Archive for September, 2011

Thank You, Lord…

Thank you, Lord…

-That through my trusting in you, you have given me the strength to achieve my dreams and live my life more honestly, openly, and fully, than I ever could before.

-That in you, you have given me the freedom to be myself, in a way I never could before. You have given me the courage to open up and love myself and people more.

-For making impossibly hard times possible. Sometimes, you really do make life more complicated but it’s always worthwhile. You make situations that seem to have no right answer more easy to deal with, you make a way out of no way.

-For being the friend that was always there in ways no one else could be. When I feel alienated and alone, I know you are always near and love me very much.

-For simply loving me. Your gracious acts of love have lifted me up and pushed me to act, loving others the way you have loved me.

-For Jesus Christ. For blessing me. For your mercy when I’ve made mistakes. For never giving up on me. For forgiving my worst mistakes because I have learned to forgive others. For fighting for me. For fighting with me. For the Bible. For my family. For my friends. For Anderson University. For my job. For my good grades. For my talents. For a funny Hermeneutics class thanks to Eric Coonce and Dr. Neal. For a interesting music theory class thanks to Elizabeth Graham. For a not-totally-boring Western Civ class thanks to Kim Starnes. For music like Korn and Flyleaf and Breaking Benjamin. For being just plain amazing.

I get frustrated with you but you are still my everything. This is a race and I will come out on the other side victorious, ripping through the tape line at heaven’s entrance.

Thank you for any and absolutely everything.
I love you.

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Learning to Have Quiet Time

I am always trying to put God first in my life- first in my relationships, my finances, my dreams, my priorities, any and everything. But I didn’t realize that I was missing something so simple as putting him first in my day.

I’ve always heard my Christian friends talking about how they have quiet time with the Lord every morning for maybe 5 to 10 minutes. They talk to God and listen to see what his plan is for them for that day, they get encouraged or maybe even convicted.

I just recently started having quiet time with God a couple of weeks ago after I read O2 by Richard Dahlstrom. In the book, he reminded me that things such as silence and just listening for the voice of the Lord are hard disciplines to master, as we can get easily distracted with other thoughts about what we need to do. But he reminded me that it is so important to specifically make time for God during the day to listen to him and hear what he has to say.

Dahlstrom really inspired me because he said that even though sometimes he won’t hear anything from the Lord, other times he hears things that have a really big impact on his life. He said that impact wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t had the quiet time.

So I get up for school in the morning and get ready, and my mom drives me to school. I’m typically there between 7:25-7:30, and that’s when I have my quiet time. It can be from 5 to 15 or 20 minutes. I try to find a very quiet and empty place so I won’t be distracted by people or noise. I haven’t been doing this long and he hasn’t said anything to me yet but I feel inspired and a little more prepared for the day when I do. I’ll pray for my own needs and for the needs of others and do a lot of listening and waiting in between. I talk to him openly and honestly about everything I feel, I don’t hide anything from him. I ask for encouragement and for guidance throughout the day. I ask him if there is anything he wants me to do or to focus on or to remember.

It can be very difficult because I am so used to going to school and just starting to do whatever I feel like doing. It’s very difficult to put me second but I am doing it anyway. God should be first in everything, he will take care of us when we do put him first. So I am working hard, and learning to be very, very patient.

I know it will all be worthwhile.

Embracing Humility pt 2

-Always remember that there is a HUGE gap between being the best and being my best. Between being the most excellent and reaching my potential and defining my own level of excellence. I know it’s hard because I’m prone to low self-esteem and to feeling second best. Or third. Or fourth. But God gave me each and every talent that I have today. He did not accidently give me too much or too little. He knew exactly what he was doing and made me uniquely, to live out a very specific purpose he has for my life. I don’t have to be the best singer, and I know that’s hard to hear when I’m so easy to criticize myself. But I just have to be my own pursonal best, doing what I can do, and then letting go and letting God take care of the rest. I don’t have to be the smartest, most talented, most charming, most anything. I just have to love God with everything in me and realize he made me with certain strengths and weaknesses, and I need to embrace them. Improve where I can, but let go of what I cannot control.

-Don’t fret so much that I don’t have a boyfriend. Don’t fret that I’ve made a promise to God that I won’t have sex until marriage. It is something difficult to achieve but I find strength on the day to day basis dealing with this, when I have faith in Christ. I know it hurts really bad to be alone. But don’t be angry at God and understand that he sees the painful things you go through, he sees when the depression sets in and when I feel dead to myself and to the world, he sees each and every tear that I cry. He sees how I ask for his help time and time again and don’t see the immediate effects and how I get so frustrated and start to break down. Christ said that he has overcome the world. That means he has overcome every bad feeling, every thought, every fear, every ache, every pain. That doesn’t mean we will cease to feel these things but it really does mean that we can trust that he has the strength to help us overcome our constant, irritating probllems. He has not given up on me. He never will.

-Stop worrying that some people don’t see the love in me, that some don’t see how much I have truly invested in Christ Jesus. Just realize that he does; he sees every time I struggle for him, every time I fight for him, every time I give to him, every time I am living for him, every time I’m dying for him or breaking for him. The world doesn’t have to see, because he does, and he certainly will not let such love go unacknowledged.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7

It’s certainly difficult to embrace humility in some of the more painful areas of our lives, and these are a handful of mine. But you can see through my experiences that good starts to come out of it by doing so. Trust, just trust. Do the very best that you can, and once you have done that, realize that that is all you can do. Then just let go and let God.

Embracing Humility pt 1

In my walk with God, I’m trying to let go of having to be noticed, having to be the most popular, having to be the most successful by the standards of the world.

I need to let go and…

-Stop worrying about not being popular for being me. It doesn’t matter if people know the name ‘Jennifer Clayton’ or not. While I am trying to be an influence in the world, sometimes I just need to relax and realize that Jesus is the only name people need to have left ringing in their heads and their hearts. I am to influence people to love him, not me. I am a messenger but I am certainly not the message.

-Stop worrying about that guy who hurt me really bad. He probably doesn’t realize how bad he hurt me, and I may never be able to really confront him about it, and that’s okay. He did shatter my heart and leave me as half of a person at the time, but I’ve learned to embrace the humility, compassion, and forgiveness that Jesus has. It’s not okay that he hurt me, but it’s okay to let go. God has taught me through this experience to trust in him more instead of trusting in myself. He is allowing me to see the beautiful side of forgiveness. It doesn’t mean that you’ve been defeated, but rather, that you have set yourself free. It doesn’t mean that the guy wins, but that I do. Because until someone lets go of a grudge and bitterness, they can’t ever be free; and the pain will not let go of them until they let go of it. I learned this the hard way but it’s okay. Forgive as Jesus forgives, and he will forgive me. When I see the guy with his partner, I feel how free it feels to truly not care and to not be upset, and I’m reminded that forgiving like Jesus got rid of the pain.

-Don’t get caught up in trying to be the most beautiful; don’t be obsessed with vanity. God sees that I have a beautiful heart and spirit, and that shines infinitely brighter than any physical beauty. A beautiful girl may turn heads, but a beautiful soul will turn hearts and change the world. The love that pours out of me will encourage people, bless people, heal people, change people, because it is God’s love that pours out of me. Sometimes I feel so ugly when I look in the mirror and it’s easy to emotionally abuse myself. But I desperately pray that God will remind me of my true beauty inside, and let me know that that means so much more to him than anything else.

-Stop worrying about money. I have always been big on saving, and I always tithe my first 10% with a grateful and happy heart. But sometimes I’m afraid I will get so caught up in trying to hold on to money that when God wants to use it to advance his kingdom, I will get stressed out about it and not know what to do. Embrace humility Jennifer, and trust that God will take care of my finances so long as I continue to put him first, and with a joyous heart. Just trust him to take care of whatever financial situation I find myself caught in, and he will be there to catch me when I fall. It’s his money in the first place, and he knows how to invest it a lot better than I do. I don’t want to get caught up in investing money in temporary, material things. I want to get caught up investing money into souls, seeing people reach Christ.

I am embracing humility.

Like a Sparkling Slither of Sunlight

I wake up every day, feeling like a sense of dread in my stomach, wondering if God is going to be with me that day or not. Truly, the Bible says that God is always with us and that he does not leave us, but it certainly doesn’t always feel that way. Ever since I have accepted Christ into my life, I have:

-Been sure to love him with everything in me. The Bible says to love God with all your heart and all your strength and all your soul
-Been sure to dedicate everything important in my life to him (music, school, work/money, relationships), make him my very first priority
-Been sure to love others with the same love he has given me. I attempt to express my love through my actions

The point is I feel like I am giving God my all, everyday. I get mad at him in the day, I pout and I whine and complain to him, and then I try to brush it off so I can face a brand new day with a fresh start. And then the cycle continues again. Wake up eager, go to bed frustrated. I’ve always wanted to be a Christian who was real. Not one to make up a bunch of mumbo jumbo crap just because. I want to genuinely love God and express that love through real actions, through changing the way I live, and ultimately helping to change people for the better by showing them how to love God more. I want to be honest, I want to explain, I want things to make sense. But sometimes it’s just difficult. Sometimes I want to give up, and some days I feel like I do give up a little.

But then, out of nowhere, like a sparkling slither of sunlight peaking over the horizon after the coldest, harshest, and darkest winter night, comes a glimmer of hope. It’s starts seemingly faint and barely there, but grows bigger and brighter gradually throughout the day, until it fills up the whole sky with its magnificent beauty.

This reminds me of what God can be like sometimes. I walk around confused and scared and pissed off because a lot of times, things don’t seem to go right. I get so angry I could scream. But in the bleakness and coldness in my heart, I feel this gentle love start to envelop me. Love slowly begins to melt the pain in all of my frostbitten wounds.

God is like that sometimes.

Sometimes, we pray, and we get the things we want; sometimes, he gives us rest and peace, and then other times, he will push us completely to our limits, and then some more, and then just a little more. But I am slowly learning to walk around with this Christ mentality of peace. It’s the mindset of having peace, even in a life filled with chaos, and we can only obtain it by truly trusting God and giving him our problems in this life. He gives us the strength to carry on when everything is falling apart, as it so often is in my own little world.

“My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

So God will push you, God will test you, and we don’t fail if we fall down, even if we fall down again and again. God knows we will fall and break because we are sinful by nature. However, we only truly fail when we become indifferent and stay down, refusing to get back up. I believe that God is not nearly as upset when we don’t succeed as he is if we don’t try in the first place. I mess up on the daily basis. But everyday, I guarantee that I will get back up and try again.

I am going to kick Satan in the face because I will not let myself be defeated for too long. I have invested too much into Christ to give up so easily, and more importantly, he has invested much too much in me.