Thursday, May 26, 2011

is image everything?

Today I was reflecting on the old Sprite commercials, "Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst." I mistakenly remembered them saying this, "Image is everything. Obey your thirst." So much for my long term memory.

Even though Sprite was technically telling us that image was nothing, drink Sprite, they still created an image. An "I don't care what I drink, I just drink what pro basketball stars drink" image. They wanted you to think drinking Sprite would make you cool. Image.

Our culture is obsessed with image. Everywhere you look people are branding themselves, dressing to look the part of something they find cool. You want people to think something of you or about you when they see you. I'm no exception to this.

I like to dress artsy, I want you to think, "That girl must be something cool, like a writer, artist, musician or something. Does she shop at Anthropologie?" I want you to think I don't try too hard, when I secretly spend too much mental energy picking out what I'm going to wear... to the point it haunts my early morning dreams.

I hate the idea of wearing something that could accidently distort the image I try to carefully craft. What if this outfit looks frumpy? What if I look too sporty? What if I look lame?

You can find this sort of mentality everywhere you look. Magazine covers, television shows, movies, books, blogs, individuals on the street. Either they are invading your subconscious with a more stylish image than you could ever hope to be, or they are straight up telling you "5 Hot Looks for Your Summer."

I'm in a Bible study right now with women from my church. We are reading Beth Moore's book "So Long Insecurity." The book convicts me more than I would like to admit. Our obsession with the image we portray, whether it is based on our looks or talents is a best friend of our insecurities.

We think that an image that accurately portrays who we want to be or who we think we are will make us happy, and it never will.

Last Sunday we watched a video about the persecuted church. We saw images of Christians who had been brutally beaten, Christians who had terrible scars from lashings and acid. All because they followed Jesus and wouldn't deny His name.

That video hit me so hard. I worry about my appearance, and these brothers and sisters are infinitely more beautiful because of the scars they bear for Christ. They are suffering now, but when this life, this life that is but a breath passes away, they will reign with Christ in glory. How much more satisfying is it to work for eternity, than for the things of this world that pass away from season to season?

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

"So that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies." There is an image that we should bear above all others, the image of Christ. Let's lay aside the images of this world that so easily ensnare us, and become lights for Jesus. May Christ always and forever be our identity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

His hand upon my head.

I love rubbing a baby's head. On infants, their soft new skin with feathery hair. On toddlers ruffling their hair as they run around in the yard. Whenever I see my little brother or nephews I touch their heads. I don't know if they appreciate this ritual the way I do, but I like to think they don't mind too much yet.

I was thinking about this the other day and it reminded me of one my favorite verses from Psalm 139, "You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me."

This verse brought me to tears in high school. When my mom read this verse to me I realized that God really did love me, that His hand was upon me. I imagined His hand upon my head, me His beloved child.

Something about the love that is imparted through a simple placement of a hand really ran that truth home for me. Just like my hand rests briefly upon the head of my brother, my nephews, so too God's hand is upon me in a much more powerful and more loving way.

God's hand is upon you too. You may not feel it, you may doubt that He is there, but He loves you with a love deeper than you have ever known or will ever know. He knows your thoughts, your dreams, your suffering. He knows your heart. May you rest in the knowledge of His love, and feel its truth in your life.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"God made me fast."

Have you ever seen the movie "Chariots of Fire"? It is one of my favorite movies. The story is inspiring and it got me through my youth soccer days when my family and I chose to not participate on Sundays to honor the Lord's day. If you don't know the Eric Liddell story, please watch it or read a biography. It's really great.

In the movie Eric is talking to his sister Jenny. She wants him to go to China as a missionary. His family is involved in missions and he is planning to go. But before he goes, he wants to run. He has a chance to be on the Olympic team for Great Britain. This upsets his sister. He replies:

"God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."

Eric runs, and I won't share the rest of what happens in case you don't know the story.

I was thinking a lot about this the last few days. I always thought about the quote in relation to sports, feeling His pleasure as I played for His glory. But this week I thought about it in a broader context.

How did God make you?

Are you an artist? Do you love painting people, landscapes and more with a steady, creative hand?

Are you a mathematician? Do you love the intricacies of numbers and proofs?

Are you a gardener? Do you love creating a beautiful space full of God's plants and creatures?

Are you a chef? Do you love whipping together gastronomic masterpieces for others to feast on?

Are you a mother, a father? Do you love having children and raising them for the glory of God?

What do you love to do? What did God gift you in? When do you feel His pleasure?

Sometimes I think we get caught up in "What should I do?" and worry that the things God made us for are not what He is calling us to. We worry that there is always something nobler we could do, something more pure than the thing that gives us joy.

I'm not saying God doesn't ask us to give up things. I'm not saying His calling for you might not mean a great sacrifice for you, even your life. But I do think God loves to see you revel in the gift He has given you when you use it for Him.

Sing for Him. Run for Him. Teach for Him. Speak for Him. Work for Him. Paint for Him. Write for Him. Film for Him. Raise children for Him. Serve Him with your gifts.

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with Whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." James 1:16-18

Find joy in using your gifts for Him.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

strength when i'm weary

Are you tired? I sure am. I feel tired everyday. The sun is helping me out a little recently, in that I wake up at 5:55am thinking I slept through the alarm because it is gloriously bright outside. Hurrah for summer.

It seems as though I never catch up, always wishing for strength or just more sleep.

Are sleep and food the only sources of energy available to us? What is the answer when we have enough of both but still feel weary?

In the passage I posted yesterday it says "Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted." That's a bummer. Even the young, those in peak physical condition will reach the end of their physical ropes.

But Isaiah doesn't leave us there. "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength." The Lord is the source of energy, when you have served to exhaustion, worked to the bone, and cried your last tear.

"They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Yesterday this passage really encouraged me. When I went to work yesterday I was ready to slide-tackle the week. I had fresh ideas and encouragement from the weekend and I was ready to go. I came home exhausted and beat. And it was only Monday night. Faint and weary.

Reading this passage showed me how normal it was to be tired (even the youths) and how necessary it is for me to rely on the Lord's strength everyday. He is never tired, never weary. No amount of sleep, alone time, or anything else could truly help me face another day other than Him.

He gives power to the faint. I'm not okay with being faint. When I played soccer, I pushed through muscle pain and heaving lungs to get into the best shape I could. I hated weakness. I lifted and sprinted my way to strength of mind and body. And I don't like asking for help, I'd rather do everything myself than admit I can't do it.

Even though this works out for me sometimes, it always leads to my exhaustion and ultimately failure. I can't rely on my own strength. I must rely on His, the God who made me, the Lord who is strong and mighty, the One who is greater than anything I'll ever face.

Maybe my weariness is a chance for Him to be strong in my life. "But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

I'm feeling tired Lord, please help me rely on You for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual strength each day. Please be strong in my life that You may be glorified. I love You.

Monday, May 9, 2011

to the faint and weary

"Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
The Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
And to him who has not might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
And young men shall fall exhausted;
But they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up on wings like eagles;
They shall run and not be weary;
They shall walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:28-31

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I fake patience well. It's easy to say I'm waiting patiently, easy to nod serenely when others ask how long... even though I'm asking the same question.

It is hard to wait. I was born impatient. Babies cry for milk, cry to be changed, cry to be held, etc. When mom doesn't come to the rescue, we cry louder.

Sometimes I wonder if God ever considered giving me a pacifier to stop my hissy fits.

We live in a fast culture, instant gratification. People have said this many times before, and it's still true. We easy bake, take out, credit card, cash now, instant play our way through life. And we wonder why our days slip through our fingers like sand.

As a kid Christmas and birthdays could never come quickly enough. I spent many hours laying on the floor paging through toy catalogues circling, initialing and starring toys that I wanted to subtly hint to Grandma, Nana, and Mom that I had something I wanted other than clothes for Christmas.

I do that with God too, I ask over and over for things. And I think that is ok. He is our Fatherand He wants to give us good things. Things like marriage, babies, homes, healed relationships, purpose, inspiration, direction are not bad.

I run into trouble though when the thing becomes the most important thing each day, the asking, the pining. When I become dissatisfied with the way things are because I want it now.

I'm impatient. Impatience leads to impulsive action. It can also lead to immobility- it can be difficult to move forward when we are impatient with God. Maybe He wants to teach us something before He brings us to our soul mate, to our first child, to our next job, to the next chapter.

Maybe our way isn't right. Maybe patience would be easy if He really was in charge. Maybe patience could allow us to live in the moment, use every second where we are for Him. Maybe we could stop looking around the corner and see the flowers, the birds, the sky, the grass where we are now.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good."

Even though many things in this life require waiting, most good things really do... the best thing is always available. Jesus.

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20

Jesus has waited patiently for you. Come to Him, sit at His feet and wait patiently before Him. He is worth everything.

Monday, May 2, 2011

a quiet heart

Sometimes the darkness feels too great. Everything feels wrong and nothing feels light. Things you once clung to with confidence crumbled, and the sweet is now bitter to your taste.

And now your heart aches, not from one wound, but from a hundred little disappointments that surround your tired soul.

Busyness of life and stress have threatened to consume me. I've sat and cried repeatedly for the smallest of things that I wasn't strong enough for. My soul was troubled.

"You believe in God, believe also in Me."

I started reading Elisabeth Elliot's devotional "Keep a Quiet Heart" today.

In the opening chapter she talks about how Jesus slept through the storm, a storm that absolutely terrified his fisherman disciples. Elliot writes about how Jesus went through all of His life with a quiet heart because He had what Kierkegaard called purity of heart- to will one thing. Elliot says that one thing was the will of His Father.

I want to will one thing too. My Father's will.

If I am willing His will, the hundred little troubles will lose their heaviness when they are seen with My Father's eyes.

A difficult person- a chance to show God's love.

Trials at work- a chance to put others first and serve the least of these.

Busy with others- a chance to put others before myself.

Negative self image- a chance to find confidence in the One who made me.

Too often I allow the busyness I so despise to keep me from being with the One who can get me through each day, my Lord. I must find time to quiet myself before Him each day and all day that I may rest quietly with Him through the storm.