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Broken Heart

It’s been a while since there’s been a post on this blog — so, if you’re not looking to read a book, then I’d scroll down the page and see what other posts there are, and if you’re up for a nice fire-side story… please, make yourself comfortable.

Let me start out with saying that the image in this post is over-looking part of a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in the early morning. This picture was taken on the last day, or morning, the team was in Haiti. Yes, I was part of that team if it isn’t already obvious. I won’t elaborate too deeply on my experience, but I will say this: No one will understand, unless they’ve been to Haiti, what I am trying to say. I could try and explain it a million ways and people would still not truly get it.

What is it?

It is my personal experience. For many of the kids on the team, including me, which consisted of 19 people total: 11 high school students, 3 eighth graders, and 4 chaperones/leaders, it was our first time going down to Haiti — and for some, it was their first time leaving the country. I have been on an international mission trip before, but to a more rural and less poverished country — Ecuador. Haiti, for me was an eye-opening experience, as it is for many, but since each person’s background story, life experiences, etc. is different, the experience has a different impact each and every time… if that makes sense.

For me, it was a literal slap in the face. The slap in the face, honestly, wasn’t bad – in fact I desperately needed it. I was struggling with so many selfish desires – these desires were to fill that void in my heart, the pain I felt emotionally. I did nothing out of lustful intents nor anything that breaks the law… but I did hurt myself and the people closest to me because of what I was doing to myself. Basically, what I’m also trying to say is that I hit rock bottom. I was done, I didn’t want to try anymore. I was so done that I almost backed out of going to Haiti, as I was second-guessing myself so much to the point I drove myself into having anxiety attacks. Going to Haiti made me realize that I may have it rough, I may go through trials, but it is nothing compared to what the Haitian people are going through. Despite the severe poverty, crime rates, and so forth, the Christians of that society… I envy their faith. Americans are rich with possessions — most often or not unneeded possessions — while the Haitians who are (for some, literally) dirt-poor are richer than any of us Americans could imagine in their relationship to Christ. Seeing how such a poor and troubled people could be so content, so happy, snapped me out of my own trance.

Our group was working on the floor of a school at the sight of the orphanage our church has been supporting for years, now. During breaks, or when we needed a break from the heat, we would go and play with the orphans, as they were on some sort of break. Gosh, I can’t even describe the feeling of getting to interact, hold, and play with the kids — all whose ages range from 2-18 years. I can tell you, as I’m writing this, I’m smiling like an idiot and starting to tear up at all the happy memories. The bonds/friendships made will last a life-time and beyond. The night we said goodbye was heart-breaking. And at that, it brings me to the main point of this entry…

Recently, I was listening to the music on my phone. I have about 800 songs on my phone… don’t judge. Often or not, I’ll “discover” songs that I had purchased a long time ago – and when I say “a long time ago” I mean a year or so ago. Anyway, as I was listening, a song came up that I had forgotten how much meaning it had written in between the lyrics. That song was “Break My Heart by Jonny Diaz. If you have not heard the song, need a refresher, or would just like to hear it, click the link, and take a minute and listen.

Before going to Haiti, that song to me, had as much meaning as the lyrics plainly state:

I see children in slavery
It’s all too much so I turn off the TV
A world away from the world they’re in
So I give up before I even begin

To try to make this right
To try to love like Christ

So, help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Come break my heart, come break my heart
True grace sees a face, not a burden
So, come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?
Come break my heart

It’s hard to see past my picket fence
So I give a little from a guilty conscience
How can I ever really make a change
When I’m too afraid to even feel their pain

So, help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Come break my heart, come break my heart
True grace sees a face, not a burden
So, come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?

I believe that love can bridge the distance
And I believe that one can make a difference
‘Cause one man on a cross changed the world

So, help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Lord break my heart, Lord break my heart
‘Cause true grace sees a face, not a burden
Come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?

Help me see through the eyes of the hurting
Come break my heart, come break my heart
Sure, Your love should never be a burden
Come break my heart, won’t You break my heart?
Lord break my heart, come break my heart
Lord, break my heart

Taken from: SongLyrics.com

I had never given much thought to the true meaning behind the song. But I doubt I could’ve without a little extra help. After going to Haiti, I heard of the stories of children being enslaved — I even got to meet some kids who had been rescued from the restavek programs, who had been rescued from being sex slaves. I got to see first hand through the eyes of the children, thanks to the wonderful workers at the orphanage. At first I had felt nothing after interacting with the kids, but that was because I knew nothing about their past. Their burdens were not burdens to me, their burdens – well, most had let go of. Their faces would light up as soon as they saw us, and so would ours. Those kids broke my heart right in two. This “heart break” isn’t like that of a relationship between a guy and girl… that “heart broken” stuff, for that, is crap. I’m sorry, but it is. To see a child, who is as much as a total stranger to you as you are to them, come up to you without hesitation and lift their arms up as a gesture to be held, hugged, and loved… well, it is heart breaking. I wanted to feel their pain, to know what they had gone through and then see where the kids were now. My heart broke because of the type of adoration I learned of. This kind of adoration cannot be explained.

That step out of my comfort zone — going while I was struggling, going to a different country without my parents, being held at a whole new level of responsibility — is all just a mere memory now.

That love Jonny Diaz is talking about, for me, did build a bridge. It built a bridge from my heart straight to Haiti and the kids there. Their faces are forever in my head – the smiles, the laughter. I thought that while I was going to be down in Haiti, everything would just be a burden, a painful burden. I had pushed my own burdens aside, bracing for these new ones — I was asking myself, “How can I love these children? How can I show them the love of Christ? How do I communicate it?” the list goes on and on. God answered that: be yourself and simply embrace them. I needed to learn how to love these children on my own, for God knew I’d find the answers to my questions very fast.

My heart will always be broken. It will always go out to the orphans and people of the world, no matter what status they are in society. I cannot wait to go back to Haiti and hug the kids and play with them and work in the heat. I do not care what other people think of me and how I feel towards Haiti and the people. Haiti will have a special place in my heart and I will never get tired of showing God’s love in countless ways, as well as serving Him – wherever, whenever, and to whoever he calls me to minister, too.

My wish for ever person that reads this blog, in general, is that they take the message of the post away with them. And I wish for God to place a burden in people’s hearts to do his will – I also hope that each and every one of you who reads this will get a chance to go on a mission trip, as the impact is amazing and unforgettable.

In Christ,
Tori

If you have questions concerning the statics, etc. of Haiti, feel free to send me a message via the blog’s email (found on the Contact Us page).

Here are a few sites about Haiti and its background, for those interested, including information on restaceks.

RestavekFreedom.org
–> The Issue

Love In Motion

MissionofHaiti.org
–> Haiti Facts

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Writing

Usually when I’m about to make a post, I’ll have written it out, whether it be on a piece of paper or in my journal.

I’m going to try something new. Writing it plain and simple, no piece of paper or page in my journal.

It’ll show my flaws. It’ll show what my writing looks raw. Yes, it’ll be revised. But it’ll be the base material; it’ll have the original piece still in it.

This also isn’t my usual post. Surprise? The last one wasn’t like the posts I usually do.

Welcome to how my mind works.

I go from one topic to another. It is hard to focus, especially when I’m writing. It’s not because I don’t like writing or it’s hard for me to write. In fact, it is almost too easy for me. And as I write my mind goes off on tangents thinking of all the possible topics I could write on or everything that is on my mind.

Just like it is hard for me to focus on My Jesus.

Writing. Write.ing. Two syllable word. A seven letter word. A seven letter word that means a lot to me.
Being able to write. I’m so thankful for it. I use the gift God has given me to be able to do this – blog and share about God’s word. I use this gift to write amazing stories and poems. I also use this gift to my personal advantage. Writing down my feelings. I write down everything, literally, that goes through my mind exactly how I thought of it.

Like I said before, my mind wanders from one thing to another. I do not wish to elaborate, as that’s what my journal is for and maybe someday it’ll be in a post, but as of now… sorry. Of course this post has a point, it isn’t just me going on and on and on writing how I love to write. No, but it has gotten me thinking.

I dropped the line, “Just like it is hard for me to focus on My Jesus.”

It is true. Oh so often I find myself focusing on school, or music, or even cleaning or even my family and the struggle of living. I lose focus on Him. I try to do a devotional each morning. A small one, almost everyone probably has heard of it – it’s called Our Daily Bread. It is a great little devotional. Whether you can relate to the devos or not, it is eye opening and wonderful. But even when, in the quiet of the morning, I’ll be reading it, I still find it hard to focus. I go off planning my day, calculating how much homework I’ll have that day and how long it’ll take me to do it… yadda, yadda, yadda.

I don’t want my mind to wander as I spend time with My Lord, My Jesus. I’m sure I’m not the only one; I know I’m not the only one. I know that I’m proud enough to not admit it right away, that no, life isn’t easy. It’s not easy finding time and just sitting down and spending time with Christ. More often or not I find it easier to sit down and do my homework and listen to music. I just don’t get those people who are like, “Oh, yeah I sit down each morning and spend an hour reading and praying.” I marvel at that, at such dedication, I really do… if it is real true time with Christ. And there are people who spend hours with God and you can tell, you can tell that their faith is unshakable; firm in a solid foundation.

I envy that… “Thou shalt not envy.”

I want that… “Thou shalt not covet.”

But see, I can envy and covet that. That which is an amazing relationship with Jesus.
He wants me to envy and want a relationship with him, because he is My Saving Grace. He is our Saving Grace.

Yes, I’m a strong Christian. I have a firm faith, but it isn’t as firm as I’d like it to be. I want to sort of faith that the people living in persecution have – that no matter what they don’t waver.

Would I be able to stand up to that sort of test?

I don’t want to have to go through that to find out. I want to just know. 

I can feel Him in me. Trust me, he’s there and he’s working.

He is living in my heart, for it is His home. But there is the fact of handing over everything. The deed, the title, the key. And allowing him to rule every part of my Heart and my life. 

My Heart, Christ’s Home.

I may be weak, but the Spirit is strong in me. My flesh will fail, by My God never will fail.

God Gives Me Faith.

His love is relentless. He will never stop seeking to spend time with me, even though I may stop and go. Start and stop and restart. He’s always there, always at the same meeting place. I just have to meet him there, and I will. I go to him excited. Excited that I get to spend time with Him. Cause in the end, he’s all that matters. He’s always by my side.

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The Bravery of Your Ordinary Girl

   Date: March 1, 2014.

   This morning I read the book of Esther. I had always known it was a story about a girl who saved her people from annihilation. But up until now, I hadn’t really read the book of Esther and thought about what really went on in it.

   First off, for those who don’t know or aren’t familiar with the story, it is about a Hebrew girl who becomes the queen of Persia and saves her people from being destroyed by a powerful man in the king’s court. Esther is aided by her gifts of beauty, faith, and wisdom from God along with her cousin and guardian, Mordeci. If you want to really read the whole story (which I strongly suggest you do, it isn’t long), it is found in the seventeenth book of the Old Testament, called Esther.

   Now, I know when I was little, I always thought of Esther as a grown woman, maybe in her 20s – in all the movies, pictures, etc. that was how I had seen her depicted. In which, she was, though she wasn’t in her 20s, but in her time she was considered to be a grown woman. In our day and age she would’ve been considered a girl. Esther was a young woman – a virgin woman – who was probably no older than seventeen. Scary though, huh? (To those teenage girls out there reading this)

   Esther or Hadassah was an orphan. The Bible isn’t specific as to how old she was exactly when her parents died or how they died, but it says she was very young when Mordeci took her in as his own. You may be wondering about the name Hadassah, which means “myrtle” – Hadassah is Esther’s Hebrew name. Esther, which means “star” is her Persian name. When the Jewish people were exiled and captured first by the Babylonians, who fell to the Persians, they were given new names or names that were easier for the Persians to know and with these re-namings, it wiped the Jewish heritage in a sense or covered it up. It was like a supremacy play – renaming was like changing one’s identity.

   As I read further into the book of Esther, parts became familiar. These were the parts of the story that I had heard in those childhood stories. What I didn’t fully recognize was how truly terrified and brave Esther truly was. She was, and can be, definitely deemed as a heroine. In order to saver her people, who Haman was plotting to rid the world of. Esther had to go to the King and plead his blessing (please him) and ask him to reverse a decree Haman had put out. Now, we all may think – or I know I did – she’s the queen, he’s the king, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Customs were different then, unless the king called for the queen, she wasn’t welcome (or anyone for that matter) into the throne room. That idea of the Queen doing whatever she pleased is bologna. Yes, she did have freedom to do as she wished, but she had to obey the King’s laws – when he did summon her, she had to come. No ifs, buts, or whys. If anyone – or the queen – entered and the king didn’t find favor or holds “out [his] golden scepter so that [whoever] may live” (4:11), well it was death for the poor soul that entered.

   Esther was willing to risk it all – she was willing to give up her life to save her people. She had requested prayer and fasting from Mordeci and the Hebrew people three days in advance. God was watching over her. The event that took place wasn’t just chance or luck, it was a God moment. Not only did she gain his approval and kept her life, “she won favor in his sight” (5:2). He even showed compassion and sought to please whatever desires she wished. I think I would’ve fainted out of relief. Her request – well, she asked if the King and Haman would feast with her. She could’ve bailed completely on her plan at that moment  and instead requested riches, luxuries, etc. but she didn’t. She stayed loyal to her people and focused on her plan as well as determined.

  At the feast, or when it was finished, the King asks Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request?” (5:6). I think this threw Esther off a bit – as she was not expecting it, even though in the text she seems calm and collected. She asks that King Ahasuerus (or Xerses I) and Haman dine with her the next night.

  During the course of the night Haman plots to hang Mordeci, though God doesn’t allow it. For what seems like a coincident, wasn’t at all. That same night, after the feast, the King cannot sleep and calls for “the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles” (6:1) to be read to him. He learned that Mordeci had saved the king’s life from two of the gate eunuchs and had not  been rewarded.  The next morning, he calls for Haman, but doesn’t mention Mordeci’s name, and asks what should be done for a man who has essentially saved his life.  Haman tells of the extravagance this man should be clothed in and honored, being paraded down the roads with a high ranked official proclaiming the favor the man has sought from the King. I love how God has such humor and knows how to knock someone off their high horse. The ironic even occurs: Haman must do all he told the King for Mordeci. And he must lead him down the streets proclaiming. This is what saves Mordeci’s life.

  Meanwhile, that even after the feast Esther really confronts the King, or answers his question of how he can grant her wishes.

This is the part that just amazes me.

Elegance. Bravery. Grace. Courage.

Understand that Haman is essentially the second in command; a little below the Queen. He is very powerful. Esther tells the King that there is a person plotting against her and her people – the Jews.

   She had not told anyone of her heritage. Naturally, the King asks who (or not naturally, but relieving). Esther stands up (not literally) to the bully – she says rather boldly, “‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!'” (7:6). As I write this, I never realized why Esther invited Haman. I mean, yes, he was basically the King’s right-hand man, but she needed him there to be able to really point out who, physically. For in the Bible, after Esther breaks Haman’s plot, he is immediately “terrified of [of] the king and queen,” (7:6).

   King Ahasuerus, instead of being enraged by Esther’s reveal, he is enraged ay Haman. Haman doesn’t even try to plead his case – he had enough power, he could’ve. Esther was a Jew. Even the King could’ve thrown her out and called her crazy. But he wasn’t. Haman’s plot in the end becomes his own demise. Esther saves her people and has truly won the heart of the King.

  The application – if that’s what you want to call it – is that anyone, especially girls, can do more than just look pretty. We have voices and are more than able to speak up. Esther was a 16-17 year old girl who became queen and saved her people because of how God worked through her and gave her bravery and courage. In the ancient times, women didn’t have the same freedoms or rights as men. They were seen more as property. In the Twenty-First Century, we have the same rights as men in America. We have the equality. It’s a privilege, too. The fact that the King loved and valued her and listened to her is miraculous, literally. She was respectful. Through God anything is possible (Matt. 19:26). We, as girls, women, can be inspired by Esther – her bravery, faith, and dependence on God is awing. She was just a Hebrew girl. She was not famous, she had no real status. God could’ve pick anyone. Kind Ahasuerus could’ve chosen another woman to be queen, but he chose Esther (mainly though because of her beauty). She really was the star at that time. A star twinkles and stands out against the night sky. She did that.

   We are called to stand out, not only as Christians, but as individuals. The bravery, courage, love, kindness, and so on of one person can change either one person’s life or many people’s lives. God had a plan for Esther, she trusted him – gave him her all. We don’t know what our calling is at first. Some learn early on, some later. Whatever it is, it is amazing and perfect for you. We just have to full believe and trust.

Be brave. Be courageous. Be bold. Be you. Trust Him. Reflect Him.

Invite Him to live in your heart. Watch as your life unfolds and how we works wonders in your life and those around you.

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What's a Part Compared to the Whole?

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

– Romans 12:1-2, 4-5 (ESV)

Most of my life I have been taught to view the church as the body of God. When I was younger, at first, I thought it was the building that made up the body, for it was the place everyone gathered, where the pastor spoke, and the people sang. But as I grew, I learned that through attending Bible study and youth group, the body wasn’t the church building it was the people; the congregation. My youth group’s “slogan” or theme, is “We don’t GO to church, We ARE the church.” This is were it comes from – the idea that it’s us, we the people, who are the church, we don’t necessarily need a “special” building, in fact many people around the world worship in houses, caves, or even out in the streets. I will admit though, that it’s nice to have a roof over your head, sound equipment, microphones, and air-conditioning when it’s hot in the summer and heat when it’s cold in the winter. But those are just necessities.

The verse that I thought of that goes along with what I’m talking about. It talks about us, as individuals and us as a body of the Christ. In the first couple of verses it refers to us as individuals, how we must present our bodies as living sacrifices. Before you freak out at the phrase “living sacrifices,” let me assure you it’s not as if we’re putting ourselves on a physical alter and tearing our hearts out for God (like the Aztecs did)! The phrase means that we offer ourselves to God holding back nothing, and allowing him to control our lives; we enjoy a new life – for we are dead in sin, but alive (and worshiping) in Christ. Continuing on, we are warned in the second verse not to be allowed to be conformed to this world’s ways.

By just observing and using our senses we can pick out that this world is corrupt – full of hurt, poverty (both materialistically and spiritually), loss (and much more). Our peers, the press, and marketing all put pressure on us. We must act a certain way, dress a certain way, wear this brand of clothing, etc. to be accepted or deemed worthy enough to be considered to be “cool.” I know a lot of people, including myself, struggle with how people think about us. For the teens reading this: our generation/age group is the most targeted group out off young children, adults, and seniors for marketing. We are emotionally unstable, trying to find that “group” we belong in, and we also have jobs – jobs that really just support ourselves, we don’t have to take care of a family or pay a mortgage. People study psychology and they know all we want to do is conform or fit in. Referring this to our faith and mindset, we need to break away from that longing. We must stand out and not follow the crowd – we must allow Christ to transform us, so that our minds and bodies can be renewed; revived. Trust me, standing out is hard, especially when most of the time you’ll get picked on or casted out. But that is what is to be expected – we will be tried, we will be tested. We’ll be tried and tested and through it all, hopefully, we’ll be able to pick out what is right in God’s eyes and plan for us, which is perfect in every aspect.

In the last couple of verses of the passage given, it talks about us as a body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12 (verses 17-20, 22, 24-25) Paul references the church body to the human body. After discussing the importance of each part of our body, he makes the comment of, “‘If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?…God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. On the contrary…God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another… For the body does not consist of one member but of many.'”

Just as a human body has many parts to it -all of them extremely important for the body to function – so does the church. Each part is significant, though some parts may operate in different ways – the brain telling the body what’s going on, the heart beating oxygen and blood through our veins, the lungs allowing us to breath – they all serve the same purpose; to keep us alive. The church just like that – there’s the pastor, elders and deacons, volunteers, and missionaries – all serve in different parts of the body of church, some in different parts of the world, and though there are many of us – we make up one body of Christ, living to serve him and spread about his love and sacrifice he made to make a way for us to live eternally with God in heaven.

To answer the question of: What’s a part compared to the whole? A part compared to a whole is small, but that one part is what makes up the whole (the whole body of Christ). Without that one part there would be no whole. We, as different parts of the body, make up the whole body of Christ. But for us, we would be no body without Christ at the head of it.

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Speaking Of...

Recently, I’ve encountered a lot of talk on “relationships and love” with people – and it got me thinking about God’s love. How his love sets us apart (as well as himself) from all the other people and their religions/beliefs. This also made me think of how even when we fall into chaos and unknown territory – he is there; he’s always there, for us. And he’s never mad, even when we fumble big-time, or turn out backs on him, or even commit a serious wrong or hold a grudge against someone that we need to let go of – he’s always there calling to us. And when we find him – his bright and ever-lasting light in the darkness of our lives, he opens his arms wide and embraces us, crying or laughing, or smiling with us.

There’s a verse my youth past told us and taught about to us on Sunday (11/3). This is about God’s love and relates to all the things I’ve said. Luke 6:27-33:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do no withhold you tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”

Now, I want to first point out that the first phrase of the verse says “to you who hear.” Why do I point this out first and foremost? Because Jesus is calling people to really listen, as what he’s about to say hasn’t been said before. He knows – as well as you and I, that some people just zone things out or do that “half-listening” thing when people preach/teach on a topic that’s been heard before. He wants to get everyone’s attention, letting them know that this is a new topic, it’s a topic that people really need to whole-heartedly pay attention. Make sense, right? I hope so.

Okay, with that covered, let’s talk about the rest of the verse. This verse is obviously about loving our enemies and treating others how we want to be treated, right? In fact, one of the verses (vs 3) – “do to others as you would have them do to you” as many know it by – is a very well-known verse to many people (not just Christians). And at a first glance of the verse, people get the obvious theme (which I pointed out at the beginning of this paragraph) – be kind to people I don’t like/are considered my enemies, treat others fairly, and take care of the needy. Easy right? No. Is there more to the verse? Of course. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t tend to those who need help or turn the other cheek, or treat others wrongly – their all great and wonderful things to be practiced, but I want to focus on the last bit of the verse plus a few in-depth details about the first part verse.

I’m going to start at the end – with verses 32-33 (the last paragraph of the given verse). Jesus is saying that when we love and treat those who are good to us and love us – what’s the point? What do you truly gain? Yes, it’s crucial for those who love you to love you and for you to love them back, but what about that kid who bullied or you really bad once – maybe more? It’s easy to hold a grudge against them, hoping something bad will happen to them, just as something bad happened to you, or if they try to apologize, you want them down on their knees begging for mercy while you have your arms crossed, foot tapping, and your head angled enough to look down on them making a disgusted face and refusing – until they collapse – to forgive (Jesus even points out that when we love those who love us – even murderers, prostitutes, etc. love those who love them – that’s what he’s referring to when he says “sinners.”) Why is it easy to hold a grudge and not “love our enemies” as we’re instructed? Let me tell you a secret – it’s called flesh; sin. We want to have revenge; satisfaction, making whoever made us feel unloved, unwanted, and not good enough… we those who weren’t good to us, have the same feelings, if not worse.

See, if we only love and do good to those who love us and do good to us, then we do not truly treat those how we want to be treated, we don’t understand truly what it is like to love our enemies. We don’t know what it’s really like to show them God’s love, and we don’t try to understand how to act or reply in a Godly way to those who wrong us. Just like in school, teachers teach and have the students practice the concept they teach – for without practice how can we truly learn and know the material?

Rewinding to the first section of the verse (vs. 27-31)… try applying what I just said about verses 32-33 to these verses. Have a different perspective now? What about a new plan or way to approach situations in relation to these?

Now, in verse 27, isn’t just loving loving your enemies that “Oh, that wasn’t nice – but all well” attitude, it’s about coming along side them, helping them; showing God’s true love, and forgiving them even if they haven’t asked forgiveness. As a Christian, we should always strive to go that extra step. And – or more – but, when these situations come up, we need to check ourselves – giving/praying (to) our hearts to hearts to God and letting him take those grudges and put them away – destroy them. We also need to make sure our actions are for self-glorifying reasons.

You know that sarcastic phrase that people (you) often mutter when in or towards a situation that comes up and is hurtful, benigning, etc.? The one that goes: “Well, that was a slap in the face.” Literally, it could of been – but that’s also when you show grace and turn the other cheek. Don’t lash out, don’t retaliate. Humbly offer the other side of your face. Either they will “hit” you again or be in shock from your actions. And even if it seems that your actions had no effect – let me assure you, they did. God is planting that seed in their heart through you. Some may often even come back asking questions, because their so dumb-founded, of “Why?” and “How?”. That is your opportunity to tell of the “why” and “how.” The same application can go for the second half of verse 29 – where it talks about offering someone your “tunic.” When someone begs – have a compassionate heart. Give to them – and don’t demand repayment or ask for what you gave to be given back to you. Whether is was simply loaning a money to a friend who forgot their lunch at school to food to someone needy… don’t ask for repayment. These actions and showing love sets us Christians apart (and God), as I said before.

You do need to be careful though, of people who have a false claim, do show them God’s love, but be wary, going to God and seeking counsel on the situation you’re in. It’s sad, but there are people who imitate and act in ways that are deceiving to gain things they are have and don’t need.

Referring back to the first paragraph – where I was talking about how we oh-so-often struggle, I want to conclude partially in reference to Tammy Maltby’s book, Confessions of a Good Christian Girl. In the book, she talks and tells of women who struggled – these were good Christian women, leading Christ-like lives and living well, or that’s what it appeared. Yes, they loved God, but these women were conflicted with suicide, cutting, addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography), self-image and confidence. The book tells countless testimonies of how in the deep dark, these women found the light, the love. One of the quotes Maltby put in her book, which is by Angela Thomas, goes:

“Jesus wants you to know that when you are broken, shivering, alone, or afraid, with nothing left and nowhere to go, then you can turn in His direction and lay yourself at the foot of his love…. God wants you to know that when everything is gone, that makes more room for Him, and every time there is more room for Him, you are blessed.”

(pg 5, Maltby)

In this we can take an apply the concept of that when we hold on to grudges, hate, and hurt (etc.) when you give them up and lay “yourself at the foot of His love” we are revived with his love and forgiveness. This helps us make that step to forgiving those who may have hurt us or even ourselves. Because just as other people may be our enemies and slap us in the face, we can do just as much damage, if not more to ourselves; we can easily become our own enemy. We must learn to have compassion on ourselves and others and to have respect for ourselves and others.

I wish I could write on about this topic, but time is such an enemy to me lately, so short and demanding. Before I part, until next time, here’s some verses in parting. Don’t just go, “Oh cool, verses to look at!” and ignore them or think I’ll look at them later. Look at them now. It won’t take much time.

Psalm 36:5, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, 1 John 3:1-2, 1 John 4:7-12, 16-18

Some questions for reflection:

  1. Are you able and confident that in times when people wrong you, you can stand up, humbly, forgive, and give your burden to God, even though it’s not easy?
  2. Even when you mess up, or others, are you able to go the extra mile for God’s sake?
  3. Loving your enemy will be hard, but will you be able to rise above the offense and “offer the other cheek?”
  4. In times of distress it’s easy to forget about God – it’s easy to blame him, and in times when you want something badly, and it may not be his will – are you able to accept him and trust him to lead you 100% through?
  5. Sometimes it’s our very selves that get in the way of seeing truly what’s right – having a personal conflict is hard to accept, confess, and be able to reason and respect yourself, but sometimes that’s the first step to forgiveness. If some of these questions were hard to answer, maybe start deep in your heart and soul. Really think about it.

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Prayer & Perspective

A verse that I’ve thought of on and off lately is the Lord’s Prayer – or as I like to call it ‘The Disciple’s Prayer’ – since Jesus gave the prayer to his followers as a guideline of how they should pray; Jesus already knew how to pray. I’ve always thought of prayer as something more than “special wording meant for Jesus.” It’s a personal thing; and that’s how God intended prayer to be – he wants your true thoughts and word, coming straight from your heart. A prayer shouldn’t be something you memorize and recite each night; it shouldn’t be like a script for then it loses its whole meaning.

I am only using the first four verses of the passage (Matthew 6:5-9), but the whole passage can be found in Matthew 6:5-18. I use the ESV version for verses.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward,” (vs. 5).

Pause there for a second. Before I go on, I want to point out these lines alone, are the first verse. This is a crucial verse. For oh-so-often, too many Christians get caught up in themselves – believing they know it all. The modern day “Little Christ” is not like the early, first Christians. “Little Christ” is what Christian means – it was coined when the first disciples were teaching, and actually the word Christian or “Little Christ” was meant as an insult.

The modern day Christians often think highly of themselves; thinking of how much better off they are because they know Christ and others don’t. They don’t care about the poor and needy – their focus is on money, while they teach Jesus’ sermons on how to care for the poor, broken-hearted, and lost souls. This is wrong, wrong, wrong; the opposite of how a Christian is supposed to act. Sadly, by preaching and having people look at them and either marvel or scoff, they get their reward of satisfaction. They are not true Christians – they do not live up to the definition of a “Little Christ.” Because these Christians are so caught in themselves they do not receive or get to experience the amazing wonders, things, and feelings that Jesus has to offer us.

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who is in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him,” (vs. 6-8).

It is true, often it is the short, simple things that work best. Long, drawn ouutttt things make people lose interest, especially if they aren’t to the point. When people ramble on and just add “fluff,” they really don’t know what they are talking about. As it says in (some concordance to) verse 7, they are just wasting their breath and their words are “heap[ing] up [like] empty phrases” – they have no meaning.

God knows what is on our hearts and minds, he’s more than aware of our needs – but he also knows that we need a way to communicate our feelings, needs, and what is on our minds and hearts to him (not just other people). He gave us a way to do so: prayer. This, to me personally, meant so much, knowing I had a way to connect to my Father in heaven. Knowing there was someone, someone who was so powerful and perfect, was always there for a sinful ridden and hurting person like me… is just indescribable. He always listened. He always comforted in some way. He won’t tell anyone. And to me, that meant a lot, as my trust to certain people has been cut. I know that when I can’t find the words to express how I’m am feeling – he knows exactly what I’m feeling and going through. All I have to say in my mind, in the quiet of my room, is: “Father, help me – you know my heart and thoughts. Please help me to get over this painful feeling that’s tearing me apart in an indescribable way.”

He’ll always listen to you in your hardest moments.

It is comforting to know that my Father knows what I need before I ask him, that relationship between Father and daughter (or son) is unbreakable and imaginable by people who don’t truly know what it is like to know such a force. Those people who stand on the streets proclaiming out loud don’t hear when God calls them, like we do, they don’t hear it because of all the noise they’re making. For God doesn’t normally communicate in the form of a thunderstorm (per-say) – loud and noisy, but he comes like a soft wind, blowing gently. Only those who are quiet and listen can hear it.

When God calls to those lost people out proclaiming on the streets or elsewhere, they don’t hear him, or if they do, they ignore him. Even when fellow believers try to humbly point out that their ways are wrong or try to kindly help them in the right direction, they most often push them off. They point their finger at them, saying they are the wrong-doers; they are the false believers. And it is sad, but it is reality. We live in a fallen world and we are waiting desperately for our Savior to return to take us home.

Our Lord is like a shepherd – he calls and pulls us back when we are lost. He is most persistent and never gives up, even with those who are stubborn. But there are cases when flesh must die and their time to be redeemed runs out or the sheep don’t want to live under the wing of their shepherd. They believe there is something better; they get lost in the ways of the world.

I hope you all got as much as I did out of this verse – if not more.

I am no longer eager, bold, and strong

  All that is past; I am ready not to do

At last, at last, 

  My half day’s work is done,

And this is all my part,

  I give a patient God

My patient heart.

p 265, March by Geraldine Brooks

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Dear Everyone,

I am sick of people trying to sit around and tell me that modesty has nothing to do with the way your dress- just the way you behave. Or that modesty is a ‘heart issue’ and what you ‘feel is appropriate.’  Someone once told me, ‘You can’t stop the guys from looking or thinking. that is their job.’ and that pretty much sums up what all my girlfriend’s say about their summer clothes.  Yet, as a sister in Christ to all of you whom are walking with God, let me say this:

There is no excuse you can come up with for wearing those short shorts, bikinis, tank tops (the ones that show your colorful bra or ride so low the only thing not showing is your nipple), or any summer items along those lines, that is Godly.

As brothers and sisters in Christ we are asked to help each-other in our walk with God. (Mathew 18:5-7) We are not to help each-other stumble on the fringes of sin without going over or blatantly walk straight into sin; we are to help each-other FLEE from it. God directly tells men not to lust after a girls’ beauty. (Proverbs 6:24-26) To understand what is modesty and what it is not, is not as simple as saying ‘what you feel in your heart.’. If it was, a girl could say ‘ I don’t think wearing a bikini is immodest because I am still covering my lady parts,’ just as easily as she could say,’ I think I need to wear what the nuns wear,’ the next day. ( http://www.therebelution.com/modestysurvey )

This is not saying we shouldn’t take care of how we look, but we do need to be more concerned about what’s on the inside and our walk with God; That includes helping one another with each-other’s walks. (Timothy 2:9-10) So is it just the guys problem to deal with? No. It’s also ours. Giving up what society says is fashionable for what God says is one of the simplest ways we, as girls, can show not only guys but God Himself how devoted we are. When we began our walk with Him, we pretty much said ‘Here I am Lord! Come into my heart and use me!’ But if we cannot sacrifice a few clothing items for Christ’s sake, then are you really allowing Him to dress you in His righteousness? We are suppose to portray a Christ like image- these scanty outfits are doing no good to that cause, they are hurting it. So please do not take this as a bashing or me knit-picking, but rather a thought to ponder on and research. Don’t think ‘oh, I’ve already done that. I don’t agree.’ and log off. You stuck by and read this whole thing for a reason, let God show you that reason.
(The link I posted above is a study done on what guy’s think of girl’s clothes)

~A

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