Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Do you ever hear a song that resonates to your very core? You can’t get it out of your head, you blast out your speakers when it comes on the radio, you find yourself singing it at random moments. That’s how I feel lately about the song “Lord I Need You.” Here are the lyrics:
Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You're the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep
Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You
Jesus, You're my hope and stay
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
(The internet says Matt Maher wrote this. If that’s wrong I apologize.)
This song wrecks me every single time I hear it. I heard it in the car last night and found myself unable to sing along because I was overcome with emotion.
I love this song because it doesn’t pretend. It doesn’t say, “Lord, I’m good. I’ve got this. But once in awhile, I need you.” No. It says OH GOD, I NEED YOU. I won’t make it through this day, this very hour, without you. That word “Oh” conveys emotion. Not, “what’s up God, I need ya!” but “Oh, God. Oh, God, I need you.” Can you feel the depth of the emotion behind the word?
It’s slightly terrifying to admit you need someone. At least, it is for me. In my life I’m afraid the moment I admit to needing someone, they’ll disappear. Maybe I’m the only person who feels this way. But it’s precarious to put your trust in people. Eventually they disappoint you. Admitting you need someone—especially admitting it to that person—feels like taking a giant step off a cliff into nothingness. No one wants to be thought of as a needy person. Being independent and self-sufficient is valued and prized in our culture, and needy is the opposite.
But in God’s upside-down kingdom, needy is the thing to be. God wants us to live in constant dependence on Him. He wants us to reach for Him every hour. He wants to know every detail. We can’t be too needy for God. There’s no way to need Him too much. It sounds strange and backwards, but God designed us to need Him.
And so singing the words to this song is the truest thing I can say to God. I need Him. OH. I need Him. Every single hour. We have permission to express our deepest desire for God. There is no deeper need, and I sing this song with abandon because it is freeing to come before Him and admit that at my core, I am not okay apart from Him.
His invitation is comprehensive: we can bring Him all of our hopes and hurts. There is enough of Him to go around. There’s enough no matter how needy I am in a particular moment, and there will still be enough for the next time. There’s enough for you, too. If you don't know the deep, abiding peace that comes with knowing Jesus Christ, I would love to tell you about Him.
"Even to your old age, I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you."
Monday, April 8, 2013
Today I turn 30. I'm an introspective person and have spent some time reflecting on this milestone birthday. I'm slightly sad to say goodbye to my 20s for a number of reasons. I will always look back on this decade of my life with tenderness and much affection, because so many of the lessons I've learned and people I love have come into my life in the past 10 years.
So in the interest of encouraging any who will read this, and in the interest of being introspective, and honestly, mostly for my own enjoyment, these are some of the lessons I've learned over the past 10 years, in no particular order.
1. There is a Steel Magnolias quote for every situation in life. Shopping? “the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize!” Don’t know what to say to a grieving friend? “I don’t know how you’re doing on the inside but your hair is just holding up beautiful.” Feeling confused? “I don’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt. “ I could go on. You get the point.
2. I don’t ever, ever (ever) want to guilt someone into acting a certain way. It’s fake, and what's worse than false motives? Would you want to hang out with someone who’s only with you because you’d made them feel guilty about it? I’d rather be by myself.
3. The older I get, the less I say. When I was younger my response to wrongdoing or rudeness was a sarcastic retort. I am learning that for the most part, silence is best. It doesn’t feel great but that whole don’t-sink-to-their-level thing is actually pretty true. Which leads me to my next thought…
4. My parents are/were/will be right about pretty much everything. I don’t think that needs any further explanation.
5. Some relationships can’t be saved. I hate it. But sometimes the healthiest thing to do is open my closed fist and let a relationship go. You can still love someone from a distance.
6. Not every relationship is forever. Yuck. I really hate this one. There are people I thought I could not live without who are no longer in my life. It hurts, but it didn't kill me. Sometimes you don't have a choice, because you can't make someone be your friend. Sometimes you have to make the choice yourself, which is not easier by any stretch.
7. Life happens in seasons. My seasons have been clearly defined as I have lived in 5 different cities and three different states since high school. But make no mistake, nothing is permanent. This is both good and hard.
8. Sometimes I find myself feeling terrible about life, depressed, sad and lonely. And then I realize that I have forgotten to eat lunch. I say that to say, hanger is a real thing and it's important to know yourself and your own body.
9. I need alone time to function. I’m a textbook extrovert, energized by people. But eventually I need what I like to call, “a minute.”
10. I need to be around people. I can handle no more than 24 hours of alone time before I start talking to the couch cushions for company.
11. If you ask God to make your desires the same as His, you will feel like a spoiled child when He does just that. It’s pretty neat.
12. God almost never speaks to me in the same way more than once. He has given me a literal sign, He has spoken through His word, He has spoken to me through music and prayer and other people. Sometimes He uses the same means but almost never the same specific way.
13. God sanctifies us in different ways. For me, growth happens most and best through trials and difficult times. Interestingly, I look back on these wilderness moments with great tenderness. My wounds and resulting scars are more precious to me than I ever could have imagined.
14. Experience trumps education nearly every single time. Some of the wisest people I know never went to seminary or even college for that matter. But they have a lifetime of experience walking with Jesus; therefore, I can learn much from them.
15. I learn the most from people who are nothing like me. That seems obvious, but so often we gravitate to those who look/act/sound like us; I love the fact that some of the most meaningful relationships in my life are people I never would have expected to be close to.
16. Absolutely everyone is insecure about something, and no one is as perfect as they seem on the surface. This levels the playing field when I feel paralyzed by my own insecurity. It also makes me more compassionate.
17. The quirks that bother me in other people are oftentimes the same things I am guilty of.
18. When you’re little you think “being a grown-up is awesome!” and the adults in the room go “grumble grumble work grumble insurance grumble taxes” and make you think it’s no fun. But sometimes being an adult is awesome! Sometimes you really get to do whatever you want.
19. I’ve found that when I’m in a bad/sad/depressed mood, the quickest way out is to help/minister to/encourage someone else. The hard part is choosing not to sit down and wallow in the sadness. (I’m not talking about clinical depression here, but the occasional blue moods that we all sometimes get.)
20. It is what it is. I say this a lot. I find it helpful when I'm in a situation I would like to change but can't, or if I'm dealing with difficult emotions or frustrating circumstances. It gives me permission to feel what I'm feeling in that moment.
21. God can be trusted. He's tested me in this and continues to give me opportunities to trust Him for more and more. God has proven Himself faithful and sufficient over and over in my life.
22. The only good in me is Jesus. I have a friend who says this all the time and the longer I walk with Him and experience the failings of my own flesh, the more I know it's true. Really, legitimately, completely, I'm a total mess apart from His redeeming work in my life.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Janis Morrison was a legend at Oak Grove High School. A legend, I’m telling you. As early as 9th grade we began hearing from our English teachers, “Mrs. Morrison won’t accept work like this!” Wide eyed, we struggled through our essays and papers, fearing that once we made it to Mrs. Morrison’s senior English class we would be found wanting. And it was true: she was hard to please. Our rough drafts came back looking like her pen had exploded all over the paper: scribbled notes, corrections, even admonitions scrawled all over the margins. (“Corley!” she once wrote on something of mine. I didn’t need an explanation. I knew what she meant.)
Janis Morrison was a brilliant woman. I don’t think there was a book she hadn’t read. The woman knew things. She had the sharpest wit of anyone I know; her jokes and comments would fly over your head if you weren’t paying attention. Her humor was subtle and quiet, but you leaned in to listen because she was hilarious. She was my favorite.
Today is the fifth anniversary of the day she died.
I’ve written about her many times in the last five years as I grieved her passing. A remarkable, extraordinary, caring educator. A brilliant woman. A wonderful mother and grandmother. We kept in touch after I graduated and moved away, emailing back and forth and getting together for visits. I loved her and she loved me. Knowing that is what has brought me the most comfort since we lost her.
But you know what? She wasn’t easy to get to know. I had to make an effort: be on time for class. Meet deadlines. Demonstrate to her that I wanted to do well. It helped we shared a sense of humor. But she wasn’t exactly sentimental or sweet. She was what I like to call a ‘tough nut.’ She didn’t accept any lame excuses. She didn’t apologize for demanding excellence. She wasn’t afraid to say the hard things if it helped us in the long run.
Have you ever shelled a pecan? You have to crack it open before you get to the good stuff on the inside. You enjoy the taste more because you have to work for it. That’s what I mean by the term tough nut. If you’ve ever read To Kill a Mockingbird, Miss Maudie Atkinson is a perfect example. Or if you’re a Harry Potter fan, Minerva McGonagall is a total tough nut. They both come across as hard-nosed but occasionally give us a glimpse that there is some tenderness underneath. If you’re willing to get past the imposing exterior, more often than not you have found a treasure.
I’m not a tough nut; I never will be. But I love stumbling upon them. One of my favorite seminary professors absolutely qualifies. When I first had her for class and realized she was a tough nut and that I absolutely adored her, I naturally wanted to hug her. This probably doesn’t make sense to you. Looking back it doesn’t make much sense to me either. But class had dismissed for the Thanksgiving holiday and I was feeling sentimental. So on the way out of class I told her goodbye and asked if I could give her a hug. Her response: “If you want to.” I can’t even type that without laughing! What’s even funnier is I then went in for an awkward side-hug that would make Jon Acuff cringe. Now when I see her, we hug and it’s no big deal. But I had to work for that privilege. And I didn’t mind a bit, because she’s worth it.
I don’t know what it is about these unique people: maybe it’s knowing somewhere under the tough exterior is a softer side reserved for the very few. Maybe it’s knowing I’m one of the few who get to see the softer side. Whatever it is, I know my life is richer and I’m a better person for having known them, these tough nuts. And so today, when I’m remembering Mrs. Morrison and her impact on my life, I honor them all. Thank God for allowing me to learn from such a beautiful variety of people.
Any tough nuts in your life? I’d love to hear about them!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Friday night I arrived home after a spring break mission trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. I went with the Conway Baptist Collegiate Ministry, where I serve on part-time staff. We stayed at a church (Romar Beach Baptist) that doubles as a retreat center, and had opportunity to do several different types of ministry during the week: beach ministry, RV park ministry, and kids ministry, just to name a few.
It’s always so fun to spend this time with our fantastic BCM students who've given up their spring break to serve others-being the hands and feet of Jesus to the world. We had a couple of students who had never been on a mission trip before. That got me thinking about my first mission trip, and I realized that this spring break was the 10th anniversary of my first-ever mission trip.
I was a sophomore in college and our church’s university group took a trip to New York City. My college major was radio/television, and I had known for years that I wanted to someday live in New York City and work in broadcasting. So when the opportunity for a trip to NYC presented itself, I was ON BOARD.
We had to drive through Times Square to get to the church where we stayed for the week. I had tears in my eyes as we drove through the Square. I had wanted to visit this place for so long that it felt surreal to actually be there.
I know it's blurry, but this is me in front of NBC News studios. In my mind it was my future place of employment. :)
Our group was split for the week: I was on the team working with a church plant in the financial district. We prayer walked, handed out donuts and coffee, and met college students involved in a local campus ministry. I had a fantastic, exhausting, educational week and did not want to return home.
I’m quite a sentimental person. Simple things like the passing of a decade mean something to me and make me want to look back and reflect. I have a significant birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, so lately I've been reflecting a lot.
If you had asked 19-year-old Corley what she thought her life would look like in 2013, the answer probably would've included something about living and working in that very city to which she’d traveled for her first mission trip. Broadcast journalism was her dream--she loved her major and was good at it. She had the confidence to believe that she really might end up in a place like NYC.
What I didn’t know, could never have known, was how God was working in my life and circumstances. On another mission trip exactly a year later, my heart shattered as God gently and lovingly revealed to me how selfish I had been with the Good News. But in His tenderness he picked up the pieces of my heart (which incidentally, He does each time this happens; He has never failed me here), and instead of giving my heart back to me He kept it, though I did not quite realize it at the time. Six months later, He made clear a call to ministry that I not only could not deny, I could not WAIT to tell the world about.
Though my life looks much different than I expected it to as a college sophomore, I would not trade the past ten years for anything. Because I was able to trust God for my future, when he took away my dream of a career in broadcast news it did not come as a huge surprise to me, and it did not hurt as much as I would have expected. By that time I wanted His plan for my life more than I wanted my own. Since I fully surrendered my future plans in favor of God's, He has taken me on a great adventure. I'm excited for what's next!
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
I don’t know about everyone else, but I cannot seem to move past the events of last Friday. I have heard the stark, cold facts over and over: crazed gunman. Murdered mother. Twenty-six dead children and teachers. It doesn’t make sense. In all my conversations, that’s the line that keeps being repeated over and over. When the names of the slain were released, I had to force myself to read it. When photos of the deceased were published, same thing. I knew I needed to look. I knew I owed it to those precious souls to look at their faces, to read their names, and to internalize the fact that each photo and name represents someone who isn’t coming home.
My heart has been most broken for the siblings. For the little girl who lost her twin brother. For the younger brothers and sisters who lost their role model and best friend. I think about my two little brothers (though the word “little” at this point is slightly misleading) and how I would have wanted to protect them from something like this. How guilty I would feel if I survived and they did not. How shattered my life would be if something like this happened to one of them.
I have cried for these families over and over since Saturday. Every funeral, every photo, every tribute to those lost makes me ache inside. What can I do? I keep tossing that question at the heavens. On Friday I left my outside light on throughout the night. It felt, at least a little, like fighting the darkness threatening to overtake us all.
John 1.4-5 says, “In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the Light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
In John 12.46 Jesus says of himself, “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
I John 1.5 says, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”
Psalm 139.11-12 says, “If I say, ‘surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will become darkness,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”
How cruel that in this advent season of waiting for the Christ child to arrive on Earth from heaven, we are mourning twenty precious children who have departed for heaven and left us broken-hearted here on Earth.
There are no easy answers. Quite honestly I don’t think anyone is interested in easy answers right now. We just want to ease the aching of our bleeding hearts and find comfort in whatever way we can.
One of my favorite Christmas songs has a line that says, “Light a candle, light the dark/light the world, light a heart or two/light a candle for me, I’ll light a candle for you.”
As for me, I’ll be gathering up 27 candles and lighting one for each soul lost. I’ll be grateful that I had teachers who would’ve made that same sacrifice. I’ll hug my brothers a little tighter whether they like it or not. And I’ll seek out the comfort and deep peace of Jesus Christ, Light of the world, the One who was in every classroom and with every child and adult at Sandy Hook Elementary last Friday.
The God of the universe can handle your questions and your heartache. I encourage you to seek Him out.