For the past few weeks, a question has lingered in my mind. I wasn't really aware of it, but it usually came out in the way I thought about moments of hardship, conflict in relationships and friendships, and just the usually sufferings of life under the sun. Are you ready?
What do I do?
That is the question I have been asking myself and asking God. What do I do?
What do I do in the midst of conflict among friends? What do I do when a friend is angry with me for trying to speak the truth? What do I do when the people around me are suffering? What do I do when the Enemy is trying to devour a fellow sister? What do I do when I'm fearful of people while leading? What do I do?
What do I do when my newsfeed is filled with people who are angry or sad about a verdict or people's response to that verdict? What do I do when I feel compassion for both sides?
What do I do when I have no idea where I will be in a year? What do I even do with my life?
What do I do?
I've been waiting for an answer. Or rather I've been anxious and worrisome and not at peace, not realizing that I've been waiting for an answer.
But the answer is simple, and it's found in the Psalms.
Be still, and know that I am God.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Psalm 31: 24
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27: 14
A beautiful thing about the Psalms is that they are balm for a weary soul.
In the midst of my what do I do's, I needed to be reminded that it's not about what I do, it's about what God does and what He has already done. Often that looks like me being still and waiting patiently for the Lord to be the one to do the work.
I can lovingly encourage a friend, but I can't change the circumstances she is dealing with. I can lovingly speak the truth in love to a friend, but I have no control over how they take that truth. I can pray for someone that is really struggling, but ultimately God is the one that sets them free.
It's not on me. It's on God.
Being still and waiting for the Lord doesn't look inactive. I should still be doing the things He has called me to do, like loving people and praying and doing my school work. BUT my heart posture should be trusting that He is really the one at work.
And that's liberating. So what do I do amidst so many hard things? I can pray and I can be still and wait for the one that is sovereign over all.
P.S I just had to put a cute picture of Spice. He's a good example of being still and waiting patiently.
I'm not sure if you know but there's this little holiday on Thursday called Thanksgiving. It's been celebrated as a national holiday for around a hundred and fifty years. It's a day in which all work stops, people take a time to rest, reflect, make delicious food, and take the time to articulate what they're thankful for. That's the vision. Unfortunately, we've really fallen far from that vision over the past few decades.
Now, Thanksgiving is seen as a holiday off from work, when people watch football games and parades, make a lot of food, overeat, and then strategically plan where they're going to shop on Friday. Now, this model might not hit everyone, but I bet you can relate to this new model of Thanksgiving. The actual act of giving thanks has been lost.
And I am one of the culprits.
It's so easy to have so much but be grateful for so little.
Giving thanks isn't just a one day thing. It's a way of life. It's a heart check.
If I'm honest, I don't have a thankful heart. If I did, my prayers and my thoughts would look a lot different. Thankfulness and even gratefulness lead to contentment, joy, and peace. But I often am not content. I'm often not joyful. I'm often not at peace.
I often forget that I have the greatest Hope and reason for being thankful and grateful.
With all that I've been freely given, I really desire to have a thankful heart. I want to live thanks and give thanks. I want to live out Psalm 9:1.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my WHOLE HEART. I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I want to intentionally be thankful, but it starts with my heart.
So today I'm praying for a thankful heart. A heart that gives thanks for what God has given me before it asks for more. Will you join me in praying for a thankful heart and intentionally being thankful?
On this fearless Friday, I thought I would talk about the elusive opposite of fear. I say "elusive" because the opposite of fear is hard to define.
If you look up the word "fear" at Thesaurus.com, you'll find synonyms, but you'll also find antonyms. Some of the antonyms (or opposites) of fear include: assurance, calmness, cheer, confidence, contentment, ease, encouragement, faith, joy, and love.
But in the midst of a fearful situation, how does one put off fear and put on one of these things? When you're fearful, how does that fear exchange for assurance? How can that fear become calmness? How can it become confidence or contentment or joy or love?
And the answer is turning to the only one that gives true assurance, calmness, confidence, contentment, encouragement, joy, and love: God.
The opposite of fear (or rather fears of life such as anxieties, worries, or just plain being afraid) is fearing and loving the Lord.
1 John 4: 16-18
God's perfect love drives out fear. Fearing and love the Lord brings a peace and assurance and confidence that puts fear to death.
I felt this confidence and assurance while walking to get my car last night. Usually I take a well lit way to get my car, but for some reason I was prompted to take the way with less light, which would be a lot quicker.
As I started walking this way, the sun had already set over the horizon, but a slice of light still remained, illuminating the way. Even though this way had less light, the Lord still provided light to guide me. Whether it was the street light, my iPhone's light, or even the sliver of light on the horizon. The darkness did not overcome the light.
My fears can feel like darkness in my life, but the Lord always overcomes the darkness. The sun always rises. Shadows are always illuminated. In fact, shadows don't exist without light.
God calmed my own fears of the darkness while walking to get my car (to go see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay premiere I might add, more on this movie later). While I probably won't opt to take that route most of the time at night in the future, the Lord still calmed my fears. And showed me that I have full assurance and confidence through trusting him.
If I were to pick a genre of music that really reflects me as a person, it would probably be a toss up between folk and soul/Motown. There's just something about some good soul music that brings me joy and delight. Maybe it's because I grew up listening to the oldies (The Temptations, The Shirelles, The Four Seasons, Elvis, you name it). Soul music is my kind of music, and I always love discovering new artists (or new to me) and new songs that just hit a deep place in my heart.
Recently, I stumbled upon an artist whose music really speaks to my soul. Liz Vice is the name and soulful worship music is her game.
I recently listened to her rendition of the song Empty Me Out. You can find it here. I love the smooth soul of this song, but the lyrics hit a sweet cord too.
Empty me out / Fill me with You
Lord there is nothing / I can give to you
I lay down my life / here at your feet
You give me life / so completely
I died with you / Was buried with you
The moment I believed
I rose with you / Ascended with You
Into the heavenlies
Lord, it's not me / It's You inside of me
Jesus, You are all / These eyes can see
This is soul music and a prayer courtesy of Liz Vice.
You can check out some more of Liz Vice's music here and even download her debut album.
Nature's first green is gold.
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only for an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
I first heard this poem when I was in middle school, and oddly enough I didn't have to read it for an english class. I heard this poem while watching The Outsiders, which was a book that I had to read for eight grade english. I fell in love with the book and the movie.
Ponyboy Curtis, the main character of The Outsiders, quotes this poem to his good buddy Johnny, and it becomes a theme of the novel. Nothing gold can stay.
Everyone grows up. Seasons in our lives come to an end. Physical seasons like fall, winter, summer, and spring come to an end. Thus is life. There might be new seasons with gold, but nothing gold can stay. It does not last forever, at least not this side of heaven.
I've been thinking about this as the golden hues of fall slowly turn to a dull brown. The gold of autumn cannot stay. Autumn makes way for winter. Winter makes way for spring. Spring makes way for summer. Summer makes way for autumn. Life goes on.
The gold of this moment prepares us for the gold of the next. This is true of the seasons and of life.
I'm in the golden stage of college. My time in college is slowly coming to an end. Nothing gold can stay. But like the seasons, college is just one golden season in my life. There will be many more. And they too will pass, but I can enjoy them while I'm in them.
Did you know that the phrase "do not fear" is in the Bible 356 times? I didn't know that either (I heard it in a film once). In reality this phrase is used only around 100 times, but I'm sure that the Bible talks about not fearing and trusting the Lord more than 365 times. That's a verse on not fearing for everyday of the year, and if I'm honest I need the reminder not to fear daily, sometimes several times a day.
There are so many things in this world that can lead us to fear, but as I'm growing in knowing God more, I'm learning that there really is a way to be freed from fear. Do you want to know the secret?
The secret is fearing the Lord and trusting in His goodness.
The Bible has a lot to say about fear, but it also has a lot to say about the goodness of the Lord. God is a good God. He wants good things for His people. And he wants His people not to be afraid and to trust Him.
On today, the first fearless Friday everrrrr, I'm meditating on this truth about God.
But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel,
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.
When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD, your God.
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
God is with us through the waters, the rivers, and the fire. He has redeemed us, He calls us by name, and we are His. He is our God. He is our savior.
I don't know about you, but that fills me with a courage to knock the smile off of fear's face. Whom shall I fear if I serve a God that does all of these things? I've got over 365 promises that show me God is beyond my fears.
What are some encouraging verses or passages that remind you of God's character and that you don't have to fear?
With the end of the 31 day series in October and the transition into a new domain, I've been thinking about what this blog will look like, particularly what the schedule will look like.
Honestly, I never thought I would have a blog "schedule". BUT after posting everyday for a month, I really miss having the routine of writing, and not just writing when I feel like it. Being diligent in writing everyday definitely brought me delight, so I'm implementing a schedule that is less demanding than writing everyday but is more regimented than writing when I feel like it.
For the time being (meaning starting tomorrow), below is what the schedule on the blog will look like. I'll primarily be writing on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Topics: focusing on culture, art, movies, music, and even thoughts on rest.
Personal Lessons: things that I'm learning as I grow closer to Jesus.
Fearless Fridays: This blog's new title is She Laughs Without Fear, and in order to laugh without fear, you have be fearless. On Fridays, we'll be focusing on fear, what the Bible has to say about it, and where freedom from fear comes from (Hint: it comes from God).
Look forward to the first Fearless Friday post tomorrow!
Some great links to start your week.
Are You Too Christian for Non-Christians: This is a really helpful article on loving people who aren't Christians. It's so easy to want to stay in a comfortable bubble, but Jesus calls believers to love their neighbors.
When Risking It All For God Means Staying Where You Are: We all aren't called to overseas missions. Sometimes people are called to stay.
Toy Story 4: They're really making it!
(Newest) Into the Woods Trailer: This is a musical that I have waited a long time to see come to film, and it has a lot of thought provoking themes, namely what happens after you get what you wish?
12 Ways to Make (and Keep) Friends: Short Article in conjunction with a book called The Company We Keep. Really good tidbits from the book, and I'm looking into even buying this book for myself.
I'm sure somewhere in your life you heard the famous quote by Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty, or give me death."
Patrick Henry said this in a speech to the Virginia Convention which convinced the Virginian House of Burgesses to enter into the Revolutionary War. Sources say that the convention sat in silence for several minutes after Henry finished, momentarily stunned by his words. They meditated and they acted.
I'm not as eloquent as Patrick Henry, but I had a profound moment this morning when I realized that after a long and weary week, I need rest. And it forced me to sit in silence, but it also called me to action.
I'm learning more and more that rest is an active pursuit. You have to actively choose to rest. It's so easy to think, "I'll just keep pushing through. If only I get one more thing done. I can rest once all the things on my list are finished."
But God didn't make me to work constantly. He made me to work hard for His glory and then to humble myself and rest.
Throughout the 31 day series that occurred last month, I shared that I'm really bad at resting. And the war continues.
But sometimes, you come to a point where you have to surrender and actively choose to rest.
Give me rest, or give me death.
This is my battle cry today.
And even though there are things that I start working on or get done early, God is clearly calling me to honor him and to actively choose to rest.
How are you doing with rest? Have you actively chosen to rest lately?
Today is a BIG day. Today engagingculture.weebly.com became shelaughswithoutfear.com. A NEW DOMAIN!
And you're probably wondering why I would decide to make my own domain, and why I would change the title.
And the answer to that is that it's a God thing.
I've been praying for a while now about potentially buying a domain for this blog, but using Engaging Culture would come at a high price, and I wasn't willing to pay over $2000 for a domain that I wasn't sure I would keep for the long haul.
But as I thought and prayed about this, I asked God to put a domain name into my thoughts, one that really speaks more to what this blog is about and that really resonates with me.
And then He showed me last night.
She Laughs Without Fear
This title comes from Proverbs 31, specifically the New Living Translation.
"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."
I don't know what God has planned for my future or even the future of this blog, but I can laugh without fear of the future, because God is guiding me and showing me His will and I can trust that He has good planned for me.
So, welcome to shelaughswithoutfear.com!
Welcome! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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She Laughs Without Fear