Monday, September 30, 2013

this is the work of God.

John 6:28-29. "Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'"

I'm searching, constantly searching. Searching for a way to do the work of God. Wondering what I can do, beating myself up when I don't do it, packing the works of myself into my life instead of the work of God. 

The work of God is that I believe; believe in Him whom He sent, believe the Gospel.

Simple. The rest comes, but the rest is not the work. In fact, that's just what it Resting in God, resting in His presence. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Doing His work shouldn't be difficult, and it's not. Doing what you think is His work is difficult. Trying to find satisfaction in things that never satisfy is hard. But the choice to believe, the constant remembering what I believe, is the work that He wants me to do, and He wants the cause and effect process to come easy. He wants the post-belief part to be light, not to be work.

God wants us to believe, He wants to quench our parched tongues. We run around this world tasting everything we can get our hands on and all it does is make us thirstier and thirstier and the more we run around, the more exhausted we get and instead of gaining satisfaction we run farther away from the point at which we are satisfied. It's like when you're driving down the road looking for your next turn and you think you're almost there and you're so close and as long as you just go a little bit farther you'll find it and you just keep going and it's after this curve or maybe the next curve and next thing you know you're so far gone when really if you had turned around a long time ago you would have found it. And I'm driving down this road and searching for this place of satisfaction but all the signs have been turned around and they're all pointing the wrong direction. Satisfaction was at the tip of my fingers, waiting to be grasped, and I passed Him on by.

"...If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38).

It feels right that I would be satisfied in doing things that I think would make God happy. But it's not about what feels best because feelings are deceitful. Like hot water when you first put your hand in it and it feels cold. Feelings will cause you to be burned. Look closely. See the steam rising.

It is because we feel this way that a lot of us look for satisfaction in doing good things but by looking for satisfaction in them we make them bad things. I look to be satisfied in stressing over the perfect quiet time every day; or making sure I pick up another person's litter; or forcing myself to constantly smile; or pretending that I am by nature energetic and excited; or having all the answers to all the Bible questions.

And while all of these things are good, they become harmful when I start doing them out of guilt or because I feel like I have to. As soon as I make these things my focus, my work, instead of believing, I begin on the road again, the road away from satisfaction, the road with no sure destination. When I believe, I will naturally do these things and want to do these things but my eyes should still be locked in on the belief. Constantly reminding myself of what I believe, constantly dwelling on Him in whom I believe, constantly dwelling in Him in whom I believe, my satisfaction. I am completely satisfied when focused on Him. I am completely  unsatisfied when focused on doing things that I think would please Him.

That's the key. Maybe I have the belief down and the effects down. But it doesn't matter unless I have my focus on the belief. Eyes on the cause, not the effect. Eyes on the prize, the end goal, the eternal life, the hope, the reason for living, His work, not mine.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

finding God in the (not so) obvious places.

I’m usually looking for God at church. Always looking for Him when I’m having devotions. Occasionally looking for Him when I’m listening to K-Love. Maybe even looking for Him when I’m hanging out with other believers. But is that it? I have recently learned that no matter where you are or what you are doing you can find God there. You can find Him making Himself evident through any circumstance, as long as you look close enough. That’s the key part: you have to look close.

Matthew 14. We find the disciples in a boat in the middle of a storm. Jesus has gone away to pray alone. They are in the middle of the sea being tossed by the wind and the waves. They are scared to death. Next thing we find: Jesus. Walking on the sea. This is obviously extremely out of the ordinary, so naturally the disciples assume it is a ghost.

I find myself in their shoes. I’m in a storm and I see some object performing a humanly impossible task, walking on water. Do I automatically assume it is Jesus? No. I’m in the same boat as the disciples (pun intended), I think it’s a ghost. Naturally assume the worst.

Exodus 15. The Israelites come out of the Red Sea. They go three days in the wilderness without water. Finally they find water, but it’s bitter water. The people complain. Moses cries out to the Lord. The Lord gives him a tree to throw into the water. He throws it into the water and the water turns sweet.

This time I’m in the Israelites shoes. I’m thirsty (three days anywhere without water is hard, but try the wilderness). And just when I think I've hit the jackpot, I barely have time to yell, “Eureka!” when I taste it and spit it out. Major letdown. Never would I look to a tree and think, “Hey I think this is going to work…let’s just put this in the water.” It’s a tree. There are trees everywhere. There is nothing special about a tree. Ah, but there is.

You see, the disciples didn't think they would find God in a storm looking like a ghost and the Israelites didn't think they would find God in a tree. The obvious reason they were surprised is they weren't looking for Him; they didn't expect to see Him in the scary places or the ordinary places.

But that’s where He teaches us the greatest lessons. Instead of trying to find God in the obvious and assumed places, look a little deeper, a little farther, open your eyes a little wider, and look all around.
Find Him when you’re stressed about school. Find Him when you’re driving down the road. Find Him when you’re making a sandwich. Find Him when you’re in the middle of the woods.

That’s where I found Him one time. It was the middle of June and I found myself lying in a barrel, covered in leaves, surrounded by tires, in the woods, bugs all around. What in the world am I doing here in this barrel? Now of course I knew where I was and that I had gotten there because I was playing hide-and-seek at camp. But really, how did I get here? How did I make it to 18 years old and how did I make it to Mountain Top Youth Camp and how did I make it to Pinnacle, North Carolina and how did I make it to done with high school and how did I make it to child of God and how did I make it to 5 foot 3 and how did I make it to life full with joy and how did I make it to life and how did I make it.

God brought me to every one of these places and He brought me to a barrel in the woods and He’s willing and desiring to teach me lessons anywhere.

Wherever you find yourself you can find God there too. He’s there. The scary, ordinary, anywhere, you've just gotta look.

Monday, July 29, 2013

borrowing breath from its Creator.

There is an old hymn that I love. The name of it escapes me, but there is a line in this song that says, "I'll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, I will praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath." A preacher one Sunday morning mentioned this line. I meditated on it and how every breath we have comes from God and ultimately we have zero control over when God stops giving us breath.

And then I thought about the word "lendest". When someone lends something to you, they expect to get it back. That is the purpose and meaning of the word.

God gave us breath and He gave us a free will and I'm not forced to use it for Him, but that's why He gave it to me. That's the expectation.

God picked up the dust from the fresh earth and molded and shaped with His own hands until He formed a man. A dead man. God formed a dead man. Adam had zero life in him. He had a heart. He had blood. He had lungs, a brain, kidneys, intestines. He was perfect, except he had no life. Until God stooped down and breathed His sweet breath into this new man's nostrils. And as soon as God breathed into him He expected Adam to breathe it right back. To breathe it back in service and love and worship and adoration and praise. To breathe it back as he named the animals and tended the garden.

In the same moment that I decided to follow Jesus, God breathed His sweet breath of life into my nostrils. And in the same moment that God breathed His sweet breath of life into my nostrils, He expected me to breathe it right back. To breathe it back in service and love and worship and adoration and praise. To breathe it back as I sang to Him and shared His Gospel.

God sent Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones in the midst of the valley (Ezekiel 37). He said these bones could live. The bones came together, the sinews came, the skin covered them, but these bones did not live. They did not live until the breath came into them. But when it did, they lived and they stood up and they became an exceedingly great army. Breath is life. I heard Louie Giglio say so many times on this passage: "give God His breath back."

Often when we borrow something we forget to give it back, but if we're borrowing from the Creator of the universe, if we're borrowing breath from the Creator of the universe, if we're borrowing life from the Creator of the universe, let's be a bit more careful. Don't hog your breath, it was never yours to begin with. The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). I'm the borrower. He's the lender. It's time to start serving.

give God His breath back.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

hello is sweet, but goodbye is bitter.

It's funny how people come in and out of our lives. It's funny how your very closest friends can be some of your most distant friends in a matter of a few months. It's funny how life can become completely different when someone moves to another town, when you change schools, or when people change, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. Things are constantly changing. And I don't think that's a bad thing.

Most people hate change. It makes us feel uncomfortable. I am one of those people. However, through experiences I have had, I have come to find that change can be - and often is - good. Yes, it makes us uncomfortable - and if life is about being comfortable, then by all means do your hardest to rid your life of change. But that's the thing. Life isn't about being comfortable. It's quite the opposite, really.

Things (life, people, times, etc.) are constantly changing, constantly moving; and if things are constantly changing and moving, they must be going in some direction. It is not so much important to notice that things are changing, but rather to notice in what directionthey are changing.

I've only lived a short 18 years, but there is still a large handful of people who have come into my life, have had some sort of impact on me (I believe that every person with whom you come in contact has an impact on your life), and then have walked right back out, not because they have decided they didn't want to be in my life but because circumstances have led them out.

I think back to times that I was so close to these people, times I said goodbye to these people, and I chuckle a little. I thought it was the end of the world. I thought I couldn't live without them, but my heart kept right on going and never missed a beat.

Sure, I miss them. But there comes a point in time where life changes, new people come in, you have a new routine. Their lack of presence isn't so obvious. I hate to think about losing the tenderness of missing someone. It is an excruciating thought. But it's okay. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. He brings people in at the right time and, as awful as His timing sometimes seems, He takes away at the right time. [Sometimes the Lord gives us someone that we wish He would just hurry up and take away, but His timing there is perfect too.] He often gives us a few great friendships that will last a lifetime but we all have those friends who we are close to, but not enough to where we will stay close to in the years to come.

So, when the Lord takes them away, we hug and we cry and we say our goodbyes, if we get the chance. Sometimes He takes them away suddenly with no time for goodbyes. Sometimes He takes them away slowly, in a manner in which we don't even realize a goodbye is in order and we miss our chance.

But when we do say goodbye, we do all we can to pretend it's not real. Promise we'll hang out. Promise we'll talk on Skype. Promise we'll visit each other. And while we want to mean these things, and we even think we mean these things, we often don't. Somewhere not so deep inside I know that it's all fake. It's all because we want something in which to put our hopes.

A few nights ago was my last soccer game. Yes, we said tear-filled goodbyes. Yes, we agreed to hang out and we agreed to visit each other. It makes us feel good. Most (not all) of us probably won't hang out or have visits. I told them all how much I would miss them, and I was serious, but if we're being honest, a year from now I'll go days, maybe weeks, without even thinking about the soccer season. I'll miss them for a while, maybe even cry a few times. But while they'll always be so dear to my heart, the Lord is taking a lot of them away and I'll unconsciously come to terms with that.

It's cold and it's harsh, but it's reality. People leave. People change. Circumstances change. Acquaintances become friends. Friends become acquaintances. We're scared of the new, but one day the new will be old. Life is moving, and I think right now my life is moving fast, but in the right direction. At one point in my life I was scared of this new, I was scared to say hello to these people because it meant saying goodbye to other people. Now I'm at it again. Scared to say hello to the next people because it means saying goodbye to these people. And that's why I'll continue making fake summer plans and I'll keep skipping "goodbye" and I'll just say "see ya later" instead. It feels so much better. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

the (not so) martha stewart side of me.

Yesterday I went to the homeschool baseball game and if you have never been to a homeschool baseball game I strongly urge you to do so. Very entertaining. It was Patrick Bryant's birthday yesterday, who happens to play on the homeschool baseball team. Being the great friend that I am, I decided I should make some cupcakes in celebration.

Celebration of the birthday. Not the baseball game. Homeschool baseball games aren't usually worth celebrating...

You should know that I never have much luck with cooking. Never as in....never. Something always goes wrong. And when I told myself that I would make cupcakes I also told myself that something was going to go wrong. I guess you could say I'm some sort of prophetess. Boy, did something go wrong.

I grab a box cake mix out of the pantry. I know what you're in the world can a girl mess up a box cake mix? I don't know either.

I turn the oven on and begin mixing up the ingredients as directed on the box. I get to the part that says "3 egg whites" and have to Google images of egg whites because I never know which one is the white and which one is the yoke. I'm not Martha Stewart, yall. I separate my eggs nicely into a small bowl. I put one pan of cupcakes into the oven and start washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. I am on top of the world.

Mishap #1: I don't ever pour the nicely separated egg whites into the cake mix. No egg whites. I realize this after I have washed the dishes and had one pan in the oven.

I interrupt mishap #1 to bring you...

Mishap #2: I don't know how much dark blue food coloring I put in those cupcakes (going for team spirit) but they will not turn dark blue. After putting in drop after drop after drop I finally settle for light blue cupcakes.

Back to mishap #1: I think to myself, "Well I sure can't have cupcakes without egg whites," so I take the cute soccer ball cupcake papers (yes, I was going to a baseball game) out of the cupcake pan that hasn't been cooked yet and scrape the batter back into the bowl. I put the egg whites into the bowl, mix it up, and put the mix back into the cupcake pan.

THESE ARE CUPCAKES MADE FROM A BOX. I can't even make cupcakes out of a box for crying out loud.

I take out the first pan, put in the second. All is going fairly well. I taste them and they are alright...only the most moist cupcakes I have ever put in my mouth. Not sure if that has anything to do with the lack of egg whites, or what. Some cupcakes are like twice as tall as others, but that is a minor problem. I figure once I put icing on them they will all look fine.

I load up my cupcakes and hop in the car. The plan was to grab a can of icing at the store on the way to the game and then sit at the game with my friends and ice the cupcakes. Great plan, right? Wrong.

I'm feeling great and having a nice drive down Lawndale Drive when I see Target. Perfect. Target will have icing. I get into the parking lot, turn off the car, open the door to get out, go to grab my main trio - phone, keys, wallet - when I remember that...

Mishap #3: as of this morning my wallet has been temporarily misplaced.

I ask myself if any soul in Target would buy this poor girl who cannot even make cupcakes out of a box a can of icing. I just need one can of icing.

I turn the car back on and started driving, imagining this scenario: Emily - "I thought you were going to make cupcakes?" Me - "I did make cupcakes." Emily - "Where are they?" Me - "In my car." Emily - "Well go get them!" Me - "No one wants to eat them." Emily - "Why?" Me - "They have no icing. It's pretty much just light blue bread."

As I am driving down the road I remember that I have 2 dollars. Perfect. 2 dollars will buy me icing. I keep driving until I find a Walgreens. In hindsight, the most logical thing to do would have been to turn around and go back to Target, but then again, why would I ever do the logical thing.

Mishap #4: Walgreens has icing. That's not the mishap. The mishap is that their icing is $2.99. I slowly walk out past the employee who had pointed me to the icing, and look at her, hoping that she will ask if I found it, and upon my telling her that I don't have enough money to pay for it, she will be a Good Samaritan and pick up the extra dollar. Nope. Way too good to be true.

Back in the car. Food Lion. Perfect. No mishap at Food Lion. Walk straight to the icing aisle and buy that thing for $1.27. Life is good.

I drive to the school where the baseball game will be played and after going into, I don't know, twelve different parking lots, I find it.

Somewhere during the 6th inning I decide to ice these awesome cupcakes.

Mishap #5: A good five or six of these cupcakes are falling apart. I thought since they didn't have icing on them I didn't have to be careful with them in the car. I thought wrong.

The boys finish their game, they eat the cupcakes, and I think they actually like them. I don't think they appreciate all the hard work and bedlam that had gone into them, though.

Mishap #6: I leave the can of icing sitting in the open. Emily uses this as a good opportunity to spread a very large spoonful all over my face.

Told you I have bad luck with cooking.

Monday, March 25, 2013

i love you. [even though i don't like you a bit.]

Currently in my devotions I'm reading the gospel of John and currently in my devotions I'm falling in love with the gospel of John.

I came to John chapter 13 and read verses 34 and 35 where Jesus is speaking to His disciples and says this:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

I read that and was shocked. Literally flabbergasted. How many times have I heard those verses? I don't know, I come from the Shelley family, I've heard it a thousand times. But I couldn't believe my eyes. Did you catch that? People know we're Jesus' disciples when we love one another.

And we wonder why people can't see Jesus in us. Hah. Um hellooo. Maybe it's because we don't love one another? John lays it out pretty clear here. If we want to be good witnesses to the world and if we want to be the salt of the earth and if we want to be a city on a hill and if we want to be a lamp on a lampstand and if we want people to be able to tell who we are disciples of, maybe we should start loving one another.

The taste of gossip on our lips is all too familiar. We don't hesitate to speak badly of one another or put each other down. We are constantly judging one another (particularly the teenage girl population) - and not the good "judge each other for the sin in which they are living and confront them about it in love" type of judging, but the "oh my word his girlfriend isn't even pretty" type of judging.

This is so normal. People (myself included) don't think twice before saying negative things about others. About fellow Christians. While God doesn't ask us to like each other, He does ask us to love each other.

Actually no. He doesn't ask us to. He tells us to. He commands us to. We have no other option. If we want to obey God, glorify God, honor God - we absolutely must love one another. And there is no way around it. 

This is no casual love, either. " one another, as I have loved you..." Um. Jesus has loved us tremendously, and that is how we are supposed to love each other?! That is quite the task. Not only did He just love us in His heart and think wow I just really love these people ok that's cool I'm gonna go home now. No. He showed His love. "Greater love has no man than this than that he lay down his life for his friends." Boy did Jesus show His love. And boy we had better show our love too.

We make a sincere decision to love the body of Christ (no matter who it is, no matter what disagreements we may have, no matter if he doesn't love me, no matter if she wears the most ridiculous clothes, no matter what basketball team they like, no matter how many annoying tweets she posts, no matter how bad of a friend they are). We intentionally show that love to each member of the body of Christ. Therefore others recognize something different in our lives. Therefore others realize that we are followers of Jesus. Therefore we glorify Jesus and spread His fame.

Can you imagine if this were the lifestyle of every single believer? If every single Christian was devoted to loving other Christians it would be so obvious to the world and it would be so easy to recognize Christians. We would be set apart from the world. 

Sounds familiar. Sounds like...a description of what the church is supposed to look like?

Also. These pictures have absolutely nothing to do with this post and are not implying that I find these people hard to love (quite the contrary, actually), but I thought they were fun pictures of the crystal ball, and I am a firm believer that pictures make a blog post twice as good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

the (not so) tasty breaking of Bread.

Today I had the delightful opportunity to visit the Reidsville Bible Chapel. While there we, naturally, had the Lord's Supper. Overall Reidsville is similar to Shannon Hills. More pants, less people, more kids...but for the most part everything is similar. I was enjoying the extra long Lord's Supper when the bread was passed around. Except it wasn't bread, it was an over-sized cracker.

So, as this cracker came to me I broke off a piece and put it in my mouth. I immediately thought to myself: this is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. If you go to Shannon Hills you know that our bread is far from delicious (no offense to the lovely ladies who buy it in large quantities and stock the freezer for an entire decade), but this cracker was just extraordinarily disgusting.

Nevertheless, I chewed it, and I swallowed it. And I realized that it was ok that it tasted gross.  In taking the cracker I was remembering Jesus' body being broken. When Jesus' body was broken, it didn't taste good to Him either. It was nasty. Disgusting. Horrible. But He did it anyway. And He swallowed it. I don't think He enjoyed it. I don't think it was the most exciting time of His life on earth. I think it was rather miserable for Him, especially when He knew the alternative was hanging out in Heaven with His Father.

But as nasty as it tasted to Him, it tastes sweet us. When we gather every week for the Lord's Supper it is a sweet time. We're joyful that He went through that suffering, not because we want to see Him suffer, but because He suffered for us.

In the same way, I think when we break that nasty cracker and swallow it in order to remember Christ, it is sweet to the Lord. No matter how long it has been in the freezer, it is still sweet to Him when we take time and bring our praise before Him.

I think that if Jesus had gone to the cross yelling and cursing and complaining, it wouldn't be so sweet to us. However, He did it with a good attitude. He didn't want to go to the cross, but He knew He had to, so He did it. And He didn't complain about it.

When we go through rough times with a good attitude it tastes sweet to the Lord. No matter how bad it tastes to us, it is good to Him. And it is always worth it. God thought we were worth His Son's death. God's glory is definitely worth our hard times.

Am I concerned about how my life tastes to me or how it tastes to God? Do I want a comfortable life so that I can be happy or am I willing to do the uncomfortable in order to glorify God? Because boy did Jesus do the uncomfortable for me.