Embrace Small Deaths

Embrace Small Deaths

Death is not normally a topic that is commonplace in our society today.  It is something everyone reaches eventually, but the majority of people try to avoid as long as possible, whether in their own life, or even in conversation. Today I’m not writing about death in the traditional sense, but more about the many small deaths we experience of ourselves, our ideas about the future, and expectations of other people.

Wee may die a series of small deaths each day or see these deaths happen over a longer period of time. Either way, we encounter death more often than we think, and for some, it is not welcome. Sometimes, not embracing small deaths can mean that we are holding ourselves back from something better.

I shared earlier in a post that the process of grief is not solely for the death of a person in our lives, but it can be for the end  of experiences, friendships, and seasons. Similarly, dying to ourselves can take on that death-like process, which may be painful and cause grief but can produce beautiful results.

What exactly is ‘dying to yourself’?

When we die to ourselves, we are saying to God, “I surrender, you are in control. You will provide. You will make all things new. Because of you, I no longer have to live in bondage or chains.” Scripture uses baptism as a tangible picture of this death and new life. When we go into the water, it is a physical representation of dying and coming up reborn into a new life – a life proclaiming Christ. Dying to ourselves is both a one time decision (initially) and an ongoing learning process called sanctification.

God’s kingdom is not like this world. In the eyes of the world, his kingdom is upside down. We start to see that the way we get to some of his greatest plans for our life come through some of the most unconventional ways. For example, we see in scripture that when we lose our life (ie. death) for Christ, we find it (Matthew 10:39). The Bible is full of these kind of references where we lose or give up our life in exchange for something better and eternal. We die not only to ourselves (the flesh), but we die to sin, to an old way of life, and to our idea of control for our life.

When we choose to give up our ideas for our life and give it over to God, we slowly start to look different. We may gain a different vocabulary, a new life motto, and a new perspective. This process takes time and might not be the most comfortable.

Death is essential for growth.

Lately, I have had to die to my ideas of perfection and how it can somehow be achieved this side of heaven. The desire, I believe, was placed in my soul by Christ, but it can only be fulfilled through him, and only in its entirety once we get to heaven. This has looked different for me, as my eyes are opened to my own sinfulness, selfishness, and brokenness. I make mistakes, disappoint people, and God is still sovereign.

This small death of my idea of perfection is one of thousands. Some things I have learned the easy way through the experiences and wisdom of other people, and some I have learned the hard way through my own failure or inability. Each time, I am reminded that my dependence on myself is dying, and my dependence on God is growing.

Just as branches from a fruit tree are pruned off and die, the whole purpose is so the rest of the tree can bear fruit that is much more flavorful and delicious!

 

What small death is God calling you to die today?

Is it your ideas for your future? Your timeline for your future? Your expectations for your loved ones? Your desire for fame and wealth?

What are you going to die to today in order to find new life and grow?

 

John 12:24 ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Romans 6:1-23 ESV

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 12:1 ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

John 15:1-27 ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …

 

Embrace Grieving

Embrace Grieving

As you may have heard from my last post, I recently graduated! It is an exciting transition for me with much anticipation towards what is in store for this next season of life. However, what many of us forget as we all make great transitions in life, is that we still experience endings. In order to begin, often something else must end.

These endings can mean we experience some sort of loss and can bring unexpected grief and emotions for which we may not be prepared. Towards the end of my last semester, I started to experience just that. Had I not experienced it before, and had a wise counselor (yes, counselors go to counseling too) speak into my life about grief, I may not have been prepared for the conflicted emotions and thoughts that emerged.

Someone does not have to die for us to experience losses in our life. Loss also does not always mean something negative happened.

Just as we all lose our baby teeth, losses in life allow for new opportunities and growth.

Over the past weeks and months, I have been in a sort of grieving process of this season of life coming to an end. It was a long and cumbersome season where I worked long days and studied and went to school in the evenings. I had a big breakup during this season and also fell in love and got married in this season. God was so faithful throughout the process, even though it was not always enjoyable. Somehow, even though I looked forward to and longed for this day to come, there is a part of me that grieved. I made friends during this season, and I also did not spend as much time with friends as I would have liked.

Grief can be a motivator. When we grieve, we recognize our feelings and the good and the bad, but we don’t have to stay there.

There comes a point in time where we have to recognize and accept that things have changed, or are changing.

“We add to our suffering when life changes and we behave as if it hasn’t.” Mark Nepo

We can do something in the future, as a result of what grief has taught or is teaching us. My grieving has shown me that my word for the year – EMBRACE- was the perfect word. I will always be in some kind of season working towards some kind of goal. That does not need to stop me from embracing moments with the people I love and creating memories. I can pay attention- LISTEN- to what is happening around me and in me, and move forward in peace.

 

Are you in a transition season of life?

 

Is there something that you have not yet grieved?

 

Is there something changing in your life that you’re trying to act like it is not happening?

Simple Things in the Neighborhood

Simple Things in the Neighborhood

This past weekend, we went into the neighborhoods to pick up trash, pass out flyers and candy, and pray with neighbors. Some would say these things are simple and ineffective, but as the day progressed, we noticed the difference we were starting to make.

Not only did the area start to look a little cleaner, neighbors were out, they were actually opening their doors for us, and they actually had prayer requests that we prayed for.

One woman who had driven by us a couple times, decided to purchase some waters for us because she so appreciated what we were doing. She purchased enough flavored water for all 15 of us to have a water bottle.

The group that was with me was not from Omaha, and not even from Nebraska. IT was a group of middle school students from a youth group in Iowa. They were able to knock on doors and pray with neighbors.

One such moment was unforgettable and will forever stay with me. A group of three or four students walked up to a house, knocked on the door and offered their flyer and bag of candy. The elderly woman gladly accepted and when they kids asked if they could pray, she requested prayer for her family to grow closer together. One kid prayed for her and then it seemed like they were coming to a close when a girl asked if she could jump in. She prayed passionately for this woman and her family and spoke of how important and special family are. By the time she was finished, both the woman and I had tears in our eyes.

One small prayer can be effective. One small act can be effective. A knock on a door or a little bag of candy can be effective.

We need to stop searching for so many big things to transform, and discover how small you can get.

The simple things this past weekend didn’t just affect the neighborhood and the people we encountered. They affected me, and each one of the people who were with me. We saw and experienced the power of a simple prayer, a simple kind act of picking up trash.

You will be surprised at who will say yes when you ask if you can pray. Try it!

Praying for the courage to step out in small ways and see how God will move.

What is your first response?

What is your first response?

My husband and I met at the nonprofit where we work and are choosing to live in North Omaha to intentionally see the reality of there one day being no inner city in Omaha, NE.

We live in a “lighthouse” where we want to build community and spread love and hope so the people around us can reach their full God-given potential.

Recently we were driving home around 9pm and as we are pulling up to the house, we see two individuals digging through our trash. Immediately I felt this creeping sense of fear and surprise. Why would someone be digging through my trash?! What could they possibly be trying to find? Information? Food? Cans to sell and get a little cash?

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Fear in His Hands

Fear in His Hands
Oh Lord please forgive me for deep down in my heart
I’ve realized what I’ve harboured almost from the very start. 
See I’ve always had plenty, yes, more than enough,
but somehow I still worry that one day I’ll have none. 
So I fret and I fear of the future trials to come.
And work and save up to pay for the potentially large sums. 
I work day to day, honorable enough I am sure, 
but, see, my motives are not always very pure. 
For somewhere along the way I have wrongly presumed,

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The Hard Way

The Hard Way

A blog I wrote for Brave Avenue!

Remember the hard things you’ve done in the last season to enable you to do the hard things in this season.

As we began our year of 2016, we each chose a theme. After starting to read the book The Entitlement Cure, I chose “The Hard Way” as my theme, and have realized more and more just how fitting it really is and will be for this year.

This past season, I had to make several hard decisions, all of which required hours of prayer, seeking wise counsel and advice from mentors and friends, and the sheer power of the Holy Spirit.

At the onset of this new year, as I chose my theme of “the Hard Way” for 2016, I grew worried of all of the hard decisions I would have to make and how tired and worn out I would be from doing things the hard way…

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