Category Archives: Ponderings

Mirror, Mirror…

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
James 1:23-24

So, I’m a girl. I have two mirrors in my bedroom—a full-length one hanging on the wall between my closet door and my dresser and a small hand-held one on top of the dresser. Each sees its fair share of use, but to different degrees depending on the occasion. When I’m getting ready to go to work, the mirror barely gets a glance. I know there’s nothing to see. I’m wearing the same work uniform as always, including a hat that makes it unnecessary to deal with my hair. Getting ready at five-thirty in the morning makes me not feel like bothering with makeup, so other than a quick glance in the mirror out of habit I don’t use it. When I get ready for anything other than work, my friend the mirror gets a little more attention. I may try on a couple of different outfits and see how they look in the mirror. I’ll spend a few minutes of quality time up close and personal with the mirror while I do my makeup and hair. I’ll double-check how it all looks before I go out. Then there are the special occasions. A few weeks ago I was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding. When I got ready for that, my mirror and I got spend a lot of time together. We worked together for a good long while to get my hair and makeup perfect, checking and double-checking for any little imperfection. We visited every few minutes from the time I got ready until I left to make sure that everything was still perfect. My mirror got a lot of use.

No matter how much time I spend on it, I always come to my mirrors with the same question: am I what I should be for the occasion at hand? Sometimes I like the answer the mirror gives me, and sometimes I don’t. I always pay attention though, and if I don’t like the mirror’s answer I stop right then and there and do everything I can to fix whatever I think the problem is. But what if I didn’t? What if instead I glanced in the mirror, or even took a good long look, and then walked away having no idea what I had seen? Wouldn’t I seem rather foolish?

Then again, what I went to church every Sunday and dutifully read a chapter out of my Bible every morning, but nothing in my life ever changed? Hearing the Word of God is easy. It’s as easy as turning on the Christian radio station on the way to work in the morning. It’s as easy as taking three minutes to read the next chapter and checking it off the list. It’s as easy as going to church on Sunday and singing songs and talking to nice people and listening to a sermon. And it really doesn’t do much good. Not if hearing is all we do. If you passively hear something, you probably don’t remember it much better than the lyrics to the song playing in the grocery store last time you were there. Instead, we need to listen—to hear with the intention of doing. If I look in the mirror and don’t act on what I see, looking didn’t change the problem. If I read the Bible and don’t act on what I learn, it doesn’t change my life.

Asking the mirror hanging on my wall if I am what I should be may save a few awkward moments. Asking the mirror of God’s Word if I am what I should be is a whole different matter. Because, in everything that really matters, the Word is the only thing that can answer my question accurately. I can examine myself all I want, or ask others what they think I should change, or read all the self-improvement books in the world, but if I don’t have the measuring stick of the Bible to compare my progress to, I have no idea where I’m really at. I need to look in that mirror to see how I’m doing. And compared to the mirror on my wall, the Word is a magic mirror—not only does it show my flaws, but it provides everything necessary to right them.


It’s Not the End

Abraham was told he would be the father of a great nation and then waited decades, watching as he and his wife aged until the fulfillment of that promise seemed impossible. David was anointed as king and spent years running for his life, even despairing and leaving the land of Israel. The disciples believed they had finally found the Messiah only to watch Him be brutally killed. Throughout the Bible and throughout history, great men of God have been given a vision and then have watched it die. But that’s not the end.

The son of promise was born to Abraham and gave rise to the nation of Israel. David was crowned the king of Israel and ruled well for many years. The disciples saw their resurrected Lord. God allowed it to become impossible for His promises and the vision He gave to come to pass. Impossible for man, but with God all things are possible. And when God left it so that only a miracle could answer the confused prayers of His people, none but Him could receive the glory for the promises being fulfilled.

So often in my life it seems like I’m running in circles. It seems like God says go, only to stop me and say to wait a little longer. It seems like I’m getting nowhere and nothing is happening to bring the promises He has given me into reality in my life. He’s promised to sanctify my life and make me like Him, and still every day I find myself falling to the same temptations. He’s promised to give me a loving, forgiving heart for His people, but there are still offenses I can’t bring myself to forgive. He’s promised me things about my future, yet year after year passes and I can’t see how any part of my life is moving toward those things.

But I know that He is faithful. I know that when He has spoken something, it will never fall fruitless. And I know that His timing is infinitely better than my own. It can be painful to see the impossibility of bringing His will to pass in my own life… but then how much sweeter it will be to see Him do it in a way far better than I could have ever imagined!

“The Heavens Declare…”

Written the afternoon of Sunday, April 24, 2011

The plane starts shaking and I glance up from my book, it’s only the turbulence of flying through a cloud. But before I become thoroughly engrossed in my reading again, the plane clears the cloud and I catch my breath. Spread before me is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life.

The sky is a pure, brilliant blue. It spreads to the horizon, broken only by an occasional wispy cloud. Those high clouds are not white, but are colored a deep rosy pink by the sun as it begins to set. Below, instead of seeing the ground, is a vast expanse of fluffy, blue-white clouds broken only by the occasional brown mountain peak breaking through. Somehow, the brilliant blue, deep rose, pure white, and harsh brown mix in perfect harmony. The breathtakingly beautiful scene is almost otherworldly, yet somehow perfect at home in its setting. And I wonder how many other paintings like this are hidden away in nature, under the earth, above the clouds, beneath the oceans, where God has created something beautiful that humans may never see. How many pictures has God painted just because He can? How many majestic scenes are hidden away, glorifying God when humanity refuses to?

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1

Traveling Thoughts

Sitting in the terminal. Waiting for my boarding call. Sipping a ridiculously over-priced latte. Watching all the people hurrying, hurrying, hurrying. I love travel. There’s so much excitement in the air… or… is that just stress? Ah well, it seems exciting to me. Isn’t it crazy to think that within just a few hours almost everyone in sight will be hundreds, even thousands of miles away from here. That thought always blows my mind. But I suppose I’m just rambling. And I imagine most people don’t think airports are nearly as exciting as I do.

I see a mother with a crying baby. It must be hard to travel alone with a little one like that. I wonder if her husband is somewhere close or if it really is just the two of them. Ah… here he comes. He takes the little girl in his arms and she stops crying right away. It’s nice to see families like that. I love seeing daddies with their little girls. And now that the little one’s settled down they’re sitting back down to wait and I can’t see them.

There’s an older couple sitting just across from me. They seem so old and fragile. I wonder where they’re going. Perhaps to see children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren for the holidays. It’s so sweet to see. The wife has her head resting on his shoulder and is sleeping… I wonder how long they’ve sat here waiting. The husband has his arm around her, every now and then looking down into her face with so much love. The two of them look like they could belong in the happily ever after of a story book.

But I’m just babbling again. I love seeing the people in airports. So many people… so many lives… so many thoughts… so many worries… so many hurts… so many joys… it’s overwhelming. I take another sip of coffee and think it would be wonderful to work in an airport coffee shop. I would love to watch the people come and go every day, although I’d feel horrible charging them double what they’d pay anywhere else.

And my boarding call is in ten minutes. I should turn off my computer and throw away my coffee cup and go back to the real world. I haven’t really said anything I suppose. Or have I? I’m not sure. I won’t look for a way to spiritualize all of this or make it into something worth saying or reading. I’m sorry if you’ve read it and felt it wasted your time. I suppose it really was just a way to hold off boredom while I waited.

And I just realized that every time I write for the sake of having something to do instead of because I actually need to write something, I tend to just write about the people I’m watching. I wonder how much of what I see is really there. I wonder how much of it is just a silly girl looking desperately for love and beauty in a world that’s always growing worse and worse. I wonder if it matters.

To Pursue Excellence in Writing

So… you can laugh at me if you’d like to. You can tell me I’m overestimating my own ability to use the English language. You can tell me the statists one how many people successfully make a living off of a certain career. It won’t change a thing. The truth is, I’m in love with words. I’m irresistibly drawn to a blank page. I obsess over pens and paper. And I often dream of being a real, published author some day.

I’ve spent hours just listening to people talk in an attempt to improve the dialogues I write. I give immense attention to the details of things, often thinking in full sentences describing in detail the world around me. I’ve sat down and read the dictionary, broadening my vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. I’ve read books upon books about writing techniques and styles. I’ve read classic literature, studying and practicing imitating the styles of great authors. And I’m sure I’m digging my own grave here, because you’re all reading this and wondering why my posts aren’t better written, but that’s beside the point. The fact is that I love writing. I want to write. And I’ve put at least some effort into improving my writing.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone that I’ve been thinking about. One of the staff members here at school asked me if I had any idea what I was doing after graduating and I automatically answered no. But instead of dropping it then like most people do, he kept pushing. He wanted to know about any interests or talents I had. I mentioned that one thing I would love to do is write. He seemed to like that answer and started giving me all kinds of advice.

He talked about writing styles, about observing life, about reading classic literature. We talked about the preparation I’ve put myself through and encouraged me to continue in those things. Then he brought up ideas. We were in the library when we talked, and he took me to a shelf full of philosophy books. He told me that not all of the ideas written by these men were correct, but he’d read some of my homework and had talked to me enough that he thought I could discern what to accept and what to reject. He said one that it was in those books that I would find what could make or break my writing.

He explained to me that writing wasn’t just about the words. Yes, having a mastery of the English language is important. You need to know how to weave the words together to communicate your ideas in the clearest, most memorable and convincing way, but the words are just the framework and what matters is what the words are holding. What does your writing say? Does it strongly communicate themes that will resound with the hearts and lives of your readers? Are the truths communicated timeless and relevant?

I know it’s a rather elementary idea. I’ve heard people say countless times that what you say matters more than how you say it. But somehow, the way he put it challenged me to take a step back and look past the words of what I write… to look at what I am actually communicating, if what I’m saying is even worth the reader’s time. In my thinking and studying, I’ve been considering what I write in light of a few different verses…

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. Luke 1:3-4

Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. Deuteronomy 31:19

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 1 Corinthians 4:14

These things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1John 1:4

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

So I guess I’m still thinking… thinking about how to write… thinking about why to write… thinking about what’s worth writing… and thinking I’m more in love with it than ever before.

Two Years Ago Today…

I have sort of an unusual testimony. I didn’t meet the person who in the most real way “lead me to the Lord” until I’d been saved for years. I was raised in a Christian home, and meant it with all my heart when I accepted Christ as a young child, but I had gotten off track. I was lost, hurting, confused, and had been convinced that the commitment I had made was not valid because there was something wrong with me. Then this friend came along. He somehow saw the real me past all my lies. He listened. He cared. Most of all, he wouldn’t let me push him away. Once he realized how much I was hurting underneath of everything, I was stuck with him. And so our friendship began, and slowly but surely, I began to change.

The best way I’ve found to describe it is that he was the first person to show me God’s love in a way that I could recognize. He stubbornly stuck by me and was always there through all the highs and lows… and there were significantly more lows than highs. And one day it all suddenly clicked. God decided it was time, He moved in my life, and things began to get better. And I was ready for it. God had used my friend to prepare my heart to receive His love again. I rededicated my life to God, and for the first time truly understood what I was getting myself into.

Isn’t it crazy to think about how things can have such a profound impact on people? When my friend met me, he saw a hurting girl who needed someone who would be there for her. What he didn’t realize was that he was the tool God as going to use to eventually lead me to rededicate my life to Him. All he was doing was living his life, and when someone came along who needed the love of God he was willing to pour out. And through the grace of God it literally changed my life.

It’s funny how little things lead to bigger and bigger things. I’m walking with God now and seeking His will for my life. I have incredible friends who come alongside me to encourage me in my walk. And I have one very special friend who was willing to reach out. Two years ago today, he saw a hurting, lonely girl and decided to try to help her. He didn’t let her run away when he started getting close. He was stubborn enough to get past all the masks and see the real person, and he was willing to see her for who she was and then point her back to who she could be in Christ.

Am I willing to reach out like that? Can I look past the surface and see who someone really is behind the smiling mask? And when the time comes, am I willing to step back and admit that I can’t change them, I can’t help them, I can’t heal them, and instead point them to the only One who can? I am a living example of what can happen when a Christian is willing to simply reach out and love and wait to see what comes of it, and I hope that God will allow many more examples of that can come out of my life.

Thank you, Jesus for bringing me back to Yourself, and thank you to my precious friend for being a willing instrument in His hand.

A Moment Looking Back…

So… it’s August twenty-second. The summer is over and next semester is staring me in the face. And, despite my firm resolution when school ended for the summer, I’ve not written much at all. This has been a crazy summer, and writing about everything that has happened and everything I have learned would probably take another three months, so instead, I think I will just share some of the highlights.

The summer began excitingly enough- with a trip half-way around the world. The mission trip to Cambodia was mind-blowing to say the least. I’m not going to take your time with the full story (it takes four hours to tell and even longer to write/read) I’ll share the main lesson I learned on that trip. It can really be summed up in one verse, John 11:35: Jesus wept.

God completely broke my heart for the beautiful people of Cambodia with their shattered culture, war-torn history, and spiritual darkness. But He also showed me that just as He stopped and wept with the heart-broken Mary even though He knew her brother would soon be returned to her, He is crying alongside the Khmer people even as their nation is slowly being rebuilt and, more importantly, as the Gospel is spreading and healing some of the deeper hurts.

I serve a God who truly weeps with those who weep. And if the Creator of the universe is not above crying with a hurt child or lonely woman, who am I to be so high and unfeeling? So I’ve spent much of this summer learning to put myself in the shoes of the people around me… learning to laugh with them… to hurt with them… to listen to them… to let my heart break for them. It’s been hard, but at the same time it’s been so eye-opening. I want so badly to look at a hungry crowd and feel nothing but compassion, just as my Lord did when He walked among the hurting people of the world.

Which sort of brings me to the next part of the summer. When I got back, I started the summer job I had lined up- serving in the conference center dining room. The Bible College I attend shares land with a conference center, so during the summer they hire students to work over break. My job was generally fun. Really fun. The work was fast-paced with lots of people interaction and I worked with a great group of people who always gave me something to laugh at.

It wasn’t always easy, though. It was extremely physically taxing, and not all of the people we took care of were easy to get along with. It was through that that God began to teach me that really, people are all the same in His eyes and that the loud, demanding conference center guests are just as much His children and are just as worthy of loving, selfless service as the Khmer orphans. I was going through the Gospels and was repeatedly struck by the story of the feeding of the five thousand. Even when Jesus was exhausted and had had a long day, He saw the crowd and was moved with compassion. And again I was faced with the same dilemma: If my Lord’s heart was stirred for these people, how can mine not be? So work was an area of breaking and learning as well, and with every retreat I once again had to beg God to give me a heart of love for the people He would bring here.

And of course as always, the summer was filled with couples. Why is it that everybody decides to get together at the same time anyway? It was really hard sometimes to see what seemed like everybody and their mom finding somebody who was just perfect and who felt the same way about them, and I must confess I found myself spending more late nights than I’d like to admit to up late bemoaning my own singleness and asking God what was wrong with me and when it would be my turn to be loved like that.

But, like He always does, my Daddy gently reminded me of His own beautiful love for me… and that He loves me too much to let me have anything like that too early or too late. When the time is perfect, and considering that He knows everything He’s a better judge of when that is than I am, He’ll bring the right man along. Until then, He has other plans for me. As anxious as I am to have my own home with a husband and a family to care for, I know it’s not time yet. And if I’m really honest with myself, I know I’m not at all ready. And as hard as it’s been with all of the couples around me, it’s been very encouraging to see other, older girls who have faithfully waited and trusted God seeing that hope fulfilled. It’s good to be reminded once in a while that God really does know what He’s doing and I can trust Him in everything. And, as came up in Bible study a little while ago, hope in God never disappoints.

A lot about what I’ll be doing in the future is up in the air. Right now, I have no idea what next semester will be like. I know it’s going to be very different from the last two, but what that actually means I have no clue on. And out past this next semester, I’m completely in the dark. Past December tenth, I don’t know what I’m doing at all. But somehow, I’m not the least bit worried about it. I’ve stopped stressing out about that all too common question of what I’m going to do next after “wasting” two years of my life getting a degree from an unaccredited Bible college. The answer is that I don’t know, and that’s okay because it’s not my problem. That’s the nice thing about trusting in authority… it takes away a lot of burdens. And, it just so happens that the Authority I’m trusting in knows the whole big picture of history, so I figure He’s a pretty good one to know what I should be doing next, and He’s been teaching me a lot this summer about how He leads us.

In June, I was going through the book of Proverbs. I found over and over verses about how people can make their plans, but in the end, God is the one who decides what happens. Proverbs 16:1 says, “The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” We can make our plans, but God gets the final say. Verse nine of the same chapter says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” A few chapters later, Proverbs 19:21 reads, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel- that will stand.”

God’s been teaching me about how He leads in the most natural days. As much as I might want to hear it sometimes, God very rarely gives us instructions by rolling back the sky and speaking from heaven. Instead, He guides us so naturally in everyday life that often we don’t even see His hand until we’re looking back on what happened. This sort of work of God is displayed beautifully in the story of Ruth.

When Ruth went out to glean in hopes of providing for herself and Naomi, she didn’t go expecting to find a husband. Gleaning was the lowest occupation and was essentially the same as begging. She had made her plans, and gleaning was the best she could do. And there was nothing wrong with that. She did her best to be faithful with what she had. But while she was planning her way, God was directing her steps. She did not intentionally begin to work in Boaz’s field in hopes of being redeemed. She did not even know that such a man, or perhaps even that the laws of kinsman redeemers, existed. In her faithfulness, God guided her without her knowledge to the place where He would begin the process of her redemption.

So often God seems to work like that. I may have no idea what He’s doing, I may not even be able to see His hand at all, but He is always there, orchestrating everything perfectly. It’s so comforting knowing that as I look forward at my future and see nothing but foggy dreams, and even as I look at the next semester not knowing what to expect, God has I all figured out. I don’t have to understand ahead of time, or in the middle of things, or even looking back on them, it’s enough to know that He does understand. And that’s all I have time for, so I guess I’ll stop rambling and just move forward. Year two of college is waiting.