Voicemail Box Full 

How often do I send God straight to voicemail?

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Lately I have had absolutely no motivation to post on this blog. I’ve just been holding it off, each time telling myself I’ll do it tomorrow; it’s been an endless cycle of procrastination. So I’m about to go to bed when I see my tablet, on which I write these posts, across the room and a single thought rolls through my head:

Jesus is calling. 

And literally, before I can even process my thoughts I hear my own voice saying, “Hi Jesus, it’s Lauren. Can’t answer right now but leave a message.” And I immediately burst into tears when I realized what I was doing. I had just, in a way, subconsciously sent Jesus to voicemail. 

Then it dawned on me that this wasn’t the first time and unfortunately it probably won’t be my last. It’s so easy to just ignore the Holy Spirit and then refer back to the messages when we feel like we need them. However that’s a terrible mentality to go by because the truth is, nothing about Gods plan is random. He doesn’t just call to say hi. If God is trying to talk to you then you need to hear it right then, whether you think you do or not. So my 12 AM epiphany has challenged me to think over this:

How often do I send God straight to voicemail? And when I do answer His calls, do I listen before I speak?

Reinventing Vulnerability

Every weakness you have is an opportunity for God to show his strength in your life.

I would like to preface this by saying that having weakness is not a bad thing; everyone has weaknesses. But vulnerability comes down to how you choose to use and share those weaknesses. Every weakness you have is an opportunity for God to show his strength in your life.

Vulnerability is one of the hardest things to master because there is a balance between too vulnerable and not vulnerable enough. God calls us to let our defenses down, yet not become weak. But why? And how?

Well, let’s start with getting our defenses down, since that is where many people struggle (myself included). In order to truly connect with someone, which is an important part of spreading the Word, we need to be able to let our guards down and really share our lives and testimonies with people. But showing our weakness and failure is always difficult because we fear being judged or ridiculed. However, if we are using our failures to glorify God as a part of his plan, then being judged by a fellow sinner should be the least of our worries. If you would like to read a post I’ve written about fear, check out my post entitled Fear Is a Liar

It’s a psychological fact that being vulnerable to others makes you more respectable and friendship worthy. So, let’s say we open up, what’s right on the other side?

You’ve let your guard down and suddenly you’re stripped bare in front of people you want to impress. This triggers a fight or flight response, to hide or to build your walls right back up. Why? Because vulnerability has become a synonym to weakness. But for a missionary and for someone of compassion and empathy, vulnerability can be a strength if used correctly. 

Take, for example, Jesus who comes down to earth in a vulnerable human state and eats our food and washes our feet and gets brutally crucified on a cross. Yet he is the strongest spirited man to ever live. How can one subject himself to so much vulnerability and yet still show no weakness?

His strength came from God. 

Vulnerability may be a synonym to weakness in the English dictionary, but it doesn’t mean you have to be perpetually weak. It’s not something that needs to cause fear. Even if you let your emotional barriers go, God will be right there to defend you. And if you truly know Him then people can get to know Him through you. 

Building walls up to other people keeps us from reaching our full potential. If you feel like you’ve been keeping things from people or you have walls up against a certain person, God’s laying it on my heart that the barriers need to come down. We need to find someone we can trust and let them know what’s going on in our lives. Out of your vulnerability will come your strength. And now, knowing we have an eternal security and strength that comes from God, let’s reinvent vulnerability.

Slow Your Roll

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” – James 1:19

When was the last time you slowed down and actually listened to the person you were talking to? When was the last time you thought about your words before just blurting them out? When was the last time you forgave someone instead of snapping at them?

When someone gets on our nerves our first reaction is to bubble over with anger, especially if they are not seeing things our way. This then causes them to become angry and suddenly the initial problem is lost behind the hurtful remarks stemmed from rage. Everyone feels anger; the difference is how you deal with it.

I read a quote that said, “the same boiling water that hardens the egg, softens the potato”. Now, how silly would it sound if the egg got mad at the potato for reacting differently? It sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly the kind of thing most of us do on a daily basis. Someone has a different opinion than us or doesn’t want to do what we want to do and, boom, suddenly we’re opponents in a fight. Anger is like a snowball rolling down a hill. The more you let it build up inside of you, the larger and faster it gets until it crashes into something at the bottom.

So how do we stop it? Simply put, slow your roll.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” – James 1:19

Keep in mind there’s a difference between an argument/fight and a debate. A debate becomes an argument when the words you choose are specifically crafted to hurt the other person and/or you no longer have logical control over what you are saying. Statistics say that an average of 60-75% percent of things said in a single argument are later regretted.

If you start to feel yourself getting heated and out of control with anger and you happen to catch it in the moment, it’s important to slow down. 1. If we slow our own thoughts we’re more likely to hear, not only what the other person has to say, but what Jesus has to say. 2. Most of the time, if we actually let the other person get their point across we’ll (not necessarily agree with them) understand their view and agree to respecfully disagree. 

It’s also important to remember that yelling at someone is almost never the best way to persuade them to side with you. If anything, it pushes them away. But if you show them the respect and love that Jesus would and listen to them, you will be rewarded and you’ll probably learn a thing or two about the people in your life.

On the flip side, if you let the anger consume you in the moment, (let’s be honest here, it happens) then pray that the other person hasn’t hardened their heart towards you and apologize. “I’m sorry” are two of the most overlooked words in the English language, often because they aren’t said with sincerity and aren’t said enough. After an argument a feeling hits where it seems too late to apologize, but it’s never too late. Show them some love and be sincere and most importantly let the Lord guide you. 

The Daily Cross

Take a step down and ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice your social life for your faith. 

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'” – Luke 9:23

Many of us, while reading this, think of the “cross” as some burden that we have to carry (i.e. stressful jobs, maintaining relationships, physical illness, etc). However, this is not the interpretation that Jesus had in mind when he said it. It means so much more than that.

When Jesus carried his cross to be crucified, no one was thinking about the symbolic nature of the burdens human beings had to carry. To people in the first-century the cross meant death by the most painful and humiliating way that human beings could think of. The Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own execution device while facing ridicule on the way to their death.

So, taking up a cross is no self-pitying manner of mustering up the strength to make it through with the burdens of life on your back; taking up a cross entails being stripped down and being willing to die in order to follow Christ. 

Now here, in the United States of America, we have the privilege of freedom of religion so thinking to the extreme of having to die for our faith is hard (although there are still places in the world where this extreme is a reality). So maybe, if your physical life isn’t being threatened, take a step down and ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice your social life for your faith. 

Am I willing to look like a fool for Jesus? 

Well, let me tell you, it won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be easy. But a believer in Christ should certainly be willing. This has been added to my daily prayer list: Lord, make me a fool if it means I’m following you.

And of course, as most things to do with faith, it’s easier said than done. It reminded me of something a pastor from my church said, “if you chose Christianity as a hobby, you picked the wrong hobby”. It’s not just something to put on your resume, it’s a lifestyle (and a challenging one). But as long as you pick up your cross daily and follow him, God will give you the strength to handle everything that’s thrown at you.

Evil Approaching

Does evil tend to strike us in our times of strength or in our times of weakness?

This past week I have been having some serious stomach pains; so much so that I spent the second half of yesterday in the doctors office and eventually the ER. They sent me home, not being able to identify what is going on, but (praise the Lord) eliminated our worry that it could be appendicitis. Basically, unless it gets much worse or I start having other symptoms, they can’t do much to help me. It’s a little frustrating that the reason for my pain is unknown but I’m beyond thankful we were able to rule out our main fears, and hopefully it will pass on its own.

Anyway, as I was going through this it reminded me of some things that some of the leaders from my church said to me a couple weeks ago while we were serving in San Antonio. I believe it was on Tuesday (so pretty much half way through the week that we were spending there) that we found out that someone our age, who was a friend and peer to many of the students from our church, had passed away suddenly. I didn’t know him but many of my friends did and this brought quite a bit of sorrow throughout our group. 

So me and another girl were discussing the event with one of our leaders later that day and she told us that whenever we are feeling confident in our faith, the Devil will try his hardest to knock us down. We still had a few days left to serve and this had shaken up our focus quite a bit, but quickly we regained our purpose and our mission and stood together to help those who were grieving and continue what God had called us to do.

Then later that week, when we were heading home, our van leader brought up another point of view. She explained that Satan was, in fact, attacking us then. But on the trip we were surrounded by fellow believers, surrounded by the Holy Spirit within our group, surrounded by support when bad things came about. She followed that by saying this (or rather something along these lines):

The Devil will wait until we are out of fellowship, when we are back home and doubting our faith, and he will take advantage of that and he will strike us. So prepare yourselves. 

So, contemplating that, I started wondering which statement was more correct. Does evil tend to strike in our times of strength or in our times of weakness?

I came to the conclusion that the Devil doesn’t stop trying regardless. But, whenever we are feeling confident in our faith and are surrounded by other believers, it’s easier for us to see that it’s Satan coming after us. And when we are alone and doubting, then we have trouble and are more susceptible to being overwhelmed by the pain and sorrow. 

But either way, there is a common theme: if we didn’t believe, then the Devil would have no reason to sit around and wait for a moment to bring us down. It’s important to stay strong in our faith and ask God for the wisdom to learn something from our pain and use it to help others. For everything evil that comes our way, God already has a plan to use it for good if we look to Him for strength. Besides, we wouldn’t have a mission if there wasn’t evil in the world.

When you meet enemies, it means you’re going in the right direction.

90% Jesus, 10% Me

Every echo of the gospel, and every step someone takes towards Christ, is a reason the angels of Heaven are rejoicing. 

When trying to grow in your faith, it’s a good idea to make short term goals as well as long term goals. If you want to see a glimpse of how I’ve decided to outline and organize my short term goals, check out my post entitled A Bitter-Sweet Truth. In this post I’m going to share my long term goal throughout this blog and throughout my young adult life.

I was at a church in San Antonio called Life Restored Church and the pastor was speaking and right away you could tell he was just animated with Christ. Everything he said resonated with every soul in the room and we were all glued to his every word. I was amazed at first by how passionately and powerfully he spoke. When he finished his talk someone commended him for speaking so well and he replied by telling us that God truly deserves all the glory. He said, “when I speak on stage I’m 90 percent Jesus and only 10 percent me”.

Woah. Imagine having so much Holy Spirit inside of you that everyone who looks at you or hears you speak can’t help but remark how powerful it is. Imagine having so much Holy Spirit in you that when someone compliments you, all the glory truly belongs to God because every word you speak has been crafted by Him. That is what I want. I want to live in a way that speaks life into every stranger I meet. 

I want to be 90 percent Jesus, and 10 percent Lauren. 

Is it going to be easy? No. I’m not perfetct and I know for a fact that I can’t do it alone. Is it going to be worth it? Absolutely. Every echo of the gospel, and every step someone takes towards Christ, is a reason the angels of Heaven are rejoicing

Fear Is a Liar

I’m not talking about heights or spiders or snakes. I’m talking about the fear that society has brought upon us that tells us we aren’t good enough.

I would like to start this post by saying that there is an extent to which fear is healthy and even wise (i.e. the fear of getting seriously injured). However, I am writing about the society-influenced fear that keeps you from following God’s will.

Last week, while on a mission with my church in San Antonio, a song was introduced to me that has had an important impact in my life. The song is called “Fear Is a Liar” by Zach Williams. At first, I just really liked the song in general; I liked the lyrics too but didn’t take them to heart. The leader in our van kept having us listen to the song before starting our day and soon enough, a couple lines got stuck in my head:

               “Fear, he is a liar

              He will take your breath, 

              Stop you in your steps”.

But I didn’t want to admit that fear can have so much power over me. So, at that thought, I just pushed it away as a catchy song.

Throughout the week, we held a daily vacation bible school (VBS) where we invited kids to come for an hour and listen to some music, a skit, and a small message, as well as participate in some games and crafts. I was on the skit team and so before and after performing we had some time to mingle with the kids, get to know them, share a little of our testimony, show them God’s love, and overall just have fun engaging them in the activities. However, the first two days I didn’t really interact with any of the kids. I stayed close to friends from my church, or busied myself with double and triple checking the set up, or going over my lines one more time, etc. 

That worked out until the third day we were at VBS and I saw a girl sitting alone on the swings. I got an urge to get up and go interact with her. But, as I was walking across the field, I literally stopped in my tracks and I was actually frozen in thought. I stood there for a minute seriously contemplating turning around. Why?

I was afraid. 

Suddenly, I had convinced myself that this girl would judge me, or that I’d say something wrong and be too awkard, or that she wouldn’t want to talk to me at all. I wanted to go back to distracting myself and avoid all situations outside of my comfort zone. I was about to turn around and do just that, when the song popped back into my head. In that moment, I was indisputably living out the lyrics.  Fear had stopped me in my steps. So I stopped thinking and prayed on the spot and eventually, with God’s help, mustered up the courage to keep walking until I no longer wanted to go back.

When the girl saw me getting closer she smiled the most genuine smile. And as we talked throughout the VBS she ended up opening up to me, a totally awkward stranger, about her life and her friends and I was able to share some of my experiences with her. If I had listened to the voice telling me that God couldn’t possibly use me to connect with this girl then I wouldn’t have gotten to. 

Everyone is afraid of something.

I’m not talking about heights or spiders or snakes. I’m talking about the fear that society has brought upon us, in some way, that tells us we aren’t good enough. But listen. You are good enough. If you bring everything to the table, God will use it for good. We no longer have to be slaves to fear because we are children of God. Once you get over that initial fright and take a step towards Him, He will guide you the rest of the way. So cast your fears into the fire and, the next time you find yourself doubting the Holy Spirit, fight the self-perserving urge to run away from every uncomfortable situation. In other words, show fear who’s boss. Easier said than done, I know, but worth it.