Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Let's be honest.

Welcome to my current obsession.

It’s Wednesday morning. I’m wrapped up in a blanket with a bowl of Kashi cereal and my home-brewed Starbucks coffee, just re-reading these words. I’ve had this blog post written for days. Since then, many things about our American culture have stirred me to respond in writing – the face of human rights, the almighty power of the press, women training for the front lines of combat, etc. I’m actually not going to give those topics the time of day. There is something more unsettling in my heart, and it does not concern our society as a whole, it concerns the individual. Namely, me and you.

When I started this blog, I had a strong desire to create a space where readers and writers like myself could openly admit that they don’t have the discipline to meet with God every day or the righteousness to obey Him with every choice. I wanted to clear the air of Christian stereotypes, break down the walls of denial, open the door for honesty, and facilitate change. I wanted to focus on what is truly holy.

Let’s be honest. The name ‘Grace When I Forget’ came to me last year in a grocery store parking lot. I sat in my car wondering why I didn’t love writing for the newspaper. Am I lazy? Do I just not want to work?? Yes, actually, I can be very lazy. But on this day, I realized that I had no desire to climb the journalist’s ladder because it was so far from my passion or concern. My thoughts were consumed by a spiritual burden. College is over, so what if I forget about Jesus? What if I start getting tunnel vision and start living on my own terms for my own benefit? I was picturing myself indifferent to God and other people – like a zombie, because at the time I was really getting into that show, The Walking Dead.

Anyway, the burden I felt was not only for my life, but also for the girls in my high school youth group, friends, coworkers, and all the young women around me. I didn’t want to forget about Jesus, and I didn’t want to be able to hide from Him when I felt guilty. I'm sure many women feel the same way!

So here's the back-story:

The ‘grace’ when I forget doesn’t mean “oops” I forgot. Doing my own thing, living without regard for His will in my life, disobeying Him, not making time for Him – this is what Elyse Fitzpatrick called our Christian “amnesia”. I forgot I didn’t live up to God’s standards, I forgot that Christ built the bridge for me to commune with Him again, I forgot that it cost his life, and I forgot that He wanted mine. If life with Christ was just about taping an apology around pure rebellion, we would all be righteous looking little liars. Forgiveness is God’s promised gift to us when we return to Him, and His grace provides a canopy for us even when we don’t think we need it. It motivates us to stop denying that we are naturally selfish and willful people. And it teaches us who we are in order to best understand Him. So, what’s more important than instagramming selfies that show the world how real we are? Being real with ourselves.

The good news is, you and I are doing this together. You are not the stray cat at church, and I have no excuse to isolate myself. The church is Christ’s body, and we work together. As this blog progresses, I will continue to write about women’s issues and counseling topics, but you also have the ability to help others remember Jesus. Maybe you actually like writing for the newspaper and can tolerate CNN. Maybe you want to be a mom. Maybe you have no idea. Doesn’t matter – we all have an influence on someone, somewhere. Therefore, whatever we do, let’s not forget whose kingdom we live for, and let us be known by our love.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The 20-Minute Challenge

Step 1:  (Preparation)
Turn it off, we're taking a mini-vacation from counting our "likes" on Instagram. Let's silence our phones, and lay them on a surface with screens facing down. This step is for anyone, like myself, who may twitch at the sound of an alert.
·      You may also want to clear the area around you in case this is distracting for you as well. Find a quiet place, and close the door if you can.
·      If you have a favorite devotional book, you can pull it out to read a small portion, or follow the one I will provide in this challenge. Pull out your Bible too.

Step 2:  (5 minutes of prayer)
Close your eyes and tell the Lord why you’re taking this “break” from distractions. Take as much time as you need to tell Him if there are any troubling thoughts, worries or concerns on your mind at the moment.
You may find this takes more than 5 minutes, and that is perfectly fine. In fact, open communication between you and the Lord is worth the time spent, so don’t rush the conversation. Ask Him for clarity, peace, and wisdom as you begin to listen to what He has to say in His Word.

Step 3:  (10 minutes of reading)
Read John 1:1-18
Read John 16:16-33
Read 1 John 3:1-10
·      Underline what stands out to you.
·      Write down any connections you make.

Step 4:  (5 minutes of reflection)
Take a minute to comprehend the plan of God, aside from thinking about your own life. Try to understand the perspective of His will and Christ’s work for the world and for believers. Now, bring your own life to the table.
·      How important are your plans compared to God’s?
·      Whose plan have you been working to accomplish?
·      How big is God’s plan of salvation? How much did He choose to love you?
·      And what do you think you might do about that today?

Congratulations on completing the 20-minute challenge! By now you have probably realized that the time spent in prayer, reading and reflection went quickly because you have tasted and seen the Lord’s goodness. It becomes less of a challenge to avoid distraction and more of an annoyance to keep a 20-minute time frame. But before you open the door and grab your phone, remember that feeling of quiet rest and make a choice to come back soon. It could be the same day, tomorrow or the next, but know that it is never wasted time to be refreshed by the Spirit and the Word. And when you do come back to this place of rest, good luck keeping it at 20 minutes!

Journey #92: Fighting Discontentment with Gratefulness

(cedrus libani) Cedar of Lebanon

Disappointment is caused when one person has a specific expectation of another person, place, thing or event, and that person’s expectations are not met. It’s not necessarily wrong to anticipate what may come to fruition, although our reaction to disappointing circumstances can indicate what we desire most. And sometimes these strong desires that brought disappointment need to be replaced with better desires, like the ones God has for our lives. Those things that God has afforded us already – the people in our lives, our jobs, the small things that delight us, they have been good things God desired for us, and He does not hold back any good thing.

Read Psalm 92 and ask yourself, why is it good to give thanks to the Lord?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sprinkle's Strawberry Cupcakes

Thanks to Pinterest, I found these on Martha Stewart's website. I made them for my high school small group girls as a treat for our Tangled party, but now I'm keeping this recipe because it incorporates puréed strawberries. They taste so much much better than artificial flavor & food coloring!

Try them:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bruised Feelings: What to do When You are Hurt

Let’s face it, being a woman has its own spectrum of emotions. There are often times when we are hurt or offended, and the other person has no idea that we are holding them responsible. Sometimes others mean to inflict pain and other times we take it upon ourselves, but there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with both. And, believe me, I have chosen the wrong way plenty of times! Emotions can be tricky since we may know the right response, but we choose to act like children because the heat of the moment seemed to call for it.

Here are a few thoughts for taming your emotions when you are feeling hurt.

Try to Understand It from Their Perspective: No, I mean, actually try. Giving fellow believers the benefit of the doubt is not only helpful for your heart to overcome the pain, but it is also a biblical response to hope all things. That is true love (1 Cor. 13:7 & 13:11). Put your childish ways behind you so that the outcome of the situation can benefit both you and the other person. At the very least, they should know you do not wish them harm.

Forgive from the Heart, the Head and the Hands: In love, thought and deed. In situations where you have been wronged, true forgiveness first happens in your heart where you deal with your most immediate response to that person. You must first realize that if you let your emotions drag you to a place where you hate someone, you cannot say you love God – you would be lying! God has made it clear that if you love Him you will love His people (1 John 4:20-21; James 3:16-18). As a result of forgiving that person in your heart, you must choose not to replay what this person has done to you in your head. Us women are especially good at brooding over wrongdoing, as if we enjoy suffering because it displays another person’s sin. We love other people by dismissing thoughts of their personal offenses toward us, and instead, thinking about whatever is good, pure, lovely, holy, etc. Finally, we portray forgiveness in a way they can see (Hebrews 10:23-24; Colossians 3:12-14). The way that you apply this to your life will look much differently than the next person, but what you can be sure of is the inexplicable joy that comes from offering peace and harmony to someone who may not deserve it, may not expect it, or may not even acknowledge it. You are offering your life to the Lord.

Disclaimer: Because feelings and thoughts are so complex, please do not feel like you’ve failed when a thought creeps into your head and you begin to feel the bitterness in your heart sinking in again. This is another opportunity for you to choose to obey the Lord again. Don’t look back! Choose to love Him, choose to forgive, and choose to love this person again.

Forgive and be Forgiven: Do not be the Unforgiving Servant. Read Matthew 18:21-35. Think about what you feel is owed to you. An apology? A peace offering? You may recall a debt too great for you to pay with the Almighty. Who provided the peace offering for you to be right with God? He did! What better picture of forgiveness than that. A sinless life and death was provided by the One who was offended, for the ones who cannot even begin to appreciate it (Ephesians 1:7-8; 1 Peter 4:1-3). This is not meant to be harsh, but it may help put the situation into perspective. No earthly forgiveness comes close to the love and forgiveness God has shown us.

Harboring hurt feelings will only make them rot away into bitterness, and bitterness in time will rot your heart. While there are no healthy ways to protect yourself from being hurt by other people since it is the nature of relationships in a sinful world, you can still choose to respond with a soft heart by loving God with your inner responses, your thoughts, your words, and the manifestation of His forgiveness in your life.