My Only Constant // Jocelyn

Boxes everywhere. The house is disheveled. Packing for what seems like forever, and yet it seems like there’s always more. More transitions. More change. New things are coming fast and right now there’s a number of uncertainties.

For the most part, I’d say I’m someone who enjoys change. There are always hard changes that come up, yes, but for the most part I’m someone who gets excited about the future before being fearful about it. I love upcoming opportunities for adventure. (Sometimes to a fault because then it causes me to be bored with the present, but I digress. That’s not the point here.)

I’m officially done with a full year of campus ministry in a new state with a new staff team, and I’ve had the time of my life. (cue Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes)

Now it’s summer (“summer”.. “summer”.. #HSM2shoutout) and with that comes a bunch of travel. #NomadLife. I’ll be road-tripping from Virginia to Pennsylvania, up to New Hampshire for six weeks, back to PA for a week or so, fly out to Colorado for a week, then back to PA & road-trip back down to Virginia.

One of the uncertainties of life is that I currently don’t know where I’ll be living once I get back from all the crazy travel. So.. that’s a thing. Also, what’s in store for this summer? How is God going to use the Summer Mission I’ll be staffing in NH? Which students will I get to pour into? What will they be like? What will my routine look like while I’m traveling all over God’s green earth? Did I forget anything when I packed all of my other belongings away?

With all of this in mind, something I’m thankful for amidst of all the change is God’s constancy. I’ve been working my way through Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him, which is saturated with great truth from Scripture about 10 attributes of God – attributes that are only true of Him.

In the chapter on God’s immutability, Jen talks about how we can’t truthfully use words like “always” or “never” to describe ourselves or other people. That hit me harrrrd, especially being someone who finds it difficult to be consistent or disciplined in what seem to be the simplest of things.

“When we apply the terms always or never to other people, we speak an untruth. Human beings don’t always or never anything. We just aren’t that consistent. We frequently, we fairly regularly, we often or habitually, but we do not always or never. As finite and mutable creatures, we cannot lay claim to these terms, either as pejoratives or as praise. They can only truly be spoken of God.”

Like I said, this really hit home and made me have those thoughts of “oh man, that’s true. I’m not consistent. I can’t be perfectly disciplined like I’d like to be.” That could be kind of a downer. But at the same time it freed me up to shift my glance off of myself and onto a God who is perfectly consistent.

I can use “always” and “never” when it comes to God.

He always comes through, even if the timing is different than what I’d like.
He never loses His faithfulness. He never changes. He’s always the same.
He always delivers. Always restores. Never stops pursuing the broken.
His character is consistent. Always reliable.

How refreshing is that? To know that in whatever stage of my life, whatever circumstance, I can say that God is loving, faithful, steadfast, etc., and those statements will always be true.

Jen also quotes Psalm 18:31 in this chapter:
“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?”

This reference made me think of the song “Rest in You” from All Sons and Daughters’ Poets & Saints album (highly recommend). The song begins with lyrics derived from this verse. ( take a listen here & meditate on its truth! )

The bridge of the song repeats the line “You cannot change, yet you change everything.” This line plays over and over in my earbuds as I think about God’s immutability and my heart reflects, “this is so true.” God does not change, yet He has changed my whole life. My whole identity. My whole eternity.

The next verse in Psalm 18 says, “…the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” (it goes on from there – read it for yourself! pray through it. journal through it.)

I can not only trust in the consistency of God in the middle of my ever-changing life & daily circumstances, I can also trust that the change that He’s made (and continues to make) in my life is certain, and my position in Him is secure and protected.

I’ll leave you with this last thought from Jen:

“Because He does not change, we can rely on the unchanging truth of Scripture. What He pronounces as sin will always be sin. What He pronounces as good will always be good. All that He has promised to do must come to pass. The Gospel itself is bound up in the idea of God’s immutability. We fervently need God to stay the same – our great hope of salvation lies in His remaining exactly as who He says He is, doing exactly what He says He will do. As long as His infinite sameness endures, He will not change His mind about setting His love on us. We can not commit a future sin that will change His verdict, because His verdict was passed with every sin past, present, and future fixed in view. Whom God pronounces righteous will always be righteous. Nothing we could do can remove from us the seal of His promised redemption. Nothing can separate us from the unfailing, unchanging love of this great God, the Rock of our salvation upon which the house of our faith is built.”

Are you experiencing some sort of big, or even small, transition? Rest in these truths. Rest in Him.

That Time I l Left Social Media for a Week // Jocelyn

How would I do this practically? What started out as an idea to dedicate specific hours during certain days of the week as my time to disconnect pretty quickly turned into a desire to take this seriously. One week. Cold turkey. So that’s what I did. Last Tuesday evening, I officially signed out of all accounts and completely went off the radar.

A week later, I won’t say I now have the absolute greatest pieces of wisdom and advice on this. A week really is not as long as we may think/feel like it is {seriously guys, anyone can do this!} But I did learn a handful of things.

My initial thoughts? Right as I first signed out of everything, I would say I felt a bit more.. free? I found myself thinking “wow, I don’t even have to check anything right now!” while simultaneously telling myself, “you never had to in the first place, ya dummy.”

Throughout the rest of the week, I will say I had to deal with some slight FOMO, especially when others would say “did you see what so-and-so poste-” and then quickly realize, “ohhh right, you’re not on social media right now..” #awk. So it was a bit odd to want to have intentional conversations with others, but yet not be able to participate if it was related to something happening online.

I love the creative aspect of social media, but time away from it forced me into finding other creative outlets – and moments for that were actually provided! I got to read, write, paint, and even transform my & my roomie’s faces into 70-year-old versions of ourselves for Halloween.

I also realized that I had to learn to deal with silence. {It isn’t really something I prefer. I’m the person in the car who asks if we can turn the radio on/up because it’s just a bit too quiet.} Instead of coming home for lunch or in the evening and watching a couple youtube videos (or 10), I sat in silence and read a book. And guess what? It wasn’t that bad.

That brings me to another big thing. I read. A lot. At times I couldn’t help but think “hm, so this is what people had to do for entertainment back in the day…” (And all of the non-millennials let out a unified groan.) But for real though, I do genuinely enjoy reading, but it was insightful to realize just how much I would reflexively go to tap on an app without a second thought, and have to consciously choose to read instead.

Sometimes it’s good to be left alone with our own thoughts. Maybe we use social media to avoid that. Maybe that “maybe” is more of a definite. We seem to have to be entertained and stimulated in some form at all times. I’ve realized that sometimes I just don’t feel like putting the mental or emotional energy into diving into my own brain. Admittedly, social media enters the picture as an easy way out of that.

 
“Unfortunately, the outbreak of technology and social media has not simplified life, but rather complicated it to the point of fatigue. It is becoming harder and harder to remain focused on any level of cognitive thinking for longer than a few minutes … In this culture we are finding it harder and harder to spend any appreciable time meditating on who God is or developing a greater depth of understanding and appreciation of God.”

– Glenn Jago, Deeply Rooted Magazine

Being away from social media allowed me to be more introspective, way more introspective than I would have been had I spent time watching videos and double-tapping instas.

It also coincidentally seemed like every book/magazine I dove into had something to say specifically related to this fasting experience, as if the Lord used these wise, Jesus-loving authors to help me evaluate my life during this week-long dare that I challenged myself to. What a gift.

So have I concluded that social media is this evil thing that is stealing my time? Of course not. Social media isn’t evil. I wouldn’t even say it’s bad. It’s a great tool for staying connected and expressing creativity, and it can be used for fantastic things! But is it the bestway to spend my time? Ehhhh, no, not always. Another great magazine I found myself drowned in talked about the difference between good and better things:

 

“Did you know there are good things, and then there are better things? I didn’t always know this. I knew there were good things, and there were bad things. I knew that there were things that the Bible called sinful. And to spend my time gossiping or being lazy or something like that is not only a waste of time but displeasing to the Lord. We all know this. But then there are things that are just good. They are not sinful or even questionable. Often times, the good things are necessary and important, and they’re things like having a clean house, doing the laundry, tackling home improvement projects, being in a book club, or even taking a break and watching TV. There is nothing condemnable about them, but there is nothing eternalabout them either. The things that are eternal are the things that are best. And there are three categories for things that will last for the rest of time: God, God’s Word, and the souls of people.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

My life has been given to me to utilize it in (hopefully) the best way. With social media, how much of me is being utilized? My thumbs, for sure. So that’s covered. But what about the rest? Technology savvy or not, anyone can post an instagram or send a snap or post a status. What about the specific ways that God has gifted me? The things that make me distinct from everyone else. How are those things being used and cultivated?

I don’t find my worth in social media & instagram likes. But is it an addiction for me? I’m not sure, because I think if that were the case, this fast would have been a whole lot harder than it was, and it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. But I do turn to it anytime I have a moment to waste, or even when I don’t. Is it a type of drug for me?

In her book Present Over Perfect – yes, the fourth piece of writing I’ve drowned myself in this week – Shauna Niequist says, “You can make a drug – a way to anesthetize yourself – out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning, dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while – that’s what drugs do. And, used like a drug, over time, shopping or TV or work or whatever will make you less and less able to connect to the things that matter, like your own heart and the people you love. That’s another thing drugs do: they isolate you.”

Maybe social media isn’t even a problem for you. Or maybe you would say it’s a problem and you couldn’t fathom signing out of your accounts for a single day. Whatever it is, what is your good but temporary thing? How are you spending time? Even free time?

If you find yourself being similar to me in this area, or you want to do this for yourself just to see what would come from it, I encourage and even challenge you to do it! Maybe it’s just for a day, maybe for a week, or maybe you want to get real crazy and go off the radar for a month. Come up with a time frame, and just commit to it.

If it helps, bring others around you in this! Maybe a friend or two can do the same thing. Even if they don’t, though, I’d encourage telling a few close friends what you’ve decided – and giving them permission to call you out if you don’t stay committed!

Again, social media isn’t sinful. I’m still a huge fan! And you’ll still see me on just about every platform. But my perspective is different. Sometimes you have to step back from the good-but-temporary for an amount of time to allow yourself to see where your perspective should be. Other times it does mean stepping back altogether. It’s a case-by-case thing, and taking at least a little time to step back can allow you to discern where you’re at.

Since I’d love to keep this perspective fresh in my mind as much as possible, there are a few practical things I have implemented since my week-long fast. Feel free to ask about them!

If you’re thinking through something like this for yourself, let this last quote encourage you, and perhaps even help you decide:

“The perishable, temporary, good things will burn away. All those dishes I cleaned? Burned. All those hours I watched Downton Abbey? Gone. All the time I spent cultivating the perfect yard, the perfect house, the perfect body? Yep, burned and gone forever. BUT all those small moments spent on eternal things? Rewarded. Those moments I spent worshipping God with my mouth, with my prayers, and with my work? Rewarded. The hours spent reading Scripture and in Bible study with other women? Praise. The chapters from the Jesus Story Book Bible I read and reread and read again to my boys at bedtime? Glory. The times I stopped to snuggle or cherish or meet a need for my boys? Rewarded. The risks taken to broach spiritual topics with my neighbors? Rewarded.”

– Abbie Schaller, Tapestry Magazine

I would personally love to hear about anything you’d like to challenge yourself to do, and what came from it if you decide to do so!

Praise God for moments of silence, for moments of reflection, and His ability to refresh or completely change our perspectives when we make ourselves susceptible. More reasons to sing His grace.

Hosea: relentless pursuit//Sarah//VCU

Over the last couple months I have realized something about my heart, well a few things actually, but the first allows the others to follow after. I believe lies about who God is…I believe things about His character and about how He works. In reality they are the polar opposite of truth. They aren’t statements I say aloud, consciously think of or dwell on but they are often reflected in my attitude, thoughts and behavior.

I think He’s not going to fully satisfy my heart.

I think He’s angry with me and He’s going to treat me with a spiteful attitude.

I think He’s going to give up and turn His back on me.

Ouch. To admit these make me cringe. To read them makes me tense up. To confess this way of thinking to the Lord Himself makes me want to run and hide. I hate that I believe these things. I hate that these lies have clouded my thinking. The Spirit of God inside me rises up and reminds my heart that these things are just that, lies. And I don’t think I am alone in believing them.

A few weeks ago I started studying the book of Hosea (**insert praise hands here**). It quickly showed me a mirror into my own life. (I am not sure if you are familiar with it but I highly recommend it, but forewarning: the book will change your life if you let it.) To give a bit of background, Hosea is one of the minor prophets of scripture–which is a fancy way of saying he was a man who spoke the truth about who God is and pointed people back to obedience to Him. The book starts off with God telling Hosea to take a wife of whoredom (a woman of promiscuity and waywardness) and have children with her. Sounds romantic, right? If you continue to read on, you may be able to see the parallel between Hosea and God and Gomer and the Israelites/you/myself. In Hosea 2, God makes this vow-like covenant to the Israelites.376a9a992b18d17353972e4fcf4261e3

“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”

{Hosea 2:19-20}

From chapter 3 until the end of the book, we read the story of Israel’s rebellion and idolatry and God’s response of wrath and love for them. It’s a dramatic cycle of sin, judgment and restoration, over and over and over. By chapter 6, I’m ready to yell–How dare they turn their back on God? Hellooooo?? Do they not see how much He loves them and cares for them? Why would they make idols of silver and gold when they could have a real relationship with their Maker? Why would they look anywhere else but to Him? And why doesn’t God throw up His hands and walk away?

The Israelites were God’s chosen people. He pursues them so clearly throughout the whole Old Testament. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” {Hosea 6:6}  God wanted their hearts, all their hearts, not their sacrifices. Sin takes over the Israelites and they begin to be apathetic towards Him. My heart aches when I read, “For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces.”  {Hosea 8:14} It aches because I see myself in their idolatry, their selfishness, their apathy, their immorality. How often do we forget our Maker?

Like the Israelites, I so often believe that God alone isn’t enough, without even realizing it. I dwell on the approval of others, affirmation from my new relationship, the feeling of accomplishment when I run enough miles or speak eloquently to my small group girls. Not that those things are bad, but when they become the source of my worth and validation, I rip Jesus off His throne and start making idols made of modern day silver and gold. When we put something above the Lord, our worship goes to something of lesser value. It leads us to sacrificing burnt offerings, such as daily Bible reading just to check it off or attending Cru so you’re not badgered by friends. We offer our works to God instead of our worship. As a result, when I recognize my sin, I fear His wrath. I fear that He will finally get tired of redeeming me. I am scared He won’t be willing to buy me back again and again. I wonder if and when He will finally give up and walk away. This adulterous heart of mine doesn’t deserve such a faithful God.

And yet,

that is not who He is. Even though I don’t deserve Him, He is still faithful. He remains good even when we aren’t. Look back at Hosea 2:19-20 with me. He betroths us in righteousness and justice,
steadfast love and mercy. He betroths us in His faithfulness, then we shall know the Lord. Because of His faithfulness and His righteousness, not my own, He is eager to take us back, despite our idol making and wayward hearts. When I grow in my knowledge of His true character, I see how false my beliefs are about Him. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’. He ‘satisfies the desires of every living thing’ {Psalm 145}.  ‘His going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.’ {Hosea 6:3}.

Through the pages of Hosea I see my story, our story sister, of sin, judgement and restoration. As I read, I recognized their deep need for Jesus, and quickly
my deep need for Jesus. He lived the righteous and idol-less life that you and I can’t. He took the Father’s wrath so that we don’t have to. The sacrifice of His life was sufficient in that when God looks at us, He doesn’t respond in anger or hostility but abounds in love and mercy. Jesus’s death and resurrection makes God’s purchase of us final and complete. Jesus made the restoration and reconciliation fully possible. The only thing that changes is who sits on the throne of our hearts. Our hearts pursue idols of silver and gold, while our Maker pursues the devotion of our hearts. I’ve seen in my own life that it’s exhausting to be tossed to and fro and it’s disappointing to look other places other than Him.

This book has wrecked my heart, in the best way possible, and torn down the lies that I have subconsciously believed and idols I so often build. Jesus is so needed and so sufficient, my friend. He extends us grace when we run away and allow our hearts wander. He is the Ultimate Lover of our hearts and shows us He is because He has paid a high price for them.  In the words of Hosea, “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” {Hosea 12:6} Let us fix our eyes and hearts on Him. Let us tear down the idols that we build. Let us allow scripture to dissolve the lies we believe. Praise God for His relentless pursuit.

 

img_8350Hello sweet friends! I am one of the many Sarahs of this world. Next May I will graduate from VCU with my degree in psychology and minor in religious studies. I am thankful for Cru, running, Jesus, cookie dough and YOU! Thanks for letting me share a little bit of my heart with you and how I have learned that Jesus is always better.