Endings and Beginnings

Well. I’ve been gone from this place for a while. In fact, I’ve been gone from a few places for a while.

The devil has been working over time in my life. Being engaged is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I don’t think that’s a normal thing for people to say. I am so glad I’m no longer a fiance! There were good times in that, times that I won’t forget and will always treasure. But there were also a lot of hard times. A lot of confusing, anxious and doubting times.

I can’t tell you how many times the devil whispered in my ear during Ben and my engagement. “This is wrong.” “You don’t REALLY love him.” “You don’t REALLY want to marry him.” “God is disappointed in you.” “God doesn’t love you like he used to.” “God has deserted you because you are disobeying him.”

Well you know what, satan? Screw you. I married my best friend. I married the man God intended for me to be with. You didn’t win. You have never won in my life, and you never will. I may be weak. You may bring me to tears. You may torment my mind. You may convince me for a time that I am unlovable. But guess what? You will -ALWAYS- lose.

God loves me too much to let you win. And I know that with the deepest part of my being. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but my existence is based on that truth. Everything I am is because of God’s love and grace.

 

Oh, Father. You know the cries within me that I don’t even know exist. I find comfort in the fact that You know the deepest parts of me and love me all the more.

 

Oh, but I do.

It’s amazing the difference in your spiritual life when you go from being a part of a tight knit group and leading worship, to just attending a church service once a week. You go from being close to your pastor and knowing everyone in a group and helping plan future events, and then all the sudden people and pastors leave and then you stop going there and you feel like you’re the only one who has no connection. With people, with church, with God. I know that Christ lives in me, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t always feel that way.

 And then getting the courage to call someone back about being in a small group? It’s next to impossible. And I can say “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” but at the same time think, “but not right now.” This is a deep chasm. It’s so much easier to be lazy. It’s so much easier to not meet new people. It’s so much easier to not wanna make committments. But the distance it feels I am from God? Painful. 

And then I go into my little mind and try to figure out why I am being like this. Let’s face it- it’s hard making friends! It’s hard to open up to people you don’t know very well, and it takes a lot of effort and time. So as I’m thinking about this, I realize that every “best friend” that I’ve had has let me down. Most of them have just screwed me over and “forgotten” me. It’s so very hard to be forgotten, do you know that? When you move and think that your best friend will always be there to talk to on the phone or visit and then suddenly she stops answering her phone, or she’s always “busy” with someone else… it’s hard. It’s hard to feel alone. When your best friend seemingly morphs into a living, breathing, walking reminder of just how annoying, pathetic, unoriginal, uncool, unwanted you are, it doesn’t exactly make you want to go out and make other friends. It makes you close yourself off to anyone else outside of your little world who just so happens to think you are worth their time and energy, and even more so, actually WANTS you around. All that to say that I blame my past friendships. I blame them for me not wanting to become part of another group.

And my goodness people- I know that that is satan speaking. I know that that is him using my past experiences against me. But do you know how hard it is to get back up and even want to try? What’s the point? I have my “people” and I don’t need anyone else.

 

Oh, but I do.

Live and Obey and Love and Believe right here.

Last weekend I got “The Message” New Testament. I’ve heard some passages from it and I like how easy it is to understand. I understand it’s not a word for word literal translation. But boy, do they drive the points home.

I’ve realized lately that when I obsess over my thoughts and situations, it is not God that is causing that. It is the devil. The devil will do anything to get my focus off of God, even if it’s onto other “godly things.” Anything that I think of more than God Himself is idolatry. I have committed a lot of idolatry in my life. I may blame it on my anxiety, I may blame it on wanting to live in Gods will, but no matter what I blame it on, the truth is I have idolized my thoughts. I have idolized my current situation, my future, and my past. I think about where I am right now and if there is where I should be, or if I made a mistake in my past that held me back from being where I should be right now and in my future. But the truth is I am to live and obey and love and believe RIGHT HERE.

It’s no coincidence that all of the books of the Bible that I’ve been reading lately have been about love. I’m a 22 (almost 23) year old girl, and love is a major thought in my brain and on my heart. What I’ve noticed from reading lately, is that I have been listening to the world a WHOLE lot more than I have been listening to God and His truths about what love is. About what love does. About what love says. About what love thinks. About what love looks like. Love is not a feeling. Yes yes, I know we all “know” this. But have we seriously thought about that?? Love is not looking at someone and finding them attractive. Love is not wanting to kiss someone. Love is not wanting to hug someone. Yes, love can have those affects on us, but that is not what love is at it’s roots. Love is action. Love is picking up the house for your Mom because you know she had a rough day at work. Love is putting dishes in the dishwasher when you’re tired and all you wanna do is throw them in the sink. Love is always thinking of the other person first. Love is wanting the other persons best at all times. Love is sacrifice.

When I think about sacrifice, you would think I would think about Jesus first. But I actually think about Abraham and his son Isaac first. Maybe it’s because, thought I’m not a mother, I can relate to Abraham more than I can Jesus. I don’t know what it’s like to be fully God and fully human, but I do know what it is like to love a child. I don’t know what it’s like to die for all of the people of the world, but I do know what it’s like loving one person more than yourself. I can comprehend that. I can’t comprehend having the sin of the world on my own shoulders.

Anyway, think about it. A loving father is told to sacrifice his most cherished son. So he gathers wood and brings his knife and he and his son walk up the mountain by themselves to the place where Isaac is to be sacrificed. I’m sure Abraham was not looking forward to this. He was most likely dreading it more than we can imagine. But as he was walking up that mountain with his son, it wasn’t a question of whether he was going to sacrifice his son or not. He was going to. Because God had asked him to do that and Abraham loved God more than anyone or anything else. So Abraham raises the knife to plunge it into his sons heart, and an angel stops him. Love doesn’t think twice. Love doesn’t look back. Love does because love is a dedication and a decision. In his heart, Abraham had already killed Isaac. When Abraham decided he was going to obey God and do as He asked, it was a done deal. It wasn’t a, “well, what if…” It was finished. That’s how much Abraham loved God.

So when it comes to love, the world has it all wrong. Imagine that! It’s not about me. It’s about the other person. It’s about how I can better their lives, and how I can sacrifice for them. It doesn’t look back and question if this person deserves love. It loves because He first loved us. There is nothing we can do that will be greater than the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And there is nothing more that we can do that will perfect that love any further. Love is acting in that love. Love is not questioning whether I feel up to it today, or if that person is attractive enough, or if she or he has treated me well enough the last few days, or if they have sacrificed for me. True love keeps loving no matter what because of who God is.

| A Love That Never Wavers |

It’s amazing what can make us feel inadequate.

God loves me. Just as much as the people I feel inferior to.
He loves me just as much:
– as the girl my same age who owns two businesses.
– when I don’t keep my room and bathroom clean and organized.
– when I waste my time on the computer.
– when I’m not as crafty and artsy as a blogger I follow.
– when I waste time playing games on my iphone.
– when I can’t motivate myself to do the dishes.
– when I feel unoriginal.
– when I’m not productive.
– when I can’t write songs “as cool as” so and so.
– when I play guitar and sing in my bedroom instead of on a stage in front of thousands of people.
– when I am left out.
– when I am not involved in extracurricular church activities.
– when I don’t have a cool, successful, trendy online store selling cool, trendy things.
– when my house is not picked up.
– when all I can do is say “Jesus” as a call for help.
– when I feel unappreciated.
– when people like other people’s pictures and music but don’t mention anything to me about mine.
– when I can’t make myself sit down and read my Bible.
– when I can’t write a new song.

God’s love is so huge and unfathomable, and it’s amazing how such petty little things can make me feel inferior. It’s amazing how we can care so much about things that God doesn’t even look at. He doesn’t love me less. He never loves me less. He always loves me more than I can comprehend. ALWAYS. He doesn’t compare me to my neighbors and friends and peers. He sees me and He is overcome with joy. If you’re having one of those days where you feel like you aren’t as good as the next person, or like you could be/do so much better but can’t find the motivation, know that God looks on you with love. A love that doesn’t waver based on our performance or status.

I thank John Mark McMillan for helping me remember that. “How He Loves” should be everyones theme song.

“He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree
Bending beneath
The weight of his wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these
Afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful you are
And how great your affections are for me

Homosexuals and Garbage Truck Drivers

I’ve been reading a book by Donald Miller, called Searching for God Knows What. In one of the chapters he talks about how everything we do as humans is to compare ourselves to others. From football games, to sitcoms and reality tv, we are constantly seeking approval of others. We want to know that we are “better” than others.

But why is this?
When the fall of man happened, it cut off our direct link to God. Our access to abundant love and glory from a Father who tells us we are important and worthy of His love. So when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, we started looking to others for approval. It wasn’t until they ate the fruit that they noticed they were naked. They suddenly became aware of their vulnerability to the other person. So they covered themselves up. They were afraid of what the other person would think.

So for thousands of years we have been comparing ourselves to others in order to feel validated. We want to know who is the best at cooking (Master Chef), we want to know who is the most attractive and “lovable” (The Bachelor(ette)), we want to know who is the most athletic (The Olympics and all other sports), we want to know who is the funniest (Last Comic Standing), we want to know who can sing the best (American Idol, The Voice, etc)… the list goes on! Everything we do, whether we are aware of it or not, involves us comparing ourselves to others.

But what if we had access to God again? What if the flow of glory and love and belonging could be reconnected?

What if it doesn’t matter if you’re better at singing than other people? Or if you’re worse at singing? What if it doesn’t matter that you have the best sense of humor?
What if despite all of your qualities, good and bad, God loves you and thinks that you are worth dying for?

God sent Jesus Christ from heaven, down to us on earth, because He loved us so much that He couldn’t bear to see us live without Him. He loved us so much that Jesus came from heaven, the most incredible, fulfilling, love filled place, to Earth just to show us that he thought we were worth it. We are worth getting His hands and feet dirty. We are worth being spat on and beat. We are worth getting nailed to a cross and left for dead.

He didn’t do it for the people on the top of our invisible hierarchy. This hierarchy is something we as sinful humans completely made up ourselves. Satan put the thought of being equal to God in our ear, and we listened. We thought we should be able to access the knowledge of good and evil. If God can, why can’t we?
We feel that we are threatened if we are not the best at something. If we’re not the most good looking. But God doesn’t see that. God doesn’t see a hierarchy. He made us each in His image and He loves us despite the flaws we have here on earth. He doesn’t even SEE the flaws. In His eyes, we have no flaws. We are just a child of God who got caught in the web of sin. We are innocent because Jesus came here to redeem us. Jesus came and died for the sins of the entire world so that we wouldn’t have to- if only we choose to trust Him. He came to die for my sins- my lustful thoughts, my selfish desires, my unwholesome speech, my carelessness, – HE DIED FOR ME, so that I wouldn’t have to. God thinks that I am worth it!! God has slathered me in grace so thick that he can’t see my flaws. He doesn’t see my unwholesome thoughts. He sees an innocent child suffering to get through this life where sin abounds and he wants to GRAB me and lift me up. He wants me to trust that there is nothing I could possibly do that would make Him love me any less. He wants me to trust that even if I didn’t trust in Him, even if I didn’t believe in Him, He still would have sent Christ to die for me. He wouldn’t have done anything differently, because He always acts in perfect love. And perfect love doesn’t wait to know the outcome. Perfect love does. Perfect love does, and doesn’t look back. Perfect love knows what we need and gives it whether we will accept it or not.

God doesn’t see me as “better” than a prostitute. He doesn’t see me as “better” than a druggy or an alcoholic, a homosexual, or a garbage man. He doesn’t see me as “worse” than a lawyer or a professional football player, or a movie star, a firefighter, a preacher or Mother Theresa. He sees me as His Child. And perfect love doesn’t see one child as better or worse than another. He just sees me. He sees me and He loves me. Just like he does you, or that prostitute, or the firefighter, or the homosexual. He loves us abundantly and His love doesn’t waver. He’s not waiting for us to “get better” so that He can love us. He loves us how we are, and we should live and thrive in that truth.

The Flicker

Prescott has been through a lot these last several weeks. We can either return to how we were- apathetic, uninvolved, dispersed – or we can grab the flame and let it light our souls. To God be all the glory and honor. A poem:

A city so filled with apathy
We’ve forgotten who we are
Living our lives as it comes
Scared to reach for things afar

It’s easy not to care
Build walls between us and pain
Don’t ask for too much
From hope our hearts refrain

But then something happens
Like a flicker in the night
It feels too good to be true
But, God, it feels so right

The flicker lights our barren land
And briefly for a moment
We see shadows of another soul
And remember our descent

We have a choice to make now
We could run and hide
Afraid to get too close
Because the stakes are just too high

Or, we can grab a candle
Catch the flicker and make a flame
With trembling hands, move closer
Tell people more than just our names

We can share our pains and heartache
And maybe then we’ll see
That life makes much more sense
When we’re in community

Push down all the walls
Let God guard our weary hearts
Give it up to Jesus
And He’ll heal our broken parts

Now life is just around the corner
I can smell it in the air
I can feel it in our beating hearts
I can hear it in our prayers

Fan the flame that started
Til it consumes our very bones
We’ll burn so bright and brilliant
That it makes the darkness groan

Darkness cannot consume the light
It’s power is too weak
It thinks it has a fighting chance
But will diminish with a shriek.

Written By: Bethany Steinmann

When Does Life Start?

I graduated high school from Chino Valley High School in June of 2009. Since then I have lived at home and I have gone to Yavapai College off and on and I have worked off and on as well.
I keep thinking about “One Day” when I’m living in a city/town that I want to live in, when I’m “working” where and how I want to work, when I’m surrounded by good friends… Oh, life is going to be so great.

Don’t get me wrong- I love love love my parents so much. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t still be living at home. But they enrich my life and I am grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with them. So when I’m off thinking about “One Day,” it’s not because I don’t want that “One Day” to be spent separated from them. It’s actually quite the opposite- I hope to be surrounded by my family.

But lately I’ve been thinking about all of this and I have become sick of thinking about “One Day.” What I’ve come to realize is that “One Day” will never exist unless I start now. One day is a nice thought- one that doesn’t involve sacrifice.

To be honest, I am a spoiled human. I live in a rich country, I’ve never had to deal with any REALLY difficult hardships, I’ve always had a roof over my head, I’ve always had food on the table. And so I think I’ve started expecting things to just go my way automatically. That’s how life works, isn’t it?
But when I start thinking about those things- the roof over my head, the food on the table- I can’t separate sacrifice from it. My parents have worked hard- harder than I’ve ever worked- and they have created a place to call home. They have put food on the table.
There have been times when my parents weren’t sure how all that was going to remain possible, but they did everything they could and God provided. We have had groceries delivered to our door with a receipt that rang up to $700- completely unexpected. We have had a vehicle given to us when we were in need of transportation- God has been so faithful, and I have taken that for granted.

What a little child I’ve been! Instead of realizing these things and learning that life functions through sacrifices, I’ve expected others to sacrifice for me! What a brat.

Lately I’ve had this crazy thought that maybe God has me in this certain neighborhood in Chino Valley for a reason. We know my neighbor Roy really well and he comes over all the time just to chat and eat dinner with us occasionally, but other than that, I know very few. I have met a few of them but haven’t done much to get to know them. But I’ve been thinking lately- why not? Maybe God has me here for a reason. Maybe I’m supposed to plant some seeds or do some watering for Him and I haven’t even made myself available to do that! So my idea is small and simple, but I’m excited about it. In our neighborhood we have a little mailbox area where we all go to get our mail each day. So I’ve decided I’m going to start leaving little gifts there for anyone in the neighborhood to take. My first project is going to be handmade seed packets with flower seeds in them. My dad LOVES flowers, so we have stashed away tons of flower seeds from flowers we’ve planted around the house the past few years. So I’m going to make up a bunch of seed packets and leave them there for the neighbors to take. The second project I’ve thought of so far is to make homemade doggy biscuits and package them up to leave at the mailbox for any fellow dog owners to take home to their furry friends.

I know these are big steps, but they are steps, and that’s what matters. Jesus didn’t come with bolts of lightning and crashes of thunder, but he did come with small acts done with great love. And that’s how I plan to go about this neighborhood project.

Also- if any of you have some ideas for me to leave by the mailboxes, I’d sure like to hear them! I am open to any and all ideas! I would actually really appreciate it.

So anyway, all of this to say that life starts now. Life starts when you want it to start. Life starts when you realize that “One Day” is not just going to come to you served on a silver platter. And life starts when you decide to live in the freedom that God has given you- freedom to live a magnificent life wherever God has placed you. Don’t be confined by the thought that you can’t change your neighborhood, your city, or your country for the better. Be free in the truth that God uses the weak, the insignificant, the small, the tired, the shy, and the uncertain. I, for one, definitely fall under several of those categories. I rejoice! For He must have great plans for me!

Thoughts from my heart.

In this blog post I will share some free writings I’ve written down in various notebooks over the somewhat recent past. Enjoy!

____________________________________
Like a rushing river,
His Word flows over me,
He is the life giver,
In Him I’ve been made free.

Now darkness is my hunter,
It tries so hard to kill,
Stalking so close behind,
Waiting for a weakened will.

But Christ has overcome,
This evil will not win,
The predator may be close behind,
But my Protector won’t let him in.

So run, run, run away,
Your skills aren’t useful here,
My God has overcome the grave,
There’s nothing that I fear.
____________________________________

The trouble with the sunshine
Is that it slips right through your hand
I reached out to keep some
But darkness is all I grasped.
A bottle cannot keep it-

Pause! Just pause a moment!
Soak in the yellow rays
It’s oxygen for the soul
So do not wait until it fades.

The night time is upon us
But don’t be weary; it will not last
Although you cannot grasp it,
The sunshine will be back. 

____________________________________

God, You sent Your son to save me,
So why am I still here?
You must have a reason for me
So God, please God, draw near.

I don’t know where I’m going
Don’t know where I’ve even been
Life seems like a vicious circle
With doubts that live within

It’s partly human nature
This chaos that I feel
Pour out of me a stream of love
a waterfall of praise
Bring me close to feel your presence
Lord, I love to see Your face.
____________________________________

Your thought is a sweet melody
Singing to me in the night.
I am Your treasure, You are my King,
From my peace Your praises ring.

Abundantly you have loved me
You sweep over me with mercy
And wrap me in Your goodness
I sail into the depths of Your heart.

My life is nothing short of a mystery;
You search for me like a pirate for his treasure
Yet I am unworthy of a love so sweet
A love that gives me freedom and peace.

I bask in the light of Your faithfulness
A sweet rain pours over me;
It fills my thirsty mouth
And gives life to my timid being. 

Your breath fills my lungs
And gives my life meaning again
My blood is saturated with the Spirit
Of the One who lives forever.

In You this is no death;
No dark thing can survive
Your radiance diminishes evil
My body is made anew.

The darkest of valleys can’t intimidate me
From fear You’ve set me free
Wherever I go, I take a Light
That burns eternally.

So send me to the alleys,
Where the dirty fragments lay
For He builds His kingdom to the top
Out of hearts the world has slain.

They run to this Shining Light,
And in Him they’re made clean
Scrubbed up and rebuilt
Turned into temples unforeseen. 

Nothing is too big for my God
No power that exists
Can overcome the One who dispensed it
There is no rock which will not be over turned.

But take heart! He is good!
The most terrible of persons can be redeemed! 
My God is not a God of once chance.
In Him you have infinite opportunities;
But only while You breathe.
So brothers, make your decision now-
For any moment you could cease! 
____________________________________

Oct. 4, 2012.
At the alter with a heavy heart
My mind won’t sleep, my mind won’t rest.
Wheres Your comfort?
Where’s Your peace?
It’s easy to say but so hard to find.

I can’t keep going
Without some answers
What’s the point of it all
My life seems so lost.

I crave to hear Your voice-
Is it deep, is it loud?
Is it soft, is it sweet?
I hear about You speaking
Yet You’re silent with me.

Why, God, do I sing
When all I wanna do is speak
To the one who created me
To the one who Hears my voice
It’s supposed to be a two way street
So why can’t I hear yours?
____________________________________

Oct. 4th, 2012
I need to feel the hole in Your hands
Not to turst You live
But to know You’re with me.

How’s Your side?
Has it healed?
How’re Your hands?
Do they still embrace me?

I am tired,
I am so tired,
God why, why is it so hard
To hear Your voice,
To feel Your peace.

I’m so lost
My mind is numb,
My heart is calloused. 
____________________________________

Mar 5, 2012
You ask me what I’m doing
And where my life will lead,
But if I had an answer
don’t you think I’d share my dreams?
So keep the question to yourself,
Your thoughts aren’t too forgiving,
Let me make it through today
Don’t forget I’m already living.
____________________________________

February 2, 2012
Run little girl,
Don’t let your fears follow you
Hide until they’re gone

Run run as fast as you can
Get out of the place you dwell
It’s taking you under

Shut your mouth or suck it up
There’s colors on the other side
Don’t let the black and white drown you out

Your fears have swallowed you whole
Your mind escapes like a bird from it’s nest
The winds have blown your sanity away
But you do nothing to get it back

Stop complaining little girl
Find a cure to stop your hell
The world has too many problems to stop for you

Be the cure you’re looking for
Don’t wait for someone to fix you

Find that hole,
Lay down for a while
But don’t you get too blinded. 
There’s a world outside waiting for you
So get back on your feet.
____________________________________

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed. And if you didn’t, then I’m sorry! But hopefully some of this spoke to someone’s heart.