Focused & Loving It: My Spiritual Circle Jouranl Posting

Go read about my cover on the link at the bottom of the post!

Go read about my cover on the link at the bottom of the post!

I’ve been journaling since I was a little kid. Before I could even read, I was asking my mom to write gorgeous words on paper so I could copy them down in my notebook to look at. I loved words. Something about them enticed me. It was years later that I found this was one of God’s precious gifts to me – words. His Word, to be exact. But also, my own words.
 
After I learned to write those beautiful words myself, I would scrawl long prayers in notebooks, returning to them over and over to praise Him, to ask for forgiveness, or to receive guidance. But revisiting those words involved rifling through pages, trying to find the verse I needed or what God spoke to my heart during my long rants and raves with the pen and ink. In short – it was very time consuming.
 
It was then that I discovered the Spiritual Circle Journal. With nine beautifully simplistic circles, and a blank page on top, I had the freedom to write wildly while using the circles to bring order. This made it easy to go back and find important things I had written. If I wanted to see what God had been convicting me of, I’d glance back at the “Confession” circles. If I wanted to check on my obedience, I’d study the “Action” circles to see if I truly was doing what God was asking of me. No more searching frantically through past journal entries. I had nine circles with prompts to help focus our time together.
 
I soon personalized the cover, a feature I greatly appreciate. There is something truly poetic about a cover that you designed yourself. It indicates ownership and a dedication to the words you write inside. My cover is a collage of magazine clippings and drawings I pasted there with a glue stick….
 
To read the full post, please visit Liz Lassa’s Spiritual Circle Journal Blog.

Joy and Tears

I have to say, when I first saw that this book was written by a man, I was a little skeptical. Perhaps because I, being a pretty emotional woman, have been told by most men in my life, that emotions are not as necessary as I believe them to be, I did not want to be told the same thing again over 200 pages. I thought too, it might not demonize passionate or intense emotions, but it might consists of superficial trivialities that could be found in the “for dummies” or self-help section. I am so glad I was wrong!

“Joy and Tears: The Emotional Life of the Christian,” by Dr. Gerald Peterman, professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, succeeds in carefully examining emotions from a Biblical standpoint, something I have not seen many authors do. Peterman explains emotions, which are often described as obstacles in the way of knowing God, as actual gifts from God! The emotional lives of Christians are just as important as our cognitive or even actual lives.

In this well-written book, Dr. Peterman works to dismantle the popular Christian myth that feeling has no part in our pursuit of Christ. He does so by explaining that emotions are found in scriptures themselves. How can Jesus weep with sorrow in the Garden, shout with anger in the temple, and rebuke his own apostles in frustration if He is without sin? The answer, to my utter joy, is simple: emotions themselves are not sin! But not to worry, Peterman is is quick to explain that while the emotion of anger may not be sinful, humans are highly capable of reacting to their feelings in a sinful way. He urges the reader to learn more about their emotions instead of pushing them aside, and to become aware of our internal convictions, because, in fact, this is what Jesus did himself. He even goes so far as to say that doing so will help us understand scripture. By becoming more emotionally engaged with the characters of the bible, we will be able to appreciate the Word of God on more than just a cognitive level. And, let’s face it, we can’t just rely on our own understanding to engage us with God.

With arguments and explorations of real life examples, Peterman comes to the conclusion that emotions are the natural responses to our convictions, and also can aid us in becoming more Christ-like. He explains how we can grow to view our emotions as logical, yet at times unconscious, reactions stemming from our internalized beliefs.

With practical advice about how to see our emotions in this way, “Joy and Tears” is geared towards helping Christians take productive, reachable steps towards becoming emotionally healthy. Any Christian, whether feeling void of emotion, or consumed with emotion, will be greatly impacted after this excellent read.

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The pieces of this messy walk

scattered pieces of a messy walk way... that's what my life appears to be sometimes...

scattered pieces of a messy walk way… that’s what my life appears to be sometimes…

Today I feel drawn to write again.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here putting pen to paper (so-to-speak), and it’s been due to a number of reasons, most of which I won’t get into today simply because of the monotony of them. But it seems like blogging and writing in general follow the usual pendulum that is my life: desperately seeking and craving consistency, but following a God who continually leads me by The Spirit, who doesn’t usually allow mundane routines to take hold of my life, even when I think I’d like them to.

I think it’s due to a craving for control. Women? Can you relate? I say women, but really it is a very human thing to want control: of people, of timing, of situations: of money… it’s a natural desire.

I look at some people in my life, who I am sad to say are not saved, and their life seems to be so consistent. They get up at the same time each morning, they work out (everyday without fail!), they go to work, they get work done, they come home, make dinner (everyday without fail!), and they watch their usual tv shows, and then they go to bed at the same time every night. They have their schedule to count on. It will always be the same.

I want that for myself sometimes, at least, I convince myself that I want it. I want to wake up each morning at exactly the same time, have an hour of quiet time without fail, get to work with everything prepared, use each of my prep periods wisely, have a lunch and bible study without interruption, work out for a hour at the gym at exactly 3:30-4:30, come home and prepare dinner for Dennis and myself, eat it, go to bible study, or spend time doing whatever it is I’d like to do, then go to bed at exactly 9:30pm and do it all over again the next day. Consistent work out, consistent bible study and prayer time, consistent work, consistent meals, consistent bed times, consistent wake ups. Consistency. I convince myself I want this so badly.

First of all, I know I cannot compare my life following Jesus to those that aren’t. The Bible is clear about comparing ourselves to others and longing for lives that do not leave room for His presence.

Second of all, I know that if I had that consistent routine that I think I want, I would become bored with it and feel that my life is meaningless (which it would be).

My life following Christ is messy, and I want to learn to be proud to say it. I have periods of time when my job and the kids I teach are so needy and important, that I don’t have time to make incredible dinners. Sometimes I go through a canned soup and crock pot chicken season. I have periods of time when my night owl husband needs me up late too, and I wake up later than planned so I have to listen to my “pray-as-you-go” podcast in replacement of my worship time. Sometimes I go through a season where my prayers are jotted down on post-it notes and not elegantly arranged in my beautiful journal that sits on my desk. Sometimes I’m all ready to go to the gym, but a little child knocks on my door and needs an apple and some Bible time, so I sacrifice the toned muscles I think I need for some quality time with God and His little children. Sometimes I feel I’m so emotional and messed up that I can’t even think about writing in this blog, and so I get out of the habit and months go by and comments go unread and suddenly I forget how to do this…

And I sometimes think to myself, God is consistent! He never changes! So why does my life seem so messy and unpredictable?! Why is everything up in the air and pieced together into weeks that don’t align and schedules that never stay the same? Am I just uncommitted? Do I have a lack of discipline? What’s wrong with me?

Then I realize that while the people, emotions, levels of energy, jobs, conversations, and all other earthly things in my life are completely inconsistent, it makes it so that all I have to lean on is The Lord. He is the one constant thing I can cling to in this life. My craving for consistency is really my deep desire to know Him. According to Malachi 3:6, “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed…”. What a beautiful picture. God’s consistency does prevent me from being consumed by my own business and “productivity” turned monotony.

Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. My life as a Christian and my walk with Christ is messy, yet He is not. My life as a Christian is not on a plateau; it’s an upward climb with tests and trials and bumps along the way. It’s not stagnant or stuck in a rut, but always moving and always flowing forward as Christ is.

My life as a Christian and my walk with Christ means that I can sacrifice my need to control my schedule and my time in order to live by the seemingly random promptings of the Holy Spirit. Because, although they may seem random, I know that God knows what He is doing, and this life I’m living according to Christ, is exactly the path which He wants me on.

So today…. The Spirit has called me to write. I’m not sure why or for what purpose, as I’m sure people have realized that I am far from consistent with this blog, but nevertheless, God has called me back.

It’s good to be where God calls. Even if it seems random and unplanned. The consistency and stability I crave is found in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”.

“All In” by Mike Guzzardo book review

96918038This week I finished reading a book by Mike Guzzardo called “All In” from Moody Publishers. I received the book at no cost from the publishing company with permission to read and review it.

To be honest, I thought this was another book that was just going to tell me that if I want to get all of God’s blessings, then I need to totally surrender to him. However, the first chapter paints a picture of our walk with Jesus as a journey up a steep mountain (not unlike Lewis’s Great Divorce), and I very quickly realized how low I truly was on that mountain, and I began to read more fervently. James 1:22 tells us, “do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” And in many ways, this book encouraged me to do the exact same thing– it is a call to action! Our life as a Christian is not about making Christ one priority among many, but about making Him THE priority.

Mike writes of his testimony in depth when describing his teenage years and his choice between Jesus or the acceptance of others. At one of the darkest times in his life, he called upon Christ and fully surrendered to Him and hasn’t looked back since. If you are currently a teen, or have had difficult teenage years, you will identify with this part of the book. After we get to know Mike a little more and are prompted to truly decide if we want real surrender, Mike shows us that Satan is always looking for ways to distort our perception of God. We need to be able to catch Satan in his lies, and know the true and unfailing character of our Father. The more we meditate on God’s word, the more we grow to know Him, and the more we are changed from the inside out to reflect His character.

The book ends with asking if you are “all in” for Christ, and offers scripture and suggestions for completely surrendering to God. I highly recommend this book as a guide for for new Christians and a refresher for seasoned Saints. It’s a quick read with beautiful metaphors and meaningful illustrations which are easy to understand and relate to. This book is great for adults, but would serve as a source book for student ministries or a young adult small group.

What my cat has taught me about connection and people

As many of you may know, I have a cat. She is the cutest kitten in the world (in my high opinion) and I love her very much, even when she gets vicious in her playful-kitty mode late at night (she thinks that biting our faces as we try to fall asleep is a very fun game…)

IMG_1169Now when I really stop to think about the purpose of a pet, the purpose of Evee–that’s my cat’s name in case you were wondering, I can’t really express what that purpose is. Is it to have a little companion all to yourself? Is it to own something? It is for protection? Is it for friendship? To stay busy? To teach kids how to be responsible? To practice love?

What is the purpose of a pet?

In Genesis Chapter 1, God creates the Earth, then, along with a bunch of other stuff, he creates animals….

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God makes a specification between wild animals, livestock, and creatures that move along the ground. Wild animals are untamed, they are not the kind of things you would probably be able to train very well… they aren’t domesticated. Livestock is usually used for food or clothing (cows, pigs, sheet, and so on). But now what about these creatures that move along the ground? Are they tamable? Are they domestic? What category would say a Golden Retriever or a Calico fall under?

One thing is for sure though, God created them so that humans, men and women, would rule all other living things. So is the purpose of owning a pet simply to have dominion over them?

To be honest, I like having Evee because she fulfills a part of me that is designed for nurturing, a part of me that desires connection and to take care of another living being.

That being said, I have come to recognize how dangerous this can be.

1.) My innate design as a woman is to nurture, but the primary purpose of that is to nurture children, not pets. Granted, I don’t have children of my own, but I do have 90 some students that come in and out of my classroom that need a heck of a lot of nurturing on a daily basis.

2.) If I am fulfilled by connection with a cat, it can take away my desire to connect with other people. In other words: I can start to turn to playing with and loving on my cat instead of playing with and loving on the neighbor kids across the street who really need some love and attention.

3.) There are many people, in not just the world, but in my own neighborhood that need a lot of taking care of. There are a lot of poor, sick, homeless, needy, uneducated, undernourished, hungry, and impoverished people living all around me. They truly need taking care of, and if I’m already feeling good about myself because I fed my cat and cleaned her litter box this morning, then will I be as apt to feed and clean the homeless man outside of the post office on my way to work?

Now I’m not saying that I want to get rid of little miss Evee. You all already know I love that cat to death! What I am saying is this: we need to be careful about where we place our caring, loving, and nurturing attention.

Yes, kittens and puppies are cute; it’s pretty easy to love them to pieces and give them treats, and pet them, and show them a ton of affection and attention. But as Jesus said in Matthew 10: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Many times we walk by a homeless person on the side of the road and avoid making eye contact. Many times we see dirty, sloppily-dressed kids and turn our nose up. Often we see people starving for attention and categorize them as annoying; we walk away and say we won’t pay them any mind. But when a stray kitten winds up on your porch, we bring her inside, dry her off, cuddle her, and give her some food and drink. When our puppy makes a mess in the mud, we wash him off and get him nice and even spend big bucks on a nice grooming. And when our pet wants our attention, meows, barks, or squawks, we pet them, give them treats, and play with them.

Why is it so easy for us to connect with our pets, but it’s so hard to connect with people who really need it the most?

Isaiah 58 gives us clear instructions about how we are to connect with one another as people:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injusticeand untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed freeand break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them,and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?Then your light will break forth like the dawn,and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you,and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Now these are “if-then” statements people. It’s a cause and effect that God is explaining. IF we end injustice, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, and welcome other people into our own homes, THEN we will be healed, be righteous, see God’s glory, and the Lord will answer us when we cry out for help or guidance.

Now I know this seems kind of silly, analyzing why we have pets and if they detract from our love of people, but it’s only because I take the scriptures very seriously, and it doesn’t seem to have much in there about loving little cute fuzzy animals, who are, frankly, pretty easy to love. Rather, the scriptures have a lot in there about loving people who are hard to love.

I see a lot of people, including myself, who care very much for their pets, and I don’t think that’s bad at all. But there are a disproportionate amount of people who are also inviting the homeless into their house, feeding people who need some nourishment, giving away clothing off their own backs to kids who need it, or helping others get out of the cruel cycle of prejudice, poverty, or oppression.

Jesus says that people are worth more than sparrows, implying that people are worth more than cats, dogs, and guinea pigs as well (I don’t think he was strictly talking about only birds). So if that’s true, then I need to be caring for and loving people more than I care for and love Evee. If that’s true, I need to be getting my need for connection fulfilled through other people, not my kitten.

When I see a kitten meowing out in the rain, I think “awwwwe poor little kitty-cat!” and I immediately want to adopt the creature and dry it off and feed it.

When I see a homeless man out on the street corner with a cardboard sign getting drenched in the rain, why don’t I have a similar reaction? Why don’t I immediately want to take care of this poor human being, dry him off, give him some warm clothes, and feed him?

Which does your heart go out to? The man or the dog?

For this week’s Monday Musings, I really want your feedback.

What do you think? Do you have a similar experience with your pet or am I just a weird animal lover who needs to get priorities straight? Have you ever had these kinds of contemplations before?

Oh Lord, Color me!

I just had an incredible time with my dear friend Datrice and my husband Dennis at the Color Me Rad 5K in Chicago! Dennis got second place and Datrice and I had a blast taking pictures along the way.

I feel so grateful for working lungs and legs this morning and I praise God for good friends who like to do crazy things together. Datrice agreed to do three more 5ks with me this year including the Hot Chocolate Run. Just thought I’d share!

Friday Findings: “That Girl”‘s in the “116 Clique” sitting on a new couch with “Trip Lee” whose holding a flower and my cat

Friday FindingsIf you know me, you know I love rap music, but not just any rap music, oh no. I do not go for the cussing, hating, sexing, gangster rap that I hear played outside my house on a daily basis. No no no!

I’m talking about that Gospel Rap! Love it! Can’t get enough of it!

So, naturally, my Friday Finding is a group of Gospel Rap Artists called 116 Clique. (And yes, if you were wondering, my man LeCrae is totally in with this clique).

They are a group of Christians who love Jesus and want to spit truth about him. They don’t preach the usual message that rap and hip hop usually preaches (violence, sex, drugs, and money), they don’t disrespect females, and they don’t feel the need to use profanity. In short, they share their testimonies, encourage other Christians, and rep their Lord and Savior as best they can. I mean, what’s not to like?

And here is a video that will inspire all women to be the true and Godly woman Christ would have us be: That Girl by R-Swift

My last Friday Finding is this pretty awesome young man named Trip Lee. He’s a preacher, a pastor, a blogger, and a pretty hip dude. Check out his blog Can I Brag On My Lord?

Oh, and I almost forgot! We now have a couch. We got it for free and it is quite comfortable and will seat a lot of people. Also, if anyone needs a place to crash for the night, we’ve got you covered with this here puppy:

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And I found this flower on my run to the gym:

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I guess I have a lot of Friday Findings this week…

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Evee says “Happy Friday humans”!

“It was just self defense!” my prayer for young black men

Two weekends ago there were over 71 people who were shot in Chicago. 54 people were killed by gunshot in Chicago during George Zimmerman‘s trial. In 31% of the killings, the victim was 19 years of age or younger. 76% … Continue reading