Monday, December 13, 2010

Marriage, Family, Healing, & Music

Every time I study Scripture lately, I learn about marriage. Jesus pursues His bride (the church). We did not find Jesus. We are not Christians because we figured it all out. We are Christians because He pursued us. This means the husband should pursue the wife. & pursuing your wife does not end at marriage. God is constantly pursuing us. He pursues our HEARTS. Husbands should pursue the hearts of their wives - not just outwardly show affection without truly getting to know her heart.

Also, Jesus is willing to go first so His bride can follow. The husband is the spiritual leader in the relationship. However, submission is the wife's choice. I have to trust Christ to guide my husband & teach him to lead. Submission doesn't come easily to me. I have a tendency to think that I have a relationship with Christ, & since He talks to me, I know best. But I need to realize that in a Godly relationship, God lives in my husband, just like He lives in me, so God can talk to my husband too. This is why it's so important to choose a Godly husband. I should be more like Christ because of my relationship with my husband. If my husband is leading me in the wrong direction, our marriage is not serving its purpose.

Scripture teaches that my #1 ministry is my husband. If I neglect him, everything else I do is a joke. Since I'm not married, I still belong to my father. My family is my first ministry. I've been blessed with amazing parents. In the sermon about parenting, Josh said good parents first love Jesus, then each other. This is followed by love for their children, Scripture, & the church. My parents have been great examples of this. We are also taught that discipline must start with delight in the children. Parents should discipline because they want the best for their kids. They should instruct their children & teach them what to do before they mess up, & correct them in love when they do mess up. My parents do this for me, & while I'm not a parent, I try to do this for my sisters. None of us are perfect, so this can be frustrating for all of us at times, but I try to help them when they make mistakes, & lead them back to where they need to be. My prayer is that I am doing a good job of this.

Momma Burrough has also been like a second mother to me lately. I don't get to see my real mom as often as I'd like since she lives an hour & a half away, but I see Momma Burrough every Sunday. It's encouraging to have another mother figure nearby. I love the guidance she gives, as well as the girl talks & jokes we share. She's become a great friend & mentor to me.

Another thing I've learned a lot about recently is community. All gospel community comes back to the gospel. If it is not based in Christ, it is not truly gospel community. Community is not about isolation. Genesis 2:18 says, "The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” When you struggle, turn to your gospel community. Don't bottle it up inside.

For me, this means being more open about my problems. I tend to hide things & act like nothing's wrong. This isn't Biblical. While we're not told to constantly complain, Scripture teaches that our community is there to help us. When I struggle, I generally turn to Whitney or to my "Shawnee family" - Rebecca, Laker, Blake, & Momma Burrough. They've been such a blessing to me, & no matter what I go through, they're there to offer prayer, Scripture, advice, love, & support.

That also means I need to be honest about my medical struggles. I feel much better than I did a few months ago, but I'm not 100% back to normal. (On that note - I go to the cardiologist Monday for more tests, if you need something to pray for!) I have days where I feel awful, & times when my blood sugar hates me, & I still can't do much physical activity without becoming exhausted. I need to let people help instead of acting like I'm fine.

For example, Laker, Rebecca, & Blake have been trying to hold me accountable with my diet (No sugar, & I need to eat 5 times a day). However, I've reeeaally been wanting marshmallows lately. Laker & I went to Blake's, & he had giant marshmallows. Without thinking, they gave me one. I didn't say anything & took a huge bite. When they realized I shouldn't have it, we all got into a wrestling match for custody of the marshmallow. Obviously, the guys won. I yelled, "I just want to be normal!" & Blake replied, "You don't see crippled people trying to walk!" I thought this was hilarious, but it's also true. I want to have a normal diet, but I can't, so I need to follow the one that was given to me. (As I said, submission is a struggle for me.)

Isaiah 40:31 says, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run & not grow weary, they will walk & not be faint." This is my encouragement & prayer. I'll get better. Even though I get frustrated, I need to see that it could be a lot worse, & God is taking care of it. He'll use every bit of it for His glory.

Finally, God has been reminding me of the blessing of music. Blake, Rebecca, Laker, & I started a band called November Something. Sunday we all played together for the first time. We just did a cover of "I Can Feel a Hot One" by Manchester Orchestra, but for some reason, the 4 of us singing & playing together made me so happy. Laker, Blake, & Becc all play guitar, so they were helping me figure out the chords on guitar & transfer them to notes on my cello. It was complicated for me, so we were discussing it & working it out. Momma Burrough stopped us & said, "Coming from someone who is tone deaf & not musically talented in any way, I'm amazed by you guys. Hearing you play & discuss things is like hearing another language. Even though I can't understand it, it's beautiful. Think about it - Could you watch a movie in French without subtitles, simply for the joy of hearing the words spoken?" I'd never thought about it that way. Music is something I've always understood. But it truly is a gift from God & a talent that He blessed us with. I love the analogy of music as a second language - It's how some of us choose to speak to God, & a great way of communicating when words fail us. It's beautiful.

God is so wonderful, & I am so blessed. La vie c’est belle. Dieu est glorieux.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Criticism & Christianity

For my creative writing class, I was supposed to take an event in my life & write a poem about it, & then write about the same event in prose. I wrote about an amazing sunset I saw a few months ago, & the reminder it gave me of God's power. The assignment is at the bottom of the blog, if you want to read it. We went over it in class, & as I expected, there was some harsh criticism. Some of it had to do with the quality of the writing, which was helpful. I wrote the assignment at about 2 in the morning, & admittedly, it's not my finest work. However, I found that a good deal of the criticism had to do with the subject, not the paper itself. There were some opinions really stood out.

I tried to put aside all of the negative criticism that had to do with the subject, not the writing. Obviously, there are people who don't agree with my spiritual beliefs. But one person wrote, "If you take God out, I believe you could have a bigger audience. You have beautiful wording, but the faith just cuts me short." How sad is it that we live in a world where the content of the piece is unimportant if it doesn't reach a large audience? The point of writing the piece was to tell about my spiritual experience, not to reach a wide audience. Another person wrote, "I felt a little preached to." It's also sad that people can't hear anything about God or spirituality without feeling like they're in church. We talk about the things that are important in our lives - friends, family, boyfriends/girlfriends, work, sports, whatever. God should be included in that. Faith should not be a forbidden topic that we only talk about with our Christian friends. It should be brought up in normal, everyday conversation. It shouldn't be a sermon.

There were also some people that pleasantly surprised me. I got a few papers with very positive feedback. One guy told me to ignore the class & teacher's harsh words, & that he liked the reminder of God's glory as well. Another girl told me to "ignore their harsh criticism... I don't think non Christians can really understand this." It was nice to know that I wasn't the only believer in the class. It's easy to feel alone in my beliefs when I'm at school. However, though they wrote their remarks on my critique sheets, they didn't say anything in the class discussion while my other classmates & teachers were picking the assignment apart. This seems typical of so many Christians. When we're presented with a difficult situation, we will quietly support our cause & stand up for our beliefs. But so few of us will actually cause a scene & be bold about our opinions. Why is that? Our opposition never fails to get their opinions out, yet we sit back & let them have all the attention. I'm not saying we should be annoying or force our opinions on people, but we should speak our minds & stand up for our faith. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else, & I definitely need to work on being more vocal about my faith.

Anyways, here is the assignment, if you care to read it. (:

A Sunset to Remember

On an evening drive into the city,
I saw a sunset, oh so pretty.

Reds so strong, yellows so bright,
Such vivid colors that captured my sight.

I couldn't help but be amazed
At God's creation - this fiery blaze.

After I witnessed that sunset,
I wondered how I could ever forget

The mighty power of His thunder,
The feeling of awe, the sense of wonder

I felt when I first heard the stories
Of God's mercy, grace, & glory.

& now, I will always remember
God's love & that sunset in September.

Back in September, my friend Blake & I were on a drive to Oklahoma City to see a concert. A friend of ours was in the band that was playing, and we were both really excited to see the show. We were also a bit anxious because we were running late. We were driving & talking about all of the things going on in our lives - medical issues, money problems, ended relationships, struggles with friends. We had both had a rough start to the semester, and were feeling a little overwhelmed. Then we looked over to the right and saw the most glorious sunset.
The colors were the brightest I had ever seen in a sunset. The entire sky was lit up in oranges, yellows, reds, pinks, and purples. "Wow" was the only word we could manage to say. The two of us were completely entraced by the beauty of the sunset. It was unlike any we had seen before, and we were totally amazed.
"God's good, isn't He?" Blake said. I nodded my head, still too awestruck to say much. I couldn't help but think that I was so selfish and arrogant to be worried about the little things going wrong in my life. I was created by the same God who made this amazing sunset. The sunset alone is evidence enough that He is powerful and brilliant. There were so many things in my everyday life that pointed to His grandeur and glory, and yet it took this sunset to catch my attention. How had I forgotten His love and power? Now I only need to think of that sunset to remember.

Isaiah 53:5-6

5 But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, & by His wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; & the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:5-6

I found a poem I wrote about these verses this summer, & thought I'd share it (:

Isaiah 53:5-6

This was my fault,
Yet You took all the blame,
Carried the cross,
Held the weight of my shame.

Nails stab Your hands
For the lies I have told.
Thorns pierce Your brow
For the things that I stole.

You were beaten and mocked
For all my mistakes.
For all of my downfalls,
Your body would break.

We all, like sheep,
Have gone astray;
Each of us turned
To our own way.

Yet You bore the iniquity
Of us all.
You carried the cross.
You took the fall.

You were punished
To bring us peace,
So through Your suffering,
Our pain could cease.