On Oceans to You

811463d45e9a52a6887beec655257026So, I did not think I would bring myself to post a blog about something relating to romance and relationship because of a few reasons:

  • I have the sorriest dating record you can imagine
  • My only experiences have been negative
  • I am under the age of 25
  • I am fiercely independent most of the time

However, I have been allowing myself to go there lately in my thoughts, doing what girls typically do (whether they would like to admit it or not) which is monitor the current line-up of eligible bachelors among acquaintances or friends. No matter how I try to direct myself away from this preoccupation, which seems like the past time of a fourteen-year-old, I always find myself in this rut. I call it a rut because many times it feels like quicksand. These are times when I become more self-conscious, and the fears of being a spinster are whirling through my brain at high velocities (remember when I said I was fiercely independent?). What usually pulls me out is a reality check, asking myself questions such as: How do I really feel about this person? Is it simply friendly admiration? Do I find them attractive in some way (looks, charisma, etc.)? Do they love Jesus as much or more than I do? I do this because I have compromised in the past way too many times on simple characteristics in a person that I deem are important. However, this is not a post about creating a list, no sir. I chucked my list in which painted the portrait of an ideal man imagined by a lonely teenager, and left only the things I knew of for sure that were essential to any relationship and allowing God to fill in the blanks for the rest as I go through life. Instead, I would like to talk about a simple idea I have learned that must be the main vein of any potential, or result from a blossoming relationship. The thought popped in my head when thinking of a loved one:

I would go to this person right now if they called, no questions. I would do anything for this person.

I finally understood why people uproot their own lives, plans, comforts to shack up with another person in holy matrimony. Not only the longing to be by their side doing stuff, but the utter joy that comes from doing stuff for them. This is loving this person by sacrificing personal time and energy to expel it graciously on to this single person. This is a lot coming from an introvert who cherishes solitude!

This seems simple and redundant but if you have been dating someone for awhile, or you are thinking of taking a dive into a relationship with a long-time friend, and you cannot answer this question of: Would I go to them now, anywhere if they called? or Would I do anything for this person? Then, I don’t see how that relationship and marriage would work. This is the crux of any successful and godly marriage.

By anything, I certainly don’t mean anything that is exploitative, demeaning or abusive. For many, it is easy to cross that line into unhealthy territory and codependency. This is a sacrificial love in which ones own desires and wants are secondary compared to your significant other. This does not mean giving up your self-respect for another’s ego or selfishness. Of course in a healthy relationship this giving love and time should go both ways.

This was just a short post that popped into my head as I was trying to go to sleep earlier than normal, now I am here an hour later. I hope that this thought could be of aid to any of your out there in a similar situation!

Now, here is some Josh Garrels to take us all to slumber land…

-Bethany Porter

Affirming Desire Part 1: Introduction and a Church Divided (Marriage Equality)

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Like most Christians in my position, there is hesitancy when bringing out the topic of sexual immorality. Also, in light of recent events, the legalizing of marriage being nationally recognized as not only allowed between man and woman, but between man and man, woman and woman and following various other gender queer designations. As well as the economic benefits that follow an official marriage. I did not want to respond in the heat of the moment, when emotions were on a high, and my heart quick to anger and a generally disheveled.

As I noticed argument after argument pop up on my social media outlets with rainbows being plastered about people’s faces, I noticed one of the biggest terms and offenses were the concepts of hate, bigotry, judgment as well as the promotion of love, tolerance, and freedom of religion with appropriate hashtags being used within varying contexts of opinions. I noticed nasty comments, uninformed comments, brilliant comments, pathos filled arguments, and varying interpretations of scripture being used. I thought to myself, I should probably share my opinion, especially since those that claimed to believe in the same God as me had contrary opinions.

The fact is, this issue is multi-faceted. It dips into almost every ethical sector that humans hold dear – politics, economics, and religion being the most up front. I was thinking to myself, which should I dive in for a discussion? All are completely relevant and equally disputed, but what I felt as the ruling passed and reading through and talking about various opinions with both Christian and not, I felt a deep, inherent sadness. This can be described as what blogger Eric Knopf writes in his recent post “Marriage Equality and the Great Christian Letdown”. However much I wanted to say something, my hands and mouth stopped me from saying anything. Instead, what continued but a very internal and serious monologue that has been going on for about a month now.

God had deeply impressed the sincere consideration and research of this topic about a month ago as I walked through a bookstore in Japantown in San Francisco and spotted a book on the topic of homosexuality in Asia. Honestly, I was unaware that legislative negotiations were already underway. I felt like I needed to research and expose myself to different opinions and pray sincerely for God to help me to deal with homosexuality and those involved in a way that is correct and biblical. I have friends and family who identify themselves as “gay” and I wanted to know the proper response that I should have to them. In all honesty, this heart search is still continuing and I think that it should continue for the rest of my life (will explain that comment later). So, I choose to speak not of laws or the economy, but I choose to talk about how we as Christians should respond to this event. May my response be as Colossians 4:6 articulates, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

As believers in Jesus, we need not FEAR the future.

from joshuareich.org (no affiliation)

from joshuareich.org (no affiliation)

I sorrowfully scrolled through the divided opinions of my brothers and sisters-in-Christ. Some responded in fear and some responded that this must be something God approved of if it happened.

First, there is not any reason to fear. We need not secure our hope in a country or in the law or in a leader. Kingdoms crumble. Foundations that we thought sturdy and moral crumble under human legislative decisions. The Puritan community (a rather legalistic bunch, eh?)  that settled in North America in the 1600s dubbed this land to be a “City on a Hill.” This attitude of American Exceptionalism and ethnocentrism still remains to this day. America can no longer be called a Christian nation. Realistically,  its intentions from the beginning were for religious freedom and a government that ensures there to be no theocracy. Modernly, we are more quick to promote sexual immorality and arrogance than we are a biblical morality and humility. Still, there is no need to fear. God is still sovereign, we are still his people, the sun sets on the righteous and unrighteous alike and God holds our future in his hands. He will know the outcome of our decisions, but he still have the final word. God has not favored any particular nation, he does not pick and choose his favorites. Jesus made the way for all to come to the Father and all who accept Christ are favored. Our hope for the future is secure in Christ, not any establishment.

Secondly, I will say it clearly: God does not condone sexual immorality, and this includes homosexuality. By condone I mean “approve or allow” as Merriam Webster dictionary states. Being God’s created ones, given free will, God knows we will disobey his commands. As it says in Romans 1: 24-28 (emphasis added):

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

As I believe the scriptures are useful for teaching, this situation depicts a vary familiar scenario and is relevant. God does not approve sin, but he does give us the free choice to continue in that act. Anything done a part from the will of God will give way to destruction. Things that we as humans can easily perceive as “forbidden” can be very alluring but God forbids certain things because he knows that once the initial excitement and happiness fades, emotional injury, confusion and loneliness will most certainly follow. I say these things from experience. Whenever I continue with an act that I know to be contrary to the teachings in the Bible or my conscience signals a red light, after the initial gratifying feeling of taking control of my life, I began to feel like a kid who wandered from their parent’s side at the grocery store: lost, confused, and yet searching.

Uh, oh.

Uh, oh.

Finally, as Eric Knopf discusses, we must not expect to always have a comfortable and cushy life while living on this earth. Shall we vacate to Mars? Well, besides burning and suffocating to death with that plan, we were never promised an easy life. Jesus even tells us that others will hate us because of him (Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; John 15:18). Also, let us not forget Romans 12:2 and not conform to earthly patterns when life gets less than cushy. Truth be told, we still have it way better than most nations when it comes to freedom of worship and expression. Have you got arrested for carrying around a Bible lately? I don’t think so. Although the world will oppose those of us who follow God’s commands, our future will be secure through Jesus.

to be continued… How do I treat those in my life who identify with the LGBT lifestyle? and How does one love the righteous way?

Some articles relating to the divided opinion of the Christian church (both liberal and conservative slant):

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/14/us/gay-marriage-issue-divides-churches.html?_r=0

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/06/28/clergy-and-parishioners-across-boston-react-gay-marriage-ruling-some-lauding-some-lamenting/X5HARsM2zItnCSGd1S0G3H/story.html

http://religionandpolitics.org/2015/06/02/will-same-sex-marriage-split-the-united-methodist-church/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/june/is-gay-marriage-destroying-united-methodist-church.html

**note: I don’t particularly identify with the Methodist branch, it just happens to be prominently talked about. I also don’t agree with all comments made

And as always, a song relating to discussed topic. Although the trials of this world are glaring, “Someday the light will be your sonnet…someday the time will be forever.” We have hope in Christ.

-Bethany

The Draft, the Tower, and a Desire

I am not sure how the average person is when it comes to planning, but I am the type that always needs to have a long-term plan in place. I used to be so high strung in my teenage years. I could not enjoy any sort of spontaneous plan change without feeling uncomfortable, or even anxious, because things were now out of my control.

Not only must I have a long-term plan in place, I have to be able to visualize it, and name it so that I can have something to tell important people. God forbid if I didn’t know where I wanted to be in five years!This golden plan is mainly for the protecting of the tall tower of my pride that, in all honesty, probably gets more attentions in its preservation and renovations than it should.

I be protecting my pride like…

If you understand that reference from above picture, you are awesome and shall be automatically added to the “cool person” list.

Despite these rigid building plans I hold on to, life has thrust at me boulder after boulder and has broken some windows and crushed other sections of this pride tower of mine. These circumstances of illness, harmful relationships, family trauma and changing surroundings have in many ways completely erased the plans I had to build my ivory tower, my very american dream. I am she who spreads out her drafting paper, constructs the most daring elaborate designs I can muster and continually revisit the design when I am feeling discouraged. I do this when I paint something decent, or actually manage to squeeze out a song. Think of when you have this amazing project that you finished – whether it be an art piece, a ridiculously long yet rewarding research paper, or an event you organized –  and how you either put it on display or keep on rereading it, looking at it with pride thinking “Wow, I did this, I planned this, I thought of this on my own.”

I am a dreamer, I love to dwell in the possibilities, and this creates strong desires inside of me. Once I am able to visualize something, or am willing to work for something, I hold on to that plan with as much vigor as possible thinking, “I want to create, finish, achieve something I can take pride in and display inside of my ‘tower’.” It is okay to desire excellence. Determination and ambition are common within the zealous hearts of the young. However, excellence for the sake of achieving excellence will only result in emptiness. Unquenchable emptiness at that.

Even a plan with a good motive can leave a void or stagnate your life. Lately, I have been asking myself more than ever: Why do I have this certain desire? Why must I continue my education this way? What is my underlying motive? What was wrong with my previous plan? It didn’t seem like a bad or evil plan. So, why is God leading me in a different direction? Sometimes it is not that the plan or desire I had before was evil or bad, but it was something that was safe or even meant for someone else. God desires a bigger more complex plan for me. Uniquely crafted for the potential he planted in me at the beginning.

I had ironclad plans when college began. Now, God seems to be guiding me down a different more unique path, and is guiding me hands as I erase some of my tower draft sketches and even demolish part of my tower so my foundation can be rebuilt. Like I said before, it is not as though my plans were equivalent to Hitler, but, many times, these plans were what I put my hope in, what motivated me and kept me going. Yet, why would I put my trust in a flimsy draft when my God, the Author and Finisher of my faith, holds the whole of history and future history made in his hands?

I am beginning to understand more of what the Psalmist meant when he said, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). The syntax of this verse is a bit misleading in this translation as it seems God will grant us our wish like that of a genie. Let’s be honest, our desires aren’t always selfless or wholesome

For years, I focused so much on the fact that I was receiving something I wanted from God where I could be like, “Oh, thanks, Papa God.” and walk off with this wishlist item while I go play with it. That is not the point of this verse. What needs to be focused on in this verse is not that our obedience leads to gifts, but that it is GOD who gives the desires, not grants them. He will reveal to you the desires he had in store for you, that had lain dormant until you sought to know God more and something finally illuminated within the deepest part of your heart.

Every time I come across Proverbs 16, I begin to cop a sarcastic attitude towards God as I ironically laugh at all of the convicting words in this passage. This passage is the Ent chucking boulders at my pristine tower, waging war against the pollutant – my iron clad plans built mostly from pride – of my heart and my relationship with God . Particularly Proverbs 16:1-9:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
    and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
When a man’s ways please the Lord,
    he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice.
The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.

Many times, as a Christian, I  am accused of being a puppet simply allowing myself to be tossed to and fro by the Great Puppet master. I am no Saruman. God gave us free will, we can choose the plans that cause us to rely on him more, or we can choose the easy, comprehensible roads that lead us in circles of for the rest of our lives.  I choose to trust that God has the best plan, the most rewarding, the one that will make a great name for JESUS CHRIST, not for BETHANY. Depending on Christ fully is not the same as being controlled, I must choose daily to live a life that represents Jesus Christ to those around me. That is the ultimate blueprint no matter what we plan in this life on Earth.

More on a personal level, God is leading me in a direction for my career that I could not even think of a few years ago when I started college. I still do not know what the end goal will be, what the final blueprint of my life’s work will look like. I need to be okay with that. Also, I need to be at peace and in a place of humility before others and be content with not being able to give a clear answer when asked, “What do you want to do with your life?” or “…after you graduate?”

I have plans, inclinations, but I have only lightly sketched them on the drafting paper, making sure they can be easily edited later. It is hard to put to death old plans sometimes. Despite this, the new desires that God is placing in my heart were not random and chaotic, they had actually been there in my heart, in the back of my mind since a kid, but to label them as a “passion” had been a dormant idea. I began to realize as God showed me a newer, revised direction Oh, that makes sense. Along with, I won’t be able to pull that amazing plan off without you giving me your strength, God.

But that is how life needs to be. God is way more creative than we could ever be and our putting limits on that creativity is a hindrance to our life’s masterpiece. I found this quote on Tolkien, and it seemed fitting:

“On Tolkien: “His fussiness threatened to overwhelm his creativity.”

Now, here is the inspiration to blame for my obnoxiously long “tower” metaphor and numerous analogical statements:

And, like I always do, a song that relates to the post. This one mentions towers, well castles, their destruction and rebuilding. Well, if we want to draw some parallels here, it talks about built of plans and ideals, those ideals not panning out, and having to rebuild things from scratch. Below:

“If its real, you can see it with your eyes, even in the dark. And that’s where I want to be.” Only God’s purpose prevails through dark times.

-Bethany

He Never Turns Away or Leaves Me

I wanted to write something for my blog before the month was gone. Yet, I did not feel pressed to write on anything in particular. I had an idea, relating to how God still loves us and delights in us, even when we are being stubborn and unyielding. Here goes…

I heard someone say recently that God turns away from us in our sin, and lowliness. The way that was put did not quite sit right with me. Of course, if I were turning my eyes away from God, I would be in no place to hear his words of grace.

Peace. From Japanese garden in San Diego

However, that is my fault. God is not the one turning away. Jesus brought that issue to clarity and completion. God’s son dealt with the consequences of sin so that those who call on him will be saved. Through Jesus, there is always an arm reaching out to saint & sinner alike, and calling out through signs, miracles, people or circumstances; or, calling out to accept (again) his free gift of salvation and redemption.

We turn ourselves away, God does not turn himself away because Jesus stands and the ambassador of God’s mercy and grace- his loving kindness.

There was a time in my life (last year particularly) where I was walking away from the good path God had desired to bless me with. I was laboring in a relationship that I should never have begun. I was being stubborn, selfish, unyielding, and lied to myself on multiple occasions. The posture of my heart was not looking towards God; instead, it was as if my eyes were closed to prevent myself from seeing my situation in the light and how disastrous was the place in which I blindly walked.

By God’s grace, there were times where I opened my eyes and ears to listen to the Holy Spirit’s warnings of the destructive nature of the path I was taking. There was one Sunday at my church where I was moved by the Holy Spirit and opened my heart, eyes and ears for a moment. I expected a “I told you so!” or “See what a mess you made?” I was astounded when I heard a whisper from heaven as gentle as a cool breeze over my aching heart that seemed to sooth every crack. It was contrary to my own shameful feelings. I heard, “I delight in you, my child.” Tears rushed to my eyes as I sat there in awe and wonder of the mysterious grace and mercy offered to me through love. I expected wrath, but instead I witnessed the unchanging love of God, which does not change with our own posture. He continually bids us come, come into my loving arms, let me heal you, let us figure this out together.

It was the gentle, loving kindness of God that led me to a place where my heart softened to the Holy Spirit and I could hear & understand that I needed to move on from that relationship. Sure discipline is essential for correction. However, God, through Jesus,  extends his mercy and grace to lead us to repentance rather than turning his face away, or using a big stick. This is the gospel, that the wrath we deserve for turning away from God has been extinguished by Christ Jesus’ sacrifice and instead we are offered mercy and grace when we accept Him. He never manipulates us with threatening to leave, or making us feel shame about ourselves. Even on those who have not yet accepted Christ as their Savior and Commander, he does not lead them to repentance with letting them know that he will turn his back to them until they come groveling to his feet. That is conversion out of fear which fear and shame do not exist in God’s character. Our inheritance as sons and daughters of Christ is eternal life at peace with God. It is that fact which brings about hope and inspires even the roughest of characters to accept Christ’s free offer of redemption for now and the afterlife.

His kindness leads us to repentance.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 4:4-6

I found the following song in a Hymnal in the piano practice rooms at my University last semester titled, “Jesus, I am Resting.” I often would flip through the hymnal but this one I found and as I played through it and read along with the lyrics, I found my heart being soothed in such a unique way. I sensed God’s loving kindness bring a sense of peace and assurance, even though at the time I was so sick I was not doing much or felt very useful. God just wants us to rest in his goodness and loving kindness. I found this modernized version on Youtube and it keeps to the spirit of the song. Sit back, close your eyes, and listen to this heart-healing song.

-Bethany Porter

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Life Hiatus

I am not going to sugar coat my feelings about 2014. To put it bluntly,

LAST YEAR SUCKED.

I am all dried up, though.

It sucked out my patience, my elegance, my stability, my health, my emotions, my tears, my pride, and my plans. Sucked it all out to where I was a dried up sponge. Due to my health being at an all time low (I am dealing with some pretty severe yet still nameless digestive health issues that slow me down), I am taking a semester off of school to work things out. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but it pretty much took all of the courage I had in me, and then some (Thank you, Jesus) to make this decision.

I have always been in school since I was 4 years old. Not only that, I was already getting into the habit of defining myself by achievement by age 11, being an overachiever by age 16, and a know-it-all scholar at age 21. I have let my educational status define me much of my life.

I made the decision pretty last minute and had even ordered my textbooks for the semester. However, as I clicked to purchase paper for paper, I had this sense that I would not be participating, and that those textbooks were as foreign to me as the summit of

le Mt. Everest

Mount Everest: being so very distant, out of sight, and cold. It was a few days later when I was sitting on the floor of my parent’s living room discussing “it” with my mom, then relief settled in my bones as I let go of the rope I had gripped while trekking up Everest; I decided to take semester off. The questions that flooded my mind were: What am I going to do? Will I become depressed? Be unproductive, wasteful, useless?… What am I going to be? I felt like I was taking a life Hiatus, (to continue my extended Everest metaphor :p) I was gonna sit there is the snow, slowly go mad, starve and then freeze to death. This may seem a bit dramatic, but my recovering overachieving friends would understand.

I just hear God speaking to me know as the question echoes from the bottom of my heart… What am I going to be? God is saying to be: You will be mine. As I say, will I be depressed, unproductive, wasteful or useless? God whispers so gently, No, you will be content, fulfilled, joyful, and still with purpose. And as I say, What am I going to do? God reassures me, You will do that which I will guide you. Every day has purpose, every day has choice, and every day has challenge all meant to guide you on the path I show you.

I am still in Washington right now, finalizing some withdrawal procedure, and attending some doctor’s appointments I had already established a few months ago. I am hoping for a diagnosis, and will return home ready to restore my health (which is dilapidated in more than one area) and be a servant to the will of God.

Yesterday, I went to my lovely church here in Washington and heard a sermon that went straight from the heart of God to Pastor then to me. The sermon was about the second chapter of Nehemiah, a book I don’t normally frequent, to be honest. Nehemiah went to the king wishing to be sent so he could rebuild Jerusalem. It had been four months since he heard of the destruction of Jerusalem in the month of Chislev. Now it was the month of Nisan. This is coincidental because my semesters are four months long and this is how much my plans are being delayed. Pastor Ben then extracted 5 principles from the text on what to do while in this “waiting” period. These were Priorities, Patience, Pray, Plan, and Prepare. The time before he asked the king (Nehemiah 1) to be sent was spent regarding the principles said above. He emerged from that time having prioritized instead of acting right away (zeal without knowledge, my friends), having patience while waiting to hear from the Lord of what to do, prayed to be united with the will of God, made a plan, and prepared what he was to do. By the time he reached the king, he proposed the plea and plan at the apt time and was able to be sent off well.

This is definitely a hyper-charged waiting time for me. This time, I am 3 quarters of the way up Everest and must stop, pitch my tent, and wait for that manna from heaven (wow, so. many. figures. of. speech.) as I see what God has prepared. Even as a sat listening to the sermon, God had already given me a little spark of what I would be doing during my school hiatus besides focusing on my physical health. It excites and scares me.

It is good to know that no matter what Hiatus comes my way, nothing will separate me from God’s love. His love has not any finite depth and I discover more about him wherever I am in life.

Here is a song that proclaims that truth:

Now as Paul blesses the church in Ephesus and all the saints of generations to come (we that love and follow Christ):

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with the power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-20 (ESV)

Love with Grit

I have had the privilege of sharing an apartment with five other amazing women. Each comes from a unique background, and each is very different from me. Many of them have seen trial after trial occur in their life, or their upbringing or surroundings has given them a bit of an “edge” per say. This is coming from the perspective of a recovering goody toe-shoes who spent most of her life living in some pristine saintly bubble looking for ways to “fix” others around her.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 8:38-39

Said scripture verse that seemed to plant itself in my mind in these wee hours of the morning. Nevertheless, I am sitting up in my bed obeying the impulse to write in these God-forsaken hours pretending that I don’t have a piano lesson at 9:30AM. What went through my mind to cause me to succumb? I began to think of some of the friends I have, those who seem a bit “rough” around the edges, yet still love Jesus with their whole heart. Yeah, those kind. Those who will do things out of habit that would have them scolded in Sunday school, but has such passion for God and life it fizzles out onto everything. These friends I have are among the most loving of people I know. Not that the friends I have who have spotless records are not loving, it is just I have noticed a difference. My friends with the most broken homes, backgrounds, and bodies love others with Grit.

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4/6 of my apartment. Yes, that is my gooney face to the left.

This line got my blood pumping and I felt it injustice not to write about this thought that has been steeping in my mind for months now. Now, back to Romans 8. I believe it takes one falling lowest to the ground to be able to experience the vastness and unstoppable nature of God’s love for his created ones. This is why those with battered pasts and sailor mouths can be the most effective witnesses to the sacrifice Christ made on Calvary. This idea was initially planted in my head by Mr. C.S. Lewis himself as I poured over his book Mere Christianity the summer before my freshman year of college. The idea that those with naturally good nature and even temper tend to settle and live mediocre lives as Christians. I began to see myself in this reflection. I, who lived a “healthy” life, was raised by loving supportive parents who always brought us to church, suffered through family tragedy before I was old enough to feel its effects, and never got in trouble at school. Was I settling for mediocre?

C.S. Lewis goes on to talk about how many times the fiery tempered man with an alcohol problem who found Jesus while he was at rock bottom becomes a more vibrant witness for Christ (If I had my book with me I would reference pages and such). Not to say that one soul is more significant than the other, it is just from my end of sight, this observation has held true. The recovering drunk knows he is weak, and that he literally had to be scooped up from his rocky bottom floor by Christ to be able to see light and truth again. Now comes the conclusion men and women like this who have experienced the freedom of Christ can love with more abandon; they know truly no distance had them out of the grasp of God’s love so they need not fear. Those who know they have nothing left to lose love courageously.

This is the gospel folks! No one loved us with more grit than Christ. His life in ministry was full of many trials (I mean 40 days and nights in desert, fasting, and then being tempted by Satan to jump off a cliff??) Jesus was also fully man, he was putting everything on the line because he loved the Father and all of humankind who needed him to allow himself to be submitted to death by slow and painful asphyxiation while hanging by nails on a wooden stake of sorts. All of this to restore a relationship between Creator and created. Calvary was the ultimate expression of love.

I don’t want to be mediocre. I don’t want to be a mediocre lover of God and his created ones. I want to be like Peter, who knew his weakness and had a revelation of Christ through his own weakness. I want to be like Paul, who came from a background of hate and remorse, yet says

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  ~Philippians 3:7-9

revealing some of his coarseness of nature in the actual original meaning of the word garbage which my New Testament Professor kindly told us was the equivalent of street s**t! Paul knew that the things, desires and deeds of his past were worthless and he went on forward putting all at stake to love God and those who needed to hear. I want to shine brightly for Christ like these coarse people who love with grit!

Now here is a song which paints a beautiful picture of the lengths God went to restore all of us broken people:

I could write more, but I shan’t. Maybe a part two sometime…

-Bethany

We Are All Achey Crybabies

Let’s all be honest now. Being sick is pretty awful. You have a virus inside of you this is throwing your body completely off balance. However, what is usually instantly attributed to illness if what is blatantly apparent to the senses: the symptoms.

I have been through a long season of various illnesses that seem to persist or come right after one another. Well, to be pretty honest, I have been ill more times during my last two and some years at university than I have during the entirety of High School and even some of Junior High. How is this so? Well, various things contribute. One thing is that for the first two years I lived in a dormitory, or a petri dish, where germs spread and grew at alarming rates. If someone got sick, like dominoes, all the rest would un-willfully succumb one after another to the trifling case of the flu. It seems inescapable no matter how hard you try! Every doorknob is surely the enemy.

Another reason is that while I lived in the dorms, we ate in the cafeteria which consisted mostly of sodium and dairy rich food concocted for the masses. Most of it was comfort food, with the nutritious veggies and fruits in a lower supply. If you wanted to be healthy, you could either scavenge the available food for what won’t make you feel bloated later, or eat a salad for every meal. Being the type that loves variety, I sacrificed eating healthy at many moments for the novelty of having all the varieties of food at my disposal. The lack of sufficient vitamins definitely contributed to the constant dripping nose, phlegm frog throat, and twice semester-ly flu. Okay, not to mentions the constant mental strain of classes and homework that left the body tired and opting out of physical activity for more sedentary ones.

meme a la Bethany

meme a la Bethany

Sure, a lot of these things were out of my control. However, some of the factors could have been reversed. When I was to the point where I felt like my body could collapse, and I experienced symptoms like a sore throat, cough, and sinus blockage it was eventually the Holy Spirit (usually via MOM- cause moms are that awesome) to whom I finally listened that I needed to take better care of myself or I would burn out. It was the symptoms that allowed me to see something greater through the whirring of my sinus headache.

Symptoms allow me to see there is a greater virus.

Before this virus, there was an internal problem that had hung around in my blind spot and now has my head wondering what in the world is wrong with me! Illness without symptoms is the most lethal.

I have had some more dire, and long lasting health issues arrive this year that had my crying in my pillow at night due to the pain and hopelessness and crying out to God to please help me. I realized that I could not remember the last time I had such a private, desperate plea to God. As the symptoms were wearing me down daily to the point of exhaustion, I heard God whisper to me, “Symptoms are my mercy and grace.” I sat and thought about that for awhile and a new characteristic of Almighty God began to be felt with every ache and pain.

Without symptoms, there would not be realization of a virus, and then there would never be a hope for a cure.

Not only has my physical illness revealed that there are deeper problems in my bodily health, but it has also led to symptoms of frustration, stubbornness and selfishness that have revealed a deeper mental and spiritual issue. God used these emotional and mental symptoms to get my attention and give me an option to turn the situation over to Him. It has changed my attitude on the reasons why I feel so disheveled when I do something that is contrary to the will of God. It is not just conviction, or even pitiful guilt, it is a symptom that reveals that what I have done has torn me away from my source of life and balance and harmony: Yahweh, my God the great I AM, and I have forgotten the saving grace of his son Jesus Christ.

This is why just as we should never neglect our physical health , so we should never forget to constantly lean on, remember, thrive on the redemptive power of Christ. It is when we forget about the sacrifice of Christ, forget the gift of a new identity as God’s redeemed children, and forget that we are nothing without it that we succumb to the virus of depravity and hopelessness.

Thank the Lord, God Almighty for symptoms.

Now here is a song from the esteemed MUTEMATH:

-Bethany Porter