Pain, and why it’s not really that bad.

Human hearts were made to feel pain.
It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But it’s not.

When God created man He made us in His image, He made us to reflect Him, and He gave us emotions. He wanted us to feel joy, but to do that He had to allow us to feel pain. Compassion wouldn’t exist without suffering. And, on the cross, He felt the ultimate pain, something none of us would ever feel; He was completely separated from His Father.

The pain that we will feel in life is just a tiny reflection of what Jesus felt on the cross.
Things may be tough now, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be totally separated from God, with no option to grab hold of Him again, knowing that He had completely let go of me.

Time will heal this, it always does. I will be fine.
The devil will eventually see that there’s no point in continuing to try and harm me, the wound will heal, and my heart will no longer be heavy, because I have Jesus.

And that is all that truly matters.

Any and all prayers are appreciated.

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The Bible, trying to figure out how on earth we actually apply it to our lives, and trusting in community.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

I posted this Bible verse as a tweet a few days ago but, when talking to a friend about it, I began to realise that I actually have no idea how to do this. How do we guard our hearts? How do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to love people, but yet not let them totally tear us down every time they do something that doesn’t make us happy?
I should probably let you know now that this isn’t one of those blog posts in which I have some great revelation on how to do this because, quite frankly, I’m completely baffled at this concept.
I’d really like your input (via Facebook, in a comment here, or vie email – mbaraniuk@hotmail.co.uk), I’d really like the thoughts and ideas of my readers because, as someone who is part of a community, part of the body of Christ, I know how important it is to ask other believers what they think.
So, how do we apply the Bible to our lives (in particular, the verse stated above)? How do we not let the world get to us while remaining focused on God?
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The past, and why it needs to stay in the past

“Will my weakness for an hour make me suffer for a lifetime?
Is there any way to be made whole again?
If I’m healed, renewed, and find forgiveness,
Find the strength I’ve never had,
Will my scars forever ruin all God’s plans?

Is He not strong enough?
Is He not pure enough?
To break me, pour me out, and start again.
Is He not brave enough?
To take one chance on me,
Please can I have one change to start again?

He took my life into His hands and turned it all around,
In my most desperate circumstance,
It’s there I’ve finally found…

That You are strong enough,
That You are pure enough,
To break me, pour me out and start again.
That You are brave enough,
To take one chance on me,
Oh, thank You for my chance to start again.”

– Stacie Orrico, Strong Enough.

In my first three semesters of university I was crazy. I partied and drank all the time (on a few occasions I couldn’t stand), I had no passion for anything other than going out to clubs and getting absolutely plastered. Whenever we weren’t drinking I’d be thinking about the next time we would, because everything else in my life was falling to pieces and it seemed to be the only thing making me feel better. But it was temporary and only numbed the pain for a little while. I’d go out and flirt with countless men, but usually not taking it any further because I knew how sleazy they all were. One night I’d drank so much I threw up on the way home and cried at my friend because I was so lonely.  I always cry when I’m sick, but there was something so broken in this. 
This was three years ago now, but somehow the wound has reopened and salt is being poured in.
I think dreams are incredibly important; they have the ability to change our outlook on life for days, sometimes even weeks and months. Last night, after a few days of trying to push my past to the back of my mind, I had a dream about something from my past. It wasn’t a massive part of the dream, but it’s clearly been enough to make everything sting, to make all my scars visible again. I know the devil is trying so hard to ruin my last four weeks in Stirling, to make it seem as if I’m still broken and unclean and that all my purity and innocence that God has worked so hard on has all been stripped away again.
The song I’ve quoted above is one I’ve loved since I was about thirteen years old. Back then, little did I know that those words would still mean so much to me at twenty-two. You see, I can spend all the time I want wallowing and feeling sorry for myself, trying to think about how I’ve changed, and how I’m different; but that’s not really important. 

What’s really important is the truth, and the truth is that I’m changed, I’m forgiven, I’m beautiful, I’m pure, I’m innocent, and most of all I’m loved. I’m loved by my Creator with an everlasting love that says the past is irrelevant and unimportant.

And the more that I keep telling myself that, that I keep focused on that, the less I’ll worry about the past, the less I’ll worry about who I was, because that is not who I am any more! 
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
(NIV)
I am completely new in Christ and no dream (which was really only a work of my sub conscious, not of God) can change that because no dream can change the truth, and the truth is that the old has gone! 
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Writing a book, and why I think I’m going to go for it

I’m thinking of writing a book.

I had this idea back in second year, when I thought university would last forever and that student life would never end. Finally, I’m almost at the end and I’m wondering if it’s time to start putting my ideas together.

I want to write about the past four years of my life, I want to tell people that student life with Jesus isn’t easy but that it’s incredibly worth it, that it gets scary but He’s always there, and that it’s damn good fun (but probably in more (and better) words).

I’ve seen so many books about student life as a Christian written by people who finished university a million years ago, people who never ended up living a crazy party life, people who went straight into their Christian Union and Church and who were sorted from day one. But university life isn’t like that for so many people. It can be really scary and trying and terribly painful at times.

I think this book will involve me being incredibly honest about the life I lived at university, about the crazy things I did and the terrible situations I got myself in to; but I’m okay with that. I think we live in a society that hides all its problems and pretends like it’s fine when it’s actually torn in two.

I’ll make sure to keep you updated.

x

The fact that God likes us, and why that’s better than it sounds


“I think the difference in my life came when I realised, after reading those Gospels, that Jesus didn’t just love me out of principle’ He didn’t just love me because it was the right thing to do. Rather, there was something inside me that caused Him to love me. I think I realised that if I walked up to His campfire, He would ask me to sit down, and He would ask me my story. He would take the time to listen to my ramblings or my anger until I could calm down, and then He would look me directly in the eye, and He would speak to me; He would tell me the truth, and I would sense in His voice and on the lines on His face that He liked me.” – Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (p.258)



I’m currently studying a book called King’s Cross by Timothy Keller with my good friend, Caitlin. This morning we met up in town to discuss the two chapter’s we’d read through this week and, as usual, she shared some great wisdom with me. We were talking about God’s great love for us (a topic that comes up constantly, for obvious reasons) and at one point she talked about this passage in the great book that is Blue Like Jazz (I suggest that you read it if you haven’t already). 


Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how we find what all humans are lacking in God. It’s a pretty important thing to know because it takes immense amounts of pressure off the people in our lives and allows us to love them properly. And today, when Caitlin mentioned this passage, it hit me that God truly likes us. He doesn’t just love us, He really likes us. 

Some of you are probably thinking, “well, duh.” Right? 

But it’s sort of crazy, when you really think about it. God calls us to love people. He doesn’t call us to be everyone’s best friend. There are some people in life who we just won’t be friends with and that’s okay (but don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s incredibly important to try our hardest to love everyone we meet). And for some people, we are that person too. 

But God didn’t create a single person who He doesn’t want to be friends with.

It takes pressure off being single too, I think. Knowing that God, our Creator, likes us like that. While we’re waiting for the right person to come along we can be content in the fact that the maker of the heavens and earth likes us; it’s more than enough, more than we could ever hope for or imagine. And it means that we don’t need the approval of humans so we’ll never have to fear that we’re not “good enough”.

God really likes us.

We all have our flaws, our wounds, our scars; but God still likes us, He still wants to be around us every single second of every single day. The best part is that it does continue on to love; the unconditional, head-over-heels type that amazes us every single day.  

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Beauty, and how to get it

Right now I have no laptop and, funnily enough, this is when I most want to write blogs. So, on a Sunday night at exactly 10:23 pm I am sitting in a computer lab writing this; aaah, the woes of your intrepid blogger.

So, to return to that little detail I told you at the start: I currently don’t have a laptop. My little friend and sidekick is currently being wiped. He was apparently massively overheating, a problem I probably could’ve fixed with a can of compressed air for around £5, but that will now cost me £135. Yes; £135. It decided to go kapoot only a week before one of my last dissertation deadlines so, naturally, this week has been a little stressful.

To put it lightly, I’ve been freaking out. I wasn’t eating properly, I was dehydrating, I was beginning to get pretty whiney and I don’t think I was too pleasant to be around. However, last night a good friend let me borrow his laptop and, somehow, in the space of what was, collectively, around six hours, I managed to write enough words to do what I’m pretty sure was finish my dissertation. I have lots of editing to do, but I can cover that in the labs over the next two days. So firstly, praise Jesus for friends who trust me to look after their laptops, even when mine has just gone in for repairs.

But, secondly, I have a bit of an issue to sort out; an issue with me and my best friend, Jesus. I got incredibly distracted, so much so that I totally forgot about Him and was horribly anxious all the time. Tonight at church we sang ‘Indescribable’ and this line stuck out to me:

“You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name,
You are amazing God.”

For most of my life, at least the reasonably lengthy portion I can remember, I have adored the stars and the moon. I have glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to my ceiling and every time the moon’s out I have a little freak out. But this evening I realised I’d genuinely stopped caring about the stars and the moon. I was so horribly focused on this broken laptop and how it was hindering me and how awful the timing was that all I could think about was me, and my problems, and how tough my life was. This semester has been so good up until now but I was letting a laptop setback get to me.

Like I said above, I don’t think I’ve exactly been a joy to be around this past week, and I apologise to anyone who had to listen to me whine or freak out. I know I always ended with “but it’ll be fine, God is good”, but if I truly believed that I wouldn’t have to whine about it. I’ve become pretty internally ugly, pretty self-centred, and generally pretty uncool.

Philippians 4:6
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
(NIV)

I might be anxious and stressed out but there is no point because God has got this. He has all of it, and when I focus on that, when I focus on the beauty that is the truth of Jesus Christ, I shine so brightly, I reflect His beauty. And I’m not being conceited, this is just something that happens when anyone focuses on God. I like when I’m that person, when I reflect my Saviour. The awesomeness of life is generally amplified about ten times and I’m my chilled out self.

I suggest you try it out for yourself.

x

Vulnerability, and why it’s okay

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability. I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus calls us to love people, even when we know that they could hurt us. Jesus would never ask us to do anything that He didn’t do; we broke Jesus’ heart the day we chose to crucify Him and we continue to break it when we hurt Him by sinning.
The “human condition”, as Donald Miller calls it, is something pretty messy and broken. Humans naturally hurt other humans just by being human. It’s especially tough when a fellow Christian hurts me because the Bible says we’re all meant to be kind, loving people. I think this is why so many people think Christians think they’re perfect; because, as Christians, we sometimes seem to think that we’re meant to be perfect. I think this is why so many people build up walls, because they’ve been hurt immensely at some point in their lives and therefore think everyone’s the same.
But d’you know the beautiful think about Jesus?
He holds all the things that humans are lacking.
I’m currently ‘King’s Cross’ by Timothy Keller and I came across this quote last week:
“A major [issue] in my life has been people-pleasing. I needed approval, to be liked, admired, accepted. But for the first time I was able to see how important it was that I identified with Christ – His love has enabled me to set up emotional boundaries with people that I never could before. This enabled me to love my friends and family for who they are and not seek more from them, because I can find what is lacking in Christ. It’s been a huge relief to finally feel free enough to love people and know that in Christ, I am safe and protected and that protecting myself or standing up for myself is actually a good thing.”
Humans let us down, it’s not their fault. We’re naturally sinful beings, and we can only put that down to the fall. But what our fellow humans are lacking, we can find in God. It takes pressure off the people in our lives and it allows God to take control, to truly guide us and gain our trust. God knows far more than we ever will:
Isaiah 55:8-9
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways,”
            declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(NIV)
I want to be vulnerable I can love people even when I don’t feel like it, even when they hurt me, because that’s what Jesus did, and without His love and forgiveness we’d be lost.
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