Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day

yeahyeahyeah, Jesus wasn't actually born today and all that jazz, BUT I'm celebrating His birthday today.

And on that note...

Let's be real.

It wasn't such a silent night. Jesus had people searching to kill Him before He was even born. The manger was smelly. Jesus was birthed from the womb of a poor, weary traveler. His daddy wasn't biologically his daddy, which surely stirred up some confusion (and gossip) around the whole scene. When He was born, there probably wasn't much to wipe the blood from his skin, and he only had His mother's shawl to clothe him. Since no one had room for him in the inn, I'm guessing there wasn't a party to celebrate his birth, either. And the wise men (however many there were) debatablely didn't even make it to see him until he was about two, so his birthday presents were possibly late.



And the miracle is this: that God knew ALL this would happen, but He made Himself human incarnate for us, anyway, even though we refused to welcome this baby King into the world. And He did all of it to teach us and then be killed by us.



I celebrate the day He was born, and ask forgiveness for ever holding Him to the cross with my sins as the nails. Praise Him! For HE is good ALL the time. Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sometimes

I think about either (a) committing to a life of non-Catholic nun-hood or (b) settling for an arranged marriage. At least, it SOUNDS easier than figuring out what I actually want to do about romantic relationships. Ugh.

But God has it all under control, thank goodness, because *I* sure don't.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Lesson I've Known For A Long Time But Am Just Learning to Apply to My Life

I like who I am and I am comfortable with who I am and I don't have to care if anyone else likes it or not.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Wish My Life Would Flow More Organically

but the prescribed expectations of reality hinder that flow and force me into an academic box some days when I want to be with people and into a people box some days when I want to be by myself.

*sigh*

Friday, December 2, 2011

I Was Practically Running




but I made it to Einstein's before they closed.

One Little Hour

I've been on the run since 7:30 a.m. There is a time for work; there is also a time for rest. I think I'm gonna give myself one lil hour to rest. THEN I will get back to work.

Zzz...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whew! Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

I totally have been freaking out the past week because my syllabuses and teachers were telling me that I had three finals in one day--the FIRST day of finals. It was going to be...

Sociology 8 am - 10 am

Spanish 10:30 am - 12:30 pm

German unannounced time but same day.

Then, I find out that my finals that day are...

German 8 am - 10 am

Spanish OPTIONAL if you have an A or B (and I do) but 10:30 am to 12:30 pm (yeah, right! not doing it)

and Sociology is SIX DAYS LATER.

I am extremely thankful. Thank You, thank You, thank You, God!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Be Free.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. "

--2 Corinthians 3:17

Monday, November 28, 2011

On a random note...

In Spanish AND in German, there is an infinitive for "to breakfast." In Spanish, that word is "desayunarse," and in German, that word is "frühstücken." In English, we only have the infinitive "to eat." Therefore, we have to use way too many words to explain what we mean (note: this happens often in English).

Example:

German:

Heute Morgen ich gehe frühstücken.

Total Words Used: 5

Spanish:

Esta mañana voy a desayunarme.

Total Words Used: 5

English:

This morning I am going to eat breakfast.

Total Words Used: 7

When translated, THESE ALL MEAN THE SAME THING.

Lesson to be learned: everyone should just speak Spanish and German. ;)

Current Life Lesson:

With some things, it is what it is, and there's nothing I can do about it, so I may as well abide in the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

*long, deep breath*

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Redemption

Prologue

Before the strange sickness came upon her, she was the most radiantly beautiful person on the earth. Her eyes were Sunshine, filled with the joy which came from within her heart. Her cheeks were the essence of roses; indeed, the flowers’ color could have been painted from the very palette of her smile’s complexion. Her skin was purer than snow, without a single flaw to taint her flesh. Her lips were pink like a baby’s, filled with the newness of life, rebirthed with color every time she uttered a word. Her nose had the slightest flare with every laugh, revealing the happy life she lived, no matter the circumstance. The dimples on her face were the most precious, simple signal of her unwavering love that she shared with everyone around her. And she said it came from a Man who had created her, who had known her in her most vulnerable state: the time when she was still unformed. He knew her intimately before the beginning of time. He was her Creator. And He had revealed His love to her, and He had breathed life into her previously unformed being. Yes. He was her Daddy, raising her. He was her Friend, consoling her. He was her Lover, loving her with a love like no one else, she said, had ever, could ever, love her.
But like I previously mentioned, that was before the sickness came.

Week One

The first week she showed signs of illness was the most frightening, if for no other reason simply than we had no clue as to what had changed our angel’s countenance. The eyes which had once lit up the room with their light became confused rainbows—an odd mixture of blood red, ice blue, forest green, and ravenous grey confused her lenses to the world. The cheeks which used to hold the romance of nature became the most horrid shade of pale green, shrunken, sucked in to where we could see the curvature of her teeth, in such a way that she seemed to believe if she released her tight clench she would puke. Her once snowy complexion lost its gentle tone and became a sickly shade—no sign of life demonstrated through the pale hue. Her full, child’s lips pursued thin and faded with color every time they frowned deeper in chagrin. Her nose remained thin and long and insecure. And, most depressingly, there was no sign of the sweet dimples in which once abided all the love the world could carry; they had disappeared altogether. The state of disorientation in which we found our angel afflicted our own hearts and caused us to ponder what suddenly changed her visage.

Week Two

The following week, our friend no longer appeared confused; however, this was of no delight to us, for in place of the confused rainbow eyes, her irises were Fire itself. They burned with flickering anger, they enlarged with flames of rage, they consumed whoever dared look into them with a hatred like no one had ever hated before. The red returned to her cheeks, indeed, but it was not the essence of a rose; instead, the blood of men pooled into her cheeks as her eyes pierced them until their hearts died. In fact, all the veins of her face were red—the trails of blood which scattered odiously about her face until reaching the deep, full cheeks. She bit her scabbed lips as if biting back words of vengeance, and when she dared open her mouth, the angry opening revealed teeth stained pink with the blood she had swallowed. Stressed wrinkles replaced dimples, and her whole face was disfigured with wrath. Our angel became our demon, our worry became our fear, and our life began to feel like death as we watched our friend digress into a strange slavery we could not identify.

Week Three

After two weeks of watching our friend progressively worsen (and keeping one eye open lest our life be taken from the vampire with whom we now seemed to abide), we observed her appearance change once again and began to wonder if she was only an apparition or whether some demon had possessed her soul. Even more frightening than the disturbing rainbow or the Fire, our acquaintance killed our souls slowly with eyes of Ice. Freezing, captivating, slowly and painfully murdering ice. A blue that never wavers, that makes you shiver just looking at it. Death. There was no vigor left in her cheeks; no room for fervor in her flesh at all. Her lips were camouflaged with her skin—they absorbed no warmth for pigment like the rest of her face. No breath seemed to be breathed from her nostrils; no thought impassioned her mouth to speak. Death lingered on her eyelids, her nose, her cheeks. We began to cry out to the God she had once claimed as her own. We prayed His forgiveness if this was some punishment for faults of our own. And we cried. And we bowed. And we hoped that some form of redemption would come.

Week Four

There are no words for what happened after the third week; but it would be unfair to lead on whoever reads the account of our dear friend. So I shall attempt to convey the story of our angel. The fourth week, the wash of our friend’s eyes was worse than ever before—yes, worse than death. Because this week, the dying was over, the murder was unthreatening, for our friend’s soul was dead. A hideous grey consumed her irises; her pupils were eaten by the wolves that enshrouded them. Inhuman darkness filled the once lush garden of her cheeks. Lifeless air flowed from her once laughing nostrils. No sign of life glowed in her eyes; what was once Sunshine was now Darkness. We mourned. We begged her, and now our, God to help us. “Mercy, Abba!” we pleaded, as our friend lay motionless on a patch of dirt, seemingly as dead in body as she was in spirit. We fasted and we prayed for weeks with no response, and we wondered if God really heard us at all.

Week Ten

Two months passed, and we finally began to carry on with our lives. We farmed. We cooked. We read our children bedtime stories before tucking them in for bed. People married. People birthed babies. People became ill, and some died while others were born. We resigned ourselves to the possibility that our friend may never return to us in spirit, but we would not leave her abandoned, so we took shifts to make sure she ate well, and we attempted to revive her with stories about our own lives—romances and battle victories and silly, random things that carried no lesson to be learned; anything to try to awaken her from her soul’s sleep.
Then, one day, our friend had a spark in her eye. She sat up on her own to eat her breakfast, and though no color returned to her cheek nor a sign of a dimple upon her face, that tiny hope of life in her eye excited us enough to celebrate. We were encouraged to continue sharing stories and bring her meals.
Day by day, her viability became more apparent, and we lifted our hands in worship to our God for responding to our prayers; we dance and we rejoiced. Faithfully, we continued as brothers and sisters in Christ to revive the spirit of our angel, and we thanked our Lord daily for His kindnesses.

Week Twenty

Though at times we became weak in our turn to socialize with our half-alive friend, and at times we forgot to pray, and at times we honestly didn’t care to help at all, God was gracious to accredit us for our efforts to love well, and after ten weeks of consistent love and care, our friend did return to her cheerful state. Sunshine was in her eyes, her cheeks resembled roses, her nostrils flared with laughter, and the dimples once again were pitchers of warm, agape love, overflowing to all who were around her. After some time passed, we inquired what had ever changed her countenance.

She told us that she had tried so hard to show us what love and joy looked like that she had failed to be honest with herself, and having not recognized her sin when she performed it, when she did realize her faults, it all came upon her so suddenly and vehemently that she had allowed lies to slip in, as well. The breath of demons swam into her ears and told her she wasn’t ever going to love anyone well enough to change their minds, and they told her that it was her responsibility to save us. So intoxicated with the concentrated poison of her unrepented sins, she fell into the trap of devils that were whispering lies into her heart. She said that Jesus tried to tell her it was His job to save, and all He expected of her was to love Him and to love others the best she could; but she took on the responsibility of being Light to others, anyway, and when she realized she was incapable of being a Hero to the unsaved, disorientation fell upon her, and immediately following that, she became hateful—despising herself for never being good enough and despising everyone else for not repenting of their sins. The hatred became consuming, but the vehemence became too much to handle. So, fervor drained from her soul like blood drained from her body, and she became stoically depressed, desiring nothing, needing nothing. And with that loss of purpose in life, death became the only logical decision for her. So, she resigned herself to a lackluster bitterness, killing only with her glare and living only with the faint pulse of her heart. And with that resignation, her soul died, and she confined herself to the one grassless, lifeless area in the field and stared into the sky without a care for anyone or for anything. This is when her eyes dimmed like her soul.

But, she said, when she overheard us praying, and she heard our plans of fasting, and she listening to the mourning of our sincere despair for her, though she did not care at the time, the memories developed in her mind and collected into a mental novella of love and hope. She still believed in God, whether she could remember who He was to her or not. And with our personal love toward her, branching out from the love we were now experiencing from God, she began to remember what Love looks like, and why her life had once been worth living. When we fed her and talked to her and without ceasing poured out love on her the best way we could, sacrificing our own leisure time to care for her, even in her state of soul-death, she began to pray, herself. Without any ounce of emotion left to offer, she told us, she simply asked God to help her live again and to feel His love again. And, day by day, warmth filled her heart, and she remembered her purpose as she watched us dance in the joy of the Lord, and as she listened to us read the Bible to our children, she recalled times when she had read the same stories and pored over passages that spoke of Jesus’ care for her.

She warned us to never forget where our identity lies—in God alone—and to always be good to one another, honoring one another above ourselves. But, she reminded us, we will at times fail, we will at times not care, we will at times need to repent of our sin. But GOD is the one who saves; our job is simply to love one another the best we can.

And she ended her story with a prayer. She thanked our God for friends who became family through Him, and she praised Him for redeeming her, the first time when He saved her from spiritual death and the second time when He sought out His prodigal daughter. And she concluded the whole story of redemption by looking us each in the eyes with the suns gleaming in her own and said, “We shall all remember from this that our God will always take old, broken things and recreate them into something new and beautiful, because OUR God—He redeems.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Journal Entry of November 16th, 2011 or "Liberty" (the reader may decide which title is preferable; I find both equally Realistic and Romantic)

“Liberty”

I don’t want to be—

Angry—

Any longer.

I don’t have to hold on—

To these grudges.

I no longer desire—

To be—

Somebody apart from—

You—

My Beloved.


So won’t You take these chains—

And break them?

And won’t You take these hands—

And lift them?

Give me freedom.

And teach me how to walk in the liberty

Which You have so freely given—

To me—a sinner—

From You—My Savior.


P.S. Today I will not make an excuse for taking so long to write, despite the fact that I hold much in my heart which I am capable of writing. In the fond words of Henry David Thoreau, a fellow soul writer with whom I am friends if “opposition” truly “is true friendship” (in regards to his transcendental beliefs):

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Today, I am one hot zombie mess.


Today, I am one hot zombie mess. And not in the good way. In the I'm-wearing-a-sweater-the-one-day-it's-hot-outside-and-I-didn't-get-enough-sleep-again-rushing-around-like-a-chicken-with-my-head-cut-off kind of way. But at least Jesus still loves me :P

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Rest of Nature Is Asleep

The willow tree is weeping,
The rain is sprinkling,
The sky is darkening,
The stars are dimly shining,
The moon's eye is half-closed.
The birds are hushing,
The crickets aren't chirping,
The bees aren't buzzing.
The wind is merely whisp'ring.

If the rest of nature is asleep today,
Maybe I'll just enjoy the quiet, too...



***Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Help Me to Remember

I'm losing my focus
Of what truly matters in life.
Will You show me my purpose?
Tell me what I'm doing right.
For when I lose sight of You,
Don't even make time for You,
All that's left are trivialities
Like food and sleep and academics.

And I worry--
Foolishly--
About silly things,
Like grades or what people think of me,
Even though deep down I don't really care.

And I come close to crying over nothing,
Wasting tears that should be shed for You and You alone--
Selflessly--
Help me to
Remember.



***Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Brokenness Redeemed

Brokenness surrounding me,
Taking hold of me.
I breathe it in,
I turn around,
And then I let it soak within.

Taken captive by the clutches
Of the sin that I behold.
It makes me cry
And then I die
Within this heart of stone.

I know that there is hope somewhere,
I feel it through my tears.
I try to figure out the mystery
Of what God calls forgiveness.

And yet I find within my life
The pain of others' souls,
And I am free; I'm free, indeed,
Yet others are left 'lone.

I have to empathize with them;
It's just what I believe.
I will be open, torn, and broken.
My sin, I'll let them see.

And maybe when I'm honest,
Maybe when they see me through,
They'll come to know how I still live,
And how my Savior wants them, too.



***Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reality Check: Jesus

The cross wasn't wreathed in purple flowers;
It wasn't painted white.
A fence was never built around it.
Jesus didn't smile; He cried.

Joyful tears, salt lacking,
Did not run down his cheek;
Blood dried and crusted on his skin--
On his heart--He still bleeds.

God did not smile upon our sins;
He turned His face away.
Darkness covered all the earth,
When Jesus' soul escaped.

The angels did rejoice, but, oh!
Through tears of joy with sadness mingled!
The demons thought that they had conquered;
And for a moment the whole earth stilled silent.

But then, through the stench, through the stained cloth,
Through the moist, the darkened tomb,
Jesus, the stone pushed back that held Him in;
The demons became silent.
From the DEAD,
Christ came ALIVE again!

And oh! the people were confused,
And the women shrieked.
They asked, "Who stole the body of our Lord?"
Yet the angels said, "Your Savior is alive! Why weep? Why mourn?"

And yes, Jesus spoke face-to-face with His people,
Though His face was tattered unrecognizable,
And no one could identify their Jesus
Until He claimed His name,
Until He showed His hands,
Until revealed the scars upon His feet.

Then they embraced Him;
But He pulled away,
And He gave a word of hope,
That though He must leave now,
A bitter, undesirable good-bye,
He would come again.

And indeed, He will come again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I wanna be moved by Something Real.

I wanna be moved by Something Real.
I want to feel the cool breeze blow across my face and not wonder why.
I wanna see life through my irises--
Blue Like Jazz--
And hear the music from the sunlight while its rays sing sunlight.
I wanna touch the untouchable--
Love the unlovable--
Hold the unholdable--
Taste the pure-sweet rain
And feel the impossibly green grass
Crisp and Crunch
Under my feet--
See beauty in that even its death leaves room for life, to spring
--Up--
from the dirt.
Oh how I long to be MOVED
by Something Real!
To hear the fire crackle--
Screech, and scream, and cry,
"It's not okay!"
Honest--because it isn't.
I wanna see a kite fly--
High--high!--up in the wind!
Watch it dance,
Take it in,
And breathe.
Simply Breathe.
And feel alive.

I wanna be moved by Something Real.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What Matters Most...

I haven't read the Bible since August 24th...I think. It's 11:04 p.m., which is exactly 34 minutes after mine and Giorgia's agreed upon "lights out," but she isn't here right now. Now is a time where I remember all that's taken place since yesterday morning when I woke up with eyes half-open like a crescent moon and packed some last minute items before leaving with my family and Loree to move into APSU. Now is a time where I stare at the clock and think about how I'm already breaking my own rules. And, now is a time where I smile and remember that silly little rules about "time" as we Americans define it doesn't matter, because time is not measured by four digits and an "a.m./p.m." attached to the end; I know better than that.

http://justanothersojourner.blogspot.com/2011/04/time.html

[sorry the link isn't working].

I know that Jesus matters more than my preferred bedtime. I know that Jesus is my Beloved, and nothing matters beside that. I know that my soul will hunger and thirst and seek after temporary things if I don't give in to the beautiful romance that awaits me, and that my spiritual hunger and thirst needs to be satisfied even more desperately than my physical body needs food and water.

Beloved, I will take Your hand; take me to the countryside! I love You...

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Real, The Raw, The Authentic--The Uncut Journal Entry of Tuesday, August the Second

Yesterday was incredible. Groundbreaking. I've never seen anything like it. But then, I've never fought this hard for justice.

We woke up at 6 a.m., fasted breakfast, and headed out to the bus for Magunga by 7 a.m. We prayed the whole way and continued to pray as we exited the bus. We walked the grounds of Makrias Christian School, and we walked the roads leading to the childrens' center, interceding on behalf of the kids. Soon, the prayer walk became multipurpose as we visited people in the community on the way. We kept reminding each other as we grew closer and closer to the center that we come in peace. All we want to do is pray.

The day before last some of the children had told us that Simon Ochola was planning to take the orphans on a "vacation" to Kisii for 3 or 4 days--perfect; just in time for the court to present his case against us on August 4th.

But, what Simon chose he would leave vacant, we decided to fill with the Holy Spirit.

So we marched on. Mostly uphill instead of straight; mostly rocky instead of smooth. We marched on. Some were hungry; some were weary. We marched on. Some were wary; some were confused. We marched on. Nothing could stop us from praying. Our God is mighty to save; He can--He will--move this mountain.

As we drew near, a bundle of colorfully clad African women and children, arms linked, hands clapping, greeted us with a song of celebration. They hugged our necks, and they danced. The children grabbed our hands.

And we marched on.

It didn't even matter that Simon's hired thugs met us at the beginning of the road with words of hatred, riding Simon's motorbikes, advertising signs exclaiming, "go to hell!" and "God must go!" Ridiculous. These people actually believe Simon is a Christian pastor? I don't buy it. But they do; they admitted it! 200 shillings [about 2 bucks]. [sidenote: I don't really know what I meant in the previous two sentences...but that's what I wrote. Sorry!]. 200 shillings to bash someone they didn't even know. In fact, after they tried to run Gaye over two or three times with the motorbike, they stopped and asked Gaye, "Who is Mama Gaye?" and "Who is Ayungo?" [Andrew, a childrens' pastor in Magunga].

My only response to their actions was, "I only have one thing to say to all of you," and I had their attention, "I forgive you because you apparently don't even know what you're doing. You're supporting a wicked man who rapes orphans, and you don't even know it. I forgive you--because you don't even know what you're doing!" And my voice was chalky, and my face was sad. Brittany [a teammate] told me later that one man had tears in his eyes. Praise God. We come in peace. We love you. Karah, Michelle, and I [other teammates] even prayed for one of the men who said he is a Christian just trying to support his family; he said he had nothing against us; we explained how even working for money from the devil is working for the devil. This place is so corrupt I can only handle being here because I see Jesus in these peoples' eyes. Whatever you do for the least of these you do unto Me; whatever you don't do for the least of these you don't do for Me.

So we marched on.

We want as far as we could without entering the territory, then we stopped. And the community stopped. The looked confused. This is where we told them they have to stand up for themselves: "Take back your land!" we cried. They wanted us to take care of it, but we told them how the community leaders won't listen to us; they must do this thing--as the community.

At first they were discouraged, but we shouted words of encouragement; of victory. Now we told them to march on; "Don't back down!" Before we knew it, member by member, the community joined together to pick up a huge, heavy branch. They heaved and hoed and lifted the fallen tree into the middle of the road, blocking Simon's path so he couldn't kidnap the children to who-knows-where. But as we slowly backed away, heading back to the bus, leaving room for them to do it themselves, the community slowly backed away, too. We prayed they would go in peace; some grabbed stones to throw. Thankfully, others would lower their hands, reminding them "peace; not force." It was a beautiful thing.

Dawn [another team member], Karah, and I knelt down, in skirts, rocks digging into our legs, weeping, pleading unto the Lord for justice and mercy. One man from the community had his leg hit by a stone from one of Simon's thugs. We prayed for healing in the name of Jesus.

As we paused our backing away, once again, to see the status of the community, a car drove by full of policemen to kick Simon out--or so we thought. It was a bunch of fake policemen who had come to beat the community.

But we kept praying.

Suddenly a group of Kenyan leaders approached us, not to our surprise. The D.C. held up the document about the court order and gave us a little talking to that was completely unnecessary as we hadn't even stepped on the childrens' center grounds, and then, even more unnecessarily, he proposed we have a discussion with a group of leaders, including the immigration leader, D.C., D.O., and others with Simon to "work things out," which was pointless, since Simon paid most if not all of them to take his side on things. The only thing we got out of it was a soda, because the D.O., who led the "discussion," decided it would be a "monologue"--lecture--where he chewed us out for stuff we didn't even do, and we never got to share our side, of course. Dawn interrupted a couple times, anyway, which was good at least the second time because the D.O. accused us of creating "dissension in the unity of Christ" by not taking our responsibilities which were actually Simon's responsibilities--which is what Dawn clarified.

But we kept praying. And we rested. And we kept praying....

Sunday, August 14, 2011

See you soon, Africa! Hello, America!

Well, I'm home now, and Amberly comes home today, too. It all just feels surreal. Roads are smooth, and people drive fast. There are hugs instead of handshakes. There's hot water in the shower, and my feet don't stick out of my bed when I lay down; additionally, my pillowcase doesn't have any visible dirt or dust. I can understand people when they talk 90 mph, and I have access to a stereo anywhere I go. My clothes smell clean and I can wash my laundry with no basin, no hard work, in no time. And the funny thing is: it all makes me feel uncomfortable. My heart is broken to help people, and I feel like so much money and time is wasted on man's idea of the "necessities of life." I wanna handwash my underwear and take a cold shower and not care about the particles of dust embedded in my pillowcase.

And yet...I know that in this season of my life, anyway, this is where God wants me.

Hello, America. God sent me here to love you. Will you take my hand and walk with me into this great adventure?

~Anna

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Wanna Be Content in ALL Things.

I have been so out of my element the past week or so. Well, I did ask God to stretch me in ways like never before to teach me something new or reiterate a point already made :P Usually I'm all over the place, meeting up with people, praying over most places I pass by, spending time with Jesus at random places for prayer time or a short Bible study here and there. But, I've been "stuck" at home for the past week. I've spent time with my family. I've read good, classic books (which I rarely have time for these days). I've sat down and had hour long, in-depth Bible studies. And today I'm baking a cake (yeah, I'M baking something...weird, right?). For some, this may be normal. For me, this is SO. STRANGE. But it's been good and relaxing and freeing to do "normal" things for a change. God has been teaching me peace and patience and contentedness amidst other things (like baking and having a conversation with someone within my own household). I've cleaned out some clutter--from my bedroom AND my heart. It's a time for cleansing. I don't know when it will transition. Sometimes it makes me jittery and I walk around the house for no apparent reason or I drink my steaming coffee in the sticky heat just to get outside and enjoy a different atmosphere, and sometimes my mom says, "Anna, if I have to hear about how you can't go see your friends one more time!" and then she has her turn to vent (because not having a working car sticks HER at home, too, and she's not used to it, either). But for the most part, I'm content. And this is good. And I'm glad my mom, my sister, and I get to work through these challenges together :-)

P.S. God HAS blessed us with a good friend who dropped off her car this morning to let us borrow this week to run errands so Mom doesn't have to run around at Publix late at night after Dad gets home and so Amberly doesn't have to hitch a ride from our neighbor to go babysit. I can't ignore that blessing :-) Thank God!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Japan: Day 5 Pt. 2 and Day 6 (written May 22nd)

For the rest of the 20th, we did a prayer walk around Sapporo for awhile; prayers for healing and light breaking through darkness and God to reveal Himself through His creation as promised in Romans 1:27 (?) and fulfillment of His promises. We also just sang some songs around the city: "God of This City," "Light of Your Face," "Here in Your Presence."

Then we rested awhile longer before the Snows came to pick us up. We ate at the onsen. Eliz and I split a meal with ramen and fried rice, and we ate at low tables where you sit on a big matted floor (no chairs).

There was a nine year old girl who kept trying to talk to us. She knew a few English words like "eye" and "ear," and Aunt Linda helped her speak to us. She has an English teacher at her school.

After the onsen, we re-entered the little restaurant and bought ice-cream cones.

Megan (Eliz's 15 year old cousin) came back to the church with us after for a sleepover. We were all too relaxed after the onsen to stay up late, so we ate some chocolate then went to sleep :P But, in the morning, we ate more chocolate--and breakfast (eggs w/cheese and buttered toast)--and did some Bible study. We did our minidevo and read Romans 6, since that's where Megan had been reading, and discussed it. Then I went upstairs and called Mom and talked to her for awhile, and she told me Dad had been sad because he was never at home when I called, so I called him at work and babbled about what's been going on, and he laughed and said how he was glad we were safe.

After I got off the phone, I returned to the main area of the church with Eliz and Megan, and we danced around to music, and Megan and Eliz tried to hook up the Ipod to bigger speakers without success.

Linda picked us up around noon to bring us to Ario, a mall a little further away from us than Postful.

After most everyone used the ladies' room, we went to the food court for lunch. We took awhile deciding on what to eat, but we finally settled on yaki soba--a fried noodle with beef and bean sprouts and cabbage (which isn't gross when cooked Japanese-style and tastes a bit like lettuce). Afterward, we tried green tea ice-cream, which has a unique taste, and *I* like it a LOT--although Eliz isn't a big fan--which was good for me because that meant I got to eat half of hers ;)

After we ate, we went with Aunt Linda to the bookstore, and I bought Christian and his parents gifts--a robot figure made of nuts and bolts, break-dancing, for Christian, and a fan for Karen and Kevin.

Then we looked around at several clothing stores. Lace is really popular in Japan. They have it on lots of shirts ("shots" in Japanese) and skirts and dresses and even shorts, haha. I may have seen lace on some slippers, too, but I'm not sure. And there was one store I particularly liked that smelled of incense and dust, played hippie/Indie music, and sold lots of Indian-style clothing and jewelry and various items (like handmade backpacks and stones and hemp). I really wanted a particular backpack, but it was $115, haha.

I tried on at least one hat in every clothing store, so Eliz took my picture in one of them. There was one store that sold a lot of different sunglasses (amidst other things), so Eliz and I tried on most pairs. Eliz really liked a pair with black frames and multicolor lenses, and *I* liked a pair with neon-clear purple frames, but Eliz said I looked good in some rectangular frames that had black as the primary color with white sides as an accent. Neither of us bought any, though, because they were $15+ and we still have some other things we want to buy.

And there was a Japanese version of a Claire's (I don't remember what it was called). They had a bunch of candy containers/scoopers in the middle where you could bag up different kinds, and they had ear piercings and posters and stuffed animals and clothes and a bunch of random stuff...like at Claire's :P

When we finally finished looking around, we went back to the food court for ice-cream. I got cookie cappuccino and Eliz got chocolate. Linda got Oreo and Megan got strawberry cheesecake (and offered me a bite =D).

Aunt Linda was determined to buy Eliz and I a present "to remember her by" so we could look at it and say "Oh, Aunt Linda loves me," haha :) She's thoughtful and kind.

So we went back to the bookstore and she bought me a 5-in-1 pen [psst...Aunt Linda, if you're reading this, it's already had much use, and sometimes I think to myself, "Oh, my Aunt Linda loves me!" :P hehe]with 5 inks to put in them; I chose: pencil, black, red, blue-black, and purple, and the pen itself is black with white polka dots. (I was going to write with that pen tonight in fondness of Aunt Linda, but I accidentally left it downstairs and am quite tired and looking forward to sleep after I finish journaling).

After the mall, we went back to the Snows' for dinner. We had chicken and cheese quesadillas. Megan was cracking me up, because she had shredded the cheddar cheese (which, by the way, was white--the color it is naturally--so I know it probably didn't have artificial coloring :-)), and noticed that it smelled funny, and asked Eliz and me if it smelled funny, and we agreed, but didn't appreciate that she made our concurment (haha...I made up a word :P)a public announcement, thereby dragging us into the discussion :P She and her parents argued allll the way through dinnertime, haha. It was really funny, though, that before dinner, several of the 7 kids (whose names I have learned now: Daniel, Megan, Andrew, Jake, Noah, Josiah, and Isaac)came up individually to the cheese, smelled it, and made a face. Haha.

Anyway, we finally ate our quesadillas (and I think mind had the smelly cheese, but it didn't taste bad, anyway) with two apple slices and two carrots (but I don't particularly like carrots, and I had a fat one, so, like the 5 year old I am, I traded mine with Eliz for a small, skinny carrot :P). After dinner, the Snows distributed some of the Reese's we brought for them (they don't have them--or peanut butter, for that matter--in Japan). Selflessly, they offered Eliz and I some, but we can buy as many as we want back in the States, so we declined.

We stayed for about an hour after, watching some kid show, and finally got back around 10:30 (which wasn't so late, but I was really wiped out). I didn't even brush my teeth or wash my face or pack up my stuff before church which would be the next morning. I just threw on my jammies and went to sleep.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dear Tennis Shoes:

We've been through a lot together. I remember the day I found you. You were living in a box, imprisoned by other boxes holding captive other shoes, and you were owned by people who thought you weren't worth very much; they sold you cheap! But, I needed something to support me, to stay with me for awhile, to keep me comfortable.

So, I took you out of the box and bought you from your owners. I kept you close to me as I took my first trip out of the U.S. You were there for my first and second trip to Acuna, Mexico, and we made many friends together. We walked through sticky floors together as we had many babysitting adventures together. I even brought you with me to Japan.

However, you have hollowed out through the years. A couple holes have developed, separating me and you. You no longer support me like you used to, and, frankly, my running shoes helped me most of the time in Japan; you only joined me for a short time to play ping-pong. I feel like you're acting as cheap as you were sold for four years ago.

So, what I'm trying to say is, there were some good times, Tennis Shoes, but we're through.

~Anna



***Photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meditating...

Meditating on how decisions we make affect our lives. Meditating on how often/what circumstances God predetermines decisions/circumstances in our lives. Meditating on freewill vs predestination. Meditating on how much it matters. Meditating on similarities that don't change regardless of opinion on predestination vs. freewill. Meditating on God's will. Meditating...

For example:

Life isn't always--isn't generally--like the movies.

The guy and girl don't always break up/get together.

The guy doesn't always go running after the girl when they do break up.

The girl doesn't always take the guy back when he runs after her.

Sometimes the girl deserves it; sometimes she doesn't.

Sometimes the guy deserves it; sometimes he doesn't.

Sometimes it's okay, but sometimes it isn't.

Regardless of whether the situation is "okay" or "meant to be," it is what it is, and in life, in these circumstances, we are left with the choice to either dwell on how it isn't okay when it's not, thereby causing the rest of our circumstances not to be "okay," or to choose to move forward so the rest of life will be as it should be--"okay"--because we have learned to be content and joyful in all situations. But this is only an example.

Meditating....



Thank You, Jesus, for the fullness of the joy which You make complete in us, and the "okay"ness of everything in life even when it's not okay, just by being Your very self living inside us.



***Photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Japan: Day 5

Today, we woke up at 7 a.m. and skipped showers, as we're going to an onsen with the Snows tonight (tentatively). An onsen is a place where individuals take a shower/bath and then go into a huge public bath with mineral water [or like a jacuzzi or a cold bath]. I've heard that it's very relaxing. I was concerned about the level of sanitation before someone informed be about the before-shower, and for some reason I was convinced for several weeks prior to today that it was a mud bath.... I'm not sure why. 0_o Anyway, it's water...not mud. And they give you a "modesty cloth" to cover your gender area before you get in the onsen. Oh! And these are gender-segregated. I guess that's an important detail to mention. Anyway.
So after breakfast and devo we biked over to Co-Op (grocery store) only to realize that it was 8:30 a.m. and the store doesn't open until 9. But, we went with it and biked through some neighborhoods, which was a good experience. All the houses are different colors, like pink and blue and green, and 95% are all boarding instead of brick; a few are partly brick, but I don't think I've seen any all brick. Oh! And all the houses have a "gangkhan," which is a glassed-in area at the front of the house where you leave your shoes and change into slippers so you don't get dirt on the floor. It's really tedious, but certainly cleaner than any house in America. The houses (and cars) are generally a square or rectangle shape and have lots of windows. Everyone has a garden; most have lots of tulips in various colors (mostly red, yellow, and pink)--pronounced "tuleep-oo"--and about half have bonzai trees.
I haven't felt extremely like a foreigner or "celebrity," as Eliz says, until today. Lots of people were staring at us with big, silly, amused grins on their faces, and a couple people tried to talk to us. We didn't really know what they were saying.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before the grocery store, during our biking excursion, we saw where the Bishops--some missionaries here--live, as well as where the cousin Snows used to live (and apparently it was painted pink--the one color Nathan vocalized he hoped they wouldn't paint it), and we stopped at a park. We took a zillion pictures, which was tonomoto tonoshi--really fun! I'm excited to upload and edit them. We're so, so silly!
After we goofed off for awhile, we returned to Co-Op and argued for an hour over groceries :P We finally settled on: crab meat, some vegetable mini-dinners, rice, Aquarious (kind of like Gatorade), peach and grape gummies, chocolate mushrooms (on a sweet bread stick thing--uhhhmazing!), beef curry, apple juice, individual milk tea for Eliz and some tea I'd never heard of for me--ginseng or something--Pooky (a sweet bread stick dipped in chocolate), individual peach and plum juice, gyoza--we aren't really sure what it is, but we had it for lunch and it was DELICIOUS--some kind of fried, breaded meat and veggies--and I had mine with soy sauce; it's something I think Dad would really enjoy, and I sooo wish there was a way I could bring back some for him; but so is life. We also got salmon, which I already know I like because it was in the oniggity I tried for dinner last night--a rice triangle or circle covered in seaweed and filled with some form of fish (in this case, salmon). I had trouble eating it at first, and decided milk tea is too sweet to eat meals with but a good "snack" drink, but I took a Tums and enjoyed it more as I became used to it. Anyway...we got cold ramen noodles and sauce, cheese to eat with eggs, melon bread--which apparently has a sweet melony coating on it, chocolate bread which looks like a sandwich and has chocolate filling, and raspberry-filled bread...I *think* that's everything...and Eliz says we'll get fried rice and more gyoza at a restaurant. Yay!
so today we had gyoza and Aquarious for lunch and have just relaxed and journaled for a verrry long time, as you can imagine, with the length of this entry [I wrote Day 4 and 5 in the same entry], and we *have* decided we're done with biking for today, or rather, our butt cheeks and thighs decided for us, but that's all that's been decided for the next 6 hours until the Snows pick us up to go to the onsen. Ta ta for now! Or...sayounara! Bye!

~Anna

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Japan: Day 4

We woke up about 9 am, so it was nice that we got to catch up on some sleep. We ate our breakfast and did our morning mini-devo from Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence--365 Day Devotional by Sarah Young. We journaled outside (with wet hair, might I add, hence my excess coughing up and sniffing mucus <_<) for awhile on the porch, and quickly we ran out of things to do because we were waiting on Mika, Elizabeth's Japanese teacher, and Sasaki San, the pastor's wife, to finish their Bible study, which we discovered too late was 3 hours, from 10 to 12, so we could get our money and backpacks. It's okay, though. Bible study is a good reason to make us wait awhile to "do stuff." :)
So, we ate lunch and got everything organized in our backpacks and took a looong time figuring out how to distribute our money in mon ($100 bills), gozen ($50 bills), sen ($10 bills), and yen ($1 bills)--except that sen and yen are actually coin.
Finally, we left around 2 pm :P We biked over to Islands, which is a quaint little Japanese store with kimonos, antique-like items, furniture, utensils, and many other nice things. I bought mine, Mom's, and Amberly's kimonos and obis (the sashes that go around the kimonos and tie them together), and I bought Loree and Audrey obis, and I bought Alex and Sheridan nice-looking black bowls with red and yellow leaf designs on them with big, long red spoons and black trays (I figured they might like something that was just as practical as it was nice...and Japanese :P). There were three porcelain figurines I really wanted that are more Jap-style Winne-the-Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore for 100 yen a piece ($1), but I'm going to get my other souvenirs to make sure I have enough $ before I buy them. I still need to get Dad's samurai sword (assuming we can hitch a ride from Nathan, since it's so far away), Christian's gift (I'm not sure what that will be yet...I wanted it to be a sword but I don't have enough money, sadly), and something the Zarembas, Everetts, Kintzlers, Pettys, and Midgetts (mostly fans and Japanese headbands that say "Japan" in Japanese, but prob. a family gift for the larger families).
We spent about an hour at Islands, and I only spent about $100, which is a GREAT deal for all the kimonos. The workers were sincerely excited to help us try on the kimonos and obis and mix-and-match colors, and they even brought over a mirror so we could see how it looked. As with all things in Japanese culture, they spoiled us immensely and gave me the $45 obi plus the I-don't-know-how-much kimono for $50 altogether, and they spent 10-15 minutes wrapping everything so prettily and neatly.
It didn't occur to us until we paid and left that we weren't sure how we were going to get all our stuff back to the church, as we had several bulky "bags" and only two backpacks and our bikes. But, somehow, we stuffed all our belongings in what we had and made it back without losing or breaking anything.
We put our new toys in a safe place--a sort of "cave" under the "closet" in the remodeled "idol room" at the church--and got ready to meet Kaori and her mom and older sister, who live about a 10-15 minute walk from the church (I had had enough biking excursions for the moment with all the heavily titled, bumpy roads). They provided lots of yummy snack foods for us, which was nice since we skipped lunch for time purposes: Chip! Chop--a sort of soft chocolate graham cracker in a triangular shape filled with a thin layer of creamy white chocolate--, strawberries--"ichigo"--, some kind of thumbnail-sized cookie "cup" holding milk chocolate, "chocochip cookies" individually wrapped--kind of like the "chewy" type of Chips Ahoy! or whatever brand makes those--in chocolate and vanilla, cream puffs with a yellow filling (I didn't like those), "french fries" which were all crispy, kind of like potato straws, and "cheese-filled" crackers--like the powdery, snack cheese in Ritz. And to drink, orange juice and Calpis--some kind of water with a fermented milk (Eliz had about three of the tiny glasses, but I'm not really a big fan).
We took a lot of pictures and played with their dog Andy. Later, her mom dropped Eliz, Kaori, and I off at Postful--the mall--where we did "purikura"--you take several pictures in a little booth and then decorate them with graphics. They come out in a small, vertical strip as stickers. It was fun. "Tanoshikata." Or, just the word fun, "Tanoshi." I also became familiar with other words: "Adikato"--thank you. "Kawaii"--cute. "Shawtz"--shirts. "Kowaii"--scary. "Eski"--I like. "Nippon"--Japan. Not gonna lie; picking up some of the Japanese language has been one of my favorite parts of this trip.
Let's see...some random stuff. People drive on the wrong side of the road and on the wrong side of the car--the driver's seat is on the right and they drive on the left lane of the raod. The stop signs are triangles. There are crosswalks at every stopsign.
At the grocery store, they tell you the price of every item you buy as they scan it.
They sell fish that still have their scales and eyeball, and they sell crabs that still have their shells and eyeballs.
You can buy seaweed basically anywhere, and, by the way, it tastes really delicious, especially if it's roasted, but it sticks to your teeth worse than spinach.
I hate the organization of the grocery stores. There's like, 4 different aisles just for tea--most of which is the same kind and brand.
And, as I already wrote, we kind of just chilled tonight, and God came to meet with us. He poured His presence upon us and prayed for Japan and some people back home, and that God would reveal Himself to those people who don't realized they are desperate for Him--that He would fill us till we overflow. That we wouldn't become weary of doing good. That His light would reveal, expose, the darkness that is here...yes, even here, in Japan where no one can "out nice" them, as Eliz says. We have felt such peace here from the very beginning. Our hearts and minds and souls are in agreement that the One True God has us here, wants us here, for MUCH bigger plans than we could ever have made for ourselves. We can feel this--God. Wants. Japan. And He wants it bad. Our minidevos have quotes during this trip about how the nations belong to the Lord. The worship music we've listened to speaks of it. The whispered words and abundant presence of the Lord reveal promises and plans for redemption. The King of kings, Lord of lords, and God of gods IS meeting people in Japan--He is coming through the streets, in the stores, to the homes, and breaking down the idols and turning the devoted rooms into secret, quiet, holy places where He speaks intimacy into the lives of these people--and He started long before we ever set foot in this building, but He started with us here, in this idol room. He is coming. People better get ready....
Jesus. Most precious, beautiful thing on earth...mmm...Jesus.

Japan: Day 3 Pt. 2

Oh, I so can taste and see that the Lord is GOOD. Goodgoodgood so good; delicious, BEAUTIFUL. So incredible. How the Lord delights in me, in Elizabeth, in Loree, in Alex, in Sheridan, in Mom, in His Japanese believers, in US--His Beloved Bride; cleansed, made whole, made new--newnewnew! He wants to take this town, this city, this nation, this world, and make it new--make it WHOLE in Him. HE is the GOD of this city.
Woah. So it's been about an hour since I stopped writing...and let me tell you why: God just met us with His Love and power and Holy Presence in the room of the church that is usually used for idol worship. How. Great. Is. Our. God. Holy...His very presence in the room of darkness.

Japan: Day 3 Pt. 1

Well, last night I was sooo tired, so I didn't write, butt, I'll write this morning :-) (P.S. I'm using one of the super cool pens with the four colors of ink in them =D). Yesterday we were both wide awake by 6:30 a.m., but we couldn't go anywhere until 1:00 p.m. because we had to wait on Eliz's Uncle Nathan to drive us to the bank to exchange currency and to get our bikes out of the locked apartment. So we went back to bed for about 2 hours :P and did a short Bible study and read (I, Jane Eyre). When we finally left, we met her friend Naoko at the bank and went to her friend Kaori's house, but her mom told us (more or less...in Japanese) that she had to stay late to study at beauty school and would be back tomorrow (today) around 4. but, since they were neighbors, we walked over to the Snows' old house and I got a tour. It's a *really* nice house. Nicer than the ones we have now, I believe :P Anyway, it was neat to see where they lived for two years.
Then, we walked back to the church where we are staying and retrieved bikes, and I learned how to ride a bike for the first time in about 11 years :) It wasn't so bad. I was a little swervy at first, but i was mostly steady by the end of our 5 minute bike to the Home-Mac (like a small Wal-Mart/Home Depot) and 5 minutes ride back (it helped that the bike was actually big enough for me, unlike Amberly's). At the HomeMac they have more pets than Wal-Mart. There were birds, frogs, fish, cats, dogs, turtles, tortoises, shrimp, crabs, and--get this--a pig. A black, furry pig--haha! And we definitely thought it was a dog from behind...anyway.
So we bought some of the 3-in-1 pens (black ink, red ink, and pencil) as well as one of the squishy-handle pencils, and got a call from Uncle Nathan inviting us to eat dinner with them. They were really excited--all nine of them. Megan is 15 and super sweet. Daniel, 17, is nice, too. Andrew is in the 8th grade--13 or 14--and he's really amusing. Yesterday he jumped out of the van to yell to a friend, haha. And the rest of the children are younger, so they're active and chatty and cute.
Uncle Nathan is very helpful, and Aunt Linda is sweet and sassy and caring. She can also make some mean curry. Man. I don't know what's in that stuff, but I put the chicken chunk on someone else's plate and ate two servings of rice and potatoes with it. Mmm.
And I also tried some dried cherries after dinner. I could have eaten the whole bag. Sweet and tart. Delicious.
And Nathan and Megan came over for probably an hour afterward to help set up the laptop and "Skype" phone so we could talk to our parents for free, which is extremely nice. Mom was in a good mood and liked the story about the pig and was impressed by my minimal understanding of the Japanese language within 24 hours :P "Hai" means "yes/okay." "Konichiwa" means "hello" or "good afternoon." "Gozaimas" is a way to make a phrase formal/polite. "Ohaio" is "good morning," and I can understand when people say "cute," but I can't remember how to say it....
Anyway, I'm going to brush my teeth and read the Bible and maybe then we'll bike over to Home-Mac or Co-op to get some groceries so we'll have more to eat than peanut butter, bread, bananas, and cereal :P

~Anna

Japan: Day 2

Currently I am reading Jane Eyre, as Eliz and I are still waiting on her family to pick us up so we can borrow bikes, and stumbling upon the word "keen" I remember ed that there was a little thought/prayer that came to me yesterday, which I had intended to write but didn't both because I was too tired (lazy...) and didn't want to trouble Eliz by asking to borrow her pen for the umpteenth time. Anyway, here is the line:

Lord, make my senses keen, especially the spiritual to the things unseen.

It was both a prayer to fully embrace the culture of Japan while remaining sensitive to the Spirit within me that I may honor Him and be used by Him wherever I go.

~Anna

Japan: Day 1

...in Japan :-) 5:52 p.m. in Japan, where I currently am, and about 3:02 a.m. in TN, from I departed about 20 hours ago. In one hour, Elizabeth Snow and I will take our last flight from Tokyo to Sapporo...Japan! Have I mentioned yet that we're in JAPAN? Because we definitely are...in Japan, that is =D Pretty excited! First plane ride, first trip out of North America, first trip as an adult, first trip as a high school graduate. Lots of firsts...and I *like* it!
I've had a little nagging feeling of depression try to bring me out of my peace and joy in Jesus and the excitement of my travels, but I've been praying and doing a little Bible study and mostly claiming the joy that I can freely accept and receive in the name of Jesus.
I found out from Eliz that less than 0.5% of Japanese people are Christians. That is SO sad! I've been praying quite a lot that the Lord would pour out His Holy Spirit upon these people as we've had our 4 hour layover, and that He would somehow let His love and big Light shine through little us in such a way as to reveal Himself, in His time, to the people we encounter.
I love Jesus so much. I can't accept life without Him anymore; He IS Life! Everlasting. Yay Jesus! *happy, contented sigh* I'm in Love. With Love! It's extravagant and beautiful.
I guess I'm supposed to be rambling about Japan...and I probably will later when I can see and taste and touch and smell and hear the fullness of its rich, unique culture beyond the airport :P
Although...I have officially tasted some Japanese food; it's just that it was airport quality ;) haha. Which admittedly was pretty good. Mison soup was the first--a very salty, green soup strained from a bean. Another was curry, which is some type of thick sauce with almost a base, spicy taste (I can only think to compare to oregano or parsley) which you eat with things like white rice. There was also a mix of tiny, chopped vegetables, not so different from the kind I eat at home. And lastly, some creamy-colored, black-speckled noodles with sauce and roasted seaweed, which tastes a bit like soybeans but a bit spicier. I like it. Well, and I tried green tea HOT, and I've only ever had it chilled. It was okay....
Anyway, I'm going to quit using Eliz's ink now, as I forgot to bring pens, and write more later when something more eventful happens.

~Anna

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why the war? How does a God who claims to be love allow for such suffering?

God is Love, and He is jealous. God is the Hero, and He saved the world. God won't relent until we come to praise Him, until we come to love Him. He. Wants. Our. Heart. And He wants it united--as One--through Him, and through fellowship with Him. Yeah, God allows for war. There's a time for it. But it's because we resist what we were made for--to love and be loved by Him, and to love one another. And if it takes breaking down our idols, tearing us apart from selfish desires, and taking away all our festivities, then that's what He'll do. But it's All. For. Love. All of it. Hosea Chapter 2. Go read it.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

P.S. Today...

I graduate :-)

In Summary (the non-exhaustive version of my previous post):

Based on what I've seen the Bible says in regards to homosexuality, it is a sin to give in to those desires. For some people, those desires may be more difficult to fight; however, some people also struggle with desires to have sexual relations with more than one person (their spouse), but just because those ideas have been cultivated in their minds doesn't mean that is right or okay for them to give in to those desires. It's just like the temptation to lie or murder or dishonor; different people struggle with different sins. The word God used to describe homosexuality is "abominable," which is obviously not good :P Haha. Of course, I'm just as disgusted by the opposite view that homosexuals are somehow worse than other people because that's the sin they engage in. In God's eyes, sin is sin. He waits eagerly for us to turn away from our sinful desires, to walk in His ways, and to hold us, regardless of what we've done or who people think we are. I don't see homosexuals; I see people who engage in homosexuality. Just as I don't see murderers; I see people who murder. Or liars; I just see people who lie, etc. because someone isn't defined by what they've done. It is, indeed, difficult to find actual, selfless love in this broken world we live in, but again, the circumstances shouldn't change our outlook.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tolerance

Presbyterians Clear Way For Gay Clergy

I've seen a lot of commentary today, some approval and some disapproval, about this movement. Unfortunately, most people seem to either (a) hate homosexuals and deny the unconditional love of Jesus, or (b) accept homosexual behavior. Neither are biblical.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."
~1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NASB

Point #1: homosexuals (and other sinfully behaved people) will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Point #2: you were just as sinful in your former state of being, yet you are saved by the washing, sanctification, and justification of Christ. [so don't be a Pharisee and think yourself to be better than others].

"But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I [Paul] have been entrusted."
~1 Timothy 1:8-11, NASB

"You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination..... Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.... But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you.... Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them;I am the LORD your God.'"
~Leviticus 18:22, 24, 30, NASB

Point #3: homosexuality is, indeed, a sin, and that is why the Law was written, that they and other sinners may learn what is sound teaching [the Bible, God's Holy Word].

So who is a sinner?

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
~Romans 3:23, NASB

Who, then, can be saved?

"...being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
~Romans 3:24-26, NASB

Point #4: The one who puts his faith, his hope, his love in Jesus...this man can be saved. But by the grace of God, and not the works of men.

"When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, 'Then who can be saved?' And looking at them Jesus said to them, 'With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"
~Matthew 19:25-26, NASB

"Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles [if you're not a Jew, you're a Gentile] also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one."
~Romans 3:27-30, NASB

And since God has given us the grace of His salvation, does that give us the right to purposely sin against Him?

"Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law."
~Romans 3:31, NASB

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
~John 14:15, NASB

"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."
~John 14:21, NASB

Point #5: you cannot ignore God's commandments and still love Him.

Well, can I just believe in God and be saved, anyway?

"Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, 'You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.' You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?"
~James 2:17-20, NASB, emphasis added.

Point #6: if we truly love God, we will obey His commandments, and through our faith we will do good works. Our faith allows us to receive salvation; our works prove our salvation [thus, justifying our salvation].

Point #7: it is not enough to believe in God; we must also strive to obey His commandments, and by doing so, we prove our love to God.

"You see that faith was working with his [Abraham, being used as an example to prove a point] works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.... You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.... For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."
~James 2:22, 24, 26, NASB

"I [Jesus] am the true vine, and My Father [God] is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.... My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples."
~John 15:1-7, 8, NASB

So what's the point?

Point #8: If someone is clearly disobeying the Word of God through sin and not even attempting to attain holiness, then his fruit is bad, and he will be cut off.

Point #9: You can not only be partially a Christ-follower. It's all or nothing.

"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
~Matthew 5:48, NASB
***the Hebrew word for "perfect" here simply means "mature, complete, lacking in nothing." It's a state of maturity; we, as humans, cannot be perfect...but with God's help we can attain righteousness and attempt holiness through His strength, guidance, and love.

"And someone came to Him and said, 'Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?' And He said to him, 'Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.... If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'"
~Matthew 19:16-17, 21, NASB

"So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth."
~Revelation 3:16, NASB

So why all the information on what true salvation and godliness is? We should NOT be putting people in places of leadership within Christianity who not only sin, but flaunt their sin, and even PROMOTE their sin as though it is something sacred and holy, when the Bible goes as far to say that homosexuality is an "abomination."

"To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed."
~Titus 1:15-16, NASB

Point #10: We should love people who struggle with homosexuality, and even love those who claim to be homosexual, but we should NOT encourage or tolerate their sinful behavior.

"The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?' They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said, 'I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.'"
~John 8:3-11, NASB

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."
~Luke 6:36-38, NASB

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time."
~1 Timothy 2:1-6, NASB, emphasis added.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Foolishness of God Is Wiser Than Men

Straight from the Word itself.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." 1 Cor 1:25-31

***photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Lies Vs. Truths

Lies: It's a lie that I have to look a certain way to be beautiful. It's a lie that I have to have a husband to be beloved. It's a lie that my past and my current struggles define who I am.


Truths: God formed me in my mother's womb, and I am a dim reflection of His beauty. God is my Husband, and no longer the one whom I call my Master, and I am His beloved bride. He loves me with jealous passion. God defines me as pure, perfect, and acceptable because He has thrown my sins as far as the East is from the West, and His Son's blood covers me. I am beautiful, beloved, and made whole.

And that's the truth.

"I don't need to see it to believe it.
I don't need to see it to believe it.
'Cause I
Can't shake
This fire burning deep inside of me."
~"Tear Down The Walls" by Hillsong

***photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Is God Evil OR Does He Just Give Us What We Ask For?

"They have chosen their own ways,
and they delight in their abominations;
so I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and will bring on them what they dread.
For when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, no one listened.
They did evil in my sight
and chose what displeases me.”

Isaiah 66:3b-4.

In other words, My people, Whom I created (see verse 2), have turned against me and whored their hearts among things I despise in place of Me. FOR THIS REASON, I will bring judgment upon them. BECAUSE THEY ADULTERED AGAINST ME, their God Who has loved them, I will punish them severely. I tried to speak with them, but they ignored Me. I tried to tell them my Words of life, but they denied them. Instead, they chose to abandon Me and rebel against all I had taught them, choosing instead a life I didn't desire for them.

...it sure sounds like we're bringing the "bad stuff" in the world upon ourselves.

***photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Darkness and Ashes/Is There Hope For This City?--05/03/11

All I knew was darkness.

All I saw was darkness.

All I breathed was darkness.

All around me--

Darkness.



I live in a city made of ashes. The buildings, the bushes, the streets...everything, even the clouds are made of ashes.



But the people around me can't see it; refuse to see it. I try to tell them, but they won't believe me. I understand, though, because I used to think this world we live in is all there is to life, as well.



That is, until I met a man. This man glowed with the light of love, and he spoke words of hope. His very presence felt...



Good. Clean. Beautiful.



Something about him changed the appearance of earth. It was as though light broke through the city--light--breaking through this city of ashes.



He didn't seem fit in this place, yet nothing about him caused me to believe he intended to be anywhere but here. He told me, "Follow me." I asked why, and he simply said, "Come and see." I followed him. I am following him. And although for now I see as in a dim reflection, only light amidst this dark city, I know--I can feel it when He looks at me--that there is hope here for this city, if they follow.



He WILL have his way; He will make



all



things



new.

Friday, April 29, 2011

In the Quiet Places

Jesus will meet us in the quiet places.

The unexpected places.

The places where no one is around.

The places where our stereos quit working and we can't turn up the worship music.

The places where our laptops die and we can't watch the IHOP live streams and the sermon videos.

The places where the electricity goes out completely.

And all that's left is us, God, and the Bible.

God will meet us at the times that don't make sense to us.

The times that our family is angry with us.

The times that every. single. one. of our friends won't answer their phones.

The times when we shake our fists at Him and ask Him "why?"

The times when we just want to feel lonely.

The times when we are bursting with joy and don't feel like we can be any more contented than this.

The times when all is well with the world and we think we don't "need" Him.

The times when we try to be independent.

The times when we are so completely dependent.



The point is...our most important time and place is when it is just us and God.

It is NOT:

When we are relying on others, when we are relying on ourselves, when we are ignoring reliance altogether.

We. Have. To. Rely. On. God.

and

EARNESTLY

seek Him.

Over...

and over...

and over again.

And again.

AGAIN.

Yes. And when we earnestly seek Him with all of our hearts, He will meet us.

"Draw near to the Lord, and He will draw near to you." James 4:8.

But YOU must seek Him for YOURSELF.

Meet Him in The Quiet Places.

***photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Guess Who My Daddy Is, Satan? Let me give you a clue...

So, let me tell you all (or you two) about my day. And my family's day. ...well, and let me preclude with the past three days :P

Two days ago, a good friend of mine and I had our last "goodbye," because it was just necessary, and it was basically the second or third worst day of my life (only second or third to the first time we took a break from talking for about three months and the day I turned my back to God). So that led to a lot of selfishness and depression and bitterness and hurt and anger and other such delightful emotions. Yesterday, my mom and I were arguing over things like college again. A LOT. And that added to the bad day before. But, last night a really good friend slept over and we talked about mostly deep things with a few random things tossed in, and we stayed up not that late because we were both pretty worn out, and we slept in, and I woke up, and after I got over my tiredness, I felt pretty joyful. REALLY joyful, actually. It was refreshing. And I kept thinking "He brings new mercies with the morning!" and I felt it. God is so, so, so good to us.

Then the day progressed. My mom and I and now my dad, too, all got into it about college and general life decisions, and it just got worse and worse, and we were NOT on the same page at all, and I was just trying to keep my mouth shut, because I think sometimes that's the best thing you can do to be honorable--shut your pie hole! So I tried. And mostly succeeded. Then I was spending time with God. And I heard my mom say "Oh, are you okay?!" on the phone she just answered. Praise God no one was hurt, but my sister and her best friend had rear-ended someone (not their fault, also Praise God) in her friend's car.

Then, later, I was turning around in a random driveway because I missed my turn, and of course the one driveway I chose was gated in, and it was narrow and surrounded by two long ditches, so I decided to drive up to the gate where there were two blocks of concrete on the sides of the driveway. Yeah, um, when it was too late, I realized it was about as large as the minivan I was driving. NOT GOOD, right? So I try to turn around in this thing...and misjudge my distance and wreck just enough into the freaking BRICK WALL (seriously?!) to bust the glass on one of the headlights and scratch up the paint on the front right side of my MOM'S minivan. Let's not mention the deductible before those payments. Great.

THEN my parents and I get into it about my life decisions...AGAIN. Because we totally didn't have enough to argue about already.

AND mom bought some dessert thing that we all like and wasn't too thrilled when she found out I can't eat it because I'm fasting yeast for Passover until Tuesday night, not to mention the other foods I can't eat (like rolls or whatever. at least there's macaroni with no yeast). (Not that I care if I have food or not, but I guess since she's my mom she's obliged to care if I eat or not or something).

Then, I hear my mom scream AGAIN and she sounds in pain. So my sister and I book it down the stairs to find out if she's okay. Apparently, Dad forgot to replace the trashcan lid after he took the trash out, so it was in the floor, and mom tripped over it. Thankfully, she at least seems to be okay (no blood or broken bones...from what we can tell, anyway).

And I was still mad about the earlier college and life discussions (as I'm sure they were, as well).

So now that you see what we've been through today, you wanna know what I have to say about all of this and today?

GOD. IS. GOOD. ALL. THE. TIME.

ALLTHETIME.

HALLELUJAH!

PRAISE THE LORD!

HE. LOVES. US. JEALOUSSSSSLY!

He isn't just good on the "good" days or the "pleasant" days or the days when we get the raise or we hear a really good sermon or your dream prom dress is on sale or Mazzie, the 5 year old I babysit, decides she's a big girl and likes the crust on the peanut butter sandwich I made her for lunch.

God is good on the days when the people I work for can't afford to keep me around and the pastor can't stop obsessing over the football game last weekend (although it would be really nice if somehow that had something to do with Jesus) and the drycleaners can't fix the wire poking out on my Belle dress and Mazzie decides the chocolate she's melting in her hands is "dark and scary" so that's why she can't tell me what she's hiding.

GOD. IS. SOOOOO, SO GOOD.

So I decided to thank Him for today.

Lord, thank you for your new mercies with the morning as well as the inexpressible joy that you have made to dwell inside of us. Thank you that my sister and her friend were safe and that the wreck wasn't their fault so there's no one suing them and that the damage wasn't too terrible. Thank you for helping me keep my mouth shut. Thank you for giving me parents who at least care about my life and choices. Thank you for counseling and guidance and the wisdom that you're so determined to give me through life experiences, and for breaking down ALL my idols, one by one (day by day). Thank you for protecting me on my way home today and allowing only minimal damage to the minivan, and thank you that I was returning from dancing with three wonderful, godly girls in order to worship you and prepare for the community worship event you've had me planning for a year that will finally take place June 25th. Thank you for protecting my mom when she fell. Thank you for the overwhelming joy and peace that you gave me when I thanked you, as well as for your intervention and praying for me all the time through intercession. Thank you for who you are and what you do. YOU. ARE. SO. GOOD.

So guess who my Daddy is, Satan? I LOVE MY PRECIOUS JESUS, and I know that HE IS RISEN and PURSUING ME and those who believe! Amen, hallelujah!

***photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Um...yeah. RENAMED: God is good all the time!

I'm gonna learn to love selflessly, even if it hurts (and by the way...it does. it hurts a lot. quite often.). Why? Because I wanna be like Jesus.


...I'll let you know when it's "the end" because right now I'm just another person in the middle of the plot.

EDIT: 7 hours later...

I feel sick. (No, I didn't catch the stomach bug that's going around). I feel nauseous, like there's this huge vacuum of sorrow and agony right in the middle of my stomach, and it's trying to take in every last ounce of pain and hurt and abandonment that's lingering in my thoughts, every taste of bitterness that my heart licks up. Yeah...sounds pretty gross, huh? Well...it is.

God is good all the time.

Funny how God allows us to be tested on all the things that we believe and teach. Funny how all day I've pondered the selfish desires I cannot receive due to various events that have taken place over the past half-year. Funny how I thought the only pains I would suffer were nostalgic and in my control. Funny how several hours after I wrote the first draft to this post, the circumstances with a dear, the dearest, friend of mine became EVEN. MORE. COMPLICATED. and now we can't even speak to one another until this friend works through some things...and that could be weeks, months, years...oh Lord, please forbid ever.

God is good all the time.

Funny how I prayed and thought and half-fell-asleep for two hours after we got off the phone and suddenly didn't care what time it was or that I didn't have enough money to buy that mocha frappe I'd wanted earlier or that I'd spent an hour studying Genesis with some friends the hour prior to this conversation. Funny how despite the rotting, stinking pit in my stomach there was a joy that glowed within my heart and kept me from crying too many tears, for my heart could hardly bear any more.

God is good all the time.

Funny how I'm sitting here at 11:14 p.m. typing up a blog post only two or three people might read when I should be sleeping so I'll be well-rested in the morning before I clean a house. Funny how I don't care, because spilling out my heart's refuse and redemption seems more important to me than a full night's rest for some reason. (Maybe our priorities are a little screwy sometimes and we need to redefine importance to mean something other than "you should do this and that").

God is good all the time.

Funny how my heart is battling to hand itself over to God once again and not fear. Funny how God has slowly been revealing His plans to me over the past...oh, who cares how long...and after years of begging for answers I want to plug my ears with my fingers and sing "la la la!" because what I'm hearing is much harder, more complicated, more selfless, more committal than I ever imagined any plans for my life ever being. I just wanted to live in a mud hut and let kids fingerpaint my walls.

God is good all the time.

Funny how...God will heal my stomach vacuum of sorrow, since He has turned my weeping into laughing, turned my mourning into dancing, for HE is good all the time, and whatever trying circumstances and life plans He gives will be more perfect and beautiful and rewarding than I can ever imagine.

God is good. ALL. THE. TIME.

***photo courtesy of Stephanie Carmack***

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Time

Time. What time it is doesn't matter here. A clock is only a circle with two hands crossing or a box with four random glowing letters. Time is just a word used by the government and means as much as the word "schedule" or "meeting" to them--which is also nothing.

Time fades fast as the sun rises and slowly as the sun sets. Time disappears behind smiles and frowns. It drowns under the cries of anguish from a mother watching her children as they die from starvation, as well as the songs of thanksgiving from those who rejoice because of the salvation freely given them.

Time as we know it matters not, but maybe if we give time a different definition, we can relate to one another in a down-to-earth way that connects our souls as it breaks down the boundaries of culture, race, and stereotype.

Time is: laughing, crying, hoping, praying, seeking. Time is a hundred salty tears blending with the dirt below the knees of one who begs for mercy. Time is the shooting star following its course through the dark night as a sweaty, bloodied soldier lives through another sleepless night. Time is a group of busybody Americans settings aside their busybody lives for a few hours to worship Jesus. Time is a tribe of Africans meeting when the shadows fade to dance around a campfire and share ancient tales and daily burdens. Time is a little girl twirling in a twirly dress while her parents clap their hands in delight. Time is a hand to hold, a song to sing, a story to share, a love to pray, a hope to rejoice over, a Love that's better than life.

When we redefine Time, suddenly we realize we have something to live for; we truly have a Love that is better than life.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Compassion--02/11/11

It's such a foreign concept to my mind. I love justice--for others and myself. I seek fairness. When I receive the consequences for my sin, I count it just. I hardly sympathize for the one who knowingly sins and receives his punishment. Not only consequences, but the way things ought to be. Chores have to be done, so if someone who doesn't have a job or school takes a heavier load around the house, I have to make a conscious effort to even notice, and so much more to thank them, because it just seems like that's what they're "supposed to do."

When I was a child, one of my favorite stories was "The Gingerbread Man," and the story is about a cookie who was baked for someone's grandchildren. The cookie tries to escape, but in the end, he allows the children to devour him because that's why he was made. The story lacked mercy for the gingerbread man, and since it was a childhood favorite for me, it only psychologically proves more of my "just" heart.

All of this to say, I also like to think we have a right to our own desires. In certain cases, I find an excuse for people to be selfish. If someone is in pain, they should be allowed to complain. If someone is getting married, they should be allowed to ignore other people for a while. If someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, they should be allowed. to run away by themselves as long as they desire.

Maybe all of those things are okay--limitedly. Jesus shows that even in those circumstances, we should have compassion on others. Matthew 14:6-14. It made me shiver. Jesus has just discovered that John the Baptist was beheaded to please a female dancer and Herod's party guests. So he "withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick."

Jesus just lost a beloved friend to the fate of another's sick pleasure. He wanted a little peaceful solitude, but when the large crowd followed behind, He didn't scream for them to go away. He felt pure, holy compassion for them, and from that compassion, He forgot about His want for solitude to heal His owl soul, and he turned around to heal their sick.

Lord, teach me to be this humble, sacrificial, and selfless. Teach me to love like You do. I love you, Lord.

~Anna, Beloved by her Maker