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....