Who You Are

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WHAT you are vs. WHO you are: an intriguing and dangerous concept.

Intriguing, because sometimes I forget to make the distinction. Dangerous, because society doesn’t want you to.

Society wants to fit you into a mold. Society wants to file you away according to your appearance, abilities, academics, achievements. Your public successes and failures. The things you show it. The parts of you that everyone sees. Society wants to know what you bring it, and is never satisfied, always demanding more. If only you were ______, then you would be good enough. If only you could do ______ a little better. If only…

My biology teacher once told me a story from his senior year of college, when he and some friends went camping in the woods. They cooked steak over a fire and made some rocks explode, but as the moon climbed and the darkness fell, they began to talk. One had graduated and was in the world, working in a lab, while the rest were still seniors. The natural question they asked was, “What’s it like?” What’s it like, being in the world, making money, living the life you’ve studied for, spent so many years preparing for…

And he who had always made it in college by doing the bare minimum was in danger of losing his job at the lab because he consistently procrastinated. And he who had been on a six-month cycle of girlfriends, moving on whenever he lost the fun, was now engaged to the girl he’d been dating for a year but was afraid now to fully commit, fearing that down the road, it wouldn’t be “fun” anymore.

And he said, “I was preparing for what I knew I wanted to become–but not who I wanted to become.”

And he told them, “Figure out who you want to become.

Boy, does that strike home.

Especially when it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and when all you feel like you should be doing is more, more, more. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, what people see, my public image, and hold myself to the impossible standard, and I feel like I’m only ever signing up for more, but all I ever feel is less.

And I feel like the half of what I’m doing are the things nobody sees. And I know it’s selfish of me, I know it’s my human pride. Shouldn’t I be striving to live the life that goes unseen? Because here’s the thing: most of the things that really matter, do go unseen by most. Those are the beautiful things, the worth-it things. The things that give life.

And here’s the thing, those things that matter–they don’t go unseen by the people that matter. They don’t go unseen by the people they directly affect, affect deeply. People notice, when you care. It surprises me sometimes, though it shouldn’t.

And also…they don’t go unseen by God.

Sometimes, when I think of God as all-seeing, it scares me more than anything. Because I know my heart. I know its dirt and dust and grime and dark shadows and cobwebbed corners. The things I hide.

But there’s something bigger about an all-seeing God. It’s called grace.

Not wishy-washy grace. This is no dripping, drizzling, downsized grace. This grace is drenching. It’s torrential, it’s tidal, it’s transforming. It’s whitewater, riptide grace. It tears you apart until there’s no part of you safe from the blinding light of grace, the light that’s like a powerwash on your heart. It stings and moves you a little bit, and there’s no dirt that can withstand the power of this grace.

And because of this grace, you’re a stained glass window. You’re beautiful to him.

And this all-seeing God, he understands. He understands because he crafted every fiber of your being, tuned every string in your body, wove together the strands of your soul and sculpted the crevices of your mind and fashioned the turnings of your heart–he understands. You don’t have to explain yourself to him.

This all-seeing God, he sees what you do in secret. He sees what no one else does. He sees the dirt and the shame and all of the things I want no one to see.

But he also sees the things I feel like no one does. The things that I want them to know. The things that I hold precious and I feel like no one else listens.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, though. We take it for granted. We say, God, yes, I know my reward is eternal, but look at what ____ is doing. Look at what they get. God, I know my reward is eternal, but I need something now. How am I supposed to give up ______ for that?

We feel like God expects something of us. We feel like we owe him something. And don’t get me wrong–he does. And we do. And it’s more than we could ever do on our own. And we know that, so we do one of two things: we don’t even try, or we try so hard, we make our checklist of do’s and don’ts, and we’re never satisfied, and we see God as the taskmaster. But…he’s a lot more than that.

He delights in his children. He delights to see them walking in the truth.

That breaks me. When I think that God could actually be pleased. Delighted. Giddily excited. The God of the universe…smiling for me.

I forget so quickly. But that…when I think of that, that’s what drives me on. It’s when I think of heaven, where he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, every sorrow will be erased and every trouble will be vanquished, every darkness will be conquered and every sleepless night disintegrated–when it all fades away, and there’s only him, standing there with open arms. When I finally see it–when I finally see how all of this, it was really nothing.

It was really nothing.

And all that’s left is purity of joy and peace and love and holiness. A purity that could never be matched on this earth.

So have hope, take heart, and remember–remember that who you are matters a whole lot more than what you are. Your love matters more than your label or lack. What you see matters more than being seen. Your grace matters more than your grades, and your Spirit means more than your status, success, or security.

He sees. Ask him to help you do the same.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”And Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha….

2 Kings 6:15-17

Lord, give us your eyes.

Bre

Don’t be like the rest of them

This poem is really meant to be read out loud. Exactly as I pictured it, speeding and slowing and rising and falling like water tumbling smoothly over rocks but instead, instead the best I can do is type it out, divide it into lines, and hope that some shred of its music is retained.

Don’t be like the rest of them, darling.
Don’t listen to those voices.
You could fall or you could fly
but either way you’re in the sky so
darling, don’t let the stars in your eyes
be taken away
by the voices that say “no”–
no, don’t let them fade!
When it feels like you’re striving
and you’re all on your own and you’re trying,
oh, you’re trying so hard and you still dream of flying
but the world
keeps you chained.
Gravity
makes you stay.
Caught up in the fast-paced
never-ending race
and you run till you’re red in the face
but it’s all in a daze
until one day you wake,
until you wonder,
until you choose to try going the opposite way.
You’re a salmon
struggling upstream, carving your way through the crowd
so many voices ring loud, saying
Hey
Wrong
Quit
Can’t
Failure
Foolish
Incapable
You’re never going to make it.
And then you start to believe it but no
No, if you keep on going
the crowd keeps on swimming away
swept by the current but you–
you’re standing,
standing on top of a mountain
that you dared to climb
because you realized
that it’s worth it
to try
running the opposite way.
Don’t be like the rest of them, darling.
You could fall or you could fly
but either way you’re in the sky
and I believe you, will, rise
to the heights
and dance
with the stars that are
reflected in your eyes.
Please–
please, don’t lose that light.

a

To the Revolutionaries

d

This one goes out to the world-changers,

the earth-shakers,

the custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

This one goes out to the crazy ones,

the believing ones,

the brave ones,

the faith-filled ones.

The ones who are terrified to act

but more terrified of what it means if nobody does.

The ones who live with their eyes open and their hands free.

The ones who recognize that they’re only here once–

they only get one shot,

one chance,

one life,

one blip on the radar of time

–once, and they’re the ones

who try and make something of it.

The ones who go beyond influence

to impact.

The ones who leave their mark,

a legacy,

a torch still burning

to be carried by the next generation

of world-changers,

earth-shakers,

custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

With one foundation forming their reputation

they go

and they live

the lives that we remember.

Together

we could be

the next generation of world-changers,

earth-shakers,

custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

We could be

the ones that carry the torch,

ignite the flames

of change.

We could be

the generation to live,

to really live,

to live alive and thrive, not just survive.

Not looking to make it through

but to make it matter.

Not looking for my own glory, my own fame,

my own dreams, desires, wants, name.

But for something bigger, something

more.

I’m still looking out for number one

it’s just that maybe number one

has a different name than me.

His name

is Jesus.

And this December

there’s a day that we remember

not for lights,

not for food,

not for glitter and gold,

not for commercialism,

consumerism,

or commonplace contamination,

but for someone

who knew that we could never get to God,

never reach that standard of perfection,

made it so we didn’t have to–he offered me redemption.

It’s the awesome gift of grace:

we call it commonplace,

take it for granted,

because we don’t understand it,

but it comes in the shape

of a cross.

So say thanks

and start a movement

spread the blaze

there’s still time for change,

so be brave.

Change the world, shake the earth,

move a mountain if that’s what it takes

to step out in faith.

Take a risk,

take a chance,

because you only get one–chance, that is–

so make it matter, if you want to be a

world-changer,

an earth-shaker,

a custom-breaker, culture-shaper, change-maker.

The kind of revolutionary

that Jesus was. Carry the torch,

and march on,

in faith.

–Bre

A Real Kind of Faith

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According to the Voice of the Martyrs website, Iraq had 1.5 million Christians in 2003. However, that number is now down to roughly 400,000. In the last 11 years, more than two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians fled, emigrated, or were killed. This is largely due to Islamic military groups like the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Iraq is not alone. Nearly 30 other countries worldwide are religiously “restricted,” meaning that government laws restricting religious freedom lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed, or deprived of their possessions because of their witness; Christians are also unable to receive Bibles or other Christian literature. In many other places (“hostile” nations), despite government attempts to provide protection for the Christian populations, believers are routinely harassed, beaten, and persecuted by family, friends, neighbors or political groups.

In August of this year, more than 50,000 children and adults were slaughtered in Iraq and Syria because of their faith, and families were/are fleeing from the state into the mountains with nothing. It’s like a second Holocaust. And it’s a scary thought–because it’s real. In fact, it could happen to me. My brother. My sisters. My parents. The people I love, full of vibrant life–a knock on the door and they disappear.

It’s a heavy thought, but one worth considering.

How real is my faith to me? How much am I willing to give up? How serious am I about this?

Christ said that those who lose this life will gain it. He said that the world would hate us because they hated him. He said this world is not our home.

It’s time to believe that. It’s time to start living like that.

This year I’ve realized what the word believe means. It’s not a surface thing. It’s not something you just say when it comes to mind every so often. It’s something that worms its way so much deeper than that, to the very core of who you are. It starts to dwell at the heart of your subconscious, at the root of your soul, and everything you do gets filtered through it without you even realizing it.

It’s also a choice. A choice you have to make, a choice where not choosing is still a choice. You can work to develop it, to shape it, to ingrain it, to internalize it.

(5)

And I believe it. I do. With a conviction that goes deeper than words. I am convinced of a truth that surpasses time and imagination. My God is a God who is real, who is alive, who is in control and at work. Nothing can change it, stop it, block it or twist it.

So I give myself to You. Wholly and completely. Take me, make me, shake me, break me, shape me. I am yours, now and forever. Use me, God. Make me bold for You.

I believe.

–Bre

 

P.S. If you’re interested in supporting the persecuted community, you can check out the Voice of the Martyrs website at persecution.com. You can sign up for their free monthly newsletter, send letters to prisoners and to government officials in other countries, send action packs, help get Bibles into restricted nations, donate financially, and above all, pray. Please, please pray, because prayer has the power to change the world.

Well, isn’t this a pleasant surprise…

I didn’t expect this at all, actually. It’s kind of cool. It’s like one of those ordinary acts of good, a commonplace kindness, an unexpected, even random, moment of encouragement, right when I needed it most. It can come in the form of someone paying for your food, a greeting in the hallway, a smile from a stranger. It can happen out of nowhere, from a passing acquaintance to a close friend to a perfect stranger. The unintended angels of our world.

Something like this happened to me just the other day, actually. I was feeling down, having “one of those days,” as they say. Kind of insecure at the moment, after not making the cut for our competitive, high-level musical auditions at school. BUT auditions for the spring show are coming up next week, and I was getting information from the director, and after hearing I didn’t make the cut for the musical, she had some really encouraging advice for me that I guess can be summarized in three words: “Don’t give up. Don’t give up, because I know you have what it takes.”

There is nothing more powerful than having someone believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.

It’s kind of the same way with this blog. I don’t even know who I’m writing to, I just know I have a message I want to spread, a story I want to tell. My dad told me once to “Write your song and sing it loud.” (I responded that I wouldn’t let him sing along, though–my dad has few faults, but his musical talent IS somewhat lacking). But I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually read this, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it yet–I don’t even have any “real” posts yet. But then this happened: d So I followed the link, took the challenge, and now I just want to say: thanks, Caitlyn, for your ordinary act of good. To check out her blog, click here. c Rules/Guidelines: *Thank the blogger or bloggers who nominated you. *Answer the 11 questions asked. *Nominate 3 other blogs with less than 200 followers. *Ask them 11 new questions.

Q. Where did you meet your best friend(s)?
My old school. I used to go to this tiny little private school, with like 15 kids in my grade, and so we got really close. I hardly see them any more, but I still count them my best friends, because when we do get together, it’s like nothing ever changed.

Q. What’s your favorite holiday? Why?
A. Christmas of course! I love giving (and yes, I’ll admit it, getting) presents, decorating the house, listening to Christmas music, spending time with family, taking a break from the crazy stress, listening to my dad read Luke 2 by the fire each year, a little bit of snow, lots of yummy food…

Q. Have you ever had a major fight with a really close friend? What happened?
A. Not that comes to mind. My friend struggles are more along different lines.

Q. Do you think someday there will be a time machine?
A. Doubtful. I don’t think time works in a way we can harness in that way. But it would be pretty epic.

Q. What is your favorite girl name? What is your favorite boy name?
A. I actually have LOTS of favorite names. It’s a writer thing I guess. But for a girl, I love Rael (pronounced RAY-ell) and for a boy, I like Luke. My brother’s name, Moses, is pretty cool too.

Q. If you could meet anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be?
A. This one’s tough. I have a lot of heroes. I mean, obviously Jesus comes to mind, but excluding Biblical characters? Nelson Mandela maybe, or my grandad on my dad’s side, who died when I was 8 but still left an incredible legacy on my life through my dad. Or, in a similar vein, my dad’s brother Ben, another man who left his mark after his death from leukemia when he was 15 years old. I never knew him, but I wish I could have.

Q. What is currently your favorite song?
A. Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham. It’s really powerful but only listen to it when you’re alone and ready to be convicted (and possibly cry). I try not to listen to it superfluously so it keeps that power for me.

Q. Who is/are your favorite artist(s)/band(s)?
A. Tenth Avenue North and For King and Country are definitely up there, though it’s hard to say–depends a lot on my mood. Rend Collective Experiment, All Sons and Daughters, Sidewalk Prophets, and David Dunn are all really good too. I also–yes, I’ll admit it–listen to showtunes (music from musicals).

Q. Favorite book?
A. AUUGHHHH THIS IS LIKE ASKING ME TO PICK A FAVORITE CHILD!! Um…some top choices include:
– The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
–  The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
–  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
–  anything by John Flanagan (reading his books is like greeting an old friend/friends)
–  Blink by Ted Dekker
–  The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
–  The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
–  Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
–  Tolkien stuff
–  Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
–  and lots and lots more

Q. Worst subject in school? How about your best? Why?
A. I don’t know, really. It’s more of enjoy vs. don’t-enjoy. I like Spanish, art, and biology. Not so much, say, health.

Q. What is a motto you live by?
A. “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

My 11 questions are:
1. What is the best habit you’ve ever developed?
2. If you could have tea with any TWO fictional characters who would they be?
3. What is the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
4. What is the nicest thing someone has ever said to you?
5. What is your Myers-Briggs personality type, and do you agree with what it says about you? (take the test here)
6. What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
7. What is the longest thing you’ve ever memorized?
8. Left Twix or right Twix?
9. What animal most represents you and why?
10. What animal would you CHOOSE to be and why? (they’re different)
11. Where do you want to be in two and a half years? (figuratively and literally)

And my 3 nominees are…
1. http://ihaveareasontosing.wordpress.com/
2. https://musingsofachristiangirl.wordpress.com
3. http://joshfleming25.wordpress.com/

Thanks again Caitlyn! Keep paying it forward.

–Bre