sappy thoughts on a Sunday night about things that matter

when I should be studying and preparing for class this week, I decided to stop and write about things that matter. i want it to inspire me as well as you.

it matters more to know that i am truly loved than to have 131 likes on my pic.

it matters more to hold someone’s hand and hear their story than for someone else to share my post.

the conversation over the cup of coffee matters more than what kind of coffee it is.

i am more than just what i look like on any given day. so are you.

how much I care matters more than my grades.

real love for God matters more than how many verses I can memorize for him.

it matters more to live in the moment than to document it later on social media.

the person in front of me matters than what’s on the screen in front of me.

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here’s to a week of caring about what matters.

here’s to a week of doing what matters.

~rachel sue

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I want 2016 to be different

So I’m actually writing a blog post after nearly two years of, well, not blogging. I may never write another one after this one in my life, or I may write a bunch of posts that I only want to delete later. Regardless, I like the idea of sharing a few more of the thoughts from my journey here. My desire is to be a little more vulnerable (gosh, this is already scary) and way, way less preachy. Why is being preachy so easy? Anyway, that’s probably another story for another time.

Let me tell you about my New Year’s goals. I know I’m about 14 days too late for them to be sensational, but around New Year’s Day proper I wasn’t in any good place to be making resolutions. They would have been lame and fake, I promise.

So I was driving home from the Oklahoma City area last week. It takes me about 4 hours to get home from there, and I usually drink coffee, listen to loud music, or talk to my sister on the phone. This time I was listening to a podcast from Boundless.org (these have been immensely encouraging to me lately), and I heard Francis Chan and his wife talk how our church culture consumes so much theology without going out and making a difference. He said, “Just do SOMETHING.” Gosh, that hit home. I began to realize that somewhere, sometime along the way I had stopped taking risks and played life pretty safe. Maybe I’m afraid, maybe I’m lazy, probably both. If I think I might fail or even not measure up to someone else’s awesomeness, I don’t try.

Do you think it might be better to risk failure than not to try at all?

Do you think success might come from stumbling again and again and again?

Do you think we might only grow when life is less than perfect?

So I want 2016 to be different. I want to see what can happen when I put myself out there and trust Jesus for all He can do in me and through me. I want to spend a little less time watching Netflix (I do love me some Parks and Rec and Grey’s Anatomy though) and a little more time talking to people I know and people I don’t know that well. I’m training for a half marathon. I want to invite people over to my school apartment and cook pasta for them. I want to take pretty pictures on my phone. I want to try working with children again…not that I’m great with kids, but how in the world am I supposed to get better if I never get any experience?

And where does it stop? What if I tried to sing at church? What if I went to more events at school? What if I gave a little more of my life and my resources than is comfortable? I’m graduating from nursing school this May…what if I go somewhere new and different where I have to trust Jesus a whole lot more than I do when I’m in familiar places?

Looking back, I’m grateful for times I took risks instead of playing it safe. I went to New York on a mission trip with school last spring break. I just got back from a medical mission trip to Mexico this month. I got a job over last summer working as a nurse tech. I joined my school choir this fall. None of these were perfect; there were a lot of tears and discouragement along the way. A blind date and a relationship didn’t work out. I had to quit my job after only a couple of months. I’m not that great at singing. But really, I wouldn’t be the same person I am now without every single experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to portray myself as some kind of do-gooder. But life is out there, and I want to live it. It’s way more scary this way, but it’s also way more exciting and beautiful and well, more life.

Care to join?

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You are a Person

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In all the world, you alone bear the divine stamp of the Creator. You alone have a spirit. There are seven million yous on the face of the planet, but that doesn’t detract from your value, the value that you have because you exist, because He made you to exist. You are a person.

So you deserve that I value you, too. You deserve my respect for the kind of person that you are. You deserve that I listen, even when I don’t agree or I’m not interested or tired. You are worth more than my time, my schedule, my to-do list. You deserve my attention, my acknowledgement that you do exist and that you do have value, even if you talk different from me, even if you talk different from me, even if you enjoy different things than I do. You are a person.

It doesn’t matter how young you are, how old you are, or what the world might say is wrong with you. You are a person.

You might be from a different country or speak a different language. That doesn’t change your value. Despite the label that someone else might paste on you, you have just as much worth as the richest, most famous, most beautiful celebrity out there. No matter what you have done or what your family has done, you are a person.

I can’t say that you are perfect. None of us is. But I’m not the one to judge you, because God is. He says I’m His ambassador. I might be telling you that you have sinned against Him and deserve eternal death. I’m not telling you because you don’t have value. Because you do. And that’s why I’m also telling you the good news – that God indescribably loves you and sent His Son to take all of God’s wrath in your place. In order that you – a person in His image – can believe in the blood of His death and the power of His resurrection and become right with God. Although none of us deserve this gift, it’s there, and those of us who have it have the responsibility to tell you. Because you are a person. Jesus died for people – people who are sinners – so that people can become God’s children.

I’m bad at sharing it. I’m bad at treating you how you deserve. I want to get better at it through God’s strength and grace. So that this love and value that He places on us through the cross of Christ, He Himself will be glorified and enjoyed and lifted high and loved and worshipped above all else.

We are but people. He alone is God. Let us give Him the glory that is due Him and honor one another as He has taught us.

Rachel Sue

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Not by Myself

Person Alone

God taught me something beautiful this week.

When I am struggling, when I have sin in my life, God does not push me away. He does not wait to help me until I put it all it all right.

If it were not for Christ, I would be hopelessly separated from God because of my sin, my mistakes, my failures—my self-seeking heart. There would be nothing I could do to correct those offenses. I would not even have the ability to seek after God.

But I am in Christ. That (up there) is not my reality. He conquered the power and the darkness of sin. His grace has made me a beloved child. His love for me is greater than I can ever know, and His grace is has greater power than evil.

Because Christ’s blood has made me right with God, my sin does not drive me away from Him. Of course, it does not please God, but He is there to show me how to overcome sin—in Him, through Him, for Him. He will never leave me or forsake me. His divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)—including this sin and these struggles.

I don’t have to find victory before I come to Him. Not by myself. I find victory in Him.

Remember these verses in 1 John 2:1-2:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Yes, I will make mistakes. But I am in Christ, and this doesn’t change me back to my preconversion state—being an enemy of God. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, I can come boldly to the throne of grace to ask for mercy and help. I can receive forgiveness. I can receive strength to choose righteousness.

Not by myself. Only in Him.

~Rachel Sue

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When Faith

Woven

When words cannot describe the soul’s movements. When the mind can’t understand what is going on in the heart.

When I’m completely baffled by the way the world works, by the way that God works. When I don’t see how what’s in the Bible matches up with what I see in life. And when all the confusion makes me want to pull away and not even mess with trying to figure it out.

When I’m engulfed in guilt, but not knowing why—and just wanting to get it all right, but not knowing how. Why do I feel this way when I think about God? What’s wrong with me? What do I have to do to make it better?

When you can’t explain it, but it’s so real. When your heart relates something that your mind can’t really agree with.

When I want to be close to God and give glory to Him, but I don’t see amazing things in His Word like I think I should. Or I don’t understand it. Or when I’m drawing near I feel indescribably uneasy.

When I analyze to pieces everything that I do or say. Is it something to correct? Or should I just forget about it?

When a mere feeling taints everything in my life. When everything else makes it seems like I’m disqualified to be a good servant of Christ.

I know that feelings don’t always portray what is real, but feelings are real. They are a struggle. They are a prison that we need to be freed from. They must be overcome so that we can take another step.

But it’s better today. It’s not because I have a ten-step system that clears away all of that. There’s no handy set of perfectly clear directions for the Christian walk, like there is on a cake mix. Because if we had a bunch of directions on the box of our Christian walk, we would trust those instead of Jesus.

Jesus is always the same. He is changing me to be like Him, but there’s still lots of me left that doesn’t look like Him. There’s still lots of sin. And while my life might look the same to everyone else, inside it’s raging or crying or baffled. I still need Him to save me from all of this.

When it’s the worst, it’s time to seek God. And when I can’t feel like I can, I can trust what I already know.

When I remember, “Satan is the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Satan would love nothing more than to make me forget that Christ is the one who cleanses me by His blood. Satan wants to convince me that I have to fix all the mistakes that I’ve made.

When I remember Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” If God needs to convict me about something, He will be faithful to do that. He is not the God of confusion. But Satan condemns unreservedly. And I am pretty good at helping him when I look inward rather than upward when he accuses me.

When I do sin—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). My only way to be right with God—for salvation and after salvation—is  the blood of Jesus.

When I know that what He says is real—more real than my feelings about it. When I can pray that He would change me and cleanse my mind from all this junk. When I know that He is making it better. When faith looks to Him, faith grows stronger.

When I don’t have it all together, “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Look to Him, to His Word, pray to Him. In our weak state of human feelings and inconstancies, He is our only hope.

~Rachel Sue

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Steps of Obedience

Feet walking

Sometimes I want to hear God’s direction. I want to hear exactly what He wants me to do. For some reason I think His voice will always lead me in a happy direction.

Other times I’m afraid that what I’m hearing really is God’s voice, because I don’t want to obey what He’s telling me to do.

I wonder, Why does His voice seem clearest when it’s the last thing I want to do?

I try to convince myself that it’s some other voice—any voice except His. I want Him to tell me what would be more comfortable to do. Easier. Less painful.

Sometimes His leading is hard to discern, but other times it’s unmistakable. And I don’t have peace until I say yes.

I discovered, though, that when I determine to obey, Christ gives me the desire to do it, even though it’s the last thing I would want to do. He gives me peace and strength, even though I’m shaking inside. I have the assurance that I’m doing His will.

I learned today that that assurance is worth all the risks.

Today I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit who convicts, the God who loves me enough to correct me, and the Savior who can change my heart to want His ways and who can give me the strength to carry it out.

~Rachel Sue

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Four Things I’ve Learned about The Church

God has shown me some beautiful and freeing things about His children the last several weeks. At first it seemed like a bunch of individual lessons—but today, I realized that each “lesson” falls under the heading of the Church, the Body of Christ.

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1. If you’re a true follower of Jesus Christ, nothing makes you better than other believers.

No teaching, group, or denomination that I can ever be a part of will make me any godlier than my fellow believers. In fact, if I take what someone says about the Bible more seriously than what the Bible says, there’s a problem. We are sinners justified and being sanctified purely by the blood of Jesus. If we are children of God, we all have the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand God, and we all have the ability to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can discern His will. We have the Word of God, and nobody’s going to get any more special revelations equal to it. If I box myself in with some exclusive teachings, I will miss so, so much that God is showing the rest of His people.

2. Focus on unity, not differences.

Because we’re all so different anyway, it’s my natural tendency just to see the differences between me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. And my focus on differences inevitably leads to comparisons. And comparisons lead to judgment—and the conclusion that I’m better than everyone else.

How wrong that is. God has made us all different, but sin makes divisions sharp and ugly. But the Gospel is the only thing in the world that can join us. Jesus earnestly prayed that His followers would be one, just like He and His Father were one. “There is one body and one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:4, ESV).

Several evenings ago I was gathered in prayer with some wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray differently. We come from different homes. We listen to different kinds of music. We dress differently. We talk differently. We enjoy different things. But there God reminded me that we were all His children saved by the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s what changes everything, and the love that we are to have for one another will make all those differences fade away.

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14)

3. Talk with fellow believers, not about them.

Being so different from all my fellow believers gives me a lot to talk about. Good stories, right? Talking about them helps me figure them out. But wait … is that understanding them or judging them? I admit that usually, I’m placing a false verdict on someone—because I don’t really know. But when I talk with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I understand them better. When I talk with them, it softens my heart to their perspective. When I talk about them, I tend to see the bad and try to make up some good. When I talk with them, my eyes can be opened to how God has gifted them.

4. Be concerned with what God has called you to do instead of comparing it to what other believers are doing.

Earlier this week, I was really upset because of some things another believer had done and set that seemed to fly in the face of what I believed something that God wanted me to do. I couldn’t rejoice with those who were rejoicing or thank God for what He had done.

But God is so faithful to show me the truth when I look to Him. He kept reminding me of 1 Corinthians 3. We are all workers in His field, and whatever our efforts may be, He is the One who determines the outcome, and He brings the outcome. Not only that, but any good that I do is really from Him. It’s not my job to tell another believer, “You can’t do that! That’s my job!” Well, maybe God does want them to do that. I may not know why He doesn’t let me do it, but a slave doesn’t ask “why” or micromanage. A slave does as he is told, all the while trusting that his Master is working it all out to perfection.

I pray that this will encourage you in your walk with Christ and relationship with other believers. May we never stop thanking God for what He has done for us!

~Rachel Sue

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