A Warm Hug

Hello there.

I think I’ve been so inclined to write about the goodness of my LORD for a long time, but a part of me discouraged me from doing so. And as I sit in a swivel chair that no longer supplies me the excitement of a thrilling spin, doing work in an unusually warm office, I can’t help but finally believe in the truth that God is good.

What a profound thought. What a profound statement.  The idea that God could in fact be good leaves us questioning much more than we would expect.  As I’ve been forced to enter back into a place of fast paced dreams and anxiety stricken hearts attempting to fulfill their empty plans by relentlessly pursuing “success,” I’m reminded that perhaps the feeling of being undone has come from good ol’ me.  Christ has never left my side.  He has always been waiting with open arms to welcome me in any state or situation I am in.  Perhaps the reason I kept missing Him was because I would forget to just meet Him wherever I’m at.

And each time I decide to meet the LORD right where I’m at, I feel the life pour back into me. It’s like it’s nice and 75 out with bright blue skies and rays of sunshine hitting my skin with a slight breeze making its way through my hair.  In a way, it’s as if God has put the sun in position and the winds in motion to give me a warm hug.  Like He wants to remind me that He’s never left. That I am His beloved.

And what a joy it is to behold and cling to such truth.

Freedom is most definitely rooted in truth.

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*inspirational post here* (but not really)

It’s been awhile.

Awhile as in I haven’t written anything for quite some time. I’d like to say it was a hiatus or some well needed sabbatical or something like that, but I’m not nearly that fancy so I won’t try to be.

It’s always hard to push yourself to do things you know you should do, but you just don’t want to do it. That’s how I’ve felt—and still somewhat feel—about this blog. But it’s not just this blog; it’s many other things.

This summer I had the opportunity to work one of the most difficult yet gratifying jobs I have ever had. I have never been so stretched thin in my life. It’s moments and experiences like these that remind you just how capable you are of things. You never think you can do things until you’re forced to do them.

All of those hours of work and all those hours of exhaustion and lack of nutrition and lack of sleep—obviously not good, but you know, we deal—have shown me how God has made the human body and mind to be rather (if I might say) pretty damn incredible.

Excuse my language, but there’s just no other way to describe it.

I’m in awe of how my Maker has made me to function even when I get just 5 hours of sleep or less. We all have some sort of hardworking fiber in us that keeps us going even when we feel like we can’t. What perseverance, what dedication. For me this realization makes me more guilty than anything. If you’re like me, you might be really hard on yourself. When I realize how much God has invested in me, I can’t help but feel bad.

I feel bad that I’m not working at my fullest potential. God has embedded unique talents and strengths in each of us. When we refuse to use them or just waste away in our laziness, we fail to live life the way it was intended for us. It’s easy to say, but it’s much harder to unleash this potential. It’s hard for me to change the little things in life in order to make sure that I am using the gifts God has given me. It starts off small oftentimes.

So with that said—I’m starting off small by writing this blog post. I know it’s short, but it’s really all I can handle right now. I hope this short post can help you to spend more time conditioning the skills and gifts God has given you.

My Issue with #prayforparis

Pray 2

It’s a rather strange thing how the world starts to pray when one event happens.

For the last several days, I have seen #prayforparis come up on every piece of social media I have visited. Now these hashtags and shout outs are not necessarily a bad thing—in fact I think they’re a good reminder for us to actually carry out the action of praying—but I have to say that it’s disturbing to me to know that our society doesn’t tell us to pray until something horrendous happens. It’s almost as though our society feeds us the lie that God isn’t real and therefore prayer is ineffective unless we are experiencing times of desperation. Because when we’re struggling, that’s the only time we should pray to God.

What a wrong and cruel lie to feed us. And, on our part how foolish and ridiculous of us to believe that it is true.

It’s an ongoing disease that the world experiences. We associate pain and struggles with prayer as the solution. The Christian and everyday individual are not strangers to the pressing inclination to pray to God when disaster strikes. When our world falls apart physically in front of our eyes or an act of violence destroys life before it begins, we cry out in desperation for God to intervene. We pray for the people who are experiencing immense pain both physically and mentally and we pray for the place where that pain is most present; in this case, Paris.

There’s something odd about the whole situation and that’s what’s so disturbing. What’s odd is the reality that we, as an intelligent and well-informed human race, fail to acknowledge that there is pain everywhere and everyday; just because it’s not here, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Yet, in the midst of this understanding and reality, we still fail to pray each day. We lay in our slumber and laziness as we ignore the essential need to pray constantly and consistently. Sadly, we are awaken from this idleness when events such as a terrorism attack occur.

Prayer is an essential part of the Christian walk and the vital signs of our prayer life are a good determiner as to how we view God. Too many people today have a limited view of God as a granter of wishes or a helper in times of trouble. When we don’t need something, we don’t need God. When we’re not struggling, we don’t need God. How foolish of us.

But here’s the truth of the story.

God is not a genie we turn to when things go wrong. He is not there only when we need him to grant a wish of world peace or prosperity. He is not our last resort when things go south. We completely forget the reality that God is above all things and in all things. We forget that the Almighty One is listening to our every cry, every day. Yet, we find some sort of excuse to get out of praying to Him daily. I’m not saying that praying for Paris is wrong, but I think tragedies such as this force us to reflect on the real reason why we have a relationship with God. Our relationship with God is not a free ticket to heaven or a backup plan to our peaceful and seemingly predictable and enjoyable lives. Our relationship with God is not one that is casual or circumstantial. No, the Christian life is much more than that. The decision to be in fellowship with the Lord comes with the acknowledgement of our deep need to pray to Him daily. If anything, the Christian life should remind us of how broken we are and as a result, how completely helpless we are without our Savior. With this knowledge we should be convicted and motivated to pray for this poor and hurting world constantly. Events such as the ones we have recently seen are not strange or bizarre; they happen everyday. We are just too foolish to realize that they are apparent. As a sister in Christ I urge you to see what it is that is in front of our eyes. Do not be blinded by the daily activities and luxurious, comfortable lives you live and forget that your prayers are heavily needed. Our prayers hold so much weight and power. It is time for us to stop limiting this power to only tragedies and life-changing situations. Be vigilant. Be courageous. Be consistent. For the Lord hears all who make their requests known to Him.

So yes, #prayforparis and #prayfortheworld but don’t forget to #prayeveryday. There is so much power in prayer. So much so that it would be a waste for us to pray only in times of trouble.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing…” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-17

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John 5: 14-15

 

Why We Do What We Do

My second year at university can be easily said to be an explosion. Never would I have expected my life to be so busy and crazy in just a matter of weeks, but somehow, someway, it is. It’s intensely busy and it’s intensely intimidating and intensely exhausting…it’s just intense. Over these last several weeks I’ve found it difficult to talk to people and actually listen. I’ve found it difficult to take just 10 minutes off to do nothing but relax. I’ve noticed that my anxiety has been acting up so much that I can’t sleep at night and I have grown to have that feeling/idea of “I have so much to do that I just don’t know what to do.”

I’m almost certain that if I walked into a psychologist’s clinic, I would be diagnosed with anxiety disorder. I’ve actually been contemplating going to see a psychologist at school just to confirm what I expect to be true, but again—I feel pressed for time (how ironic). Writing this blog entry feels more like an intervention for myself rather than just a “post”. I think it’s because I’m starting to realize something—and it’s something you’ll probably see in your life as well. And it’s the fact that the reason why we feel so suffocated when we do the things we do is because we’re doing it for the wrong reason.

All the classes I take and the Bible studies I go to and the things I do are being done for the wrong reasons. That’s the reason why I feel as though I don’t even have time to breathe. In my classes, I study in order to get the perfect grade. In Bible study, I go to mingle with people. In extracurricular programs, I join to put something on my resume. Notice that none of them are done in order to further God’s will.

Serious red flag alert.

Lately I’ve learned that I have to realign myself daily with God to understand why I do the things I do in life. When I go to my classes and study, it should be because God has given me the chance and blessing to learn and I should learn for the joy of learning. I should be excited to take the ideas and wisdom I gain and use it to benefit the world I live in. The Bible studies I attend should be attended with the intention to learn more about my Creator as well as time for me to engage in fellowship with others. Joining different extracurricular clubs should be a time for me to build relationships with others with the intention of witnessing God’s love to them. There’s a huge contrast with this and what I normally do.

When we start doing things for God and for the purpose of reflecting His glory, we aren’t as weary anymore. Work doesn’t feel like “work” anymore. If anything, it’s something we want to do.

As finals and new projects and requirements are thrown my way, I am going to do my best to approach them with a sense of joy and intentionality. I am going to attempt to make God the reason for everything I do. With this act I’m certain that rest will come. I just need to realign myself with the Lord in order to understand what I do what I do.

Everybody Hurts

Hurt

I never knew what it meant to “hurt” for someone until I was 18. I think people all around me talked about it all the time because it’s just something you talk about in the church.

“I hurt for you, man.”

“We’re hurting for this world.”

“We’re hurting for the victims from the incident.”

Yada yada yada.

If you grew up in a Christian environment, then you probably know what I’m talking about.

But do we really know what it means? I mean how can you really hurt for someone? At the most you’d just feel bad for them. You’d just sympathize with what they’re going through and you just hope that they get better soon or something. But honestly, we don’t really spend time hurting for someone. It’s just something we don’t do on a regular basis. And we don’t do it for a couple of reasons.

First off, we don’t hurt for others because it’s something we have to be intentional about. We’re not physically being struck down or mentally being harmed; someone outside of us is. So it’s difficult to feel the pain they’re going through and really say that we’re hurting for them.

Then there’s the obvious. We just don’t want to hurt for others. I mean we’re so busy with our own lives and dealing with our own problems and hurts, so why would we care about what other people are going through? We would rather care about the fact that we’re dealing with some deep crap or our lives aren’t going the way we would like them to.

When you think about it, we’re pretty selfish beings.

But you already knew that, didn’t you? So smart.

For the longest time the idea of “hurting” for someone has been completely foreign to me. I mean, I sympathized with people and I cared about their struggles, but I never really understood what it meant to hurt for someone. I never felt physical pain or sorrow. But now that I’m in college, I hurt. All. The. Time.

Being in a secular university introduces you to many shocking things. In my entire life, I would have never thought that I would see half the stuff I have seen in college. But nonetheless, I have seen them and they have made the greatest difference in my life.

The party life at my school can be termed as “poppin” and “turnt”. (Not really my lingo, but I’m trying to appeal to popular culture, so please bear with me). But in my opinion I think it’s just a futile attempt to fill a chasm of emptiness and desperation. I have never felt more hurt in my life than when walking the streets of Westwood on a Thursday night. It’s just terrible. It wreaks emptiness that clings to your clothes and lasts until the consecutive morning. The claws of desperation and restlessness pursue you relentlessly.

These are the first moments I experienced the true meaning of hurting for someone. And you may be wondering, “Bethany, how on earth does this make you feel anything? It’s not your problem.”

And that’s where I need to correct you. Because it is. It is my problem. After my first attendance at a frat party, I wept. Not even joking, I bawled my eyes out. I cried for the hearts of people that didn’t know God. I cried for those who believed that medicating themselves would fill their emptiness. I cried for students and individuals who seem to have it made on the outside, but are dying emotionally and spiritually on the inside.

You see friends, I believe every human being has the innate and subconscious desire to be with and be known by their Creator. And when we don’t have these conditions met, we feel a strong and life-sucking emptiness. Sadly, many people can’t figure out where this emptiness comes from so they medicate or find some other way to fill it not knowing that it will just lead them feeling emptier.

And this is where the role of a Christian is so important. When I say that this situation is my problem, I genuinely mean it. I take it seriously. Why? Because I know that in a dark world such as the one we live in, God uses me to be His light. It’s my obligation to show those who are empty without Christ, the fulfillment the Lord can bring through my love and care for them. So many people aren’t aware of the solution that is Jesus Christ. God put us on this world to tell others about the goodness He brings.

Being hurt by what I see doesn’t cripple me. It doesn’t even faze me. In fact, it motivates me. It creates a burning fire in my heart to be kind and to love every person I meet. Because maybe through my kindness and love they can see the One who truly loves them more than I could ever be capable of.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

“The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” Rick Warren

A Letter to the Families, Friends and Individuals Affected by the Umpqua Community College Shooting

UCC

Dear Family,

I know you’ve heard people say sorry to you so much that it can last you the rest of your life. And I guess I’m one of them too. But I am also writing as a sister in Christ. And as a sister in Christ, I mourn with you.

It hurts to know that my brothers and sisters have been blatantly discriminated and that this discrimination has led to serious injury and even death. I will never be able to completely grasp the feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, and longing you are feeling at this moment. However, if it is anything that I want to leave you with, it is a proclamation of how each of your sons, daughters, boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, and friends are my biggest role models.

I do not say this lightly at all because what your sons and daughters have done is beyond anything any of us will ever accomplish.

We’ve always been asked the question of what we would do if someone threatened to take our life away because of our faith in God. In Sunday school, it’s usually obvious to say that you would rather die than forsake God. But in reality, it’s a much different answer.

As much as you are hurting from the tragedy that has happened, I want to remind you about just how brave your sons, daughters, friends, and family are. When death stared them in the face, they continued to cling to the truth of God. They believed so strongly in the Lord and His truth that they were willing to die for Him. Such faith is almost unheard of in this world, but their actions during the last moments of their lives remind us of how God’s goodness, love, and grace is all-consuming and life-changing.

Their selfless acts will continue as a legacy and a light in this dark and cold world that is slowly turning its face away from God. Our world is falling farther and farther from its Creator, but every once in a while an individual such as your son, daughter, or friend comes into the picture and picks us back up. They remind us that there are still courageous, strong, and God-fearing men and women. They remind us that there is a higher purpose in life and that God is that higher purpose. They remind us that dying to self is the only way to find ourselves in Christ. They remind us that the greatest treasure in life is to know God and be with Him.

Yes, it hurts to know that they are no longer here. Believe me, I am crying and hurting so much for each and every one of you and my heart goes out to each of you. I am broken and defeated by this hostile act of hate. I am crippled and empty because my brothers and sisters in Christ have been killed because of their love for Christ. If I could I would offer all of you an embrace right now. I extend my love, prayers, care, and condolences to all of you.

Words may not seem to be much at this time, but truth does. The truth is that Christ is coming, friends. And when that day comes, pain, suffering, hurt, and sadness will be wiped away. The Lord looks down on all of us in love and His heart aches for all of us. Brothers and sisters, turn to the Lord in this time of trial and intense tribulation. Seek His love and seek His comfort. Find joy, peace, and hope again in the One who knows all the feelings of pain and hurt all too well. Soon enough, we will be joining our friends and family in the house of the Lord. How glorious of a day that will be.  I am praying for you relentlessly, and I love every single one of you.

 

Love in Christ,

Bethany


“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—

    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—

    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—

    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—

    he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going

    both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121


“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4


“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me, will find it.” Matthew 16:25


“Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to know, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

The Little Things

Little Things

People everywhere tend to overlook the little things. Our fast paced society has brainwashed us to think that recognition comes at the cost of doing something big. I mean, go big or go home, right? We have been constantly told that the little things we do for people are too miniscule to matter. They don’t play a role in people’s lives because they’re too simplistic and—in the world’s eyes—over done. In other words, we are told to “think outside of the box”. In order to show that we truly value someone or in order to gain recognition of who we are, we need to carry out intricate and extravagant ideas that end and start with a bang. Be grandiose. Be crazy. Be “in your face”.

But I want to give you a challenge. Why don’t we put away all our streamers, craft supplies, flashy ideas, bells, and whistles and just keep it simple. Oh now that’s an idea.

I’ve met a ton of Christians who have told me about the struggle they have when they try to witness to others. Many of them have the same problem. They don’t know how or they think they do (but they really don’t). When I first encountered this idea, I kept thinking that I just had to be aggressive and outspoken. I thought that a good witness for Christ meant that I had to invite literally everyone to church. I also thought that it meant that I had to know every minute detail about the Bible (which was difficult to do since I didn’t and still don’t).

Sounds a bit headstrong…maybe too headstrong. Over time you’ll start to see that being aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a good witness. In fact, many of us can attest to how being too aggressive actually sends people away from God rather than lead them towards Him. When we think too complexly and try to come up with every tiny idea on how to market how “cool” God is, we lose sight of the simple things that truly make God great. As Christians we shouldn’t focus on the big things we can do—because there’s honestly nothing big we can do. But we can do a lot of small, simple things. And honestly, the small things are so important and they make the biggest difference.

For example, have you ever met a random stranger on one occasion and the next time you see them they remember your name? When someone remembers your name, it makes the biggest difference. Remembering someone’s name sends a message. It tells them “you’re important to me.” It’s the little things that make a big difference. I’m not using this as an example because I’ve heard of it (because everyone talks about how this moment is life changing and it’s because it is). I’m using this as an example because it has happened to me. I remember how the moment shaped my life and made me into the individual I am. Having someone remember my name meant the world to me. Because in a place where I felt most alone, a person remembered my name, said hello to me, and made me feel most at home. It’s the little things.

Or it’s that text message/phone call you get. Our world is so accessible nowadays. It’s so easy to connect with everyone with a tap of a button. When you spend like 30 seconds on a text message to ask someone how he/she is, you show them so much kindness. You remind them that they still exist. So many people feel invisible because no one bothers to ask how they are. Again, it’s the little things.

Prayer is also one of the major tools to witness God’s love. When we tell people that we’re praying for them and we’re actually doing it, we can completely change their outlook on God, faith, and the Christian community. Whether or not they are believers doesn’t matter, but just praying for someone and letting them know that you do shows that you care. It shows that you are sensitive to their issues and that you are genuinely thinking about them. And more importantly, it shows that you are continually remembering them when you spend time with God. What better way to witness God’s love than through prayer? LITTLE THINGS.

Take the time to get to know people. Spend that extra 5 minutes praying for someone and asking how they’re doing.  You don’t have break out the party supplies to make a big difference because it all starts with you. It all starts with you and the little things you do.

Being a good Christian and witnessing God’s love is not always a difficult thing. It’s not something that’s hard to do; it’s actually quite simple.

Just be kind and caring.

No, God didn’t call us to bring out all the magic tricks we have. He just asked us to try our best and to let Him handle all the big and phenomenal things. After all, we’re here to reflect God’s glory and not our own. So pursue the little things, my friends. And see what a world of difference it can bring.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32