Under Attack

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Satan is clever.  He is sly, and smooth, and cynical.  Satan is patient. He waits calm, and quiet, and still.  Satan is smart. He is crafty, and tricky, and subtle.  It’s almost been a full month since I have posted last.  Can you believe that?–a month. When I began this blog, I was posting every single day.  Heck, I was so eager to write and to share, I was writing 3 to 4 posts a day, and saving them so that they could slowly filter out.  I was on fire! Passionate, burning, uncontrollable.  Obsessed.

Have you been there? Riding strong on a spiritual high? Invincible in His grace.  Unashamed and impossible to silence? Thirsty for the Word and nourished by devotion.  Obsessed? God fills your thoughts, He fills your time, He fills your mind.  Every decision you make is decidedly executed with Christ in mind.  Every word spoken is delicately selected and the words pour from you with energy and passion and joy.  There is a light-heartedess in your spirit.  There is a curiosity and a desire and an eagerness to learn and to share.  You scoff at your old ways, baffled by how you could have ever been tempted by that which was earthly–how you could have ever been so naive.  Committed to living for Christ–committed to maintaining this sprinter’s pace and committed to being the absolute best example you can be for your friends, your family, your co-workers.  Committed to being different.

Then 6 months pass and you find yourself in an uncommon moment.  A moment of free time in your crazy schedule–a moment of quiet time that you typically would have filled up with another check off the “to-do” list.  But in that moment you take the offered breather and you think…life is still on course.  It is comfortable, steady, placid.  You flip through the elements of your “world”. Work…school…family…finances…schedules…vacations…boyfriends, girlfriends…sports……………faith. Hmm, faith. Well you went to church a few Sundays ago. You prayed a few times when your best friend’s mom was sick. You tossed a few coins in that homeless man’s cup.  You wrapped up all of your emails with a “God Bless!” Oh, and you posted a few Bible verses on facebook and Twitter.  You let your mind wander, you feel that guilt start to boil up, you list off mental excuses and exceptions. Then you rationalize that you will read your Bible more often. You’ll go to church this Sunday.  You’ll start praying every night again.

Have you been there? Be honest. Are you there right now?

I am.

I’m ashamed. Ashamed because I know Satan is smiling.  In a swift six months he has done it again.  He has slowly and steadily weaseled his way between myself and my King.  I know what you’re probably thinking–“Oh my gosh, she’s about to tell us that she cracked.  She had to have broken her ‘Kissless ‘Till Next Christmas vow. She didn’t make it! She…”  Take a deep breath. All is well. I am still going strong on the intimacy fast. In fact, stronger than strong! Yes, the first few months were tough, but we serve a fantastic King. And He lifted that temptation and pressure with ease. So no, I haven’t struggled with the intimacy element of the fast, but I have allowed Satan to sit down at the table and deal his hand of cards.

Just so you know, I’m choosing to share this next portion with you, because I want you to see just how human I am.  Ever since I began this journey, I’ve received so many messages and comments challenging my position. I think people, especially young people my age, have been so confused as to why I would ever start an intimacy fast.–For God? Are you crazy? You’re a senior in college. What are you trying to prove? Who do you think you’re better than? Oh man, you must just be the perfect Christian.  You’ve got that whole God thing figured out, huh? Guess you’re ‘Holier than Thou’. Bible-thumper. Jesus Freak. Blah…blah…blah…–You name it, I’ve heard it.  And while it breaks my heart that people are so apt to put up walls so quickly, I hope some people can come to understand that I’m just as human as everyone else.  My walk is filled with just as many ups and downs. My relationship with Christ is filled with just as much confusion, and inconsistency, and challenges.

Case in point: the place I’m at right this moment.  The other day an executive producer from Fox flew in to spend the day filming me so that they could show my story on an episode of “The Real Winning Edge”, a nationally-syndicated, Christian-based television program that runs on their network. Holy cow.  That is a big deal for a number of reasons: #1. It was overwhelmingly humbling that they wanted to tell my story.  I’m still so incredibly honored to have even been a part of their production. #2. A CHRISTIAN-BASED television program on a major network like FOX? That’s rare. So rare. And so special. #3. This was a project with a great deal of money invested into it, and it was all for the glory of God. All three of those things still boggle my mind.  And the reason I explain it all is so that you can appreciate how rare, how special, and how divine this whole production truly was. A once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity.  How could anyone be anything but overjoyed to be a part of something like that?

I wasn’t.  I woke up that morning irritable, cranky, hateful, and shrewd.  My precious mom had flown all the way in from Georgia to help me throughout the day, and from the moment I woke up I was nothing but short with her.  We had a production schedule that was so jam-packed there was hardly a moment to breath, and this was a day that needed to go off without a hitch.  I was bloated, I was stuffed-up, I was hot, my skin was breaking out in rashes, I was miserable.  Throughout that morning, I was able to put on a smile for the producer and crew, but anytime I got behind a closed door or alone with my mom, I turned into a monster.  Everything was going wrong, we were off-schedule from the start, and I was as cruel as cruel comes. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I felt so terrible. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so hostile and irritable, and filled with empty tears.  The best way I can describe it is to say that I felt like I was about to explode.  I was at a breaking point….

Right before lunch, my mom sat me down on an empty couch we found while we were waiting for the crew to gather their equipment.  Without saying much, she simply took my hands and began to pray.  My mom must have prayed over me for 4 or 5 minutes, but time seemed to pause.  As I heard her intently and diligently praying words of simple beauty and earnest request, I found myself in that “moment” I mentioned at the beginning of this post–a moment of stillness and peace that I hadn’t experienced in far too long. When had my passion softened? Where had my enthusiasm and spirit and energy been hidden? Was it beneath my heavy summer school load? Had I overshadowed my eager faith with the complications of my crazy schedule? When was it that I allowed my time to be filled in front of the TV at night, rather than in the Word?

I realized that Satan had been sneaky.  He had been slow and subtle and sly, as he usual tends to be.  As the months had passed since the beginning of the year, Satan had been patient.  He had slowly and purposefully distracted me, simple moments at a time, from growth in my faith.  It started with missing my quiet time in the Word, one night, because I was simply a little too tired.  Next, it was putting off posting on my blog, because I had a school assignment I had procrastinated on.  Then, missing church, too exhausted from workouts throughout the week to pass up sleeping in just one day.  Little things became often things. Often things became regular things. Regular things became forgotten things. And six months later I found myself weak enough to be vulnerable to attack.

Have we not all experienced it? Mountain-top spiritual moments, followed by gradual valleys in our faith.  Too busy, too tired, too tempted. I found myself weakened to a dangerous point on that special day, a day I typically would have rejoiced in, made the most of, and celebrated for Christ.  On that special day–a day dedicated to the glory of God–a day specifically devoted to sharing the gospel and sharing how our magnificent King has moved in my life–a day perfectly constructed to inspire and teach and love–Satan attacked.  I was overwhelmed by a spiritual warfare and under absolute attack. You see, Satan knows how to hit us the hardest.  He knows where we hurt the most.  For me, when he bullies me, he doesn’t aim to affect anything around me–he goes straight for my body.  He attacks my health first.  My body  has always manifested grief and stress physically.  I get sick, I get hives, I run fever. I battle nausea, my skin blisters, my stomach nots.  He loves to toy with my body, he always has.  And he knows how ill I truly become. Then, he attacks my emotions–capitalizing on my resting depression, capitalizing on my quick irritability and my trauma-proned anxiety. He wraps me up in my own head, distracts me with myself, and laughs as I weaken.

You see, that’s how Satan works.  He slides in, inch by inch, when we allow our lives to run us. He waits, patiently, gradually distracting us. He takes small opportunities, wins small battles in our spirits, and then when he deems fit, overwhelms us and wins us back.  He makes us feel like we’ve fallen too far. He makes us feel like if we go crawling back now, asking for forgiveness, God would surely judge us.  Others would surely judge us.  We’d slipped up yet again, surely we’re out of chances.

WRONG! So wrong. So fantastically wrong.  Don’t let yourself believe Satan’s lies.  Don’t let yourself get tangled up in guilt! As my mom prayed over me, I literally felt a cloak of anxiety, depression, fatigue, heat, weight…lift completely off of my back.  And where the nasty cloak lifted, a cool and reviving stream tickled up my spine.  An assuring, comforting, loving GRACE blanketed me in peace.  With the freedom from that cloak, a fresh page was turned.  I was breathed new life, literally relieved from attack.  Do you understand? God never tires of turning that fresh page for you.  Guilt, depression, anxiety, hatred…these are all things of Satan. These are all things that God yearns to relieve us from! Jesus Christ died on the cross for our souls so that God can turn a new page every single time we come to Him. The rest of that day I was alleviated from my angst. Rejuvenated, positive, and able to rejoice in the purpose of the moment.  My mom’s tiny hands and heart-felt prayers packed more punch than Satan could ever handle. How? Because she called on the Holy Spirit.  She prayed to a God that makes Satan look like a chump.  She prayed to a God who assures us that no task is too big or too small for Him to overcome.  She prayed to a God who yearns to hear our prayers and to work through us.  Through those simple, sweet hands, she silenced Satan and freed me from an attack that had been in the works for months.

You guys, I stumble. I stumble and fall and stumble again.  I let Satan get in the way. I let my schedule get in the way. I’m dismissive to conviction and I ignore God, daily. But, you guys, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Runners in marathons need fuel–FUEL YOUR HEARTS WITH SERVICE FOR OTHERS. Runners need water–HYDRATE YOUR SPIRIT WITH CONSTANT PRAYER.  Runners need rest–REST IN THE WORD OF GOD! Serve. Pray. Read. I often have to remind myself, that I am literally filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is literally living in me. What’s impossible? Nothing.  What can’t be overcome? Nothing. Satan is good at waging war. He will be patient and take small battles. The only thing preventing us from freeing ourselves from his grip is OURSELVES. Set aside time, set aside pride, set aside self.

Be revitalized! God is ready to turn your page and reignite your passion, too.

Be still. Know that He is God. Know that HE has overcome the world…

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

“Fight the good fight of faith…” 1 Timothy 6:12

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Redefining Our Reflection… (part 3)

I want to take a deeper look at what it means to be a true woman and a true man of God.  Now only can this help us reevaluate how we act, but it can also help us identify characteristics we should seek in others–especially if we intend on spending time with them or entering into a relationship with them.  We discussed our identities through salvation and the beauty God sees in us, but in order to redefine our reflections, we have to learn a little bit about how we should strive to carry ourselves.

An individual brought up a great point in the comment section of the last blog post.  This was a point I was planning on studying, in detail, later on, but I would like to touch on its relevance now, as well.  As humans, we are stuck in a bit of a predicament.  Because, in recognizing Jesus Christ as our Savior, our souls are sealed and protected.  We are emptied of ourselves and filled with the Holy Spirit.  However, we are still bound by our humanly flesh during our time here on earth.  And that flesh is ugly and riddled with temptation, lust, greed, and sin.  It is the “human” in us all–and it’s gross.  That’s what made Jesus Christ so phenomenal. He was a human being. He was bound by the same flesh we are bound by.  He felt all the same temptations, emotions, urges, desires.  But He STILL lived perfectly.  We must recognize that, for us, that is an impossibility. There is no way we can do it flawlessly. But, it is something we should STRIVE for–something we should live for, daily.  As Christians, we should work towards thinning that flesh so that His light can shine through us as brightly as possible.

With that being said, it is not enough for us to sit back and coast. To think, “Okay, I recognize that He’s real, I recognize what He did for me. But, I guess since I’m bound by this flesh and since He’s always going to forgive me, then it’s alright for me keep living how I’m living. I guess it’s alright for me to remain comfortable in sin. Because, this guy’s sin over here is far worse than my sin. I’m a good person, so I’m good to go.”

That mentality is so off-base.  It’s a mentality that I, myself, held for a long time.  That’s a very human thought process.  If this forgiveness is endlessly offered, then it is a human reaction to attempt to take that for granted.  To try to slide by. To compare ourselves to others and to weigh our sins. But that is so far from what’s real and true.  That mentality is so dangerous.  I know I functioned like that for a very long time.  And I can tell you now that, even though those thoughts still run through my mind occasionally, the Holy Spirit is convicting.  And if the Holy Spirit is truly living inside of your heart, you will feel the conviction of wrongful action.  Whether or not you show it on the surface, whether or not you express it, whether or not you even openly acknowledge it, you know where your heart stands.  You know when you are acting in flesh.

I told you this year would be convicting.  I refuse to sit back and say only what is going to “feel good” and make us all feel warm and comforted inside.  We have to be broken of our earthly mentality.  We have to be broken of our thought process that has been conditioned by this crappy society.  And in order to be broken, we have to be uncomfortable.  We have to reevaluate ourselves and be honest with ourselves.  If you are surrounded by people who constantly tell you that what you are doing is so wonderful and right and good, and you never stand eye-to-eye with someone who tells you that you could be better, and holds up the BIBLE as proof of the improvement you can make, then you will never grow.

If we are going to TRULY redefine our reflections and live for Christ, then we have to humble ourselves. We have to let down our guards and open our hearts.  We have to feel that conviction and RECOGNIZE it! Recognize that it may take a shot at your ego or your pride; that it may embarrass you or anger you or stir up your emotions. But there is BEAUTY in humility. There is BEAUTY in our scars. So let down your walls. I’m right here with you, doing the same.

Break through the flesh that is binding you down and strive for greatness.  We strive, daily, for advancement in our lives.  We strive for the starting spot on our athletic teams. We strive for the promotion at work.  We strive to make more money. We strive to be perceived as having the perfect family. We strive to be the most popular. We strive to be the most famous.  We strive to be the most attractive. We strive to be the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, the best. SO WHY DONT WE STRIVE FOR THAT SAME ADVANCEMENT IN OUR FAITH? What are we so ashamed of? What do we have to lose? A little ego? A little pride? Get real. Break down the barriers this society says we should build around “religion”.  Break down the perception you have of where “religion” should be kept on your schedule!

Being a Christian is not about just being in church on Sunday. Being a Christian is a 24-7, 365 day a year TRUTH.  Why are we suppressing Him? He is in fellowship, He is in bible study, He is in church, He is in the workplace, He is in our schools, He is at the dinner table, He is on the football field, He is at the bar, He is in the port-a-potty, He is in your car, He is in the airplane, He is in the homeless shelter, He is in the huts of the homeless, He is in the fields of the farmers, He is in the waves of the sea, He is EVERYWHERE! He is everywhere. Who are we to ignore Him? Who are we to try to stifle Him? All He wants is for us to see Him. And to love Him. And in return, He will love us more passionately and more fantastically than any other love we will ever know. He is waiting for us…He is waiting for you. Open your eyes and see Him. Then fall in love and break down your barriers and climb on top of the tallest platform you can find and PRAISE Him. NEVER be afraid to praise Him. Never stop praising Him.

Let’s step away from who we were. Let’s make ourselves so vulnerable that we are raw. Then let’s study Him. Let’s study the Word, and let’s figure out what it all means together.

I know I went off on a bit of a tangent today. I promise next post we will get back to the topic of being men and women for Christ. We will start really studying together.  I just really had all of that on my heart and had to let it pour out. I love you, and He loves you. Let’s be exceptional. Together, let’s learn…