“I Feel You Girl”: Sexual Assault, and Diana the Hunter of Bus Drivers

Last week a pregnant 24-year-old college student was walking to her car on a lunch break when she was approached by a man with a knife. He forced her into her car, made her drive a short distance to an ally, where he raped her, then locked her in the trunk of her own car before he fled the scene. This happened near Chicago State University, on 98th and Indiana, which is roughly 5 blocks from the school I work at. Continue reading

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”.

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.

Voting like God wants us to

So, I don’t know if you know, but Election Day is coming soon.

A little further away now that we’ve had to set our clocks back, but as a Christian, or better worded, as a follower of Christ, it’s important to know what we are voting for the fast approaching November 6th.

But, what does the Bible say to us about voting?

Now, some of you, I’m sure, think the pulpit is no place to discuss political questions or voting, but actually, the Bible touches upon this subject a good deal more than we might think. Many say that faith and politics just don’t mix, but actually, that little anecdote is not in the Bible.

To be fair, I too believe that a pastor or church leader should always respect differences of opinion within the church and the Christian community, especially in political matters, as opposed to taking advantage of his place of leadership to endorse a particular political candidate. This, however, does not mean that we do not have obligations as Christians in regard to politics.

As the election approaches, here are several Biblical principles for Christian voters:

1. Pray about it.

Paul urges us that, “… prayers… be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” We are to pray for leaders, no matter who they are, as long as they allow us to follow Christ and be holy. I don’t know a President so far that has not allowed me to do this. Do you? Okay, so pray for your President.

From studying scriptures, it is clear that God raises up leaders and deposes them according to his pleasure and according to their own morality. “He sets up kings and deposes them.” (Daniel 2:21) And God listens especially to the prayers of his children and grants their requests whenever they can be reconciled with his will.

I know that my church, and thousands of other churches are praying about this election. We are all asking God to help us elect moral and godly leaders. At least we should be. God has better judgment on such matters of leadership than we do, so we should seek his help in choosing our leader.

2. Get out there and vote!

I mean, aside from the obvious reason that we should take action in this National Election, here’s why: Jesus says, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”. We give to government what it requires (as long it is not in violation of God’s will).

We live in a republic whose form of government requires the involvement of its citizens for its success. So part of our Christian obligation to Caesar as citizens of the USA is that we participate in the political process, at least by voting for the candidates we think will be best for our country.

I know… sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged. Especially in an Election where bad-mouthing occurs, and it’s hard to tell who is telling lies at what time. But keep in mind that there never have been or will be any perfect candidates for office. Even the Kings that God appointed in the Bible are all flawed in their own way. David slept with another man’s wife, then had him killed in battle because he got her pregnant. Solomon put Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Bunnies to shame with the size of his Herem (and here we thought Clinton’s  leadership scandal was outrageous!).

We vote for who we prayerfully consider to be the best man for the job, and as Christians, we have an extremely important job as voters. Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.” It is we Christians who especially act as salt to our culture, preserving it from rot and decay.

John Adams, one of the signers of the Constitution and one of our early Presidents, wrote, “We have no government armed in power capable of contending with humans passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our constitution was made only for a moral people.”

George Washington asserted, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to a political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

The founding Fathers of our country recognized that morality and religion… I like the term “faith” better than “religion”, but nonetheless, both of these are necessary supports to the success of our government.

3. Choose wisely and Biblically.

It’s easy to just say, “Well, God’s got it under control, so I’ll just take a back seat here and vote for whoever. God’ll work it to good; He always does.”

Well yeah, you dummy, but then you’re not being an instrument in His plan! You might as well not even be a Christian if you’re not going to allow yourself to be used by God, and to be used by God, you’ve got to be wise in your decisions.

Besides, it’s true what they say; our leaders are to some extent a reflection of the people. But it is also true that the people oftentimes become a reflection of their leaders. Remember King Ahab, arguably the worst king in the history of Israel, and God said that Ahab “provoked me (God) to anger and caused Israel to sin.” (1 Kings 21:20-22)

Make no mistake, whoever we choose as our leaders will have a dramatic impact and influence on the country as a whole. So Christians must choose wisely, starting with taking a look at what the Bible says about the hot-topic issues in the Election.

WARNING!! Some of these issues may be controversial to the modern day reader. They may make some upset and angry. And another warning: I’m not going to apologize for it.

This is what the Bible, the Book of Truth, says about these issues, and if you are a Christian, as I am, you should believe what the Bible tells us.

So….. Here it is. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

  1. We need a leader who will encourage, accommodate, tolerate the Christian religion, not hinder or prohibit it. There is now a hate crime legislation which may eventually make it illegal to preach against homosexuality or abortion.
  2. This is what I was warning you about ….. Okay, there is a Biblical family structure. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman. I’m not saying that gay marriage HAS to be illegal, but I’m saying our leader should also respect the Christian beliefs about marriage.
  3. We need a leader who will value human life from conception till death. God is the God of life, Jesus is life and both are very much against the taking of human life, especially when it did not do anything to deserve death. In short, you’re not God, so don’t play God.
  4. We need a leader who places a value on justice and fairness for the oppressed and the poor, both of which get plenty of attention in scripture. Jesus says feed the poor at your table, give to those who ask, and take care of the sick and homeless.
  5. At the same time… we need someone to lead us who will encourage personally responsibility for one’s life, for the willingness to work and take care of one’s self as one is able. Thesselonians tells us that if a man won’t work, then neither shall he eat.
  6. The writher of Proverbs tells us that, “when the righteous rule, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan”. We need to choose a righteous leader.

We need to consider these issues when listening to the debates. We need to consider them when walking to the polls…. but if you notice, all of these issues in the Bible do not point to one specific candidate. Republican are pro-life, but they aren’t real into helping the poor. Democrats are all about providing for those who need it, but they also say it’s discrimination to preach against homosexuality. Other parties have their own views… none of them align exactly with Christ.

That’s why we have to pray and consider wisely. It is not an easy choice.

4. Put God’s Kingdom First.

Salvation from sin will never be found in human politics; it will only be found in God’s kingdom. This is simply to say that any of our society’s problems will never be solved by electing new legislators or passing new laws. The human heart must be changed, and only God is capable of that.

So yes, we do have political and civic responsibilities as Christians! But our primary work is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the only cure for sin and all the ills that come from sin: poverty, perversion, crime, greed, lust, sloth, and yes, even extreme and irresponsible debt.

Most of you who read my blog are citizen of the US, but i do know some readers hail from other parts of the world. Our citizenship of God’s kingdom is what unites us all, for it is eternal and the benefits of being a citizen in that kingdom are literally out of this world.

We can’t change the course of our human history, Jesus already did that for us and He’ll be the one to do it again. What we can do, is pray, vote, consider wisely the current issues, and put His Kingdom first. We can be instruments of God’s righteousness and impact our country.