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So I’ve actually sat down multiple times attempting to blog since last March, but I guess nursing had simply killed any creative juices in my system (at least, any related to writing) and I ended up deleting all attempts in frustration. But I guess I’ve lately seen a lot of my musings culminate into possibly more stable thoughts as the semester has progressed, so maybe articulation of them will come a bit more easily this go-around.
I’ve really struggled with impatience and frustration over the past few months towards the conservative community in which I grew up, and it’s been something I’ve really had to sift through and process. (And as a disclaimer, none of this was related to my parents and how they raised me in any way, because I am so grateful for their impact on my life and the values they gave me, and I hope someday I can be as awesome a parent as they were. End disclaimer.) My feelings don’t stem from many of the ideals and beliefs, because I still hold many of them myself. I guess the issue I see is the motivation and drive behind many of the things we do. When fear is a driving factor, so much beauty and joy is lost, and that is a tragedy.
Something I’ve realized about myself is that I’m probably more of a rebel than I ever gave myself credit (and if my parents ever read this, their reaction will probably go along the lines of, “You just NOW realized this?”…) I want to think that this could be a good quality that also has a lot of potential to go bad quickly and easily… I enjoy thinking about controversial topics, working through things that aren’t necessarily comfortable, and challenging established ideas. Not necessarily because I think the ideas are wrong, but simply because constant tension of two sides is needed to attain equilibrium. It’s easy to pick a side, and because we’re human, we’re really excellent at screwing things up, and drifting over to an extreme is much too easy. Picking a stance and becoming complacent with it seems to me almost dangerous. Pride too easily sneaks in and muddles it all up, even if it started out quite lovely.
All this to say…yes, at the end of the day, a lot of the ideals my community valued are many of the same I value as well. But I really do believe cautiousness is essentially in making sure the driving force behind those values is based in love and joy rather than fear. So enough with the vague, fluffy concepts…
For example, a lot of Christian harp on being “in the world, but not of it,” yet I see about a million definitions out there on what that means. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are some black and white issues of morality…like, no matter how hard you try to spin it, the “Christian liberty” argument just isn’t going to fly in a court of law if you decide to go out and murder someone and such… BUT, a lot of other issues such as time, the rating of movies, alcohol, methodology of schooling, Harry Potter or no-Harry Potter (or I guess Twilight/The Hunger Games is the more current controversy), etc, etc *insert pretty much a million other issues, those are just some that I’ve personally dealt with*.
I guess part of my exasperation in all of these issues is the reason why people choose one side or the other. We are constantly critical and looking for flaws in everything and then continuing on to thereby proclaim them off-limits for everyone and judge anyone who thinks otherwise.
Ultimately, it’s the focus on the negative that frustrates me the most. And while it is important to discern between darkness and light, sometimes it seems to me as if we’re so focused on pointing out darkness, that we forget that if we truly focus on the beauty of the light, the darkness becomes a non-issue. I wonder what we would be like as Christians, if we truly received our joy and motivation for what we do from our love for Christ spilling over into every aspect of our lives, instead of pursuing holiness in our own strength by making endless lists of do’s a don’t’s.
I’m not saying that discernment isn’t crucial, and critically thinking through issues is vital…one of my favorite verses is, “Be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves,” (Matt 10:16). I guess all I’m trying to say is I wish I saw more decisions made out of joy and love for Christ. More positively focused than negatively focused. Christianity isn’t about trying to not make mistakes, it’s about pursuing Jesus (and when we truly do that, making mistakes won’t be an issue). And when we turn away, and mistakes are made, the beauty of God’s grace and mercy just shines forth even brighter.
I want the root of my decisions and choices grounded in the pursuit of what is Beautiful, rather than the origination being found in separating myself from what is not. I want Love to be what drives and motivates me in how I live my life instead of allowing fear to cripple me. In a sense, the two sources have similar results and appearances superficially. But I believe that one is life-giving, while the other can really cause the heart a lot of damage.
My dad and I got into a discussion about gifts last night. We agreed that the healthiest way to live is externally focused, rather than internally, and part of fighting wrong patterns of thought is by being on the lookout for God working and His gifts. However, he went further and made the point that seeing the gift is not necessarily the answer but shifting our focus upward – towards the Giver. I immediately replied, “Like seeing and feeling sunbeams and understanding their origination from the sun!”
Spring always brings to mind concepts of sunshine – the days begin to get warmer, the evenings stay lighter, and the world just seems brighter and full of joy overall. But the sun is always there…even in the winter, even at night, even in the darkest storms. It just happens that the sun is more visible and apparent at certain times.
But even on the sunniest, most beautiful days, it’s easy to walk around and enjoy the warmth, the light, and soak up the vitamin D without really considering the source our enjoyment stems from.
Anyone keeping up with me remotely this semester has probably heard enough of my whining to know that this semester hasn’t been a walk in the park. Repeatedly, professors, healthcare professionals, and other healthcare students have told me, “Nursing school is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.” While academically, my mind can handle the content and the skills I need to learn, finding the TIME in which to sufficiently do so with thirty hours of clinicals and about fourteen hours of class a week was where the struggle came into play.
This has been the most challenging semester of my life so far (which possibly just goes to show how blessed I am)…a semester where emotional breakdowns every week are simply normal, and never being completely prepared is just the way it is, no matter how hard I might try to stay on top of things.
But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
After the first half of my first day in clinicals, I was already in tears. It was hard, it was uncomfortable, I felt completely unprepared, and I felt utterly beaten down. It was humbling. In these moments, I am grateful for an earthly father who is always there and who models a picture of my heavenly Father that I can always run to. Prayer was immediately answered, and upon returning to the floor, my night turned around completely and left me with a smile.
However, the next morning I woke up feeling depleted of all energy stores…and I had to be in clinicals til midnight. It was a morning of feeling completely broken and shedding many tears. I knew that no matter how hard I tried, it would never be enough… In the past, I always had confidence I could conquer any challenge, and I had always been able to do so. But now…I simply did not have the strength on my own. End story. So I asked friends for prayer, admitting that I was tired, felt empty, knew that I didn’t have the necessary strength, and that if I was going to make it, it was going to be solely on God’s strength. And so I went to clinicals, exhausted and empty, simply trusting that God would give me enough strength to scrape by.
The second I stepped on the floor, energy flooded through my system…I’m not exactly sure how to explain it, but one moment I wanted to cry and give up and the next I felt ready to step up and tackle whatever came my way. And as I began making rounds with my nurse, I found myself fighting back different tears…tears of joy. To evidently see and experience God’s grace and love and mercy was overwhelming. It was as if I could clearly hear Him say with a smile, “I love you!”
And that is how it went the rest of the semester… I had full confidence that I would be given everything I need, when I needed it, and most likely not a moment too soon. Sometimes it would be more than enough, and sometimes it would just be enough…but it was never too little.
It caused me to begin seeing little gifts scattered throughout my day. Having five minutes to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, the evenings to relax with a book, the times studying with friends, the opportunity to work with a kind patient, or even a passing grade…all such simple and mundane things, but if you really look…you can see the Hands they come in, and realize that they didn’t have to be given at all. It’s like walking through the day and taking the time to experience sunbeams, to feel them, to soak them in, to let the joy of their existence permeate your soul for that moment…
And then…taking that joy, and looking upward to the Source.
Well, hello again! Yes, I am alive, no, I did not fall off the face of the planet, and yes, I am still mentally sane! (I think…) Due to a hectic end of semester, I simply had to stay out of the blogging world.
I’m hoping to be able to become more disciplined over the break with writing before I vanish again, I shall warn you now… To help with my rustiness, this will be a simple, lighthearted post – nothing too weighty or thought out.
Random things that come to mind…
1) It’s Christmas Eve Eve! This is seriously my most favorite time of the year – I love holiday cheer, the smell of smoke and pine, the lights and decorations, the warm comfort of apple cider/hot chocolate, not to the mention all the tasty seasonal treats. I am a sucker for traditions and ceremony, and Christmas hasn’t lost that rustic, reverent charm to it, and it simply makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside…it’s one of the times in our ebb and flow of life where somehow, mystically the past many thousands of years all merge together in joy, when you can almost feel a connection to the people before us at this very point… Or possibly I have a very vibrant imagination 🙂 So much anticipation waiting for Messiah, the joy at His coming, and the remembrance of the promise kept, salvation attained, and the second coming to now anticipate…
2) I’ve lately become reacquainted with the doing the “nothing.” It has been a strange concept but joyfully embraced. Oh how my mind has needed it…. Another activity I have become reacquainted with is reading! Reading for FUN, that is. Nursing students read a lot. We read textbooks, assignments, powerpoints, care plans, charts… But reading for the purpose of sheer pleasure? A lost art… I have successfully made my way through the sixth book in the Sword of Truth series – Faith of the Fallen. Something I love about Terry Goodkind’s writings is how intellectually stimulating and educational he makes his fantasy novels.
3) Lately my favorite song has been “In Christ Alone” by Keith and Kristyn Getty… I’ve heard it the past couple years, and liked it, but for some reason, the more I hear it as time goes on, the more I love it. And this particular video is my absolute favorite recording – I guess I like the Irish flavor in it.
4) I think it’s safe to say that I have officially settled into Lubbock – yes, maybe it did take til the very end of semester, but at least it happened. I thought the most solid evidence was fumbling around with my keys at the front door of my parent’s house because I tried to open it with my apartment key for five minutes… As much as I’m dreading next semester, I am really looking forward to getting back to be with all my friends again – I really don’t think normal civilians understand what it involves being in nursing school. I think it’s fair to equate it to soldiers in the military…no one understands you like your fellow comrades.
5) I’m finding myself more and more intrigued by Europeans. The classy, sophistication of people from countries with thousands of years of history… I’ll still take my coffee over tea, thank you, but there is a charm and elegance to the European way of life that fascinates me… I don’t mean to sound hipster or hate on America, because those of you who know me know I am far from either camp, but I’m sure there is much to be learned from our distant cousins across the sea. And vice versa, of course. But really, who doesn’t love a good, British, Scottish, or Irish accent?
6) I have decided, officially, that if I am to align myself with a particular denomination, it would be Presbyterian. Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone, To the Glory of God Alone. I love liturgical services and following the church calendar. I find incredible beauty in the structure, the constant ebb and flow of the seasons.
“…But in general, God doesn’t just turn up when you page Him. He is right where He always is, and what regular, daily-maybe-twice prayer gives us is some more hint of just where that is, and how to get there, and one of the things liturgy gives us is a way to get there when all our other ways have given out.”-Lauren Winner
7) I find Dove dark chocolate inspirational and tasty. Not to mention that appropriate amounts contain antioxidants and other goodness (such as caffeine). And who doesn’t love a warm, fuzzy feeling after reading the empowering messages on the wrappers! Who needs fortune cookies anymore…
I’ve already said in various ways how this semester has been a growing experience. It has shown me a lot of my weaknesses and strengths (even though I feel like the “weakness” list is much longer…), I’ve been tested in a lot of ways and often failed. But when I get an answer wrong on an exam or an assignment, I usually remember the right answer after that better than all the other correct answers given.
It’s a little wearying when you finally wake up and realize that life is not and never will be easy. As one of my favorite authers writes often, “Nothing is ever easy.” Nothing of any importance anyway…it’s easy to oversleep, to lay around in pajamas all day, eat a bag of chocolate, and watch TV. But anything of significance usually takes work – some more work than others. Nothing is ever easy.
Jesus knows we’re weak, and so He gives us work and challenges and valleys to make us strong. You can’t develop muscles and strength unless you do weight bearing activities. You have to tear apart the weak muscles so that the muscles can grow back strong. It hurts. It is hard. Nothing is ever easy.
And that’s part of the bargain of being a child of God. Jesus wants us to bear fruit. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” What struck me when I read this is that Jesus doesn’t just want us to bear some fruit…it’s not, “Oh, look at those nice three apples you’ve got growing there, good job!” When we DO bear fruit, His response is to prune us, so that we will bear even more. Merriam-Webster defines prune as, “to cut off or cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth.” Cutting isn’t a fuzzy-feel-good experience. It’s painful.
In nursing, we learn right away that immobility is a bad, bad thing for our patients. Being bedridden puts patients at risk for pressure ulcers, collapsed lungs, edema, depression….every system of our body suffers, causing a quick downward spiral. As a nurse, my job is to get these patients up and mobile as soon as possible, but this is often met with resistance. If the consequences are so terrible, why don’t patients want to get out of bed?
The answer is simple… Pain. It hurts.
They want to stay in bed so they won’t hurt. But in the end, their body wastes away. The loving thing to do is to get these patients moving. And while there are many diplomatic ways to accomplish this, I’ve seen many patients aggravated with their nurse for making them move around. Working in a nursing home, I had many of our residents try to get me to help them move around, instead of them using their own muscles. When I helped them (because, that’s the nice thing to do, right? Lift someone out of bed because it hurts them to use their own legs?) I, without realizing it at the time, was doing them a disservice by taking from them the opportunity to become stronger, to heal.
Jesus has to do that a lot with us…pull us out of bed, make us walk on our own (while being right there to take care of us when needed), allow us to hurt as we move weak muscles… And I often whine and complain to Him, just like my residents used to do with their nurses. I expect Him to carry me, and become upset when He tells me to walk twenty feet on my own with only His supervision.
Christians often fall into the trap of believing that because we have Jesus, life is going to be easy and good. But life isn’t easy, because Jesus loves us and wants us to grow strong and capable and whole. We do ourselves a disservice by falling for Satan’s lie that our lives should be perfect, and that something is obviously wrong when it isn’t easy. Hard times aren’t seasons to simply survive, or get through…they are times to be Alive, to grow, to be active. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” If we go into survival mode every time a rainstorm hits, we’ll spend a majority of our lives hidden inside, wasted.
So how will you live your life, rain or shine?
Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.
Out of all the holidays, I have the least experience with Halloween. When I was little, I looked forward to dressing up as a dalmatian or ballerina and going trick-or-treating with my friends. However, with the mixed opinions among Christian circles about Halloween, my parents later chose to take the more conservative path and not celebrate it at all. Most of my friends were quite disapproving of the holiday as well, so after the disappointment of the first year at not being able to go up and down the neighborhood for free candy, I never missed it much. Since then, my parents have let my little sisters go trick-or-treating, but the holiday was never focused on in our family and my sisters are honestly not that impressed with it.
As a Christian, how the supernatural is approached/dealt with (or NOT, as is usually the case) is a matter full of emotion and strong opinions. Is it ok to participate in Halloween celebrations? Is Harry Potter a gateway for our children to begin pursuing witchcraft? What about our attitude towards horror movies?
Out of curiosity, I did some research on the origins of Halloween to refresh my knowledge. “Halloween” is the modern name of what used to be “All Hallow’s Eve,” celebrated before Saints Day on November 1st by the Catholic church. But it’s origin goes much further back. Originally Halloween was a Celtish holiday called Samhein (pronounced “sow-en”). It spanned over a time of three days where the gates between this world and the “supernatural” world were open and the spirits could cross back and forth. It was a time of celebration, where spirits of the ancestors were welcomed back. The Catholic church, instead of abolishing the people’s sacred holiday, turned it into the day of celebrating saints that had since died.
And now we have “Halloween.”
So what do we do with it? Having both celebrated Halloween as well as opted out of the celebrations at various times in my life, I personally think it’s a fun holiday…an excuse to dress up (but I do find the creepy, gory costumes/decor distasteful and uncreative…), get free candy (who doesn’t love that?), carve a pumpkin, and try various recipes involving pumpkin in some way…. I think it can be a innocent, fun, and enjoyable time.
On the other hand, I think our culture has an unhealthy fascination with the supernatural… I see it in the mass amounts of horror movies being filmed, the vampire obsession, and in the over-the-top Halloween decorations littering the lawns… Don’t get me wrong, I love fun decorations, a thrilling movie, and I’ve read and enjoyed Harry Potter and Twilight. I love fantasy novels with wizards and magicians…but those all take place in another world…there’s no uncertainty in the fact that those things won’t happen in real life.
It’s the demonic aspect that does cause me to shudder…because unlike zombie apocalypses, vegetarian vampires, or a magical school of wizardry, demonic activity is very real. I broke one of my cardinal rules yesterday of not watching horror movies by watching the movie Insidious, and it made me think about the whole Halloween debate again (in my defense, I didn’t think it was the type of horror movie it turned out to be…). While I can’t say I’m happy I watched the movie, I’m not sure I regret it either. It caused me to examine my thinking about my attitude towards the supernatural. In the end, I simply felt sad…sad, because while people watch that stuff for entertainment and love the thrill of being scared, those stories in many cases are reality. Demon possession is real, hauntings happen, and the supernatural is very present.
Maybe I take it more seriously because I’ve known people who’ve had multiple “supernatural run-in’s” throughout their lives. A situation was so bad at one time, that my pastors literally prayed over one of the member’s house. Since then, there were no other incidences. As a Christian, I’m not scared about being possessed because the Holy Spirit is within me, but Satan is more than happy to attack us in anyway he can. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this stuff is legit, and it destroys people’s lives. And yet we approach it flippantly like it’s all a game.
So I guess what I’m saying is I’m more of a spooky jack-o-lantern, cute napkins with bats saying “eek,” and ominous looking purple cats kind of girl when it comes to Halloween. I don’t see a reason for me to ban it, but I also respect those who do choose to. An unhealthy fascination with demonic/supernatural is not good, but I also think it’s easy on the other side to sin by judging those who do choose to celebrate the holiday. I guess what it comes down to is a matter of Romans 14.
“Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
I find it interesting that it was the church’s fear of cats as something “evil” that caused them to kill tens of thousands of them, allowing rats and mice to multiply, leaving Europe as a whole wide open to the Black Plague, which was carried by the fleas on the backs of those rats and mice.And what about the Salem Witch Trials? How many girls innocently died during that time? I wonder how many of them were in actuality children of God…
It’s easy to demonize anything we choose to. It’s also easy to not take demonic activity seriously enough.
I love what C.S. Lewis writes in regard to this,
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad
The Sound of Music has been one of my most favorite movies since I was as young as four years old…I believe it was one of the few movies I insisted my parents buy for me (I never asked to actually own many movies…Mulan and The Prince of Egypt were probably the only other ones I asked for). One of my earliest memories is running back and forth across our backyard in Kansas during a thunderstorm singing, “Doe, a deer, a female deer…ray, a drop of golden sun!” at the top of my lungs…
…back when life was simple, when watching Disney’s Robin Hood rescue Maid Miriam from the bad guys exhilarated me, when being able to spell my full name without accidentally writing the “r” backwards was an accomplishment to be proud of, when I would fearlessly dance around the room to my parent’s “Point of Grace” CD wearing my ballerina dresses…
Some things don’t change as we get older though…and watching The Sound of Music and listening to the soundtrack without it getting old is one of them. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in periodically thinking about some of our “favorite things.” Remembering the little blessings and joys that God sprinkles throughout our life and thanking Him for His loving generosity…
” Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
So in the spirit of remembrance, I present you a few of MY favorite things. In no particular order whatsoever…
New friends…nursing friends…having a bunch of girlfriends for once…My boys…(some of them)…my Dallas childhood knights in shining armor who take care of me…from the bad guys and, most of all, from myself.
It’s easy to forget such simple gifts…what are some of your favorite things?
Spurgeon has been one of my favorite preachers since I began to really study theology on my own…I find his sermons challenging, blunt, loving, and encouraging.
I read this particular passage at a timely period…nursing school consumes so much of my time. Finding time to truly meditate, digest, and ponder God’s Word has been a challenge. Yes, I’m able to stumble out of bed and groggily read through a passage with a cup of coffee…but usually that’s followed by falling back asleep for a much needed twenty extra minutes of sleep before class or clinicals. But like Spurgeon pointed out, our souls won’t be nourished by simply putting food into our mouths…I can put the most nutrient-rich foods in my mouth, but if chewing and digestion doesn’t follow it, it will do no good to my body.
“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in thy precepts.” ~C.H. Spurgeon
I am reminded again of the necessity of meditating on God’s truth and truly allowing it to soak into my mind and live it out. I have a long ways to go, but awareness is a start. As the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12,
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Tonight was my first night to visit the college ministry group I am hoping to become involved in – The Navigators. We have a bit of a family history with Navs, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of a group if I had the chance….and my chance has come, through a close family friend, my wonderful father, and a staff who seems to really care… Navs has a very special place in my heart. It’s exciting to see how God places various people in various places at various times in a perfect way to work His will in our lives. I love our Sovereign God!
Right off the bat, I knew I was going to love it….meeting amazing people who seem to really care and love Jesus, and a fun “get-to-know-you” game… The first guy who stood up to give a testimony had a lot to say that hit close to home. He talked about how he realized over the summer through an internship with Navs that his love was often quite conditional. His frustrations with people around him he considered “lazy” or various things that would frustrate him…what these people did determined his love towards them. One of his mentors, after listening to him vent his frustrations, pointed out that if God loved us based on those terms, He would never want to be with us or talk with us. God doesn’t love us based on what we do, or don’t do, but because He chooses to. Definitely challenged me in how I handle my friendships and emotions.
Then we moved on to the actual message, which was based off of Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Our words either have the ability to bring life or death to a person. Like the butterfly effect in a way…(I really like butterflies, if you couldn’t tell) He went on to talk about various stories where God had prompted him to go talk to someone and how God worked incredible things through those seemingly “awkward” situations at the time. So the questions….what comes out of my mouth? and how does that affect others? how am I being faithful in God’s promptings in my own life? and am I even listening enough to hear these promptings? A lot of this involved stepping out of my comfort zone and following Jesus where He leads me. A recurring theme in my life…
I’m excited to get involved in this group and excited to see what God is going to do through them in my life and others. Our God is good!
The Israelites had stones they placed to remind them of what God had done…I guess we all have similar things in our lives.
“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder…to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD…These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:5-7)
I love what Madeleine l’Engle writes in her book “The Love Letters.”
“Supposing,” she said, slowly, “you are sitting in a train standing still in a great railroad station. And supposing the train on the track next to yours began to move. It would seem to you that it was your train that was moving, and in the opposite direction. The only way you could tell about yourself, which way you were going, or even if you were going anywhere at all, would be to find a point of reference, something standing still, perhaps a person on the next platform; and in relation to this person you could judge your own direction and motion. The person standing still on the platform wouldn’t be telling you where you were going or what was happening, but without him you wouldn’t know. You don’t need to yell out the train window and ask directions. All you need to do is see your point of reference.”
A year ago, I wrote out some thoughts for my dad on a passage he was about to preach on…thoughts and concepts that came to mind personally as I read 1 Peter 1:13-16.
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.‘”
Striving for excellence, even though glorification will never be attained in this life… Yet we are still commanded to pursue holiness. So as my “stone of remembrance” or “point of reference,” I decided to post my year-old letter… I feel as if I’ve fallen so far from this point, but God’s grace is sufficient and when I am weak He is strong. And life is a learning process.
Read Screwtape Letters chapters nine and ten…. “I see few of the old warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time. All that, your patient would probably classify as ‘Puritanism’–and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life.”
I wish I could succinctly express my thoughts on the passage, but I think I’ll just have to ramble and hope you can get the idea…
I look at myself and my generation….and we take a lot of things seriously. But most of them are the wrong things. The environment, homosexuality, our favorite TV shows… It seems as if we waste a lot of time. we get caught up in having fun and absorbed in ourselves. It’s the whole college mentality “it’s all about me.” we float through life one “party” (insert anything else) to the next in a half hazardous way. I guess it goes back to redeeming the time…the days are short…what am I doing NOW to bring God glory or change a life…the butterfly effect. life is serious. every word, action, thought shifts the balance of the universe… at times I’ve been scared of expressing my thoughts or feelings because I know the second I do so, the second it’s out there in the open, everything can shift, and you can’t take it back. Everything we do or DONT do (which is usually the case) affects something else, which then affects another thing…like this snowball effect… CS Lewis differentiates “Joy” from “flippancy.” We’re incredibly flippant creatures, rather than joyful ones. Life is a serious thing, but it doesn’t mean there is no Joy… We shouldn’t be flippant with our lives, actions, words…God has redeemed us and created us for good works. We are called to redeem creation, to bring back joy, and that takes a serious mindset…prepared for action…ready to jump at any moment and bring healing or block any blow that comes our way. The devils prowls around…we have to be on our toes.
Are we actively pursuing goals? Are we even identifying them? Are we taking the time to reflect and discover our God-given desires or areas we fall short in? Or are we spending too much time being introspective and not realizing someone around us hurting? As Christians, it’s easy to feel benevolence towards a theoretical person and think we’re loving people but not realize our “malicious” tendencies of the very people we interact with on a day to day basis… I mean, you can attest that a lot of the time I talked about helping other people and left Mom swamped with a dirty kitchen.. (this was another idea I got from Lewis today) You can’t just jump into something and expect everything to be ok…yes, we shouldn’t be anxious…but I have heard that used as an excuse so many times it practically infuriates me…people claim they are “easy going” when in reality they’re just lazy. Yes, God will win the battle but we have to enter into it and fight…
I begin every semester with a “battle plan”…I list my priorities and my goals…the uncompromisable…and then I look at all of them, and figure out the strategy I need to conquer all of them. Because if I don’t, I won’t be able to healthily manage anything or reach my goals. People whine about their lives, but they don’t DO anything to change it…or they talk about it…I feel like Christians talk a lot…if we spent all the energy talking and whining about things and actually did something, things might actually change…(ha, I think I got this from you….) So….drill sergeant moment, JUST DO IT already! quit the excuses and self-defeated remarks, arm yourself for battle, prepare yourself mentally, be alert to God’s leading, aware of Satan’s wooing, and wait on God.
I realized Thursday that I rarely ever take time to Be Still. I whine about not having the time…yeah I sit down and read my bible, check that off my to-do list, and hop on my computer. The media seems to me is incredibly detrimental to being sober-minded. Being alert. Because we always have that buzzz buzz or ring ring to interupt a thought process. But if we’re never still, and if that’s never a priority, it makes it hard for us to hear God, to see areas needed to grow, or become aware of the desires God’s putting on our hearts… If I don’t know how I’m struggling, or how Satan is attacking me, how can I be prepared?
I think it comes down to Priority. To keep up with everything in life, we have to be active about setting aside time or doing things a certain way. I have to go to bed a lot earlier so I can wake up at 5am and be a happy person able to take care of the residents in a caring hopefully Christ-like way for eight hours and have the energy to be able to go study afterward so I can make A’s in my class to get into nursing school to be the nurse I believe God is calling me to be. But it takes a lot of planning. It takes being prepared. It takes being organized…which for me, has been a bit of a learning process… I learned this week that I am a really lazy person. Til a week ago, my room looked like a tornado had blown through. (The only good thing about it was no one could see the blue carpet, as Grandma pointed out…) Learning the discipline of taking the extra five or ten or fifteen minutes to do something right and clean up after myself feels like I’m working a muscle that hasn’t been worked in awhile…but working at a nursing home where I’m coming in, making a mess, being overwhelmed with how much to do, and learning the discpline to neatly organize and take the extra minute and pick up my mess has been…a challenge… It takes being very mentally active and very much not self-absorbed….growing up is rough.
I guess what I’m saying….is the Christian life is ACTIVE. The verbs you see…one day I sat down and read all the little books of the Bible and I was struck by the verb usage. Stand, prepare, gird, put on, hold, strive, run, push…which is why I love exercise so much. It’s a mental and spiritual thing just as much as physical. And I feel defeated when I am “too tired” to work out.
One of my favorite characters in Harry Potter was a “defense against the dark arts” professor. He taught the students how to detect and defend against dark magic. Whenever the students would fail to remain alert, or not alert enough, he would yell “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” And since part of the “dark magic” in our lives are in ourselves (the old nature) as well as external spiritual forces, how much more do we need to be on constant vigilance…
Not even to mention holiness. I love that lewis quote on “puritanical.” None of us can ever grasp “holiness” but some people don’t even try. People don’t understand that Holiness is pursuing Joy, not seeing how much we can flirt with darkness. It’s about the blazing center and orbiting the Sun.
In my generation I see apathy, laziness, a que sera sera attitude towards life…when we need to care, desire, fight, defend, run, train, and be alert. It touches every aspect of life: spiritual, physical, mental…when one is out of line, we open ourselves up to be assaulted. “Indeed the safest road to Hell is a gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (Screwtape Ch 12) A smart person doesn’t go walking in a bad part of town alone, yet, I do that every day spiritually. I just don’t get it sometimes. I guess I just don’t feel like many people “get it” or if they do, they don’t think it’s dangerous. We are easily flippant creatures instead of joyful ones.
Nursing school has begun in full force, and I can’t help but think of Theoden ominously saying, “So it begins.” as the enemy begins to swarm Helms Deep… (there’s my nerd reference for the day) I’ve been wanting a challenge for a long time, and now that it’s here, the work is begin to seem a little overwhelming. Nursing school requires a lot more writing that I was anticipating, but a lot of it will be fun research projects. I’m actually excited about being able to utilize my writing skills again.
This semester, our focus will be on Long Term Care. In layman’s terms, this means we’ll be doing our clinicals in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. So part of me goes, “Oh great, this again….” Because this semester looks as if it’ll be a lot of what my CNA course taught me (obviously we’ll be learning more, like catheters and such), and a lot of the basic skills we’ll start off with, I have already done many times at my prior job at a rehab center in Missouri. I guess I was looking forward to learning a different aspect of nursing, but I also know that fine tuning my skills in this area is needed to continue. The other part of me, because of this, is glad… I’m already fairly comfortable with what we’ll be doing, familiar with the skills, so this is the perfect opportunity to start perfecting these fundamental nursing concepts. Our instructors say that this is a critical semester and that learning the fundamentals will be what makes the rest of our nursing career stronger, so I’m thinking that this is a blessing. I’m still anxious to begin pediatrics, though….