My New Job as a PHM: On quitting teaching, walking labyrinths, and foolishness (part 1)

A lot has changed in a matter of about a month.

I quit my job. That was probably the biggest thing.

No longer am I a CPS teacher on the Southside of Chicago. In fact, no longer am I a teacher at all, unless you count fitness classes, but I don’t. No longer am I getting a large paycheck every 2 weeks either… which is also quite an adjustment.

Can I be honest? Oh, you know I will be no matter what you say– I’ve been wanting to quit my job at CPS since about the second week of school this past year. Going there everyday for the rest of the school year was very hard for me. There were days when I could barely keep it together before the kids left, and sometimes when I had to physically leave my classroom to keep from breaking down in front of them all. The end of the weekend was hard, and so was the close of a long break. Getting out of bed was hard. Walking through those doors was hard.

But do you know what as harder?

Actually making up my mind to leave. 

That was way harder.

“I am not a quitter.”

— This is what I kept telling myself day after day. But inside my soul was crying out. Inside I knew that I could be so much more alive and so much more fulfilled in a different environment, doing a different kind of work– a different calling.

After wrestling with God about this for month after month, I finally felt it deep down in my bones: the only reason I would be staying is for the financial security; I was afraid to leave only because of the pay cut it would mean for me. Was that a reason to hang on to a draining job that was quickly squeezing the life out of my passion? Would staying be truly acting out of my identity in Christ?

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons and daughters by which we cry out “Abba! Father!” The spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” -Romans 8:15-16

My heart burned with the conviction that God would be with me, wherever I went and whatever I was doing. Being a CPS teacher was a calling— for a time— and leaving my job as a CPS teacher was also a calling–for this time. I couldn’t live as a true Child of God if I was acting out of fear– being a slave to it, and in doing so, a slave to my identity as a teacher.

I mentioned before about how God took my identity away from some things, and so doing, healed me of a 7-year-long battle with bulimia, and so I knew that if God wanted to take away my identity from the role as “Teacher”, then some serious healing or blessing would probably follow. See, whenever He takes our identity from something, he places it in Himself. This way, we are never defined by this world, but by He who overcame the world. This, in and of itself, is a blessing.

What could I do? God did not give me a spirit of fear! I informed my principal that I would resign from teaching at the end of the year. 

As more and more people “found out” about my departure from CPS, there were mixed opinions.

Some were proud of me, wishing they could do the same with their disliked job.  Some were confused– why would I quit a high-paying job that I was having such success in? Some were supportive, encouraging me to do what what was best for me and my family. Others were discouraging, implying that I was quitting and giving up too soon.

I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t let any of their opinions effect me. But after some Spiritual Direction and time of solitude at the Portiuncula Center for Prayer, I found myself ready to truly say “Goodbye” to my former job, be utterly grateful for every part of it– the good and the bad– and to fully embrace this new and refreshing season in my life.

At the Center, there is this blabyrintheautiful labyrinth that the hermits can walk while meditating or praying. There is only one way into the middle of it, but you must walk the entire interior of the maze. There are no dead ends and no ways to skip or even look ahead in anticipation. You simply have to follow the path, trusting that it will lead you to your destination.

This is how it is when you follow God. You cannot look ahead but a few steps. You cannot fear getting lost, because He is guiding you, and although you may stumble, you will not fall off the path (Psalm 37:24). This takes a lot of trust, and many people on the outside will probably just think you are taking the long way, going around in what appears to be meaningless circles and odd turns that make no sense. But…

“..the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” -1 Corinthians 1:25

What appears foolish to the world is often the wisdom of God. What appears like weakness to humans, often is taking the mighty strength of God. These facts have comforted me as I think about how my career change may be perceived by others.

All this to say that I now have a new profession.

I call it a “PHM”.

I’ll be explaining what that is in a later post, but rest assured that is it far more energizing, fulfilling, and live-giving than my previous job, and I am so grateful to God that this job is part of my journey on this labyrinth of life. Even if the rest of the world scoffs, I have the reward of my Savior shouting “Well done faithful servant!” in the far corners of my heart.

Stay tuned for more… I’ve got  to get back to work.

A Week of Fasting and Prayer: Day 1 – A Prayer for the Newly Married

20140602-183113-66673526.jpgMy heart is pounding as I grab the groomsman’s arm and walk down the walkway, between pews of wide-eyed guests. Somehow we make it down the aisle in one piece, and both assume our positions on opposite ends of the alter. I watch as seven bridesmaids follow me, all carrying bouquets and on the arm of a gray-suited groomsman. Then, the music changes and all of the guests stand and look towards the back of the chapel. From where I am, I cannot see my best friend walking down with her grandpa. But honestly, I don’t want to. Besides the fact that I’ve helped her get ready for the past six hours (so I know what she’s going to look like), I’m more interested in something in plain sight from where I’m standing. So, I’m staring at the groom’s face, to see his reaction when he catches the first glimpse of his bride in all her beauty and then again when they lock eyes, knowing that this is the moment when their whole lives change.

It’s this moment when you can see all anticipation, all love, all excitement, all fears, anxieties, and “am I enough?s” in the groom’s eyes, and you know that his bride has equivalent emotions running through hers, sometimes even in the form of tears. It’s then when I start tearing up as well, because I know what a huge commitment this is. I know what an amazing decision this is. I know these feelings, and I am so excited when others make the plunge into the incredible life-long commitment that is marriage.

In my week-long fast and focused prayer for marriage, it made sense to start with a prayer for the newly married–the newlyweds— mostly because I just was in a dear friend’s wedding this past weekend, and my eldest cousin was also married the same day.

I don’t have to imagine the excitement, joy, weight, and anxiety that this new commitment entails– I felt it on my wedding day and I feel it every time I’m at a wedding. It’s something that you don’t easily forget, especially when you take marriage as seriously as it is meant to be taken. Yet I don’t pretend to know these couples’ stories or how they came to this decision, or how it will effect them and shape them as a unit in the time to come. What I do know is that these newlyweds will need prayer. A lot of prayer.

And so, without further ado, here is my prayer for all of you newly married couples out there:

Lord,

I pray for the newly married couples that have entered into a covenant with You and with one another. I praise you and thank you that they have chosen monogamy in a world that says you can have it all and never have to be satisfied with one person. Lord, we know that You have made marriage a beautiful image and reflection of Christ and the church, and that as husbands are to love their wives sacrificially as Christ does the church, wives are to submit to their husbands respectfully, as they do to God, never sacrificing dignity or the quiet strength and beauty that you created so many women to have.
Lord, I pray that you encourage these young men and women in their decision and their commitment to love each other. Allow them to keep their vows in their hearts and minds so that they work hard to keep those promises. Give them grace when they don’t keep them, and teach them how to forgive one another. Show them your character so that they may become more like you in their marriage, as they learn more about one another, and as they learn more about themselves.

I pray specifically for the husbands. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the man feels that he didn’t ask for the kind of responsibility it takes to be a husband, and the head of a family. There may be times when he is tempted to be unfaithful, or to be harsh with his wife, or to just give up. He may feel like he’s disrespected and unappreciated, and can never win. Show him that these are lies from the enemy, and give him strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called him to. Let him rejoice forever in the wife of his youth, and allow her to become his standard of beauty, so that he is not comparing her to anyone or anything else. Allow him to leave his mother and father completely, whether that be physically, emotionally, or financially, and cling to his wife. Give him the ability to be a servant leader and protector for his family, and give him fulfillment from this role.

I pray specifically for the wives. Lord, there may be times, especially in that first year, where the women feels that she didn’t know what she was getting into when she signed up to be her husband’s helper and to submit to him. She may feel that this makes her the “lesser” in the relationship, but Lord, don’t allow her to believe this lie that the enemy tells her! Encourage her in her role as a help meet, fit for her husband, and show her the beauty and strength that you created her to have. Lord, there may be times when she is temped to be unfaithful, or to disrespect her husband, or to just give up. She may feel that she’s unloved and unappreciated, and can never win. Show her that these are also lies from the enemy, and give her strength to push harder and stronger towards the love that you have called her to. Let her be satisfied by her husband, and let her be content with the man that God gave her. Giver her the ability to be her family’s irreplaceable manager, the beating heart of her home, and giver her fulfillment from this role.

Lord, I know that it can be easy, in the euphoric feeling of love for the other, to place the other spouse on a pedestal, and place them above you in their priorities. I pray that both the husband and wife do not fail to make you first priority. I pray that they don’t expect the other to be perfect, because I know that this only sets them up for disappointment, and the other for failure. I pray they instead recognize that they each are only human, and I pray you help them bestow grace upon the other, in understanding that, while the spouse is the top priority among human beings, they can never take the place that only You, O’ God, can fill.

Let those who are just married rejoice and be glad! For the husband has found a good thing in his wife, and the wife has found a good thing in her husband! Your word tells us this O’ Lord. Allow them to examine themselves more closely as a result of this relationship, and in doing so, recognize their faults, as well as their strengths and beauty. Please encourage them to hold onto this joy found within one another and within You, God, so that they will work through the hard times, knowing and trusting that the marriage covenant was the right choice and that they will be blessed. Lord, we know that your word tells us that a cord of three strands is not easily broken, and so I pray that these couples be encouraged to keep you at the center of their relationship. Show them how to love each other in their specific love language, teach them how to spend time together and how to encourage one another. Instruct them about how to speak with love to one another and how to express their deepest desires and fears to each other. Let them be one another’s best friend, and provide them with the deepest level of intimacy to share with each other.

Thank you for the newlyweds in our life Lord! I pray you prompt us to pray for them and prompt them to pray for one another, and to turn to you for guidance and strength.

In your Son Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

What specific prayer has God laid on your heart for newlyweds? Share it here, so we can pray as well!

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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.

“If God had given me her legs, I would be in deep trouble…”

We wear short shortsI glance over at the girl right ahead of me in line. She’s probably 16, wearing light blue-jean cut-off short shorts and a white tank top. Her hair is blonde, highlighted and thick, hanging perfectly straight down to her shoulder blades. Her skin is perfectly tan and her long legs are shapely and smooth. She is a classic high school hottie, and even at the ripe old age of 24, I am surprised to find that I am not in the least bit jealous when looking at her.

The past 15 years of my life have been, like most women, riddled with disordered eating and exercise habits, dissatisfaction with images found in mirrors, jealous comparisons to other women, and a general body-image funk which motivated many of my actions, feelings, and insecurities. In short, I’ve had a negative body image since the age of 11, when I asked my brother (the only member of the opposite sex who I felt comfortable even asking this kind of question to) whether or not I looked “hott” in my Spring Sing dress. An awkward question to ask a brother, to be sure, but all relations aside, I was desperate to know that my image was considered desirable. That would confirm that I was loveable.

Even at age 19, I would check the mirror in my peripheral, notice my “pooching” stomach or my “undefined” arms, and I would immediately check the latest new workout or diet program when I got to the nearest computer. And at age 23, I started the P90X program, hoping to finally attain the body that I had wanted and worshiped for nearly all my life.

Well, God put a stop to that. As soon as I started the program, I got sick. Then I recovered, started the program again, and I got injured. Then I started it again, this time being very careful about what kind of shoes I wore (my injury was foot-related), and God got to me in a way much more powerful than any physical ailment. He convicted my soul.

He reminded me of my long battle with bulimia, and how hard I tried to attain the “perfect body” and how this ideal image was not only stealing my health, but also stealing my worship and love away from Him. He warned me that if I were to succeed in obtaining the body I thought I wanted so badly, I would be successful in creating an idol of myself. I would worship my own body. I would be turning away from Christ.

God did not give me perfectly shaped, smooth, tanned legs. He gave me odd-shaped hips and stretch marks on my runner’s thunder-thighs, rock-hard calves, farmer’s tan, kitten-scratches, backstage-stumble scars, and accidental shaving nicks. But I realize now, looking at the girl ahead of me in line, ordering her drink from the cashier, that if God had given me the “perfect body” (at least the one that I had dreamed up in my head), He would never get my entire heart, nor the glory that He wanted from me. He would never get my testimony of a recovered bulimic/anorexic who’s burden was lifted by finding Christ. He would have never gotten my faith, love, life, and identity.

Also, if God had given me my idea of the “perfect body”, my pride would shoot through the roof. I would be like the stupid and adulterous woman in Proverbs, I would be conceited and altogether dependent upon my physical attraction rather than my character in Christ. I would worship my own body and want everyone else to worship my body as well, and when my body became old and wrinkled, I would be lost and alone, feeling worthless without my youthful beauty. I would be a totally and completely foolish and Godless woman.

How scary is that?

It’s good to be reminded of how close to complete and utter depravity I am. It’s good to be reminded that I am never too far away from the sin of idolatry ruling my life.

So as I watch the beautiful young girl walk away with her drink, I step up next in line to order, “If God had given me her legs, I would be in deep trouble!”, I say to myself. And regardless of what the “perfect body” looks like in today’s culture, or what it looked like to me during these past 15 years, I trust that God gave me a body perfectly fit to be His temple and His possession. Because after all, I wasn’t created in the image of magazine pictures, Spring Sing hotties, or Barbie. I was created in the image of my Lord and Savior.

And that, my friends, is a far better body than I could create by starving myself and doing expensive workout programs.

What happens when we die, and does it even matter?

musingsRegardless of who you are, how old you are, or how you lived your life, you eventually will die.

Encouraged? I thought you would be.

Many people have contemplated about what happens to us after we die. Many are Christian, many are not. It seems all humans have an idea about how things should or should not be after we leave this world.

This, of course, brings about many questions: Will we be married in heaven? Is there a Purgatory? Who controls where we go? Do we have the same body when we leave this earth? Do we stay dead until the Savior comes back? Will we work in heaven? Is there really a hell?

The Bible says a bit about what will happen to us when we die, and what heaven looks like, but truly, it is very convoluted to the point that many have vastly different interpretations on what goes on in the afterlife.

And for once, I’m not here to discuss what the Bible says about this matter.

Today I want to ask you all an important question:

Does what heaven looks like really matter?

Jesus commands us to bring his Kingdom here on Earth. So why are we all obsessed with what heaven looks like or what will happen to us when we die?

To me, if one is concerned about the afterlife, it means one of a few things:

  • One: that person is clearly unsure of their salvation.
  • Two: that person does not trust that God is good enough to have fulfilled His promise to prepare a place for them.
  • Three: that person does not see a purpose in this life on Earth.

Now let me address all of these:

  • One: if you truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the divine Son of God who is part of the trinity that is the whole God, then you are saved. You don’t need to worry about your salvation.
  • Two: if you believe that God is good, then you don’t need to worry about what heaven looks like. Simply trust that God will make a place for you that is better than you could ever hope to imagine, then move on.
  • Three: you were created to bring Christ to the world. This is why Jesus died for you: to bring His divine Kingdom to this world and make it a reality by living righteously and with great faith. This is an important mission that you need to not wish away into non existence or unimportance.

So, to sum it up, I’ll use Jesus Christ’s own precious words to us in Matthew 6: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

And in my own precious words: Stop focusing on the afterlife when Jesus has given you the gift of life to live NOW. Talking of and arguing over what happens after death is pointless and insights controversy that is unnecessary, and rather distracts from bringing the Kingdom here in this life.

We need to trust God. If He wanted us to know exactly what was going to happen to us when we die, He would have provided more details. My guess is that he probably wants us to have faith in His promises:

 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)

You’ll be where Jesus is. ‘Nuff said?

Yeah, I think so.

Sunday Scriptures: Why Adam’s Rib?

Sunday Scripture

It was a normal Saturday morning: I was making the coffee and boiling the eggs for breakfast. The kitten was wining about not having any milk to drink and I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes enough to be forgetful of her. Steam screamed from the orange bauble-kettle and I turned off the burner to scoop Folgers into the French press, sprinkling the pile of dark grounds with a dash of orangy-brown cinnamon and pouring the steaming water up to the brim. After pealing the eggs and dousing them in black pepper, I sat down, opened up my Bible, and began to read. Not soon after taking my first bite of yolk-soaked toast, I was hit with this mind-shattering verse:

“For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

Now ladies, how do we feel about this?

As a newlywed, I have been learning quite a lot about my role as a wife, and let me tell you, it has not been an easy route; nor, I imagine, will it continue to be for quite some time. And perhaps it might have been a bit harder at first because of this fact: Men were not created for women. They were not created to serve them, respect them, love them, provide for them, or make them feel beautiful. They just weren’t. If they were, Adam would have been the second human, created to serve his wife Eve.

Instead, Eve was created for her man. She was to be his “help meet”. Meaning, she was a gift to Adam because she was completely designed to give him his every need. She was made from him and for him to be a helper, an encourager, a lover, and a team mate.

You all know the way it went, right? Eve was actually created from Adam’s rib. She actually was made from him. She is that much a part of him, and now, even though a wife is not cut from her husband’s side, she is still to come along side him (very much like a rib), and help him in the calling God has on his life.

Now, at first I thought that this meant women were below men, unequal and inferior to men. And to be honest, I had a little bit of a hard time swallowing this. Who of us ladies wouldn’t?

But this is not the case.

We were designed to be our husband’s help meet. So, we were created by God with a special man in mind for us. And when God created that man, he had us in mind as that man’s special helper. We were created, not to serve all men, but to serve and help and love and reverence one man: our husband.

Cover of "Adam's Rib"

Some of you may think: “Well Claire, this still seems like women get the short end of the stick!”

But it’s not true. We have the privilege of serving our husbands because, just like the Holy Spirit serves the Father and the Son and yet is still part of who God is, so we are in our marriages.

We are one with our husband. “The two shall become one flesh”— and so we are a part of him in a sense. Our natural design already is to nurture, encourage, love, defer to, and reverence. And when we do all of those very natural things for our counter part, our other half, our partner heir in the Kingdom, we make our husbands cherish us, love us, and value us as part of himself (his rib- if you will).

When we truly understand this scripture, we might read it as this: “For the Father is of the Son, but Christ is of God. Neither is the Father created for the Holy Spirit, but rather, the Holy Spirit was created for God.”

The only way, wives, we will ever see the beauty of the way God truly designed marriage to be, is if we start thinking of it as a reflection of God.

…However, I imagine some of you were like me that morning, utterly astounded and pretty much hacking up your breakfast when you read this kind of language. So….what does it mean to you?

How have you ladies seen this verse to be true in your lives? How has God been reflected in your marriage?

Monday Musings… and Satisfaction Guarenteed Part III

As I contemplate my previous posts on the Holy Spirit (check out my “series” category over on the side –>), I being to think about breathing more and more.musings

Breath.

It is the title of my blog. The art of breath.

And there is indeed an art to the way we live our lives and breathe, if you will, through them. Because breath is the sign of life. If we cease to breathe, we die.

In the same way, when we cease being filled with His Holy Spirit, we die spiritually.

Last time we met, I wrote about Spiritual Breathing as being a powerful picture that helps us experience moment-by-moment dependence upon God’s Holy Spirit.

Exhale: Confessing sins in the moment you become aware of it, agreeing with God concerning it, and thanking Him for His forgiveness. John 1:9 and Hebrews 10:1-25 explain that confession requires repentance, or a change in attitude and action, so this is a very real and yet symbolic way that we can acknowledge our own need for grace.

Inhale: Surrender control of your life to Christ, and rely upon the Holy Spirit to fill you with His presence and power. Allow God to put His plan for you above your own plan for yourself. Let your faith be bigger than any earthly desire you might have.

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is not like filling a glass with water. When we’re dry, our need is not to just “get more” of the Holy Spirit. It is not like a physical substance where we can just gather larger amounts of it if we want to.

No. To be filled with the Spirit is more like a sail boat’s sail being filled with wind. There is either wind, or no wind, and the goal is not to get more wind, it is to catch the wind. And likewise, when our own sails are filled with the Spirit, we also are able to move. Without the Spirit we are like that same sail boat floating in the ocean without any wind to propel it forward. sail boat

The Holy Spirit moves us to action. Not to our own plans and to-do lists, but to God’s plans for us. We must not attempt to fill up our lives with “things” to make us more “holy”. Instead, we must catch the Holy Spirit, breath Him in and allow Him to move within the depths of our “sailboat hearts”.

Exhale. Inhale. Breathe. Move.

… and that, ladies and gentlemen, is my Monday Musing of the week.

Satisfaction Guaranteed Part II

When are you most satisfied with God?

pathways

Will you go your own way, or will you go God’s way?

I asked this question to one of the girls I am discipling over these next two months. It is a tough question to ask yourself, especially when you’re not sure how to maintain the relationship with Christ during a day filled with distractions. The students I am working with spend almost all day at ministry sites, evangelizing on the streets of Chicago, or listening to workshops and interviews with ministry workers; their focus is clear. But this kind of situation is not as common for the majority of us.

It’s like going to a retreat or a mission trip and feeling absolutely on fire for God while we’re there, only to come back feeling empty and lukewarm. God doesn’t seem as present as He was when we were in the midst of all the ministry and worship and prayer and people.

Why though? Is one true and the other false? And if so, which sensation is false– the “on fire” passion we felt momentarily, or this halfheartedness that consumes us when we get caught in our daily lives?

There is a true and present danger that can and will cause us terrible loss and pain if we are not deliberately fighting against it.

The danger is our own selves.

We come from a fallen family of sinners, and if we trust out own efforts and strength to live our Christian lives, we are guaranteed to experience failure and frustration rather than intimacy and satisfaction in God.

This is not a completely modern predicament, as Paul was writing to the Galations about this very same thing: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galations 3:3)

The truth is, human beings have been trying to go it on their own since Eden. We’re all just like the first humans, doing our own thing, thinking that we’ve got it totally under control.

We cannot enjoy all God desires for us if we live by our own self-centered desires.

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galations 5:17).

Perhaps we felt “on fire” for God because, unlike our usual life, we were putting our own selfishness on pause for a retreat or a mission trip or even a church service. Perhaps we don’t feel a connection to Christ afterwards because our own desires are replacing the desires that His Holy Spirit has for us.

Ah ha! The answer is yet again tied to the Holy Spirit. The third member in God’s Holy Trinity.

When we become a Christian, we receive the Holy Spirit, and we commit to walk an intimate journey which we can only walk successfully in the Spirit of Christ. When we walk with Him, we increasingly experience intimacy with God and enjoy all He has for us. When we walk in the Spirit, we have the ability to live a life that is pleasing to our God.

But… how do we live by the Spirit?

Although it may seem as though answering this question might be difficult, it actually is quite simple. Just about as simple as…. well, as simple as breathing!

Spiritual Breathing is a powerful picture that helps us experience moment-by-moment dependence upon God’s Holy Spirit.

Exhale: Confessing sins in the moment you become aware of it, agreeing with God concerning it, and thanking Him for His forgiveness. John 1:9 and Hebrews 10:1-25 explain that confession requires repentance, or a change in attitude and action, so this is a very real and yet symbolic way that we can acknowledge our own need for grace.

Inhale: Surrender control of your life to Christ, and rely upon the Holy Spirit to fill you with His presence and power. Allow God to put His plan for you above your own plan for yourself. Let your faith be bigger than any earthly desire you might have.

The act of simply breathing in the Holy Spirit can bring us back (if we let it) to God’s presence and power within us. For it is by the Spirit that we live the fullest life.

Satisfaction Guaranteed Part I

What words would you use to describe your current experience as a Christian?Growing, disappointing, forgiven, struggling, defeating, up and down, discouraged, intimate, painful, guilty, so-so, frustrated, fulfilled, stuck, joyful, exciting, empty, duty, mediocre, dynamic, vital…?

Each and every one of these words could have been used at one point during these 3 years I have been a Christian to describe my walk with Christ. I would love to say that my walk has always been rewarding and encouraging, but the truth is, my walk has been messy, unpredictable, and at many times unsatisfying.

But… I’m a Christian! Isn’t life suppose to be fulfilling and awesome now?!

I never really went through a “mediocre Christian” walk, where I was half-heartedly following Jesus just because it was expected of me. This was because I was not raised in a practicing Christian home, so I could never simply follow Jesus by default; Christianity was something that was not expected of me. Still, I have felt my walk become lukewarm, even during such a satisfaction-guaranteedshort time following Christ.

When I look at my personal journey, and the journey of so many others, I have to ask myself why? Why do we get so negligent in our pursuit of Christ? Especially if we really are aware of all He’s done for us, why do we so often feel unfulfilled in our faith?

Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38). John explains what Jesus meant, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39).

Jesus promised that God‘s Holy Spirit would satisfy the thirst of deepest longings of all who believe in Jesus Christ as well as glorify Him who sent his Spirit. The Holy Spirit then, has the potential to be the source of our deepest satisfaction as well as God’s!

But just who exactly is the Holy Spirit? God? Jesus? Some kind of ghost?

The Holy Spirit is God’s permanent presence with us here on earth: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17).  And this Counselor is the one who enables us to understand and experience all God has given us. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

I have met many a person who claim to be Christian and followers of Christ, but who do not live by the Spirit. The Holy Ghost has no real place to live and move in their life because they do not allow themselves to be ruled by God. First Corinthians tells us that the person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God because they cannot understand them and that the spiritual person makes judgments about all things with the mind of Christ.

So.

Spirit= Understanding and oneness with Christ

No Spirit= Foolishness, lack of clarity, disunity with Christ

Perhaps, like me, this is starting to clear up some of the reasons you may have chosen some of those negative words to describe your walk with Christ.

We as Christians cannot experience intimacy with God and enjoy all He has for us if we fail to live by His Spirit. If we trust in our own efforts and strength to live the Christians life, we will experience failure and frustration, as will those who please themselves rather than God.

When I think about my walk with the Lord, there have been dark times and there have been times of illumination. Looking back, I can see that the darkness sprung from me deliberately or accidentally shutting out the Holy Spirit, and the illumination came as a result of relying on the Holy Spirit to guide my actions. It was all about how I chose to live, or rather… who I chose to live for.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that all who love their life will loose it, but all who loose their life for Christ’s sake will find it. So too, when we live for ourselves rather than for God, we loose our satisfaction in His Spirit, we loose our guidance from His Spirit, and we loose our identity in Christ.

Before I dive deeper into this topic, stop and think about where you are in your walk with Christ. Do you desire more? Are you completely satisfied? How clear can you see God’s work in your life?

Then ask yourself, do you listen to the Holy Spirit?