Thursday, August 30, 2012

Good and Evil: the story of two Annalieses

(This is a long one, so prepare yourself.  If you're interested in just the scriptures: Romans 7:7-25 -> Romans 8:1-17 -> Romans 11:28-36 -> Romans 12:1-2.)

I find that sometimes I choose to do things that are clearly against what I believe.  

I willfully choose rebellion.

I don't understand myself when I do this, but I do it anyway.  Whether it's "oh, one more time won't hurt," or "no one will find out," or "I've been doing this for years, who's going to blame me if I keep doing it," or "but I really really really want to..." or any other inane justification, I so often convince myself it's a good idea that I can do whatever it is that's clearly not justified (else, I wouldn't be grasping at straws like I am).  

Usually this action is immediately followed with kicking myself, or remorse, or tears, or anger, or regret, or guilt, or frustration.  Usually I realize immediately how silly it is to presume that I know everything, that I am the wise One who can lead my life in a correct and true path.

Sometimes, however, I spend a few days in blatant denial: yes, I know it was wrong, and I don't care.  Nope, don't care.  Not sorry.  Not apologizing.  Don't expect an apology: I wanted to do it, so I did it. So there.

After a day or two of that...I slowly being to think that maybe, after all, I should be sorry.  Maybe that wasn't the best idea.  Maybe, even though I don't see anything detrimental, I don't see "how far the ripples of [my] decisions go" either, and that one willful rebellion could have an effect about which I am ignorant.

Sometimes, I know what I did was incorrect, wrong--insert word here--and yet I struggle with feeling sorry for it.  It's not that I don't want to, it's just...I don't know what it is: I have spent long enough justifying my actions to myself that when I try to come clean and admit I was wrong...I won't let myself.

Confusing, right?

Thankfully, I'm not alone.  I was flipping pages today to try to find words that would make me feel the guilt, make me feel the evilness of what I've accomplished all by myself, and I came upon the book of Romans.
I literally just read through this book a few months ago...didn't remember any of this.

In Romans 7:7-25, Paul discusses the law and sin.  His main point in 7-13 is that the creation of law also gave us awareness of sin (This is in several places besides 7-13).  Without the law saying what is good, we would not know what, then, is bad.  He goes on to say that because of our awareness, temptation is then presented in every way, shape, and form possible.  It's kind of like when someone tells you: Hey, don't think about the word "Green" for 30 seconds.  Your brain doesn't say "Yellow! Orange! Blue! Blue! Red! Purple! etc" it says "Stop thinking about green, don't think about green, don't think about the green grass...etc"  The same happens with sin, according to Paul here.
14-25 is the fairly recognizable, super confusing passage about doing what you don't want to do, and not doing what you do want to do.


I mean, really.  I do things I know are stupid, things I shouldn't want to do, and if I'm thinking rationally, don't really want to do...and I don't do the things that are good, pleasing, perfect, humble, Christ-like: the things I should want to do, and if I'm thinking rationally, do want to do.

Why?? Because of the sin nature that is waging war against the members of my body.
My body belongs to God: He created it, He saved it, He owns it.  My heart belongs to God, I consciously made the decision to give it back to Him.  My nature is sinful: I am a human, a member of a fallen race, and I am tempted.  Paul says it quite poignantly in verses 24-25: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

The Lord rescues me from this body of death, this body full of sinful nature.  He gives me new life in the mind, a life full of the Spirit, of Truth--it is this part of me that becomes a bondservant to God's good and perfect law.  It is this that fights against the sinful nature that is a slave to sin.

So basically...I have two "me's:" a good one and a bad one.  Great, I have an evil twin, and she's me.

As if that passage wasn't confusing enough, now I'm saying that I'm two selfs.  Except I'm not schizophrenic...I promise.  In all seriousness, that's a pretty difficult thing to come to terms with: I am always at war with myself.  I am always deciding which path to take, the one full of grace and light, or the one full of edgy and rebellious experiences.
Like I was saying earlier, I sometimes choose the rebellion.  I sometimes choose the sin nature: that makes me a pretty poor servant of God, don't you think?

Well...Romans 8:1-17 discusses that a little.
I am obligated, because of the life God has willingly given, and the life I've asked for when accepting it, I am obligated to live according to the word of God because He has made me live when my body was dead because of sin.  When I do not live according to his word and his will, I am no longer in his presence...indeed I cannot be, as I am imperfect.  But...1-4 gives me hope: there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, because Christ's sacrifice was greater than the punishment by the law. I can stand, no longer condemned by my rebellious actions, because 1) Christ has paid my penalty, 2) He forgives me when I mess up again, and 3) I have accepted his sacrifice as covering me.  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

That's me, whether I'm acting like it or not.  That's me, I have no condemnation because of the gracious love and sacrifice of Christ.  Even if I rebel, even if I respond to the wrong self.  I tear up a little, finally, after reading and re-reading this...He loves me, He forgives me: His grace is limitless.  I cannot comprehend it.

Neither could Paul when he wrote (and quoted from Isaiah and Job) this doxology in Romans 11:33-36:
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen."

What does all this mean?
1) I am always at war with myself: I have to sides to choose from, Godly and Worldly.
2) I will sometimes choose Worldly, because that is my nature.
3) I am no longer mine, God has claimed me: I am now a bondservant of His instead of the world's.
4) Because of this I have no condemnation, even when I mess up: Christ's grace covers me.
5) I do not deserve it: I am nothing compared to the Creator of the Earth and the heavens.

So?  What then?

Romans 12:1-2:
"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. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Water Conservation Station: Water Blogging

Gotta give props to my office for letting me start this blog.  Readers, I'll love you forever if you check it out.  Become members, comment on it, let us know what you think, what you'd like to see, etc etc.
So. Excited. To be part of this new step for the Water Conservation Office!

Water Conservation Station: Water Blogging: So this is new: a government organization blogging.    As an intern, I’m nervous to be the first to post on this blog for the Water Co...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Doubt and Decisions

It's been a while, blog-o-sphere.  I've been too busy to have time to myself to think and write.  Or...when I had time to myself, I used it for other things, like sleeping, or reading, or playing (yes, 22year olds still play).
But, now that it's summer, and I have long, solitary hours in the lab to think, I haven't been able to stop.

Weird thing about active imaginations is they never really shut up.  It can be handy, if you're bored, but if you're introspective, it borders on the dangerous.  If you spend too much time thinking about yourself, you start doubting everything you are, everything you've done, everything you could do, everything you want.

Once you spend a few weeks doing that--and believe me, I have--you start to wonder, who am I, exactly?  Sounds pretty weird coming from a confident person (or at least a mostly-confident person).  Sounds pretty weird coming from a person who's known at least an outline of what her career would be since she was 6.  Sounds pretty weird, and totally conceivable, to me.
Doubt is a funny thing: when people confront you about it, you never have it, but when you're alone, when you ask will always have Doubt.  But once you admit to yourself that you have it, it doesn't begin to lighten, to back off, it just gets heavier and more prevalent.  It begins to consume every thought, particularly when you have extended periods of alone time.

For me it's particularly present when I return to my hometown.  It's a small enough town that there are memories on pretty much every route to every location; memories that are good, bad, or a little of both.  These memories plague my thoughts as I cruise around, taunting me with past decisions, some still tantalizing, some discouraging, some merely nostalgic.  It makes for a very interesting internal dialogue, with too many "what-ifs" to count.  These what-ifs are formed by that Doubt that loves to haunt the recesses of my memories, my inmost thoughts.  It's a nasty thing, Doubt, that shows its face on vacation, on relaxation-time, on alone time (which is much needed for this closet introvert).  This year, it took me breaking down to my mom for us to realize that it's not just me that goes through this.  Yes, there's nothing new under the sun, no, I'm not special in my brand of issues, but this particular internal pain of doubting decisions seemed so strange that I was sure not many felt it.  Turns out the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

The story gets better, though, I promise.

We realized some things, my mom and I--well, she realized them years ago, she led me to these thoughts during that kitchen-table-breakdown.
There will always be Doubt.  There will always be "what-ifs," that's the fine print that comes with an independent mind, with a free will.  There will always be one road you didn't take, one choice you didn't choose.  That's the backwards joy that comes with the imaginations we've been given: there is always more than one option, more than one decision you can make.  There is always more than one voice you can listen to: Doubt, Fear, Pride, Joy, Hatred, Faith, Lust, Selfishness, Truth, the list goes on.  
You just have to decide: which voice do you listen to?  Which voice will give you the confidence to respond to Doubt's "what-ifs" with a defiant "so-what?"  I've chosen what I've chosen because of the voices I've listened to.  No, it's not the same voice all the time, yes, my life would look different if I only chose to listen to only one, yes, there are things that could have been different...but they're not.  They are what they are, and until we master time travel, Doubt just serves as a painful reminder that we're human, and faith in ourselves will lead to trouble.  
Faith in the voice that you listen to will dictate your response when that voice of Doubt whispers softly in your ear.  

You have to choose which voice to listen to.  I've chosen, and Doubt won't win this one, no matter how sweet that whisper is.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February--the love month.

Writing is a funny thing.  When I want to write, I find myself speechless; when I need to be doing other things, I find myself bursting at the seams with words that must go onto paper.  Today is one of those awkward times when I both want to write and need to be doing other things, but I find myself struggling to begin speaking on anything of consequence, or anything inconsequential.

Even the weather is uninspiring, though beautiful.  It's too cold to sit outside, but too pretty to remain indoors.  I've landed with my back to an open window, providing a stiff breeze and sunshine at once on the back of my neck.

Such is February: a month of almost's, and nearly there's, and infuriatingly so-close-but-yet-so-far moments.
This isn't even in reference to Valentine's Day, which passed without much hullabaloo one way or another this time around.  I baked for my class, shared the leftovers with Warnell boys, and spent the remainder of the evening with the Valentines God has recently blessed with me--my LOL girls.  We watched a portion of One Night with the King, one of the most beautiful stories of a man and a woman--except for maybe Ruth and Boaz, or the Lover and Beloved of Song of Solomon--that has ever been written.

In retrospect, I take it back, Valentine's Day was a wonderful reminder of the greatest Valentine of all, my Lord and Savior.  Stereotypical, yes, but I'm holding to it, not backing down.  His love has been proved to me over and over without a shadow of a doubt, that I don't need a red-and-pink-bedecked card or a bouquet of freezer-scented roses to be assured that my God loves me.  The brush of the wind against my cheek, the hug of a friend, the sun-kissed mornings, the sweet wake-up text of a family member, the stolen moments in the Word, the open doors for a heart's desire: these things leave me breathless with the romance that is from my Lord.  Even now, with the month of almost's almost over, I can look at my roommate and her boyfriend, sitting on our couch, also relishing in the sun-kissed day of February 25th, and see the love and grace of God emanating from them.  They don't know I write about them, but that is neither here nor there.  God's love is here, however, and that's what matters.

How great is the love He has for us, that we might bask--knowingly or unknowingly--in the glories of his creation at all times, in all situations, with all attitudes!  How endless is the love that served as the impetus for the creation of this beautiful Earth, these beautiful people!  How much He lavishes on us that we do not deserve, and do not notice!  Open my eyes to the depths of your love, your provision!  Show me, "until my eyes get tired," to borrow a phrase from needtobreathe.  My heart is already flooded with love of You and from You, but, Lord, fill it to overflowing!  May this February not be a month of almost's, but a month of too much's: too much joy, too much growth, too much grace, too much love to encompass in words so frail-ly scribbled--or typed--by these hands.

Maybe I spoke too soon, maybe there was inspiration in today.  Yes, I know there was, otherwise this would have ended somewhere in the third paragraph--a dismally short, and rather empty, post.  Instead, You never cease to gently remind me that there is always inspiration, there is always something worth spending words on, there is always a reason to rejoice.  Always.  That reason is you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Psalm try #2

Lord, time with you is much more
  valuable than sleep,
for it is in you that my
  soul finds rest.

It is in the shadows of your might presence
  that I find solace and comfort.
It is in you
  that my soul finds completion and peace.
It is in your Word
  that the world becomes brighter,
  more manageable.
It is in your presence
  that I find life and love.
It is in those moments of pure joy
  --only capable through your Holy Spirit--
  that I find myself alive as never before.

In your mountains
  I find power.
In your peaks
  I find your perfection.
In your oceans
  I find your passion, your true force.
In your animals
  I find your gentleness.
In your mountain flowers
  I find your peace.
In your conifers
  I find your elegance.
In the flowers of the field
  I find your smile.
In your birds of the air
  I find your freedom.
In the still of the night
  I find the vastness of your beauty.

In everything
  I find I cannot escape your presence.
In everything I find you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Army and God have same Goal of Unification...wait, what?

So, I'm on the prayer team for the Perspectives class--  Originally, I must confess I was skeptical about the class, the class's mission, and the legitimacy of the organization.  I told my friend I'd be on the prayer team even though I wasn't sure why I was agreeing to pray for something that I didn't particularly trust.  However, God's definitely changed my heart over the course of 3 weeks of being true to this promise--well almost.  I missed last week, and doubled up on my time for this week.  Praise God for that!  But this morning, while I was praying for the listed requests, particularly for the believers in Athens, it occurred to me that all the scriptures about Christians being an army on the march could and should apply to the way we commit ourselves to the Lord.  I wanted to re-write my prayer so I didn't freak anyone out by praying on the blog...but the most effective way for me to get what I'm saying across to you is to just go with what I said first.

I pray this for all the believers in Athens and otherwise: strip us of ourselves so that your Glory and Power and Goodness will not be hidden by anything we have made ourselves.  What an honor to have the God of the Universe manifesting Himself in us!  How could we hide such glory?  Lord we are so prideful.  I am so prideful.  Strip me of myself.  Leave only what you want.  Show the world yourself through my words and actions.  Lord how powerful you are to do such things to your creations.  How beautiful your glory is when untainted by poor human efforts.  Lord we have no right to edit You.  You are unchanging, you are constant, you are eternal, and it is You who we are to show to the world, not to ourselves.  God this is a huge task.
This is heavy, this is difficult, this requires your believers to give up themselves and conform to your orders -- much like an army man does for his commanding officer, or for his army.  Lord I used to think that the Army was mean and old-fashioned to take away the individuality of the faithful and replace it with the Army-man.  But I understand now.  To have an effective minister, ambassador, member, of an organization, he or she must conform completely and truly to the ideals of the Head. much more should we so do that for You?  You desire only good, perfect, and eternal things for your children.  We have nothing to fear in giving up ourselves for your plan.  Lord you are Perfect, how could we not desire to become vessels for you?  Show me how to put on your fatigues, put on your uniform, and never take it off.  Show the city of Athens how to do the same thing.  Show all your believers how to unite under the colors of your Gospel and fight for your true, unadulterated name to be known throughout the nations.

Show me how to use this blog for your glory, not for my own.  Let my words be yours.

Amendment:  After speaking with a valued friend last night (1/28) about this, I must make the concession that while God and the Army have similar requirements of their followers, the Army is a human institution, and God is the one Perfect being in this universe.  That being said, I admire those in the armed forces--not just the Army--that have the respect to give themselves to the ideals of our country's defense.  And yet, how much more of an honor is it to give up yourself to become a member of the kingdom of God and his Perfection!  How easy it should be for us to be willing to give up our imperfect selves to that the God of perfection can complete his work on our hearts!  O!  LORD give me the humility to see how infinitely greater you are than I could ever be on my own!