The World that We Live In- A Prayer

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers, included a beautiful lyric in one of his songs, "The World that We Live In."

This is the world that we live in, and I feel myself get tired.

Boy, is this ever true. I just started a new job this summer, which is so exciting, but in all of that excitement I have been so busy adjusting to working life that I really haven't had time to poke my head out and look up at the world around me.  In some respects, that's a good thing. I have been able to temporarily shield myself from state of our nation and the hurtful rhetoric being used against the least of these.

However, when I do have time, or if there is something that is just too big to ignore, it hits me like a train. I am suddenly, instantly aware of just how broken our world is, and how deeply we need our Lord Jesus to come.

Maranatha.

And, when I get overwhelmed… When my thoughts are too vast and too incomprehensible and I have a hard time sleeping at night, I find it helpful to write about it.  This process is very much for my own benefit, but maybe some of the pieces I try to put together will make sense in a language that you can understand.

This is the first presidential election that I could take part in.  I am not trying to boast, but I followed the candidates pretty closely, and I did my research for every ballot that I cast… Even (well, especially) at the local level.  Maybe I took my research a little too far, but it seems like everyone around me who had been voting for a while just kind of took the process for granted. (It is also possible that my OCD ensured that I was hyper-aware of how certain candidates and certain policies would affect both the people I cared about, and the people that I am called to care about...  but that's another story for another day.)

My point is, I was crushed when Trump won the election. I cried, and I mourned. I talked to my mom on the phone about it, and she assured me that everything would be okay, like a good mother does, and that it's normal for the media to be on this ruthless frenzy after a new election, especially when parties change. "It will all blow over before you know it," she told me, "and it won't even make that much of a difference."

And maybe I'm just a worrier,  and maybe I am a little overempatheic, but things are definitely much more different now, right?

This is no ordinary election. 

The piercing, hurtful way that we  all treat each other, whether online or in person, is somehow universally accepted… The blatant disregard we have for truth and honesty… Surely this is unprecedented.   Surely this can't be the way it has always been.

The craziest part for me is that God knew about this all along… The second that sin entered the world, He knew. He knew that immigrants and refugees seeking a safe place from harm would be  mocked, ridiculed, and prohibited from entering our country. He knew that our earth, His  Earth, rather, would be decimated and destroyed by the people He entrusted it to. He knew that race and class would divide, even after He sent His Son to die and make us One. He knew that fear and hate would reign in the hearts of his people.  How wholly must He mourn.

How deeply must His heart break.

And my heart is breaking, too.

I was told that I am to be in the world, but not of it.

I know that I am not of this world, but it is so hard to  continue to be in a place plagued by so much hurt and so much sin.  If you are a follower of Jesus, you are needed now more than ever.

Lord, come.

Help us continue to fight the good fight,  to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Let us stand on the side of Your truth and justice, and honor the poor. Let us be slow to anger and quick to forgive. Amen.

Thankful for a God Who Lives

Tonight I had a great conversation with a friend who doesn't believe in God. We talked about hardships and some of the darker parts to our lives, and I proudly proceeded to tell Him that God is the only way I get out of hardships, period.

And for the record, I meant it.

But as I dropped him off and was driving away, I couldn't help but think about how STUPID I must have sounded to him. To someone who doesn't understand Who Jesus is or how He works in my life, I probably sounded like a mindless, thoughtless dreamer. "God gets me through hard times! He is the only Hope I have!"

It probably sounded like I was just blindly repeating back the Christian rhetoric that is taught- like a one of those parrot stuffed animals with the recording box inside. "God is all you need! God fixes everything! Jesus is the answer!"

And the Truth is, God is all I need. He can fix everything. Jesus IS the answer. I believe these things, not because they're lyrics from popular Christian songs but because I've seen firsthand the effect that following a LIVING God can have on someone's life. I know that a true, working relationship with your Creator can change you. It can cause you to value things the world doesn't, and to have your eyes set not on worldly things but an Eternal Hope that transcends understanding. It causes you to love the people society pushes away-- mocks, even. It causes you do some "crazy" things, by the world's standards, because when God is ALIVE inside of you and the Spirit is moving, God can move mountains.

The problem is, we are a people who boldly worship and proclaim the name of a God that seemingly does absolutely nothing in our lives. We look just like everyone else. We talk like everyone else. We curse the names of politicians and our neighbors and our own family members like the rest of the world does. We gossip and slander and cheat and steal and I'm not even for a minute saying that Christians should be "perfect," but shouldn't we at least live differently? Shouldn't we try to follow a living God instead of proclaim His name and then live as if He's just another admirable historical figure?

It's all too easy to fall into the trap of complacency. The hardest thing to master (if mastering this thing is even achievable on earth) is to deliberately choose to follow God's lead, and then make that decision over and over and over again. Forever. Every day. In every situation. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that, and even though sin gets in the way every step of the way, I must choose. I must choose to turn away and turn towards my Eternal Hope. Every single time.

And I get it-- It's easy to live and forget Who you're living for but it's SO SO GOOD to be living alongside Jesus Christ! Your life transforms into ways I can't even describe... you know you're working for a greater purpose and you get to see, each and every day, what it means to love the way Jesus loves. It's glorious.

I'm just so frustrated when we forget how great it is and forget that daily (hourly) choice we must make. I'm frustrated because without lives that are proof of a LIVING God, the world just sees a bunch of brainwashed cult members, repeating mantras that mean little to nothing to them. Faith is great but who do you believe in?

If it's the same God I follow, then I pray you would be filled with hope as you follow the Living God. May he direct your paths and change you to make you more like Him. May you be forced to flip things upside down like Jesus did- loving instead of hating, and giving instead of passing by. May you trust in Him when you make decisions and listen for His Spirit as you engage a broken world.

Peace be with you.

This Just Doesn't Make Sense

Hello. It's Christmas Eve and I have a lot on my mind. Time to vent.

WARNING: This isn't a fluffy Christmas post about hot chocolate and snowmen. It may challenge you to rethink your behavior and may encourage you to make some changes. It sure did for me.

Recently I've just been in this weird, disillusioned stupor. Nothing really makes sense lately, which I know is a really vague statement, so I'll try to give you some specifics.

1. I turned 20 years old. And it does NOT feel like I should be in my 20's. People get married when they're 20. People have babies. They get jobs and pay bills and live in their own homes and pay mortgage and move away from their families and it's FREAKING ME OUT.

2. It's Christmas and it does NOT feel like it because of the temperature. (Climate disruption, perhaps?) It's 60 degrees and last night my grandma's power went out because of a violent rainstorm. Not snowstorm. Rainstorm.

3. It's Christmas and it does NOT feel like it because... well... I haven't been to church in a few months. Or really talked about Christ and His goodness. Or really thought about Him, personally.

And after sitting in a candle-lit service at church this evening with my family, I felt kind of out of place. I just kept thinking "It's Christmas already? I haven't even thought about Jesus!" And I was just looking around at all of the people and thinking about those in my life whom I love desperately that don't know Christ and it burned in my heart. "Yep. It is Christmas already. And I almost missed it."

I simply was not ready to receive the message of Christmas because until that very moment, it had been all about me. And it's a little cliche, but it was all about the gifts this year, and buying for my friends, and my family, and my boyfriend, and his family, and I got so caught up that I felt like a traitor singing Christmas carols before the altar. I know that's not how God sees me, but it just felt... different.

And then I thought about all the hurt that is going on in our world today. I thought about refugees. And the apparent hatred my country has for people from the Middle East. I thought of bombings, and shootings, and war, and racism, and my heart kept hurting. I thought of strife in the families of those I care about, and within my own family. I thought of the tension that exists between people I love. I thought about the pain that people are experiencing because of the loss of loved ones, and how much that SUCKS around Christmastime.

I thought about how much people like to pretend they care about all of these causes, and how much people love to jump on an opinion-train and rant about these injustices, and then do absolutely nothing to actually love those affected by sin. People like me.

My heart hurts. I'm aching for a Savior that I know came in the form of a little baby thousands of years ago, and I'm yearning for Him to restore peace to this world. To His people. And to my heart.

The thing that doesn't make sense the most is that I want so badly for the world to be fixed, and I want God to roll in on a golden chariot and start making things better, but that's not how He works. I keep waiting for Him to do something, as I sit here and hang my head in shame, but the thing that just doesn't make sense is that He sent ME to love people. And I forgot He was even there.

He sent us to bring peace to a world surrounded by conflict. He sent us to be compassionate, and full of His love and grace. I'm not talking about anyone specific when I say this, but collectively, as a whole, as God's people, we aren't doing a very good job. 

And I know it's not all about works, and we can never earn or lose God's love, but I think all of us can admit that we're innately human and flawed and so darn SELFISH and our world is crumbling before our eyes and we need to kick things up a notch. For Heaven's sake.

I'm sorry if this isn't the hopeful message you hoped to find this Christmas. The good news is that it is never too late to turn back around and head towards His guiding Light. I encourage you to start seeing yourself as an important, valued part of God's peaceful army today.

I know: a peaceful army doesn't make sense either. But what the heck.

We're called to be Light in the darkness and Love where there is hatred. There's a whole lot of darkness and a whole lot of hatred, so let's walk with God to bring His perfect peace to this broken, hurting world.

Go give someone a hug. Send a message to someone you haven't talked to in a while. Apologize. Reconcile. Donate your time and money and whatever else you can. Love people-- deeply and fully and without reservations.

Maybe the last-minute present wrapping can wait.









I'm so silly sometimes.

So today I've been thinking pretty deeply about things. Not sure why, and it's kind of annoying when I overthink, but that's beside the point. I've been pretty happy lately, and for some reason this last week has been pretty up and down for me (hormones, perhaps?) and I guess I just wanted to know why.

Oh, "why?" The age-old question. "Why am I unhappy? Why aren't I fulfilled? Is there something more to life? Why haven't I found it yet?"

I've been feeling a little neglected, I suppose. Coming home from college will do that for you, I guess. And I don't know if "neglected" is the right word, either. I have a lovely family who loves me very much and my mom even washed my sheets for me so I could sleep in my old bed with nice, clean sheets. I don't have any practical reason to feel like no one cares about me, but sometimes, when I'm laying awake going over the previous day in my head, I wonder, "Why don't I feel important?"

Now, before you get all worried, let me assure you that I'm not depressed or emotionally unstable or in an abusive relationship or anything. Like I said, I'm really, really blessed to live the life that I do. But haven't you ever felt like that? Like, "Why don't people care about me more? Why does it seem like no one is paying attention to me all the time?"

Then, it hit me.

Why am I expecting everyone to adore me in the first place?

If I don't expect everything to be all about me, and for people to mold to the way I'm feeling, and cater to my specific needs, then I won't get my hopes up and every ounce of attention I receive will be an unexpected, pleasant gift-- not a necessary requirement for my happiness.

It's a silly answer, and maybe a bit of a cop-out, but think about it: If you don't expect everything to be about praising you, how can you get upset when it's not what you expected?

It's kind of like (and I hate this-- so very much--) when your friend is like "DUDEEEEE OMGGGG [insert current film here] IS AWESOMEEEEE. IT'S THE BEST MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEEEEN, YOU HAVEEEE TO SEE IT!"

So, you pay a ticket fee to watch it in theaters and you even buy popcorn (which is so, so overpriced, but that's another story,) and the movie was just average. And you're SO ticked because had it not been for their raving review, you maybe would have found out it was awesome for yourself. When I watch movies on Netflix now, I don't watch any trailers or reviews so I can go into watching a movie with no expectations. I digress.

I think I'm going to partially blame this one on my generation and the culture we've cultivated. Social media spawns a community that is literally founded upon posting your thoughts and waiting for other's to "like" them. By taking part in this community, we're creating a culture that makes it okay for people to send out photos of their lives and await for the approval of others... we're allowing ourselves to be caught in this cycle of selfish selfie-dom and we're setting ourselves up for an unavoidable, painful moment of realization when we notice that everyone else is too consumed in boosting their image to care about ours, and that no matter how many "favorites" you receive, everyone's true "favorite" is themselves.

*End rant*

Today, on December 20th, I choose to let Christ be my source of self-worth. I choose to find true joy when I provide for the needs of others instead of waiting for them to serve me. I choose to reimagine my place in this crazy, messed-up world so that my goal is to bring glory to my Creator rather than collect adoration for myself. (He created me in the first place, right?)

I encourage you to do the same, so we can all be sharing in an abundant, endless supply of love instead of scavenging for temporary approval. The end.






Staying Connected

Do you have those friends that you could literally not talk to for a year, and then you run into them and talk for hours like nothing happened? These are the good kinds of relationships-- those that produce fruitful, edifying conversation and are sustained by God's grace and not our own efforts. (How could they be a result of our doing? We haven't talked to that person in a year!)

I have a few friends like that. They're the good ones-- the ones I can go to for anything, and the one's whose connection is effortless. So effortless, in fact, that I forget about them sometimes because I don't have to constantly work to maintain their affections. I know they'll be there, and I'll always be there for them, and that's that.

But I feel bad sometimes. I feel like I don't give these people enough credit. I don't tell them I love them enough, and sometimes when I do tell them "HEY I LOVE YOU!" out of the blue, it seems random and disingenuous because the connection has been lost a little bit. Sure, we can get it back pretty easily, but it's been set back a few notches.

*Enter religious talk*

Have you ever felt like that about God? For some reason, today I've been reminded over and over (S/O to the Holy Spirit, for calling on me a few times) that I've lost my connection to God recently. And for once, I'm not coming to Him because I need something or I'm lonely but because I miss him. I want to tell Him I love Him. I want to reconnect.

I feel like Christians go through phases. You're either in the bad phase, where life sucks and you're hurting and alone and God is the only One there to fix you, or you're in the good phase, and everything is rainbows and butterflies and you forget God exists. You forget He's the one who gave you all those good things. You no longer feel the urgency to be closely tied to His side, and like a buoy in the ocean, you slowly (but steadily) drift apart.

God never stops loving us. He never stops pursuing us. He doesn't just sit on the shoreline calling out, "Have a nice wander! Hope you find yourself! See you whenever!" He is constantly reaching out and trying to pull us back in. There is nothing (not even the gravitational pull of the moon that causes waves and our constant drifting back into the ocean) that can separate us from His love. (See Romans 8:38)

He desires to be in constant connection with you... kinda like you are constantly connected to your boyfriend, messaging him all day about stupid things like omelets and Spanish projects.

...No?

.....That just me?

Oh well. You get the point.

When things are good, we should never let ourselves fall victim to an unconnected relationship with the Lord. When you hear that little whisper in your ear, or that feeling in the pit of your stomach, don't ignore it. Don't let the lies of Satan convince you that because you're happy, you don't need the Lord. You always do, and He will always always be willing to take you in His arms once again.

And it'll be awesome.

Thoughts after a Fabulous Day

Sometimes life gets so hard I just need to vent about it to the worldwide web. I need to process things because I can't make sense of it all.

Today is not one of those days. In fact, today is fabulous. I love it very much. And instead of trying to organize my scattered, broken thoughts about a hurting world, I will try to process the goodness of the Lord, even though I won't really be able to experience its fullness until I'm in His courts.

I've been exploring the concept of waiting for the "right" kind of person before getting too emotionally involved in a relationship. (And, by "exploring," I simply mean trying... failing... learning... repeat. It's quite the process.) Anyway, I've had my ups and downs, but overall God is teaching me that there are really great, wholesome, honest, God-fearing men out there that love people how Jesus does. They open doors for you, and not out of obligation or societal standards but because it's a way to show that they care. They are not mythical creatures we read about in young adult novels or hot bodies we drool over in chic flics... they are real, live humans. And they exist.

The tough part is not settling for someone who is second-best. For example, let's say you meet a really funny guy who has similar taste in television shows. If he's not pursuing you the way that the "right" kind of guys will be one day, then maybe you should cool it. (I'm talking to myself here, not lecturing you, for the record.)

If you're making excuses for a liar because deep down he's a "really good guy," maybe you should reconsider the immense worth that God places upon you, and believe that one day you'll meet someone who treats you like He does.

If you're caught in a relationship built on lust because you don't want to be alone, maybe you should take a step back and reexamine the way God sees relationships and reaffirm what you already know: that God says what He says because He loves you and wants to protect you from hurt.

If you're still healing after being hurt, don't lose hope! You are unconditionally loved by the Creator of the UNIVERSE and yet, He still cares enough to hold you close to His heart. (See Isaiah 40:11)

I don't have all of the answers. And I don't want to make it sound like I do, because I don't. But when you experience a day like today: a day filled with family, fellow believers, women in faith who build you up, and Godly men who remind you that you shouldn't settle for men who aren't going to pull their weight, you just get it. 

God is good. ALL THE TIME. When you're willing (and I mean really willing and not just apathetically letting His goodness ooze into your life)... when you're honestly seeking His face above all else, good things happen. Good days happen that produce heavenly conversation and edifying thoughts.

And I guess I just wanted to share it with you. You're awesome. God loves you and so do I.

Love and Grace,
Carly

Surrender, trust, peace, repeat.

Recently a friend of mine asked if I could pray for peace for her. That was all she said, so I'm not sure what specifically she needed peace for, but it got me thinking about peace and surrender. 

Because if we go to Scripture, it's pretty clear about God's peace, given freely:

«The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.»
Psalm 29:11 NIV

Jesus himself said:

«Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.»
John 14:27 NIV

He's basically like "stop being afraid and just let me give you peace, please! I want to!" And yet-- it's hard for us, for some reason. It's difficult for us to rest in His peace-- hard enough that we ask for people to pray for us to be able to accept it. Why is that? Why can't we just be like, "Okay, Jesus! I believe you. You offer Your perfect peace and I will take You up on that fabulous offer. Thanks."

It may be different for everyone, but I think I know why I struggle with peace:

Control. Trust. Surrender. 

I want to be in control of my life. And that's not a bad thing, I guess... But it is a bad thing when you want to control things you just can't. It's a bad thing when you want to control things that God  is working into His plan, using His timing, and His means to accomplish them. Control can be bad sometimes too. 

Especially when we are called time and time again to TRUST in God's perfect ways. Trusting and resting in peace are synonymous (in my humble opinion.) We trust in God's goodness and therefore are able to rest in peace. 

The book of Isaiah affirms this idea:

«You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.»
Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV

So, then, the question becomes "How do I trust in God?"

And this is an even more complex, variant question because it may be different for each person. But I do know that it's possible to totally surrender your life to the Lord and trust Him with everything. That may freak you out, if you're a control-freak like myself, but in my experience peace comes when we trust in the Lord. And trusting happens when we surrender to His plan and watch how His marvelous plan unfolds. 

I heard once that we spend so much time (perhaps too much time) praying for what we already have. Gods grace and peace are already secured through Christ Jesus. So, take a deep breath, surrender your troubles to Him, and let Him take over. Let him bless you with peace, because I'm sure He's just longing to do so.