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  • acleveland 9:52 pm on March 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    come set me free. 

    The piercing stars of the black sheet sky vanish
    Behind the cold stone ceiling above me.
    I am hindered from seeing raw and captivating beauty
    By the uninviting bleak walls that surround me on four sides.
    I am trapped, blocked, and constricted in a shell!
    Oh, where did these walls come from?

    A small patch of light streams in from a hole in the wall
    Where a block has been carved out of place.
    A man stares back at me, his face draped in shadows.
    In his hands, I see the tools that he used to construct my prison.

    He nods at me, a dialect of silence, and I survey my surroundings.
    The handiwork of my cell is stable, precisely blueprinted and designed.
    Oh, why did this man confine me so? He is all to blame!
    I throw my arms in the air, my symbol of surrender and confusion.
    However, as my hands pass my eyes,
    I am shocked to see that I grasp tools identical to his own.

    Memories flash back that I thought I had imagined.
    I built from the inside, and he from the outside.
    Together, we stacked stone, starting with a firm foundation.
    What can free me now?

    He comes, stronger than boulders, more demolishing than a cannon ball.
    He shoves the man, sending him reeling into his home of shadows.
    With a mighty blow, my self-inflicted solitude tumbles to the ground.
    Love rushes in, blowing away the debris with a gentle wave.
    With grace, He pries the tools from my aching hands,
    And in the ringing echos as they fall and shatter to the ground,
    I hear His words “I love you”.
    I am free.

    Matthew 6:26; John 8:31-32; Romans 6:16; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 6:15

    New favorite song: Slowdance On The Inside – Taking Back Sunday

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    • Kelli 5:23 pm on March 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Wow. That’s really good. Really really good and wonderful and real. So real and so true. It applies to every one of us. Thank YOu amanda.

  • acleveland 10:42 pm on March 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    can you hear me now? 

    Have you ever gotten to the point where you were “tired of talking about it”? Well, I’m at that point. Admitting things to other people means admitting them to myself, and for now, I’m fine with just pretending. Thoughts become facts with no emotion tagging on the end. Cut the strings and let any feeling fly away.

    People talk a lot. Incessant and unnecessary chatter fills every room. 
    Movies. Me. Music. Me. Sports. Me. Celebrities. Me. Who’s dating who. Me. Did you hear this? Me. Gossip.
    Talk about things that matter! Empty conversations are bitter, weak, and ordinary. What makes you different? What makes what you say something to be remembered? What are YOU talking about?
    Words stream without thought. Impulse takes control and mind is trumped by speech. How often do you regret the things you say? How often does what you say come out before the editing process? The power of words cannot be contained in a clear cut definition. They make you laugh, cry, repent, love, change.
    A lot of the time, I just listen. Being quiet and just observing for awhile can teach you a lot about people. I see people’s reactions to words, to other people, and to graded tests being handed back. I see the facial expressions people make when they think nobody is watching, and I hear the partial sentences that people say before they stop themselves. Try to notice people today. Through others, you might even learn something about yourself. Just listen.

    New favorite song: Cripple Me – Elenowen

     
    • Kelli 7:01 pm on March 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I completely understand. Empathetic I am ;). But what happens when we are tired of listening. I’m right there with you. I can completely disappear at school. I see people do things, I listen when they talk. But does God call us to listen all the time? I don’t know. I think we have to talk sometimes. But how? How do I break out of this shell of silence to say what God has given me to say? How do I find an audience that will listen? I don’t know. Any Ideas?

      • acleveland 7:23 pm on March 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Yeah, I mean, speaking up is definitely a way that I think God wants us to spread his love. Listening is just good in order to show people that their opinions/thoughts are valued. Talking, at least for me, is the hard part, but for some people it’s the opposite. Response is equally as important as listening. I guess in order to break the shell of silence, we have to find courage in Christ, and know that they are HIS words, not ours. We have to get ourselves out of the way… including our fear and shyness… and let GOD be the one speaking. So really, it’s not US at all. It’s Him. Finding an audience that will listen? That’s hard, too. I don’t know. We just have to be on the lookout, spreading the word all the time.. not only verbally, but with our actions. Sometimes people won’t listen to words, but they’ll see what you DO everyday and see something different.

  • acleveland 8:03 pm on March 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    experience equips. 

    For the past several weeks I have been trying to find a way to “embrace” the metaphorical thorns of life. What possible reasons are there to be grateful for the storms? I have struggled with embracing and being thankful for the barren and difficult times. But in the past couple of days, I’ve started to dust off my personal mystery of how and why to be thankful.

    Experience gives us the knowledge and empathy that is required to help others dealing with similiar situations. I think that as followers of God, life is all about loving others through Christ. It’s not about me, it’s about God. It’s not about me, it’s about other people. God wants us to reflect His love to others without judgment, rejection, or hesitation. Experiences, whether they are good or bad, build a story. Stories are shared and remind people that they are not alone.
    There is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is when you feel pity for someone, but you might not completely understand what they are going through. Empathy is when you 100% understand and can relate to how someone feels because you have been in their position earlier in your life. Sympathy is good, but empathy is better. Empathy allows true connection and relationship between people, but empathy only comes with experience. Having these experiences means enduring the tribulations and knowing that someday, it could help someone else and bring glory to God.
    So what are you going through right now? What’s weighing on your heart? What brings your struggles and shame? Is there something that you wish was not happening to you?
    Well, remember this. The EXPERIENCE that you are pushing through right now can someday help someone else, and that is what we are meant to do. You are fulfilling God’s plan by relying on Him through the tough experiences. This is truly something to be thankful for.

    New favorite song: Save Me – Elenowen

     
  • acleveland 8:39 pm on March 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    take the wheel. 

    Youth Sunday was this morning, and I don’t ever remember having a better one. I think it was really powerful. We had some great testimonies, uplifting verses, an intense skit, and an awesome message about freedom in Christ. Freedom to worship. Freedom to live in Him and through Him. I’m really glad the congregation heard that today, and I hope they take it to heart.

    Today, I’ve been thinking about control – or lack thereof. So often, life feels like an uncontrollable whirlwind. I don’t think we are meant to be in control of ourselves. The time when we have the most control is when we give it all away to God. If God’s not the one in charge of your life, then YOU are STILL not in charge  – other people are. When you don’t have God as the ruler of your life, other people become the rulers of your life. Eventually, they influence and manipulate your choices and lifestyle. Even if you feel like you are in control because you haven’t handed the steering wheel over to God, you still don’t have control. Other people have control over YOUR life. Do you trust the misguided people of the world with your life? Me either.

    I’ve lost control this year in ways I hadn’t really imagined. However, I haven’t given it to my peers. If I had, I would not be the same person that I am right now. I’ve felt control of everything about me slip away. But the thing is, that does not make me powerless. That makes me powerful. Rather than losing control to ruthless people, I have lost control to a gentle yet strong God. He understands when we can’t manage even the seemingly natural parts of our lives.

    The thought of school tomorrow has me shaking. This fear is so wrong. Come on, Amanda, what’s your deal? Matthew 6. Matthew 6 matthew6matthew6.  Heart beat fast stomach drop throat close yell a little eyes shut mind runs sleep doesn’t come say a prayer hold on tight. I’m in His hands. Thank God for my speed dials.

    New favorite song: Give Me Words To Speak – Aaron Shust

     
  • acleveland 8:44 pm on March 18, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    hanging in there 

    Today, I tried harder than ever to think optimistically and to let people see me as someone other than “the girl who looks sad all the time”. It ended up being not such a terrible day. I mean, it was the typical day at Farragut. The same stuff happened. I still skipped lunch and went to the library. I still had to work alone instead of with a partner in Algebra 2. I was still ignored, pushed to the side, and not spoken to. Fear and pain worked to take over, and I’ll admit that. But you know what? Outlook is a big part of everything. Today I focused on 3 things: 1. The good, 2. I’m not alone, and 3. Christ, above all. When I got home, I went for that bike ride I talked about yesterday, and it was the highlight of my day. It was beautiful. Greenways are amazing things. Instead of avoiding conversation with the neighbors, I stopped and said hey.
    So, maybe for now I can’t change my situation, but I CAN make the most of it. Maybe for now I still won’t feel alright, and maybe I’ll still feel like I’m drowning, but I CAN perservere.
    I was thinking a lot today about how following Christ doesn’t guarantee that everything will shape up cleanly and precisely. Following Christ doesn’t mean life will magically be easy, carefree, and always happy. But, following Christ DOES offer hope. Unfortunately, I chose Algebra 2 as the time to think about all this. Sorry, Ms. Santich, for making you repeat lesson 7.6.  A great quote about this was in my devotional.

    “The difference between believers and atheists is not that believers suffer any less – they don’t- it’s that they suffer with hope.” – Anthony DeStefano

    Where would we be without hope? Think about that today. (But maybe not in the middle of Algebra.)

    New favorite song: Hold On – The Almost

     
    • liza 3:51 pm on March 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      algebra is where I do all my thinking. maybe I should stop that. oh well. I love you bunches!

  • acleveland 9:40 pm on March 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    wednesday. 

    Tonight at bible study we discussed what the Bible says about lovingly confronting people in order to fix tough situations. We drew up how to do it the right way that models what good old Jesus would want from us.
    1. Talk one-on-one with the person. If it’s not solved here, then…
    2. Bring 2 or 3 friends. If they’re still not listening, then..
    3. Go to the church (a pastor, close friend, etc.) if that doesn’t work, then..
    4. Let go.
    Confrontations are not fun.. But if someone has wronged you, the best thing to do is to get it over with and out of the way. Otherwise, it will be eating you up inside until there’s nothing left but bitterness and caustic anger. In the scripture, it was talking about how we have to remove the log from our own eye before we are able to remove the speck from the other person’s eye. In other words, we have to fix ourselves before we can go to others and fix them. I started thinking about how one broken thing can’t fix another. It would be like a broken hammer trying to nail a broken piece of wood with a broken nail. Christ, though, remains put together and whole. He is not broken. He is solid, strong, and undefeated. He can fix us through anything. We can’t fix ourselves, and we can’t fix others. But for the meantime, we can band together in our brokenness, support eachother, do our best to heal, and remind ourselves of the hope and redeeming grace that comes with following Christ. That’s good enough for me.

    The good thing about skipping lunch to go to the library is that my grades are going back up, and I had no homework today. Also, I’m trying to find things to look forward to for each day of the week. Thursday – I’ll go for a bike ride. Friday – it’s Friday, start of the weekend! Saturday – softball! Sunday – youth Sunday! Have a good day today, whoever you are.

    New favorite song: Breathe In, Breathe Out – Mat Kearney

     
  • acleveland 9:00 pm on March 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    play ball 

    I had softball practice tonight, and it made my day. I had been looking forward to it all week. It was an hour and a half of forgetting everything except for where to throw the ball, running fast, and catching. I’m a catcher, and we were working on fielding. I was behind the plate and focusing on nothing other than getting my glove around that ball. The coach was pitching fast, one pitch right after another, and from the second the ball left his hand I watched it until it smacked into the pocket of my glove. When we worked on running the bases, I focused only on running as fast as my legs would take me. When I was up to bat, I released all my energy into my swing, watching the ball zip in and then bend back out as I made contact. After practice was over, I leaped into my car, happy and energy-filled. After a few minutes, I realized that I had forgotten about everything during practice. I hadn’t thought about school, homework, people, today, tomorrow, home, or tests. I was completely lost in the game.

    Do you have anything that you lose yourself in? It’s like you zone in on a certain activity and everything else disappears. For me, it’s softball and running. Maybe for you it’s music, golf, basketball, art, soccer, or an instrument. If you haven’t found something that distracts you from the rest of the world, I encourage you to find it. Explore different things and see what really hits the mark.

    New favorite song: You Give Me Something – James Morrison

     
  • acleveland 8:24 pm on March 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    ready? 

    Heeeaven bound, don’t you know I’m heaven bound? Heeeaven bound, reaching for that higher ground (stuck in my head.)

    I wish I could easily share my recent struggles with stress and other issues. A few people know about it. I wish it wasn’t a big deal. I wish it wasn’t overwhelming my life. Everyone I talk to is stressed about something. My mom’s stressed about her parents. Grandma is in a nursing home since she had her stroke. Granddad has Alzheimer’s. My dad’s stressed about his increasing work load. The other night he didn’t get home until 12:15 in the morning. It’s normally about 9:00 before I see him. Everyone is stressed about school.
    Stress has the potential to reach a point where it’s something much more. I feel like I’ve allowed it to take charge and slide into something much, much bigger than a little worry or concern. It can snowball into a major problem that takes a lot to heal. It affects more than just the brain. It affects everyday life. It slips its way into every aspect of each passing day.
    In the past several months, I’ve seen the effects of stress more than ever before. It has affected not only how I feel, but my sleeping habits, my grades, my relationships, my thoughts, my energy, and WAY TOO MUCH MORE. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus talks about not worrying, and I know that something has gone terribly wrong. I wish I could go back and stop all the worrying when it started, because now I feel like it’s out of my hands. However, these verses are also a comfort. They tell me that I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW. I don’t have to feel so RIDICULOUSLY DOWN ALL THE TIME, even though it feels like I can’t help it. There are tons of reasons to smile. It will all work out. It’s all going to be okay.. and He’s not just saying that, he means it.

    Tonight, I’m reminding myself that even now it’s not too late. I’m not too far gone.. even when this all feels out of my control. I just have to figure out how. to. deal.

    New favorite song: Naive – The Kooks

     
  • acleveland 10:45 pm on March 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    generation “why?” 

    I would write more specifically about the topic at youth tonight, but I tried, and and then proceeded to erase the entire thing. It might have to wait until tomorrow. Too much to say at once, and too hard to say at all. I really have no answers for the topics of anxiety, or depression, or stress, or any of that. I don’t know. I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t know how to progress from it. There’s only one place to turn.

    There are some specific things in life that I never thought would apply to ME. I had heard about these big, scary, hushed words all my life, but they were always reserved for nameless, faceless people. I never thought that eventually, these words would land on the girl staring back in the mirror. Ever feel like you’re in a hole that’s over your head? Ever feel like your identity is wrapped up in two words? Ever feel like if people don’t know a certain fact about you, then there’s nothing left for them to know? Ever feel like your personality and interests have been washed down the drain, pulled away by something out of your control? Ever lie awake and think about how it’s just you and the dark left? Ever write a blog at 11:43 pm and know that you won’t be able to sleep for several more hours? Ever inhale the day and exhale exhaustion? Well, if so, then this verse is for you.

    Matthew 6:34 – “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

    There is more to any of us than a temporary condition, even if it seems permanent. Hope is a good word. I have hope for tomorrow, but before I get there, today has to be done. I have a ridiculous amount of questions. Inexperience causes that, I guess. But right now I’m just leaning on faithfulness and trust. When we cry out for help, he hears.

    New favorite song: Falling For You – Seabird

     
  • acleveland 6:51 pm on March 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Happiness vs. Joy 

    Here is what’s been on my mind lately: Happiness is fleeting, yet joy is a state of the heart.

    Happiness is electricity. Electricity requires the flip of a switch, the turn of a key, or the click of a button. Happiness in our own lives requires something good to happen, whether it’s big or small. That fortunate event is the switch being flipped and the button being pushed. Electricity runs through the wires in your house and shines through a lightbulb. It is bright enough to shine through a room, but multiple light bulbs are needed for even the smallest house.  However, what about when the power goes out? A car crashes into a telephone pole, and the light in your home is replaced with an empty black. Hours go by, and anxiety sets in as families wonder “When will this be fixed?!” Happiness needs a direct power line, and sometimes, that power line is not available. Happiness and electricity can be stolen in an instant.

    Joy is the sun. The sun never goes out. It sets and rises, but it’s always shining at some place in the world. Nothing can block the sun’s rays except for clouds, but eventually, all clouds pass. Even when the sun is hidden by clouds of gray, we know it’s still there. Nothing can shake the sun from the sky. It’s suspended between the railings of Heaven and Earth, and it’s steady blaze reveals the handiwork of God as well as the faults of man. While a lightbulb will only shine through an average room, the sun is 93 million miles away and we still have to wear sunglasses. It is 93 million miles away and it can burn our skin and start fires. Joy shines brighter than happiness. All the planets revolve around the centerpiece sun like dancers performing. Everything falls in order with the sun as the leader. The sun is deep set , stable, and serves it’s purpose in the universe, illuminating our earth like candles in a pitch black room. Joy cannot be stolen. It’s a gift that accompanies a relationship with and understanding of our Lord and his profound love for us. He is my joy, even when happiness seems distant. That, my friends, cannot be shaken.

    New favorite song: My Beautiful Rescue – This Providence

     
    • Kelli 8:14 pm on March 13, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Joy. Bubbly, exciting, lovable, always present. That’s what I want my life to be. I don’t want it to fade or disspaear for unknown amounts of time. I want to shine. Amanda you shine. If the sun never shown again it would be okay because my family, my youth group, shines Jesus Christ. And that can’t be taken away. When I have a terrible day, when I feel like my light has gone out, I know I am a speed dial away from 50 amazing people that would do anything for me. Thank you for being my speed dial.

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