Sunday, July 31, 2005

just not normal

I've always known that I'm weird, but I never realized just how unusual a teen I was...or I unusual I seem to be. When I talk with teenagers or preteens in my parents' congregation, they all seem to say the same thing, "Worship should be more contemporary." I suppose, in teh past, I probably said the same thing...but now, I wouldn't dream of saying such a thing. Don't get me wrong, I listen to contemporary Christian music, everyday, but a "contemporary" worship service does not appeal to me. I want the worship service to be vivacious and full of life, but there are many ways to achieve this. So many teens seem to think that the only way they can feel alive during worship is if they are singing contemporary songs and are free to jump around. However, one needn't be a body in motion to feel alive...

Now, understand that I am not saying that contemporary worship is terrible and those that participate in it are not Christians. That is actually far from what I'm trying to get at. I know many strong Christians that prefer contemporary worship. What I wish everyone would understand is that one form of worship is not inherently better than another. Those who prefer traditional worship should not spend their time pointing out the flaws of contemporary worship, nor should contemporary worshipers focus on the flaws found in traditional worship, and someone whose worship falls somewhere in between should not feel that they have the right to look down on either of the other groups. We are all the body of Christ, and we mustn't allow a difference of opinion concerning worship to divide us. If we want to draw unbelievers to the Lord, we must remain united, and we must preach the love of Christ, not our love for our worship style. Evangelism should not be an infomercial for your congregation. So, if I'm not bashing contemporary worship, why did I lead by pointing out the fact that I don't prefer contemporary worship? I want to explain why I enjoy traditional worship services. I want my more contemporary brothers and sisters to understand that I feel alive in a traditional worship setting and that the high they get from worship is not reserved solely for the contemporaries.

I love it when worship makes me feel truly connected to my Lord, when the service helps to cultivate my relationship with Him. That is why I love the covenant renewal worship at Christ the Redeemer. It's not just songs about God's love, and yet, God's love is apparent throughout the service. For instance, bowing for confession. Confession is such an important part of worship. It is a time when we humble ourselves before our Lord and admit to Him that we aren't perfect and we have erred. He forgives us out of His immense grace and mercy. It's amazingly awesome that our God should care about us enough to continually forgive us, and it is my belief that confession not only brings about forgiveness and healing, it's a humbling way to show that the Lord is sovereign and that we love Him enough to obey Him and conform to His will for us.

Yes, in a traditional service, we sing hymns...psalms...and old hymns...but that's totally okay. I mean, it's not about what kind of song you are singing. Sometimes, songs do have thee's and thou's and thy's, but does that make them mean less? No. I know the Lord will understand no matter what language is used. Yet, I really must say that I am drawn to the hymns. I love hearing the congregation singing in harmony. Unison is cool, but everyone contributes something different in the Church, and I feel like harmonizing is rather symbolic of that. Different voices, different parts blend together to make beautiful music to glorify the Lord. In such a setting, the everyone is contributing to the beautiful music being created. Any one person could sing that song and have it be okay, but when you have the harmonies, oh! It's amazing! I love it. Perhaps, I'm making it more symbollic than it should be, but I do love it, and it contributes to my worship experience.

Now, I must say, I am also a big fan of a solid half hour or so long sermon. I like to learn about my Lord. I enjoy gaining insight into how I can better serve my Lord, and the Lord has blessed us with pastors who can help us to gain that who can help to instruct us.

I think another thing that really attracts me to traditional worship is the presence of adults in the service. I like worshipping with godly men and women much older than I. I look up to them, and I enjoy learning from their examples and observations. I mean, I enjoy worshipping with my peers. I love sitting next to my friends (you guys know I love you), but as much as my friends help me grow, I still need to see mature adults so I can be reminded of who I want to become. I want to grow up to be a godly wife and mother more than anything. I want to serve the Lord; so, if that's not He wants for me, then I will abandon that dream, but I really want to grow up and get married and raise wonderful God-fearing children. *sigh* That is part of the reason it is so important for me to worship with mothers and fathers...I want to learn what it means to have a godly family. I watch those families and observe how they reflect the Lord's love...I feel that worshipping with mature adults challenges me to mature more, myself. I mean, I can learn a lot from worshipping with my peers, but I am immature in my faith, and by worshipping with those much more mature than I, I am reminded of the journey before me and challenged to press on. (If that makes any sense.)

So, in summary, (I know this was the part you were really waiting for) a traditional approach to worship is not all bad. Some may think that it's the traditional worship that is responsible for Christians getting tagged as "boring and dull", but I'm not convinced that's the case. Traditional worship is not always a turn-off to unbelievers, believe it or not. Sometimes the perception people have comes from our reactions. I love the Lord, and for that reason, worshipping Him is not boring to me. Remember that "traditional" doesn't mean "dull"...some of us are actually very vivacious and bubbly, just give us a chance. Remember that the Church must be united if it is to really seek out unbelievers. We can not allow differences in worship style to divide us, nor can we promote our own congregations as if we were on an infomercial. The most important thing, the focus of all worship, is the almighty God.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Passionate about Purity

I'm preparing to lead a purity retreat for middle school and high school girls. I am so excited. I hope I can speak passionately about purity, as it's a topic near and dear to my heart. I just hope that I can convey just how important it is to strive for purity, though it is hard. Planning for this retreat has caused me to take some time to think about my own struggle to work toward purity. The Lord calls each of us to have a pure heart, and through His gracious forgiveness, that is long as we rely on Him and call upon Him for forgiveness...and we are to be living sacrifices for Him, we are to strive to keep our bodies pure...we are not to entertain lustful and sinful thoughts, we are to strive to have pure minds. Note I keep using the word strive. There's good reason for that. I feel that purity is too often confused with innocence. We journey toward purity, we try to become more Christ-like, we grow in purity.

The difficulty comes in the fact that the Bible doesn't give us specific guidelines in regards to purity...or not as specific as we would like...we actually are held accountable...I mean, we are to avoid lust and fornication and we are to dress modestly, but the Bible does not say, "Thou shalt not French kiss" or "Thou shalt not kiss" or "Thou shalt not wear skirts above the knee". However, if we have a personal relationship with our Lord, it is not ridiculous to think that we would seek His guidance in these areas and follow His commands. God may not spell out His commands as we would like, but He does not keep His will a secret. He guides us, the real question is not whether God will make His will clear, it's whether we will be humble enough to follow. It is not the job of any person to enforce "moral codes", but as Christians, we must obey the Lord's commands at all times. I realize that sounds like asking for trouble, but grace is not an excuse to pursue our own desires. I heard a sermon of Pastor Harlow's in which he stated that we must be careful not to try to preach our standards as God's law. If we do, we would be suggesting that the Lord erred in issuing His commandments, and who are we to do that?

We must crucify our own desires and allow our love for the Lord to dictate our conduct. I can't say that I'm having an easy time with this...I am often tempted to stray from God. I've found that sometimes, throwing off my temptations, desires and wants is extremely painful for me...and sometimes, I think the reason it hurts me so much is because I don't want to feel like everything's out of my hands...handing the reins sheepishly back over to the Lord is one of the most painful things to do...but it's absolutely necessary...and I've learned that the sooner I hand them over, the less it hurts me, mostly because it prevents me from falling too far down.

Growing in godliness allows us to be closer to our Lord, an amazing feeling. However, it is very easy to develop pride along with that joy. It can be hard to remain humble, but we absolutely must or we will lose our focus and forget that we are still growing in our faith...we might fool ourselves into thinking we're already there!

I'm not quite sure why I felt compelled to write could be the upcoming could be my recent period of self-examination...identifying my weaknesses, shortcomings, and temptations...and all those successes as well...those painful moments when I said, "Oh, God, I need You...I want that...but I need You...Please, give me peace." Those times hurt. Self-control...or rather...obedience can be painful (mostly to your pride ;) )...but the fact that I asked for the Lord to grant me peace and take control shows improvement...I'm pleased to see that I'm growing, but I know all too well that I have a long way to go...I need to do some maturing before I can even dream of being called a "godly woman"...I feel I am more like a "starry-eyed girl", right now, admiring her Lord from afar...*sigh*...Well, I'm working on it...and by God's grace, perhaps one day, I'll be able to be a woman of journey won't be done, but perhaps one day, I'll reach the point where I can be the kind of godly woman a Christian man deserves (even if God hasn't destined me for marriage)...I fear I'm babbling,, I think I should wrap this up...I'm not sure I found the words to do justice to my ponderings, this time...and I'm not sure I strung my thoughts together coherently...So, I guess it couldn't hurt things to resort to quoting a song...

Let It All Out (by Relient K)

Let it all out (get it all out)
Rip it out, remove it
Don't be alarmed when the wound begins to bleed
Cuz we're so scared to find out (what this life's all about)
So scared we're gonna lose it
And knowing all along that's exactly what we need
And today I'll trust you with the confidence of a man who's never known defeat
But tomorrow upon hearing what I did,
I'll stare at you in disbelief
Oh inconsistent me! ...crying out for consistency
And You said,
"I know that this will hurt, but if I don't break your heart, things will just get worse.
If the burden seems too much to bear,remember...
The end will justify the pain it took to get us there."
And I'll let it be known (times I have shown)
Signs of all my weakness
But somewhere in me, there is strength
And You'd promise me, that You believe
In time I will defeat this'cuz somewhere in me there is strength
And today I'll trust you with the confidence of a man who's never known defeat
I'll try my best to just forget that that man isn't me
And You said,
"I know that this will hurt, but if I don't break your heart, things will just get worse.
If the burden seems too much to bear, remember...
The end will justify the pain it took to get us there."
Reach out to me, make my heart brand new
Every beat will be for You...for You...
And you know, and you know
When You touched my heavy heart, you made it light.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Service, Preparation, and Singleness

Ah, the seasons of life. At present, I am blessed to be in my season of's one of those weird blessings...I guess, I wanted to post this because I'm preparing to speak with some middle school and high school girls about purity and dating...I want them to understand that dating does not have to be the way it is. Our society has a warped view of love that makes it hard to fully pursue God. So, I'm sitting here, in my season of singleness serving the Lord through this girls' group and trying to learn as much as I can about His commands. Sure, it sounds good, but don't think it's easy...I mean, I'm as excited as anyone about the idea of getting married one day, but I have a lot to do before I get there! I have a lot of growing to do...a lot of maturing...I want to find a new church family to help me do this, but even that will take work...I need to grow in my understanding of the Bible. Lately, I've been thinking about whether or not I'll be a good wife and mother. I've been thinking about the areas I need to grow in to best serve my [future] family. I mean, one day, I'm going to have to care for my household. Can I handle that? I'm going to need to learn to cook a wider variety of foods...yummy and nutritious foods...I can do laundry, easily...and I can clean up the house like nobody's business...but I'm going to need to work on the cooking. I may need to look into structuring my time better. But I think the faith stuff is my highest priority, at present. I want to grow into the kind of woman a Christian man deserves to have for a wife. I've got some work to do...quite a bit, actually...I know I've said that before, but that doesn't make it any less true. I wonder, if any of you reading this are married women, could you possibly give me some advice? What all do I really need to do to prepare to [hopefully] get married some day? I have some ideas, but I'm curious to see what you all have to say...One day, I'll get there, but 'til then I'll just be a single girl growing in her faith and seeking to serve, hoping and praying that God will grant her heart peace and strength as she goes about her tasks.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Insecurities of the Beautiful

I had read an article the other day about how our culture worships fashion, strives for perfection in appearance, and basis beauty on good looks. ( ) Essentially, it says that our culture has made it so that it's like "survival of the prettiest". In certain areas of business, a girl can easily get ahead if she looks good. This would suggest that all girls that don't meet the media's standards of beauty would be extremely insecure about their looks...surely, insecurity is reserved for the "less than attractive", right?

Well, my co-worker told me an anecdote, today, about the wife of a friend of his. As he put it, "She's one of the top five most beautiful girls I've ever seen in my life." (I've never met the woman, before, but I gather that she is extremely attractive. My co-worker said that she was "pretty shy in the brains, though". He proceded to tell me about a time when she and her husband were over at his house for a bonfire. He told her he was going to put the fire out. She asked how he was going to do that. He told her he was going to use the hose and cover it with water. She gave him a frightened look and exclaimed, "But won't that make it explode?!" He calmly clarified that she must be thinking of gasoline. She gave him an embarassed and frazzled look and begged him not to tell her husband...she even offered to pay him...she was so insecure.

Clearly, meeting the world's standards for beauty isn't enough...that woman probably thinks that if she were smarter or more articulate, she'd be happier...she'd be complete...she'd be perfect...just as other girls wish they were attractive like her.

So, how do we rid ourselves of our insecurities? How do we feel complete? How do we find wholeness? What do we need to do? What can we do?

The answer is simple...turn to Jesus...God can make us complete. It's been said that every man has a god-shaped void in their heart. We can pursue fashion, academics, money, hobbies, talents, whatever...but the only thing that will make us truly happy, truly complete...the only way we can fill that void is to pursue God with all of our hearts, minds, and souls. I'm not going to say that I don't struggle this...surely, if you've read my other posts, this has become evident. However, that story reminded me of that fact...I'm prone to wishing I were good-looking...but I need to remember that it won't really make me happy...all that time and energy is better spent on pursuing God. Yes, we can dream...we can wish...we can hope...that we were different, more beautiful, smarter, accomplished, rich, whatever. However, I believe that our culture has given us some poor advice on achieving our dreams. We're supposed to "make our dreams come true". Sure, we could do that...we could achieve whatever goal we've set for ourselves, but when we get there, will we really be happy? Our culture has told us to "Dream, believe, achieve". Well, I guess, that's closer to being right, but just because we believe that we can make our dreams come true, promoting a good attitude while pursuing our dreams, are we going to be happy? Are we going to feel better when we've achieved that dream that we believed in? I don't think so. I believe the real anwer, the thing that young people should be told is, "Don't pursue your dreams. Pursue God. He will bring you happiness beyond your most amazing dreams." He is the way to true happiness. I'm sure I've said that before, but I believe it to be true. Having faith in God and obeying His commands...that's the way we journey towards wholeness, perfection, happiness...that's the way we become more Christlike...

So, don't worry about achieving your dreams, don't worry about all those things that the world says you're not. Walk in faith and obedience. We are beautiful, and it's extremely smart, extremely wise to follow the Lord...God loves us so much and has promised to never leave us...

Praise be to God!


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Perhaps some remodeling is in order

As I said, yesterday, I am speaking with a group of middle school and high school girls about identity and self-worth. Now, believe it or not, I don't have very high self-esteem, and I lack self-confidence...but somehow, I am to talk with these girls about loving themselves? Why is it I feel so called to speak with them when I am so mistaken myself? I'm sure some of you are thinking, "What? Takara has low self-esteem? How can she NOT be confident?" I know, me, the one with a wall full of accomplishments, so much to show for herself, doubts herself so much...I don't trust myself...I don't put much stock in what I have to offer...I told you, I'm a pretty confusing/confused individual.

As I pondered my self-esteem issues, it occurred to me that perhaps the very reason I am speaking on this is so that I might acknowledge how flawed my self-image is and correct it. I must "remove the log from my eye before removing that of my sister", or for those who would rather here a secular explanation...I must "remove head from sphincter, then drive". Now, I have been struggling to determine what direction to take the first meeting of The Sisterhood in...and today, I realized that the best way to help these girls examine their self-image is for me to begin to look at my, I did just that...

I started by thinking about how I viewed my outward appearance. I examined the things I thought when I was washing up after a long day at work. Things like, "Ugh! I wish my hips weren't so big. If only my stomach were flatter. If only my thighs weren't so huge. I have a pudge. I'm so zitty. Ugh! My toes aren't even symmetrical. Why can't I have a pretty, straight smile?" I always get so frustrated. It's like when you go clothing shopping and nothing fits right...jeans that fit your hips are too big in the waist...shorts that fit in the waist are too tight in the hips...shirts that fit your shoulders aren't long enough...shirts that are long enough are baggy...ugh! Sometimes, lots of times, I feel like such a schlub!

Now, I have an amazingly odd mind that explores a couple trains of thought at a time. So, I have a lot of those..."Wait. That doesn't make sense if this other thing...hmmm..." moments. So, about the time I had realized how disgusted I often am with my body, I remembered a verse I had read in Soul Sister, the night before. Psalm 139: 13-14 says, "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." God made me...He gave me this body...He doesn't make mistakes. God made me beautifully, and He has a purpose for making me the way I am. By labeling my body as disgusting or ugly, by complaining about my appearance and wishing I looked differently, I am suggesting that God made a mistake. I definitely don't have the authority to correct my God. He is my Maker, my Savior, my dare I say such things as, "Lord, I know you are marvelous, but I think you may have made a mistake...I should have had smaller hips." I'm going to correct God?!?! No! Of course not. That exemplifies just how erroneous my thinking was. God made me beautiful, and I should learn to appreciate His beauty in me as I do in the rest of His creation. And who am I to compare myself to another girl and say that surely she is the more lovely of the two? Comparing myself to others is like trying to find the most beautiful seashell on the beach. God is such a glorious creator and such a masterful artist that it is impossible to find the single most spectacular shell. They all have something special about them that makes them wonderfully and beautifully unique, and so it is with us. God made each of us just as we should be. Yes, God calls us to care for our bodies and show pride in them, and thus, our appearance is partly our responsibility...but the framework...all those genetic traits that we can't fix...that's God's doing...he formed our noses...he pieced together our skeletons...he blessed us with our "body type". We only think we can do better.

When we start "changing ourselves" instead of "liking ourselves", we don't just suggest the Lord has erred, but we tell Him that we think we could better. It'd be similar to all of the fairy tale characters deciding that they could create a better plot for their tales than the author has. Goldilocks may believe that she is better suited to living with seven tiny men. Cinderella may say that since she has been cleaning for so long, she really deserves to take a long nap instead of Sleeping Beauty. Everything would be chaotic and out of place because the characters can't see how they fit into the big picture. They only consider their own wants. And so it is with us...God knows what will make us truly happy even moreso than we do. God did not make us the way we are on a whim. He has a purpose and a reason for it all, and it is our duty to trust Him.

Applying this to my tubby time dilemas would mean that I should spend my time praising God for and with my beautiful body.

There's more to this self-image thing, though. For instance, my outfits. As one clothing store puts it in their "oath to their consumers"..."Style is not merely following trends. It is a reflection of character." My outfits, whether I like it or not, affect how others see me. My outfits should bring glory to God so that I can better do His will. By this, I don't mean that my shirts need to have Bible verses on them...but my quest for purity, my desire to be christlike, my journey down the straight and narrow should govern my wardrobe choices. My outfits should not make my brothers in Christ stumble, but they should adorn the beautiful body God gave me. I once heard Pastor Harlow speak on the third commandment and how it is defined in Deuteronomy. Now, I'm not claiming to be really, if I'm erring, here...please, correct me...but based on my understanding of what was said, we must use all of our actions and words to show that God is mighty and sovreign over us...(not to be taken lightly)...we bear Christ's name, as we are His...So, we must show the world what that means. Put in terms of appearance, I must be conscious of the fact that others are looking to me as an example of who God is. I want them to see me as modest and pure and beautiful inside and out...My outsides should line up with my insides but not overpower them. I want people to love me for who I am, not what I look like. Therefore, I feel I shouldn't be wearing clothing that draws a lot of attention to my assets or anything of that sort. My clothes shouldn't distract or detract from who I am. People should see Christ's love shining through me, without having their eyes take a detour *cough*...I also refuse to wear certain clothes just to cover up "flaws", in all reality, implementing such a standard is really more about changing my mind set than anything's the difference between wearing long shorts because my thighs are fat and wearing long shorts because they accentuate my rock awesome calves...or wearing long shorts because they emphasize my height...or a better example would be not wearing make-up to cover up my zits, hide the bags under my eyes and make myself look pretty but rather wearing what little make-up I wear to bring out my pretty eyes and show off my pretty smile.

I know I kind of meandered my way through that clothing stuff...forgive me...I'll try to make it up to you.

It really makes sense, when you think about it, to want your outward appearance to be an expression of your inward beauty...or at least to not have your outward appearance getting all the attention. It's like the "Fifty Years game" that Joshua Harris describes in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He tells us to try to deal with his attractions to girls, he would imagine them as old ladies and determined whether he'd still be attracted to them when they were flabby and wrinkly and stuff...or if they would only grow in beauty, since their beauty shone from within. (It's like a line from my favorite Steven Curtis Chapman song...*sigh*)

Call me a girl...or a hopeless romantic...whatever...but I want my husband to love me for who I am, not what I look like, and in spite of who I may have been in the past...I want to grow to be the kind of woman that a Christian man deserves to have for a wife...the kind of woman that is everything he dreamed of...the kind of woman that he feels blessed to have in his life...I want to be a blessing to him...I want to uplift him and help him and cheer him...I want to be able to encourage him and support him and help him...but I know that to be that kind of woman, I'm going to need to work on some things...actually, I need a good deal of work. I realize that the work will never be done. I need to constantly grow in my love for the Lord, grow in my faith, grow in my understanding of His word...but in many respects, I have a lot of work to do before I could possibly be a good wife and mother...Honest examination of the heart is rough, you know that? There's so much work to be done...luckily, I know that I can do it all with God's is by His grace that I came this far...and He did say He would never leave nor forsake's still a lot of work...and whether or not I end up meeting a guy's standards (and having him meet mine) and getting married, I have to do the work...I need and want to grow in the Lord...I need and want to become more christlike...pure, faithful, loving, caring, humble, forgiving...I need and want to "grow in beauty" not just so one day some guy will imagine me as a beautiful old lady...not just so I'll be prepared to have a husband...but so that I can serve the Lord and do His will I can show others His I can prepare to be with Him...

My eyes tear up at the thought of all the work to be done...for it is so humbling to see how flawed I am...and yet, I know that Christ died for me...He took the punishment that was meant for me...He loves me that much...and I love, I will not make my love for Him a secret, but rather live out my love for Him through obedience to His commands and service to others. By the grace of God, I will continue to grow in love Him...and if He wills it, one day, my husband will be able to see the beauty of Christ's love shining in me.

Praise be to God who strengthens me.


Proverbs 31:30 "Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

For shame...for the good?

*sigh* You know those times when it seems like you just can't win? Those times when you can't seem to keep your tongue in check, though you desperately wish you could? Those times when even those comments you mean as complimented seem to cut others down like a double-edged sword? *sigh* I'm having one of those, today...*shakes head in disgust*

Allow me to explain what I mean, though I whole-heartedly believe most everyone can already relate.

I come home from a long day at work...we're talking a long, hot, tiring, crazy busy, wipes you out entirely kind of day...Anyway, I find myself lounging about in the kitchen having what I thought to be a casual conversation with my mother...I'll admit, it was a bit tense, and when my oldest younger sister came in, my light-hearted joking came across as harsh, judgemental jabs...Things seemed to only get worse from there. My youngest sister and I just couldn't seem to have a civil conversation...I was frustrating myself more than anyone else was...I mean, I didn't want to be mean to my sisters...why was I acting like that? but then, the self-rightousness started seeping into my thoughts and corrupting me...I kept thinking, "Gosh, why is she acting like that? Sure, I'm not being the easiest to get along with, but I've been at work all day...besides, I thought I taught her better than that." Maybe not everyone thinks such things when frustrated...perhaps, it's just me...regardless, it was a pretty disgusting attitude, and I can't believe I donned it.

So, what shook me out of it? You know, if I hadn't experienced it myself, I would think I was just making up crazy "uplifting" stories just to encourage people...but I tell you what...if you really think about it, you'll realize that most people don't really care to relate how they were, why would someone make up such a tale? That's right...they wouldn't...(If you still don't believe me, fine...but...well...just 'cause you don't believe something doesn't make it any less true.)

I was feeling so crummy...and kind of lonely...I figured that my bad attitude was probably working as a friend repellant. However, I have adopted the belief that when I am lonely, it's actually the feeling of God calling me back to Him. So, in an attempt to dispel my crabbiness, I opened up my Bible. I didn't know where to turn, really...I wasn't feeling, I think I was avoiding most of the verses I needed to, I started flipping through Soul Sister by Beth Redman. I'm using the book for the girls' ministry that I'm leading, and I figured maybe I could kill two birds with one stone by using one of the verses I needed to be familiarized with for Sunday to launch my quiet time. We're supposed to be discussing identity and self-worth on Sunday. So, naturally, I was lead to Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." I had every intention of using this verse as a foundation for our discussion of modesty...discussing how we shouldn't get caught up in trying to pursue the world's idea of beauty, trying to follow all the trends and look like some ultra-thin model...I knew there was so much more to it, but we won't have forever to talk, you know...*rolls eyes at own stupidity*...I found this kool article on discussing that very thing, and as I returned to the homepage, the verse of the day caught my eye...Proverbs 12:18, "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health."

It was one of those, "Oh, my gosh I'm an idiot" moments...I sat there feeling so small...I had cut my sister with my words and then spent my time thinking about how I could help her get on the "straight and narrow", living a godly life...*shakes head*...maybe, I should just try setting a better example for her for starters, eh? Who am I to be talking with these girls? There's so much I don't many mistakes that I make...I have so much to be ashamed of...dwelling in my own pitiful shame, I returned to my book...I was directed to John 8:32 "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." I sat there thinking...or maybe I was sulking because I had been any case, I thought, "the truth is that bad things happen because I'm an idiot...(a quote from That 70's Show...sorry) What's that going to set me free from?" (I told you, I was in a pretty sour mood.) I had closed my Bible in frustration, and upon reopening it, I attempted to find that verse again. However, I couldn't remember the numbers and ended up looking at John 8:15, which read, "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man." I was like, "What? God's not going to pass judgement on my selfishness and rash behavior?" (I can be pretty dense when I'm grumpy.) I remembered that the reason I had found the wrong verse if because I was thinking of Romans 8:15...however, before I found it (despite the fact that I have it underlined in my Bible), my eye came across Romans 8:1, "There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." I must admit, I was a bit taken aback...I was trying to live a godly life...a life of the Spirit...I was intrigued by Paul's words, to say the least...So, I read on..."For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness fo the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh , but after the Spirit...(not skipping verses because they aren't important...just mentioning those that hit me hardest...please, read the whole passage, Romans 8:1-17,'s awesome)...But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness...For ye hove not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."

The truth of the matter is that God has forgiven me entirely because Jesus signed off on all of my sins, already. Duh! Being a girl of God means living it, not just looking the part. Duh!

Praise be to God for clarity through His Holy Spirit.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Time on this earth...

Wow! It's soooo dad just got a phone call saying that one of my co-workers died,'s kind of a shock...I mean, sure, he was 52 and stuff...but he was in really good shape...and I had talked to him on Thursday...he told me to have a good weekend...I said, "Yep. You, too." and smiled...and then, I come to find out that while he was at his Tae Kwon Do exhibition thingy (he really was in good shape)...he went up for a kick and was dead when he landed. *blinks* It's just weird to think about, I guess...I am still unsure as to how to respond exactly...I guess, I didn't really know him that well...I know that he was active in his church and I've heard him talk about his faith a bit...he sounded like he had faith in the resurrection...for that I am glad...I mean, I am happy to think that he is with Jesus...and I have only happy memories of him...he was always nice to me and helped me out...but did I show him that? Did I show my gratitude enough? Can you ever show your gratitude enough? It's one of those reminders to live out your love at all others that you love others that God loves them...*blinks back tears* It makes me feel so small and so inadequate...I don't know that I have shown all of my friends just how much I really do love them. I mean, I've told them that I do... but have I shown them? I would hate to leave them and have them wonder if I cared...

and it seems so simple in theory to rectify..."Live out your love for Christ"...I say it all the time...I say it to my Sunday school kids...but we all know how hard that can's one of those battles that you always seem to be fighting...It's kind of like what Paul was talking about in Romans 7..."The Christian Struggle" as my Bible calls it...Paul goes on for about 18 verses...seemingly thinking on paper about the hardships of living your life for Christ. He first speaks on how the law pointed out our sinful ways...he says in verse 1 "...I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said ,Thou shalt not covet. " It's true...before you know and understand the's quite easy to be self-rightous..."As long as my heart's in the right place," we say to ourselves...but later, we learn that "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." It falls harshly upon our ears...we realize that "meaning well" isn't the same as doing good. As Paul puts it in verse 10, "And the commandments, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death."

The law shows us that try as we might, we don't measure up...and it's not because the law is bad, for Paul writes in verses 12 & 13 "Wherefore the law is holy and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become esceeding sinful.", it's not the's sin, living in makes it so hard...Paul writes in verses 14 & 15 "For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." I know I can relate to that...I catch myself behaving in ways that I's the feeling of, "I know what I should do...but I never seem to do it...I can keep some of the commandments most of the time...but that's not good enough...*frustrated frown*"...Paul elaborates on this point for several verses before articulating in verses 22&23 the root of our very frustration, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivitiy to the law of sin which is in my members."

I've been pondering the truth to that, this weekend. It coincides with the chapter I just read in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I was reading about guarding the heart and the pitfalls of infatuation, lust, and self-pity. I thought back and remembered the various times I've fallen into each of those traps in the recent past...those times when I felt lonely and knew God could ease my pain, but for some stupid reason, I looked for solace elsewhere. I dwelt upon those times when I caught myself daydreaming about the my love story might be written, though I know that God will write one much more fabulous than any I could dream up...Sometimes, it seems I fail more than I succeed in my battle for purity. I want to be a godly woman so badly, but I know I keep screwing up...granted, my screwups aren't as great in magnitude as those of the past, but...God doesn't look at the size of our sins...he looks for our repentance...As I thought about all of my recent misadventures...all the times I'd tripped...all the times I'd slipped...I was beginning to feel as though I'd never reach my goals...

I remembered something that Dannah Gresh had said in her book And the Bride Wore White. She talked about purity being a journey, a path...the proverbial "straight and narrow", if you will...She talked about how we try to journey toward purity (purity being Christ-like)...but temptations always pop-up and trip us. However, when we call upon our Lord, He will come to our rescue and help us conquer that temptation, and as we journey, we come to know this better. We learn to recognize temptations more quickly and learn to be humble enough to call upon the Lord for help at the first sight of trouble, rather than waiting 'til we screw up. (I'm going to mix my metaphors here, a minute)...Asking for help like that reminds me of a story Joshua Harris told in I Kissed Dating Goodbye about a father passing along wisdom to the next generation and giving the young boy a nail puller. He told the boy that he had put that nail puller to good use. He remembered building a fence once and discovering it was crooked, but he figured that it would straighten itself out as he went, that there was no need to go pulling the nails...In the end, the problem just kept getting worse, and he had to take the whole fence apart and start over...If we ask our Lord to help us early on, we can get back on track faster and with less cost, as we won't have ventured as far away...but that requires humility. Now, back to the journeying toward purity, I've found that I continue to struggle, but that I am learning to correct my mistakes sooner, minimizing the amount of wandering I do...and while I am glad to see I've made progress...I know I have so far to go...I mean, who likes knowing that they are always screwing up? Who likes reading scripture about how they should be living only to find that they can't seem to really live it out...we soon discover that we can't seem to keep all of the commandments all of the time...and while we are capable of keeping some of the commandments most of the time, that just isn't good enough...As I came face to face with my recent I examined my heart and saw all my transgressions, I found myself crying out with Paul in verse 24 "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (His words sound a whole lot cooler...mine went more like, "Oh, God, my God...why do I continue to forsake you?!?! Who can help me change?"

Luckily, I was soon reminded of the answer to that very question. Verse 25 reads, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." The Grace granted us through the death of Jesus makes up for all of our shortcomings. Does it mean that we don't need to keep the commandments? No, by no means, but it does mean that by recognizing our shortcomings and confessing them to our Father, we can continue to abide in His merciful grace. How great God's love for us! He's saved me from the most certain death that my actions's amazing! It's awesome! hehe :D It's amazing grace!!!!

Even with that reassurance, though, I found myself to still be wondering...What about when I stumble? When I fall? So, I went searching through my Bible, again...I found in Psalm 145:14 the answer "The Lord upholdeth all that fall and raiseth up all those that be bowed down." God never really let me fall, did He? He caught me, once again. He was there...just like He always is...Glory be to God forever for His amazing love his awesome mercy has saved me once again from the death that my sinful nature was carrying me toward. :') (nothing like tears of joy...*sigh* :) )

So, in all my rambling here, what have I really said? I don't per usual...I was thinking as I, I can only hope that it makes sense...what it boils down to in my mind, though is that God is great and merciful...if He weren't, I would be doomed, but it is by His grace and loving-kindness that I can sit here and prepare to pick up my cross and follow Him again. It's one of those Superchic[k] moments when you are getting back up, knowing very well that you just might fall, again. "...but I just have to try." So, to anyone reading this, May the Lord bless you with peace, courage, and strength as you endeavor to follow Him. May you find hope in His goodness and have faith in His love. Remember that God loves you more than anyone else ever could.

Praise be to God!