How I Enjoyed Reading Deuteronomy

A little while back, I decided that I wanted to read through the whole Bible. No schedule, no obligation, no finishing date, just me reading straight through, as much or as little as I wanted, finishing when I wanted.

I started in Genesis, and was happily reading along. Then I hit the middle of Exodus and things started to get rough.

It must have taken me several months to get through Leviticus and Numbers. I struggled, often simply skimming the tedious passages of Hebrew law just for the sake of having “read” them so I could move on.

And then, as I began Deuteronomy, I decided to try and find passages that I could apply to my life, even when it seemed like there was nothing. And guess what? I found tons of them! Little tiny nuggets of truth that could mean something to me.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Guess what? This verse applies to all of Scripture, not just the things that seem like they directly apply to us. These verses apply to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy too.

There will always be something to learn from the Bible, but you have to be actively engaged in reading, looking for the connections and lessons. You can’t just skim.

Something that has helped me with this is starting to write in my Bible, underlining things and jotting my thoughts in the margins. I love going back and looking at things I’ve written, and it helps me to stay focused on reading.

So, don’t give up on the hard passages of Jewish law. Just because they’re challenging doesn’t mean they aren’t worth reading. There’s always more to learn! And when you find those things that apply to your life, you will discover that the reading is much more enjoyable.

love, grace

This post was originally published on my old blog, Me, You, and God, on June 4, 2015.

 

After the Rain: Lessons from a Stormy Day

after the rain2.jpg

That afternoon, the motivation wouldn’t come. Homework piled up, not to mention my own list of goals and plans. The guilt set in. The tears came. Dragging myself to dance class was the last thing I wanted to do, but at the last possible second, balled-up tissue in hand, I threw my hair up and gathered my stuff and made myself walk out the door.

It was raining.

My first reaction was disgust. Now, on top of everything else, I had to drive in pouring rain. The weather confirmed my gloomy mood.

But as I got into the car and turned the keys in the ignition, I was reminded of something God had taught me a few days ago, something I could learn from the rain, something I had been so excited to share.

Rain is a wonderful metaphor for the suffering in our lives. No one likes it while it’s around. We see it as depressing, frustrating. But without the rain nothing would grow. We would have no grass, flowers, trees, greenery. The world would be dry and dead. God always knows exactly when to send rain, exactly when the ground needs watering so that things can grow as He wills.

Rain brings growth. 

Suffering is like that. It’s unpleasant, scary, sad. But with suffering comes incredible growth. The sadness of one season is preparation, so that in the coming sunny season we can bloom and grow in glorious shades of green.

And as I drove down the street in the dark, windshield wipers on full blast, I thought about the metaphor and tears began to stream down my face again. But this time it was from fullness, not emptiness. The rain, rather than being one more problem, was a symbol for what God was doing in my heart that night, and I will never forget the feeling once I knew that. As it poured down, it mirrored my tears. And I knew that my heart was being watered, my faith was being deepened, and that the next day would bring the flowers.

“There is no fear in letting tears come. Sadness is a gift to avoid the nothingness of numbness, and all hard places need water. Grief is a gift, and after a rain of tears, there is always more of you than before. Rain always brings growth.”

-from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, chapter 11 (“Breaking Into Being Real”)

love, grace

Advent Reflections, part 4: Love

advent-reflections-part-4

Tonight, candles flicker in the dim light. Christmas trees are lit. Carols fill the air, voices raised by the thousands in songs of joy.

Tonight we wait for the birthday of Christ.

Christmas: a miracle of love. A celebration of a God who loved us so much that He came down to us in the humblest of circumstances so that we would not have to remain separate from Him.

Christmas is a celebration of love. That is what it’s all about: the decorations, the music, the food, the gifts; everything is a celebration of God’s incredible, abundant love. And what incredible love it was!

The note in my study Bible said that there is a possibility Jesus was born in the open air. The God of the universe, born to a poor couple in a small village in an alley somewhere. He lowered Himself this much because of His love for us.

Here, tonight, the story of salvation begins: a baby born who would grow up to be the Messiah, to die on a cross so that sinners across the ages could be saved. The story begins that will continue through the months and culminate in Easter, in His joyous conquering of death.

So let tonight and tomorrow be a joyous celebration of wondrous love! Christ is born! Hallelujah!

 

Merry Christmas to all of my lovely readers! I hope you have a wonderful day full of love, joy, and peace. 

love, grace

P.S.: 4 Ways to Avoid Holiday Letdown

Advent Reflections, part 3: Perspective, Hope

advent reflections part 3.jpg

Part 1 Part 2

Christmas comes closer, and the world waits, still and silent, for the Advent of its Savior.

As we go about the final preparations, everything takes on a sort of sacredness, as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Christ.

This is the most important thing: that Christ was born God and man in one to live a perfect life and die a perfect death. That in His life and death we are saved. That is what we celebrate on December twenty-fifth.

Day 13: Perspective

“Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see…

“From Hollywood to Pinterest, the media of this world aggressively schools your soul to see the exact opposite of the way God sees…

“…if it’s mostly the surfaces that absorb us, then we’re mostly superficial. When my priorities aren’t the things seen- when my priorities are rather all things unseen- it’s only then that my life begins to have substance and weight.” (pp 125-127)

Our life can be transformed if we look beyond everything the world sees. If we look past the shallowness of life and into the depth of the life God has given us.

If we don’t have time to read our Bibles, if we don’t have time to do something kind for someone else, if we don’t have time to seek out God’s will for our lives, our priorities are in the wrong place.

Rather, say that you don’t have time to check Pinterest, to watch YouTube, to go to the movies, because you are too busy reading your Bible, being kind to people, seeking God’s will.

Sometimes you may have time for both, but always give priority to the unseen. Never let worldly shallowness outweigh the things of God.

Day 14: Hope

“Christmas can only be found.

“Christmas cannot be bought. Christmas cannot be created. Christmas cannot be made by hand, lit up, set out, dreamed up. Christmas can only be found…

“That is the message of Christmas. The message of Christmas is not that we can make peace. Or that we can make love, make light, make gifts, or make this world save itself.

“The message of Christmas is that this world’s a mess and we can never save ourselves from ourselves and we need a Messiah.

“For unto us a Child is born…

“And once the light of Christ shatters your dark, shadows forever flee your shadowlands. There’s no going back and living in the dark; you live in the impenetrable, safe Light of light, and Christmas never ends for you. A Christian never stops living Christmas…

“When you really believe in Christmas, you believe there is really hope for everyone. When you get Christmas, people get hope from you- they don’t lose it.

“Unless you keep passing on the miracle of hope, you live like Christmas is a myth.

“So light the Advent candles. Light them, light them.

“And you can see it, with every lit candle, sparks of the dawning.

“Hope catching on everything.” (pp 138-140)

The world has made Christmas into a feel-good, do-good time of year, all about peace and love and joy. It looks good on the outside, but the Christian cannot fall for that message. It gets everything wrong, stemming from a belief that humans are good and that we have the capability for perfection all on our own.

No, the real message of Christmas is that sin is dark, humans are wicked, and we cannot save ourselves. The real message of Christmas is that of glorious light breaking through an awful darkness. A miracle.

And if we believe that the light does not come from us, but from God, that gives us so much more hope than the good-feelings spirit of secular Christmas. Because God can do anything, and so there really is hope for anyone. 

Literally anyone. God can break into any life, heal any soul, and restore any spirit. He can bring light into the darkest of dark places, not just hypothetically, but for real.

The true meaning of Christmas is hope and healing for anyone, not through themselves, but through the all-powerful God who can pierce blackness with glorious light.

 

Which of these readings encouraged you the most today? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Advent Reflections, Part 2: Peace, Grace, Light

advent-reflections-part-2

If you missed it: Part 1 (Wonder, Rest, Laughter)

The season marches on. More and more gifts appear under the tree, goodies appear in the kitchen, lights twinkle on the bushes. Anticipation grows. But are we anticipating the right thing?

Here are three more selections from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp to help you stay saturated in truth this season:

Day 7: Peace

“You don’t need to climb mountains named I Will Perform.

“You don’t need to climb mountains named I Will Produce.

“Every mountain that every Christian ever faces, the Lord levels with sufficient grace: The Lord Will Provide…

“Worry is belief gone wrong. Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.

“Peace is belief that exhales.

“Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere- like air.” (pp 59-60)

For a perfectionist worrier like me, trying to remember that God cares and provides can be like trying to walk against the wind. It’s an uphill battle every single day. But it is so important.

As soon as we reduce the Christian life to performance, we miss the whole point of the baby in the manger. He came and lived a perfect life, so we wouldn’t have to. And it is only when we fully embrace God’s provision in our lives that we will fully have His peace.

Day 11: Grace

“Nobody and no situation- no sin, no mess, no decision- meets the diagnosis of despair. Because there’s God’s cure of amazing grace.” (p103)

The glory of Christmas is that no matter how far gone we are, it is never too far for God.

Through His grace, He sent Christ. And Christ’s work can rescue the most broken, the most messed-up, the most imperfect people in the world, and make them beautiful.

There is never such a thing as too far gone.  The voice that tries to whisper in your head that there is no way God could love you now? That is not the voice of truth. That is the voice of Satan. Reject it.

And rest in God’s amazing grace.

Day 12: Light

“…because, for all its supposed sophistication, cynicism is simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks? The radicals…they are the ones on the road, in the fields, on the wall, pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and the Advent coming again. Brilliant people don’t deny the dark; they are the ones who never stop looking for His light in everything.” (pp 113-114)

People think it’s somehow intellectual and profound to talk about how dark the world is. As if that wasn’t obvious for everyone to see. The world is dark, and to see that is not deep. That is surface-level. Anyone can see it.

What is deep and profound and wise is to seek out the light, to look for God’s light even within the brokenness. To have a spirit of joy, not cynicism, that sees the complexity of everything that happens in this world and goes beyond the dark to the light breaking through.

Because there is light breaking through, always, if we look closely enough.

 

Did any of these excerpts particularly encourage you? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Advent Reflections, Part 1: Wonder, Rest, Laughter

advent reflections part 1.jpg

As Christmas approaches, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement, the hustle and bustle of preparation, without really thinking about what we are preparing for. We get excited about the season without getting excited about Christ, and that sucks any real meaning out of it.

To combat this, I’ve been reading The Greatest Gift, an advent devotional by Ann Voskamp, and I love it so much! The book captures what the spirit of Christmas should be and presents it in such a beautiful way.

Over this week, I want to share some of my favorite passages with you (not all of them, because I want you to be able to enjoy the book for yourself!) Each post will feature 2-3 quotes and a little elaboration on why I love them. I hope this inspires you and helps you to keep focused on Christ in this season.

And I highly, highly recommend this devotional! These quotes are even more powerful when read in the context of the entire reading, and there is so much more that I won’t be mentioning on here.

Day 2: Wonder

“Ravished with wonder.

“That the earth outside your window is tilted right now at just twenty-three degrees…so the planet’s bulk of six sextillion tons…spins perfectly balanced on an invisible axis…

“So go to the window. Go to the hills, the desert, the corner, the back door, and be ravished and taken and awed, and you who were made by Love, made for love- be still and know and watch love come down.

“The answer to deep anxiety is the deep adoration of God.” (13-14)

If we love God and appreciate His incredible creation, there will be no room for anxiety in our lives.

The truth is that this world is pretty amazing. Things in our everyday life are gorgeous: fall leaves, spring flowers, the snow, the ocean. Every time I start thinking about space, my mind gets blown. I just don’t understand how anyone can look at something like supernovas, or even just the size of the galaxy, and not believe in a God. His hand is everywhere.

And through Jesus, we are given access to this God, the God who created everything far beyond what we could even fathom. This powerful God loves us and cares for us every day. He is on our side, and if He is on our side, what do we have to lose? 

Day 4: Rest

“While other creeds endeavor to get us out of the world and into heaven, in Christianity, heaven comes down and Christ comes into this world to get us.”  (31)

The big difference between Christianity and Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism…we do not have to do anything. 

Christ’s sacrifice paid everything. There is nothing more we could possibly do to get ourselves into heaven, and nothing more that is necessary. Christ poured out his blood for us, suffering impossible agony. Why would we diminish that by thinking we must add to it?

Christ came to us. We do not have to climb to Him. And so we simply rest. 

Day 6: Laughter

“The gigantic secret gift that He gives and we unwrap…we who were barren now graced with the Child who lets us laugh with relief for all eternity. There is nothing left to want. There is nothing left to fear…So loosen up, because the chains have been loosed, and laugh the laughter of the freed. Laughter- it’s all oxygenated grace.

“In the press of a dark world, laughter comes…as the reliever and then the reminder- that ache is not the last word for those who believe God. Jesus is. Jesus is the last word, and we rejoice and rejoice again and re-joy again because grace is our oxygen now.” (50-51)

From the gospel, from the Christmas story, comes infinite joy. God is real. He cares for us. We are saved. He loves us with an everlasting love that will never end.

When you feel sad, when you feel insecure, always remember that your sufferings do not have to be the end and that Jesus came to give you infinitely more. Through Him, we may not live perfect lives, but in the midst of the problems and the suffering, we can find joy anyway. That which most defines our lives, the gospel, can never change. 

 

How do you stay focused on Christ during Advent? Which of these excerpts is your favorite? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Cultivating the Lost Art of Gratitude

gratitude2

The point of Thanksgiving is in the name: giving thanks. Gratitude. Thanking God for all that He has done.

Gratitude seems to be a lost art in today’s world. Complaining and negativity have taken hold and swept the culture away. People just don’t think to stop and take time to appreciate all that they have.

Especially in entitled, materialistic America, the focus is always on things that have gone wrong in our lives, things we don’t have, things other people have done to us when in fact, we have so much more than many people in poverty around the world.

Yes, bad things will happen to us, and yes, living in a well-off country doesn’t mean life will always be sunshine and rainbows. But if we take a few moments to gain some perspective, actually think about the things we complain about, and really appreciate all that we take for granted, I think we will find ourselves much happier and living much better lives.

So, I want to encourage all of my American readers to truly observe Thanksgiving tomorrow. Enjoy the food and family and whatever your normal traditions are with a spirit of gratitude to God for the life He has given you. Take some time alone to pray, thinking back over the year and all that God has given you. Make a list if you want, and focus your heart on thankfulness all during the day.

Then, extend that spirit of gratitude throughout the year. A few ideas:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. I’ve begun doing this; every night before bed, I list out a few things from the previous day that I am thankful for. Having an opportunity to refocus every day is very helpful.
  • Challenge yourself to completely stop complaining for a week (or a month, if you want to get crazy…). See if you can involve friends or family as well, and maybe come up with some kind of reward/penalty system if other people catch you complaining. Have fun with it!
  • Send hand-written thank-you notes to people every time they do something for you, no matter how small. A friend bake for you? Your parents help you with something? Don’t only write notes after your birthday, but look for opportunities all throughout the year!

Focus on cultivating gratitude in your life and see the difference it makes in your happiness and that of the people around you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

love, grace

When You Don’t Know Your Purpose (and the Future Seems a Scary Thing)

During our teenage years, several big questions loom on the horizon, hovering at the edge of our mind and causing stress and worry and fear when we least expect it:

What are we going to do with the rest of our lives?

Who will we become as adults?

What will our future look like?

What is our purpose on this earth?

We’ve already talked about how how stressful the teen years can be and how to live each day one step at a time. But even if you have your daily life under control, these big questions remain. And they can inspire more terror than any test, project, jam-packed day, or sleepless night we will ever experience.

There’s something we have to remember, when we face these questions and the doubt and fear that rise up within us at the thought of the future.

We already know our main purpose in this life. 

You don’t have to think about it at all. You don’t have to worry, plan, or spend hours trying to “find yourself”. As a Christian, your purpose is clear as day.

It is to know God and to make Him known. 

This will take many forms, look a little bit different for everyone. But ultimately, the goal of every Christian life is the same. It doesn’t matter how you go about it; the goal is God’s glory.

One of your purposes in the world is to know God, to seek a relationship with him above everything else.

To spend time with Him, to learn His Word and the power of prayer.

To seek Him in your daily tasks and duties and do everything for His glory.

To experience His life-changing love and mercy and grace, to accept the death Christ died for you and let that love overflow in your heart and overtake every sin and shame that hides there.

Your other purpose is to make God known, to proclaim Him to the world.

To spread the love of God to all the people you interact with, to devote time to those around you.

To share the gospel with the unbelievers you come across, to support the spreading of the gospel around the world.

To live in such a way that no one can see you and not believe that God is real, to live with a heart overflowing with love and gratitude and praise that makes everyone want to believe.

These are your callings, both now and in the future. They will not change when you graduate, when you get a job, when you get married. The college and major and job you choose are nowhere near as important as the way you use those things to God’s glory; no matter where you end up in life, you can fulfill these two purposes.

You don’t have to find your own identity and meaning in life. They have been given to you. Trust in that.

love, grace

Purposeful Pages October 2016

Purposeful Pages Meme

Linkup info: Amanda’s blog / Hannah’s blog

It’s time for this month’s installment of Purposeful Pages! I love this linkup and am always excited to answer the questions. It gets me thinking and helps you learn more about me while also hopefully taking away some kind of advice or truth.

What Exactly Is Purposeful Pages?

Purposeful Pages is a monthly link-up designed to unite bloggers on answering questions about life, blogging, the Bible, writing, and books.

October 2016 Questions

Question One // What is something (or who is someone) that has encouraged you to grow in your faith?

The fellowship group at my school has been a very important part of my life since freshman year. It’s been a place where I can go each week to unwind, enjoy conversation with other awesome Christians, and learn more about God’s truth. Now that I’m a leader, it’s great to be able to affect the lives of others through the things we talk about as well.

Question Two // Has blogging showed a side of you that you normally don’t see?

I don’t think so. This blog seems to me like an expression of who I actually am, just slightly more polished than real life. I purposefully don’t try to be super sarcastic or funny in my posts, even though that’s something I like in a lot of other bloggers, because that’s not how I am in real life and it feels sort of fake.

Question Three // What inspires your “creative genius?”

I always feel more inspired to write after I read something good. The author’s genius seeps into my soul and makes me long to pour out my own words on the page. Even if I haven’t written in a long time, reading kickstarts my motivation.

Question Four // Why do you write?

I hope to be published someday, because I want to write to share truth with the world. I want to write to inspire and uplift those who read. Mainly, though, I write because there’s no way I can’t.

Question Five // Your house is on fire, and you only have time to save one thing. Do you grab your hand-written manuscripts or your cat?

My cat, of course! It’s a living thing. Those manuscripts probably were really bad anyway, and I can always come up with more stories out of my brain. I can’t recreate my cat out of my brain.

(Not that I have a cat, but, you know, for the sake of the question)

Question Six // If you could ban any book, which one would it be, and why?

Twilight. Do I really need to explain?

Question Seven // What is your Myers-Briggs personality type (if you know it), and what unique aspect of your personality makes you who you are?

I am an ISFJ. For those that don’t know, that means I am introverted, sensing (or more focused on the concrete over the abstract), more emotional than logical, and super organized. I think one unique part of my personality is that I am very organized, good at time management, etc. and yet I am also very creative. Stereotypically, those two things don’t go together, but here I am!

Question Eight // Did you have any kind of “breakthrough” point in your life, whether it had to do with writing, blogging, art, or anything else? If so, would you like to share about it?

…no…not that I can think of off the top of my head.

Question Nine // Are there any hobbies that you have that don’t fit the stereotypical you?

Hobbies? What hobbies? Who has time for hobbies? Definitely not me. Other than reading, writing, and playing piano, none of which fit this question.

Question Ten // Even if you haven’t written an official life purpose statement, can you tell us in a few sentences what you feel called to do with your life right now?

I feel called to study hard in school and work toward college to the best of my ability, trusting God to take care of the details. I feel called to cultivate my dancing to the best it can be as a possible career path. I feel called to continue writing on this blog, to share my thoughts with the world. I feel called to live every day in the moment and enjoy what God has for me in that day.

 

I hope you enjoyed this month’s Purposeful Pages! If you have a blog, be sure to join the linkup, and if any of these questions intrigued you, please share your answer in the comments! See you next week! 

love, grace

 

Remember…You Don’t Have to Do It All Now

you don't have to do it all 2.jpg

School has started, and I’m realizing something: I can’t do everything. 

There are so many things I want to do. They sound so interesting and fun, and I have way too many interests to pursue all of them. So I’m having to make some very conscious decisions about what I choose to prioritize and how I spend my time. And that’s okay. 

It’s a simple truth, yes, but it’s something that we often have a lot of trouble accepting. Especially when, in this day and age, we have opportunities coming our way right and left. Play this sport! Sign up for this class! Join this club! Do this volunteer job! Apply for this job! Participate in this activity!

There’s something I want everyone reading this to remember. You don’t have to do everything right now! 

There’s a point to keeping bucket lists and things like that. You aren’t going to be able to take every opportunity immediately at this point in your life, but just because you can’t do something now doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to pursue it.

As a teenager, you’ve got your whole life in front of you. Don’t be afraid to put things that sound fun on your “someday” list and move on. Want to learn to surf? Great. Maybe not this year. Want to play tennis? Great. How about in a few years when you actually have time. Want to learn to dance? Great. There are adult dance classes being offered all over the place.

There will be a few things that come to the forefront of your life that you need to focus on. Remember that you don’t have to take up twenty hobbies at once in your spare time. Save some of them for later.

And if all else fails? You can learn to surf in heaven. 🙂

love, grace

What do you think? Are you tempted to do everything right now and get overbooked and overwhelmed? Share in the comments below!