Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sense and Sensibility...

Elinor Dashwood is very dull indeed. If you have never read Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen, know that Elinor is one of the dullest and least relatable characters I have come across in my Austen readings. She is almost completely void of passion and emotion and god-forbid she ever make a mistake. Dear lord Elinor, LIVE A LITTLE!

But I am still enjoying the book for where Elinor fails in exhibiting any relatable behavior, Marianne come through with flying colors. Although she is prone to wild bouts of passion and misguided affection, she at least follows her heart and dares to embrace the emotions she is feeling... sadly though those affections get the better of her and she cannot seem to live in any other place but in the throws of her emotions, both high and low.

I guess I like Marianne because she is closer to my own mind. I believe it is not right to disregard ones feelings. Although one should not be enslaved to the highs and lows of emotions and make life decisions based on feelings, it is also equally unhealthy to deny emotions their place and give no credence to them at all. Emotions, while not reliable, are not evil.

God has been showing me the danger of giving into the temptation of my emotions and making decisions based on them. But He has also been showing me that there is much to learn in the midst of my emotions and that pouring them out to Him allows me to embrace them and live them out in a healthy Christ-focused way.
My affections and desires of the my heart are not sinful, but when I begin to look to them for fulfillment and place my hope in something apart from God, they become twisted and dangerous.
"What you think about is what you care about, and what you care about it what you'll chase." - Ben Stuart
I have that statement running through my mind a million times a day. It is a powerful truth and one God is using to reshape my thoughts and my affections.

On a more entertaining note, I found this quote from Sense & Sensibility incredibly hilarious...
"'A woman of seven-and-twenty,' said Marianne, after pausing a moment, 'can never hope to feel or inspire affection again; and if her home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small, I can suppose that she might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse.'"
Hahaha... I have 10 months left!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Traveling through the Bible (Philippians 1) Part 4...

4. For Christ's sake...
I "accepted Christ" when I was 3 years old... or so my parents say, I really don't remember it. I think I was actually saved when I was 8 years old at Church Kid's Camp. It wasn't in a chapel meeting or cabin time with my leader, or anything like that... it was on a walk through the rain.

We had gone for a hike to a place along the creek where there was a water fall of sorts. There was a huge group of us and it was a hike organized by the leaders at camp, so we were led by counselors through the woods and along the creek. On the way back it started to rain and as we reached edge of the campgrounds it started to thunder, lightening, and hail. I swear a bolt of lighting hit mere yards away from me (in all honesty it couldn't have been that bad, but to an 8 year old, it was terrifying). I remember walking with some other girls and one was crying cause she was scared of storms and I legitimately started to wonder if we would survive the storm (again, I was 8 years old).
I vividly remember looking around the woods and seeing the rain and hail and getting completely drenched and thinking, "I'm really scared and I have no idea what to do with that..." Then a thought came to me - I have been told all my life about God and Jesus and said I that He was real, but is He really real? This is the type of stuff He is supposed to take care of... God, are you really real? And in that moment I became convinced of the reality that there was a God and it wasn't just stories or stuff my parents talked about. God was real... and by extension everything that people said about Christ was real too.
I consider that the moment of my salvation.
"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10
There are a lot of reasons why Christ came into the world, but namely it was to save us from sin and eternal separation from God.
It is amazing and humbling to think that Christ died on the cross for me. He suffered the eternal wrath of God on my behalf... for my sake.
But Christ continually said that the reason He came into the world was because Him father sent Him and He was doing His Father's work and will. So if that is true, then Christ died on the cross for God's sake... for His own sake.
This is not to say that God needed saving or reconciliation, but Christ death on the cross, in the end, was in order to glorify God and bring glory to Himself.
Self-centered? self-focused? Heck yes!! He's God and deserves all the glory, reverence, praise, etc that I am capable of giving Him - that the UNIVERSE is capable of giving him.
"For to you it had been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake..." Philippians 1:29
I believe, was saved, live, and die for Christ's sake - in other translations it says "on behalf of Christ", but I like "for Christ's sake".
Everything Christ gives to me, shows me, teaches me, grows me in - all His love, strength, peace, comfort, joy, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, etc, etc - all of it! Is in order to bring glory to Himself. All my talent, hope, ambition, dreams, goals, suffering, pain, etc, therefore should all seek to bring glory to God and worship him.

I love how Frances Chan says it in his book Crazy Love:
"The crux of why we are [half-hearted Christians] is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He's great and deserved to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers."
I talk to God, seek His guidance, seek His protection, wisdom, and discernment in my day. I thank Him for the things He does for me, apologize for the ways in which I have failed. I also scream and cry and pour out my anger, anguish and frustrations to Him. I would say God and I have a real and genuine relationship. I know I can come to Him with anything and trust in His mercy and grace. It is beautiful and messy and hard and fulfilling and wonderful.
But I realized that I viewed God as being there for ME. What Philippians 1:29 points out is that my entire life - joy, pain, hurt, hope, everything - is for HIM. In everything I go through, I want to turn it back to Him as an act of worship and praise for Him, because that is why I was created... to bring glory to God.
This fact does not make me want to run out and do more things for God as a means of striving to fulfill my purpose in life. I have no desire to contrive things that will please God and make Him happy. That is not what God is asking of me...
"Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." 1 Thessalonians 5:24
"He who began a good work in you will continue it..." Philippians 1:6
But God calls me to seek Him in my hurt and my joy and everything in between and recognize that He has brought me through this time in order to glorify Himself and to show the world His majesty through His work in me.
Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in jail, chained to a prison guard for 24 hours a day. He was in a moment of suffering. But he writes:
"Now I want you to know, bretheren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ had become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the bretheren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear." Philippians 1:12-14
Paul saw his suffering and imprisonment as being a means to glorify God and declare the truth of the gospel. It was not in spite of his imprisonment that the the name of Christ was declared, but BECAUSE of it.
My believing in Christ and suffering in Christ and everything else in my life is all for the sake of Christ and all in order to glorify Him more and more and in that I experience life, and life abundantly.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Traveling through the Bible (Philippians 1) Part 3...

3. Walking worthy...
Philippians 1:27:
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents..."
Frances Chan spoke at Passion on this passage and said something that has haunted me ever since. He used the illustration of scales and placed the Bible on one side and talked about how our lives were on the other side. He asked each of us, "Is your life a reflection of the gospel? Based on what you know to be true about Christ and salvation in Him, does your life reflect that?"
What I love about Frances Chan is that he says those things in the most non-threatening way.
It floored me that I so often walk through life behaving like I don't know the truth that I follow Christ, who is more powerful than anything life could throw at me. I walk around with stress, fear, sadness, despair, and bitterness.
"In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:37
 Yet, my life does not balance out to the weight and power of the gospel.

Paul's statement is not a call to DO more. It is not one of those "be better" statements. It is a call to remember the truth of our situation in our salvation through Christ.

A manner worthy of the gospel of Christ:
* standing firm in one spirit - not only is Paul saying to stand in the spirit, but also standing firm in ONE spirit. This is talking about other believers. Philippians is written to the whole church in Philippi and Paul was warning against petty disagreements throughout the church that were not worth their time. In light of the gospel, stupid disagreements amongst believers is a WASTE OF TIME!!!
* one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel - Again reiterating that agreeing in one mind is what will help advance the gospel and the truth of Christ to non-believers. When the world looks at Christianity they see that even a faith that claims to have the answer and the undeniable truth can't even agree amongst themselves.
* in no way alarmed by opponents - "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31
As I said before I walk around in fear and stress and uncertainty feeling as if the world is getting the better of me ALL THE TIME! Why do I do this?? Christ came into this world so that we may have life abundantly... his peace is the peace that surpasses all understanding. So why is it that I feel defeated? Why don't I remember that I am a conqueror with Christ! That what matters in the world is Him and only Him! My desires, pursuits, ambitions, hopes, EVERYTHING is nothing without Him.

Does my life reflect this truth? Do I live as if I am saved by the Creator of the Universe? Do I live as if the perfect and blameless son of God BECAME sin on my behalf so that not only would I get to spend eternity with Him, but that I would, IN THIS VERY MOMENT, be free from the power of sin - my own sin and the sin of this world!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Traveling through the Bible (Philippians 1) Part 2...

2. Love will abound IN KNOWLEDGE...
God: "Miranda, I want you to get to know me better."
Miranda: "How?"

This question is a little more obvious in how it is answered. There are PLENTY of ways to get to know God... His word, His creation, His spirit inside me, His leading in my life so far...
As I said, I have known God for most of my life... or at least known about Him. Since high school I have realized the different between knowing about God and knowing God. But I still fall short of the mark on actually getting to know God. I spent a lot of time thinking if I just talked to God and listened to what He spoke to my heart I would know my God...
Which is part of it...
But not nearly as big a part as actually KNOWING God! Because quite frankly, often times, I cannot tell the difference between God's voice and my own. I think I hear God speaking to my heart, but in fact it is just my own desires speaking louder than God and therefore, I hear what I want to hear. What God is actually asking me is to really grow in my knowledge of him in my mind as well as my heart.
"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." Luke 10:27
 I need to study his word. God breathed an entire book into existence for my benefit. He wrote it for me, that I might know Him better. I have relied so long on my own intuition and on the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart and have forgotten that God speaks to me most clearly through His word. He wrote it to me! It is a love letter and an epic adventure laid out before me so that my creator and the God of the Universe could be known and understood by His creation.
If am I supposed to truly know Him, how can I begin to imagine leaving out the most powerful and enduring explanation of who He is?

This week at BSF, the speaker was explaining the first chapter of Philippians and explaining the text as she went. I found myself distracted and letting my mind wander to different parts of the text instead of listening the whole time. I guess that's ok since I was getting truth either way...
She reached Philippians 1:9:
"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment..."
To this verse she explained that we need to love God more because when we love God more we obey Him more. True statement...
But not what I got out of the verse.
I have read that verse several times and each time I stop at "that your love may abound more and more..." and then I zone out on the rest of the sentence. But as we learned previously, truth can be found in the rest of the sentence.
Paul writes, "I pray that your love may abound still more and more IN KNOWLEDGE AND DISCERNMENT" If I were to diagram this sentence and find out the subject, verb, noun, direct subject, etc... I would discover that another way of writing it would be, "I pray that in knowledge and discernment your love may abound still more and more."

Previous interpretation - we need to love God more
What Paul is saying is - we need to KNOW God more and DISCERN His truth more and OUT OF THAT we will love Him... and therefore our obedience will be involuntary and an act of love!

Telling someone to love God more is like saying, "Love your spouse more." It is a very noble call, but you can't just snap your fingers and love someone. It takes intention and it DEFINITELY takes a process of learning about that person in order to understand HOW to love them. This is the same with God!
God calls us to love Him - Absolutely! But he doesn't expect us to do it blindly. He continually reveals Himself to us so that we might see His love for us and then our love for Him is a REACTION. God woos our hearts to His and therefore we know His character, learn that He is trustworthy, see His power and majesty, experience His grace, are drenched in His mercy and lovingkindness, and it is THEN that we fall deeply in love with Him.
Paul understood this and it is why he prayed that our love would abound IN KNOWLEDGE.
It is why God asks us to love the Him with our heart, soul, strength, and MIND. It is not just about emotion and feeling... it is about knowledge of who He is.

God calling me to know Him more... to read His word, experience His truth written on my heart, to witness the glory of His creation around me... is actually a call to fall more deeply and deeply in love with Him.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Traveling through the Bible (Philippians 1)...

I started BSF last week - Bible Study Fellowship - on tuesday nights.
What drew me to BSF the most is that they were going to be studying Paul's letter to the Philippians. We studied Philippians at Passion and since returning from that conference I have been praying for God to give me an outlet for studying His word in a disciplined way. I need structure or else I tend to not stay on track.

We are studying Philippians and it has been so powerful to read Paul's letter and really study it in context with what Paul was going through and what his relationship was with the church in Philippi.
But what is most amazing, is that God is answering the prayers of my heart in the words of Paul...

Reflections on Philippians chapter 1:

1. HE will perfect HIS work in me...
God: (gentle whisper) "Miranda, follow me..."
Miranda: "um... what does that mean?"
God: "Follow me..."
Miranda: "Yeah, I get it, but what does that look like?"

I spent 40 hours a week in a cubicle taking calls from people who are booking trips all over the world and I help them find flights, tours, travelers insurance, hostels, hotels, etc... I get home from work and I study for my 12 credits of online classes. In the midst of all that, I spend time with friends and family as much as I can... or I read and sleep.
What does it look like in MY daily life to follow God??
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil 1:6
Repeat: "HE who began a good work in you will perfect [HIS GOOD WORK]..."
GOD is the one who began the good work in me. HE is the one who put it in me and convicted me or impassioned me for HIS purposes! Everything good or hopeful or promising thing in me is from God. Therefore this concern and desire in my heart to follow God is from Him. Even the confusion and concern in my heart about why I DON'T want to follow God is from the Lord. The fact that it unsettles me that I don't desire after God is a sign that God is beginning His work in me.

And just as it is God who began the work in you, it is also God who will continue to bring it to fruition. Later on in Philippians, Paul says:
"work out your salvation with fear and trembling..."
Which lets face it, does NOT sit well with someone who is anti-legalism... but what most people fail to realize is that although the verse ends, the sentence does not (don't get me started on the verse and chapter divisions of the Bible, I will just get angry). The WHOLE sentence says:
"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is GOD who is at work in you, both to will and to work for HIS good pleasures."
Paul is talking about obedience as an act of "working out your salvation" and he goes on to explain that it is GOD who will be doing the "work" in you.
Therefore, what Paul is saying in verse 6 is that God will both give you the desire AND the tools... He will place in you the stirring AND will do the work to bring that stirring to full-fledged passion. God starts the work... and then He CONTINUES to do the work. Your job is to obey... basically just trust Him with myself and walk forward in faith to the things he sets before me.

He calls me to follow Him and then gives me the strength to step forward in faith toward Him...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

work work work...

Oh my gosh... I don't know how I am going to make it through the rest of the week. I know it is already thursday and so the week is almost done, but I don't remember the last time I was this tired or this sleep deprived. It isn't even like I have been sleeping so little, but because my sleep pattern has been thrown off and I have been forced to wake up earlier than I have in a long time, for the entire week, I think my body is giving out on me. I am definitely going to be sick soon... :(

Aside from the sleep pattern distruptions I have been good this week. I think I am going to like my job... although all I know of it right now is the data entry and knowledge portion of it. We are learning the booking system and basically about the products offered in each country. But I am feeling nervous about actually speaking to customers and I am interested to know how difficult or easy it is to sell them these products. I guess that is what the rest of training is for until the end of the month.

I have come to terms with the fact that although I will have a lot of discounts and opportunities to be rewarded with travel, I will be spending most of my time in a cubicle talking to people about their travel... which will be both exciting and depressing...

But I am feeling confident that I will get the hang of it eventually and this will be a great company to work for and stay with long term. I am really really really liking it! (But of course I like sleep a little better right now - hopefully they will even themselves out and work together to make a happy life).
Oh and the lady in charge of the international programs department, who interviewed me a month before getting this job in the general sales department, told me she was still wanting to eventually steal me for a position in their department. I would LOVE that! They work mainly with study abroad students and work abroad programs. I think I would fit really well there... so maybe later this year or next I'll get to transfer.

Alright... back to training.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Job...

I start my new job today! Very excited and very nervous to begin this new endeavor. STA is an amazing company that books travel for anyone and everyone, but they especially cater to college students and young adults who are looking for Spring Break trips in Europe, service projects over seas, Eurail passes, hostel bookings, summer internship programs and study abroad opportunities. I used them when I studied in England and loved their company. I am so excited to be working for them!

I also love this new opportunity because I no longer fear the dreaded question - "What will you be doing with your history degree after you graduate in May?"

I'll hopefully be doing this!!

I feel very blessed and fortunate...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Passion 2011

My first travel adventure in this year was to the Passion Conference 2011 in Atlanta, GA.

My cousin Lyle has been going for several years now and last year he even met his wife Anya in the airport as both of them were flying home.
I have wanted to go since he told me about it last year, but never thought I would because of time and money. But after Lyle and Anya's wedding, two of the other bridesmaids, Lauren and Abi, decided to go and begged me to go as well. I thought a little more about it, but it wasn't until my mom suggested it out of the blue, that I felt God tugging at my heart to go. It was divine providence that I got my job at STA and didn't have to start until January 10th and therefore had no reason NOT to go to Passion.

I cannot begin to tell you the amazing power of the weekend! I felt that God had prepared me for weeks before for the truth I was heard. It almost like it was tailor made for me and where I was at in life... as if every message progressively worked to tear down my vices and build up the much needed "renewing of my mind."
That is exactly what I walked away with, a continuous message in my head of "renewing my mind." I took a hard look at what I fill my mind with and where I place my hopes. I realized how this life is ENTIRELY about declaring the glory of God... this is why we were created and whatever I am doing, I need to be doing it to the glory of God. So as I stated before, I walked away committed to simply turning my eyes continually to God and letting go of selfish ambition and destructive thought patterns.

Listen to this song as you read on...

Passion 2011

22,000 college students and leaders gathered together for Passion 2011!
I worship with over 22,000 other college students and leaders. Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Matt Redman, and David Crowder on stage was beyond awesome! I stood in the presence of God and sang my heart out!
We also had the immense privilege to listen to messages from some of the top speakers in the country - Louie Giglio, Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, Francis Chan and John Piper and those were just the main sessions! In the Breakout sessions I got to listen David Platt and Ben Stuart (who was my favorite speaker and I have since subscribed to his podcasts from Texas A&M). It was a weekend of truth and so much fun!

Abi and I

Late night concert by Gungor

One of my favorite moments of the weekend was seeing Gungor perform one of the late night concerts. This band is seriously wicked awesome!

Abbi, Abi, and Lauren


Abi, Lauren, Katie, and I

Lauren and I got ready in the morning and ended up looking like this... twinsies

Sweet couple

Display for two organizations that rescue women for sex trafficing
During the conference there was a room dedicated to different charities and ministries that serve all over the world to rescue people in sex-trafficing, provide clean water to communities in India, building homes in Haiti, Bibles to South America, and sponsoring kids all over the world through compassion international, among many others.

the students gave enough money to build over 20 wells in India to provide clean water! Thank you Jesus!
This is the exact spot where Lyle and Anya met exactly one year ago after Passion... they have been married 7 weeks.
When Lyle, Anya, Abi and Lauren dropped me off at the airport to fly home, we parked and went in to visit the Atlanta Bread Co. where Lyle and Anya first laid eyes on each other. It was at this very table were they first saw and spoke to each other just one year ago.

Me, Abi, Lauren, and Anya!
Just before I flew home
I am forever changed by this experience, and cannot think of a better way I could have started this new year!

Travel Blog...

Alright people... this is going to be a new beginning to my blog!

I am passionate about travel, and for those of you who have been following me for a while know that I have traveled a lot in the past and it would seem it was during that time that you most enjoyed reading my blog. In all honestly it was more entertaining and interesting then. I apologize for my whiney blog entries about homework and being in the ASU library... that won't happen anymore. Mainly because hopefully I won't be in the library that much anymore...

I want to use this blog as an outlet for me to discuss what I am excited about and what I love. I also thought that since I just got an awesome job at STA Travel as a Travel Agent, I am going to be living and breathing travel for 40 hours a week... therefore I should impart my experiences in written form and in relationship to travel.

Travel, journey, adventure, inspiration, courage, sweetness, lovely... those are all things I think of when I  think of travel. They are all the things I felt and experienced and LOVED about traveling in the past. I want to live in that moment and those experiences every day... therefore, even everyday life can be an adventure... traveling and journeying through life takes courage, inspiration, and has many moments of despair and hardship, but also amazing moments of sweetness and loveliness.

So that is what this blog is about... my life... as a tourist for everything...


"The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." - Westminster Shorter Catechism

As I begin this new year I am hoping that the idea of living my life solely to glorify Jesus Christ will be the center of my life. I could go in to how God has led me to this point, but it really doesn't matter where I have been, because it is gone and done... and Christ is inviting me into a new season of life and a beautiful adventure of falling more and more in love with Him.
So how does that play out in my life right now? I know so many people who last friday sat down to write out the hopes and dreams for this next year. I hate New Years resolutions! They mainly consist of things I wish I could improve on and make me think of the areas in my life where I have failed and hope to improve. The idea of a New Years resolution basically takes those areas and inspires in us the idea of coming up with a plan of action on how to deal with those areas of failure. Then the next year rolls around, each of us has barely completed 3 of those resolutions... and none of them are the ones that mattered most to us a majority of the time. Then we feel a sense of failure again that we weren't strong of disciplined enough to correct our behavior and make better choices and so we resolve to do it again the next year...
It ignites in me, and I am sure you would agree in yourself, a cycle of managing my own messiness and it gives me the impression that I am a loser and a failure because I can't correct myself.


I realized long ago that every New Years is one big pile of disappointments and looking back on a year of lost hopes and dreams and failures. How depressing. I am such a sad-sack on New Years... but this year is different. God has placed on my heart a whispered call to just follow Him... that's it! He didn't specify how, or what it looked like to follow Him... just follow Him. You want to know why he doesn't specify??
Because it looks different moment by moment...
That is what this life is... just one moment after another of the present... and that is all we can live in is this moment and this present time.
CS Lewis... who I have a deeper and deeper crush on the more I read his books, says in The Screwtape Letters:
"The humans live in time but [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present... obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure."
It means that in this present moment Jesus is calling you to trust Him, listen to His voice, hear what He is asking of you. It is not about a check list of reading my Bible, going to church, praying, being kind to others... all of those things are amazing, but they should be acted out in reaction to the glorious love of the Savior, NOT as a formula of what you think would be pleasing to Him and therefore what would get you blessed. This life is about glorifying Jesus Christ and when we sit in the majesty and glory of our Lord, what else could be do but long to read His word - the love story He wrote to us and about us, speak to Him and about Him, be around others who also love Jesus and fellowship together, and share with others the immense freedom and joy we have in God.
So in each moment I want to remind myself of that truth and step forward in faith that God is calling me to love Him and out of that I will get direction on where to go and what to do... and all the things I fall short in will be made clean and whole in His glory.