The God of Everywhere

god

I have this great opportunity that allows me to get paid for singing in church.

A member of the congregation at the First Presbyterian Church in my college town donated a grant to the choir program for college students to get paid for singing in the choir.  I love singing and I love church (and of course wouldn’t mind being paid!) so this is an ideal opportunity for me.  Every Sunday I go to the Presbyterian Church at 8:30am for choir practice.

I really enjoy singing in the choir.  It’s a small and informal practice every week.  Most of the other choir members are retirement aged members of the congregation, except for one or two other college students.  Everyone is extremely friendly and I think the typical conversation in the room is quaint and polite.  The music is lovely too.  I like to be kept on my toes by sight reading music once a week.

However, I didn’t grow up in a Presbyterian church.  I’ve found them to be a bit more traditional than I’m used to. At the same time, I am missing all three services at the church I prefer to attend.  When the service seems to drag on, I think to myself this:

The God of Hillside Church is the God of the First Presbyterian Church too.

In more applicable terms: God is present everywhere.  Where you are now, and wherever it is you want to be.

I would be will willing to bet that everyone has wanted to be somewhere else at some point in their life.  Maybe you have wished that God would have placed you in a more exciting line of work.  Or perhaps you wish you were in a slower pace of life.  Maybe you have been in a place where you don’t feel appreciated.  Human beings are pretty good at finding fault with what we have.

I have a lot of friends who are literally all over the world.  They are pursuing the desire that God has placed in their hearts to know Him and his people more.  It really seems like they are “out there” doing God’s work.  It often seems to me that going to college and getting a degree in theatre is a less glamorous option.   It seems like it doesn’t exactly align with the following verse.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19-20

How often do we let that sink in?  God is always with us.  When you try something new, and when you fail.  When you do something scary or something bad, He is with you.  God is with you even when you wish He wasn’t there, and He is most certainly there when you need him most.

god

It’s hard to comprehend because there is nothing in this world that we can compare to the presence of God.  Recently God has been revealing to me some things that are simply head knowledge versus the things I truly believe in my heart.  I would say there is a difference between knowing that God is always with you and actually knowing.  This is something I am working on making more than just head knowledge- closer to wisdom of the heart.

What I’ve come to realize is that going to college and getting a degree in theatre is going out into the world.  God doesn’t make mistakes when He decides what direction your life is going to take.  Not everybody is called overseas to experience the vast world God has created, and you are no less of a servant because of the path you’re on.   The God of the world is the God of where you are right now.

My Focus Words for This Season

season

Fall is upon us!  With September comes the changing of seasons.  For me, I am now fully in the season known as my sophomore year of college, and it has certainly been a transition!  I am sure many of you are entering new seasons of your own.  I’d like to share with you something that may make all of our transitions a bit easier.

This past summer I decided on two focus words.  One word I would be giving up, the other I would be incorporating into my life.  I knew that choosing these words didn’t mean an immediate change in my life.  I knew I would fail at times, but this was something I chose to go through with God.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”  -Romans 12:2

Changing our character is not something we can do by our own power.  God wants this to be about how He can change us into better versions of ourselves.  Choosing focus words for a season is simply a way to channel our thoughts and focus our actions toward something specific.

My Words For Last Season

This past summer I knew that God had to do some serious work on my heart if I was going to do my job as a Bible Camp counselor.  I was feeling completely drained from my last semester of college and I found it hard to invest in my relationship with God.  I didn’t feel like I was in a place to do God’s work.  My focus words were a way that I could reconnect with God.

Resentment

In a college setting, you are bound to run into people that you don’t understand.  No matter what you are studying, I guarantee that you will be running into people that you don’t get along with.  However, I thought that the resentment I was so ready to give out to others would suddenly go away once I got to camp.  The camp community is the best community I’ve been a part of, so surely I wouldn’t resent any of my coworkers, right?  Wrong.

If resentment is a problem for you, you must first realize that it is your problem and not anybody else’s.  This resentment I was harboring was poisoning the relationships I was building with my coworkers.  I grew continually concerned about how I was feeling towards.  The reason I found it easy to resent my coworkers was because I was used to resenting others.  I had allowed resentment to be a part of how I understood people, and that didn’t change just because I wasn’t at college anymore.

So resentment was the word I chose to give up to God this summer.  Every time I felt annoyed with someone, I would pray for God to take this resentment away from me.  Before long, I found that the familiar feeling of resentment was gone!  I can vividly see how God answered my prayers and changed my heart.

Spirit

Going into this season of my life, I remember believing that I was not someone that God spoke to very much.  This was false thinking on my part.  I now firmly believe that God speaks to everyone, we just have to learn to listen to him.  This summer I wanted to learn how to listen to God.

So I prayed to become closer with the Holy Spirit, and wouldn’t you know it, it worked!  I recently read that we should pray as though God has already answered our prayers.  This is especially true when it comes to knowing God more.  That is all He wants for us: to be continually pursuing Him!  While I experienced a lot of growth in my relationship with God this summer, it doesn’t mean I won’t stop praying for the Holy Spirit in this new season.  I am much more aware of how God talks to me now, and I can’t wait to see where we will go together!

season

My Words For This Season

Now I am in a very different season of life.  Every new season deserves a new focus.  For me, it seemed obvious that these are the words I am meant to focus on this season.  I know it won’t be easy, and I will definitely fail at times, but with God’s help, I know anything is possible!

Shame

I think this is a more prolific word for embarrassment, or in Delaney-terms, awkwardness.  I don’t want to be embarrassed about living out my faith.  The challenge is that I don’t really know what that looks like.  What does it look like to truly live a life without shame?  I am excited to see what God does this season as I surrender this word to Him.

Peace

I am so excited that this is the word I will be taking on this school year!  I have already witnessed a whirlwind of emotion and stress with me and my classmates, but I have chosen to focus on He who give us peace instead!  When I feel the weight of this world (or at least the weight of my classwork) I cling to this verse-

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” -John 14:27

I am so excited to see what God will do in this season of my life!  Is this something that you have ever done?  If so, I want to hear about what it was like for you to choose focus words for a season of your life!  What words have you chosen for this season?

season

Learning to Be Still With God

learning to be still with god

Recently I have been discovering what it means to be still with God.  And by “being still” I mean lack thereof.

My brain and my overall presence has been pretty frazzled recently.  I have basically been on auto-pilot for the last month in attempts to make it through this semester in one piece.  It’s taken all my energy not to throw in the towel on school and maintain a healthy attitude.

Flashback to winter break:

Break was great because I actually got to rest my brain for a while.  I spent a lot of time at home coloring and listening to music. 🙂  I also felt like I was in a place where I was available for God to speak to me- and He did.  My life was quiet, my brain was quiet, and I was still.

“Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.”  -Psalm 37:7

Well, I’ve been kind of failing at the “being still” part and the “presence of the Lord” part.  I didn’t even realize it until after weeks and weeks of a busy schedule that I haven’t been still at all.  That just goes to show you how effectively this world can sneak up on you.  It feels like driving a car and getting caught up in your thoughts until you realize that you’ve driven into the middle of nowhere.

I’d like to give you a little insight that I’ve picked up in the last couple days, so hopefully you can be aware of your own level of stillness.

Reasons why you aren’t being still

You may just be too busy.  I love to keep a busy schedule doing things that I love.  I get some cheap thrill when I make it through a season where I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but this is a surefire way to not keep your head in the game and your heart in touch with God.  In Brant Hansen’s book Unoffendable, he talked about a period of his life when he and his family spent a lot of time at home, together, doing basically nothing.  They started getting funny comments from their neighbors like “I’ve looked outside and seen your family.  I’ve watched you.  And when I see your family, I don’t even know why, but I think about God.”  Now, I don’t know if I could ever slow down my life to the point of doing “nothing” but I think there is something to be said for restfulness.  You can read more about Unoffendable in my review here.

Your lens may be too small.  As in you “lens of life.”  (It’s cheesy, sorry)  But honestly, if you are getting caught up in day-to-day drama then you may need to zoom out to get a bigger picture of things.  Or perhaps you are one of those people who is always counting down to the events in the future.  I am pretty guilty of this.  Of course it’s ok to have aspirations and things to look forward too, but learning to be content in the present is essential when it comes to learning to be still with God.  Learning to be happy in the present moment means learning to be happy all the time.

Learning to be still

There is a concept in meditation that your objective should be to reach a state of simply letting things be.  For example, you may have a thought enter your head, but you should try to simply let it go and not get caught up in the fixation.  You should be able to look at something and not form an opinion of it.  I do not practice meditation (although I would like to) but I can definitely see the benefit of this concept.  You don’t have to have an opinion on everything.  Likewise, relentlessly holding onto your own opinions and feelings about worldly issues won’t do you any good in the long run.  Learn to let things go.

You can always surrender it to God.  If you’ve found that your lifestyle is just too busy to make time for God in your thoughts, then pray about it.  Ask your friends to pray about it too.  Maybe you just need some strength to get through this busy season, which is pretty much every student ever.  Pray for peace of mind and a stillness of heart so you can better hear God despite your busy life.

Get in touch with creation.  It’s summer baby!  Go outside and appreciate this beautiful earth!  I believe that one of the reasons why I became so close to God when I worked at camp was because I was outside all the time.  It’s hard to ignore God when you are experiencing his creation.

How being still can help you

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”  -Psalm 62:5-6

We all need God all the time.  Learning to be still with God is a practice that will constantly remind us to keep Him in our lives.  It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of school, work, family, friends, and whatever drama you are experiencing, but it’s worth the time and effort to learn to be still in Christ.

Even though I put Jesus on the back burner for a while, I don’t need to feel remorse or guilt for letting my guard down.  I don’t have to write a paper or stay after class.  I can pick up with God right where I left off, no strings attached, and that is what Amazing Grace is.  You can do that too!

There are several times in the Bible where stillness is expresses. Here’s a list of 25 Bible verses about being still. 🙂

Is quieting your mind and being still with God something you struggle with?  Leave a comment, I’d like to get a discussion going!

Book Review: “Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen

 

unoffendable

Have you ever considered what it means to be Unoffendable?  On this day I am bringing you my thoughts on a book that I believe to be capable of changing the world!  From the very first pages, I knew it was something I wanted to share with a large number of people, and I have already recommended it to several friends, and now I get to recommend it to you!  Shall we begin?

This book was recommended to me by my mother.  (Who also has a blog, where she shares her artistic adventures.  How about that?)  When she explained the concept of this book to me, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more.  Now, I can easily tell you that this book is, like, my jam.

The concept that fuels this book is that Christians can not only choose to be unoffendable, but that Christians should be the most unoffendable people on earth!  In order to become “unoffendable” we must renounce our right to be angry.  The book also answers many questions about judgement, entitlement, justice, and human nature.

“I used to think it was incumbent upon a Christian to take offense.  I now think we should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on a planet that seems to spin on an axis of offense.  Forfeiting our right to anger makes us deny ourselves, and makes us others-centered.  When we start living this way, it changes everything.”

I can tell you firsthand that it does change everything.  I have been seeing this world differently since reading this book, and honestly, I think it’s the way I wanted to see all along.  I remember specific times in my life where I’ve wanted to tell someone “You can’t offend me” in order to establish the trust that they needed and comfort them in their insecurities.  However, I felt that cultural-barrier that told me I was entitled to offense.  If someone treated me horribly and slammed my Christian beliefs, surely I would be justified in my anger, therefore it must be okay.

Since reading this book, I have told people that I can’t be offended, and it is such a relief!  While some people may not bat an eye at the thought of offending others, for some people that’s all they think about.  They are worried they are a bother to others because of their personality or character.  Yet there are other people who go around provoking offense because they expect others to be angry with them.  My decision to remain unoffendable has broken down the barriers between both these types of people, and I am so grateful that I am learning to look past our differences.

The real replacement for anger and offense is love.  I’d say the most powerful effect that this book has had on me is the release of the obligation to get upset at everything that doesn’t line up with my beliefs.  By just letting it go, I have found a great sense of peace in the world around me.  Just learn to accept that everyone has sinned and move on so you can love that person!

“Anger is extraordinarily easy. It’s our default setting. Love is very difficult. Love is a miracle.”

That’s awesome! Tweet it here:

Anger is extraordinarily easy. It’s our default setting. Love is very difficult. Love is a miracle. Click To Tweet

Unoffendable explores the tender balance between striving to be like Christ and being completely aware that we are not Jesus: a concept that we should all explore and try to understand.  The book is an easy-read with several stories, quotes, and a sense of humor that the author, Brant Hansen, uses to illustrate his points.  It’s entertaining!  I also appreciate Hansen’s honesty in his own mistakes when it comes to being unoffendable and loving others.

Not gonna lie, I got super pumped up reading this book.  I can only imagine what the world would be like if we all chose to be “unoffendable”, but for the small part I play in this world, this decision has done me good.

“Yes, the world is broken.  But don’t be offended by it.  Instead, thank God that He’s intervened in it, and  He’s going to restore it to everything it was meant to be.  His kingdom is breaking through, bit by bit.  Recognize it, and wonder at it.”

So, what do you think about being unoffendable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I really believe that this is an important subject, so don’t be afraid to bring it up with me, or your friends, or family.  Also, if you read this book, let me know!  I love talking about it!  Follow me on Twitter or comment on this post and we can have a nice little chat. 🙂

unoffendable

 

All Christians are Pretty Messed Up- Here’s Why

all christians are pretty messed up- here's why

Throughout the process of setting up and establishing this blog, I gave a lot of thought to the kind of content I wanted to post.  It’s taken a pretty different direction from what I first intended, but that’s ok.  I really want this blog to focus on living my life, but always incorporating my faith.  However, in the midst of organizing my brain and my thoughts, I’ve realized that I’m a pretty messed up person.

I remember my youth pastor was giving a lesson back when I was in high school.  I don’t remember what the lesson was about, but one point stuck out to me.  “Let’s face it, we’re all pretty messed up people, aren’t we?” he said.

Well, my first reaction was, “mmm… No, I’m not that messed up.”  Everyone probably thought so too.  Even today I don’t drink or swear.  I’ve never gotten into drugs, and I’m pretty nice to people.  I have good friends and I respect my parents.  It was hard for me to see in what way I was “messed up”.

Right now, I am at a point in my life where I am more confident, happy, and closer to God than ever before.  And right now, I am more aware than ever of just how messed up I am.

In this day in age, Christians have a pretty clear view of what a “good person” is like.  You can see it: they dress modestly, they smile a lot, they are involved in the church, they read their Bible every day, they are pursuing a future, they date other Christians and have Christian friends.  All these things tend to gain some brownie-points within the Christian community.  When someone doesn’t conform to these types of characteristics, they are sure to turn a few eyes here and there.  I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes it seems like Christians are scared they will catch sinner-cooties or something.  Ya feel?

But guess what? We’re all sinners.

And yet, I’ve talked to so many people who feel uncomfortable simply stepping foot inside a church because they know they don’t fit the “typical mold” of a “good person.”

It breaks my heart when I encounter people who feel unaccepted, or even remorseful of the Christian community.  As Christians, we are called to minister to all people.  The fact that we get caught up in being a “good person” is truly messed up.

Jesus was notorious for associating with sinners, and even He got a lot of heat from the churches of His day.  Take a look at this passage from Luke.

“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.  ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.  Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’   Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'”  -Luke 5:27-32

If this happened today, a sinner like Levi would be equivalent to a drug dealer, a murderer, or the Kardashians.  That’s how radical Jesus’s actions were.  If we are to be Christ-like, then we too must extend grace to our fellow sinners.

I don’t even realize it sometimes, but I try pretty hard to be a “good person.”  I try to be nice to people, but I realize that sometimes I’m nice simply because that’s what I’m supposed to do, not because I really care about them.  I’ve realized that sometimes my “acts of kindness” are really “acts of selfishness” because I do them for my image rather than to make other people feel welcome.

How about worry?  I am willing to bet that you and I both spend a lot more time worrying about things than we should.  It messes with our heads.  However, there is an all-powerful God that is watching out for us throughout it all, and yet we still devote so much energy to worrying about worldly things.  (Here are some helpful verses to help combat worry.)

Oooh!  How about this?  Have you ever wanted to fix someone or something?  I have.  Touching people’s hearts is not an easy thing to do, and for some reason we think we’re qualified to do such a thing.  I have definitely wished I could change some people just by telling them what they’re doing wrong.  Once again, there is an all-powerful God that cares about every one of us, why would we try to take matters into our own hands?

See?  Messed up.

All these things are simply human nature.  It’s just that human nature has majorly tripped us up.  That’s why we need God so much- we can’t even trust ourselves.  We are not messed up because we are Christians, we are messed up because we are human.

However, the greatest mistake we can make in this case is believing that we aren’t messed up.  Assuming that because we are Christians we have some sort of authority in our own lives (or anyone else’s life) is a surefire way of doing some real damage.

Now, these are just some observations that I have discovered in my own life, but I realize that everyone has their own “messed up” lives, with different versions of how we fall short as Christians.  Still, we are united because we all desperately need Jesus.  Just remember:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  -Romans 3:23-24