Monday, December 29, 2014

Old Year, New Year - Seeing His Blessings!

     My family likes to hike on Christmas day each year. It's a sort of unspoken family tradition; we seem to have a lot of those. :) But to be honest, this one has never been one of my favorites.

     Hiking is great in the spring and summer, but I've never been super excited about walking out into the cold when I could be curled up on the couch, in my pajamas, with a cup of home-made spiced tea. (Kudos to my talented Mama. :) So this year, the call came for us kids to get our shoes and coats on, and with a fair share of subtle foot dragging and mumbling, we complied. Although, I must confess, at least 60% of the silent complaining came from me. The kids didn't mind so much, 'cause they got to ride their bikes. Mine doesn't work super well. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

     After we got started, I realized that I hadn't brought anything to cover my ears against the biting wind either. Bother it all. And I didn't want to put on my hood, because these random buttons on it like to get tangled in my hair. It was a beautiful, beautiful day, but I kept staring down at the tips of my shoes, trudging on in a bubble of grouchiness, while my siblings sped off ahead, and my parents talked and laughed behind me.

     ....Let me tell you something. I am almost convinced that there is a special little angel in heaven that God sends to talk to me when I'm like this. We are very well acquainted. He comes down with a flutter of friendly featheriness, sits on my shoulder, leans close to my ear and whispers.....

"Talia.....c'mon, that's stupid."

      And it snaps me strait out of my Scarlett O'Hara act, and into a sheepish apology. There's nothing quite so humbling as remembering that God is with you all the time, and you just spent the last fifteen minutes complaining that you aren't the center of the world. Lol. And actually, I know that that is the Holy Spirit, not a cherub; but that really just makes things all the more convicting. :) A friend had recently reminded me of the importance of praise and thanks, and how it changes everything around you so beautifully, so I gave it a shot, starting with thanks. My question was this: what things, that are absolutely necessary for me to have in order to be on this hike with my family, am I thankful for?

Well for starters, I have to have a family to hike with.....which I do. And I love them.

I also have to have a home to come back to, otherwise this would not be a cute little hike.

And in that home, I have a couch, pajamas, and spiced tea to come back to!

     At first, it felt like a difficult exercise, but the more I added to the list, the easier it got, until I couldn't spit the words out fast enough to keep up with all the things I thought of. And it just kept building up and up, until the words turned from thanks to praise. You can't help it. When you know who it is who has blessed you with all these wonderful things, and you have His joy, it's almost impossible not to stop and just shout His praise at the top of your lungs. And surrounded by His beautiful creation,... with the sun on Pikes Peak, and a crystal clear sky, with only a few clouds rolling in over the mountains, and the rustle of the breeze filtering through the empty trees.... memories of all that He has done for me this year came pouring into my soul.

     He has taught me so much. So, so much. I have begun to understand the true depth of His love for the first time I can remember, and I have learned what it means to find my value in Him and not the world. He has shown me that He truly is faithful, and he truly is trustworthy, and I really can come to Him and call Him Father,...Daddy. He has shown me that He is just, but that His mercy is also mine to take if I will accept it. I have learned that I am very human and imperfect, but that that doesn't make me any less dear to Him, and He will always come with me through my struggles. All this I knew before, but this year I experienced it. There is freedom in Christ, and he taught me what that means.

That hike was delightful.

     So, yeah. It's been a rough year in a couple ways; both with real struggles, and basic, human irritations. :D And I'm sure you all have had your rough spots too. But take a moment, look back, and search deeply for what God has blessed you with. It might very well be overwhelming! :) And as we step into the New Year, 2015, know that He has much good in store for you as well. Start the year with the knowledge that you are loved, you are valuable, every day is a new start, and above all, remember that God is good. No matter what, He is in control, and He delights to bring good to His people.

All that to say, God BLESS you in the coming year! I hope that you will come to know Him even more than you ever knew possible, and that you are filled to the fullest with His joy!

And thank you all for being my friends. I am deeply thankful, beyond measure, for all of you. :)

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Living Like Christians

     So, I'm sitting here at Starbucks,.....studying. Lol, actually I really am studying; be proud of me. Just not right this second. I'll write this, and then I'll be studying. :)

    Anyway, I bought a breve latte, (it's really good), and I am currently sitting here at a table, drinking it, (the coffee, not the table), studying, and trying to see whether the music playing through the speaker directly above me, or the music I actually want to listen to (that is coming through my earphones at level 100), will win the battle of dominance. So far they are pretty even. :-/

    Well, a minute or so ago, I reached over for my coffee, and it wasn't there. I looked, and it still wasn't there. When I had last put it down, my pen had been there alongside my coffee, and even more tempting to a thief, my math notes had been there next to my coffee. But were those stolen? Noooo. As a matter of fact, they were actually still there. But not the coffee. Somebody stole my coffee.

    That's roughly what my thought process sounded like anyway. Turns out I had actually just put down my coffee on the other side of my computer, and forgotten it there. But it was an enjoyable moment of confusion regardless.

I didn't get on here to tell you this..........

  Yeah. No. Ok. Hi. Now to business. I actually got on here to tell you about another coffee shop experience I had this morning! And the intent of this story is not so much to be goofy. :)

    Any of you been to Mission Coffee? They are the nicest people ever, and they make a smashing breve, if you're ever interested. And they have student discounts! Anyway, I was meeting there with a friend this morning, and when I walked in, it was PACKED. It was busy like, there's no room to see your hand if you put it in front of your face kind of busy. Which was a problem, because I was there for my friend to teach me sign language. But what's cool is this: based off of my experience, when a shop or something is busy like that, people aren't super excited about you being there. I work in the food industry, so I know this. Trust me, I don't want you in my restaurant if there are a thousand other people in it already. And as a customer, if I happen to be one of those thousand people already there, I'm happy to have my spot and let you find a seat by yourself.

    But today, when I walked into that coffee shop with my books, wondering what to do, not only the manager of the place, but two other customers I had never met before made it their personal responsibility to make sure I didn't have to trudge back to the car and find someplace else to go. One guy was working, and he said he could wrap up if I needed his seat. Another guy, who had just squeezed into a seat in a very tight corner, said he could move his stuff in closer if that was helpful, and also offered to ask other customers if they were planning on heading out soon. And when I hesitated because I wasn't sure about studying in all the noise, the manger* came out and offered to let me use the room upstairs that is usually used by reservation only. He saw my Bible on top of the signing scripts, and told me he really wanted to support my desire to learn by making sure I could have the breathing space needed.

"Why do you think this place is called Missions?" he asked, grinning.

   Please note: I did not say anything throughout this entire thing; other than "Oh!.... Thank you!....Yeah,...........Oh,....I don't know....I can..uh... oh thank you!....good morning.......It's ok,....thank you so much!....I.....yeah........no, that's great,.....thank you!...thanks!,....."

    I didn't ask for help. I didn't state the confusion I had about what to do as I was waiting for my friend. None of that. I simply walked in as my timid self, (yes, I can be timid), and everything was handed to me. We even got a room all to ourselves.


   People. This is how we should be living all the time. It's part of being a Christian! Our focus needs to be first and foremost on glorifying God; and our second focus needs to be on pouring ourselves out for others, regardless of if it's convenient or not, and even regardless of if someone makes known their needs or not.

     Notice. Love. Act. Live out the love of Christ in such a way that everyone around you can feel it! The love of Christ is welcoming, warm, and always conscious of others before yourself. Let me tell you, as the recipient, it made my day! It doesn't have to be a huge thing. But so often we are content to just stay in our own little bubble and focus on our own lives, and really we also suffer for it, because we miss out on so much joy!

    I realize this may sound like I'm drawing too much application out of this simple story. Ok, so, throw out the story. Think of this. When was the last time you went out of your way for somebody just to say that God loves them? Hm? Isn't that what being a Christian is all about? I know that I can't even remember the last time I did that.

   So anyway. I felt the love of Christ today powerful strongly. :) And it reminded me of the JOY I have because of Him, and that I should be sharing it. And now I'm telling ya.

I hope that made sense. I've been desperately trying to think over the blaring lyrics of I Want an Alien For Christmas, Deck the Halls, Feliz Navidad, and 12 Days of Christmas With the Muppets. Which is hard to do. Turns out the shop music won over mine. Oh well. I may come back later and try to polish up the thought a little bit. We'll see.

Anyway, I'm off to study! Happy Tuesday!

GOD LOVES YOU!!!

*Found this while re-reading. It's manager, not manger. A manger did not come help me find a seat. There's the Christmas music filtering through my thoughts for you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Little Life Happenings

Just a small story from life in the Ogren household.

      I was practicing piano yesterday, and EdenJoy was standing behind me braiding/messing around with my hair. She went off to do something, and, on a whim, Teo walked up and told me he was going to try and braid my hair too. (Not to be out done I guess.)

      The problem was, he didn't know how to braid hair, and I was busy playing the piano, so he wasn't about to get taught.  So he just decided to figured it out. It was fun, because I'm pretty sure I played for at least ten minutes before he "got it down". When I was about to wrap up my lesson, he finally said,

"There! I got it! That bit just needs some superglue, and then it'll be perfect."

By brother is awesome. :)

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

In The Pain, His Truth Still Stands

Seeing how God always knows just what you need, and when to give it to you, just leaves me completely awed. The amount of work he has done in my life, and the exact timing of it all is almost unreal to me. When I look at what my life was only a year ago,...the lack of confidence, the struggle to see myself the way God sees me..... I see how difficult it would have been to handle the things that are now in my life if God hadn't come in and completely renewed it.

One of my favorite passages in scripture that comes to mind when I reflect on this is Psalm 18. This is not the whole thing, so you should go read the rest of it too, but it says: "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind....The Lord also thundered in the heavens,.....He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me."  In a world that was once a mess to me, those words spoke directly to my soul and gave me the strength to trust him again. I had renewed assurance that he really is good. This passage speaks my story and always reminds me that I can stand on the assurance that he is in control, and will always be there to help me.

Now, today, I can see not only the beauty of that story, but also the incredible forethought that God invested in it.  At one point, I wrote about how my "house" had been swept clean, and God was ready right then to come in and fill it with himself again. (Thoughts). At another point, (more recently) I saw how God did not allow a certain event to happen in my life back in the days when it would have caused me to go in a downward spiral of guilt, sadness, and helplessness. Instead he made sure I was ready and strong in Him before it surfaced.

And just a few weeks ago, he made me aware of the importance of how I live my life, and the hope that can be found even in death. (Jesus is Coming!) He helped me to see that importance, and write it out, because he knew I would need to come back and read it again, not two months later.

In some ways, it's really easy to forget what is happening to our brothers and sisters, say, in the Middle East, because we don't live near the conflict, and we don't experience that same pain. So in some ways it's easy to think of them and say, "That is not the end of the story! Jesus is coming soon! Hallelujah!" ....because I am not living (to speak figuratively) in Iraq. 

There is genuine joy in the statement, (and I still mean it with all my heart), but in the initial declaration of it, there was still a small detachment in me from it's true depth. 

The true power of that declaration is harder to come back to and read when you actually really, really need it. And yet it is also that much more beautiful.

Because you really don't know when that beautiful person you have worked with for nearly two years is going to slip away from you, and go to meet her Father. But when she does, you can look back and find hope knowing that Jesus really is coming soon, and that this pain will not last forever. If you  ever believed it before, you can really know it now.

The way you live really does matter. He says:"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Rev. 22:12) He said it to me before, and he says it to me again. I don't know how long I have! And I don't know how long the people around me have. We are all dying. We all have a fixed time when we will leave this earth. So make the time you still have left worth it! Look around you and see the people that need Him. That need love. That need forgiveness. And go touch them. They aren't hiding from you. God has placed everyone you know into your life for a reason. They are already right there. Make the time you have left count, and go share God's love with them.

And don't forget that there still is always hope.

A year ago, I would have broken. But God has redeemed me; filled me when he knew I would need it the most. In the presence of God I said: "Jesus is coming soon! Hallelujah!"
And today I come back, with renewed assurance, and he helps me say: 

"Jesus is coming soon! Hallelujah! His Truth still stands!"



Please pray for the family of my coworker Laurie, who left us last Sunday. I can not imagine what they are going through.

And please pray for me; that I may have wisdom in how to be there for my other coworkers who are grieving, and see how it is that God wants to use this for his glory. It is hard, but even still, God is good, and he is in control. Amen.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

When You Feel Dried Up

I have a question (in the form of multiple questions):

What do you do when you don't know what to feel? Or when you want to do good, but it all falls flat? What do you do when you try so hard, and yet you finish feeling dry and cold?

     Sometimes, life is just....nyeh. You want to do something, but you aren't motivated, so you don't. And you don't feel any better for not doing it. It's kind of like waking up.

     First you hear: "Good morning! It's time to start the day, make your bed, clean your room and feed the dogs." Your eyes open, but the rest of you is asleep; wishing and begging to stay that way. You try to sit up, and your pillow says "no! come back!" and the blankets reach up and grab your shoulders and force you to lay down again. You may try once or twice more, but you're stuck. The one thing that will make those blankets let go is the sound of footsteps in the hall, and the booming voice of your father saying, "I trust that you are doing what I told you to...", at which time the blankets not only let go, but physically kick you up and off of the bed to go running around catching up with the day as fast as possible.

     In real life, it looks like this. Deep down, you want to live the LIFE, you want to smile, you want to love everybody, but the flesh says "No. I want to be selfish. I want to snap. I want to sleep. I want to complain. I want to live my life MY way. I want, I want, I want.....", and the world around you welcomes you to do so. When that happens, what do you do?

     Due to my own humanity, I will not be answering this question. Well, I sort of will, if processing counts as answering. We have all been in that place where we know what we should do, and we know God's enough, and we know all the Christian answers, etc. etc. But still we feel dried up and tired at the end of the day. Personally, I've been through this SO many times, that I fully expected to have it figured out by now.....lol. But every time it happens differently, and usually there's a new lesson that I'm needing to learn, so there doesn't seem to be one strait answer to this question.

     However, there are always some constant truths that will be there for you to fall back on, and I think they are worth taking note of:

1. God loves you. (1John 4:16, Isaiah 42:10)
    ....even when you are being an outright lazy bum of a person, and you know it. He understands wanting to give up and stop trying. Don't confuse this with Him being fine with your behavior, but remember that the whole point of redemption is that God is constantly aware of you, thinking of you, and loving you; ready to give you another shot at it, no matter what you've done to not deserve it. This is a constant. His love never changes. Don't be discouraged by your discouragement, because he sees YOU, and he won't love you less for your struggles.

2. The Bible Gives Hope and Encouragement (Romans 15:4).
     This is sometimes a tricky constant for me, because even though I know the Bible is God's truth, I don't always know what to read or how to apply it. But in that time where you feel dried up, it is the spring of life, so read it anyway. Sometimes, I read and feel like I'm not getting anything; no understanding, no peace, no nothin'. But it's not always about feeling. The fact is, the Bible is God's Word written directly to us, and it is not to be read to "get something" out of it. It's not a magic charm to make you feel better. But it is wholesome in a crazy world where you want to give up. It is beautiful when your life looks faded. It speaks love when you feel that your love for others has run out. So fill your mind with it. It is always good.

3. God Listens. (Colossians 4:2)
     I get it. Sometimes, praying feels pointless. If God's in control of everything and knows what's going to happen, then what's the point in praying? Especially when I don't feel like it? But the fact is, prayer is much more powerful than we like to give it credit for. And on top of that, the Bible says that we should pray. Prayer is relational. If you want a wholesome relationship with God, then share your heart with him! Don't give me the "He knows everything anyway" excuse, 'cause it's LAME. Of course he knows everything. Fact is, he gave Adam and Eve a choice in the garden, even though he knew they'd disobey him, because he wanted to give them the opportunity to choose him. It's because he's relational. It doesn't matter that he knows you already, he wants you to choose him, and share with him, and it does make a difference. You don't always have to say anything. But if you take the time to enter his presence and open your heart to him, he doesn't ignore you. Even when you feel like you can't even care, he is delighted when you invite him to be part of your life anyway. And he listens.

4. It's normal to feel like this. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
    You are not a failure just because you aren't "on fire" every moment of your life. :) It's part of life, and it's imperfection that makes your life beautiful, because it creates room for God to come in and make it so.

     These are just places to look to when you need help. Ultimately, it isn't anything you do that's going to get your fuel tank above empty. It usually takes hearing those footsteps in the hall, or a helpful hand opening the window to let the light in, or even getting ice down your shirt, to wake you up in the morning. And like I said, there isn't just one resolution. But God is good regardless. He's the one who will help you when you feel like you can't keep keeping on.

As a last and final note, completely unrelated to this post, I would like to make you smile. :) Have a great week!!!



Sunday, September 21, 2014

JESUS IS COMING!

     Hi guys! I'm....back. Sort of. How are you? I am very busy, very happy (over all), and somewhat sleep-deprived; but God is good! God is good.
     I am starting to realize that this world is a mess. And this world is beautiful. Some days, when I take the time to evaluate my life I think "God, please don't come back yet; I am so imperfect still!" (Lol, no really?)
     Some days it's more like when I was three and worried that God would come back before I could get married and have my own dog, (haha, you thought I'd say kids didn't you?).
     And then there are days when everything in me is saying "JESUS, WE'RE READY! BRING IT ON!"
     I know, I should be careful when I say that, because when Jesus comes,.....wow it will be so beautiful, and so frightening, and so awesome. There's a reason God covered Moses with his hand as he passed by. It's going to be powerfully holy.  But still, with the world as it is today, I am ready for it to be renewed.
     Today I drove on the interstate for the first time. This triggered a little thought in my head about,...well, death. lol. Let's just say that there are some days when I wonder why anyone ever consented to risk their lives in a vehicle traveling over 40 miles per hour. Three miles per hour is already dangerous. Later, I was with my mom, and somehow we started talking about how often we live this life like this is all we have. It's easy to forget that there is so much more; there's a whole separate world really, if you want to call heaven a "world". And there isn't really that much keeping us here. She said that it's like there's a thin curtain between us and eternity, and any moment we might be across it. She took this moment to point out that I could quite possibly get hit by the oncoming car, which wasn't exactly the most comforting thought ever while I was driving, but it made her point very relatable indeed. What with the news of  all that's going on in Iraq, and the growing persecution of Christians and the devaluing of life in general, this mind set has become a little more real to me.
      And it's got me thinking; what. are. we. doing? Why are we waiting? Learning to drive through making some mistakes has made me realize that someone can be gone just like that. (disclaimer: my driving is not as bad as I just made it sound). I am thinking of three people in my life who don't know Christ; people who are actually rather antagonistic towards Christ. They are dear to my heart and when I read, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Rev. 22:12) I think, "why am I waiting?" I don't know how long I have.
      Now, obviously, it is not our job to plant, water, weed and harvest. Sometimes that happens, but it doesn't happen all that often, at least in this culture. The point is, our life is not about going to college and raising a happy family, and maybe throwing some mission work in there. Guys, this is real. This could end tomorrow. We are here to glorify God, and to take as many people home with us as we can! 
     I. am. SO. hypocritical. I say this, and I feel the urgency, but still my life here seems to take priority. There is school work that needs to be done, and a piano piece that needs to be mastered, and friends that need to be reconnected with, and a degree that needs to be picked, and plans that need to be made, and on, and on, and on..... Lord knows I'm apologizing to him every night for forgetting him during most of the day. What needs to happen is this: I need God to become not just my friend, but my mindset. My LIFE! And he needs the same from you. 
     This is not another prediction of the end of the world, like whoever that other guy was a few years ago. :) But there is a promise we've been given, and he's comin' back! We can't forget! God made us a church; in him we are one body. We need to strengthen each other, and encourage each other regularly towards that continual goal. Life isn't about us. It's about God.
    As a side note, I've been thinking. If I ever die, you had all better be wearin' yellow to my funeral, 'cause it's going to be awesome, and I won't stand any of that black nonsense. Just thought I'd put that out there. And there needs to be candy for all the little kids who aren't old enough to get why they are there. Jolly Ranchers. And Skittles. Make it a party. 
     I am thinking about the Christians in Iraq. That is not something to take joy in at first glance. Honestly, it makes me sick to think how twisted, and awful, and wicked some people can be. It hurts. But goodness sakes, can you imagine the welcome they must be getting when they cross that river Jordan? It must be so beautiful! It is hard now, especially to those left behind, but God be praised, that is not the full story!!!
     Jesus is coming soon! Hallelujah!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I've Never Licked a Sparkplug - Continued Joy

You know when you grow up listening to certain songs, and then one day you actually hear the lyrics for the first time?

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.

Enough said. I was cracking up the whole afternoon. :)



     Let me tell you; living life, receiving the glorious healing of God in my heart, and having the world open up in front of me,.......man, it's changed things. After watching God flip my life rightside up again, (or upside down depending on how you look at it :), I have found that I am filled. My heart is filled. And I think it's with joy! The really cool thing is, it isn't a fleeting feeling. It lasts. Even during the times I mess up.

     Last Spring, when I accepted that Jesus loved me for the first time (that I can recall), I felt that gap fill up in my heart. And I guess there was something in the dusty corner of my brain that said, "YAY! I can be perfect now!"

Lol. No.

     I didn't really think that in words, but I do recognize that inclination of expectation sometimes. However, being fulfilled in the Lord doesn't create perfection; at least not immediately. Immediately what happens is you know that you are loved, you have a purpose, and God can use you in crazy wonderful ways. You get joy.

     I have a confession to make. I am an incredibly selfish person.When God opens my eyes, and I submit to the Holy Spirit, things that need to change in my life quickly become very apparent. Sometimes I feel like I've actually gotten a little more selfish since God has helped me see the bigger picture, although I think it's really just my conscience starting to kick back into gear.

So in one way, I got the opposite  result I was expecting: I didn't stop sinning. But I became aware of my sins.

     And really, that's so much better! Because before, I used to weep, and feel disgusted with myself at every trip and stumble. Now, I see that I stumble, but......that joy stays. I lament the mistake, but God helps me see beyond it. And those things that I've been ignoring so long are being picked up, and fixed in front of me. My life has changed.

There isn't despair. There is JOY!

I. CAN. NOT. EXPLAIN. THIS. I'm not even sure what my point is supposed to be for this, or exactly what I'm trying to say........ But I finally know that joy is possible.

And it is the coolest thing.

God is good.

I wish I could transfer this feeling to the whole world. My trust is not in feelings, and I know that this walk I have chosen to travel with God is going to be hard. But my trust is in the Truth. The Lord of Hosts. Adonai.
Father.

The One I delight in.
The One who gives you joy.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gossip and Slander

“Spencervale gossip always said that "Old Lady Lloyd" was rich and mean and proud. Gossip, as usual, was one-third right and two-thirds wrong. Old Lady Lloyd was neither rich nor mean; in reality she was pitifully poor--... But she was very proud--so proud that she would have died rather than let the Spencervale people.....suspect how poor she was and to what straits [she] was sometimes reduced.”

      For the past year or so, I have been thinking a lot about gossip. Growing up in my family, gossiping has been one of those special things listed on the proverbial “absolutely not ok” list. From an early age, it has always seemed clear to me that speaking of others negatively isn't Christ-like or God-honoring, much less kind. But after a few years as I hit middle school, and then high school, it has struck me again and again how frequently any discussion I find myself in will turn into chatter about someone else's faults. I want to discuss with you what the Bible says about gossip and slander, the ways we participate in it, and why it is simply not ok. For the sake of discussion, let's change the definition of the words “right” and “wrong” from the way L.M. Montgomery used them in his story. Gossip, is not one-third right, and two-thirds wrong, it is three-thirds wrong. Let me explain what I mean.

      It is my belief that Christians frequently underestimate the importance of not gossiping. Although gossip is certainly often incorrect information, as Montgomery pointed out, it is not simply innocent chatter about one's acquaintances; gossip goes hand in hand with slander. Despite clear indications in scripture cautioning us to guard against these things, I frequently find myself in conversations that are tearing other people down. Proverbs 6:16-19 says:

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

      According to Merriam-Webster, the word “slander” means to make a false spoken statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone. The Lord hates a lying tongue and one who sows discord among brothers. Ephesians 4:29 says: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Is our gossip building up our neighbors and friends and brothers and sisters?

      There are multiple other references in scripture that I dug up in my research, but these two seem to best state what God thinks about the way we speak of others.

      Now, there are many ways that people find themselves engaging in the slander and gossip of others. More ways than we might even consider at first. There is the gossip about those within our personal sphere, including our own acquaintances, friends, coworkers, bosses, church leadership, etc. Then there is the gossip of celebrities, the political figures, and all the global terrorists. And, y'know, then there are the soap operas, which Lord knows I will never understand. It doesn't matter how young or old or in-between a person is, I can guarantee that this is something they have or will struggle with. Personally, I have a hard time not talking negatively about some of the people I work with, and certain friends. I'm still learning too. On the note of personal gossip, let me also just clear this up right now. Saying “Don't get me wrong, I love so-and-so, he or she is great!” does not justify the next thing you are about to say, if you catch my drift.

Proverbs 16:28 says: A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 10:18 says: Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool.

      So, President Nixon, George W. Bush, Seattle Sea Hawks, San Diego Chargers, Lance Armstrong, Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Tiger Woods, President Barack Obama.

      Chances are, I just named somebody or a group of somebodies whom you don't like. It has come to my attention that many people find gossiping about others in high places to be more acceptable than just people we know. However I would disagree. Every single one of those people or groups I just listed were people created by God, who are loved by God, and in some cases are grieved over by God. We have no right to slam God's creation. We do not have to agree with, or approve, or even like these people, however they all have their own story, and if they were to accept it, Jesus' death is every bit as much for them as it is for us.  Let's discuss their ideas, not slander the people.

Titus 3:1-2 - Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

     If you would like to look into what the bible says more, I'd encourage you to read Matthew 12:26, and along the lines of politics, Romans 13:1-7. Also, do some more looking on your own. Pray about it, and let the holy spirit guide you in your thoughts and conversations. Some days, we will not be able to avoid running into gossip. In this case, it is our responsibility to stand up and set the example. We are God's tool, and His voice. What we say matters, and it can influence the world for either bad or good. Protect your own “ Old Lady Lloyd”, regardless of her flaws, and share with her the love of Jesus.

“How would your life be different if…You walked away from gossip and verbal defamation? Let today be the day…you speak only the good you know of other people and encourage others to do the same.” -Steve Maraboli

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Story

I opened my eyes for the very first time.

     Everything around me was blurred and hushed, but even still I could tell that it was beautiful. I took a deep breath and listened. Slowly, sound began to penetrate the stillness around me, and looking around I could see my surroundings becoming clear and bright. Tall green grass swished around me, catching the glow of the sun in little patches here and there. A bird called out to me from a nearby tree, and as he flitted through the branches, a feather came and brushed my face. The breeze swirled around me, carrying with it what seemed like a thousand blossoms, filling the air and sharing their joy with the whole earth. That joy caught in my spirit, and welled up within me. I threw back my head and laughed.

     As I sat there, gazing upon the world with sparkling eyes and an awe-filled heart, I looked and saw a light above me. It was not the sun. It was much brighter, and even more beautiful. I could not seem to turn away from it, and the happiness in my heart began to mix with a pure, burning desire. It filled me. And the light within was almost as bright as the one above.

     I again turned my attention to my surroundings. For the first time I noticed that I was seated in a sort of small car. It was firmly held to a track which stretched up and above me in the front and the back, creating a "U" shape. How I had not noticed this earlier, I do not know. On either side of me there were handles which would move the car forward when I pushed them down. With surprise and delight I saw that the track led strait up towards the light that I longed to reach. I pushed down hesitantly, moved forward, and then let go. The car paused, and then rolled backward. More boldly this time, I pushed a little harder, and soon I had the handles down as far as they could go, and the car shot upwards into the sky. Higher and higher, I went, and excitement began to grow in my heart, flooding through my veins as I soared to the light that had given me life.

     Yet delight turned to dismay as I began to slow down, and the handles began to resist my touch. For one moment I was stopped in mid air, fighting to push forward. And then, suddenly, the handles flew back, and I was falling. Fear gripped me, squeezing the air out of my lungs, and filling my eyes with tears of panic. My arms flew over my head, one hand grasping the front of the car.

Falling. Falling. Falling.

     I was going backwards. As the car came to the bottom, I could feel it starting to rise again, but in the opposite direction than I had wanted to go. I could not see where I was going, and sorrow seemed to wipe out all joy that had ever filled me before. At the back of my mind I was conscious of a sound; a voice maybe. But it was so distant that it did not penetrate my thoughts.

     At long last, the car came to a stop. I covered my face and wept. There was the light ahead of me, brighter than ever, and by comparison, the beauty that surrounded me was like a faded photograph. Through tears I looked with longing at the way ahead of me. Wearily, my hands came from my face to the handles. I would try again.

     Many times I tried. But no matter how high or how quickly the car ascended, it would always slow down, always stop, always fall back to where I had come from. There was never enough strength in me to keep going. At one time I gave up, wishing only to leave the car and sleep in the grass, or touch the flowers, or sing with the birds; to forget about the light. But after seeing it, how could I forget? And I could not leave.

But I could not stay. I could not reach the place where I knew I belonged.

      Finally, one day, after much hard work and anguish, I had made more progress than usual, when I saw that the track just ended. Right there ahead of me, high in the air, my one hope vanished. Grief flooded me.

     I fell, as I had so often done before, crying as I never had before. Now I believed that there was no way. No matter how far I traveled, I would always come back to the place I had started. And even at my best, I could never go all the way up.

     I covered my head and sobbed.

     And then there was a sound. The same sound that had been in the back of my mind for so long. And then it was not a sound; it was a voice. Calling me. Calling my name. For the first time, I listened, and through the tears I saw a man standing in front of me, clothed in white and looking like a Son of God. He came to me, took my face in his hands, and kissed my forehead. He had always been there. When I stopped, I could remember him standing there by the tree, smiling as I watched the bird, singing with the grass around me, laughing as I laughed. I remembered him. I did not know how I could have forgotten him as I tried to reach the light above me. My eyes met his, and I felt a comfort I had not known before touch my soul.

     He took my hands in his, placed them on the handles, and pushed. Slowly we moved upward together. We did not rush up as I had wanted to do, but as we traveled, I realized that I did not want to go any faster. Every moment I was coming to know this man more, and feeling his strength flow into me. When at last we reached the end of the track, my hopes wavered.

     And then there was no track. There was no car. It happened so suddenly, and yet so quietly, that I almost didn't notice at first. I looked down and saw the earth stretched out below my feet. And then I looked, and all I saw was his arm around me, carrying me upward. His eyes where deeper than any ocean, and filled with warmth, love, and joy in me. His joy flowed into my heart, and I rested my head on his chest.

     I woke up in a small clearing. At first I did not remember what had happened, but in a moment it all came back to me. The light was still above me, but not so far now. I looked and saw a path leading to it, and by the entrance stood the man who had carried me here. The trail was not easy, but he smiled at me and held out his hand. And I knew that I could trust him.

    I put my hand in his, and we began our walk together.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Daily Grace

Now let me say that I'm the kind of guy who wants to do it all myself.
Don't want to ask for help, don't like to stop for directions.
But in reality I'm nothing on my own
It's by God's grace alone that I can make this confession.
All that I am and all I'm hoping to be
Is all and only what He's given to me. 

Declaration of Dependence - Steven Curtis Chapman
 
I'm learning that it's ok to learn slowly.

Which is unfortunate. lol.

     Let me explain a few things about me really quick.
  • First: I love life! I like living everything to the fullest extent possible. There is so much beauty/potential beauty everywhere and I like when it is drawn out. 
  • Second: I don't like it when people don't love life or live it to the fullest extent. It is frustrating when instead of investing in what is good, people take things for granted or blatantly disregard what is beautiful and valuable, such as friendship, nature, life, God. Sometimes people don't deliberately shut out beauty, but they are careless, and they miss so much.
  •  Third: I. must. FIX. things! Give me a problem, and it will bug me until it is fixed. Call it whatever. It applies to everything from friendship problems to folding towels so that the edges line up perfectly.

      When I say that I don't like when people don't invest in what is good, I am including myself in that. There are times when it is super easy to get distracted by everything going on in life, (particularly during the school year), and important things are let to slide. These include my relationships with other people and God, my appreciation of God's creation, basic tasks.

Consequence: friendships fall through.
                      I become self-focused.
                      my connection with God seems to slip out of reach.

And poof. There's a problem that needs fixing.
I have tried everything when it comes to fixing problems. Literally. And let me tell you, fixing it yourself ain't gonna work.

     No matter how hard you try, you were not made to work alone against the problems life will throw at you. It is critical that you learn to lean on Jesus every step of the way through every rough path. In the end, you come out stronger in your relationship with Him and, funny thing, problems usually work out better. Funny how that works right? At this particular moment I am learning that the more I focus on Jesus to show me how to act and how to live, the more it becomes less about me and more about others. This is my particular lesson at this particular moment. It is not the point I am trying to make here.

     The point I am trying to make here is that it has taken me ages to get it. See, in the moment, I look at a problem in a friendship and go "red flag! red flag! I'm gonna fix it!", and I botch things up more. Not always, but a good deal of the time anyway. And in the end I end up more frustrated, and it's hard to accept grace for relying on my own strength when I know better.

     But really, that's Jesus' whole message; grace. He says "Listen, you messed up. But you can still trust me. I'm still here, and I always will be. Come on, let's try again." In my human nature, I am going to make mistakes on a regular basis. I am built with the natural inclination to fix things myself, and so sometimes I'll try to. But every time, God is still going to be right there with me, ready to show me His will when I look up to Him. His grace will always return to me daily.

     You'd think I'd have caught on by now. I'd like to learn now and not have to worry about it anymore. But as I've messed up and tried again and messed up and tried again, I can see how much more beautiful and rich my relationship with God has become. It's ok to learn slowly. :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Dad is Awesome

He likes to write me poems..... ;)

Dear Talia,

Along life's long and dreary path
are pages and pages and pages of math.
If you were to stop and collect them all,
the pile would be exceedingly tall.
So do each one as you pass by,
or two or three, I know, big sigh.
But that will help you extricate
yourself from math I know you hate.
So do it now, do it well.
Don't end up in mathematic ... (hmmm, scratch that)

So do it now, do it well,
I know you like that fresh math smell? (Nah)

So do it now, do it fast
I promise that it will not last... forever.

Love,
Daddy

Just have to say, I REALLY love my dad. He's a pretty neat guy.
I just needed some place to brag about it. ;)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thoughts

You know, it's funny, I was just reading through a bunch of older blog entries from  the last year or so, and it's amazing how much has happened. I had a couple meltdowns on this thing, and part of me goes..."Eesh, I'm so transparent about this. I wonder if I should filter out some of these....". But the other part of me thinks, "I'm glad I wrote that down. It's so easy to forget how God has loved me; I never want to forget."

This is the latest chapter in the love story God has been telling me. Last month, my parents took me to see a special showing of Ragamuffin, the story of Rich Mullins, for my birthday. (Oh, yea, quick update, I turned 16. :D YAY!). If you haven't seen it, there's a link to the trailer here. The story is about Rich Mullins life. He had a rough relationship with his father, and so he struggled with the idea that God, the Father, could love him even though he was so messed up. What struck me the most was the way that Rich was still very very human all the way through the film. By that I mean this; there are lots of christian movies, even good ones, that portray a message of, "Once you realize what you're doing wrong and give it to God, then everything will be better." While there is an element of truth in this, I think we often skim over the fact that life will still sometimes be very difficult, and it's not easy to let go of some things, like control, or idolatry, or anger. So throughout this story, you see Rich's genuine desire to follow God and honor him, but you also see him struggle,.....and mess up,...and mess up again,......and struggle,.....and good grief his attitude is really getting on my nerves.....It's an honest depiction of what living like a Christian  is sometimes like. Let's be honest. We're all sinners. :)

Along with connecting to the humanity of Rich Mullins, I also really connected to the message of God's love that was wound through the film. These last few months, I have experienced release from a ton of baggage that I have carried with me for years. It's funny, sometimes you don't realize how heavy something is until you are no longer carrying it. For me, I never fully realized how much fear I had until I let go of it. I got to the point where any failure, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, would often bring me to tears. The worst was failure to reach a self-established goal or standard, when my emotional stability would go all haywire, and I would start to beat myself up. I saw myself in such a low light that I couldn't accept God's love or forgiveness for me, even when I tried. Now, where my common sense was through all of this,...I have no idea. But a lot of this I didn't fully recognize until just recently, when I was helped to step back and went, "Woah. How did I not see this?"

Spiritual healing seems kind of like redecorating an ugly house. This may not be the greatest analogy, but bear with me here. Imagine when you go through this house, it's trashy, and full of junk. When all that junk is removed, the house is clean, but remains to be filled with beautiful, godly things. Otherwise all you have is an empty house, that anyone can move into and mess up again; just another fresh start, prone to ending up in either good or bad state. Like in Matthew 12:43 where it says “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first." So when God has moved in, and the house is cleaned, he will begin to make the house beautiful and fill those empty spaces, where all the trash was, with beautiful things. And as long as that house is given to the Lord, no evil thing will be able to come back into that place again. 

By the time I went to see this film, I was at the state where God had helped me clean out my "house", and what I needed was a replacement to all my junk. And God's timing just blew me away. The whole way through, I was watching God throw the last of my fear out the window, and then turn and say to me, "Here's is my love. I think it would go nicely on that coffee table in the middle of the room where you can always see it." :) 

He is always ready; right there when you need him, with healing in his hands. It shouldn't be a surprise. I mean, it's written all over the bible. The most classic verse in scripture, one that any Sunday-school student could recite from memory, says "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 ESV)
"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19 ESV) 
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." (Jeremiah 31:3 ESV)
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (1 John 3:1)

In the concordance of the NIV bible, the word "love" is referenced 242 times. That's waaaay more than most of the words listed in there. Seems to indicate a pretty big theme if you ask me. But it's one thing to know something. It's a completely different thing to experience it. 

So, all that to say, God LOVES you! I always seem to come back to that. God is good, and he loves you. It just dawned on me that this blog is titled Finding the High Places, based off of the book, Hinds Feet on High Places, where the Shepherd leads His servant, Much Afraid, to the Kingdom of Love. It's like maybe this is important to know or something. :) I'd encourage you, look for God's love in your life. Move beyond the Sunday-school answer, valid as it is, and ask what it means when he says that he loves you. 

Yea, you're a sinner. You're messed up. So am I. But that's the whole reason Jesus came to earth! There no longer needs to be question that He loves you. He does. You don't need to be overwhelmed by your sin.

He loves you. :)

Anyway, enough preaching. I know, it's so many words. I wish you could experience the same kind of awe that comes with experiencing these things, because it's so hard to share more than just the story with people.

Happy first day of spring everybody!!!! Newsflash, it is 69 degrees outside! Yay! Hope you all enjoy the weather, wear flipflops, drink coffee, and have a lovely week!