Forget Me Not

Faith and trust are often overlooked.

We assume that because we believe in a supreme being, we’ve covered all of our bases. God, faith, hope, trust…all of it, nailed. But we’ve missed the point.

He wants a relationship. He wants intimacy. And He wants the moments when you don’t trust Him.

He wants you to call out and say, “I don’t believe you, but I want to. Help me. Have mercy on me.” (Mark 9:24).

He wants you to acknowledge the icky parts of your life that would threaten to disarm, discourage you, dismantle you. The things you’re thinking about right now… The ones that keep your lips sealed shut in the presence of friends and your heart mindlessly numbed in your loneliness. He wants all of that.

For me, those moments took the form of overarching statements – things I proclaimed to be true, simply because investigating the foundations of my claims would be too painful.

  1. “God has left me in a season of wanting for too long. I suppose this is the life He has chosen for me. I think He wants me to remain in a place where I do not receive my deepest desires.”
  2. “Okay, I know He is good. He can rescue me from X and Y, but I really don’t see how He can do Z. I’m not in any circumstance where that could be possible right now.”

Readers, understand that these are lies and that they do not reflect the character of my God. Here was His answer:

Last night, I caught up on long-overdue readings by starting in my favorite book: Psalms. I flipped to the center and began with Psalm 77. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I was not alone in my frail trust!

When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted… You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days…when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

Wow. I can’t count the amount of times I have prayed almost the exact words expressed in this Psalm. All of the hurt and waiting and longing leads to one very human conclusion: this is my life now. Sadness and dejection are what God is pleased to see me live.

No. No, friends, if you have ever said these words – as I have – I beg you to continue reading this passage.

BUT THEN I recall all you have done, O Lord. I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works…

And the writer goes on to describe God’s extraordinary intervention. My favorite is verse 19: “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”

Hmph. Isn’t that an answer to my unbelief which stemmed from not being able to see how He would do something? I don’t need to see the details; I just need to know and trust that they are there. The plan is there. More importantly, He is there.

And in response to only trusting “half” of God’s power (which isn’t possible, by the way. He’s an all-or-nothing kind of God), Psalm 78 described Israel’s relationship with Him as they were led through the desert.

They stubbornly tested God in their hearts… “God can’t give us food in the wilderness. yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”

And that grieved Him. It must grieve Him when I do it, too. I’ll acknowledge some of His greatness and wonder, but undermine the grand implications of such an undeserved gift by saying, “but He didn’t do this for me, so He probably can’t.”

Ouch.

God did give Israel the things they needed, by the way. He even gave them the things they wanted, causing birds to fall from the sky and into their camps so they could have the meat they so desired. But they forgot Him again, and He corrected them.

Forgive me, Abba. Forgive me for all the times I have forgotten you, or have been too lazy to learn who You are.

And for you, friends, I deeply hope that you will learn His character today. He is not one to abandon you or throw you into misery. Follow Him and take His hand, dear friends. He knows the way.

Joy Comes in the Morning…

I’m writing to you right now because I can, and that’s a blessing in and of itself.

I’m writing to you because Abba is a healer and the restorer of all things.

This morning I woke with pain, confusion, anger, sadness,

feelings of lack, feelings of incompetence, feelings of hopelessness.

I sat up, (breathe), contemplated the day ahead:

“You have to go to class. You have to go to class.”

“No, you don’t. Lie down here. Rest.”

Five times the battle, then I did as I was told. I “rested…”

Except this was no rest; this was talking, dissuading, feeling all things wrong…

There was no joy this morning.

(Freeze). I froze. 

and then I knew I needed help.

But Abba already knew…

To sleep He put me. Then rest I did, and dream I did, and I woke with a motivation to move –

one I did not prompt of my own accord.

>> That voice threatened to claim my accord. It would’ve had me  lie there forever, curtains closed, stomach growling, mind dreaming of things it claimed I’d never be able to have. The voice would’ve liked me to waste away, aiming to spite those who’d hurt me. This, then, was the battle for my accord.

But Abba has all might.

He intervened, and today He brought me friends. He taught me to dial their numbers, to reach out for help, to give up my pride, and to let Him guide me.

So thank you to Alexis, who flew by my side and sat with me once Abba had told me to rise. Thank you to Martha, whose sweet words were as near to my heart as our friendship has become. Thank you to Anna, who spoke truth and life into me with consistency, power, and tenderness. Thank you to my friends for obeying my Father’s voice.

Now through my veins courses the Spirit of redemption; the Spirit of the Helper, who snatches me from the pits without my consent…who grabs my hand like a parent does a child’s, and leads me from the strangers who promise fulfillment and a smile.

It is as if He is the cure, and His immediate exposure – though I never specifically asked – caused a joy and peace (neither being my own) to become part of my existence and part of today’s events. I walked, I smiled, I ate, I felt the things good; and I have no explanation other than the presence and all-pervading power of Jesus Christ.

I’ll take my moments one day at a time. As of right now I am happy, because He has never left me nor forsaken me. He is with me here, still, hearing me and creating me. He has a plan and a purpose, and regardless of my occasional discomfort with His timing, I know beyond all doubt that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). And I seek to follow Him; therefore, I assume that my posture is one that mirrors His.

So I cling to my verse – the one that is the anthem through my darkness – and recite it over and over again (in my head and spirit, where the battle is fought) when I cannot think of words of my own to speak to Him:

I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you…

-Psalm 139:11-12

Give Me Love

marshall

Here’s another guest blog from an awesome bro! Marshall Pickard is so full of energy and seems to carry laughter with him wherever he goes. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him through another good friend of mine, and it’s so exciting to see breathing evidence of a man living to follow Christ.

Marshall likes to pretend he lives in Chattanooga, even though he is a PR major at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. Although one day he hopes to work for an incredible nonprofit organization, his passion has always been writing— especially about his Savior—and he blogs at The Train of His Robe. Marshall’s other favorite things include oceans, The Chronicles of Narnia, European travel, NCIS, tigers, and the Smoky Mountains. Writing bios, admittedly, isn’t his forte. 

Are you ready? Let’s jump into it.

Give. Me. Love.

_______

She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. (Hosea 2:7 NIV)

Since Heart in Bloom has a large focus on purity, especially in relationships, I have felt compelled for a long time to write about a subject that I think plagues my generation’s relationships: How far is too far (emotionally, physically, spiritually)? This question doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships; we wonder what distance we are supposed to maintain in almost all our friendships. This definitely seems like an area of question that trips up many young people and leads to physical immorality or emotional over-dependence.

However, as much as I wanted to talk about this, the words never came. I discovered that I certainly don’t know the answer to the question, and after a short time in my life where I seemed to not be loving anyone in my life correctly, I became convinced of the importance of a deeper question we must ask ourselves: am I giving and receiving love in a healthy, Christ-centered manner?

So many of our problems and sins result from the fact that we are all broken lovers. We want to love people well, but so often we react to them with aggression, lust, jealousy, covetousness, and apathy. Conversely, when we don’t fully embrace the love of Father, we have to work for our own worth and often treasure the acceptance of others idolatrously.

 

The song “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran really sold me on this point. In this song, a lonely guy is crying out to a woman with whom he is encountering conflict. In one part of the song, he releases a guttural scream for her to love him. It’s amazing how similarly our hearts scream like this for love and belonging. I’ve always rolled my eyes at the cliché analogy of there being a “God-shaped hole” in our lives, but it is honestly very true. There is a place of satisfaction—a deep unfulfilled place within our hearts—that groans for love and attention. Unless we find fulfillment in Christ, we won’t be able to quit adulterously running after other lovers.

I believe there are four fundamental ways we’ve gotten this love thing wrong:

  1. We overvalue “stuff” in our lives. We might be able to help the poor if we could give up a Starbucks drink or an hour of work once a week. We could actually have time to spend with people we love if we didn’t care more about the new iOS update or the series finale of Breaking Bad. In materialistic America, we spend so much time-consuming media and building up physical treasure for ourselves on Earth that sometimes we completely miss genuine connection.
  2. We undervalue people in our lives. While it is very possible to have idolatrous relationships, more often than not, the way we love someone is the problem, not our choice to love them in itself. Ironically, Christians many times lock our hearts behind vaults that no one can penetrate. We fail to love people because there are no guarantees they will love us back. Vulnerability is viewed as weakness, and because we all feel insecure, we don’t allow ourselves to be truly known by anyone. As C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.”
  3. We hate ourselves. It’s no wonder we don’t love others: too often our hearts are closed off to loving one of the most important people in our lives—ourselves. Encased in shame, we don’t let the light of Christ penetrate our darkest mission field—preaching the Gospel to ourselves. We ignore Jesus’ command: “Love your neighbor AS yourself.” When I’m not allowing Father’s love to penetrate my heart, it hardens, and I treat everyone around me as harshly as I’m treating myself.
  4. We don’t know how to love God. The only way to love God is to recognize that He loved us first. However, Christians today put so much emphasis on our actions, and much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, we build walls between our hearts and the heart of God by reducing our love walk with Him to a set of rules and regulations. Our code of ethics should instead be this: is the choice I’m making a loving action towards my Savior or not?

“In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’” (Hosea 2:16 NIV)

 

Lord, let us love this world, the people you’ve placed in our lives, ourselves, and You correctly. Let us not scorn the place deep within us that You have left unsatisfied, but may we chase after You. We know You will satisfy like no other lover can. Stir up love to guide our decisions and our lives.

Meet My Friends: Anna Shelnutt

I realized today that y’all don’t know anything about my friends. I’m sure I’ve mentioned them once or twice, but that’s not fair! You need more! I want to give you a glimpse into these amazing people by telling you the stories of how we met. It’s quite remarkable, actually. And please note that the majority of these stories will revolve around Jesus, because He began each and every one of them.

Today we’ll start by meeting the lovely Anna Shelnutt.

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How to Actually Pursue Her Heart

The following is an honest and poignant perspective from another friend of mine, 21-year-old Ian White. If you could meet him in person, you’d see that he is quirky, witty, and zealous for life. He and his girlfriend of two years, Sarah, serve Christ together and are the epitome of a fun-loving, respectful, energetic couple. 

Do you think you understand what it truly means to pursue or be pursued? This is going to challenge your outlook.

ian and sarah

 

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What to Do When Life Seems Meaningless

Today was an Ecclesiastes day, friends.

I’d never actually read the book in its entirety until a few minutes ago, but I’ll get to that in a second. Going to classes, completing assignments, and rushing to miscellaneous extracurricular meetings was a hassle today. It was rough. I could see no reason, no need, no impending good that could come out of the mundane tasks that were performed in hopes of receiving a number (close to 100) stamped on an official report. I felt like giving up all day. Just sitting in my room, going nowhere. And actually, I did. I skipped out on one of my last activities in favor of indulging in personal satisfaction: buying fried, sweet plantains from my favorite Caribbean place.

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It Is Enough

Today was rough.

I found myself overwhelmed with thoughts, wants, and anxieties that had me dwelling in the past and the future – anywhere but here, in the present. And as you know, my motto for life right now is “Be Present.”

But no, today I was worried and irritable. I was shocked by the things that easily peeved me: a guy chewing an apple next to me on the bus, a girl making small talk at breakfast, a person walking slowly in front of me on the sidewalk. I eventually had to retreat to my room to get my thoughts in order. To let Him speak to me. I didn’t want to harm the joy I share with others by dwelling on my self-conceived notions of how His plan for my life should unfold.

Once in my room, I took out my  journal and, with an angry pen, scribbled one phrase in bold letters:

IT IS ENOUGH!

Waiting for the answer to our heart’s deepest desire is frustrating! As it says in Proverbs 13:12,

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but fulfilled desire is a tree of life.”

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“Be Present”

If I have to declare a motto for my freshman year of college, it definitely has to be this one.

Be PRESENT!

Although, to be honest, I didn’t come up with it on my own. The concept emerged from a conversation I had a few months ago with Darby, my hall-mate and friend. I was struggling with the who’s, what’s, when’s, and why’s of college life. What was my major supposed to be? Why couldn’t I figure it out? Who was I supposed to spend the rest of my life with? …Because these questions are definitely answered when discussed between two college freshmen over dining hall food.

Except, maybe they are. In that moment, Darby looked at me and said those two words that profoundly changed my outlook on life. “Be present!” Stay in the now.  Be present-minded. Don’t worry about tomorrow, don’t be anxious about the future, don’t be fretful about the past. In fussing about all the unknowns, I was becoming distracted and missing out on making the most of my current relationships and opportunities.

And even now, I remind myself of this concept often. Why should I be concerned about when I’ll meet my future husband? If God is in control of that story, then the timing will be perfect (Matthew 6: 31-34). Why should I be so obsessed about what major I graduate with? While my academic path can help educate me for a future career, it is ultimately God who determines the course of my professional life anyway. His will for my relationships, my career, and everything else are one and the same. Psalms 37:4 says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe this applies not only to the things I would like, such as a husband who is super affectionate, but also to the Lord placing on my heart the things that He would like me to pursue for His glory. He will reveal to me what path I should take to bring Him the most fame. And I will accept that.

So what things do you need to let go of in order to “Be Present?” There is a balance between making wise choices based on possible consequences and choosing to release something as a burden altogether. However, you can never know where to draw that line unless you rest wholly and fully in the promises of God.

How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands. …They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.

-Psalm 112: 1, 7-9