Monthly Archives: February 2010

happiness is a receipt

What is happiness?  We see it all around us in movies, songs, TV, etc.  Although I haven’t counted, I bet there are millions of books that try to tell you the secret to being happy–whether it be a book about money, sex, beauty, success, or even religion.  Quotes say, “Happiness is not a destination; it’s a journey” and “life is what you make of it.”  Do we even know what these mean?

In my three Bibles of different translations, happy and/or happiness is not mentioned ONCE in the concordance.  So what is happiness?

Today I sit outside on the patio outside of my apartment.  It’s the end of February, and yet it is warm and sunny–a beautiful day.  All I feel, though, is empty of “happiness.”  Why?  Because I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve spent almost all of my life pursuing happiness, and I never even knew what the word meant.  Everything that I’ve done in my life now seems to be part of just some method–a “become a better person” scheme, a “how to be successful” plan, or a “you’ll have joy once you can wear size 2 jeans” state of mind.

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The most meaningful, joy-filled, and overwhelmingly challenge-filled thing that I have ever done is this:  being a camp counselor.

Every single day, I was challenged.  There were days when I hated it.  There were times when I just about lost it.  My temper would flare.  My patience would be gone, and tears would be on the brink of flooding the dam of my tear ducts.  But then, I would close my eyes.  I would breathe.  I would remember….God is love (1 John 4:8).

Those campers were not just 9 and 10 year-old girls.  They were the love of Christ Himself.  They were the embodiment of everything that Jesus calls us to be, to live for, and for what we should abandon our lives.

In all of my life, I have never loved anything more than the times I spent loving those precious girls.  Holding them tightly in my arms and rocking them back to look into their sweet faces, I would witness God’s great beauty.  “You are my precious angel,” I would say.  “I love you so much, but do you know who loves you even more?”  Their faces would crinkle to a look of contemplation, and I would tell them, “Jesus!  He is your best friend, and He loves you more than you could ever imagine!”

Even now, I wouldn’t trade anything for that summer I spent wiping away tears of homesickness, sitting on a toilet seat covered in deodorant, writing bedtime stories to read as their devotionals, conducting marriage ceremonies to tubes of chapstick, and paying 2 slices of gum for a 5 second massage.

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That is happiness.  That is living completely void of one’s own self and living solely by the love, the strength, and the grace that God gives.  We have to empty ourselves of what we value, pursue, and hope to receive and we must be filled constantly with the renewing and redeeming love that only Jesus gives.

Of this I am convinced:

True happiness is the receipt that we are given

when we have exchanged

our knowledge for His knowledge,

our strength for His strength,

our heart for His heart,

and have sold our life

–its desires, ambitions, and meanings–

for His life lived through us.

Kissed by an angel

In case you haven’t heard the story of LaLa, you can read one of my previous posts-click here.  For now, let me introduce you to my angel…

Lala is a 72 year-old shuttle-bus driver at Mississippi State where I go to school.  His skin is the color of his dark brown eyes and serves as the perfect contrast for what I tell him is his “crown of splendor attained by a life of wisdom” (Proverbs 16:31)–in other words, his gray hair.

Lala’s real name is Charles Evans, and I could write for days about all the wonderful things that he has taught me, all the ways that he has inspired me, and all the influences that he has made on my life.  To say it simply, though, LaLa is one thing to me.  Lala is my angel.

The other day, I was walking into the Union, and guess who I saw?  Lala!  Oh my… My heart grew ten times when I saw him, and I exclaimed, “Lala!”  With a smile that stretched from ear to ear and showed his gold tooth off like a trophy, Lala drove away every winter cloud hanging overhead with that one smile.

We came together and hugged, and then Lala did something that he has never done before.  He lightly kissed me on the cheek.

Have you ever been kissed by an angel?  When kissed by an angel, you see, nothing is impossible anymore.  You realize that God really is as good as Jesus says.  When an angel kisses you, not only does he or she share with you his or her own love but  shares God’s love for you, as well.

Be someone else’s angel.  Be a person to show others love.  Be someone’s “Lala.”  Even then, your own angel will certainly be there waiting to share smiles, words of encouragement, and even sweet kisses on the cheek–waiting to share God’s love for you.

Are You Following Religion or Living After Christ?

One of my greatest struggles is this:  believing that if I do certain things, I will be more acceptable to God.  I create rules for myself believing that when I finally follow them–actually sticking to my plan for Lent or never telling a white lie again–that only then will I finally be acceptable to God.

All throughout the Bible, God beats down this idea in scripture.  Colossians 2 talks of this in verses 16-23 and 3:1-2.  Here’s the Message translation:

“So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days.  All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.

Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions.  They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are.  They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us.  He is the Head, and we are the body.  We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.

So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it?  ‘Don’t touch this!’ Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!’  Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are woth that kind of attention?  Such things sound impressive if said with a deep enough voice.  They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic.  But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.

3:1-2 “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it.  Pursue the things over which Christ presides.  Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you.  Look up, be alert to what is going on around Christ–that’s where the action is.  See things from his perspective.”

This is a big passage of scripture, but here is the main idea:  Christ is everything.  The moment that we take our eyes and attention off of Him, we are no longer serving Him as His followers.

Think about it… every moment that we spend worrying about whether or not we are following all the rules of Christianity, we are just like the pharisees that were angry with Jesus for performing miracles on the Sabbath.  They didn’t care that Jesus performed miracles.  They were so consumed with following the rules of religion that they didn’t even recognize God Himself in human form, in the form of Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior.

Once your eyes and heart are actively set on Christ, your focus on Him will shape your actions.

Here’s the question to think about….

Are you following the guidelines of religion?

or

Are you following Christ?

Just what’s on my mind tonight

I’ve been writing this blog for the past seven or so months.  Can you believe that?  The time feels as though it has literally flown!  What’s crazy is to think that this time last week, I was making plans to do mission work in Peru for a whole year.  I was struggling to stay focused in school and wishing that I could just drop out.

You see, I have absolutely NO idea what God has planned for me.  When I think about this, I often feel my body tense up.  After all, I’m a “plan-aholic” in need of a support group.  But then, I look back on all that I’ve been through within the past year, the past few months, and even the past week.  Had it not been for Him, honestly, there is absolutely NO telling where I’d be right now.  “Lookie” here, though!  I’m alive, and I’m breathing; therefore, I have more than enough reason to give thanks!

God has blessed me beyond what I even deserve, and yet He keeps on blessing me.  God has especially blessed me through YOU!

Did you know that YOU are the reason why I even write this blog?  God loves you so much, and I just pray, pray, pray that every time you visit this blog, your heart is enlarged by His love for you!  Oh, I can feel my heart growing as I think of how, one day soon, He will hold you in His arms and wipe each and every tear away from your eyes (Rev 21).  Oh, how our Father loves you!

Whenever you are distracted by all the worries of this world, take a moment to remember that God loves you more than you can ever imagine.  There is nothing that you could ever do or not do to make him love you more!  You are perfect in His eyes.  All that He wants is to be with you.  If you doubt this, please PLEASE read 1 John 3-5.  It may seem like a lot, but please do it!  Also read Revelation 21…. After reading these, you’ll see that in the light of eternity, things look a lot different, don’t they?

Anyways, I’m off to bed.  I love you, dear reader!  Tonight, I’ll be praying for you with 2 Corithians 13:11-14:

“Finally, brothers, rejoice.

Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace;

and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints greet you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and all the love of God and the fellowship

of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

PS-By the way, to those that post comments, thank you SOOO so much!  Every time that I get a comment, even a very short one, it feels like Christmas day!

Math Language + Bible Verses = Cool Trick

By the title, I may have already lost a few of you!  Math being applied to the Bible?  No way, Jose! Seriously, though, check this out!

Remember when we had to do word problems, and our math teacher told us that the word “is” is the same as an equal sign?  In other words, “is” and = are the same.  Now take this and apply it to 1 John 4:8.

In this verse, it says, “God is love.”  With our math trick, we know this:

God is love

God = love

Here’s the trick: Whenever you see the word love in a verse, replace it with GOD.  Check this out:

You may have heard of the “Love chapter”–1 Corinthians 13.  Look at this new interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8….

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but don’t have GOD, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but don’t have GOD, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not GOD, I gain nothing.

GOD is patient, GOD is kind.  HE does not envy, HE does not boast, HE is not proud.  HE is not rude, HE is not self-seeking, HE is not easily angered, HE keeps no record of wrongs.  GOD does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  GOD always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  GOD never fails.”

I hope you like the trick!

40 Things about Lent

In order to celebrate the season on Lent that starts today on Ash Wednesday, here’s a list of 40 things you may or may not know about Lent:  (No particular order…)

Basic Info:

1.  Part of Easter Celebration/Time of Remembrance

2.  Starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on the Saturday before Easter

3. Catholics, primarily, don’t observe Lent on Sundays–Sundays are seen as mini-celebrations

4. Lasts 6 weeks minus 2 days- 40 days

Why 40 days?

5.  God made it rain for forty days and forty nights in the days of  Noah (Genesis 7:4)

6.  Moses was on Mount Sinai with God for 40 days (Exodus 24:18)

7.  The forty days and nights Elijah spent walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)

8.  Hebrew people wandered 40 years traveling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33)

9.  Jonah gave the people of Ninevah 40 days to repent in his prophecy of judgement (Jonah 3:4)

10.  The 40 days represents the time that Jesus was tempted by Satan while in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2 ; Mark 1:12-13 ; Luke 4:1-2)

And the Holy Days of Easter Season Are…

11.  Ash Wednesday- 1st day of Lent

12.  Mother’s Day- 4th Sunday and halfway point of Lent

13.  Passion Sunday- 5th Sunday of Lent; Beginning of Passiontide

14.  Palm Sunday- 6th Lenten Sunday; Beginning of the “Holy Week”

15.  Wednesday of Holy Week = “Spy Wednesday”-When Judas spied on Jesus

16.  Maundy Thursday represents a day to remember the Last Supper

17. Good Friday is the day to remember the crucifixion and death of Christ

Reasons Why I Didn’t Do Lent In the Past

18.  Some denominations don’t participate in Lent

19.  I would start doing it but didn’t see the point in sticking to it

20.  The idea of giving something up seemed silly since I didn’t understand it

21.  I just didn’t know about it

22.  I thought that only Catholics did it

Reasons Why I Celebrate Lent Now

23.  Lent gives me a time to feel the pain of sacrifice even over something as small as peanut butter

24.  Helps me to see how much I rely on some things–often give up one of those things

25.  It gives me a great time of accountability with friends to sacrifice something

26.  Most importantly, it helps me see the huge weight of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness!  If I have a hard time giving up peanut butter and not falling to the temptation of eating it, I have to remember that Jesus didn’t even have a single sip of water or piece of food to eat while in the wilderness!

27.  Lent helps me feel the significance of sacrifice

28.  Makes me aware of just how HUGE of a sacrifice it was for Jesus to DIE  on a cross!

29.  Serves as a set amount of time that I devote to making God and pursuing Christ in my life

Two Approaches to Lent

30.  Give something up

31.  Gain a new habit

Good Things to Give Up

32.  Something that you eat a lot (For me: peanut butter, chocolate, etc.)

33.  Something that you drink a lot (ex: cokes, coffee, tea, etc.)

34.  Anything that somehow keeps your attention from God (ex: watching too much TV, Facebook, certain games, XBox…. I can hear groans from my brother’s apartment already… hahaha…)

35.  Something that you’ve always wanted to give up but haven’t been able too–maybe using the 40 days to try to stop cussing or biting your nails

Habits to Gain

36.  Praying more

37.  Memorizing a Bible verse a week

38.  Making a Bible study with your friends

39.  Doing 10 nice things a day

Words of Encouragement!

40.  No matter what you choose to do–give or gain something–this Lent season can mark a time when you grow closer to God by coming even just a bit closer to appreciating the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us on the cross!

Journal Entry With God

I haven’t been able to go to sleep.  Whenever I’m not able to go to sleep past 10:30pm, that means one thing for me…The Big Guy wants to talk.

While being a poot-tail about it for a second, I finally turned on my light, grabbed my journal that I keep by my side at all times and began to journal.  I want to share it with you tonight because I think that many of us can relate to this conversation that I had with Him.  (By the way, you’ll see Him called “Poppy” in my prayer.  I like to call Him that instead of God or Father because those names always seem to require that I say thou and thee and stuff like that.  Calling Him Poppy makes Him seem so much more like the loving dad or pappaw that He is.)

Sarah’s Prayer Journal

February 15, 2010

“Dear Poppy,

This day has been one, huge day of adventure, hasn’t it?  By Your grace alone, I came out on the other side, and I am on my way to start another day of adventure.

The thing that I’m beginning to learn is that You are truly all that matters.  You are the Ultimate Authority over everything.

As a human being, nothing about me is certain.  Just as Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride, I’m so busy trying to figure out who it is that I’m supposed to be to all these different people that I don’t even know how I like my eggs cooked!

What I’m also beginning to see–thanks to You opening my eyes after crazy days like today–is that you truly are love. (1 John 4:8)

Today, so many people saw that my spirit was not joyful as it usually is.  Though one teacher thought it would be appropriate to push my head towards my desk and make a joke about me not wearing make-up–a love push, maybe?–so many others supported me.  They loved on me, and through them, You were proving to me just how much You love me.

Once again, Poppy, I thank you so much for promising me in Revelation 21 that one day, You Yourself will wipe away all the tears from our faces.

I love you,

Sissy :)

P.S.-  I like my eggs softly scrambled with salt and pepper and even cheese grits if I feel like washing more dishes, but You know what I mean… ;)”

I hope my journal entry relates to you in some way…I’m sorry, too, because the ideas are scrambled but, hello, I’m such an old person and go to bed around 10:30 and look!  It’s 2:00am!  Oh wow…. hahaha

Good night, all you wonderful people!  I’m sure that I don’t know all of you, but I love each and every single one of y’all so much!  Wherever you are, sleep well tonight :)