Monday, May 27, 2013

Leaving for India

So tomorrow I star a new adventure as I fly to India for a FOCUS mission trip.  Ever since I went to Haiti last year, all I can think about is how desperately bad some people need our help.

Of course, this help  that they need isn't what most people would expect.  While they do need food and clothing, what they need more is to feel as if they are a true human-being, treated with respect and shown that someone loves them.

Why is it then that when we see someone on the side of the road we automatically feel bad for them because they lack material possessions, cute clothing and food?  Is this perhaps because this is what society has taught us will make us happy? We want to give these things to others because we expect that the lack of these things is what is hurting this person.  Take a moment.  Think of your friend who has the most material possessions and then ask yourself if this person is truly happy. I am going to guess that the answer is probably no.

I have had plenty of friends whose parents work all day every day just so that they can buy them nice things, but at the end of the day they end up just wishing their parents had spent more time with them at home.

What is life without love? To most it would be meaningless.  We need to give meaning to other people's lives and it is so easy to do this.  A simple smile would do the trick and it is amazing that simply asking someone how their day is can make a difference.

Next time you are walking past someone poorer than you sitting on the corner, before you look at your phone and hurry by, take a second to look over and just smile; acknowledge that they are a human too. In God's eyes, you are no greater than they are.

Actually, I would say that 1/2 of the people you walk by on a normal day are feeling unloved, but you can change that.  Someone doesn't have to be homeless to feel like their life doesn't matter.  With our society today so wrapped up in ourselves, it is easy to forget that there are actual people standing all around us waiting for someone to simply smile at them and show that they care.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Peace is not a Feeling

A while ago God allowed the devil to place a dark spot on my heart because of my pride .  On the outside, things were fine, but on the inside my brain was going crazy.  I was so concerned with why I wasn’t good enough, what was I lacking, jealousy, thinking of why others weren’t better than me; that I lost my inner peace.  It took hitting this low point to realize that I have been searching for this peace in the wrong places.  I realized how much I care about awards and honors and being able to prove to others that I am a good person.  I had been expecting something for a really long time, something that I felt I deserved and would show to the world how ‘great’ of a person I was.  When I didn’t get it, I was really taken aback.  I couldn’t understand what I was missing.  The devil has been following me everywhere with these thoughts of confusion and jealousy and really caused a lot of doubt in me about who I was.  It took going on a retreat I didn’t think I needed to open my eyes. 

A seminarian spoke to us about peace.  He said that peace is not a feeling.  Which is a slight twist on things because you so often hear people say, ‘I feel peaceful.’  This is how I was searching for peace.  I was searching for the feeling that I thought I would get from being perect.  From having great friends, a great life and great honors.  The problem was that I had gotten plenty of honors in the past, but where did it lead me? Not to peace, it leads me to just search for that next honor or that next accomplishment so that I could feel peace by knowing that I was succeeding at being this ‘great’ person. 

Long story short, what he said was that peace is not a feeling, peace is a person.  Peace is knowing so deep down in your soul who you are, a child willed into existence by God to be loved by him and to join him on the path of showing the world love.  What does peace by this true definition mean? It means that even when the worst possible thing in your life goes wrong (or littlest). That it’s not about you.  It’s about Jesus.  Peace allows us to know Jesus so intimately that we fully rest in him knowing that no matter what the situation is, God will will good to come through it and by enduring these trials, we are understanding how little this life means and accepting the truth that we will live forever in eternity with God, (hopefully).

This is the peace that I want.  Not the feeling of peace that is never achieved because I am always needing more, but peace from knowing confidently that by fully giving my life to God and those around me through sacrificing and suffering and love, that I might have true peace in knowing that I will spend eternity in Heaven with God.  If I knew the true meaning of peace I would not have been crushed by not getting acknowledgment for all that I have done.  I would have found peace because I knew that all my actions were done for love of God and not because I was seeking recognition from those around me.

Peace is not a feeling.  Peace is a person.  Peace is Jesus Christ.  

Like Sheep in the Midst of Wolves

At tonight’s FOCUSgreek event Sister Mary Helen shared some of her experiences from her time as a Gamma Phi Beta and how her prayer life drew her closer to God throughout her years in the house, eventually leading her to discern religious life.  She spoke of the friendships she made and some of the things she faced while living her faith out in the Greek community.  During her talk she kept referring to how she turned to Mathew 10:16 when things seemed to be getting difficult.  Praying with this verse afterwards, I was struck with how relevant it is to living a Christian life while in a fraternity or sorority. 

Mathew 10:16
"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.

Let’s start from the beginning; I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves. The term midst of wolves is a pretty accurate description of what it is like to live on a college campus, let alone in the Greek system.  There are so many people out there willing to attack who you are as a person, what you stand for, your values, and your beliefs.  It seems to be especially hard to be a true Christian who lives out their faith without getting looked down on by a majority of the student body.  I think that recently there have been plenty of examples of people standing up for their faith, but getting attacked for voicing their opinion. If something goes against what society tells us is correct, standing up for it only bring stares and snide remarks.  But yet, even with all of this turmoil and uncomfort, it is God who is sending us out into this world.  He has a special plan for us and wants you and me to be directly in the middle of the Greek system, and often in the heart of sin.

 We are His sheep; he has a purpose for us and wants to lead us home.  Sheep are often looked upon as these clueless animals who just roam the pastures trusting in their shepherd.  Well maybe, just maybe, that is what God is calling us to do.  We don’t need to know the answers to everything or win every battle; we just need to be sheep.  We need to be the sheep that always trust in their shepherd. If we trust God, our shepherd, with our whole heart, we go about living our lives not in fear, but in peace and joy because we know that we are safe because the Lord is always there watching over us and wanting to steer us from danger.  If we live our lives with our Shepherd as our guide, we should never worry, even with the threat of wolves in the distant because as long as we follow the path the Lord has laid out for us, He will lead us safely home. 

“be shrewd as serpents”

To be shrewd means to be cunning, good with judgment, or having a clever awareness.  He tells us to be shrewd as serpents referring to the slyness that serpents have as they move around, always slightly out of reach and slipping away from danger.  Think back to Adam and Even in the garden, the serpent didn’t tell them that God didn’t exist; he simply tried to enter into their hearts and convince them that they could be like God if they would only eat the fruit.  What if we lived our lives like this; if we looked through other people’s eyes to see into their hearts and find their emptiness? We would be able to find their confusion and present them with the truth of God that would reach their hearts on a personal level. 

What if we had the cunning awareness that Jesus possessed as he spoke in the temples? He was aware of objections that may come his way and knew the best response before he was even questioned.  However, he wouldn’t use argument to win them over; instead he would answer a question with a question, stopping the claims against him and causing those around him to think deeper. Jesus teaches us that it is important to be aware of the attacks the world may throw at us and be ready to question the world back. 

“simple as doves”

We can all take a lesson from the doves; the birds that fly around free, not held down by the world, but spend every day enjoying the gift of life God gave them.  Doves are not worried about possessions or money or the opinions of others.  They don’t carry suitcases around with material objects they think will make them happy.  Instead, they let each day guide them in a new direction, following the divine call where ever it may lead them.  What if we could live a life like this? Not letting anything hold us down and always being open to where the Holy Spirit may call us?

I challenge you to take five minutes and read the rest of this verse below.  Close your eyes and open your ears.  What is God saying to you as He speaks these words to you?  Is he giving you support? Is he asking you to be a witness? Is he calling you to be courageous?  

"Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Monday, May 20, 2013

How will I spend eternity ?

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there also, will your heart be.

One of the most wondered questions is probably what Heaven will be like.  Some people say that you will spend eternity surrounded by the thing that you loved the most. I don’t know if this is true, but to me this seems like a pretty fair deal; God is going to allow you a never ending supply of whatever you placed the most focus on during life.    This got me thinking; if today the world ended and God was going to let me live forever based on what I cared the most about; what would it be?

            I don’t think I actually know the answer to this question.  I would like to be able to say right away that it was obvious that what I cared most about in this world was God and His love for me, but if I look at my daily life honestly, I don’t know if that would be the case.  Just the other day I remembered that I still needed to do my daily devotional, but I had to leave for work in ten minutes and decided I needed to curl my hair instead.  What does this say about me? For one thing, I think that this just shows how much I care about what others think of me.  I constantly worry about how I look, if I am funny, if I say the right thing, or what my reputation is; instead of spending this time in prayer or simply enjoy the way God made me.  (Even as I sit here I wonder what others will think as they read this and if they will like it.) I don’t want this to be the focus of my life, but the human side of the world constantly tries to pull me in and my sins bring me down.

        Wow, what would eternity be like if I only lived to focused on the thought of being liked by others? I would never feel peace.  It would be impossible for me to feel truly happy because I would constantly be living my life based on how someone else thinks I should act.  And if we logically think about the millions of people out there who all have their own different views, then I will never be able to have everyone’s acceptance because no matter what I do, someone will disagree.  Living under the impossible want to please everyone would cause some major stress and unhappiness for eternity; hence probably a large amount of the stress and worry that I face in this present life. 

            Now, let’s think about what eternity may be like if I spent it the way that God intended; surrounded by His love, engulfed by His love.  We would never have to worry another day in our lives.  God wants nothing but our happiness, and being God, He can make sure that nothing will take this happiness away.  In Heaven there will be no more sin, meaning there will be no more pain, no sadness, and never feeling unloved or unaccepted.  You would live your life in peace, with everything that you may ever need, because God’s love is all you need. 

            This life on earth isn’t God giving us a test to see if we love Him, its God giving us is a choice.   He wants us to love Him because we chose to return the love He gives to us; not because we are forced to or because we feel guilty.  The next time I have the choice to spend an extra fifteen minute fixing my hair or giving it up to God, I need to think about what I want the focus of my life to be and how I want to spend eternity, so that when God gives me a life of what I love most, it will be Him. 

Matthew 6:25
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?