Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Laughing is jogging for your insides

Laughing is jogging for your insides:
No one can tell you what to laugh at because you never know what will make your heart smile. Sometimes you laugh because you are just happy, and other times, you laugh because you are sitting with the most hilarious person in all the world!
I cannot even believe how creative God is. Who could have EVER thought of laughter. It is a different and unique and VERY strange sound that comes out a persons mouth. I cannot explain laughter except it is something inside of your heart that is so happy and full of so much joy that it cannot be contained inside anymore. It comes out as a sound for EVERYONE to hear as an audible frequency expression of happiness and joy!
You know. I guess sometimes I laugh with people who I do not know, but the times that I laugh with the bottom of my heart is when I am with the people I love the most. 
 I guess I would go as far to say as laughing is an EXPRESSION of love. You laugh the hardest with the people you cherish the most because they are the ones who actually CAN reach the bottom of your heart! 
Laughing can happen anywhere. Sometimes, it is the most appropriate time to laugh, and others, you are trying to hold a laugh in when it is a dead silent class or in a movie theatre during a serious scene. It can happen in a dorm room or underneath a waterfall. Hmm...why don't we laugh more? We have soo much to be not just happy about, but JOYFUL about. 
"Laughter sparkles like a splash of water in sunlight!" I drew my brothers laughing when they were little and this picture makes me smile every time I see it. Although, a pencil drawing CANNOT hold all that laughter encompasses though. Laughing is more of an experience than just a picture to capture because it is something more than just seeing laughter. You can see laughter in the wrinkles on a face. You can hear laughter in the uniqueness of each voice. You can feel laughter as you roll on the floor. You can taste laughter as the tears run down your face and onto your lips to your tongue. 
Laughter is a language that has no boundaries: no geographical boundaries, age boundaries, race boundaries, color boundaries, sex boundaries, country boundaries, religion boundaries. It speaks volumes when a single word cannot express the emotion that the heart is feeling.
Wow. God is good. He did not HAVE to create laughter. But He did. This could be reason number 4632943297623 to prove that He loves us intimately. (Thats a rough estimate of a number) :]
These are the moments that I hold in my heart. The moments that not even these pictures can capture perfectly. I remember being in each of these moments. Oh how we let these moments slip by too suddenly. Life is made of moments. Not days or weeks, or months. The little moments are what make up those days and weeks and months, but without the hard laughs, the deep cries, the intimate conversations, the boring professors in class, the studying, the meals shared with friends, the dancing in the car, the difficult situations in life, I do not even know how to put into words what this life would be!
Thank you Lord, for laughter, you are TOO sweet to create a laugh just for me!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Love Letter.

You know. I dated a great Christian guy once, however, we had very different love languages. I cherished letters and that was just not the way he expressed his love to me, so I would get so frustrated. I would so desire a letter, but one would never come. After a year and a half of serious dating, we broke up. Through that break up, the Lord taught me so much about His name of comforter, teacher, and especially lover. I remember reading in His word one morning while I was home on for Spring Break. I asked the Lord to speak sweetly, very sweetly, and He absolutely did. I have never experienced God so intimately as I did that week on Spring Break. I know this may sound a little weird to some, but I literally asked the Lord to run with me, to sit in the passenger seat and sing with me in the car, to cuddle with me at night when I was lonely, and to whisper the greatness of His love for me into my ear as I sat reading His word. The Bible was not even a book anymore. I remember looking up from what I was reading in the Word, and I had forgotten for a minute that I was physically reading the words. I felt as though God was sitting next to me with His hand on the small of my back, rubbing it ever so gently, and He was the one who was reading His word to me...just like sweet nothings in my ear! Agh. No other religion can experience this kind of intimacy that a relationship with Christ brings because Christ is ALIVE. His word is alive: it moves, it breaths, and that week while I was home for Spring Break finding love and healing from the Father, I realized that on a very personal level. 

The Lord brought me to a place of a broken heart to realize that I NEVER need a man to write me a love letter ever again because the most beautiful love letter has already been written. It was written first with blood on the cross, and that story was breathed into words of the Bible that I can hold in my hands. Right now, I guess you could say that I am in a sort of long-distance relationship. One day, I will be in heaven sitting at the feet of Jesus and finally we will meet face to face. But for now, He has written me this magnificent, undeniable love letter called the Bible. In it, He does not desire for me to get anything out of it except knowing Him. Isn't that what a relationship is all about? You do not have a best friend because they always do things for you, you have a best friend because you love who they are. It is not about what they have done for you, or what they will do for you, but the depths of their heart that you love. They have that kind of emotion towards you as well. They love you because of who you are. That love is the reason, and the only reason, that they, or you, are compelled to do anything. Oh, how we have so twisted the meaning of this religion Christianity into something that gives to US when it is really about the compelling actions of LOVE exemplified in the very life of the one Jesus Christ who's life we strive to emmulate. 

I guess something that I have been trying to ask myself is this: Would I be okay with not seeing the fruit of my life here on earth? Okay, that sounds alot more powerful in my head so let me explain. I have a very close friend who is not saved. I have been praying for her for literally YEARS. Would I be okay with not seeing her come to salvation in my lifetime, but letting someone else lead her to the Lord? Wow. I love being productive. I love seeing the fruit of my work. But that is NOT the Christian life completely. When I get to heaven and I do sit at His feet, I want to be able to look up into Jesus' face and say, 'Savior, I KNOW you because of the love letter you wrote me and because of who you are, I love you.' Our relationship with Christ here on earth should be as it will be in heaven. We cannot wait around to meet Him face to face, we have to love Him here, and because we love Him here, we WILL be with Him in heaven. This truth is wonderful.

In John 15:5, the Word of GOD says "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing!" Wow. We are just the vessels used by God to produce fruit. The ONLY thing that we asked to do is to remain in Him. This means knowing Him, loving Him, obeying Him because of that love, and then serving Him. We sometimes can get soo caught up in doing things for the Lord and seeing things done in our lives 'for His glory' that we forget that it is all about Him. It is all about relationships and knowing and loving Him. God sent His son to die on the cross for me so that I could have a real, living relationship with Him that changes my life so that I can have a relationship with someone here on this earth to tell them about the relationship that I have with Jesus who changed my life so that THEY can have a relationship with Him too so that their life may be radically changed. Wow. It is all about relationships and people. 

Our God is a God of generations. The prophets in the Old Testament did not see the fruit of what they prophesied. However, they trusted that God was faithful and that He would do as He would with whomever He pleased. If this life really is not about us, then we will humble ourselves to the fact that we are not the ONLY one who God can use. No plan of His can be thwarted and that plan may involve us just planting a seed and letting it be watered after we die and come to fruition many generations from now. We cannot hold onto the fruit that we want to see produced through us in this life, we must hold onto Jesus Christ and who He is and let Hims do what He will.

So my challenge to you and myself today: read Gods word to know Him. In fact, ask God to whisper the words in His love letter to YOU in your ear and let them penetrate your heart. He speaks sweetly..but sometimes we aren't listening.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Love where you are now.

Well, to start, I have to begin with the beginning. On January 1st 2011, I was in Bihar, India, so I was not so much focused on making New Years goals as I was on ministering there & fully being there. When I got back to the states though, I realized that having goals set for each year is so important. When you set goals for yourself (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, etc.), you can literally look back & see how you have grown by what you have accomplished through the year. You can see where you need to improve & where you can challenge yourself even more for the next year because of victories that came easier than expected.

This year, 2011, was the first year EVER that I actually typed out, and taped up goals for the year. One of the very first ones that I wrote down was to run a half marathon. Now, looking at that written our on paper sounded so simple & like an easy accomplishment. However, when I thought about all of the miles that I would have to run to train & prepare myself, I  realized that this goal I had would be too much work. I began to doubt myself & just accept that it would just be another goal that I would not see accomplished.

One thing that I am working on in myself is follow through. I am very much a visionary person, so I can see the end product & what I want to accomplish, but sometimes I never end up finishing what I start. I did not want this to be a part of my life anymore. I remember as soon as I wrote down the goal of running a half marathon, I prayed that I would find someone to do it with me & someone to train with. That very same day after I stepped away from my computer & headed to lunch at the rot, I bumped into Liz Ruba! This meeting was a divine appointment from the Lord, & I know that for a fact! She looked at me, smiled, & all she said was "Hey Ash! How are you? You know, I want to run a half marathon this year, but I don't know who to do it with!" I was shocked & smiled so big that my face probably hurt as I responded with "Liz, I literally JUST wrote down my New Years goals, & running a half marathon was one of the first things I put on there!" We both had one of those 'girl moments' of excitement & joy ( know the feeling, & have no idea what those feel like!) & that day we began our journey together of training for a half marathon!

Now, I remember praying for one person to run the half marathon with, but come the day of the race, I was running with FOUR other friends! Our God is so good!

Looking back on this training & on the race, I realized how much I learned. I got to watch week by week, Liz grow as a runner. She would have days where she did not think she could go any farther, but as I ran with her & pushed her along, she went farther than she ever dreamed she could go. I watched her fall on the her knee...& get up to keep on pushing through the pain. She taught me so much about perseverance. I remember we would always start our runs off praying together & would end them with just shouting back & forth what we are thankful for. This was so encouraging because our runs were no longer about us, but about us using running to glorify the Lord with our bodies & our voices singing praise to Him. Each cadence of our runs were beats of praise going up to our Lord who gave us our legs & our bodies & our lungs & our hearts. Wow. We have only been given ONE body...& it has got to last a while. I know that I want mine to be the best that it can be because I have been entrusted with it by the Lord.

Anyways, now that I am off on an eleven o'clock tangent, I will get back to the results of the half marathon.

I remember standing at the starting line, thinking about what I was about to do...I was going to run 13.1 miles...up steep hills in woods & on trails that I have never been on before. I had no idea where the trails would lead me, where I was going to be, where the finish line was, or where I would come in for places at the end. It was totally unknown to me. Fear was beginning to creep in & doubt was filling my mind as I stared ahead of me at the little bit of the course that I could see.

You know...there is always something before us. Something bigger than we think we can accomplish. I remember thinking "How in the heck am I going to finish this race...?!" Then, as the gun went off, & all the runners began to run, I realized that I could only finish if I took one step at a time. I am so thankful that races are hard. That I have to push myself through with my heart, more than I do with my body. I remember crossing the 7.2 mile water station with Bjorn Waldron. I was exhausted and I looked at him & said "I am going to have to run the second half of this race with my heart now because my body is too weak." And that is exactly what I did. I took each step. One by one. I was running on a trail, over rocks and falling trees, that was unknown to me. I would never want to just start the race & then magically appear at the finish line because I would have missed so many incredible things along the way during that race. Yes, it was hard, but no one learns when it is easy.

Sometimes in life, we want to go hard after something that seems bigger than we can accomplish. However, we look at the sweat & pain that taking each of those individual steps will bring upon us & we just wish we could skip ahead to the finish line. Crossing the finish line means NOTHING though if you told someone that you just walked from the starting line to the finish line & skipped all the hills & rocks.

We have to all be very careful of what we are wishing away when we ask the Lord to take away trials & pains in our life. Sometimes, the best thing that the Lord could do for us is to allow us to go through something that seems impossible, but as we run with Him & take those steps with Him, we learn more about who He is, about His encouragement, His love, His grace, His mercy, His strength & perseverance. If we do not go through the woods & the trails, we would not experience God in a way that draws us closer to Himself.

My challenge: Let us love where we are now. The race will always end, & the pain & joys of the journey will be over. However, whether we are barely making it up a hill after we have been running for hours, whether we are enjoying the wind in our faces & the relief on our bodies by running down a hill, or whether we are giving every last bit of energy at the very end to finish strong, we must be learning & growing from that moment now. All we have is this moment. Do not wish it away because you will be missing something greater...a treasure that the Lord desires to use to sanctify us & make us more like His son. What a gift.