Archive for September, 2014

Don’t Be an Island

Posted: September 27, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Relationships/Love
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One perk (of many) with my new smart phone is the awesome Bible app I downloaded. It makes it super easy to read the Bible conveniently and on the go. Generally, when I don’t have a set plan for my Bible reading, I’ll read the Proverb that corresponds with the day of the month. So, I had my phone reading Proverbs 18 out-loud to me, and verse 1 grabbed me: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” Hmph, I thought. I’ve never heard this verse, or at least this verse put quite this way. Turns out, I was reading the ESV translation, which I rarely do. I switched to the NIV version, my default, and it had this to say: “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.” Is it just me, or do these verses seem to emphasize different things? The second clause agrees, that it goes against sound judgment. But the first part of the ESV states clearly isolation is not good and goes against the desires of God, for man “seeks his own desire” in being a hermit. The NIV uses the word “unfriendly.” Now I’m thinking of a mean and grouchy man when that word is used, perhaps a grouchy man that is selfish, naturally. That makes total sense. But the ESV version really made me reflect. If I isolate myself, I pursue my own selfish desires, and therefore, it is not good, for any emphasis on self detracts from God’s command to love Him and others.

I’ll admit. I espoused George Washington’s international policy of isolationism in my social life, summed up like this: meddling in others’ affairs or making yourself known or making a scene or being assertive was not for me. The books were safe and predictable. And so, I passed through high school with perfect grades, a few close friends, and no social life. And then college happened. SOCIAL LIFE! WOOHOOOO! It was like a drug. Where have you been all my life?! I do believe I went a little over the top my freshman year, always trying to be involved in all the dorm activities, always trying to get “that” boy’s attention (does he like me? do I like him?), finally living the “wild” (in a very clean way) life I never had. It was like I was on fire. I can’t say it was healthy, but, there is a balance. Man, should not isolate himself.

“No man is an island.” How many times have you heard that? Did you know it’s a quote from John Donne’s poem? Here’s the rest of it:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Donne points out that our lives are all intertwined. When one man passes, a part of someone else dies. A life touches another, ignites a soul, makes someone else come alive. It’s powerful.

You know what else is also powerful? The Trinity. God loves relationship, and He Himself is involved in the most loving, giving, and sacrificial relationship of all with the Son and the Holy Spirit, all three in perfect communion. In the beginning, He said, “Let us create…” Who is us? The Trinity. He created man and said it was not good for him to be alone, and once he had a companion and creation was completed after mankind, he said it was VERY good. Not just good.

I realized in this verse, that I am depriving others by isolating myself. Many times I have told myself and others that basically I’m doing myself a favor by not getting close to them. By not opening up my heart and who I really am. But in actuality, this is can be a cover up for my own selfish fears of being hurt. But, I am hurting other people if I do not interact with them. God commands us to love others through actions and words, to grieve with others, to confess our sins, to basically be transparent and forgiving and joyful in others’ successes.

What do I have to give? you may ask. YOURSELF. You’re one of a kind. Why would God make people so different if He didn’t take joy in that? If he didn’t find you and your individual identity important? Share a smile, kinds words, a hug. These are simple gestures that can mean so much. Once I risked deeper friendships, I learned to risk being vulnerable, and in return, people were vulnerable with me. Together, we could encourage one another in Christ. And we then had a deeper friendship. Sometimes you may feel like you’re the only one giving, but don’t grow weary of doing what’s right. God loved to the point of death. You, then, can love others past your comfort zone.

I didn’t understand true friendship til college. My parents loved me and cared and cried with me. But to have true friends is priceless. I remember when I went through a painful break-up I hid myself in my room, very distraught, and would not come out until my roommate came back. I wouldn’t talk to anyone else in the quad area we shared, I only wanted my roomie. When she came to the door, I greeted her like a blubbering leaking faucet as I garbled out the bad news. I went to hug her, then realized, she was crying! I was confused, and asked why she was crying. I don’t remember her exact words, but she let me sit on her lap and bawl my eyes out. I am so blessed to call her my friend. I didn’t need words then, or explanations or analysis of the scenario, just empathy. Her tears and comfort were more than enough.

Now that I’m out of college and married, I’ve grown to realize the great importance of anti-isolationism. My immediate family doesn’t live here. My husband is my family. My friends are my family. I am there for them, so that in turn, they are there for me. I’m always so grateful when a friend is willing to do a favor for me or when a friend truly wants to spend time with me because they honestly miss me. I love when one of my girl pals texts me and says “I miss you!” or “We need to catch up!” I love honest and open heart to heart conversations. By not having them all these years, I didn’t just hurt myself, but I deprived others of the joy and love God could have conveyed through me to them in their time of need.

Remember: Islands may seem lovely, but only if they’re vacation spots like Hawaii. Risk being vulnerable. Risk being yourself.

Learning to love,
Larkin

Falling is not Failing

Posted: September 18, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Godly Manhood, Godly Womanhood, Testimonies
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If my athlete falls, then did he fail?

Some coaches would say yes. It is obvious to them. You failed to do the skill properly. You failed to do exactly as you were told. You failed to exercise control over your muscles. You failed to land.

You failed.

But gymnasts fall down every day. And even the best gymnast has fallen down. In fact, I would venture to say that is the best gymnasts who have fallen the most.

Gymnastics is a sport with inherent risk—every activity involving height, speed, or motion involves risk. So in training, athletes are bound to fall. It is a calculated risk. A manageable risk. But still a risk none the less.

So when I think of falling, I do not think immediately of failure.

Instead I see the process of perfection, the pursuit of excellence. I see athletes building strength, character, and will. I see athletes disciplining their body and commanding their muscles to obedience.

If they fall, they have not failed. They have discovered and succeeded in finding one more way how not to finish that particular trick.

They have displayed courage and aggression towards their challenge.

They have faced risk and confronted fear and stepped one step closer to mastering the skill.

    Application

Likewise, life is a sport with inherent risk. The chances we take can lead to a solid landing, or a fall flat to our faces.

I started a business at nineteen years old. Somehow, I pulled the resources together, found and united a staff, and then opened my doors for business in July of 2013.

It was exciting, it was scary, but in this analogy it was a new “skill” for a relatively inexperienced new “athlete.” Sure I trained for it, I was the head coach and manager of a facility before this. Sure I knew the sport, I was a national level judge and elite level athlete. But none the less, the risk was high that I would fall on this new skill, this new adventure.

I knew the risk going in, and almost decided the risk to be too great. I almost considered myself too inexperienced and too young—the rest of the world certainly did.

But I took the advice I had been giving my athletes for years: face the challenge, display the courage, and confront the fear and some one step closer to success.

Even if my business fails, even if I fall flat on my face, I will consider the experience a success.

Because the risk was losing a company, but the potential return on investment, the potential reward… was changing the lives of children, impacting the lives of those around me, becoming an example to those I lead, and leading those in my witnessing field towards Jesus Christ.

The risk was great. The potential was greater. And I believe eternity to be a different place because of the ministry God has given me in gymnastics.

If one day I fall and my business fails, It will simply mean then end of one ministry and the beginning of another—with the same veracity as the one before it.

Falling is not failing.

    Going Deeper

Therefore, my advice—for what is worth—is to be smart. Don’t take on risk for the sake of risk. Don’t fall for the sake of falling. That, I would consider foolish.

My advice is this:

Reach for the stars. Dream big. And do not let anyone tell you that you are too young, or too inexperienced or too (insert any other excuse here) to change the world around you.

Do not let the risk of falling hold you back. As I said before, I think the best gymnasts are the ones who have fallen the most. They have certainly trained the most, they have certainly worked the most, and they are certainly the ones with the most exposure to, and risk of, falling.

Whatever you are, be the best at it.

If you are going to dream, dream big. If you are going to work, work hard. If you are going to reach, reach for the stars (because even if you fall, you’ll still land in the clouds).

Falling is not failing.
Failing to try—that is failure.

-Nicholas Minney

Simply put, high school can be rough. Not even considering the stress of Calculus, Chemistry, and ten-page essays, there still remains the constant drama of the high school social scene. I’m sure you don’t have to be reminded of the nasty back-stabbing, black-mailing, and straight up cruelty that goes on at school, on the weekends, and even on the internet. As a Christian young man or woman, though, you are called by your Creator and Savior to rise above this insanity. I encourage you, as Paul encouraged the Romans in his letter to them, to “not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Sometimes taking a stand for the Lord and not caving into the world can be tough, especially on a secular campus where you feel you’re the only one in a sea of many. I, too, remember feeling like I was coasting through high school, trying to do my best but never radically going against the flow.

But take heart; if you truly have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are more than equipped to combat the high school drama scene with His design for real relationships. The foundation for deep, meaningful relationships lies in no other source than Jesus Himself. Before you can nurture solid friendships, your friendship (and intimacy) with the Father must come first. He should be your everything, and as you seek Him, you will become more like Him. Take a look at Galatians 5: 19-21: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, orgies, and the like…” Sounds a lot like high school, doesn’t it? But keep reading through verse 26: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentles and self-control… Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another.” By seeking after your Lord daily, and becoming closer with Him, you will develop these qualities and no longer be needy and selfish. And guess what? It’s when you’re at this point, that you are ready and equipped to be a real friend and experience radical relationships, God’s way.

So now that we’ve reviewed the worldly way of friendships, let’s take a look at what God’s Word has to say about true friendship. The writer of Ecclesiastes paints a picture of what friendship looks like: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who has no one to help him up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) God clearly has made relationships, and wants friendships to be a mutual source of encouragement. You should give as much or more than you take, in order to maintain and show God’s love in your friendships.

Sometimes, though, developing friendships can be difficult. How do you get started? Well, as a wise man once said, “You have to be a friend to have friends.” Paul lays out a beautiful guideline of what self-sacrificial love and friendship should look like for believers: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Now, this is much easier said than done, and seems simpler on paper. What this passage means is that when your friend works hard and aces that test, you rejoice with her instead of resorting to self-pity and envy, and when she hurts your feelings and genuinely asks for forgiveness, you give it to her instead of holding it against her.

Truly, relationships in the body of Christ can be filled with Christian love and unity when Jesus is the center. The psalmist in Psalms 133:1 declares, “How beautiful and pleasing it is when brothers live together in unity!” Before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father about unity among believers: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the disciples’] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23) It’s simply beautiful how this love triangle works, with Jesus, the Father, and believers. Jesus is one with the Father, and through His sacrifice has restored us to the Father, so that we too may be one with Him and have unity among fellow Christians. And, we have the His strength and pure love to share with non-believers. So next time you are overwhelmed with the chaos of relationships, remember that His love empowers you to have real, deeper relationships, the kind He designed His children to enjoy.

-Larkin