Saturday, June 2, 2018

Confessions of a Criminal at Large...

Folks, I have to be honest with y’all. This is a hard one to admit. But after years and years of living a lie, it’s time to come clean. So here goes. Strap on your big boy/girl panties. I, Rachel Dawn Goering, am a wanted felon. It’s true! I know! I’m surprised too. Well except I’m not because I’ve been hiding the fact that I’m a criminal from y’all. We can all pause here a moment to let the gasping commence. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Ready now? Good. So let me explain.

I didn’t mean to be a criminal. It just sort of happened. But I think for you all to understand fully let me lay the facts down straight. It begins with a “So this one time in college....”- it’s amazing how many regrettable stories I have that begin that way. 

Anyway, so this one time in college I went to visit a friend. And this friend happened to attend a very prestigious, private christian university. For the sake of privacy we’ll just call it Viola. Now as most universities do, Biola- I mean Viola- required all students and guests to pay for parking. If you did not have a permit for the day you were cited gravely. But unlike a lot of universities, Viola’s police force wasn’t actually a real police force. If Long Beach PD on campus threatens you, you beg for forgiveness, if Viola security threatens you, you laugh at their security guard egos. The only real way they could discipline you was if you were an actual student. And everybody knew this. So, like I said, I went to visit my friend one weekend. 

Now, you could blame it on me being a poor college student, but let’s be honest here. If it was today I’d probably do the same thing. If I don’t have to spend money I won’t. So, I told the security guard I was there to visit a friend. He insisted I’d buy a parking permit if I was going to stay. I said okay and drove off. I parked my car, glancing the whole time I was walking up to the dorm building at the parking permit distribution. That’s when the adrenaline kicked in. I’d never been a risk taker. I was always the girl who obeyed the law. But even then, I was also always the girl who got in trouble for stupid things even though all I was trying to do was obey the law. I once got a referral in junior high because of dress code. It wasn’t that my skirt was too short or my shoes were wrong. I’d made sure they weren’t- unlike those other girls. No, my referral was because my shirt collar was round instead of pointed. So not only was I humiliated in front of my 7th grade peers when the teacher told me my shirt was a “little girl’s shirt,” but my mom got called to the principles office. It was the worst. I’d like to say I’ve moved on, but truth be told, Mrs. Mayo, if you ever read this, yes, I’m still salty. So yes, maybe it was that very moment that started my life of crime. Come to think of it, it wasn’t too long after that I started toilet papering and fudging hours on my band practice sheet- sorry Mr. Scudder. 

I’ve digressed. Back to the matter at hand. So there I was, a delinquent and a cheapskate, but to be honest thought nothing more on the subject. I spent the next few hours with my friend, getting wasted on garlic bread and Twilight (judge not lest he be judged) then headed back to my car. When I arrived there was a shiny white envelope on my car. I knew immediately what it was. I’d gotten a few of those before thanks to Long Beach street sweeping days. Yes I’ve contributed a good $300.00 over the years to the city. You’re welcome citizens for that fixed pothole on Anaheim Ave. But low and behold this envelope proved no different. There, in that special little non-Christmas package just for me was a citation for a whopping $50.00. 50 bucks? I was only there a few hours! That doesn’t seem very christian. But neither was what I did after that. I knew they’d never trace my car. I knew they couldn’t issue tickets outside of their students and so I picked up that parking ticket from my window and threw it away! Yep! Down with the man! Fight the system! 

I felt invigorated! This was truly living! I was doing things my way! But then as it always does, guilt and shame started to creep in. Well I told guilt and shame to shove it! In fact, I was so defiant, I went back the next weekend and did it again! 

It wasn’t too long after that that my friend had sent me a picture with a bunch of laughing emojis before it. Upon glancing at the picture it was a list of license plate numbers. She was asking if mine was on it. And sure enough there it was. 5jgg626. The number to my dear Smurfette (RIP you old crappy car). It was a “Wanted” paper. And I was top of the list. If they’d been real cops I’m sure there would have been a warrant for my arrest. It was then I became a fugitive at large. 

I was reminded of this story tonight through random conversation. And it really got me thinking. I’m probably the most hated person at Viola now. Because they never found me. Hey, if you gotta be a criminal, be a good criminal. The next time I visited I took mom’s car down to Long Beach because mine just couldn’t make it over the mountain. If anybody traced it my car would show up in Bakersfield with my mother. Totally implausible. They’d assume they’d gotten the license number wrong and I’d be off the hook! If that didn’t work Mexico was only a few hours away and I was fairly decent at Spanish and taco consumption. 

But now I sit here thinking about it again. And this whole plot does sound familiar. Because we do it every day in our battle with sin. It’s there. We know it’s there, but we believe the lie that it really won’t affect us. Just a little fib, just a little extra shot, just a little flirt. No harm done. All we really care about is the invigorating feel that comes with instant satisfaction. And we try to ride that high as long as we can. Because shame creeps in. It always does. We know what we did was wrong. So then we try to cover that shame with more indulgence. More sin. Until finally we’ve dug ourselves so deep in a hole we don’t know how to get out. And there’s Satan. Standing there with your wanted poster. He knows what you did. He helped urge you to do it. But now it’s time to pay up. And you realize, you’re in deep trouble. Because to pay up costs you your life. Eternal life. And that’s hell. True hell. Trapped in your shame and guilt. Eternally separated from God. With absolutely no way out. Suddenly you regret everything you ever did. But it does no good. You can’t get out of your hole- by yourself. Because the truth is there is one who can pay your debt. There is one who already has. There is one who has traded your life for His. There is one who has stepped in and said “I’ll take her place! I’ll take it all! Every shame. Every sin. Every debt that she owes. It’s now mine. And I have paid it in full. For now and forever.” There is one who has the power to call Satan off, to rip up the wanted poster, to wipe away and pardon all you’ve ever done. And his name is Jesus Christ. And I can tell you friends, his payment is lot better than a few measly parking tickets. It’s life. Abundantly and eternally. 

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” -Colossians 2: 13-15, NLT

Monday, August 28, 2017

Confessions of a Forgotten Journal...

I was really struggling. I wasn't depressed, but I felt..... worthless. A few friends had posted some exciting news and I was happy for them, but yet I was once again reminded of how everybody's lives are coming together and moving forward and mine just feels, well.... stagnant. I'd like to say I have ambition, but truth is I don't anymore. I've run out. I'd like to say I know what I want to do and have the motivation to do it, but truth is I don't. I don't want to put in the work anymore because it has amounted to absolutely nothing. All that time and energy filling out job applications, trying to get into classes, for what? I've found myself the past few days being so sick of my circumstances, but yet having absolutely no desire to change them. I wish jobs just fell out of the sky. I wish friendships weren't so much work to maintain. I wish I could go back to being 130 pounds when I thought I was fat. I wish I knew whether to pursue nursing, psychology, or teaching. I wish I had a money tree and could pursue things without any road blocks by either my finances or stupid laws of the California education system. I wish I could get up and move to Tennessee. I really do. Or maybe South Carolina. But most of all I wish that I didn't have to wish and that something- ANYTHING would happen. I wish I had hope. I wish I knew what to do about it. 

These were the thoughts that were going through my mind last night when I was sitting on my bed staring off into space. Through blurry teared vision I glanced over at my television. "Maybe I'll just watch some tv and get my mind off things." That's why I love books so much. They transport me out of my life. But upon my mini staring contest with my television (I lost by the way) I noticed my old prayer journal sitting there. It had a sufficient science experiments worth of dust collected on it. You could say it's been a while since I talked to God about myself. I pray for others. Those prayers get answered. But I quit praying for myself. Those prayers never got answered. So my journal has sat there for a while to say the least. But I thought, "Ah, what the heck?" I picked up the journal and began to write. A page and a half later I finished. Discouraged, I really didn't feel much better after, like I remembered usually feeling after finishing a journal entry. Was it because God felt so distant? Yeah, I think so. Was it because I really didn't even know what to pray about? Mhmm. Was it because I doubted my circumstances would change? I'd be lying if I said no. 

So there I was, my pencil led shaved down quite a bit and my journal entry finished.  No better off than before I started. Just for kicks I flipped to the beginning of the journal, remembering how back in the day I used to enjoy looking through old entries to see what had changed. And sure enough, just as I predicted, I found a few good laughs over prayers to get over old crushes. Man was I boy crazy. RIP the hopeless romantic me. It also contained some old sermon notes and even song lyrics that had touched me. And then I came to something really interesting. I don't really know why my eye caught it, it just did. It was an old journal dated way back to March 17, 2011. I was a sophomore in college at the time. The circumstances were different than now, but as I read I was amazed at how much the words in that entry echoed what I had just dotted down. I've been through this before? Hmm, didn't recall that. 

What struck me though wasn't that journal entry. It was actually a few pages over. It was dated April 5th and another April 6th, 2011. I had written down two quotes I'd heard or read- I can't remember which:
  1. "When a wound is infected a doctor may stop the infection by cauterizing it. He takes a red hot tool and sears it, burning away the rotten flesh and leaving only what can be healed. God does this to us. He did it to Isaiah in Isaiah 6:6-7. It is a DRASTIC method and it hurts like hell. But once it's done, the only thing left is the part that can heal."
  2. "Rachel, everything that happens in your life- good and bad- passes through My sovereign hand. If I allow it, I have a reason for it. There is more at stake here than your present circumstances. I care more about your character than your comfort. Nothing separates you from my love. I'm for you. If I'm for you, who can be against you? Give me time to work. -God"
Do I need to say more? Maybe I should read over old entries more often...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Confessions of a Warmed Heart...

So there I was. Picture the seen if you will. Pajamas. Mug of green tea. Getting all nice and cozy in my Shamu blanket- don't judge- with my pup resting on my toes. Just perusing facebook like I normally do at odd hours of the day. When a video on my news feed caught my eye. It was titled, "If you're alive you might have your dad to thank." Puzzled, I began watching as a series of short videos unfolded before my eyes. I watched video after video of a father's quick reflexes saving their kids from falling off of swing sets, getting hit by baseballs, falling off of the couch, etc. I was amused, entertained, and amazed. So there I was, contentedly watching these videos and all of a sudden they turned rather serious. Father's were saving their kids lives from runaway cars, drowning in a pool, aggressive dogs, speeding down a hill and crashing into a brick wall, and many others. Well, crybaby that I am I was really touched. So much so that by the end of it I was crying. I blame hormones. But needless to say it really warmed my heart seeing not only these father's quick reflexes, but also just how selfless they were in these acts. I saw dads jumping in front of their kids without any regard for their own lives. They didn't know if it would work. They didn't know if they would be killed in the crossfire. They didn't care. 

I feel like dads today get a bad rap in a lot of ways. And some of them is because they've never done anything to deserve the title of father. It can make it seemingly hard to relate then to a perfect heavenly father. Because even those who are lucky to have a good earthly father know he's not perfect either. One of the hardest parts about getting older is you become ever more increasingly aware of the faults of your parents. Hard when you've idolized them so much as a kid. 

I've been in church my whole life. I've heard an altar call every Sunday. I've quoted John 3:16 more times than I care to remember about God loving the world so much he sent his Son to die. I'm no stranger to it. I know Christ paid the ultimate price for my sins. I know He gave up his life for mine. But I think I've become so numb to hearing it, its lost the weight it once had. It happens to many of us. And then we watch movies like The Passion of the Christ and we're reminded of the horrific death. And it humbles us when we once again realize how awful it was. And I'm not discrediting those experiences, but I know for me sometimes I focus so much on the cross, so much on the act of the death itself, or on the other extent, so much of the freedom gained because of it, that I lose sight of WHO was dying. I lose sight of a perfect and sovereign God who chose that His son would die for a sinful and fallen world. I lose sight of the fact that Jesus was no stranger to the horrificness of the cross. That He knew every detail about His death. That he knew the car was coming and that it would strike and kill him. And yet, he did it anyway. Why? To push me out of the way. He looked at us and said, "Better me than them." Thats humbling. Really humbling. But thats not the end of the story. My father didn't just die in my place. He didn't just push me out of the way. He destroyed the car. He completely obliterated it so it would never threaten me again. I am not now, nor will I ever be again condemned by my sins. Its done! 

Watching that video warmed my heart. Reflecting on the sacrifice of the cross and the aftermath of it brings me to my knees.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are." -1John 3:1

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Confessions of a Late Night Lamenter...

 I've done a lot of thinking. Isn't that how all of these blogs ultimately started? And as per usual it's 1 AM. I guess some things never change. The other day I found myself trying to fix the crashed and messed up blogger site that I've had since 2010. I began to reflect on that year. The places I went, the people I knew, the hope I still had for the future of my career. A lot has changed. A lot of trials have come. Some have gone, others are staying for the extended weekend, and other are that aunt that you have to remind her she doesn't actually live with you. Could I say I'm all the wiser for going through it? Sometime yes. But could I also say I'm all the bitter for it too? Most definitely. I'd love to sit here and say I found joy and I'm all the more grateful for my trials. But frankly we're just not there. It's funny though, being in youth ministry I always cautioned my kids not to get bitter with God. That it would do no good. And yet have I taken my own advice? No, not really.

Dare I say I'm more than bitter? I have no right to be. I'm well aware. But I'm also at a place where I'm fed up. I'm tired of the lonely nights crying myself to sleep because I don't have hope for the future. I'm tired of the depression. I'm tired of interview after job interview after job interview. I'm tired of the literally thousands of applications and yet getting no response. I'm tired of knowing I'd be a great worker and yet being told I don't have enough experience. I'm tired of watching people who lie, cheat, steal get ahead. Im tired of people earning money for stupid reasons like selfishness and vanity. I'm tired of watching friends suffer. I'm tired of watching friends have babies knowing I never can. I’m tired, so so so tired, of going to funerals. I’m tired of everyone I love dying, or having to go through some sort of struggle. I'm tired of being asked the question "What are you doing with your life?" And having absolutely no answer to give. I don't know. I'm almost 27 years old and I don't know. Because I fought so hard for so long to do the things I wanted, the things I did know, and nothing has worked. Every door has been slammed in my face. So what? What does that leave me with? God? Do I really even talk to him anymore? I pray for others. Absolutely. But not myself. I gave up having any desires for myself. How many nights did I scream in the darkness with no answer? I feel abandoned. People tell me He will guide. I'm still waiting. I get it. We give such a hard time to Job's wife for saying "Curse God and die" I'm not saying my experiences equate to hers, but I get it. I totally get it. She reached a point where she'd just had enough.

And yet.... I keep living. That must be for something. I keep hoping. I lie in bed and I'm thankful for my family. And I'm thankful for my friends. And I'm thankful for my home. And I'm thankful for my health even though half the time I'm such a hypochondriac I'm convinced I'm dying. I'm thankful for my dog, who is always making me laugh and literally is the only reason I get up some mornings. I'm thankful that I live in America. I'm thankful that I have doctors I can go to. I'm thankful I never have to worry about how I'm going to eat that day. I'm thankful for music. I'm thankful for painting. I'm thankful for my car. I'm thankful for garlic bread- don't you dare judge me!- I'm thankful for people's talents. I'm thankful I can use my talents to make other people's lives better. I'm thankful that the painful experiences I've had have made me the person I am today. I'm thankful that I'm stronger because of them. I'm thankful for the beach. I'm thankful for the internet so I can connect with friends I would otherwise never see again. I'm thankful... I'm thankful.... I'm thankful...but am I thankful for my current situation? Nope. Should I be?

I compare everything to where I've been. The past is constantly on my mind. The people I've buried, the ones I've left behind, the adventures I used to have, the way I used to look. It's my ultimate weakness. I cannot move forward because I'm stuck in the past. And I'm frozen in time because I'm so afraid of the future. I'm afraid of being alone. I'm afraid of never being able to afford my own roof over my head. I'm afraid of my parents dying and being left to clean out an entire home filled to the brim with stuff by myself. I'm afraid of losing friends. I'm afraid of running out of money. I'm afraid of being absolutely miserable again in a job. And I can't just trust God because we're not speaking, remember? Or so that's what my bitter heart tells me...
I lament. I lament and lament and lament over the way my life used to be. But am I really lamenting the experiences and people? Or am I lamenting the fact that I turned bitter and walked away from the One who loves me most? The fact that I curse the same One who broke the curse of sin and death? The fact that I'm angry with the one who has every right to be angry with me and yet shoes compassion time and time again? Am I lamenting the fact that I don't trust the one who has proven Himself faithful over and over? That I feel alone with the omnipresent? That I feel hopeless when I think about the source of hope and joy? That I feel abandoned by the One who calls me His own? That I give myself anxiety attacks instead of bringing it to the one who says "come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened"? Do I lament that I seek proof for the existence of my Creator? That I doubt the power of the Almighty? That I question the authority of the Most Sovereign? 
Do I lament accusing the One who has done no wrong?
Do I dare accuse the One who has done no wrong?
“We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. You are my King and my God, who decrees [2] victories for Jacob. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever. Selah But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us. You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations. You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale. You have made us a reproach to our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us.You have made us a byword among the nations; the peoples shake their heads at us. My disgrace is before me all day long, and my face is covered with shame at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge. All this happened to us, though we had not forgotten you or been false to your covenant. Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals and covered us over with deep darkness. If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart? Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.” -Psalm 44

Friday, July 22, 2016

Confessions of an Un-a-sha-med...

Picture the scene if you will. Bakersfield, hot July afternoon. A young girl sits calmly in a call center lunchroom. She doesn't bother competing with the 500 other employees for the one microwave in the building on her thirty minute lunch break, so as she sits relaxing, she appears to be reading something. A stranger walks up. And with a boyish grin he says, "Hey. What are you reading?" The girl, shocked that someone has taken the nerve to enter into her most quiet and sacred place of solace looks up. She slowly flutters her lashes up towards the chiseled face. She gazes into those slightly warm chocolate eyes and says "Oh, its a self help book. I need a lot of help." 

*CUE forehead slap*

The stranger says "Oh. Cool," and walks away. The girl groans, "Ugh, great job," she thinks to herself. This was not the sexy and mysterious answer she was going for. But then, even worse than the embarrassment comes the shame. What is the reason for this shame? Well, I'm glad you asked. 

See, the girl had actually just gotten back not two days before from an amazing week at camp. A week where the theme was "Unashamed." For an entire week her and her students had studied what it means to live unashamedly for Christ. They'd studied the gospel. They'd done the quiet times. They'd even sung the jazzed up "Go tell the world" songs. They'd come down from the mountain refreshed, renewed, and spirits restored. And this girl was at peace. This girl was ready to take on the world. This girl had purposefully packed her devotional in her purse, just so she could do it on her lunch break. 

So why is it when the stranger asked "What are you reading?" had she replied a self help book instead of "Actually, its a bible study on the Armor of God. I'm currently studying about what it means to put faith in action."? 
This girl couldn't give an answer. She was shocked that those words had even popped out! They were so easy to her. She didn't have to think about it. And just like that, an opportune moment had passed her by. 

But I guess thats how sin works. Its not hard to sin. Its very easy to actually. But continually renewing our minds, continually choosing to put on the full armor of God in defense of the enemy and his attacks, continually choosing love and peace over circumstances and emotions, and continually deciding to live unashamedly-that takes the effort. 

"according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."- Philippians 1:20. Wow. What challenging and powerful words to live by. Lord help me to make this true in every aspect of my life. 

But lest I leave you without a conclusion to this tale let me follow up and end the scene for you. Lets focus back on our two characters shall we? For every good storyteller knows you cannot leave your audience hanging. Or they get really mad and write you nasty letters. What of the boy? He stole a candy bar from the snack cart and was fired two days later. As for the girl? She continues to do her bible studies in the lunchroom and is praying and preparing for another opportunity. She also continually prays for courage to invite a few of her coworkers to church with her. Choosing daily to live unashamedly and asking for repentance when she fails. And so the war wages on..... 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Confessions of a Forlorn Blog...

Hello, friends! I'm back for at least this time. For those of you just tuning in for the past couple of years I've kind of been doing this blog thing. However, I got busy, lazy, going through stuff, ect, and my blog has kind of been, well, abandoned. So as I'm sitting here thinking about the blogger I used to be and wondering what on earth happened I began to be discouraged. Am I blogging less because my relationship with God is less than it was before? Maybe. Am I just growing lazy and tired? Possible good chance. Or, am I just changing as a person and a blog is no longer my outlet? That could be entirely true too. Whatever the case though I realize I've been too stuck on the past. And because of that it is hindering me from going forward.

And lest y'all think I'm really choked up and emotional about the blog, let me clarify. The blog has nothing to do with it. I'm having the hardest time getting over the person I was and the things I used to do. I miss being in shape. I cry every single night about not being in Long Beach. I miss being a college student. I miss having the hope of being a pediatric nurse. I miss some of the relationships with my friends I had down there. I miss my life. And because I've spent so much time missing my old life, its hindered me and discouraged me as I live this new one that to be perfectly honest, I'm rapidly having to learn to be content with.

It has not been easy. I struggle with the depression and hopelessness of my future on a daily basis, but its time to move on. Time to face that future. Because I cant hide in the past anymore. And I'm missing a good past. But, there are many people who are hung up and can't move past their bad past. Its not so much they cant forget and they miss how good they had it, they can't bring themselves to see past the kinds of people they were and the things they did. 

But we have to understand no matter what way you swing it, these thoughts are completely unbiblical. There's a reason Matthew 6 tells us not to worry about tomorrow, but rather focus on today. Its because one day's stress is sufficient and its all we were meant to handle. Your past is your past. You cannot change it any more than you can really completely control your future. Its time to stop this idleness and just hand the reigns over. As I was lamenting this morning as I always do Isaiah 43:18 came to mind "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

The first part of this is easy for me to handle. Okay yeah, don't focus on the past or you will miss all the things God is currently doing. Fine. Got it. Heard that one before! But the second part of this verse is actually the challenge. And its weird because the second half actually gives no direction as to what I'm supposed to do. Its all what God is doing. "I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?" Well, no. I perceive nothing. I'm stuck in the past remember, but please God, go on. "I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." God, I'm stuck in Bakersfield. That hardly counts as making a way in the desert. I'm not going through the desert. I'm living in it. And thanks to my apparent lack of being able to attract a man and the laws of the state of California that is a barrier to my future as a nurse, I honestly don't see how any way out of this dessert is going to come about. "I am making a way in the dessert and streams in a wasteland." God, now you're just being ridiculous. We're in a drought. And again I repeat. If you're making a way, where is it? 

There's an old saying, "When God closes a door he opens a window." I officially hate that saying. Because its not true. Sometimes you just have to sit in the hallway for a little bit. Sometimes you're stuck in the hallway for a lot a bit. I'm not looking for open doors anymore. We're WAY past that. Not even windows at this point. Nope! I'd settle for just a peephole. Where on earth is my peephole?

Its these conversations in my head that I realize have led me to the real issue. See, the problem is not whether or not there is a way. The problem is not even whether or not I am looking for or perceive it. The problem is that I subconsciously doubt that God has made a good one. The problem is, is that I really don't want God to make the path at all. I want to make my own and follow it and then say, God bless it. 

The problem is that I'm trying to be involved in this "Making-a-way" process. But I'm really just making things harder. I'm over here standing with my yellow pad of inputs and God's like. "The scripture doesn't say we will make a path together. My word says I am making a way. Shut up Rachel. Go get some Taco Bell. This is one meeting you don't need to be in on. Sit back and watch me work. I'll call you when I'm ready for you to act."

I've never been good at just sitting. Maybe its time to learn. But this also leads to doubt. Fine God, I will learn to sit here and wait, but, You will act, right? I mean eventually? I'm not just going to be the one you don't know what to do with so you just put me on hold forever? "You are precious and honored in my sight and I love you." (Isaiah 43:4)

This then leads into the big question. And I begin to understand the significance of what Paul says when he says "I have learned to be content in all circumstances." (Phil 4:11) What if God's plan for my life is nothing even remotely close to what I planned? Would I be content in that? 

Hmmm, thats a hard cookie to chew on. Time for a little more self- examination.....

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way." -Psalm 139: 23-24

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Confessions of a Puppy Owner...

If you've seen any part of my Facebook in the past two weeks you should not be surprised that I am the new owner of a little puppy named Charlotte. So, it also should not surprise you that dear Miss Charlotte has taught me a few things. First, I thought I had totally caught the baby bug, but I can now officially say it has passed. Second, they aren't joking when they say having a puppy is like having a baby. You get woken up by crying in the middle of the night, you turn your back for 30 seconds and they're gone, you have to avoid putting things on the bottom shelf because they get into everything, you can't go into the bathroom by yourself without someone being at your heals, if you don't give them enough attention they cry until you pick them up, and don't even get me started on the potty house training! All of this to say, I can wait on motherhood a while., I like my alone time, clean carpet, and, well, privacy.

But aside from this, Charlotte has also taught me one pretty significant spiritual lesson. She has developed a little attitude (wait, when did my puppy go from toddler to teenager?) Well, miss Charlotte was being.... how do I put this nicely?.... a little butt. So the solution? When she gets like this stick her collar on her for a little while. Then after an allotted time, take it off. Mellows her out every time and gets her used to wearing one since she had a fit the first time we put it on her.  Well, Charlotte had her collar on and it was time to take it off. She was starting to whine a little about it. So I called her over, but much to my dismay, she wouldn't come. I said, "Come here. I will take it off, but you have to come here." Nope, she wouldn't. Ran to mom, ran to dad, ran to the slipper she'd been chewing on, threw a crying fit, but would not come to me. I found myself growing dismayed, "If she would only come to me, I would take it off and she would be free and wouldn't have to cry anymore."

Finally, fifteen minutes later she finally gave up fighting to get it off on her own, and her little prideful and disdainful attitude she had towards me for putting it on, and walked over to me (with some guiding from mom). Immediately I took it off and cuddled her in my arms. She was so relieved she immediately started giving me kisses. I put her back down and sat down on the couch. She then propped her little body and legs up on the sofa and started crying again. Apparently, she wasn't ready to leave my arms. I picked her up and she cuddled back down and fell asleep. 

So, what is the spiritual lesson you may ask? Sometimes God disciplines us. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the "LORD disciplines those He loves and chastens everyone He accepts as His son." But how many times have I been disciplined and gotten the same attitude as Charlotte? How many times have I been so ticked off at God during those times, that He would discipline me, or even allow me to go through a hardship, that no matter what, I wanted nothing to do with Him. And all the while God was standing there looking at me trying to do it on my own and failing, shaking His head and saying, "Rachel Rachel Rachel. You do not have to fight anymore. Come to me. I will relieve you of your burden. All you have to do is come to me. You can curl up safe in my loving arms. But you have to do it of your own free will. I will not make you." Because thats just it. Once I do curl up with the Father, I never want to leave. But somehow, I always do. But just like all of us children that get off the beaten path, somehow, He always brings me back to Him. And in His infinite and unconditional grace, He always takes me back. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Confessions of a Wilderness...

     Ya know, I've realized something lately. Don't worry this is not going to be a "Woe is me" blog. Been there. Done that. Spare you the snot-nosed, salty tear stories. But, here's the thing that I've realized: I'm very much in a Wilderness point in my life. Some of you are sitting there reading this and chuckling to yourself while thinking, "No duh, Sherlock. It took you that long to figure that out?" But please be patient with me. Trust me, I've known all along I was lost and confused with no sense of direction. And you might even make a Bakersfield joke out of it saying I'm literally in the middle of a hot, nowhere. That is not the point. The point is, I'm searching. Searching for where to go because I'm wandering, but also searching for answers as to why I was led to the wilderness to begin with. 

      My initial response to the question of how did I end up here was as follows: "Because God's absent. Because He doesn't care. Because I've totally made a mess of my life and am nothing but a screw up. Because I'm being punished." And when I get in those pity party modes these are still the lies I revert back to. But that's just it. They're lies. So then, recognizing this, I turn to the churchy sunday school answers: "Because God is refining me. Because God is making me a new creation. Because God is working behind the scenes. Because God has called me for such a time as this." Granted, these may be true, but these mere shallow statements still leave something to be desired. I cannot accept these as answers until I delve further into Him and His word. 

     But that's besides the point. Having been discontented with my pity parties and honestly lacking much motivation to do anything (including in depth Bible study) lately, I've began to realize there may be a third answer. Call it one of those Godly epiphanies if you will. Perhaps I am being led into the wilderness for my protection. Perhaps I am there to be strengthened. Perhaps, in God's infinite wisdom and knowledge, He realized that if I had gotten everything I've wanted, it would lead me further down a path of idolatry. Which would then further my depression when that idolatry no longer satisfied. Perhaps He knew that I would foolishly completely give my heart to something (or someone) that would only take advantage of it. That didn't treasure it, or really care about it at all. Perhaps He knew that if He didn't pull me into the wilderness, I would destroy myself. This is not to say Long Beach is evil and I became a heathen when I lived there. This is not to say, I may still need to be pulled a little more into the wilderness because even while there I'm still struggling with these same issues.  This is not to say that if I ever returned to Long Beach it would ruin my life and send me down the wrong path. But its merely just a thought. Long Beach gave me independence (much missed). It gave me the freedom to make my own schedule, pursue my own interests, and dictate how I spent my time. I liked that. Ask my mom. I've always been a very hard headed and independent individual. Can you say baby who refused to be put on a schedule? Don't even get her started on the potty training fiasco. But I've digressed. Back to Long Beach and my independence. Sure there was school schedule and work schedule, but that was different. I don't mind that so much. But having the choice of how I spent my freedom also gave me the option to pursue my passions and things I really just enjoyed doing. Again, not necessarily bad things- until they became obsessions. All of them quickly somehow tweaking to be self-detrimental and all of them placed over God. I was spiraling down into a soon to be big mess. 

     I could see it start to happen. I could see where those hikes I enjoyed doing soon became a desperate need to exercise because I was obsessed with the way I looked. I could see that guy friend I really enjoyed randomly running into in the most awkward places soon became the one I would wish to run into every time I went to the gym or the beach or even to church (places I know he frequently visited). I could see how wanting to hang out and have fun with friends was starting to become a go out and be afraid to be yourself so you'll conform thing. I was fully aware how my desire to have a job, be an independent adult, and be employed became the sole consuming thing I lived for. And honestly, it was depressing. And hopeless. There seemed no way to end it and no way to make it better. I know what you're thinking. "He gives hope to the hopeless." Its funny though how as humans that is not our first thought.  

     So, is all of this to say that maybe me being pulled into the wilderness was not for my initial unbiblical thought of punishment (note: I said punishment, not discipline- big difference), or simply a testing of my faith (although it certainly is that too). Is it possible that God knew beyond my circumstances where I was headed and that Him pulling me into the wilderness for however brief (or length) of time was indeed not merely a disciplinary action, but an act of mercy? Is it possible that all these trials, pain, and difficulties have not made me need mercy, but instead have exposed that I have been sustained by mercy all along? Woah, I know. There's a thought to chew on. And hey, I'm in the wilderness. I've got nothing else going for me. There's plenty of time to chew. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Confessions of a Never Ending Battle...

Hi there, me again. Yeah, remember me? The one you are all worried about because she seemed clinically depressed and hopeless in her last post. Well, fear not, I'm okay. Anyway, I don't really know how to start this post. Usually I have some cute little anecdote or some super emotional wallowing tale. But not today. Today I'm in more of a direct and to the point kind of mood. Why? Because God has been direct and to the point.

He has just been pouring and pouring and pouring. I've been constantly learning this past week. Its like never ending. But I can't really think of how else to describe everything I've been learning except to put it in a dialogue format. It's probably because I've been watching a lot of t.v. lately. You'll have to excuse me. But sometimes I seriously wish epic soundtrack music played in the background of my life. But I'm digressing. So here we go. I feel like if I had a face to face, or at least a phone call with God this past week it would have looked something like this. So without further ado, here's a tidbit into my life. Enjoy.

Me: "Why God? I just want a job! Is that too much to ask?" 

God:"Rachel, I want you to want ME more." 

Me: "God I do want you, but sometimes its hard."

God: "Because your love is conditional only when things are good?"

Me: "Because I'm human?"

God: "I have unconditional love for you. And I command you to love me with your heart, soul, mind, and strength."

Me: "God I try, but its hard with all these distractions. Is it so bad to want to live in Long Beach? Want to be a nurse? Want a husband? Thats really it. Give me those and I'll be good. Not nearly as much as other people want. I want a simple life. Never been the Cinderella fairytale kind. Don't care for a big house, or huge wedding. Give me a $100.00 dress, a groom, and a beach I can walk barefoot on. Thats it. No mansion, no BMW or Mercedes. A job, a love, a beach. Thats it God!"

God: "Rachel, I want you to want ME more."

Me: "But is it wrong to want other things?"

God: "Do you want them more than me?"

Me: "But is it so wrong?!"

God: "You're not answering my question, Rachel."

Me: "I want not to want them more than You. But does that mean I can't want them?"

God: "Are they idols?"

Me: "Yeah, kind of."

God: "I don't tolerate idols."

Me: "I know."

God: "I love you. Why would I put a stumbling block in your path?"

Me: "Because I want them."

God: "Rachel I want you to want ME more."

Me: "But why can't I want You AND them?"

God: "Rachel, you're very stubborn sometimes."

Me: "God, that wouldn't be the first time I've heard that."

God: "That stubbornness will have its place, but not now. Want me, Rachel. Love me."

Me: "I do!"

God: "Above all else?"

Me: "Well....."

God: "I see. Don't worry, we'll work on that."

Me: "But God, don't you care?"

God: "Of course I do!"

Me: "But then God why did you let this happen?"

God: "Why did I not prevent the storm when the disciples got in the boat with Jesus?"

Me: "To prove your power?"

God: "To prove my Authority. I had the power to calm the storm all along. If thats what I wanted to do I needn't not gotten in the boat at all. I could have demonstrated that from the shoreline. I wanted the disciples to see my authority over the waters. You can have the power to tackle a bad guy, but unless you have the authority to arrest him and put him away, it does you no good. He'll still go free."

Me: "So?"

God: "My authority is greater than my power and neither are dependent on your feelings or what you think. I am not 'I Feel' or 'I Think'. I am the 'I AM.' And you thoroughly recognize and call upon my power. But do you recognize my Authority as LORD of your life?"

Me: "Got me there."

God: "I thought so. And another thing...."

Me: "Uhoh."

God: "You wholly praise my restraint, endurance, and patience when it comes to judgement on your sin, right?"

Me: "Yeah. Thanks for that by the way."

God: "Then part of accepting me for who I AM and my character is accepting that I am patient, compassionate, and enduring always, right?"

Me: "Yes?"

God: "So in my love?"

Me: "Yes."

God: "In my punishment for sin?"

Me: "Yes."

God: "In dealing with your suffering?"

Me: "What?!"

God: "Why is it I'm allowed to take my time in dealing with your sin, but not in resolving your suffering? Do I not do everything for a purpose? Has it not occurred to you this time of waiting is bringing about something good?"

Me: "Is this more of that 'God is developing my character' blah blah?"

God: "No, It's not. I'm not developing your character, Rachel."

Me: "Whew what a relief."

God: "Because you won't let me."

Me: "What? Why do you say that?"

God: "You're angry with me aren't you?"

Me: "Well, a little to be honest."

God: "You think I've been unfair?"

Me: "No, I'm just tired of waiting. How long do I have to wait for what I want."

God: "Rachel, I want you to want ME more."

Me: "And we're back to square one..."

God: "No we're not. I'm already changing you. You never go backwards with me. And don't be so hasty. You never know what I am working in the background."

Me: "God, I hate secrets."

God: "Rachel, I hate distrust. Where's your faith?"

Me: "Thats what I've been asking myself."

God: "First honest thing you've said all night. Don't worry, I am making a new creation."

Me: "God, I'm a mess."

God: "No. You are my child. And it's going to be okay. Now get some rest, you'll need it."

Me: "Why?"

God: "Because you're going to ask me the same questions tomorrow. And I will keep revealing more and more of myself to you."

Me: "But God, whats the point of this?"

God: "I am refining you."

Me: "That seems like a lot of work."

God: "It is. But its worth it."

Me: "Will I never get the other things I desire then?"

God: "Do I not bless abundantly? You may not get exactly what you want now, but trust me, follow me and your life will be better than you ever imagined."

Me: "But God, why bother refining me at all?"

God: "Because Rachel, I want you to want ME most..."


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Confessions of an Out of Practice Blogger...

     Well, here we are folks. Over one year since my last blog, but non-the-less trying it again. It's been so long I barely remembered my password to my blogger account. I half expected them to have deleted the site or something. Anyway, I figured it'd been a while since I typed out all the thoughts in my head, so I figured it was time to get back to it.

     A lot has happened in one year. I've graduated college, started working, moved back home, made friends, lost friends, gained weight, lost weight, been happy, been sad. My life certainly is not stable. And to be honest, right now is certainly a trying period. I've really been struggling with my faith. I've just become so discouraged in life in general. I can't get a job. I'm living back with my parents (who I love, but its definitely an adjustment). I'm surrounded by a constant display of friends who are either getting married or having babies and I'm wondering if I'm ever going to be on that path. My much-desired independence seems like it is slowly slipping from my grasp one step at a time. Even my hopes for the future like being a nurse are slowly starting to seem impossible to attain. This has not only taken a toll on me emotionally, but also spiritually. I begin to question if I am being punished for something. I lack the hunger and a desire that I see growing in my youth kids to pursue God. The love of quiet times that I once had in the morning isn't really there. My kids come to me and they have questions and I feel like I don't have answers anymore. Even my daily Bible reading has slipped into a, well, lets just call it a coma. 

     As you can well imagine, its really hard to blog about God working in your life when you're daily questioning where He is in it. But my mom once told me, "I know you're struggling. And even if you don't feel like reading your Bible or listening to christian music, do it. Keep doing it." My momma is a pretty smart lady sometimes. 

     So, it was tonight as I was sitting here alone, bored out of my mind. Wishing I could go to the gym but knowing my body needed a day of rest, that I was just staring at that Bible sitting on my coffee table. I had just opened it this morning. I forgot how much I loved the story of Esther. Every time I read it its like I'm hearing a whole new version and something I hadn't heard before. Anyway, back to the present moment.There I was, staring at my Bible and I thought, "Okay. I'll open it." So I picked it up and turned to Proverbs. I was in a proverbial wisdom kind of mood. Made it threw a couple chapters when I stumbled upon Chapter 3 verses 11 and 12, "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in."

     Thats when it kind of hit me. I've really been getting disciplined by God lately. I've kind of already known this. It hasn't been all that subtle. But what also hit me was what I read after that. I've really been resenting God for his rebuke. In fact, lately, eighty five percent of my feelings towards God lately have honestly been resentment. Ask my family, I have not been a happy camper. I willingly admit it. And it goes much more beyond, "Times are hard. So much is uncertain. It's frustrating." No, I've been really angry at God. I've shut Him out completely and said, "I don't like You very much right now. Until my life starts getting good again, no offense, but I really don't want to chat."

     But this is where I stand convicted in two areas. First, this is not the kind of christianity we are called to live. Nowhere in the Bible does it preach a "follow God when things are good" gospel. Nope. Heart, mind, soul, strength all the time. End of discussion. Second, It says immediately following in Proverbs 3, "the LORD disciplines those He loves." It sure doesn't feel like God loves me sometimes. But this is the sole purpose of faith. For "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) I cannot yet see God bringing this for my good. I cannot see how He loves me. I cannot understand His purpose for this. I cannot see what will come of it. But I know. I know He loves me. I know I will learn something good, even if it was a lesson I didn't really want to learn. I know that somehow this time I'm in now fits into the the perfect plan He has for my life. And that brings hope. 

     Life isn't exactly easy right now. The future is uncertain. I'm literally walking around confused and wondering where to go like a lost puppy. But who knows? Maybe it is all working for my good and even more importantly, God's good. Maybe I am learning valuable lessons and growing in ways I couldn't any other way. Maybe I have been called "For such a time as this." (Esther 4:14).