Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Once Learned, Now (Re)Learning

I am learning a ton... well actually, (re)learning a ton and remembering all the things the Lord has already done.

Yesterday I tore open the pages of my journal from this past summer at Timber Wolf.  I was hit by a flood of thoughts... so many memories from the summer storming back in... so much love for that camp... so many hilarious stories... so much rawness... so many things that I thought I had learned,

but I seem to have forgotten. 

I learned so much this summer.  The Lord was challenging me, growing me, and stretching me in so many different ways.  But today, those "lessons" from the summer are "lessons" once again.  What I had considered learned, now seems like a distant memory... and I am in major need of (re)learning.

It seems to me that one of the biggest ways that Satan can attack us is through forgetting... forgetting what the Lord has done in us already.  He hides all of the beautiful and righteous things that the Lord has done from our memory, so that it makes it difficult to recall the Lord's faithfulness.

Now while forgetting may be one of Satan's ploys, the Lord is already victorious for He has defeated death.

As Satan makes us forget what the Lord has done, the Lord can use that as an opportunity to reteach us, to extend us grace, to love us, and to call us back to Himself... what a beautiful and gracious God we have.

So I now find myself in a season of (re)learning.  I say (re)learning because the situations and contexts are different, but the lessons are the same.

And to be honest, I feel a little lost and a lot confused... but my words are the same as Jehoshaphat's when he was about to face a vast army that he was unprepared for:

"(I) do not know what to do, but (my) eyes are upon You." -2 Chronicles 20:12

And I will cling to Him.  I will cling to my God.  He says, "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:15).  He is calling me back... calling me back to the lessons I thought I had learned... and He will not leave me.  

I trust Him, because "thus far, the Lord has helped" (1 Samuel 7:12).  He has been faithful before, and He will be faithful again.

"I will remember the deeds of the Lord, Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago." -Psalm 77:11

Today I am thankful for my journal.  I am thankful for all of the words I wrote to the Lord this summer and all the truths He declared in my writing.  I encourage you to journal or to write down what the Lord is doing in your life and what He is teaching you so that one day you can go back and read it... so that you can remember all that the Lord has done and so that Satan's grip on our forgetfulness is loosened.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Gospel.

Last weekend I had the privilege of going to the Transform Women's Conference at The Summit Church in RDU.  To be honest, I was a little skeptical because I didn't know what all a women's conference could entail, but per usual, the Lord knew best and blessed me in such a delightful way.

Elyse Fitzpatrick was the guest speaker and she was phenomenal.  She was sassy, funny, a great speaker... but most of all, very passionate about Jesus.  It was obvious in each word that she spoke.

The entire conference was on God's love for us and how His love can transform our hearts and our lives.  It was truly an insightful and blessed time.

In Elyse's first talk she presented the Gospel... and it was real... and it was good... and it was powerful... and it hit me like a wave crashing into the ocean.

As a Christian involved in ministry, presenting the gospel becomes a "normal" thing to do.  It is what we do at Young Life every week.  I hear the gospel often and I thank the Lord for all that He has done, but then I move on to the next thing... not because I don't value Jesus or the cross, but because I don't always let the truth of the gospel sit and stir in my heart.

But this time, it was different.

I was mesmerized by Jesus and His love for us and His death on the cross and then his resurrection.  I was awe struck by the gospel.  I was captivated. 

Elyse presented the Gospel in five different pieces.  I want to share them because I think they are beautiful and they are raw and they are real and they are mysterious and they have the power to transform.
  1. The Incarnation: God became flesh.  He became a human... a human that experienced all parts of human life.  He was birthed in a stable and was kept in a manger.  He experienced ALL that we are experiencing now... the frustrations, the joys, the hurts, the pains, the disgusts, the excitements, the stresses... He knew those.  Jesus was fully human, yet fully God... what a marvelous mystery.
  2. The Sinless Life: Jesus lived a truly sinless life from birth to death.  He lived a righteous life the entire time... the righteous life that we can never live.  He fulfilled the law in our place. 
  3. The Substitutionary Death: Jesus died for us... in our place.  He died a perfect death for us... and in that moment the Lord turned away from His perfect Son on the cross and He poured out ALL of His wrath on ALL of our sin.  And Jesus cried out, "It is finished."  This was done so that we may gain the righteousness of Christ. 
  4. The Bodily Resurrection: God in Heaven turned around three days later and exclaimed, "AMEN," over "It is finished" when He raised Jesus from the dead.  Death had been defeated and Jesus rose victoriously out of the grave. 
  5. The Ascension and Continuing Intercession and Reign of the Son of God: Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father.  His Spirit is in us and He is Sovereign.  The Lord reigns over us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this good news.  Thank You for sending Your Son to this earth to walk as a man and to live the perfect life.  Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for me, even before I knew You.  You are VICTORIOUS and You are TRIUMPHANT!!!  Lord, thank You that we do not have to try to be perfect because we cannot be... but thank You that Your Son was perfect.  Thank You for the opportunity to hear the gospel presented another time and I pray that each time I hear the gospel that it awakens my soul and that it transforms my heart because it is real and mysterious and beautiful.  My prayer is that each person that hears the gospel has their heart radically transformed as well... whether it is for the first time or for the hundredth time.  Jesus, I love You.  Amen.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

October: Blessings & Exhaustion

My calendar says that today is November 6. Excuse me, what happened to October? I remember the first of October like it was just yesterday... I was so excited for the month that would usher in autumn. But now I'm in November. October was a very full month... Very full. 

The Lord's blessings were bountiful in October. I was constantly amazed at all that I had the opportunity to do and all of that I got to experience. 

Pumpking carving, leading 20 wonderful high schoolers at Rockbridge, the North Carolina State Fair, Fall Break trip adventuring through Colorado, release of the Taylor Swift CD, surprise visit from my best friend in the entire world from Indiana, and celebrating the madness of Halloween in Chapel Hill... Those were just the big things. There were so many other things in between, that truly filled up the month of October and were blessings from the Lord.

Carving pumpkins!
East Young Life ladies at Rockbridge!

Baby Ayers & Macon: My co-leaders, my biggest encouragers, and 2 of my best friends.
Book flights to Denver with no plans? Sure, we'll do that.
Our hike in Breckenridge reminded me that God's creation is a love letter, like no other.
Flat Irons in Boulder, CO... We seriously, went all over that state in just 4 days!

And this girl: the BEST surprise I've ever had and the one who challenges me and loves me like no other!
McMansion does Santa and the his reindeer for Halloween 2012.

Seriously, I cannot thank God enough for each of those things. 

Little Side Note: Before Amanda (bestie from Indiana) came to visit, I was remarking to Sydney how blessed I had felt recently in all of the busyness, but that I still was really sad and missed Amanda a lot. It may have been my lack of sleep and lack of a desire to study, but I crawled into Syd's room Wednesday in near tears because I just missed her.... And in Sydney's most loving way she told me to stop complaining and to go study. Well I came home Thursday afternoon from class to the best surprise in the entire world... Amanda. Real. Live. Amanda. At my house. It was the best surprise I have ever received. Sydney videoed the entire thing.

But somehow, amidst all of those blessings, I got a little side tracked. I was going from one thing to the next. Trying so hard to savor every moment, but knowing that something else was coming next. 

Now that I am in November I am realizing... 

It happened all so fast and my heart is worn out. My body is exhausted. Sleep has become an option. Spending time with Jesus has become rushed in the morning as I attempt to plan out everything I have to do for the day. Relaxing is a foreign concept. Doing school work is that hurried, stressed hour where I remember I am, in fact, a student. Talking about plans for next year fills any and all voids of normal conversation. And that's just not working.

So now that October has ended, I can say I loved every single thing that I did during this past month. I truly did. And I truly feel so blessed by the Lord... but I am tired and a little off track. This past month, my focus on the Lord has shifted just so slightly as I have been focusing more on the His blessings than I have just solely on Him. That was never my intention... it just happened. I got swept up in the chaos of fun adventures, midterms, Young Life, and just life. 

And when that happens, when the Lord is not my sole and only focus, the exhaustion kicks in and a staleness sets in my heart. I begin to believe the lies that Jesus is mad at me and that He is going to stop loving me because I am not doing a "good job."

That is NOT the truth though. It is not. In fighting that lies, I am clinging to Philippians 3:10. Amanda (my mentor) shared the Amplified Version of this verse Friday at Leadership. It really spoke to me and as I broke it down I learned a lot... about God, His determined purpose, and He began to heal my heart that was a little off kilter.

"For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection which it exerts over believers, and that I may so share His suffering as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness ever to His death" -Philippians 3:10 (Amplified Version)

"For my determined purpose"
My faith is my own. It is just me and Jesus. That's a beautiful thing to me because it allows for a deep intimacy with our Heavenly Father. But it also means taking ownership for my relationship with Christ and for my purpose. And the fact that it is a determined purpose, implies that it is active and is not passive. So in that, it means admitting that I have rushed my dates with Jesus in the morning because I was groggy and slow in getting ready and I needed to run out the door to be somewhere. It means realizing that I am Christ's bride and that I have a role in this relationship. But ultimately, I am Christ's and He has already paid the price for my sin, so I admit I have faltered, but by no means, does Jesus not love me anymore because of that.

"I may know Him"
My determined purpose is to know Him... just Him. I get to have a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Creator. He knows me so well because He made me and I get to know Him more and more as I spend time with Him... Wow, I am so incredibly thankful for that!

"progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted"
This knowing of the Lord does not happen instantly. It is a process and it requires progress over time. It is continually changing and growing. It is not constant. This is one of the most freeing things to me because my relationship with Jesus does not have to be the same as it was in October. It can progress from my rushed mornings to long coffee dates once again. It can go back to the mornings where I get lost in His Word and am so mesmerized by His being that I never want to put my Bible and journal down and Sydney has to drag me out the door for class.
Even though I have not been as dedicated and consistent in pursuing Jesus these past few weeks, He is not finished with me and He is continuing to make me new. I can confident in the fact that "He who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion" (Philippians 1:6).

"perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person"
God is dynamic and He is full of wonders. As I get to know Him more, I get to see more and more of these wonders. There is no doubt, while I was in Colorado, I was overwhelmed by the wonders of God's magnificent creations. The scenery in that place spoke to our Creator's being and His goodness and power. I can't wait for that to continue.

"to know the power outflowing from His resurrection"
Christ defeated death in His resurrection. He overcame hell. If that isn't power, then I don't know what is. Through His defeat of death, He has brought us life, and life to the full (John 10:10). I want to know that power more. Life to the full means freedom in Christ... true freedom in Christ. We are not bound by the lies of Satan any longer. I am not bound by any of the lies that say I need to do all of these things to make Jesus love me... all that I need to do is be, be with Him and to know Him more. 

"may so share His sufferings" 
Christ was crucified on a cross. He knows suffering. If we are trying to become more Christ-like we will encounter sufferings as well. But Christ knows them, He knows each and every one of our sufferings. It's hard to admit that I've wandered a little off the track through my hurriedness. It hurts my heart a lot, but it hurts Jesus' even more.

"as to be continually transformed in spirit, into His likeness even"
I AM BEING CONTINUALLY TRANSFORMED. I am not who I was. I am being made new by Christ, through His power. So maybe October left me exhausted and worn out and a little lost, but that doesn't have to characterize November. Christ is transforming my heart. The busyness is not going to go away... Honestly, I don't want it to because I love adventuring, spending time with friends, exploring, leading Young Life, and everything else. But my heart is just going to look a little different as that continues. The Lord is sculpting and transforming my heart, so that my time with Him can be rich and lovely and not rushed.

So October, it was a great month... it was. The Lord truly blessed me in so many ways and I got to experience Him in so many places.

But now, it's time to re-center. It's time to refocus. My determined purpose is to know my Heavenly Father more than I already do... to dwell in that intimate relationship. Jesus says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love." (John 15:9).

So that's what I am going to do... Simply abide in His love once again. And hopefully that will include some fun adventuring, spontaneous road trips, Thanksgiving feasting, McMansion madness, the start of Carolina basketball, but if it doesn't... that will be okay, because...

the Lord is the Author of my soul and my one true need.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for all of the blessings in October. Thank You for showering me with adventure and for meeting my every need. Thank You that You bless us so that we may bless others. Jesus, I am sorry that in the craziness of October that my time with You got rushed and that I was swept away by the blessings more than I was swept away by just Your love. I thank You that You are not finished with me and that You are continually making me new. Thank You that You are transforming me into Your likeness. Jesus, I pray that I can treasure my time with You more and that I can begin again to dwell solely in Your love and that I can get lost in who You are and in Your Word. I love you, Jesus.