A New Day

Remember I tried to dedicate 15 minutes every morning to God  for one week straight? No surprise there that I did not manage to do it every day. What did I do? Well, I did read the Our Daily Bread devotional (http://odb.org/) every day. Sometimes I did so in the train, another day I really took some time to think it through at home. And I’ve come to appreciate spending some quiet time with God more than I did before. Today I happened upon the following video:

Now I really like the method Whitney Meade shares with us for our quiet time: the SOAP method.

Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.

Decided to try it out straight away this morning with the verse that was highlighted in the Our Daily Bread devotional: 2 Cor. 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.

I’d like to share my brief ‘OAP’, because it was really powerful for me. Way more things came up than I’d expected from just one verse.

O: Something has changed in your life once You’ve come to know Christ. Maybe you think or feel differently. Maybe you behave differently. This is the ‘new’ aspect in your life. From the inside out, you’ve changed, and people will notice this change in you. By being a new creation, you’ve become the light in the world. Christ shines through you!

A: I may have confidence that because I believe in Christ, I have become ‘new’. Something has changed in my life, even though it is hard (or even impossible) to see at the moment. It’s like a seed sprouting. It’s a slow process and it might seem like nothing is happening at all. But I can trust that the new has indeed come and the old (selfish, sinful) nature has gone (been overcome by Christ).

P: Father, I pray for patience and trust in You. That I might be sure of that which I do not yet see: that because I am in Christ, I am a new creation. Thank you.

I feel encouraged, and I know that is what God wants when we read His word. He wants to encourage us and guide us. We have to give Him permission to do so, because He would never force himself on us. So, with renewed energy I plan to use this SOAP method daily to allow God to work his plans in and through me 🙂

 

 

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Raw Letters

Hi there. You’ve been gone for several weeks. During that time, I’ve had some time to think, to reflect. I made a list of several things I can do now that you’re back. One is to confront you with something. You told me that you wanted to buy something special to celebrate you being back home. I like the idea, but I still feel you should really be strict with your expenses. Don’t spend money on stuff that is not highly necessary. How can you buy books, clothes, or other things with money that you don’t have? You still owe me money, and there is no rush to pay it back. But I just don’t want you to feel lightly about money. If you really care about me, show it. Be active, try your best at finding a job. Stop buying unnecessary objects, or even tickets to a show or the cinema. Get rid of that debt of yours. By sitting at home day after day you don’t earn my trust. I don’t want a future husband who is too lazy to work, while at the same time enjoying a house to live in, because I am, or mommy and daddy are, paying for it.

I know it sounds harsh. But I need to trust you. It might take a while before I can. But it can definitely be done when I see you trying hard to find a job. Not sitting back when you’ve found something that keeps you busy for a day per week. I just want to trust you. I know I should give you the chance to prove you’re trustworthy, reliable, and hard-working.

Hope I did not ruin your evening. I love you baby. I need you. That’s it.

 

Hi you. You haven’t ruined my evening, no worries. You’re sharing what you feel and want, and I respect that. I also fully agree with you. I also don’t think I should be doing much of anything besides finding work that pays. That might feel more challenging than I’d like to admit, but it nonetheless is vital and what I have to do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your trust in me. I needed to hear that. I will strive to earn it back, for both our sakes, before your patience runs out.

Yours,

M.

Good Morning!

When I was just leisurely going through some Psalms today I noticed how many times the Bible talks about the morning. The morning is a new start of a new day. Each morning we can decide for ourselves what to do with our day: walk around grumpy because it rains, or dance in the rain like no one’s watching.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

We can say this EVERY day! Every day was made by our God. He enjoys it when He sees us living our lives here on planet earth. And we may also rejoice and be glad! What a blessing! Of course I do not always see it as such. Today is just a good day. Tomorrow might be different. But on the good days, I can sometimes experience this joy that God talks about. When I read in His word, I can get so encouraged from some simple verses:

Psalm 139:18 Were I to count them (God’s thoughts), they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

This verse encourages me today to consciously start my mornings with God. What would happen if I’d start doing that the coming week? If I would wake up 15 minutes earlier each day to contemplate His word, or to simply ‘be still with Him’?! Let’s try it out. I’m jotting down in my agenda now: TIME WITH GOD seven times. My hope is this: to get closer to Him in my own way. Discovering what works for me.

Psalm 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

For a couple of months now I have desperately been trying to get closer to God. To experience His guidance in my life. To feel His love. To know He is with me. To realize He does not leave me alone. So far I feel I have not come very far. Today is quite different though. I feel encouraged. I acknowledge not knowing everything, and that being okay.

The difference? Today I joined a woman’s walk with a friend. The theme was: God’s  promises for you. You could sign up as friends or walk alone. We walked through beautiful forest area, we talked, we prayed, we encouraged each other, we experienced the silence of nature. We enjoyed God’s creation. It was altogether wonderful. It helped me being even more sure that this is what I want to do: starting a study in the field of coaching in the natural environment. I finally made the decision and signed up!

Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Today I feel that God is doing just that. I am still not sure where I am going. But that’s okay: God is going there with me. And even though I often wish I would be a better daughter of God, I know He does not ‘disown me’, just because I did not do exactly as He said. He never would. He loves me, just as He loves every other human being. And today was a day that I got to experience that. I somehow know it deep down. I feel peaceful. I can find rest in Him.

Psalm 5:3 In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

What a promise: he hears our voice! Let’s now just wait for the morning. And if things are not as we want them to be: there is always another morning, another day!

Relationship Advice

About a year and a half ago I came across the following questions one could ask others to help reflect on the relationship with your ‘significant other’.

● If someone did have concerns about our relationship, what do you think those concerns would be? (This gives them a little distance to speak in a way that won’t seem threatening to you and that may help them be a bit more honest.)
● If we did get married, what do you think my two greatest frustrations will be with my future spouse?
● What might I be compromising with this choice?
● Tell me honestly, if you were to rate the wisdom of this match on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “a disaster within weeks” and 10 being “you couldn’t do better,” where would you put us? (The 1-10 scale allows them to put their advice in perspective; no relationship is perfect, but you want to get a feel for just how imperfect your marriage seems to an objective observer. I’d be wary about anything less than an “8.”)

Back then, I copy-pasted this text to a note on my desktop. Once in a while I glanced at it, telling myself I would ask these questions some day. I never did (or at least not specifically). However, in between the lines of conversations with my mom, grandma, sister, aunt, and friends I did actually get some answers to these questions. I know, they’re all women!

My dad’s advice in the matter was the following: “list your own priorities in life and see if this relationship fits your list. If not, you’ll be leading an unhappy life.” Whew. Simple enough. NOT.

Just FYI: my dad lives on another continent since I was 12, so our father-daughter relationship is less than ideal. I guess giving advice is a lot easier when thousands of miles separate us.

Some of the concerns I heard (from non-Christians, mind you):

“I think it’s going to break you apart if you stay in this relationship, because the different beliefs that both of you have are already clashing. They have such an impact on you now, I can hardly think what they will do to you in the long run.”

“The two of you are so different, not just regarding faith, but also in personality. You are so outgoing, energetic, adventurous, extrovert. He seems to be holding you back, being way more laid back, quiet, introvert.”

“He’s so concerned with healthy living, it is a tad extreme, if you’d ask me. He’s influencing you more than you realize.”

“He has never taken his responsibility financially. You really have to be careful that you’re not going to be the only breadwinner the rest of your life.”

I admit: these quotes have been edited a bit by me 🙂 People did not always say things as straightforward  as I put it down here. Now here are some reactions I heard from Christians:

“You are going to be struggling a lot. It is for our own good that God said: ‘don’t be unequally yoked’. It will be tough. It will be challenging. It really is up to you whether you think it worth it.”

“It might be that God actually put the two of you together so that he (Manoah) might get to know Him!” (Oh, wishful thinking!)

Now I did not tell anyone that Manoah has been watching porn since he was about 14. What would people say then? It is something that I found really hard to accept at first. I am glad that he wanted to tune it down since the start of our relationship. And I am glad that we can openly talk about it, including my fears of him mentally comparing me with all these porn stars. Ughh. Thankful I am too that he is aware of the (often) degrading nature of women in those vids.

Anyways, others also think my frustrations in marriage might be that I might have to take initiative for action most of the time. Manoah is a thinker. I am a do-er. Another is his tendency to shy away from (loud) groups of people. Even when they’re my family or friends. He just finds a lonely spot and goes to sit there. And I then feel torn between him and my friends. Another might be the way he deals with money. Spending it while not having it, you know what I mean.

What I might be compromising is not something I really heard others answer for me, but I can answer that one myself: the biggie here is God. My relationship with Him has suffered since I am together with Manoah. Mainly because of guilt and the feeling that I have to choose between God and Manoah.

Currently, I believe my folks and friends would not rate our relationship ‘8’ or higher. So there’s lots of work work to do. I just do not know where to start (or rather continue, since I guess I already started long ago).

 

Walk of Life

I don’t like to sit still. I have always been a busy bee, often running from one activity to another. Many people around me are also busy. It is the mantra that many of us have come to live by. According to psychologist Tony Crabbe it is actually a form of laziness. We are addicted to running around and too lazy to make choices. When we say we are busy, we are actually saying to ourselves and others: ‘see how ambitious I am? I have all these appointments and activities, so I must be important’.  It is also a good excuse not to do something of importance. Answering emails is easier than starting with a complex new project or getting rid of that bad habit you are struggling with. Crabbe: “being busy is something to be ashamed of.”

What can I do with these insights? Where does God fit into our busy lives? Years back I’ve heard a pastor say: “…it is one of the most effective strategies of the devil to keep us away from God: to keep us busy.” How difficult is it really to take some time during the day to pray, to read in His word, or to just ‘be still and know that I am God’ (Ps. 46:10)?  Apparently this is a major issue these days, judging by all the books that have been written on the topic.

About two years ago I was forced to tune it down quite a bit: I got mono and was tied to my bed for about six weeks. After that I could continue my studies, but still I would tire easily. It was very hard at first to be at peace with not being able to do what I had to do (study!) or wanted to do. However, after some weeks, I started to enjoy the oceans of time I had at hand. I could finally read all those books I had been wanting to read. I had time to contemplate. I was able to pray and bring my requests, worries, and joys to God. When I had recovered enough to slowly get back to my regular pattern of life, I felt reluctant to do so!

Today I have only a few activities, compared to years before. Still, I feel terribly busy! Probably it is more like a state of mind than an objective statement that is measurable. I work three days a week, so according to many people I should have lots of spare time, right?! And yet I don’t. This can make me feel guilty at times. And then I tell myself I should not. This is a constant struggle. One thing I know is that I never got my former energy levels back after mono ran its course. Still, I want to be able to keep up with society’s pace (with all its demands and expectations). Rationally I know that we are not valuable to God because of what we do, but because of who we are. Still, I struggle with this. As a teenager I have come to believe in the lie (you are loved for what you do), and it is just terribly hard to believe (and truly feel it) in the truth (you are loved for who you are).

It always helps me calm my mind to go outdoors. Luckily, I live at a 10 minute walk from the forest edge. I have the luxury to be able to go there whenever I am off. I have experienced the calming, healing effects of nature. This is why I’ve started to consider the idea of coaching outside, whilst walking. Today I visited an open day for an education in this field.

“When the body moves, the mind grooves”. I love this saying! Walking and talking. Thinking and reflecting. Seeing and feeling. Loving and living. I am praying that God will show me whether this is the right path for me. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecc. 3:1). We just have to make sure we don’t do too much. That we first turn to God, and find peace in Him. From that place, we can walk out with confidence!

Survival of the Fittest: Too Bad I am Not so Fit Right Now

I’ve had so many struggles recently. I’ll share them here, being fully aware that it might not be useful to anybody. However, I’d like to see this blog as a step-by-step process. I’m walking through my path of life, and right now I do not have a lot of answers. Hopefully, months or more likely, years later I can look back and see how I’ve slowly moved forward through the tangles and underbrush. And with the knowledge gained along the way, I hope I can one day encourage others. But… first things first!

The first issue I want to talk about has to do with the following passage:

1 Corinthians 7:12-17 NRSV 12 To the rest I say–I and not the Lord–that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. 16 Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife. 17 However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.

I’ve read this years before, seeing it as an encouragement. But later I learned that it was written to people who got married when both partners were non-believers. Then one would become a believer, and then this is the advice. So (after a book I recently read): this does not justify my ‘deliberately disobeying God’ by marrying a non-believer. And this way of looking at it (seeing my relationship and planned marriage as sinful) is tearing me apart. The last half year or so I’ve felt depressed, I’ve felt like a failure, I’ve felt like God is silent because I willingly disobey him (and so it’s my own fault).

A while back, my boyfriend (Manoah) sent me the following video (him trying to explain to me why he’s so weary of raising kids with Christian beliefs).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJrqLV4yeiw

Even though I know some things have been taken out of the proper context, I have to acknowledge that I don’t have the answers to many of the points the video brings up. And this makes me see God as the ‘bad guy’, or definitely not someone to love and trust. And that is how I’ve come to see God: like he wants me to let go of Manoah and follow Him (like when Jesus says you have to hate your father/mother/other family. That He always should be first on your priority list. Sounds a lot like the arguments in the video, right? How can I possibly do that, when I never hear His voice audibly, or see His face, of feel His loving hands on my shoulders?) It just makes me feel so terribly sad.

So, taken from the video, here are some things I cannot fathom at the moment:

*Believing that a baby was born corrupt and a sinner (Ps. 51:5 and Romans 5:12)

*One must ask forgiveness for what others did, thousands of years ago (is that true? Isn’t it that sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, and now we are sinful as well? Not necessarily because they ate an apple, but because we tell little white lies, or we’re selfish, or we don’t offer help when we know we could have (= our sins today).

*You must tell God how sorry you are for murdering his son Jesus (which was part of God’s divine plan, but the responsibility is yours).

*A portion of your wages MUST be given to God (I can see how from a non-believer’s standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to give money to something that doesn’t exist. Even from my own viewpoint (as a believer), I have my doubts about this).

*You must listen to him, but you’ll never hear his voice audibly (you must study an ancient book).

*You will thank him for his direction and guidance, but his mysterious ways will confuse you (that is exactly what’s happening to me. Manoah can see my confusion and doubt. He’s even more likely to want me to ‘stop believing this crap that just makes me unhappy’.)

*Great commission: all people must believe as you do. Reward=praising God for all eternity in heaven. If you don’t follow him: agony in hell forever.

*You must follow God because you love him, not because you fear torture and pain (this is a tricky one I think: how many people have believed because of fear? Maybe that was/is also one of my motivations. It’s like we don’t really have a choice in the matter: if we choose not to believe in God, we’ll be punished. So we’d better believe. Other way of saying it: you give a child the choice between a hamburger and a salad. The salad is obviously the healthy decision, and you want the child to go for this option. If he doesn’t, you’ll punish him for it: he has to go to bed early. So it seems like there is a choice, but actually, there isn’t.)

Does anyone have any encouraging words? I’m craving some encouragement. One of the women in church (whom I showed this video) said this is influenced by satanistic spirits. The devil uses scripture to make us doubt (like Jesus being tempted three times in the desert). However, some of the points just don’t make sense to me anymore. And how am I supposed to be a witness to people around me (especially Manoah), when I cannot even find the answers myself? This makes my testimony weaker than weak. I’m lost. I do not feel ‘fit’ enough to survive this challenge.

On a Cloudy Day

Who needs formal introductions in their first blog post? We’ll just jump right in. Hold on tight!

Do you know people that always seem to have encouraging words for you? I always find it a great encouragement when people share with me how they see Christ at work in their lives. I feel I need that kind of encouragement at the moment. I myself have a hard time to see God at work, let alone trust Him. Some people in my life have lots of critical questions about God and His word, and I just seem to not have the right answers. This leaves me confused. For example: if God is a loving God, why does He fight in wars (He’s with the Isrealites and they win the war, other people are killed, because God is against them. Why does God side with one population to kill another?)? Or how can I be happy when I’m in heaven after I’ve died, while I know all my dear family members and friends who have never believed the right thing will forever be damned to hell?

Last week I have been able to sit down and be still. I have started praying more and reading the Bible. I haven’t done that for a couple of months, because I felt guilty towards God. If God says in the Bible: don’t be unequally yoked, and I am doing just that, I am going against God’s will on purpose. This leaves me feel sad and guilty, like I don’t get to be with my boyfriend if I truly listen to God. And because I know I am deliberately refusing to listen to God, God is silent (it’s my own fault). I’ve been reading ‘Too Busy Not to Pray” by Bill Hybels, and he writes about reasons why God might not grant you what you prayed for. One of them might be sin in your life. I am so afraid this is what is the case in my life. At the same time I am doubting my faith: what if it is not really true and I’m making all this fuss about nothing. And I hate to look at my boyfriend in this way: that he’s an unbeliever and that it is wrong to be with him. Let alone how I see our engagement, our wedding. I feel stuck. And this place I’m in now, I’ve been in for over half a year. So far I don’t see a way out. If only this could become reality for me: “He leads me to lush pastures, he leads me to refreshing water. He restores my strength, he leads me down the right paths for the sake of his reputation. Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff reassure me.”(Ps. 23:2-4)

If you happen to have any encouraging words, please share them below. It will be highly appreciated!