Salt & Light

I often wonder what being a Christian looks like to outsiders, and I guess that opinion can vary depending on who the person has been exposed to.

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So many variables play into the way a person sees anything really. If you’ve had daddy issues or been in an abusive relationship, you’re more likely to not trust men in general. But then again, you may have a strong desire for male approval. Depending on how you were raised, you may prefer to be in control or be led. No matter the case, each person responds in their own way, with their own expectations, triggered by past experiences. Your personality type, gender and priorities factor greatly into how you react or respond to life’s journey.

I became a Christian when I was 9 years old. When I say I became a Christian, I mean that I “asked God into my heart”. To me, this means that I suddenly realized that I was a sinner (as much of a sinner as a 9 year old can be), and I accepted the gift of Christ dying on the cross in my place because I was a sinner. Did I understand what that meant? Sure. I understood salvation. I understood that the only way to get to heaven was through Jesus, and that without Him, I was lost. I got saved one night after a “Heaven’s gates, Hell’s Flame’s” play. If you don’t know what that is, don’t YouTube it because it will scare the Hell out of you- literally. I was afraid of going to Hell. In fact, I prayed many times that God “save” me when I was young because I was afraid that maybe I didn’t do it the right way. I mean God forbid that I die suddenly by falling off the jungle gym and go straight to hell because I didn’t pray the right way!

I became a Christ follower much later in life. What’s the difference, you ask? Allow me to explain this first hand. You become a Christ follower when you SEE God. No, I’m not explaining a supernatural experience, nor have I drunk any Kool-Aid lately. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that your eyes are OPENED to God, and what He’s about. When you feel His grace and you “Let go and let God”, you free yourself of YOU, and there’s more room for Him. See, when your life is committed to God, you are aligned with His plan, and His plan is perfect. Always. As Christians, we seem to make it more about what we’re supposed to do, when He has already done what needed to be done. By doing this, we are limiting Christianity and God’s vision.

We also limit ourselves. I had a moment with God the other day. One of those “eye-opening” moments. I was praying to God about a person whom my heart was hurting for- An atheist, who had openly shared with me their views on their existence. Someone who politely listened to my viewpoints, and even politely responded that it was ok that I believed the way I did. I was particularly praying because I KNEW God had put this person in my life for a reason, but I was scared. Scared of saying the wrong thing and jeopardizing the slightest chance of them considering kicking the tires of Christianity. I was scared of the consequences I would face for confronting this person about their beliefs. Now a days, you never know what will happen when standing up for Christianity. But God calmed my fears and helped me understand (through prayer) that the consequences of this world are not His consequences.

Even going to Hell is not His consequence- it’s your choice. Consequences existed the moment a choice was made. When Adam and Eve deliberately sinned in the garden, they created consequences for actions. From that point on, we had a choice.

The point of this post, and what God has laid on my heart, is that we can’t just become a Christian for a “Get out of Hell free” pass. We also cannot become a Christian because we seek comfort- that’s essentially worshipping an idol. Being a Christian isn’t rainbows and roses. You will go through hardship, and you will be burned. The difference is- you can count on being a part of God’s plan and know that He will not harm you (Jeremiah 29:11).

I heard the most remarkable statement from my Pastor Sunday, and I will never let myself forget it. It fits perfectly into this story:

“If the only purpose to being a Christian was to go to heaven, then God would take our lives the moment we became one”.

I’m challenging myself this year to actively minister to at least my little world. I can’t be a perfect example of a Christian, but I can point you to a God who is perfect and wants you to be a part of His story. If you want to join me in this “Salt and Light” challenge, please let me know and I will personally pray for you.
Please, please, PLEASE pray for my friend, the atheist. Pray that God tugs at their heart. I don’t feel led to pursue them, but I truly believe God will open another window for me to share with them. I’m thankful to have planted the seed that I did, but it’s going to take more. It’s going to take God.

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Without a Paddle

Life is full of mountains and valleys when it comes to having joy. To be completely honest, I’ve been in valleys a lot recently. I came to a place where I couldn’t make it back up the next mountain, and I really didn’t care if I stayed in the valley. I was literally just miserable, and exhausted with the effort of trying to continue. I had lost my momentum, so it was time to set up camp in the dark, damp, cold valley.

Looking back, my seasons of sadness can be pointed back to two different categories of instigators :

  1. Making decisions without prayer
  2. Things out of my control

Being stressed or depressed, whatever you want to generalize it under, over something that is not in my control is probably the thing I struggle the most with. Up to now, I would just try to Find the Silver Lining– Look at the positive. Find something good that came out of it. The problem with this approach was, sometimes there was no silver lining, or I didn’t have the optimicity to find it.

I read one of those sappy facebook stories one time about this lady, who’s husband just died. Since she has no one to take care of her, she has no other option, but to move to a nursing home. When she arrives, a young man greets her and begins telling her about her room. “I love it”, she says prematurely with gust. The young man proceeds to tell her to wait until she’s seen it. That’s when the lesson begins. She explains that seeing it has nothing to do with it. Happiness is something we choose ahead of time, yada yada yada. And of course she’s blind!

I’ve always heard the saying “Happiness comes from within”. To me this sounds too close to doing what’s best for you, and not worrying about everyone else, which never works out for the record. I’ve also heard that “Happiness is a Choice”, which makes it sound as easy as picking a flavor of ice cream. The problem with the facebook story, and these sayings that happy people throw at you, is that they require will power. Well, that’s great and all, but what happens when your flame goes out?

I think my eye opening moment came after Ryan and I had dinner with a good friend last weekend. He shared his testimony with us, and opened up about his own struggles. While Ryan and him conversed about their faith, I found myself relishing in the awe of what God had done for him. The burdens he had carried were lifted, and the change in him was obvious to anyone who had known him before. All because he decided to lay it at God’s feet, pray fervently, and trust in His sovereignty.

As the days progressed, I saw so many ways that God was opening my eyes to my situation. He knew I was in a dangerous place, but I also think He needed me to come out of the valley and continue the work He has laid on my heart. He was pursuing me when I needed to be pursuing Him. But, I’m so thankful He is our Shepard, and that He never lets us stray to far. It wasn’t until yesterday, that I was able to fully comprehend what He was showing me.

Ryan and I went went Jeepin’ with my cousins last weekend, and we made a stop at the Olympic Race Course of the Ocoee River. If you’ve ever been to this part of the Ocoee, you know how intense the man-made rapids are. After all, it was made for the ’96 Olympics.

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All of a sudden this big yellow thing called a “Creature Craft” puts in, and goes sliding right on down the river. I’m not going to lie, it looked fun! (Side note: They come in PINK!!!)

It seats two people, who strap themselves in. You sit in a chair parallel to the opposite person, and you use a paddle to steer, just like in a raft. All was well, as they maneuvered the oversized inflatable through the rapids. They were obviously pros, as they could surf in the rapids and spin the whole thing around, flipping it every which way. Suddenly, on the second trip, a passenger lost a paddle. Along with the drifting paddle, went their fluid movement, because at this point, the Creature Craft could only spin in one direction. Luckily, a friend was standing in the rocks to the side of the river, and threw them a spare.

They weren’t the only crew to lose a paddle that day. A kayaker was walking up and down the river asking spectators if they had seen a blue paddle floating down the river. He was soaking wet and obviously desperate to jump back in and continue his adventure. But without a paddle, no fun was to be had.

You’ve heard the saying “Up creek without a paddle”. Well here I was trying to make it up stream without my paddle, figuratively speaking. I was trying to get out of my rut on my own. I finally realized I couldn’t do it. But instead of praying for my solution, as I so often do, I prayed for peace in my circumstances. That’s what you can do, when you believe in the Bible and God’s sovereignty. When you know there’s a purpose for what’s happening in your life, and that all things work TOGETHER for the good for those that love God (Romans 8:28). We can also believe that God knows the plans that He has for us, and that He would never harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). But best of all, we can put all of our strength and trust in Him, when we can’t make it, and He’ll turn that in to happiness:

Happy are the people whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5)


Thank you so much for reading. It’s so hard to be so raw and open up, but I know that I have to share. There’s someone out there that needs to hear this. Know that I love you all!

God Bless,

Kaila

YOLO

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I keep thinking that I’m going to run out of things to write about, but then another topic just comes to me. I think I’ve finally discovered that the writing/thought process of this journey will never run dry, as I typically write about things I have experienced or struggled with firsthand. I’ve learned that the best way to write from the heart is to write about your heart. This topic is no different.

As I’ve said before, I have a planning type personality. It’s not that I stay neat and organized, but I mentally enjoy the physical process of organizing. For example, I will spend a whole day cleaning a room to perfection, only for it to end up in it’s original state a week later. And I don’t fret about it! I just take in the rush I get the next time I clean it up. It’s a really weird quirk, but it’s my quirk. So naturally when it comes to life, I like to plan it out too. Only instead of letting life mess up like I do cleanliness, I tend to stress. I guess that’s a good thing, right? I mean, we should all take life seriously… YOLO! OMG did I really just do that?? I don’t think that means what I think it means… Oh well, I digress. Regardless of the rhyme or reason behind my habit, I obsess over things a little too easily. No, I’m not OCD, but any kind of fixation on a matter or object is obsession. In my experience obsessions lead to unsatisfaction.

You Must Accept What You Are Given to be Satisfied.

There’s a difference between contentment and satisfaction. These two words are almost synonyms. In fact, they both reference eachother in Webster’s online dictionary. However there is a slight difference in their definitions:

Satisfaction- fulfillment of a need or want (source)

Contentment- a state of happiness and satisfaction (source)

Satisfaction requires your needs or wants to be fulfilled before you can obtain contentment. Contentment is simply the feeling that occurs after that happens. So, depending on your expectations and desires, you may go your whole life without experiencing satisfaction or contentment! However, God’s plan is sovereign and though it is possible to veer off track, His plan will ultimately prevail.  Therefore, if we align our desires with God’s, it’s inevidable that our success will be assured. While it’s easy to type that out, it’s not easy for me to remember. I often find myself doubting my purpose or path, as I’m sure most of you do.

There are two Bible verses that help renew my faith in these areas. The first is found in Psalm 37:4

Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart’s desires.

     While we usually read this as a promise that He will provide everything we want, I believe (as my parents taught me) that this verse means we should focus on God, and He will PUT His desires in our heart.

     The second verse helps me trust that God’s plan is what’s best for me. You would think this would come naturally since He created us and all, but I often find myself trying to incorporate MY ideas with His plan. Instead I should trust Him completely. Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the plans I have for you—this is the Lord’s declaration— plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Two Truths I’ve Come to Learn

If You Live For the Future, You are Depending on the Unpromised

Sometimes I find myself so caught up in where I want to be, that I don’t get to enjoy where I am. I think this is common for people in the current time, especially in America. It’s great to have goals and aspirations, but don’t let them consume you! The only thing that is guaranteed (besides God’s providence) is the present. Instead of just trying to make it through your “valley”, make the best of it! Today is your future’s past. If it has to be a memory, make it a good one!

Learn to Be Happy With What you Have, Before You Ask for What You Don’t

Like I said before, it’s great to have goals and aspirations, but don’t dwell on the situation if you can’t control it. Make the best of it and look for the silver lining. But whatever you do, don’t ask for a better outcome until you have managed your current situation. You’re going through whatever you are for a reason. Find that reason, and learn from it. Share it! That’s exactly what I’m doing now. 🙂

Thought for the week: If tomorrow never came, would you be happy with your now?

Remember- You Only Live Once 😉

God Bless,

Kaila