Expect it!

I was reflecting on the “Coming Clean on Religion” article and found myself asking the question: Why do we worship?

I came to two conclusions:  1.)  To Honor God.

2.)  To hear God speak to us or to feel his presence.

If worship was confined to what we did on Sunday mornings, then we would be spending the majority of our time living life without Jesus. Many Christians approach worship this way, but I choose to define worship as doing everything unto the Lord. By striving to live a life where I seek God’s desire for my life in every task, I am consistently honoring God and never without His presence. This becomes a huge relief, especially during times of strife and frustration. This means that we can worship God by seeking His guidance and recognizing His presence at school, at work, at practice, at the grocery store or at the mall. It’s in coming to God and doing things for His glory that we get to honor Him and begin to recognize His voice.

worship God at work and schoolWe typically go to church anticipating a time of worship. We go expecting to honor Him through our gathering, learning, singing and praising. We hope to feel His presence while we’re gathered in a sanctuary full of other believers, but do we expect to honor God and feel His presence any other time of the week? Do we expect to honor Him and hear His voice speak to us while we’re in school, at work or practice, doing homework, eating dinner with our family, doing chores or watching TV? If we expect God to be present, if we enter into our daily activities anticipating His presence and treating it as worship, then we will receive what we seek. God will be there, He will be honored and He will speak. So, expect it!

This journey has been inspired by Brother Lawrence’s book “The Practice of the Presence of God.” When you’re ready to dig into some thick reading, this is a must!!!

A Christian Complainer

One of the statements that singer Beckah Shae made in her interview that really stuck with me was, “As believers and followers of Yeshua, the Messiah, we should be walking around like [we’re] in a celebration. Because people need to know who He is and the only way they’re going to find hope and know who He is, is if we have it. So if you’re claiming to be a follower, a believer in Jesus, then you should not be walking around complaining and moping and whining and distressed, upset and oppressed. Because if you know Him, you know that there is victory, you know that there is a hope.” I consider myself a pretty joyful person, but when I started to really focus on how much I complain, I was OVERWHELMED at how often negativity snuck into my life. I found myself complaining about my job… I have my dream job, why would I complain about it? I found myself complaining about my body…. I treat my body as the temple of the spirit, which is beautiful and glorious, so why would I complain about that? I found myself complaining about our house just because I wanted it to be a little cleaner and more organized. I found myself complaining about a perfectly good sermon at church just because I wanted it to be a little deeper.

Then, as I started to seek solid Christian friends to help me make a positive change and eliminate complaining from my life, I discovered that the majority of them complain as much, if not more, than me. In fact, I went to a friend that I volunteer with at a local youth group with the intention of asking him to hold me accountable. As soon as I saw him, he started complaining… unbelievable!

Melinda Laging founder of niNe. magazine with PumpkinsWhat is it about complaining? Do we really not have anything good in our lives? Does Satan just sway us to focus on the negativity? Are we becoming so tied up in the evil and darkness of this world that we can’t see the beauty and the light of Christ?

I asked God to reveal to me what was going on in my life that makes me complain. I came to these two conclusions:

1.) My focus:  Instead of on God and all that He provides for me, my focus shifted to myself and what I am not capable of accomplishing due to my personal shortcomings,

2.) Lost hope:   I found myself complaining when I felt trapped and couldn’t see a way out of a situation that was weighing me down.

These seem like reasonable excuses for complaining that could easily be justified, but it didn’t take me long to realize that Satan manipulated Adam and Eve in the garden to take their attention off of God and on to their own selves which resulted in the fall. Not that my self-focus is going to lead to another fall of man, but losing focus is proof that I am not operating under the strength and knowledge of my mighty God.

So, I started thinking about Beckah’s words again, and thought to myself, what do the youth think when they see me and my friend complaining to each other at youth group? Originally, I just thought, “Oh, they’ll get over it, they know that I’m not like that all the time.” But really, who wants to come to a youth group of complainers? What youth would admire an adult who complains all the time? Who would want to live a life following Christ, if His followers complain about everything? The bible says that Christians will be known by their love… where is love in complaining?

Matthew 5:46-47 says even pagans love those who love them, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” What if this bible verse included the topic of complaining, even pagans complain… even nonbelievers, atheists and devil worshipers complain. So, as Christians, we should strive to prevent foolishness by ridding negativity in our lives.

How do we move away from complaining and move closer to love? We need to recover the fullness of joy that can only be felt when we are in God’s presence. As Beckah Shae puts it, “The only way we can share love for one another and love for God is through His faithfulness and His goodness in our life. And when we have that peace that surpasses all understanding, when we have that joy that the world can’t offer us, people will know that God is real, that He exists and that He is really in our life. So we need to stand up and declare and confess that He is life. And I believe that 1 John 3:18, ‘Let’s stop saying we love others, but show you love them through actions and in truth’.”

My current battle is to exude more love in my life. Now I could easily go out of my way to love others, especially those less fortunate than myself, or I could focus on the positives in my life every time I mention something negative. I could find an accountability partner who calls me out on my complaining, but these challenges seem surface level. So, I am focusing on how much God loves me. By reading His word and soaking up His love, I am sensing His joy, His hope and His faithfulness because of His great love for me. Through the discovery of God’s abundant love in my own life, it becomes easy to radiate that love to others. So, as I read God’s word every day, I ask Him to reveal His love for me in scripture. As I walk through my day, I count the blessings He has provided me… blessings that are not obtainable on my own. Then, I express my love and thanksgiving to Jesus, my Savior, through various forms of worship.

It’s great if I can minimize the amount of complaining that I do, but does that really make a significant impact to the Christian community? That got me thinking back to my friend that I was going to seek support from on my journey. Ironically my noticing his complaining was yet another self-centered act. I thought to myself, did I really hear what he was complaining about or did I just hear that he was complaining? I should have listened to him to hear his frustration. His struggles are not my own, but they also needs to be conquered. So I decided to approach him again. This time, I informed him of my struggle while acknowledging his feelings as being worthy of recognition. I tried, this whole time, not to judge, because that again brings the focus on myself. Then, amazingly, our conversation changed to God’s graciousness and faithfulness, we were able to apply that to his situation and were able to see some positive aspects in the issue in which he was complaining. We both walked away realizing that our desire to stop complaining could be accomplished as we continued to focus on God’s goodness in our lives.

Storyteller

Donald Miller in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, tells his reader about a thirteen-year-old girl who is dealing with the natural challenges of becoming her own authentic self apart from her parents. Her father is fearful of potential drug use and possible association with a harmful crowd.

While Miller is meeting with the father he makes the comment, “your daughter is living a horrible story.”

reaching the desires of our heartYou see, a story involves a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. This teenager didn’t know what she wanted in life; she didn’t know what conflict she was supposed to overcome, so she wandered around aimlessly. Most of us don’t know what we want in life, so we wonder around stating that we’re bored, but deep down, we start questioning our worth.

It’s been five years since the release of the last published issue of niNe. magazine. Five years of wandering what I was supposed to do in my life, wandering where I was supposed to be and wandering what I was to become. Five years of yearning for the positive impact of the magazine in my daily life, but not really pursuing it. Five years of being lost, being rebellious against God’s true vision for my life, being bored.

Later in Donald Miller’s story we learn that the father decides that the family is going to create their own story, they are going to serve on a mission trip. This changes the daughter’s approach to life; she now has purpose to pursue and a conflict to overcome.

finding meaning in lifeI had decided to start the magazine again before I read Donald Miller’s account, but this story confirmed that the time is here. I am no longer going to wander around curious as to what I’m supposed to be doing and why. I know deep down, and have always known deep down, what I’m supposed to be doing in life. It’s about time I listen and pursue the conflict that God wants me to overcome. It’s about time I listen to My Creator and discover who He desires me to be, so I can learn the lessons he has set before me as I overcome my own conflict and struggles.

So, with this entry I welcome the beginning of another beautiful journey with niNe. magazine. This time it will be bigger and better and naturally God will be glorified. I hope as I learn to live my story again I am able to encourage all of you to live your own story, discover the conflict that you are supposed to overcome and see that you are worth much more than gold in the eyes of your savior!