Take Heart

Faith:

Psalm 27:13-14 (MSG): “I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.

Proverbs 3: 5-12 (MSG): “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.”

I suffer from too much ambition. I see myself doing so many great things, I feel as though I have so much potential. I’m never satisfied with complacency; I get bored easily.

Because of this, I find myself chasing shadows often. I’m always looking for the Next Best Thing, and oftentimes that involves me compromising my values or talents for something that can be considered low-hanging fruit.

I find the message in the devotional I’m currently studying, Wait and See by Wendy Pope, extremely relevant. Since I’ve graduated college, I’ve embarked on many different journeys to try to establish my adult life. I’ve lived in New Jersey, New York City, Chicago, and Oakland/San Francisco. I’ve attended grad school (but dropped out after a semester), held ten different jobs, and lived in six different apartments. Yikes.

I believe that the reason I haven’t found something God-purposed for my life yet is because I never once consulted him on any of the things I’ve done. I never asked Him to guide me, never asked Him to show the way.

I also believe that I never waited and stayed faithful to God. I recognize that God has anointed me and that He wants to do something through me just as He did with David. But He also wants me to be faithful to Him. God is always faithful if I follow Him with my whole heart, even when what I’m doing isn’t glamorous. So long as it’s godly, God can work with my faithfulness.

I’ve got to be willing to work with what I have, not with what I’m waiting for. I can’t say, “I’ll be able to serve God much better once I make $x, am living comfortably in this city, and have no debt.” Faithfulness starts now. God’s plan for my life starts now.

Life:

It’s my third month living in California and guess what? It hasn’t gotten any better. I’m trying to stay faithful and use this opportunity to figure out where God wants me next year. Where am I headed, God? What do you have planned for me in Chicago? What can I expect in California? If nothing, can you help me remain faithful to you during this waiting period?

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Emotionally reactive => spiritually active

Faith:

Romans 8:26-28 (MSG): “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, or aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Romas 8:39 (MSG): “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing–nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, thinkable or unthinkable–absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

If you live with bipolar disorder like me, or if you’re just a normal person with heaps of emotions, you recognize that your emotions often put you in awkward, tough, embarrassing, or threatening situations.

Emotions aren’t facts. My anger and frustration for what I’m experiencing at work doesn’t describe what’s actually happening. When I feel left out, that might not be the reality. Anxiety could be posing as something else.

That’s why we can’t rely on our emotions to bring us closer to God. Some days I don’t feel like having faith in God. Some days I am too depressed to think of God’s promise for me. Some days I want to indulge my sinful appetite by doing things I know God doesn’t want me to do and has asked me not to, simply because I was overjoyed or prideful or scared.

To be clear, it’s okay to have emotions! God didn’t create robots. Emotions come with the package, right? When something unjust happens to you, it’s okay to feel angry. When you lose someone close to you, it’s okay to feel sad. When you are in line for a promotion at work, it’s okay to be happy. These are 100% natural, God-created, totally normal emotional reactions to have.

But I challenge you to look at some of the emotional reactions you’ve had in the past day or so and see if any of them have negative effects on your relationship with God. If so, it’s time to ask God if he can create in you a spirit of discernment for what emotions are causing which behaviors in your life.

Remember Romans 8 earlier: “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, or aching groans.” I strongly believe that those wordless sighs and aching groans are our emotions, and God can communicate to us and hears us in our anger, frustration, joy, and sadness.

Going further in Romans: “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing–nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, thinkable or unthinkable–absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” The thoughts you haven’t expressed to God because your emotions got in the way won’t change the fact that God loves you.

So how do you get to being emotionally reactive to spiritually active? Pray. Talk to God through every season of your life. Talk to God in the peaks and in the valleys. Talk to God through your anger. Talk to God in your sadness. Know that nothing that has happened or will happen will separate you from Him.

Then, read your Bible. Find people in the Bible that have emotions like you. Challenge yourself to find a time where someone’s emotional outburst led to a time where they sinned and God wasn’t able to forgive them for that. I defy you to find an instance where that happens. (You won’t.)

Connect with God so that you can start to be in tune with His heart. See through God’s eyes what makes Him sad, what causes Him anger, what He delights in. And then start to share those same feelings.

Your emotions aren’t facts. But God’s love for you is truth.

Life:

I’m feeling incredibly homesick. I do not like California, especially the Bay Area, at all, and I’m wondering why I’m here. I’m trying to find out why God has placed me here or why I felt it was so necessary to uproot my life to come here.

It’s Blanche’s (my cat) third birthday today. A year and a half ago, I was a complete stinkin’ mess, and during one of my manic episodes I went to a shelter and spontaneously bought a cat. It was a huge impulse buy–I mean, they’re living creatures–but it’s undeniable how much Blanche has helped me grow. I was so depressed when I got her, and was barely eating/cleaning my apartment/taking care of myself. Having someone to take care of helped me take care of myself.

Tomorrow I am signing myself up for a gym membership (finally). I’ll be at 9Round. Maybe I’ll post some progress pics 🙂

Are you there, God? It’s me, Megan

Faith:

James 4:7-10 (MSG): “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.”

Let’s talk about spiritual warfare.

Did you know that you have an enemy who knows that God has anointed you and wants to make sure that you don’t live the life that God planned for you?

It’s true–the devil wants to make sure that you can’t hear God’s promise over his lies and manipulation. Take heart in the fact that the devil doesn’t know God’s promise for you, or his plan. The Holy Spirit is wholly from God and is our conviction and our communication from God while on Earth, Satan does not have with bond with us. Can we praise God that Satan can’t touch our spirits? Can I get an even bigger praise that Satan doesn’t know God’s plan for us?

But here’s the thing. Satan likes to communicate with our soul, in the form of many of our earthly desires and emotional responses. Here are some ways he deceives or manipulates us:

  • When we think we deserve to walk in unforgiveness after sinning and falling short of God’s glory
  • When we think that no one understands our pain
  • When we think more highly of ourselves than we ought, or when we have debilitatingly low self-esteem
  • When we think that we don’t deserve a brighter future

Emotions are attributes to otherwise seemingly neutral events. A breakup, a job loss, and a death in the family are all events that warrant appropriate emotional response. In fact, it’s probably weirder if you experienced a loss and weren’t upset about it.

I strongly believe that our emotions are something we should share with God. In this way, we can develop a stronger bond with Him. When we share our emotions with the devil, our sadness and grief turns to depression; our uncertainty about the future turns to anxiety; our earthly successes turn into us forgetting to praise God for his abundance. For the last emotion, I’m referring to mania, which I suffer from (surprise! I have bipolar II disorder).

I’ll often talk about mental illness in my blog because I’m trying to rediscover my faith and mental illness at the same time, but I’d love to mention it briefly here as it pertains to spiritual warfare.

I think those who suffer from mental illness such as myself face an even greater spiritual warfare. I can’t prove this, so don’t ask; it’s not like I have the empirical evidence and can show you the facts and figures.

But here are some lies that I hear from having bipolar II disorder that sound a lot like Satan trying to get in the way of God’s promise:

  • “You will never have a boyfriend, you’re too awkward and odd.”
  • “You don’t deserve healing after the huge screw-up you made last winter.”
  • “You will always be stuck in a job you don’t like. That’s what you get.”
  • “You ought to just tell people you like being introverted and quiet to hide the fact that you don’t have any friends.”
  • “Speaking of those friends, where are they when you need them now? Some friends. You probably did something wrong.”
  • “You deserve to take a trip, somewhere nice. Is it really pragmatic to always live by a budget each month?”
  • “You’re completely out of options in this city. You’re in a dead-end job, you don’t have any friends, no roots. You should look to move somewhere else.”
  • “Did God really say no sex before marriage? Well, it’s not like you’re going to get married anyway, and he’s ready, willing, and able to have sex. Send him a text.”

Not one of these things is true, Biblical, or from God. But I am wholly convinced that Satan uses my mental illness to speak lies into me. He knows when I’m weak, and he’s spineless, so of course that’s when he’s going to attack.

I can’t stress this enough. Spiritual warfare is real. Be constantly vigilant for the devil, and run to the arms of God, who cares for you so incredibly much.

Life:

Today I got on the train to head home for the day and it reeked to high heaven. An elderly homeless woman, who had a wheelchair, had wet herself while sleeping on the seat. Everyone who came onto the train made comments about the smell, her raggedness, and how they planned to stay far away.

But then a man standing next to me starting asking the people standing closest to her (which was still a distance, as the smell was terrible) if she was okay. He asked how long she had been sleeping, and if it was possible she may have had a seizure. He then called the BART police and filed an incident report through the app AND spoke to a representative who worked for BART at my stop (we got off on the same stop). He did what so many people literally turned their noses at.

It got me thinking that we do not lose our humanity when we’re at our grimiest, our most depraved, and at our lowest point in our lives. We all deserve to have decency/modesty when we want it (not people shouting “ew!” at her as they walked past). Maybe this woman was ashamed to be found in such a vulnerable position; maybe she wasn’t. But we don’t get to decide that for her. If we’re not able to take care of it ourselves, it takes two seconds to find someone who can.

Peaks and Valleys

Faith:

Psalm 23:1-4 (MSG): “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.”

It’s incredibly easy to blame God when we have wants or hurts and forget to bless God when there’s abundance. If you thought life was linear–a completely uphill slope just like in math class–you might need to have a spiritual disappointment. There were times when even Jesus was disappointed in life, people, and God, although there’s one key difference: He didn’t lose sight of the purpose and promise laid out for him by God.

Want to know what’s unique about valleys? That’s where the vegetation grows and where flowers bloom. It can be very difficult to see the sun from the valley, and it can also be hard to see what lies ahead when you’re stuck in a downward slump. It can feel very demoralizing, and you might feel like God is to blame for your current situation.

But think about this advantage: From this vantage point, you’re able to grow. You’re able to consume all of the spiritual nutrients you need and take advantage of the healing, personal and spiritual development, and wisdom. These are all free gifts from God–use them! I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the valleys are in a more humbling position in relation to the mountains. I think it’s very easy for us to forget God is elevated when we’re on mountains.

So what happens after we grow? We can reap our harvest on the mountains, dancing and praising and shouting onto God. Let’s be believers who can grow fruit even at the non-peak times (get it?).

Life:

I’m having a very long week, full of rollercoaster emotional rides related to my work performance and trying to establish a legacy while still knowing I am not going to stay in this corner of the world very long.

I really wish that God would provide me with a huge vision, idealistically with flashing lights and a neon sign, that tells me what my future should look like and what career path I should follow. Right now if you traced my career path from post-college to now, it’d look like the drunken walk of someone still so much wiser than me.

If it’s nursing, let me find the passion to pursue it. If it’s something else, I would love divine inspiration to know what that something else is. If it’s working in a non-profit or starting my own business or going back to school or being a mother…I’ll take any of them! I just want clarity so I can follow with an open heart and be passionate about it. I hate living a lackluster life.

I realize your life can still have meaning in spite of your job, but I spent so much time at my job a week that I’d love to enjoy it. And I really don’t think that this is me being selfish. I don’t think God intends for us to live lives that are unfulfilling (outside of him fulfilling us spiritually).

I’d love to find some resources, preferably from Christian sources, about how to find your purpose or calling or career.

Advice from the brokenhearted to the brokenhearted

It rained in Oakland today, although you can’t really tell from this picture of Lake Merritt

Faith:

  • Psalm 34:18 (MSG): “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.”
  • Psalm 147:2-6 (MSG): “God’s the one who rebuilds Jerusalem, who regathers Israel’s scattered exiles. He heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds.”

Wow, wow, wow. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the second time in two days God mentions “exiles” in some capacity (“wandering exiles” in Ephesians 2:19 and “scattered exiles” here). We’ll get to being brokenhearted in a second, but I really do want to explore what it means to be an exile.

I know that from a holiness standpoint, I’m separated from Jesus. I also know that through his son Jesus, I’m redeemed; there’s a bridge to gap the expanse of non-holy muck between God and me. Before I was redeemed, I was lost. I didn’t understand God’s love and mercy and direction for my life and I wandered. Many times in my life I’ve chosen to wander, to choose my own path. But God doesn’t understand my wandering, and neither do I. It’s not fun not having a purpose. It’s stressful, unfulfilling. Why do I exile myself from God’s promise when God has never once chosen that life for me? It seems like it’s self-inflicted to me!

Okay, let’s go back to broken-heartedness now (I promised I’d get there!). I don’t think anyone is under the impression that living a God-rich life is going to be absent of any strife. It’s also pretty evident that life is going to throw us a lot of hurts. People are sinful. They’re selfish, uncaring, ignorant, and foolish. Sometimes you’re hurt by a situation you can’t understand, like a job loss or a death in the family. You could also be brokenhearted because of a mental illness, where you’re battling your own inner demons.

The year 2016 was one of my toughest years to date. I dealt with a lot of blows in the form of job loss, anguish, frustration, gossiping coworkers, heartbreak, etc. I was seriously at the end of my tether, ready to let go and give in because I had been given so much hurt and my heart, which I was trying to patch up with alternative, inferior methods, couldn’t handle anymore wear and tear.

Five days before Christmas, I walked into a church service in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago as a whits-end solution. I recommitted my life to church and God then, although it took lots more stumbling and falling over the months to come until I landed here, in California, writing this post.

I was a wandering exile.

In the same way God regathered Israel’s scattered exiles, he regathered me.

There are a few points I’d like to share about broken-heartedness and being an exile:

  1. Being rescued by Jesus doesn’t mean your life is going to be absent of broken-heartedness. Ever heard the Hillsong song, “Hosanna,” where Brooke Fraser empathically sings, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours,” to Jesus? God’s heart also breaks. His heart breaks for injustice, for His people, for lost sheep. You better believe your heart, once transfixed by God, is going to start breaking for these things too.
  2. You are allowed to mourn for injustices in your life. Pray to God for those who hurt you. Contemplate your sinful nature as you mourn previous decisions you made that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Consider sin as a whole. Recognize that sin did not and has not and will never come from God.
It’s so pretty in Oakland, even when it rains (which it never does)

Life:

It rained today in Oakland for the first time since I’ve been here. I love rainy days and it’s so sad that this part of the country hardly sees any.

I’m going to be incredibly honest today and say that I’m really homesick. I thought sunny California would provide me with so much acceptance and hope and a brand new start. But you never have to run away from your bad past to get a chance at redemption.

I can’t wait till I’m in Chicago again, eating food I like with people I love. I can’t wait until I see my family and friends. I can’t wait until I have the ability to pay for things again (SF is super expensive!).

I’m praying for a direction and a clear path for what I should do starting July 1st when my lease is up in California and I head home. I’m pray now for a job, for financial security, for a purpose, and to be reunited with the people I love.

You’re no longer wandering exiles

Faith:

Ephesians 2:19 (MSG): “You’re no longer wandering exiles. The kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all–irrespective of how we got here–in what he is building.”

These were the words preached today at Hillsong SF. I am so thankful for my church. I stepped into church in December last year when I was fired from my job and so dejected at all the curveballs life had thrown at me in 2016. I hadn’t been to church in three years, and it was such a relief to be back in the presence of God.

But I was fighting lots of inner demons, which made my desire to commit to church difficult. I had lots of baggage to sort through with God, lots of preconceived notions to untangle with him. There was so much hurt and bitterness and misunderstanding and rejection I didn’t know where to start.

Let’s focus on that phrase, “You’re no longer wandering exiles.” I wish I could tell you about my life before I decided to allow God back into it. I’m sure one day you’ll hear all of my story. But have you ever heard of the expression of “throwing sh*t at the wall and seeing what sticks”? That’s how my life was before Jesus. I wandered from relationship to relationship, from intellectualism to spiritualism not from Jesus, from tolerance and politics to radical liberal ideology. I got a job and left it after a year or so, fed up with my mediocrity (and also not really understanding my bipolar diagnosis).

But now? Now I’m no longer a wandering exile. I don’t have to test out different solutions to see what works. I’m not a neanderthal. I have a solution. I have a future, a secured future at that. I’m not standing on the outside of God’s miraculous plan; I’m part of it.

This is so touching for someone who had a childhood where I was left out, friendless, and bullied. God isn’t building something great and looking at me wondering why I’m standing there pleading to be let in. He’s handing me the tools to participate! He’s giving me the resources to be part of what he’s building!

Let’s highlight another phrase: “irrespective of how we got here“. I don’t know about you, but I’m a mess. I clean up well, but I’m always going to gravitate towards messy situations because I have a messy, human heart and a proclivity towards sin. Isn’t it great that God never once disqualifies us based on what’s on our resumes? What’s on our medical charts? What’s on on criminal records? No, you’ve been redeemed. God can use you, I promise. He’s used me and I’m a hot mess. He can use you!

Life:

Today I made a very difficult decision. I blocked a person I was supposed to meet with this week for a date who was not a Christian and who is someone I likely should not have been seeing in the first place, as our previous conversations have gotten sexual in nature.

It was a very hard decision because I like the comfort and attention of a guy texting me and calling me beautiful, lovely, wonderful, etc, but I feel empty providing the physical components and not getting anything of substance back.

My dating life has been marred by people manipulating me for sex or never seeing my value. And I’m sick of it! It’s time I advocate for myself and my worth and my value. I say “Men are dogs,” but I act in ways that I’m feeding them!

I’d really like to date someone who is compassionate, understanding, patient, and loving, and I’m not going to find that by settling for cheap imitations of what love is. I understand humans are flawed, but I completely missed the mark with what I was going for with these guys.

I likely will post about my dating life this year, so stay tuned. I will also likely post about my mental illness, which is a huge component of my life, and I’m trying to navigate it with a biblical perspective instead of a humanistic one.