Sunday, September 27, 2009

no longer

i'm not really a fan of bugs. i'd like to pretend that they don't bother me as much as they do, but i still have some fear of them. a stink bug has recently taken refuge in my room on my curtain, and i just can't bring myself to get rid of him(yes, it's a him, duh), mostly because i have this unjustified fear that he'll fly up my nose just when i try to grab(that's a nice way to say wack) him. for now, i've decided to name him Amos and let him roam free--if i make him my pet, he's less scary, right?

fears. oh, how i have many. i've been thinking lately about my religious fears, and i've discovered that they all stem from a similar branch. the fear of the calling God may place on my life. fear of the potential burdens, fear of responsibility. fear of not being worthy of or equipped for the call. fear of the expectations and fear of failure. fear that i won't even hear it or recognize it.

thinking about all of this at once was completely overwhelming. at first i tried to figure out the root of why i fear these things. but then i realized there was a more important question--how do i overcome them?

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again." ~2 Corinth. 5:14-15

i've been fixating and focusing so much on myself, on my fears, that i've missed the more important conclusion--i don't live for myself. what would it look like if i truly lived only for Christ, if i was no longer self-aware and only God & neighbor-aware? i imagine that my concerns and fears would quickly disappear.

a few weeks ago, i discovered that my student ID still allows me to check out library books--woot woot! i'll probably check out more books this year than i did during my entire UVA education, but that's beside the point. i picked up The Screwtape Letters by none other than C.S. Lewis. the premise of the book is the main character, Screwtape, works for Satan and is advising another 'employee', Wormwood, on how exactly to go about winning souls for them. a particular chapter has intrigued me, and while i haven't yet finished the book, i find myself frequently returning to this short, 4-page section. here's a snippet, spoken from Screwtape's perspective:

"our Enemy[God] wants to turn the man's attention away from self to Him, and to the man's neighbors. you must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of low opinion of his own talents and character...
the Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents--or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures(even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible.
His whole effort, therefore, will be to get the man's mind off the subject of his own value altogether. He would rather the man thought himself a great architect or poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one."

here's to working on dying to self, on living solely for and trusting solely in Christ. He's the only reason i'm on this earth anyways.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Snuggle Night

today was one of those dreary, rainy days, which can only mean one thing-norah jones. ideally while curling up in a ball and snuggling on my bed. =)

tragically, i missed out on both of those today. but, the need for snuggle-age got me thinking, thinking about the power of touch. my tutoring kids LOVE to snuggle. even the kid who gave me the stink face for two solid weeks surprised me just the other day with a hug! the type of snuggling varies, from daily hugs to playing with my hair(you should see the "prom hair" some of the girls gave me one day) to the most recent development, playing with my hands. luckily for me, i love snuggling with them just as much, and giving hugs is in fact one of my all-time favorite things to do.

so i got to thinking, we must be programmed to desire human touch. duh, jeannie. but what's really intriguing me is the healing that comes from it. there is a restorative power in physical touch, a power and joy that i feel everytime i give or receive a hug from a friend or snuggle with a kid.

then it dawned on me--this is exactly what Jesus did. He healed people with a physical touch. Acts 19:11-12. Luke 8:44; 13:13. Mark 6:56. just a sampling of examples of Jesus laying healing hands on the sick and wounded. it's like the quote by St. Francis of Assisi--"preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words." before the Gospel was even in print, healing could be found in a simple touch.

Luke 8:40-48 is my favorite. Here we have Jesus making his way through a swarming crowd, on his way to heal a dying young girl. along the way, however, another woman with an incurable sickness touches the mere edge of Jesus' cloak and is instantly healed. i think what makes this passage especially beautiful to me is that it's the woman reaching out. it shows our desperation for healing, our longing for a chance to just touch and experience the source of such a power. but it also shows our fear from the ways in which we have made this awesome power into something destructive. immediately after the woman is healed, Jesus asks 'Who touched me?' and the woman, after initially denying it, comes forth trembling, falling at Jesus' feet. our brokenness has twisted the power of touch into something often to be feared, has caused us to build up walls to protect ourselves from the dangers that now are associated with it.

but Jesus doesn't stop there. he listens to the woman and her story and tells her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you." a powerful touch + a few powerful words = restoration in a moment of beauty. i imagine the joy she felt feels much like the joy i have when receiving a hug or getting a prom-do. =)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

you've made everything beautiful

...even me.

beauty has been on my heart this past week. i don't know what initially sparked it, but as i started journaling last Sunday, the word beauty just kept coming into the forefront of my mind. i had been realizing more and more the need to tell people that they are beautiful and loved, how we are all desperate to feel valued. i just kept thinking how blessed i am that i have people who show me i'm loved, who encourage me and how that has literally changed my life. at the end of my journal that night, i prayed that God would reveal to me His beauty and love, not just by the world's standards, but "the kind of beauty that makes you glow from within." Boy, did he show me.

after tutoring on Monday, i was talking with the 2 ladies who run the tutoring program at the elementary school. we were discussing how one of the kids had just shut down during tutoring, and one of the ladies brought up what their particular home situation was like. in that moment, i felt so stupid--i had forgotten all too easily the circumstances many of these kids come from, the difficulties they face at home, school, in society. now, as many of you will know, i am a huge fan of discipline. but suddenly i found myself questioning my interactions with the kids. how could i balance love and encouragement, what they so desperately needed, and discipline?

throughout the week, i was on a mission to find Bible verses that would connect all this to beauty. interestingly, a theme quickly began developing. here are some of the verses i wrote down:

"the heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out."
"the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit."
~Proverbs 18:15, 21

lesson #1: adjust my listening:talking ratio...i think we know which one of those i need to work on. :P

"for everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort" ~1 Corinth. 14:3
"if anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God." ~1 Peter 4:11

lesson #2: WOW. only speak the very words of God. only speak out of His love and grace. how powerful are our words!

God gave me an opportunity to put these lessons into practice that very week. an argument broke out between some of the Abundant Life girls over playing with chalk. when the need arose to discipline, my thoughts jumped to Proverbs--the way to show God's love was first through my ears, not my mouth. as i listened to each of the girls tell me their side of the story, i thought 'this is what God does for me everyday.' think of all the times we come to God with a mouthful--does He ever stop listening? not once. and then how does He respond to us? with love, with encouragement, with grace.

you might be wondering how exactly beauty fits into all this. so i need listen more and speak words of encouragement--awesome. but there is a beauty that needs to be found in the very core of all our relationships as well, and here i must be a lil more transparent.

i have quite a few close guy friends. all throughout college, i was "one of the dudes," and never really thought too much about it. but, i've been realizing over the past year just how much i value that attention, even if i don't always see it as such. basically, relationships can be tricky business, and even though i genuinely love getting to know people, guys included, i don't want to unguard my heart too much. how do i still value the friendship and attention of guys while also being respectful of their hearts' and mine?

Again, God presented himself to me in a way that only He can. friday evening, i was busy being my social butterfly self. my friends, both guys and gals, were being especially complimentary that night it seemed--a few of my guy friends even went so far as to tell me i looked beautiful! it was somewhat odd to me, but of course also very flattering. but the best part, however, was the way i felt every time i was complimented. i just kept thinking, "they think God is beautiful!" for the first time i can remember, i felt this deep beauty in my very core. not gonna lie, it was such a new and bizarre feeling, but so refreshingly wonderful! i wasn't worried about what they might be thinking, or why they were complimenting me, or why i was beautiful that day--they weren't compliments to me, but to my Creator. remember how i prayed that He would reveal to me the kind of beauty that makes you glow from within?

i was floored the rest of the night. in a weird way, it was like i was proud of God, as if i wanted to say to Him, "rock on! you've created so much beauty, even in me! *high five!"

Beauty. the way i listen, the words i say, the encouragement i give, the love i receive. all of this is His beauty in me. when i show someone His love, when i affirm their God-given value and beauty, i'm really thanking God for His creations, for His beauty, for His love. and He's made everything beautiful.
~Ecclesiastes 3:11

Sunday, September 6, 2009


~i went out this afternoon to buy a bookcase...i returned with a bible. and it was on sale!~

"After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household, Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means."
~Luke 8:1-3

finally... some women i can look up to! =)

i was trying to think of the last time a woman was even mentioned in a sermon, much less really discussed in depth. besides the woman at the well and the Virgin Mary, not too many instances come to mind. this is the image women are given to look at and live up to-don't have 5 husbands, be humbled by the fact that a man is talking to you, and oh yea, give birth to the Messiah. curiously, no one ever talks about Jael driving a tent peg through the temple of Sisera, a powerful oppressor of God's people. now that's what i'm talking about!

okay, so maybe i'm taking it a lil far, but still. i feel like on the rare occasions women from the Bible are mentioned, we tend to skirt around the most crucial aspect--they loved Jesus. sure, most Christians have likely been exposed to the story of the woman at the well, but what is focused on? her sinfulness, the fact that she is an outcast and has multiple husbands. i'm not saying these are necessarily bad things to talk about in regards to the passage, for they can be used to paint a beautiful picture of Jesus' love and redemption. but we also miss a crucial point. the woman at the well immediately went back and gathered an entire town to come see Jesus and hear him. why? because she believed He was the Savior and loved Him, because she was in awe and filled with a joy that could not be contained. the result of this sharing of love and joy was that "many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony!" (John 4:39)

the more i talk to my fellow women, the more i am convicted that we need to hear about these women of the Bible, and not necessarily in the light that they are often depicted in. i had no idea until i randomly flipped(or Jesus guided me there i should say) to that passage in Luke of any of the following: women followed Christ, like the 12 disciples, throughout His ministry, women financed and supported said ministry, these women did it not because they were asked or because their husband was there, but because they felt the joy and love of Christ first-hand. basically, these were women who loved Jesus and were committed to following Him regardless of the social or cultural norms and pressures of the time.

I, too, like Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and the countless other women want to follow Christ and proclaim His good news in whatever way that may look like. more than that, i'm convinced that there are Christian women out there who want to do the same, but like me, have been scared and intimidated by other Christians of doing so fully. the fact that i felt so overjoyed yet shocked to hear about these women and the part they played in Jesus' ministry, their love for Him and His people, shows just how necessary it is for us to begin talking about women in this powerful and encouraging light. so women, be encouraged! men, start encouraging! =)

perhaps, for once, we should stop talking about what women "shouldn't" do in ministry and look at all they already have done.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

thirst for righteousness

there are no black people in the game of "Guess Who."

yesterday, some of my tutoring kids were playing this game when i came upon this realization--on the board there were white people, latino people, old people, young people, men, women. all my tutoring kids that day were black.

i've been thinking more about joy and how it differs from happiness. my brief searching has brought me to this: happiness is fleeting. joy is the constant presence of God.
apparently, the root of "happy" is "hap", which means "luck." "joy" was a lil harder to find, but the root i found was "i rejoice" and "noble." i think this fact alone explains mountains.

speaking of mountains, i also came across an interesting sermon about Jesus teaching the Beatitudes in Matthew. apparently, the word "blessed" or "happy" found in most translations of the text comes from the Greek word "makarios," which can similarly be described as "joy." after all, to be blessed is to believe in God, and to believe in Him is to be filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, right? =)

anywho, back to Guess Who. i was reading the Beatitudes and came to the 4th one, which got me thinking. "Blessed(or Joyful) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." well then i had to look up the word "righteousness." shoot, i don't think i've ever used a dictionary this many times in my whole life. but what i found was really intriguing. to be righteous is to be just; so righteousness is also justice.

joyful are those who hunger and thirst for justice. perhaps that's why i feel so much joy when tutoring each afternoon, when i even just think about the kids in my neighborhood. perhaps that's why i'm loving working for Abundant Life. perhaps that's why i feel so much passion and frustration over a Guess Who game. God is just, and He is constantly present in those who seek justice.

Joy is a much more diverse creature than i thought.