Thursday, January 26, 2012

Talk, Texts, and Powerful Tongues

Sometimes small talk is all we can manage, sometimes small talk is a cop-out for meaningful conversation.  I think mostly, people speak lightly because they are afraid of what others will think of their strongest ideas emotions, and beliefs.  Whatever the reason, I cannot help but dislike the transient, shallow nature of small talk.  I would prefer being controversial to being forgettable, or even worse, trite.
    Many conversations have been reduced to fluffy tweets, minimalistic texts, and superfluous status updates.  Most people now subconsciously prefer funny people to thoughtful people.  Our culture has idolized entertainment, and “big talk” has thus been labeled boring, controversial, intolerant, and narrow-minded. 
    Perhaps I am not being fair.  After all, to always speak meaningfully would be out of place, especially while forging a new friendship.  To always speak passionately would be too personal, too vulnerable.  One might promptly be rejected.  Yet, perhaps it would be the more honest, direct route.  How often do we find ourselves clashing in opinion or belief with a new acquaintance of ours, only to realize that we can never be really close to that person?  Maybe the world would be a better place if we all said what we really meant to say…if we were more original.  More concise.  Cut out the verbiage, and spent more time pondering than we do blabbing.

    I am not saying that we should send all the funny, lighthearted people to No Man’s Land, and I would be a hypocrite if I claimed to never speak small talk.  What I would like to see and hear are words with more artistic integrity, depth, purpose, and passion.  I think most people want this, but don’t know how to obtain it.   I think the responsibility lies with the individual.  If we start with ourselves, we can bring meaning back into the average conversation.  We can choose to speak words of life to a hurting person instead of joking with them.  We can share our beliefs with others when we would rather be quiet.  We can be the change we want to see in the world.

   I should know better than to label all small talk as shallow talk.  Not everyone wants to spill the contents of their hearts out to others at, say, a family gathering, a party, a funeral.  Oftentimes in such settings, it is entirely appropriate to speak lightly, and allow loving glances, gentle hugs, and soothing words be the instruments of human communication.  Sometimes small talk is all we can manage because no meaningful words would be appropriate.  Sometimes we need empty words because eyes are filled with more meaning than can be rightly accounted for, or because our hearts are full of love or pain

    Still, no excuse in the world can be made for small talk between two good friends, or meaningless chatter between a father and his wayward son.  If we are supposed to love people as Jesus commands us to do, it is our duty to speak words of life and purpose to those we care about.  Proverbs 8:21 declares that “death and life are in the power of the tongue…” That makes us highly responsible for the words that we release.  We must choose to live with purpose in both the way that we walk and talk. Let us strive to make the most of our words. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


    Well, this is it, everybody: the last day of Dreamer's Challenge!  No more semi-personal journal entries about Megan (thank the LORD!)...
    Here is my final post for Dreamer's Challenge:

     My dream last night was bizarre: in it, I had a strange disease that caused me to grow extra limbs, and I could not figure out how to make it stop.  It was very embarrassing.  When I prayed, the extra limbs vanished.
    I was wondering if the dream could have any possible meaning for my life this morning, and then it hit me--I mean, literally HIT me--I stubbed my toe (again) on a closet door, the same toe I bust open while running on pavement a few days ago.  I needed to apply a band-aide to my toe to protect it, but the band-aide box in the closet was empty.  Frustrated, I began to despair of finding a band-aide at all, when I finally, at long-last, saw it: one protective sticker peeking its nude, flat body out from beneath a bottle of medicine.  YES!  My first impulse was to actually thank God for the discovery

...and THAT is when it hit me: God wants to heal me.  He wants me to come to HIM for help, just as He declared to me in Psalm 50:14-15 for Day 6 of Dreamer's Challenge, 

"Offer to God
thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 

I am not yet sure how this applies to my life, but now I know where I will be looking for spiritual "band-aides" from now on: Jesus.

heart band-aid

     Final Dreamer's Challenge note: May we all not only learn to be genuinely thankful, but learn to commit our lives--both the good and the bad--into His loving hands, and allow Him to heal our spiritual wounds.

    Ardently Yours, 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Selfish Pigs, Switchblades, Carpenters, Etc.

    I was just pondering the power of good Christian literature in today's culture and thought I would recommend a few good titles for you all to read in your "boundless" spare time (excessive winking):

I read part of this book this morning; it is all about who Jesus is and claims to be in God's Word...I have found it tremendously helpful in my quest for the truth, as I tend to over-think everything!

More Than a Carpenter

This book is totally irresistible; it addresses many relevant questions people have about life from a Christian perspective without sounding self-righteous or "preachy."  Has a kind of earthy vibe; very cool and penetrating. 

Two words: Life changing!  And if I could choose two more?  Read it!!  

The Cross and the Switchblade[Paperback]

A great tool for the individual who feels guilty for not answering the door when a Jehovah's Witness comes knocking, but is spiritually ill-equipped to dare talk to one.  This book has aided me a great deal in this regard!

Reasoning From The Scriptures with The Jehovah's Witnesses, Updated and Expanded

Happy reading!


    I do not remember what I dreamed last night (I am still adhering to the "no TV" Dreamer's Challenge!), but
this morning I read an interesting passage of Scripture that encouraged, awed, and disturbed all at the same time!

    If you read Psalm 50 for yourself, maybe you will see what I mean, but for those of you who do not have the time to do so, here is a summary of and few selections from the psalm:

    Psalm 50 begins with this awesome introduction of God's power:

1   The Mighty One, God the LORD,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.

2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.
3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;
A fire shall devour before Him,
And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 

    The writer shifts gears and begins to document a "conversation" God has with his people, the Israelites.  He tells them that He has some complaints against them.  He starts out by clarifying that it is not His people's sacrifices that He is displeased with, for these are faithfully served at the appointed times.  He even says that the sacrifices are not the point, because what He really wants is for the Israelites to be THANKFUL, thus glorifying Him.  This proves to be His true complaint against them.  
    Next, He mentions what He wants to do for those who choose to be thankful to God:    

14 Offer to God thanksgiving,
And pay your vows to the Most High.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”

He then rebukes the wicked:

But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to declare My statutes,
 Or take My covenant in your mouth,
Seeing you hate instruction
 And cast My words behind you?
When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
And have been a partaker with adulterers.
You give your mouth to evil,
And your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother’s son.
These things you have done, and I kept silent;
You thought that I was altogether like you;
But I will rebuke you,
And set them in order before your eyes. 

God concludes Psalm 50 by warning His people:

22 “Now consider this, you who forget God,
Lest I tear you in pieces,
And there be none to deliver:
23 Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;
And to him who orders his conduct aright
I will show the salvation of God.”

My initial reaction was not PRAISE GOD, it was more like...

After all, the picture painted of God with "fire devouring before Him" and tempestuousness circling around His feet sounds pretty scary for the casual reader!  And what is with God's demand to be praised and thus glorified by His people under threat of being torn to pieces?  Isn't God supposed to be...loving?

My prayer after reading that passage was one of desperation and pained trust in God...I basically begged for God to reveal the truth of the unsettling passage to me as soon as possible!  My faith was wavering, my heart pounding in my ears.  How could one moment's worth of spiritual confusion so quickly reduce me to such a spiritually vulnerable state?  All I knew was that I didn't like it.  
Thankfully, God rescued me just in the nick of time from my pitiful bout of doubt through a wise word from my father, and an insightful book about Jesus (McDowell's More Than A Carpenter).  

    I knew I was missing something, and it bothered the heck out of me all morning until I was able to talk it out with my dad.  After talking with him, I realized that God's demand for praise from His people arose from a deep love and concern he harbored for the fate of all mankind.  He wanted His people to glorify Himself with their thankfulness so the surrounding nations would see God and commit their lives to Him.  God was trying to draw people to Himself, thus keeping as many people out of hell as He could.  When the Israelites became ungrateful and wicked, they were setting a bad example for the other nations!  That is why God was so adamant about their attitude towards Himself; it was not really for His own sake, but for His people's sake that He demanded His people's respect.  He was after all, their originator AND savior from the bondage of Egypt!  

    All in all, today proved to be a spiritually invigorating, long, good day.

    Oh, one more thing (that is a declaration, really):

    May we never shy away from verses that seem difficult or disturbing; instead, let us embrace them as spiritual exercises, strategically placed in His Word to not only cause us to grow in Biblical knowledge and wisdom, but to teach us to trust in God as well!

Monday, January 16, 2012


    So I committed to posting the results to my Dreamer's Challenge every day for a week, but Sunday admittedly proved to be a somewhat uninspiring day for me.  It was a day full of activity, to be sure; normally, I would attend the local church and spend the rest of the day driving around with my family visiting friends or eating out, having a wonderfully chaotic, thought-provoking day, but this Sunday was unusual in that I did not do a lot of thinking or reading or planning or talking, but instead, just "doing." Doing simple, wholesome, fulfilling, clean, quiet, perfect little movements...

    To help you understand the difference between "normal doing" and the "doing" I did this Sunday, I have compiled a list of random tasks that I completed yesterday:

1.  I wore a skirt that was so long that it got caught under my feet when I walked,
2.  practiced driving with my dad,
3.  Vacuumed the floor of my bedroom (cat-themed rug and all), 
4.  hung out with a friend I haven't talked to much since 2011,
5.  helped my brother make a commercial advertising his longboards using Windows Movie Maker, and
6.  ate almost an entire box of Oreo's all on my own (dipped in milk, of course).

    I prayed a little bit here and there throughout the course of the day, talked about God and His Word with the people I spent time with, breathed in the beauty of His creation...nothing particularly noteworthy happened, and nothing very important was accomplished, but it was a mostly peaceful day that I would gladly experience again if given the opportunity.  My dream that night was nothing remarkable, either...not a nightmare, but not special by any standards (the happenings in my dream loosely followed those of Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games). 

     All in all, the whole experience left me without much to write about--except for one thing, now that I think of it:  when caught up in the simple joy of living, sometimes God's message to His child is simply, "Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)."  Breathe.  REST.  Be thankful!
   My Sunday was mundane.  Peaceful, bright, happy, uneventful, yes...but a waste of time?  Meaningless?  I don't think so.  I am thankful for the "quiet days" when I can content myself in the delights of God's creation, enjoy doing simple tasks, and rest in His presence.  Sometimes my relationship with God is fast-paced, exciting, an adventure, but on Sundays like these, I am thankful for the chance to just relax and share a brief respite with Jesus.  
    Someday soon, life will be more challenging, exciting...but not now.  For now, the turbulent waters of life are still, and I rest in absolute peace in the eye of a spiritual hurricane.  May you all find insurmountable joy in the miraculous AND the mundane!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


    Last night God spoke to me in a dream.

    Here's what happened: I prayed, read God's Word, and went to bed, just as I have been doing for the past few days--except, when I woke up, I had an interesting story to share.

    In my dream, I was trekking through a vast, golden tangle of field, tall weeds, and tall, tree-like bushes.  A large group of people that I have been familiar with since I was young but have rarely spoken to were hiking through the underbrush with me.  One of my close friends stuck by my side for part of the journey, but somehow we were separated, and I ended up alone.  I came upon an ominous tunnel of bush and hesitantly decided to crawl through it in hopes of rejoining the others on the opposite side.  The branches seemed to grab at me, and dark forms threatened from all directions--until they came.  Two people that I have long judged since I knew them for their habit of snubbing or disregarding me.  Yet here they were, offering me salvation from the evil clutches of the bushes--and isolation. 
    The three of us ended up walking with each other for the remainder of the trip.  the two were more amiable and down to earth than I would have ever thought possible.  We talked and laughed all the way to our destination: a performing arts center.  Once everybody was inside the building, the two people and I went off together again on our own.  We drifted into a large room where a group of thespians were rehearsing for an upcoming theatrical production.  The three of us sank into a couple of back row seats and continued our comfortable conversing while actors practiced on their stage before us.  Just as I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't ever thought of befriending these wonderful people before, the lights dimmed, and the female lead of the musical began to sing her solo.  All of us immediately quieted because her voice was absolutely mesmerizing.  
    Finally the siren-like voice ceased and the lights turned back on.  As the light returned, however, I sensed something was wrong.  I turned to the two others, made a comment about a Guinea pig (for reasons I cannot recall), and saw something I can't say I didn't expect: the backs of the two people's heads.  They had turned away from me to talk to each other.  I said something else, and they turned and gave me a look that chilled and embarrassed me.  My bad-feeling-instinct was right to have warned me of trouble.  The wonderful chemistry the three of us had previously mutually shared was just gone, obliterated in the time it took me to brush my teeth in the morning...and I?  I stood to my feet and began to walk away, confused, and mourning the loss of our brief friendship.  
    As I was waking up from this dream, my final thought was, "What did I say to offend them?"  

    For a long time, I have disapproved of people who seem to ignore me--people I see every week who do not turn to look at me when I say "hi."  Last night, I believe God confronted me about this flawed thinking through my dream. I have been wrong to think that these seemingly aloof kids are rude or fake or anything, really...because they, like I, are
only human! They are simply fallible people who are doing their best to be more like Jesus.  Just because these individuals do not acknowledge me when passing by does not make them bad people. Life is not about Megan, life is about Jesus. Besides, I may not know the full story...perhaps there is something going on that I don't know about?  Only God can see and change people's hearts!  What I should be focusing on, instead of my own pride and self-pity, is "How can I change?" or "How can I be a better friend?"  because in the end, the only person I can change (with Jesus' help!) is myself.  Maybe God will convict these people to be more friendly and sensitive in the future, but for now I should not be offended, but instead humbled, graceful, and encouraging.  

    Jesus warns believers in Matthew 7:1-5:

    Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, "Let me remove the speck from your eye"; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Plank in eye 

    If we are confused about someone's behavior toward us, instead of gossiping, grudging, or judging them, let us strive to walk in
love and grace, and look at people through the eyes of Jesus (and not through the cracks of the long planks in our eyes)!

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus

    Here is "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus" if you haven't already seen it.  It is so boldly, and even blatantly executed that it has everybody all stirred up; you need only to look at the list of replies--and rebuttals--on YouTube to know that.  This candid guy makes a vital point: religion is worthless unless its beholder has a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus.  Otherwise, it is just another overwhelming, impossible,  God-sized "to-do list."  Enjoy.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “'
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

~Matthew 22:36-40 

Saturday, January 14, 2012


    So...yesterday I pretty much wasted a perfectly good Friday--or at least, partially.  The day started out well enough, but by eleven o' clock at night, I had wasted a couple of prime God-hours goofing off on the internet just "surfing around."  By the time I reached my bedroom to start winding down before sleep, I was totally disgusted with myself.  I knew better than to goof off like that and waste precious time...and yet I did.  And now it was eleven: too late to redeem the day. 

    I started desperately flipping through my Bible, notes flying all over the place, hoping to stumble upon something poignant--maybe a verse that detailed the curses that came upon those who wasted time.  That would have at least somewhat eased my aching conscience, but NO--God chose to do something to me even worse.  Instead of curses, I found tons of verses that listed the BLESSINGS that came with serving God wholeheartedly.  From the Old Testament to the New Testament, all I saw was blessings, love, forgiveness, mercy, AHHH!!  Where was God's punishing wrath when I needed it?  Just as I began to contemplate storming out the front door of my house and tearing down the street and into the dark night like a raving lunatic, I found the verse I needed to hear (thank God): Ephesians 5:14-17:

Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Sanity rushed back into my bones.  I could feel the color returning to my drained face.  Here was a verse that seemed to gently rebuke, and offer hope.  I had been bracing myself for hell fire, and here was my loving, merciful God again (Why are you so good to me, God?)advising me to redeem the wasted time...but how?  WHAT could God's will possibly be for me at this late hour?  I  resolved to pray to God for at least two hours (by now it was around 11:30 PM) to show God how serious I was about "redeeming the time."  Instead God sent me my younger brother.

Brother: "Megan, I'm going to sleep in your room tonight so I can try out my new army sleeping bag, and we're gonna' have a good old time staying up late and telling stories and--"

"Uh, tonight's not going to be a good night for that..." I started, but as the words artlessly rolled off my tongue, a few different verses about serving God through loving His people pounced onto my brain:

"whatever you do for the least of these you do for Me [Jesus]..."

"They [the world] will know them [the Christians] by the love that they have for one another..."

"Love your neighbor as yourself..." [how can I love my neighbor if I don't love my brother first?]

So I said, "Sure..."


"...Under ONE condition: we pray together before we go to sleep!"

"Uh, sure...but do I have to pray?"

"Only if you want to..." I consented.

We talked for almost two hours, I on my bed, and he curled up in his sleeping bag on my cat-themed rug.  He told me about his hopes and dreams, mainly sports-related, and I mostly just listened.  It obviously meant a lot to him.

I did some thinking, too...
    God does not just want us to be obedient, He wants us to take INITIATIVE--take action, and find ways to love people!  That requires some effort on my part.  Serving God, after all, is a privilege.  A good friend of mine once told me that when you are really pursuing God, it is always best to stay just outside of your ever-expanding comfort zone.  She is so right.

By 1:00 AM in the morning, we were both exhausted, so after I had prayed blessings over his and my other family member's lives, I turned off my night light and we fell dead asleep.
   I dreamed some bizarre dream that involved ME driving my family (even in my dream THAT was a hellish experience for all) to Publix, we only having three dollars to spend on groceries, and one of my younger brothers wanting to spend all of our money on candy corn. 
    I don't even care what I dream about at this point; I am just happy for the revelation God gave me while I was awake yesterday!  I am happy period.  Despite my failure, I feel strangely triumphant.  God is near, and I can feel it.  I do not have to wonder what the meaning of life is, because I have found it in Jesus Christ!  His love propels me, motivates me, changes me--and changes others in the process.
   ...My contentment does not mean I am quitting the challenge; I feel God has things to show me yet through this entertainment fast!  

   I hope you are encouraged by these posts, and pray that you will have a blessed week: full of love, light, and the joy of the LORD!

Friday, January 13, 2012


    It is so true what people say about beauty rising out of the ashes of pain. Last night, after my rocky beginnings with Day 1 of the Dreamer's Challenge, I crawled into the back of my dad's truck, threw my head back, and soaked in the awesome sight of God's stars...and the occasional plane taking off from a nearby airport. Somehow, the combination of these sights prompted me to think of the song Keith Green wrote about God's beauty, "Oh Lord, You're Beautiful."

    I had a good conversation with God, and read Psalm 37 by the light of the stars, street lights, and passing cars' headlights. This psalm is especially meaningful and beautiful, I discovered, when read aloud. I have tried to read this particular psalm before without really "getting it," but last night was different. It was as if I had never read it before. I especially love verses 3-4 and 34-40, but the whole piece is both delicious and rejuvenating.

    The Psalm begins by declaring, "Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart," and ends on a similar note, " But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him."

    We are not only blessed, but SAVED by God for trusting in Him!  Trust must be pretty important to God, huh?  What separated many of the heroes of the Bible from the people that lived around them in their time was not their own holiness--some of them were drunks, liars, hypocrites, and cowards--but instead was the trust that they had in God.  Sure, they had their doubts at times--many times, in fact--but for some of the time, they trusted God, and it was during those times that God moved them the most.

    I guess the theme of the day must be Keith Green, because I've got another song for you called "He'll Take Care of the Rest" that relates beautifully to this topic:

    After spending some time with God, I slipped back into my house and plopped onto a couch next to two of my younger brothers, twins.  They were watching the movie Eight Below with my dad.  Not wanting to watch TV or leave their company, I ultimately chose to sit at a nearby table and draw illustrations for a possible future installment story idea of mine (HINT HINT).  I prayed a short prayer before crawling into bed, and slept soundly.

    I only remember having one dream, and the details I remember are vague: something exciting was going on, possibly a wedding, and I wrote "I love something" on my arm.  I still don't remember what that "something" was, but the dream was bright, clean, refreshing--not nightmarish.  I feel that God has blessed me for going to Him first.  Psalm 4, the verse that was so ironic to my sleep experience two nights ago, now echoes the peace I experienced last night.
    God's mercies really ARE new each day; praise the LORD!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


    Yesterday was the first official day of my dream challenge, but it was not until this morning that I received some results from my experiment: two strange dreams, some regret, and a wake-up call.  Allow me to explain.

    While I technically did not watch TV last night (I was working on my laptop), I was in the family/TV room with my younger brothers where I could hear the TV...and without even realizing I was doing it, I followed part of the show with my was a reality show about a very troubled family that included ten kids void of compassion, and two exceptionally dysfunctional parents.  
    By the time I dragged myself to bed last night, it was very late, and I only managed to read one small section of scripture and release a short prayer before I turned off my bed light and tried to fall asleep.  I tossed and turned for an hour; I was exhausted, and knew I  had to wake up early the next morning, but could not fall asleep due to a dull, sharp pain that totally engulfed my left leg.  I think it was growing pains, but at the time it felt like a punishment.  All I could think was, this is going to sound really weird on my blog tomorrow...and it probably does.

    After dreaming one very strange, disturbing dream that I cannot recall the details of, and one (black and white) dimly lit dream about a group of hilarious dogs that leaped and walked on two legs in circles around me, I finally woke up to the glaring sound of my alarm clock.  Out of bed I fell, crawled, staggered over to my alarm clock to turn the thing off.   Ugh.   
    I read some of Matthew 7, but Exhaustion pressed against me, warm and sweaty in form, making it difficult for me to concentrate on the words.  Although my head was swimming, I felt distinctly drawn to return to Psalm 4: the passage I had meditated on last night.  I was surprised by the ironic shadow the selection of scriptures threw before my painful, seemingly unsuccessful night of sleep (and sleeplessness).  Here are the words of Psalm 4:3-8:

 ​​​Realize that the LORD shows the godly special favor;
the LORD responds when I cry out to him.
​​​​​​​Tremble with fear and do not sin!
Meditate as you lie in bed, and repent of your ways!  Offer the prescribed sacrifices
and trust in the LORD!
​​​​​​​Many say, “Who can show us anything good?”
Smile upon us, LORD!
You make me happier
than those who have abundant grain and wine.
​​​​​​​I will lie down and sleep peacefully,
for you, LORD, make me safe and secure.

    When I honestly assess my actions last night, I see that I probably should have spent my time more judiciously, so that I would not have had to have pushed prayer so late into the night.  Godly people pray first--they do not wait until the very last minute to do the most vital task of the day.  I think last night was God's wake-up call to me to actually SERVE HIM, as I said I would do in my previous blog post, "Love is a Verb."  Writing with God for an audience is an honor and privilege, and I realize more than ever, is a privilege that requires me to be more responsible and diligent to live up to my ideals and assertions.  Harold Nicolson was right when he said:

 We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts.

    This has been a wonderful reminder from God to me that my actions need to line up more accurately with my words--and I am totally up for the challenge!  I can't wait to see what else God chooses to illuminate within my human, frequently wayward heart...or am I mistaking excitement for fear?  Am I finally living up to Psalm 4, "trembling with fear" and choosing not to sin?  I guess we'll see!  Thanks for reading everybody; you guys provide me really great accountability.  I Hope that all of your weeks prove to be equally enlightening!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Full of and Fixed on the Light

Hey everybody!  I stumbled upon the PERFECT verse for the Dreamer's Challenge during my morning devotional...look at Matthew 6:22-23:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness..."

If we are allowing our eyes to see gruesome, evil, horrific, or even just plain secular movies on TV, are we not "diseasing" our eyes?

By purposely exposing ourselves to wickedness, we open internal gateways that invite evil to come into our hearts, minds, souls.  Not all of us watch a lot of TV; for some of us, it is Facebook that distracts us from God, or fun reading, or a music obsession, or...the list could go on and on.  The idea is that whatever we love, we inevitably fill ourselves with.  If our foremost love is not Jesus, then we are "full of darkness,"  for Jesus is the only true Light of the world; we must always keep this in mind!  After all, 2 Corinthians clearly states that light can have no fellowship with darkness...there is no middle ground here...we must choose whose side we will serve!

So, back to Matthew 6: our bodies cannot be filled with light and our eyes cannot be "healthy" if we choose to fixate are eyes on worldly pleasures instead of on Him.  
    Whatever happens, we CANNOT take our eyes off of The Light of the World: Jesus, the only "filler" that satisfies!  Let us pray, pray some more, and pray more OBSESSIVELY!  

God bless everybody, and sweet dreams!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why Do We Have Nightmares?

    Have you ever wondered why people—believers and non-believers alike—have nightmares?

   It seems like whenever someone has a dream in the Bible, it is either prophetic or contains a cryptic message for the dreamer that only another person, or the passing of time, can rightly interpret.  All dreams mentioned in the Bible are from God, which begs the question: who are nightmares from, and what is their purpose?

   God could not have designed people to receive dark, troubling dreams.  Are bad dreams simply the after-effects of sin in a fallen world, or is the meaning behind their existence deeper?  Perhaps the devil implants these dreams in our minds, or at least his demon minions.  What about Christians though?  Aren't they supposed to be protected from demons?  Or are we all just watching too many bad movies?

   Last night I had the most troubling dream—one I would never want or be allowed to see if it were a movie.  And yet, there it was, playing in my head in the wee morning hours.  There is no escape from a dream like this, either, and often the dreamer wakes only to feel confused, embarrassed, and disturbed.  Where is God during these freakish night disturbances?  Does He care?

   A friend of mine and her sister have nightmares almost every night--this runs in her family—ones so bad that they have trouble sleeping, and wake up screaming or crying.  These dreams are dark, and prayer does not prevent their nightly occurrences.  Once, after my friend woke up from a particularly bad dream in the middle of the night, she was angry and confused with God for allowing her to suffer.  After praying and bedding with her sister for the remainder of the night, she turned off her bed light to go back to sleep...only to be prompted to look up a random verse that popped into her head.  She tried to push the verse away because she was tired, but she could not clear her mind of the mysterious address: 1 Kings 3:15.  She did not know which verse that was, and did not remember ever hearing the reference before.  After turning on the light by her bed, she flipped to 1 Kings3:15 in her Bible to read:

Solomon then woke up and realized it was a dream.

To my friend, this was like a father coming in to comfort his scared little girl by saying, “It was just a bad dream.”  My friend still does not know why she has nightmares, but she does know that when she does, God is with her, and wants to help her through her trials, whatever they may be.

   Maybe nightmares, like all other trials, are permitted by God to haunt us because He wants us to come to HIM for help and guidance.  I don’t think He enjoys watching people suffer, but sometimes the only way people can find truth is through suffering.  If it takes a series of bad dreams for someone to realize that they need God’s help, then their suffering is ultimately—and mysteriously—worth it.  I don’t know all the answers—heck, I don’t know half, or even a 16th of the answers!—but I DO know that what it all boils down to is the trust that we have in God.  Solomon councils in Proverbs 3:5:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, ​​​​​​and do not rely on your own understanding.

   Still, I cannot help but wonder if many bad dreams can be prevented.  I wonder what would happen if I stopped watching TV and reading “fun novels” for a week, and started praying and reading God’s Word instead, right before I turned in each night to sleep?  Would the nightmares cease?  This week, I am going to find out—and I think the conclusion will be interesting.

   Every day from Thursday the 12th to Thursday the 19th I will post the results of my “experiment” on my blog: what passage I read from the Bible before I fall asleep, and the types of dreams I have each night (if I can remember them).  This is probably something worth doing regardless of the conclusion that is drawn; after all, spending more time with God is never a waste of time!  
   If you like, you can join me by fasting from entertainment and praying instead from Wednesday the 12th to the 18th, and post your experiences beneath my posts as comments.  Who knows; maybe this week will be so successful for us that we might just keep fasting and praying forever!  Ha-ha, I guess we’ll see.  

Dreamers, Let the entertainment fast and nightly praying begin!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Love is a Verb

    I have been thinking lately about the role of a Christian, and of a believer’s love relationship with God. Having only escaped the old works-based-relationship-with-God mentality just this past year, I have been wary of all messages that stress the importance of working for God.  Since my mindset has changed, I have been mostly focusing on God’s thoughts and love for ME. Now, I feel like it is time for me to kind of switch gears and shift my focus from myself to my thoughts and love for HIM—and to serving Him. After all, if God is supposed to be my Father, Husband, and Friend, shouldn't my heart’s greatest desire be to please and serve Him?  In John 13, after Jesus washes His disciple's feet; He explains His actions in verses 12-15:

    So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them,  “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

    Obviously, such loving, selfless, pious feelings cannot be merely contrived or forced—only the authentic thing could ever suffice. So…what should be done? Should my heart be buried in the ground and daily watered in hopes of growing a servant's heart?  Should I do some special heart-warming routine? Go to the gym every other day and work my heart out to make it stronger, more enduring? Or is my heart’s condition such a hopeless case that I should go to the hospital and demand a heart transplant—switch my cold, callused, hypocritical, insufficient heart for a stronger, God-approved, more munificent heart? Uh—NO, definitely NOT.


    Just as with any love relationship, I realize that if I want to draw closer to God, I have to listen to what He says—learn more about Him, and about what makes Him happy. I will start by 

1) analyzing every line of the love letter He wrote for me—His Word—and 

2) give Him the love and respect He deserves by living according to those precious Words. 

    I didn’t come to this conclusion so decisively until a day or so ago, when I saw my heart attitude towards God implanted in my brother towards my mother. My younger brother makes a habit of declaring a passionate love for my mother—he tells her so every time she is upset with him. Recently, after proclaiming his love for my mother to her and even claiming that he would die for her, he rebelled against her authority to her profound exasperation. She still loved him, but she was disappointed because her son did not show her that he loved her by obeying her. His actions clearly contradicted his words, leaving his passionate declarations of love empty and flimsy without action to support them. 

    At the time, I quietly looked down upon my brother for his duplicity—that is, until I realized that I had the same heart attitude towards God. Even though I say that I love Him, I write about Him, and I do things in His Name, I do not consistently obey His commandments, nor do I acknowledge Him in all of my ways. James 1:23-24 asserts: 

If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 

    I know a lot about God’s Word, and I can talk all day about the character of God, but when it comes to me—only silence can prevail. I am so inadequate before God. It is not that I think He loves me less for my inadequacy, it is just that I could do so much better—love God more completely, apply His Word more diligently. 
    I may not be much of a Christian, but at least God is still showing me things. The day my whole life seems “easy” or my knowledge of God seems “complete” or “finished” is the day I need to fall onto my knees and pray for God’s mercy. While I am here on earth, things should not be easy. Peaceful, joyful, yes—but NOT easy. Not perfect—at least on the exterior level. If everything’s right on the exterior level, things are probably messed up on the interior level, because 

1) God allows His children to go through trials in life to make them stronger, and 

2) the devil doesn’t need to attack lukewarm Christians—it’s the wily, hot ones that he’s got to worry about!

    In conclusion, I want to serve God--not because I HAVE to, but because--well, God loves me, and I am HIS friend!  Jesus said so in Matthew 15:15:  

    I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Good friends don't have to be told to serve each other; they serve each other because they love each other.  I know that I will mess up--a lot--but I won't let that deter me from trying as hard as I can to serve God wholeheartedly!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Day's Resolutions

    Wow, I can't believe its 2012!  It seems like just yesterday I was clinking champagne cups full of apple cider with friends and family, 
declaring, "Happy 2011!"  and toasting the New Year.  The ball dropped in New York City, the stars twinkled overhead outside.  The stars are still twinkling, but now it is 2012. 

  I wonder what this year will be like; what difficult circumstances will I be faced with?  What beautiful moments will I experience?

    Every year millions of people make crazy New Year's resolutions, and I, a teenage girl, am no exception.  My past goals for the year have ranged from writing bestselling novels to mastering my nonexistent gymnast's split to flying out of state to see obscure concerts.  All of these so-called "resolutions" have been unsuccessful for me thus far, but still I hope for future success.  
    Last year my goal was to earn my driver's licence (my learner's permit is on the verge of expiring), but my hopes were in vain.  I have yet to drive myself anywhere without getting "white-knuckle syndrome" on the steering wheel or basically having a mini meltdown in the driver's seat, my distraught mom sweating bullets in the passenger's seat beside me (I am sure sitting in an electric chair would be more comfortable for her at moments like these).  Yep, people make resolutions, but resolutions don't come with "money back guarantees" (unless they are treadmills), and they certainly don't promise certain success.

    But for the past few years now, I have set different types of goals for myself on New Year's Eve, something like a New Year's resolution, but deeper.  I write a small list of "hopes" on the top of my January calendar page, things I hope God will show me, ways I hope to grow spiritually.  It is like a written prayer--and, so far, God has answered me every year without fail.  Last year I prayed that I could draw closer to God, and that I could get along better with my younger siblings.  Not only did God reveal more of Himself and His mysterious grace to me last year, He allowed me the opportunity to grow closer to my brothers.

    It is not as if God takes New Year's Eve prayers more seriously than others...I think that it is just me who makes them special.  Really, I think God wants all of our prayers to feel special, because they are.  That we can converse with the Awesome Creator of the Universe seems like a total miracle to my limited, finite, human brain!  Another flabbergasting notion: God wants us to come to Him with our hearts desires.   In Jeremiah 11:9-12 Jesus says, 

"...Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 
    Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 

    This is not to say that God will answer every question immediately or even in the affirmative.  Jesus gives us an example of a child asking his father for something that is clearly good for him to have.  If the child had asked for a snake, it would have been irresponsible of the father to grant him his desire!  if God's answer to our prayers is "No" or "Wait" we just have to trust Him and know that He knows what He's doing.  His ways are far above our ways!

    So what is it this year that is weighing on your heart?  Are you struggling with an addiction?  A family problem?  Maybe your heart's desire is marriage, but that special someone does not seem to be coming along as quickly as you would like.  My suggestion?  Pray, and wait on the Lord.  This answer may seem trite, but it is so true.  My heart's prayer for this year is found in Lamentations 3:22-24:

    Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning;
great is [God's] faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

Sometimes God is slow to answer because He wants us to trust Him regardless of our life circumstances.  When a person loves another person, they learn to trust that individual.  God wants to have a love relationship with each and every one of us.  In order for that to happen, it is essential that we learn to trust God in every aspect of our lives.

    If God wants you to have the desires of your heart (and if your heart is aligned with His, He most likely will), He will take care of it for you.   in Jeremiah 29:11 God assures His people, "...I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
   My 2012 New Year's resolution?  To pray more, and trust God with all of my hopes and my future.  If I slip up and fall on my butt (which will most likely happen a few times), I am not going to say, "Oh well, better luck next year;" instead I am going to get right back onto my feet and declare a New Day's resolution!  I am tired of trying to hash life out on my own.  I am fed up with living for transient worldly pleasures.  This year, I am going to strive to serve God with my whole heart, and in the process, change the world around me.
    And who knows?  Maybe I'll finally master that gymnast's split this year after all!