Where is God Amidst the Chaos?

You know when you are at the beach, out in the ocean, and you see a wave coming? This wave is big, but you are pretty sure you can jump over it. All of a sudden, this wave is up on you and it is much bigger than you thought. It takes you down under the water, flips you a few times, and then drags you through the sand. You get up slowly, gasping for breath, trying to make sure your bathing suit is still covering you (and sometimes it’s not…I’ve been there).

Sometimes I feel like this is how life treats us. We are going along fine, and then all of a sudden a million things hit at once and leave us dragging and gasping for breath. My community has faced a lot of moments like this lately. Every time I turn around it seems like someone I know (or know of) has just gotten sick or someone has been taken from this world suddenly and too soon. It is easy to look to God and ask where He is throughout all of this chaos.

I think about the people of Haiti I will be leaving on Thursday to serve. These people have faced so much unrest and chaos through earthquakes and extreme poverty. I have thought to myself, “how can I tell these people that Jesus loves them when they have been through such devastation?”

But Psalm 46 brings peace and an assurance of God’s presence at all times. It is so easy to be consumed by fear, doubt, and hopelessness, but God tells us that He is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, through its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (v. 1-3).
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I think we often make the mistake of thinking that if we are good enough followers of Christ, God will reward us with an easy life. The funny thing is, it always seems to be the opposite. The most difficult trials always seem to come to those who are the most faithful to God. But here’s the thing; God never said that we would not have trouble. In fact, He says that we WILL have trouble. But God does promise that He will never leave our side through the storms we face. God equips those who are faithful to Him with the strength to overcome the difficulties of life. Those who are followers of Christ have the foundation to withstand the storm.

Verses 4 and 5 go on to say, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall: God will help her at break of day.”

When a river flows through a village, it brings nourishment and life to the area. It bring sustenance and growth. If the steam were to dry up, it would leave the people thirsty, tired, and malnourished. There would be no more life or growth.

The same goes for our relationship with the Lord. God flows through us like a river. He sustains us and gives us life. He equips us to face the toughest of storms. But when we let our relationship with God fall and we abandon our time with Him for other things, the river begins to dry up. We will be left lifeless, tired, and thirsty. Most of the time we will search for a way to quench the thirst with temporary “nutrition.”

In the midst of every trial and heartbreak, God is with us. He is always there to take us back. God does not abandon us, we abandon Him. But the best part is, He is always there to wrap us in unconditional love. Chaos is inevitable, but so is God’s victory over evil.

 

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How Prayer Changed My Life

I have never been good at praying. And I know what you’re thinking, “Lauren, there isn’t a good or bad way to pray.” I understand this, but I know that praying more frequently and praying before decisions is good, and not doing that is bad. Let’s just say I’ve always fallen into the latter category.

I tend to make a lot of decisions based on my feelings, which is something I’ve realized in the past few weeks. I would never take the time to pray and mediate over a decision; I would just do what felt right to me in that moment. This was becoming a serious problem in my life and I realized I was only reaching out to God when things got really bad. Maybe if I would’ve went to Him first I wouldn’t have gotten myself into half of the messes I ended up in…

I’m currently taking a class called “Christian Spirituality.” This class is basically an overview of spiritual disciplines and traditions as well as some information on famous spiritual leaders and theologians who displayed these disciplines. One of the disciplines we have focused on is prayer. Seeing how committed these spiritual leaders were to prayer really changed my outlook on how I viewed it. Instead of thinking of prayer as a chore or as something I should do but don’t have time for, I began looking at prayer as a gift given to me by God.

My spring semester at school has probably been my most difficult yet. This is not necessarily academically, but more socially and emotionally. I’ve experienced a lot of loneliness, disappointment, and rejection within this semster and it has taken a toll on me. I really think this is God’s way of pushing me to lean on Him and lay my worries upon Him. I do not need to carry them and I do not need to figure everything out on my own. In fact, I can’t do ANYTHING on my own. This has driven me to realize just how much I need God.

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So throughout this semester, I have been praying and praying and praying. It has changed my life. In the midst of hopelessness and brokenness, God heals. The funny thing is, it’s always in ways that I wouldn’t have ever noticed unless I was in communication with the Lord. Sometimes it’s a song on the radio; other times it is a person messaging me or talking to me and saying exactly what I needed to hear; the next time it is just an extreme sense of peace. Prayer has helped me to realize that God is everywhere. All I needed to do was look up.

Prayer also opens the door to community. I created a challenge for myself about a year ago to pray for one person everyday. I have also challenged myself to not just say that I will pray for someone, but to take the time to do it right then and there. The way I do this is to scroll though my social media  and reach out to the first person who pops up on my feed. No matter who it is, whether I know them well or not, whether they are a believer or not, I must reach out to this person. At first, this was terrifying to me. I was reaching out to people I hadn’t spoken to in years. But soon this began to open doors in my life I didn’t even know were closed. Some people igorned me or told me they didn’t need prayer, which is totally ok. I prayed for them anyway ;). But other people really poured out some serious challenges to me and told me how much the small gesture of reaching out meant to them. Those messages were incredible and made me realize how God intended prayer to be a community. Not only is it a conversation between you and the Lord, but it is also a way to reach out and encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ. To those of you reading this who I have reached out to, thank you for allowing me to have a conversation with you and giving me the chance to see God in a new light. I appreciate you and challenge you to reach out to someone as well.

Thank you for those of you who reached the end of this long post. It’s been awhile and I had a lot to say ;). Please know that I am here for you and invite you to enter into this beautiful gift of prayer God has given us. If you are in need of prayer, I would love to pray for you! Go in peace, friends, and remember that prayer is so powerful.

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You’ve Got A Friend In Him

I think we can all agree that the Disney/Pixar company has some of the greatest movies. The Disney movies I loved to watch as a kid I still find myself enjoying as a 19 year old. With the theme of friendship on my mind, I can’t help but think of the song “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from Toy Story. At first, Woody and Buzz did not get along and Woody was incredibly jealous of Buzz. The entire plot line of the first movie was Woody trying to get rid of Buzz! But in the end, the two toys realized that they needed each other and found friendship with one another.

I have struggled a lot with the aspect of friendship over the past year and half. I lost my best friend in a car accident in April 2016. Ever since then, friendship has been a sensitive topic. You see, Violet was an incredible friend. The kind of friend that you see in movies. She wasn’t perfect and we definitely fought, but she was loyal, trustworthy, kind, not afraid to tell me when I was being stupid, but most importantly, a sister in Christ. We strengthened each other in faith and that is something that I’ve really been missing.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have an AMAZING support system back home and have wonderful friends, but it’s hard when your closest friends are studying at different schools all over the state.

I have a good group of college friends, but sophomore year has been challenging and busy for all of us and we haven’t been able to spend as much time together as we did last year. Being in different majors has caused all of us to kind of go different directions this past semester and meet new people, which is wonderful, except I still don’t personally feel like I’ve had a ton of luck in that department so far.

So as you can probably imagine, I’ve found myself feeling pretty lonely. This is something  I’ve never been used to growing up in a big family and living in a small town where everyone knows everyone. I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that we as humans cannot always depend on each other. I’m not saying this to be negative, but it’s true. We humans are flawed and will never be able to meet ALL  of the expectations of a friend ALL of the time. It simply just isn’t possible. There will always be moments when you will feel let down by other humans.

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But here’s the good news. We will NEVER feel this way with Jesus. Jesus is the one friend that we have who will never let us down and never lead us astray. He is always there for us, always listens to us, and will always point out when we are being stupid and need to refocus ourselves. He is kind, compassionate, and loves us SO MUCH!! I can’t emphasize that enough.

I’ve found in my life that I am so busy thinking of Jesus as this big, powerful being, that I have forgotten that He is also my friend. Yes, Jesus is incredibly powerful, but He humbled Himself to walk with us as a human on the earth. He felt every emotion that we feel and experienced death on a cross. It’s hard for us to think about Jesus understanding what we go through, but he truly does! He WANTS a strong friendship with us. He LONGS to listen to our prayers.

The friendship that I have with Jesus has really really comforted me in my times of loneliness. Praying to Him and speaking to Him as I would if He were actually sitting in front of me has really transformed and strengthened my relationship with Him, and I’d love to talk more in depth about prayer in another post soon!

What a friend we have in Jesus! It just makes me so excited to know that there is someone out there who will never leave me feeling disappointed. It’s my prayer to you all who are reading this that you would find the great comfort of a friendship with Jesus. If you have questions about this or would like to talk more in depth, I would absolutely love for you to reach out to me via my social media links or in a comment! I am so incredibly grateful and blessed to experience God’s faithfulness each day. May God bless you all! ❤

Being Vulnerable

I am a judgmental person. There, I said it. I am also an incredibly selfish person, and I am not saying these things about myself just to get sympathy. In fact, the last thing I want is your sympathy. Sometimes the first step in overcoming a sin that has been festering inside of you for awhile is to just say it out loud (or type it) so that it’s out and you have no choice but to face it.

You see, I have found that it is so easy to just hide your sin and try to cover it up with good deeds. Kind of like how you cover up a really big zit. You can put as much makeup over it as you want, but at the end of the day it’s still going to be there. The makeup can even make it worse and clog up the pore even more; making the zit bigger and redder. Sorry for the gross analogy, but the same is true for sin; and sin certainly isn’t pretty.

I went through a lot of spiritual growth and change this summer (if you read my past posts you can learn more about that in more detail). While a lot of that growth was wonderful and full of joy, there were also some things I was faced with that hurt. I came face to face with the reality that while I was doing good works and reflecting a Godly life, I was doing it for myself; not the glory of God.

To be honest, I had no idea I was even doing this at all until I had the opportunity to teach at my youth group in August. I had planned games, music, and a lesson. I was incredibly nervous because I am not a great public speaker. But my public speaking wasn’t the issue this time. It was how often I used myself as a good example through the lesson instead of Jesus. My youth pastor brought this to my attention in the sweetest and gentlest way possible and I am so glad that he did. But I was ashamed. I still am so ashamed. And I still struggle with this each day.

One of the first things you learn in Sunday school or at church camp is that Jesus comes first, then others, and THEN yourself. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s one of the hardest for me to remember. You see, I had so many people around me building me up that it began to go to my head. I am incredibly grateful for those people who support and encourage me, but it was about time that I heard some criticism.

Jesus tells us in Luke chapter 6, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (v. 39). Wow is this ever true. As a student pursuing ministry, how can I possibly lead another person to the glory of God if I am blind to it in my own life? This will only lead both people to corruption.

I’m going to be honest with you, this post was so hard for me write. Being vulnerable isn’t always easy, but I know for me that it was necessary. It is ok to be broken and to not be perfect. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Sometimes vulnerability is the very best healing.

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Love you, friends. May the glory of God fill your hearts.

Let Go and Let God

I am a type A personality. Don’t get me wrong, I like to have fun and be a little spontaneous sometimes, but my genes are detail oriented and having a plan is a must. This quality of mine has always seemed to be my strong point (looks great on a resume, am I right?) as well as my weak point. You see, I have a very difficult time with change. I’ll admit, it has gotten much better over the years; especially since my best friend passed away suddenly in a car accident my senior year of high school, but that does not mean that I do not still struggle with it.

My natural knack to plan things has very often tried to take over my spiritual life. Instead of letting God take control of my life, I try to control my life. I have an idea in my head of exactly how things should go and exactly how my future should be planned out. Silly me, thinks that I know best. But God has a sense of humor, and he really likes to flip my “perfect” plans upside down or better yet, have a whole new purpose for something that I’ve already “figured out.”

In my last post, I discussed possibly pursuing ministry as a career. Since then, I have decided to change my major from music to ministry with a youth ministry concentration and then minor in music. This was a HUGE decision for me to make and I really wasn’t sure if I was making the right one. My entire life has been focused on music. What will it be like to shift that?

I decided to meet up with my youth pastor about it (who better to talk to about youth ministry?). Something that really struck me is when he said, “Lauren, I knew you were being called into ministry the day we had the celebration dinner for our Poland mission trip and you talked about your experience. I was just waiting to see how long it would take to be revealed to you.” My initial reaction was, WHAT?! But then I slowly began to realize something.

During my mission trip to Poland, I got to lead the worship music with another friend. Throughout that week, I felt God pulling at my heart. All this time I thought God had been calling me to pursue music, but it turns out He was actually calling me into ministry. Of course music will always be a part of my life. It’s who I am and will follow me no matter where I go. But there I was again, trying to fit God into my life plans, when I should really be letting God decide my life plans.

I was drawn to Luke chapter 1 while writing this, where it discusses the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her that she will be the mother of Jesus. I can’t even imagine what a shock this would be. There Mary was, just living her life with a bright future ahead of her, and all of a sudden her life was flipped upside down. Being pregnant and unmarried back in Mary’s time pretty much meant the end of your life. But instead of freaking out and getting angry, Mary replied by saying, ” I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as You have said” (verse 38). How incredible is that! Mary’s first reaction was to give God complete control over the situation. Do we have a lot to learn from Mary, or what?

I can’t imagine how much easier life would be if we would just give God complete control and stop trying to do everything on our own. My prayer today is that we all will learn to just let go and let God. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke chapter 1, verse 37).

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