Thursday, February 21, 2013

To Rely on Jesus

For those of you who are wondering, show week was wonderful. Jane Eyre went so well, and as always, I grew so close to God. Perhaps someday soon I will write about it or post pictures... but not now. I suppose in a way you might say this post is about show week, but I would beg to differ that this post is more about knowing Jesus, and depending on Him - something the Lord has been teaching me, and I hope will bless you as well. The Lord has been laying this on my heart recently, and there is something very specific I want to share with you: depending on Jesus ALL THE TIME.

To start, there are a few things you need to know.

Show week is crazy. It's hectic, it's stressful, and it's altogether chaotic. It is long, it is tiring, it is exhausting. In a way, it’s so easy to trust God during show week. We are exhausted. Running 10-13 hours a day, needing to be absolutely focused, is a lot. Often, sickness hits. Voices begin to falter. Sometimes, confidence does, too. And yet, we trust Him. We have to. There is no way we can get through this without Him. We are so keenly aware of our own weakness, we have to so heavily rely on Him – because there is just no way we can perform this show or get through the long rehearsals or the tiring days, without Him. And as a result, we are so close, oh SO close to Him. Those of you who have been there know. His presence is felt incredibly strongly. He is there. He is WITH US! There are tears, and hugs, and prayers. Oh, so many prayers. It is simply beautiful seeing how much prayer covered everything we did. We were in almost constant communication with Him. And we were so fulfilled. And we loved it. 

But then, it ended. 

Show week is over. We attempt to return to normal life. But it’s so much, oh SO much harder to be as close to God in “real life” as it is in show week. Longingly, we look back and marvel how close we grew to God that week. How much we matured. How much we learned! And we wonder, why is it that we can be so close to God during show week, but as we get back to our normal life, we don’t seem to be as near to Him? Why is there such a drastic difference in our communication with him during show week and "normal life"? For years, I’ve subconsciously wondered at this. Only in the last week or so has it all made sense. In a way I’ve known this all along, but I feel like it was just a stray thought here and there. But in the last week, it all just totally, entirely “clicked”. It’s kind of crazy, and in a way it’s sort of backwards to the way we think. But please, just bear with me. 

We tend to think that it’s great when life is going well. That’s what we all aim for, right? I mean seriously, if you could choose to be going through a really hard trial full of darkness or to fly though life feeling on top of the world, it’s pretty obvious what we would naturally choose. Who doesn’t want to be happy, to have things go well for them? But I think that’s where we falter – is happiness and a "great life" our main goal? I think this is our problem: life often goes well for us. "What?" you're thinking, "That's a problem?!?!" Now, please realize I am in NO WAY attempting to say that life is always smooth sailing. Because we live in a sinful world and we are sinful people. Bad things happen. Sometimes frequently. But I think, especially living in America, we all live relatively easy lives. Here's the sad, incredible, blunt truth: we have no need to constantly rely on God in our day-to-day life. Granted, things come and go, so do trials, but at the end of the day most of us can agree we've had a pretty good, relatively "easy" life. (Please, keep reading, even if you're not having an "easy" life right now. I think it will encourage you.) But during show week, it's different. The intensity of our weakness and lack of strength causes us to completely, absolutely depend on Him. HE is our EVERYTHING. Because we have no strength. We have nothing, so He is our everything. 

This is where it has all started making sense. As much as we all dislike, hate, shirk from, do our best to stay away from, etc, etc, trials and hardships and weaknesses, it is in these places where we find God the most. It is in these places where we draw closest to Him. In these places, He feels nearer to us than ever before. Because in that moment of weakness, we are reminded all-to-readily of our own failing strength. But He is strong, and He uses our weaknesses to show His strength (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I don’t quite know how say this gently, but – as strange as it sounds – I have begun asking the Lord that if it's His will, to bring trials and hardships into my life, because it draws me closer to Him. Because, to be perfectly honest, in our own little world, it can be way too easy to go through a large part of the day and then look back in shock and realize that we didn't spend much time with him or talk to Him or rely on Him or JUST BE WITH HIM for a large part of the day! And so, though I am by NO MEANS perfect at this (I still have a LONG way to go) I am trying to get to the place, where, even in the sameness and "easiness" of life, I am still with Him. ALL THE TIME. 

And so I want to ask you.

If you are going through a relatively "easy" stretch of life, will you join me in seeking to be with Jesus, and learning to rely on Him all the time, even through the sameness?

But also, if you are going through a dark time, will you dare to count it as a blessing? None of us would like bad things to happen, but they do. So will you choose to grow near to God in this space?

Dwelling in Christ,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Hallmark Holiday?

Valentine’s Day. These two words evoke much sentiment in hearts everywhere. To some, it is thought upon with much joy in their heart; it is sweet and romantic to spend an evening with their loved one. To others, it evokes nothing less than sheer misery because of the seemingly hopeless plight of their singleness. Still others don’t even bother to celebrate this overly dramatized “Hallmark Holiday”; they let it pass by just like any other day. But regardless of their sentiments, Valentine’s Day always comes and goes, whether to their joy or misery. It has become nothing more than a day of chocolate, roses, and candy hearts. While I am definitely not condemning roses and chocolate (how could I ever condemn chocolate?!?!), there is so much more to Valentine’s Day than most people will ever know. 

Would you be shocked if I told you that this “Hallmark Holiday” was started because one man had the audacity to stand upon God’s principles of a Biblical marriage? To stand up and be a witness for Jesus, even to the emperor of Rome? His name was Valentinus. Around 200 AD, the Emperor of Rome, appropriately called Claudius the Cruel, needed more men to fight in his army to battle foreign invaders. Despite his attempts to recruit young and old men, no one wanted to fight; for to enlist in Rome’s army meant you would not come back for at least 25 years, if ever. No one wanted to leave their wife, children, mother, or loved one to go off to war for 25 years. To get around this, Claudius came up with a “brilliant” solution: ban weddings. No, I am not kidding you. Claudius the Cruel, the Emperor of Rome in 200 AD, issued a decree that there would be no more weddings for 25 years. Well, a priest named Valentinus decided this was not right. God had created marriage as a picture of His Love for the church, and no one could ever stop that. No human had the power to end what God had beautifully created. So he began to perform weddings in secret. However, he was soon found out – and arrested. He was brought before the Emperor, and there, in front of all the guards, the Emperor asked, “Is Jesus God’s Son?” His face glowing, joyfully answered “Yes!” and proceeded to tell the Emperor and the palace officials the Good News of Jesus’ love. He was thrown into jail. While he was there, the jail guard heard Him praying, thanking God that He was light. The jail guard told him that his daughter had been blind from birth; and if Valentinus’ God could heal His daughter, he would believe. Valentinus prayed to God, and the next morning, the jailer came running to Valentinus with the incredible news that his daughter could see. Valentinus told him more about his miraculous Jesus and the jailer believed. A few days later Valentinus was killed for performing weddings against the Emperor’s orders. Several centuries later, the church began calling him “St. Valentine”; and thus we have our now-turned-into-Hallmark-Holiday. 

So, today, next year, and every year, when Valentine’s Day rolls around, let your first thought be not of joy or misery for your own situation, but of admiration for this man who died to live out the life that Jesus called him to, never forgetting God’s beautiful example of marriage. Let him inspire you to live out your life for Jesus, and never hesitate to do what He calls you to do, even when it’s hard. Live for Him, and He will shine through you.