"I Buried It"

The past couple of weeks God has been convicting me. I have written quite a bit on the topic of healthy rest, but not on the topic of laziness. You know how an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion? (What is that, the Law of Entropy or something like that?) Well, months of focusing on resting and healing can come with the risk of introducing (or strengthening) the vice of laziness. More specifically, of not being willing to do hard things because I’m so used to “not feeling like it”.

There are things I began last summer/fall and then stalled out on because they are hard and I am still struggling with my energy levels so I often don’t feel like doing them. And somewhere between chronic mild depression, three completely hectic years of professors telling me what to do and when to do it (instead of me telling myself) I lost my old abilities to self-lead my own productivity. I suspect this entire year is going to be one of fighting to rebuild that. I’ve allowed myself to be ruled by lack of motivation for so long that I barely know how to plod through it, and the fact of the matter is, there is no way to succeed in the things I want to do unless I can first do that.

I’ve been convicted about this multiple times in the last several months, but it hit hard when I was studying through the parable in Matthew 25 of the servants who were entrusted with their master’s money and expected to invest it and make a profit while he was gone. Two servants were faithful and doubled what they were given, but the third servant had to report to the master “I buried it.” When I think about the things I strongly believe the Lord has entrusted to me for the purpose of using them to His glory, I realize how many of them are still sitting on my mental shelf where I can feel good about myself and my potential – but they are never actually being invested in the outside world. I have buried them.

The servant couldn’t use the excuse that he wasn’t able to make any income off of what the master gave them, because the master gave the amounts out each according to the servants’ abilities. He was able to invest it. He chose not to. It reminds me of James 4:17 –

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

It doesn’t matter what excuses I make. If I know what God has given me to do, and I refuse to do them, I am like the lazy servant whom the master severely punished for burying his talent instead of investing it. I don’t know about you, but that is not a position I want to be in before God. I heard a quote somewhere recently that said something to the effect of “your lack of effort is an insult to the person who believes in you”. God doesn’t just “believe in” me. He KNOWS what I’m able to do because He gave me the abilities in the first place and He placed the opportunities before me – how much more is a lack of willingness to put in effort an insult to Him?

It’s not exactly a happy topic to blog about – but conviction never is terribly happy. And if I’m convicted I can almost bet someone else may be needing to hear similar things too. So let’s challenge ourselves and each other to strive to do more excellently – let us work to invest the abilities and opportunities and time and material blessings that the Lord has given us to use until He returns. Even if you’re struggling to regain motivation. Even if you’re uncomfortable. Even if it terrifies you. If you need a cheerleader I’m here and I’ll cheer you on, because I’m in the exact same boat with you.

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Rules About Words

No, this is not a post about editing what I write (usually my posts are pretty much a first draft and nothing more). Today I’m thinking about the words I use with myself.

What kind of language does your inner monologue use? (If you’re one of those people that can’t hear their voice in their head, my condolences. I don’t know how you do it.) My inner voice is a snippy perfectionist who usually doesn’t think I’m doing a good job or that I’m even able to do a good job. It tells me things like “I need to do this” and “I should be able to do that better” and “I can’t do that like they can” – just to name a few of the nicer frequent fliers. I used to be quite skilled at beating myself up mentally with a lot worse than those ones. But you know what? I’ve lived with that voice for a very long time and I’m tired of it.

As someone who has lived with chronic mild depression for years, I’ve realized just how much my thinking is at fault for overwhelming me and causing me to want to procrastinate endlessly on things that really aren’t all that hard to do. Judging by what my friends who also struggle with various levels of depression say, I think it must be a fairly common problem. But where does the issue start?

One of the big problems for me is letting my internal voice use the words “can’t” and “should”. “Can’t” builds the sense that I’m not in control of my own actions. It implies that external forces, like how I’m feeling that day and what other people are asking me to do have control over my ability to do or not do certain things. And since my health has not been good for a long while, let me tell you the “how I’m feeling today” side of “can’t” has been absolutely running rampant. “Should” on the other hand, puts pressure on me. It says that there are standards that I must meet, and if I don’t I must deserve some form of punishment. Considering my brain doesn’t function very well under pressure, putting pressure on myself through the words I myself use is a pretty stupid move, if you ask me. And a combination of both “can’t” and “should” is absolutely mentally brutal, leading to spirals of pity parties and why-can’t-I-do-anything-right sessions.

So, if any of the sticky notes in the photo up there are legible, those are examples of wordings I am practicing using with myself to help reverse my bad brain habits. They are not “affirmations” or trying to make myself believe something I don’t already; they are things I already know are true or possible, but when I word them wrong in my head they feel like they are too much or too hard. So instead of saying “I need to brush my teeth every day” I wrote on a reminder note that says “I can brush my teeth today”. Instead of saying “I should be exercising every day” I wrote “I can walk my dog today”. And another big one for me of late with being exhausted all the time and wanting to sleep in: instead of saying “I should be getting up early” I’m learning to remind myself that “I can wake up when I decide to”. (Some days that means 8:30, some days that means 6:30. The key is relearning how to make it intentional instead of reacting to how I “feel”.)

This may seem unnecessary or oversimplified, but the fact of the matter is, we CAN control our internal voice. We have the ability to change our thought patterns. And when you reroute your thoughts to take a healthier track, those thoughts will begin to reroute your ability to take control of the things that once controlled you. I believe this is absolutely essential if we want to be healthy, mature individuals who are able to bring value to the people around us, because what you think to yourself in your head will inevitably color the way you talk about yourself and the way you treat others and the way you accomplish (or don’t accomplish) the tasks facing you. We all have realms of influence, and our personal, secret thought processes absolutely do impact those realms of influence around us – so let’s set rules and regulations for our thoughts to follow so that what comes out of us will be uplifting and healthy and honoring to God.

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Unless

Last week I talked about the idea of rest and briefly referenced Psalm 127, but this week I want to focus more on something entirely different that the passage brings to mind. I’ll start with verse 1.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

This may sound like a silly example, but the verse hit home for me especially recently because I was freaking out about whether or not Kwinn or I might have caught a nasty stomach bug from someone we were around (I’m deadly afraid of everything connected to stomach bugs, to the point where it feels like my brain is out of control, but that’s a bit of a bunny trail). I was laying awake at night worrying about it because I had been feeling “off” that evening, and the verse popped into my head, sort of to the effect of, “you can do all the right things to avoid getting sick, but unless God keeps you from getting sick, none of that matters” – and I realized that it was actually a comforting thought because if that is the case, then shouldn’t the opposite also be true? If God wants to keep me from getting sick, then no amount of environmental factors can make me sick, right? Now granted, I have no guarantee whether or not He will let me get sick or not, but sick or well can only happen according to what pleases Him, and nothing can change that. It’s a small thing to some, but for me it meant the world in that moment.

But the passage applies to much broader ideas, so let’s take another quick train of thought. Several months ago I wondered – what would happen if I took every single thing that the Lord has not asked of me off my schedule. Like, regardless of societal standards. What would that look like? What would be left? It’s a sobering thought because sometimes I think we assume something is God’s will because it sounds like a good idea, but we don’t actually take the time to stop and pray and ask Him what He wants us to do. Is it possible that, without the Lord’s command to do a certain good thing, it might not have His blessing? That unless the Lord asked you to “build a house” that building will be fruitless?

[Note that this is completely contrary to a previous post I made years ago when I claimed that you can’t steer a ship that’s not moving, and that it is better to jump in and do something and change course than wait around doing nothing. “Just doing something” may still in *some* instances be better than doing nothing, but doing what God wants is always better than just doing something. Just for the record, in case anyone remembers that post and feels like I’m contradicting myself. I have indeed changed opinions on the matter. Perhaps I’ll dedicate a post to that at some point?]

So far I’ve proposed two somewhat separate-sounding ideas: 1) Unless God wills it, calamity or good will not happen, and 2) Unless God commands it, a “good” thing can be fruitless. However, they are actually tied together, as makes sense when verse 1 of Psalm 127 is followed up by verse 2:

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.”

Why? Paranoia about what could happen leads to anxious “toil” to try to ensure the thing you want does happen – and if you’re one of the blessed few who hasn’t done that at some point, then believe me – it’s exhausting and keeps you up at night. Yet the Lord does not desire us to lay awake at night planning what we need to do to protect ourselves – He desires that we be able to have rest. “He gives to His beloved sleep.” AND, what also happens when we work ourselves to the bone for what we think is a good thing but haven’t asked God about? Without His blessing, it becomes back-breaking, soul-numbing labor with little return, getting us up early and keeping us out late trying to do all the things. And again – I don’t believe that is God’s will for His servants.

What does rest allow? Brook Castillo has an excellent podcast about time management in which she says that when we are always busy and overwhelmed we leave no room in our lives for wisdom, and that is so true! Busyness, even doing “good” things, can crowd out our ability to hear the voice of God telling us what is the best thing for us to do. It crowds out our relationship with God, which is the very basis for Godly wisdom in the first place (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – aka, knowing God intimately first-hand; or, like the Jews would often write on their synagogue walls, “know before Whom you stand”).

Do you feel like you “rise up early” and “sit up late” and “eat the bread of anxious toil”? Then I would challenge you to examine – as I am working on doing – whether you are trying to guard your city and build your house without the aid of God. Are there things you spend too much time preparing for (or against) instead of recognizing it is up to God, not you, and trusting that He will provide for you to walk in His will, whichever thing happens? Is your day full of things God didn’t ask you to do, but you decided you needed to do? (Or wanted to do; laziness and time-wasting counts here too.) It could be radical – the immediate consequences could be painful, even – but it also gives me a bit of a thrill, because there is freedom promised on the other side, too. Glorious freedom; and maybe better-quality sleep.

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Rest

We often refer to it as a rat race. Or, if you’re from my generation, you probably use or are well familiar with the term “adulting” referring to the daily ins and outs of being an independent adult. When we think about being an adult most often we have a pretty bleak image of scratching away at a job to pay the bills so we can keep ourselves alive and healthy enough to keep working the job, etc. It’s no wonder I sense a common frustration with having to be “grown up”, especially in my generation. How many of us associate adulthood with perpetually being “busy” and not having time for our friends or a hobby, etc? (Not to mention being perpetually broke too?) We live in a society that expects and nearly forces us to run along at a continual break-neck speed.

I think I must have noticed it as a tween because I remember always finding it strange that among all the 10 Commandments the one we are most likely to neglect, without a single thought that it is wrong, is the command to honor the sabbath day. As I have held jobs and attended school and grown into the adult world I have become more and more convinced how grave a mistake it is to forget the “sabbath”, and more and more I find myself fighting the culture of busyness in which we live.

I will most likely expound in more detail on this passage, but for now, I see the culture of busyness (and my current take on life) summed up pretty well in Psalm 127:1-2:

Unless the Lord builds the House, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.

Without getting overly technical (because I am not a scholar by any means, even though I love studying scripture and all the origins of things) the Lord instituted the Sabbath for some very similar reasons to His instituting of tithes. Tithes were to remind the people that everything they had came from God, and therefore out of gratitude to Him and trust in His continued provision, they returned a portion of their material gain back to God (whether it was money or crops or whatever). The Sabbath is a way to set aside a portion of our time (instead of possessions) for rest and to remember how God has provided for us and rescued us. In Deuteronomy 5:15 the Lord connects the Sabbath to the Israelites having been slaves in Egypt and needing a reminder Who rescued them from their endless labor. And before you say that it must be something specific to Israel only because of the historical connection, which of the Lord’s followers today has not needed rescued from slavery to something or someone? We all were rescued from something, whether it be sexual sin, pride, selfishness, overindulgence – you name it. The New Testament is full of analogies of God’s people having once been slaves to sin and darkness before finding salvation in Him.

The biggest difference between the institution of the tithe and the commandment to observe the Sabbath is that the tithe is not found in the 10 Commandments (which make up the bare-bones of the Covenant God made). So the Sabbath actually appears “more important” than the tithe (if we dare to rank scripture – don’t shoot me, I specialize in putting things in layman’s terms, not in scholarly ones). Whenever God reprimanded His people in the Old Testament and called them to return to Him, very commonly He urged them not just to keep His covenant, but also specifically to keep the Sabbaths – so clearly this is something significant. Why the Sabbath?

Because this is not a school paper, I’m going to cut to the chase – The Sabbath represents dependence on God. You can see it more clearly in scripture because besides the once-every-seven-days Sabbath, in the Old Testament there was also a once-every-seven-years Sabbath where the Israelites were instructed not to plant crops and let them just grow up however they wanted that year – so they had to trust that the Lord would provide enough food in Year 6 to get them all the way through not only Year 7 but all the way to harvest in Year 8 (or 1, whichever way you look at it). The Lord promised to provide for them, and even prosper them more than their neighboring countries who did not have a day (or year) of rest. (Reminds me of what most teachers say about the concept of tithing…)

All of the above I learned intellectually from years of personal study, but it didn’t actively hit home for me until I attended college on-campus. I was a full-time art student (think very time-consuming homework), with a work-study job and another part-time job. For the first couple years I made the mistake of letting my homework bleed into the weekends (because I didn’t have enough time during the week, between jobs and classroom time). The consequence is that I never had a day during the week “off” from schoolwork, and all the weeks ran together into one mass, and I felt exhausted and burnt out most of the time (and was terrible at my time-management since I never gave myself a cut-off time for my work) – the perfect picture of the overwhelming busy that adulthood is stereotyped to be. By my third year I finally figured out that it wasn’t working and took off Sundays from homework, and it was amazing the relief just one day of rest brought into my hectic world. It really does help to restore a great amount of peace into one’s schedule.

So what am I getting at? I’m not saying a specific day of the week is the “right” day to celebrate the Sabbath (if that was the case, I do it wrong; because the technical Sabbath is on Saturday). If your job keeps you working on the weekends you’re not “doing it wrong”. But – if you are not consistently setting aside one day every week for the entire household to rest and reflect and worship, I would urge you to do so. If it’s a non-standard day of the week and you need to communicate to coworkers or friends or whoever that you are not working that day and you’ll get back with them on whatever it is when you go back to work, then do so – but make that time to rest. Let that be your way to give a portion of your time back to God and demonstrate that He is able to provide for your needs just as He is able to save you from bondage. (And anyways, working non-stop every week honestly does feel like slavery; don’t do what I did, please.) The extra hours on your paycheck are not worth your peace, and they are definitely are not worth your relationship with God and your family. Dare to sacrifice some financial comfort if need be, and take that rest. You probably need it more than you know.

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A Recovering Perfectionist

My goal for myself is to post every Saturday, but things happened and I didn’t end up doing that this week (obviously). However, I’m choosing not to be irritated with myself over it, and here’s why…

In my previous post I briefly mentioned how I don’t believe in the existence of the concept of “perfect” (in this life). I speak as a recovering perfectionist myself. All my life I have struggled with the need to do everything “perfectly”; if I didn’t smile “perfect” I didn’t like the picture of me. If my voice didn’t sound “perfect” then I hated the recording. If I didn’t say it “perfectly” then I would re-work and repeat whatever it was in my head until I could get it right. I put off using special art supplies because I was afraid I wouldn’t pull off my idea “perfectly”, and would end up wasting them. Honestly, I believe that much of my struggle with insecurity is a result of my need for “perfect”.

But what is “perfect”? A basic internet search says one of the definitions of “perfect” is “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics” and this is where I have a problem with the idea. Who decides what all the “required or desirable elements” are? If there is no overall standard of what is “perfect” then it follows that my “perfect” could be totally different from yours. Perhaps I sweated and labored to do something completely “perfectly” and afterwards you found several flaws with it because your idea of “perfect” was not the same as mine. (Or vice versa, I did something and found several faults with my own work, only you thought that it was perfect.) As a born people-pleaser, I have to wonder – what is the point of perfection if it is only perfection in my own eyes? I feel like King Solomon saying “this too is vanity and striving for the wind”. Most of the time my idea of perfection is just that – my idea, based on my preferences and the ideal standard I have set for myself.

Every concept must have a universal standard to be meaningful; otherwise it simply boils down to personal preference. This applies not just to moral and ethical standards, etc. but also to ideas like perfection. Since I am a Christian and believe that God is the ultimate standard by which to judge things, then I must also believe that He is the standard for perfection, something which, as a sinful human being, I simply cannot fully attain in this life. Rather than striving for perfection, which is not possible, I ought rather to strive for excellence. Striving for excellence means asking whether this thing honors God or not. If I cannot honestly answer that the thing honors God, then I know it is not excellent; and that makes for a much, much simpler standard to judge my doings by, if you ask me!

This idea of excellence instead of perfection can apply to every single thing I undertake. If I look a little funny in the photo, does it honor God? I’m created in His image, and the picture was taken out of joy, not self-consciousness, so yes. Even if I don’t look the way I prefer, it can still honor God. That pretty wood slice that I want to paint something cool on, but am afraid to in case I botch it and waste the awesome wood slice – does it honor God? I use my art to capture beauty and wonder, to tell awesome stories, and to share joy; so yes, even if it’s not quite how I envisioned it, it can still honor God. And…that blog that I’ve been wanting to revive but haven’t for fear I won’t be able to keep it up and post on the specific day every week *CoughSaturdaysCough* that I planned? I seek to share uplifting ponders that have helped me in order to benefit other people too, sticking as closely to the Word of God as I in my human understanding can do. Is that honoring to Him, even if the posts are sporadic, or shared on a different day than I prefer? YES. How freeing is that?

If you, like me, struggle with getting hung up on whether something is “perfect” or “just right”, I would like to challenge you to rearrange your thinking with me, and ask yourself instead, “Does this honor God?” Then, if your answer is, yes, choose to let go of the little details that you’re tempted to feel bad about. If your answer to whether it honors God is no, then I challenge you to ask yourself why, and then take the steps you need to change that thing, no matter how big or small the area in question is. Then make a choice to learn from the mistake and let it go as well. I truly believe we will be a happier and freer people for having given up perfection in exchange for this kind of excellence.

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Two Words

Happy New Year, friends! (For those who still follow in the wake of like three years of silence, ha!) Why the sudden post after having seemingly abandoned my lonely (and badly in need of updating) little blog?

I’ll get back to that in a second.

A little backstory first. I’ve posted before about my New Year’s habit – rather than make resolutions that I couldn’t keep, in 2011 I decided to start the new year by asking God to be my Teacher, and use the year to teach me whatever He wanted. I’ve kept this habit for ten years now, and not to be overdramatic about it, but it has honestly changed my life to keep my ears and my heart attuned to the voice of God leading me instead of fumbling towards Him on my own.

Fast forward to this year. I’ve never followed the trend of choosing (or asking God for) a word or phrase to think about all year before, but this past month two words have consistently come to the forefront for me of their own accord. I am currently in the process of building my own art business (I am now a freelance illustrator, for those who may not follow my Facebook or Instagram) as well as dipping my toe into network marketing. Getting amongst other entrepreneurs and reading books on leadership has challenged me to do better about challenging myself. “Success is scheduled” they say, and I believe it, though I’ve never really dared to do it much. So this year I’m challenging myself in two specific areas.

Intentionality – After getting married and moving this past June I spent several months not getting much done because of my health issues; so my time usage was highly unstructured and I flew by the seat of my pants. Without the enforced structure of classes and homework deadlines, it felt pretty good and free, but I also realized pretty quickly that I’m not the type of artist who can be productive without some sort of structure to keep me accountable. So back to the comment about success being scheduled, I decided it was time to buy a planner and start scheduling my projects – and each individual checkpoint – into specific days and times. I want to create a framework that can hold my scatterbrain in check enough to work without feeling confined. It will be a learning process, but I know that if I stick with it for the whole year, play with my strategy and tweak it as necessary, I can build a system that will serve me for years to come.

Excellence – This word first came up as we were writing our wedding vows, actually, and it has stuck in the back of my mind for a while. As a recovering perfectionist, my aim in life is to release my need for perfection (which is a myth and doesn’t actually exist – but I’ll probably comment about that at a later date) and strive instead for excellence. I am a terrible procrastinator, as the last six months of seat-of-my-pants artistry has proved to me, and procrastination by default sabotages the excellence of my work because I end up doing things last minute and caring less about the quality. If I truly believe that God sees and cares about everything I do, then I must strive to do everything well – not perfectly, because again, perfect doesn’t exist, but WELL. Excellence gives me the freedom to still make mistakes like a human, while still reaching my goal, because if I push myself and keep my word to myself about deadlines and strive to improve with each project and checkpoint, that is excellence. That is achievable.

So there you have it! My goals for myself in the upcoming year and beyond. Back to my original question why I’m posting here after having given up blogging – I remember how good it felt to blog weekly, even about little things, and looking through my archives, there is actually a significant amount of content there that I’m not embarrassed by at all. Good thoughts and reminders that I need today, even. And I was capable of doing it regularly and consistently. So as part of my striving towards intentionality and excellence, my goal is to resume blogging again. I wrestled with reviving my blog for some time, not knowing if I have anything of value to offer readers, but now I see that maybe I need the blog more for disciplining myself again. It sounds selfish, but there you have it. 😉 Feel free to follow along and keep me accountable to my goals, friends. For those who may not follow me on Facebook and don’t know what I’m up to these days, I’ll probably mix in a lot more life updates into my ponders and thoughts in upcoming weeks.

Love ya’ll! Happy new year!

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Homeschooling

When I’m struggling God often speaks to me using analogies. (If you read many of my old blog post you may have picked up that I absolutely love analogies.) For the past several months I’ve had one specific battle that keeps coming back again and again…a lesson I can’t seem to master, apparently. Recently the battle came up again and I was in the middle of praying about it when God suddenly gave me an image of the situation that gave me a whole new perspective.

He took me back to my days as a little kid who was just learning to read. This particular memory was of a day when I was not doing well at my lesson. I was getting very frustrated and weepy because it was “too hard” and I couldn’t figure it out, but my Mom was too smart to let me quit just because I wasn’t making any headway. So she kept pushing me, telling me to sound the words out until I got them right. When I finally did get them right, she let me be done with my lesson for that day.

God used that memory to remind me that while my mother was my teacher then, my heavenly Father is my teacher now. (Long story, and one which I explained a couple years ago.) Funny enough, it kinda means I’m still getting homeschooled to this day. 😉 Anyhow. God reminded me that as my heavenly Father, He teaches me in much the same way that my mom did that day so many years ago. He doesn’t let me quit a lesson just because it’s “too hard”. He keeps pushing me to practice (you, know, like how you have to do twenty long-division problems in a row until you can get them right every time). He loves me far too much to let me take the easy way out, but once I start to get it right He lets me rest and have a break from the lesson.

And so, in the middle of struggling with my ongoing battle, that picture was just what I needed to keep me plugging away at my lesson. My heavenly Daddy-Teacher knows what He’s doing by pushing me. I choose to trust His wisdom. If He says I’m big enough to take this lesson then I know He’s right and I will get it. I just need to keep practicing faithfully.

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A Divided Heart

At my church here in Sterling we’ve been working through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and this Sunday the portion we looked at was Matthew 6:25-34. You know, the whole segment about not being anxious. I went into the sermon not expecting to be too surprised by anything the pastor said about it; after all, I’ve heard those verses a million times and I even memorized them as a kid.

But as I was listening and reading along, something new struck me. It was the first word of the first verse we read.

“Therefore…”

Wait a minute. When you see a therefore in Scripture you’re supposed to look back and figure out what the therefore is there for. (Don’t think I’m good at making plays on words. I heard that one a long time ago – I just don’t remember when or where I heard it.) So I looked back up at verse 24.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Then verse 25 follows up immediately:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

I like to write notes and thoughts in all the blank spaces in my Bible, and at the end of verse 24 I have written that referring to serving money is really materialism, which is idolatry and despises God. Well, this Sunday as I was pondering the connection between the section on serving two masters and the section on worrying, I realized – the “therefore” is there because worrying is materialism. It is valuing your material circumstances so highly that it affects the way you live and view life. Valuing anything to the point that it controls you is idolatry.

Let me say it again: Anxiety is idolatry.

As I was considering that, the pastor gave a definition of anxiety as “to be distracted or divided”. There it is again. Divided between two masters – God, and the thing that is consuming your mind and keeping you up at night. By devoting your thoughts and energies to worrying, you in turn despise the Lord, because you can’t serve both at the same time.

It’s funny, because everything I’ve been studying and listening to recently is tying together. If you remember, on Saturday I wrapped up my ramble by sharing Psalm 86:10-11. Here it is again for your reference.

For You are great and do wondrous things; You alone are God. Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.

In addition, I’m currently reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George and it has been talking about how instead of worrying we need to consistently and intentionally think about what is right and true rather than what is imagined. The pieces all go together. Anxiety is dividedness. Dwelling on truth is the proper alternative to anxiety, one that unites a once-divided heart to be able to reverence God as He deserves. We cannot serve God and our worries. We must choose truth and a unity of heart so that we can fully serve Him as our one God.

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Loved

My God loves me so much! He knows that I struggle to be able to sense Him speaking directly to me, so sometimes He sends me the sweetest reminders through my friends. Earlier this semester one of my roommates told me about a very intimate time she had with God. It was a really neat story and it encouraged me greatly – but what blew me away was what she shared at the end. She told me that as she was wrapping up her time with God, He directed her – no, enthusiastically prodded her! – to tell me all about it. Why? Just because He knows that I need stories like that to encourage me and to help me to grow closer to the God I struggle to sense on my own.

Yesterday a completely different friend who I have only known since August did it again. We’ve talked about writing and art and cooking and photography and furnishing apartments (she recently got her own place and I’m looking into getting an apartment this summer), but we’ve never really gone into anything much deeper than that. Until yesterday, that is. She shared with me about a bunch of deep things that God has been teaching her in the past couple months and how she has been growing closer to God, and we had a really wonderful, deep conversation – the kind of amazing conversations I crave and get frustrated when people aren’t willing to have. And then at the end…you can maybe guess what’s coming…she told me that God had been telling her to talk with me. *Really* talk with me. Why? Just because He knew that her stories about God and her deep conversation would be a huge blessing and an encouragement to me.

You can’t convince me that God does not love His children dearly. To see that He loves me enough, not just to give me little blessings all over the place – and He does, constantly – but even more to specifically tell people, “You should tell Calista about that; she will love to hear about it!” — I can’t even comprehend it anymore. My God continually opens my eyes to just how very much He loves me, and my mortal being can’t even handle the thought of it. My own love, even were it to attain impossible, complete perfection, is far, far too poor a response to offer my Maker for this wonderful, overwhelming love He gives. I am bankrupt, over my head in a marvelous debt that I can never ever repay in a million lifetimes.

And this…this is the God we serve. This is the God whom we strive to know and love for the few years we have on this tiny planet. I – you – we are loved by the most powerful, awesome, perfect, and overwhelming Being in all of eternity. How can you beat that??

“For You are great and do wondrous things; You alone are God. Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.” ~ Psalm 86:10-11

Categories: Ponderizations | 4 Comments

Like Rain

There are some days when you just know that God has a sense of humor. As I write this I’m sitting in my room with soggy towels all over the floor because the rain got in from somewhere and proceeded to wash the floor that I haven’t bothered to mop in months. (I know, nasty…) And I have to laugh, just a little, because God’s using even a rain-covered floor to show me His goodness today.

I guess it’s story time. Honestly, I’ve been struggling emotionally the last couple weeks. It’s nothing new; I’ve dealt with it off and on for quite a while, but in the last couple weeks the struggle intensified, and with it, of course, the accompanying depression. (Good old depression…) I started thinking of myself as a Shieldmaiden when I’m struggling, because it helps remind me to keep my chin up and keep seeking God, but his past week has been especially difficult to fight off the unhealthy thoughts.

In the middle of it all, God steered my attention to Hosea 6:3 (a verse I was familiar with especially because I used it in a lesson while I was at STEP this summer) which says this:

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.

He will come as the rain. I continue to have questions that remain unanswered, but He will come to me like the rain, as sure as the dawn. As if to confirm it, on the day that He reminded me of that verse, it rained. And then a couple days later when I was struggling again, it rained again. You might laugh at me, but it’s too good of timing for me not to notice the correlation.

Today – this afternoon, actually, I was spending time in His presence, realizing once again how carefully thoughtful and detailed His is in His care of me. He knows I’ve been struggling with my thoughts and depression, and He also knows that in those instances I need something else to occupy my mind. Every day this past week He’s given me something new as an alternative to the thoughts I struggle to evict therefrom. Realizing and counting up the ways in which He has specifically taken effort to love me recently overwhelmed me. And right about then it began to utterly POUR down rain, to the point of overwhelming the basement’s waterproofing and running all across the floors. (Which effectively occupied me yet more when I discovered I needed to rescue my floor, haha!)

God is good. He knows I need the small things, and He gives me plenty of them to keep on reminding me just how overwhelmingly He loves me. To think that the Creator of the universe cares enough to specifically take care of me when I’m having a tough time, just like a loving husband looking after his wife. To think that He cares that much about me – and YOU, too! I hope that you know the kind of love I’m talking about. Not knowing it with your head, but from raw, overwhelming experience. If you haven’t, I pray that you do. Because if the God you worship is too busy to attend to the smaller details of your life just for the sake of making you smile because He loves you, well… you haven’t had a chance to really – REALLY – get to know this awesome God we serve.

My words are too small to do Him justice, but He is good. What more can I say?

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