Thursday, December 30, 2010

Here's to you New Year Resolutionizers.

Hope you are more dedicated than I!  : )

What is it about the New Year that seems to scream “Make lots of impossible goals now?”  I don’t know. I mean really, there is no way I am going to give up my diet cokes. I am addicted. For some reason though, every New Year, one of my resolutions is to stop drinking diet coke. Yeah right. My brother told me the average resolution lasts 17 days. I couldn’t even go seven without my liquid addiction.  But still, it is on top of my resolution list.

Another goal amidst the New Year is working out. Once, when I was a junior in high school, I worked out every single day for about 6 weeks. Then one day my cousin came in town and I didn’t go work out. That was the end of that good habit. However this year, it will be different. This year I WILL work out three days a week. I WILL be a perfect size 6 (or is it perfect size 2 now? 0?).  I WILL drink plenty of water and have toned arms and thighs. I WILL. My school schedule is even set up so that I have 4 hours in between classes, so what else would I do besides work out?! It’s amazing how much time you can spend on Facebook at one time. But back to optimism- I will be working out throughout this New Year, along with no diet cokes. No exceptions… at least that I have thought of yet.

Another resolution of mine that I should probably take seriously is good grades. Although some of you might disagree, I actually am smart. When I apply myself,  I can succeed at anything I put my mind to. The problem is putting my mind to things that don’t involve a sewing machine, a bike, a book, a blog, etc.  But you know what?  This year, it’s on. Straight A’s here I come,  and I am serious because my scholarship depends on it. So this one I might actually stick to, but it won’t be because it’s a New Year resolution. It will be because I cannot afford to NOT make good grades. Does that still count as a resolution though? I mean, I am starting at the beginning of the New Year with my good grade policy. Sounds like a resolution to me!  Woohoo, one I might actually keep.

So to all you New Year Resolutionizers out there, good luck. May your resolutions last longer than 17 days, so that you might say, “At least I beat the majority.”  Because as we all know, it’s really just about beating the majority. God Speed and the New Year be good to you. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

True Story.

Matthew 27 

He was begging him. This son was begging his Father. Not once did he beg, not twice. Three times he begged. On his knees, sweat and tears, he pleaded. He pleaded. Anxious and nervous, upset, scared, he was begging. "Daddy, please! Daddy, if there is no other way, I'll go. Your plans, not my own. I'll go, but Daddy, I don't want to. I am scared Daddy. Please, can anything else be done? Daddy, please!"

His daddy watched, pacing back and forth. His son, on his hands and knees, tears, sweat, pleading, pleading, pleading. Daddy was rubbing his eyes. He was pulling his hair. He was walking back and forth, throwing his head up, closing his eyes, thinking about what He should do, what he could do. His heart was breaking, breaking. He wants to grab his son, his sweet baby boy. He wants to hold him, to hug him, to love him and run away with him. But he can't. He can't. His heart is breaking, but He knows what has to be done. He knows he can't grab his little boy. This is the moment of truth. This is what his baby boy was made for. As badly as he wants to grab his son up in a hug, he can't. His son is pleading, begging. He is scared and sad, but his Dad just stands there. This is it. He loves his boy. His pride and joy, and his boy is pleading and begging him, but he has to stand and watch. His son, but Dad knows it's what has to do. 

The knock on the door, and this is it. They kick it open. The boy's friends are there, and they try to fight for him, but the boy says no. He goes willingly- to his death. They beat him. They yell and hurt him. He takes it. His Daddy knows what's going on, but He has to let it. The boy is mocked and hurt, and the worst part is, His Daddy could have an army there to take his boy home in one second. If these perpetrators only knew. If they only knew who they were messing with, they might have stopped. The boy knew his reward would be great if he stayed. He knew he was saving more lives, that it was worth losing his own, but that doesn't make it easy to be mocked and beaten and murdered. 

He died. His father cried. His son was hurting and crying out for him. A daddy and his son, and their perfect love, their perfect relationship. A father's pride and joy is his son. He watched his perfect son die- for us. If that's not love, I don't know what is. 

What is love?

Matthew 27

I thought I knew what love was. I thought love was 1 Corinthians 13. I thought love was being joyful and happy and willing and giving away your time. I thought love was being blind to a person's faults, loving them through their short comings, encouraging, compromising. I thought love was You, and what You've done for us, but I didn't really know what You did for us. I didn't really know what love was. I didn't realize the weight of what You did, or the how much it hurt and how scared You might have actually been.  

Then I read the story. The same story I've read a million times. The same story that's been preached every Easter for my 21 years, but this time it was different. This time I stopped at the part where You begged your Father. Please  Father, is there any other way? Please Father, your will not mine, but if there's any other way... and a third time. Please, father. If you can do this differently, please. And then they took him away. After He begged, not once or twice, but three times- he begged. He pleaded with His Daddy. Daddy, please. Daddy, please. Okay Daddy, if I have to, but please Daddy, please. 

Then there's the part where He went. He said, Daddy, your plans, not mine; you know best, Daddy. They took him away. They hurt Him and took Him. Then the crowds, the people He'd healed and loved and saved, they spit on Him. Spit on Him. The beat Him. Beat Him. Then, if that wasn't enough, they hit Him. They hit Him, and then they mocked Him. The mocked the Son of Man. The creator. The SAVIOR. They said, Messiah, prophesy who hit You. Like He was an idiot. Like He couldn't call on his father and a host of angels to destroy them. He took it. With the grace of a King and the love of the Father- He took their beatings and their mockery. 

That's where I stopped. I know the crucifixion. The pain. The hurt. The out cries.  In the midst of his torture He asked for their forgiveness. He asked for our forgiveness. If this isn't the picture of love, then there's no such thing. If this isn't what love is, if you don't feel loved, there's no hope for you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oil Rainbows and Donuts.

I was sitting in the donut shop with my nephew. It was cold and raining, and everything outside seemed to have a tint of grey. The sun was no where. It was dreary. Will, my nephew said, "Look Jess, a rainbow." Silly will. I love that kid, but there was no rainbow... anywhere. Everything was grey, even the white cars outside the window looked grey. "Yes it is! That's a rainbow on the ground. Every color except red."

Will was talking about oil. Some oil from a car had leaked and spread all over the black parking lot. He was right. It was a rainbow. It was beautiful. Against the black pavement, the oil had created incredible shades of blue, purple, green, yellow, and orange. No red, but all the others. Will was exactly right. It made a wonderful ocean of color across this parking spot, and the black pavement made the colors look even brighter. I know this sounds crazy, but it's true. 

The entire world, even the donuts, looked grey this morning. It was cold. It was raining. This eight year old boy sat in front of me and found the most beautiful thing in the midst of the dark. I was thankful for him at that moment. Isn't that what God does for us? Aren't we ugly? Aren't we oil spills? God sees beauty and majesty in us, despite the mess that we are. He finds us and makes us beautiful. He sees us and so much more than what we really are. We are a creation to him, perfect and bright. Although we lack in so many ways, just like Will's rainbow was missing the red, we are still beautiful. He sees value and worth in us. He knows we are more than just a spill, a spot, that needs to be cleaned up. He wants us. He wants us to grow and remain in him. 

Will loved the oil rainbow. He couldn't believe that oil could do that, or that it was a problem that needed to be cleaned up. He just thought it was beautiful. He saw a pattern and a work of art in what most people see as a nuisance.  

Jesus did too. Jesus saw something beautiful, something unique in us. We don't see each other that way. We don't see people in the way Jesus did. We see each other as problems, as wrong, and messes that need to be cleaned up. Maybe if we found the beauty in one another we could learn to love like Christ did. Maybe if we could look at oil in the parking lot as a rainbow, we could learn to look at each other with love and potential. Maybe that's why he wants us to have faith like a child. Children don't have to be taught to find beauty; they do it on their own. 

Joy and Hope. Not happiness.

God is good, even when life is hard. And life, I have found, is very hard. There is always the possibility of disappointment and heart break. Life is merciless, as is this world we live in. Sometimes my heart breaks for the people that don't know Jesus. Not because of the unsure future, but because of the joy that only comes from Christ. I can't imagine waking up every morning and counting on the world, or people to fill me up and supply my joy. Our own parents let us down. The men and women who love us let us down. Nothing in this world is truly sustaining. Happiness is so circumstantial, and circumstances are so temporary. It literally breaks my heart to think of those living for this world, in this world, with nothing more to count on.

Think about how easily a good day can be ruined, or a good time can turn bad. Think about how our emotions are different with every conversation and every word, every song, every movie. It is so easy to lose happiness, and anger and sadness creep up before we even have time to think about why. Happiness can be lost or gained in an instant. Joy is the only thing that lasts. Joy in permanent, it is deep, it is unwaivering. Joy is what we have in Christ; it's what we get from him when we know that no matter how horrible a circumstance, the future is bright.

Joy is from Christ. Happiness is from the world. The thought of only having happiness makes me sad. I hate to think that people in this world have no hope, no happiness, and no joy. In Christ, there is always hope and joy. Happiness is temporary because it is circumstantial, but joy and hope are unfailing in  an unfailing Christ.

My prayer is that everyone might experience joy and hope. My prayer is that those who are longing for more would find Christ; that they wouldn't turn to this world or that man or that drink for what they are missing. My prayer is that our hearts would be so broken by this world that we have to have Christ because there's no other way we'll make it. We realize that we HAVE to know him. We have to have joy and hope in Him because it is not coming from anywhere else. My prayer is that everyone this Christmas would know the true meaning of Christmas, and know that it is not about tacky sweaters and good gifts. It's about joy and hope that come from the savior, and the reason we celebrate is the savior. My prayer is for joy and hope, whether happiness is there or not.

Happy Christmas.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

For You.

You need to know that you are dearly loved. You are loved and wanted and needed and inspiring. There is great pride in your being and your person. There is a plan for you and a purpose that is for no one BUT you. There is hope and a chance for you. There is a future; a promise. Thought and sweat and blood went in to preparation for you. A plan, an idea; an "ah ha!" moment sparked your beginning. A creator designed you; A creator far more talented than any of us. You are not alone. Someone is just like you. Someone is here for you, walking beside you, behind you, leading you; wherever you need them to be. Someone has been where you are or where you are going or where you just came from. Someone is going your way. Someone can point you in the right direction. Someone can hold your hand, or not talk if you'd like. Someone looks up to you. Someone is encouraged and inspired by you. Someone finds joy in your happiness. Someone hurts in your sadness. Someone wants to be like you; someone wants to save you. Someone BELIEVES in you. You have a story worth telling. You have a story people NEED to hear. You have a story others can relate to. You are worth the time and the effort. You are worth the sacrifice. You are AMAZING and unique and gifted. You are the missing piece. You are a part of the puzzle. You are irreplaceable. There is no other YOU. Your talent is not lost. It is never too late. You are smart. You have all the potential and the world at your fingertips. You can do WHATEVER you want; go WHEREVER you want. You have the power and the capability to figure out how. You can overcome. You can  shock and awe. You can win and succeed. You can listen and learn. You can. You CAN. Lean not on your own understanding; you don't have to. You don't need to. You don't want to. Don't think too hard. Don't work to hard. Don't  lose sight of why. Count your blessings. Compliment. Complement. Complete. Seek purpose. Seek reason. Seek faith. Don't ask why. Just be thankful. Just believe.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Could you do me a favor? Probably not.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they might see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven. Matthew 5:16

"You're too kind," he said. It made me sad.

     Today in the Tiger Den (for you non-Tigers, that's our cafeteria, and by cafeteria I mean where the Subway and Chick- Fil- A are) a man with full hands and arms and a backpack dropped his packet of ketchup on the ground. Instead of picking it up, for fear of dropping a lot more than ketchup, he started kicking it toward an empty table. He kicked the packet right into my pathway, and without thinking, I picked it up and handed it to him. When I did this, I wasn't really thinking, and I definitely was not expecting to hear, "You are too kind. Thank you so much for that." Now, I realize this could have been his normal, polite response whenever someone helps him out, but it could have been a genuine "thank you." So here's where I'm at:

        Why are we shown so much gratitude for something so small? Do we live in a world that is so concerned with self, that a simple gesture has become reason for spoken gratitude? And if we do, why is that okay? I don't know if it was ever really like this, but you hear songs and read books about people that would do anything for anybody.The bible is filled with stories of people dedicated to reaching out and bringing people in, doing whatever they could for anyone if it meant they saw Christ through them. If it's in the bible then we know, at one point, this is how people lived, so why aren't we living like that now?
           As Christians, shouldn't we live by the standard of giving ourselves for the sake of others? Our goal and our purpose should be to display Christ' love in our actions and our lifestyles. We should be people of accountability, of trust, of reliability. Instead, we actively participate in a world that is so self-consumed that picking up a packet of ketchup off the ground for someone struggling to balance everything is suddenly a heroic act. In our world, this gesture that should be second nature, means that we are kind and considerate and not self-obsessed. If that's all it takes, what would happen if we started doing real things for each other; things that actually take time and effort and sacrifice? I'm not sure any of us would know what to do. 

That's the sad part- not only should we know what to do, we should be examples of this because we live for Christ who walked the Earth as a living example for us. Our teacher is the one who invented kindness and generosity and compassion, and he gave all of us the potential for such things. Instead though, we float on by with our own lives, only lending a hand where it's noticed or when it's convenient for us. Seriously, this is what has come of the people who have been appointed and entrusted by Christ to carry on His good works. 

And taking it a step farther, isn't this what has happened to the modern church? We are all about bringing people in and helping them find the truth in life, but is it more about convenience? Are we willing to travel like Paul, or give our lives to bringing people to Christ? Some churches are great at this, and they have an outreach that has reached across the ocean, but what about the majority? Our doors are open, but don't ask us to come to your door first. What happened to the people being the church, and the church goes wherever the people are? Isn't that how we should be living?

These might just be my own convictions, but I think it's something we should all be more aware of. Our goal for ourselves should be to live as people from whom generosity and kindness and outreach are expected. People should not be surprised when we reach out and do whatever we can for them. They should know that's what we're going to do. Our goal in all of this should be to shine the light of Christ into the darkness of this world. When we are living in love, we are living in Christ. After all, whatever we do for the least of thee, we do for Christ, right? 

     Like I said, these might just be my own convictions. I go to a wonderful church, as I'm sure many of you do, but I think it's easy to get comfortable and forget that the purpose of living for Christ is about going beyond our own comforts. Comfortable is a scary place to stay. Challenge yourselves to live as people from whom kindness and generosity is expected. Challenge yourselves to do everything with a cheerful heart, without grumbling or complaining. When someone needs something, be there for them, and let Christ use you to reach others.