Today’s a Good Day for Sunsets

sunset

Today is one of those days that I walk around in a daze thinking about just about anything and everything you could imagine while simultaneously pondering absolutely nothing.  Yes, that made no sense.  Welcome to the world of an INTJ brain.  Days like this refresh me by catapulting me away from daily worries like homework and getting the “W” next weekend to seal us as the #5 seed in the NSIC conference tournament.  They throw me into a world in which I’m not a college volleyball player or a student-athlete (that’s classic NCAA lingo for you) and rather just an average 18-year-old woman whose life revolves around something other than a constant, unrelenting pursuit of excellence in one transitory area of this futile life.

Okay, not to say that I don’t love my life here.  Don’t think for a second that I would ever trade the privileges I have for just about anything (although ending sex trafficking might be worth it), but days like this give me the opportunity to breathe in what it means to have a blissful life which possesses more than one axis of rotation.

Sometimes, these days occur on the day of a huge exam or a match we HAVE to win (although, to be real here, we HAVE to win every match).  When that happens, these days pile on the stress because I can’t let my brain loose from the electrical fence-bound pasture of school and volleyball.  I see a sunset just beyond the sizzling wire, but running through it would mean leaving behind grass that needs grazing in order to grow.

And my job is to graze that grass.  It’s what I’m called to in this era of my life, so I have to ignore the beauty and chew on.

But today is Sunday.  Sundays equal no volleyball and only as much homework as I need to do in order to feel “set” for the week.  Considering I had 22 hours of bus rides in the last week to crank out pesky homework, today was the perfect day to notice the sunset and frolic through the fields beyond my fenced-in pasture.

Well, if it shows the state my brain is in right now, my structured life was not what this blog was supposed to be about when I started.  But, on days like today, why not take the random path that my neurons provide me with?

SEEING, not Looking

UR

Last night, I plopped down on the floor, closed my eyes, and asked God, “Show me where You want me to read tonight.”  I flipped open my Bible to Matthew 5 and the Beattitudes seemed to pop out at me, so I decided to get past the familiarity of the words and look for deeper meaning.  Sure, I know that those who are merciful will receive mercy, but what does this truly mean?  What exactly IS mercy?  WHY will they receive mercy?  How do you BECOME merciful?

And then this verse jumped out at me:

“Blessed are the PURE IN HEART, for they shall SEE GOD.”

~Matthew 5:8

Yes, these words are already circled and underlined and boxed in a series of coded colors in my Bible, indicating that I have read this and supposedly understand it fully since I have analyzed it several times before.  Well, obviously I am an arrogant, presumptuous Bible-reader, because I almost glazed over it altogether even though GOD was practically screaming at me, “There’s more for you to understand in this!”

But, hey, I finally hunkered down and analyzed it, letting GOD speak to me again about what it truly means, or else I would not be writing this right now.

Is it horrible that I’ve never before noticed the magnitude of what “SEE GOD” means?  Well, looking at someone is far different than seeing them.  Looking is more intentional.  It is literally turning and deliberately viewing someone.  Yet, isn’t it less powerful?  For you can look at someone and FAIL TO SEE what someone truly is.

I truly believe that we can only experience GOD when strivings cease.  For as long as we are “trying” to experience GOD, we are failing to understand the fact that GOD is too big to not be experienced.  GOD comes to us.  If we had any sort of contribution to this, we would be saved by works and not by faith alone.

Therefore, I think that the fact that this verse uses the verb “SEE” rather than “look” is significant; “look” refers to a direct action, while “see” indicates that HE placing HIMSELF right in front of us in a way that we cannot turn away from, for one glace of HIM is too magnificent to walk away from.

Isn’t this the problem in my life right now?  For I LOOK at HIM every day.  I get up every morning and go through my monotonous routine of “looking” at HIM in HIS word.  But do I SEE HIM?  NO– or else I would be passionately serving HIM with my every breath!

Yet, how do we SEE HIM without striving?

Well, I think that Deuteronomy 6’s command to “love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” demonstrates that these four aspects of us are inherently interconnected..  These are the four entities are what comprise all of us— all of ME.  Therefore, I can relate the other three to the reference of the heart in Matthew 5:8.

What, therefore, does it mean to be “pure in heart”?

It means KNOWING GOD with my mind.

It means yearning for HIM only with all of my soul.

It means running to HIM out of habit with all of my strength.

Being “pure in heart” means passionately pursuing HIM not from obligation, but rather from OVERFLOW OF JOY, UNCONTAINABLE PLEASE, and MAGNANIMOUS SUFFERING.

LORD, may I SEE YOU ONCE AGAIN.

And may I never again think I already know everything there is to know about a verse.

What If I Desired HIM?

Kenai, AK

Ok, I suppose I must begin this post with a confession: I didn’t go to church today.

I know, I know, that wasn’t that bad.  But it’s not that I was up super late last night or that I didn’t feel well or even that I had a lot to do (I mean, really, we don’t do anything here in Aberdeen aside from watching Dr. Phil). 

I just didn’t want to go.

Yes, I realize that I’m not the first person ever to suffer from it’s-Sunday-but-I-just-want-to-do-anything-but-get-in-my-car-and-drive-to-church-itus, but I’m still disturbed at myself.

Why?

Because my choice to go back to sleep this morning instead of tossing my hair up in a nasty bun and embarking on the drive across town (those whole 8 minutes) is a symptom of a deeper issue— a heart issue. 

It’s an issue that John Piper, my favorite theologian and writer, has written several books on.  It’s an issue that I believe exists as the main reason humanity in general rebels from GOD– and why Christians suffer from a lack of commitment to fully follow JESUS.

Today, I did not desire GOD.

Yet, as I read Psalm 95 today, my heart overflowed with perspective— perspective on who GOD is and how crazy I am not to desire HIM every moment of every day:

“For HE is our GOD, and we are the people of HIS pasture, and the sheep of HIS hand” (v. 7).

What if I lived as if this were true?  Just let that sink in for a moment.

What if I BELIEVED this with all of my heart AND all of my mind AND all of my soul?

What if the TRUTH in this statement became the beat of my heart and the muscle behind my every step?

GOD, the CREATOR, has chosen me to worship HIM.  To live for HIM.  HE has given me the privilege of directing my every move.  THE PRIVILEGE TO KNOW HIM.

Yet, how easily I forget.  I allow the enemy to rob me of living life to the fullest, the way JESUS wants us to. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that you may HAVE LIFE and have it abundantly.” ~John 10:10

Nothing in life compares to the beauty of “knowing GOD and making HIM known” (YWAM motto).  GOD, make the desire to know you deeper be my all.  Make it the blood that flows through my veins.  The sweat that pours from my face as I play.  The very air I breathe. 

And, LORD, take me to a new level of commitment to YOU, that I may be able to truly say, “Search my heart and search my soul.  There’s nothing else that I want more.”

(Oh, and by the way, I took the picture at the top of the post on the beach in Kenai, AK, on my missions trip this summer.  How could we not desire a GOD who created this?!)

 

An “IN” Goes to College

Christ is ENOUGH

Well, I’ve decided to return to the universe of blogging (although one might note that I never really was a part of it, unless you count my 3 posts on this blog that I did nothing with and that killer blog I was required to write for Bible class senior year). I’m sitting at a crossroads of my life right now, in desperate, lonely limbo.

What a perfect time to find solace in electronic media.

I suppose I am living out a classic moment of life in America: beginning college. I’m caught in the shocks of moving to a new place (from a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a small town in South Dakota), making new friends (after having the same friends for 7 years), and suddenly having the weight of the expectations on my shoulders that come with having a volleyball scholarship.

Yes, I may have scored 98% Introvert on the Myers-Briggs personality test, but that does not mean that I do not crave communion with people. And I don’t just mean sitting around and chatting about nothing, but really TALKING to people. Like about our life story. Our background. Our hopes and dreams. Our love for the LORD.

Well, that isn’t going to happen automatically in college. That’s something that I must work towards. I must BUILD relationships again. I have to start from the bottom up.

Yet I am verbalizing the woes of nearly every person who begins college. Why do I feel as though I am alone in my alone-ness?

Maybe it has to do with my rare “IN” personality type (sorry for going all Myers-Briggs again, but, for real, this test practically described my life story, so I’ve got to give it some credit), which contributes to my need for constant DEPTH with people. Or maybe it’s how collaborative my faith walk has been thus far.

I suppose I can only speculate.

But, in my doubt this morning (another “IN” thing: we over think EVERYTHING and subsequently put ourselves into tizzies over nothing), the LORD reminded me of this: “The righteous has ENOUGH to SATISFY his appetite” (Proverbs 13:25a).

Isn’t that the core of the problem? Isn’t it that I’m not “satisfied” here yet (although, good grief, I’ve been here less than 48 hours)?

But of course I’m not satisfied if I’m not seeking the LORD every single moment that I doubt. That I wonder why I’m here. That I wonder how I handle not seeing my best friend until December. That I wonder how I will survive a whole month before I am reunited with my little brother again.

GOD doesn’t promise that life will be hard– especially the transitions. I’m experiencing one of the hardest, most drastic transitions that will ever occur in my life (although moving to Morocco to become a medical missionary will definitely top this). But where will I run in the midst of all this?

CHRIST IS ENOUGH. I can only be filled in HIM. Therefore, LORD, I run to you today.

What Do You Want?

DELIGHT

“What do you want?”

~JESUS, John 1:38

JESUS’ first words in the Gospel of John pierce my soul to the very core.  They expose what I live for, expose my true priorities and passions. 

By examining my answer to this question, I can pinpoint exactly what I’m living for.  Why?  Because I believe that JESUS changes and shapes us through our answer to this question.  Put differently, I believe that GOD changes us and then we can see the results of our minds being renewed through our answer to this question.

The ESV translation puts it like this: “What are you seeking?”  If a genie came to me today and offered to grant me ONE– just one– wish, what would I choose?

As I look back on the last 3 years of high school, I have to admit that my answers would be very different depending upon the month and even the day.  Fall of 9th grade?  To go to State in volleyball.  Winter and spring of 9th grade?  To have my entire life work out according to my own plan.  Fast forward to spring of sophomore year.  What would I want then?  To get recruited be West Point.  Junior year?  To become verbally committed to the Naval Academy. 

I am so ashamed to reflect on all this and realize where my heart was.  Looking back, I realize that I was not sold out for GOD.  I may have thought that I had this insurmountable faith that could move mountains.  But I didn’t.  I still don’t.

Throughout my life, I have continually realized that my faith seems so strong at the time, that I understand so fully how beautiful it is to be in relationship with GOD, until HE brings me a step further in my commitment.  Then, my level of prior commitment to HIM looks so naive, so lacking.  It’s as if, every day, I am awakened more and more to HIM and who HE really is– and I will NEVER cease to be amazed by what HE shows me.

I do look back at my life and notice interims where I experienced moments of complete trust in HIM.  The first of those was in Salem, Oregon, when I surrendered volleyball and my future to HIM, that HE might use my entire life to do SOLELY HIS purposes.  Moments like that encourage me.  And they are where I am the most joyful.

In a way, my answer to “What do you want?  What are you seeking?” is my life story.  It’s the story of how GOD is continually fulfilling Psalm 37:4 in my life.

It’s my calling, “where [my] deepest passions meet the world’s deepest needs.”  That’s why, today, my answer is this, word-for-word as I have written in my journal: “I want to see every prostitute set free, both spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  And I already know that my wish will come true.  I BELIEVE.

“All I want in this life is more of YOU.”

Do you want to know what’s stunning about JESUS’ first words, “What do you want?”

They are immediately followed by an answer that HE gives for the apostles:

“Come and see.”

“Come and see” what you want, dear friends!  “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy (Isaiah 55:1-2)?” 

For HE has promised us that if we draw near to HIM and “delight [ourselves] in [HIM],” “HE will give [us] the secret desires of [our] heart[s] (Psalm 37:4).”  In other words, HE will match our desires with HIS

 

My prayer today is that GOD will make my answer to “What do you want?” parallel to HIS answer “COME AND SEE.” ❤ Every day of my life.

May the cry of my heart be to BRING YOU PRAISE!!!!!

Amen.

To whom it may concern…

Every one of you has a story.  Every one of you has a reason for choosing enslavement.  I continually pray that you will choose freedom, for FREEDOM IS HERE.  Freedom is what I have chosen, though.  Or, rather, CHRIST has called me to freedom, and I have no other choice but to embrace it.

No matter how hard you try, or how hard Satan tries to use you to tear me to pieces, you WILL NOT SUCCEED.  We have already won.

I not CANNOT and WILL NOT be subdued, held up, or shut up.  HE has bestowed upon me a strong, truth-speaking, encouraging, fearless voice whose ONE PURPOSE is:

“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 SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME!”

~from Isaiah 61:1-2

I’m sorry, but I am called to far too much to let you get to me, to let you get me to LET UP, GIVE UP, OR SHUT UP.

In fact, I would actually like to THANK you for your choice to try to destroy me in any way possible.  Just like with Job, it’s shaping me.  It’s driving me to the LORD.  It’s knocking me to the ground only to worship I AM WHO I AM.  It’s reminding me every day WHY I’M HERE, why I need GOD.  It’s preparing me to keep speaking even when I have a rope attached to each of my limbs and four different horses.

FOR IF I CAN BE SILENCED BY A ROOM OF LAUGHING TEENAGERS, HOW MUCH MORE WILL I BE SILENCED BY REAL PERSECUTION???

It’s not too late for you to make this choice, too.  Join me on the narrow road, the road less traveled by, for the many twists and turns make the journey an adventure.  Beautiful, picturesque landscapes lie around every bend.  The slope is sometimes treacherous, but, somehow, the climb isn’t scary if you simply fix your eyes on JESUS and take HIS hand.  HE is walking with you every step of the way, and HE will never abandon you.

For CHRIST has set us free to live a free life.  So TAKE YOUR STAND.  Never again let anyone put the harness of slavery on you again.

~Galations 5:1, MSG

I pray for and BELIEVE in NOTHING LESS than a full revival.

Love,

AVO ❤

Image

With Everything by Hillsong

“I will fight to follow.”

I view my life as just a vapor, just a split second in the span of all
eternity.  Yet, in that vapor, I have a choice:  to fight or to follow.  The decision to fight will not make my life useless, but devoid of purpose.  Comfortable.  Futile.  And the decision to follow?  This renders the complete opposite results.  Following CHRIST is a paradox- losing your entire life, and finding it in the process.  It is in this contradiction, as well as the entire paradox of the Gospel, that we find our purpose, the “meaning of
life”, as people like to call it.  As of the summer before my senior year of high school, I have made my choice.  Summed up in a song by Hillsong, I have decided that, “I will fight to follow.”  There is so much more to life than school.  Than sports.  Than partying.  Than most of what our society deems as “normal”.  I don’t want to waste my life;  I don’t want this vapor to pass insignificantly.  That’s why I have chosen to follow, and here I am at the feet of the cross, amazed at what HE has laid out before me.  Pouring out
my gratitude for salvation, so that I may be filled up once again.  I pray that each and every person experiences this same freeing servitude, this unrelenting passion.  I pray that the entire world would experience and KNOW HIM face-to-face, the CREATOR of the entire universe- YAHWEH.