Recently, after looking over my recent Facebook posts, my mother (the great reality therapist that she is) told me she thought I was acting a little obsessed about getting free food all the time. If I’m not mistaken, she may have been the one to initiate and fuel my thrifty habits (obsessions), but while she […]
Last year, around this time, I was in my last semester of undergrad and thus still had to attend weekly chapels. I remember going to a worship chapel where we sang the song Oceans. As one of the top Christian songs in the past few years, this song was a favorite in chapel, on the radio and on everyone’s playlists. After a while though, the words lost their meaning. On that particular day, however, I realized afresh what the words meant.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”
I knew what I was singing, but thought for a second at the weight of my words. Did I really just sing that I wanted God to take me to deeper waters? What would that look like? And was that even something I really wanted to be asking God?
This past year, God has brought me to and through some of those deeper waters. My 22nd year has been one of the hardest yet. The trials of a broken relationship and a wounded friendship took me deeper than my feet could ever wander. At times I didn’t know if I could emotionally, spiritually, and mentally survive. However, because I ran to His presence, the deeper communion I have experienced with God and this sense of unity with His Spirit makes it more than worth it. Through it all, the joy that I have is unexplainable. Even though I may still sometimes hurt, that hurt reminds me of how deep God has taken me. How he has allowed me to walk on the water, making me stronger, and let me experience the fullness of his presence.
While my heart may have been unsure when I uttered the prayer of that song, God heard the words of my lips and knew what it would take to make my faith stronger.
This summer, when I thought I had experienced the deepest of the depths, I had no idea that more was in store. While I am writing this now, I don’t know if I have seen the last of the depths. In fact, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that there are still deeper waters ahead.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble…”
I can be confident that there are deeper waters to come. BUT Jesus is not finished when he says that. He ends the statement with:
“…But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Our faith can be made stronger in those deeper waters. We know that we can endure because we already know Jesus has overcome!
The trust and experience of deepened faith developed through trials is both painful and beautiful.
May we continue to be led by the Spirit, and our faith be made stronger.
I love the picture of humility and unity that was displayed at our staff meeting this past week: people coming together. Our leaders outwardly confessed, reconciled and forgave one another for bitterness in their hearts that may have been unbeknownst to the other party. It was amazing to see the love that was spread in these small confessions and brought healing to many! Really, forgiveness has more to do with the person doing the forgiving than the person forgiven.
I have realized that on social media, I have held bitterness in my heart and I have not been completely real or honest. The pictures I post are the life I want to portray to the world but not exactly the whole story. I post the good moments and am silent during the bad or pretend like it is all ok. Yes, I want to live by faith and not make it a habit to complain or gripe, but I also do not want others to think I do not struggle and am some inhuman perfect being. It is quite the opposite actually.
So this goes out to all of my readers, I am sorry for becoming bitter about the lives portrayed and the half stories I receive. But I also ask for forgiveness for perpetuating the very same thing that I do not like!
It’s hard to humble yourself and admit you’re wrong. Let me rephrase that. It is hard for me to humble myself and admit I am wrong. I want to be right! And if I am honest-I would like to think I am always right!
While I love the idea and picture of humility, and appreciate it in others, it is so much more difficult to actually make it happen in my own life. I want to be liked, or perceived in a certain way.
A while ago, in the midst of some difficult times, I was on the phone with a friend whom I had not spoken with in a while and she said, “it looks like your life is great right now!”
And I thought to myself, what is she seeing that makes my life so great, why would she say that?!
It wasn’t until I took a look at what I portrayed to the rest of the world when I realized just how bad it was. While sometimes I may want it to be good so I act like it is, sometimes it’s not and instead I am silent. I wonder who else out there, instead of faking like it’s ok, they are silent? The moment they find one ray of hope, they share it with the world and the world thinks life is perfect.
Forgive me for acting like I have it all together all the time.
Social media is a fragile and complicated thing. One can over share- complaints, TMI, or nonsense, but one can also portray themselves in the way they would like to be seen instead of who they are—flaws and all.
I’m working on it. I don’t have it all together or know exactly how to walk this thin tightrope of reality and truth mixed with respect and dignity. All I ask is that you join with me in not only speaking the truth, but in living it as well.
Today was deep cleaning day for my bathroom. It had been quite a while because, hey, I’m busy and who else every uses my bathroom besides me, right? Yeah, we’ll just say it was long overdue. Apparently our apartment has hard water because you can see it all over the drains and there is a ring around the toilet where the water sits. Disgusting, I know.
So I did the whole bleach thing and scrubbed my heart out. Although I got a good amount of it with the first try, there were still those deeper stains that had been there the longest. I let the bleach sit for 10 minutes to really sink into those stains.
I probably scrubbed that toilet for a good 15 minutes and there are still some little spots of hard water stains. So frustrating to leave the toilet knowing that I did not get it all, though those spots may be virtually invisible to the person who just happens to glance in there. AND it did look a whole lot better than what it looked like before. For some reason I could not be fully satisfied. Even now, I go back and think to myself, if only I scrubbed harder or longer, or just didn’t let it sit that long in the first place, it would be all clean!
This process reminds me of Jesus and how he cleanses and purifies us. While we may be considered 100% righteous, because we are justified by his blood, we still have to undergo this process called sanctification. Sometimes the stains are easily removed with a little bleach and the swipe of the brush, and others are tougher and require more attention and time to really scour away. Nonetheless, I know I look a whole lot better than I did before.
BUT… what about that little thing that I can’t seem to get rid of? That little imperfection that always seems to come out at the worst time possible? That daily battle that reminds me just how human I am? Why can’t I seem to get rid of those things and be wholly perfect?
I forget about how far I come and instead of saying “WOW! Look at how far God has brought me!” I think, wow, there’s that little grimy stain, still staring at me, and I can’t seem to scrub hard enough to remove it.
Tonight, we had family night at our church. We celebrated the victory we have in Christ and made the decision to not live with the victim mentality, but to live in the reality of victory because 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Instead of saying “why?” we can say “wow!” and live in awe of all that God has done and is doing in us and around us and through us. We can live with an expectation of victory because we serve a victorious God.
Thank you Jesus for the victory that I have in YOU! May I never forget what you say is true. Recently I’ve felt a little displaced, so please remind me of you unending grace. When all I am says why me? Why now? Please give me the strength to instead say WOW! When I think all is lost-at first glance, now I know to do the victory dance!
Recently my mom told me a story of when she was on a bike ride and a bird kept flying in front of her and landing. Right as she thought she was about to run it over, it would fly a little further in front and do the same thing. It made her think of that definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Of course, she had enough wisdom at the time to immediately check herself to see if she was falling into that same trap.
Sometimes God does that. He gives us examples of our very own pitfalls, but we will miss it if …
a)we aren’t paying attention, or
b) we aren’t willing to humble ourselves and check our motives to look at the reality of some of the choices in our lives.
I can think of two instances in the Bible where God uses nature to paint a picture of how we are to live our lives.
The Ant: Proverbs 6:6-8
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
The Birds & the Lilies: Matt. 6:26-30
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
While walking this evening, I almost forgot to pay attention. As I turned around to go back from where I had come, I noticed a doe and her two deer babies. I was able to stand and marvel at the wonders of his handiwork, and as I walked further, found two more deer grazing by the lake.
Are you paying attention?
What does God have to show you that you are too busy staring at your phone to recognize?
Will you take the time to be present and pay attention today?
I love my mother. I love how she cares about all of these small details as we get ready to host a get together at our home. How she wants the carpet to be vacuumed on the stairs even though the party is mostly outside and no one will notice the dog hair on the steps if they need to go to the bathroom. She places decorations all around, in places people may never notice in and of themselves, but nonetheless sets the mood without being overly obvious. She cares so much about how she will make people feel, and that they will feel welcomed and well-taken-care-of. Every detail, every potential situation for which she is already prepared, is a labor of love. And here I am sitting, watching it all and realizing the reflection of God that I see in her.
He sees every detail; he knows every detail (not just in the knowing about kind of a way, but an intimate knowing). He is prepared for every possible situation and even if we don’t notice it, he has prepared the way for us in the details as small as dog hairs on the carpet of the stairs. He cares about how you feel and takes care of you and I when we are least deserving. All because He loves you.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah
(Psalm 68:19 ESV)
Summer is a time where many of us have that little bit of extra time in our schedule to do with as we please. For me, that means I finally get around to all of the things I have been wanting to do, but simply did not have enough time for during the rest of the year. AKA Goals, aspirations, book lists, exercise habits, eating habits, money budgeting, the list is endless. It seems like every day I find another thing to add to my summer goal list. The hard part, however, is actually creating the time and space to accomplish those things and do what you want to do. Life happens, you get tired and want to veg on the couch or sleep in that extra five minutes, and before you know it, the summer is over and it is back to a packed schedule and shorter days.
This summer, I am stepping up and not letting the long days pass me by. But, I did not realize how hard it is to form new habits. Sleep seems so much more vital in the morning than when I set my alarm the night before, and it seems so much easier to watch a quick show on Netflix (or maybe two, or three) than to read a couple chapters of that book, or my Bible.
Thankfully, quite a long time ago, I wrote this verse on a notecard and placed it on my wall. Normally I walk right past it, but today I paused and read it over again and thanked God for his sovereign timing and wisdom.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
I would encourage you to read Hebrews 11 and 12 in their entirety to fully understand the context and direction of the entire passage. Chapter 11 speaks of all the great people throughout the history of the Bible and chapter 12 goes on to encourage those in the present day to not give up. Now the content of this particular passage in chapter 12 discusses discipline as discipline in the form of hardship or similar to that of a father disciplining his child. Discipline is a part of training a child in the way he or she should go, meaning it is not always an act when the child misbehaves or makes a mistake, but a constant presence guiding and directing the path of that child to help him or her learn and grow to one day become a mature adult.
Sometimes God can give us the direction or desire and it is up to us to obey and take those steps of forming the habits that will set us up for success in what he wants to do in us and through us.
How are we able to do this?
Verses 2 and 3 tell us to look at the life of Jesus for our example of someone who did not give up and lived a life devoted and disciplined, because his eyes were focused on the joy set before him.
What is the result?
Like verse 11 above says, discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.
Maybe the discipline you are experiencing is in the form of a trial, or maybe it is in the form of creating new habits to take you to the next level in your relationship with God or his call on your life. Whatever it may be, I encourage you to keep pressing on and take a look at the two verses following verse 11:
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Hebrews 12:12-13 (NIV)
The discipline, that leveling of the paths for your feet, is worth it, the harvest of righteousness and peace is coming!
…to be continued…
This blog post is one of a two-part series about discipline and creating new habits.
Las Vegas, the glittering, wild and lively city. Full of billboards promising fun times and streets teaming with people looking for something. Casinos promising some big money, with people dumping their own money in to buy the dream. The strip looks like you can travel the world in a day, from Egypt to an Excalibur castle, New York to Paris, and Italy.
But, like much of the city, it is all illusions and empty promises. Thus the saying rings true,
“All that glitters is not gold.” -Shakespeare
While my recent visit to Las Vegas was full of fun sightseeing, attractions, shows, and food, I was left knowing there is more in store.
People packed on the strip, everyone trying to sell you something, promising something. Everyone is looking to make a buck, and if you’re lucky, you may walk out with a few left. If you don’t spend it all on gambling, the food, shopping, and entertainment will surely get you.
Nonetheless, in the midst of it all, as we were walking down the strip one afternoon, I heard a Christian song playing from one of the restaurants. I’m not sure who was playing it, or how long it was played, and I do not even remember the song, but I got the message. I received that glimpse of God’s love and mercy for “sin city.” His desire to redeem it and bring it from death to life.
Thanks God for your little glimpse of hope, that pure gold of your truth and love in the midst of the world.
Right as we were walking to our last brunch before leaving, the song “back to life, back to reality” came on and I couldn’t help but laugh and think to myself, yes, and I am glad to be going home, because, as much fun as it was, my life and reality are so much better than these past few days in Vegas.
I have a community that is committed to being better together, united by a common goal and purpose, determined to change the world. I have a family who loves and cares for me and encourages me to live out my purpose each day. Jesus has given me eternal life to which this life cannot compare and a purpose for while I am here on earth. I’ve found something of true value, pure gold, and when you can find that, when your reality is better than fantasy travels, it is golden.
Approval. Likes. Shares. Favorites. Retweets. The list goes on. With our social media crazed world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of approval and trying to please others to gain compliments or attention. I just started reading a book called The Well-Balanced World Changer and in the first section it has two quotes.
The first is from Bill Cosby:
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
The second is from Bob Dylan:
“What good are fans? You can’t eat applause for breakfast.”
Wow. Way to really hit it close to home God. Thanks. For a lot of my life I have been a people pleaser who thrives on people’s compliments and accolades. However, thankfully, I have learned and am still learning the power that we give others when always seeking their approval. We can get caught up in the momentum of the like, but realize we may not even like ourselves. Some even go as far as being paralyzed with fear because of a decision they will have to make that may have the possibility of making someone unhappy.
Taking it a step further, what about God?! In John 5:44, Jesus says,
“That’s why it is hard to see how true faith is even possible for you: you are consumed by the approval of other men, longing to look good in their eyes; and yet you disregard the approval of the one true God.”(Voice)
Looking for approval on the human level, cramps creativity, and sets yourself up for a lifetime of chains and defeat. Looking for Godly approval brings both creativity and freedom back into our lives because we have the ability to live out his purpose and plan for our lives.
We can freely be ourselves and let others learn who we are when we stop trying to impress them or gain their like.
“How then can we, we who try to embody the way of Jesus in the modern world, claim to hold God so high and yet still put so much worth on the words of humans?” -Sarah Cunningham (The Well Balanced World Changer)
If you like this, then don’t click the like button and forget about this, live it out and evaluate how and from whom you seek approval.
James is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Over the years, I have had the privilege of doing a few in depth studies on the book, which have only grown my love.
Recently, I was given a copy of the Voice translation of the Bible and decided to read James.
One part in particular really stood out to me in a way that I had never been able to read it before. On asking for wisdom in chapter 1, this is what we are to do:
The key is that your request be anchored by your single minded commitment to God. Those who depend on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything. The splinter of divided loyalty shatters your compass and leaves you dizzy and confused.
I italicized the last sentence because that point screams loud and clear, that if you are not all in, if you are riding the fence, trying to please all parties, you will only be left dizzy and confused. In the verses before, James speaks of how trials produce patience in us, and make us more mature. We have the opportunity to ask God for wisdom and he will give to anyone who asks. BUT, the key is the single-minded commitment to God. God often uses our trials to get us to that point of complete surrender.
James is not my favorite book because I love trials–I’m not sure if anyone loves them. However, I do love what trials produce. Maturity and completeness, patience and other godly characteristics that would not be there had it not been for a trial.
That is why I am thankful for James, and I am thankful for trials. Because I am reminded to look at the complete picture and the end result, not just the moments of pain or sorrow.