Puzzling Thoughts

The following are a collection of thoughts I had while recently putting together a puzzle in relation to understanding and reading the Bible, and understanding God’s will. 

At the start of a puzzle, its a little overwhelming. All of the 1,000 of the pieces are filled with color and the shapes couldn’t be more random. You’ve seen the box which the puzzle came in most likely, so you know what it is supposed to look like in the end. Some of the pictures within each piece can be deciphered, while other pieces look all too generic. Even while looking at the picture on the box it can be unclear how one of those pieces will fit in.

Where to Start

I’ve grown up watching my mom and grandma do puzzles, and have learned there IS a right way to start them out. First you take all of the pieces out of the box. They need to be sorted into pieces that go along the edge of the puzzle and those that will fill the in the boarders. You ALWAYS start by making the outline of the puzzle.

This made me think of the verse, “…for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). The outside pieces are not overall more important because they get put together first (in my family’s case), they are most useful at the start of the puzzle adventure. The pieces that make up the 1st building you see come together or the part of the forest that is so colorful and easy to spot the pieces for are not more important that parts you assemble later; because once you see the big picture – thats really all you can see! The lines from each shape of each piece fade away in the backgrounds of the puzzle as a whole.

Now, of course the bible was not referencing puzzle construction in Esther 4:14, but it highlighted the idea in my mind that things (puzzle pieces for example) make the most sense in certain orders, contexts or understandings. The edges of the puzzle give it its form. This could appear as a result of all of the other pieces, but the structure is given to us fairly easily if we choose to start there. Similarly, the individual puzzle pieces are like pieces of Scripture, and making up an entire Bible inspired by God.

Little Pieces in a Big Picture 

Where do you choose to start when you are reading the Bible? Do you pick a random verse and hope it fits in with what you already know? Do you read it in its context so at least for that day, in that moment on that page it makes sense? Or do you apply it to your life with the whole context of the Bible in mind? I think sometimes we become guilty of loving a verse so much, we forget what it meant from God, and hold on to what it means for us. Don’t get me wrong, I think its very important to have personal meaning come out of scripture, but not if it is at the expense of what the author originally intended.

If we start too detailed with the Bible, we are really just making random guesses. Like picking up a random puzzle piece at the beginning of the puzzle and trying to figure out where it goes. A puzzle piece (or line of Scripture) can look like one thing when it is standing alone, but given context takes on a whole new meaning.

If we start a little more broad though, we are able to see things that should “fit” and be consistent with what the rest of the Bible is communicating. This thought, and many of these thoughts have been products of a bible college course I took with Dr. Gordon Anderson called “Hermeneutics”. Hermeneutics is the study of understanding the Bible. Dr. Anderson made a very clear point that will stick with me for life. A God who acted to save the people he created, to be in a relationship with them, wouldn’t want to make his own words to them so complicated that they couldn’t figure it out. The Bible is consistent, it is much simpler than we make it. Studying word origins and original language, and culture of the time does give added value to the text, but God never intended it reading the Bible to be like solving a mystery.

I don’t want to live out my Christian faith based on guessing what a scripture might mean, or what it could probably mean. I want to base my faith off of the Truth, which to me is in the pages that fill the Bible. One sentence standing alone won’t explain the entire book fully. (Although, one could argue that there are a few scriptures that efficiently communicate the message of the Gospel)

Looking for Just the Right Piece 

I noticed myself spending a considerable amount of time looking for a certain piece. I knew the shape, I knew the general color it needed to be, but the longer it took to find it the more convinced I became that it must be missing. I stopped and realized, how great it is that that is how God works too. He knows what he is looking for in someone to be a part of carrying out his will. He knows how they will need to fit into a context around them. There were times during this puzzle expedition that I was sure I had found the piece, but it only “kind of almost” fit into the surrounding pieces (no matter how badly I wanted it to fit).  Sometimes I was so surprised at which piece actually fit,  because in my mind, more than one piece could fit. In the end there is only one piece that does fit perfectly, and it was designed to fit there perfectly. Unlike pre-cut puzzle pieces though, humans have free will. This is what allows us (or prevents us) from fitting into a spot God wants to put us. We can have all of the qualifications (which, he gives us by the way) and still not fit – when we don’t want to. God sees you as “just the right piece” for something he wants to accomplish, if you will allow yourself to let him use you and fit perfectly into his bigger plan. 

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you want me to what?!

This morning I was at my church for a prayer opportunity.  Its open to anyone in the college ministry I go to, but I was the only one there. I feel like God pointed out some pretty valuable things to me while I was there. I wasn’t upset  or that no one else was there, and the last thing I want is for this note to seem condemning, but I just wished that people would experience what prayer really is. Prayer doesn’t have to be corporate all the time, but that is a different story for a different day.  I completely remembered when I was first hearing about these prayer opportunities…I knew it was something that a “good christian” would do, but I couldn’t help but feel like it could be a waste of my time. Sometimes my excuses were: its too early, I pray on my own, I’ll do it later, there is no way I could pray for an hour! I hadn’t yet realized that prayer is just communication with God. Needless to say, now I have a huge heart for prayer. “Good for you church-y girl” you might say. No! That is completely not it.

How many times have you checked your phone since you started reading this? Since you got on the computer? In the last hour? In the last 24 hours? So many of us are glued to our phones. They allow us to communicate with those around us. One device allows us to check our social networks, texts, phone calls, emails, anything pretty much all in once place. We all deeply desire to be in communication with those around us, to hear from them, and to feel noticed.

What if we all said a simple prayer as often as we checked our phones? Prayer is just talking with God.The same motives we have for communicating with people, we have for communicating with God! We reflect, we laugh, we cry, we vent, we exchange stories, we ask for advice, we catch up…the list goes on and on. If you go on your phone to check Facebook, before updating the world of your status, tell God what is on your mind. Before sending a text to a friend making plans for the day, ask God what his plans for you might be.  After you call some one to catch up, spend some time catching up with God. This doesn’t require putting your phone away,  kneeling on the sidewalk you are walking down, folding your hands, bowing your head and closing your eyes. It doesnt even have to be out loud!

I just put a silver dot with a sharpie on my phone. Every time I check my phone, it will remind me that as much as I need to be in communication with those around me, I NEED to be in communication with God to!

 

 

more like falling in love

By Jason Gray

Give me rules, I will break them
Show me lines, I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet

Its gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
Its like I’m falling, Ohhhh
Its like I’m falling in love

Give me words, I’ll misuse them
Obligations, I’ll missplace them
Cuz all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet
It never set me free

Its gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
Its like I’m falling
Its like I’m falling in love

Love, Love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

Its gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
Its like I’m falling, Ohhhh
Its like I’m falling

Its gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
Its like I’m falling, Ohhhh
Its like I’m falling
In love
I’m falling in love

 

This song has really been captivating my attention lately. Actually, the message of this song is what has been captivating me. Tonight at Chi Alpha  I spent some solid time just reflecting on the love that God has for me, and how I can better fall in love with God. I feel like so many times we think that falling in love is for our earthly relationships and is to be done with a tangible human being. I want to challenge you to seek out this same experience with your creator, savior and best friend. The following is what God journaled through me:

 

“Love fights. It doesn’t fight us, but ti does fight for us and on our behalf. Don’t get me wrong though, love isn’t pushy and in your face. It is quiet and it waits for when you are ready to let it in, to accept its invitation. It never goes away and nothing you could every say or ever do can EVER change what my Love is going to offer you. and my love is not all about me, in fact, it is all about you! I have been waiting to lavish my love on you! I will wait as long as it takes, but i want you to know that you don’t have to wait any longer.

God Vows:

I take you Danielle (or insert your name) , to be my princess, to have and to hold from this day forward. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in healthy. To love and to cherish from this day forward until early death unites us for eternity, when our relationship will further flourish!”

I hope that as you ponder these things for yourself that you realize that God is in this relationship with every intention of being in it for the long haul! Not only does he have that intention, but he has the faithfulness to back that promise up! He is there when we are in need and when we are in seasons of provision. He is there when we are weak and tired and want to give up, and when we cant help but jump up and down and dance and praise His name!

God just wants to love you!

olive constellations (connecting some dots)

Tuesday morning a few dots thrown together formed an amazing constellation in my mind:

I was walking to a morning prayer opportunity we have at my church. It starts at 7AM but it’s always worth it when I go! On the way there my mind was very peaceful, and I had a distinct thought that Satan is like a terrorist. I looked up the definition as soon as I got to church…here’s what dictionary.com filled me in on:

ter•ror•ism –noun

1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.

2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Sounds about right. Satan wants to inflict fear into our lives, causing us to distrust the abilities of our God. In my mind, I changed the words “government” and “political” to power, because after all, that’s what it comes down to. Now the definition reads:

ter•ror•ism –noun

1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for POWER purposes.

2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

3. a terroristic method of POWER or of resisting a POWER.

Yup, God has it and Satan wants it. See John 10:10 if you don’t believe me! I’ll come back to this point in just a little bit…

Not long after I got to prayer a friend of mine showed up. I told her about how I was recently at an event where I heard about the teachings and beliefs of the Islamic faith. I was surprised at how similar it was to Christianity. One point that the speaker made has really been convicting me lately. He had noticed that many of his Christian friends put a heavy focus on God’s love for them. To be a Muslim, he said, meant living out love for God. This perspective shook up the way I was viewing things. By no means am I saying that we are supposed to forget that God loves us, that is HUGE! But how much emphasis are we putting on how much we love God back? After all, after Jesus came and died for our sins, that wasn’t the end. It was just the beginning! The beginning of a life we could now live to the full. So, now that I understand God loves me and what He’s done for me…what am I going to do about that?

My  friend shared about how sometimes people act like fat olives. People just store up more and more of God’s love (olive oil) until we become these big fat olives storing up God’s love for ourselves. What we need to do though, is get pressed out so that God’s love and the Holy Spirit can work through us and use that love for even more. After hearing this I definitely had an image of a fat olive rolling around life. To be honest, it was quite similar to a Zoloft commercial. A little black and white cartoon, with a big fat olive rolling around. As I was sitting with my friend, my mind continued to play out this scene, and the olive rolled over a tack…pop! WOAH! Immediately I told my friend about this…and my explanation. This is where the Satan being a terrorist comes back in. See, God wants to fill us up with His love, and then have it pressed out through the Holy Spirit. Satan can’t handle this! He wants to put any and everything in our way that will stop this from happening. He wants us to lose our preciously earned “oLOVE juice” (Get it? Like olive…but olove…yeah) What’s more, if he can’t stop it from happening, he at least wants us to fear it! (Terrorism) How often do we store up God’s love, afraid that we might lose it? Or how often do we think that when we fall into sin that we do “lose it”, that we have actually LOST God’s love? It doesn’t go anywhere, He never changes! So Satan will go around, planting tacks and other sharp things attempting to ruin what God is doing in us, crippling us to live in fear of him. When in reality, Satan has nothing to offer us, nothing to promise us.

This is why it is so important to daily surrender to God. To daily be pressed out to Him and open to what He wants to do in our lives! If not we will selfishly roll around like fat olives holding in all He has for us, but not using it for His glory, not using it to reach out to others, or be used further.

Isaiah 55:10-11 reads:

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

This doesn’t meant that if Satan pops our olive that God is defeated, or that Satan even has one up on Him. It is just Satan trying to hold us back from what our God really has for us.

Bottom line: God sends His word and His love for us to be known and understood and to lead us into a life of service in His name for the people who still don’t know what He has for them! It doesn’t end with us. I guess prayer turned into more of a discussion, but what followed was so encouraging and affirming! Never be afraid to share what God is doing in your life, because our God is unlimited, and might have a few dots in your life He wants to connect :)

tired out yet?

Matthew 11:28-30 is a very popular biblical reference in our world of fast paced never ending stress! A devotion that I get via email referenced this but in the Message translation and I wanted to share it with anyone who might read this! It is a wonderful reminder of what our relationship with God is supposed to reflect:

28-30″Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Sign me up! But this isn’t a marketing campaign, it is the straight up honest truth of what God is offering us. Take a break, have a time out or a cup of coffee with Jesus. I know, you don’t have time to set aside 5 more minutes of your day, but do it anyways. Do it right now in fact! Stop reading this, and just relax for 5 minutes. God has really been challenging me with the margin in my life lately. I have been giving my time to Him first, and He has been graciously rewarding it and multiplying my time!

Disclaimer: Many times people read this verse and interpret it as God wont let any hardships come their way. What is important to note is that God wont give us more than we can handle WHEN we rely on His strength! (God didn’t say it would be easy all the time, but He does promise it will be worth it!)

Praying that you will invite God into your day and take a time out to relax with Him!! Have a wonderful day :)

new template:philippians 3

This weekend was so amazing! I was able to go on a retreat called “The Gathering”.  This weekend I was able to relax and reflect on all that God has done in my life over the past few years and far how I have come! PLUS it was my birthday, and there is nothing more affirming than spending the weekend with your friends being affirmed by them and by God!

I did a lot of looking back: and here is the best way to sum up what God showed me. The cliché phrase goes, our life is like a blank sheet of paper. Face it, in our technologically advanced world this is really a blank word document. Growing up I worked on this document, writing out what I thought life was, what it was for, what it was worth, how to go about it, what was important. The past 4 years or so this has been radically edited. God has edited my assumptions and written in His promises, purpose, love, grace mercy and guidance. It looks nothing at all like it did before. I like God’s version so much more! This weekend God and I did a “File>Save” maneuver. He has molded me and shaped me into this very person at this very moment, and there is no going back. From now on, this is my new template. Confident in Christ, joyful, beautiful, and eager to follow my Savior. This doesn’t mean I am perfect though. I am still going to get tripped up as we all do, but now I have a new place to back up to. There is no undoing the save that has been made. Last week in my devotions I studied Philippians 3, and it was clearly built into what God had in store for me this last weekend!

Pressing on Toward the Goal

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. There it is.

This morning we attended a church service and at the end we sang “From the Inside Out”. This hit me really hard, because I had a bit of a flash back. 3 years ago for my birthday (when I turned 18) one of my “presents” was that my whole family went with me to a church I loved going to. This was absolutely amazing! On top of being able to do one of my favorite things with the people I love most, I remember vividly balling my eyes out to that song. I was at a pretty broken place at the time, and was so desperate for God to plant something and that I would be transformed from the inside out. Every time I hear this song, I go back to that moment. I am just as desperate for God, but today was a little different. I was able to see evidence that God had not only done work on the inside of my heart, but of how it’s radiating outward. My entire life has changed since that time of my life. I am sold out and living for God, not turning back! This song is still one of my deepest prayers, but God’s affirmation in my life this weekend was so strong, and so valuable. I pray that you would be able to also look back and realize how God is molding and shaping you, and how radically different you are living your life. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus where you could do this, I pray that you would know that it is never too late, that you are never too far gone, and nothing will make God want to take back the infinite and eternal treasures He has for you!

Hillsong United lyrics – From The Inside Out

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out

My Soul cries out to You
My Soul cries out to You
to You, to You

My heart, my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out
From the inside out, O my soul cries out
From the inside out, O my soul cries out.

How crazy have your past few weeks been: Crazy, Extra Crazy, or Extremely Crazy with a side of crazy sauce? Our lives are jam packed with non negotiable activities like school and work, doubled up with everything else we want to do, volunteer for, and say we will do; not to mention that mysterious thing called sleep. I have found myself questioning what quiet even sounds like anymore. We constantly are pushing ourselves and those around us to the limit.

Think about it, when was the last time you went UNDER the speed limit by choice and not at the discretion of the person in front of you? We always go the limit. We go the very edge, and extent that we can. As we drive faster, we get closer to the cars in front of us. Our margin for error grows smaller. Some of us were taught the 3 second rule in drivers ed., being told to keep at least three seconds between you and the car in front of you as a buffer. Looking back, this was the limit I kept. 3 seconds or more translates in our minds to exactly 3 seconds.

No matter what part of life you think about, the busier we are the less room for error we have. The busier we are the more something minor or small is likely to throw off our entire day. We are always getting busier too! We are busier in high school than we were in previous years of education, busier yet in college, then we begin juggling spouses, careers, homes, pets, kids, and then the kids are in school and WOW! How did life get so out of control? “The speed of life” might be comparable soon to the speed of light!

So it is well established that we are in an Indy race called life. How do we slow down? How do we schedule in a pit stop? This past Sunday my pastor began a series on margins, and how important margins are in our lives. I want to share my thoughts about how we can learn to start relaxing and remember how to S L O W D O W N.

Margin is a pre determined buffer as I mentioned earlier. It lies between us and everything else in life. It is what is left over in our day after all other activities time has been accounted for. The smaller our margin gets, the higher our stress levels rise.

Luke 10:38 begins a story about margins; more often referred to as the story of Mary and Martha.

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41″Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

As you probably noticed, Martha has no margin. She was distracted by everything around her that needed to be attended to on top of Jesus showing up. Martha was so distracted by the little things that she started to miss out on the BIG things. These little things weren’t bad things necessarily, but nevertheless they took away from her attention span. (Good things become bad things when they keep you from the best thing.) Jesus stops Martha and lets her know that He wants her to stop, and be with Him.

Our pastor told a story of how a few days ago his son wanted to play catch, but the phone rang and things began to come up. This is probably a familiar story in all of our lives, at one point we were on the receiving end of being pushed aside, and at another point we were on the side of having to push something or someone off until later. Are you taking phone calls while Jesus wants to play catch with you?

Life doesn’t have to be this way! Really, no matter what excuse just formed in your mind, life doesn’t have to be this way! We have time for what we choose to have time for. It’s the cold hard truth. We can slow down by spending time with God, time where we are quiet and still enough to hear His voice in our loud static filled lives.

My pastor gave us a challenge I want to extend to you. Take 5 minutes every day this week to practice Psalm 46:10—Be still, and know that I am God. Five minutes of your day where you don’t worry, you don’t think about what comes next, all you do is be still, be calm, relax and know that God is God and He is in control! This is very hard, but I found that what was the best challenge for me was to start over every time I found myself worrying or not focusing on God!

If you feel like you are too busy to pause for a few minutes to spend time with just God, I want you to know that God always helps me manage my time enough to a. spend time with Him and b. even multiply the rest of my time thereafter.

God is inviting all of us to run with our burdens into His arms. He is inviting us to give Him all that is weighing us down so that He can replace that feeling with peace. The following lyrics are from the worship song, Invitation Fountain

Let all who are weak

All who are weary

Come to the Rock

Come to the Fountain

All who have sailed

On the rivers of heartache

Come to the see

Come on, be set free!

If You lead me Lord, I will follow

Where You lead me Lord, I will Go

Come and heal me Lord, I will follow

Where You lead me Lord, I will go I will go

Let all who are weak

All who are weary

Come to the Rock

Come to the Fountain

Let all who have climbed,

The mountains of heartbreak

Reach to the sky

Come on, and give your life

On the seventh day God rested because He needed it. Think about that. GOD, the creator of everything even NEEDED a rest! Certainly, human beings who are not divine and not all powerful would need a rest! Not only do we need the sleep kind of rest, but the kind of rest that can only come from our creator. Take some time to rest in your father’s arms today, they are open wide!