It’s been a year.
Well, a day or two past a year because I fought myself for three days over this post, but 365 days have passed, nonetheless, since the events which have led me to where I am today.
No, I didn’t sit in front of a calendar and cross out day after day like a countdown. I was actually having a random stream of conscious that led me to look into my phone to check the date because I had a reference point. For once, I had put info into my calendar, and it worked as a big, fat neon sign flashing, “Yep! You were right!”
One year ago, I actually took a step back to look at things. I probably took five or six steps backwards so I could get a good, long look at things, and I definitely did not like what I saw.
I was a hot mess. You couldn’t have seen it, even if you looked hard enough, because I hid it so well that I even hid it from myself. My priorities were twelve kinds of out of order. I was self-absorbed, out for myself, focused on how I could best control every situation I was involved in. I realized my mind, heart and actions did not match up, and things had to change…and fast. That whole “for you neither know the day nor the hour” thing in Matthew 25 will get you into shape quickly when you want to actually take it seriously.
I had fallen steeply from where I was in college, which was meh, at best, anyways, and way past any point in memory.
So change began. God finally jumped back into the number one spot, and if I want to be really honest with myself, for possibly the first time in my life. I took Him out of the Sunday morning box I had placed him in and brought Him into all aspects of my life. Prayer lost its hollowness and gained substance. I dove deeper into Bible readings, not just leaving things I didn’t understand there to float away.
Some changes were drastic. I went from abhorring Christian music to it being the only station on my car dial. I finished up the past year by going on a mission trip, something two years ago I had said I didn’t think I would ever do, and now I’m waiting for the time when I can have enough vacation days to go on another.
All of that was important, but the biggest transformation, in my opinion, is my discovery of the ability to forgive.
A year ago, I expected perfection from every man, woman, and slightly distracted driver I came across. I was set in stone, my ways were constant, and, of course, correct. If things ever strayed or went wrong, you would hear about it, and probably more than once. I was a ticking time bomb, and my patience was non-existent.
Then I took the long look at myself. I realized the last time I had forgiven someone seventy times seven times was probably my sister over something ridiculous when I was 9. There is no telling how many people’s sins I had held on to, keeping those sins retained in the eyes of God, as well.
My ability to forgive, though better, still has a ways to go, but it is what I’ve seen as my biggest improvement. Grudges held on to for ten or fifteen years have been forgiven in the last year, and the improvement in relationships with those people has been immense. Even towards those whom I no longer speak with, who turned their backs towards me, forgiveness has come easy, much to my surprise.
With all that said, though, does my forgiveness go far enough? If I don’t also forget the sin, have I done everything necessary to forgive someone?
This question came to mind, coincidentally around the one-year mark, thanks to some YouTube video hopping.
After watching the video for Tenth Avenue North’s “Losing,” I noticed a video off to the side…
Tenth Avenue North-Losing-Video Journal
I love the song, so I clicked. Who wouldn’t want to know the inspiration of the song?
What I discover is one of many video journals done by TAN front man Mike Donehey, this one entitled, “God is Not an Elephant.”
While Mike’s and my’s encounters with elephants may vary (Big Al has always been nice to me), his tying of Christianity and elephants led to this exhange:
Mike (not to me, personally, but in the video): An elephant never forgets…
Me: Well, yea, we’ve all heard that
Mike: And here’s something to kinda blow your mind…God forgets our sin
Me: Hold up! Let’s break this down first.
I would let Mike go on to say in Pslam 103 we hear how God chooses to not hold our sins against us (paraphrased, but you can see it between the lines in scripture), but I still questioned the thought. If God FORGETS our sins, what are we judged with when Jesus comes again? If we all fall short of the glory of God and not all that call out, “Lord, Lord” will obtain a place in Heaven, how can God forget our sins?
After fighting with myself for well over a day, I had a V8 moment of Matthew 25:31-46, where the criteria for our final judgement is laid out as plain as could be. We know what we will be judged on, we have been given the answers to the final exam. Yeah, he could be right about this. I can see it.
Then, while formulating this post, I found the words of Jeremiah, quoting the Lord point blank in chapter 31 when He discusses the new covenant, ”For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:34) There’s no reading between the lines needed there. God says himself that he forgets our sin. Everything we’ve done wrong, all that has pulled us away from Him, every misstep we can’t forgive ourselves over, God has not only forgiven us, but he’s FORGOTTEN that which we have done against Him.
As Mike continues in the video, “If Jesus is going to the cross and saying, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing’, then how could I say something different? How could I say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no. You don’t understand how they hurt me. You don’t understand what she did.’”
He has a point. If we choose to forgive, but pull the, “I’ll forgive them, but I won’t forget it” card, have we really forgiven them? Is it possible to separate forgiving sin and forgetting sin? No.
If we are truly to live as a light to this world, to be counted among those Christians in God’s favor, we must forget as He forgets.
So, as year two begins for me, the focus shifts from not only continuing to forgive, but also working to forget those things others have done against me. We are all God’s children, all of us created in His image and likeness, and if our Creator can forget all that we have done against Him, we can surely look past the wrongs we have done to each other.
“Lord, you are not an elephant. Don’t let me become an elephant.” -Mike Donehey
Verses: Psalm 107:31,32; Philippians 2:3
It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy with life in a good way, but it has detracted from my writing time. As the year is coming to a close, I wanted to get back into things, starting with a post I had saved as a draft a while ago, but I still wanted to write on the subject.
As I wrote about a month ago, there is no more polarizing figure in the American sports culture than Tim Tebow, and as he has continued his winning ways (yesterday’s effort against New England not included) and with his continued willingness to give God recognition for all his actions, he has managed to make ceaseless amounts of headlines.
A few weeks ago, Tebow was interviewed on ESPN, and was asked about the comments made by a former quarterback of the team he currently plays for. Jake Plummer was the QB in Denver for the early part of the last decade, and had this to say about Tebow…
Tebow, regardless of whether I wish he’d just shut up after a game and go hug his teammates, I think he’s a winner and I respect that about him. I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ then I think I’ll like him a little better. I don’t hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every single time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff…like you know, I understand dude where you’re coming from…but he is a baller.
Obviously, Plummer, along with most of the country, has gotten sick of Tebow’s profession of faith at every chance he has to offer thanks to God. Here is Tebow’s response to the question…
I’d also say, ‘If you’re married and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to say to your wife “I love her” the day you get married, or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity, and that’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the most important thing in my life, so any time I get an opportunity to Him that I love Him or given the opportunity to shout Him out on national TV, I’m gonna take that opportunity. So I look at it as the relationship I have with Him that I want to give him the honor and glory any time I have the opportunity. And right after I give Him the honor and glory, I always try to give my teammates the honor and glory, and that’s how it works because Christ comes first in my life, then my family, then my teammates. So, I respect Jake’s opinion, and I really appreciate his compliment of calling me a winner, but I feel like any time I get the opportunity to give the Lord some praise, He is due for it because of what He did for me and what He did on the cross for all of us, and so, I really appreciate his opinion, and I respect him, but I will still give all the honor and glory to the Lord because he deserves it.
After hearing this interview, I felt the need to blog about it (before sitting on it for 3 weeks) because Tim’s response to Plummer brought to mind two points.
The first thought is that Tebow is setting an example that all of us as Christians should follow and that is mentioned in Psalm 107. “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.” (vv.31,32) No matter the situation or who may be interviewing him, Tim Tebow never misses a chance to give thanks to God for all the blessings in his life. He doesn’t come across as forcing beliefs on others, but simply just mentions his relationship. The question is, how many opportunities a day do we have to do the same, but pass it up because we are too concerned about being “that Christian” or annoying those who don’t want to hear it? In a life meant to give glory to God, we are not called to worry about pleasing men.
The second thought from Tebow’s response is noticing how he is putting others before himself. Paul’s letter to the Philippian Christians says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (v. 2:3) There should be no question we all place God before ourselves in everything (but that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with priorities at times), but how often do we put others before ourselves? This is not just in simple actions such as holding a door or letting someone in front of you in traffic, but also changing our actions and plans in order to fit someone else’s needs or, in Tim’s case, deflecting praise to others for their job well done.
While these may seem like simple tasks, how many of us find them to be second nature? If we can reach a point in our Christian walk where there is no need to concern ourselves with “what ifs” and just focus on our calling in life, we will fulfill every opportunity for praise to the Lord, just like Mr. Tebow.
Submitted by ravenclawgirl88! SO TRUE!
Musing of an Orthodox Brit.: Anonymous asked: Hello, I was wondering why we wear crosses. Is it to let others know we are Christians, to remind... -
Hello dear friend!
The unclean power fears nothing more than the cross. And nothing pleases them more than the careless treatment of the cross.
The Cross is the first and greatest Christian sacred object. When the priest sanctifies water, he immerses the Cross in it,…
“Though I feel I’m strong enough to carry all this load, I’m not able, I’m not able, I’m not able on my own.”
Those lyrics off the newest Needtobreathe album have sat in my head since my first listen through the CD back in September. The openness, admittance of reliance, and sense of struggle in those words immediately registered with me in my Great Awakening state because of how true they were to my life at the time and still are in my ongoing growth process.
Part of this process has been reading books to help me in different aspects of the Christian life, and the current book I’m invested in is “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. The book is focused on how to establish and build upon possibly the most important aspect of the Christian lifestyle: prayer. I’ts the most direct way to talk to God and seek His will for us, yet it’s also difficult to build a consistent routine of prayer in which we can feel like we are communing with God.
In chapter 6 of his book, a chapter entitled “Learning to Be Helpless,” Miller talks about how necessary a realization a reliance on God is to our prayer life.
God reminded Paul of how the gospel works. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The gospel, God’s free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don’t have it all together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to—our helplessness—is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can’t do life on our own.”
Miller actually mentions in this chapter how for many years, he refused to pray for, ironically, his own prayer seminar because he felt he had it under control. Of course, we never have anything fully under our control, and the more we feel like we do, the more helpless we truly are.
As I read through this chapter, the thought that entered my mind came from my previous relationship. Throughout the two and a half years we were together, me and my ex would bicker about the stupidest things. If you want to know how stupid the focus of the arguments were, I’ll put it this way: I’ve stared at the computer screen, trying to lay out some of the topics, and can’t come up with a single one. We both knew there was an issue and wanted to stop it, but things never changed. The whole time, I had it in my head that asking God for help would do the trick, yet I never surrendered the issue to Him during the times I prayed the same, mundane prayer and I told myself I could make the change. These few months later, after changing my whole outlook on living a Christian life and all aspects associated with it, I now see why things didn’t change. Even though I may have seen my helplessness, I never admitted it.
When we pray, there is no need hold back our helplessness from God. He knows it’s there, we know it’s there, and it will never change unless we talk with our Father about it. By being helpless in front of God, we take the first necessary step to grow in our faith and see changes in ourselves.
Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Tim Tebow is easily the most polarizing figure of the American sports culture in the last 25 years. No one person has come close to dividing people like Tebow has with his abilities, his off-the-field actions, and, the biggest divider of them all, his religious beliefs.
For those of you who have somehow avoided any knowledge of Mr. Tebow over the last six years, here is the extremely shorthand version of his track and accolades. Tim Tebow was a 5-star football recruit from the state of Florida who ended up going to the state school over the University of Alabama (reasons why many people around me can’t stand him). While at Florida, he won two national championships, a Heisman trophy, and is part of the Florida recruiting class to lose the fewest number of Southeastern Conference games in a four-year span (soon to be beaten by the University of Alabama’s 2007 class). During his summers, Tebow would travel to the South Pacific and other areas to perform missions and minister instead of staying on campus like most college football players do now. He was drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft when many said he wasn’t worthy, and since that day, he has been a massive divider between scouts, coaches, and fans alike, drawing ire and praise each time he is given a chance in a game.
Now, the reason I bring up Tim Tebow, a man who has managed to gain my immense respect despite not picking my alma mater, is because he now has an internet blogosphere sensation named after him: Tebowing. The act is based off of Tim’s second nature decision to drop to a knee and pray after his Broncos beat the Dolphins in an incredible comeback about 10 days ago while the rest of his team ran on the field to celebrate. Since then, there has been a blog created asking people to “Tebow” and send in their photos. Just like any other thing concerning Tebow, there is division. Some see it as good-natured fun, others view it as mocking of a strong Christian.
While I can see both sides of the argument, and I personally have resisted the urge to “Tebow” to this point, the one thing I thought of when I first heard of “Tebowing” was “Why is a culture based upon Christian beliefs not realizing how one of the strongest Christian public figures in America is just doing what is called of him, just in a more public setting?” (Sure, there are plenty of other Christian thoughts that have crossed my mind, but that was just the first one) In 1 Thessalonians 5, one of my personal favorite chapters in the Bible, Paul gives instructions to the people of Thessaloniki on how to conduct themselves in a Christ-like manner. In verse 17, Paul gives a very simple command: Pray ceaselessly.
While the command is simple, the achievement of the action isn’t. Ceaseless prayer is not a natural state of being and it takes a lot of spiritual work within ourselves to attain. It’s been taught to me that prayer is meant to go “from your lips to your mind, and your mind to your heart” when you hope to attain a prayerful attitude. After enough conscious effort, the action of continuous prayer becomes a part of your being. It is a process that revolves around the need for deep understanding of God’s Word, along with acknowledging our reliance upon the Lord and accepting His work within us. A ceaseless prayer can be anything from your typical quiet time to a written out prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer (Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner) to a simple recognition of how great a day God has provided for you. It doesn’t have to be publicly known you are in prayer, but praising God in all situations and all times should be a goal of our everyday lives.
If we take the time to see all the wonderful gifts that surround us each and every day, we will be able to thank God continually for all that He has done for us.
Verses: Isaiah 40:29-31
For anyone who knows me, they know that I have never been one to be partial to worship music, or as I always referred to it, Jesus music. Being a member of a denomination that doesn’t worship with contemporary music, I never saw a reason for it, and in all honesty, it used to get on my nerves. However, as I mentioned in my post on denominations and identifying with Christ, the current Awakening I find myself in, as I refer to it, opened my eyes to recognize different ways to use parts of the Christian faith. I now find myself listening to contemporary Christian music on a daily basis because of the positive effect it has on me. It is definitely a change that I had never envisioned being a part of my life.
With all that said, I found myself in a unique situation of relying on a mix of music and scripture this morning. I’ve been dealing with some unexpected but welcomed curves in my life since the Great Awakening began. I’ve had the shield of strength and restraint working strong the entire time, relying fully on God to help me through the difficult nature of my personal life. Stone after boulder has come along, and I have been able to handle it…..until yesterday. The funny thing is, I was thrown a pebble, but it cracked the armor. I found myself reverting back to who I was three months ago, trying to do things on my own, throwing up the rough and tough exterior, and holding on to things that needed to be passed along to God. It wasn’t until this morning I finally realized what I was doing, and I went straight to my Bible.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; the will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Reading that was almost immediately followed by this on Pandora…
Between the song and scripture, I had the reassurance I needed and a decision to make. I could revert to the path I used to walk, the same path that put me in the situation I am now in, of self-reliance and a prideful nature, or I could put all my hope and reliance on God, give Him all my stress and burdens in the fashion of which this blog is named, and have my strength renewed.
I obviously chose the latter, because how could we not trust in God with a promise to soar on the wings of eagles?! It’s a question I will now ask myself daily as I look back on who I was and move on to become who I’d like to be.
We are not able to handle everything on our own, even when the strongest of storms or largest of boulders have been weathered with seeming ease. Sometimes our armor needs to be mended, repaired, or restored, and God is the blacksmith we should trust to strengthen our protection.
Leave all human injustices to the Lord, for God is the Judge, but as to yourself, be diligent in loving everybody with a pure heart. — Saint John of Kronstadt (via orthodoxbrit)
Passage: 2 Peter 1:1-11
There is no denying that every Christian has to fall back on grace and mercy at some point in time. It has been made very clear throughout history that only one man was perfect, and no matter how hard we may try, we trip, we stumble, and maybe, God forbid, crash and burn. However, every time this happens, God is there to catch us, dust us off, and get us back on track. There is no set number of chances we can run out of, which is the amazing part about His love.
However, God does want us to learn from our mistakes and make corrections in our lives. It is not simply enough to profess our belief in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and not live out the life we have been called to display. As it says in James 2:17, faith without works(actions, not works of the law) is dead, and Peter expounds on that in this passage.
Peter begins by speaking of “participating in the divine nature,” which allows us to commune with God through his grace, live with a sense of godliness, and escape the evil desires of this world. He then explains, in verses 5-9, why it is important not to just accept this participation as enough:
But also for this reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
So how can we go about putting these commands into action? It is actually a rather simple application, if we choose to accept it, but as with most things, a bit easier said than done. While there will be times we get off track, a Christian cannot get discouraged and would be well to find another believer they can use for strength, support, and to grow with in this process.
As Peter says, it all starts with adding virtue, or moral excellence, to our faith. We cannot profess a life for God and display the actions of thieves and adulterers. We must strive to live a good life and follow the guidelines laid out by Jesus and others in the Bible.
With virtue comes the knowledge of what’s good and bad, right and wrong. With that knowledge, we need self-control, a necessary component to keep us from giving into the temptation of the wrong and the bad. The self-control needs perseverance, because not every temptation will be as easy to turn down an extra cookie here or there.
With our perseverance through this world, we should start to feel a sense of godliness. Since He is the one we wish and strive to emulate, we need to reach for godliness. The road to godliness begins with brotherly kindness. As John says in his first book, chapter four, verses twenty and twenty-one, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar…Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” For that very reason, it is necessary to have the brotherly kindness to achieve love, as well as godliness, because in the same chapter, John plainly tells us “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (v. 16)
Even though I went through these in order in my basic breakdown, that is not the way we should work to attain the things Peter laid out. It should be a work in progress of everything all at once, not taking things in a “one step at a time” manner. As seen in my explanation, all of the things one should add to their faith are closely related, so working on them as a group should help your progress rather than hurt.
While the road may be long, and the path difficult (as I can personally vouch for since I find myself working on this transformation), Peter gives us the promise of the greatest prize available if we can instill these things into our lives: “for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (v. 11) For any Christian, that should be a motivation unlike any other.