I Thirst

World Youth Day (WYD/JMJ) 2011 was the start of my relationship with Jesus. It was also the first time God began my journey of healing which is still ongoing to this day.

Years earlier, in 2009, my family was struck by…well I’m not sure what it was but we lost 4-6 family members in the space of six months. One of those people was my grandmother. If you’ve ever had a grandparent who made life so much better by just existing and showing you what unconditional love looks like then you’ll understand why we adored this woman. This made losing her so suddenly that much harder. After her passing I went on a vendetta against God. One thing you have to know about me is that I’ve never doubted God’s existence.  I had this understanding that God loved me, that he didn’t want to see me hurt or damaged so I in turn went out of my way to hurt him.

I would embrace whatever darkness and evil was in me. I was intentionally mean and cruel to others. I would go to church and spend most of the time daydreaming about things no one should be thinking about in the presence of God. And yet, in spite of my cruelty God didn’t give up on me. Instead he gave me a friend who saved me from myself and unknowingly set my journey of healing in motion.

Then came WYD 2011 in Madrid and I fell in love with the country and the people. The atmosphere was amazing and really touristy for the most part when we weren’t going for daily mass. But one night we had Adoration, and for those who don’t know this is where you sit in the presence of the Body of Christ and just keep Jesus company. If my facts are right it’s inspired by the moment just before the Passion when Jesus asked his disciples to keep him company and pray with him. So we’re sitting in Adoration in a massive church with hundreds of other pilgrims while an amazing band played music. A couple of the others fell asleep, some people were praying and I was just sort of sitting there.

In that moment, and I will always remember this, the Holy Spirit revealed himself to me for the first time. That wave of peace which exceeds all human understanding (Phil 4:7) hit me and I began to cry. Looking back it was as though the Spirit was saying “I’m sorry. I know you’re hurting and I’m sorry. I know you feel alone and broken and unwanted and I’m sorry but the Lord God, the lover of your soul is here with you, hurting with you and you will never be alone”. I balled my eyes out because I hadn’t even been saying anything, I can’t remember what I was thinking or if I was praying but I remember that feeling because I’ve felt it a number of times since then.

I’ve heard people talk about accepting Christ, being born again etc and I believe I was born again when I was baptised as a baby (there’s a story in there for another day). That was 100% the moment I accepted Jesus. God address the stagnant faith in my heart and I underwent my conversion. I realised how I’d been stuffing things into the God-shaped hole in my soul and how my grandmother was my idol. God began a great work in me that day, it was my River Jordan Baptism Dove descending moment and since then I’m a completely different person.

My WYD experience was my first Upgrade/Leveling Up as a Christian and since then they’ve been several more. I just look back on it and I can’t wait to go on another pilgrimage like that. I hope everyone can encounter God like I did that day because it’s one of those moments which changed me. Like my first Christian crush (ie an elder in the faith whom I look up to and admire) Judah Smith always says, once you meet Jesus and accept him into your life, you’ll never be the same again.

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I am Satisfied in….?

I am rarely ever completely satisfied with what I have. There’s always someone I can look at and think “Why can’t I do my hair as well as she does? Why can’t my skin be as smooth as hers? Wow look at those legs. If I had those legs I’d be a whole other woman”. It even creeps unapologetically into spiritual life; “Why can’t I pray like that? God, why don’t you ever give me those kinds of blessings? Well, I guess God just didn’t want me to have a solo career as a Christian soul singer/rapper/poet.”

It’s funny because it looks right into one of the basic features of being human; we are rarely ever completely happy with what we have when we are aware of the blessings of others. Now I have to point out, there is a difference between admiring the work of God in someone’s life (for example how he used a friend in teaching an atheist about the truth of the Gospel which leads to them being baptised) and potentially secretly envying them (for example wishing he had used you to take down the whole group of atheists and turn them into a Gospel street-preaching-choir). I mean really, everyone wants to be that person who leads a billion people to God…or maybe that’s just me.

I really enjoy the preaching of Judah Smith. His style speaks to me because even though I’m Catholic and I like that cool, calm and structured way of worshipping, when I go and speak to anyone about anything pertaining to the Bible or Gospel or God, all the characters turn into gangstas. I don’t know, I think in my mind when I describe them in this way I understand what I’m saying a lot better. I’m not quite polished at using that fancy rhetoric, and especially when I’m speaking to someone who has minimal knowledge about anything involving my faith I find it connects better. I’m not trying to make the Bible sound hip and I’m not drowning it in glitter because have you met Jesus? He’s already the coolest guy I know and the Bible’s an awesome read. That’s where I feel Judah and I are similar. We are both wannabe gangstas, he’s just more popular than I am. Anyway, I’ve been reading his latest book ‘Life Is____’ and it’s great. At one point he wonders how happy we would be if we had no information about our friends and neighbours, and I think that has some truth to it.

The other night I went for Bible study and I was feeling good, ready to share my testimony and tell everyone how God had blessed me that week. I was practically buzzing and my heart was singing silent psalms of praise to the Father. As we went around the circle the tone of my heart was pretty solid until we arrived at one person. She told us about how she had been in communion with Jesus during the weekend. She described how she had locked herself in her room and actually forgotten about the outside world because she was just enjoying being with Jesus, talking to him, singing, revelling in his presence. And little me sat up in my seat wondering why God never called me to do that. I wanted that too. It’s happened before with so many other situations where someone wins a prize or brings out the big guns during fellowship bringing everyone in awe of God, and sometimes I think to myself and wonder why my blessings are always so much smaller than everyone else’s. Ironically before I even knew about their blessings I was feeling pretty good about mine. I was feeling invincible. I felt adored by God. Jesus was my anchor and the Spirit was my sail.

My friends and I often acknowledge how humans are rarely ever happy with what they have. We always want someone else’s hair or eyes or complexion or height when God’s already given us a pretty sweet deal if only we looked into ourselves a little more rather than at others.

God is just and after Jesus he really doesn’t have favourites. He is a just and fair God even when we don’t always see or acknowledge it. Besides, no two relationships are identical. The way I relate to God is different from every other people and it mainly consists of an occasional tug-of-war, one-sided arguments, sulking, and lots of smiles and laughter. My day of communing with God may look different to yours because we are different children at different stages of our spiritual development.

Keeping this in mind I’m going to try a bit harder to be thankful in all and every situation he throws my way. When it’s my turn to win a ruler and a friend’s turn to win a bicycle I’ll be happy with my ruler and happy for my friend and their bicycle. It’s just another thing Jesus has to help me sort out; to first be satisfied with him and then be satisfied with everything he gives me. After all he knows best.

Gracious Grace

I’ve been reading Judah Smith’s book ‘Jesus Is____’ as of late and I have to say, it’s brilliant. I am biased though because I have a deep appreciation for Judah’s way of preaching. God revealed him to me last year when I was going through a dark patch and he does have an aura which speaks to my heart. He’s a brilliant example of a man of God.

The book explores the various things that Jesus is, e.g. love, merciful, etc.. In a chapter of his book he discusses grace and how Jesus is grace. Grace is one of those aspects of faith which had surrounded me my whole life but until I was out of my comfort zone and the word was being tossed at me I had to investigate what this grace thing is. I suppose for each person grace has a different definition. Even for me the meaning evolves and fluctuates depending on what’s going on in my heart.

For now I’ll define grace as knowing and acknowledging that Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and his love for us, means we have been forgiven our sins eternally through his mercy. Your definition may differ from mine and that’s alright, why not share it in the comments. While I have this definition God’s grace has been blooming for me fairly regularly and sometimes I even realise it.

I was reading ‘Jesus Is____’ yesterday and I had a bit of an epiphany. Remember that sin I said I struggle with? That one sin which pops up when I least want it and I’m foolish enough to slip away from holding Jesus’ hand. I slipped again last month and looking back I felt nothing, I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel dirty, I didn’t feel clean. I just felt average, and that terrified me. Usually I end up feeling disgusting and filthy. I feel guilty and hated and dark and like I’ve just dragged Jesus’ name through the mud.

I was so used to condemning myself and making myself feel like trash. I would pull an Adam & Eve and try hide away from God because I just wouldn’t feel worthy. I felt like he would strike me down at any moment because I was wasting his time and wasting oxygen by praying for forgiveness. I hated myself as much as I hated my sin.

Reading about grace yesterday made me realise something. Over the past few years my relationship with God has grown and improved so much. Heck, I was praying at the bus stop and I’m sure I made the people around me very uncomfortable but I didn’t care. There’s still a lot of growing room and I look forward to the years to come, but looking at the old me and how I am now my heart is glad for how far I’ve come. I’m still only an adolescent spiritually but even that is a blessing because I’m not an infant any more.

What was revealed to me was, even as a mere adolescent, God’s grace is constantly on my life and in my heart. My self-condemnation was me not believing I had grace. I was stuck in the idea that I had to force myself not to sin to make God proud. I’m not saying not trying not to sin doesn’t make God proud but I was trying out of my own power and not letting him lead me. When I sinned and I didn’t feel anything I believe that was because I knew I wasn’t condemned. I was disappointed in myself but I knew God would be with me and I didn’t need to worry about it. He doesn’t condemn me so who am I to condemn myself?

I don’t know, I guess that’s just a little testimony for me. Before I couldn’t comprehend the concept of grace or why it was there. When I was merely aware of it I believed it just meant I was forgiven and still needed to do the right thing to make God happy. Now I’m at a place where I try to give Jesus the reigns and I follow him. Sometimes I fall but he holds out his hand every time and like a child I run to grasp it.

Grace and peace, brothers and sisters.

The Little Things

One of the worst feelings we must experience as humans is being sick. Whether it be a flu, cold, infection, whatever. There are few things we dislike more than being ill in any way, shape or form.
Over the past few days I’ve been fighting one of the worst colds I’ve had in years. I think what made it worse was having no one there to fight it with me. No mother to make me soup. No father to talk to me. No brother to make me laugh. No dog to comfort me. I haven’t had to be so sick and so alone before, as far as I can remember.
I’ve been trying to close the gap I’ve been feeling between the Lord and I recently (obviously self-induced) and so I’ve been sleeping with my Bible beside me and listening to The Good Christian Music Blog on YouTube (beautiful songs, I highly recommend it). Earlier today I went to the kitchen and one of my housemates had washed my dishes because she knew I wasn’t feeling well. We had a really good chat as well, just getting to know each other. Then a favourite song of mine by Jeff Schneeweis came on.

I realise that I’m just listing things that happened today but for me it’s the little things that make me happy. I’m not one for crazy gifts or huge declarations so these little things really brightened my day.

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m in a good mood when I’m singing. I haven’t been able to sing for a while because of this cold but I sang this evening. What better thing to use your newly recovered strength on than singing? Especially when that singing is completely dedicated to God. It’s such a good feeling and it really has made me feel good.

I pray that you’re all healthy and well, I praise God for your lives and for the gifts and talents He has blessed you with. Smile! It’s the little things that can make someone’s day.