconsistent!  I am able to adjust my vision and find a new vision!

  10. If you could meet face to face with God, what is the one question that you would want answered?  Why?
    Yeah, pretty sure I don't have a solid answer for this.  I have a feeling that when I meet God, it's going to be a pretty intense time... you know, with the judgement and all going on.  It's going to get uncomfortable.  So, I might try to lighten the mood a bit.  Like... what was the one thing that happened in my life that made him laugh the most?  Or, what's the best joke he's heard.  I mean, he's heard them ALL, so I bet he's got some good ones stored up.... I'd like to hear them!

And there you have it.  10 Questions.  10 Answers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Discover Your Potential

Here are a few things you can do to embrace your inner child, uncover your hidden talents, and get your creative juices flowing:

Imagine. Take a daydream break.

Express  Yourself.  You don't have to be any good at it, just do something, anything, that is artistic.

Take Notes.  Keep a notepad handy, at all times, to write down new ideas.

Experience.  Whether it's a hot bath, a hike in the woods, or taking a moment to smell the roses, engaging your senses will inspire your creativity.

Play.  Children are good at making up games, so take a cue from your children or grandchildren and join in on the fun!

Change. Routine leads to the rut of boredom.  Change some aspect of your daily routine and gain a new perspective.

Use Your Hands.  Try knitting, play a game of handball, make shadown puppets, or pick out a tune on your grandfather's banjo.

Create.  Carve out some quiet time every day to be alone and explore/expand upon all of your newfound creative ideas and endeavors.

Adapted from The Good Among The Great:  19 Traits of the most admirable, creative, and joyous people.
Donald Van De Mark


Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else,
a refining of the sense of truthfulness.
Willa Cather
The Song Of The Lark

Thursday, April 7, 2011

School of Knowledge

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
- Alfred D. Souza

After my recent search for new blog topics, a friend suggested that I write on areas I have grown in the past year.  I have done so many different things in the past year, it's almost hard to compile a list of areas I have grown, yet I keep coming back to the word knowledge.  I feel like in the past year, I have been exposed to more ideas, people, places, and experiences than the entire sum of years spent in school!  This obviously isn't completely true... but the past 12 months certainly served as some sort of school of knowledge, if you will.  I've decided to list some of things I have learned over the past year... hopefully you can relate, or perhaps learn a thing or two yourself.... either about my life, or life itself.

- I can make my own choices.  I know this sounds silly, but as Mr. Souza pointed out above, the obstacles that had always been in my way can be, to a certain extent, pushed aside if I allow myself to make sacrifices, and more importantly, to make decisions that lead to action.  If I stop making excuses, it is amazing how a world of possibilities opens up!

- Despite not having a full-time career started, my own place to live, a large income, or even a huge group of friends to hang out with regularly (all reasons to be frustrated with life)... I am blessed in ways that many, many people may be envious of.  While I don't have a full-time career, I get to do what I love, very frequently, because I have a lot of "free" time.... this includes traveling, photography, visiting friends, spending time with my family, and so much more!  Also, despite not getting paid for my work at the church, I have been gifted with the responsibility of being a worship leader at my church, and as a result I get to lead rehearsals, pick out music, plan services, and practice music... all with a very meaningful purpose!  While living at home has it's own frustrations, my parents have seen it as a small portion of their contribution to ministry... their way of being my "host" family, while I serve in the church and struggle to find a way to make a full-time income... and so they let me live here, rent-free!  And, as far away as my friends may be, that means that almost always, when I travel to other states or even countries, I have a wide-spread network of friends... really good, quality, outstanding, and generous friends... who let me stay with them!  All in all, this can be summed up as this:  I have realized in the past year just how supported and loved I am by my family, friends, alma mater, and church!

- My parents are a wealth of knowledge... and a resource that I have most happily and graciously utilized in the past year as I make serious decisions in terms of career, finances, and even travel!  I definitely have not tapped into that resource enough, mostly because it involves humility and admitting I need help from someone with more experience and more wisdom!  My appreciation of my parents has grown immensely!

- I am a prideful person.  This has not been something fun to learn.  In my brain, I usually fall into one of two mindsets:  either "I can do this on my own, and I don't really need someone else's help (nor do I want it)"  OR  "I don't know if I can do this on my own, or I definitely can't do this on my own, so I'm not going to do it at all".  Yikes, that's a scary thing to realize.  It is especially scary when you realize that a lot of it comes from the fear that because I am a woman, I will not get respected as much as a guy would be, or trusted as much.  I think that fear was started when I decided I wanted to be a musician... and immediately assuming that men would never respect me for my work or abilities as a musician.  As a result, I started putting up a strong exterior, which led to pride.  So then, of course, I am reminded of these verse in the Bible that say,

"A kindhearted woman gains respect..." (Proverbs 11:16),

"Wives, submit..." (Ephesians 5:22... and in many other passages),

"Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. They will be won over.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight . That is the way the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority..." (1 Peter 3:1-5)

"Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."  (Titus 2:4-5)

So, you women out there may not be like me, but when I hear words like "submit", "quiet spirit", "busy at home", and "subject to"... I cringe.  I never thought of myself as a feminist, but turns out I may be more of that mindset than I ever could imagine.  So, as a result, I am trying to work on this definite issue.  I have talked to friends, family, and even authority figures about this and mentioned my struggle with pride.  It has been encouraging to find out that I'm not the only female who struggles with this.... even some women who I was nervous to talk to about this have shared with me their similar struggles, and how God has had to do continuous work in their lives to keep them humble and selfless.  Encouraged in the testimonies of these other women, I, too, am trying to learn from my own mistaken need to be seen as strong, stable, and worthy of respect.... and instead, act in a manner that is holy and Scripture-based.

- It is OK, even liberating, to not have a "career" that consumes my life.  While some of my friends are concerned at moving up in their company, or pursuing one specific dream that must come true for them to be happy... I have felt the boundaries of those paths lifted, and instead I have found just how much I enjoy being able to involve myself in so many different things!  It can definitely be scary, not knowing how the future is going to pan out.... but right now, I have been able to employ myself in many different areas, and it has been so freeing!  At my paid job, I get to do marketing & advertising, graphic design, photography, event planning, administrative work, legal work in downtown Fort Wayne, and even the occasional delivery or roadtrip.  In my volunteer position at the church as the worship leader, I get to organize & build a worship ministry... one that had fallen somewhat stagnent in previous years!  It is amazing to be involved in that kind of ministry and see such awesome results, and that it involves all sorts of things I love doing!  As a small group leader with the youth, I get to form relationships with high school girls, encourage them, and be challenged myself to live to a higher calling.... and boy, have I been challenged!  Working with youth definitely opens up your eyes to some truths that you tend to forget when life starts picking up pace later in life!  As a "photographer", I get to have fun, and show others just how fun it can be to do photography!  While I'm not a professional by any means, it is something I enjoy a lot, and love sharing with other people!  As a traveler, I have had many, many opportunites to serve others in unexpected ways.  Whether it's helping set up for a wedding, helping someone I don't even know move to a new apartment, or even just be a listening ear to someone who has been longing to be heard.... the opportunities are everywhere!  I'm sad to say that for every opportunity seized to serve someone, there are probably 20 missed opportunities.... but once you are looking for and become aware of these opportunities, they become harder to miss!  One last thing that my life right has afforded me without a serious career started, is that it has allowed me to consider a lot of opportunities as possible realities....  whether it's becoming an assistant volleyball coach, starting an Open Mic Night ministry, recording my first official EP, doing a music ministry trip to Sweden, or a number of other things.... it's been so awesome to be able to look at my current life situation and see possibilities, rather than disappointments! 

- Travel can be addicting.  VERY addicting.  While I'm at a point in life where I can afford to live with a higher level of adventure and risk, God has definitely shown me that I need to be careful that my life doesn't become focused so much on travel.  For a while, it felt like every time I returned home from a trip, the next trip was already being planned.  And while not much has changed as far as that goes, I had found that last year my entire being was focused on TRAVEL.  When I was at home, I wasn't really home... I was dreaming that I was somewhere else.  So, rather than being able to focus on how God wanted to use me at home, in my home church, with opportunities that presented itself at home.... I was continually wrapped up in my own plans for travel.  Even just in the past few months, my mindset has drastically changed, and it is so refreshing to not be so continually focused on travel.  While I am still planning trips and all of that good stuff, I have found that when I am at home, I am MUCH more focused with how God wants to use me HERE.  I've let God in, to show me areas He wants to use me.... most specifically in the church.... but even in my community!  It actually has been exciting to feel a new desire being formed to be used in ministry.... I've realized that so many of my abilities that I use at my paid job, I could also be using in the church, and so many of the skills I use in church, can be used in my community... and so on!  It's been exciting to feel God moving in that way... to feel like I am needed, wanted, and that I have the purpose of a higher calling on my heart

Well, those are just a few of the MANY, MANY things I have learned.... but for now, those are the ones I chose to write about! Just consider it Chapter 1, in my School of Knowledge!

Monday, March 28, 2011

My "Philosophy" on Travel

Travel is a great many things... but to me, here are some of the reasons I encourage those around me to jump at opportunities to travel:

  • It's a chance to break the routine of everyday life
  • If you let it, travel can be an exhilarating adventure, an adrenaline rush, if you will!
  • You get outside of your comfort zone
  • It forces you to make decisions:  Where will I go?  How will I get there?  How long should the trip be?  How many people are allowed to come?  Will I take the north route or the south route?  How often do we stop?  Will the schedule be packed full of activities, or peaceful and relaxing?  Hot, cold, or somewhere in the middle?  How much money am I willing to budget for this trip?
  • You will have an opportunity to experience new cultures, even if you're staying in the States.
  • You will have an opportunity to see new landscapes.
  • If traveling abroad, you will have an opportunity to learn the basics of a foreign language.
  • You can learn new, practical skills like map-reading, hotel-booking, food-finding, bargaining, etc.
  • It may come as a much-needed break in the craziness of life.
  • At one point or another, you will most likely have to rely on someone else's knowledge to get you from point A to point B, thus humbly admitting you're not from "around here".  (Trust me, even with a GPS, downtown Washington, D.C. or the freeways around L.A. are a beast).
  • If you seize the opportunity to, your creativity can flourish and blossom in the midst of the new adventure you are embarking on.  Take hundreds of photos... pack your guitar in the trunk and have a jam session at a rest stop or mountain top... find creative ways to pass the time in the car... explore local art hubs... video-document your trip.
  • Embracing your freedom can uplift your soul & provide you with a renewed sense of energy and motivation
  • You'll have PLENTY of opportunities to see God's beauty in all of creation.
  • You can re-kindle friendships from the past... use it as an opportunity to visit college friends, old roommates, camp buddies, previous co-workers, or people in ministry!
  • Inspiration to write, read, sing, play, document, capture, explore, etc. may return to you
  • It will broaden your world view and help you become less focused on yourself, and more focused on other people.
  • You will see things that take your breath away.  The Grand Canyon, the beach at sunset or sunrise, the view from the top of a mountain, a beautiful waterfall, wild animals, a never-setting sun during midsummer at the artic circle, trees that you can drive an RV camper through, water clearer & blue-er than you could ever imagine, miles and miles of untouched desert land scorched dry by the sun, man-made architecture that is sheer genius, a city skyline at night, historical battlefields where so many died, and so many other amazing and unique sites.
  • You will, almost unavoidably, see people who are hurting, poor, ill, homeless, or spiritually broken... and you just might have the opportunity to do something positive to change their lives for the better.
  • If you choose to, you can learn a ton about the history of places you are traveling to.  I'm not particularly a history buff myself, so this is a major weak spot of mine when I travel... but I find that if I take the time to better understand a place and it's history, I feel like I've had a much richer experience.
  • You will learn to interact and socialize with many different kinds of people.
  • If traveling with family or friends, it will teach you patience, but it will also be an amazing opportunity to create memories together & find each other's "traveling strengths"  (Who can drive at night?  Who is good at navigating?  Who knows the best cheap hotels to stay at, or tourist locations to check out?  Who makes the best playlists to listen to?  Who can best motivate the group to stay energized & make the most of your time away?)
  • You may run into someone from your hometown or alma mater, or realize you have a mutual friend... and in those instances, you realize just how small our world is.
  • It challenges you to think more positively when plans fail or change drastically. (Especially when you're in the middle of Paris, have had a visit to the emergency room, don't speak any french, and have to say goodbye to the rest of your backpacking friends while they continue on to 6 weeks of European adventures and leave you to spend 5 of those weeks in another tiny town above the artic circle, in a foreign country, alone).
  • You learn to become a better packer.  (What do you really need?  Did you save room for a souvenier or two?)
  • The opportunity to discover local music, cool venues, idyllic coffee shops, or antique stores filled with little gems becomes exciting .
  • Memories, memories, memories.  Ones that you will never forget!
  • You learn to appreciate the comforts of home: ice cubes, clean water, a comfortable bed with washed sheets, wireless internet, lower gas prices, a closet full of clothes, the familiar places, salad dressing (not joking), and friends & family.

So there you have it. These are the reasons I love to travel... and why I would encourage you to let yourself travel, or even force yourself to travel! It's pretty much impossible to miss out on God's creation when we experience life outside of our own little bubble. I am certain that nearly every trip I have gone on, I find myself in awe at some point when I look out on the beauty of His creation, or incredibly uplifted & encouraged when I see the body of Christ at work in other places throughout the world. It's amazing what all you can see and experience if you open yourself up to it.

My "philosophy" on travel.

And speaking of travel.... here are just a few photos from my travels so far in 2011....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Not-New-Year's Resolution

Today is Day 2 of my new diet + workout routine.  So far, it's actually been going really well, but, it's only Day 2 haha.

Junior year of college is when my regular working out began fading very quickly.  As my schedule got more busy, the less I paid attention to what I was eating, and the less time I had for working out!  I began eating nearly every meal on the go.... grabbing whatever was easy and eating it in class or in a short 5-10 minute sitting before my meeting, class, or rehearsal.  Soon, any spare hour of free time was naptime or time with friends, instead of working out or spending time to eat a relaxed, healthy meal.

I've decided to get started in the process of reversing all of those terrible habits that got started in college.  So, I'm cracking down 3 main categories to maintain a healthier lifestyle:

- Drinking lots of water, daily (a minimum of 75 oz., and maximum of 125 oz. per day)

- Eating a carefully balanced & calorie-counted diet (between 1000-1500 cal. per day)

- Working out regularly (no less than 2 times a week... aiming for 4-5 times per week)

I'm hoping to post occasional updates on how this is going.  Don't worry, I'm not turning this blog into a diet & workout blog (hah, I could never keep that going).  But, in a way it's at least one more source of accountability, knowing that... oh yes... people will read this!  My sister is actually helping hold me accountable as well... I'm sending her daily food intake updates.  It's exhausting thinking so hard about what I'm eating, but I know that once I get into a routine, it will be so much easier and I won't have to think about it hardly at all!  So.... on to the next day.... !

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Where do you receive your living?

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast. For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

- 1 Corinthians 9:3-23
Would you put up with ANYTHING, rather than hinder the Gospel of Christ?
Do you receive your living from the GOSPEL?
Do you BOAST when you preach the Gospel?
Are you a slave to everyone, so that you may win SOULS?
Have you become all things to all people, that by all possible means you might SAVE some?
Do you LIVE for the sake of the Gospel?
Have you shared in its BLESSINGS?
As I read the Scripture above, the underlined parts specifically stood out to me.  There were plenty of questions I had to ask myself while reading the passage, questions that made me reflect on my current mindset while doing ministry.  It's been a hard adjustment for me to serve as a worship leader, when I've been so entirely focused on working in the music industry for the past 6 years.  At some point, I just figured my plans of working in the music business would come together.... and maybe they will.  But, it's amazing how my dreams of the future have completely blinded me of where God is wanting to use me NOW. 
I work in a church
I serve in a church
I minister in a church
I proclaim God's love in a church
I lead a Bible study in a church
I sing songs in a church
I play guitar in a church
I lead rehearsals in a church
I go to meetings in a church
I volunteer in a church
I pray in a church
I study God's word in a church
But.... is my heart in the church?  Is my soul in the church?  Is my dedication to the church?
Just because in the past my heart never felt like I was being called to be a worship leader, does that mean that my current position as a worship leader means any less?  Does it mean that I should continue to feel like I am behind schedule for not having found a job in the music industry yet?  Why is it that God has clearly placed me in this position for a reason, to lead His people into WORSHIP.... and yet I continue to worship my plans, my future, my dreams.  Will it ever truly hit me that my plans are meaningless?  When will I fully surrender my future to Him?  Will a time come when my dreams are the same as His dreams.... or will they always be a distraction to where my heart and mind should be?
I'm constantly battling my position as the worship leader.  It's sad, isn't it?  It's wracked me with guilt fairly consistently.  Why has God called me to be a leader in the church, especially when I'm (obviously) struggling with spiritual issues?  And even more so, why has God created me as a person who dreams big dreams and loves traveling & adventures, if He is calling me to stay in one place, the same place I've been for the past 24 years?  Will there EVER be a time when my dreams and passions are actually being put into use?  Will they ever line up with God's plan?
[Insert some typical-Christian comment about how our plans should be God's plans, and that my dreams should be His dreams, and that my passions should be fueled by desire for more of Him.]
I've heard it all before.  You can sit there and tell me that I just need to make my plans be God's plans.  I'll most likely not be encouraged by your words, and it might even push me further in the wrong direction, because it's NOT THAT EASY.  I'm human.  If I were anything other than human, I'd love to flip the switch in my brain that automatically aligns my dreams with God's.  Wouldn't that be nice?
I'm working through it..... I really am.  I think about it nearly every day.  God is certainly calling out to me, urging me to come closer to Him.   As frustrating and exhausting this process is, I love that I am feeling Him working on my heart.  It's humbling and overwhelming, but I know that greater things are yet to come. 
So, where do you receive your living...?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pursues you with His love...

I wrote this on my trip home from Virginia on Monday while sitting in the Detroit airport....

Sitting on the plane today, I decided to spend my time reading a new book I recently started titled, "Soul Cravings" by Erwin Raphael McManus. I purchased this book almost entirely based off of the title. You see, I'm working on a project right now with other musicians, artists, and like-minded creative people... and the project is all about soul. So you see, the title was intriguing to me, because I've been thinking about soul a lot. What does that mean to you? What does it mean to me? What is soul? What is our soul? How do I incorporate soul into my work as a musician and all-around creative person, but outside of that, how do my beliefs as a Christian define what my soul is and how I should live my life as a reflection of that? I'm on a tangent now....

Back to why I'm writing this, and why I'm actually sitting in the airport terminal writing this, anxious to get these thoughts written out. Entry 9 is where I found myself diving into the book on a section about God, God's love, and why our soul is so connected to that love. By the end of entry 10, I was hooked, and more significantly, emotionally invested. It (the moment of investing myself in the reading) started with this quote:

"What we have described as love has become something so superficial, something so thin and without substance, that pretty much anything qualifies as love. If we really knew love, if we knew deep, profound, unending love, maybe we wouldn't love chocolate. While I'm sure God appreciates all these things (after all, he is the Creator of all that is good and perfect), creation is not the object of his affection. When it comes to love, you exist in a unique category. There are a lot of things that are dispensable to God. He can re-create whatever he wants. You, however, are not on that list. You are unique and irreplaceable. You are the object of God's love."

Then I read:

"But if God's love is immeasurable and unending, as the Hebrews describe him, how deep and profound must be his sense of sorrow and rejection. If anyone knows the pain of a love unreturned, it must be God."

Let me take a moment to beg your forgiveness for how choppy this entry might be. Perhaps by the time you read it, I will have actually slowed down typing at 176 words per minute to actually organize my thoughts more clearly.

At this point I was thinking deeply about God's love. The message that I heard on Sunday while visiting my friend's church in Virginia Beach was all about Christ's death and resurrection... the good, the bad, and the ugly. This message was reminding me of God's love. So as I continued to read through the pages of this book, each new thing hit me hard, like walking out of a pitch-black cave and suddenly seeing the sun's blinding light burst through the darkness. Next was a brief story about how McManus once shared the story of Jesus with a group of Middle Eastern Muslims, who were questioning his Christianity and what the meaning was behind the coming of Jesus.

"I once met a girl named Kim, and I fell in love. I pursued her with my love and pursued her with my love until I felt my love had captured her heart. So I asked her to be my wife, and she did not say yes. I was unrelenting and asked her again, pursuing her with my love, and I pursued her with my love until she said yes. I did not send my brother, nor did I send a friend. For in issues of love, you must go yourself. This is the story of God: he pursues you with his love and pursues you with his love, and you have perhaps not said yes. And even if you reject his love, he pursues you ever still. It was not enough to send an angel or a prophet or any other, for in issues of love, you must go yourself. And so God has come. This is the story of Jesus, that God has walked among us and he pursues us with his love. He is very familiar with rejection but is undeterred. And he is here even now, still pursuing you with his love."

Each time I read the words, "pursues YOU with HIS LOVE", I felt little pieces of my soul being lit on fire with love for Jesus, and my heart being broken in my humanity. Crying on a plane is no comfortable situation, but it was hard to keep the tears from appearing as I continued to read...

"It was as if I could hear God screaming: The anguish you're feeling this very moment, that's how I feel for every human being who walks the face of this earth. If you could just care about people the way you're caring about everything else in your life at this moment, it would make you a different person. You would know the heart of God. There are crows that swoop down on helpless children in Thailand and steal them away to turn them into child prostitues; there are crows that use a caste system to keep millions oppressed and in poverty in Indian; there are crows in the priesthood who hide behind their collars while they abuse children. It doesn't surprise me any longer that a cluster of crows is called a "murder." And this is how Jesus describes the evil one. His summary of the spiritual reality in which we live is pretty simple: 'The theif comes to steal and to rob and to kill, but I have come to give you life and life in abundance."

McManus writes in what can sometimes be seen as overly "flowery" language. He doesn't necessarily write theologically profound thoughts, and for that some people might say he is not worth reading. I've heard people say that about Donald Miller.... that his life isn't a good one to use as an example of how to live our lives. Honestly, I think if you were to ask him, I don't think he would argue with that. I don't think Donald Miller writes to say "live like me".... I think he writes to say "live like Jesus.... and please do it better than I do". But for me, perhaps a mere simpleton, sometimes the more simple the writing, the deeper in cuts. I don't have to spend weeks processing it mentally or talking it through with others to find my way through the maze of what the author meant.... It hits me as I read it, and I find my heart instantly grabbing onto the words as my mind tells me to "read it again! read it again!".

"You are a danger to the world when you love nothing, and you're even more dangerous when you love the wrong things."

I am certain I love the wrong things.  And I am certain I have the wrong view of what love, pure love, looks like.  I also certain that hurt I've encountered in the past from various men in my life... whether they be my ex-boyfriend, spiritual leaders, professors, or friends... has seriously twisted my ability to trust and love without reserve.  I think that these things put separation between myself and God.  I think I too often seek my own experience when I think about what God's love looks like, rather than seeking the Bible.  Isn't that sad?  God gave us His word so that we might know the TRUTH. 

Ultimately, I wanted to write this post to say I've been challenged to change how I view love, how I receive it, and how I give it away.  I don't know if what I wrote will hit you like it hit me while reading "Soul Cravings", but that isn't why I'm writing... I'm writing in the hopes that you will perhaps think, "Hey, that's pretty rad.... she's learning, growing, and feeling God calling after her heart." Sometimes I get weighed down by all of these deeper, theological, nitty-gritty spiritual issues that people are so focused on. I'm not discounting those as unimportant, but I am certain that God can use the simple truthes just as much as the complex ones.  In fact, rarely do I hear of someone coming to know the Lord because they lost in a theological argument.  Maybe that's just because I don't engage in those arguments if at all possible... and maybe you think I'm childish or immature for that... but for me, it's so refreshing when I can take a step back and think about the cross, and be so moved that I can't stop the tears on a plane, surrounded by at least 100 people. God feels far away, especially in uncertain times.... but to be reminded of His love and to read over and over and over again, "He pursues you with his love"... well, let's just say I needed to read it, and I needed to read it over and over and over again. 

After putting down the book, I instantly listened to this song:

"Awake My Soul" by Mumford and Sons

Have a listen....

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Do you Trust?

I have had some conflict in my mind over the past few years about trusting people.  There are a few main reasons I usually have a hard time trusting people:

1.) I think I can do a better job than they can
2.) If they aren't a Christian, I question their morals.
3.) With the way the world is today, I just don't believe people are "good" anymore.

I would say of all of those, the one I struggle with the most is the first one.  It's really hard for me to trust someone to do something for me, especially if it's something I know I could do myself.  Relinquishing control can be a pain in the butt sometimes.  I just don't want to be disappointed... because then it's awkward.  What do I tell the person if they didn't meet my expectations?  Do I need to show grace and let it go.... or do I need to hold that person to my standards (which can often be way above the average person)?  Is it really worth saving myself the stress of being crunched for time, if I don't have a guarantee the end result will have my approval?  Sometimes I choose to do everything myself because I don't want to inconvenience others... but usually it is because I just don't trust people to get the job done.

Regarding the other two reasons not to trust people, I would say that over the past 4 years I have come to a realization that some people may not agree with... but it is something that I think just might be true.  It has helped me to trust people a little more.

Do you believe that trusting someone, especially those who may not deserve it, can be a way to show God's love, and perhaps, even be proof of your faith in Christ?

Disclaimer:  This is not some sort of blanket statement.  I understand that trust needs to be determined and given on a case-by-case situation.  Some people should not be trusted... either at all, or in certain situations.  While only God can judge a person's heart, I believe a person's deeds (good or bad) can be a clue as to how much we should or should not trust them.  While forgiveness is commanded of us, I honestly don't know (but highly doubt) trust is required of us in every situation.

Ok, moving on.  I don't really know of any Bible verses that support this idea of mine.  But I have seen this idea lived out in real life... and I would argue that, yes, trusting someone might be the key to showing them a glimpse of God's grace & goodness.  I think this idea is rooted in the idea of forgiveness.  In a sense, trusting those who may not deserve to be trusted can show them forgiveness for whatever they've done before... or for what they are capable of doing.  Forgiveness is a shadow of who God is, whether we realize it or not.  We obviously live in a world that is morally unstable, and it's getting worse.  It's becoming harder to trust... and we have a twisted way of going about relationships, almost as to protect ourselves from those we do not trust.  Our online activity, while available to nearly anybody who wants to see it, can be controlled in the "privacy settings".... so we determine who can see certain content.... we can deliberately say "I don't trust you, therefore you can't see what I am posting online".  Or, for those people who know they shouldn't be trusted, they can hide their activity so that they can keep up an image of "trustworthiness", when in reality they are not.  Of course, they may not ever know you've done that to them, but it's not who knows, but rather the state of your heart, that God judges.   Do you follow what I'm saying?

I've had this happen to me.  For example, I am leading a high school girls Bible study at my church every Sunday night.  There are things in my life that are not ok right now.... places I've slacked off spiritually, relationships I have not properly poured myself into, or things I'm doing with the wrong state of mind or heart.  And yet, despite these struggles, I've been trusted to lead these girls in a study of who Jesus is, and what a true relationship with Him looks like.  Wow.  It makes me take a deep breath every single time I think about it.  Will I rise to the challenge?  Do I trust myself enough to let God use me?  It certainly nudges me in the right direction when I'm trusted in that way.

I think if we choose to see the good in people, we can empower them to live better lives.  People are capable of change, and I truly believe that.  The question is... do we let them?  Do we give them the opportunity to become a better person?  You should trust carefully, and perhaps in small amounts at first.  There is definitely the risk of being let down.  Your trust might get thrown back in your face, and that is why it should be done carefully... but when you choose to trust, let trust dwell in your heart, not just in your actions. 

I'm trying harder to trust people, in the same way people have trusted me.  I would challenge you to look at the people you interact with, and determine if there is a relationship that you could put more trust into.  Proceed with caution & wisdom... but empower with trust and forgiveness.