Complacent Confession

I have a confession. It’s something I’m not proud of. I haven’t failed to be critical of others, but I have come to the conclusion that I’m the one with the problem. I have all these frustrations with our culture. I want to change the world. But, I’m not willing to change myself. I am complacent.

Complacency is defined as “a feeling of calm satisfaction with your own abilities or situation that prevents you from trying harder.” I’ve found that I’ve settled into the cycle of complacency and it’s something that has snuck up on me. I didn’t realize it’s a problem in my own life until just recently, when I was willing to admit it to myself through self-reflection. It’s something I easily point out in others, but this time I’ve realized that the only direction my finger can point right now is in my direction. It starts with me. So often I think, “Man. I just want people to get this,” or, “Wow, wouldn’t our world be better if everyone did that?” I see all these things I want to change in this world, yet find that I’m unwilling to change myself.

I find that as I sit in church on Sunday mornings, listening to the sermons and thinking to myself, “Okay, this is the week that things will change.” Yet, another week goes by and by the time Sunday comes around again, I realize I didn’t make the changes I was hoping I would. I hadn’t spent more time in prayer, I didn’t read my bible more and I didn’t have many meaningful conversations. I haven’t been willing to put in the work.

So often, I allow excuses override my desire to commit.

I recently read a book by Eugene Cho called Overrated. The main question on the cover asks; Are we more in love with the idea of changing the world than actually changing the world? I had to sit with this question. It’s challenged me to stop and think about what I’m actually doing. Eugene points out that our generation, according to statistics, shows more desire to make a difference than any other generation. Are we going to be the generation to reach this potential? Or are we an overrated one that is all talk and little to no action?

Through social media and the ability to connect with hundreds and thousands of people, we often think that we are making a larger impact than we actually are. We may retweet an article about injustice or post a Facebook status about how we volunteered at Feed My Starving Children. We do these things thinking it will make a difference. We do these things and feel like we did something good for the world. But is it truly requiring much sacrifice from us? Is it enough to make a difference? Or should we be doing more?

Now, I’m not saying that posting articles about social issues or going out into the community and volunteering is bad. In fact, I encourage those things. However, I believe it’s dangerous to just stop there and accept that as your one and only contribution. When Jesus calls us to follow him, he’s not asking for just something, he’s asking for everything. I’m preaching to myself here too because I’m realizing that there are areas in my life where I need to be sacrificing more. I need to be willing to commit more to God; to purse the passions and gifts that he has given me. I keep claiming the things I need to be doing more of, but then fail to follow through with doing them.

So, here is my confession to settling into this complacent culture. Feel free to hold me accountable to never settling and to pray for me to be motivated to work towards my calling.

Last year, someone prophesied that I was called to be the change this culture needs. God is calling me to step up and that I have a voice. It’s a long story that I will tell another time, but notice the words carefully. I’m called to be the change. Not promote the change, not talk about or write about the change. I need to be the change. It starts with the willingness and commitment to changing myself. So here’s my confession to being complacent and a public commitment to begin changing that.

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Running Away

I remember the first time I tried running away.

I was just a kid and my sisters and I were messing around in the car ride back from dinner. Our parents got annoyed with us for not listening to them so they dropped us off about a quarter mile from our house and told us to walk back. I was so mad I didn’t want to go home. I told my sisters I wasn’t going home with them and that I was going to live with my neighbors down the street. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen, but I truly did want to run away at the the time. I didn’t want to have to talk with my parents when we got back and so I tried to run. My sisters ran after me and literally picked me up and carried me home.

That was the first time I tried to run away, and recently I’ve realized that I still struggle with this tendency to run from issues. Instead of physically running away, I’ve built up walls that have allowed me to hide from truly dealing with deeper issues. Similar to the story of when I was a kid, putting in the work to admit you were wrong and actually talking through things is scary. It’s much more appealing to run somewhere you can start over and not have to worry about disappointing people.

If my sisters weren’t there to bring me back, I must say it would have been interesting to see where I would have ended up and how long I would have lasted on my own. It’s funny to think about, but at the same time such a lesson to learn from. My sisters loved and cared about me enough to put in the work to bring me home.

They knew where I needed to go and they put in the work to get me there. That is what accountability is.

I realized that I struggle with accountability. There’s this fear I have when people share things with me. I’ve had all sorts of people open up to me about significant struggles. I feel as though in the past year or so I’ve had friends and people close to me share just about everything; eating disorders, suicide attempts, sexual abuse, rape, alcohol addiction, depression, sex and anxiety. You name it, I’m sure I’ve heard it. I am able to listen, I am able to give advice, however accountability is something I just don’t know how to do. Unlike my sisters, I don’t have the strength to carry people where they need to go. I live with regrets of letting so many people run away, and also myself. So I run.

I have always told myself that I don’t take on the weight that others carry, however I’m realizing I was wrong. I do carry people’s problems, and this has hurt me in the past. Therefore, my solution has been these walls. These walls have been put up so that I won’t have to be there. I listen and give good advice, but I don’t stay long enough to hold people accountable. I have a tendency to withdraw because I know I don’t have the power to fix them and I know I can’t handle the pain. So I run.

I’m realizing that my fear from accountability is wrong. I can’t continue to use the excuse that it’s not important. I can’t let the discouragement of my past prevent me from looking for accountability. If I don’t learn how to look to people for help, as well as being there to support others, I will miss out on what God has.

It’s true, I don’t have the power to fix people. It’s true, people don’t have the power to fix me. However, I am in the wrong to underestimate the power of God to do great things through accountability. It’s time to learn how to tear down walls without fearing what may be behind them. It’s time to be there and ask for God’s strength to help carry people because I know I can’t on my own. It’s time to develop a heart to love. I need to learn how to love how He loves.

Love does not run away.

It’s time to let God truly work in these relationships. It’s time to say no to excuses and yes to the work ahead. No more isolation, no more fear, no more excuses.

Running away is never the answer.

Unexpected Love

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This past year I’ve been on the pursuit of love. Not a romantic one, but the world’s most intimate one: a love for the Lord.

I remember last year being so bitter towards love and the idea of it. Surrounded by a community that places such a high emphasis on dating and marriage, I felt insignificant and as though I couldn’t be single and happy. My bitterness played a role in my worship as well. I questioned whether or not I could even worship God truthfully because I questioned whether or not I truly loved him. The words I was singing felt like lies and I had to take a large step back from the community in order to find myself and work through my thoughts. I was incapable of loving God because of my struggle to love myself.

I was so broken. I was going through my quarter life crisis. I was 20 and questioning everything. Everything I valued felt like it was being taken away. I had no clear vision as to where I was going. More than willing to drop out of school, I felt a call to missions and felt like I wasn’t living my life to the fullest. I remember sitting with my roommate and ranting to her about how I knew I needed to be doing more with my life, but didn’t know what that was. I was believing lies about myself and she listened to all of it, bless her heart. She was there for me during one of my lowest points. I wanted to just move on but had no Idea how.

My self-worth was so low that I felt like my life was not worth living anymore. I remember telling my roommate I didn’t feel capable of being loved. The words she said to me that night, “Halle, that is a lie,” have stuck with me.

Those words, “That is a Lie” have done more for me than I can even begin to explain. I remember just looking at her and having this crazy moment and realizing how right she was. Yet, it was a lie I was believing. That short phrase was the beginning to my freedom. It didn’t happen over night, but that was one of the major turning points in my life. I started doing more self-reflection and going through and pointing out the lies I was believing, and I was believing a lot of them.

I had this journal from that semester filled with some harsh thoughts and lies. I remember looking back through it and pointing out the lies that I was buying into about myself. I decided it was time to stop ignoring these lies and stop letting them have power over me. It is crazy how God was working during that semester. God gave me time to do this necessary reflecting. I was diagnosed with mono and it gave me a lot of free time. That was how I started getting into writing and sharing what God has been teaching me through this blog.

I made the commitment to go a year without dating. I made the commitment to God to remain single until October 1st, 2014. It was time to rethink singleness. Over a year has passed now and, well, I’m still single. But there is a night and day difference between who I am and who I was last year.

I remember praying passionately for God to reveal to me His love. I knew it was there, I just didn’t know it personally. You know? I told God to help me to live my life to the fullest, willing to go wherever He’d send me. God revealed to me that my ministry was here this whole time.

This year He has called me to be a freshmen RA. There’s a lot more to the story, but basically God has been overwhelming me this year with love through these girls. For example, on my birthday my girls surprised me by filling my room with 72 balloons! Each of them had something thoughtful written on it and or hershey kisses inside. I have never felt so loved in my life. I am blessed beyond I deserve and I have had nights where I fall asleep with tears of joy because I just don’t know what I ever did to deserve any of it. God has not only blessed me with an awesome floor of girls, but also a great RA staff, teammates, professors and friends. He has revealed to me that there is value in every day and in these relationships. I am experiencing a freedom and joy in my life that I have never experienced before.

My bitterness toward love was a personal bitterness I held because I didn’t know how to love myself. I didn’t see any value in who I was and I felt like I was failing everyone, especially God. I felt like he was calling me to do big things, yet I felt like I wasn’t doing anything significant. That was a lie. I wasn’t failing anyone. It was a time in my life where God was calling me to be still.

I am still always processing this past year, but one thing that has been clear to me is that God is showing me love in unexpected ways. I’ve been having a hard time accepting all these blessings and affirmations because I am still trying to replace these lies I have about myself. It’s a process that takes time, but for the first time in my life I am learning that I am capable of being loved.

Confessions of a Fakebook User

Last year I decided to fall off the face of the earth.

I deactivated my Facebook and it was the most freeing thing I have ever done. I handed my password over to my roommate and told her she couldn’t give it back to me until I moved out. No one knew what was going on in my life. No one could know unless they actually saw me in person and have this thing called a conversation, which people need to relearn how to have. Not only were people clueless about my life, but I had no idea what was going on in theirs. You would think this is a bad thing, but It really isn’t. Having conversations and catching up with people in real life, without checking their Facebook page, is a good thing.

I went without Facebook for the semester and I reactivated it two days before I left for Costa Rica, where I spent four months living with a host family and studying at a university. Every part of me wishes I could go back and just not post my experiences from while I was living there.

On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I kept getting comments and likes from my “friends” and when I got back from my trip people asked me about it expecting to hear about how great it was. I would expect that kind of answer too based on my social media. People were taken by surprise when I’d tell them how it actually was. I told them what happened between the highlights and they were caught off guard. I will tell you right now that my time in Costa Rica was far more difficult and not nearly as enjoyable as my Facebook page made it seem. I experienced and saw much more than I can even comprehend. I am still processing that trip, which was one of the most challenging experience of my life. My Facebook was Fakebook. It told a different story.

For anyone who knows me, they know that this past year has broken me down in more ways than one. One of my greatest convictions has been social media, specifically Facebook. I allowed my use of Facebook to impact me and have power over me. I found myself struggling. I saw my life as a distortion of lies. I didn’t start to see things clearly until I took a step back. After doing so, I was able to reflect and realize a number of things.

Facebook was my Idol. I wish I could add up the number of times I’ve turned to Facebook instead of God. I found myself more likely to start my day on Facebook rather than talking with the Lord. After experiencing a detachment from Facebook, I became more attached to God and less to my profile. When I am by myself, the first thing I turn to isn’t my Facebook page.  I’ve been learning that it’s Him I need to seek first. This isn’t rocket science when it comes to the Christian faith, but it’s important to think about what’s keeping us from putting Him first. For me personally, I allowed Facebook to distract me from my relationship with God. I let it replace Him. I can tell you right now that because I’ve refocused my life, Facebook is no longer my idol.

I made an idol out of myself. Not only was Facebook an Idol, but through it I was making myself an Idol. I did this by highlighting my life and making it seem greater than it actually is. I would only post pictures and statuses that made me seem as though I am the greatest thing since sliced bread. Although I am a pretty great person and you should get to know me, my Facebook only showed the good things. It was modified to show people what I wanted them to see. How are we supposed to share what’s really going on? We don’t want to highlight the things in our lives that make us look bad; we want to look as though we have it all together. I wanted to have control and I was believing lies about myself. I was looking to Facebook to try and shape who I was rather than allowing God to define me.

I couldn’t just live in the moment. I was focusing more on taking pictures. Every moment had to be shared. Whether it be a day with friends, a sunset or a plate of food, I had to take a picture of it because I wanted to remember and share it. It had to be captured. Whenever I was doing something with friends, I couldn’t leave without proof that I was hanging out with people. That way I could show the world that I am social. I have a life, a good life. I would compare my profile to others and do what I could to make mine better. I wanted to generate more likes because that’s all that matters, right? How ridiculous is that? Am I crazy for thinking this way, or are there others out there who catch themselves comparing their lives too? I just couldn’t take it anymore and since I stepped back my mind has been much more present. I don’t care about my profile or my pictures any longer.

Facebook took up way more time than I want to admit. I wish I could take back the hours and days I’ve spent scrolling and clicking through Facebook. I know I am not the only one who has wasted more time than I’m willing to admit. Scrolling through the newsfeed is distracting from reality and it is addicting. I would log onto my account to check something “important” such as a message or an event date. Instead, though, the first thing I would do is click that attractive little red flag in the top right corner. I was a stalker. I was completely addicted. After I spent over an hour scrolling through a dozen profiles and commenting on posts, I would try to remember why I logged on in the first place. I’d then feel guilty over how much I could have actually done in the time I had just wasted on Facebook. I claimed I was using it to keep in contact with people and to know events, but it was taking me away from living my life. We tend to use Facebook for so much more than we say we do.

The more time I spent on Facebook the more depressed I’d get. This was a defining realization in my time from Facebook. As I detached myself from my profile, I honestly saw myself becoming happier. Before, when I was attached to my account, I found myself spending more time alone and on Facebook feeling bad about the things my friends were doing that I wasn’t. Seriously, how dumb is that? I literally spent my time staring at a screen feeling bad for myself even if I had just gotten done hanging out with other friends. That should be a wakeup call. I’m embarrassed about this one but hey, I’m willing to admit it and because I am set free I am not ashamed anymore. Social media will only have power over your happiness if you allow it to.

I was becoming lazy in my friendships. Whenever I would think about one of my friends and wonder how they are doing, the first thing I would do would check out their profile. It’s was so much more convenient than calling a friend up and telling them that you miss them. Isn’t that sad? I would hardly go out of my way to contact my friends because their Facebook updates told me everything that was new. Facebook makes “friendships” easy but are they even real? I much rather prefer to spend time with my friends in person. I prefer to keep most of my pictures off social media and share them in person. It’s nice to actually talk about my experiences with people when I catch up with them. Has there ever been a time where you started telling a story and then one of your friends says, “oh yeah I remember seeing that on Facebook?” Well then what’s the point? We let social media be social for us.

My “friends” didn’t really know me. People had this belief that they knew me because they were my friend on Facebook. My profile had thousands of pictures from since I was in 7th grade, which I can tell you was quite fun to stalk. Yet, it really started to creep me out after a while because people could know so much about me without even really knowing me that well. I remember this specific time when I met someone on campus and introduced myself. He claimed he already knew me because we were friends on Facebook. Weird. We have never had a conversation in real life, why the heck were we “friends” on Facebook? I got into the habit of accepting every friend request that came my way because I felt popular. I mean, I had well over 2,000 friends. But were they all my friends? Did they even know me? Now I won’t be friends with people unless I have an actual friendship with them. People now have to go out of their way get to know me in person. If you want to know me you have to get to know me. You can’t just click “add friend” in order to be my friend.

The list goes on, but basically I couldn’t live with my Fakebook profile anymore. I couldn’t keep living a Fakebook life. I was sick and tired of highlighting my life and not living in the moments. I still want to be available to people, but I am trying to learn how to do so without getting sucked into the same routine.  I’m debating if I want to even post this blog post on my profile. I feel that convicted. After realizing all these convictions, my biggest question is what am I going to do about it?

I created this new Facebook page, and before you judge me, this time it’s different. I have a very simple page with just a cover photo and profile picture. That’s it. I try and keep my Facebook wall blank. There’s pretty much no information about me on my profile. I don’t post photos, when people tag me in photos I don’t accept them on my wall. I have this account for people to contact me, that’s pretty much all. I’m not trying to highlight myself any longer.

Honestly, I don’t even use Facebook much anymore and there’s a pretty good chance I get rid of it again. I don’t have all the answers to life or how to live perfectly. You don’t have to get rid of Facebook in order to live a better life. This is just something I’ve been doing because I realized I was abusing Facebook. I want to spend my life living, not hiding behind a screen and letting my life be consumed. I prefer to live in the present in the moments that matter with the people who matter.

Not everyone struggles with Facebook to the extremes that I have. If you’ve actually read through this post, I challenge you to think about how you use social media. Do you take time to get to know someone before you friend them on Facebook? A lot of us need to relearn how to be social instead of letting media do it for us. Sometimes it’s nice to just disappear for a while (deactivating your Facebook isn’t permanent). You don’t have to go to the extremes like I did, but I would recommend making necessary changes if you’ve had some struggles of your own with Facebook. Just be aware of how you are using your social media. Do you tend to build up yourself rather than others?

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Are You Really Sending Me?

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Last year when I came across that verse it really stuck with me. Those words, “Here am I. Send me!” I kept thinking about them. Send me where? I wasn’t really sure what God wanted from me or if He even wanted to send me somewhere. For some reason, though, that verse really stuck with me. As always, I put a lot of thought into it and then accused myself of over thinking things. Then I thought about it and asked myself: If God told me to go somewhere, to drop everything and just leave, would I go? I wanted to say that I would, but that is a lot easier said than done when you are actually presented with the opportunity to go. Part of me really wanted Him to send me. The other part didn’t think He actually would or that I was being called to go anywhere. That’s something people just tell themselves so they can justify leaving. God wouldn’t really tell me to go anywhere, but if he did I would go?

The year went on and the whole “send me” thing was just a thought in the back of my head. I figured that if God wanted me to go somewhere He would make sure I end up there. As a college student, this is a time in my life where I have the opportunity to study abroad. Studying abroad is something I’ve heard great things about and the thought has always been appealing, but would it be something that I would actually do? How could I possibly travel to a different country and leave my friends, family and everything I’ve ever known for an entire semester? Four months of my life spent in an unfamiliar culture surrounded by strangers? No thanks! However, As the year went on, my heart started to change. I felt really dry in my faith and realized that I wasn’t going out of my way for God. I really struggled with not understanding how God works and I questioned what He wanted me to do.

Going to a private christian college has its pros, but man it also has its cons. Seeing and hearing other people share their faith can be great, but sometimes it can get old and you start to see it all as phony and it causes you to question things. People would tell me about all these things that God was telling them to do. I would listen, and sure God is working in their lives, but when I thought about it I realized how easy it is it say that. How easy it is to say that God is working in our lives, but do we really believe that? I struggled with the question: Is it God or is it me? Is God telling me to do this? or am I telling myself to do it and then saying it is God? Is God really telling these people these things? How do we really know? When we say that God is doing something in our lives or that He is calling us to do something, are we saying so to glorify God? Are we saying that because we actually believe that? Or are we doing it to boast about our faith and to glorify ourselves?

Having doubts about God and whether or not He is leading me to go somewhere created fear within my own life. Last year I let it become an excuse. I justified not wanting to go abroad and the fear of traveling somewhere alone by using the excuse that God isn’t telling me to go. However, in reality He hasn’t stopped telling me to go. Out of my own fear I was ignoring the voice of God. It wasn’t until this past summer when I realized that He, in reality, did want me to go. I just wasn’t willing to accept it. I used every possible excuse to not go. Excuses such as “My parents don’t want me to go and would never allow it” and “there are thousands of places I could go, I’ll probably choose the wrong place.” I told myself that I would never survive four months away from home all by myself and that I would never be able to handle it. Then I started letting all these doubts and fears keep me from trying, however I couldn’t get rid of the thought in my head that I needed to go. I researched just about every possible program, but dropped it for a while when summer came around.

I worked up north at a bible camp and focused on ministry and served for the summer. I only went home for one full day over the course of working there. The one day I spent at home, I was haunted by the pile of abroad catalogs in my bedroom. I decided to talk to my parents about it. I brought it up to my dad for the first time and, just as I feared, he rejected the entire idea. He basically told me that going abroad was a horrible idea. He also told me that it was already bad enough that I was working at camp all summer because I wasn’t making much money. His words stuck with me. He told me that going abroad isn’t something I am capable of doing and that I was already wasting my summer by cooking s’mores with kids. He told me that’s not going to get me far in life. I almost let his words ruin me. The fact that he didn’t support me and that he didn’t see the value in the ministry I was a part of hurt me really bad.

I was so offended by what my dad said that went to my room and started crying. I couldn’t believe that he told me I was wasting my time at camp and that he didn’t even give the idea of studying abroad a chance.That was when I realized that it was time to give it up to God and that everything was out of my control. I realized that I was battling too many doubts and obstacles. I was crying out to God. I told Him that if He wanted me to go, He had to make this easier and less confusing because I don’t have the ability to do this on my own. I told Him I didn’t want to choose where to go; it was too overwhelming. I told God that He would have to work within my parents in order for them to allow me to go if that’s what He wanted. I told Him that wherever He wanted me, I would be there. If He wanted me to stay where I am, I would stay and serve Him at my University. If His plan was for me to go somewhere, I asked Him to reveal to me where by narrowing it down and make it possible. I didn’t see it working out without His help. I felt as though everything was working against me. So I told Him to have His way with me. “Here I am, Send me! Wherever that is; overseas or here in Minnesota.” From then on, I stopped stressing out and over thinking it all because at this point, God would have me wherever He wanted me.

It’s crazy how everything started falling into place as soon as I wholeheartedly gave it up to God. Later that week, I was at camp having the best week of my summer. This was the week that I experienced the power of prayer in a whole new way. Through prayer, I had a CIT who was changed by God during the course of that week. Ask me about it sometime, it was incredible. Through prayer, I had a camper come to know Christ and she made a commitment to follow Him. That week, I saw God work in the lives of my campers and I felt the power of God working. I KNOW THAT SOUNDS CRAZY! I feel crazy even writing it. I wish it was something that everyone could experience, it was actually ridiculous. Anyway, later that week I received an email from my dad. In the email, he told me that he called my university and talked to someone from the abroad office. He had gone out of his way to find out more information about how studying abroad works. In the email he also gave me the email and phone number of the woman from the office and that I can work with her to figure out more information. WHAT!!!??? This is literally a few days after he told me that he didn’t support me or the idea of me going abroad and was completely against it. Now he was trying to help me!!?? How did God do that!!?? I have no idea, but I know it was Him!

Long story short, after much more prayer I was directed to where God wanted me to go. It was my last week at camp and I wasn’t fully sure where I was going but I had an idea in the back of my head: Costa Rica. No idea how, but for some reason out of all of the places in the world, that was the only one that stuck consistently. It’s hard to explain, but a few different things led me to Costa Rica. Anyway, the speaker that week just happened to be the pastor of the church that I grew up in when I was young. I hadn’t talked to him in years and so we talked at dinner one of the last nights of the week and he asked me about what I was up to in life and what God was doing. I shared with him about this abroad thing and he looked at me seriously and said, “If you want to go someplace where God can use you for ministry; San Jose, Costa Rica.” Sure enough, There was a program in San Jose that fit my class requirements and it was approved.

I still had that doubt of whether or not it was my calling, but then I thought about how many obstacles were removed and how much prayer was answered. I realized that in this situation I was given the opportunity that I didn’t think was ever going to happen for me. God made it clear by removing everything that had been in my way and showing me where to go. I was standing on the edge of a very big decision. It was when I was put in the situation where I realized that the only thing that would stop me from going was my own fear. It comes back to my original question: If God told me to go somewhere, to drop everything and just leave, would I go? Now that I am literally in that position am I going to be faithful and say yes? Well, my flight leaves on February 28th for San Jose!

Worship Beyond the Songs

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This past summer I really put a lot of thought into worship. For me, worship had become a routine. The same songs, the same words, over and over and over again. It felt so empty. I felt like something was wrong. Something was wrong with me. Not just me, but also the people around me. Do we really mean these words that we are singing? Do we really believe that God is who we are saying He is? I feel like worship has become a time where people just slip into the routine and all of a sudden it is time to “praise God.” Yet, we don’t take the time to think about Him or spend time with Him outside of the worship service. I feel like I look around at the people worshiping and think to myself, “Do they even know who Jesus is?” I look at the lives around me worshiping this God and I don’t see the reflection in their lives. I didn’t see it in my own life either. Do I even know who Jesus is? What sets me apart from these people? I’m here too. Singing the same songs. Doing the same worship.

It all just felt so meaningless and pointless. The part that gets me most is that as soon as the worship service is over, everyone just leaves and goes on with their lives and no one actually has conversations about how they experience God. The praise ends as soon as the songs end. It feels like no one praises God unless there’s a song to sing to. To me, it felt cheap. It felt like we were getting it wrong. The worst part was that it kept me from being able to worship. After awhile I just couldn’t get myself to sing the songs. I believe that God deserves more than just empty words being sung just simply because everyone else is singing them. I had to take the time to separate myself from the crowd and actually think about what I’m doing. I left my freshman year torn over worship. I went up to work at a bible camp over the sumer and this is what I wrote one day as I was reflecting on things:

Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- This is your spiritual act of worship.” I read that and thought: Okay, this is talking about worship being more than the songs that we sing in church. Actually, It has nothing to do with the songs at all. It’s our lives. But, living our lives as a sacrifice? How am I supposed to do that? I don’t have anything figured out but maybe I’m starting to get there.  I’m thinking, How can I live my life as a sacrifice? It’s so weird to think about. Then again, didn’t Jesus do just that? Maybe I’ve been making this worship thing way more complicated than it needs to be. Jesus Lived his life as an example for us. Yet, I haven’t taken the time to actually think about it or even read about it. I’ve just been going along with things. Even all summer, I haven’t been taking the time I need to be to spend time with God. It has taken me awhile to realize that. I love having those quiet times in the morning and during my free time, but it doesn’t stop there. I can be praying throughout the day, whether it be in my head or just to myself when I’m walking somewhere. I’ve been doing that more lately and I’ve noticed God more.

The other night, my campers were all in bed and I had to walk over to the building. All the lights around were out and as I was walking I saw the stars and they were beautiful. I always love seeing the stars, especially up north. Anyway, I asked God to reveal himself to me. Immediately, the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen shot across the sky. It was like a sparkler. I’ve seen shooting stars before, but none like that. It was almost in slow motion. It was as if God really wanted me to see it. I was almost in tears. It took my breath away. I thought it was pretty cool, but if you think about it, stuff like this happens all the time. God is always present and had I not been praying or talking to God, would I have been able to recognize it as Him trying to reveal Himself to me or would I have just walked right by and thought of it as just a cool shooting star?

Ive been missing prayer. I’m always asking for things and praying selfishly, but I need to be praying for more than just what I want. I need to be praying for others and also moments. Unless I’m talking with God constantly, I’m not going to realize Him all the time. He is always there! But how often do I see it? Now, worship can be a powerful thing but it has turned into something I’ve settled for: something to just to check off the list. I’ve been conforming. Romans 12 continues on and in verse 2 (a very common verse) it says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (The pattern of just singing maybe?), But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So how do I transform? By renewing my mind? How do I do that? Well, I don’t have all the answers but God does and I’m praying He’ll renew my mind.

Maybe I shouldn’t stop there. I’ve been really lazy. So what happens if I ask God to renew my mind?Do I just expect it to happen? Maybe. Or maybe there’s more because maybe God expects something out of us. And that’s a relationship with Him. What’s that? Well, maybe that’s what I need to be working on. I need to be building this relationship with Him by constantly praying. See? It all comes back to that! And by being in prayer, maybe my mind will be renewed. Maybe my life will be lived out differently, more like Christ who was the perfect example of a sacrifice. This leads us back to worship. Worship is a spiritual act on how we live our our lives. It’s not just the songs! So I’m working on breaking free from that pattern of just singing. How do I do that? Maybe it connects back to prayer. Do I show up and just sing and that’s it? OR, am I putting thought and prayer into it? Worship is about praising God, but what am I praising Him for if I’m not recognizing Him in my life?

If my life is empty, then so will my worship be. Empty. So what am I going to do? Not tomorrow, but today. Well, I’m going to keep reminding myself about sacrifice; and what does that mean? Well it means it’s not about me. So how am I going to live that out? Well, I’m going to start by thinking about how I can be putting others first. How can I be serving them? I don’t want to serve in a way where I’m seeking recognition, but in a way to be a living sacrifice: to be serving as an act of worship. James 2:14 says faith without action is basically dead. “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him?”

This whole time I’ve had this faith, but I’ve stopped living it out. I’ve been living it out, sure, but not in the right way because my heart hasn’t been there. Nobody would be able to tell that by looking at me, but I know it’s not there. So I’m starting to realize that and make the changes. I’ve got to stop focusing on who I want to be and focus on who I am. A really thought-provoking quote I heard was, “God is much more interested in who you ARE rather than who you want to be.” I’ve got to be focusing on today. Not just think about it once, but all day long. I gotta keep thinking to myself: Love God, love others. I have to do so by remembering: It’s not about me. It’s time to serve. Live as a sacrifice. It’s time to worship.

I will I worship beyond the songs! Right now. In every moment of every day.

Now, you can see I’ve put a lot of thought into worship. I can tell you right now that I’ve come a long way since I wrote that note. God has revealed Himself in so many ways, it’s just a matter of recognizing Him more. It’s so easy to miss if you’re not going out of your way for Him. Living as a sacrifice is by no means easy, but it’s worth it. Since last summer, I’ve been praying about everything. I’ve seen God answer more prayer in the last 4 months than I think I’ve ever seen in my life. If someone told me that I had to go a week without praying, I would not be able to do it. Heck, I don’t think I could go a day. I’ve been so dependent on Him and He has continued to challenge me all the time. I still fail each and every day. I am never going to be that person to put on a face and say that everything is just fine and dandy when in reality, it’s not. We have to be willing to be honest about where we’re at.  In the past I have lied to myself about where I’m at, but I’m so done with that. That has never gotten me anywhere. So, I’m actively seeking Him out and have been going out of my way to get to know Him. Not because I have to but because I want to. We shouldn’t force our relationship with God. That never works and He deserves more than that. It truly does take a change of heart and the renewing of the mind through prayer. I can honestly say that my relationship with Him is growing. Right now, I have a desire to actually know Him: to fall in love with Him. I love God, but am I in love with God?

To be completely honest, I don’t know if I’m in love with God. But that’s where I hope to be.

I hope to get to a place where I can be in love with Him. Some people might think I’m crazy for admitting that. How could someone who is a Christian say that they are not in love with God? I can say that because I am willing to admit where I am in my faith. I can tell you right now that, one day when I get there, when I can say I’m in love with God it will be because I actually mean it. I won’t say I’m in love with Him just because everyone else does and that we need to be in love with Him. I want to be in love with Him. God deserves my heart. Not empty words. What does being in love look like? When someone is in love, they always think about that person. They get excited about the thought of that person. They crave time with them and could spend hours at a time talking with them. When people are in love, they know that person better than anyone. They are the most important person in his or her life. Their face lights up when someone brings up the name of the one they’re in love with. They can’t help but smile when they talk about them. I want to know God fully and love Him for who He is. I want to actually know Him. He’s always been there for me and I’ve had faith for many years, but for the first time in my life I am seeking to fall in love with Him. I’m not there yet. It’s a process. It takes time and patience and investment to get there. I’m willing to be honest with where I’m at.

My point is, I feel like I’m surrounded by people who don’t do that enough. What needs to happen is we need to be more real about our faith, and real if we even have a faith. We need to actually be vulnerable with one another. More importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves as well. God knows our hearts and He knows if we really mean what we say. When we are singing songs of worship, He is fully aware whether or not we actually mean those words coming out of our mouths. I have learned to worship more authentically. I have learned to worship in new ways: ways beyond just singing. Yes, it’s okay to go to worship services and sing. However, it is crucial to think about where your heart is when you are worshiping Him. You don’t have to go to a worship service to worship God. Worship Him through your life: through acts of serving and putting other people ahead of yourself. Worshiping doesn’t start and end with the songs, otherwise the songs mean nothing and you might as well just not even sing. Let your life sing for you. I challenge anyone who is reading this to take the time to think about where your heart actually is.  Do you worship with the way you live your life? Do you worship beyond the songs? Be real.