You Are My Sunrise

O God, You are my peace and my joy.  You are my sunrise.

“Where morning dawns and evening fades, You call forth songs of joy.” -Psalm 65:8b

There is nothing quite like a sunrise.  Birds sing joyfully in anticipation as colors quickly splash across the sky.  Hope rises in the chill of the air.  The earth is still.  Whatever clouds are still lingering in the sky only enhance the beauty of the morning as they reflect the purples and deep oranges of the rising sun.  It all happens so fast.  If you blink, you might miss it.  Oh, but you don’t want to miss it.

God has meant different things to me at different points in my life.  He has shown Himself to me in different ways.  At times He was my Father; other times my Provider, my Lover, and my song in the night.  Today, He is my sunrise.  He is my hope at the dawning of a new day.  He is my joy.  He is vibrant and alive, vast and beautiful.  If I could but capture His mercies in a moment, it might be in the splendor of the dawn.

And what about midnight?  It has only increased my wonder of the morning.  The clouds that once held darkness now reflect the radiance of God.  The pain deepens my joy in the colors of a new day.  The simple sparrow cannot help but sing praises at the possibilities that each brief day holds.  To God, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day.  Our lives are but a breath; a brief streak on the dawn of God’s horizon.  Blink, and you might miss it.  Oh, but you don’t want to miss it.

by Nichole Nordeman
If I had the chance
To go back again
Take a different road, bear a lighter load
Tell an easy story
I would walk away
With my yesterdays
And I would not trade what is broken for beauty only
Every valley
Every bitter chill
Made me ready to climb back up the hill
And find that…
You are sunrise
You are blue skies
How could I know the morning
If I knew not midnight?
You’re my horizon
You’re the light of a new dawn
So thank You, thank You
That after the long night, You are sunrise
There’s a moment when
Faith caves in
There’s a time when every soul is certain God is gone
But every shadow is evidence of sun
And every tomorrow holds out hope for us
For every one of us, ‘cuz
You are sunrise
You are blue skies
How could I know the morning
If I knew not midnight?
You’re my horizon
You’re the light of a new dawn
So thank You, thank You
That after the long night, You are sunrise
You alone will shine
You alone can resurrect this heart of mine

His Masterpiece

Tonight I spent 5 hours coloring a picture.  Ridiculous?  Maybe.  A waste of time?  Definitely not.  I learned more tonight from coloring geometric shapes with Sharpies than I have in many other “more meaningful” tasks I have set out to do.
The picture was a mosaic of different sizes of octagons.  Not only was it incredible stress relief to select the different colors, but it was literally a joy to watch the picture slowly come to life.  I did the border first, and then started to color inward.  I started to wonder what colors to select for the starred corners of the inward clusters, and finally decided to leave them white.  Looking at it afterwards, it really gave the picture much more life than if I had colored in every one.  The final product was fantastic (at least I thought so; maybe the aroma of the markers was getting to me a little bit).  I would venture to say it was a small masterpiece.
As I was starting to finish the picture, I realized how much this work of art was like my life.  Each experience, big or small, was a part of a cluster, and each cluster was a part of the larger picture.  In a way, I kind of felt like I was God, creating a beautiful picture of my life.  Each piece had a different color, and some of them were left white for the seasons of wilderness.  In the end, the picture would not have been the same without them.  Some colors were dark and some were bright.  However, they all made the work of art so rich and vibrant.  Sometimes it seemed like I was using SO MUCH green, or far too much yellow, but when I made the final touches and signed my name on the page, I realized that everything was just right.
I wonder what God sees as He looks at my life.  I wonder if He sees every gladness and heartbreak that I experience like this mosaic, and if His eyes light up as He sees the picture start to come to life.  I wonder if when He switches to the color red and He hears me complaining about it, He wants to just say, “Wait, child, until you see the final product!  You won’t be disappointed!”  I wonder at His patience to work so long making everything just right.  So often I want Him to “just hurry up.”  However, hours, years, and decades later the splashes of vibrant color and tender detail show themselves for what they are:  a priceless masterpiece woven together by the Master Creator, signed with His very hand.  This work of art would put my measly Sharpie project to shame.  However, nevertheless, I choose to put behind me the impatience that I feel as troubles seem to linger on forever, knowing that in the end, that color will be just enough to make the picture absolutely…………perfect.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

So today I received a call from Mayo Clinic informing me that the department they would refer me to is not accepting new patients.  Therefore, I will not be able to go there for testing.  My reactions always surprise me most, because I never plan on getting emotional.  Today, however, I couldn’t stop the truck that hit me and I quickly found a vacant stairwell to house my meltdown.
I don’t consider myself to be an emotional person.  I can usually reason away feelings before they get to me too much, but today I think I just collapsed.  I have been fighting this for so long, and although I was scared to death to go to Mayo, it was one of the few hopes I’d allowed myself to believe in.  I felt myself becoming disillusioned again about doctors and wellness in general, and I wanted more than anything for someone just to come and pick me up, maybe just for the sake of being held.  I feel ashamed even admitting that.
There are some things (well a lot of things) that have been really bothering me today, and I just need to get it out.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself just give up like I did today.  People meant well by asking how I felt, what the next step is, or simply telling me that I’ll make it through, but something inside of me was very resistant to hearing any of it.  It’s like my spirit was angry at the thought of anything outside the moment or analyzing my emotions.  I couldn’t even fathom the idea of telling “my story” one more time, even to people I was close to.  My best friend asked me how I was feeling and I ended up telling her that I was too tired to give her an answer.  I really needed to talk, but I literally couldn’t, and I’ve been like this all day.  My mom wanted to discuss options, and I basically shut down.  I didn’t like this about me at all.
I don’t know how to feel about any of this or even how to be.  I don’t even know what I should be.  I’m a fighter, and I don’t give up, but I think the thought I can’t stand the most is living for myself all this time.  I feel like this whole process has made me so inward-focused, and that frustrates me.  I don’t want to live a selfish life.  In that regard, I would so much rather give up trying right now and live the rest of my life just dealing with it.  Life is short, right?  I’ve lived with this for 8 years; what’s another 17? (I’ve had a long-standing joke that making it to age 40 would be quite an accomplishment).  I want to leave myself behind and focus on the needs of others around me.  When I think about how I want my life to be defined, thinking about myself isn’t even on the radar. 
There is a major flip-side to this coin.  At the rate my disease (or whatever the heck you want to call it, apparently it has no name) is progressing, it won’t be too long before walking is a moment-by-moment struggle and my intestines start shutting down.  In a lot of ways, both have grown to be pretty debilitating, much more than I want to admit to anyone.  I can’t believe, if I am honest with myself, that I have to live like this for the rest of my life.  I have dreams from as big as running an orphanage to as small as being able to ride my bike again.  I hate being defined by this box I live in.  I’m a free spirit, and yet I feel so trapped.  I’m getting claustrophobic.
Part of me wonders who would ever want me like this.  I’m a mess, or so it looks like.  I don’t want to leave the impression of what I can’t do; I want to be a treasure worth having and knowing.  What is left of me at the end of the day?  I guess I just have to trust that God can make beauty from ashes.
I don’t want to miss this unique journey that God has planned for me, but I am fighting a resentment growing in my heart.  Yeah, trusting God isn’t as cut and dry as they teach you in Sunday School.  How do I trust God?  Do I keep fighting or do I stop the doctor stuff here and now?  Here I am pretending that I even have a choice…
You see, somewhere over the rainbow there aren’t going to be any more tears, but as a 23-year-old, I certainly hope I’m nowhere close to that.  It’s easy to get lost in that thought, and I have begged God to take me at times.  Especially when I lie down at night; that’s when things are the worst.  However, even in the midst of all of this, I want to live, and I want to live well.
I hope I’m not bearing my soul too much.  I feel like I have been on display lately because of having to go through all of this.  It seems that I have no secrets anymore-almost.  I have fought trying to keep some of this to myself for so long, but I don’t even care anymore.  Maybe that’s how I’ve been feeling all day:  like I’m tired of caring.  There’s something about having to fight a monster that makes you realize sometimes you’re pretty sure you’re losing.  But where do you go from there?  Today as I sat in the stairwell, I felt as if the weight of the world was on my shoulders.  I longed for someone to come and fight this for me, and then I realized that no one else could.  People could walk with me and give me comfort, but this is my burden alone to bear and my battle alone to fight.
People who have never gone through something like this are quick to admonish me for saying that.  “You are never alone!  Jesus is with you!” And yes, that is true.  I don’t know what I would ever do without Him.  However, He does not always take away the sting of pain or the overwhelming suffering.  I still feel it all, and sometimes trust feels like a hand reaching in the dark toward His presence I have learned to know is there.  It is a heavy thing to carry.  Right now, I’m in so much pain, all I want to do is sleep.  Do I keep pressing on or do I give in?  I have no idea.
However, in the midst of the darkness there shines a light that is brighter.  This joy that God gives cannot allow the sorrow for long.  I love the book of Lamentations because it is so honest.  There comes a point in chapter 3 where the author just can’t hold back the light anymore (vs 19-38):
“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.’
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to the one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.
To crush underfoot
all prisoners in the land,
to deny a man his rights
before the Most High,
to deprive a man of justice—
would not the Lord see such things?
Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?”
I feel that most of my blogs, especially lately have asked more questions than anything, and I guess (was it Plato?) that’s a pretty good attitude to have.  There’s just so much in my life that doesn’t make sense to me right now.  I guess it doesn’t have to.  There are two things I hate:  being weak and being vulnerable.  I feel that I am both right now.  I feel incredibly alone.  I don’t know how to reach out.  I was telling a friend tonight that I never know how much people want to hear, so I generally air on the side of caution because nobody likes “too much information.”  I feel like I can write on my blog, because people can stop reading anytime they want to, and I’m not imposing on their politeness and time.  Sometimes, like today, I couldn’t even talk at all.  I just wanted a hug.  If my mom would have been closer than 8 hours away, she would have definitely been there.  I’m eternally grateful for the support of my family.  It will be them and the grace of God that is going to carry me through.  I’m at the end of my strength right now.
I guess maybe I should go get some sleep.  I just want to say this:  I am so blessed.  Thank you, Lord, for entrusting me with Your story.

Crazy Love

One of my favorite quotes ever is this:  “I have loved to the point of madness, which to me is the only sensible way to love.” –Francois Sagon
To me, the phrase “crazy love” is redundant.  If you think about it, the whole idea of love is pretty crazy, at least the way God says to do it.
So what does crazy love mean in my life?  How am I living it out?  How should I be living it out?  I don’t know.
I want the things that I do and the way I live my life to be considered madness to most.  I don’t think I would feel like I was following God any other way.  But how do I get from here to there?
And how do I love the people in my life extraordinarily?  How do I live in such a way that by knowing me those around me will be empowered to follow Christ?  How do I draw so close to God that His very presence radiates in me?
I don’t know…but I’m gonna figure it out.

One Life To Lose

My heart is burning inside of me right now.  I just read Chapter 9 of Crazy Love where Francis Chan gives examples of people who have and are actively and powerfully serving God with their lives.  This just set my heart on fire.  How do I want my life to be defined?  If I really just have one life to lose for Jesus, then I want to make it good.
I want to go all out.  I’m not content with simply a middle class house, husband and two and a half kids, and a once a week soup-kitchen ministry.  Please start praying for the man that might marry me someday, because I ain’t gonna be your average Jane when it comes to loving Jesus.  Just sayin’.
You see, this life isn’t mine.  This car isn’t mine.  This bank account isn’t mine.  This body isn’t mine.  My time isn’t mine.  My talents aren’t mine.  I’ve been chosen to carry a love that’s too big for me to hold inside.  So what will be the story of my life?
I’m not conventional.  God made me creative.  So next Sunday I am going to make May baskets for all the night employees at the restaurant I go to most days.  I’m probably going to say something about Jesus.  I’m going to color pictures for my coworkers and tell them what I admire about them.  I’m going to make sure that every person in my life knows how much they mean to me.  I’m going to tell my bosses that I’m praying for them, and actually do it.  Well, that’s just my plan for this week.
And you know, there’s that lady in the booth over there that comes here all the time too.  She’s from Iran.  She and I always have small talk, but I know there’s a lot going on in her life.  I think I may go over there for a while and see how she’s doing.
That’s not too crazy, but it’s just a start.  I want to change the focus of my life.  Do you know how many times a day I use the word “I”?  Far too many.  Seems I am always preoccupied with the things that matter to me, that in the end don’t really matter at all.  If I have one life to lose, then I want to lose it well.  I am going to lose it either way, to myself or to God.  I want to lose it for God. 
What about my time?  How do I spend my time?  I read a lot, and that’s good, because that’s the season in life that God has led me into.  However, maybe sometimes I am so engrossed in reading that the employees that pass me by don’t even get a second glance.  Why am I here anyway?  Lord, please open my eyes.
I wonder if I share my heart enough.  I live hidden behind thick walls.  Brandon Heath says in one of his songs, “Love doesn’t keep locked inside.”  I wonder what opportunities I can pray for God to bring into my life that I can begin to tear down the walls around my heart so that those around me can see Jesus a little better.  Maybe that starts in my smile, and more than a “how are you?” as I’m passing by someone.  I wonder what it would take to see everyone around me the way God sees them?
And what if I stopped fighting God?  What if I saw everything that I was afraid of as an opportunity for God to write a story of courage?  What if I decided to live with abandon, totally trusting in God?  What if every time a fear entered my heart, I shoved it right back in God’s direction and took two steps forward?  What would a life like that look like?
Why do I see my life as ordinary?  If God lives in me, then surely it is and can become even more extraordinary.  Everything that I do, every person I meet, and every place that I go is a chance for God to shine His light in a world that has lost its hope.  I want to lose my life for Him and give mine for a world that is searching for a life that can only be found in Him.  Here is the dichotomy:  when we think we have found life, it is then that we lose it.  However, when we lose our lives for Christ, then we have found the life that really matters and lasts.
I have one life to lose.  I choose to lose myself in Christ.  I choose to serve Him with everything inside of me, whatever that would mean, and wherever that would take me.  Whatever the cost, I give it all for the Love of my life.  This is my passion.  This is what defines me.  This is my everything and all that I live for.  Hang on…I’m letting go.  I’m free falling.

The Cost

The two questions I am asking myself this morning is:  What is my faith costing me?  What am I not willing to give for the sake of Christ?
What is my faith costing me right now?  Well, several hours a day and a few meals at a restaurant so I don’t take advantage of their internet and table service.  I work at a church, but I get paid for it.  I buy a book every once in a while that I read and destroy with highlighters.  Is that all?  Really?  That’s what I can come up with.
What in my life am I not willing to give for the sake of Christ?  That’s a really hard question to answer, especially since I have not actually had to sacrifice that much (comparatively speaking).  In theory, I would go home, sell everything I had, move away forsaking friends and family, and follow God.  I honestly think I would, if I knew that it was God speaking.  The problem, however, is that following God isn’t always just like this:  angel appears, obedience happens, and hurrah for human!  It’s about reading His Word, coming to know Him and His heart, and following the leading in our spirit to do or not do certain things.  Sometimes we have to take a step out in faith in pursuit of God.  I did that with my semester in the Dominican Republic.  I wanted to know God, so I decided I was going to go out and find Him.  And, by golly, I did.  Messed up my life.  And that’s a good thing.
Sometimes I wonder about the whole “assurance” thing.  I know that I pretty much thought I was insane for the first couple weeks at least that I was in the Dominican Republic.  What did I get myself into?  However, as I remained faithful to my purpose in going there and spent time in prayer and relying on the God I certainly hoped and trusted was there, He made Himself real to me and I knew that I was in the center of His will.  I didn’t necessarily have that assurance as I was planning the trip, or even as I stepped off the plane in Santo Domingo.  I trusted that God would honor the desire of my heart.
Would I have been in the center of His will if I’d have done something else with that semester?  I believe I would have been.  Although going to that particular place at that particular time has forever changed and marked me, and I have built relationships that will last for eternity, the will of God for my life was that I was seeking Him with all my heart.  I just happened to go there.  And God honored my desire.
Sometimes, I think, God leads us to do particular things, such as:  move to this city, marry this person, jump off this skyscraper (just kidding).  I have definitely had things like that happen to me, and the voice of God was pretty unmistakable.  The more I look back on it, my summer at Mount Rushmore was very God determined and my obedience there was crucial.  That turned out to be a huge turning point in my life.  In these instances, I think that God makes Himself pretty clear, and you’d have to turn Him down to disobey Him.  However, I don’t think this is always how the will of God works.
I think that sometimes God speaks in a gentle whisper, a silent discontent in our hearts and a longing for more.  The will of God is that we respond by turning to Him in whatever capacity that means for us.  For me, that usually means I have to do something very decisive, that requires my time, energy, and focus.  This season of Lent was that for me.  I had to literally stop my life so I could focus in on the voice of God, and it has been transformational.  Some people may just need to dedicate an hour more to hearing God.  I don’t know what the call of God is on others; I can only really speak from my experience.  But nevertheless, the will of God may not be a predetermined step one, step two, step three but more of an attitude of “I’ll do whatever it takes, God, to stop and hear what You have to say to me.”  In these instances, I really believe that God blesses and ordains whatever it is that the person decides to do.
My friend is going through a time of decision-making, and struggling with what the will of God is.  I totally understand that, and it’s hard in this world to know what “sacrifice” means.  Our culture says that going to church is a sacrifice, and oh my goodness it can be painful to wake up before noon on a Sunday morning, but “because I love You, Jesus, I guess I’ll do it.”  There are those of us who get really frustrated by this lukewarm faith and seek how we can “give our everything” to God.  This is so counter-cultural and foreign to seemingly everyone around us, and we can spend so much of our time reeling in the uncertainty of what to do.  I guess, in my prayer time with God, I have just a little advice to give to my friend.
The purpose of our life (contrary to what we learn in church sometimes) is to be in relationship with God.  That is why Jesus died:  to restore our relationship to Him.  Whatever we do for God comes second to our relationship WITH Him.  We do not save the world.  Jesus did that, and still does that.  He uses us, but it is no accident that He always does it in situations that are far beyond our ability so the glory can go to Him, because He’s the One who deserves it anyway.  Until we have tapped into this “love and peace that surpasses all understanding”, I’m not sure that all the human “sacrifice” in the world means anything.  It basically amounts to good people doing good things, and making the world a “better” place, and that’s not bad.  But Jesus has bigger plans, and He can do bigger things with our lives when we have truly fallen in love with Him.  It is then that His passion flows through us and His love can’t be missed.  He must become greater, we must become less.  So, all this to say, I would tell you this:  Do whatever it takes to KNOW GOD MORE.  Fall in love with Him.  Seek for His heart and your heart to become ONE.  Then, through your life that He has transformed, He will guide and direct you in powerful ways, and this world will never be the same.

Teach Me How To Love

This morning I read an email that my friend sent me.  She was talking about her brother and how she was moved to pray for him.  There are things in his life that he values more than God and she was convicted about what she valued for him more.  Did she pray for his physical well-being, or for whatever it would take to draw him closer to God, even if that meant losing all that was important and safe for him?

I was so convicted by this.  Last night a friend of mine told me that I am a nearly impossible person to reach because of the “firewalls” I place around me.  I realized this morning that there are few people in my life that I have ever allowed myself to love enough to have my heart broken in prayer for them.  I have rarely ever allowed someone into the deep recesses of my heart.  I have resisted allowing someone to know me for so long, and that has kept me from truly loving and caring deeply for others.

How do I change this?  This sounds crazy, but I want my heart to be broken for others.  I want to be woken up in the middle of the night because I hurt for someone that doesn’t know the love of God.  I want to not only pray that God will break through in their lives, but feel the pain of what could be if they don’t ever come to know Him.

I guess this is my prayer right now, that God would teach me how to love.  I pray that He will break down the firewalls that aren’t necessary so that I can truly feel for those around me.  It’s a scary thing to pray, but if I want to truly love God, then I want to know how He feels toward His children:  passion.  Lord, give me a heart like Yours.

Mansions of the Heart: Chapter Seven

Wow, ok.  I need to say here that after reading this chapter, I am highly overwhelmed by all the information that I just received.  Part of it could be that I have been sitting here for about 7 hours reading and blogging, but I am going to attempt to focus in on these questions.  There will most likely be more blogs about this in the future.  I agree with the author that the fact that I am reading this book means that I am currently experiencing this mansion in some degree.  I can remember having tastes of this mansion as early as four years ago, and I think that I may actually be in one of the later mansions, but I’m guessing these last four probably blend together quite a bit.  I’ll wait to make that judgment until I read further.
Reflect a bit on your experiences of falling in love with Jesus.
I could write a book about this (oh wait, I am haha).  I would say the first time that I started to experience this mansion was the summer after my sophomore year in college.  I was in Ecuador and I had an experience with God in the hostel in the jungle for several hours that made me start to experience God more as my “lover” than my “father”.  Then, it was more of my realizing that God was in love with me.  I started to experience the chase of God, that He wanted my heart and He was pursuing me.  It wasn’t until a couple months later when I was living in the Dominican Republic that I started to experience the visions that Chapter 7 talks about.
Now, the chapter talked about visions in a way that most people can connect with, and that is great.  However, my visions with God have gone a little deeper, because of this “gift” or whatever it is that God has allowed me to have.  I actually had two discernable visions, one by a bush on the mountain and another in the backyard of my host family’s house that were significant and very real.  My visions have always been very visual in nature, and I think this is because I am a very visual person.  I started to experience what the chapter talked about was a realization of my brokenness.  I experienced a lot of Satan’s “you don’t deserve God’s love” during this time, and I was reminded often of my failures.  Because of my unique situation of being in a foreign country at the time, I also experienced a lot of times when I was very aware of being filled with the Spirit, in places and times when I was asked to do something that was far beyond my ability.  It was a pretty significant experience.
Because both of these Mansion four experiences happened in foreign countries, it took a while after I returned to the US to come back to this mansion.  It was easy to separate the foreign Chelsea from the American Chelsea in my mind, and I think everybody struggles with this.  However, I really think that especially a year ago in March when I was truly able to put aside the self-esteem issues and the depression that I had battled for 10 years, I started to be well on my way into Mansion four.  My prayer time was more focused on basking in God’s love for me, and the things that I did became selective as I started to live more out of a response to Him.  The things I did flowed genuinely out of my love for Him, and though once in a while I got burnt out with all the work and responsibilities, it did not happen nearly as often, and I realized why I was feeling that way and how I could do things differently in the future.  I do know that starting in March of this year, God started to move me on from this mansion and closer to Him.
What has God used to call you deeper?  What tends to keep you from responding as you really want to?
God has used experiences to call me deeper.  He gives me a taste of Himself and draws me in.  He has used a lot of times of dissatisfaction and discontentment to realize that things need to change, and that draws me into a time of closeness with Him.  God also uses things that come into my life that I know I can’t handle, such as a new friendship or relationship, and I learn to lean more on Him and His leading.  I reevaluate who I am and who I want to be.  But it goes much deeper than that.
What do you find frightening about intimacy with God?
I think that I am scared that I will not be able to handle His presence, and that’s probably a reasonable fear.  Sometimes I am scared of what He will ask me to do, but mostly I am excited.  I am scared about trying to explain myself to those around me.  In some ways, I am afraid that I won’t be brave enough.
How can you cooperate with what God is doing in you?
I guess I just need to continue being in His presence, because I feel that if He has something to say to me, I will hear it with far less distraction this way than if I am busy doing my own thing.  I am reading more and spending more time writing.  I am talking to people I respect, but God is also showing me that it is ok to disagree with them.  I feel that I am relying more on what God is saying about me than others, and that is a freeing experience.  However, this is challenging.  I guess the key to cooperating with God is always saying “yes.”  He does the doing.  I do the responding.

Profile of the Obsessed

Ok, I have a confession to make.  I stole the name of this blog from Francis Chan because OH MY GOODNESS, chapter 8 of Crazy Love confirmed a lot of things that I had been thinking (and consequently been talking about with Rachel) but also convicted me of many things.  There is so much that was covered in these pages…really has turned my brain to thinking.
Obsessed is defined as:  to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic.
Chan starts out the chapter with this phrase:  “The idea of holding back certainly didn’t come from Scripture.”  I wanted to shout AMEN but since I am at a restaurant, that probably would not have been considered socially appropriate.  Funny how I just contradicted myself.
Chan says, “I know a lot of people who don’t know Christ and are really nice people—nicer and more fun to be with, in fact, than a lot of Christians I know.”  I totally agree with him!  He goes on to talk about how “true love makes you stand out.”  We don’t only love people who love us back and we don’t only give to those who can pay us back.  We love our “enemies” or the people that we don’t necessarily get along with.  I like to classify this as “people I have a personality conflict with.”  This love reflects the love that Jesus gave us:  He died for us when we could care less about Him.  In fact, He died for us when we hated Him.  That’s true love.  And that’s crazy.
My new favorite quote comes from Frederick Buechner:
“The love for equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother.  It is to love what is loving and lovely.  The world smiles.  The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely.  This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.  The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man.  The world is always bewildered by its saints.  And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain.  The tortured’s love for the torturer.  This is God’s love.  It conquers the world.”
Wow…ok, so…wow.  We talk a lot about compassion in the church, and that is even the heart of what my life is about.  I long to take care of orphans for the rest of my life.  That is my dream and vision, and it is one that I sense God has given me.  However, I’m not sure that I’ve really looked at how I respond to people who are more successful than me.  Honestly, I am often envious of others’ good fortunes, and wonder when “my break is going to happen.”  I have always felt guilty for feeling that way, but I’m not sure I’ve ever admitted that it is a struggle of mine.  With this “love for the more fortunate” and “love for enemies”, I think that it is really really easy to become obsessed with “fairness” than with Jesus.  I can’t begin to describe how many times at work or in my personal life that I have looked at the way I have been treated and grew bitter because “what did I ever do to them?  That’s not fair.”  I have just missed a valuable opportunity to silently love them as Jesus would.
And maybe I struggle with this because I’m still trying to decide what true “justice” is.  There’s the American’s version of, “I should be treated like everyone else is treated.”  This, I think, is a spin-off of Jesus’ command to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  However, we don’t have to live in this society long to know that this isn’t even the status quo, so for us to expect that of everyone we come into contact with is a little crazy.  Maybe we all have become jaded in some sense because we were not “treated fairly.”  However, this is one of the “crazy love” things that Jesus commands us to do that will truly set us apart.  We don’t treat others like they treat us or even like everyone else is being treated.  We treat others like we would want to be treated, and out of a love that flows from God and not our feelings about them at the time.  This is something I think we all need to work on.  I have noticed in the last couple weeks how much I need to pray about this.
Risk Takers
Chan talks about praying before trips for safety and for no one to get hurt.  He says, “We’ve elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God’s best is, whatever would bring God the most glory, or whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world.”  He goes on to say, “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.”
Yeah, safety has been one of my big issues.  I have not really cared (as far as trips go or my future plans) about what is safe (much to my parents’ chagrin).  I have, in fact, done some rather dangerous things with my life, and I’m sure I will do more of that in the future.  As far as what is “safe” versus being in the center of God’s will, I’ll choose the latter in a heartbeat.
There is a level of safety though, that I have been struggling to give over to God.  I am not going to share in much detail publicly, but since I was in college, I finally learned how to anoint my room with the blood of Jesus.  I have struggled my entire life with demonic oppression, and praying for God’s protection over my room and the building I was in became a necessity.  I still had encounters, but they were not necessarily while I was going to sleep at night.  Lately, God has been impressing on me to walk with Him down the path of discovering why He has allowed this awareness into my life, and this will require my prayers for “safety” to change a little.  I still have not come to the point where I can ask God to allow whatever to come into my room if it will bring Him glory.  There is still too much trauma that needs to be healed.  However, every day God is bringing me closer to being able to say, “ok.”
Friends of All
Chan talks about how he decided one day to go to the store and buy some things for people he knew did not have enough.  However, he said, “It was embarrassing.  I realized that everyone I knew had enough, that I didn’t know many people who were truly in need, and that I needed to change that.  I needed to go and intentionally meet people who didn’t live like I do or think like I do, people who could never repay me.  For their sake, but for my own as well.”  He finishes the section by saying, “People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another.  Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him.”
Yeah, once again, I can totally identify with this.  I think most people I know can identify with this.  I don’t know very many people who are genuinely in love with God and yet are still friends with people who are definitely not, and have no plans to be in the future whatsoever.  I don’t know many people who are friends with those who are struggling solely for the purpose of being their friend.  There are many different types of people who are in need and many Christians who are truly and genuinely struggling…these are two different matters I want to talk about separately.
Something that I have been convicted of a lot recently, is that I do not know many people who do not go to church or who are opposed to the Christian faith.  I have started to take some measures to place myself in situations where I will be around people like that, but it is not easy, especially when I work at a church.  Granted, many people that come into my office would fit into this “category” if people could be fit into categories, but that’s an entirely different matter.  They are still coming into “my territory” so to speak.  How often do I go to theirs?  And when I do go, am I obsessed with saving them?  Or do I leave the saving to God and just be their friend?  It’s hard, because there are a lot of things that we do not have in common.  I guess what I need to pray more is that God will show me things that we do have in common, and we can connect on those levels.
Also, people that are in need (and this does not mean non-Christians).  A lot of times we are afraid to open ourselves up to those who are in need because we are afraid of how much it will cost us.  It’s true that we need to have good boundaries, because some people will take and take until there is nothing left.  However, we can’t isolate ourselves from those who are in need simply because it is a burden that we do not want to deal with.  I work in Compassionate Ministries (now we changed the name, but it’s confusing and hard to explain, so we’ll stick with Compassionate Ministries) in my church.  We constantly have a lot of people coming in for all kinds of assistance, and we get all the calls that nobody else knows how to deal with or the difficult people that other staff members do not have the time to deal with.  We are the overflow.  It is also hard to get and keep volunteers, because it is a difficult ministry to be a part of.  We do not receive thanks from anyone hardly ever, and especially not from the people that we dedicate so much time and energy into helping.  We give many people “tough love” and this often results in anger from people who want a handout or a gift without restrictions.  Loving those who are “down and out” is not just for the “special people”, but it is a command to all of us.  We are all called to develop the kind of character in our lives that welcomes opportunities to be a friend to those who cannot repay us, and this requires a level of sacrifice.  However, BOY IS IT NOT EASY, and it’s something that I struggle with a lot…pretty much all questions beginning with the word “how…?”
Also, this was not talked about, but allowing others to help us when we are struggling.  This is hard for Christians to understand, because we think that we should be helping others rather than being helped.  I can’t tell you how many times we have families from our church come into the food pantry and talk about how embarrassing it is to be there, and how they are usually the ones helping not the ones taking.  And these are just the brave ones.  There are so many more in our congregation that are truly in need, but they don’t feel that they deserve to come into the food pantry for assistance.  Being a part of the Body of Christ means that we take care of each other.  This is the part of community that does not make sense in our society, where we stress being independent rather than interdependent.  None of us wants to be “needy”, but just because someone is “in need” does not mean they are “needy.”  I wish I could share this with so many people in our church.
Crazy Ones
Chan’s opening statement is incredibly true:  “Sometimes I feel like when I make decisions that are remotely biblical, people who call themselves Christians are the first to criticize and say I’m crazy, that I’m taking the Bible too literally, or that I’m not thinking about my family’s well-being.”
Rachel, I think we said this word for word the other day before either of us read this chapter.  Why ON EARTH is following Jesus so hard for a lot of Christians around us to understand?  I feel like I am constantly having to explain myself to those around me of why I want to do some of the things I want to do.  I can’t share a lot of the “ideas” that come into my mind, because I know what people will say:  I’M CRAZY.  My entire family basically thinks I’ve gone off the deep end (and if they don’t yet, they probably will soon).  I do need to put a disclaimer in here though:  parents, you have been way supportive of me, even when I don’t make any sense to you at all.  Thank you, that means a lot.
Chan also talks about the concept of crazy (and Rachel, this is also something we talked about, good for us!)  Who sets the standard for normal?  Us or Jesus?  So, is being “all radical” for Jesus crazy, or is not being “all radical” for Jesus crazy?  Something to think about…
The Humble
“The church in America loves to turn saints into celebrities, to make known the stories of humble people who have faithfully served Christ in some way.”  I think about Mother Teresa in this regard.  Everyone saw her as a great humanitarian, and she has been glorified by people both inside the Church and out.  However, I feel like her true heart has been taken away amidst all the glory.  It was about serving God and becoming less, not more.  In a way, it makes me sick to think about it.  Chan ends the section with this quote:  “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be “humble enough,” and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known.”
I am sooooooo guilty of this.  I know that for years (and I still fall into this trap sometimes) that I did things “for God” because it would bring me some sort of recognition or it would make someone think better of me.  I loved receiving compliments, though I would turn them down, because it helped me to know “how well I was doing.”  I always wanted people to know of my “great faith” and I deeply longed for everyone’s respect more than anything.  I tried to “make myself humble” in a very prideful way, and in the end, it seriously messed me up.  God has been teaching me a lot, especially the last couple years, about what true humility is all about, and I’ve got to admit, it’s been rather difficult.
God has asked me to do some pretty crazy things that probably have caused some people to lose respect for me.  He has asked me to share some personal things, like my struggle to want to go to church or read my Bible, and this most likely causes some people to lose respect for me.  I am not a person of “great faith.”  I just love Jesus, and I’m always seeking to love Him more.  Seeking for ways to show God as “greater” and me as “less” is really hard, especially in a culture where it’s expected to climb  the ladder of success (and this BY FAR does not exclude the church).  Sometimes I think this is especially true for the church, and I saw this in my years of going through the ordination process.  I felt like a lot of it was a status thing (at least I felt like I was being sucked into the status thing).  When I said that I was “a district licensed pastor”, I felt like I was just stabbed in the gut by my pride.  For me, whether or not I am “ordained” does not affect whether I serve God to full capacity or not.  I am not called to be a pastor.
I love Chan’s quote:  “Now I think I’m actually in love.”  He continues later with, “I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.”
I really struggled with this section, because I felt like it could easily become “you know the people who are true Christians by how much they do.”  I really think the goal of life is to have a deep and genuine relationship with God, and sometimes this leads us to not “do” as much, because we realize that our serving is not a mandatory earning of God’s grace, but an extension and overflow of the grace that is shown to us.  Until we grasp and have tapped into the living water of God, it is hard to serve Him from true motives that don’t exhaust us or leave us disillusioned and missing the point.  However, I see Chan’s point.
There’s a saying (and you’ve probably heard it) that in the church “20% of the people do 80% of the work.”  It’s true.  The Sunday School director is also the children’s pastor and the director of the choir, and randomly also mows the lawn.  The missions chairman leads the praise team and is the front door greeter.  The list could go on and on.  Women in ministry?  This whole issue cracks me up.  Women have been in ministry for years.  They do everything that most guys really don’t want to do.  This is dangerous however, because I have seen in a lot of churches how the guys back off and do nothing, while women carry the entire leadership.  I do not believe this is how it was meant to be.  Men were created to be the leaders, and if I go down this track too far, I know many people who would personally find me and shoot me.  Just for clarification, I am not avoiding this for the sake of my reputation, I am avoiding it for the sake of my life.  Someday I will explain what I mean by this.
This section was really good, but one you would expect in a chapter like this.  My favorite part was this paragraph:  “He is asking you to love as you would want to be loved if it were your child who was blind from drinking contaminated water; to love the way you would want to be loved if you were a homeless woman sitting outside the café; to love as though it were your family living in the shack slapped together from cardboard and scrap metal.”  He also said, “Non-churchgoers tend to see Christians as takers rather than givers.”  This to me is really sad.
Chan tells about his wife’s grandma and going with her to a theater.  When he asked her what she thought of the play, she told him, “Oh honey, I really don’t want to be here right now.”  When he asked her why, she said, “I just don’t know if this is where I want to be when Christ returns.  I’d rather be helping someone or on my knees praying.  I don’t want Him to return and find me sitting in a theater.”  He ends the section with the quote:  “A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently.  Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.”
To me, that statement by Clara was a little extreme (and maybe that’s just my generation talking), because I can see in so many ways how a lot of fun things can really be beneficial in the light of eternity.  However, her final sentence gave me pause:  “I don’t want Him to return and find me sitting in a theater.”  I guess I don’t think about that enough.  If Jesus came back right now, would He be pleased with where He found me?  That’s a question I need to ask myself more often.  How many days do I live in the light of eternity?  Certainly, illness has caused me to think about heaven and eternity more than most people my age.  However, in many ways I haven’t planned on living past today.  I’ve taken the live every moment as if it was your last so seriously that I haven’t truly allowed myself to live and invest in long-term friendships and relationships.  That’s something that I have been convicted of recently.
The Engrossed
This section was pretty self explanatory.  I can sum it up in the quote by Chan: “Our goal as people who follow Christ should be no less than becoming people who are madly in love with God.  A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.”
Unguarded Ones
This talks about being open and honest with God.  Here is the quote from this section:  “He knows what we are, that we are disgusting, that all we are doing is trying to make ourselves feel better.  God desires true intimacy with each of us, and that comes only when we trust Him enough to be fully transparent and vulnerable.” 
I think being vulnerable before God is really for our own good, because He knows everything about us anyway.  Often, we need to realize the depth of our need for Him, our emptiness, and our sin in order for our hearts to be open to accept His forgiveness and healing.
The Rooted
This section talks about how we use our time and our resources, and analyzing if our focus is on Kingdom things or on ourselves.  The quote from this section is:  “God doesn’t want religious duty.  He doesn’t want a distracted, half-hearted ‘Fine, I’ll read a chapter…now are You happy?’ attitude.  God wants His Word to be a delight to us, so much so that we meditate on it day and night.”
The Dedicated
The quote from this section is this:  “We tend to think of joy as something that ebbs and flows depending on life’s circumstances.  But we don’t just lose joy, as though one day we have it and the next it’s gone, oh darn.  Joy is something that we have to choose and then work for.”
I’m going to take a step out here and disagree with Francis Chan.  Oh my goodness, kill me now.  Trust is something that must be chosen.  However, something that I have come to realize is that as I draw closer and closer to God, I can’t help but have joy.  And Chan is right, this does not depend on circumstances.  However, I think that joy is a result of trusting in God and learning to understand that His ways are higher.  Joy is knowing that God’s love for us will never ever change.  Joy is knowing that our lives have purpose through Him, and learning to see life and the world through His eyes gives hope that the world could never take away.  What a joy it is to KNOW HIM!  It is not something that I have to choose.  Sometimes I still have to choose to trust Him.  However, joy flows from living daily in His presence.
“We cannot start believing that we are indispensable to God.” –Francis Chan
This final (hallelujah!) section talks about how we are important because we are known by God, just like every other thing that is created.  However, God does not need us, because He is complete already.  We live our lives out of gratitude and praise to Him.
Ok…this was a really long explanation about what I got out of this chapter.  If you read this whole thing, you get brownie points from Chelsea!
Wherever Is Trevor

{ he asks himself the same }

embrace real

motivational coach sheli G

Anderson and Janary

And their Journey of a Lifetime

Cooking With Asian Magic

This girl's culinary guide to veggin' in. A look at cooking meat-free and delicious.

Extreme Nazarene Missions

Change Hearts. Change the World.