Thursday, June 21, 2012

As Promised...

In case you missed yesterday's post, I am completely and utterly obsessed with Rend Collective Experiment's second album, Homemade Worship by Handmade People. I posted a video of their song Second Chance, which is my favorite, and promised to discuss my thoughts on the lyrics that have touched me so profoundly. So, here you go! Lyrics to Second Chance:

My future hangs on this
You make preciousness from dust
Please don't stop creating me
Your blood offers the chance
To rewind to innocence
Reborn perfect as a child

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption's kiss
Beauty awakens by romance
Always inside this mess
I have found forgiveness
Mercy as infinite as You

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart 

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross

Fragments of brokenness
Salvaged by the art of grace
You craft life from our mistakes
Black skies of my regrets
Outshone by this kindness
New life dawns over my soul

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross

"You make preciousness from dust..."

Doesn't that just make you smile? Did you know you are precious to God? It says so in Isaiah 43:4 - " are precious and honored in my sight, and...I love you."

"When sin and ugliness / Collide with redemption's kiss / Beauty awakens by romance"

This makes me think of one of my favorite passages from Ephesians: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved." That's from Ephesians 2:1-5, in case you are wondering. Awesome, right? That God would take a broken, sinful person and make her into his beloved daughter...*happy sigh.*

"Fragments of brokenness / Salvaged by the art of grace / You craft life from our mistakes / Black skies of my regrets / Outshone by this kindness / New life dawns over my soul"

This part also makes me think of Ephesians 2:1-5, and also John 10:10, which says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Jesus came to give us LIFE! We're not stuck in lives of religiously adhering to a set of rules to try to make God happy with us. Because we KNOW God loves us, we can be free to love Him and love others fully and completely, and enjoy a beautiful relationship with him. Yay life!!

So there you go: my thoughts on Second Chance by Rend Collective Experiment, as promised. I hope you enjoyed the song as much as I did. If it touched something in your soul too, put up a comment! I love hearing your stories!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Latest Obsession

I'm taking a break from the heavy stuff for a little bit (READ: I'm still knee deep in wedding season). Please enjoy this short, happy post about my new favorite band.


Have you heard this song? I've played it, oh, about 500 times since I got Rend Collective Experiment's second album, Homemade Worship by Handmade People. Have a listen; you'll be hooked too.

Ireland! Manly beards! 

You're welcome. 

**Come back later for my thoughts about the lyrics to this song!**

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Story Behind the Lies, Chapter 3: Control Freak

Ever notice how when you’re doing a group project and your group members aren’t taking the project as seriously as you want them to, you get really frustrated with them? Or, at least, I do. There’s nothing worse than getting a slacker group that doesn’t care and ending up with a terrible product (be it grades or sales or lesson plans). It’s so frustrating because you know you personally worked your hardest, but you don’t get the result you feel you deserve because of other people’s laziness or incompetency.

This is one symptom of a serious problem many people face: the need for control. I, as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, deal with this issue ALL THE TIME. I feel a strong desire to be in control so I can manipulate all the inputs and get exactly the output I want (which is exactly what happens in real life, right?). If something is important to me, like preparing a special meal for my friends, I won’t let anyone else help because I am afraid they will mess it up, which will reflect badly on my own skills (because everyone knows friends only come over for tasty food, not to enjoy your company).

I think a lot of the control problem is rooted in perfectionism. Of course, it can also stem from some serious hurts that you want to avoid ever experiencing again or a lack of trust, but those are topics for another time. Today I want to focus on what God is teaching me about being a control freak.

First of all, I think the need for control is in direct opposition to a true understanding of God’s sovereignty. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” It’s obvious that God has a plan, and that his plan is going to be accomplished. Therefore, control is an illusion.

Second of all, I think the need for control is rooted in a mistrust of God’s provision and lovingkindness. We think that because things aren’t going the way we think they should (you don’t get that promotion, that girl turns you down for a date, you fail that test, you don’t get on that team) that God must not have our best interests at heart, or that he isn’t paying attention. We think, “God’s not going to do anything, so I’ve got to get out there and make it happen myself. After all, God helps those who help themselves, right?” But this is a lie! Our God is a good God, and his plans are always good! Matthew 6:26-34 says,

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

The point of quoting this piece of Scripture is to highlight how much God cares about his kids. When you think about how much God loves you, and what he’s trying to accomplish in your life (that is, to make you more like Christ), then you can take comfort in the fact that he is sovereign and accomplishes his purpose. You don’t need to control everything! Trying to take control away from God is like a woman trying to take the lead in a dance. In dancing, if the lady doesn’t do her part and follow her partner’s prompting, the dance falls apart. If the lady tries to start leading the man, then the dance just gets downright awkward; it doesn’t flow smoothly or gracefully like it should.

Life is like that dance. Our job is not to take control, but to follow the cues of the One who is leading us. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Story Behind the Lies Chapter 2: You Are What You Think

So I've been running around lately doing wedding preparations (I'm the maid of honor for my best friend's wedding) and it's been keeping me pretty busy. So to my dear friends who read this blog to keep up with me post-graduation: sorry about that. I'll try to be better at keeping this thing updated.

You know, I'm going to skip my usual back story and cut right to the chase on this one. Sound OK? I've got like 30 minutes till bedtime and I want to get this thing up tonight. Ready? Let's start!

I once read a quote while perusing the Internet that said something to the effect of if our friends talked to us like we talk to ourselves, we wouldn't be friends with them anymore. Makes you think, doesn't it? I think most of us don't even realize what we are doing to ourselves when we cut ourselves down. I'm as guilty as the rest of you; as you might remember from my previous post, I still struggle with perfectionism, so when something I am trying to do goes wrong, my gut reaction is to beat myself up about it. I've gotten a lot better about how I talk to myself, but the self-deprecating thoughts can start to creep in if I'm not careful.

Now, I say these things for a reason: I know good and well I'm not the only one. I wanted to share something with you that I heard when I visited my old church this past weekend that really hit home on this issue. My pastor took this idea from Psalm 103, which says,

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-- 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.

What David is doing here is focusing not on himself and his own issues, but on God and who he is. He's telling his own soul to praise the Lord and reminding himself that God is compassionate, that he doesn't repay us according to what we deserve, that his love is never-ending and his mercy has no limit. David could have focused on all the bad things happening to him, but he chose to dwell on who God is instead. He could have dwelled on his own failures and shortcomings, but he made a conscious effort to think about the goodness of his Father instead.

Circumstances come and go, but God never changes. You can always count on him to have a plan for your good (and your good is Him). Is the process painful? Yes, it is. Are we going to get it right every time? No, we are not. But I think God has something far better in mind for his kids than a pain-free, perfect life here on Earth, don't you?

So I'm going to choose to dwell on God's love and mercy and compassion the next time I'm tempted to dwell on my shortcomings. And you know what? As I start to think more and more about who my Father is, I'm going to start becoming more like him, because we become what we think. Who's with me?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Story Behind the Lies, Chapter 1: Hi, I'm Meghan, and I'm a Perfectionist

[Note: If you haven't read Some Lies and the Truths that Vanquish Them, you should go check it out before you read this post. It will make much more sense if you do!]

The other day, I was cleaning out my closet in preparation for the big move. Oh, I haven’t mentioned this move before? Well, I’m moving out of my dad’s old apartment (well, I suppose it is mine now, but it still feels like my dad’s apartment even though he has moved on), which we have lived in for over 10 years, and into my very own (much smaller) place close to work. I’m tired of driving 30 minutes each way to get to work and tired of not being able to host things because I’m so far away from church and tired of being in an apartment that was decorated by a man who loves blue a little too much (I love my dad, but seriously? Dark blue curtains? Not exactly a girl’s dream décor.).

Anyways, I was going through my two boxes of old high school stuff when I noticed that a lot of the things I put in there as keepsakes don’t matter to me anymore. I had packed away trophies and awards and plaques from UIL contests and Solo & Ensemble competition and FCCLA and various other competitions I had participated in throughout middle school and high school, but as I looked at them through the eyes of the faith I received in college, I realized that those accolades don’t matter to me anymore.

You see, when I was younger, I placed my identity in my abilities and accomplishments. If I won something, or advanced to another level of competition, or got good grades, then I felt validated in my existence. It was like I was using the medals and trophies to justify my worth. As long as I was doing well in school and in my competitions, I was OK. If I didn’t place in a competition, or didn’t get an A on a test, then I got depressed and beat myself up for being stupid and worthless.

That all changed when I was a sophomore in college. I was in the middle of a prayer meeting at the campus park. We sang and prayed together and then dispersed for private/small group prayer time. I remember that I was sitting a little ways off from the main group praying for a test I was worried about when all of a sudden I heard the soft, tender voice of God say, “Be still. You know what? You don’t have to be good enough.” That stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t have to be good enough? Wait. I didn’t have to be good enough! I grabbed hold of that truth and it felt like chains were lifted off my soul. I was free! Free from the burden of trying to earn approval, trying to find validation in my accomplishments, trying to deserve good things!

I can freely admit now that I was (and sometimes still am) a perfectionist. But you know what? That’s no way to live life! If you’re trying to find your identity in anything other than Christ, you’re going to crash and burn, I promise; I’ve been there. Trying to validate your own worth is an empty and futile sort of existence. But God gives grace! You don’t have to be good enough because he is good enough for you. You read that right. Jesus is the one who is good enough in your place. You don’t earn anything. You are a beloved child of God not because you are good enough, but because Christ is good enough.

So take heart, dear reader! Read Ephesians 1, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, and Isaiah 43:1-4. Soak up the truth of God’s 66-book love letter to his chosen people and let it change your life. I promise it’s so much better!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some Lies and the Truths that Vanquish Them

I've been mentoring young ladies for several years now, and one theme I've started to notice throughout every relationship is the sense that my girls don't feel worthwhile. Somewhere deep in the back of their minds, they have this feeling that they're not good enough to be loved and that they have to work hard to earn the approval of others because there is no way they could ever be accepted as they truly are. I've heard from several of my male friends that this holds true for them too, but is expressed in a different way. Therefore, I would like to share some of the things God has taught me through the years and that my girls have found helpful in dispelling these vicious lies.

Truth 1: You Don't Have to be Good Enough
Did you know that God doesn't expect you to earn his approval? Did you know that you already have his approval? It's true! If you're his child, then he's already chosen you and wooed you and rescued you out of a living death! Let's look at some Scripture, shall we?

Isaiah 43:1-4 "But now, this is what the Lord says--He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed [some translations say "ransomed"] you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.'"

In case you are wondering, yes, that is my favorite passage of Scripture! Do you know why? Because God gave this prophecy to Israel when they had completely turned their backs on him. Go read chapter 42 of Isaiah, and you will get a good idea of just how far Israel ran away from God. He would have totally been justified in giving up on them, but he continued to rescue them and woo them back to him. Isn't it wonderful?

Notice how God uses the word "ransom" to indicate what he's done for Israel. Would God have ransomed Israel if they didn't already have some sort of value to him? No! He would have just let them stay where they were and die. He valued them enough to give up something precious to him. And we know from chapter 42 that Israel was definitely not deserving to be ransomed. Therefore, Israel did not have to be good enough to earn God's love, because he had already given it.

Truth 2: God's Love Never Fails
This truth is tied very closely with the other one. A lot of the time, I think people may grab hold of the first truth, but as soon as they mess up, they think that God must be disappointed with them. I personally struggled with this for a really long time (and still frequently do). You see, I am rather horrible at memorizing Scripture and waking up early enough to read my Bible and pray in the mornings before I head off to work and remembering to ask people I meet whether or not they have a personal relationship with Christ. Yes, I admit it, I am not the best Navigator in the whole world. (If you do not know what the Navigators are, they are a Christian organization with a college ministry branch that encourages young people to grow in Christ-likeness by reading the Bible, praying, evangelizing, and participating in discipleship ((or one-on-one mentoring, if you prefer that term)). I am very grateful to them because the A&M Navs are part of the reason why I came back to God after running away from him for a very long time. Yay Navs!)

Now, I am not discrediting the value of these things, because they are extremely important to maintaining a relationship with Christ (you know, just like spending time with your significant other is important in maintaining the relationship), but the point of them is not to keep God happy with you. Got it? His love is not dependent on the things you do or refrain from doing. If you mess up, he's not going to throw you out like the garbage. He doesn't work like that. Need proof? Here's some more Scripture!

Isaiah 54:10 "'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you."

Romans 8:38-39 "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 of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

There's many, many more verses about God's unfailing love, but I will leave it up to you to find them.

Truth 3: God Has a Plan for You, and it is For Your Good
I'm sure most of you have seen or heard Jeremiah 29:11 many, many times. It's a pretty popular verse. But have you ever stopped to ponder what the verse really means for your own life? I think we've heard it so many times that it has lost meaning in our modern Christian culture. Let's stop for a minute and apply it to my senior year of college, shall we?

Here's a brief summary of my senior year and summer after I graduated: I applied for graduate school and was rejected quite soundly, found out that I have a medical problem that may prevent my dream of a family from becoming a reality, and was denied a job at the only place I wanted to work, all within the span of a few weeks. Yes, many of my dreams were crushed during that time and I had to reevaluate whether they were what I really wanted. I went to countless job fairs, applied for hundreds of jobs through the employment center and job search engines, had dozens of interviews, and never received a job offer. I finally got an internship at a large organization in Dallas that started right after graduation, but it ended in August. During my internship, I sent out hundreds of resumes, applied for dozens of jobs, had several interviews, and still didn't have a job offer in August. It wasn't until 3 days before my internship ended that I received a call from my current boss asking if I could start the next week. And that was my senior year.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

From November until August, I clung to verses like this and the ones I quoted earlier in this blog. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen once my internship was over. For someone who plans everything out, this was absolutely terrifying! I felt like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly at the mercy of the wind. I had to continually make a conscious decision to trust God that he meant what he said in Jeremiah. And here's what I learned through that process: God has a plan for my life, a plan that is good and that is for my good. It may not always look like what I think it should look like. It may be hard and frustrating at times. I may have no clue what my next step will be. But you know what? His plan is better than anything I could have thought of myself.

Well I just thought I would share my heart here. I hope at least some of you learned something useful.