Black and Light

Paul says it so well.

I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can’t help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyways. But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it. It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?

I read this in a book the other day (not the Bible, although it is from there- the book of Romans) and something deep inside me felt relieved to know that Paul apparently found himself just as frustrating as I find myself to be. I am downright aggravating.

I don’t know how to forget myself.

I mean… I forget so many things. I really do.

But when it comes down to forgetting myself… I can’t seem to do it.

Not just forgetting myself. But redirecting all that attention to God.

Have you ever noticed how quickly a good thing can become bad?

Isn’t it just absolutely astounding how quickly something can turn from being God-focused to being me-focused?

It makes me feel sad and guilty and a little bit afraid that I will never figure this out. It’s so hard to stop it from happening, because I don’t even notice that I have made the switch. I start out with best, the purest intentions, and before I know it… I am reveling in the personal satisfaction that I am feeling and I am doing it to make me feel good instead of doing it to serve God and others. Just like that… I am serving myself while doing something that might appear Godly. That’s the worst part. That it can so easily disguise itself as something good.

Ooooh, I hate it.

This is embarrassing to say… but the other day, I was thinking about something that I’ve been dealing with, and I have been trying to think my way through it, and solve it, and I discovered that I had a problem within a problem. (Problem-ception would be the technical name for it, I believe.) Not only did I have the initial, apparent problem, but my motives for wanting to fix it were all wrong. I wanted to fix that problem a) quickly, before anyone else would catch on to it and b) so that I could experience some kind of peace and emotional stability. I do love when everything is emotionally stable in there.

But I was so ashamed of myself when I realized how unGodly my motives are. I think that I may have sat down with my journal and started out with good intentions. But about a page and a half into it… I realized that I was thinking more about myself, and less about how God could use me in better ways if I were whole.

I know that looking to myself is useless. I know that in the end, what I do will come to nothing if there is not something bigger running through it. I know that my words are worthless without Jesus laced all over them. But oh… I have so much trouble with wanting to stick myself in there.

I’m scared I’m even doing it right now. Talking about God by talking about myself.

This feeling of thinking that you desperately want to do what is right, only to discover that really, you only desperately want to impress others. It feels like there is such a fine line between those two things, and far too often, I find myself dancing across the line, caught up and giddy in the experience and my emotions, and then contentedly strolling around on the wrong side of the line.

It makes me feel black inside.

But there is so much light that I can’t help but feel hopeful.

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There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law,weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Forthose who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodiesthrough his Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brothers,we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he alsopredestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 -Romans 8

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Something wonderful for you to read! Written by Kaylin Steckly, who is a much more consistent, adventurous, lively, dedicated, and self-disciplined writer and reader than I am. She graciously agreed to share some of her wise thoughtfulness with us. Thank you, Kaylin. 🙂 

We all want to fly.

We want to soar above all the things that drag us down, slow us up. We want to be free. Like eagles.

Eagles can fly. Eagles are free. We want to be like eagles. We admire eagles and they’re majestic and so many other things that we want to be. We want to be like them.

But we can’t.

Somehow, we’re always tied to something. School, work, families, our bank accounts, we’re late, whatever. But even with those things, we could still fly. In the center of our hearts, we know we could. All those excuses, that’s just what they are. Excuses.

We could fly.

But we don’t.

Eagles teach their young to fly by pushing them out of the nest. They fall until they learn to fly.

And that’s it. We’re afraid to fall. We’re afraid we’ll fail, that we’ll land instead of fly. We’re afraid it will kill us. We’re afraid to take that step off the solid, the familiar, into emptiness, afraid that the updrafts are really downdrafts, afraid that we won’t be strong enough to fly.

And so we stand, both feet planted firmly on the ground, in the dust, in the mud, and we’re grounded. We’re disappointed. We hate it, we want to fly, and we’re afraid to fall.

We cover up our disappointment by pretending we don’t care about flying. And because everybody covers up their disappointment, everybody is hiding, and everybody is lying to themselves, and to everyone else. And we pretend to enjoy being grounded, and we scare those watching us, and we scare ourselves.

We openly mock those who can fly, and we secretly envy them. Our tongues say, “Look at them, flying. People are meant to have their feet on the ground, not their heads in the clouds.” Our hearts cry, “I want to fly, to soar. I want to be like them.”

But we’re afraid to fall.

But see, the thing with the eagles is that when the mamas push their babies out of the nest, they don’t just turn their backs, and that’s it and the babies fly. They watch. They fly beneath that freefall through time and space, and if the baby isn’t strong enough to fly, mama is.

The baby eagle won’t fall and land and die while the mama eagle flies below. Mother love is too strong for that. Eagles teach their babies to fly by pushing them out, and letting them fall and catching them.

We remember that we have to fall and forget that we will be caught. We forget that we don’t have to fly on our own the first time. We remember that we have to fall, and forget that we have another eagle, so much bigger, so much stronger, so much more protective, flying under us, ready to catch us if we fall. And so we stay in the nest and watch the few who have truly learned to fly. We watch and we long.

That emptiness, that open space, isn’t empty. It’s open, but it isn’t empty.

It’s full of joy, and love, and peace.

Yes, there are downdrafts. And sometimes we’ll land and the landings won’t be smooth and they’ll hurt, but they won’t kill.

But it isn’t empty.

And we never fall alone.

Golden

Everyone uses the word golden

And I don’t want to

But I think

I have to

Because that’s just the way sunshine is.

I see golden light.

Still.

Warm.

Gentle.

I see stones and arches.

I see covered heads

And clean hands

And stained hearts

And beards

And readiness.

I see a visitor.

One familiar

And known

And yet different

And things have been

Said

But he looks so

Safe

And everything in

You

Leans toward

Him.

And I see

Normal begin

But

Something feels

Different

And

It has to be because of

Him.

I see the scroll placed in

His hands

And his mouth opens

And his heart opens

And there is

So

Much

Life.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The words.

They were meant to be said by him.

He fills them

And shapes them

And owns them

And resurrects them

And plants them so deep.

You’ve read them before. Heard them before.

But his voice

Is golden.

Still.

Warm.

Gentle.

Like sunshine.

The hard things that you keep

Tucked away

Inside

Feel like they want to

Melt.

 

From Luke 4:16-20. A lot can be imagined about four verses. I wish I could have heard Human Jesus’ voice.  I love the thought of Jesus’ voice. As powerful as written words can be, there is something about spoken word that is just captivating. I think Jesus must have been the master of spoken word. Not that he phrased everything artistically and vaguely and profoundly. Just that he did it, you know- perfectly. I think he had the kind of voice that you could listen to forever. Come to think of it… He still does. 

 

The Walk of Death

February was a rather phenomenal month. There were so many wonderful things about February. I was possibly even a tiny bit sad to see it go.

What made February so wonderful? Well, it was a combination of a few things.

One was Tuesday nights at the library. There is this wonderful class, with a really good teacher and people who say really interesting things (I, of course, mainly sit and listen), and I have read books that I would never have picked up on my own. And I am so glad that I have read them! I hope I can find more like them. Books like these:

If I ever publish a book, I want the cover to have lots and lots of words on it.
If I ever publish a book, I want the cover to have lots and lots of words on it.

The Russlander

One can learn a lot from such books. Like how much you don’t know. That’s what I’ve learned. And for someone who claims to like to read… I have become a very lazy reader, and it’s been so good for me read these books, and be reminded that sometimes it’s okay to have to work a little bit harder to make it through a book and that it’s worth it. And since Jasmine can’t think about reading without trying to figure out how to improve her writing… I have learned a lot about writing from this class about reading. And the frustrating thing is… I fall woefully short of what I want to be. Sigh. But I love to sit and learn, and I have also enjoyed the fact that Mom goes too (actually, she went before I did), and it turns out that she can hold a good literary discussion with the rest of them. Huh. The things one learns from seeing their parents in a different setting than they’re used to observing them in!

Another wonderful thing about February was the youth retreat! It was the youthiest retreatiest weekend ever. Very very pleasant.

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Awww. Just look at that face. Wonderfully cute. And it’s very special, because Tory still has her wisdom teeth in this picture!

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And I turned 20. So now I’m old and much more mature. Birthdays are nice. There were lots of kind birthday messages, and a snow day, and then there was even a birthday party that my students’ very kind parents had for me. There were flowers and cake and balloons and pictures and happy, excited students and their siblings and a very full, noisy classroom, and really, what more could a teacher want? Plus, there was supper with my family. And that never fails to be a pleasant experience.

More mature, right? 20 can really change a person.
More mature, right? 20 can really change a person. Want to know something else? When they brought me my dessert, they did it without singing some ridiculous birthday song. Now that is classy. 

Now, it is hard for me to know where to stop with the good memories. There has been many things just in the past week alone that I want to talk about. But I guess, technically, they happened in March, so I’m just gonna have to wait. There is one more thing from February I’d like to share though.

The Walk of Death. That’s what some are calling it. Well, it’s what I am calling it. I call it that because people seemed to think that they were going to die, or that they were suffering in some great way, when really, we were having the time of our lives! But people kept collapsing and hugging trees.

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You might as well know that sometimes, I get random ideas. And I like to follow them through, but I don’t like to do it alone. This time, somehow, all of my siblings agreed to participate. See, there’s this place I really like. It can be found by walking on the Lion’s Trail and then uh, deviating from the usual path. In the fall, it looks like this:

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Naturally, I was very curious about what it might look like in the winter. Turns out, it looks like this:

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Hmmm. In my professional opinion… there are significantly fewer birds in the winter.

I thought it was well worth the walk. I think the others might have been a little disappointed when we finally arrived and it was just… more snow. But it was lots of fun. Us siblings, we keep having fun together. And we can push a car into the garage if we ever need to. We can do it.

It's so hard to be the youngest.
It’s so hard to be the youngest.

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Kenton jumps over Wendy...
Kenton jumps over Wendy…
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Wendy somersaults into Kenton…
and Renee dives in there too.
and Renee dives in there too. 

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Renee posing on a bench. Kenton terrorizing Wendy in the background.
I just love how Wendy is staring back at us.
I just love how Wendy is staring back at us. Have I mentioned that it’s hard to be the youngest? 
This is the kind of picture I love. With the sun making everything kind of hazy.
This is the kind of picture I love. With the sun making everything kind of hazy.
Kenton and I are both yelling our heads off in this picture. I am like "GET OFF THE GROUND THE CAMERA IS TAKING TEN PICTURES STAND UP RIGHT NOW!" Ah. Such happy memories.
Kenton and I are both yelling our heads off in this picture. I am like “GET OFF THE GROUND THE CAMERA IS TAKING TEN PICTURES STAND UP RIGHT NOW!” Ah. Such happy memories.

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I love winter.
I love winter.

 

Ah yes.

February.