Monday, August 27, 2012

Encouragement for Your Monday

If you are a child of God, then you know that the Lord goes before and will be with you, and He will never leave you nor abandon you. Nothing and no one can snatch you from His hand. The Lord is the one who has upheld you since you were conceived and has carried you since your birth, and He will sustain you all the rest of your life. He holds you by your right hand. God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever, no matter what.

The Lord is your guide. He is your Redeemer, who teaches you what is best for you and directs you in the way that you should go. His faithfulness surrounds you. He will lead you forward and keep you in perfect peace as you trust in Him completely. Cast your cares on Him, because He will sustain you. The Lord has called you for a righteous purpose, and He will fulfill His purpose for you in perfect time. He makes all things beautiful in His time. His mercies begin afresh each morning. He will always direct your steps as you trust in Him.

The Lord delights in you and rejoices over you, and He will quiet you with His love. He is your rock and your refuge, and even the most intense storm can't take that refuge away. He is your hiding place. His everlasting arms are holding you up. He is mighty to save. He is with you and will watch over you wherever you go. Because God is for you, no one can be against you. He has not given you a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind. The joy of the Lord is your strength, and as you hope in Him, He will infuse you with new strength to face whatever you have to face.

And God's grace is always, always sufficient for you. For me. For all of us.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer Wedding . . .

Today I had the privilege of going to a wonderful wedding celebration for wonderful friends . . . wishing all the best for the happy couple!
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~1 Corinthians 13

Friday, August 24, 2012

Worship High

I read a really fascinating article this week about a new study that has found that megachurch services and similar highly emotional worship experiences actually release oxytocin and other chemicals in the brain that can become addictive. This type of worship was then compared to a "drug" or a "high" that people are desperate to come back to again and again. The author pens, "This pursuit of transformation by consuming external experiences creates worship junkies who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that will not fade." He goes on to suggest that these "mountaintop" worship experiences are purely external and a poor substitute for an internal connection with God through the Holy Spirit. And as the title of the piece ("When Worship is Wrong") suggests, he believes this type of feel-good, passionate worship is actually wrong.

As someone who's very interested in both neuroscience and religion, I find it fascinating that researchers have suggested that the neurochemicals released during this type of worship can actually be addictive. And when I first read this piece a few days ago, I found myself agreeing with most of its premises . . . after all, an emotionally charged worship experience isn't a substitute for the continual practice of the presence of God in daily life. Ideally, I would be worshipping while I wash dishes, drive, do bioethics reading, go to the gym, spend time with friends, etc., and not just for a little while in church on a Sunday morning.

But the more I think about this article's attack on emotionally charged worship, the more troubled I feel by it. For one, I think it's a major reflection of a faulty school of thought that is still quite prevalent in our faith: if it feels good, then it must be wrong. I don't need to elaborate on how many other activities would suddenly become sinful if that theory were correct! And I also disagree that this phenomenon of emotional engagement happens only in the megachurch environment or in loud and excited worship with other people. Haven't you ever experienced it too after prayer in the quiet of your own heart? I have.

And I also have to wonder if maybe God, Creator of our brains and our hearts and our spirits, purposely designed worship to be a satisfying, fulfilling experience that would indeed often make us "feel" good. After all, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, which suggests that our emotions as well as our rational, thinking side needs to be involved. Of course there will be times when we experience no emotion during worship, or when our heart's not really in it, and we have to continue to love and trust God when the feelings aren't there. But that does not mean that an emotional worship experience is bad. Emotion is a vital, integral part of the human experience, and it should be able to be a part of our worship and a part of our interaction with God.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Plunging into Year #2

I know I've been totally falling off the wagon with blogging since coming back to school . . . and honestly, I will do my best to write as much as I can, but it probably won't be as often as during the summer. Thanks for being patient with me when the posts are scarce!

I've been busy redecorating and rearranging my whole apartment/ making various crafts, and I love the results! I feel like I live in a whole new place now. Here are some pictures:

With classes starting up again, I've been busy reading these:

And these, the remnants of my summer reading list:

I've also been doing a fair amount of cooking, including experimenting with this quinoa dish with strawberries and almond butter which is versatile enough to be a side dish, breakfast, or dessert. Definitely making this again!

And finally, I've been going to the gym and realizing how out of shape I am; blanketing the southeastern United States with resumes for summer 2013 jobs (yeah, it really does start a year ahead); and catching up with my law school friends and trying to socialize as much as possible before the year gets really intense.

So that's bits and pieces of the past two weeks, in pictures!

Here's the verse that's sustaining me this week:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spiritual Dissection

Last Sunday in D.C., Meagan and I had the privilege of going to National Community Church, which Mark Batterson pastors. This church meets in several different places around the city, but we went to its location in a theater on Barracks Row in downtown D.C. The worship was amazing and the people were so welcoming.

Mark was actually preaching that Sunday, and he said some profound things that I've been thinking about all week. At one point, he was talking about Hebrews 4:12, which says, "For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." And he had this to say about that passage: "Far too often we try to dissect the Word of God instead of allowing it to dissect us. We try to get through the reading of the Word instead of allowing it to get through us." That really hit me, and I've been pondering on it ever since. We try to dissect the Word of God instead of allowing it to dissect us.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with studying the Word, analyzing it deeply, considering it from every angle that we can. But when we are more focused on tearing apart every little nuance of the Word, even arguing and nitpicking about minor disagreements on Scripture, than we are on allowing the Word to penetrate us and expose us for who we really are--then there can be a problem. The Word is powerful enough to expose our deepest motivations and conditions of the heart, and we have to be willing to allow that exposure to happen. We are all in need of that point of conviction that drives us toward repentance and the grace found in Christ alone.

And on another note . . . as I promised, here are some pictures from our adventures in the nation's capital:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Surprises

Since I got back to Georgia on Wednesday, it has been an interesting couple of days, especially today . . . definitely some surprising interactions and events. I've had several unexpected and great conversations with people I hardly ever talk to. Then today I randomly got offered a job that I applied for . . . four months ago! I'm definitely taking the weekend to think about it and make a decision. It would be a good opportunity, but I'm not sure it would be a good idea for me to take on even more responsibilities this fall than the ones I already have.

I also finished Law Review orientation, which was pretty good (the best part was probably getting free stuff--including free food this week, free coffee in the law review office during school, and copies of the Bluebook. The non-law-school folks out there may not know the significance of that, but it is a really important legal citation manual that I will probably use for my entire career, and it costs at least $40 on Amazon, so that's money I don't have to spend. Which makes me really happy). I got my first manuscript to edit by next Friday (only 26 pages--not too bad). I also had an unexpected conversation with one of the law review publishing coordinators this morning. We had some interactions this summer that made me feel that I might have some difficulties working with her, so I was trying to just do what I was supposed to do during orientation and not attract her attention. But this morning she pulled me aside and said, "Lauren, I just want you to know that I have very high expectations for you on law review because I've been told what kind of work you are capable of." I was really surprised and just said, "Well, I will do my best to meet those expectations." So I was happy to hear that, and I have so enjoyed getting to know the 25 or so students on law review over the past couple days, so I think it will be a good year working together. Hoping for a great 2L experience--and that I will be able to not just meet, but exceed, expectations this upcoming year.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Hunger Games

My sister and I went to see The Hunger Games this weekend now that the movie has finally reached the discount theater ($2 a ticket, I can't argue with that!)

I haven't read the books. I hadn't even had any serious urge to see the movies--they were just on my "I'll probably watch them through Netflix sometime" list. In other words, I had not yet embraced what has become an absolute pop culture phenomenon in the past year or so.

But The Hunger Games ended up being one of the most provocative, powerful movies I have ever seen. I tend to get pretty philosophical when I watch movies and to try to look for the life lessons/ allegories to life in most movies I see, and this movie provided more than enough food for thought. To me, it was a powerful social commentary that raised timeless questions about life. Like these:
  • What if you were a teenager and your very life literally depended on how popular you were?
  • What are humans capable of when they are left to their own devices and their base survival instincts?
  • How can you exert some control over your life when you live in a totalitarian society?
  • What is stronger than fear for your life?
  • Would you be willing to die to save someone you loved?
  • And the most intense question of all: Would you be willing to kill to save someone you loved?
I won't spoil the movie if you've not seen it yet and still want to, but I would highly recommend it because of the way that it intensely grapples with a lot of questions that have no easy answers. Yes, it does have some violent moments, even though much of the violence is not really on screen but rather something you know is happening in the background. I can't endorse all the philosophies of The Hunger Games and certainly not the violence, but overall I found it to be a really thought-provoking depiction of honor, sacrifice, loss, and love.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I finished up work on Friday and am now on a quick vacation to see my family before I have to be back at school on the 8th. I feel like all I've done with my time off so far is watch the Olympics! Every night my mom and I are glued to the TV, riveted by the gymnastics, synchronized diving, and swimming. And I'm so excited that women's gymnastics won a gold medal!

Honestly, I think the commercials are just as inspiring as the games themselves. Like the one where one of the USA swimmers (probably Ryan Lochte or Michael Phelps) is swimming, and saying, "It's not enough to dream about winning Olympic gold. It's not enought to plan for it or wish for it. Luck didn't get me to London . . . I SWAM here." That commercial pretty much inspires me to 1) become an Olympian, or 2) failing that, just change and improve the rest of my life.

I'm leaving today to go and visit my sister--we're spending the weekend together in D.C. I'm looking forward to lots of museums, sightseeing, good restaurants, and time with Meagan and her friends. I will hopefully post pictures when I get back! In the meantime . . . go watch the Olympics.