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Friday, January 10, 2014

Eternity in the Heart and Life with Purpose

A sunset sparkling in ice coated trees at the end of 2013.
Since last I wrote here, I've made a lot of sales with my online business, and I've handled a lot of books at my library job (a lot of books!), and I've edited a lot of words on a lot of papers (too few of them being my own in such busy times), and I've been very sick with two different illnesses that sidelined me when I wasn't working. It has been a rather dizzying two months of work, with very little to blog about, and most of the time, no energy or time to do it, anyway.

I've been tired...so very tired. But, God has been very good to me throughout the season. If I forgot that, I would be like the Israelites grumbling about a full stomach of manna.

Last year, I prayed at the beginning of the year and felt God telling me that 2013 would be a year of finishing things. That was fulfilled, sometimes in ways I wish had not come, and sometimes in great ways. I have new connections and ideas about how to finally advance my career, and in a backward kind of way, I would say I've learned a lot about the writing industry through my work at a library.  But am I fully satisfied and getting everything out of life? Frankly, no, I couldn't say that about myself in 2013.

As I pray about 2014, I am reminded that work, in itself, doesn't bring joy or fulfillment. Every human being yearns for a deeper purpose than their next paycheck or the end of their next project, or reaching their next career milestone.  This year, I want to get more out of life than just work. I want to finally pursue my dreams in a more focused way than I have formerly done, and use my talents for God and for the edification of others. I don't know how I'll do that, except that I know I've been called to write, and I've been letting work get in the way of doing that adequately.

Maybe you are feeling the same way about something in your life right now. If so, I suggest that you look into it, pray about it, and seek God's will for your life.  I know that God gives us all a deeper purpose, but we have to get it from Him. We can't give ourselves a purpose, and we can't let other people be our purpose, or define our purpose for us.  What we need to find is that road that God made for us to travel--the plans He has made for the individual believer (Ephesians 2:10), which showcase our talents and bring us joy and meaning on the road toward eternity. 

In fact, I think Solomon may have been contemplating these things in Ecclesiastes 3: 11-13.  Here is what that passage says:
[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
We dream of Heaven, but while we are here on earth, it is a "gift of God" to enjoy what we do and feel that we have done good while we lived. So, with that, I think my resolution for 2014 is to pursue that gift of God in my life, and share my Savior with those who don't know Him.

What is on your heart for this year?  Have you made any resolutions like this? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Words that Resonate: Matt Walsh on Abstinence and Freedom

Following my friend Crystal's habit on her blog, I wanted to share a couple of quotes from a blog post I read on Facebook today.

A fan wrote in to Matt Walsh's blog about how his teacher made him "feel like an outcast" and "weird" by telling his class that abstinence is an "outdated" belief and that casual sex is possible outside of any really serious commitment. Matt's response was scathing, and in my opinion, absolutely dead-on.  Here are some excerpts:

" Man, that is weird. It’s also awesome, inspiring, courageous, and extraordinary. Not to mention, Jeremy, you’re doing the RIGHT thing. You’ve got more character than most adults in this country, and you should be commended for it."


Later on, discussing the experience of those who have participated in "casual" sex and are now married to a different partner, he said,

" Do you wish you could say that your spouse is the only person who has experienced these intimate, sacred moments with you? Are you proud that there are other men or women in the world who have seen this side of you? Are you satisfied that what you give to your spouse is now secondhand?

If they tell you they feel happy or neutral about the fact that they gave themselves to someone other than their spouse, you’re dealing with someone in a very dysfunctional marriage. Any honest person in a healthy relationship would tell you they’d erase those moments from their lives if they could. They can’t, of course. Nobody can. We can’t live in the past and harp on our mistakes, but this all leads to an important point: the myth of “casual sex” persists, even though many of us — millions and millions — have seen it for what it is. Marriage as an institution is in rough shape, but people still do get married in this country. That means millions have had to look at their spouse and say — probably silently in their own heads, deep in their subconscious — “I have nothing new to give to you.”

It’s a tragedy, really. It’s a shame. You deal with it and you move on, but “casual sex” has taken its chunk and you’ll never get it back."


 Like Jeremy, I have sometimes felt like an outcast for waiting, but deep in my heart, I know it's right, no matter how many people tell me I'm "outdated." Perhaps unlike Jeremy, I've wept before God at the crushing, tragic thought of being someone's "second"; in fact, just the thought of that eternity of comparison and insecurity has only strengthened my resolve to remain pure until marriage, and to look for another "weird" person like me to spend my life with. The older I get, the more I see that pleasing the Lord is worth more than all the acceptance in the world, and I've lived long enough to see that when I obey Him, the benefits of obedience prove the truth of every word God has ever said!

I don't want the grief and emptiness that comes when we don't take sexuality seriously, and I see that God doesn't want that for me, either....but as for these politically-correct "leaders of children," what is their motivation?

 I don't know Matt Walsh and I don't regularly read his blog, but on this point, anyway, I feel he deserves a hearty "AMEN"! You should go read the whole article here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grief Observed, and Pollyanna Positivism

This year has been quite a journey, mostly full of what you might call "grief sandwiches," in which upsetting turnarounds layer themselves with bright spots of joy and victories small and large. In the midst of this, I've felt a lot of pressure to only write hopeful messages here, especially since so many people I know are going through some rough times. Maybe that's why I have been silent so often over the past few months. I mean, who wants to read a depressing blog, anyway?

But really, I can't always be Pollyanna. There comes a time when grief needs to be brought out into the open, so that mourners know that it's okay to be sad, and that God doesn't despise them for their tears.

Society, and even many Christians, stigmatize grief. Those who have suffered a loss are supposed to wave the magic wand of the Bible (or self-actualization, or whatever) at the situation, and never hurt or cry about it again. If they do, it must mean that they are weak.

So people eat their grief and confusion and guilt, or binge and starve themselves, or surgically alter themselves, or engage in cutting, or become secret alcoholics, or spend their life savings on clothes and possessions, just to try to manage the turbulent emotional storm on the inside. All the while, they are presenting a falsely positive front to the critical world (at least until the mask cracks under the pressure). Essentially, they are punishing themselves because other people have been mean to them!

But Christ Himself said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," (Matthew 5:4 NIV).

And it is written, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise," (Psalm 51: 17 NIV).

And finally, there is the prophecy concerning Christ, in Isaiah 61: 1-3 NIV:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
What is the message? That tears over an impossible grief are not shameful to God. He will not call us weak if we cry, or fly into a rage if we confess to Him that in all honesty we can't handle this situation on our own any longer. God does not expect us to be superhuman automatons who ask nothing and feel nothing, and who can bench press overwhelming trouble with one hand tied behind our backs.

God is the only superhuman! He can handle it, but He doesn't expect us to. God doesn't want us to heal ourselves. In fact, He would rather we acknowledge our enemies (whoever or whatever they are), take ownership for our weakness and frailty, and welcome the healing His capable hands have offered. When we acknowledge that we are His sheep--His needy, bleeding, crying, hungry, frail, imperfect, impractical, stumbling sheep--and trust in the capable arms of our Shepherd--our honest, trustworthy, dependable, heroic, creative, loving, generous, patient, long-suffering, sacrificial Shepherd--we are on the road to healing.

Why am I still talking about this? I have some friends who are presently facing the fact that the envisioned perfect, happily-ever-after outcome to their problems is not coming, and though my heart bleeds for them, I don't have any words of great comfort for their situation. I can't make the impossible, terrible thing not happen, since it already did. I am not superhuman either, you see.

I do know that God can bring comfort, even when words and efforts fail, and I'll keep repeating that even when no one asked me! He never promised us only happy endings (I mean, the end of the world in the Bible isn't exactly what I would call a happy ending for this planet!), but He did promise us that He would be there with us and that He would heal our wounds.

Go back and read those promises over again if you haven't committed them to heart yet. What did Christ say about grief? What did He say about how He deals with grief? What can we infer about how we are to deal with grief? It seems that if we want to recover from the impossible, we can only do it through His impossible strength, His other strength, not our own strength, not through self-abuse and self-medication, or from going to any other source for comfort.

How do you give your grief over to God? It's as simple as getting alone and just telling Him about it, out loud (that's why I said to get alone, so you don't have to feel self-conscious). I said out loud, not because there's a rule for that, but because it seems to help to not carry it inside any more. You have God's ear, so what are you waiting for? I can't tell you everything He will say, but I know that it will begin with, "I love you...I see your heart...I know your pain...I'll make it alright...trust Me."

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