Archive for the ‘Devotionals’ Category

again,

Be thankful for the heartbreaks, they remind you that your heart is still beating.

Be grateful for the tears that well up in your eyes, they remind you that you are still feeling.

Feel joy in your loss, they remind you of what you once held so dear.

 

Don’t run from the hurtful things, the painful moments, the stunning realizations.

They like the beautiful days, the happy moments and the joyful times are a part of your journey.

 

Life is not meant to be without pain, growth or change.

It is unpredictable, tumultuous, and scary.

But in the midst of the unknown… the letting go and giving up,

lies the hope of starting again.

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A Gift

 

Over the past year I have been fighting.

 

 

I have been fighting against my natural inclination to wallow in the midst of life’s circumstances. I have been purposeful in trying to make myself happy. Trying to find some sustainable source of happiness through activity, busyness, mission, relationships with others, and also in isolation. Each of these provided some temporary elevation of mood—as a smoke that temporarily masks your view from the things around you, but just as quickly dissipates.

 

 

I’ve read books, positive quotes, bible verses, watched Ted Talks, sermons—just about everything I could think of, I tried. I wanted to take the power away from my circumstances, and to be honest the power of people to influence my ability to be happy. I meditated, practiced mindfulness, de-cluttered, traveled, filled up the pages in my passport, went outside my comfort zone, learned, took risks, met new friends, and crossed things off my bucket list. I’ve done everything I could think of to try to outrun and win the battles waging in my head.

 

 

I know I’m not alone in this. The prevalence of self-help books, videos, and articles on how to make yourself happy are a testament to the fact that many of us are seeking this missing link that would make our life more fulfilling and bearable.

 

 

Many people try to find that happiness in people, money or education. But the truth is many of these things though important, are often times insufficient. Life generally does not afford us perfect circumstances.

You can have money, education, and a family that is falling apart.

You can have a one true love… who loves someone else.

A beautiful house, a wonderful family, and lose your job.

 

The one thing that life can actually guarantee us is that we should expect the unexpected, and that rarely will everything be perfect all at the same time.

 

 

That lends to the common belief that happiness, or some would say joy, should transcend circumstances. But how? That is what I’ve spent the past year trying to discover. How! The answer is incredibly simple. Maybe I didn’t need to travel across the world, and isolate myself to discover it, but then again maybe I did.

 

 

 

There is a story in the bible of a woman who lost a coin.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'” Luke 15:8–10

 

Though Jesus was using this story to talk about the importance of saving lost souls (which I fully support), I also think this story very aptly describes human nature. Our penchant is to be unsatisfied with the 9 coins we have, and seek after the 1 we are missing. The hoax is that there will always be 1 missing. There will always be something that makes our joy incomplete. Something negative that if we choose to focus on, will steal our joy concerning what isn’t missing and is still present. If we took the same happiness that the woman had when she found the 1 lost coin and multiplied it by 9, we might see that what we do have is more than what we do not. And happiness comes in our perspective in choosing to focus on the 9 remaining even while we search for the 1.

 

Recently I’ve begun to keep a gratitude journal. When I first started it was hard to even think of one thing to put down because all the things that were going wrong weighed so heavily on my mind. But over the past 80 days of writing in this journal, which thanks to the 21st century I have on my phone in the form of an app, it has become easier to fill the lines for each day with things I’m grateful for.

 

Nevertheless, gratitude, and perspective are not the tools for happiness that I have found to be most effective. It is far simpler than that. The tool is simply the knowledge and acceptance of one fact. And that fact is that there is nothing I have that I deserve.

 

We become unhappy because we think we do not have something that we should. We think that life or God, owes us something. We think we deserve to have the things we have, and even the things we don’t.

 

Biblically we could turn to Deuteronomy 10:14 that says “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.”

 

Or for those of you less biblically inclined we could consider parents that lose their kids in a school shooting, or kids that grow up in poverty. Did a child who has no agency (defined: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power) deserve poverty more that you who grew up in relative abundance? Or do you as a parent deserve to have your kids alive and healthy more than another parent does? Of course not! So if all the bad things that happen to us are not necessarily happening because we deserve them, then the good that happens is not always necessarily because we deserve them either. So all the good things that happen to us are then not owed to us, but rather a gift.

 

 

Thus I’ve realized that I should measure happiness not in what I lack, or that which I think is owed to me, but rather by the gifts I’ve been given. And when I do that I find them to be present in surplus.

 

 

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray

 

Ideal Time

What would you accomplish if you waited till you were in ideal circumstances before you acted? What if you waited till you felt sure that what you were doing would succeed? Self-care and timing are extremely important, but as long as we have life there is the potential for things to go awry, plans to fail, and disappointments to occur. If we sit around waiting for ideal circumstances we might never accomplish what we set out to.

 

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Don’t spend so much time tending the soil that you never plant the seed. Do what you can with what you have and soon what you have to work with will increase. Focus less on the things you can’t control about your situation and begin to change and work on the things you can.

Running from pain

We are always running.

 

Okay, let me try this again.

 

trapped

 

I have spent most of my life running. Running from suffering. Avoiding loss. Trying not to get hurt. Afraid.

 

But Jesus wasn’t afraid of suffering. He embraced it on the cross for us. For me. He lived His entire life knowing how and when it would be over. He knew that He would be separated from all those dear to Him. That no one would fully understand Him, or His purpose. That though surrounded by disciples and the multitude, He would still be alone because they couldn’t fully understand His struggle. Only He knew that He was going somewhere they couldn’t follow.

 

I’ve been so afraid of losing that sometimes I held on to things more tightly than I should have. I lived trapped in a box of fear. Always afraid of getting a text, a phone call, a message that spelled doom for myself or my loved ones.

 

But to live in fear of suffering, loss, sickness, or death, is to prevent yourself from fully living. Negative circumstances and pain is unavoidable. But we don’t have to let hurt change and cripple us. All we can do is pray for strength.

 

Recently I went to go watch a movie that displayed the relationship Jesus has with those of His children who are suffering. In this movie the protagonist not only got to meet Jesus but he got to meet God as well. He began to accuse God of leaving Jesus when He (God) let Him (Jesus) die on the cross. But then God showed the protagonist of this story, His (God’s) own nail-pressed hands. God too was wounded by Jesus’ sacrifice. God told him (the protagonist) that He (God) never left Jesus. Just like He (God) never leaves us.

 

Yes you will face overwhelming circumstances, but God will never leave you. Jesus will never turn His face from you. There is no one better to have on your team. God is more than a mother or a father; he is also a brother, a sister, and a friend. He has your back. He will carry you when you are weak. When you forget Him He will still remember you. I have turned away from God. I felt like He had deserted me. But even as I turned from Him: He kept me, protected me, and He drew me back to His side.

jesushand

 

Overstimulated

How much of our life do we spend searching for, seeking, or desiring the companionship of others? Whether family, friends, or lovers, oftentimes we are searching for someone to share our life experiences with. We use the presence of others to keep us from feeling the full force of the burdens we carry from day to day.

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The problem comes however, when we are so dependent on other people that we are unable feel content when we are alone. We automatically equate being alone with being lonely so we avoid embracing time spent in solitude.

SOCIALaddict1

Even when we do find ourselves isolated from society even momentarily—we reach to our phone, tablet, or laptop to plug us back in. It is priceless to be able to find peace in solitude, to quiet the voices of doubt, regret, stress, pain, and loss, and to see life as a gift without feeling the need to drown yourself in outside voices.

solitude

 

#firstworldproblems

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I tend not to complain out loud about my problems unless I am talking to my mother– since we all know it’s every mom’s duty to listen dutifully to just about everything you have to say regardless of whether you are 25 or 40. If I complain about my issues to anyone else it might sound overwhelmingly like #firstworldproblems, an impression that may only be partly wrong. I called my mom once… –just last week if I’m being honest–in the middle of the night after I hadn’t been able to sleep all night for 3 nights in a row, plagued by my own mental demons, and she picked up. She picked up– even though at that time she was with a patient who would be taken off life support soon.

 

She was just reading a few bible verses to him, and I am pretty sure he couldn’t hear her and was totally unaware of his surroundings or anything else for that matter, but I was shocked that she as a physician was taking time out of doing her rounds to read some verses for a patient that couldn’t hear her and to pray for him before he passed… and also that amidst all this that she picked my call because she was worried about me. I proceeded to tell her I was completely fine, she should get back to work and after I hung up I began to cry. The perspective that the call gave me forced me to tell myself that: hey you should be happy and grateful you’re not deathly ill or dying, and that your problems are so small, and in the grand scheme of things– probably even meaningless.

 

But the truth is minimizing our problems by comparing them to someone with bigger problems can be both helpful and at the same time hurtful. It can invalidate your hurt and your pain and trust me it is incredibly hard to heal from something you don’t fully let yourself feel. If you don’t come to terms with pain in your life because ‘hey there are people starving in Africa and you have it much better than them,’ which may very well be true, but that doesn’t mean that your suffering, albeit privileged suffering, is any less real or any less hurtful. Much of our own life is shaped by our mind–our thoughts, and thoughts can be powerful enough to cause a person to pull a trigger, jump of a bridge, or prevent them from trying to achieve something they have always wanted to achieve.

 

It is good to be grateful and to see life from a perspective other that your own. Be thankful for your privilege. But also be gentle with yourself. Know that it is okay to let the small things sometimes get to you. It’s okay to not be invincible all the time. To feel weak, overwhelmed. It’s okay to simply just let yourself feel. Now it’s another thing to dwell, to sink, to never move forward. But just for today I want you to be honest with yourself about the emotions you’ve been keeping bottled up, the frustrations laying there right under the surface of all the pretense and fake smiles and cheerful demeanor. If you can’t be real to people at least be real to yourself, because honesty takes you to a place where true healing can finally begin.

 

Refusing to pray 

(Please excuse the formatting and any typos in this post. I’m writing it on my phone, which is all I have right now. But that is a story for another post.)

When it rains it pours. And tonight it is pouring. To the extent that I felt the urge to pray but then almost immediately I dismissed it. But I was/am desperate so I prayed. After I finished praying I asked myself if God would hear me. I doubted whether He is moved enough by my cry to change His mind and let His will be subservient to my will. 

It’s been almost two years since I prayed. How is that possible you might ask. Especially if you know me; I’m very active in the church, always preaching, teaching and ministering to others. So maybe I should qualify my statement. It’s been almost two years since I’ve genuinely prayed for myself. I can easily pray for others and know God will hear me but a part of me thinks that God doesn’t hear me when I pray for myself. Or that my prayer won’t change anything about my circumstance. 

As soon as I think these thoughts I’m reminded about the words: “prayer doesn’t change God, it changes us.” Or I think about the fact that we are supposed to pray for “God’s will,” that somehow, some day our will, will align with His. And I truly want all those things. But sometimes I find myself reluctant to pray because I wonder if God cares about the things I care about. If they bother Him the same way they bother me. I think about mothers who lost their children to sickness, they must have prayed. God must have heard? But what did that change? Miracles happen. But more often than not they don’t. Those are the stories that don’t get told. The testimonies that don’t get sung. 

I think about my own prayer two years ago, I was night and day on my knees. I prayed in faith. Knowing God would do it. Trusting Him, claiming the victory. A victory that never came. I have since come to terms with that loss and even now see the gain in it, but today when I really needed God to step in and do something for me I found myself hesitating. Hesitating to ask God to do any miracles on my behalf. Why would he? Why should he? There are a million people more deserving, with more pressing issues they’re facing. 

But somehow I managed to pray for my own miracle. I don’t know at this moment if my cry will move God. But I am reminded of stories in the Bible when Jesus said, “your faith has made you whole,” or when Jacob fought with God and said “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Thus I will hold on to God a little longer. And whether or not this prayer is answered, my tiny prayer has already changed me, and my will is slowly learning to become subservient to His.