Can I Do This?

There are many things that I find about my life now which cause me to consider myself, that that I would have never though were a part of me. What I mean by this is that at some point in the previous months and years, I would never have said that I was so much of an introvert that I would so close to tears at the idea of going somewhere new with people I don’t know. Yet, I will honestly say that is exactly how I have felt on multiple occasions as I begin to adapt to a different culture. Some of you will disagree with this only because you know me from previous moments.

I can feel myself being pulled out of my comfort zone at random moments. My tendency is to fight it, to draw back feigning security and knowledge in my comfort zone. It feels like a huge magnet—the new experience being the positive charge and I the negative charge. Did you as a kid ever play with those magnet dogs? When turned the correct way, one couldn’t go anywhere else except be drawn to its magnetizing partner. If you turned one the wrong way, you could chase the other magnet around forcing it to repel its partner.

That’s a good picture of me. I find myself drawn to this new culture, this new life. It is different. Yet, part of me wants to repel so much, to run away. I want to learn to adapt, to understand and enjoy but I wouldn’t mind going back to all things that are familiar. I’m a walking contradiction. All this was brought on by the simple knowledge that I needed to try my hand at riding a МАШРУТКА (said ma-shrew-t-ka) or bus taxi. With no language and a minimal idea of the city, I was expected to find my way to my language lesson on the other side of the river. With one of three bridges being unavailable for use, the routes of the buses changed. My handy map with bus #’s for the different streets had the possibility of leading me wrong.

I sat down for breakfast and read the words: When I said that without faith it was impossible to please Me, consider My reasoning. First of all, faith is being sure of what is hoped for and being certain that I will bring it to pass—regardless of what you can or cannot see. It is by faith that you accepted Me into your heart and by faith you are saved. It is by grace, not by works. Learn to cast all your cares upon Me, for I care for you. I am interested in everything that pertains to you. I created you, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I would not have settled for anything less. Let Me ask you this: Would you trust a perfect stranger? Certainly not. Trust and faith are the same. You cannot have one without the other. How can you have faith in someone you do not know and trust? You must learn to hear My voice and seek My face. All the faith you need is the size of a mustard seed. Consider the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds; yet, when grown to its full maturity, it becomes the largest of all. – Your Father (Taken from the book titled Hear His Voice by Michael J. Lusardi)

Yes, I know He cares even about a bus ride. Yes, I know it can’t be that complicated. Yes, I know that it is only a bus ride. Yes, I know I have the potential of sounding like a complete silly girl. What can I say? It’s all so new and strange and different!

As it turned out, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought. It just felt like I was jumping out into something new. I was terrified but I didn’t have reason to be terrified. The story goes like this: I found a taxi with the number I thought would take me to my desired drop off spot. We headed in the right direction and then promptly made a right turn I knew we shouldn’t have. The bus stopped and everyone started getting off and I was confused. Everyone was almost off the bus and I was still sitting there. An elderly lady started speaking to me and all I could do was look at her and shake my head. “I don’t know what you are saying.” I thought. I got off and found another bus with the same number so assuming it would take me to where I needed to go, I got on there to await the bus driver’s departure. Instead, we went back the direction I came from and continued on in the opposite direction that I needed to go. Again in indecision, I wasn’t sure if I should just stay on to see where I ended up or get off with no idea how to go where I needed to go. My stress mounted as the time crept closer to my 9am class. As we came to a stop out in what felt like the middle of nowhere, I spied some taxi drivers. Without much thought, I jumped from my seat. Because I had no idea how to say I wanted off, the driver began to inch back to the road. I made it to poking his shoulder while someone yelled for me to stop (or I’m assuming that’s what they said) and paid my fee without looking back.

I wish I could have taken a few steps back to take a photo of what took place next but obviously I could not. I grabbed my map from my purse and walked directly to the four older men smoking and talking. In perfect English I asked them by pointing to the map. “I want to go here. Can someone take me there?” What I didn’t know was that no one in this land looks at maps so this isn’t a typical thing for them. The four men talked among themselves until one indicated that he knew where I wanted to go and would take me. Off I went. He took me exactly where I needed to go and I was only 5 minutes late to class.

At the end of the day, I heard that voice inside me remind me of the words I read that morning. Learn to cast all your cares upon Me, for I care for you. Have faith in me. Listen to My voice. I can smile at these gentle reminders but it isn’t easy. I can sit here and look back to days not long ago. I knew that I needed to become a student, willing to learn from Father. I thought I had done so. Instead I found myself in a place where who I am and what I can do really has no value at this point. It really doesn’t matter how good at accounting or marketing or worship leading or any of the other things I could put behind my name. It makes no difference at all. Instead, I find myself at my most basic point in life—back to the days of a baby—except, as an adult, it is more difficult to be willing to be in baby stages.

Another story to prove my point. Today in one of my language classes I sat and read extremely simple Bible stories. Simple as in: Adam and Eve were created by God. He made the trees and the flowers and the sun. Nothing complex. I read them in a different language. If you had been there, you would have heard me sounding out my words just like a little kid learning to read. We can all remember those days as a child and back then, we were fine with the gentle prodding to keep going, keep sounding out the words. As an adult, I have been reduced to something so small. It’s hard to remind myself that someday this will begin to make sense, to be a little easier.

After leaving her home, I fell in a small dip in the road. One knee and both palms of my hands connected well with the street. It was enough of a jar to send me almost into fits of obsessive tears of weeping. In the cold and mist, I found myself struggling between the need to just let out the tears and holding it in so the people I walked by wouldn’t think I’m strange. I evaluated the reason I needed to cry. Was I longing for home? Am I homesick? Is this stress talking? Or was there something deeper here that I’m not seeing? Once again I found myself in conversation and found that I could not pin point my feelings to one thing. I just wanted/needed to cry it out. I do want to learn but why did He have to choose such a difficult and simple road for me? Sigh…

It is so humbling to be in language learning. I have much to be thankful about indeed—I didn’t sprain or break anything; I have great teachers and helpers who are patient and willing to help me understand both language and culture; I am making progress in the small things. If I feel this way, how much more difficult it must have been to take on a human form and be limited as we are by time and energy?

My only response is that I must bow my head. Who am I to complain about such a time in my life when I can see what it must have been like for Jesus to come to our world? Who am I to struggle with a different language when Jesus continually had to speak in terms we could understand? Who am I? Oh that I would learn how to be Mary! Oh that I would learn!

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Shelter Needed

Last night I was invited to a coworker’s house who is originally from a country close to where I’m headed. In the span of 2 hours, I received a small taste of how overwhelming, how fascinating, how difficult the first 3 months will be when I leave all that is familiar to me, all that I know, all the stuff I don’t have to think about here. I entered their house and entered into a world of things unfamiliar.

I was brought to their table to eat supper and was immediately thrown into complete observance and prayer that I did not offend by my lack of knowledge. Flexibility is key, right? So I observed. We prayed standing. I listened to a foreign language in prayer knowing that I stood among my brothers and sisters. I sat and looked at the food. I watched my plate being filled and had no idea if it would be offensive if I should speak up because they were putting too much food on my plate or I should just stay silent. I didn’t know if I should wait till everyone was served before starting to eat. I did not understand why I did not have water with my meal. As the meal progressed, the language was being taught to me, pictures were shown to me of beloved people back home, the lay of the land was painted for me, the way of the people was explained to me. Hot black tea arrived with a bowl of honey. I did not know I was supposed to dip my spoon in the bowl for something sweet to balance the bitterness of the black tea. Dessert was set before me – chocolates, two kinds of cakes. I had no idea if I was supposed to eat or not eat or take for myself or wait to be served. I was full but knowing the daughter made the dessert, I had no idea if I was offending by not trying each thing. I prayed that I didn’t offend her dear heart by not trying the delicious looking dessert. I learned to never fill a tea cup full because that is offensive. Always fill it half way which is inviting the person to stay and visit for a while.

An hour and a half into our time and I already felt my brain shutting down from an exhausting day and yet still the lessons kept coming my way. We moved to another room where I was asked to play the piano. Then I sat and listened to the family play and sing while their little girl tried to be sneaky and pull my phone off my lap. A few moments before I left, I was asked if I knew Psalm 121 to which I could not not recall the verses. So he, his wife, and oldest son sang and played a song with the words of the Psalm. Afterwards he said that this is their prayer as a family for me, that when things are hard and frustrating I remember these words:

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper…”.

I left their house with the stark realization that I am about to leave all that is familiar, all that I know, all the things I just do without thought of why I do them. And I will leave and place myself into all that is very unfamiliar, all that I do not understand with the hopes and prayers that I don’t offend in my ignorance. I realized that being a student is hard to do. Almost two years ago, I felt God asking me to become a Mary and become a student and I took it on with eagerness. Now I see that I will experience an even greater student experience. After saying all this, the only thing that quiets my soul are verses that I read a little bit ago which have been coming to mind a lot lately. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High God…”.

Oh that we find shelter in our God, people! Oh that we find our shelter in God!

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I’m not so free

It’s been awhile. Yeah, I know. It is not because I don’t have anything to say. It’s more like I just don’t make the time to sit and right out what is happening inside my heart. But alas, I’m about to. So what is going on inside me? Lots of things. Lots of random things. I’m not even sure this post will make sense, only that it breathes air into the lungs of random things happening deep inside me.

For instance,

Two odd things happened in my life during the same week. I was in training on the idea of Sabbath aka rest. Rest with God. Rest in my soul. Rest. Sabbath. What makes me feel joy and pleasure? Tis the question of two weeks ago. Anyhow we tried this new-for-me way of reading Scripture. We took a story from Scripture and read it four times each with a different perspective. The first time we read it just to read it. The next time we paid attention to words or phrases that jumped out to us. The third time we looked for where we found ourselves in the story. Fourthly, we just rested in the story.

One story found the disciples trying to keep children away from Jesus. As it turns out, Jesus slightly reprimands them for doing so. Instead, Jesus welcomes them, beckons them to come close, to touch and bless them. As I put myself in the story, I found that I was a child being hindered from coming to Jesus, discouraged for my desire to be known by Jesus, to experience His blessing in my life. I saw myself being ushered from Jesus, hearing the excuses on why this isn’t right–you are too dirty, your dress isn’t pretty enough, this doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know, it has to be blasphemy, etc. I found that my heart had this desperate cry to run from, be disobedient to my elders, to go against the grain just so that I could experience the joy of just being with Jesus.

Then the next story was the story of Lazarus. In this case we were to imagine ourselves as Lazarus. Put ourselves in the story. Imagine becoming sick and expecting my great friend who has the power to heal me to come to my side as soon as he finds out how deathly sick I am. Yet, Jesus doesn’t come and with that knowledge I die. I’m wrapped in cloth, prepared for burial and with the sound of stone against stone, my tomb is sealed. The realness of death strikes out at my friends and family. And then something completely exotic happens. Tingling, goose bumps, a tiny breeze-and in my mind I hear this crystal clear voice ringing out my name, “Crystal, come out!” So I stumble with difficulty, bound by “clothes”. I want to be free but I need help. Once again I’m bound but the crazy thing is that as I allowed this story to unfold in my brain, I found my first reaction to be one of laughter. As soon as someone ripped off the grave clothes from around my mouth all I wanted to do was laugh. I wanted to look at my family and friends and laugh. I wanted to say “I got you guys! Wasn’t that the greatest trick ever!!!!” I smile just thinking of those thoughts.

Even still, these days I’m in transition. I need to let go of the things that I love here and prepare for life in another culture very soon. It’s hard to care as deeply as I once did with the details of this life right now. It’s hard to experience things like the last company picnic. I’m not the only one recognizing these things. My church just had a church retreat, another “last” for me for awhile. Someone walked up to me and asked how it feels. Well, I don’t know. How would you feel if this was you? – is what I would love to ask back.

There are no words. I don’t like transition but even more I don’t like these hidden feelings of being bound either. I want to be free. I want to be me. Wait. I say that I want to be me but the reality is that I have no idea who me really is. Hm…now that I think about it, a great fear inside me is that if I discover who me is, will those around me be okay with the me that is me? And if not, then will I forever live in these grave clothes, will I always be hindered from knowing Jesus’ embrace, His delight, His blessing?

Indeed, I’m not so free after all. Oh the musings running through my brain…

P.s…I apologize now if there are typos and grammatical errors. I just didn’t have the energy to critique myself tonight. I just needed to let this come out. Sorry if my unedited self causes you to cringe. Hey! Maybe it’s a sign of freedom coming out in the smallest form! I’m free!!! Lol…

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Insight 101

I don’t really have insight like something from God that has been shown to me. It’s more like what I’m observing. I’m working through various subjects for pre-training. There is a lot of ground to cover, very in-depth thought processing going on here. Training starts in two weeks and I have a ton of ground to cover even before that. However, the thoughts swirling around my brain are some really big and lofty thoughts. All of them boil down to living a life that I tend to teach/preach/talk about. It’s about a joy for Jesus and the need to carry it out in the day-to-day life I live.

I’m reading a book as part of my pre-training titled When Helping Hurst by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. One of the lines that has been highlighted in the book is this: “If Christ is Lord of all, how do we do farming, business, government, family, art, etc., to the glory of God?” It’s an all-time question I have found myself contemplating over time. How do I do accounting to God’s glory? How do I market and advertise for God’s glory? How do I drive my car, buy groceries, take care of the kids, mow the grass, make supper, tend the garden for the glory of God? How does my day-to-day life reflect God’s glory?

Do you know? I remember reading back in the day of high school a story of a monk who learned to praise God while peeling potatoes, working in the garden and sitting down for prayer. I want to learn how to do that. I want to know how to reflect God’s glory in every aspect of my life, in real practical, down-to-earth style. That’s what I want. But how does one learn that? What are the steps to accomplishing this kind of lifestyle?

Mom asked me the other day, “So why do you have to go to Kyrgyzstan to learn any of this?” Good question and one I have no answer to. Why do I have to trade places? I don’t think I’m going to get the answer to that question and I’m not sure I really want an answer to it anyhow. I don’t know what God is going to do with all these thoughts swirling around my brain, all these questions, all these ponderings. I don’t know of what is lying in wait for me in the land of Kyrgyzstan. I do know that I’m headed that direction. I know it is the right move and I know it deep in my heart, however hard that is to comprehend at times.

Maybe you have experience or insight you can share on this subject. How do you live out God’s glory in your life, in your every moment, in your everyday life? What does it look like for you to farm, do business, work in the government, your family, your art projects?

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Why is Truth Painful?

Right now I find myself sitting with my leg propped up and an ice bag on my knee. If you follow me personally on Facebook, you already know my latest and greatest “life” story. If not, I’ll indulge just so we are on the same page.

It all started yesterday when I was pumping gas. Without a coat and wearing only sandals, I didn’t want to brave the wind and the rain. I started the gas pump and proceeded to step over the gas line in an effort to wait inside my car while the pump did its thing. In one split second, my sandal caught the gas line pump. One minute I was vertical and the next minute I was horizontal soaking up all the water puddles. Two things came to mind right away. #1 – I was getting wetter the more I laid there and #2 – I was in quite a bit of pain.

I jumped up and looked behind me to the girl pumping at the pump beside me. She asked if I was okay and of course, my immediate response was “Yeah, I’m alright.” I jumped into my car. As my butt hit the seat, the first wave of pain took my breath away. I was in bad shape. Looking back to this moment it dawned on me how my knee jerk reaction is to make it seem good. “I’m fine” always comes out whether it is true or not true at all. As I waited in my car for the gas pump to shut off I found myself inhaling deep breaths as my body went into some type of pain shock.

Isn’t this true of all life though? Maybe I’m the only one that has this face epidemic – one where life is always fine.

On the flip side, maybe this reaction to always being fine has been born out of feeling like no one really cares. I mean, what would she have done if I had said that I was in extreme pain at that exact moment? We were complete strangers. Would she have found a Band-Aid for me? Would she have helped stop the blood flowing? Would she have finished pumping my gas for me? What would she have done? Or would she have felt awkward and unsure of what to do? How do you help a complete stranger?

I wasn’t fine. I literally crawled out of my car and hobbled to the pump to finish the transaction. The five minute drive from the gas station to my mother’s store to pick her up was completely miserable – one where I just prayed that I would not be blinded by my extensive amount of pain enough to pay attention to traffic. As I pulled into the parking lot I realized that there were still employees of Mom’s still working. The result? I pulled myself together once again. I walked into her office and asked bravely (as if nothing was really wrong) where the First-Aid kit was. Having to explain that I fell to Mom broke the dam and the tears and pain became extremely visible. Even still I didn’t want to show that I was in that much pain.

Why is truth painful?

Why can’t I say I’m not fine when I’m not fine?

Why can’t I be real enough to say that something hurts, life isn’t all hunky dory, and that I’m struggling?

While I sit here and recall the story, I’m positive that it had to have looked funny, especially when the mind’s eye plays the episode in slow-mo version. I shared the humorous tale on Facebook just simply because we all need to laugh. My thoughts for my own self is that I take life way too seriously at times. I share my funny stories of life because I want to laugh. I want to always choose the funny story even when things aren’t so funny and end up being slightly on the painful side.

I write all this because I want to be real. I want to be human. Most times, my perfectionist side comes out and I want to be all buttoned up and appear as though I’ve got it all together. I really don’t want this. Deep down, I want to be real. I want to open. I want to be human. By default, I always switch to the perfection side. It is moments like tripping over a gas line pump that remind me of my truest desire – to be real. I want my faith in Jesus Christ to be real too.

So here it is. My painful confession. Right here for you to read.

I’m in a ton of pain.

Literally, my body feels like I’ve been through a war.

Emotionally, I’m exhausted because I’ve made some conscious decisions to change up my life in the next couple of months in some really drastic ways. Yeah, stay tuned.

Spiritually, I feel as though I’ve lost my mind but that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Physically, tired as well. So tired that I put my car in park while I waited for the train on the track to clear. In seconds, I was fast asleep and awoke to find myself with no cars around. Thankfully no one was behind me to blow their horn. But it did make me smile….I think I need a vacation or something!

And you know what? It feels good to be real. It feels good to have it all on the table. It feels good to know that I don’t have to have everything together. It feels good to acknowledge, at least to myself, that I am human and bound to make mistakes. And I’m convinced that the more I recognize and admit to my humanness that I will find God to be all the more real to me.

Here’s to the gas line pump who tripped me up!

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On My Way to Discovering Who I Was Meant To Be

Would I change what I’ve come through? Do I regret the pain I’ve experienced? Do I regret forcing those around me to deal with my willingness to experience new things? If I could have seen what was in my future would I have skipped these past couple of months?

I say no and I say it with a deep-down-within-me-force of knowledge. Why?

Because….

…I’ve seen my faith in Christ grow.

…I’ve experienced, even if it is but a taste, what it means to leave family and friends.

…I know my faith is strong.

…I know my faith is not hinged upon my parents’ faith or any other’s faith for that matter.

…I know that my faith is not contingent on whether the people surrounding me agree with me.

…I know deep down that I am willing to follow Jesus

…no matter what.

…no turning back.

….though none go with me.

…even if what is before me is so painful.

…I know that I am being prepared for something grander up ahead.

…I know that God has a special plan for me and this plan might not look like what everybody else envisions for me.

…I know what it means to fight through the jungle of fear.

…I know what it looks like to see Jesus’ face.

…I know what it means to cry uncontrollably in the shower because it’s the only place of refuge that no one will hear or see the evidence of such raw emotion.

…I know what it means to feel like I’m walking blindly

…while simultaneously knowing that Jesus has been and is still holding my hand.

…with Jesus looking back at me imploring me to continue trusting Him.

…is drawing me closer to deeper faith with Him.

…is requiring me build a foundational relationship with Him.

Want to know what else I know?

You know those times when you’ve followed someone into a thick forest where the branches of evergreen trees bend down low. Their branch arms reach out and make the path you’re walking on concealed. The person in front usually puts out their arm to bend the tree branches back, effectively clearing the way for you as well. Occasionally one branch slips from the person’s shield to spring back into its proper place and smack into your face. Have you ever experienced this?

Jesus has been this front person for me. He’s been shielding a lot of tree branches for me to walk the path He’s been calling me to. Obviously there have been quite a few that have found their mark on my face or rather my heart. Slap! However, as I feel the thickness of the forest easing up and I can see the path a little more clearly, I realize something. Jesus has shielded me from quite a bit. He’s taken more of my pain and sorrow than I realized. I thought it was awful back there but Jesus paved the way for me.

I survived.

And I am…

…consistently reminded to focus on Jesus alone.

…reminded to keep my hand in Jesus’ hand as He led the way.

…encouraged to discover who Jesus was to me unconcerned with what others thought of me.

…challenged to not allow others to dictate who I am but rather discover who God made me to be.

Therefore…

…I am not out of the woods yet.

…What lies ahead or what seems to be where God is leading me towards it terrifying.

Yet…

…I know where my strength lies.

…I know where my faith begins and ends.

…I see God making me into the woman He has meant me to be.

Please note that I am not advocating rebellion here. Neither am I saying that the words of those surrounding you should not be taken into account. I’m only sharing my story, my life, what I know of my own experience right now. This is part of my story, my proclaiming my own journey towards truth, towards freedom in Christ. I am not perfect.

But I’ve done quite a bit of growing the past couple of months. I can see it in the mirror when I choose to really look. Part of me is truly excited to see where God is taking me on this journey and part of me is just terrified at the next few steps He has laid out for me. But I guess this is what faith is all about, right?

The song by Superchick keeps rolling through my brain. The title of the song is “This is the Time”.

This is the story of your life

A movie starring you.

What’s the next scene have for you to do?

Leave the dishes in the sink

Leave your fear there too

Live the story that you would write for you.

 

Say hey, hey, wake your heart

And break, break, break apart

The walls that keep you from being you.

And walk, walk towards the light

And don’t stop till you live your life

Like someone died for you.

 

This is the time.

Step out, your life is waiting.

And as you fall, you’ll find

That you can fly.

 

You can find a million words

To build a wall of fear

Safe behind that wall, imprisoned here.

Take that someday step today

To who you’re meant to be

And turn your dreams to plans

So you can breathe.

 

Ask anyone whose time is up

What they’d give for what you got

And how they’d live your life

Live like your life’s worth dying for

You’ve just walked out that prison door

And you’ll know how to live your life.

 

This is the time.

Step out, your life is waiting.

And as you fall, you’ll find

That you can fly.

 

Here’s to the journey that I’m on.

But more importantly, I’d love to hear about the journey you are on. Where is Jesus leading you?

Or maybe this is all intriguing to you but you have no idea if you are even on a journey with Jesus. If that’s the case, I’d love to help you with that too.

It’s your turn to share!

 

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Saint or Sinner – I hereby dub you as…

Who are you? Are you a saint or are you a sinner? Answer honestly.

I’ll be fair. This was the topic this morning for a sermon at my church. This was also the opening question given to us from the pulpit. I’m going to admit to you that I labeled myself a sinner with the intent that I want to be a saint after my life is ended. Because the reality is that I know without a shadow of a doubt that I do not qualify as a saint. Let me clarify a few things, okay?

Sinner is by my own perceived definition as someone bad, someone that doesn’t have life together, someone who can’t seem to keep the pieces in place. Now I also know that most people expect those of us who call ourselves “Christian” to not be perfect, to have life figured out. Because when you become a Christian, it is automatically assumed everything wrong inside you just magically evaporates and you are left with perfection. I’m afraid to say it, to uncork the bottle, to open the blinds and let you in on a secret. We, Christians, do not, I repeat, do not have it together. Oh wait. I’ll make that a statement from my own life. I, Crystal, as a Christian, do not have it together. I repeat, I do not have life figured out. The problem is that I choose to live as though I do have it all together.

As a Christian, I still have every awful (sinful) inclination in my body as I did before I choose to ask Jesus into my heart. I’m still bent to be stubborn, maybe tell a little white lie, say hurtful things, become impatient, etc. I still tend to push the speed limits, eat way too much (how can anyone resist chocolate?), waste time, etc. I still have the tendency to just be bad because good takes up too much energy. I’d like to propose that being a Christian is hard work. It ain’t easy living with morals. It ain’t easy putting others first over myself. It just ain’t. Period. Excuse the bad English. Ha!

I was quite confident that I choose the correct answer in the sermon. I am a sinner. I can’t do things correctly. I am trying to live differently, to live as though Christ is everything to me. I want Christ to influence my thoughts, my decisions, my choices. I want this Him as my life. But the very fact that I know what sin is makes sin all that more appealing. Yes, let me repeat that statement too. The fact that I know what classifies sin  as sin makes sin all the more appealing to me. You didn’t see that statement coming, did you? It’s Biblical actually.

Romans 8:15 says, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”

Romans 8:19 says, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”

Both those verses are almost mind twisters, but basically it says two things. #1. What I know to be wrong and I know in my heart I shouldn’t do, I still do it. #2. What I know in my mind as things I should do, I still refuse to do it. I’ll tell you a story, a humorous story from years gone by, to prove my point.

I was meeting my parents at a park to go to a party together. Because I was extremely early in meeting my parents, I decided I would walk to the pavilion in the park to study. In coming close to the pavilion, I realized someone had taken that yellow caution tape with the huge words “DO NOT ENTER” and tied off the entire pavilion. I stood there contemplating what I was going to do. I really wanted to study and I really wanted to be outside. I decided to investigate the scene. I didn’t see anything wrong with the pavilion nor the picnic tables underneath. All appearances to the eye, all seemed well. I disregarded what I knew I shouldn’t do. and I ducked the tape, proceeding towards a picnic table. I put my books and Bible on the table, swung one leg over the bench and proceeded to sit. I rested my one arm on the table top to help balance as I swung my other leg under the table. That’s when I found out why the caution tape was used around the pavilion. My arm came in contact with some very sticky green paint. Yeah, I was that stupid. By this point the damage was already done. I had green paint all over my clothes and arm. To this day, the back cover of my Bible still has green paint on it. Had I just listened to the caution tape…

That’s just a mild example but the principle is what I’m after. We know we should be kind. We know we should be patient. We know we should…fill in the blank. Yet, time and time again we fail miserably because consciously or unconsciously we just don’t want to. Sin takes over. It will always win. On the very rare occasions that I get beyond the temptation of sin and do things contrary to how I’m thinking or feeling, I try to celebrate.

By all definitions, I labeled myself as a sinner. I’m not a saint…yet. I want to be a saint but I’m not there yet. I’m hoping to obtain that right in heaven.

But according to the sermon and according to Scripture, I have been living with a bad self-image of who I am in Christ. There are countless verses within Scripture addressing the saints. Who were the saints?

Romans 1:7 – “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.”

1 Corinthians 1:2 – “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 1:1 – “To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:”

Ephesians 1:1 – “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:”

Philippians 1:1 – “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:”

Colossians 1:2 – “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:”

Many of these are written by Paul but there are a number of references to the saints. The point being from the sermon is this: the day I asked Jesus to be Lord in my heart is the day I became a saint. The day you gave your life to Christ, you became a saint. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Folks, we are saints. We are already counted as saints in God’s eyes. Paul proves this fact in most of his letters, addressing Christians as saints.

Let me go back. If I have a low self-esteem about myself then I project upon people my need to feel needed and loved. If I hate myself, the way I look, then I will be in need of people to validate who I am as an individual. I will always be seeking someone who will think me beautiful, think me smart, think me important. Once I found that someone who sees me as valuable, then I will attach myself to them and suck their life out of them. All because I need someone to fill my “love” bucket up. If I take this same principle and apply it to my Christian life, what does it look like if I live with the mentality of a sinner?

Wow. That’s a really good question and one I’m not even sure I have the answer. Because up until this point, I never thought of myself as a saint. I still maintain that I am a sinner. But how can I be a sinner and a royal priesthood at the same time? If I really sit here and think about it, it just isn’t possible. I’ve been living as though I’m bankrupt and in desperate need of someone to always fill up my “love” bucket in the sinner category. Yeah, I know. This is slightly confusing. I’m not sure if I’m making matters worse in your brain or not. Forgive me if I am. As you can see, I’m still working this out in my brain.

But I do believe that the speaker this morning is on to something.

So as a sinner, I recognize that I have been living with the idea that I am and will always sin because it’s in my nature. I constantly beat myself up, rake myself over the coals, when I consistently fail. It’s a never ending battle. And just when I think I’ve mastered a “sin”, it comes back to bite me full force. I live in a sinner mentality. I’m a sinner. I’m not worthy of good things like grace and Godly love. I fail. I whine. I cry.

Let’s flip the coin. What would it look like if I lived with the mentality of a saint? By definition, saint means “a person of great holiness, virtue, or benevolence.” Thank you dictionary.com for clarifying up what exactly is a saint. I already feel myself reverting back to my sinner way of thinking just by reading that definition. However, I am holy only because Christ is making me holy. I have virtue because Christ gives me virtue. I am benevolent because Christ is making be benevolent. I am pure because Christ declares me pure and not because I’ve earned it. I am a chosen generation because Christ says I am not because I am someone great. Do you see the difference? I am declared all these things only because Christ says it is true of me. He’s making them to be in my life. I haven’t reached the goal yet but I’m already declared as these things. Why? Because He loves me. Because of His grace and mercy. Because a whole host of reasons I don’t get nor understand.

So what would it look like to live with the “saint” before my name? How would I go about life differently if I saw myself as a saint? Who would I become? How would I treat others? How would I see sin if I live as though I am a saint? What would your life look like if you choose to live by your “saint” name? It’s quite intriguing, I must say.

I hereby dub you as Saint ______________.

It kind of has a Godly ring to it, doesn’t it? {Insert a growing smile here please}

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