The Whole Heart

I stepped out of my air-conditioned room and into the kitchen area. Perfect. The counter was clean, free of any green peppers or grains of rice that may have escaped from the pan when someone was cooking on the hot plate. I set my devotional, Bible, notebook, and novel on the counter in front of the toaster and sat down on the plastic sandstone grey chair. Double checking that the counter was clean, I put my arms down on the counter and slowly closed my eyes and put my head in my arms.

Peace, at last.

It had been a long few days where I had chosen to try to go to bed early instead of spend time with the Lord. From a long day trip learning about Indian music and eating Indian cuisine on Sunday to a Monday filled with an important meeting, a two hour Hindi class, and dinner at my supervisors house. Instead of fighting the exhaustion and trying to keep my eyes open, I chose to lay my head down and try to sleep.

Despite my efforts to go to bed, I laid awake until 3 a.m., two nights in a row, tossing and turning, contemplating my future, what I would have for dinner the next day, and what kind of shoes I would wear to my future big-kid job. Of course, I have woken up the past two mornings feeling even more exhausted and still unsure of what to do with my future.

As soon as I put my head on my arms I hear these words: What does it look like to follow me with your whole heart? 

I began to list out things such as spending time in the Word daily, trusting God with my future, leaning on God for strength, praying, using the gifts He has given me to glorify Him, etc. Soon enough, I realized these were not the answers God wanted from me. Sure, these things are good and Godly, and obviously the Sunday School response, but God wanted something deeper that was personal for me.

God wanted me to answer according to my nitty-gritty, day-to-day life. He wanted to know what specific things I could do to follow Christ with my whole heart. This is what God wants from us. He wants all of us.

Growing up (and still to this day), I remember something my mom used to always say. Whenever we would jokingly fight I would say “you want a piece of me!?” and she would always respond with, “no! I want the whole thing!” That’s the key right there. God doesn’t just want a piece of our hearts, He wants the whole thing. He doesn’t want just half of our attention, He wants all of it.

I am going to do something a little differently in this blog. I am going to start a list of things I feel I can do to live my life with my heart completely rendered to God and I want you (yes you, the reader) to comment and add things you can do as well. Please do not feel compelled to share anything too personal. I have learned that when we voice things, it helps them become more realistic in our lives. It is also important for us to remain in unity, supporting each other, as the body of Christ! So. . .

Following Christ with my whole heart:

–  Think before I speak, as to respond with love, not an attitude 

– Thank God more often (even for the not-so-good things)

– Limit expectations on my days, conversations, and relationships

– Put my phone away and be “present” with the Lord and those around me 

These are just a few things God is speaking to me about to draw closer to Him. What is He speaking to you about?

Thirst

I did not know how thirsty I was until I took the first sip.

Last night, I had a great opportunity to ride the metro for the first time with some friends. In order to do this, however, I had to skip dinner in the mess hall of where I am staying. I was perfectly okay with this because I was not a fan of the meal being served. By the time the metro fun was over, my group was very hungry. So, we did what any group of friends would do, we stopped for food.

We went to a place that was famous for its biriyani. However, I ordered a parotta because I get biriyani quite often in my mess hall. The parotta came with a reddish-looking sauce that had a whole chili pepper floating in it. I have been a little more gutsy with the spices lately, so I took a bit of my parotta and dunked it like an Oreo in a glass of milk. To my surprise, it was not as spicy as I expected, but it was still higher on the spice chart than what I was used to.

I continued to eat it with no problem. As I enjoyed my meal, I utilized the cup and pitcher of water that was sitting in front of me on the table. after every few bites I would take a sip of the cold refreshing water to help balance out the spice. I did not know how thirsty I was until I took the first sip. It almost became addicting to drink (not that that is a bad thing, right?).

Throughout the meal, I am pretty sure I refilled my cup at least five times. Living in a country where it is almost 100 degrees each day and where the humidity is unbearable, I am encouraged to drink a lot of water. There is much fear that with the heat and the amount of walking I do, that I will fall ill from dehydration. This concept of drinking a lot of water is so hard for me to grasp.

It’s only a struggle for me because of my surroundings. Sure, the heat makes me thirsty and want water more… but what happens when you drink a lot of water? You tend to need a restroom more often than not. At home, in the U.S., I admit, I probably would not have this problem. Then again, when I am there I am not as concerned about my H2O intake either.

The problem lies in the fact that I do not always have a restroom readily available to me. I spend at least two days out of my week in hamlets and villages where most homes do not even have a toilet. Once we are in the main city area, many public places do not have public restrooms. In fact, if they do, such as at the train station, you will have to pay in order to use- and that’s if the bathroom is even working!

On the other days, I have access to a a very nice, and usually very clean, Indian style toilet. If you do not know what an Indian style toilet looks like, please click here. The problem with this is that on those days I am inside and typically under a fan. I’m not usually quenched for thirst and do not think to drink a lot of water. Take heart, I have not yet fallen ill from not drinking enough water.

As I sat in this air-conditioned restaurant, chowing down on my parotta and basically inhaling the pitcher of water in front of me, I became aware of something else. When we go for days on end without spending time with God, we do not realize how thirsty we actually are until we drink from His living well again. 

There are times when we may do a really great job of spending amount of time reading amounts of scripture and saying amounts of prayers. We also have times where x, y, and all equal 0. In these times, we think we are okay spiritually. We say: there is nothing inherently wrong with my life right now and I am trusting God with my future, or, I know He’s with me. Then, we may fall into the thought process that skipping just one day of quiet time with the Lord isn’t going to hurt anything.

Before I go any further, let me ask you something, when you neglect to spend time with someone you love and care about, does that hurt the relationship you have with them?

Exactly.

When we “opt-out” of spending quiet time with God daily, we are hindering our relationship with God. Now, I am not saying that God is forsaking us and is not with us. I am saying that we are choosing to spend time with other things besides God. We are prioritizing other things above God. And that, hurts God.

He longs to spend time with us. He longs to reveal things to us in scripture.

So, back to the concept of water… even though I did not realize how thirsty I was when I was eating, I figured it out when I took the first sip. For too long I had let the environment influence my actions of drinking water. And I suffered from that because I did not get to enjoy the satisfaction that drinking cold water on a warm day gives.

Are you allowing your environment to influence your decision to daily drink from the living well? Are you choosing to “opt-out” of the daily satisfaction you can get from spending time with God each day?

Dear friend, I want to encourage you that even if you have, God is still there waiting for you. He is longing to spend some time with you, waiting to take your relationship with Him further! Render your heart to Him and let Him be your priority.

“‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'”

|John 4.13-14|

Three Simple Words

“Come to me”

These are the words I hear. These are the words that Jesus has been speaking to me.

He says “come to me and I will strengthen you. Come to me and I will make you well. I will feed you. I will quench your thirst. I will fill your cup and give you eternal peace. All you need to do is come to me”.

These are three simple words that are so easy for us to grasp. They are words that we might read over in Matthew 11.28-30. We may skip over the “come to me” to read the part that says “I will give you…”. Before we can receive, we must obey.

These are three simple words where Jesus is inviting us to be intimate with Him. He wants us to share our lives with Him. Just as you may go to a best friend, husband, or mentor, Jesus wants us to seek Him. He wants you to trust Him.

These are three simple words that Jesus speaks to us in our most difficult times where we are tired and worn. When we are weak and need rest.

These are three simple words where Jesus wants us to be obedient so that He can give. In Matthew 11.28-39 Jesus says, “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

He wants to give you rest. He wants to remove your heavy burdens from you. He wants to bring healing to you. These three simple word offer is a hope of seeking Jesus and exchanging our heavy laden for His easy yoke. Take hold of His light burden and find rest for your soul. Breathe in the gentleness of Jesus and breathe out your burden. Feel the release of what is holding you back.

“Come to me”, He says.

Will you obey?

https://youtu.be/rYQ5yXCc_CA

Why, God?

In this world, there is so much heartbreak. There is so much tragedy. It is something we cannot escape. We see it in movies, TV shows, books, and the worst, is the news. Daily we read headlines of school shootings, robberies, buildings catching on fire, people losing their lives to devastating weather conditions, etc. the list could go on forever.

In our textbooks and at any Christian event we can learn about the starving kids in Africa and Haiti. We can read about the turmoil in the Middle East that is displacing thousands upon millions of people from their homes. You see it in Southeast Asia where natives are bond to slavery and labor or children are sold into the sex trafficking industry.

It doesn’t really hit home until you have seen it. You cannot accept that these tragedies actually happen until it happens to you. Growing up, I never had a big tragedy that shattered my life. My parents were divorced from a young age, so I was not affected very much. I lived my life thinking that “those things” happened to “other people”. Then, it happened to me. My freshman year of high school there was a shooting in late February. Never did I ever think in my whole life would I experience such a tragic event.

Flash forward to my senior year of college, my last semester. I am studying abroad in India and one day I get a text from my mother telling me that our house caught on fire. Everything was gone. My mom refused to send me photos of it. The only room that was not touched by a single flame was my bedroom. I had grown up watching fire trucks fly past my house to get the the scene of an incident, watching them put fires out as I drive by, and telling others who have experienced this that I would pray for them. Then, it happened to me.

We live our lives believing that “these things” only happen to “other people”.

But when it happens to us, we ask…

God, why is this happening? 

God, why did you let this happen?

God, I thought you were good. 

God, why didn’t you protect me from letting that happen?

Does this sound familiar at all? I mean, how could God really be loving and caring and sovereign in the midst of such tragedy? Is He just sitting on His throne, sipping on some water He turned into wine, as His creation stumbles and suffers?

These are real questions. And they are okay to ask.

In fact, they draw us closer to God. I would rather question God about the tragedies that are happening than not even acknowledge His presence in the situation. 

If you go on social media after  a tragedy, you can see debates about who’s fault it is. You see fingers pointed to the government and simple arguments started over the theological perspectives on it. It is heartbreaking and continues to carry out the pain we all feel, when in reality, we all just want peace and healing.

But how do we achieve such peace and healing if we continue to point fingers and look at the negative? Is blaming God for all the bad that happens in the world going to fix it? No, it’s not going to stop the war in Syria, it’s not going to bring back the lives of the students that were lost in all the school shootings in 2018 (yet another debate), it’t not going to undo the fire that took away my childhood home.

All in all, we can close the debate saying that man is just born evil and freewill gets the best of God’s creation. But that is not a satisfying answer. Where do we find such a satisfying answer? Where do we find an answer that will help us sleep at night and not be afraid to send our children to school? If you are not a Christian and you are reading this, I am about to say something that you will completely disagree with.

Folks, we find that answer in God. We find this peace we are looking for in God. The world will never become completely purified of evil until Jesus returns, and that may not be in our lifetime. We must remember that this is not our home. We endure this suffering and watch as this place turns upside down in catastrophe, but we cannot live everyday as if we are deemed to live here forever.

No.

Jesus didn’t live like that, so why should we?

God knows what suffering feels like. God sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to be with us here on Earth. And do you know what happened to Him? He was beaten. He was persecuted. He was hung on a cross and left to die. All for the sake of you and I. So that one day, when the pain and suffering all ceases to exit, we can see God in all His glory, face to face, with no separation because of sin.

He did it willingly.

If that is not suffering, then I am not sure what is.

I do not want to end this post on a negative note. I want to end with the hope we have in Christ. Friends, please read the following scripture below:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking noting. |James 1.2-4 |

We aren’t told to dwell and hang our heads in gloom when the trials come. We are told to count it as joy. And through these trials, God is perfecting each one of us. The best thing about the Gospel is that Jesus not only died willingly, but He defeated death and rose again three days later.

Take heart, my dear friends, Jesus has overcome this world.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

| Revelation 21.4 |

Breaking “Naan” Together

I haven’t even been in Chennai for a full week, but I feel like I have months and months of experiences to share. On our first day here, we met with a lot of people. We had to meet the director of our program and the director of our department and everyone else. I honestly do not remember everyone’s name or what their role is and why they were important for us to meet. They were all very kind and asked us how we were doing in26168935_1971788559727217_1560699438504207285_n regards to jet lag. Honestly, It was so hard for me to stay awake towards the end of the day. I could barely keep my eyes open through one of the meetings.

By the time we got back, it was only around 4PM, but I allowed myself to lay down for just a minute and ended up falling asleep. After that, we decided maybe it would be best to just try and wake up earlier in the morning. I had an apple and went to bed around 6PM and got up around 7:40AM. I did wake up at about 10PM and thought I must have slept for four days straight because of how good I slept, but I still had a lot of sleep left in me.

The next day we proceeded to meet with a lot of professors and other important faculty members of the college. We were even invited to have dinner at the Principles house. Before that, we spent the majority of the day shopping for “kurtas” to wear to our field placements. There were so many options and so many beautiful colors and designs. It was very difficult to decide which ones I liked and to stay within my budget, although we did find some decent sales!

We left in our nice new kurtas for dinner at the principle’s house a little early to take pictures of the campus and with each other. Unfortunately, as soon as we stepped outside we realized that we would definitely need to learn how to use the flash on our cameras because it was dark! It wasn’t even 7:30PM yet and it was dark. Now, I realize that at home right now it gets dark around 5PM, if not earlier. But I guess we were just thrown off by the heat and expected that because it was so hot out, the sun would stay out later. But we were wrong! It was fun trying to take pictures in the dark though!

At the dinner with the principle another group of college students from the states joined us. They were taking a class for their “Jan term”. I did not get to talk with them very much, but I did get to chat a little bit with a faculty member in the social work department and a political science professor from Appalachian State that reminded me of my favorite political science professor from home.

So now you’re probably thinking, okay that’s cool, but what about the food? Let me tell you about the food! Honestly, I was a little afraid of Indian food because I knew coming here how spicy it was going to be and how I do not tend to eat very spicy food. However, we have been full blown thrown into the Indian food and you know what? It doesn’t have to be spicy! I really enjoyed a cauliflower gravy that we had on the first day. Then again, if anyone knows me, they know how much I love my cauliflower.

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One of the most important drinks besides water that we learned about is the fresh lime soda (pictured to the left). You can get this just sweet, or sweet and salty. Ironically, most students from previous semesters have only liked it sweet, but my small group loves the salty one! I have some foods pictured about with captions on what they are. One of the most 26169676_1971789799727093_6834011385391681998_npopular food items is naan (pictured to the right). Now, if you have never tried naan, you better go find a place where you can because it is the best flat brad I have ever had.

What I have noticed about the culture is how important meals are to the community. You eat with your hands and split dishes when out to eat.

26168400_1971789489727124_456591246775005378_nThe picture to the left is chicken tendoori. The sauce in 26733962_1971789546393785_8065471813138728710_nthe middle of the plate is kind of minty, but I loved it! In the other picture, the rice dish is called biriyani and is basically rice cooked with a meat. Underneath all the rice is a giant chicken leg! The other dish is a gravy called paneer butter masala. The masala was my favorite as well. Lastly, the picture with the little silver bowl that has little white dots in it, is sauf 26219515_1971789943060412_594420738681354459_nsugar coated fennel that tastes like licorice. It is given at the end of meals, just as we would get our olive garden mints. People take them in handfuls! They were very good! At another restaurant they actually gave us mini sugar cubes too!

 

 

As much as I would like to say the food agreed with me and everything was fine, I simply cannot. You better believe that on the second night at 2:30 in the morning I was sicker than a dog. Actually, I don’t think I have ever felt so terrible before in my life. As I laid on the bathroom floor I found myself thinking, this is it. This is the end. I am going to die because I tried to be adventurous and go to India for a semester, but my weak body couldn’t handle the food.

There was also a point somewhere between laying on the bathroom floor and in my bed that I thought I would not be able to survive the full semester here. In fact, I was one Google search away from finding the cheapest flight home. It’s not exactly “whimping out” if I’m sick is it? I mean come on, health should always come first. However, despite the fact that I was letting these negative thoughts overtake my mind while I was ill, God helped me through it.

After feeling defeated (I will spare you the details), I felt like God was saying “that is what the enemy wants you to think”. I thought about this for a moment. Then realized that I shouldn’t let myself give up so easily just because I got sick within the first week. Despite the fact that it felt like I was dying, I had enough strength to recognize that God was trying to tell me that I cannot do this on my own.

I cannot just go day-by-day in this foreign land and expect to be successful. I simply do not have enough strength to carry on in a place where I have to try extra hard just to understand what someone is saying. I need a supernatural strength, a spiritual strength. It’s the same strength that God gave me to get through all of the other overseas trips I have been on. It is the same strength God gave me through all of my other college semesters.

It was like God had to take away all of my strength to show me that I need to use His to get through this semester.

I spent the majority of the next 24 hours resting and when I was not, I was in class (which was held in our room so that I could stay in bed). It was the reminder I needed to keep inviting God into my daily life. Sometimes we forget to do these things when there is so much change happening in our lives. But God wanted to remind me that despite all of the change, He is that one constant.

There is much more I can tell you about my first few days in India for the semester, but I think I will save it for the next post. What I want to leave you with is to just bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Remember that God is good. He is such a giving God. When we are weak, He is strong. When our lives are forever changing, He is forever the same. Where our circumstances seem to defeat us, God reigns in victory because of these truths. It may be hard, but as my best friend texted me this week “Don’t give up!”