All the Missing Pieces

All the missing pieces. The tiny things we hold onto. Pieces, once compiled, can create disasters.

It’s funny all the things we collect. A puzzle piece, tiny screws, rubber bands, it’s all sure to come in handy someday. We hold onto it, hoping that someday we’ll find the game the piece fell out of, or the chair missing it’s screw. 

I’ve been cleaning a bit lately. Not that staying organized is my forte, it isn’t, but at least getting organized is doable. As I’ve been cleaning, I’ve come across so much junk. Stuff that could be so helpful, but if you don’t use it, it just collects dust. We all have junk drawers, or in some cases, junk closets, maybe a garage? The point isn’t how much stuff you’ve collected or even how helpful it could be. What are you doing with it?

Organizing everything has put things into perspective in my own life. We go through life collecting all these little things. Broken or missing pieces. Hoping to find their home one day, but when it boils down to it, we end up with an ice cream pail of rusty nails, rubber bands, and legos. All things that can be helpful, but we’re saving them. For that lego set, or the deck of cards. It’s good to save, there are times to wait, but holding on to all these things may just hold you back. 

There is an amazing skill that God has given to each of us. In fact, I believe he gives us multiple skills, but the problem occurs when we sit down thinking about them all. Waiting for the answer to fall in our laps, or the pieces to fall into place before the project’s begun. Sometimes we get clear direction. ‘A voice from above’ if you will, but honestly, it isn’t always that way. It’s funny, my pastor was just talking about this on Sunday. “I’d rather be running where I think God wants me to go and have him say ‘Hold up, slow down, you aren’t quite ready for that yet, let’s take this path,’ than to be sitting on my couch like some couch potato while the Holy Spirit whispers ‘Get up! We have places to be, so many amazing things to do.” 

Unfortunately, I often respond, “Eh, I’ll pray about it.” And pray about it I will (probably), but is my praying legit or just words I say as my excuse to not do what I know I should? Is it adding this calling to the ‘missing pieces’ jar of stuff to be used someday? Use it. Use the talents God’s given you. Step out in faith. He won’t let you down. That’s not to say get cocky and do whatever cause you can do no wrong. I’ve been there. Doing it on your own doesn’t really work that well. Stick with him. Ask him to reveal to you his heart. He will over time. 

God is calling you. He made you with a purpose in mind and you’re the perfect person for the job. Be the EMT. The first responder. Sure, he’s God, he can use anyone to accomplish his will, but the cool thing is, he wants you.

Confidence

A topic that’s been on my heart for a few weeks. A personal struggle for years. And, if I’m honest, I haven’t quite mastered the art of putting it in the right place all the time, but I’m getting better and that’s all we need; to be making steps in the right direction. 

It seems like everyone tells us to have self-confidence. In order to have success you need to be confident in yourself. Your skills and abilities. Ultimate key to success for sure. At least that’s what everyone says. I don’t know about you, but for me. That’s not a good option. 

You see when I am confident in my skills and abilities, I get cocky and do something stupid. Just the other day I had become confident enough in my own ability to drive on Wisconsin winter roads that I went faster than I should have (and I knew it). I wasn’t speeding, but I’d just come around a corner and was headed onto a straighter portion of the road where a pick-up was more on my side of this country road than I was comfortable with. Swerving a bit too close to the ditch to avoid him, I lost control of my car and ended up spinning  and ricocheting across the road. 

By the grace of God, I managed to stay on the road and there weren’t any other cars behind the pick-up to hit me afterwards. That was definitely a humbling moment of learning that even though I may be a capable winter driver, I’m not perfect. With my confidence in myself, I failed. It was hard to think that I could safely venture onto wintery roads after doing something so dumb. 

Self-confidence only gets us a little closer to success before dropping us disgracefully down the slope of failure because we’re all bound to fail. No, you shouldn’t let those failures define you, but what if your confidence wasn’t in yourself and your talents? What if your confidence rested in God?

The God of the universe made you with all your skills, and abilities. He knows better than you what you are capable of and just how far your potential reaches. In him, your potential is without limits. That’s not to say you won’t ever fail. You will. It’s that when you do fail, he’s still got you. When I lost control of my car on that icy road, I should have been in the ditch with a totaled car, or at least in the ditch. But God watched over me and in his mercy saved me from what could have been an expensive lesson. 

Sometimes when we fail, we fail hard and God lets us learn the hard way. I have many times, but I know that when he’s at the wheel, he works even my failures out for good. Which is the only way it’s gonna work for me in the long run. An interesting thing that stuck out to me at church today that I feel correlates really well is that though God is in control, we ultimately have the choice to go with his plans or against them. Joseph’s brothers sinned. They made the choice to go against God and their brother and sell him off into slavery. Yet in all of that God worked it out for good as he always does for those that love him and are called according to his purpose. I’m sure it didn’t feel good as Joseph being sold into slavery. 

I doubt Joseph had really failed in any major way at that point, but his confidence was in God and though his brothers failed him, God didn’t fail him and used the bad for good. That’s the best part of having our confidence founded in God. When we trust ourselves  or others we are bound for disappointment, but with confidence in God, he won’t disappoint. The results may not be immediate, but they’ll be lasting and fulfilling. 

You may never achieve success in the way you anticipate or the way the World sees it, but you will have success that lasts for eternity.

Hopeful Horizons

Hooray! 2020 is done. I can’t wait to get on with my life. Like really, the worst year ever. In our own ways, we all excitedly approach the new year. Hope is finally on the horizon. 2021! Somehow all our problems will be solved. 

Okay… yes, I want next year to be better. I’m believing for a better year. I have dreams, adventures, and plans, but if this year has taught me anything, it is to be grateful. I’m thankful for you. For the lessons we’ve learned, the time we’ve shared, and that you’re still here. How much time do we have left? I honestly don’t know, but I’m gonna enjoy every second that remains if only a day.

I used to be a dreamer. Well, okay, I’m still very much of a dreamer. I’m always seeking what’s on the other end of the rainbow. I want to sail to that point where the sea meets the sky. Yet often, my yearning to be anywhere and everywhere but here has kept me from the most precious gift I’ve ever received. Now. 

Tomorrow may come. I sure hope it does, but for all I know, five minutes from now the sky could fall. Seriously! We’ve had enough things happen this year that we’d believe Chicken Little if he tweeted it. Yet, we now also know that impossibilities can be possible. With that we can be sure God works miracles.

Breath in. How does it feel? You’re alive, you’re here! But you don’t know for how long, so make every day, moment, and breath count. As if it’s your last. I haven’t been very good at that. And I’m still far from where I need to be, but we’ve been blessed with astounding lives, don’t miss them. 

It seems as though God has been showing me that it is good to dream. In fact, he created our imaginations, but there needs to be a balance. Oh, that word makes me cringe. (Mostly because I’m not good at balancing different aspects of my life) The good news? God is so perfect at balance, that he is willing to help us. When I surrender different areas of my life to him, he takes them and evens them out. No taksies backsies though. Trust me, it doesn’t go well. I’ve tried that many times this year and I’m not nearly as good at figuring out life as God is.

You see, I would get so carried away in my hopes and dreams for tomorrow or next year that I missed all the precious moments. Not that I never miss moments, but hey, we’re all a work in progress. Life is beautiful and yes, HARD, but after this year, I’m all the more convinced that God holds true to his promise in Romans 8:28. He works ALL things together for good. Not that all things are good, but he twists even the bad things to make something beautiful. Kind of like how all roses have thorns.

So please, as you enter the new year this weekend and reflect on the past, don’t miss all the roses among the thorns. As you continue to hug your loved ones a little closer, remember it took a pandemic to help you recognize your true passions and priorities. No, it wasn’t fun and I wouldn’t like to endure another year like that, but if it means watching miracles unfold and people love a little more it’d be worth it. This time I’ll let Jesus lead.

12.11.17

I felt uneasy the whole day. In fact, I’d been feeling uneasy the whole week. It’s almost beyond words how much I felt the happenings without knowing a thing. Hard things happen in everyone’s life. Too often things just don’t go the way they should have. That’s how my Monday was going. It was cold, and the skies loomed like the storm brewing in my heart. I knew something was wrong. Josh. what’s wrong with Josh?

I remember especially after lunch, I felt it and then in study hall, I got the text. Any other day, I wouldn’t be concerned about such a simple text from my Dad asking what our home phone number was, but today, I knew. 

“Did Kyle get into an accident? “

“Maybe Josh? 

“Surely it’s nothing serious.” 

“Maybe they broke a bone, but I’m sure they’ll get over it.”

The thoughts ran through my mind, but still my gut told the story. I’ve heard people say that twins sometimes have a special connection, they sometimes feel what’s happened before it has. Josh and I aren’t twins, but I always wished we were. Even still there was a connection between us I think. Honestly, I’m convinced that it was God’s grace. He knows I wouldn’t have survived without it.

The moment I got home, that’s when I couldn’t deny it any longer. Josh was gone. Suicide they said. The brightest, most optimistic kid in the room, just days before his eighteenth birthday. Who could’ve known he was feeling that way? He must’ve known  he was everyone’s favorite. That’s the thing though. He’s been a warrior since day one. The emotional battles he’s been through are deeper than any person should have to deal with especially before they’re eighteen. Yet it was out of anyone’s control. 

Ever since we were little kids he wanted to be in the military. He’d send my dolls off to the Marines with his teddy bears. Yet he had his sweet and goofy side. He’d cook up the wildest recipies if only to play with me and help me get over not having a sister to play house with. Somewhere along the line, he started slipping. I doubt it was out of impulse. At the moment I’m sure it was, but for him, it was more of a slow fade. Trauma before your even twelve has huge impact on a person’s life. The weight is too much to bear on your own, but he was a soldier so he’d take it like a man even if he wasn’t even a teen yet. 

We all got stuff. I don’t write this to weigh you down, but rather to lift you up. You have today. Spend it well. Reach out to the ones you love. When the weight gets to be too much, don’t try to hold it on your own because no one wants to see their favorite crushed under burdens they were never made to carry. Be thankful for every chance you get to see your loved ones, knowing that each chance is a gift to be treasured. 

There will be days when you lose. Or at least you feel like it, but know that God will provide in miraculous ways. I know for sure if God hadn’t worked a miracle out of my tragedy I would still be broken somewhere trying not to drown in my grief. It’s crazy really how he provided. And I  think he knows what everyone needs, and for each person he provides differently, because we need our own reassurances. Not that he causes them, for he hates death more than we do. He is the one who cried with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died even though he knew Lazarus would rise from the dead. 

Two weeks before his death, I had a dream that Josh died in military conflict. The enemy wanted him, but he reached up for God even as he was dying and God saved him. In this way I was certain he went to heaven though at the time the dream didn’t make sense other than I knew he had plans to enlist in the Marines. Then the weekend before his passing the strangest thing happened. There was a concert that I really wanted to go to. At the last minute I got invited to go by friends I hadn’t spoken with in months. Then, on our way there and the way back, I just had this thought. Something really hard is coming, but God is so good. He’s showing me that he will never leave me. Somehow, it’s all going to be okay. Man I don’t care what it is, God is so good. 

To this day, I will continue to proclaim it. God is so good! Life is painful a lot, but live life thankful for every moment of every day. Love the people around you even the ones you don’t really like. God made them too and you don’t know what they’re going through or how much time they have left. Even if they seem to have it all together, they probably don’t and God knows, we could all use a bit more love in the world right now.

Love More 2020

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Election season, yes that’s totally what I was talking about. Not. I appreciate living in America, I truly do. It’s a great country and God has blessed it. Elections are so important and yes, I believe voting matters. It matters very much, but before we get too political here let me just say this, Love More 2020. That’s where I’d like to cast my ballot. 

Anyone else? There are two major parties, neither of which candidates is perfect (or am I the only one who thinks that?). On November 3rd, or earlier if you’re voting by mail, you will choose who you want to lead this country and cast your ballot. If you’re a Christian, I hope you’re praying first, but what matters more than this election than, dare I say, the fate of this country? People.

We’ve spent the past how many months relentlessly politicizing and judging things that never should’ve been such a big deal. Wear a mask suddenly you’re assumed to be an ultra liberal democrat, don’t and you’re a rebellious republican who wants to murder us all with Covid-19. No one seems to recognize the whole ‘That person may be dealing with PTSD, anxiety, or a variety of other things that actually prevent them from wearing a mask.’ 

When did we become a culture that is so twisted that we’re a cancel culture which cancels anything or one we disagree with, no discussion much less reasoning other than “I was offended”? 

You’re allowed to make your own choices, but when you’re blocking out the truth then insisting everyone around you agree with you because you’re offended, I think there’s something wrong. It seems we live in a constant state of “That offends me so it should offend you” but going back and asking “Why are you offended? That’s hardly offensive.”

When a show that clearly exploits children in the most shameful sense leading to further exploitation and innocent sufferers, and no one speaks up, we have a problem. Yes, some spoke up, some canceled their subscriptions for two weeks, but it didn’t last because convenience and personal enjoyment are more of a priority. The reality is it’s only acceptable to be offended if it’s beneficial to the people making the big bucks.

After all of this my question is when the election results are in, what will you do? We as Christians know we are called to love one another, (and not just loving other Christians/ people who agree with us) we’re called to love everyone with Christ’s love. If Biden wins, will his supporters rub it in and make a mockery of Trump supporters? If Trump wins would Trump supporters rub it in and mock those who voted for Biden? Loving one another, no matter the political affiliation is more important than politics. Being there for you’re sister as she battles cancer is more important than shunning her while your political views clash. 

When your uncle votes for Trump as you vote for Biden, no matter the outcome will you still go out fishing every Saturday morning with that same deep connection and care? As the new President prepares for inauguration day or the old prepares for the next four years in office, my genuine hope is that your family comes together on Thanksgiving and gives thanks for one another no matter who voted for who. I pray there are no debates around the table as the six-month build-up of frustration and anxiety begins to settle.

I understand it’s tough. It’s hard to feel right (maybe you are right), and see that your brother doesn’t agree, but yelling at them, cussing them out, calling names, none of this helps. What if, just what if, you’re wrong? I know it seems far-fetched, but what if it’s true? Even if you’re right, I’d be way more open to hearing you out if you weren’t accusing me of being a narrow-minded idiot because no matter how wrong I am about one subject, I’m no idiot and if I were, I wouldn’t be more likely to listen to you when you’re calling me one.

It’s an election year yes, but there’s no call for all the hate. It’s hard enough to know how to vote. I think it would help though to know no matter what, Aunt Sally will still love me and Dad won’t shun me for life. We can still love each other. That will never be illegal no matter who’s president and I’d love it if this year especially we could see just a little bit more of that. It’s our calling to love as Christ loved and God, he’s a whole lot bigger than an election and if you follow his guidance, he won’t fail you.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)

 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 13:34 (ESV)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Matthew 5:44 (ESV)

 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Broken World

“It’s gonna get better, God’s just working on healing the world.” Many a Christian friend reassures one another.

What if it doesn’t? What if this world does not get better? Will you still believe him? If your faith is based on this world getting better and life getting brighter, I’ve got hard news for you. That faith may fail you. 

Sometimes, even unintentionally, we place our faith in things we believe God can or will do for us. I may believe that because God promises in Jeremiah 29:11 that he has plans to prosper us and not harm, that nothing bad will ever happen, or maybe I believe that even though things may go wrong at times, I’ll somehow strike gold or physically, life will go better for me. It may get better in this life for you. I’m not saying it won’t, I’m just saying don’t believe in the things God can do, believe in God. 

This world, it’s not our home. We all know that, but we don’t always like to admit it. Deep down, we understand that forever is not part of this world’s vocabulary, but we like to enjoy the here and now as much as possible. Yes, we ought to enjoy this life, it’s a gift. Every day brings new mercies and graces, but don’t expect this life. It’s fading quickly. The world may not end tomorrow. I’m not a doomsdayer and don’t expect the world to come crashing down all at once, but it could, would you still believe that God is good? 

We’ve all been through things that are no good. We’ve lost those that are close to us, or at least some close friend or family member. Especially this year with lost jobs, vacations missed, friendships seemingly put on hold. It’s a year that’s broken many of us, but it’s not the end. When you break a glow stick what happens? Pain leads to joy. Sometimes that joy doesn’t come in the morning, but it will come if not until that glorious day. 

Don’t rely on this world getting better. The politicians aren’t our saviors no matter how smart, strong, or kind. They are humans and I hate to say it but this world was never meant to be our home. How can we expect this to be a place we want to stay forever? God has so much more for you sweet child, oh, so much more. Let it go. Breath in the sweet air. He will refresh you and renew your strength. Count every day as joy, but don’t count it as home. It’s a journey. A journey home and someday we’ll get there, but take joy in this journey. 

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

James 1:2 (ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

It’s Dead, Again

It’s 8 am and you’re just on time to get to work even a little early. Upon opening the car door, you see to your dismay the seat belt jammed between the door so that the battery drained. Was that just me? I’m sure at least one other person has done that. It’s so irritating. No way to fix it especially if the battery’s old and dead beyond resuscitation at least not before work. 

Thankfully, I was able to borrow my friend’s car to get to work, now slightly late, but do you ever wonder how a machine so big and powerful can be stopped with the slightest problem. When more energy is drawn than is received, it won’t start unless you connect it to a greater power source. 

How often do we pour more energy than we have into things? Even if they’re little, the distractions will get you. If you leave the door open, even a crack, how can you expect the motor to start in the morning? What are you investing your energy in? 

In my car, if I turn it on, the alternator charges the battery, restoring the power lost to start the car and continuing to power my radio, lights, and so much more. If I turn on the radio and leave it on, the battery will die. Even if the radio is playing a  great station, it will still run out of juice. If the car is on, the alternator will recharge the battery. Both need to work together to provide these comforts. 

It reminds me of how our faith walk should be. You see, we can minister to others, serve, give, and work our good morals out day and night, but if we aren’t connected to Jesus, we’re going to run out of “juice”. God is love, when we disconnect ourselves from it by making wrong choices or simply not spending time with him, we’re bound to run out of charge. We can’t give love, we aren’t able to receive from the father. 

Sometimes it’s really bad and we need a “heart transplant” in order to recharge and that comes from God alone. Thankfully, he doesn’t charge one hundred thirty-six dollars for the new heart. It was incredibly expensive to him, but he paid the bill too high for us. Now we can have life with our heart transplant through his free gift. 

He’ll give us a jump start any time and is the alternator to our battery.  All he requires of us is faith. Believe in the Lord Jesus my friend and you will be saved. You may get burnt out, your connection might get loose and you’ll definitely need a couple jump starts, but he is always there for you, just believe.

1 John 4:8-9 (ESV)

8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

Exodus 15:2 (ESV)

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 

Psalm 73:26 (ESV)

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Reality Check: We Have a Problem

Expectations vs. Reality videos are so popular. Rightfully so, they’re absolutely hilarious, but why are they so funny? It’s funny because there’s at least some element of truth. We have expectations, and reality comes in and gives us “truth bombs” we don’t always want to accept. 

We’ve all done it. I know you have at least once in you’re life joked about how you just got a reality check. We joke about how very imperfect things are compared with our expectations. I mean, c’mon, it can’t be THAT hard to make our expectations a realit right? 

None of us want pain. We want things to go a certain way. Many a time I’ve expected my days to go oh-so-perfect, yet those are my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. It isn’t because the day is so bad, there’s nothing wrong with the day except it didn’t meet my expectations. It doesn’t happen only in our plans and days, I find it happens way too much in my walk with God. 

You see, I expect God to show up and he does not, or so I think. I can distinctly remember a time when that happened less than a month ago. I wanted desperately to feel his presence. I was sick of hearing about how God has showed up for others in dreams, visions, out of body experiences, true miracles every one. What’s wrong with that? Why couldn’t I ask that? 

I not only asked, I expected. Yet as I prayed for God to show up, I knew in my heart my intentions were out of order. Yes, I wanted to experience God at a deeper level, but it was more for me than so I could be closer to God. How cool it’d be to speak of how God showed up for me that night. I woke in the morning disappointed and angry that he hadn’t shown up. How could he? How come some people “earn the right” to experience his presence while I sit here with nothing?

If I’d been enjoying my reality, I would have seen the mountains God moved, and looking back, I still see some, but how much did I miss when he whispered in my ear. I was expecting a roar and I got the softest whisper. God shows up. He does every time because he loves us so so much, but he wants us to be close enough feel his breath on our neck as he whispers in our ear. 

This is not to say that God can’t or doesn’t work in huge ways. There’s a difference between faith and expecting God to do things our way. Not to say I know that line, but I know there is a line.

We most certainly ought expect God to work in ways beyond imagination, but if we expect him to follow our ABC’s, we’ll miss the masterpiece he’s painting one stroke at a time. Some strokes may seem small, dare I say insignificant, while others appear vibrant on the canvas of life, but each is necessary to create the beauty none will understand till we’re called home. 

Perfection, that’s what we’re expecting here and, though I’m sure it seems obvious, I’m just going to let you know here and now, it won’t happen. Not in this world not at all. This isn’t our home. You’ll never find the perfect guy, have the perfect kids, live in the perfect house, drive the perfect cars. It won’t happen, so let go of your expectations, so you can embrace every joyful moment of this chaotically intricate masterpiece. Yes, you are a work of art, a masterpiece and loved by the highest of high kings, your father if you’ll let him be.

Proverbs 23:18 (ESV)

Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Control

Control. I’ve always had control since, well, forever in some way shape or form I’ve had at least a fragment of control. At least until recently or so I thought. I always thought somehow I could get myself to point A or do something simply because I set my mind to get it done. How powerless I truly am. 

I make many plans, yet I’m learning how completely incapable I am to bring them to completion. Maybe I want to control my situations because many things before my sixth birthday were so painfully wrong and led to disaster that I could’ve prevented if I’d acted differently. At least that’s what I think. It’s like I know it all worked out for good, but as a protective measure to protect myself from further pain, I try to take control. 

Well, two weeks ago, I lost it. Literally gone. I celebrated my birthday and the next day I went from being a driver with a two and a half year clean record to a person without a license to drive, not because I forgot to renew my license, simply because well long story short the DMV has a lot of unique situation type rules.

“It’s not fair! Every other eighteen-year-old can walk into the DMV having never driven a day in their lives, pass a test and walk out with a license. Why do I have to have a permit for a week and take and pass this test for the third time?” My heart about burst at the injustice. As my face reddened with shame I walked out the door with my permit, no more control than a twelve year old in the passenger seat when their parents are running late in dropping them off for school. 

“Why do I have to be the oddball? The once in ten years situation?” It didn’t feel right or just, it still doesn’t, but God always knows what he’s doing. It wasn’t until I had absolutely no control that I could see how much God cares for me and will do anything to make it work out. Entitled? Oh for sure! I felt entitled all right, but now I realize. I’m suffering an inconvenience for sure, but it’s seven days. 

Imagine living your life never owning a car because you could never afford it. How could one live their life when they have no control over it. So many people live in life threatening situations in which they have no control. Women and children lose husbands and fathers on the battlefield without a final kiss or caress. Farmers lose their crops in one wildfire or tornado, no warning, no way out, complete loss of crop and control. 

I’m no expert, but I’m beginning to grasp that it won’t always be in my control, but often that’s the best situation because I’m more likely to mess it up. It won’t always make sense, but somehow, God is working it together for good. When we live letting go of control on our end is when we live free to see God work miracles that we’d never seen before since we assured him we could do it in our own strength. 

Control. Sometimes, we need to let it go. It’s not easy, it’s just simple. Once you do, buckle up, because you’re gonna see God work in ways you never imagined.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,  but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

John 15:5 (ESV)

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.

Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)

There is a way that seems right to a man,  but its end is the way to death.

Home

This world is not my home. 

That’s my excuse to run every day. Of course, this world is not my eternal home, but that doesn’t mean that I need to live discontentedly in the meanwhile. When the going gets tough all I want to do is run as fast and far as I can think. I don’t have it rough like many do. I don’t even have it remotely bad like some. 

Sure, I get into tense situations, times when I’m overwhelmed and overbooked, but it’s no reason to run. It’s then I realize I need to be still. Not stop what I’m doing per se, but rest in the Lord knowing he’s got this. There have been so many times I’ve been unsure how I’m ever going to make it to the next step. The thought of the next step alone makes me want to tuck my tail and fly to the mountaintop on the other side of the world. Yet if I pause and look back on my life, I have an assurance that I’m going to make it. 

I can’t make it on my own. That’d be utterly impossible. Every time I can recall I’ve been in this place, it’s been a matter of looking to the Lord, (or in some cases running as far as I can from my problems which always made them worse). Always, he’s been there to pick me up when I’m broken, set me on the right path when I’ve wandered, or bolted off.

When there’s no way to get from A to B, he’s already gotten me to C. It’s not a matter of what I do to keep myself put together and on track. It’s a matter of choosing to look to him and trust no matter where I end up he has a reason. Never did I imagine I’d move halfway across America without saying goodbye at six. Hard as it was, I can honestly say God’s worked it for good and still is. It still hurts more than I’d like to admit, but if I hadn’t, I would never have met my best friends who are basically family. I wouldn’t have met a great many people who’ve helped and blessed me so much. God alone knows the choices I would’ve made, the pitfalls I missed.

The private Christian school was full of important learning experiences, but a great many trials I still don’t understand. Public school was interesting, but no place for me. Even still, God’s grace got me through and guarded my heart against many temptations. I’ve failed, I’ve run, and I’m sure I’ve hurt a great many people in the process, but I trust he will work it for good. The God who never once let me fall. Won’t let you fall either. 

Sometimes it feels like you’re falling, but he’ll always catch you. Know that this world is not your home, but trust you don’t have to run to have peace and safety.

It’s easy to look back and see how if only that had happened, your life would be so much better. The thing is there’s no way to know. I think it’s best to trust that God’s working it for the best possible situation not only for his plans but for your life because he cares about you specifically. He loves you dearly my sweet friend.

This world is not my home, but we’re called to embrace God’s plan and not flee from it. I mean, when Jonah discontentedly ran to the other end of the world, it did not go well.

Jonah 1:3 (ESV)

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Stop Trying, Start Being

Airport: excitement for some, dread for others. It’s the place of warm welcome homes and heartbreaking goodbyes. Sometimes, we don’t even recognize that that goodbye was the last goodbye we’d get.  

Here I sit six feet away from the nearest soul, my understanding deeper than that of ten days prior to my adventure. Thousands, probably millions of people fly in and out of here daily, yet all we think is where we’re headed next. Anticipating being home after days or weeks away. Dreading leaving everything you know for the next several months. Sometimes it’s off on the most exciting adventure, others it’s back to a broken home, or breaking away from a broken place. Some are running away, some facing their greatest fears. 

My heart now realizes a longstanding truth. People, millions of walks, reasons, ideas, painful memories, and joyful hearts sit next to us, bustling around us. Still we don’t see them. Someone committed suicide right as I typed this, but no one saw. Our actions affect those around us. We are called children of light, but do we live as such? There is so much hurt cycling around the globe, no matter its cause, we could spare five minutes to be present with someone who has no one. 

Five minutes isn’t much, but it’s enough to tell someone they’re loved. It’s enough for someone to get healing from heartache they dared not share with those close to them. For much as I hate to admit, it’s easier to share my deepest insecurities with someone who I’ll never see again than my closest friend. No judgement that way, or if there is, I won’t here about it forever. If we spared five minutes out of our busy lives to help that lost toddler find her parents, or take a few extra minutes to walk with the lonely older man who goes out daily to relieve his mind from the memories of Vietnam. Even holding the door for the cab driver, saying thank you to the clerk at the store clerk, making eye contact when we ask how a person’s day was so we can truly connect. 

It isn’t everyone’s calling to be a missionary in Africa, it is however, everyone’s calling to be light. If we lived as billions of lights, no matter how small our light may seem, there’d be no night people with depression must endure alone in the dark. No, I won’t be perfect at being light, but I’m the perfect light’s daughter and so long as my fire is burning with his fuel, I won’t burn out. This isn’t one more thing to do, it’s a lifestyle. Live open with God using you. Love fully and let go of trying so you can better grasp being.

Ephesians 5:8 (ESV)

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are a light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

Isaiah 1:17 (ESV)

   learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,  plead the widow’s cause.

To Explore the World

I want to do it all, see it all. There are so many mountains to explore, the ocean is full of wonder. Eighty, or even a hundred years are not enough to dream and explore all the possibilities. It’s interesting to me the conflict in my heart. I want to fly around the globe, hike every trail, watch the sun set from every direction and angle possible. 

Yet, I don’t want to leave my quiet comfort zone. The one in which I have a stable job and friends that are basically family. I want to get married, have kids, go on weekly picnics and enjoy the routine Saturday french toast brunches. I want to grow old with my husband evening chats on the back porch, same view, different night, lightning bugs flickering in the distance. I can’t do both can I? 

I have so many dreams, I couldn’t possibly complete. I want to shoot for the stars, but I don’t want to miss and land on the moon. I’d rather enjoy the simplicity of not shooting than fall short. Is it fear holding me back or selfishness pulling me forward. God has a plan and I have a million dreams. I hope they line up because I’m stubborn, but God’s better. How can I know that, but not follow it?  God’s the ultimate dreamer after all.

1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV)

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”

I’d love to be a missionary, maybe in Australia or New Zealand, but aren’t there people even within my friends who haven’t been saved? There’s a whole world to reach with the gospel, but that doesn’t mean I have to travel to the other end of the world to find them. Maybe they’re my neighbor or classmate. How can I reach people across the globe if I can’t reach those five feet away from me? It could be more impactful to reach even one who’s in my life than seeking out hundreds who may not even give me an ear. 

Mark 10:45 (ESV)

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

I’ll never have all the answers, it seems the more answers I do have only lead to further questions. It’s refreshing to know I know the God who knows. The God of adamant love and safety even when life feels risky. My encouragement and challenge to you is to keep dreaming. Keep doing, always in prayer, but never in fear, For as Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

It reminds me of a couple verses in the Bible about fear. First, 1 John 4:18 and Luke 12:29.

1 John 4:18 (ESV)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 

Luke 12:29-30 (ESV)

29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.

God’s got you. He’ll take care of your needs and go above and beyond. He knows and cares. I’ve got endless questions, you’re not alone, but God knows and I pray that gives you peace. What are your dreams? What’s holding you back? 

Scars That Burn

Battle scars, we all got ‘em. The marks that allow us to share stories, some now funny, others not so much about our lives. The deepest scars may not be visible to the naked eye, but those are the ones still pulsing with pain. Riddled with insecurities and anxiety, no one would ever understand or care.

Recently I burnt my hand. It stung horribly ice wouldn’t even help. We’ve all felt the burn. Some of us may even have scars from our burns. I know I could point to a few. Even if we weren’t scarred by our burns outwardly, our minds got a scar, one to be used as a future reference so we don’t burn ourselves in the future. It causes me to wonder, what other scars are burned on our hearts?

How often do you find yourself running? When we’re scarred, we tend to run or hide from whatever left that mark. Beauty marks some say as they lighten the mood, but everyone knows what went into that “beauty mark”. There are countless reasons to be scarred and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been, but the worst part of the scar is when the scar is invisible. Many of us have invisible scars and because of their invisibility, we’re unable to tell the painful story. The one burning on our hearts daily. One we can’t tell because it’s too deep, or no one would care because they can’t see how it cuts us to the core.

What if we were given a shot? What if we shared those heartbreaking nightmares? The ones that still give you goosebumps. They bring tears to your eyes. I see it, but you won’t allow them beyond the gates. Insecurities and self-doubt crush your dreams. You’re lost and alone, though you have several close friends. You reason away the need to tell because you don’t want to be a burden. You don’t want to overshare. 

If I’m being completely honest, a lot of this is too me to even want to share, but I know someone needs it. Someone needs to know that your burns and beauty marks matter. God cares about your scars. He wants to bring you healing. It’s terrifying being alone in the world, feeling as if you can’t tell, but also can’t keep it in. My heart aches for you. I’ve been there. One thing I’m learning through all of this is reality. We all have these burns and if we share our burns, maybe it’ll give someone else the courage to share theirs. I’m learning that my closest friends want to hear the pain. They want to be there for you with you. Maybe, if we share the burdens and lies that crush us, we’ll find freedom. Not just freedom for ourselves, but also others who are now empowered to share their scars.

Battle scars, we all got ‘em. Late nights of endless tears. Early morning quivers from PTSD. The flashback from under the table when they fought, or that time when you couldn’t save them from tragic injury. We can’t undo the past, but let there be freedom. It isn’t yours to carry any longer. Let it go and be free.

Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Psalm 34:18-19 (ESV)

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

In the End

When will it end? The constant fear, masks, quarantines, riots, backward politicians. When will all of this be done with? I just want to get on with my life! 

I’ve thought this many times and I know I’m not the only one. I’m absolutely sick of it. For the longest time, I assumed it would end or turn around. Not Covid-19 per se, but all that comes with it. The political drama and people so divided. Maybe I’m not thinking about this right. Does God guarantee us the peace and sense of security we’ve become accustomed to? I haven’t been able to find the verse in which he promises safety in this world. In fact, this world isn’t even our home. How are we expecting it to be so comfortable?

John 18:36 (ESV)

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”  

Jesus himself said that this isn’t our home. We aren’t entitled to security that comes from this world and it isn’t what we should be seeking. Here we are so divided by trivial things as the real enemy seals the trap. While we fight for what we feel is right or wrong whether wearing masks or not, unsaved men, women, and children are dying of starvation, illnesses, and poverty. As we’re distracted by arguments over extensions of quarantine, broken people reach the end of their rope, going as far as taking their own lives because we’re distracted and they can’t bring themselves to reach out about something that “probably isn’t that important.” 

There’s more to this than what we see. Satan’s fingerprints are evident. We may be fighting for something we feel strongly about, but I was convicted in Church on Sunday when I heard Romans 13:1. Who is the real enemy? We may not agree with our politicians, but ultimately they were put in place by God. Unless it’s a choice between God and our earthly leaders, why are they fighting them? Remember our leaders will have to answer to God in the end for their choices. 

John 10:10 (ESV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus came to bring life. If we think for a moment this is home, it isn’t. Don’t fall for the false sense of security that comes from living in an area so free from persecution. I’m not saying God’s heart is for us to suffer unnecessarily, or to give persecution, but we live in a fallen world. Don’t trust this world to give you security. That can be found in God alone. How will you live until you’re called home? Will you fight for personal security in this world as more are forever lost? 

Luke 19:10 (ESV)

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

We want to be more like Jesus. Christianity was never supposed to be about works. It still isn’t. If you think you can save the lost, or through you presenting the gospel, you’re winning Heaven points, you aren’t. It’s about the heart. God wants a relationship with you. This relationship should lead to fruit, but fruit won’t produce salvation. What I mean by this is when we’re pursuing a relationship with God, we will begin to see his heart for the lost. Which may lead us to do something. Ultimately it’s between you and God, but where’s your heart at? What do you allow to distract you? Why are you so insistent on security here?

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

John 14:2-3 (ESV)

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

James 2:17 (ESV)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Through My Eyes

Welcome to the world you’ve never seen. Let me show you around. Please be careful, you tread holy ground. Schedules are held loosely around here. We aren’t lazy, simply busy enjoying every moment. Spending our last five minutes of daylight savoring the strawberry pinks, lavenders, and peaches. The home is rustic as I like to call it. Others might say it’s a blast from the past. Maybe even a bit too far gone. To me, it’s home. Welcome to my imagination.

If you could spend a day in someone else’s mind feeling every emotion exactly how they felt it, how much different would it be? I suppose it depends on whose lens you’re looking through. I’ll give you a glance through mine, but here’s a quick secret: My lens is simply a narrow lens of another. A gift so precious I’d never dare to lose it. 

So, let’s go already! My world may appear similar to yours at first glance but stay a little. Can you feel the love flowing through the songs of the sparrows? Sparrows shouldn’t even matter because they’re so small and insignificant, but God gave them a lovely song. He even knows when a sparrow dies. He loves the sparrows a lot and gave them a beautiful song to remind us of that. Yet with all his love for his creation, he did not die to save the sparrows.

There, across the field, a gazelle has fixed her eyes upon us. Half terrified, half confused, she dances away, prancing to the beat of the sparrow’s song. Even in her majestic dance, she is not the one the Lord called out of the darkness. She is not who Christ came to suffer for and save.

Look! There’s a meadow across the field. In it, a little girl crowns her sister with flowery wreaths. Be still as they come towards us. Their matching dresses flap in the wind. The older turns her sparkling emerald eyes upon the younger blonde. “Let’s stay forever. Watch the stars popcorn with me tonight. Maybe tonight, we’ll spy Orian’s belt.” Clutching each other’s hand, they lay on the grass, pointing out the twinkles in the stars. Giggling at the funny faces formed by the different stars popping across the sky.

I see adults socializing by a great bonfire, glancing with care towards their treasures in the meadow. To the side cat and dog rest against each other on the porch. The air has become crisp as fall, now life is brought inside. Maybe because these people are so good, Christ would have come to save these works of art. Still, Jesus didn’t come for those who had it all together, for no one does.

My world is not all sunshine and rainbows. I see these girls fight as if they’ll never be friends again. I hear the brokenness as mother and father throw daggers of words at each other. The brokenness cuts me to the core, but they are who I came for. The mom and dad break away and pray. Maybe they need a listening ear, so I hear them speak through their pain. I don’t offer solutions. Sometimes they just need someone to listen. I hear the hurt and the brokenness, but I don’t dwell on it. That isn’t all that there is. There is joy, people heal when they come to Jesus his ear is always open. 

The brokenness we face isn’t without cause. It certainly isn’t right, but understand that we’re all human. We all have our pains. Listen. Open your heart and hear others. Let them share their pain knowing you won’t judge. Once you listen and bring everything to your heavenly father, you’ll see all the little things. You may even begin to hear the song of the sparrows.

Mathew 10:29-31 (ESV)

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 19:9-10 (ESV)

9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Mark 2:17 (ESV)

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You Complete Me

It’s vital, it’s broken, family. What does it mean to you? If you had a perfect family growing up or even now, that’s wonderful. Yet I know no one could honestly say they have. Families are broken. I see it every day. You don’t have to look hard to find a broken family. Often, it’s in your own home. How can we have whole, complete families?

First, I think we have to start with God. Without him, we’re broken and lost. Many people say that finding the love of their life, or their soulmate “completes” them, but I can’t comprehend how. 

Tale as old as time, a woman met a man only a couple of years her senior. They dated and fell in love. Must’ve been fate that brought such a perfect pair together. The gentleman proposed to our fair lady and within a year and a half of when they first met, they were sealed as man and wife. “What a lovely couple.” On-lookers would have declared. They were blessed with four beautiful children. I can see how this family could have been mistaken for achieving the dream family. Yet with or without Christ, our past often tends to haunt us. Without Christ, there is no hope of defeating our demons. It’s a battle that drags us down and often our whole family. 

So was the case with this family. Sure they went to church. Of course, they sent their kids to Awana. They may even have appeared to be overly generous and full of good deeds. Yet, as we all know. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8) And so we see demonstrated daily that it is not works that save us or in and of themselves bring healing. We feel it at the empty or at least obnoxiously silent dinner table. We see it in the glares shared by siblings behind the parent’s backs. The ones that only mimic the glares they’ve noticed from Mom and Dad. We hear it in the anger once bottled, now exploded on children who knew not what they’d done. On a Mom desperately trying to manage a household full of wild children. The empty beer cans, the shattered mug. It’s the side the world doesn’t see. The world sees perfection.

Without a relationship with God, broken people can’t fix or complete each other. It’s like trying to hammer a nail in with a hammer that the head fell off of. It doesn’t work. We’re just one of the billions of broken people trying to heal in a broken world. So we look to the world, but it’s broken. This is why we need God so desperately. Don’t think for a second you can live without him. You can’t unless you want to cause further destruction. Families are so vitally important, yet with all the toxic relationships, it seems impossible to have hope for the future. 

Yet you, you can be the change. You don’t have to come from a perfect family to bring about this change. You just need a relationship with God and it can change everything. Only if He is first and foremost.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

John 1:3 (ESV)

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

Freedom

“Freedom is never free.”James Grengs states in his poem, Freedom is Never Free. Many others have also argued and pushed this point, but what does that mean? What’s the cost of freedom? Most Americans understand it cost many lives and much bloodshed to secure our “rights” as we now like to call them. These rights are freedoms. Not everyone has them, nor are they aware that some are entitled to them. We certainly didn’t start right, we still prevented thousands of precious lives from living in the freedom many began to experience, but all glory be to God, our eyes were opened to the crime against humanity. 

More lives were lost, the price was great and not all motives were pure in the process. Freedom was a hefty price, but a price worth paying. Freedom, as always, had a price tag attached. Sacrifices must be made to purchase freedom. Sacrifices of love, only a person with a deep, Christ-centered love would fight to the death for what is right, but a portion of that we often don’t admit either because we don’t think about it, or because we don’t want to is that freedom is found at the cross. Whose cross and how is freedom found at that cross? 

Romans 5:7 (ESV)

 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-

Okay, well Romans 5:7 doesn’t leave a whole lot of hope. It most certainly demonstrates part of the reason our war of peace and freedom never seems to end. We’re in it for ourselves. Scarcely a person dies for a righteous person. I know I wouldn’t be considered righteous, not if a person could see my heart as God does. So how are so many people willing to lay down their lives for the sake of others who may or may not be righteous? Don’t lose hope with verse seven. The best is yet to come. 

Romans 5:8 (ESV)

 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There are two reasons I can reconcile as to why a person would pay the high price for freedom. Either they are in it for themselves for their glory or personal gain, or maybe, with Christ’s love, they fight, losing their own lives, but counting it as a gain for the glory of Christ. God’s love is beyond human comprehension. It’s hard to even begin to understand, much less explain. Yet, it’s the place in which you will find more freedom than ever before. For without Christ’s sacrifice, we were in bondage to sin. 

Romans 6:14 (ESV)

 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

See after Christ paid the ultimate price, we were gifted with grace so great it covers the cost of our sin. Now, we are no longer slaves. Sin won’t have dominion over you even though it did! That’s the best news I could ever hear. While our world is chaotic and full of violence. People enslaved to sin, or told they are less, we can spread God’s love and his grace now that Christ’s love lives in us. “Run wild. Live free. Love strong. You and me.” as For King and Country sings in their song Run Wild. This is what we’re called to do. As we thank God for his freeing grace and mercy. Let us be living demonstrators of his love. For this freedom was bought with the ultimate price, his perfect son’s life. All that he might adopt us as sons and daughters. 

Unless You Die

Today’s a bit unique. I can’t explain why this came to me, but it seems a good allegory. Do you ever struggle to let go? Who are you letting control your life, God or fear?

A tree just outside our house was struck by lightning this evening. It was a majestic tree. I loved to watch the tree blossom each spring. As I gazed at the tree, half strewn across the lawn, I began to wonder what type of stories that tree might have within its layers. Here is it’s “story”. 

If I could tell you a story, one for every year, the shelves in the library would be full. Some stories would be filled with laughter; like the one in which the boy and his sister spent nearly the whole year by my side, sledding, building snow forts, biking, and tossing that old football up and down the luscious grass before me. There are tales with unfortunate sequences, a mother longing for her son’s understanding, bridges broken and nearly impossible to recover. Yet, even in these dark, unread stories, I could point you to the hope that shone in her eyes. Or remind you of the hugs that happened that dreary, December night. 

The flowers came and went, my leaves died, but after a winter of restoration, they returned unfailing every spring. Hope. That’s what I like to call myself, one who points others to Jesus. Under me I long that animals can find shelter from rain and people shelter from the scorching sun. The joy that comes when I share a quiet afternoon with a young boy chasing his dreams through his latest series of books is something that can’t be beat. I’m the shelter. I listen when you’re alone. My oak leaves contain secrets that I will never tell. 

For years, I’ve watched you grow. Not just you, but all who seek refuge here. My glory has not always been so great for I too was once a weak sapling. But by God’s mercy, he sent the rain. My roots sank deep into rich soils. There I hid your secrets. I had such a lovely time with you and all who entertained me in decades gone by. Now I’m no longer a towering beauty on your lawn. I can’t be a refuge when the sun’s too hot, but I hope that maybe, just maybe, as you poured your heart out and wept in the loss, you heard God’s whisper as his fingers toyed with my leaves. As you dreamed your millions of dreams, I hope you noticed the intricate patterns and shapes carved by my maker. While you laid below my bows, gazing at the stars, I don’t doubt you noticed the song twinkling above. The one God sings to you and me as we grew. It’s soft and ever so sweet. 

Now that I’m gone, don’t forget God’s goodness. Don’t forget the awe of his majesty. I was here for a time, but now he will reflect his glory in numerous ways I can’t begin to predict. I’ve enjoyed my time planted here in this small town, but now I hope to move on and touch others. Maybe I’ll be the frame that holds a family together. My wood may be chopped to give people warmth in these brutal winters. Maybe people will continue to laugh and cry around the new oak table. Sometimes, you have to die to what you think is good for you to reach everyone God has for you to reach. I always thought this spot on the westward hill was mine forever. I cherished every moment as you should as well, but when God moves you forward, don’t hesitate. Often it hurts, and sometimes, it takes a strike of lightning to catch our attention, but he’ll work it for good.

Psalm 19:1 (ESV)

1 The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

John 12:24-25 (ESV)

24 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. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Don’t Lose the Dream

“Fear, he is a liar.” Let’s scream that from the rooftops. The song by Zach Williams seems relevant in many aspects of daily life. I never thought I struggled with fear or anxiety. Of all the things that I’ve struggled with I’d been grateful to not need to fight that battle. Okay, maybe it was more like a severe case of denial.

I dream and I love dreaming. I want to zip from one idea to the next, connecting the dots as I zoom along. It’s led me to difficulty at times because well dreaming is fun, acting on a dream requires a plan in which all the dots are connected and I often miss a dot, or five. When something goes wrong, it’s so easy to give in to fear. Satan likes to mock us, reminding us over and over about our inadequacies. No matter how many times we tell ourselves it’s a lie, we continually fall into the trap. How can we escape from this looming monster? 

Philippians 4:6-7

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Whoa, that sounds way too easy. Is that all it is? In my experience, that is all it takes to overcome the looming giant of fear. So what’s the big deal? Why is this such a struggle? Every time I fall into the pit of fear, I try to climb out alone. “I can do it!” So I run and jump but miss the edge. Each attempt, no matter how creative, sinks me deeper. Why do I try so hard to make it on my own? God is right there at the top edge. He’s already dangled the lifeline, all I need to do is hold on, letting go of myself and clinging to the only hope I have. 

That does not make our struggle easier. I know people who struggle with anxiety at a much deeper level. It doesn’t seem to be rooted in anything particularl, but it is crippling. I wish there were easy answers to our struggles as we all do, but somehow, God will take what is our “worst part” and make something beautiful. 

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Who is called according to his purpose? Is this an elite group of people? Suddenly, our inadequacies fire back up scaring us away from God’s promises. Those who are called according to his purpose are all of us. God has called each of us in accordance with his purpose. He is the maker of our dreams. When we hit roadblocks, pray. Before we even start we need to pray. It’s more than fulfilling a calling, it’s a relationship and God wants to be in it every step of the way. Our weakest moments are often the best if given to God because as Second Corinthians says:

2 Corinthians 12:9

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

When you are weak, fear not. Press on with the dream. Of course, continue prayerfully with Christ, but don’t let the fear of inadequacy overtake you. “[His] power is made perfect in weakness.” God is strong enough. He is big enough. He will overcome mountains to accomplish his will. Most wonderfully of all, he wants us to be a part of it!

More Like Gold

“Can we just take a moment to say that life sucks?” I hate it when people say that. I hear it way too often. It’s an excuse. “Life sucks, just press on, someday, it may get better.” Stop! Why are we saying this? Life does not suck. It isn’t awful. Not just something to get through. Why are we counting the days till we die as if we can’t stand being on this earth?

Life is beautiful, but it’s easy to focus on the negative. I’m not in any way attempting to negate the fact that there are some major struggles in life. This life is full of pain and I’m very aware of that fact. What I’m trying to point out is that life does not stink. 

I think we like to pretend it does. We can get sympathy. It’s almost like a constant battle to see who’s life is the worst. How can I say that life is good when it is so full of pain? Well, pain is one of the greatest ways God refines us. 

Isaiah 48:10 (ESV)

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

“I like who I am, how I am. I’m perfect!” said no one ever. Yet none of us likes the pain we have to go through to be refined. Often the pain is self-inflicted. 

As a five-year-old, I still didn’t trust my parents’ judgment. I had been told many times that razors were sharp and could severely hurt me if I played with them. That warning did not stop me from opening my older brother’s tool kit that he used when building and fixing computers and toying with the shiny, smooth razor blade. It felt so soft on my skin. How could this be bad for me? 

I doubt it took more than five minutes to realize that razors are, in fact, sharp and dangerous. The tears spilled as quickly as the blood dripped off my hand. After that, I did not instantly begin heeding every warning from my parents, but I gained an understanding of their judgment that I hadn’t had before. Sometimes, things look good and don’t seem like they could be bad for us, but they are. 

God only knows what is good for us. Even if we don’t appreciate the suffering. Though it seems impossible to bring beauty from the ashes, God is the miracle worker who brings joy from mourning. 

Isaiah 61:3 (ESV)

to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

Suffering isn’t something God wants for us. He isn’t sitting on his throne mocking our pain. Just as a child needs discipline from his parents, so we often need to be reminded we can not walk this life alone. We need to walk this life in relationship with the one who bore the biggest burden possible; the burden of our sins. 

1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Did I ever say life is painless? No, and truly it can’t be in this fallen world. Take heart. God is working it for our good. Life is good. It’s beautiful and even now, God is bringing beauty from the ashes of pain and suffering in your life. It will work for good, but we haven’t seen the big picture yet. We can’t yet see it from our vantage point. 

Why is There Chaos?

Love. That’s not the topic I thought I’d talk about this week. It’s funny how sometimes what we need to talk about is not always what we want to talk about. I’ve noticed that often when a topic needs discussion, the room is silent. Silence speaks louder than words too many times.

We hear so many things about love. Yet the world is full of chaos even with all speeches of tolerance, acceptance, and “love”. Most often love means romance to the world. Love is supposedly a feeling or maybe it’s simply accepting and tolerating one another, though that clearly doesn’t end up working out. Love is so much more. It is in and through all things.

1 John 4:8 (ESV)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love

Love is God. Wow! That verse is powerful and definitely convicting. How many times have I lived my daily life ignoring others to fulfill selfish desires? If God is love, I think we’ve been throwing that word around carelessly. For, who is God? 

Romans 5:17 (ESV)

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

God is the abundant provider of grace. Love provides grace. What is grace? According to the dictionary, grace is free, unmerited favor. He is above all, in all, and through all, yet he offers us unmerited favor. What intrigues me is that we are called to love, yet it is impossible to love because God is love and we can not possibly live up to the standard of God’s love. Corinthians gives us a clearer picture of God and what love looks like. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

God is patient, kind, not easily angered, protects, and preserves. Love is more than an emotion. It’s much deeper than that because God is love. How can we throw this word around as if it’s nothing? We are called to love, yet we can not love on our own. Without Christ’s love within us, we could never love because love is impossible without God. So the real question is if we are Christians, why aren’t we loving? 

So we sit in silence, searching for the answers. Seeking tolerance and acceptance. We work so hard to avoid the elephant in the room. Searching for other answers, but at the end of the day, the answer is Jesus. Love with Christ’s love. 

John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 

Jesus laid down his life for the world. Now we are called to love, yet he is the one who gives us this love and capacity to do so. A great quote I heard recently is “It’s simple, it’s just hard.” We can’t do it on our own, but if we can’t love, are we in Christ, or trying on our own?

Perspective

“Why does kindness seem revolutionary? When did hate get so ordinary?” The lyrics from Revolutionary by Josh Wilson replay in my mind over and over. It’s true. Why? Over time I’ve become more aware of this raging battle. “If you aren’t like me, we’re enemies.”

After weeks of hearing the song on repeat, and witnessing this battle explode over the past few months, I longed for change. How long will we hate before a change occurs?

Maybe we don’t need to agree. We don’t need to be enemies. Not only do we not need to let our judgments come between us, we don’t need to be defined or accepted by the world. Is that too far? It’s true though. If you look, the Bible will show you again and again how much God loves each of us. The coolest part is that he loves us knowing that we have disappointed him again and again.

I watched Overcomer last fall and several times since. One of the quotes that stuck out to me the most was when the man in the hospital was talking to the coach. He said, “What do you allow to define you?”


There’s a lot of depth to that question and I think we can even add who to that. Do you allow the word to label you? Is your past what defines who you are and will be? Are the bullies of your past still taunting you with their lies?


We are chosen. Adopted in love. The world can hate, but the hate of the world is nothing when compared with the love of God. Love. Love each other and let God judge. He chose each of us even in our sin, so why can’t we love one another. 

Ephesians 1:4 (ESV)
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love.

Knowing how much God loves us despite the fact we so consistently spit in his eye, why do we take it upon ourselves to judge and ridicule others. We all make mistakes, I’m quite possibly among the top ten, but God has redeemed me. This doesn’t give me a right to keep sinning, but it has given me compassion for others who don’t know God’s love. They have no hope. They’re scorned for what they do, but I don’t know their story and have no reason to place judgment, though I do.

John 8:7 (ESV)

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Wow! Raise your hand if you’ve never sinned. That would certainly not be me with my hand raised. Ultimately, let God be the judge for he sees the big picture and knows a man’s heart. Take heart for God himself says:

Romans 12:19-21  (ESV)

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.