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Category Archives: devotion thoughts

Hey!
It’s been forever and a day since I posted on here. (And the last post, I didn’t really write!)

Oh my, I guess that’s busyness tolling up. A little bit of slacking here, doing too much there, trying to keep up… I do love being busy, but slacking does not help at all :). My favorite class is my Moody online course – Educational Foundations – and my least favorite is a four-way tie between physical science (in a simple effort to avoid the extra stress of physics), health, world history, and precalc. Okay, actually, I love history. And health. But actually staying accountable with them? Pishhh.

Hehe – okey dokey I need some accountability here. Takers?

Ahem. So. I read my very first Karen Kingsbury book yesterday. I think it was called “Reunion”. The mom of a huge family (with grown-up, married kids) was dying with cancer, and she struggled a ton with fear about being sick and leaving her family if she died. She realized though, that when she would pray and ask God to heal her, it would be something along the lines of this: “God, heal me so that I can be with my family. So that I can spend time with them. So that I can see my grandkids grow up and meet the son I never met.”

She realized, in the end, she was asking for her will to be done for her purposes – not the Lord’s.

Rewind a few weeks, to the day I started teaching for kid’s large group on Sundays at my church. The theme this month is conviction. Honestly, at first, my biggest fear was not teaching well. The second week, I tried to fully give up that fear. I think it’s close to gone :). But as I was reviewing my lesson for this week about Daniel in the lion’s den, I realized what I had been doing. Every week, I tell the kids that we need to obey what God says so that other people will see God and He will be glorified. And every week, I ask them “Is it easy?” “NO!” is the resounding answer. “Do we still need to do the right thing anyway?” “YES!”

Mhmm….Good morning, Michelle! HELLO! This is a lesson YOU need to learn too!!!

Teaching the lesson, my friends, is a very small portion of the actual effort required.

Today, I had an especially bad day. I snapped out of it (I always do), but as I was bawling and trying to sort out my mess, I realized that I was fighting. So hard, so desperately, against the right thing. I wanted my way SO BADLY that I couldn’t bear to give it up. Conviction to do the right thing absolutely flew out the window.

I wanted my thing.

As a teacher, it’s always exciting when you can connect the lesson personally to your life and share that with your students. So I might mention that tomorrow – sitting in our garage, crying because my way had been denied, and God saying, “Hey missy. Whose will do you want here – Mine or yours? Do you trust that I have a good and perfect plan for you? That it’s to prosper you, NOT to harm you – to give you hope and a future?”

It’s so easy to tell people to stand firm to what they believe. To let God have His way even when it comes at personal disadvantage. But do we truly believe it’s worth it, and live it out? Is it perhaps a piece of the agape living we’re called to…to deny ourselves and follow Him?

Not my will, Lord, but Yours.

I read this poem on Nate and Jess’ blog today {they’re two of my amazing new role models. Simply adore them!}, and honestly, it couldn’t have been more perfect. I struggle oh-so-terribly with wanting to know how my life will turn out, and having everything figured out, and just trusting that God will provide. Lately, I’ve especially been afraid that I will be alone in ministry one day… {I sometimes tell my friends about the perfect husband – a worship leader who loves kids and has a heart for inner city ministry. A godly leader who seeks after God with his whole heart. And yet…I wonder, as I have these “like” feelings for people, do I really seek after God with my whole heart? Do I live out the 1 Corinthians 13 attributes I want in a husband? *valentine’s day conviction*}

Lol, so yes. Enjoy the poem, let it soak in 🙂

Waiting by Linda Dillow

Desperately, helplessly, longingly I cried
Quietly, patiently, lovingly God replied.
I pled and I wept for a clue to my fate.
And the Master so gently said, “Child you must wait!”

“Wait? You say, wait!” my indignant reply.
“Lord, I need answers. I need to know why!
Is your hand shortened? Or have you not heart?
By faith I have asked, and am claiming your Word.”

“My future and all to which I can relate
Hangs in the balance and you tell me to wait?
I’m needing a yes, a go-ahead sign,
Or even a no to which I can resign.”

“And Lord, you promised that if we believe
We need but to ask, and we shall receive
And Lord, I’ve been asking, and this is my cry,
I’m weary of asking! I need a reply.”

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate
As my Master replied once again, “You must wait.”
So I slumped in my chair, defeated and taut
And grumbled to God, “So I’m waiting ….for what?”

He seemed then to kneel and His eyes wept with mine,
And he tenderly said, “I could give you a sign.
I could shake the heavens and darken the sun.
I could raise the dead and cause mountains to run.

All you seek, I could give and pleased you would be
You would have what you want,
but you wouldn’t know Me.

You’d not know the depth of my love for each saint.
You’d not know the power that I give to the faint.

You’d not learn to see through the clouds of despair.
You’d not learn to trust just by knowing I’m there.
You’d not know the joy of resting in me
When darkness and silence were all you could see.

You’d never experience that fullness of love
As the peace of my Spirit descends like a dove.
You’d know that I give and I save…(for a start).
But you’d not know the depth of the beat of my heart.

The glow of my comfort late into the night
The faith that I give when you walk without sight.
The depth that’s beyond getting just what you asked
Of an infinite God who makes what you have last.

You’d never know should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’
Yes, your dreams for your loved ones overnight would come true,
But, oh the loss! If I lost what I’m doing in you!

So be silent, my child and in time you will see
that the greatest of gifts is to get to know me
And though oft may my answers seem terribly late.
My wisest of answers is still but to wait.”

Dearest Jesus, they’re two promises I cling to. a) You will never, ever fail me or forsake me. b) You know the plans You have for me, they’re to prosper and not to harm me..to give me a hope and a future. Jeremiah’s “hopeful future” kinda went sour, he died rejected by his own people. But imagine his joy at uniting with You! Your grace is enough. Always and forever.

Teach me to trust!

One chance. That’s it.

I remember thinking this when I was helping some of my UV brothers with a Bible club at an inner-city playground. I saw a little girl and her dad playing, so conveniently let the men carry our supplies and went to talk to her, color with her, and just love her. Only one other boy came, but we hadn’t seen either of them at Urban Vision before so we were totally pumped about reaching out to them.

One chance, I thought. We may never see these kids again. We only have one time to be with them, be positive influences, reach out…

One chance. So what were we to tell them?

It’s week 4 or 5 of teen Bible study. It’s the second week one of the girls hasn’t shown up. I’m worried. She doesn’t attend the other programming at UV, and likely doesn’t get much Bible teaching aside from it. I worry some more.

Two weeks ago, Lord… I did my best to love on her. To make her feel special. To show her we cared. What if that week was the last week? What if I never see her again?

One chance. What if that was all I had with her?

What if today is the last day you have alive? Tomorrow is not promised. You have one chance, once chance. What do you want your last words to be? What will people say mattered to you the most? A minor doctrine that you idolized and chased after? An obsession with something that really didn’t matter?

The Gospel?

One chance. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is power. God is power. He’s all that matters. Are minor doctrines good to study? Absolutely – with lots of prayer and Bible researching, of course! But regardless of beliefs, we’re all called to live the same lifestyle.

 He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

One of my life-verse passages is 1 John 3:16-18:

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

For this is the love of God, my brothers and sisters. That we obey His commandments. If we love, God’s love is perfected in us. This isn’t just affection. It’s agape. It’s 1 Corinthians 13 love.

Will people see that you loved God first, and loved others because the first love just bubbled over? Will they remember you as someone who was passionate about the Gospel, or passionate about conflict?

One chance…go get ’em, friends! 🙂

This is scaring me – it’s my very last post of 2011! I love blogging. I wish I had kept track of how long I’ve been doing it (AND how many URL changes I’ve made! haha), but I know that this year has been wonderful. Writing is such a sweet love connection with God – journaling, decorating notebooks/guitar cases with Scripture and quotes, facebooking, and, of course, blogging.

I was inspired from some website to pick a special theme word for 2011. I picked “revive”. I’m not sure why, I guess I just felt like God wanted me to make that a vision of sorts. Here’s a list of things I’m so thankful for from 2011…(and fyi, I haven’t seen the theme “revive” too much myself, so that’s why I’m doing this :).)

  • The Lord provided a way for me to dance AND volunteer at Urban Vision – even helping with a ballet class!
  • I spent a few two-nighters at my best friend’s farm, being revived in the Lord.
  • Offered an internship of sorts at Urban Vision!
  • Did lots of helping my great-grandma sew costumes for my dance company, “Radiant”
  • Got back on pointe!
  • Did my UV Bible study (a crash course on Christianity) with some of my Karen sisters. Never felt God’s strength moving me in that way before, He provided wonderfully 🙂
  • Gave my second public testimony. (It was terrible, I would like a redo. Again, though, the overcoming-stage-fright experience was very helpful!)
  • Met Gracie, the cutest pre-preschool aged Karen girl EVER!
  •  Danced a worship song with my best friend – “You Are For Me” by Kari Jobe. Beautiful memories.
  • At the very first intern meeting, did an impromptu what-God-is-teaching-me speech. THAT went better than the testimony. It was faith-stretching, but reviving.
  • The whole laying-on-of-hands-and-receiving-healing thing… happened! I don’t have to wear my heel lift anymore; my hip doesn’t hurt on a regular basis! Praise the Lord!
  • Awesome ministry-prep times with the interns. So blessed to work with teenagers/UV staff who are so passionate for the Lord!
  • Grew a lot closer with all the UV teens.
  • Worked with a Bible club at an elementary school playground. Impromptu ministry again!
  • Taught my first two Bible lessons 🙂
  • Played guitar with my first real band
  • Grew closer to the UV college intern – realized what a blessing her background/story are because they are so similar to mine :).
  • Baptized – 8.12.11 by the awesomest “boss” one could ever have!
  • Went on my first overseas trip to Thailand – saw the refugee camp where lots of my friends are from!
  • Saw Burma.
  • Challenged to agape living

Now I see how the Lord used revive. Reviving a passion for missions I lost, a passion to love selflessly (agape), a passion for inner-city ministry, a passion to follow the Lord because the world can be changed by the power of His name!

I’ll write about my new word sometime next year :).

Jesus, thank You sooo much for this year. It’s not at all what I expected, but everything You wanted! And what’s more, I loved it. I saw Your working. I’m especially thankful for my new brothers and sisters in Christ at Urban Vision. Lord, no matter where I am, healing is in Your hands. I was so scared to leave dance because I thought I wouldn’t have anyone to talk with about You. No, Lord… You provided in greater ways than I can imagine. Why, oh why would I doubt You? I’ve tasted Your glory – I’ve seen how Your plan is so good! Help me to always, always passionately live out agape. You are the greatest example of it, Lord! I love You, Daddy <3.

“Your plans are still to prosper

You have not forgotten us

You’re with us in the fire and the flood

Faithful forever, perfect in love

You are sovereign over us.”

 

Ah. Such an exciting word, yes? Backstage. Dusty smell of curtains, feeling of anticipation, costumes, shadows, lights shining from onstage… backstage.

It’s a place that meant a lot to me as a dancer, and even now, a place I love to be. I remember, back in the dance days, frantically fixing shoes, adjusting layers of tulle, last minute working on choreography, signaling to others on the opposite side backstage of something different that needed done. A place where, well, we were faulty humans.

Then we go onstage. Prepared or not, we act like we truly know what we are doing. We smile and worship and try  to ignore the blinding lights and the bow that’s coming untied and the shoe that hurts and the slippery spot on the floor and the epic-fail-moment with choreography and dance. The lights go off, and we run into the dark shadows once more. Ah – a place where we are comfortable, where we can again confess the mistakes and complain about the shoes or whatever else went wrong.

And I said I was a retired dancer. Oops.

{Okay, I love being onstage (or backstage) more than I would likely admit :). And actually, I got the idea for this from a sermon at church. I probably won’t dance onstage again, but I love writing about it!}

Does the backstage analogy ring a bell of something Jesus mentioned…about truth and light?

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

-John 3:20-21

Light reveals. It shows the truth of who we are, what we’re really made out of. Yes, we can wear masks for a while. But when real light comes, true character shines through. There’s no faking anything with the Lord.

The question is, does light make you uncomfortable? It’s never a fun thing to have your sins brought to light; I completely get that. But do you find yourself hiding backstage a lot, not confessing sins and thriving on disorder and chaos? “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…”

Light came into the world on the very first Christmas! The darkness didn’t like it too much. But we have the choice today, to let God’s light shine in our lives or to hide in the dark.

Wake up, sleeper, lift your head

We were meant for more than this

Fight the shadows, conquer death

Make the most of the time we have

We are the light of the world

We are the city on a hill

We are the light of the world

And we gotta, we gotta, we gotta

LET THE LIGHT SHINE!

Do you ever wonder why God made you how you are? Complete with imperfections, struggles, weaknesses… I do.

I thought about this most tonight. Two of my wonderful brothers have been at school ceaselessly {in other words: not at Urban Vision} rehearsing for a play and so tonight, I went to go see it. I took my dear Jamie along, though she had already seen it, just to go and have fun together. The play was quite amazing. I must admit, they have talent. But I think what I failed to take into consideration was that it was about…well… Anne Frank. Not exactly a happy-ending, beautiful story.

Uh, yeah. So midway through the first half I felt sick and at intermission, Mom decided I needed to go home. She’s had enough of me being sick {16+ hours on an airplane did it for her} and she didn’t want to take any chances. I was so mad. I thought, “Lord, why can’t I handle this? It’s just a dumb play…” Jamie commented, “Michelle, you’re just emotion-sick.

Why? Why couldn’t I watch “End of the Spear” without the very same thing happening? Why did it hurt so much to be in the Burmese political prisoner museum in Thailand? Why?

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are My work, the product of My hands. You are perfect in My eyes – I love you, and you are made exactly for what I have planned for you. There’s only one of you, and you reflect Me in a way no one else could. I delight in you. 

Hopefully, you guys don’t struggle with that. But either way, I just wanted to use this occasion to remind you that you are perfect in God’s eyes…and that God will use your imperfections for good. I’m starting to learn this myself – like I mentioned in the last post, I really struggle with grasping how God delights in me. Our weaknesses included. We don’t have to perform to be loved.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. And I pray that it blesses you wherever you are :).

 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12:7b-10


That couldn’t possibly be right! No no and NO. I am much to messed up to be delighted in.  

Uh, actually, yes yes and YES.

I had a longish conversation with my “boss” at Urban Vision, just about things I was struggling with and stuff that way. I remember though, we arrived at the conclusion that I really over-evaluate myself too much. I’m always studying my actions, my motives, judging myself and quite frankly, not letting God have His say. {Really, it’s prideful to think we could take God’s place in our lives.} At some point in the conversation, when I was utterly failing at understanding God’s unconditional love, my boss asked honestly, “Is God happy with Michelle right now?”

I will admit in all honesty, I cried. I looked at all the things I decided were wrong with myself and decided God couldn’t quite be happy with me. Love me, of course. But be happy with me? DELIGHT in me?

Yes yes and yes.

I posted a while back about how I struggle with fear so much. Really, I’m too afraid to hear God say that He kind of enjoys me *gasp*… so I judge myself by my standards.

I thought of how my personality at UV has changed since I started working there regularly in September 2010. I’m not as quiet as I used to be; one of my favorite things in the whole world is to have really loud Christian rap music going on while I have 3 conversations all at the same time and try to teach a crash course on guitar. With teenagers, mind you. {I’m being transformed!} From playing pranks {and really enjoying them; have YOU ever made a chili pepper pancake and served it to your incredible brother while he’s playing chess – the ideal time to get him off guard?} to messing around with my siblings to getting Sharpie “tattoos” from my brothers, my personality is really different.

“God couldn’t possibly delight in me anymore. I have too much fun at Urban Vision and I don’t feel like I’m really serving God when I’m there and..and…”

Whatever dip decided to tell me that serving God couldn’t be tons of fun is, well, a dip. As only the Enemy can be.

I have read again and again through 1 John, where John writes that loving God=obeying His commands. And the second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself. My boss pointed out, what do I think it would look like if my heart was REALLY in the right place? Truth to be told, if we’re judging our hearts by our own standards then we’re pretty self-centered.

Well, anyway. This all isn’t to say that when we see sin our lives, we should ignore it. Because it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts us {which is true conviction, not an Enemy-produced guilt burst}, and it’s unbiblical to intentionally harbor sin. I’ll end with a quote from a play I’m in at Urban Vision. This is after I steal vegetables from the man {it’s for the kids!}:

Man: Well, then, let me say this – I am willing to extend to you either mercy or grace. Which is your desire?

Miriam: Are they not the same thing, sir?

Man: They are not, my lady.

Miriam: Then please explain what mercy grants.

Man: If I were to endow mercy, you would be completely forgiven for taking my vegetables.

Miriam: {Seems relieved} then this is what I most desire.

Man: Perhaps, yet you will hear the matter of grace. Should I extend grace, you would be invited to come and gather any vegetables from my garden that you like at any time you like. It would be as if you were a member of my family with all the rights of the daughter.

Narrator: Miriam marveled at the gifts offered to her. She knew that she did not deserve the man’s kindness and yet she longed in equal measure for both mercy and grace.

Miriam: Sir, I do not deserve either mercy or grace. I should claim in all honesty that I am in no way deserving of the rights of a family member. Still, I could not return home with a pure heart without an equal measure of both.

Man: My dear child, you shall indeed have both – Mercy and Grace. For in my mercy I will not exact a punishment that you justly deserved, and in my grace I will give to you what can never be earned. Will you accept my gift?

He loved us when we weren’t His followers. And He could never love us more than He does right now… which is the love that sacrificed His Son for our ransom :). He delights in you. Yes, yes, and yes.

“Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on…God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing” (Mere Christianity, p. 50).

I have an absolutely AMAZING online English class with Potter’s School – we’re studying five books by C.S. Lewis. I love that it combines writing, grammar, college prep, AND theology – all in one class :).

Anyway, my favorite part of the assignment is the essay we get to write, on the quote of our choice in the book we’re studying. This was a wee bit harder in Surprised By Joy, but Mere Christianity has had my attention since the first page. I think I’m over-using my hilighter – like, there are more sentences covered in blue than there are NOT covered in blue.

The quote above made my essay this week. I can’t say the essay was well-written (plus because it’s an ESSAY, who wants to read it for fun?) so I’m not too sure about sharing it.

But here’s my last paragraph. You don’t have too much of a solid foundation to judge it, cuz you don’t have it in context :).

Quite often, I pursue fulfillment of my need for joy and find the object of my pursuit far from God. I try to “…invent some sort of happiness for [myself] outside God, apart from God” (49). God gives us wonderful gifts, yet so easily I take them and obsess over the gift rather than the One who gives beauty to His gifts. Reading Lewis’s writing blessed me immensely; I again remembered that true joy apart from God is impossible. As temptations to find false happiness arise, I remember with Nehemiah, “…The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b).

Feel free to critique.

Basically, I loved the one part of the quote – God can’t give us happiness and peace apart from Himself. There aren’t any such things. It’s easy, isn’t it? To see how God fills a hole in your life and adore the stuff He filled the hole with…not the craftsman who filled the hole. On a more humanly applicable note, if you give a gift to someone, you want them to be grateful to you – not to go nuts over what you gave them and forget you.

So the final wrapper/thesis restatement/whatever you want to call it: nothing in this world can fully satisfy us. There is no such thing as true happiness or true peace in this world, because God IS true happiness and peace. {or, more theology-sounding, true JOY and peace}. 

Also – I wanted to share a short life update that links C.S. Lewis to the title :). I spent 3 years as a dancer with Praise His Name with Dancing; I can easily say I spent much time obsessing over dance. God healed so much in me through classes – worship time, bonding with my best friend and her family, my first evangelistic outreach. Delighting in God’s gifts, rather than Him, became scarily normal – especially my last half year. I think God “whacked” me back into reality when my best friend shared One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp with me. One of her quotes was quite similar to Lewis’s, and even then it impacted me so much I danced with her book onstage in our June production. {No worries – it fit perfectly with the lyrics in our song ;).}

After crazy-fun dance chaos for 1-2 months, I spent my summer as an intern at Urban Vision. Summer 2011 was an immensely life-changing summer – the Lord again filled holes in my life, primarily ones I thought I would loose due to no dancing. {Surprisingly, He filled these holes WITHOUT giving me dance classes – of any kind!} He gave me a sweet family, so many chances to be an encouragement, brothers {namely two big brothers who are incredible godly leaders – I’ve ALWAYS wanted an older brother ;)}, sisters, and mentors. I love them dearly.

I can’t tell you all that I learned that summer. There’s a lot. I do know that I spent a lot of time obsessing with gifts, rather than the Giver. {Actually, at the beginning of the summer, I gave a devotional to the teen leadership team and some UV staff on that very topic!} But God caught that and guided me through the summer – I can’t say I did perfectly, but I do know that looking back, I can see His hand working situations for my good. Like, reminding me that people aren’t perfect and are guaranteed to fail at some point… that helped with idolization issues ;). He is my strength…He alone can satisfy.

Plus, I was so blessed to participate in lots of evangelism. {If you’ve ever taken the “Pathways to Global Understanding” course, I’ll be more specific – evangelism AND missions.} I don’t think I caught it at first, but the continual cycle of learning a skill, then using it for God’s glory was incredible. Much better than 7 dance outreaches every year. I probably wouldn’t tell you God gave me a passion for evangelism, yet I know that while I don’t feel it, He’s instilled in me somewhere this need to actually use my gifts to bless somebody and reflect Him.

Long story short, I hit the end of the summer not missing dance. At all. Missing my interns, and the rest of the fam – a TON. Missing evangelism – IMMENSELY. The decision to give up dance for more time at Urban Vision seemed obvious, but was pretty scary. I remember one of the last nights during our week-long stay at UV (for our teen-led VBS) talking with my big sister Maggie. We talked about a lot, but I remember telling her, “I’m scared that if I give up dance, I’ll be bored. If I ever had a bad day at dance, I could go to Urban Vision and find acceptance and fulfillment. If UV went bad for some REALLY random reason, I had dance the next day.”

Maggie’s just so awesome she prayed over that for about a month for me. When we had a much-needed intern accountability time in late August, I mentioned I had officially given up dance {?!} and she got soo excited. We both did, really. It was sisters pumped to see God meet needs in new and deeper ways…to commit slightly larger areas of our lives to Him and trust Him to meet us there.

This year, I’m committing to find my strength, my identity, in God – not in the people I work with, or the ministry I do. Because there’s no true joy or happiness or peace apart from Him. 

{Plus – who else can say He’s loved you with everlasting love, before you were born, even when you make Him sad? Hey. He’s the perfect example of Agape – the perfect challenge to agape living.} 

One of my favorite quotes (not for great theological content, but because I say it so often and am taught by it) is “Tell me when, tell me where, tell me how… and THEN I’ll trust you, God!”

It happens so much. Lately, with being an intern this summer and all, my biggest “AHH” topic of discussion is whether I’ve actually been serving God. I had a TON of fun this summer – I could go on about how I learned how to teach a lesson, or stole keys so my brother in Christ could play a prank on someone, or how I got sick in the middle of VBS week but God provided, or how I prayed with my big sister at 1:20 in the morning, or how I did so much in the kitchen {unintentionally} that my boss told me I was overworking {and that being the cause of my fever} and he helped me rest, or how I acted as a boy in a drama who loved X-Men and Transformers (and who wore a boy outfit with skinny jeans), or how I played guitar with my other brother Ehkaw, and eventually with the band, LITC (Light in the Community). Or how my boss gave me priceless biblical insights, how my big brother prayed for me when I was sick, feverish, stressed, and obviously not-okay, how God worked everything out for gym on a day I thought I couldn’t do it, how my big sister and I really had good times, even though we’re really different.

I had fun.

And while serving the Lord is indeed a joy, I know sacrifice has to be involved. The passage in scripture I really hung out with was 1 Corinthians 13 – a passage that teaches agape love. Self-sacrificial love. The kind of love that gives itself up. 

Even Jesus, who was the perfect example of Agape, said “For whoever desires to save his life will loose it, but whoever looses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) “Whoever loves his father or his mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)

It kind of involves sacrifice. Jesus is God, and serving His Father involved sacrifice. Yea… so needless to say, I feel like a slacker. I hardly sacrificed anything. Yuck.

So I actually talked with my boss about this… my exact words were “Micah says there’s definitely a problem when you’re a Christian and you’re not being persecuted. So Jeff, where do I go to get persecuted?”

Jeff talked for a while with me about this. I shared every problem I’d had that summer, like “I wasn’t serving the Lord.” “I’m not living my faith enough because CLEARLY I’m not getting persecuted.”

His first words of wisdom were, “I don’t think persecution’s the kind of thing you need to seek out…if you’re serving the Lord, it will definitely come.” {Sure enough, the next week, I got a fever.} He pointed out that if my heart was serving the Lord fully, my actions probably wouldn’t change very much. Maybe not at all. It’s all about the heart! When I was talking with some teen girls {we were discussing Ecclesiastes together}, I asked “So what’s the difference between a non-Christian helping the homeless, or running an after-school program and a Christian doing all that?”

The heart!

There’s a Proverb that says for us to guard our hearts, because out of them spring the issues of life. Oh yes. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where was my treasure this summer? Where is my treasure right now?

It’s so easy, when life goes bad, to rely on God. To confess sin, and trust Him – because clearly, in those moments, the world is fallible. But when things are going well – when we live in prosperity; have luxuries and comfort; are having fun – we love to take God’s blessings and act like we were the ones who initiated them.

But no matter what season of life we’re in, we are called to serve the Lord and lean on His strength. {Someone once said that it’s easier to lean on God in the hard times than the good; so when we have good times, it’s spiritual discipline to really lean on His strength.}

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

-1 Peter 4:11

My ESV study Bible explains this as actually drawing on God’s strength – as in, not using our own strength, but God’s. And that kind of serving brings glory to God!!!

To somehow tie this all together, God has you and me in a specific season right now. It may be one of material prosperity; it may be material poverty. {Or maybe just being okay ;).} But wherever you are, it’s absolutely NOT by accident.

Use whatever season you’re in to bring glory to God, and God alone. Serve God; serve others with the ability God supplies… that in all things God may be glorified!

Not dust… You!! oh Father, the dust wants me so bad! It’s menacing against me… claws thrashing; fangs chomping. It looked so nice at first! But now, it’s truly rotted in my stomach…

Yet my eyes ever lust… my mind ever wanders. “Surely there’s more. If only I dream about the mysteries of that dust more, then maybe – just maybe – they’ll come true. Just one more thing of beauty in that dust – then my heart will rest.”

Stooping, I gaze into a vast unexplored canyon – you guessed it, brimming with dust. “Surely… oh Father, this holds such possibilities! Wait here, just a moment… You redeem time… I’m going treasure hunting.”

Without looking behind at the God I think I’ve ditched (temporarily, of course – I’ll come back when I have a problem, yes?), my feet wander.

I kneel, gaze fully devoted to the dust. My head bows… I dig viciously with my hands. Inch after inch reveal nothing… but then I find exciting fairy tales. Dream upon dream I dream… I kiss the dust. “Surely this is better than God! He’ll always be there if something goes bad… redeeming time.” 

In one fleeting moment, the piles of dust I’ve adored and collected vanish. My hands soiled, my stomach sour, I stare in horror.

Gone. 

The canyon, so beckoning before, shows itself for what it truly is. Dust. Useless.

“Oh!” I think. “It really was… uh… dust.”

Gone.

“When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me. … Give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies. … I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.” ~Psalm 56:9, 60:11-12, 61:4

I turn around, back to the canyon that devoured my time. He’s standing there… love deep in His eyes, arms outstretched. I fall, sobbing, into His arms.

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to Your word! Let my soul live and praise You, and let Your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.  ~Psalm 119:25, 175-176