The Burden He Gives is Light

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I have just returned home after a spirit-filled and inspiring church service. I sing in the choir. Today our anthem, which matched the pastor’s message, was “The King is Coming.” Singing that song was a powerful experience—so joy-filled! But our pastor’s sermon built up to it well by listing scripture after scripture that speaks plainly of the second coming of our Lord Jesus. Living in the world, I find it too easy sometimes to slip into a mode of thinking where the scriptures become more allegorical than prophetic. The service today brought it all back home for me and helped to anchor me again in the Good News that the writings are real. Jesus was–before there was anything, He came, He is risen, He is alive, and He will come again. This is real: He will come.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

New Living Translation (NLT)

51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.

I mentioned in my last post that I would tell you more about my recent experiences of the Holy Spirit. They have to do with peace. Not world peace or peace from earthly struggle, but God’s peace.  The maturing of a new Christian happens in stages that differ with individual experiences. For instance, my own struggle with pride and intellectual hubris was great. I suffered from a materialistic need to achieve success under my own power. Even as I was reading in God’s word that He has a plan for my life and that His way is a lighter burden than my way, I resisted understanding what I was reading. I still felt that achievement was only justified if it came about under my own power.

Jeremiah 29:11

New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

A few weeks ago, I was agonizing over my choices for graduate school. All the material about graduate studies seems to imply that if the wrong choice is made, entire futures of opportunity are closed to the student. I cried out to the Lord in frustration saying, all I want to do, Lord, is what you will for me, go where you need me, do the work you need done. How am I supposed to choose the right school to make all that happen? If I choose wrongly, then I will ruin everything!

Immediately, a powerful sense of a golden-lit peace fell like a blanket over me. It penetrated layers of thought and emotion, of stubborn resistance, and reached somewhere deep inside my thoughts.  I had a powerful image of the Kingdom to come, where all work will be meaningful and satisfying, and where each of us will have a natural inclination fulfilled in work for which we have been designed. “This is the only work that matters, child,” I felt the Holy Spirit saying within me. “Continue to hear my guidance. That is all you must do. I will work out everything else.”

Matthew 11:28-30

New Living Translation (NLT)

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

I have held onto that vision with all my heart since then to remind myself that I am incapable of wielding enough power to ensure God’s will. And the reverse is true: no amount of struggle on my part can undo God’s will (although I can stray from it, as long as I listen and obey Him, I cannot disturb the plan). My only job is to listen and to obey. He will take care of everything else. What peace that knowledge gives me! I am blessed that God should care enough about the anxious struggles of one tiny member of His creation to give her a glimpse of His true Kingdom.

2 Samuel 22:50

New Living Translation (NLT)

50 For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations;
    I will sing praises to your name.

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Just Another Day in a Life of Kingdom-Seeking

Well, I suppose a post every six weeks is better than no post at all…

I just realized that I have neglected this space for far too long. I am in my final semester at college. While that is no good excuse, it is the reason I’ve not been writing. Between current class-loads, GRE tests, grad-school applications, church, family, and the normal-busy, I have been one stressed-out lady! But God has been right there beside me, encouraging and protecting me. He is incredibly faithful to us.

Psalm 33:4
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

I have been blessed recently with solid, literal assurances of God’s faithfulness (I’ll post about some of these over the next few days). He has smoothed the path for my feet many times lately. I have taken great pleasure in the peace He blankets over me when my struggles are great. So often have I benefited from His loving guidance that I have been sometimes guilty of forgetting that not everyone knows God personally. When faced with the raw, often angry, defensive, or sullen bitterness of those who can’t find their way to peace, I just ache for them to reach out to God, to let Him bear some of their load.

Today, for instance, was a normal-challenging day for me. I had one moment of panic when I realized I’d let a math study session linger too long — and I’d missed getting to the testing lab to pick up some of my student’s early final exams. I was very hard on myself. The word “irresponsible” felt stamped on my head. But I also felt the Holy Spirit inside me, in the voice that is not my own and with the firm insistence that does not originate with me, urge me to walk past the office “just in case” someone had stayed late on a Friday night. Of course, there were two people there, fully 15 minutes after the office should have been locked-up tight for the weekend. I retrieved the tests (and will grade them immediately after posting this).

As I walked out to the parking lot, I knew with the certainty of faith that God was responsible for me getting those tests to grade. Whatever it was that had kept me late must have been necessary in His will. While my students would not have been harmed waiting until Monday night to find out if they’d passed the course, I would have felt awful keeping them in suspense over the weekend. God had not only likely accomplished some greater good, but He’d kept my students from anxiously waiting, and saved me from feeling bad about neglecting them. I felt like shouting my praise. I said out loud to an empty hallway, “God, you are amazing!”

He is. He is just amazing.

After arriving home, still on a high from my experience with the Holy Spirit, I grabbed some dinner and sat down at my desk to check email and Facebook before hitting the books. On Facebook, there were the usual instances of coarse language, drama, relationship woes, along with encouragements from church family and friends. One teacher-friend reported that a young student had said something using concepts that were highly inappropriate for a student-teacher conversation. I couldn’t imagine what sort of life this young fellow had that led him to believe it was OK to say what he did to his teacher. He may have just been pushing at his boundaries, but the sexually explicit concept he spoke of crossed every line of appropriate ever drawn. Maybe he lacked any sense of boundary because he’d never been introduced to one. I wondered what his home-life could have been like and that if his home life was more or less “normal,” that perhaps access to nearly unlimited media was to blame. What new and strange times young people always have to try growing within. They need reasoning and loving adults to help guide them.

It seems that God needs faithful followers as much as He ever has to reach out into the world and help to bring hurting, broken, life-scarred souls to His waiting arms. As much as I would be content just basking in the warm glow of His peace, safe in my home and church, I prefer that He make of me a vessel for His will.

I find myself more and more each day asking God to use me as His tool on the Earth, to let me be hands and feet and voice for Him, hoping that over time perhaps a showing of steadfast love will engender some curiosity in people who don’t know God yet. Every now and then I get glimpses that it might be working.  I pray for God to guide my movements so that I never speak out from a prideful heart or in a manner that causes people to turn away. I believe that the more I have faith that God will work in me and through me, the more lives around me will be encouraged. And the more it works that way, the deeper, richer, more satisfying, and more peaceful my own life becomes.

Again … amazing, I say!

As I was thinking of posting tonight, I came across 1 Thessalonians 5 and this passage:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Indeed. Give thanks, for He loves you with all His heart. Even those who don’t yet know Him. And to those, I insist, God is just waiting for you to take His hand and step into an infinitely better world than you have ever seen.

Now, I’d better grade some tests.

3 John–or, oh wow, they really were human

I read at my university’s banned books reading tonight. Banned Books Week originates with the American Library Association. My university has been participating for several years, but this was my first experience with it. Considering that many books have been banned for language and sexual content, I was afraid that both would be evident in the readings. I voiced my concerns at the meeting of the English honor society (we were sponsoring the reading). Our faculty advisor mentioned that people have read from the Bible in the past. Well, of course they have! The Bible has been banned across the globe over the past centuries. In Christian England, in fact, from the 13th to 15th centuries, the Bible was banned in England for such things as translation into the vernacular or non-clergy possession. I reported at the reading that I had found research stating the Bible is currently banned in Eritrea and North Korea, but I may have been mistaken. While there are recent persecution stories from those countries, the most significant story I have found regarding possession of a bible concerns a woman executed in 2009 in North Korea for distributing Bibles. Nevertheless, North Korea officially claims it is not intolerant of religious freedom. 

In any case, I chose to read tonight from 3 John. After much praying, searching, and tabbing of my favorite parts, I chose 3 John for its simple human representation. It is a letter from John to his friend Gaius in another church. In the epistle John thanks Gaius for his faithfulness and encourages him to give hospitality to travelling Christians. He also acknowledges the disturbing behavior of another church leader, and says that he (John) will certainly deal with the situation when he visits. It ends in such a familiar way: “your friends here send their greetings; please give mine to my friends there.” It struck me when I first read it that people have not changed much at all in 2000 years. John could be a modern person sending an email or private Facebook message. I hope that my audience felt that, too.

I followed the reading of 3 John with one that lent itself to a bit of dramatic hyperbole, which I thoroughly enjoyed: Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham. To my surprise, it had been banned in The People’s Republic of China in 1961 for nearly thirty years. I had great fun reading it, and got a few laughs out of the audience as well. 

In the end, we all had fun and nobody chose a passage with a recognizably bad word. The event gave both faculty and students an opportunity to read in public, which is always good practice for further reading in public. That is always handy practice for English majors. 

Youthful Sunday Perceptions

This morning in the 18-25 year old Sunday school class that I help to teach, there was a rousing discussion of how we reconcile science and our relationship with God. Personally, I have always wondered why society seems to feel a reconciliation is necessary. I love God. I do science in order to understand something that God has created. I could say that science is a subset of God. In this way I think that the debate over “evolution” and “creationism” isn’t as much a debate between people with differing opinions about science as it is a debate between people of differing opinions about God. I believe He exists, guides my life, protects me, encourages me, and knows all of the math, even the stuff we haven’t discovered yet and the stuff we never will.

Later this morning, I led the Children’s Church, which is a place for the children in grades 3 and under to go so that they don’t squirm around in the pews during the sermon.The sermon is good news for adults, but terribly boring for a child, so Children’s Church is also a place for the children to go to learn about God in ways that they can understand. As a burgeoning mathematician, I always try to include a little bit of math in my church. I began the children’s lesson the same way I always do, by asking them to count how many children are in the room. Then I asked them some questions.

me: “Who created math?”

boy: “The president!”

me: “The president must be very smart. Who is smarter than the president?”

other boy, screwing up his face in deep and earnest thought: “God!”

first boy: “That’s right! God created math!”

me: “That’s right. God created everything. How many days did it take God to create everything?”

first boy: “Six! No, ten! Maybe even 15 or 16!”

This led into a playacting of “and God said Let there be light, and there was light,” followed by a rousing discussion of what Jesus was like when He was a little kid, followed by a rousing game of ok-everybody-twirl-in-place-until-the-first-one-falls-down.

At least we all agreed in the end that God created math and that Jesus was probably the nicest kid in his class.

God is so good.

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I’ve been consumed with college lately. Every time I get a notion to write here, something distracts me. The problem is that I want to write thoughtful things that take an hour or two to craft. But I only have ten minutes, fifteen tops, before another assignment or task comes due.

Enter the short, focused observation. Like this…

Recently I prayed very sincerely for God to convict me of pride and help me gain some much-needed humility. I want to be more like Jesus, but pride keeps standing in my way. At least I recognize that now. A couple of years ago, when I first heard about pride being more a hindrance than a help to spiritual growth, I was like, “pride? what pride? I’m just good at stuff.”

Oh how the times have changed! I want to be a nurturing influence on people, not some aloof creature. So, rather like Gideon asking for just one more sign that God is paying attention (Judges 6), as I was praying before bed one night, I asked that God give me opportunities to nurture.

The next day, as soon as I arrived at my job at a local college tutoring center, opportunities abounded! Staff, fellow tutors, and students all presented me with situations in which I could have responded to them with distracted ambivalence, which I would have justified by being busy with important work. Instead, remembering my request to God, I stopped what I was doing and turned my full attention to them. I responded to them with the same kind of sincere concern I would have for my own needs. I think I was able to help them – they responded with what seemed like a fresh spirit for the situations that were troubling them. But it made such a difference in my own day. In the same way that I think I receive more growth from tutoring than the students who I assist, my own attitude became lighter and more joyful. All my “important work” got done before it was due and I really felt like a nurturing influence.

God is so good! I’ve been telling people about His immediate reply to my prayer and how I can feel the light of His kingdom flowing through me. I’ve been looking for situations to help with all week now, but with my focus on the needs of others, not on my own need to feel good about doing good. It is a delicate difference but a very significant one. It requires effort on my part to be sure my good works are done in the spirit of being the hands of Christ, and not for my own satisfaction.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:8-10 

How important is it to read the Bible?

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How important is it for Christians to read the Bible? If we attend church regularly, we get God’s word directly from an expert minister. If we attend bible study or Sunday school regularly, we get mega doses of scripture from educated teachers. And what about the blogs we read and all those Bible apps we keep on our phones and Facebook timelines – don’t they count, too?

We have memorized the really good scriptures:

and certainly the “mote and plank” one (we love to pull that one out in online forums, don’t we?). So, why does my pastor continually tell me that I must take time out of my very busy day to read the Bible?

It is not a case of should, dear friends – as in, Christians should spend time with God’s word every day. It is a case of must. Christians must spend time with God’s word every day if we are to grow deeply in our faith as mature Christians.

And no, I am not any better at doing that than you are. I do read the Bible quite a bit. I constantly look up scripture online, and read the Bible on my iPhone at places like the dentist’s waiting room, but those times are either associated with something I am writing, or take place in loud spaces with lots of distractions. I don’t often take even ten minutes to devote just to reading from God’s word in a quiet and meditative environment. It is high time that I add that time into my life with God.  I must do so, after all.

Think about other activities that we find time for because we must — activities with benefits that result from performing them and consequences that arise from not doing so.  I brush my teeth so that my breath will be fresh and my teeth clean.  If I stop brushing my teeth, they will become rotten, and I will have to spend thousands of dollars at the dentist repairing them. Of course, that is because I care about my teeth. If I didn’t care about them, I would just stop brushing and let them fall out. I care about my spirit as well; it tends to reign over areas in my life like emotional health and happiness. With those, I gain personal and professional success and a sense of fulfillment. When I have those in place, I am in a position to lift up others around me, which is my ultimate pleasure. Will adding ten minutes a day with the word of God be to my spirit as brushing is to my teeth?

The past two nights, I have ended my day with those ten minutes.  I started with the Gospels.  I figure I will just read straight through the New Testament ten minutes at a time.  I have no idea how long it will take, but that is not the point.  The point is just to read.

I tell others that God’s word is the only piece of writing that never becomes old, never ceases to teach.  I always say that if I am stranded on a desert island with only one thing to read, I must have the Bible.  Any other book would lose its ability to delight through the familiarity of repeated readings.  The Bible never loses its ability to teach, to comfort, to inform, and to guide our lives. Scriptures that we have read thousands of times can suddenly take on entirely new meanings depending upon the circumstances we experience.

In times of plenty and peace, God’s word opens new avenues of thought for believers.  In times of doubt and frustration, scriptures take on new meanings, encouraging us to strengthen our faith because God takes care of those who love Him.  When trouble comes our way, His word shows us that He is our protector and our strength.  In sorrow, God’s word comforts us.

I am experiencing a relatively peaceful time in my life just now.  Last night in Matthew chapter six I read:

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

That last line, verse 33, struck me deeply because I’ve been praying for quite a while to know that I am following God’s plan for my life, and not my own conceits.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

God told me last night exactly what to do. It is pretty much what I have been doing: seeking first the kingdom. He will take care of me. He is mighty to do so.  I feel peace in continuing on my way, which is just what I needed. God provides. I know this because His word told me.

I will continue to read for ten minutes each night. I hope that it becomes as much a part of my bedtime ritual as brushing my teeth.  And I pray that you, dear friends, if you have not already made God’s word part of your daily living, find your ten minutes a day to spend in the word.

In Christ,

Debbie

Jesus will change your life.

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I have a secret that I want to share with you. It shouldn’t be hidden, but the world loves to bury it and to couch it in misleading phrases that turn people away. I want you to know about it though, so that you can consider it. But once you hear it, don’t stop reading. Please hear me out. I promise to keep it short.

The secret is that Jesus Christ will change your life. I guarantee it.

But He can only act on your behalf if you are courageous enough to permit it.

That’s right; it is up to you to permit Jesus to work in your life. It is up to you to surrender your life to Him. It is up to you to reach out and take the hand He continuously holds out to you. It’s not easy, but it is simple. I promise you that becoming suddenly judgmental and boring is not part of it, either. You won’t lose your sense of humor or your personality. In fact, the best things about you will only be enhanced, while the parts that drag you down day after day and keep you up at night berating yourself will be refined away. But it is up to you.

It is up to you to be weary enough of fighting, always fighting, to control

  • your future
  • your employment
  • your love-life
  • your past
  • your weight
  • your education
  • your children
  • your parents
  • your thoughts
  • your desires
  • your weaknesses
  • your strengths
  • your ambition
  • your passiveness
  • your aggression
  • your anger
  • your sadness
  • your depression
  • your life.

I guarantee you, Jesus Christ will change your life if you let Him. Do you have the courage to consider it?

2 Corinthians 5:17

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (NLT)

To believers:
Maybe you are already saved. You said the prayer and invited Christ to dwell in your heart. So, what next? There are deeper places to go in your walk with Christ. To get there, you must surrender control to Him. Once we accept Christ into our hearts, He begins immediately to work in our lives. But then a phenomenon occurs to which none of us are immune; we forget to engage with Him. We begin to wrest control back from Him. We might cease reading the Word or start skipping fellowship and bible study. We get busy, turn introspective, and forget to reach out to others. We all experience these times. It is not because we are not good Christians — it is because we are human and live in a fallen world where entropy cannot be denied. We forget to live actively in the kingdom of God. Just like muscles atrophy with disuse, our faith fails without active engagement in God’s Word.

To nonbelievers:
If you are not a Christian, I urge you to learn about it from a dynamic, spirit-filled source. Read C. S. Lewis. I recommend The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. Read Dr. Charles Stanley. These are trustworthy sources for information about Christianity. You may not agree with everything they say. That’s okay. But understand that there are many untrustworthy sources out there, too. If you are unsure of the text you’ve found, or question what one says, ask me about it. I am happy to help you. In fact, I am commissioned to do so by the highest authority.

Finally, whether you are a Christian or just want to know more about Christianity, please read the New Testament. Here’s a quick outline:

1. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: The first four books are the Gospels. They tell about the life of Jesus Christ.

2. Acts tells the history of the church: how it began, how it spread.

3. The Epistles come next. They were letters sent from apostles and disciples to churches and to other followers of Christ.

  • Paul wrote most of them: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians all written to churches; and First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon all written to colleagues and church leaders.
  • The author of Hebrews is unknown. This epistle was written to Christians experiencing persecution, to exhort and encourage them in their faith.
  • James was written by James the Just, brother of Jesus (note that this conclusion is contrary to the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus). Rather than a letter of direction, the epistle of James is a book of wisdom such as the Proverbs. It includes preferred attitudes, according to the message of Jesus Christ, such as warnings against boasting, judging, and greed, along with exhortations toward friendship, love, patience, and prayer.
  • First and Second Peter were presumably written by the apostle Peter, though this is in dispute by scholars. First Peter was written to churches in Asia Minor. Second Peter was written to churches in general.
  • First, Second, and Third John were written (along with the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation) by John the Evangelist, the apostle of Jesus. They were each written to different audiences.
  • Jude was written by Jude, brother of James the Just. This very short book (25 verses in one chapter) was written to all Christians, and warns of false teachers.

Revelation, the apocalypse of John, is the most difficult of the New Testament books to read. It was written by John of Patmos (presumably John the Apostle exiled to Patmos) in the form of a letter. It is a record of a vision given to John. Some people interpret Revelation as being a vision of what will happen at the end of the world. Others feel that it describes only the intense persecution that Christians were undergoing during the time in which it was written (95 A.D.). People often hotly debate the meaning. Books, televisions shows, and movies have used the book thematically. The book is complex and confusing, but contains wisdom to help Christians live their lives on Earth according to Jesus’ teaching.

Dear friends and readers, I want for you the joy and deep satisfaction of living that comes from actively engaging in a life with Jesus at the front and center. His mercies are tender and generous for those who love Him. He is our strength and our greatest advocate, our shelter in times of trouble. Run to Him. His arms are open wide, and waiting just for you.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT)

In Christ,

Debbie

Let my words be encouraging

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Wow, have I had an intense month, dear Readers and Friends!

I participated in a post-baccalaureate program to help me prepare to do graduate research. It was like an intellectual boot camp—complete with the requisite emotional melt-down right before the end, followed by the triumphant come-from-behind, well-presented, oral defense-of-research. And, of course, God was right there with me the entire time.

He crossed my path with people who lifted me up at just the times I needed. I think He also positioned me to be able to lift up others.

Romans 1:12
When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

The fellowship of Christians is a powerful phenomenon. It encourages us to display our faith in times when we might otherwise feel more comfortable concealing, but I am most concerned about the ways in which I still fail to represent Christ in the world. How many times did my words, wrapped up as they were in my own struggles and in my own perception, cause discouragement?

I’ve come a long way as a Christian. Even though foul language and teasing jokes are taken as commonplace and generally harmless in our culture, I don’t use them anymore. What once fell easily from my tongue now feels desolate and injurious. Even if others may not feel that language can ever be truly harmful, I believe that if my words are not being used to lift others up, they are not being used for God’s will.

Ephesians 4:29
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Likewise, I also don’t really struggle with rage or bitterness anymore, as I did when I was young. I used to feel bitter that other people seemed to move so effortlessly through life while my own journey was rough and subject to external forces. Other women were pretty and slender without trying; I could gain a pound just thinking of carbohydrates. Other people were born to money; I had to work hard for my own. Other people were popular and desirable; my own “genius” was unrecognized and unappreciated.

Ephesians 4:31
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.

By the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling me for the past four years, though, I no longer compare myself to others to find validation for my existence. My only competition is with myself and that competition is only to be able to rise to the challenges God leads me through so that I can grow stronger as a Christian and as a force for His good in the world. Now I know that my spirit, my smile, and my encouragement are beautiful. I love to get outside to hike, swim, and bicycle while enjoying the wonderful world God has made. I work for God now, and my work makes a difference in the lives of people. Popularity, greed, vanity are in the domain of the fallen. They have no place in God’s kingdom.

But, still, I find far too many situations in which I inadvertently discourage rather than encourage.

Ephesians 6:19
And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.

I understand that I am human, and that humanness implies imperfection; I will make mistakes. I will say the absolute wrong thing at the very worst time. I will apologize for it afterward, and usually the other person will laugh it off or urge me not to worry about it with the ubiquitous, “we all make mistakes.” I know that they are sincere because when others make mistakes, I say that to them, and believe it. I feel a yearning to be more like Christ, though, so every mistake of my own feels like a glaring declaration of my inability to do so. That declaration is nothing but the truth, though. I am fully incapable of attaining anything close to Christ-like behavior; I am a human creature.

My humanness, though, in its fallibility and coarse understanding, does grant me one benefit. It allows me to try to be more like Christ. There, in the attempt, is where the growth happens. Just wanting to grow closer to God is a holy undertaking, and worth the discomfort over my mistakes that sends me searching in His word for ways to become more like Him.

Ephesians 4:15
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Let God guide the way — His path is good.

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I can hardly believe that over 10 days have passed since I posted last. My summer research initiative is intensifying. The time, while passing quickly, often brings anxiety and frustration. Fortunately though, it also brings many joys.

The students who are my cohort in this post-baccalaureate program are all traditionally aged (ie. young enough to be my children), and I worried if I would fit in at all. To my delight, they have reached out to me, making me feel accepted. As I write this post, I can hear a few of the young women who share my apartment, out in the living room, playing music and singing softly as they study. Their laughter is like bells, and helps to quell the pressure we all feel. I thank God for them and for all my classmates, and ask Him daily to watch over them, protect them, and help them grow strong.

This week, in my and my boyfriend’s respective families, we welcomed two new baby girls into the world. Born on the same day, in Louisville and in Morgantown, we all thanked God for these miracles of creation. They are both healthy and beautiful. Welcome, Emma and Molli!

This morning, I watched Dr. Charles Stanley — as I do while getting ready for Sunday School and church. The message was exceptionally encouraging: allowing God to guide our lives. I realized there was still an area of my life that I was trying to control by relying on my own understanding: my academics. I have been struggling with my research question. This morning, I handed it over to God. He answered me immediately and continually over the course of Sunday School, church, and through a conversation with a friend who gave me an uplifting word. He told me that all He ever does is to care for me and wants to guide me. It is only up to me to ask. He is so faithful!

Here is the link to the program I saw this morning. I highly recommend seeing it.

It is indeed only up to us to ask Him into our lives, to ask Him to guide us, and then to obey when He responds faithfully every single time.

PSALM 9:9-10 (NLT)

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,
a refuge in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

PSALM 55:22 (NLT)

22 Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

1 CHRONICLES 16:11 (NLT)

11 Search for the Lord and for his strength;
continually seek him.

DEUTERONOMY 4:29 (NLT)

29 But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.

PROVERBS 8:17 (NLT)

17 “I love all who love me.
Those who search will surely find me.

LAMENTATIONS 3:25 (NLT)

25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.

Psalm 40:16 (NLT)

16 But may all who search for you
be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”

Give us this day our daily bread

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Daily bread. I’m really beginning to understand this.

The account shows up in both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels:

In Luke, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus responds with the familiar words we know today as the Lord’s Prayer;

In Matthew, Jesus is telling His disciples how not to pray, saying that we should not “babble on … speaking the same words over and over.” He says:

Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! -Matthew 6:8

Trust, faith: these have been my lessons for months, years perhaps. Certainly for years because since I returned to school 4 years ago, I have been second-guessing where I would end up, as if I have the ability to see the future, or direct it. But, my Father knows exactly what I need even before I ask Him.

I know this because Jesus told me this. As He told His disciples. As He told you, dear reader.

So, when I pray for Him to give me my daily bread, I am not just asking Him to provide me sustenance for today and tomorrow, I am making a bold statement that I trust Him to provide everything I need, in accordance with His will, this day and every day. Making that admission, that confession of complete surrender to Him, frees me up to live — to really live — in Christ.

I get it. I get it — that kind of living, in Christ, is better, deeper, stronger, more meaningful, and more satisfying than any plans I could make and agonize over on my own. This is not a concept that a person living deeply in Christ could explain to a non-believer and be taken seriously.

“What? Don’t plan for the future? You must be an imbecile. How are you going to set financial goals, set aside for retirement, pay for college, braces, soccer equipment, gym memberships?”

But, my Father knows exactly what I need even before I ask him! 

As for my own future, I am deciding right here and now not to fret about it.

God is taking care of me now. He gives me peace when there is calm and strength enough to withstand any storm. The evidence is clear; He is here with me this instant, ever faithful, never failing, so He will be here with me in every instant. I will not worry, for my God is with me.

So, let there be no worries in your heart either, dear reader. Take the plunge — surrender fully to God. His power to provide is awesome.