Sometimes God Doesn’t Say Something is Wrong…

janie_925_sometimes-copy This is a bit personal, but I do not care. I am tired of people settling for far less than they are offered. Years ago, I needed someone desperately to tell me that God had more for me, and I want to do that now for others.

         “God doesn’t specifically say ___ is wrong, so is it?”
In American culture, we are focused on the rights and wrongs of life. I didn’t realize this until recently talking with someone from a different culture. I suppose its true. We says things like, ‘Well, its not wrong to watch this show” or “Its ok to go this far with my boyfriend.” If we are Christians, we follow it with, “because the Bible doesn’t say it is wrong.”
         I lived this way all through high school. Deeply dedicated to God’s law, I would abstain from anything ‘wrong’ specified in the Word. I wanted to obey Him. Of course, if I had the slightest doubt God condemned something, I let myself push the limits.
          I could easily justify every action-
 Drinking without getting drunk isn’t frowned upon in the Bible, and the 21+ law in this country is absurd.
Pot is natural, and i could have picked up these leaves on the ground and smoked them.
Watching sex scenes in movies is different than watching porn. What am I going to do…close my eyes?
I’m doing some things, but at least I’m not having sex- so I’ll just do these other things so I don’t have sex.
I’m not gossiping even if I watch a gossip tv show, thats THEIR gossip.
I just want to see if I’m beautiful. Its not really insulting them.
I could’ve spent hours memorizing this, so its not really cheating… its just saving time.
         I was so focused on avoiding the major taboos that I forgot about resting in purity. When I say ‘resting in purity,’ I mean appreciating purity as a gift. I saw purity, instead, as a burden, and I went around all of God’s laws until I eventually couldn’t tell the difference between what I was doing and blatantly ignoring God. So then I started justifying more. “Well, I was already doing ____, so whats the difference if I ____?”
         I was a disciple of God who let myself justify the things that hurt me.
-Never turning from God really- just sinking beneath what He really had in mind.
         And that is what I didn’t understand: that when I wasn’t siding with purity in its complete form, I was settling for less than I was gifted with. God has given me complete purity- THAT is what I was sitting in. But instead of relaxing in that spot, enjoying the beauty and peace of it… I kept testing to see how far I could possibly lean away from purity without falling into disobedience.
         I look back now and I wish someone challenged me to try resting in that purity- away from gossip and sexual acts and substances. I wish that I stopped justifying everything as ‘not wrong’ and instead asked myself “when do I feel like I am acting most like the holy princess God says I am?”
         Because when I ask myself that, I don’t want to lean away. I want to rest in my identity as a princess and resist acting out of character. I do not think that wanting sin or being tempted means you aren’t a disciple. But I do love that we can practice walking in holiness, seeking to know God more and more. The more I understand God’s love for others, the less it makes sense to gossip. The more I understand God’s purpose in marriage, the less I want to give myself to anyone else in any way. The more I relish in goodness and purity, the less I want to reach for anything else.
         So, my friend, please don’t be discouraged if you want other things at the moment, but know you are royalty. Know that God loves you and has so much for you. He doesn’t want for you to have a life that is ‘pure enough’… He wants the most for you possible.
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. . .How does it feel when you have tears coming out of your heart but your face is dry? How does it feel when you have someone screaming in your face but out of wisdom you detain your reply? How does it feel when you turn a corner from shriveling down to standing peace? How is it possible in the moment innocent blood is shed to rise with no trace of fear but rather, ease? Can you imagine staring down the barrel of a gun without a care of losing anything or anyone? Do you know what its like to love so much that your courage births a joy that no one can touch? . . .
There is a type of joy that comes only from the times that call for war paint. When crisis strikes I look around and see that most people offer apologies, condolences, and a shoulder to cry on. Many do not even know what to say because they have already stepped into the defeat with the other person. This grieves me and fuels me equally as I believe knowledge of true joy is the answer. Joy can be your core in crisis. I claim no genius and I am sure there will be many respectable people who disagree with me but I can no longer hold back my thoughts on this subject. The church has taught me that joy is Godly and I cannot disagree however it is the understanding of joy and its role that I want to talk about. I think we can all agree that joys most common display is of smiles, laughter, and even dancing. . .
I have experienced joy showing itself in a much more serious manner and I must believe that I am not the only one.
This joy has come to me at times when I didn’t know where I was going to live. It has come at times when I have been surrounded by dangerous people in foreign lands. It has come in that moment when I have fought my best to reach an understanding with someone I highly value or even love and failed. It has come to me in the lonely night. This joy is like a sparkle in your eye where you might otherwise have had a tear. It doesn’t come with a smile but it comes with the greatest confidence I have ever experienced. It does not come with laughter but it comes like a lion and leaves no room for sorrow or stress. It is as if this joy steps before you in the times that call for war paint and as the bullets stray and the earth beneath your feet shakes not only is it OK but this joy is the strength of a king. I would like to ask the readers to imagine staring into our Victorious King’s eyes. . . Do you see the strong straight face of an army commander? or Do you see the joyful laughing angelic-ness of a young or ageless father? What I see is pure strength but I believe it is joy one and the same.
Many Christian’s beliefs tell them that if they are not joyful in its most common form(smiles etc.) there may be something wrong with them as a Christian. I believe this misunderstanding is causing people to lose confidence and determination to do the Lord’s work. Now please do not misunderstand me. I am by no means saying that we should no longer access ourselves and our health if there is sadness or depression present. We must. For ourselves and our brothers and sisters. However what I am addressing are two beliefs: 1. Seriousness and suffering are the lack of joy in a person which also leads to belief that something is wrong with said person and 2. Joy plays its role in a places of worship and in contexts of fortunate happenings only. I strongly disagree and I will explain why.
What I experience each and every day as I face the catastrophes in this world is what I have come to call “War Paint Joy”. I have never had more joy despite my often serious apearance from the awareness of people’s sufferings. I see many men and women of God taking on a seriousness, suffering and determination about themselves as they cry out to the Lord allowing what pains God’s heart to also pain their own. As they do this they are being mistaken to be having a problem of sadness. To take on the Lord’s heart it demands warrior strength but ALSO great joy. The Lord tells us in Nehemiah chapter 8 that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. Shouldn’t this also mean that when Godly strength bounds forward in us in all states and situations that it also brings within itself Joy? So then we must not only say because someone is joyful in the Lord they have strength but also because someone is strong in the Lord they have joy.
Obviously joy does not always need to play its role as strength. We 1st world citizens are very accustomed to joy being accompanied by a good thing happening to us. As Christians we expect joy when singing to the Lord and teaching the Gospel. But Joy has a serious side: its role as strength, and I see people being confused by it particularly in the U.S. I see joy adorning its face with war paint in the depths of the darkness of personal trials up to the greatest challenges Christians are going through. For example: attempting survival through wars. Such situations very blatantly involve a seriousness and suffering but these brothers and sisters withstanding it hold a “War Paint Joy” that is as strong as the Lord. So I end this asking you to recognize joy in yourself and those around whether it wears war paint or a light hearted smile and know that we are the Lord’s army in all states, on all fronts. Let the warpaint face and the smiling face recognize each other and embrace in mutuality.

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Joy in Every Face

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Hey Grafted Magazine it’s been a while. I’ve missed you all a lot!  It has been a crazy insane couple of months for me! I started a new job with an amazing organization called Feed My Starving Children! Feed My Starving Children is a Christian non-profit anti-hunger organization with the mission of turning hunger into hope and eliminating world hunger. I am part of the mobile pack team which means I travel to a different city/state every weekend and set up food packing stations in gyms, churches, schools, or fair grounds. Once we set up stations we then have volunteers come in and pack food for starving children world wide!

 

This job I do is so fulfilling! Every weekend I am in a new place, with new people. People who have a passion to see kids fed… see an end to world hunger. I get to see kids, some who are just five years old, stand up on stools and scoop rice, soy, veggies, and vitamins into these life changing meal bags. I get to see parents, grandparents, and teachers show their kids that they CAN make a difference in this world. I get to see joy in every single face that packs these meals. I get to see the joy spread across their faces when they find out how many boxes they packed, how many meals they packed, or how many kids they fed for an entire year. I get to see tears of joy roll down their faces… there is no feeling like it.

 

Our boxes get packed and loaded onto a shipping container. After we pray over the boxes they get delivered to a port, placed on a ship and then are sent to over 70 countries world wide. Once these meals arrive in the countries we serve, our partners distribute the meals to orphanages, feeding programs, schools, churches, and families. It is amazing to see the hope in these parents’ eyes when they receive their box of food; to see the joy in a mother’s eyes when she realizes her child won’t go hungry any more; to see the joy in a child’s face when they now have the strength to walk or talk is pretty life changing.

 

I want to challenge you to choose joy… Find joy… Be joyful… I want you to go out into your community and to spread joy. Go into your local nursing homes and spend time with folks there. Volunteer your time at a soup kitchen or spend time with the homeless. Whether it is at your school, your church, or your work… choose to spread joy to those around you. Joy is infectious. Let’s start this spark and turn it into a wild fire! Let’s see joy in every face and in every heart.  Choose Joy!

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Come and Take It

cori_911_come-and-take-it

In 1835, a group of Texan rebels united to resist the seizure of a canon originally given to them by Mexico to ward off raids by the Native Americans. Certainly it was lost on these few settlers that they were host the battle that would become known as the Lexington of the Texas Revolution, but their short and spirited slogan was understood by all: “Come and take it.” Stitched on a hastily made flag, the statement was clear. Do what you will, and we will fight back twice as hard. Even if you take this little weapon, you can’t take our liberties.

We were always taught in school that history reflected life. We’ve all been there. Feeling robbed of joy, believing that no body really gets us, feeling like we’re walking through life without purpose or direction. All of these are distractions. Any feeling that we’re left out, on the fringe, striving in any way, are all indications that we’re being robbed. When we learn how to fight these little battles, purpose and direction become clearer.

I have struggled for awhile with feeling included and understood, until I realized the problem laid in how I was perceiving the world and the people around me. I had a misunderstanding of my value, of the individual God has made me to be and I felt unimportant to everybody. Why would anybody want to hear my ideas, my input. Why would anyone choose me when what I had to offer was so small? Many journal entries and prayer sessions later, I realized that these were all lies. If I had been created uniquely and individually, wasn’t I considered important? At least to God, the Maker. And if I was considered important to him, I needed to be important to myself. This revelation freed up so much energy that had been wasted worrying over empty things. When you celebrate who you are and how you’ve been created, you allow people around you to celebrate too. You let them see God’s full creation when you’re filled with joy in yourself and in Him. It becomes easier to give Him glory for who you are and what you’ve been given when you’re admiring it, not just contemplating it.

In the story of the Texas rebels, consider the canon. Though it was small, it was powerful enough to at least scare off enemies. We can see ourselves as a canon, but we could see ourselves as the Texas settlers. I consider that it wasn’t the canon the Texans were worried about keeping, but their leverage. The canon was an important and valuable weapon, but it was not the center of their fight. Establishing their identity in the face of their enemy, the rebels knew, would be of more value than worrying over one single canon. They were telling their opponent, ‘Even if you take our safety, we will continue to fight for righteousness. ‘

Seek out God’s definition of who you are. Your place in the lives of people around you, your place in the workplace, in the Kingdom as a whole. Then, fight for it. Do not let small battles take you down. Taunt the enemy with joy. Even if you have to take joy in small things first, you’re freed to see the world in a different way. Not just yourself, but everything and everyone around you.

It’s a little unconventional to suggest beginning with yourself, when we are told always to look outside of our own little world. But I think that’s just it: get over yourself, get out of your own head and insecurities to discover that you are valuable and so is everything else in your life.

Even if the enemy takes a day, he cannot have your life. You can seize back what he takes by recognizing the insignificance of his tactics. Will he really take your joy when God has given you the very spirit of joy? Will he take your ideas and dreams when God has given you those as part of His plan for you in the world? Take back who you are, and laugh it off if he tries again.

What your fighting for may seem small, but God deems it important. God deems you important, so fight back.

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It Can’t Get Worse Than This | Dealing with Failure

Johanna Grace, failure, grafted magazine

Hey, remember me?

Probably not. Once upon a time I was an uprising young creative, leading the way for a new wave of inspiration for young people, encouraging people into ministry and such the like.

Um, oops.

I have to admit something– I’m a bit of a failure, and that’s okay. I’ve tried my hardest, and then I haven’t tried enough, and now? I guess I’m at a loss. Truth is, this year has been pretty hard. I lost my grandma, I came inches away from losing my family in a terrible car accident, my health has been a roller coaster, and this little project I call Grafted Magazine has kind of been pushed to the wayside.

My dad has always told this Romanian proverb that says the difference between a Romanian optimist and pessimist is that a pessimist will say “it can’t get worse than this!” and the optimist will say, “oh yes it can!”

I’m finding more and more that this is true, but at the same time, I know that it all depends on perspective. There’s always just as much good as there’s in the world, but sometimes you just don’t see it as much because our brains register hard things much easier than good things. They make a bigger impact on us, and with good reason, I think.

But lately I am trying to give myself more grace, I try to step back from the situation and see the good in it. Sometimes there really isn’t anything good in it, but I can always say that I can grow from it. I want to live so that my life isn’t hanging on my tiny successes in my 20s. I imagine myself years from now looking back on today, am I going to wish I had done something better, or stressed about it more, or wished that I had stayed up later “trying to figure stuff out?” I don’t think so. I think I would want to look back and be proud that I had loved people as much as I could, and tried as hard as I could, and done things as well as the situation allowed.

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That being said, I think it means that changes are coming in my life. Actually, I know it’s true. Once upon a time I made a “plan” on where I wanted to be in 5 years, and I’m kind of two years ahead of schedule with some things and that’s weird. I didn’t plan for that. So I suppose I have a bit of catching up to do. Grafted does not look like I expected to by September 2016 and I’m trying to sort that out.

One thing I know as far as Grafted goes: God gave me an idea and He’s not done with it yet, and neither am I. I’m still committed to the cause, I still believe in this, I still think that it can’t get worse than this. I still trust Him to guide it, even if I can’t.

But I’ll need a little grace to carry on.

I think that this is true for all of us, and I challenge you in this too. If you’re young, with big ideas and great dreams and you see that they’re not working out–don’t give up, for my sake. Look for the small ways that your dreams can become a reality, even if that means you don’t see them now. Push until the end, and seek out hope in others.

Together, we’ll make this work.

PS. Let’s encourage each other in the comments! Share your struggles, your dreams. What are you trying to do, but keep hitting walls? Let’s see how we can help each other.

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