Love, above all else

…these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:13

I’m … 2010/04/07

Filed under: Faith — Sarah @ 7:59 pm

Hi Everyone!

Okay, so I’ve been a little bit absent lately. I don’t really know why. Perhaps I felt a bit…uninspired. It’s not really an excuse. There’s been so much going on in my life and perhaps that is the problem. Regardless, I thought I’d catch you up with a list of randomness.

  1. After a little over a year, our back yard is finally being put down. I am thrilled at proposition of taking my laptop and writing outside in a back yard. Despite what my pale complexion may imply, I love the warmth of summer. What’s even better is that my husband has even agreed to play badminton with me once the yard comes in. So much to look forward to in the coming months!
  2. Speaking of warmer weather, spring came very early this year.  It has been nice enough to enjoy time outside and I’ve used it as an opportunity to take my extremely obese Brussels Griffon on some walks. She already looks like she’s lost some weight, which will make the vet quite happy. In fact, she even ran for a quarter-mile with her mom today. Quite an accomplishment for an overweight toy puppers!
  3. Previously, I mentioned the book Lord, Save Use From Your Followers by Dan Merchant. I will simply reiterate what I said in my earlier post: this book is important.  Whether you’re a believer, non-believer, jaded Christian, or just unsure, read this book.  It gets in to the heart of Christianity and what it really means to be  a Christian (and, no, it has nothing to do with ignorant protesting or Fox News).  It’s as if Dan Merchant got into my head addressed every issue I’ve had with the negative connotations associated with calling myself a “Christian”. In fact, it’s caused me to start considering myself a “Christ Follower”, as I think that more accurately describes what I am.
  4. The Easter season has come and gone. I had the privilege of singing in choir this year at church. Singing worship is one thing that always helps me feel close (even in times when I don’t feel close otherwise). There really aren’t any words that could accurately describe the bliss that overtakes my soul when I forget myself and worship my Savior with reckless abandon. He is the reason I breathe and I am constantly amazed that He died for me, even when He didn’t have to. I’m so thankful that we have the Easter holiday to remind me of just how big His sacrifice was. 
  5. The only thing that makes me feel closer to God than singing is spending time near the ocean. I was so blessed to have taken a girl’s trip to La Push, Washington to spend some time soaking up the love of my Savior in the sweet waves of the Pacific.  The first time I really “met” with God on a personal and very real level was sitting on First Beach in La Push. It is a place that will forever hold a piece of my heart.

 

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 That is where I will leave you for now, friends. Thanks for stopping by!

 

Reading 2010/02/17

Filed under: Faith — Sarah @ 9:15 pm

Right now, I’m reading a book that is important. It is important in a way that can’t describe without a little bit of a back story. In order to understand where I’m coming from, I have to give you a brief look at where I’ve been.

Before I met my husband, I didn’t have the best perception of Christians. Yes, I was a Christian, but I wanted nothing to do with organized religion. It all seemed like a game to me. Everyone put on their Sunday face and pretended life was great then went on to spend Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday condemning and judging their brothers and sisters. They’d spew condemnation on others while living a life rampant with sin.  On more than one occasion I was the victim of these fine church-going folks’ judgement. It didn’t seem to matter where I went, it was the routine in a different building. After a several years of searching, I just gave up. I loved Jesus, I wanted a relationship with Him but I wanted nothing to do with his people. (Does this sound familiar to anyone else?)

A few years later, enter my husband (or should I say future husband at the time). He was a good church-going boy, played bass in the band and his family was super involved in their church, so I decided to give it another try. I began to see that this church was different. People actually acted like themselves and let it all hang out, warts and all. The pastor spoke of his own struggles and short comings (something that was unheard in any other church I’d attended). Finally, I found a church home and a family.

 As I became more comfortable in my church home, I began to add more and more new friends on Facebook and slowly, I started to feel very isolated. I’ve never been an outspoken person when it comes to my personal and political beliefs. As my friends list grew, so did the frequency of emails, invites and feeds for things that rang so opposite to my belief system. I began to wonder: Is being a Christian really just about shouting the loudest or who’s had joined the most “I hate so and so” groups? Is the day coming where I will be constantly forcing my personal beliefs on people without any intention of having a civilized conversation?

Let me digress just a little bit here and say that not all of my friends behaved this way, in fact it was just a small number of people. The behavior of these few people affected me so deeply because I felt they were perpetuating the stereotype that had turned me off to organized religion in the first place. I falsely began to believe these outspoken few spoke for the majority of “the church”.  The old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but in my case the few squeaky wheels served as leverage for Satan to whisper in my ear that I was out-of-place and didn’t belong in any church because I just didn’t think like “them”.

Now that you know where I’ve been, let’s talk about where it has lead me. A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to Barnes and Noble on our lunch break. We had no particular agenda and just planned on browsing for a while. Earlier that day I had read a post or something on Facebook from a squeaky wheel that had me feeling a little hopeless. As I was walking up and down the aisle I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to a lower-level shelf in the Christianity section. When I pulled this particular book off the shelf, I felt as if Jesus Himself had tugged on my jacket and whispered, “Sarah, you’re not alone.”  The book I grabbed was Lord, Save Us From Your Followers: Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America? by Dan Merchant.

After reading the first half of this book, I’ve felt new fire in my soul. It is as if the author knew the exact stresses plaguing my heart about declaring my life as a Christian in America. Here is a passage that I found particularly fitting for my walk in particular:

The word Christian now comes with some rather dubious baggage. Add the word born-again or evangelical and many Americans will assume you are a Republican who hates gays, abortionists, and the ACLU. The percption of our faith is not particularly flattering and seems to be based on what we’re against rather than what we stand for.

This passage essentially sums up why I started this blog in the first place. Love – plain and simple. When I say that I am a Follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t want someone to have a knee-jerk reaction to pull back because I am probably a judgemental jerk. I want my declaration to be a signal to the world that I love them. I want to tell people about Jesus and how He loves them more than any person here ever could, but how can I share that message if they believe that my sole purpose is to make them think exactly like me or hate the things  that I hate? In one particular passage a question is posed about the impact Christianity might have if Christians spent the time they spent picketing gay pride rallies and dedicated it to serving in a soup kitchen. If that doesn’t put love in perspective, I’m not sure what will. I am so excited to see others also feel the urgency to change Christianity’s image in America.  

Think about your perception of Christianity – do you think Dan Merchant is right? Personally, I think he hit a home run with this one and I’ve just scratched the surface. This book is important, especially for people like me who have been so burned by Christianity in the past. It dares to simply cut through the crap and gets down to the heart of Jesus, which is the only thing worth living for.  I’m not finished with the book, but I’m sure I will be posting more when I’m done.  To those or you that are close to me…you now know what you’re getting for Christmas. :)

Oh, and if you were wondering, I’ve stopped paying attention to the Facebook messages and political propoganda that would get me so riled. Instead, I’ve taken to praying for those people in hopes they will realize how their behavior looks to the non-believers in their lives and I pray for the non-believers that they look past those small things and see the true Jesus in the lives of their friends, families and co-workers.

Friends, not one of us on this big spinning rock is perfect. We are all going to blow it from time to time, we’re going to fail to  see the forest through the trees, we’re going to lose our temper or avoid the tough conversations but we are beyond blessed to have grace that covers our sins and shortcomings.  My prayer for all of us is that we share that grace as freely as we receive it.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Discouraged 2010/02/02

Filed under: Faith — Sarah @ 6:33 pm
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*Just a disclaimer here: These are nothing more than my opinions. My intention is not to offend, point fingers or judge. This is simply a message I feel has been placed on my heart. Read on at your own risk.

Sometimes it feels like I am fighting such an uphill battle…it’s hard to find a way to carry on. I feel like God has pressed upon my heart a message of change and love in Christianity. There is nothing I want more than to change and shatter the stereotypes associated with Christianity today, but in so many ways I feel alone, isolated and misunderstood. 

God isn’t a Republican. He isn’t a Democrat. He isn’t American. He isn’t white. So, when did Jesus become a slightly nicer Dick Cheney? I feel like somewhere along the way Jesus’ message of love has become twisted to fit political ideologies. We’ve lost the message that the blood of Jesus can cover ALL sin and nothing is too big for Him to handle. It seems that people forget that Jesus would be hanging out with the sick and broken people of this world, not the self-righteous filled with indignation over those same sinners. 

 It feels like anymore the Pat Robertson’s and abortion clinic bombers are given the microphone to speak to the world about Jesus. They slander the true message of love and relationship that my Jesus came to bring and that breaks my heart in a way I can’t describe. God is bigger than an abortion debate, God is bigger than gay rights arguments, God is bigger than a broken healthcare system. God IS LOVE. God IS INFALLIBLE. God KNOWS. When we fight, rage and disrespect the authority God has put in place we do nothing more than undermine Him. Disagree. Debate. Vote your heart. Stand up for what you believe.  But at the end of the day, we all (myself included) need to trust God to direct the steps of the nation and the world.

 Anyway, that is the weight I am carrying today.

 

Who wants to be a millionaire? 2010/01/21

Filed under: Faith — Sarah @ 9:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

Last night I was hit with overwhelming panic. You know those moments when you realize every bit of planning, calculating, figuring and plotting just goes out the window? It was like that – a crushing, crippling blow.

My husband and I decided that I would be a stay at home mom once we had children. That’s always been the plan and still is, but last night it hit me that we’d be living on one income – and I just didn’t believe we were going to have enough. In my head I kept rolling over and over and over our bills trying to make it work. It just didn’t add up. My husband and I were up quite late just talking in circles around each other. He had complete faith our finances are going will be just fine, but last night I wanted nothing more than evidence. I wanted concrete numbers. I wanted proof the God was really going to come through.

My husband is an amazing man and after a lengthy discussion he calmed me down enough that I was able to get some rest. I have total confidence that he will do whatever it takes to provide for our family when the time comes. I woke up this morning with peace about the situation, but I was still troubled by my reaction and distrust in God. Why didn’t I believe He would carry us through the times that lie ahead? I have seen Him come through for my friends and family, so why do I doubt He’ll do the same for us? By no coincidence I was reading in Matthew 6 this evening. A resounding truth I have always found is that the Lord leads me to His Word to comfort me or give me guidance in my current struggles.  I felt like this teaching of Jesus’ should have started out, “Dear Sarah,”:

v. 24: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

This is a verse that I’ve known for a while and I kind of just took at face value ‘yeah, yeah I get it, I have to love God more than money’. It really goes deeper than that though, doesn’t it? The verse says I will be devoted (zealous or ardent in attachment, loyalty, or affection) to one and despise (to regard with contempt, distaste, disgust, or disdain; scorn; loathe).

In some ways I truly do despise money. I despise the way it makes people act, I despise the social-climbing people try to do based on how much they have, I despise the things people do and/or get away with when they have money and most of all I despise the pursuit of money, because it is never and will never enough. If getting “rich” was enough, wouldn’t celebrities just go away after they made enough to retire? Wouldn’t Beyonce stop making music (hey, I can dream)? There is so much about money and the pursuit of it that is truly evil, but we need it to survive, to pay our bills, to buy our food. I don’t want to serve money; I want to live my life serving God. So, where does money fit into this equation?

v. 31- 33

 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

As you know, I was guilty of these things by being paralyzed by fear. The fear of not having food to put on the table or not being able to pay our mortgage or having my teeth fall out because we couldn’t afford the dentist. What really resonated with me was the Word said these thoughts dominate the thoughts of unbelievers. Ouch – that stings a little. It’s a bit like your parents telling you they’re not mad at you, just disappointed. As much as it stings, it’s true. If my Father literally knows all of my needs and the deepest cries of my heart, why in the world am I worrying about money? God knows what my family needs, how much we need and when we will need it. I’m not  implying that we’ll become lazy and start expecting checks to fall from Heaven, but I know if we work hard and keep serving, giving and seeking it will work out better than anything I could have planned.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

I love the way this chapter closes. It closes by telling us to go day by day because the truth is this world could end tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to reach my last day and say ‘I wish I had spent more time living’. Lets you and I start living for today, give our worries to the Lord and celebrate the fact that He loves to bless the socks off His kids!

 

Reaching Us 2010/01/13

Filed under: Change,Faith — Sarah @ 8:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

My favorite rock band in the whole wide world is Paramore. I’ve been a huge fan for a long time. There are a few things about Paramore that really appeal to me:

1. Their music completely rocks. Its stuff I can play major air drums to in my cubicle or on my steering wheel.

2. Hayley Williams is a freaking rock star. Not only does she have awesome brightly colored, ever-changing hair I wish I could have, but this girl can sing her butt off. If you want proof, check out the song “All I Wanted” on the Brand New Eyes album

3. They write lyrics like this:

“If Gods the game that you’re playing
Well we must get more acquainted
Because it has to be so lonely to be the only one who’s holy
It’s just my humble opinion but it’s one that i believe in
You don’t deserve a point of view
If the only thing you see is you”

4. They do these things while being relevant, honest and real Christians.

I follow Hayley on Twitter and this afternoon she posted this “It’s embarrassing to share the “Christian” title with so many self-righteous people who just love hearing themselves talk.” – @yelyahwilliams

What’s my point in all of this? First of all,  I feel extremely encouraged that there are people like this out there in the mainstream, playing on MTV and packing concert venues. I am thankful they are selling millions upon millions of albums that are chock full of songs about faith, love, forgiveness, searching and salvation. Bands like these are reaching a generation alienated by so many churches that don’t realize they need change. It is the Paramores of the world that are delivering the message of hope to the kids that so desperately want to hear it. They hunger and thirst to find purpose, to find hope, to find a way to live beyond themselves.

The other thing this post got me thinking was that I think Hayley’s comments pretty accurately describes how a lot of our generation (Gen Y, if you must, but not my favorite term) perceives ‘old school’ Christians . Unfortunately, The Church and Christianity have a tainted reputation of hypocrisy, self-importance and self-righteousness (thanks to all you swindling televangelist, btw!).

 Changing that reputation is a daunting task. The message of Jesus is beautiful, timeless and truly falls in line with the values of  “Gen Y”.  The Church just needs to find a way to communicate the gospel in a relevant, interesting way without compromising its integrity. (Just as a side note here, I feel like a lot of great churches, especially in the Spokane area, that are moving this way. I am speaking in generalities here.)

Based on my past experiences, I had some thoughts about change. What if Christians stopped acting like they were perfect, smiling cookie cutter people and showed themselves for who they truly were, warts and all?  What if Christians took the time to love people where they were, right inside their muck,  instead of using scripture to condemn them?  What if Christians showed non-believers that they can take an interest in them as a human being and not just a person they can convert? Somehow I think sitting down and enjoying a good movie and having a few laughs with a person would open a lot more doors for Jesus than throwing scripture at a non-believer and telling them they are bound for hell if they don’t convert…but maybe that’s just me.

What would happen if we just did these things? What if we all got off our high horses and remembered that ALL of our righteousness is rags compared to Jesus.  It is a huge blessing that I am a member of a church that practices this kind of innovation, outreach and love, but I truly The Church as a whole needs to change our reputation if we want our children’s children to know Jesus as more than a curse word. I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to see every Christian church with an overflowing parking lot on Sunday mornings and I know that our God is big enough to do just that!

 

Why I’m here… 2010/01/10

Filed under: Faith — Sarah @ 5:47 pm
Tags: , , ,

I thought I should kick off my blog with a little bit of background about why I’m here in the first place (here, being on my own blog…not like, here on Earth). My journey started back in April ’09 when I attended the Women of Faith conference in Spokane. The entire conference was an amazing experience where my family and I were blessed with seats in a swanky private box at the arena. These incredible seats allowed for a much more intimate experience since we weren’t surrounded by literally thousands of women. In the privacy and quiet of that box I saw the true and living God.

During Women of Faith, God spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t ever really experienced before. I remember very distinctly the exact moment it happened. The phenomenal Sheila Walsh had just finished sharing a touching story about love, redemption and forgiveness and there was a moment just before she began to sing when I heard a still, small voice whisper to me ‘Write it down’.  The clarity of the voice startled me, but I wrote it off as my mind playing tricks on me.

Throughout the rest of the day I kept hearing the same voice, ‘Write it down, Sarah. I gave you a story to share’. I began to respond: “Is that really you God?”,  “I can’t write my story, God. I’m just not ready. Plus, no one would listen to someone like me.”, “I’m no one special”.  When I got home from the conference I told my husband what had happened to me. He immediately encouraged me to get to work, but I kept insisting that I wasn’t ready.

As the months went on, I kept hearing that same voice. By September 2009 I felt convicted because God had carried me triumphantly through a tumultuous life and the least I could do for Him was share the story of His love and redemption with others. I was completely on board except for one little problem – I didn’t have a laptop. I knew myself well enough to know that if I didn’t have a portable computer then I would quickly lose my drive to write. God continued to whisper to me ‘Write it down’ and my reply was always “I will God, I will. I just need to save enough money to get a laptop.”  Oh, how I tried to save! I would go over and over our budget trying to find the money…and it just wasn’t there.

By the time December had rolled around, I’d made up my mind I was going to start saving bits of my allowance for a new computer. I gave up my whining and excuses and decided that I didn’t care if it was going to take me a year, I was going to find the money. That’s when God stepped in…

One day I checked the mail and after opening the fun mail, I tossed the rest of it on the kitchen table. I had ignored a letter from the bank that holds our mortgage because it seemed like we were getting junk mail from them weekly.  I didn’t think twice about opening the letter. That Saturday evening my husband was cleaning up and opened the letter. Inside was a refund check from our Escrow account! We bought our first home in March, so we had no idea the bank would actually send money. After talking about it, we decided we’d put half the money in to paying off debt and put the other half toward our new fence fund.

The next day I headed off to church where our pastor preached a sermon called The Born supremacy, which essentially talked about living under and respecting authority. It was a fantastic sermon and right at the end in our prayer time, I felt God whisper to me, ‘Sarah, that money is a gift to you. Use it to tell your story’. Wow, talk about getting my world rocked! When my husband got home from work, I asked him how he would feel about spending our refund on a laptop. To put it lightly, he was ecstatic about my proposition (just a side note here, I really do have the most loving, supportive and selfless husband. I am so thankful that he believes in me the way he does).  He rushed upstairs right away and got to work building my new computer.

The next day, he placed the order. The grand total of my computer was $0.10 over the amount of the refund check we’d been sent. I was so overwhelmed at that moment with God’s amazing love and belief in me. It was as if He gift-wrapped this new adventure for me, placed in my lap and said ‘Make me proud’.  That is why I am here – to making God proud and give Him ALL the glory in my life.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” – Heb 11:1. The greatest moral to the story about the birth of my blog is that God stepped in when I stepped up to His challenge.  Honestly, I don’t know if I will ever finish a book or if anyone will ever read my blogs, but I rejoice in the confidence that I am walking by faith to follow God’s will for my life.  I have no doubt He will lead me exactly where He needs me.

Thank you for joining me on this new adventure!

Sarah

 

 
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