Mustard Seeds

Mustard Seeds

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Honesty - Day Two

Crusade last night showed me a lot. I was reminded of how much I love worshiping God, how much I love singing, and how often I sing the words without really thinking about them. One song last night stuck out to me... It said:
"Lord I give you my heart.
I give you my soul.
I live for you alone."
I was singing away, really enjoying the music, when I sang those words and realized how I don't actually live for God alone. After that I felt a combination of feelings: sad that I can't sing those words in full truth, frustrated that I don't do something about that, and glad that God still takes me back even after I have run from him a gazillion times.

Another song, a few weeks ago, stuck out to me in the same way. This one said:
"Lord I want more of You
Living water rain down on me
Lord I need more of You
Living breath of life come fill me up
We are hungry
We are hungry for more of You."

I want that to be the desire of my heart. I want to be hungry for more of God. I want to be motivated to spend time with him and continually be living in his presence. Yesterday after blogging, I still didn't have an alone time with God. I learned about God and praised him at Crusade, but I didn't take the time to pray about the things on my mind or just give him the chance to guide me in my decisions. In the midst of singing to him I was still holding onto my life and living it for myself. So today, the second day of being honest with you, I am going to spend time with God... right. now.

P.S. Some of you might be wondering why I am blogging instead of just taking this time to read God's word and talk with him. Good thought. Truth is, I have enough time to do both I just chose not to yesterday and so far today I am choosing other things over alone time with God. So I am choosing Jesus time, starting now. =)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Honesty - Day One

When you wake up every couple of hours and can't fall asleep on account of anxiety and a feeling of panic, you know you have a problem. And this inability to sleep these past few nights really has me thinking. For starters, why am I waking up feeling anxious and what is my mind reacting to?

After one night of this, Monday was super stressful. Mondays are my busiest days this quarter and I went from 9am to 10pm but normally this wouldn't be as overwhelming as it was. There is something else behind all of this distress then just a busy schedule because, as my mom pointed out, this is nothing new for me. Different psychologists would have all sorts of explanations for my anxiousness but I am fairly certain of the reason I feel on edge. God is trying to get my attention.

He is sick of me ignoring him, taking him for granted, and pretending he is not as important in my life as he actually is. To express the extent of my complacency, I considered throwing in the towel on the whole "Christianity thing" a few weeks ago, thinking it would be easier. I wouldn't have to explain myself and my reasons for doing things to people, I wouldn't have to worry about God's plan (It could just be My plan), and I wouldn't have to worry about my walk with God because it wouldn't exist... But then I thought of what happened last time I walked away from God. It was not a very happy thing. In fact it was the opposite of what I have fooled myself into thinking it would be. Life without God was dark and lonely. This time would not be any different, just more stupid.

So God is trying to get my attention. Yet, I still feel just as unmotivated. I am thinking, "I'll get enough sleep eventually if I just try harder to be less anxious." But on the other hand I am hoping I do not sleep better tonight. Until I start spending more time with God then I do brushing my teeth, I need something to push me to him. Maybe feeling panicked most of the day will do that. Now for my half of the effort, I need to motivate my self to be disciplined to spend time with him and invest in our realtionship even if I don't feel like it.

We'll see (since I have to be honest with you about it tomorrow) how today goes.

My Week of Honesty

Today, March 30th 2010, marks the start of a week of honesty for me on this blog. Pure, unfiltered, blatant, honesty. I often sit here and put on my "I am a good, happy Christian" face while covering up a lot of the struggles and holes I have in my walk with the Lord.

After 21 years of practice (minus the first 6 or so years of my life) I am pretty good at telling people that I am struggling with my walk with God while making it seem like I am not actually struggling. It is easy to say, "Yeah, I am having a hard time finding the time to be with God everyday but he is still really speaking to me." It is a lot harder to admit, "Actually he isn't showing me anything at all. And I wouldn't be able to hear him even if he was trying to talk to me because honestly, I haven't been listening."

So honest thought number one, I am struggling. Not struggling in the sense that I have a lot of hard things going on in my life. Struggling in the sense that I just don't care. I don't spend time with God (it has been weeks since I had a solid time alone with God and even that was a rarer occurrence) and I don't seek him on much of anything. I pray for a few minutes here and there but I mainly resort back to my lists and own strength. I live in my own little world, controlled by me and designed by me, and I like it. I am comfortable in it. Comfortable in my complacency.

More on how this complacency is manifesting itself in my life in the next post.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Heart

It is no longer a priority in the news and the sense of urgency has seemingly dissapeared. But the gravity of the situation, the prayer that is needed has not diminshed. Haiti is still on my heart and I just listened to a message from a Hatian missionary that really sums up the spiritual need in Haiti. But it not only talks about the needs and the devastation. It is absolutely INCREDIBLE what God is doing in that country. Spontaneous singing of praises, packed churches, gov't sanctioned days of fasting and prayer, hundreds of new believers, and a 180 turn by the president of Haiti (away from re-dedicating the country to Satan and towards God).

The message also touched on the idea that Voodoo, the worship of Satan, is a huge part of Haitian culture. Even Christians in Haiti have firm footholds in this religion and find it hard to not follow it. The speaker spoke on the importance of new Christians being invested in and taught the truth of God's word after they make the origonal decision to believe in God. After accepting Christ they have to answer this question for themselves:
"If I turn my back on Satan... is God more powerful then Satan?"
And it is a process for the people to get to the point of repentance and actually following the Lord. Accepting God is the first step of knowing about God, not necessarily the point at which they follow God or accept salvation. Which makes prayer and being invested in Haiti so important! The challenge at the end of the message makes me think that long term investment into this country could be where God is calling me. We will see!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring!

This week means:
allergies attacking my face
shorts and t-shirts
no school for a week
San Fran trip
Bailey and Oakdale
a newly fixed car
chirping birds
prayer hike night
Lumpia with grandparents
21st birthday soon
the end of finals
reading for pleasure
drive-in movie with my staff
Venti Black Ice Teas
fuzzy puppy
great conversations
air conditioning

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Picking Favorites

The more I study for my math final... the more I LOVE words.
Words, words, glorious words. That can mean absolutely nothing but yet express everything all the same time. My math friends might argue that numbers can explain everything too but I am still biased towards letters.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gent and Lady Purity

Before Writing: I decided that in my large repertoire of relationship knowledge I would write about dating. Ok... so maybe I am severely lacking first hand experience but heck, I love observing people and that has to count for something right? I don't know where I am going with this exactly, so I probably edit up a storm at the end, but here are some of my thoughts when it comes to God and relationships. (open for discussion)

After Writing: After finishing I realized I pretty much just talked about purity. So here you have it:

Going off of the theme of men taking the lead... they also need to take the leadership role in establishing boundaries of purity. (Women, this by no means exempts you from praying about the boundaries you want to have and sticking to those.) But men, you need to initiate this conversation. It should not be left to the girl to bring up the need for setting boundaries. And I really don't want to hear from the men, "It's up to you. You let me know when we have gone too far." Heck no! =)

For both girls and guys, don't be afraid to make detailed boundaries including: the amount of time you spend together, how late at night you hang out together (bringing back the curfew =), how often you are alone and where, what is acceptable behavior and what is going too far, etc. The strictness (is this even a word?) of these contracts are good to consider too. We are human and we make mistakes. So naturally the things you set for yourselves are not going to be followed perfectly. So in my logic, the stricter and more detailed you make them the safer you are if you happen to break them. My ideas for setting boundaries: Pray about them, be specific, include every aspect of your relationship, and be strict about the boundaries you set. Then keep them. Like I said, I've never been in a relationship so I can't speak for how hard purity is or if these crazy "purity contracts" are even possible. I would like to believe they are entirely possible.

When you think about it with a God-centered perspective, at least for me, it makes perfect sense that we should be as guarded as possible with our purity. Not only are we examples to everyone else in our relationships (believe me, people are watching how you date) but we are temples of the Lord. Our relationships are just one tangible way we can show God to people: 

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body"

There are so many other verses that speak on purity and living in a way that is glorifying to the Lord. Here are a few. Feel free to read them and look them up in more context:

1 Thessalonians 4:3+4 "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable." 

1 Peter 5:8 "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

Proverbs 4:23-27 "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." 

1 Timothy 5:1-2 “[…] Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity" 

1 Cor. 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."  (Makes me think that we don't have excuses to live outside God's will for us.) 

Psalm 119:9 "How can a young man [or woman] keep his way pure? By living according to your word"

Vulnerability and Brokenness

Hey all! This blog really spoke to me this morning and I thought I would share it with you...

The Beauty of Redemption Shines Brighter on a Dark Canvas

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Gents and Ladies, Part 2

Guys: You knew your time was coming. Like I said, I am reading a love story on a blog online. While most of her story is unhealthy in that she calls her husband her "savior" and such there is something to be learned from this cowboy. Here is is... Be the leader God created you to be. (Notice how the title of these posts places Gents first? Yeah. That was intentional.) Take charge and don't be wishy washy with us. This woman often repeats in her story that she loves when her husband, then boyfriend, takes charge. I can't say this of all women, but at least for most of the women I know and myself, when guys step up and take the initiative we really appreciate it. I am not talking about taking the initiative to ask a girl on a date or telling someone you like them, yet. (That's a whole other ballgame that requires serious prayer.) I am talking about being spiritual leaders with all of the women in your life. This is going to be tough and maybe uncomfortable to do at times. So take it or leave it, but I am going to talk about it anyway.

There are things that I want to specifically talk about:
1. Modesty.We try so hard with this! It is a task to dress with guys in mind and we are not perfect at this. But how can we possibly prevent you from stumbling if we don't know what is not good for us to wear? For instance, until this week I had no idea that tights with shirts (not dresses) was immodest. To girls we think, "Is my skin covered? Yes? I'm golden." We don't necessarily think to take into account what the clothes are doing that cover our skin. (Our brains think so differently then yours.) So here's what I propose...  you tell us what is immodest! *gasp* Whether you talk to us directly or through a friend, the five seconds of potential awkwardness is going to be so worth it to get the women of the church dressing appropriately. (I officially give full permission to my brothers in Christ to tell me when a shirt is not appropriate or my shorts are too short or whatever.) It doesn't have to be detailed, it doesn't have to be a big deal, it just needs to be honest and open.

2. Yup, there are two points. This one is less crazy though so it is probably more likely to be considered. =) Leadership in friendships. You can be a girl's friend and still practice being a leader, it doesn't have to occur only in dating relationships. Not only does this help guys learn to take charge but it shows us how to let you do that. Tangible examples, that I have thought of, for how to do this are:
*plan a group hang out time with your gal friends and initiate it
*treat all women as if they were your sisters (I have been so blessed by the guys in my life who do this)
*pray hardcore before pursuing a girl (God has plans for your love stories too gentlemen)
*invest in the men around you (emotionally investing too much in a girl gets dangerous, even those that you are starting to date, which is even worse)
*be clear with your intentions (I'm all about the open communication. It is okay to tell a girl you just see her as a friend even if you are not completely sure she likes you. Then back that up with your actions. Initiating a lot of one on one time can be confusing and be taken as pursuit. Feel free to invite the men that you have been investing in, into the mix. =)
*Keep seeking the Lord... from what I have seen in my guy friends, you are doing a great job!

[In case all this opens gillions of cans of worms read this... And this. And challenge me on this! These are my thoughts which by nature of me being human makes them faulty and debatable.]

Gents and Ladies, Part 1

Ok guys and gals! Stephanie here. Tough loving, night owling, over-analyzing Stephanie. So listen up... please. =)

Girls: I am reading a story that my friend recommended to me online. A love story to be exact. A story about a California city gal who falls in love with cowboy. I am not going to give you the link. I am not even going to recommend it to you. Here are my reasons. You listening?
1. A lot of her story is un-glorifying to the Lord. Not raunchy, just not healthy. And not an example of a Godly relationship.
2. It is super addicting and has ruined my productivity tonight and I don't wish that on you during finals week.
3. This is the most important one for the ladies tonight... living in fantasy world is dangerous.

Let me explain... As women we do this all the time! We make up love stories in our heads and we plan these wonderfully elaborate movie lives for ourselves. It can be as simple as imagining 'that cute guy coming over and talking to you because he saw you laughing from across the room and just had to meet you.' Or it can be as detailed as 'planning your future wedding with said cute guy because after coming over and introducing himself you talked all night and after many other daydreams you fell in love with each other and lived happily ever after.' (Ever wonder why Disney stories resonate so heavily with us?) Whatever the fantasy, the scenario, the story is that you are making up... stop. By doing this we are not trusting the Lord to write our love stories, if that's what he has planned, and it is definitely preventing us from falling in love with Him like we should. I constantly have to be reminded to pause my daydreams and get back to the reality of loving and being loved by Christ. It has been such a sweet thing to pray that God will show me when I am taking my life into my own hands in this way. He loves to remind me too... I even found that by not readins love stories that tug at my heart and make me want that in my own life helps me to see that the Bible is seriously "the" coolest love story Ever! I don't normally read stories like the blogged one I read today but procrastinating on my essay ruined my better judgment. I am not saying that these movies and stories are entirely bad either, just be careful and know where your heart is and how it reacts to fantasy. (And no, this is not why I don't like chick flicks... there are many other reasons why I don't find them entertaining. =) Point I want to leave you with: Keep your heart in check! This isn't just a war against physical purity anymore ladies. Purity goes deeper, to your heart and to your thoughts. Think about it! =)

Guys: I am going to ignore you tonight. It is 3:30am (supposed to be 2:30am... dang Daylight Savings) and I am super tired. Don't worry though, you have tough love coming your way en la manana.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

People Profile

I would like to highlight a certain person today and something she said that really encouraged me...
After cheerfully wishing everyone at the desk good luck on their finals she started happily walking down the hallway to the elevator (meaning we were starting our nightly rounds, normally something I do with a major lack of joy). I commented on her enthusiasm in talking to the people at the desk and she replied with this...

"I love people, Stephanie!... They make me so happy!!!"
-Sarah Zwart

It was so genuine. It was so real. It was so inspiring! To be so excited about something that God created us to be joyous about blew me away. I wish I could write in such a way that you could hear the inflections in her voice but unfortunately my way with words can't capture that. I hope the exclamation points are sufficient to inspire you. Challenge for the week: To be able to truthfully say that I love people.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Friday Morning

The good parts of this morning are as follows: getting a pay raise ($.25 more an hour which brings me to a grand total of $8.50 an hour =), finishing my part of my math project, seeing friends while at work, finally waking up to daylight (until Sunday when we switch back again), and buying some new music (Sigur Ros and Future of Forestry).

The not so fun parts include waking up at 6am after 5 hours of sleep, my car breaking... again, and the giant* spider that keeps crawling across the camera at work.

*Turns out the spider was about as big as the head of a pin. The camera just blew it out of proportion. =) My bad.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Finals Time

Preparing to study....
that's it. Just preparing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Today

Right now God feels distant but yet He feels incredibly close. How? Because He is next to me, inside me, and all around me but I keep putting Him off. I have school, work, projects, trips home, and friends to hang out with so I put Him on the back burner. This so often happens but it is much easier when I can feel him here despite the fact that I am not taking time to be still with Him. I take his presence for granted and am doing it right now. Yet the knowledge of this is not compelling me. But I have absolutely no excuses. So I am scheduling Jesus in, a lot.