Shopping: harmless pastime? Monday, Jan 21 2008 

I’ve often prided myself on being a bargain-hunter and scrupulous shopper. I get most of my clothes from op-shops, only going to stores like Target and K-mart for items like coats and jeans. And I delight in the offer of hand-me-downs.

And because I have managed to be so frugal in my clothing habits, I convince myself that I can have more clothes. Afterall, many people are paying full price for all their clothing… if I can get it cheaper, shouldn’t I be able to have a higher quantity?

Well, that philosophy has done me fine up until now. I’ve never had anyone question my spending habits, let alone accuse me of… greed. That is, until Phillip Jensen gave his series of talks entitled “The Gospel and the World” at this year’s KYLC. All his talks were remarkable and challenging, in some way, though I think I found the last one (Consumerism) to be the most pertinent to my life.

The reality is, our society (in the West) is saturated by a consumerist mindset. Everything is about buying and selling, and even people are reduced to “customers” or “stakeholders”. Along with this, we are among the most wealthy people in the world. Even the poor here are among the most wealthy in the world.

As a Christian, I can’t pretend that I’m not part of this, or that I didn’t do anything to contribute to the situation. The fact is, I live in this world and I can’t deny the influence it’s had on my life and on my mind.

The other fact that cannot be escaped is God’s remarkable generosity to the world, collectively, and to me, personally. He gave the one thing that meant the most to him: his Son.

How can I turn my face away from that?

I don’t know how good a job I did of describing that talk to you, but by the end (by the start, even) I was heavily convicted that I cannot continue to handle money in the way I have been. I cannot continue to buy excess amounts of clothes with a clear conscience.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was also working in the heart of my friend, K, and she felt convicted by the talk as well. K said that she had heard of someone not buying any clothes for 6 months. So that’s what we’re doing.

No more clothing until July 20.

Of course, it’s not simply about not buying anymore clothes for 6 months, it’s also about getting out of the habit of trying things on every time you walk into a clothing shop. I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty hard to resist a sales rack. And I know that sounds funny, but it’s true. It’s like there’s a magnetic pull or something.

Please join us in this “challenge” of sorts, and encourage your friends to do it as well. (And leave a comment if you decide to, it will encourage us greatly!)

As an aside, I am certainly not condemning clothes shopping or providing for your needs. I’m just saying that we all need to be a bit more discerning about where our money goes… money that God has graciously blessed us with.

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Contentment vs. Passivity Thursday, Oct 18 2007 

While I was home on holidays a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing my pastor preach on 1 Corinthians 7 – that seemingly enigmatic passage about singleness and marriage.

He prefaced his sermon with the fact that he was working through first Corinthians expositorily, and this is a passage frequently covered topically. He also said that he might have “glossed over” (read: not fully explored) some of the more detailed issues because of time constraints.

So, despite the fact that I was only hearing one sermon from a series, I found the teaching very helpful and, in a lot of ways, different to teachings I had previously heard on 1 Corinthians 7.

The basic thrust of the message was that Paul is telling us, as Christians, to be content with the stage of life we are now in; to not long for some other situation that may seem “holier”. Apparently, this was the Corinthians’ problem: they kept thinking that singleness meant that a person was more holy. Naturally this was creating problems in the church.

I think a nice summary of Paul’s point is found in the following verses:

17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

1 Corinthians 7:17-23

What a freeing message – nothing we do (not circumcision, not uncircumcision, not slavery, not freedom) affects our salvation and holiness. Holiness is something that we get through Christ.

I think I always struggled with this chapter because it has often been used to preach “the gift of singleness” idea. That is, the notion that by merely being single, you are gifted and somehow better off than married or dating people.

Now, I realise that Paul says single people can focus on pleasing God better than married people can. I don’t dispute that. I do, however, think it requires a correct attitude in the heart of the single person.

They have to want to live to please God. Your life is not automatically more pleasing to him merely by being single. You have to want it and you have to pursue it.

This is something that I struggle with a lot. I heard, in a great talk the other day, that in God’s eyes, you are either single or married. There is no dating, courtship, engagement. There’s single and there’s married, and there’s ways we’re supposed to behave in either situation.

Often I find myself thinking that certain problems would just go away if I was married to Blake. Common thoughts include “We wouldn’t struggle sexually if we were married” and “If I knew we were going to be married, I could be more committed to solving arguments.”

But Paul advocates something different. He says to be content with where we are. To not wish we were somewhere else.

However, I think there is a difference between contentment and passivity.

The content person actively seeks God and how they can please him, no matter what the situation.

The passive person lives in fear that their life is not pleasing to God and, therefore, doesn’t actually achieve much.

I guess this is still an idea I’m wrestling with. I just know I used to think that desiring marriage and even pursuing it would be considered wrong as if it was somehow an indication of discontent. I’m seeing that contentment doesn’t mean standing still and living in fear. It means making choices and trusting God to guide you. It means knowing that your future is secure in Christ and feeling free to live life to the full.

Confessions: Jealousy Sunday, Oct 14 2007 

I would like to reiterate the point of me doing these confessions: to show others that they are not alone in their struggles. It occured to me recently that it could seem like I am trying to minimise my own sin or make it seem attractive. I just wanted to clarify that sin is always life-destroying, evil and deserving of punishment. The only reason I am able to talk about my sin without shame is because Jesus died, rose again and paid for it.

With that, I will now share something that has caused a lot of pain for me and for others. It has almost destroyed relationships and has blinded me at times I most needed to see.

Jealousy.

One particular instance (spread over a few years) comes to mind.

I had a crush on a guy for a long time and I grew very jealous of other girls who would show him attention. In my thinking at the time, he belonged to me and the other girls should have backed off (despite him not being aware of this).

Over time I became bitter and paranoid in my relationships with these other girls. My only motivation for talking with them was to find out what their intentions were or distract them from talking to this particular guy. There was nothing genuine about the way I related to them. Our friendship, for me, existed on the basis of competition.

I remember a time when I actually felt sick to my stomach from all that had been going on. I poured out my feelings into my journal, begging God to take away the pain. It felt like everywhere I turned, she was with him; laughing, playfully touching his arm, posing for a photo. Every happy moment between them increased my agony. That’s what jealousy does – it stops you from caring about the wants and needs of others. It makes you completely inwardly focused.

I should mention that these things happened with two different girls, at two different times….same guy. The sad thing is, the situation basically repeated itself and I didn’t take the hint that the common denominator was me. I was the cause of the problems. I did recognise that I was struggling with jealousy the second time, but I don’t think I truly wanted to let go. Looking back on my journal entries from the more recent of the two times, I felt ashamed of my jealousy and I thought that ignoring the whole situation (even in my own diary) would make the problem go away. In hindsight, I think that made things worse. If I had been able to let go of my pride and truly share my problem with someone, it probably would have helped in overcoming it.

It hurts even now to remember the thick cloud of jealousy which hovered around me for so long. I thought I was completely justified in feeling hurt, annoyed and resentful.

When things started to develop with my boyfriend (not the same guy) earlier this year, I found that these other girls were great, godly friends I could confide in and go to for advice. What had my jealousy caused me to miss out on before, in the friendship of these young women? What could I have given to them if I hadn’t been so distracted by competing for attentions?

More recently, I have found myself developing jealous feelings towards others in my Christian community because of roles they have. It’s easy sometimes to feel like it’s a personal attack on me whenever I am not chosen to do something.

I have envied (is envy the same as jealousy?) the romantic relationships of others, comparing them to my own. I recall writing to God in my journal one day, something to the effect of: “I know they have problems, Lord, but why can’t my problems be more like theirs? Then I would be able to trust you.” That seems pretty ridiculous, even to me, but I can’t deny that jealousy is still a real battle for me. I can’t deny that I have to daily fight off these feelings and horrible thoughts.

If you know me and you think I might be behaving out of jealous motives on anything, please challenge me.

Does God need me? Monday, Oct 8 2007 

I thought I’d address this question on a brief break from the confessions because it’s something that I have wrestled with for a long time, and I think the clouds are starting to clear. Also, I think this relates back to the pride thing, and how it can affect our relationship to God (which is something I didn’t address before).

Basically, what I want to talk about is the idea that God needs us to do certain things so that his plan will work. I’m going to talk about a few times in my life this attitude has been exhibited and what has led me to change my thinking.

I had always been very skeptical when people say that God spoke to them through a vision or a dream. I thought that such things were flimsy and unreliable as a way of hearing from God.

A few years ago, when my faith was shaky at best, I started to feel anxious that my life was not on track with God’s plan. I started searching for meaning and purpose and what in the world God wanted me to do with my life (these questions become more prominent with the lead up to the HSC and year 12). I took every “what is your spiritual gift?” test that was available. I started reading into things in everyday life that I took to be signs from God.

(Example: I’ve been feeling lately like I’d like to be a singer and a songwriter. There’s a story in my favourite magazine about how to write songs this month. That must be what God wants me to do.)

I felt so much pressure to do what I perceived to be God’s will because it seemed like if I made one wrong move, that would ruin all the good things God could give me. My life was a constant struggle trying to walk a tightrope (that I called “God’s plan”) whilst blindfolded. It was up to me to get it right.

At the end of that year, I was to go on a beach mission team for the second time. It was, by far, the highlight of my year. A little way into the year, I startled feeling like I shouldn’t go on mission. Despite the fact that the team was struggling for numbers, I persisted with the idea (inside my head, for then) that God was telling me not to go. I loved mission, and I couldn’t understand why God would want to take that away from me. Still, I was scared to death that if I didn’t do what he’d asked, it would be chaos.

After a while, I had a dream one night. I was in church and my pastor was preaching. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember much, but one word stuck with me: Jonah.

I went to my Bible and read the story of Jonah. Jonah disobeys God and catches a boat to Ninevah. As a result, a big storm threatens to sink the boat until Jonah is thrown overboard. After that, I was convinced that God was telling me that I needed to quit the beach mission team, or the whole thing would go down. If I didn’t do what God asked, I would ruin his perfect plan. And not just for me, but for the whole team.

I wrote to my team leaders explaining to them the whole thing and why I wouldn’t be coming on team.

Thankfully, I was blessed with very wise and godly team leaders. They wrote back to me explaining that it would be within God’s will whether I went on mission or not. They told me that God’s will  is not so specific that we humans can ruin it with one bad decision. They also said that they still needed people to come on team, but they didn’t need me. They said that it was dangerous to think that the world revolved around me (those were the exact words, no kidding).

Their words cut right through me and left a sting. But they were right. I was stupid for thinking that my actions could make or break the success of something God was doing.

More recently, I have fallen into the same trap of thinking that God needs me to work in the life of my boyfriend. We have both changed a lot in positive ways since we started this relationship, which led me to believe (once more) that his success as a Christian was dependant on how much I was praying for him and encouraging him, and whether we were together at all. When we broke up for a day, God really challenged me to see that he can work without me, and that I should be thankful that he has chosen to use me.

Now I see that God does not need me for anything. I am not irreplaceable and the success of God’s work on this earth does not depend on me in any way.

What a weak God he would be if his plans could be stopped by us simply refusing to comply!

I am learning that nothing can stop God from bringing about justice and good things.

My salvation is not a result of anything I have done, or failed to do. It’s all about him.

Confessions: Gossip Tuesday, Oct 2 2007 

Here’s a sin that I do probably more than I want to admit. The problem is… well, there’s lots of problems, but I was going to say that this is so deeply ingrained in my culture that it’s hard to let go of, let alone admit I’m doing the wrong thing. Other than this, problems include the deceitfulness of the heart, my own ability to lie to myself, the fact that gossip can be fun and it makes me feel good about myself.

I think, for me, gossip is not a conscious attempt to put others down, at least most of the time. I often do it because I’m in a group of friends who suddenly start talking about someone else, and I feel that I have a “valuable” contribution to make. Other times I initiate the gossip because I want validation of an opinion I have about someone. Example: A certain tutor seemingly never knows what they’re talking about, so I complain to my fellow students about the fact that we’re not getting our money’s worth out of our education. Suddenly, everyone has something nasty to add to the conversation and we’re in a full-blown gossip session.

I’m not condoning these reasons: far from it, I’m trying to explore why I continue to gossip even though I know it’s wrong.

I remember a time at uni where I was talking with 3 girlfriends between classes. We were casually discussing our upcoming assignments when the conversation turned to other students at the uni. There was one particular girl who we all seemed to have bad experiences with – the kind who is easy to really get stuck into. And I went for it. I pulled out everything I had from late assignments to stupid answers. Suddenly there was a slight pause, and I felt a bit guilty. The conversation followed a bit like this:

Girl A: “She never even came to class much last semester, I don’t know how she passed.”

Girl B: “I know. She was away for, like, six weeks right in the middle. Who does that?”

At this point, already feeling enough conviction to stop, I almost choked. You see, I knew EXACTLY why she had been away for six weeks in the middle of semester. And it was surely the most gossip-worthy piece of information I had ever come across in my life. It was the most juicy, tantalising, gasp-inducing morsel ever known to man.

I knew, however, that to share it would be going directly against God, who was heavily speaking to me through my consciense at that point. So I bit my lip and kind of grunted.

The conversation died and eventually turned to the topic of creepy men on trains…

But it was so painful. I’m ashamed to say that, but it was REALLY HARD to hold back.

It also made me realise that I really have a problem with this. For the first time, I couldn’t deny that I had said damaging things; that I had gossiped about someone who would have called me a friend. It forced me to look in the mirror and admit that it wasn’t all beautiful.

Another type of gossip that I do sometimes, but can be harder to identify, is “prayer-gossip”.

“Could you please pray for so-and-so, he’s really struggling with X at the moment.”

“I’ve been praying for A and B a lot, do you know how they’re going with …?”

“I’m really worried about Miss L, I saw her doing *****. We really need to be praying for her.”

Now, I’m not saying that all these things would be wrong all the time, but I know I have said these things at least once, and my motives were NOT pure. Really I just wanted to talk about other people.

I guess this is a tricky one because we do need to be praying for people, but maybe if we ask others to pray, we can stay brief on the details so it doesn’t become gossip.

I can’t remember where I read this recently, but someone wrote that there is a difference between gossiping and seeking counsel. Seeking counsel is looking for a solution to, not confirmation of, your problem with a person. Gossiping is jsut going round and round discussing the person, with no one really directing the conversation in godliness (although, it was probably stated more eloquently wherever I read it).

This has been a good principle for me because I think there are circumstances where we genuinely need advice and help, we can’t keep it to ourselves. I need to make sure that I choose someone to talk to who will challenge my assumptions and not let me get away with saying unnecessary comments.

In the Old Testament, Proverbs has a lot to say about gossip, including:

“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

-Proverbs 16:28

The New Testament lists gossip among other sins:

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

-Romans 1:28-32

 

How do you define gossip? And do you have any strategies for stopping this sin? 

 

Confessions: Pride Tuesday, Sep 25 2007 

Something has come to my attention lately: people in the Church are so ashamed of their own sin (despite being forgiven – where is the need for shame?) that they can’t bear to share their struggles with other people. This, of course, means that every time someone struggles with a particular sin (which is actually really common) they think they are the only one who struggles, perpetuating the cycle of silence and making people in the Church feel even more isolated and guilty. There is no need to hide in shame! We have been forgiven through Christ – our sin we no longer bear!

This is not me pointing the finger. I am guilty of this 100 times over. I admit (shamefully) that many times it is the condemnation of others that I fear more than that of God, if word of my sins were to get out. So this is me taking a sledge hammer and smashing the cone of silence that is destroying our Church community.

In the book of James, we are told:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

– James 5:16

I will be writing a series of blogs in which I will confess and talk about some sins I have struggled with, and continue to struggle with. You have already heard about my battle with sexual sin. Guess what? There’s more where that came from. Feel free to comment, or just know, in silence, that you are not alone.

The first one is about pride, because I think it is a big part of what often stops us talking about our sins.

Pride has been a constant struggle for me, but it can be so elusive; so hard to identify.

Last year this caused some real rifts between me and my friends. Yet, I don’t think I was ever consciously aware of it as a problem. I had a few friends who were Christians and to the others, I was the “good girl”. My Christian friends looked up to me as someone who had it all together – I didn’t worry about boys, I got good marks, my family was nice and I was passionate about God and truth. My other friends would talk to me occasionally about my faith, but our conversations were often limited to shallow things. To tell you the truth, I liked everyone thinking that my life was on track. My pride stopped me from letting them get too close, which meant I didn’t have to get hurt. But they didn’t really see me. I remember one day when my Christian friend said to me with a sigh, “Jess, your life is perfect”. At that moment, I felt my heart break into two pieces. I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted to tell her that inside, I was just like her and that I struggled with the same insecurities everyday… but I didn’t. Turns out, that lump in my throat was my pride. And it did NOT want to be swallowed. So I kept the pain inside and let her go on thinking that.

I couldn’t bear the thought that my wonderful image would come undone, despite desperately wanting someone to know and love me for who I was. After a while, I noticed that my friend started to change. She would go out drinking, started dating a non-Christian guy and became a lot less interested in talking about God. The hardest part was that she would hide things from me. She would open up to our non-Christian friends about her problems, but steered clear of me even though the effects on her life were obvious. One time I confronted her about dating a non-Christian. She said she knew I was right in saying she shouldn’t be doing it, but that she hadn’t come and told me about it because she knew what I would say. She thought I was too judgemental. In my pride, I didn’t want to ruin my reputation as someone who had it all together, despite the fact that my friends were pulling away from me.

Pride is also something that I struggle with today. Coming to live in a community of Christians can be really encouraging, but it can also put a lot of pressure on one to “look Christian”. I suppose this has been intensified by me becoming a Bible study leader. Suddenly it felt like the small torch which occasionally shone into my life had become a massive spotlight, and the heat was making me sweat. My pride had been fed by the fact that I was wanted as a Bible study leader, and caused me to think that leading well meant not letting anyone see the sin. I still wanted people to think I had it all together.

I remember going out with the other Bible study leaders for coffee and a catch up one evening. They had all done it once before, but it was my first time. Imagine my surprise (and anxiety) upon hearing that we would all individually share our recent struggles and have one member of the group pray for us. The pressure built as the other leaders took their turn to share heart-felt struggles from their life and the insecurities that some battled each day. Still, I was too prideful to share how I had been struggling sexually with my boyfriend. Although what I said was honest, it wasn’t what had really been on my heart.

Pride has kept me, and still does to some extent, from sharing things with my room mate. It always seemed to me like she had the perfect life and I was scared to tell her things because I thought she might judge or look down on me (sound familiar?). I wanted her to think that everything was great in my life. For a long time, I didn’t tell her about the struggles with sexual sin my boyfriend and I were going through. He had an accountability partner and he strongly encouraged me to talk to her and open up. I stubbornly refused, saying that I didn’t think she’d understand. Liar. I really just didn’t want her to see my problems. Sometimes I still keep things from her because of the same fears and pride.

Recently, before Blake and I broke up for a day, I opened up and told her about my doubts and fears in the relationship. I told her how I had been feeling and that it scared me. We talked for a while and her words were filled with compassion, understanding and wisdom. Not the judgement and eye-rolling “I can’t believe you have this problem” that I expected. She encouraged me to open up to Blake with the same openness I had shown her. And later that night when I came in crying and distraught, she hugged me and my pride fell into little wet patches on the back of her shirt.

In my relationship with Blake, pride has been the cause of many an argument. I am unwilling to admit I’m wrong, and he is frustrated with the way I cling to my opinion without allowing challenge. In the middle of a (somewhat) heated “discussion”, Blake emphatically declared, “Jess! You can be so stubborn sometimes!”. I bit my lip and did not say the words burning in my mind: “That’s because I’m right!”. It’s sad, but that’s how prideful I am at times. Honestly, I have no real resolution to offer on this one. I still regularly hold onto my pride instead of letting Blake see, and relate to, the real me.

As you can see, pride is a sin that spans far and wide and is one that’s easy to mistake for good intentions sometimes. It is a constant struggle for me, but God is good and he finds ways to challenge and humble me.

Read Isaiah 2:6-22.

The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled
       and the pride of men brought low;
       the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

-Isaiah 2:11

Cutting off my right hand. Thursday, Aug 30 2007 

I realise that I haven’t written anything for a while. That’s probably due to busyness and perhaps also feeling a bit self conscious about my thoughts.

This will be the most personal post I’ve written on here. The poem labelled ‘Tears’ is pretty personal, but so obscure that only a few people will really know what it’s about.

In recent weeks, my boyfriend and I have struggled a lot with sexual sin. We know it’s wrong, we know all the theoretical and Biblical reasons under the sun for why we should stop, but we continue to sin in this way against God and each other.

The thing with sin is, it doesn’t just confine itself to one area of your life, content with the ruin and destruction it causes there. It seeps through into all the areas of your heart. It breeds selfishness and anger and hatred.

( I realise that putting my trust Jesus’ death on the cross means that sin no longer has power over me, but it still has real life consequences, which is what I’m talking about here.)

Jesus has some pretty serious words to say about sexual sin in his Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

– Matthew 5:27-30

I find it so easy to be passive about my sin. My thinking would go something like this: “Oh, I know my right hand causes me to sin, but it’s not really that often. And even when I do, it’s not so bad. Remember what I used to be like? Well, I’m not like that anymore… doesn’t that count for something? If it really comes to that, I’ll cut it off, but I can’t see me needing to…”

And yet here I have Jesus, Son of the Most High God and Lord of my life, telling me to cut off the things in my life that cause me to sin. NOW! Not if the sinning continues, not if it gets worse, not if people start to notice.

If it causes you to sin, cut it off.

So here I am, in the middle of a week (maybe longer) of “just friends” with my boyfriend.

We decided that spending some time apart (though, not ignorant of each other) would be the best thing to help us get our lives and hearts back on track.

It’s been really difficult, and also confronting.

I am made alarmingly aware of my own selfishness when I want to wallow in my hurt and self-pity, when I expect people to treat me with sensitivity (despite not telling most people about our little break) and most of all, when I want to end this and just go back to the comfort of a relationship.

Perhaps my selfishness was a big part of what created our problems in the first place.

I never realised how hard it would be to get rid of sin once it had become so settled in my heart. Although, Jesus never did say it would be easy, pleasant, or even comfortable.

He said it would be painful. As painful as cutting off your hand or gouging out your eye.

It does hurt at the moment, but I am trying to be more like Jesus, who paid the ultimate price out of love.

I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of the week.

 

::EDIT::

Here are some of the lyrics of songs that deal quite well with this issue, and which I personally love:

Let it all out
get it all out
rip it out remove it
don’t be alarmed
when the wound begins to bleed…

and you said I know that this will hurt
but if I don’t break your heart then things will just get worse
If the burden seems too much to bear
Remember
the end will justify the pain it took to get us there

– ‘Let It All Out’, Relient K

 

It’s better off this way
To be deaf, dumb and lame
Than to be the way I am, I am
It’s better off this way
Than be groping for the flame
Than to be the way I am, I am
– ‘The Way I Am’, Jennifer Knapp

 

Just a Girl Tuesday, Jul 24 2007 

I go through times when everything is going well. I’ve finished my ‘to do’ list. Poured my heart out to a friend. Cleaned my room. Made a fabulous necklace. Written a song or a poem. Put on a load of washing. Just received a great mark on an essay. Read an inspiring magazine article.

These are the times when I feel successful and powerful. I feel like I could take on the world, and still have time for coffee.

However, in the midst of these moments, thoughts of inadequacy seep into my mind. I start to believe the lies:

“I’m just a girl, he wouldn’t listen to me.”

“No one really cares what I think anyway.”

“I don’t really know what I’m talking about.”

“God can find much better people to do this.”

It’s so easy to think that I will never make a difference in the world because I am too selfish, too jealous, too bitter, too whatever.

But the words of God in the Bible paint a different picture.

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phillipians 2:13)

“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.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

“…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19b-20)

So while it is tempting to shy away from tasks or callings because I don’t feel adequate, I choose to believe God’s promises. I choose to believe that, even though I am a sinner and I frequently mess up, God will use me to do amazing things in this world.

The contents of my mind. Saturday, Jul 7 2007 

Have you ever seen on the news when someone catches a huge shark, and they cut it open to see what it has eaten?

I was always fascinated at some of the crazy things inside the shark; barbie dolls, fishing tackle, life jackets, etc. These were things a shark should not have been eating. They weren’t healthy.

In some ways, I feel like those sharks when I consume things (thoughts, ideas, images) from the media that aren’t healthy for me.

I’m naive if I think these things won’t affect me. If my mind is not made up of what I put into it, then what is it made up of?

I’ve felt particularly convicted lately to stop watching so many chick flicks. They just give me false ideas about romance and life.

Even if I consciously ignore the relationship lies, I find that I come out of them feeling like I am the perfect woman; that I deserve a perfect man. I want to be the beautiful heroine who prances around in gorgeous outfits and has no serious character flaws.

But that is not reality. I am not perfect, as I am so wonderfully reminded every time I try to criticise someone else.

So, for a while, I think I’m gonna stop watching a lot of these movies. They just aren’t helpful. This is not out of legalism or a desire to be strictly religious, but out of the undeniable fact that what I watch on TV, or listen to on the radio, or read in a magazine ultimately affects the way I think and live.

Tears Thursday, Jun 21 2007 

A slow flood rises in me.

I can feel its

Wet chill

Lapping at my insides.

I want it to stop,

But

The water reaches my eyes and

Leaks out over my

Pained expression.

[I don’t understand.]

Words on a screen bring

Sharper sobs,

But it feels petty.

My body

         shakes

With fear as I ponder,

                                 are these tears familiar?

No,

Comes the answer from

A small, rational place in the back of my mind.

[conscience?]

These tears are confused, emotional and

Tired.

Last time was definite,

Painful:-

               the end.

The tears stop long enough for me to see

Hope.

Where rain has fallen,

New life springs forth.

Create a new heart in me, Lord.

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