Stop Being Typical (What I Learned From My 13-Year-Old Cousin)

This past week I got to spend some one on one time with my awesome cousin, Lily. She is thirteen years old and a total sparkler. She’s full of joy, reckless abandon and kindness. I mean, look at her!

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The first time we hung out we went to Starbucks for a couple of hours and just talked. It was at that point that I noticed something very unusual about teenage Lily. She had an iPhone with her (that’s normal), but the iPhone stayed in her pocket the whole time. She never brought it out except at the end when I asked her to show me some pictures of her friends. I can’t remember the last time I sat a talked with anyone who didn’t take their phone out at least once. Most people have them right next to them the whole time. I thought to myself, “It’s in her pocket, so surely she can feel it going off, but she’s still not checking it.” I was so impressed with her.

A couple of days later we went to lunch together. I thought the no phone thing was a total fluke and as waiting for her to bust it out. But she didn’t. Not once. Afterwards I mentioned how impressed I was with her and how much I appreciated it. I told her that it must be hard to feel it going off in your pocket and still not look at it. She looked at me and said, “I can’t feel it going off. I have it on Do Not Disturb.” I seriously almost passed out right there from the shock. I have honestly never felt so valued in my life. This thirteen year old gets it. Most people I know, including adults, don’t.

This whole thing reminded me of a quote from my favorite book, Love Does, by Bob Goff. He says, “When you decide to drop everything that’s typical, all that is left is just a big idea about an even bigger God and a world that’s worn out from the way everyone else has been doing it. The world has been shouting over the noise of our programs that it doesn’t need more presidents or organizations, what it needs are more friends. If you are a sincere friend, folks around you will quickly understand that there’s no hidden agenda and nothing on the other side of the equals sign—just you.” We have gotten lost in a world that has decided that the people who are sitting in front of us are not as important as the ones in our social media worlds, or our text worlds. We are so wrapped up in the people we can’t see, that we miss the people that we can.

I would encourage you to be a little more like Lily. Use that beautiful Do Not Disturb feature. Focus on the person in front of you for just a little while. Be a sincere friend. You will never regret making someone feel valuable.

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Alone (What I Learned from Good Friday)

Since Good Friday is in the title of this post, you should expect it to be deep, super spiritual, and maybe even emotional. After all, this is the day that our Savior took our sins upon himself (his perfect, sinless self mind you) and died for us. It is a beautiful day of reflection and thanks as we remember.

But this post isn’t deep or super spiritual. It’s just emotional. It’s emotional because I am sitting here in my room realizing that I haven’t been able to reflect on what this day is about because I am too tired. I literally was reading the Good Friday story in Luke this morning and could barely pay attention. My mind kept wandering to basically nothing. I was too tired to focus. I know, I know…way to go missionary!

This has been the first day I haven’t left the house since I have been in El Salvador. It’s the first day that I have retreated into the treehouse or locked myself in my room for a few hours (without sleeping) since I have been here.  It’s the first day that I have allowed myself to recharge.

The problem was that I had let myself get so empty, that all I could think about today was myself.  All I could think about was how much I am missing home, which was extra emotional for me because I am so empty.

Good Friday has reminded me that I need to take some time by myself very regularly. I am an introvert, so I need it to recharge. It doesn’t mean I love the kids less. It doesn’t mean I love El Salvador less. I just need the time to reflect on God’s goodness, to rest, to pray, to just be. Alone.

When I’m refreshed and fully charged, it’s a whole lot easier to remember that:

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” (Neh 6:3)

Fear Is A Choice (What I Learned From A Movie Trailer)

When I went to see the Hobbit there was a trailer for a new Will Smith movie called After Earth.  In the trailer you see shots of the movie and Will Smith’s character is talking to his son, instructing him on what is about to happen.  This was part of his instruction:

If we are going to survive this you must realize that fear is not real.  It is a product of thoughts you created. Now, do not misunderstand me, danger is very real. But, fear is a choice.

As soon as I heard him say that I began to think of all of the commands in the Bible about fear.  I don’t know the statistics of how many times this shows up, but God says, “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” or “fear not” a lot throughout both the Old and New Testaments! And it seems like every time he says it, the person he is talking to is in a pretty dangerous situation or they are encountering a seriously scary looking angel, so it’s not like he’s just throwing those words around for the fun of it. For a great example of this, read the entire book of Joshua!

So if God continually commands his people not to fear, then it seems like that movie trailer is right. Fear is a choice. I don’t know about you, but when I choose fear, I get paralyzed. Sometimes mentally, sometimes physically, always spiritually. We live in a fear mongering society, so it’s no wonder that we are walking around paralyzed by fear.  But scripture is clear…fear not. Fear is a choice. I will not let it rule me.

Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Exodus 14:13

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22

“But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” Deuteronomy 7:18

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid;do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

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On a completely different note, I have realized the “What I Learned From” title is becoming a trend on my blog, so I’m making it a category. If you want to read some of the older ones, here they are:

Party Hat (What I Learned From Supernatural)

The Comfortable Road (What I Learned From Meriwether Lewis)

Stuck In the Moment (What I Learned From Justin Bieber)

Be the Light of the World (What I Learned From Owl City)

 

 

 

Party Hat (What I Learned From Supernatural)

I came across this show on Netflix and decided to give it a try. For some reason I started in the middle of the series…so I pretty much have no idea what is going on, but I learned something from it anyway. As a bonus, Dean, from Gilmore Girls, is on the show.

I can’t recommend the show (only because I have only watched 1.25 episodes of it and I totally don’t get it), but from what I gather, it’s about these guys that hunt and kill demons.  So in the episode that I was watching, one of the main characters actually dies and gets pulled out of hell by an angel because God is not done with him (please don’t get caught up in the weirdness of that and not read this post).  So, after they discover that it’s maybe an angel that rescued him and not a demon, this is the conversation that takes place.  Just for the record, Dean is the one that was rescued, Sam is Dean’s brother, and Bobby is…well, I don’t know cause I have only seen one episode.

Dean: Ok, say it’s true.  Say, there are angels.  Then what?  There’s a God?

Bobby: At this point, I guess money is on yeah.

Dean: I don’t know guys.

Sam: Ok, I know you’re not all choir boy about this stuff, but this is becoming less and less about faith and more and more about proof.

Dean: Proof?

Sam: Yes!

Dean: Proof that there is a God out there that actually gives a crap about me, personally?  I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it.

Sam: Why not?

Dean: Because, why me?  If there is a God out there, why would He give a crap about me?  I mean I’ve saved some people, ok (he means saved them from demons)?  I figured that made up for the stealing and the ditching chicks, but why do I deserve to get saved?  I’m just a regular guy.

Sam: Well apparently you’re a regular guy that’s important to the man upstairs.

Dean: Well that creeps me out.  I mean I don’t like getting singled out at birthday parties, much less by God.

Sam: Well, too bad Dean, cause I think he wants you to strap on your party hat.

That last line sent my head spinning.  I rewound it to listen to this conversation again.  Putting aside all of your feelings towards a show about demon hunters, I think this conversation applies to a lot of us.  It’s so hard for us to grasp that God would care enough about us, just regular people who mess up a lot, to save us.  I mean we may have done some good things here and there, but why are we worth rescuing?  But instead of questioning your worth, instead of trying to prove yourself, instead of constantly trying to explain and find reason for everything…

…maybe it’s time for you to put your party hat on.

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

 Romans 5: 6-8

The Comfortable Road (What I Learned from Meriwether Lewis)

While I was on vacation last month I read a book called Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.  If you have never read a Stephen Ambrose book, I highly recommend it.  He is an incredible historian and a great story teller.  This particular book was about Lewis and Clark and their expedition across our continent.  Their goal was to find an all water route to the Pacific.  It is a fascinating story!

While the book is packed with great stories, quotes, and leadership principles, there was one part that really jumped out at me.  One thing that you need to know is that Lewis and Clark pictured the Rocky Mountains as a range similar to the Appalachian Mountains.  One long range, never reaching the 7,000 ft mark.  If you have ever seen the Rocky Mountains, or even seen a picture, they are not like that at all.

So after a year and a half of paddling up river, eating only meat (causing them to suffer from scurvy), suffering from dysentery, malaria, uncontrollable mosquitos, harsh winters, and pretty much anything else you can think of, Lewis finally caught his first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.  Keep in mind, he had never even seen a picture of something like this and he was expecting the Appalachian Mountains.  Instead he sees snow covered peaks towering above the timberline.  They looked impassable.

As you can imagine, Lewis was discouraged.  They had come so far.  They had suffered so much.  And now, how were they ever going to get across those beasts of mountains?  But after his initial discouragement (which he noted in his journal), he rallied.  This was the next line in his journal:

As I have always held it a crime to anticipate evils, I will believe it a good comfortable road until I am compelled to believe differently.

This absolutely blew my mind.  I mean, if anyone had a right to be discourage, it was Lewis. But he would not have it.  He saw the truth in what seemed like an impossible situation.  The truth was that he did not know what was ahead.  He had never crossed the Rocky Mountains, and they weren’t there yet.  As far as he knew, it could be the smoothest part of the journey.  So he moved forward believing the best until the path proved differently.

What if we lived our lives like that?  We if we trusted God with what lies ahead, believing that He is with us and believing that He has good things for us?  Sometimes our future seems like the Rocky Mountains.  Sometimes our present feels like that really.  My challenge to you is to believe it a good, comfortable road, until it proves differently.  There is no need to fear what might happen.

Stuck In the Moment (What I Learned from Justin Bieber)

A few weeks ago I was driving down to Florida for family vacation.  I had a random mix playing on my iPod and the Justin Bieber song “Stuck In the Moment” came on.  I have heard this song a bunch of times (I have a seven year-old niece!), but as I was driving by myself, relaxing, I started listening to the words.  In the song he lists some famous love story couples that faced tragedy, like Romeo and Juliet.

But then he mentioned Adam and Eve.

It kind of took me off guard and I wondered why he had included them (he wrote this song).  But, the more I thought about it in the context of the song, the more the reality of their tragedy hit me.  Adam and Eve knew what it was like to be in the presence of God…like His actual presence.  They could stand before Him shamelessly, without sin. And then in an instant sin entered the picture and they were separated from Him.

I’m sure most of us have experienced the feeling of just wanting to go back in time.  To get back to the good place in a relationship, to go back to that happy feeling we had in a certain moment.  There is a longing for it, a groaning almost, and life just doesn’t seem like it can ever be right again.  Well, imagine that from Adam and Eve’s perspective.  They knew God in person, and then had to live the rest of their lives without Him.  I can’t even imagine it.  There is a part of the song that says:

I wish we had another time,
I wish we had another place,
But everything we have is stuck in the moment,
And there’s nothing my heart can do,
To fight with time and space ’cause,
I’m still stuck in the moment with you.

The reality is that we are all stuck in the moment.  We were designed for fullness in God, for glory, for sinlessness, and to be in the presence of our Creator.  But right now we are stuck in the moment, stuck in an incomplete state.  And we feel the groaning.  Sometimes it hits me in the form of loneliness, even when I’m surrounded by people.  That feeling that I’m not home, that I don’t belong here.  I’m stuck in the moment.

We grasp for the memories, for the relationships, for that feeling of knowing that we are where we are meant to be.  Paul puts it like this when he writes to the people of Rome:

20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

Romans 8:20:27

So what are we supposed to do with this feeling of being stuck in the moment?  Well, we groan.  And we trust that when we don’t have words, the Spirit that works in us does.  And one glorious day, we will be unstuck.

Be the Light of the World (What I Learned from Owl City)

Owl City took the music industry by storm a couple of summers ago with his song “Fireflies.”  You can listen to it here.

To be honest, I didn’t really pay him much attention.  I am more of the acoustic guitar music kind of girl and he is more…well…not acoustic guitar.  But last year about this time someone posted a link to his blog.  We all know that I love blogs, so I clicked it and started reading.  I was so impressed by this guy (Adam Young)!  I may not have been into his music, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good music.  His writing is what drew me in, though and his shameless faith expressed through it.  This guy loves Jesus and is not afraid to talk about it.  In an industry where Jesus is a tricky subject, he does not shy away.

His blogs have been so encouraging to me throughout the year and I am just so excited about what he is doing, which is what we, as Christians, all should be doing.  He is taking his God-given gift and stretching it to its fullest potential, and then using it to reach the world.  He doesn’t water it down.  He doesn’t cheese it up.  He just makes music, and does it well.  We need so much more of that in the entertainment industry and really every area of our lives!  After all, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)

So because of all of this, I decided to buy his second album “All Things Bright and Beautiful” just to support him.  It was my small way of spurring him on (Hebrews 10:24), even though he’ll never know about it. It’s not my typical style choice, but it turns out, I LOVE the album!  The music, lyrics, and vocals are all incredible.  It’s definitely worth the money.  Also, if you want to check out his blog, here are a list of some of my favorite posts:

  1. The Good Fight
  2. Cue the Sun
  3. Plant Life
  4. Deep Regret
  5. My Hope Is Found

And here is my favorite lyric from his new album.  It’s from the song “Galaxies”

Oh telescope,
Keep your eye on my only hope,
Lest I blink and be swept off the narrow road,
Hercules, you’ve got nothing to say to me,
‘Cause you’re not the blinding light that I need.
For He is the saving grace of the galaxies.

Thanks, Adam, for being such an incredible example of the light that God has called us to be!