Category Archives: Life lessons learned

The Measure of a Year

My newsfeed on Facebook has been filled with negativity about 2016 ever since Christmas Day ended. This or that celebrity died, this situation in life went wrong, that job was terrible, this person was diagnosed with cancer, that situation has caused insane stress. That kid picked on my kid and this kid is saying my kid is a bully. A certain percentage seems to think Donald Trump is the anti-Christ. On and on, etc., etc. I made a post on Facebook a few days ago saying I thought 2016 had been just fine until I saw that 139 police officers had been killed in the line of duty this year. It seems that the majority of people have at least one complaint about 2016.

Quick question:

How do you measure how good or bad a year is?

Obvious answer, right? How much went (seemingly) wrong versus how much went (seemingly) right.

Thus proving we are a shallow society engulfed in our emotions. How often I’m tempted to think the collective level of “happiness” associated with my situation actually defines whether or not my situation is good. Perhaps the problem is the definition of good. Is something good if I approve of it, or is something good because it leads to a more well-rounded person?

If good is merely the totality of my circumstances, then the definition of good will never be constant. It might be good today, but if tomorrow is even better, then the definition changes to suit the day. If tomorrow is worse, then good is defined by yesterday, even though two days from now might take over the definition. You see the problem, I presume.

If the latter is the definition, then there’s a great chance that those situations we are tempted to believe are ‘bad’ could potentially be leading us into a deeper life as a more equipped, able, and prepared person albeit via difficult circumstances. The book of Job gives the account of a man who had it all, lost it all, praised God through it all, and had it returned to him tenfold (right? Tenfold? Is my memory correct on that number?). Job might have been waiting for the ball to drop to get the year in the past and look ahead toward what was coming. His circumstances were horrible, but if I had to guess, I think Job’s ability to keep perspective would have prevented him from blaming his woes simply on the year. Let’s not forget that the year has nothing to do with our circumstances. We live in a fallen world. A fallen world has everything to do with our circumstances. Sin has everything to do with our circumstances, but the story doesn’t end there. We have a decision to make. We have lots of decisions to make, actually. One is our response. One is how resolved we will be when we walk through the fire. One is whether or not we will accept personal responsibility as opposed to placing blame elsewhere.

Growth has never been easy or comfortable. I remember growing as a teen. I shot up in height over a short amount of time. I was sore for about two years straight because of how much I was growing. How much greater is the pain of spiritual and personal growth at times. Our resolve as a nation is weakening. Our ability to press on is weakening. I’m personally part of a generation (Millennials) that moves on quickly if we don’t have the sense that we’re making an impact. We believe that this must not be for us if we don’t see results by the end of the three minutes we type in on the microwave. We are where we are for a reason. That reason might be that we’re blowhards who ignore the gentler nudges of the Lord and we have therefore landed ourselves in a mell of a hess. The reason might be because we need to be reminded that none of this was ever about us, but instead it’s always been about the glory of the Lord. Maybe we are where we are because we’ve been faithful to the Lord, but there still isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel on any of this making sense. In Philippians 3 Paul nails down that we have no confidence in the flesh. Still, “we press on to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (verse 14).

This life is not the prize. It never has been the prize, and it never will be the prize. Our prize is in heaven. Our reward lies there, not here. No matter how good we deem the good days, they still aren’t our reward. They’re blessings, but they aren’t rewards. Our bad days aren’t punishments. They might very well be discipline to help us get back on track so that we can reach the prize, but the bad days aren’t punishments for not having good days. They’re bad days. They’re bad seasons. They’re growing pains. They’re the result of a fallen world that turned to sin instead of communion with the Lord.

And so we press on into a new year. 2016 was not a bad year. It was a year — just as all the other years were years. Our situations and our levels of personal happiness do not define the greatness of a year. But y’know, if anything, maybe the year was great because the good Lord in his infinite mercy didn’t obliterate a nation that remains hellbent. We have improvements to make – no doubt. We had difficult times as a nation – no doubt. But for those of us who are disciples of Jesus, let’s not forget the big picture. To quote Billy Graham, I’ve read the last page of Revelation. It’s all going to turn out okay. This world is not our home. This world is not our prize. Press on.

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Forget doing something great. Do some good.

Y’ALL.

I’m sitting here revisiting Beth Moore’s Children of the Day study (an in-depth study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians), and I can’t even FINISH today’s lesson because you guys have to hear a portion that is so applicable to our lives (which is ironic, but more on that to come)! Please read on because this is about to burn up my fingertips before I can even get the darned thing typed.

More often than not over the past year, I’ve found myself turning to Scripture and trying to find verses that apply or relate to my situation. I’m not trying to proof-text (take Scripture out of context and isolate it to mean what I want it to mean), but I’m trying to basically force God to speak.

In reading through various social media posts from friends and friends of friends, it’s obvious that I’m not alone. But is this the right thing to do? No. We have to grow up in our faith, so to speak. This is something that a baby Christian does, and understandably so! I wouldn’t even categorize myself as a baby Christian based purely on the length of time I’ve been a baptized follower, but somewhere along the way I forgot this lesson.

“Scripture is at work in our works even when it doesn’t speak a specific word toward our tasks. That means that my morning reading could be the genealogy of Matthew 1, but I can still get up from my kitchen table better equipped as a ministry employer because the Word possesses inherent strength and shapes character. An open Bible also awakens our ears (Isa. 50:4).” (Beth Moore, Children of the Day – assume all following quotes are from this study).

From Psalm 119: 169-176, The Message Translation:

“Let my cry come right into your presence, God; provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word. Give my request your personal attention, rescue me on the terms of your promise. Let praise cascade off my lips; after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life! And let your promises ring from my tongue; every order you’ve given is right. Put your hand out and steady me since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel. I’m homesick, God, for your salvation; I love it when you show yourself! Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well, use your decrees to put iron in my soul. And should I wander off like a lost sheep – seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.”

From Beth:

     “Fellow student, God’s decrees are putting iron in our souls even when we still lack specific direction in our task. Try to resist forcing Scripture to fit or reading your situation into every verse, sermon, or devotional. An egocentric approach to Scripture – eyeing it chiefly with ourselves in mind – will throw us off course and dramatically increase our tendency to misapply it.
If we’ll ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit as we read and study, He will alert us when He’s speaking to our situation through a precept that doesn’t blatantly fit. Our inner man will bear witness with His Spirit.
Reading in panic mode can also throw off a sound application of Scripture. It’s my least effective frame of mind for receiving direction and equipping from the Bible. That’s when I’m most apt to use the day’s Scripture reading like a crystal ball. By all means, when we’re panicked, let’s cry out to God and ask for help and tell Him how desperate we are to hear from Him. But hacking through the Scriptures with a mental machete is hazardous.
When we are in panic we end up blaming God for misdirection when we wrap the wrong word around our steering wheel. Times of fright or distress present us an opportunity to get on our faces before God and request a trade-in for trust mode. Don’t try to make Him speak. Let Him speak. He wants to, and He will when the time is right. We don’t need to put words in God’s mouth. Whatever the task at hand, it will not come down to achieving; it will come down to receiving.
These two words can be deep breath to an asthmatic soul: “calm down” (Isa. 7:4). Go for a walk and reflect on God’s goodness and faithfulness. Praise Him and profess confidence in His commitment to equip you for every good work. Quiet yourself in Him for a while. Sometimes we’ll find that we’re trying too hard. Often the equipping will follow the calming because God honors a posture of trust.”

Not reading myself into Scripture is SO HARD sometimes, and this smacked me over the head and hugged me all at the same time. But she doesn’t end there. This whole week is about our ministry to the world and how we’ve been equipped to do good for the glory of the Lord. She transitions to talking about “finding our niche.”

I’ve talked with a number of friends younger than me at various times in my life, and inevitably those who are Christians get caught up in ‘following God’s will,’ and trying to figure out what He wants them to do with their lives. For the life of me I can’t remember who told me this, but someone once told me something to the effect of, “Go and make disciples. That’s God’s will for your life. Period. It’s not complicated. God’s will for your life is that people know him through you. There are a million different ways you can do that. YOU make the decision for how you want to do it. Don’t pin it on God if you choose to do something that makes you miserable simply because you thought it was the most religious path to take. If God blatantly calls you somewhere, by all means, go. Go do that. Absolutely. But for the vast majority of us who don’t get to have our callings blatantly written in the sky, we’re to make disciples. Do what you love and use it to make disciples.” Okay, paraphrase is mine, but you get the general idea. We get WAY too caught up in trying to decipher what one specific path we should take. It’s nonsense. Just go and make disciples.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (ESV):

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.”

Here’s Beth again:

     “Let’s bask in the first: “every resolve for good.” Forget setting out to do something great. That goal entangles our egos every time. Instead, let’s resolve to do some good in Jesus’ name. If our good turns out great, then give glory to God. It was all about Him anyway. If we feel like it failed to achieve the fruit we hoped for (I’ve bee there many times), did we do anyone any good?
To find your niche, go meet some needs. There’s no end to them. Students need tutors. Shut-ins need visitors. Sick people need someone to pick up their medicine. Demoralized people need someone to listen. Pastors need encouragement before they pass out or pass on. Small group Bible studies need places to meet. Ministries need volunteers. Church nurseries are desperate for workers. Kids’ ministers are clamoring for servants who can keep commitments. Hungry people need food collectors. People who live out on the streets need shelter and, if they’re too trapped in addiction to desire it, they could use a blanket when it’s old. So many young women need mothering. Elderly women need to matter. And everybody needs spiritual mentors. Don’t worry about doing something great. Resolve to do some good.”

SOMEONE give me an amen here, brothers and sisters! Maybe I’m the only one who needed to hear this, but my goodness, the woman couldn’t have hit the nail on the head any harder if she would have tried.

If you’re like me, you’ve focused WAY too much on doing something great and forgotten to do some good. I’m so thankful for the Lord blessing me with a kick in the pants today. It was an encouraging kick, though! :) I hope your wheels are spinning just as mine are right now both about the way you approach the Word, sermons, etc. and the way you serve. I don’t need to say anything more. What God says and what Beth said speak for themselves. You apply it yourself.

Here’s to doing some good and letting the Lord speak when and as he desires,

Hannah

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‘Tis the season…

…for everyone to get all mushy-gushy (or incredibly irritable) about the year behind us and hopeful for the year ahead…only for all of it to be forgotten within a month or less.

So what about your New Year’s resolution from last year? Did you keep it? For the first time in my life, I’ve stuck to the one that I set: no pop (or soda, for you weirdos) for a year. I started on January 7 last year and I’m on track to actually hit it here in about a week. Granted, I drank half of a Sprite a few weeks ago BUT it wasn’t because I slipped up and couldn’t handle the pressure. I didn’t want to drink it, but one of my sweetheart D-group girls knew I was sick and brought one to me, so I of course had to recognize her gesture. Other than that, I’ve stuck to everything except the life-zapping liquid that so many people drink by the gallon every week.

So what was the point? Well, ideally I was supposed to become Victoria’s Secret model-hot by now, but I think I’ve actually gained more weight than I was gearing up to lose at this time last year. Whoops. Okay, actually my goal was to just be healthier. I was doing wonderful until Spring Break hit for Chorale tour and our only option for sustenance was McDonald’s when we made stops. My resolution this year is along the same lines, but a little different so it’s more attainable. Whatever number of the month it is, I will make at least that many healthy decisions every day. So, since it’ll be January, and that’s the first month, I will make at least one healthy decision every day that helps me lead a healthier lifestyle. I’ll make two a day come February, three in March, four in April, and so on. Should it be difficult to make one a day? No, but before you criticize, ask yourself how many of your resolutions you’ve stuck to. That’s the trick: you can’t tackle the world in the first week. Make your resolutions realistic, but they need to challenge you, too. I’ll give myself the first month to do my own sort of cleanse & then I’ll start back on Advocare around February & work my caboose off (hopefully literally) to hit my goals.

Enough of that. What about the year behind, that will be over in approximately twelve hours?

To it I say, good riddance! Overall, it’s been a year of tough lessons. Intrinsically, that’s wonderful because I’ve learned a lot (or…fought against learning a lot..I’ve been really stubborn all year, too), but on the surface it’s been rough. Amber & I lost our house we were renting because of someone else’s lack of preparation and maturity, I’ve been working between 4-5 jobs for months because of this economy, I’ve been rejected from numerous jobs after being told I was one of the strongest or THE strongest candidate for the position, I was in a great relationship and that ended, I’m having to work ridiculous hours just to pay loans (I will NOT defer them or back off the payments) and bills, I have no close circle of friends here who I hang out with (Amber & I work all the time. We’ve hung out about twice in the past four months), I really don’t like living at home just because I’m sick of not being independent, to say that my walk with God is shaky is a massive understatement – or overstatement – depending on how you look at it, I have no idea what the hell (sorry – just being honest) I’m doing with my life or where it’s going, blah blah blah – the same complaints every 20-something has. But I will say that it’s been hard to have no social circle, no relationship, no support from my family emotionally or spiritually (let’s just be honest), and very little support even from my church for nearly nine months now (Sterling is a family-focused church, and I’m experiencing all of this ALL at once. THAT’S what’s hard. I’m not dealing with one or two – it’s everything all at once. At my church, there’s little to no attention given to those who are single and have no kids. We’re out in No Man’s Land because we’re the minority, which I guess I understand. I don’t really believe in the majority catering to the minority). Basically what it comes down to is me feeling like I’m trying to navigate life alone and it’s finally getting to me. Ever been there?

I will say this year brought some cool moments, though: I graduated college, became certified by the NRA to teach pistol courses, went on the best tour from my college years down in Florida with a group that’s near & dear to my heart & always will be, had some new experiences, had one of the best and most memorable birthdays to date, started working as a sponsor with the teens in the youth group I grew up in, learned the value of busting your rear end day in & day out, went on some missions trips, and who could forget the moment I was hit on by swingers. I mean really, that tops everything. Just when you thought you’d heard it all… ;)

I’m hoping 2014 brings me a lot of opportunities to trust God more. I know it will. This year brought a lot of that, but I don’t think I trusted Him in many of them. I want to be more consistent as a person and someone who says she follows Christ not just for my own sake, but for those around me. My faith isn’t just about me – it’s about the world I live in and the people I do life with day in and day out as well. I think that’s something that we’ve missed quite a bit in the church. Even if I do all of the right things, volunteer for everything and help out in every way I can, even if I try to be a “good person” (whatever that is), none of it matters if, at the end of the day, I don’t live knowing and rejoicing in the love that God has for me, even in my sorry, pathetic, and my sometimes sin-driven state. The reality is there’s an ebb and flow with following Christ. Take a look at Israel. If you think you can come to a point where you no longer sin in any way, or even just intentionally, I’d encourage you to read the Old Testament and look at Israel, and then read a little bit of Paul. “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6. Great point. But when I read his words in 2 Corinthians 12 –

“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

– or in Romans 7 –

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do not do what I want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

 

– I’m reminded that I probably won’t get everything, or much of anything, totally right. I’m not justifying sin. I’m saying that we’re on this path of consistently doing what our Father does, just as a little kid mimics his own dad, but we aren’t our dads, and we aren’t our heavenly Father, therefore we’re probably going to need him to help us out along the way and offer grace – just as our own dads should. If you say you trust God with things like supplying your every day needs, your “daily bread,” then why not trust him with your sin? We’re coming up on a new year. Let go. Let go for your sake, and those around you, and “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

Happy New Year.

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Zip It!

So I had a moment of irony with God about twenty seconds ago. I had my Bible open and was reading through the beginning of James when I, some way or another, got distracted by Twitter. As I scrolled through my feed, I caught a post from a friend who has recently chosen to pursue an alternate lifestyle and contort the Gospel to fitting this individual’s sin (GASP! I used the ‘S’ word to describe someone’s lifestyle choices!). Every time I see this I instantly, and I mean INSTANTLY become angry. Not just angry, but I tense up, the defenses go up, and I just wanna scream. I can’t stand it when people do this. It gets under my skin knowing that somehow culture has crept its way into Christianity and the church and has somehow convinced some in leadership that maybe, just maybe, alternate lifestyles are okay and that we aren’t being loving enough. No, this isn’t a blog about homosexuality. I’m just so fed up with reading this week after week after week. If you wanna be openly gay & deem it acceptable, fine. Do it. But don’t say you’re walking the narrow road that Jesus talked about.

Anyway. As I’m getting more and more irritated by the second, I had it in my mind that I should tweet something pointing out our general contortion of the Gospel and how unhealthy it is. So, of course, being the snarky, sharp-tongued individual I am, I had a great tweet ready to go…and then realized it wasn’t going to do any good at all, so I just deleted it. I then realized I should put the phone down and get back to reading, because clearly Twitter was doing me no good. I picked up where I left off. Where did I leave off? *chuckle*

James 1:19-26

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

 

Well…crap. Of course I got a chuckle out of this, and I’m sure God had a smirk on his face as well (don’t tell me he doesn’t have a good sense of humor). I don’t really need to say much more about this. I’ll let the scripture speak for itself. If you smiled while reading this, chances are you can relate. Remember what he says: Quick to listen & slow to speak. So shut up & listen. You might learn something from someone else. Or maybe you’ll learn something about them not by what they are saying, but what they aren’t. Either way, join me in shutting up this week. :)

 

Pray. Seek. Do.

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A Bucket List.

For as long as this idea of a “bucket list” has been around, I haven’t once made one. I’ve been mentally checking items off the list since the beginning of college. For example:

-Sing on the Hour of Power at the Crystal Cathedral. Check.
-Record a CD. Check. (Bet ya didn’t know that one, did ya? :) )
-Travel to Rome. Check. (And while I was at it, I sang at St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Mark’s, etc.)
-Visit the Colosseum. Check.
-Be in a group that pays to have me sing. Check.
-Go skydiving. Check…ish. I have the Groupon. Now to just schedule it. :)

What’s interesting is that I prayed about all of those things as a little girl (well, minus the skydiving). I vividly remember the day I decided that I WOULD sing at the Crystal Cathedral one day. I was watching the Hour of Power with my grandma before we left for church. For some reason, I just knew I wanted to see the place and sing there one day. Did I sing as a soloist? No. Even better.. I sang with Chorale. :) Same goes for Italy. The prayers prayed as a kid were answered. God didn’t drop them in my lap, though. I worked hard to make each of those things happen. I think that’s a further testimony to not only the power of prayer, but the importance of not sitting around and waiting for God to give you whatever you ask for.

But nonetheless, here’s an extremely far-fetched bucket list that I will be working on for the remainder of my life. :)

1. Do something (positive/life-affirming/good/right) in the name of God and justice that makes me known literally worldwide (perhaps this correlates rather directly with #10). Why do I want the worldwide recognition? Not for myself, but for the ability to say that God moved in a way that was so huge, it was known worldwide.

2. Visit Israel and walk the roads Jesus walked.

3. Sing the National Anthem for some sort of at least decently well-known sporting (or other major) event.

4. Have a chat with a current US president (preferably not THE current US president) and ask him how life’s treating him. And then proceed to find my way onto his cabinet (assuming he’s a good guy that I’d support)..or at least be the kind of person that makes him think, “I think I need to keep in contact with this loony tune!”

5. Love someone. Not the, “Aaaw, I love you so much!” sorta love. I’m talking about the love that commits itself totally and fully to someone, regardless of how much you wanna kick ’em in the head sometimes. The love that says, “I’m willing to do anything and everything, at any cost, to make sure you’re safe and taken care of.” The kind of love that never settles for just wanting the other person to be happy, but the love that drives me to make sure it’s a deep-seeded joy. A love that doesn’t settle into a routine, but continually strives to be deeper and better. A love that doesn’t give up, regardless of the caliber of mistake and heartache experienced. Lover or fighter? I think love has to be fought for on all accounts. You don’t get love without a fight. Lovers have to be fighters.

6. Inspire people. Not through speaking with a silver tongue, or winning something that will eventually fade into a memory or anything like that. I want people to look at my life and be inspired to do something awesome for the sake of someone else. That’s what I want to do. Maybe it’s donating a kidney or something. Maybe it’s refusing to back down away from my morals. I just want a world full of people who are indifferent passion to see someone live who refuses to settle for good or decent when extraordinary is possible, if the extra work is put in.

7. Represent the USA in Olympic shooting, set a world record, and walk away with a gold medal.

8. Own a crazy-awesome Les Baer.

9. Write a song that’s remembered for years to come.

10. Have a Peter-in-front-of-the-Sanhedrin moment with the Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court, etc. defending liberty, the Constitution, and the Christian morals this country was founded on and reprimand the living daylights out of the people who have blatantly and carelessly tried to do away with all of this.

11 (Sorry, have to throw in one more). Go to a Top 10 law school and get my rear end to Washington and get this country back to what it should be.

12 (okay just ONE more). At least go through the whole Ironman shooting obstacle course (no sense in competing – I’d get my butt handed to me).

 

Honestly, I look at all of those and think, “That’s totally do-able.. It’ll just take a ton of work.” I think too often we tell kids to dream so huge that they can’t conceivably reach what it is they’re wanting to do. Encouraging a kid who has the genetics to top out at 5’6″ with zero athletic talent to go for the NBA when the rest of the world knows it’s impossible is, sorry, stupid. It’s far different than encouraging a kid who comes from the ghetto who stands 6’4″, can shoot like it’s his job, has a terrible family and financial background, but has the strongest work ethic you’ve ever seen. If any of the items I’ve listed are far-fetched, they’d be 4, 7, and 9. Four because, well, hello. Getting access to the president of the United States is probably the hardest thing to do. Seven because I’m just not sure I’ll ever have the time to train for the Olympics (although I’m convinced that I have what it takes to make it there for shooting). Nine because I’m a terrible song writer. But quite frankly, I think I can manage the rest (and those three) with a ton of hard work and perseverance.

So what about you? What crazy & outlandish things do you wanna do that are still within your reach when considering how God has wired you in regards to your strengths and talents? Work your butt off. It’ll be worth it.

 

Pray. Seek. Do.
..Hannah

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Busy as a bee…

I have determined that college has had the worst effect ever on my spiritual life.

Not because of parties. Come on, I go to a Christian school.
Not because of guys. Come on, I go to IWU. Not exactly the land of burly men (we all have our preferences, now don’t we?).
Not because I never gather with the body of Christ. Come on, chapel three times a week (insufficient in adequate and legitimate teaching from time to time, but that’s just my opinion).

So why?

I’m busy.

I thought staying busy was a good thing. Holy cow. It’s awful. I’ve been busy since I was born, but these past four years have worn me out. I’m currently a building monitor for the PAC, a grader for one of the Music History classes, Chapel coordinator, I start working at Paddock View very soon (as in actually working on top of doing my practicum), I’m in Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, Chorale (and I’m Vice President as well as the alto section leader for that), and, oh, hey, silly me.. I’m obviously holding down a full load of classes.

AM I CRAZY!??!!
Short answer: yes. :)

I love my life. I honestly, truly do. I love everything I’m involved in. I love the people I work with (eh, well, most of ’em ;) …). I love what I do (most of the time), but I do NOT love the toll it has taken on me spiritually, emotionally, socially, etc.

I have the typical Christian college kid problems: My spiritual life is so dry, so lack-luster, so .. empty, because I just don’t have time. I don’t have time for a serious prayer life, Bible study, meditation, etc. If anyone has ever needed to pull the busy card, I’ll be honest, it’s this girl. That’s not good enough for me though. It’s so lame and so overused that I want nothing to do with it, but how am I supposed to get away from it?! Look at what I do! Furthermore, if I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t even want to…

I was thinking about all of this the other day while thinking about how I still feel like my spiritual life is more on the rags side as opposed to riches. I started thinking about how I’m “not where I should be” in terms of spirituality. I find it slightly ironic that it was just a few minutes later that a friend who’s a freshman at a Bible college in Tennessee sends me this text:

I’ve been really sluggish in my walk lately, not necessarily in the motions but more unbelief and this battle of my will. What I mean is I’ve hit this point of desperation where I kinda want to give up but I know what the Bible says about that. It’s like a battle between how I feel and what I know. Not feel as in feelings or emotion but I mean more like my sensitivity in my walk. How do I get through this? How do I not give up? I have little to no desire to read the Word or pray and it’s becoming increasingly difficult. What do I do?”

I felt like I had texted myself and was asking myself for advice. He put everything I’ve felt into words. I can’t speak for him, but I can safely say for myself that at some point I became so busy that it started killing me spiritually. The thing is, I don’t necessarily feel “empty” like I said I did. There is definitely a particular emptiness there, but it’s not the “normal” kind. Quite honestly, I think it’s the exact opposite.

I’m too full.

I like being with the ragamuffins. I like the people who are rough around the edges. I like the ones who will cuss up a storm and not care who’s present. In fact, I LOVE those people. I love the ones who have been hardened by life and just want some sort of hope to get them through. I love the ones who hate my Christian beliefs. They frustrate the dickens outta me, but I love ’em. I love the ones who claim to have been burned by the church. Those people are awesome. The ragamuffins are the absolute best. Been there, done that. Not sure I ever stopped being a ragamuffin. In fact, I know I’m still riff-raff. :) But you get it. Those are the people I love. The problem is, I’ve come into contact with them very few times over the past four years unless I’ve gone home. I’ve been here. I’ve been … ah ha … busy. I’ve been practicing and rehearsing, working, leading, etc.

And then Paddock View comes into the picture…

Last Friday was my first official Friday at Paddock and WOW, guys. I LOVED it. Let’s be honest: she gave me the “easy” kids, who, behaviorally were absolute gems. They may not have picked up the drumming very quickly, but they liked it! And they really seemed to like me! And let’s be real here: I fell in LOVE with these kids! I have some of the cutest kids in my groups. They. Are. Precious. And they’re trying! They WANT to be good! This sounds so stupid, but very few things have been as much fun as drumming with them. When I came back to campus after last week, I was on Cloud 9. I was so excited for them and because of the time I’d had with them. I’m SUPER excited to go back tomorrow and see what happens. It made me think that just *maybe* I’m in my real element. I’m not sure I’ll do something like this for the rest of my life, but for now, I’m definitely where I think I need to be.

So what in the world does this have to do with being empty… Glad you asked. :)

Oswald Chambers has an awesome devo that basically says we cannot be emptied unless we’re emptied by service. God fills us up every time we empty ourselves in service. Emptiness due to service is wonderful, but we don’t stay empty. God always fills us back up so we can be poured out once again. Perhaps that’s where my spiritual unrest has been. I’ve been too full and I haven’t been emptying myself out. Pouring myself into these kids has been what I’ve needed to do. I haven’t been serving enough. Although I’ve wanted to, I haven’t because I’ve been too dang busy.

Feeling like your spiritual life is a wreck? How busy are you? Think you’re empty but, when you think about it, you haven’t really done much? How much have you been serving? How much have you poured yourself into other people? Have you poured yourself into other people? If you haven’t, start there. Even if you think you have nothing to give, if you have the Spirit dwelling in you, then you have something to give, but you have to look for it. Sitting around and waiting for God to drop people or situations in your lap is never the best solution. Seek out the ones Jesus would have sought out. I admit that this opportunity really seemed to be God dropping this into my lap. I lucked out. I also don’t think I was waiting. Studying the wrong thing? Possibly, but I was actively waiting (although I hadn’t asked.. Typical Hannah fashion: Charge head-first into something without thinking it through or praying about it) Any other time I’ve sat around and “waited” (also known as AVOIDED) on God to put some wonderful opportunity together and done nothing in the mean time, it never ended prettily. Even if you do something that seems like it makes no sense and doesn’t add up, still work. Still do work for the Kingdom. There’s never a time that we should sit around and wait to serve. I can’t find where or how that could be biblical. It’s important to always take time for self and to pull away from the rest of the world, but these are not instances where we are hesitant to pour ourselves out in service. These are times when we’re filling back up from the service we’ve been actively engaged in.

So, are you too full? If so, how will you empty yourself out?

Pray on, friends.

Ask, but don’t be surprised when you get an answer.

Since those “divine” moments aren’t part of my every day life, I figured I should share this one.

Something to keep in the back of your mind: I am required to have a 20-hour practicum for my Adolescent Growth & Development class. Because I have quite a bit of experience with your typical (and even untypical) youth group kids, I decided a youth group was the last setting I wanted. I emailed the local probation department and asked if there was anything I could possibly volunteer with regarding their services to the local community. A woman emailed me back and said there wasn’t, but that I should check out Paddock View. I’d never even heard of this place. Turns out it’s a residential center for teens in the court system, aka, juvenile delinquents. Their main form of therapy is equine therapy – HOW AWESOME! So, I emailed the director and received something to this extent in return: “We don’t typically like to take on interns for various reasons, but if you’re available some time on Friday, let’s sit down and talk.” So, last Friday at 1:30 I went. More on that later.

Thursday I sensed a pull to pray about my life and where it was headed. I reeeeeaaally don’t like getting these sort of inklings because it always results in me freaking out about my life. Turns out this instances was no different, go figure. So, Thursday evening I got away from everyone & everything and started writing furiously in the prayer journal. The basic idea was, “Okay, God..seriously. I’ve studied church music and worship for the past four years and I have little to no desire to ever actually have a profession that relates to either of these focuses, but I added the psych minor and I love it. I don’t have a clue where I’m supposed to go in life or what I’m supposed to do. I have no sense of calling, which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing.” And then it hit me. I realized I hadn’t really spent much time at all asking God what I should do, where I should go, etc. Hear me on this one: I don’t think God will tell every single person something specific such as, “I want you to plant a church five years from now in an unchurched area of Wyoming.” I just don’t think that happens. I think God trusts some people enough to allow them to decide on what they want to do. I think we can have a hundred different options and still be within the will of God. I also believe some people have clearly been called to do certain things with their time in this life. With that being said, that hasn’t been me. I’ve been the person that’s just done what I’ve wanted to, because I never sensed that God had a problem with my, well, for lack of a better term, life plan.

While wrapping up my time journaling, I asked God for direction, i.e. a very clear indication of what He wanted me to do *if* He wanted me to do something specific or if He wanted me headed down a different road.

Let me say this: First of all, if you ask God a question, don’t be surprised if He decides to answer. That’s been a big issue for me. I’ve had a tendency to think, “Nah, that was just a coincidence.” One of my NY’s resolutions was to stop believing in coincidence so much and start believing, oh hey, maybe God IS trying to get a point across.
Secondly, God doesn’t allow things to go to waste. I’ve studied music but I want to do other things, but as you’ll read in a second, He hasn’t allowed my time studying music to go to waste.

Friday rolls around. I headed down to PV to talk with the director. On the way there, I realized I hadn’t prayed about the meeting. Hadn’t felt the need to, truth be told. I wasn’t expecting much to come from it. So, about a mile away from the place I started praying, “God, honestly, I really want this practicum but I feel like I’ve already lost. If you want something to come out of this, make it happen. I have no experience in this field, my knowledge is limited, but I’m willing. Do what you want.” Yeah, that was dangerous.

My appointment was at 1:00. I didn’t leave until 3:25. Yup. Over two hours, excuse me, two MIND BLOWING hours, were spent talking with her. When I walked in the doors, I told the receptionist that I had an appointment with Meliss. She asked, “Are you the intern?”

Well that was unexpected.

“Um, well, I hope so!” Wait, wasn’t I told that the likelihood of me completing my practicum requirements with them was fairly low? Anyway. I filled out a standard application and then went in to speak with Meliss. One of the first things she told me was that, basically, they didn’t like to take on interns. They’re a lot of work, time, & energy and they just don’t benefit their center much (But.. the girl just called.. hm. Well, we’ll see where this goes..). They need to focus on the kids, not on training wannabes in the field. Fair enough. She also said, “Hannah, I know how difficult it is to get experiences like this, so let’s talk.”

She noticed that under special skills I’d written “Ability to handle high-stress situations.” I told her about the classes I take during the summer and my personal convictions when it comes to self-defense. I told her I was, at all times, aware of my surroundings, and that where I was currently sitting was driving me nuts. I had my back to the door and I was facing the window. I prefered to be 45 degrees to my left so my back was to the wall, the window was on my left, a mirror was in front of me, and the door was to my right. She raised her eyebrows and said, “That’s EXTREMELY important for someone who works here. We need people who are always watching.” My, my. This was off to a good start. :) She then said, “Hannah, this music thing has me interested. Talk to me.”

Out of nowhere I start talking about my ideas for doing some sort of music therapy with them. I took a course called “World Music Ensemble” where we did a lot of African drumming in a drum circle fashion. I kept going on about ideas and she’s just sitting there staring at me. “Hannah, this is awesome. I need to hook you up with Terrie.” She left and came back with the woman who (I think) oversees education at the center. I started talking with her and she starts smiling and looking over my application, but doesn’t say anything. Meliss looks at her and says, “Ooooo she’s smiling and not talking… Hannah, that’s good. That’s very, very good..” So we talk about ideas a little more. I told them I MIGHT be able to gain access to some tibano drums for this through the professor who directed the ensemble, but it was ONLY a possibility. We started talking about options if the prof said no. I said I’d talk to her and let them know the next week I was there.

After discussing all of that, Meliss and I then talked about the possibility of another AWESOME opportunity. Because I’m not sure of what the privacy rules are about this kind of thing, I’m not going to go into detail. Basically, she told me she was going to have me work (on a weekly basis) one-on-one with a girl who’d been sexually and physically abused. She knows that I want to work with sex offenders at some point, so she thought it would be good for me to see the other side of the fence for a while. She said she wanted me to be like a mentor because I can’t technically be considered her therapist because I’m not licensed. But, should this girl have to go to court or anything like that, she wanted me to be there to testify on her behalf. Whoa buddy! I’m sitting there thinking, “I’d be an idiot to not think this is God.”

Well, it keeps getting better. We started talking about the duration of my time there. She said, “Hannah, 20 hours isn’t very much. Are you willing to be here longer than that?”
“Absolutely!”
“Technically, if we have someone here for more than 2-3 hours a week, we should be paying them… When are you available?”

Yeah, this is going where you think it’s going.
Because of rehearsals, I can’t be there constantly (as I’d like to be), but we decided that Fridays I’d be there from 12:30-4 or 5ish, but .. it gets better. She asked if I was available to work third shift at all. Yup. I’ll be working third shift on Fridays at this place. Granted, there won’t be interaction with the kids because they’ll be asleep, BUT THE WOMAN OFFERED ME A JOB! And then! Oh yes, we aren’t done yet! She then asked what I thought about the future!!! I told her my schedule next school year would be MUCH more open than it is currently and that I would be TOTALLY willing to come back if everything went well and if they wanted me. So what does she ask next?
“Well what about summer?”

Good grief. Seriously? I walked in two hours ago under the assumption that I wouldn’t even have the opportunity to complete a 20 hour practicum, and now I’m employed and we’re talking about summer and next school year. This is too good to be true, so I was assuming I’d wake up pretty soon. Apparently she was thinking the same thing..

“Hannah, this is too good to be true. You couldn’t be in a better place for the experience you’re wanting, and you really seem like a great fit for what we do here. I can’t wait for you to see the equine therapy in action. I can’t wait for you to meet *** (can’t give her name). This is really too good to be true. The timing is perfect, what you want to do is an awesome fit for these kids. Terrie’s excited, I’m excited.. This is really too good to be true.”

Needless to say, I agreed wholeheartedly.

She had me set up a fingerprinting, so I did. I’ve already been fingerprinted by child services, so I’m good to start working ASAP. It’s really difficult to not take this as some sort of directing and an answer to prayer. To make things even better…

I was expecting at least a little hesitation and a potential ‘no’ in response to my request to take the drums to the center each week. How much resistance did I receive? None whatsoever.

I’m speechless. This is too cool and too good to be true. Honestly, I’m waiting for the entire thing to blow up in my face. Maybe it will! If it does, well, life goes on. Regardless of the outcome, it’s nice to be reassured that God, the Creator of the universe, the one who holds the planets in the palm of his hand, is willing to reveal himself in my life. I’ve done nothing to deserve it. In fact, most of what I do seems wrong most of the time. There are a lot of stupid people in the world, and I’m one of them. I still stand amazed at the knowledge that God, THE everlasting God, sees my life. All glory, honor, and power is His. If he can find use for a sinful vessel, then more power to him. :)

 

Pray on friends…but don’t be surprised when God talks back. :)

Out with the old, in with the new!

Well, seeing as how the last time I posted was in July, it’s safe to assume that life got away from me.

No, really. Life kinda got crazy.

While I’d intended for this past summer to be one of digging deeper in a lot of ways, it turns out that I instead did nearly the exact opposite. To be honest, I made a lot of stupid decisions. I sort of stopped caring. It seemed like no matter what, God wasn’t going to be happy with me anyway, so what did it matter? Eventually I started snapping out of it. I ‘fessed up to my stupidity with my housemates a few weeks into October, and they started to hold me accountable.

There came a week in November where I was a tad scared that my life was about to change drastically. I really thought I was going to have some serious consequences to a terrible decision I’d made the first weekend of October. If you’d like to know the full story, I’m more than happy to share. Come ask me in person or shoot me an email. (lifeaccordingtohannah@gmail.com) I’m willing to share my story, but this isn’t the time or place to share that.

Bottom line, God got ahold of me in a big way. What kept going through my mind was, “Hannah, are you willing to allow me to use your boneheaded decisions in order to further the Kingdom? Are you willing to lay down your reputation, are you willing to be scoffed if it means someone knowing me? Are you willing to risk being labeled something by society, family, friends, whoever if it means someone knowing me? Will you allow me to use a bad decision and make some good out of it?”

Yeah, THAT was a fun moment.
Because of that moment and the decisions preceding, I can honestly say I experienced grace for the first time. Not that I hadn’t been given a lot of grace in every other stupid decision in my life, but this was the first time that it started to make sense. It was the first time that I realized that without the grace of Christ, I am absolutely nothing. I’m worth nothing at all. There’s no possible way I COULD be worth anything. It started to sink in that any offering I make is out of my depravity and my fallenness as a human being. THAT was humbling. Furthermore, I’ve started to come to grips with my offering being worthless if I don’t know and understand the love of Christ. That’s what my life has been until recently. I’ve had such a small understanding of what it means to love and be loved by Christ. I’ve always been caught up with what the offering that I make looks like. Is it big enough? Is it “shiny” enough? Is it making me look more spiritual? Nevermind the fact that actually having an understanding of grace was something I’d yet to experience.

Over the past few weeks it’s become more of a reality for me. I’m hoping that 2012 will look a little (okay, a LOT) different than 2011 in a lot of ways. As I look back over the year, I see a lot of wasted time, but that wasted time was luckily used to teach me quite a bit that I’d never learned before. I’m constantly amazed with how God turns the bad into good. Maybe he doesn’t do it immediately, and maybe it doesn’t make sense for a while, but he does if you trust him… at least that’s what I’ve experienced.

So, here’s to 2012. I have absolutely no idea what to expect of the year ahead. I have to stay at IWU for an extra year, so I can’t even get antsy about graduation yet. =P Here’s to another year of learning, growing, making mistakes, falling off the horse & getting back on. And hey! Some people even think the world will end come December. ;) I’m not jumping on that bandwagon quite yet. The rest of my life started today. I’ll say the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. My New Year’s resolution? Don’t waste life. It’s precious, and it’s short. Let’s say I’m going to live to 100 (I highly doubt it).. My life is almost 25% over. Here’s to a new start..

Happy 2012! Ready or not, here it comes!

James 1:22

It’s hard to believe that today was the one-year mark of Ed passing away. It seems like he’s been gone a lot longer than a year, but at the same time it feels like it just happened yesterday. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I think my mind refuses to accept the fact that he’s really gone. I still have his number in my cell phone, still have him on my Facebook (I’m aware I’m not on FB anymore – just saying). This semester I’ve realized that many of the people who have had a significant impact on my life have been older. Not all, but a vast majority. Many/Most of them are now to the point where they won’t be here much longer because they’ve gotten so much older. This makes life a touch more difficult than I prefer.

The biggest lesson I think I gleaned from knowing Ed is it’s okay to annoy the living daylights outta people. :) He did so in an awesome way. I cannot tell you how many times that man would call me in a week. I hate to admit this, but it got to the point where I just started hitting reject because I had things I had to get done! I didn’t have time to sit around on the phone all day! I hit reject twice the week he died. I don’t hit reject anymore. Ed just wanted to make sure I was doing okay, that things were going well, and he wanted to harass me and ask if I’d found Mr. Hannah yet. :) I never thought I’d actually miss that, but I do.

Ed didn’t wait for things to get done. If something needed done, he’d jump all over it. You wouldn’t believe how much a 60-something year old man could accomplish in a day. It was pretty cool to see how Ed changed over the years while I was in youth group. He went from being completely unsure of someone who looked gothic, to someone who willingly and happily reached out to anyone and everyone around him, especially those who DID look and act different from him. God softened his heart through Jake, and he was never the same. I will never forget the Grundy trip where Ed made a 180 in what he believed about my generation. :) I’m sure he’s managed to terrorize all of heaven by now. :)

James 1:22 – Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Ed’s life verse. It speaks volumes. It doesn’t really need explanation or further words to embellish it. It’s pretty simple. When I look at my own life I’m a little perturbed at how I so often just read the words and then forget the action. Lately I’ve been very convicted of my need to be more generous, especially monetarily. I’ve really struggled with tithing this year. When I look back over a few habits I’ve developed, it’s clear that I’ve been walking through the wider gate instead of the narrower gate. I’m starting to look and act too much like the world regarding certain issues. I think the heart of it lies in the fact that I’ve been slacking on my tithing habits. Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable. My church back home is starting the building process and I’m slowing down the process by being unfaithful with my finances. Cripes. “Do what it says..”

It’s officially out – Dr. Yoder won’t be back next year. =/ Cripes. I’m super thrilled for this job he has in NYC. The man’s church is right across the street from Carnegie Hall! I mean come on! It doesn’t get any sweeter than that! He’s back at the church he interned at 40 years ago. His ministry has come full-circle, which is awesome. I just hate that he won’t be here anymore. Quite frankly, Yoder’s way too good for IWU. Seriously. He doesn’t belong in some rural Indiana college. The man’s too talented/gifted/smart to be here. He NEEDS to be somewhere like NYC working with the big rigs. Given his abilities, I don’t think IWU has treated him well enough. That’s just my own personal opinion. The man’s an absolute genius at what he does, so what the heck is he doin’ here?

Today’s been a bummer of a day, that’s for sure. It’s not one of those days that has left me hating the world, but it’s just been a crummy day I suppose. At least tomorrow’s Friday. :)

Turn Your Mourning Into Dancing..

Well, this past week will go down as quite an unforgettable week. If there’s ever been a time when God has tried to teach me to fully rely on Him, it is right now.

Monday I experienced quite possibly the largest heart break to date. I’m thankful for it for a few reasons. One, it reminds me that I’m not stone cold when it comes to emotions anymore (I tend to forget that more often than not). Two, it tells me that I’m finally willing to move on with my life. I’ve decided that I’m not going to suppress my feelings this time. If it hurts, I’m going to allow it to hurt and cry it out if I need to. That doesn’t mean I’m going to throw myself into self-hatred and depression. I’m just not going to keep everything in this time. The REAL test will be whether or not I decide to allow someone else to see that hurt. Over the past few months I’ve slipped back into this mode of putting a smile on about everything. Don’t get me wrong; God has given me true joy and genuine happiness with a different outlook on things since the beginning of summer, but due to busyness and never slowing down, I’ve been shoving other than happiness to the back burner lately. I’m noticing that I’m not nearly as social as usual, but I will say that has to do with being so PSYCHO-BUSY this semester. Anyway, back on track. Lessons learned..

First of all, if someone has hurt you don’t wait five years to tell them. Get it over with. You’ll thank yourself later, and it will probably save the friendships that are most important to you.

Second, don’t hesitate to tell your friends you love them. It’ll also save friendships in the long run. If you realize you don’t tell your friends you appreciate them hardly ever or not at all, stop it. Even if it’s awkward the first few times; tell them. Don’t allow anyone to doubt your allegiance to them as a friend.

Third, if you hurt, let it hurt.

Fourth, do NOT doubt the power of God or the way he moves, or the people he moves in. Don’t limit him to moving only in your deepest friendships. Sometimes he absolutely knocks you down with new friendships.

Lastly and probably the biggest, turn your wailing into dancing (Psalm 30).
Today I applied for a missions trip with CIY to Cambodia to the Rapha House – a safe house for girls after they’ve been rescued from the sex trade (think maybe I should tell my parents sometime?!). I’m turning my wailing into dancing. I hurt myself quite a bit a few years ago when things didn’t go the way I expected them to. This caused wailing. This week I finally coughed up to someone that I was hurt with the way they treated me in the past. That caused wailing. Now I’m dancing. I guess God just kinda smacked me with the fact that it’s completely okay to mourn over something, but in the end if it doesn’t produce good in your life, what’s the point? Even storms bring about good things. The rain rejuvenates color in the spring and summer. You want the rainbow, you gotta make it through the rain. I don’t think the psalmist meant for someone to merely turn their physical wailing into physical dancing. I think he meant for us to take a bad situation and turn it into good. Take a wound that was inflicted on you by yourself, by others, by the world, Satan, whatever/whoever else and bless someone else with it. If God truly meant what he said in Jeremiah 29:11, then I doubt he ever meant for a rain storm to not have a rainbow. I’ve yet to have one “bad” thing happen to me that didn’t help me grow in the end. This situation is no different. So…

Cambodia, here I come. :) Well.. hopefully at least. :)

 

 

Pray. Please. :)

 

Victoria Donner

Sometimes you can cattle rope your heart and sometimes you can't.

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