Friday, June 9, 2017

How Does Your Garden Grow?: Part 4 - Weedkiller



Luke 8:7
"Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants."


Luke 8:14
"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature"


When I reread this verse several weeks ago, it hit me. Hard.


Sure, I've heard it before. A lifetime of Sunday School attendance results in a lot of felt-board illustrations of the sower and seed. But the significance hit me anew when I read it more recently.


Unlike the rocky seed in the last post, in this verse the seed has taken root. The powerful, life changing seed of truth has sunk into a believer's heart...and is slowly strangled and choked.


Doesn't this verse depict perfectly, exactly what the devil is hoping for? As Christians, we don't really like to talk about the devil much. But here is the truth; the devil's goal is to kill and destroy us. Yeah, it's not nice and pretty and won't be showing up printed on a fancy background on any Instagram accounts anytime soon. But whether we want to believe it or not, it remains true. The devil is out to destroy you.


Nothing is scarier to sin than holiness. When we take the seed of truth and water and nurture it, nothing is more threatening to the darkness. The devil cannot touch us when we are under the protection of the Lord - but we can allow ourselves to be strangled and choked to death by things in our lives that we choose to feed and embrace.


If you hear nothing else, hear this: sin is a trap. Sin kills. It promises fulfillment and brings nothing but pure destruction and thorns. And once you give it a foothold in your life, it can begin to eat you from the inside out.


Is there a pattern of sin that you are trapped in? Are thorns springing from the ground and wrapping themselves around you from the ground up? Please; do not let something twisted and weak bring you to the ground when there is a stronger light urging you to grow upward.


Sin grows when we cultivate it. Just like cultivating the seed of the Lord's truth is what brings fruit, cultivating sin brings consequences. Bad behaviors are only half the battle. It's where sin starts - in the heart - where the real battleground is.


Any effectiveness that we may have as a believer - any fruit that may be trying to spring forth - can be so easily halted if we aren't proactive in the fight against sin.


For all the devil's power, the truth remains that we serve a master much higher. We don't have to be slaves to the sinful patterns that attempt to rule our lives! Forgiveness is the best weedkiller. The thorns can be torn away before you wither away.


Before forgiveness can happen, there must be confession. This is the hardest part of overcoming sin; admitting that there is a need for penance. Admitting it to yourself. Admitting it to God. Admitting it to someone else you trust.


Why is it that the last one is hardest for us? It is so hard as humans to show vulnerability to one another. But if you are engaged in any sort of repeating sin that has become a pattern and is impacting your life, bringing all the stuff that's been hiding in the dark out into the open can be the first step toward freedom.


Once we acknowledge our sin, we need to ask for forgiveness. Aren't you so glad that the Lord offers His forgiveness freely? All we have to do is ask, and we are instantly freed. Does that mean there are no consequences for our actions? Absolutely not. But, slate has been wiped clean. The only thing left is to believe this truth, internalize this truth, and live in the truth of forgiveness.

Stop fertilizing and growing the things that are trying to kill you. The only way to kill sin is to starve it, and the only way to starve it is with a heart change that can only come from the Lord. It's not a battle of will, it's a battle of surrender - the surrender to forgiveness.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How Does Your Garden Grow?: Part 3 - Quenched



Luke 8:6
"Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture."

Luke 8:13
"Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."

My favorite flowers are sunflowers, and they have been for several years now. Not because of the color or the size as much as the memories that I have associated with them.

When I was 14, my family moved to the middle of rural South Dakota, where we lived for 3 years while we ran our family business. It was a huge change that resulted in a culture shock and a lot of lonely days throughout my middle school years. Some days, I yearned for the bustle and pace that I was used to in the small cities I grew up in . On these days, I usually hopped in the car (yes, you can get your license at 14 in South Dakota) and went for a drive.

During the summers in rural South Dakota, drought is almost the norm. As I would drive along the endless, empty highway, long, brown prairie grass surrounded me on both sides. Dead. Dry. Just like I felt sometimes, far away from so many of the things that brought me life and energy. But one day, I spotted color peeking from the grass. Bright spots of yellow among the brown. I remember a specific time when I executed a maneuver my driver's ed teacher wouldn't have liked and pulled onto the shoulder of the road so that I could get out of the car and pluck a small sunflower. I tucked it behind my ear and drive home, and I kept it there the rest of the day.

Seeing something living and bright among the dead was able to touch me in a unique way. It brought me hope. It reminded me to see the sunshine through the gray.

In a dark and confused world, how brightly pure, fresh fruit in the life of a believer shows through! We live in a world that needs light, and we have the chance to be able to reflect the light of the Lord through our lives and actions. How cool is that? But in order to stand out from the dead that surrounds us, we need to be watered; just like a sunflower (are you loving these garden analogies, or what?)!

It's really hard to reach others if you haven't taken care of yourself first. That's why they tell you in airplanes to put your oxygen masks on first in an emergency before helping others. Just as your capability to help others get air is limited when you, yourself, can't breathe; pouring out of an empty cup isn't only leaving you parched, but isn't having the desired effect on the people you're trying to reach. 

How can we keep ourselves fed and refreshed as believers? If you've been a Christian long, you know what it's like to go through a dry spell. There isn't one sure method to 'cure' this feeling, and this feeling isn't always 'bad' or 'wrong' - different seasons develop us in different ways. However, there are things we can do to put ourselves in positions where we are receptive to 'watering'.

One of our main spring sources is always God's Word. The Bible is an incredible gift meant to encourage, educate, and guide us. Spending time studying and reading the Bible opens us up to all the ways that God can communicate to us through his word. The more time we spend ruminating on sweet, refreshing truths, the more they seem to find their way into our bloodstream and change the way we look at life.

We're not meant to do this alone. Other Christians that we give the ability to speak into our lives keep us filled. Bible studies, accountability partners, even going out to coffee with a friend - simple, classic, life-giving. I challenge you to identify people you know who 'pour life'; and, if you don't have any in your life right now, find some. Your church might be a good place to start. It's worth the time and the investment.

Throughout all of this, we must take time to breathe. Get perspective. Go outside. Serve. Do something that makes you feel like you, whether that's playing the piano or doodling on some notebook paper or shooting hoops. The pace that life requires - especially for a student, like me -  is impossible to maintain without burning out. Take a breath. Time to think and time for God to speak and time to develop your passions is just as important as the next item on your to-do list. Trust me.

The best part? If we stay 'watered' and take time to grow healthy and strong in the calm times, when drought comes and everything around us starts to die we are able to stay bright, yellow, sunflowery beacons through the hopelessness. When we are filled with grace and peace and truth, we pour hope through everything we do.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How Does Your Garden Grow?: Part 2 - Buried Deep



Luke 8:4-5
"While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus form town after town, he told this parable: 'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.'"

Luke 8:11-12
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved."

The gospel is not grass seed. Grass seed can be scattered on top of a plot of land and left there. Eventually it will work it's way into the soil. But the gospel message doesn't actually take root in a person's life if it just stays on the surface. It needs to be buried, and buried deep.

Hearing the word of God isn't enough, and even hearing and believing isn't enough. We need to allow it to penetrate our soul, every fiber of our being, and take root in the deepest part of us. That means it needs to be allowed to touch those dark parts - all the sin, all the fear, all the insecurity.

As Hebrews 4:12 says, the word of God penetrates even to dividing "joint and marrow." No part of that sounds like a surface message. If we truly want the Lord to work through us, that seed has to be planted deep enough that it touches all that we are and replaces it with all God is. 

Don't hear the message of Christ and just let it stay on the surface. Let it become you. Breathe it, work it, live it. Bury the seeds of hope and forgiveness and salvation way down deep where the roots can grow. Plants start growing far below the earth before they every spring upward, so make sure your roots are strong and come from what the Lord has planted within you.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

How Does Your Garden Grow?: Part 1 - Bloom What You Planted



Matthew 7:16-20

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Christianity is useless without fruit.

The Bible is fond of metaphors featuring fruit and plants, from Psalm 17:8 to the above Matthew passage - and, coincidentally, so am I.

As a college student, I move around a lot - but every where I go throughout the year, my small houseplant travels with me. She has rested in the cupholders of many different cars and traveled through several different states; all because of how much I love to watch growth and life right on my very own windowsill.

I'm captured enough by the imagery that plants provide that I was inspired to write several blog posts based around Luke 8:1-15; The Parable of the Sower. Even though this parable is usually used to illustrate and inspire Christians to "scatter seed" over an unbelieving world, I was recently struck with the applications this passage has to those of us who are currently following Christ as we water and grow the seed that is planted in us. There are a lot of threats facing that seed, and its important that we are actively fighting those thorns and rocks that pop up in our lives. And so I invite you to journey with me for the next several weeks, through How Does Your Garden Grow? And here is how we're going to begin:

Christianity is useless without fruit.

The message of Christ is a seed. A potent and powerful one. Just like a giant tree can spring from a little acorn, the implications of the simple message of Christ are gigantic and vast. Once the small seed of salvation is planted, it has to potential to grow into a giant tree. And from that tree springs fruit. The great thing about fruit? It produces more seeds. And so the message spreads.

Fruit is what it's all about. As Christians, the words and actions that we produce are the greatest tribute to the seed that gave us our life. In looking at Luke 8, it is important to realize that our ultimate goal as followers of Christ should be growing into tall, strong, fruitful trees.

Throughout Luke 8 we'll be looking at various factors that threaten our growth. Fruit is Christianity in action; so it should be obvious that if the devil can keep that fruit from ever blooming, he'll have been very effective in making us unable to internalize and spread Christ's message, rendering us...useless.

We can't allow the devil to get any sort of foothold when it comes to keeping our fruit alive and thriving. We have to be on the offensive. Christianity is not a passive religion. It takes intentional action and monitoring of our lives.

A seed hides under the soil, but a colorful garden draws attention and brings beauty and life to everything near it. Luke 8 warns us of the dangers facing the seeds of truth and hope and influence in our lives, but being aware of these dangers can help us combat them. Take a walk through the garden with me?





Monday, March 27, 2017

A Stone's Throw




"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33

Oh, the allure of a 'how-to.' If you're like me, you've clicked more than once on an article that promises to give you the answers to fix a problem in your life. Click-bait ranging from "How to Clean White Sneakers" to "How to Improve your Marriage in 10 Steps", draws in self-help seekers every minute of every day. As humans, we know there is a problem. Deep down each individual knows that there are things in life that need fixing.

I love exploring the opinions and wisdom that people on the internet have to offer. I have read so many insightful, Biblical articles that have changed patterns in my life. But I also believe that our digital culture, which provides infinite information at our fingertips, is breeding a generation of self-help Christians; individuals with hearts genuinely and earnestly desiring change in their lives, but neglecting to use their greatest resource of truth.

We are chasing answers, desperately searching for information to answer the questions that continually trip us up. "Why does God allow suffering?" is typed on Google approximately 10,000 times every month.Questions like "how do I forgive myself?" or "is God good?" flood the search menus. Even as Christians, we might find ourselves asking "how do I escape this particular temptation?" "How do I fight doubt?" "How do I build a healthy relationship?"

Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us a little bit about the Lord's revelation. It tells us that the Lord has spoken to us through the prophets and through His son...for us today, those revelations are contained in the Bible. God also reveals Himself to us through His creation (Psalm 19:1) and our own human image (Genesis 1:27). He can also speak directly to individuals through special revelation. But the bottom line is; there are things we don't know.

How do we deal with these "holes" in the guidance we've been given? There certainly aren't any pages in the Bible with express instructions on how to recover from a heartbreak or master time management or get through depression. And so the Google searches above are born.

"Lord, give me answers!" we cry.

"Child, give me your heart," He replies.

Do you want to change your life? Don't chase answers. Chase the Lord.

Sometimes, we have to remember what it is that we worship. We don't worship answers, we worship a God. Trials are real, and the questions that nag at our hearts are real. We desire easy, tangible ways to overcome grief and temptation and exchange them for the joy and fulfillment we've been promised. But here's the truth; it's not really about us. We have been cleansed and forgiven and given a purpose...and the reason we've been justified in this way is so that we can reflect the glory back to the only one worthy.

We need to focus a little less on ourselves, and a little more on the greater calling. As it says in Matthew, we are called to seek first the Kingdom of the Lord. Everything else will follow, I promise you! It was never the law or a process that saves us; it has always been Jesus.

Do you want it? Do you want to know the Lord's heart? When this is your deepest desire, He will reveal Himself to you as you pursue. Go just a stone's throw further. If you want to find, you have to chase.

Life is full of unanswered questions, but as we get closer and closer to the Lord's heart, we start to realize something. Priority shifts from finding answers to finding God's heart.The more we know the Lord's character, the greater our confidence in His consistency. Truths like 'the Lord is patient' and 'the Lord is powerful' and 'the Lord is righteous' provide us the lens with which to look at the specific issues we face in life.

Questions like "Why does God allow suffering" can be viewed through the reality of a loving God who doesn't desire pain and a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. Questions like "How do I forgive myself?"  can be looked at with an understanding of the God who created us in His image and His sacrifice which redeemed humanity. Not every situational answer has been revealed to us...but the character of God is gloriously reflected in the rich stories and promises found in the Bible; in the beauty of His creation; and in the small taste of His love that we experience in our relationships with other humans.

Aren't you grateful we don't follow a explicit "life guide", but instead serve a living God? Live your life in the light of His truth, and "and all these things will be given to you as well." God doesn't always tell us exactly what to do...but He does desire to reveal to us who He is. And that is enough.

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more about methods of God's revelation: http://www.theopedia.com/revelation-of-god
the source of my google stats: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/seth-stephens-davidowitz-googling-for-god.html


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bite-Sized Psalms

     Perhaps you've heard it said: "Time is money."


     As a college student, time is sleep. Time is socialization. Time is work. But most prominently...time is in short supply.


     Messages about the importance of time management are plenty, but even though the importance of devotional time and social time and school/family balance are emphasized, no one seems to be able to answer the question: how? How in the world do we do it all? Sometimes there are simply not enough hours in the day. And so students end up cutting corners somewhere. Homework gets dropped, friends get blocked, or sleep takes the hit. However, I find that in my own life, that sweet time lingering in the Lord's presence is often what slips away to allow room for papers and parties.

     Trying to manage too much usually results in not doing any of it well. This brings with it frustration and guilt and that terrible struggle of always trying to do everything and yet never doing enough.

     Guilt has NO place in our relationship with the Lord. Failure to reach the expectations and goals we have set for ourselves  is something that will happen repeatedly throughout our lives. Do you know why? Because we're NOT God. God is God. And He is good and gracious enough to make up for our shortcomings and bridge the gap between sin and holiness. We are flawed and not expected to always succeed - we are just expected to cultivate a heart that is eager to obey and please the Lord.

    The greatest danger is when this heavy feeling of guilt over struggling and failing to set aside time for the Lord keeps us on the path we are already on instead of driving us back to the Word. This is when it is important to realize - it's not always about the hours we have to give. It is the intent with which we pledge ourselves and our time to the Lord.

     My parents had a pastor who poured wisdom into their lives, and they continue to spread his wisdom to me and sister today. His legacy lives on through his stories. He shared with my parents how he struggled as young working man with a family trying to make time for the Lord, but only managing a few minutes every morning to spend in focused devotion time. He was apologizing to the Lord, exhausted at the fact that his best didn't seem like enough, when he felt that the Lord spoke to him and said, "what do you think the short Psalms are for?"

     Whether you have several hours to spend feasting at the table or only 10 minutes for a bite-sized Psalm, don't let guilt over not doing enough keep you from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. He is an understanding and graceful God, and I think that he is patient with us as we struggle to balance our lives. As we are faithful to what He asks us to do, He will multiply our time and be faithful to us in return.

     Read your Bible, snack on a Psalm; even if it's in the 5 minutes between breakfast and rushing out the door. Continuously making time with the Lord a priority creates a pattern that allows Him to come into various areas of your life throughout your day. He is gracious, and when we give Him all we have to give His grace is faithful to bridge the gap.

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if you're looking for a short, bite-sized devotional to munch on each day, i recommend My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers or Jesus Calling by Beth Moore. each contains a small, daily devotional that can get your mind and eyes focused for the rest of the day, and i have encountered some pretty profound truths in the short paragraphs.

   
 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grateful

     As I sit here in my dorm room, my family back home is struggling to adjust to life after my dad's unexpected kidney failure. It's midterms week, and I have three tests and project due in the next several days. I have friends dealing with a wide spectrum of family and personal issues. My phone broke and I had to buy a new one, and my sister crashed my car. My future is unknown, and I'm trying to figure out if I can afford to stay in school another year.

     And as I reflect, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness.

     I am grateful that the Lord I serve is constant, and that I don't have to be afraid when life gets rocky because my foundation will never move. I am grateful that He provides peace beyond my understanding. Gratitude is an insufficient word to express thankfulness for a life redeemed and forgiven and a love unconditional.

     Difficult situations sometimes provide the greatest backdrop against which to see God work. His holiness manifests itself in the healing and peace that He provides. God's presence is greater than any circumstance.

     Practice gratitude. Ask God to show you all the beautiful things you have to be thankful for, and no matter what the circumstance, rejoice that you have the opportunity to observe His holiness working not only in your situations but inside of you personally. That's a beautiful testimony.

Monday, February 20, 2017

It Is Well


 

  "It is well".

     The true meaning of these words must almost be experienced rather than understood...but there are few things that "it is well" does not mean.

     It is well doesn't mean everything in life is alright. It doesn't even mean that everything will be 'ok' someday. It is well doesn't speak of the absence of pain or promise that our circumstances will resolve themselves in a way that pleases us.

     Saying "it is well" is a choice. Choosing to live in those words means choosing to proclaim that light will win even when darkness seems to be prevailing.

     When Horatio Spafford penned the famous hymn It is Well with My Soul, the situations in his life were far from what any earthly mind would consider 'well'. He wrote the hymn while on a ship heading to England to meet his wife...the only survivor of a shipwreck that took the lives of his four daughters. It was with this unspeakable grief covering him that he wrote the words "When peace like a river attendeth my way//when sorrows like sea billows roll//whatever the cost, thou has taught me to say//it is well with my soul."

     This response is not a human response. Only divine intervention can break through the chains of extreme grief enough to bring the supernatural peace that Spafford was experiencing.

    Praising God when our emotions and situations don't line up with our expectations of His goodness is difficult to do; however, it is these times that are the true tests of faith. When believing doesn't come easy, we must choose to believe. It is during these times that we must hold intentionally to the truth of God's goodness.

     God's goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. God's goodness is not dependent on our emotions. When peace like a river flows through our lives, God is good, and when sorrow threatens to drown us in darkness, God is still good.

     When life is falling apart around us, we have two options. We can sink with the ship and drown in the denial, despair, depression, and anger that our circumstances bring with them. Or we can cling to the Lord as the sea billows swell around us and allow Him to lift us from the waves.

     Grief is real, and it's important to acknowledge and deal with those feelings (read The Mud of Grief). But proclaiming in our hearts and soul that "it is well" acknowledges a goodness and a power greater than ourselves. No matter what our earthly circumstances, the Lord is still good and He still loves and His will be accomplished. He is good. It is well.

     Amen.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lessons from a Horse


    
They say every little girl goes through a ‘horse phase’, and at age 12 I was no exception. The only difference is that my phase never ended. Most of my happiest preteen hours were spent in paddock boots and jodhpurs, and I would have traded flowery perfume for the musty smell of a barn any day…and many days, I did!

     As a skinny, gangly middle schooler, I was obviously no match for a 1,000+ pound animal... but riding has less to with strength than it does with precision. From my first lesson onward, I learned to be aware of the movements in my hands, legs, and shifting weight. Each sends the horse a message about what you would like them to do.

     One of the most important body parts to be aware of is something you may not suspect. Eyes. If you are wanting to turn left but your eyes are drifting right, the horse may not follow the reins through the left turn. Why? Subconsciously, your body is responding to the direction in which your gaze is focused. Without even realizing it, your weight and posture are telling your horse to follow your eyes.

     I function as a devotional leader on my floor at college. During our last weekly devotion of fall semester, the girls were asked to suggest topics that they would like to cover in the spring. Several of the girls expressed frustration at learning to prioritize and staying focused on the things that matter. So the following spring, I sat down with my notebook and started to jot down some thoughts and discussion questions relating to balance and direction in life.

     How do we train ourselves to stay focused on the things that matter in life? Everyday life is overwhelming. Friends, family, work, sleep...not to mention some precious seconds of time for rest and creativity. It's easy to get so caught up in the routine that we forget why we are actually doing what we do and where that road is ultimately leading us. It's important not to forget the "why" of life...but keeping priorities straight in order to live a godly life is not easy. It's frustrating when the way we are living doesn't reflect the way we desire to live and the God we strive to serve.

     There are certainly rules and systems we can put in place to keep ourselves on the ‘right track.’ We can set devotion time in the morning. We can write verses on the bathroom mirror. We can read every book on the shelf about time management and drill every instruction the Bible has to offer into our brains…and yet, that day as I sat outside brainstorming for devotions, the only things I could see when I closed my eyes were two ears in front of me and two reins in my hands.

     The truth is simple; when our eyes stray from the Lord, our lives will also. Our focus will determine our direction. We can go through the motions every day, but if our gaze is focused on something other than His face, we will inevitably begin to drift. Just as straying eyes can change your course on horseback, a shifting gaze can take us bit by bit away from the Lord and life we are trying to lead.

     However, if we keep our eyes fixed firmly on the Lord, the rest of life will slowly fall into place behind us, just as a weight shift begins to subconsciously direct a horse in the direction the eyes are looking. Discipline is important. Hang on to that 15 minute morning prayer time; it helps re-orient your eyes every day!  But rules and routines do not necessarily correlate with life change. Living for the Lord isn’t neat and organized; it’s messy. The only way to truly live a life that reflects His purpose is by being willing to follow anywhere He leads. And in order to see where He is taking us, we have to keep our eyes planted firmly where they belong.
    
     Pointed straight up toward heaven.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Walking Sanctuary


 
 One of the perks that comes with being a student officer of a university club is access to a nice little office right outside the business department. Its small but cozy and has a computer and a spinny office chair, and I have a shiny key on my key ring that opens the door. Even though I share the office with the other student officers in my organization, I'm usually the only one in the room when I first open the door. Stepping in from the tile hallway, the comfortable, quiet office is always a welcome reprieve from a bustling school day.

     I use my time in the office to answer emails and work on homework, like a good future businesswoman should. When I want to feel like a real professional, I bring a cup of coffee. However, lately I have started adding one more item to my backpack when I head in for my office hours. My Bible.

     Bible time and normal life usually end up being pretty separate. As a Christian, it is crucial that time spent in the prayer closet takes even more priority than time spent in church or corporate worship activities, so setting aside Bible time is one of the most important things you can do...but that's a topic for another blog post. Usually when it's 'Bible time', I grab my copy of My Utmost for His Highest, my prayer journal, and my marked-up, highlighted, dog-chewed Bible and go find a little sanctuary in my room, outside, or in our dorm prayer room. Occasionally, I even brew a cup of tea. 

     Now, let me tell you; that makes for a picture perfect Bible study sesh. A "snap a pic and put that on your Instagram and show the world that you are both holy and Pinterest-worthy" kind-of perfect. Moments like that bless and recharge my soul...and compared to those beautiful, devo-friendly environments that I build, an office room, no matter how homey, seems like a strange choice.

     After all, office time is work time. Desk space is productivity space. Placing a Holy Bible on top of a stack of budgets and test reviews seems to be crossing some sort of line. But the only line it's crossing is the line we've built for ourselves between 'physical life' time and 'spiritual life' time.

     If you're like me and grew up in a faith environment, you have heard endless times not to "compartmentalize" your life. Well, that's because it is important. When you love and serve Jesus, He begins to seep into all the areas of your life...but sometimes it is nice to intentionally bring Him in, too. And that's why I like to plop my Bible on top of my business law textbook.

     Any place can be a temple. Thanks to the God who ripped the veil, we no longer need to be in a special sanctuary to approach the Lord. We can bring Him into every moment. One of the best ways to do this is by letting the way we treat others reflect our faith. Another way is by keeping our heavenly communication channel with the Lord open throughout the day. However, still another is fitting in time between life's daily tasks for a little reflection. 

     Most Christians set aside time at the beginning or end of their day for God...but there is something strangely significant about giving Him the power to interrupt it. Taking a 40 minute break between tasks to read a passage or journal keeps the Lord at the forefront of your mind and brings Him into your day.

     Right before I sat down to write this blog post, I reviewed a 3 page study guide for my first semester exam tomorrow. Now I'm writing about what the Lord is teaching me. It may seem like an abrupt shift; but God is as present now as He was several minutes ago when I was trying to cram my mind with details about general partnerships and tort laws. When you are following the Lord fully, everyday life segues naturally into the so called "devotional time". 

     So I challenge you: stick a Bible in your backpack. You don't need to find a 'temple' before you can approach the Lord; your heart is a temple. Bring the sanctuary with you. And don't miss out on the little interruptions of the holy. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jump then Fall


                                                     another day, another journal entry


i am currently following lovegodgreatly.com 's Bible study on wisdom. this entry corresponds with the assigned scripture passage for today, but the material in this response is my own.

Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."

I'm not great at handing things over. As an aspiring businesswoman, I'm trying to train myself in the art of delegation; but instead of feeling relief when I hand a task over to competent teammate or coworker, I often feel more like I'm handing over a precious child. My precious child.

It will be faster if I do it myself. It's easier for me to do it. I don't want to inconvenience anyone. That's what I tell myself. But what my reluctance is actually communicating is, I can do this better.

I'm learning every day how to accept help from the hands that reach out to guide and walk with me as I grow in my education and career path. The problem? When my let me handle this tendencies leak over into other areas of my life.

Control is comfortable. Control feels safe. Control is also an illusion.

There is no such thing as control. As mortal humans, here are too many factors outside of our reach for us to even pretend to be in control of life's situations. However, I continue to delude myself by clinging to the imaginary jurisdiction that I believe lets me direct exactly how my life will play out.

When I choose control over God's prompting and direction (which often involves a lot of unknowns and good dose of blind faith), I am essentially saying I can do this better.

In her blog post The Trust Fall, Lyli Dunbar compares Proverbs 3:5 to a summer camp game that involves falling blindly backward from a ladder into the hands of waiting friends. The safety net formed by teammate's arms is the only thing that keeps the blindfolded person from falling straight to the ground. There is no room in the situation for a 'half fall'. You can't keep one foot on the ladder and let the rest of your body fall backward.

That's how trusting God works. You can't trust in Him with 'all your heart'...and still cling to shreds of the mirage called control. You have to jump with both feet. It's impossible to lean on your own understanding while also leaning fully into the arms of God.

Ready for some hard truth? Your 'own understanding' will let you down every time. As Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes understanding." All wisdom comes from the Lord. Without Him, it's only a matter of time until the ladder we've built from our 'own understanding' falls - and sends us tumbling to the ground.

I don't know about you, but I would rather jump into the arms waiting to catch me than wait for the fragile structure I've built to fall away.

Sometimes we're afraid to jump and leave behind the plans we've built. Sometimes, we still find ourselves saying I can do this better.  This comes from the fear that God's plan won't take us where we want to end up.

I can't promise you that everything will go the way you've planned if you just take that jump. But I can promise you that when you trust the Lord with ALL your heart, He will lead you in the way that will accomplish His holy purpose and fulfill the desires of your heart. Jumping is scary...but it's a lot less scary than clinging to that rickety ladder.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart...and He will make straight your paths."

Amen.




Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Mud of Grief





this content also appears in a feature on my friend Melissa's blog at http://bibleandtea.blogspot.com/  on December 3rd, 2016 under the same title

"Pain demands to be felt." – John Green, Fault in our Stars

Do you know how to grieve?

I would dare to say that our culture is terrible at grieving. And I think that sometimes it is because we don’t have to.

Distraction is readily available. Americans are busy. Work, school, and socializing leave few gaps where we are alone with our thoughts, and even those gaps can be filled with media. An episode of Netflix and scrolling Instagram before bed, and you’re asleep before you’ve had a chance to spend a quiet moment. We don’t have to think if we don’t want to. We can distract and forget…for a while.

But, eventually, pain demands to be felt.

‘Grief’ is often associated with death, but I want to include anything that brings heartache. Breakups. Family issues. Labels. Failure. That deep, old hurt that we shoved under the surface so that we could pull ourselves together enough to keep breathing – and now keep stuffing deeper so that we don’t have to look at it.

We need to learn how to grieve.

Step 1) Acknowledge pain.

No matter how big or small your circumstances, your feelings are equally valid. They may not be logical. They may not be reasonable. But they are there.

Denial never works. You feel how you feel. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can start taking steps to freedom.

Cry. Sit and let your heart ache. Yell. Write. Whatever you need to do, as long as you are feeling. No matter how well you think you are repressing your feelings, I promise you that they will come out eventually in one way or another, whether you recognize them or not – and they probably already are. It’s nice to deal with them on your own terms instead of letting them begin to change the way you treat others or how you score on your college tests or how you take care of yourself.

It’s interesting how much power something loses when it is brought out into the light and named. Identify what you are feeling. Give it a name. If it is appropriate, share it with someone you trust. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable enough to allow someone else into your place of hurt. Grieving is not a sign of weakness; rather, it requires extreme strength. Facing your feelings may bring up layers of pain and confusion. But you have to open up the pile of broken pieces if you want to begin allowing them to be pieced back together.

Step 2) Get out of the mud puddle

It’s really important to spend some time wallowing, but it’s equally important not to stay there.
So many people get trapped in the first step and spiral into self-pity and hopelessness and frustration.

Pain demands to be felt, but your hurt can’t make you stay in that place. It doesn’t have that power over you. In order to stop being the victim and take steps toward healing, you have to step out of that mud puddle.

The problem? Mud is sticky. It can seem fruitless to claw ourselves out of the mire.

This is where God comes in.

Honestly, He has been there the whole time. Through the cause of the pain and the feeling of the pain and the healing of the pain. But it is when we are in the dark, sad place of opening past scars that we truly realize how exhausting and futile it is to try to pull ourselves out of the hurt.

The reason we can’t lift ourselves out of the mud of our pain is because we aren’t supposed to. We don’t have to. The Lord is stretching down a hand and all we have to do is let Him lift us.

Bask in His love. Read His word. Even if the feeling isn’t there, rely on His promises and who He says He is. Saturate your life with truth, even if the truth doesn’t penetrate to your emotions. Take an act of faith and choose to believe what He has said about who you are and how He loves you and wants to heal your broken pieces.

We can’t change ourselves. Pray and allow God to touch those soft spots. He wants to heal them.
And then, get up. Keep walking. Working through pain isn’t instantaneous; it won’t go away right away. Actually, it may never go away completely. But it doesn’t have to control you. Once you are out of the mud puddle and walking again, it is time to work on the next step.

Step 3) Forgive.

Forgiving those who have hurt you deeply is extremely hard. Forgiving yourself is even harder.
Once again, this is not something we can do on our own. Forgiveness requires a supernatural moving of God in our lives, but if we never reach forgiveness we will never truly be free.

Without forgiveness, it is impossible to move forward. Bitterness, guilt, and anger block us from healthy relationships both with others and God. If we don’t kill it, harboring unforgiveness will begin to eat us from the inside.

If you’re trying to forgive by convincing yourself that what was done to you or the things you’ve told yourself weren’t actually wrong, stop. They were wrong. You were hurt, and your feelings are valid. We already dealt with that in Step 1, don’t go backwards.

If you’re trying to forgive by forgetting, stop. It doesn’t work. You can stuff memories and feelings for a short time, but they always come back. Tying pieces of a broken pot up in a cloth sack may hold them together and hide them, but underneath the pot is still broken.

If you’re trying to forgive through sheer willpower, stop. It is impossible to forgive a deep wound through your own strength. Stop exhausting yourself. The Lord is willing to help you; accept it.

People like to build us up and encourage us by saying, “you can do this!” My encouragement to you today is “you can’t do this.” Stop trying to forgive in your own power. Allow the Lord to come in begin to change your heart. It is a process, and it may be a slow process, but through the healing God even the deepest cut can be mended.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Journal Thoughts: The Separation




journal entry, January 3rd, 2017

I usually wait around to fix everything before I come to God, but that's backward. The problem with sin is that it keeps us away from the Lord, so that is what we need to confront. If we let sin separate us from God, the devil wins. The reason he wants us separate is because He knows sin is powerless against the Lord. We must find that balance between remorse over sinning and the shame that keeps us from God. We must trade guilt for repentance, we can't just let it sit. And if we're unwilling to make the trade...what lie are we holding on to?

Monday, January 9, 2017

This Chapter


                         dramatic looking-out-into distance photo from back when I was warm


     2016 gets a bad rap. Between the election and Carrie Fisher the world seems about ready to give up; and really, can you blame them?

    The thing is, 2016 wasn't great for me either. In fact, it was probably one of the hardest years of my life. But it wasn't all bad. After all, it drove me back to my journal, which has resulted in the poems and devos and snippets that I'm posting on the blog. Truth is, the Lord used 2016. Which doesn't mean I don't hope 2017 will be better.

     I have high hopes for 2017. Expectations, even. Things are going to be better. Even if they aren't, I'll be ok...but gosh, I think we could all use a break, don't you? I'm doing my part by applying the lessons I've learned through 2016. Honestly, I can tell my confidence is down a little. I'm treading carefully and evaluating even small decisions in detail. But it's what I need to do until I get back on my feet.

     Here is the one thing that I am SURE will make a difference; I am going into 2017 all prayed up. My heart is for the Lord's will to be done and His will to be accomplished and for Him to lead me in assisting that mission. I so desperately want to be the woman I have been called to be, but the truth is, I don't really know how to do it on my own. I think I know that path...but I've been wrong before and will continue to be wrong until my eyes are refocused.

     So this year I make a pledge. I make a pledge to stay focused, with my eyes firmly on the Lord. I make a pledge to live out what He is teaching me. And I walk into 2017 with an open heart, ready to learn and grow. I rebuke the fear that drives me to take things into my own hands instead of leaving them where they belong; in the hands of the Father.

     I wish you a blessed 2017, and it would be my joy to walk through it with you. Lets come together with one mission, and I believe the Lord will do amazing things.

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     As I continue to seek the Lord and His wisdom, I will be following along with Love God Greatly's Bible study for the next 6 weeks titled "Walking in Wisdom", and I encourage you to join me! Check out their website to get started. I'll be sharing my thoughts on the blog periodically, so get ready to a healthy dose of some Proverbs wisdom!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Finding Holy



this content also appears in a feature on my friend Melissa's blog at http://bibleandtea.blogspot.com/  on June 25th, 2016 under the title 'Cup of Heavenly'


Colossians 2:6-7 –

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

I have this phrase printed on a thrift store mug with golden paint marker in my dorm room. One of my favorite things to do is wake up slowly on a Saturday morning and stick that mug under my one-cup coffee maker. I listen to it bubble and brew and drip while I make my bed and throw my hair up in a messy bun. Then I tuck my yoga-pant clad legs up under me in my desk chair, open my Bible, and sip my dark-as-night morning brew. I think about the day ahead, and that quickly, I’ve made a decision.

Without even realizing it, I’ve set the course for my day by the actions I’ve chosen to take, the thoughts that have entered my head, and the thoughts I’ve allowed to stay.

Christianity is not a passive religion. Anything that threatens to change someone’s entire view of the world as dramatically as the sacrifice of Jesus couldn’t possibly slip into a life ‘accidentally’. You don’t accept something as counterintuitive as divine grace by just ‘letting it happen.’ Following Jesus is a choice. It has to be intentional, by its very nature.

The entire concept of salvation is built around a choice. The gift of Jesus’ sacrifice is free (that’s what makes it a gift, right?), and that’s what makes grace amazing. However, one thing is required of us before this gift becomes our own, and that is a choice. Freely offered redemption does us no good unless we choose to accept it. It just sits there, under the tree in its wrapping paper, waiting to be opened.

This is basic and earth-shattering all at once. This is justification. This is the one time act of accepting purpose and salvation and life through Jesus.

But, it doesn’t end there.

Because with justification comes sanctification, and this is where the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus begins. And it isn’t just a one-time choice.

It’s a daily choice. It means waking up in the morning and saying, “Today, I choose Jesus.” And it means doing the same thing the next day, and the day after that. We have to choose Jesus every day, because if we don’t, a purpose-driven life is not the default. Human nature is the default, and human nature brings with it unlimited dangers – including the trap called passivity.

How do we intentionally make Jesus just as much a part of everyday as a morning cup of coffee? I’ve been learning lately how to find Jesus in every moment of every day. But, Jesus-sighting rarely hit you  in the face like a talking donkey (let’s go back to those days, amirite?) Today, you often only find them if you are actively looking. See, that intentionality thing again!

Here’s the truth: it’s not hard to find the Holy if you are looking. Here’s how I found the Holy today, in a normal 8 hour work day. And let me tell you, if you can find the Holy in a cubicle, you can find it anywhere.

First, I saw my coworkers. Humans are an amazing reflection of God’s glory! Through doing my job processing mission trip forms, I was able to help youth groups get a step closer to ministering to others throughout the country. Jesus had His hand in that, I know it. When I was doing some marketing research, I stumbled across a church website with a Bible verse on the front page that hit me smack in the heart. I ate some M+Ms, which was just heavenly all around. And when I stepped out the front door, it was raining.

Now, it should be known that rain is not my favorite. I like water – properly contained in lakes and rivers and my water bottle. But after hovering at the door to the office for a solid 5 mins, I decided to make a dash for it. 15 seconds into the dash, I made a choice. I stopped dashing, and when I slowed down, I could see the Holy. The air was a little chilly, and the cold raindrops on the skin were taking my breath away, and that rain smell was filling my lungs, and the sun was doing that lens-flare thing that happens when there is a break in the clouds. Many people would have seen rain. I saw God pouring down a refreshing, beautiful drink on the land He created. I had goosebumps, sure, and when I got on the car my ponytail was less than perfect, but for just a bit, I got to breathe in the Holy.

In any situation, you have a choice. God is there; but will you let the situation cloud Him from view, or will you let Him be bigger than your situation? THIS is what it means to choose Jesus every day.

So, I challenge you. Tomorrow when you wake up, take a moment to choose Jesus. Let Him know that you’ve chosen Him (hint: He already knows, because He knows everything, but He really likes the simple faith it takes to tell Him.) Then, live your day with that choice in the forefront of your mind. Find Him in the moments and the problems.


And have some coffee, girl. Because if that isn’t a reflection of the heavenly, I don’t know what is.