God is Not an Afterthought

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I’m back! A month and a half later, and here I am, finally writing again. Nothing in particular has kept me from it, other than my busy schedule.

Life’s been crazy lately. I’ve never worked this much and there are an awful lot of projects soon to be due for different classes. Thanksgiving was, of course, wonderful, but also hectic. Random little things are in abundance: birthday celebrations, driving siblings to school, and getting the flu shot. It all adds up and, before you know it, you’re out of time.

We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, the same seven days in a week. How we choose to spend it speaks volumes about who we are and what we value. The fact that I take books for school with me in case I have a few minutes shows that I value getting that done. Showing up for work on time and doing your best while you’re there shows a work ethic to be admired. There are a lot of good things to value, but there is only one best thing.

Often, God gets pushed to the backseat in the middle of busyness. Yes, I can make it to practice, but no, I don’t have time to read my Bible. This has become a problem for me. I was blessed enough to be able to pour a lot of time into my spiritual health and relationship with God over the summer, so that now I have that desire to spend time with Him. What I’m lacking at the moment is the time.

It is prideful and foolish to fill your life so much that there is no room for God every day. That is a sure way for things to fall apart. But I know what it feels like to be drowning in so much that it seems reading the Bible won’t fit anywhere and praying is a thing of the past. So here are some things I’ve taken to doing to make sure I’m still spending time with my Lord, Creator, and Father every day.

Create a habit for devotions.

This one’s tough, but it’s essential. Look at your average week and see what time of day is usually free. And give yourself some time. Make sure you’ve got at least half an hour to start, even if it won’t take you that long. Then do devotions every day that you can. Don’t beat yourself up over the days you can’t, but don’t let yourself skip the days you can, even if the time must be abbreviated.

It’s okay to be busy, but if you are unable to set aside time to spend in full devotion to God most days of the week, there’s a problem.

That being said, here’s what I do when devotions are not a possibility (and often when they are):

Pray EVERYWHERE.

Pray in the car on your way to work and class. Pray in bed before you fall asleep. Pray in the shower. Pray in class (maybe not all the time, but if you can pull it off…). Any time you find yourself with nothing in particular to think about, pray.

And vary your prayers. You can pray for your family at a traffic light. You can thank God for your blessings while you wash your hair. Just take a deep breath and talk to God.

Make meal times count.

I know that meals often get lost in the mayhem and tend to turn into “what can I grab from the fridge in two seconds flat so I won’t be late for fill-in-the-blank” sessions. But I would encourage you to take a minute to pray before meals. Yes, every time, and yes, in public.

You might only have thirty seconds or maybe you can take five minutes, but that’s time well spent. Besides, it’s good for you to stop to eat a proper meal every once in a while (or so the “experts” say).

Read your Bible whenever you get the chance.

Block out other thoughts while you read, even if it’s only for a few verses. Take notes and underline. Pray while you read. (I know – I won’t stop talking about prayer, but it is the one and only reason I have survived this past month and a half.)

Don’t confine yourself to the plan you’re doing if you only have five minutes and you want to read somewhere else. God’s Word sanctifies us (John 17:17) and gives us rest.

Go to church.

I don’t care how busy you are. If you are not dying of the plague, go to church. I understand that some people must work on Sundays, but do your best to avoid it. Church is specifically designed to be a place of fellowship with God’s people while we worship Him together. The Sabbath day is a day of rest. Church is an excellent way to rest. Don’t give up the opportunity to be spiritually fed and in turn praise the Lord because you’re too tired or don’t have time. Church is essential.

 

I hope some of these will be helpful to you in staying close to God through the chaos. Busyness isn’t a reason to push God aside; it’s a reason to draw even closer.

Have a blessed and fruitful day!

Kira

What do you do to stay “in-touch” with God? Are there any particularly weird places you like to pray?

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From the Archives: Devotions and To-Do Lists

This is a post that I cannot leave behind. It’s still something I have to work through over and over again.

For a different angle on the same subject, you can read this post. A friend of mine wrote it around the same time I wrote mine (the same day, I believe) with no collusion whatsoever. And even though we appear to be of opposite opinion, I entirely agree with what he says.

Originally published: 6/16/17


“Devotions aren’t something to mark off a to-do list.”

I can’t remember when I first heard that, but it’s stuck with me for a long time. The intended meaning is that you shouldn’t rush through devotions to get through the next thing, but should rather spend time on it and put in effort.

What made it into my head though was the literal meaning. I’ve had the subconscious thought for a long time that if I write down the word “devotions” on a to-do list, it doesn’t count. If I actually do them and mark it off, it’s even worse.

For the past few days, I haven’t wanted to read my Bible and so I just didn’t. I of course felt guilty about it and, one day, wrote devotions on my to-do list. I tried to ignore the nagging feeling that it was wrong and told myself that it was the only way that I was actually going to do devotions that day.

That’s when I realized that the guilt I felt is ridiculous.

The idea behind saying devotions aren’t for a to-do list is a good one. We, as believers, need to invest in our relationships with God just like we would other people. We need to spend time in His Word and in prayer on a daily basis in a deeper way than we would spend time on the dishes. The Psalmist tells us that the righteous man spends a lot of time in the Bible.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

But sometimes we just don’t want to. We’re busy or in a bad mood or don’t feel like it or any number of other things. It’s so easy to just shrug our shoulders and miss it for one more day.

It’s only this last school year that I’ve been able to make a consistent habit of doing devotions. The key word there is “habit.” Habits take effort to form. If you wanted to form the habit of running, you’d have to make yourself run regularly, even when you didn’t want to. Day after day, you’d lace up your shoes to log some miles.

Devotions require the exact same thing. It’s not different because it relates to God. It should be a normal part of our lives and we have to work to make it that way. Sometimes running makes it onto the to-do list and sometimes it is enjoyed.

The long term benefits come from investing when it’s hard and when it’s not. If you want to run a marathon, you have to do those long runs that make you want to die. But they make race day easier. If you want to be grounded in God’s Word, you have to spend time in it when there are a million things you’d rather be doing.

So go ahead. Write devotions on your to-do list if that’s what it takes to get it done. Enjoying it is a benefit that comes with time. Even now, when I generally like doing my devotions in the morning, there are still days that I dread the time and have to make myself do it.

The rewards will come, but the foundation must be laid.

Kira

Do you have the joy that comes from just spending time with God? What are you doing to encourage that joy?

Find What’s Best

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Let your weary spirit rest.

Lay down what’s good and find what’s best

And be. Just be.

“Breathe” by Jonny Diaz

This world is crazy. We don’t need to go over that again. We are all guilty of getting caught up in all of it, of placing mountains of importance on temporary things and forgetting the eternal for a while. That’s been especially true for me this week as I’m once again trying to balance school, work, social life, and all the rest, just like you are, I’m sure.

The song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz is incredible. If you are so inclined, I highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing. The piece that has especially been on my mind lately is the chorus though. He says, “Lay down what’s good and find what’s best.”

That’s an easy concept, but a hard thing to do. I know that I (as a Type-A personality) want to do everything that is good. And there are a lot of good things in the world. So many of them are available and easy, but they add up. They fill up your time before you realize it. They become overwhelming and “what’s good” turns into “what’s draining.”

We must lay down the good in order to pursue what is best. So how do we discern what falls into these categories? How do we figure out what’s only good and what’s really best?

The answer is prayer. To give an example, I’ve been planning to do National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November all year. I’ve done it for the last two years and once a few years before. I love NaNoWriMo and everyone’s talking about it amongst the writerly communities.

I’m also in the middle of editing a manuscript which I sincerely hope to have published and maintaining and growing this blog. Not to mention the rest of life. NaNoWriMo looks so appealing and it is definitely a good thing. But I don’t think it’s the best for me right now.

I pray before I write every day and pray about my writing at other times too. As I prayed about NaNoWriMo, it became clear that, while it would be good, it would take away from school, relationships, and other projects (not to mention physical health during those midnight writing sessions). So I won’t do it this year.

Are you doing too much? Do you always feel hurried or exhausted or frazzled? Feelings are not generally reliable, but they can be helpful here, in figuring out if you’re trying to juggle too much. I feel busy most of the time, so I’m laying down the good of writing a novel in a month to pursue the best of being able to handle school, siblings, and editing.

Finding the right balance in life is not easy. It takes years of trial and error, prayer and evaluation. And it keeps changing, based on what stage of life you’re in. But it’s worth it for you and the people around you. Pray about everything. How you should do it, when you should do it, whether you should do it. That is always best.

So let your weary spirit rest. Lay down what’s good and find what’s best. And be. Just be.

Kira

Are you tring to do too much? What could you lay down in order to find what’s best?

From the Archives: The Little Things

So often, small happy things get lost in the whirlwind. It’s refreshing to come back to in the middle of everything right now.

Originally published: 6/2/17


Life is busy. Pretty much anyone who ever lived would agree. There’s work, school, family, sports, church events, and everything else that claims hours and days of our lives. Most of that stuff is really good. We were made to live full lives and glorify God with our work. But often, we let it overwhelm us and forget to enjoy it.

I’ve been noticing the little things lately. And by little things, I mean the stuff that I would usually ignore in favor of all the work (or made up work) that I have to do. Why would I watch my little blonde, blue eyed sister pick flowers on a hill when I have a book to read? Why would I listen to my brother whistle whatever song is stuck in his head when I have finals to study for? And why would I lay in the hammock with previously mentioned little sister when I could be writing a blog post?

Reading books, studying for finals, and writing blog posts are all excellent things to do. In fact, I partake of them quite regularly. But it’s also good to admire how your sister’s hair glows in the setting sun, to appreciate the cuteness of your brother’s off-key whistle, to let a four year old crawl all over you as you sway three feet off the ground.

A lot of times, I deny people my time and love, even in small increments, because I “have too much work to do.” It’s ultimately denying myself something good as well. There’s always more time to do that work, but my sister won’t be four forever. I won’t live with my siblings for much longer. Appreciating the little tiny things now is just as responsible a way to use time as is scribbling away at notes for a test.

Yes, sometimes we do have to ignore the little things in order to get our work done. But how often could we postpone the work for five minutes to trace a hand with a crayon, climb a tree, or walk down the street?

I’m not only talking about time with siblings – that’s just the biggest way little things are manifested in my life. Maybe a little thing for you would be reading a chapter of a book, actually tasting a few sips of morning coffee, or staring up at the clouds to think for a couple minutes.

The little things are good. They are refreshing. They stay in your memory and make you smile. People are often included in little things. A fifteen minute walk with my sister gives us time to talk. Sitting next to someone silently can be comfortable. The little things are what strengthen important relationships – the ones we don’t want to lose.

Little things are smelling the summer air, snuggling under a blanket at the end of the day, warming your hands by a bonfire in the middle of friends on a late July night.

What little things have crept into your life lately? Take a minute and enjoy them. You won’t regret it.

Kira

What are some of your favorite pockets of joy? Have you stopped for them lately?

Book Review: Hand of Vengeance

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Photography is not my forte, but at least you can see the cover.

Yes, yes, a second book review in a single week. That’s just the way it worked out. 🙂

Hand of Vengeance by Douglas Bond was recommended to me by Moriah Simonowich of Delighting in Him and one of my friends offered to let me borrow it. So I started this book by Douglas Bond in the midst of all the other books I’m reading in at the moment.

Living in an 8th century Anglo-Saxon community, Cynwulf is shunned by most of the people in his world. Being left handed and part Viking, the rest of the community is happy to both avoid and judge him. Until one of his weapons is found at the scene of a murder. Cynwulf becomes the chief suspect in a murder trial he wants nothing to do with and must try to clear his name and save his life.

Bond writes a compelling tale (one which kept me up late for “one more chapter” more than once). His characters are complicated enough to be brought to life. I felt as if I understood Cynwulf even though I’ve never been on trial for murder. I wanted to know what was going to happen to them, so I kept coming back.

As I mentioned in my review of Jane Eyre, wholesome books are becoming more and more difficult to find. A large majority of authors are content to write fiction overflowing with sin and vice (not to mention lazy grammar and writing). It’s a tragedy, and I don’t say that lightly. Books hold great influence over the thoughts and lives of those who read them and authors are entrusted with the responsibility of shaping minds.

That being said, Douglas Bond’s tale of murder, love, and geese is a refreshing read. He shamelessly and easily weaves in the gospel – something also not done well in many modern tales. Hand of Vengeance was relaxing to read. I knew I wouldn’t have to be on the lookout for anything sinful or dark that might make me need to put it down. The world needs more books like this one.

Kira

You can find Douglas Bond at douglasbondbooks.blogspot.com

or bondbooks.net

Are there any authors that you know are “safe” – that will deliver a great story without treading sinful waters? How did you find out about them?

From the Archives: Book Review: Jane Eyre

I began reading Jane Eyre after a ridiculously frustrating injury in April and I loved it, so I had to keep the review.

Originally published: 5/30/17


Classics. Those books that have lasted centuries, only to be left on the bookshelves of well meaning readers, unopened, unexplored. The shelves in my room hold many of these works of art, most of them as yet unread.

However, during the week of the neck injury awhile ago, I needed something to entertain me (other than Netflix – one can only take so much bad television). So I decided to tackle one of the books that I had been putting off for much too long. I figured my inability to move would provide motivation to actually finish the venture this time.

I chose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and completed about half of it before I was up and moving again. It happens to be quite a thick book though, and it took me a few more weeks of regular life to reach the end.

Miss Bronte’s protagonist, Jane, is a plain little girl at the opening of the story. Her life, young as she is, is already marked with suffering. Jane is an orphan, entrusted to the care of a guardian who does not love her. To get rid of the troublesome child, Jane is sent to a charity school where she receives an education and eventually ventures out into the world on her own. Life does not get any easier though, as she begins finding her way in the world, and Jane is left to face many difficult situations which try her courage, morality, and love.

As is often the case with old books (“classics”), I found Jane Eyre to be much more gripping and intriguing than I expected. The story is compelling and well thought out. Jane is a character who takes some getting used to, but is easy to grow to love. She is surrounded by a supporting cast with interesting backgrounds who leave their mark on the girl. Her tale is told by a woman with an excellent vocabulary and skill in crafting sentences.

I appreciated the moral questions raised by Bronte and how they were answered. As someone who loves to read, I’m finding it tragically and increasingly difficult to find books written in the recent past with clean language, themes, and choices. Jane Eyre was a breath of fresh air in that regard. Jane had to make terrible decisions, but she was strong and chose well. Emotion did not dictate the choices in her life – sound judgement and convictions did.

Though quite long, Jane Eyre was worth the read. I kept coming back to find out what would happen to the heroine and how she would respond throughout the weeks it took me to finish the book. Jane has left an impression on me, and, I have to say, I’m sorry the story’s over.

Kira

Are there any books you’ve been meaning to read for far too long?

What Makes a Good Friend?

I was blessed to be published on theRebelution today 🙂 Unfortunately, I don’t have the direct link for you because I have to set up this post very early in the morning before going out of town. As soon as I can, I’ll switch it out for the right link.

10/9/17 – I’ve corrected the title and link at the bottom of the post. It will now take you directly to the article.


How would you define a good friend?

I would say that a good friend is one who is loving and patient and kind. It’s someone who listens when I talk and remembers what I said. A good friend encourages me randomly through the week, prays for me, and forgives me when I mess up. This person smiles and talks about God with me. A good friend can tell when I’m upset or hurting or just plain tired.

Proverbs overflows with guidance on discerning between good and bad friends.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24

“Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man.” – Proverbs 22:24

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6


You can read the rest of this article on TheRebleution.

Kira

From the Archives: Book Review: Crazy Love

I only read Crazy Love a few months ago, but I’m already looking forward to reading it again someday.

Originally published: 5/23/17


There’s nothing quite like a book that makes you take a good hard look at yourself. Crazy Love is one of those books.

I mentioned Crazy Love a few weeks ago in a different post before I had finished reading it. Now that I’m done, I had to review it because I absolutely loved it.

Francis Chan’s Crazy Love is about how incredibly out of this world God’s love for us is. It comes through in His every action – from salvation to the creation of caterpillars. Our sin left us with no claim to His love, but He poured it over us anyway. By the bucket full. When we stop and actually try to fathom for a moment the depth of this love, we are left with no other reaction than to pour out our lives in service to Christ.

We have no reason to fear death, no reason to conform to this world, no reason to worry or stress or be caught up with ourselves. This life is about God, even though we’re the ones living it. Chan makes that incredibly clear in his book.

Crazy Love is not overly eloquent or complicated. While I usually enjoy finer language in a book, Chan made his point simple and I appreciate that in this case. Rather than detracting from the book, the simplicity of the writing allowed me to focus on the message and how it applies to me.

It took me awhile to reach the point spiritually where I can see the benefit of conviction when I first feel it, rather than wanting to run in the other direction, toward complacency. It has led to a deeper appreciation of books like Crazy Love and how God uses them in my life. Francis Chan is not shy about saying that the church as a whole is not following God completely. But he doesn’t just leave it there. In “A Conversation With Francis Chan” at the end of the book, Chan stresses that he’s not attacking the church. Rather, he loves the church and wants to urge her to follow Christ’s calling.

“I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.” (Crazy Love, pg 180)

Over all, Crazy Love was a convicting and, more importantly, encouraging read. It has led me to examine my own life and walk with God and to spend more time focusing on Him.

Kira

You can find Francis Chan on his blog: crazylove.org

And his Crazy Love website: crazylovebook.com

Have you read any convicting/encouraging books lately? Any that you can’t wait to read again?

Commitment to Christ

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What are some things that you have committed to? I’ve committed to be part of a ministry, turn in my assignments for class on time, and show up for work when I’m scheduled.

I’m also committed to follow God, which is bigger than all of my other committments combined.

Have you ever thought about that – that being a Christian is a committment? Giving your life to Christ is just that – handing over your entire life. That’s sacrifice.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. -Matthew 10:37-39

Christianity is a huge committment. But what about the little things? It sounds nice to be willing to give your life as a martyr or suffer persecution for your faith, but there’s not as much glory in reading your Bible every morning or forgiving your brother for seventeenth time this week.

We may be willing to do huge things for God, but we have to be faithful in the small things first. How can we witness to the world when we don’t consistently love our family? How can we suffer for our faith if we don’t have enough to turn to God first every day?

That’s what I’ve been convicted of lately. When God shows me how He wants me to change, how He’s going to sanctify me, I need to be committed to that. Otherwise, there’s no point to any of this. So I leave you with a question to wrestle with daily. Are you committed?

Kira

What are some of your commitments? Is there anything that you commit to more than you commit to following God?

From the Archives: On Death

This post was the result of reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations and Francis Chan’s Crazy Love at the same time. It got me thinking about death and, more importantly, life.

Originally published: 5/5/17


So I’ve been reading a lot about death the last couple days. Not intentionally. It’s just happened to come up in a couple books I’m working through this week.

This has resulted in my thinking about death. And the time before death. And how that time should be spent. You know, now that I think about it, this reminds me of one of my semi-recent posts: Borrowed Time.

Anyway, back to today. Let me start by giving you a sampling of what I’ve been reading and then tell you what’s running through my very scattered brain.

The first book is Meditations by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. No, I didn’t just pick it up because the cover looks cool – it’s for school. To be honest though, I don’t totally dread reading it. Aurelius isn’t all that boring.

Meditations is a book of personal thoughts, resolutions, and observations of the world from the worldview of a Stoic philosopher/emperor shortly after the time of Jesus. Aurelius’ goal was to live a virtuous and moral life. Here are his thoughts on death:

Death: something like birth, a natural mystery, elements that split and recombine.

Not an embarrassing thing. Not an offense to reason, or our nature. (Meditations, Book 4)

People who are excited by posthumous fame forget that the people who remember them will soon die too. And those after them in turn. Until their memory, passed from one to another like a candle flame, gutters and goes out.

But suppose that those who remembered you were immortal and your memory undying. What good would it do you? And I don’t just mean when you’re dead, but in your own lifetime. What use is praise, except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable? (Meditations, Book 4)

Those two excerpts basically cover Aurelius’ views on death as told in his Meditations. According to him, death is not something to be feared and there is absolutely no use in trying to get people to remember you and your fame.

The second book I’ve been reading this week that brought up the subject of death when I least expected it is Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I’m not very far into it yet, but his perspective on death and “posthumous fame” still gave me pause.

In about fifty years (give or take a couple of decades), no one will remember you. Everyone you know will be dead. Certainly no one will care what job you had, what car you drove, what school you attended, or what clothes you wore. This can be terrifying or reassuring, or maybe a mix of both. (Crazy Love, ch 2)

That’s pretty straightforward. The chapter containing these sentences is about how everything and every time is about God – including the miniscule piece of eternity that our lives occupy.

Reading these books at the same time has left me thinking a lot about death, as I mentioned before. But it hasn’t been depressing. In fact, the result of all my meditation on death has been that I’ve been thinking about life a lot. Particularly my life. It may be an easy question, but who is my life supposed to glorify?

Now, Aurelius was not a Christian. In fact, even though his book is full of virtues and morals, he heavily persecuted the Christians. It was a crime not to worship Caesar and guess who the Christians didn’t worship? His answer is that your life isn’t really meant to glorify anyone. You go about your business, try to do the right things, and eventually die.

Francis Chan on the other hand is a pastor. He is so passionate about his faith. So his answer is that our lives are supposed to glorify God – even though they are incredibly short in light of eternity. He uses the illustration of all of us being extras in a movie about God to make his point.

We have only our two-fifths-of-a-second-long scene to live. I don’t know about you, but I want my two-fifths of a second to be about my making much of God. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That is what each of our two-fifths of a second is about. (Crazy Love, ch 2)

Question: Who is my life supposed to glorify?

Answer: God.

Harder Question: Who does my life glorify?

Harder Answer: Usually me.

It’s not natural to instantly give God the glory or to act in every little thing in a way that honors Him. But that’s what we’ve got to strive to do. God is too great and wonderful for us to make this about us! Even Aurelius realized that fame and glory don’t actually do us any good. So if they’re not going to help us out anyway, we may as well make our lives about God, right?

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work either. We don’t just glorify God because our glory won’t last. Our lives should be lived as a response to everything He’s done for us. For me, that includes salvation, putting me in the beautiful mountains of Virginia, piecing together my family so that I understand His picture of adoption, letting me be homeschooled, and tons and tons of other stuff. What does it mean for you?

When I think about all the stuff God has given me in my life that I don’t deserve, it makes me want to live for Him. Yes, I still mess up. All. The. Time. But His grace means I can try again. I don’t have to stay down.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Francis Chan, because he said it well.

The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift. (Crazy Love, ch 2)

Kira

What do you think about death? Is it something that you avoid thinking about or examine in light of eternity?