Jesus is calling you! …To a life of pain?

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In the book of Mathew we find a passage about Jesus calming the storm.  A pastor came to my church this past Sunday and shared this with us.  The message I learned him was so powerful that I wanted to share it with more people.

The funny thing here is that the disciples were following God, but were surprised when a storm came.  In fact, they were afraid of the storm!  At this point in the bible they had already seen Jesus do crazy things, but yet when this storm came the first thing they did was go into a place of fear.

What does this all mean to us?

Sometimes the “problem” is never actually the problem.  Our reaction to the problems in our lives are what really matter.  Because Jesus never actually called us to live a life that was easy.  He never promised that to us.  In fact, he promised the exact opposite.

My prompt to you today is to think about your reactions to problems in your life.  Are you doubting God?

Learning how to love yourself

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Is love something that we are born knowing how to do?  Is love really a choice?

I learned late in life that writing is a lot about learning how to edit, and this is exactly what I’m doing to do in this post.  It started as a post about learning how to love, period.  But now it is a post about learning how to love oneself because this is something I feel a lot of people fail to do.

I grew up most of my life believing love was something natural, something we were born conditioned to do.  And I believed even more strongly that the ability to love was not a choice.  I didn’t love my family because I choose to love, I loved them because I just couldn’t feel anything other than love for them.  Now that I’ve grown up, somewhat, I’ve come to some sort of conclusion.  Loving someone isn’t simply a choice or not a choice.  I know this because sometimes I force myself to show love to people, this is me making a choice.  But there have been times when I’ve been so hurt that all I’ve wanted to do is hate someone, but still I found myself loving them.

There are times when loving people feels so hard.  My mom will say or do something that upsets me and the idea of showing love in that situation seems impossible.  There are times when I find it really hard to love myself.  It doesn’t make sense but sometimes the most hurtful things are not said by strangers, they are thought by ourselves.  We fail to recognize the power and authority held in words, even when these words are said to ourselves.  The bible tests to this fact as well.

Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

In the above verse we are taught that life and death are in the power of our tongue!  This doesn’t just apply to what we say to people we love, this is found in the words that we tell ourselves.  The devil is a liar.  To anyone who has ever thought that they were meaningless, that their lives were meaningless or that they are alone- do not believe that lie.  Your body is the temple of God!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

This is how precious we are!  And we are never truly alone in this world, never at all.  The amazing thing about God is that even if everyone we ever love leaves us, we always have him.  This is something we can put our hope and trust in regardless of circumstance.

I mentioned this in passing earlier but love can also not feel like a choice.  I find myself unwilling to let go of some friendships because regardless of pain I may have felt, I still love that person.  With the same token, sometimes it make feel like we don’t have a choice in how we feel.  Although I believe this is somewhat true- we always have a choice. We may not be able to dictate the way we feel, but we can choose the way we act on these feelings.  This is even more true in regards to how we respect ourselves.  Please, love yourself enough to respect yourself.  If you are feeling hurt by someone or something, remove yourself from that situation.  And if you are hurting yourself, please learn the value held in your life.

The saddest thing for me to think about is the fact that so many people fail to see how amazing they are.  Those people who can be told time and time again that they are beautiful but fail to see it!  If you are someone like that, please just take a second look.  Give yourself a second chance.  Because you are valuable and you are loved.  I can guarantee it.

Everyone feels sad sometimes

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It feels odd to write down, but it’s so true.  Everyone feels sad sometimes.  I don’t know why I imagine that I am the only person who feels the way I do when I go through rough patches in life.  Sometimes that sadness can seem engulfing and the scariest thing in the world to do is to address what I’m feeling.  The bible says that there is a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing.  But all I want to do is rejoice!

I’m sure that there are lots of people who feel the same way that I do.  I don’t want whatever situation I’m going through to burden others.  I don’t want other people to know that I’m experiencing pain.  And I imagine that everyone really is exactly the way they appear to be on the surface.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Absolutely everyone we meet in life is facing his or her own battle.  And this is all the more reason to love and to love like never before.

My mother was the first person to make me realize this.  She told me to be kindest to the people who seemed the meanest.  Because when you stopped and took time to get to know them, it’s like peeling an onion!  There are layers and layers underneath and everyone has a reason for being the way that they are.

In particular she told me there was a woman who she saw daily who seemed to hate her.  It’s so hard to love those who hate us.  The bible can vouch for this fact.  But she told me that when she learned of the pain this woman experienced in her life, she suddenly understood the bitterness.  She understood it instantly.  And her love for this woman was not in vain, now they’re actually really great friends!

The perfect biblical model for this kind of compassion is embodied in the life of Jesus.  He looked at the defects and the outcasts of the world and somehow he chose to love them.  I guess he saw us in a way that we cannot even see ourselves.  It’s funny because sometimes it’s not even people who are putting these labels and ideas on us.  We do it to ourselves.

If there is anyone like me, who is reading this, please know that you’re not alone.  Sometimes I feel so sad tears feel like tiny needles shooting from my eyeballs.  Or so angry that my veins will burst!  Or even so happy and loved that I imagine my happiness is contagious.  We are not our emotions or our temporary feelings.  Feelings change.  And we are never ever really alone, never at all.

What do you stand for?

 

Daniel 3 introduces the reader to the story of Daniel and his three friends.  Just in case you don’t know this story or don’t want to read the passage, let me give a brief summary of what it’s about.  Daniel and his three friends entered a new land in which they were asked to eat and do things they knew they could not do because of their beliefs.  Instead of abandoning their beliefs in the face of obstacles, they choose to hold fast unto their God.

This even came to the point where they were subjected to death in a fiery furnace.  But God delivered them.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.[d] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel 3:16-18

Their dedication was so strong that they were willing to hold unto their faith even when faced with the prospect of death.  How many of us hold faith like that?  How many of us are able to love God like that?

Do we all even know what exactly we stand for at the end of the day?

Someone once attacked my religion and I sat there in a sea of doubt.  But when they attacked my major I spoke up because I knew I was proud of what I was studying in college.  I was willing to defend my major, but not my God.  I was willing to defend something so small but when my faith was attacked, I collapsed.

Hold strong unto your faith.  There is nothing more powerful than God’s love in our lives.

I know that despite every heartache or pain that I go through, that God is always there.  He will always be there.  His love wraps around me and this assures me that despite trials and tribulation, I am secured.  It has already been promised to me.

Hey there Delilah?

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I was looking through my checklist of bible passages to read when a passage about Samson appeared.  I decided to keep reading past the passage assigned and I saw something about Delilah and Samson.  I read through it and saw how unhealthy their relationship was.  She was prodding him.  She didn’t really care for him and she betrayed him.  His interests were most important.  She wanted something and that was all that mattered,
I kept looking at that passage trying to imagine myself as Samson.  I’m obviously the brolic one!  The one anointed and ordained by God, right?  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was actually like Delilah and my friends in general are Samson.  My study bible said that Delilah was never mentioned in the bible again after this passage, but she stripped Samson of his honor.  How did one person leak their poison so powerfully into another person’s life?
Sure, it was Samson’s choice!  How could he make the same mistakes over and over again?  Stupid.  Not like I’ve ever ermmm done anything like that before.  *cough*
But how many times have I been a Delilah to the people important in my life.  The best thing we could ever do in our lives is encourage people.  To love people so much that they can feel the warmth of God.  But we’re predisposed to just hate.  
Human beings feast on hurting other and I fear that one day this nature in me will really hurt me or the people close to me.  Little people talk about other people right?  And I stand by the belief that it’s okay to share feelings, but there’s a point where it crosses the line.  I think I should know how to gauge that.
I don’t want to be remembered as someone who broke other people down.  I want to build other people up.  Samson was defeated by Delilah.  But we are made strong in Christ because our weakness is perfected in him alone.
I guess the problem comes when people who are filled with the Spirit stop listening to God.  Then just as Samson, God will leave us and we will not realize it.

I hope this was interesting to you!

What happens when you stop praying?

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If you don’t already, make sure to hit follow and subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch the video version of this blog post

What happens when you stop praying?  Seriously, have you ever thought about this?  What really happens during this time?  I am a prayer group leader at my Christian fellowship and I found that there were times when I simply forgot to pray.  Immediately after a big retreat with InterVarsity everyone was so hyped and excited, but as time progressed slowly and slowly things started to pile up with school.  Before I knew it I was sitting on the train and realizing that I hadn’t spent any time in prayer with God for an entire week.  How did this even happen?

The sad part is what it took for me to realize this was because I was beginning to feel weaker and weaker in my faith.  Ever since our retreat my history class has started a new section, the life of Jesus and the old testament.  We are essentially studying the bible together.  The only difference is that instead of praising God in many ways I felt as though God was being attacked.

The funny thing is that the minute I felt as though I was being attacked I retreated instead of pulling closer to God.  I let these words being spoken against my father break me and I stopped praying.  When I realized this I couldn’t even understand how I allowed myself to do this.  Here I was in the Christian battlefield and as arrows are being flung against me, instead of pulling out my armor I decide to walk out defenseless into an open field.

Luckily, even when I am so careless, God is always in control and covered me so carefully and wonderfully when I was unworthy.

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We forget that limits do not apply when we are talking to the creator of heaven and earth.  We are so used to the way in which things are done in our lives that the idea of something supernatural or beyond our understanding is incomprehensible.  This is because we are human beings, are more than anything else we are so limited.

But this limit is not placed on God.  You may feel as though you have no control, and you may not.  The important thing is that God does have control and he’s the only thing that actually matters.

It’s easy to be a Christian in the constraints of a Christian club and church.  Being a Christian means going out where no one else believes what you believe and standing firm on your ground.

Its funny because I remember saying how I was so angry about registering for this teacher because he had amazing reviews on ratemyprofessor.com and I was so sure he would be good.  I never anticipated how against religion he would be.  He told us to try being Christians in the finance world and reap all of the pain that comes along with that.  But when I mentioned this to other people they told me I was wrong and that he had horrible ratings on line and that I must have read them wrong.  Their words were enough for me to doubt something I was confident of.

When I went home a few hours later I remembered what they said and looked up ratings for my teacher again, they were amazing.  I was right and I doubted myself because of what other people around me told me.

So many times I fee l like this very same thing happens when I’m in history class.  I know what I believe, I have evidence in my very life to prove it.  But when I am told I am wrong, its hard for me not to stand my ground.

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God calls us to be so much more.  God wants so much more from us.  And this is why prayer is so important.  This is our direct connection to our father and our King of Kings.  As long as you are willing to pray, you will hear from God.  But in the process you must also rid yourself of everything else that comes before him in your life.

Time is one of the most important things in the world.  Stop giving your time to people who hurt you, things that do not matter and wasting away your life.  You become more and more like the people you surround yourself with.  Surround yourself with the presence of God, and pray to your father.

Realizing that I am not perfect, and that I don’t have to be

I am not perfect.  I am not even close to being perfect.  I am perfectly fine with this fact, but I haven’t always felt this way.  I’ve always been inclined towards learning English and Social Studies in school.  I actually dread going to classes like Math.  I’ve just never had an aptitude towards it and learning the information sometimes feels like my teeth and being pulled from its root.  Needless to say, it’s not fun for me.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve always been envious of the people in my class who just understood Math.  They would sit next to me and just instantly absorb the information with such ease and cadence that I genuinely wondered if I was missing something.  I would watch as they did math problems so rhythmically that it almost looked like they were doing a dance.  It bewildered me.

This was until I became a Communications tutor at my college.  Communications has always been so intuitive to me.  When I was taking the introductory class I found it so silly that we were taught the necessary components of an introduction.  How could someone not know how to structure their words logically for a speech?  I was so wrong.  Students would come in who were so lost as to how to organize their speeches.  The funny part was that a lot of these students would comment that they were math minors and that their communications class was taking all of their spare time.  I found it so ironic because this class was the one class I genuinely enjoyed and easily did well in.  Giving speeches felt like a dance for me and it never seizes to make me happy.

It was then that I came to an amazing realization.  I am not perfect, and this is okay.  God made me the way I am for a reason.  I do not like math for a reason, and that’s okay.  It’s fine that I need to put more work into my math classes, because someone else puts more work into English.  It’s okay that I sometimes fail and don’t do as well as I would have hoped.  It’s okay for me to not be perfect.

We serve a God who forms us so perfectly, with his plan and purpose in mind from the start.  I believe its time we stopped hating ourselves and focusing on our weakness, and instead lean on God when we are in need.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefor I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Happy Black Friday!

Nina

(Apologies for not posting in so long, its been hard to get back to normalcy since Hurricane Sandy!)

 

the Big Event: Sophomore year

For those of you who have never heard of “Big Event” its basically a yearly InterVarsity retreat in which college students have the opportunity to register for different tracks to learn about God with people from different colleges in small groups.  Small groups are normally…small groups of people, I know who would have thought that’s what it meant?  Please bear with me as I write this post, I realize that for those of you who have never heard of Big Event everything I’m saying will sound really odd to you.

Well this was my second year in InterVarsity and because I got involved from the get go, it was my second time at Big Event.  The previous year I had the opportunity to go to both Big Event and Basielia (InterVarsity’s second retreat which is longer and holds less schools).  Before going I remember everyone telling me I would love it so much that I would have so much fun and that it would change everything.  In all honesty leaving both Big Event and Basielia my freshman year I definitely did change a lot but those retreats felt bland for me.  I was watching everyone else doing all these amazing things and even though I did benefit, I wasn’t enjoying things on the same level as other people.  In fact there were times during Baseila that I just felt sad and confused because I wasn’t sure why I was feeling the way I felt.  I never shared this with anyone in my chapter because I didn’t want to be the person to bring other people down.  So I plastered a smile on my face and focused on everything that was actually good that was going in during the retreat.

My mentality was so off for those two retreats.  I literally walked into Big Event knowing everything everyone had said about it in the past and felt entitled to an amazing experience because I payed money.  I wasn’t excited and I expected other people to make me excited.  It was because I knew something was wrong that I refused to approach Big Event this year the same way I approached Big Event all other times in the past.

Before registering for Big Event I was asked along with some other people in my chapter to register for the leadership track.  That was something I really didn’t want to do, I wish I could explain just how much I didn’t want to do it.  In fact I guess I can explain it to you right now.  Registering for that track scared me and intimidated me because I didn’t feel as though I was good enough for it.  So I told my exec team I would register for it and purposely waited until the track was closed to beg my mom for permission to register for Big Event.  I had technically asked her back when leadership was open but because I didn’t want to go for that track I asked in a way that I knew she wouldn’t be happy or say yes.  It was only when I really needed to register that she said yes.  And by then I looked at the mess I made for myself and was actually kind of sad but at the same time incredibly happy.  Happy because I made a promise in my mind that I would get the most out of my track this year.  The track I registered for was Transformation or Foundations and mistakenly registering for it may have been the best decision I ever made for so many reasons.

Growing up in church I felt as though I knew God because I gave him my 3 hours once a week.  I had my idea in my head of what God was to me and I was satisfied putting him into a box.  For so long I felt as though I was trying to build a roof to this house while my foundations were crumbling beneath me.  I needed to be sure that I knew exactly who the God I was serving actually was.   Being honest with you again, I had it all so wrong.

During my retreat I realized that I wasn’t the only person who felt the same way about retreats in the past.  I wasn’t the only person who felt like I was really missing something important.  But somehow it took me going to Baseilia and feeling so sad to know that I couldn’t keep going on my walk with God the same way I had always done so.  I really needed to change the way I approached God in my life and I needed to learn to put him first.  I realized that if I had opened up earlier I would have saved so much heartache and even sympathized and grown with someone else who was going through what I was going through.  We eventually did get to sympathize with one another but only at this year’s Big Event!  Funny how things work out right?

I was also struggling with vulnerability.  Most of the time I feel like people are afraid to open up and that this is why they cannot grow.  My problem was that I felt as though I was being too vulnerable with too many people.  I grew up in a house where my mom would sit down with me everyday and ask me to open up to her about my feelings, that was the way I was raised to act.  And I felt like there was something wrong with me because it seemed like no one else felt the same way about opening up as me.  What I realized for myself this was past weekend was that I needed to be vulnerable.  I really needed to be open and honest about my feelings with the people in my life.  Because I’d rather have a bunch of people know this mangled, messed up and growing mess of a person that I am that is not perfect than to have a bunch of people know me on such a superficial level that they don’t actually know who I am.  But that’s just me.  Maybe I’ll change my mind about this 10 years from now but if I ever did I would need to stop blogging.  I would need to stop blogging because my soul is kind of sprawled out on all of these posts that literally anyone could pick up and read.  I’m okay with that though.  Because I know I am not the only person who feels the way that I feel.

Big Event this year was amazing.  It was absolutely amazing and so much more than I thought it would be.  But it also wasn’t easy.  I left Big Event feeling great but also knowing that the real work starts now with my relationship with God and even my relationships with people. I realized somehow that I didn’t understand what it meant to love people the way God loves us, or even how to love God the way he loves me.  I know that I am so flawed and I know that I have so much to learn but now I am ready to learn more about God than ever before.

 

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?

Hello everyone!  I can’t believe its already September 26th, I swear I try to keep these blog posts weekly but time flies!    I can’t believe one week has already passed since the last time I made a post.  But, lets stay on topic:  The Mind of Christ.  This was my topic for High Teens Speech, I do these yearly competitions in which I am required to prepare a speech in 10 minutes and then deliver it within a 5-minute period.  Needless to say, it can be VERY stressful.  My age group is High Teens so I compete against everyone in my age group.

This year our topic was the mind of Christ and I was so happy because earlier in the day I messed up my essay on Stewardship, a topic I thought meant being a servant of God but actually meant using your resources fully.  Obviously I was kind of off.

Being honest if I had not wrote an entire essay about the nature of God being that of a servant, I would not have spoken about this during my speech.  When I first thought about the very nature of God I thought of purity.  I would think about the God was sees our sins and is disgusted.  I would have never once thought about Jesus who went and washed his disciples feet as we can see in John 13: 8:

“ ‘No’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me.’”

This is the God we serve, who took on the very nature of man and came to earth to serve others.  How humbling is this?

We had a bible study with a few people from my InterVarsity chapter (Christian fellowship on campus) and we looked into the story of Stephen which is told from Acts 6:8-8:2, or at least that was the portion we looked at together.  I couldn’t help but think of how humble Stephen was through everything- it was never about him.

I couldn’t get a bible verse out of mind so we spent some time trying to find it and it was actually John 3:30 which reads:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

THIS is the relationship that we have with God.  One in which we are made smaller and smaller because we want God to be glorified rather than ourselves.

When I look at my life and everything I do, it is because I want recognition, I want to be acknowledged.  But this wasn’t the way we were meant to be.  We are created to be servants before God, laying everything we have down before his feet.  Laying our needs, our desires, our wants, everything.

And it’s so scary to think that maybe what we want from our lives does not align with what God wants from us.  But this is something we must accept whole heartily.  I don’t want to be Stephen who was stoned to death; I don’t want that for myself or for my life.  But if God wants this from me I must accept this.  Accepting this is scary and hard, but we must also know how important it is to place everything into God’s hands.  He knows us, he knows us so well and he knows what we need and what is best for us.

Day 10: Something you’re afraid of

Writing these blog posts have really become this guilty pleasure of mine.  What greater indulgence than one’s own thoughts?  Anyway today I’ll be telling all of you about something that I am afraid of.

I remember living in my old house and being scared to death of the dark.  Not enough to make my parents get a night light.  (Do you really think my parents would have been okay with me wasting electricity on that thing, doubtful) But enough where some nights I would watch the shadows and cringe under my sheets, only nights I couldn’t really sleep to begin with.

Up until I was maybe five or six my brother and I slept in the same bed every night.  Our actual bedrooms were on the second story of the house but my mother wanted to make sure we were safe.  So we both slept in the guest room next to their bed.  Sometimes with my grandma. So you see, I didn’t really ever have to be afraid.  Because my big brother was sleeping right there next to me.

Luckily I am no longer afraid of the dark.  Thank God because now I have my own bedroom.  But I’m afraid of something much larger than lurking creatures that could kill me in the depths of night.  I’m afraid of failing.

I’m so afraid of failing.  Because even though I would love to believe that anyone is capable of anything, I struggle to realize that this isn’t always true.  This isn’t really all to realistic either.  I do believe that everyone holds their own unique talent which they can excel at when given the proper attention.

I’m just afraid that I haven’t realized what this talent is and I’m actually wasting away precious time doing something I cannot succeed at.  But luckily, I serve a God who can do the impossible.  So why can’t he work in me too?

I’m afraid of college and what it means if I struggle.  I’m afraid of trying my hardest and still doing poorly.  I’m afraid of pouring my heart in something, learning it was all in vain.