Compassion and Grace ~ A Journal Entry

Recently, I found a passage in the Bible that really touched me. The whole chapter is Isaiah 54. As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I often times tend to see God almost as a dictator. I find myself often thinking, oh no, I just thought that. And that thought usually ends up going in the direction of me fearing punishment from the Lord.

"Shame says that because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. Grace says that though I am flawed, I am cherished.":

Isaiah 54:10 says, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

That’s not the only mention of ‘compassion,’ in Isaiah 54, however. Other references to it are, “but with great compassion I will gather you” and “with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.”

For some reason, I tend to forget the fact that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He knows I’m a flawed human. He is not expecting me to think, say, or do the right thing all the time. Psalm 103:8 states, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” and a few verses later it says, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Merriam Webster defines mercy as, “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly,” gracious as, “marked by kindness and courtesy,” and compassion as, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

Next time my mind starts going in that habitual way of thinking, I am going to try and remind myself of the type of God we serve, one who is merciful, gracious, compassionate, and understanding.

God's Grace by southern-dreams on Polyvore featuring art:

Note: I created the second picture/collage, but the quote is not mine. And the other picture comes from Pinterest 🙂

 

Journal Entry

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes,” – Psalm 119:71

There are many verses in Psalm 119 that I love, but I finally decided on this one. At six years old, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy. Narcolepsy is a severe sleep disorder. People, like myself, who have narcolepsy, are not able to sleep through the night. Experiencing constant nightmares, falling asleep multiple times during the day, and other components of narcolepsy are all common to narcoleptics.

Because of my illness, I have to take medication throughout the day and night, rest or nap every three-four hours, and be under a continuous schedule. It’s not always easy, but I wouldn’t change it. If I had not been diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy, I do not believe my relationship with God would be where it is today. Psalm 119:71 says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

I found and find this true in my own life. When you get to a certain place of desperation – where all you have is God, it pushes you to open His Word and seek out answers, comfort.

Love – An Acrostic Prayer Poem

For my Creative Writing class, I had to write an acrostic prayer poem about a topic talked about in the Bible. I chose ‘love’ and this is what I came up with. I hope y’all like it! 🙂

Love is miraculous, amazing in all of its mysterious glory.

Astounding in its selfless passion.

Never abandoning in its constant flow of affection.

It is the tender whispers from the Holy Spirit.

Emotion overflowing as my heart reads the words of His wooing.

Devotion so clear – the sacrifice, the pain, the grace.

Esteeming me to be worthy of respect and fondness.

Always there, love embodies the trinity of God as constant as the saltiness of the sea.

Nothing can disintegrate this love, it is eternal – forever.

No Condemnation

Me being myself and a natural perfectionist, I’m always trying to be perfect. Even though that’s not actually possible and the logical part of my mind knows that, I still find myself in that perfectionistic goal.

Just this morning, I was starting to feel guilty (whether false or true) about something I had been thinking about. And it was sort of like an epiphany when I realized that I don’t have to be “perfect” or think all the “right” things all the time with God. That might sound like something I should have realized a long time ago, but my mentality can often be so perfectionistic that it’s difficult for me to see past that.

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Of course, that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to do the right thing – it’s not giving a free pass to ‘do whatever you want.’ It’s more of in the sense, that when I do something wrong, yes I shouldn’t have done it, but I don’t have to panic (*ahemlikeIusuallydoahem*) about, oh my gosh I’m such a horrible person, I can’t believe I just thought/did that.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the definition of condemn is: “to say in a strong and definite way that someone or something is bad or wrong, to give (someone) a usually severe punishment, to cause (someone) to suffer or live in difficult or unpleasant circumstances.” And for those who are Christians, we are no longer under condemnation. Sometimes that’s easy to forget at least for me, and go into the mentality of, ‘what kind of punishment I’m going to receive’ when I mess up.

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Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

I love that phrase “eternal redemption.” For those who are believers, we are redeemed for all of eternity. In the Bible, there is a term – “kinsman-redeemer” – that connects the Old Testament to the New Testament. A kinsman redeemer was someone who delivers or rescues, redeems property or person, avenges the murder of a relative as a guiltless executioner, and receives restitution for wrong done to a relative who has since died (biblestudytools.com).

Jesus is our ‘kinsman-redeemer.’ He delivered us from an eternity apart from Him and redeemed us from sin so that we can be made righteous.

~ Southern Dreamer

Prison of Fear

Everyone has fears. Some are small, others are big, and then, there are those that completely and totally overwhelm us.

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Fear is a tricky thing. It can creep up slowly and over time; perhaps subconsciously, until it rears its ugly head in our face. In other cases, it can come suddenly and without announcement. Maybe you’ve been through something traumatic and suddenly things that you did not fear before, are now quite terrifying.

I think, sometimes, we visualize fear in a one dimensional picture: snakes, the dark, experiencing change. But fear can also be the root cause of other issues in our life. Perfectionism (I fall into this category :p): fearing that you must be perfect, fearing the punishment or reaction if you are not. Being a people-pleaser: fearing that you have to make everyone happy, fearing the reaction of others if you say something that contradicts their own beliefs.

In the Bible, there are over a 100 references where it says, “fear not” or “do not be afraid” (http://www.openbible.info/topics/living_life_to_the_fullest). By that sheer number, it’s apparent that Jesus knew we were going to have fear – BUT, that we do not have to be afraid.

John 10:10 says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

God wants us to live life in the freedom of our salvation. He does not want fear to keep us from experiencing the blessings He offers. Of course, this is easier said than done. I know in my own life, its very easy to say, ‘oh, I’m not going to be afraid. I’m going to give this to the Lord,’ but quite another to actually follow through with it.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Yet as the verse above says, God has given us a spirit full of power, love, and self-control. All components that help to combat fear.

Power is the Holy Spirit. If you really desire to be free from fear, this is where everything starts. The others are important too, but without the Holy Spirit, we’re trying to drive a car without gas.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Think of a time when you felt completely safe and secure. Was it when you were wrapped in the arms of your father or mother? Watching a movie in bed with your brother or sister? Similarly, God’s love is our security. We do not have to worry whether or not He will love us one moment and stop the next. His love is perfect, unfailing, and encompassing. Jesus demonstrated the greatest form of love there is: dying for us when we were still stuck in the mud of sin and unrighteousness. His love overcomes fear

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Jeremiah 31:3 and Proverbs 8:35

 

Self-control is the last one mentioned in 2 Timothy. This is where our ‘homework’ comes into play. You have to want to be free from fear and be willing to do the necessary work. Self-control does not include only physical actions, but the discipline of the mind – which can be harder in many ways since it is not a tangible thing.

And Jesus does not expect us to fight our fears or anxiety alone! Sometimes I completely forget that I can ask Him to help me to not be afraid; I’m so set on how can I solve this or how I can work through this, that I neglect the one being who can help me through anything.

Being willing to ask for help – tell a close family member or friend. Expose light onto the fear so it cannot continue to ravage around in your mind, rely on God, and put in the effort are all important parts of overcoming fear. Fear doesn’t go away on its own. It must be a conscious decision to defeat it.

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Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

~ Southern Dreamer

Proclaim

 

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In this world, it is critical for us to remind ourselves of all the Lord has done in our lives. So often, however, we can find ourselves dismissing that notion. Perhaps because of pride, or maybe we truly aren’t sure how God has been at work in our life.

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Psalm 96:2-3 says, “Sing to the Lord; praise His name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does” (NLT).

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I find it interesting that the Scripture specifically says tell others about what Christ has done. I believe he says this for many reasons, and while I do not claim to know them all, I feel that there are a few He has revealed to me.

One, when we tell others about the acts of God, it can not only strengthen our own faith but the Holy Spirit can use what we say to increase the faith of the listener.

Secondly, we never know who around us is being attentive as well. It could lead the way to deeper conversations or cause them to become curious about who this God is. And remember that whoever you are talking to, may not have a reaction. Perhaps their face is completely empty of any emotion. Or they act as though you did not say anything. Even though this is difficult, God is not limited by this. Despite their reaction or lack thereof, the Holy Spirit can prod their heart long after your conversation.

And lastly, when we are constantly speaking in a verbal manner about everything the Lord has done, it creates not only a heart of thankfulness but reminds us of how powerful He truly is. Sometimes in our busy, day-to-day lives, we forget. We forget the strength and power that He has and how He can work, act, and move situations – change people.

In Luke 8:39, Jesus says, “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

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It can’t get much clearer than that. Jesus literally says, “tell how much God has done for you.” God never does anything just ‘because,’ He always has a reason. Maybe for you, its to strengthen your own faith – or perhaps encourage someone else.

Today, I encourage you to tell one person about something Jesus has done in your life – and remember, it doesn’t have to be a huge act. If you remain uncertain of how Christ has worked in your life, I encourage you to ask a godly mentor or adult who can offer wise insight. If you would like further study, make sure to check out Psalm 145.

~ Southern Dreamer

Judeo-Christain Foundation

“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible,” ~ George Washington

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Many people today are declaring that America was never a Christian nation, that it was not founded on Judeo-Christian values. And if people’s eyes are not opened to the truth, then this falsehood could become even more rooted in the minds of Americans.

John Quincy Adams said, “I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year,” and, “My custom is, to read four or five chapters every morning, immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day” (Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings).

john quincy adams

Even Benjamin Franklin, who many consider to be an unbeliever, said as recorded by James Madison, “We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in Rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness.”

On November 26, 1789, during his Proclamation for day of Thanksgiving, George Washington said, “It is the Duty of all Nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his Benefits, and humbly to implore his Protection and Favor.”

In fact, when the war with England cut off their supply of English Bibles, Congress in September of 1777, determined to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or other countries because, “the use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great” (pg. 60, Building Godly Nations).

George Washington Carver, born into slavery just before the end of the Civil War, discovered over three hundred uses for the peanut. The story of how this came about is remarkable.

“I asked the Great Creator what the universe was made for.

‘Ask for something more in keeping with that little mind of yours,’ He replied.

‘What was man made for?’

‘Little man, you still want to know too much. Cut down the extent of your request and improve the intent.’

Then I told the Creator I wanted to know all about the peanut. He replied that my mind was too small to know all about the peanut, but He said He would give me a handful of peanuts. And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth…to you it shall be for meat…I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.’ I carried the peanuts into my laboratory and the Creator told me to take them apart and resolve them into their elements. With such knowledge as I had of chemistry and physics I set to work to take them apart. I separated the water, the fats, the oils, the gums, the resins, sugars, starches, pectoses, pentosans, amino acids. There! I had the parts of the peanuts all spread out before me.”

george washinton carver

His story continues:

“I looked at Him and He looked at me. ‘Now, you know what the peanut is.’

‘Why did you make the peanut?’

The Creator said, ‘I have given you three laws; namely, compatibility, temperature, and pressure. All you have to do is take these constituents and put them together, observing these laws, and I will show you why I made the peanut.’

I therefore went on to try different combinations of the parts under different conditions of temperature and pressure, and the result was what you see.”

Peanuts

In other words, God had revealed to him the means by which to use the peanut for and in metal polisher, plastics, ink, shampoo, shaving cream, a dozen beverages, and synthetic rubber among many more.

When he testified before a committee of Congress, in 1921, the Chairman inquired:

“‘Dr. Carver, how did you learn all of these things?’

Carver answered: ‘From an old book.’

‘What book?’ asked the Senator.

Carver replied, ‘The Bible.’

The Senator inquired, ‘Does the Bible tell about peanuts?’

‘No Sir,’ Dr. Carver replied, ‘But it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and he did.'”

Another important American that believed in Christian values was Noah Webster. Father of American Education, in 1836, he wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed…No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

In his 1828 dictionary, “Noah Webster used thousands of Scriptural references and gave Biblical definitions, in contrast to humanistic definitions in modern dictionaries” (pg. 69, Building Godly Nations).

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Noah Webster also wrote, “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

“Dr. Donald Lutz conducted an exhaustive ten-year research of about 15,000 political documents of the Founders’ Era (1760-1805), and recorded every reference our founders made to other sources. This list of 3154 citations reveals those writings and men that most shaped the political ideas of our founders. By far, the most quoted source of their political ideas was the Bible, 34% of citations. The next most quoted sources were from men who largely derived their ideas from the Bible (Montesquier, 8.3%, Blackstone, 7.9%, and Locke, 2.9%). In fact 80% or more of all the citations were from the Bible or Biblical thinkers” (pg. 74, Building Godly Nations).

If that isn’t enough for you, then why Harvard College was founded should be. In 1636, New England Puritans founded Harvard College for the purpose of training ministers for the Gospel. “They thought the greatest curse that could come upon the land would be an impotent, ignorant clergy” (pg. 67, Building Godly Nations).

The original rules at Yale College, also show the importance placed on the Bible. “All scholars shall live religious, godly, and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of light and truth; and constantly attend upon all the duties of religion, both in public and secret” (Annuals of America, Volume 1).

In all, out of the first 108 colleges founded in America, only two were not based on the Christian faith. 106 were.

I could go on and on about other people, events, and facts that support the claim that America was founded on a Judeo-Christian heritage, but, of course, that would be a much longer post. I hope this has opened your eyes to the truth of our country’s history. And as we celebrate the fourth of July, let us remember the brave men and women who came before us.

Happy 4th y’all!

~ Southern Dreamer

Note: All of the information (unless stated otherwise) came from Building Godly Nations by Stephen. H. McDowell. Thank you for doing all of the hard research that allows people like myself to discover it!

Family Lake Trip

Last week, my family and I drove up to North Carolina. We were meeting my dad’s side of the family at a lake house in the Appalachian Mountains for a get-together-vacation. The scenery was stunning! Even though I’ve grown up living in a mountainous area, these mountains were far grander! The size and magnitude of it made me marvel at God’s creation. And to think, that he spoke something of such vastness into being!

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“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” Genesis 1:9

As we drove up the narrow, dirt road of the Appalachian Mountains, my writer mind was bouncing off the wall with ideas. If I could have, I would have stopped the car and spent hours taking pictures! Inspiration was everywhere.

When we finally arrived at the lake house – which was beautiful – I had a bit of a mini-crisis. Wi-Fi was not abounding. And given the fact that I’m a bit…attached to my internet connections, it was definitely not something I was particularly happy with. It ended up being a good thing though, since I actually wrote in my diary and looked at some magazines I had been meaning to look at, but had never taken the time for.

I also did a few “firsts” on this trip. I tried kayaking for the first time, and actually liked it! I even went by myself for a bit (this is coming from a non-risk-taking/adventurous person, so you must understand the significance of this lol :p). I also tried paddle-boarding, though I didn’t go as far out on the lake with that as I did with the kayak.

On one of our days there, my mom, grandmother, and I drove into the local town of Cashiers. They had beautiful pieces of furniture, and several antique stores. We went to one store, called Gracewear. They had really cute t-shirts, cups, and jewelry in the Gracewear collection. This was actually the original Gracewear store and as such, we were able to meet the owners. It was really neat and we talked about Jesus together for a while.

We had a great time at the lake, and I thought it would be a great spot to come back to for future vacations!

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My brother and I on the dock of the lake.

 

~ Southern Dreamer

So Not Happening: Book Review

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So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones is a humor-filled story that is a melting pot of God, faith, and city-girl meets countryside living.

Bella Kirkwood had everything that the world offers: New York City was her home, Broadway only a step away, and an A-list line of friends with her plastic surgeon father’s credit card in her pocket. She adored fashion, name brands, and would likely advertise ‘shopping is therapy.’

Yet her life quickly changed.

With the divorce of her parents, Bella was left to live with her mother. And her mother happened to try online dating, fall in love with a farmer in the middle-of-nowhere-Oklahoma, and move herself and Bella there.

This is so not what Bella Kirkwood is about. And she is wondering exactly where God is in all this. Then there is, of course, the two stepbrothers she could seriously do without: one always seems to be trying to push her buttons and the other watches way too much news for his elementary school age.

I found myself sympathizing with Bella as she stepped in cow poo, was forced to dumpster-dive by the annoying editor of the school newspaper, and having to live with there not being a good shopping center seconds away (#smalltownwoes).

So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones is a hilarious story filled with some romance, mystery, and very relatable situations. I’d advise anyone to pick up a copy and laugh as you read of Bella’s adventures.

~ Southern Dreamer