Category Archives: Christian Life

my first fast

Growing up, my family, not to mention the church I was raised in, paid little attention to giving things up during the season of Lent or fasting, for that matter. This year, I’ll be fasting from an over-abundance of social media and enternmainment. Now. I don’t being going cold turkey. Let me explain.

I’m on the phone and the computer all day at the office. What excuse do I have to continue to be on it, surfing the net, filling time with mindless videos on YouTube or Netflix, when I could be spending that time with God instead? None. That’s just it.

With that being said, I’m taking a sporadic hiatus.

  • Between 4 PM and 8 AM on any given day (basically overnight), my goal is to not be finding myself in the mist of said mindless internet usage. That means no Facebook. No Twitter. No surfing the web unless it’s an absolute need — paying bills, finding a yellow bridesmaid’s dress for a summer wedding, a face-time date I already had scheduled with a friend, blogging (necessary blogging), renewing books online, etc.
  • One night a week, I’m allowing myself to catch up on shows that I enjoy watching (not to be mindlessly lost, but to watch them before they expire…unless I’ve caught up by now). This one also depends on my internet accessibility. It’s pretty sketchy where I live and if I can’t connect, I won’t be watching anything.
  • One afternoon each week — a Saturday or Sunday when I don’t have plans — I will allow myself to watch ONE faith-message based movie: i.e. October Baby, Ultimate Gift, Ultimate Life, Courageous, etc.
  • One night a week, I will allow myself to go out, alone – date night with Jesus. Doesn’t matter what it is — visiting a coffee shop with my Bible and journal in two, going out for dinner somewhere with the same items, dressing up (who says I can’t), going for a long walk or a hike even. I’ve done this before and I highly recommend it…to anyone, not just us awesome single ladies.
  • All that time I used to or would normally spend in front of the computer or TV, I’ll be spending focused on Jesus. Whether it be getting out into nature and going for a walk weather finally warms up (it is March after all), reading his Word (my Bible), journaling, prayer, reading books about Christian living, grace and faith in God, writing — maybe I’ll work on that novel, reading inspirational fiction (something with God at its center) or volunteering.
  • I will still be blogging, but only between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM and only once or twice during those given days. I may share an article or post a tweet or status update during that time. I will not be “checking in” anywhere outside of those hours. I do have limited access to social media and email at the office and will sporadically be checking in during those hours…note: sporadically.

I’m both excited, filled with anticipation, and terrified to see what God will do with my heart and life during those 40 days. Maybe it’ll be a lifelong choice I’ll make going forward. I need more quiet in my life, more days unplugged and not connected to the internet for a few hours (thus the basic phone).

And I’m reaching out to my social realm of friends to aid in keeping me accountable. If you’re reading this and seeking the same, leave me a comment. I’ll get back to you. If you’re a friend and have my number, text me. *Hugs to all…and here’s to the next 40 days. May God bless them!

how Christians can interact with Halloween

They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. John 17.16

Halloween

Images of trick-or-treaters dressed to the nines in Dorothy, princess, superhero and witch costumes, candy and carved pumpkins come to my mind.

And yet, I’m sure Christians around the world have heard it before:

“Don’t celebrate Halloween. It’s the Devil’s holiday…”

That thought never entered my mind until I got to college.

Just the other day, a friend said the same thing.

What happened? I mean, sure, there’s a lot of worldly things tied to the holiday itself, but where did the community aspect of it go? Is it even okay for us to have fun?

When I was a kid, my parents never taught me how to honor the “evil” side of Halloween. Sure, I knew about it, but we didn’t celebrate that. We celebrated community and shared relationships with one another. I have many good memories tied to this particular yearly event (outside of Christmas and Thanksgiving).

As a child, I remember dressing up as princesses, Raggedy Anne, Ariel (Disney’s Little Mermaid) and Belle (Beauty and the Beast) each year and going trick-or-treating in the small town where my family attended church.  It was harmless fun, plus, I got tons of candy, which went bad because I got sick of it after a while and probably led to all those pesky cavities…not to mention the inches on my adolescent waistline. But I digress…

A few years passed and somewhat similar costumes made their way back into my fall wardrobe, worn once a year, in the forms of witches, vampires and road kill during my high school and college years. I attended high school parties, held at school…I wasn’t the partying type although those occurred to, I’m sure, and festivities held at what will always be my first official home church when I moved to Brookings, SD. Trunk-or-Treat was the huge thing then…seemed fun, even though I never went.

And even now, as an adult, I do enjoy dressing up, for the fun of it, but opted not to today. I donned a simple, black turtleneck sweater and jeans this morning and chose one of the two pairs of “Halloween” earrings I own and dressed down. There’s still the office Halloween potluck, put on by the Team Member Engagement Committee, of which I’m very active in and a party with my church crew tomorrow evening…perhaps then I’ll don my Merida costume in every effort to live the life of a Scottish princess for a few hours.

One hot topic that is continuously brought to the table: Christians shouldn’t have anything to do with Halloween. I’ve taken part in conversations with friends who share what they’re doing instead, but, in thinking about my past experience with the day and the festivities our culture has around it, I discovered one common thread: relationships.

When I was a child, we went door to door. Even the cranky, old man living in the darkest house on the corner joined the world in handing out candy. We related.

In high school, college and today, those parties and festivities were held to connect with people.

Yes, God commands in his Word that we should be in the world, and not of it, but he doesn’t demand us to hide from it (John 15.19, 17.16, Romans 12.2).

I’m called to be involved.

To be interested in…

To reach out…

To relate…

To get my hands and feet dirty…

I stumbled on an article conveying just that thought this morning at Relevant Magazine, found here. David Valentine writes about his home state of Texas, how they observe Halloween and how other churches across the country view the holiday in general. He also makes a valid point that Christmas has its origins in pagan religions and how Christians don’t seem to shy away from that holiday.

He points out that while steering clear of the things of this world, we shouldn’t lock ourselves away and how we should instead get our hands dirty:

“In our increasingly fast paced society, we see less and less of our neighbors. Whether you live in a high-rise in the city or your closest neighbor is a mile down the dirt road on the left, we are more disengaged with society than ever before…it becomes increasingly difficult to take time to engage with our neighbors.

Halloween is a once-a-year opportunity where everyone is out and about. Children with parents in tow are running door to door (or trunk to trunk) for the next bit of free candy. The cranky old man turns his porch light on and gives out candy by the handful. Not to mention, someone in the neighborhood, there is a party happening…”

Valentine poses this question: What if the Church stopped being afraid of the world on Halloween and began to engage it?

What if?

What would that look like?

What if we allowed God to take something meant for evil iand spin it around for good?

What if?

We need to step up and redefine the way we interact with Halloween and we need to find a way to include the gospel in doing so. Could that mean handing out candy or other goodies, including healthy options? Sure.

We need to engage with our neighborhoods and surrounding community.

Our children get dressed up (because it’s fun) and go door to door asking for candy.

We choose to sit on our front lawns and talk with our neighbors.

We revamp the way we see Halloween and not view it as just another day, but rather one day a year when all of our neighbors are out in the streets. We have a unique opportunity to interact with everyone.

Here’s an idea: throw a Halloween block party every year for the kids in your community. People will show up to play games, get candy and hear the Gospel…just a thought.

Valentine closes with this thought and I couldn’t agree more:

“If you feel convicted that you shouldn’t celebrate Halloween, you certainly don’t have to. But perhaps you should reconsider how you can use the opportunities the holiday provides to reach other. If nothing else,  Halloween is a day designed by our culture to engage with our neighbors. Perhaps instead of condemning the “evils” of Halloween, or even simply turning off the front porch light on October 31, you should consider giving our candy and chatting with your neighbors or inviting everyone to a party…engage with your community. Who knows, you may have the joy of watching the resurrected Jesus bring those who are dead to life.”

And what greater joy is there than that?

Recommended further reading here.

my favorite mug

I recently stumbled on a beautiful metaphor that I, a regular coffee and cocoa drinker, could really relate to. Perhaps you can too:

“Maybe you have a favorite old mug. Into it you pour your morning coffee, your afternoon tea, or your bedtime cocoa. It might be stained, dulled by many washings, chipped, or cracked – but it still warms your hand as you enjoy its contents day by day.

That mug is like you. Outwardly we show the chips and cracks of everyday wear and tear, but inwardly we are renewed daily with the outpouring of the Spirit. Just before this promise of renewal, the apostle Paul described us as “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4.7), perhaps thinking about Adam being fashioned from the dust of the earth. We are indeed earthen vessels [much like that favorite mug], but don’t focus on the fading exterior. Feel the warmth of what God is pouring into you.”

What is he pouring into your life? There’s so much going on in my own that I don’t know where to start. I will share one day soon.

a new adventure

Adventure

Some call it thrill-seeking. Some think that only certain things or activities would qualifiy: climbing Mt. Everest, sailing in the Caribean, going to a foreign country, rock climbing, parasaling, etc. The list goes on…

What comes to your mind when you think of hear or see that word?

For me, it’s my living-breathing-feeble existance. I find it by taking a different route to work in the morning. I find it by exploring a part of the city I haven’t seen yet. I find it by taking a random day trip, driving along any of the scenic highways here in Minnesota. I find it when I return home. It’s everywhere.

Adventure.

I seek it. I thrive on it. I dig it.

When I was a child, I would spend entire afternoons exploring the grove that surrounded my parents’ meager acreage. I’d find mushrooms, bugs, rotting carcasses (I can hear the collective “ugh(s)” and “ew(s)” coming from most of you), and many other things. I collected pieces of wood, stones and colored leaves; creating the greatest of all art projects, some of which my mother still has. I let my imagination soar, pretending that I was Lady Miriam in Robin Hood’s latest quest through the woods or perhaps even Queen Guinevere waiting for King Arthur and his knights to rescue me from the dangers of the trolls that lived in the trees. I also remember building forts with my younger siblings. A smile spreads across my face at the memory.

Adventure.

I tend to get tired of the same-old, day-in-day-out “mundaneness” of everyday life (not all of it, mind you) and refuse to settle. That was evident as a child…I was always moving on to the next thing rather than taking the time to enjoy a current situation or season in my life. I couldn’t wait to graduate high school and get out of that small town/away from the farm. I’ve since learned to appreciate the here and now and take time to live in the moment and enjoy it, but I still prefer change and growth in this beautiful mess of a life I’ve been blessed with and challenge myself in getting there. I probably always will. It’s not always easy and this new endeavor definitely won’t be any different.

My entire life up until this point has been full of adventure.  From those adventures in the “woods” on my parents’ farm to moving to Minneapolis in 2011 to be a part of an active, thriving, living and breathing church and everything in between, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And now, I find myself at the start of yet another in the midst of the ongoing adventure that is my life.

This last Friday, September 13th, I hosted a Party Lite party. This was not my first dance with this company as I have hosted shows/parties with them before, but this time….

God

Iin His ever-constant loving way

had His hand in it.

For the last 3-4 months, I’ve been contemplating searching out another job or some other form of income to help make ends meet. With the cost of living continuously going up and inflation on the rise, we all have to manage this at some point in our lives and that’s where I’m at currently. I’ve spent the majority of that time tossing around ideas of working as a barista at a coffee shop or heading back into retail, both of which do not really appeal to me(outside of the fact that I do love my coffee). Now, I understand that sacrifices need to be made and that this wouldn’t last forever, but my involvement at church and at my main gig need to be brought into consideration.

And boy, have I prayed about it.

Enter in this past Friday evening’s event.

I originally scheduled that party to earn credit towards getting a few new pieces for my decor collection (a hobby, for now), but God had other plans.

Through the help and support of some of my closest friends and my consultant’s personal story on how she got started with Party Lite (which was also totally brought about by God), I had some serious thinking to do. My party sales exceeded what I had hoped for and my consultant graciously laid out three different options before me:

  1. Make like your average host and walk away with credit and rewards.
  2. Become a consultant and make like a host…and then some.
  3. Pay $99.00 for the smaller kit and earn similar rewards like those in option one.

Now, the last two options gave me the ability to start working as a Party Lite consultant right away while setting my own hours. Plus, I get the perks of having an online website and great earning potential should I choose that route.

I spent the next couple of hours praying, talking this over with a trusted advisory, adding a lengthy entry to my journal and reading scripture when Luke 17.33 grabbed my attention:

“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and the one who’s prepared to lose his life will preserve it.”

My beloved Jesus spoke those words over 2000 years ago and they still apply to so many things today. He is basically saying, “There are two ways to view life: as something to protect or something to pursue. The wisest are not the ones with the most years in their lives, but the most life in their years.”

I prefer the latter more. While I do hope to live a long life, I want life in the days God has ordained for me more, no matter how long that is. I can choose to take the safe route or I can embrace the adventure God is laying before me.

I may not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know Who holds my tomorrow. If this is one way He’s helping me realize a dream and make it real, along with everything else He’s given me, in this life, I’m all for it. Dreams are becoming reality…and home decorating is just one of the many things I enjoy doing in my spare time. He gave me passion in that area for a reason. Maybe it’s time I realize the full potential He’s given me. And while this new adventure terrifies me on some level, I’m excited too. I’m embracing this. I’m embracing Him.  

You can too. Take the adventurous route. Adopt the child. Teach the class. Change careers. Make a difference.

It isn’t safe, but, what in this life is? Take the chance on Him. He promises that it will be worth it.

**And for those of you who are wondering what Party Lite is or simply want to browse/shop, please check out my website here. If you are in the Minnesota/South Dakota/Iowa or Wisconsin area and would like to book a show, please let me know.

You can also like/follow me on Facebook: here.

what’s in a name

You know what song is pouring through my mind as I write this?

Hello, My Name Is… by Matthew West – click here

It’s a popular one on most major CCM radio stations in the Twin Cities and I’ve heard it twice already today.

The verses start out with “Hello, my name is regret…defeat…” You know those words. I do. With every fiber of my being. They’re familiar. And we think they’re comfortable. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

What you name something is immeasurably important. Kate Middleton, for instance, no longer goes by Kate. She goes by Catherine. See the difference? Kate is more of your modern, day-to-day name. It’s a name of normalcy. It’s fun. But Catherine… now that’s a dignified name and more appropriate to her role as a royal.

What is your name? What names do you go by to those who love you? What do they mean?

Without going into too much detail (this is the internet after all), the name I was given at birth means grace.

My middle name means God is gracious.

I like that, personally. But do I really live it out? Have I truly embraced that part of me?

How about the names of some important biblical characters?

Sarah means princess.
David means beloved, friend.
Daniel means God is my judge.
Elizabeth means My God is bountiful.
Peter means Rock.

Let me take this one step further (along with the assistance of Stasi Eldredge) and ask you the following:

What names do you call yourself? What do you say to yourself when you pass a mirror? What do you tell yourself about your post-weight-loss body or your post-delivery body or your premenopausal tummy or your memory that so often seems to be slipping away? What words do you use?

Or what have others called you? What have you believed yourself to be true because of those words?

Growing up, I didn’t fit in. I still don’t, but I’ve grown to be okay with that. I’ve accepted it. But, not fitting in when you’re a child leads to territory I wish no one would have to claim or endure. I don’t remember many of the names or statements that were carelessly tossed around, but terms like stupid, idiot, ugly, short, and inadequate still stand out to me. Perhaps you had a similar childhood or home life while growing up. Maybe you still do.

There is power in what we name ourselves and in what we believe ourselves to be. There is power in what others name us as well. Both the power to bless and the power to curse come from the heart and flows out of the mouth through words. What we call something, what we are called, whether good or evil, will play itself out in our lives.

What you call yourself, someone or something is powerful. It affects your life, your relationships, and your walk with God. Stasi would also say that what you call yourself “affects your ability to become who you are meant to be” (pg. 217 of Becoming Myself).

God knows this. And He calls you Beloved.

I love that term. It has a deep, personal meaning to me, so much so that I now wear it permanently on the inside of my left wrist. It’s a constant reminder of Whose I am and it rings loud and clear on some of my darkest days, when I need it most.

Beloved

What does that mean?

It means one greatly loved.

Dear to the heart

It means admired, adored, cherished, and darling.

Beloved means dear, dear one, dearest, esteemed, favorite, honey.

It means ladylove, light of love, loved one, lover, precious, prized, respected and revered.

Beloved means you.

It means who you are to Him.

And who you are to Him means everything.

Everything

This is where your true identity lies. It’s also where mine lies…often as I seem to forget it.

God calls you to believe this. Time and time again.

He endlessly pursues you and won’t stop until you are completely His. It’s a transformation process; it starts on the inside and eventually illuminates everything you are and eventually, those around will see it and won’t be able to help wanting that too. I’m on my way there. So are you. He simply calls you to believe it.

The fruit of knowing this, of truly believing that you are His beloved, is intimacy with him and is shown through humility in your life.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

Wise words. We cannot live our lives thinking highly of ourselves (being puffed up – that’s pride) or thinking less of our selves (also pride…God opinion does not lie here). This thinking is dangerous. You cannot live well, you cannot love well, and you cannot fulfill your destiny if you do not know who you are. You cannot become your true self if you do not know who you are to become.

So…

Who are you?

You might be like me in the fact that I just got so irritated with my last caller’s request that I rushed through getting her connected with the right department rather than taking a moment to let her feel that she is loved and cared for. I’ll be right back…

Okay, I’m back…needed to clear the air between Jesus and me for a second before I continue.

Who are you?

Going back to the song that’s been pouring through my head as I pen this: The chorus continues with this truth: “my name is child of the one true King. I’ve been saved. I’ve been changed. I’ve been set free. Amazing Grace is the song I sing..”

That couldn’t be closer to the truth.

God sees me as lovely, but lovely thoughts have not been filling my mind just now. Actually, they haven’t been for days and I need to give those thoughts to Jesus and let him take care of them. There are days when I really need help… When you and I believe that our truest identity lies in being a sinner. What we call ourselves and when we put equal weight on what others say, we believe those lies. It affects how we live, move and and have our being (which shoul only be in Him). We walk around ashamed, accused, condemned and unworthy of being called His. We are separated from God and this is exactly what the Enemy wants us to believe and how he would prefer we live.

I’d like to hit this one home with Staci’s help: “When the focus of our heart is solely on our failings, then our heart spirals down. God tells us not to focus on our failings but on his faithfulness. He calls us to gaze not on our brokenness but on our Healer.”

We tend to move toward what we focus on.

Keep your eyes on Him and learn to believe the truth of your identity. You are His.

Wholly

Completely

Entirely

His Beloved

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12.2

Sources: “Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You” by Staci Eldredge…found here

a place to start

Starting anything seems to be the hardest part for us.

How often have you thought that you needed to begin a diet and exercise program but this week doesn’t seem like the right time to begin? Or you found that if you started on Monday, come Tuesday you had already fallen off the wagon? (I’ll let you in on a secret: Start on a Saturday…you’re welcome.)

Most of us know at least three things that, if we did them, would immensely improve our lives. Maybe one of those things would be to do a better job at managing our money, or spend more time with our family, or decide once and for all that we’re going to change careers, go back to school, or start a business.

Not having enough information is rarely the problem. We just never get started.

I’ve struggled with this too, in the fact that I have multiple dreams and goals I would love to see met in my life. I have all the facts. I know what to do. I just get hung up on all of the “buts” that tie into each idea.

Allow me to elaborate on that one word for a moment. 

I’ve had many opportunities to talk with friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances about their life goals; they willingly and readily share the processes they need to go through get there or the ideas they had on how to get there but…

There’s always a “but.”

I stumbled on several articles just this past week on the power this one word has on all of us. An interesting power, actually. Whenever the word “but” is used, people tend not to remember anything that was said before it.

For example, your boss asks you to join him in his office late on a Friday afternoon. The conversation begins like this: “We have really appreciated your work for our company these last several years, but…

or

“You did an excellent job heading up the project for such and such, but…”

Or maybe, a young man receives a text message from a girl he’s been seeing and it reads: “I have really enjoyed dating you these last three months, but…

See what happens there?

Hearing that one word removes everything before it from our memory and we tend to focus on everything that comes after it.

Isn’t that strange?

Unfortunately, we tend to do the same when it comes to Jesus and the free gift of grace He offers. Sin possesses the same kind of power that one word. Sin is the negation, the “no” that attempts to blot out the truth Jesus Christ offers.

Sure, Jesus loves me, but I’m a sinner.
The Bible says all are saved by faith in Jesus Christ but I’ve done too much.
I know Jesus can do much through me, but I need to fix me before He can do anything.

But…

We forget everything else that comes before that one word.

We forget the price He paid.

We forget that He covered everything with His blood.

No sin is so far removed that it hasn’t been covered.

In The Gospel of Yes, Mike Glenn writes, “The memory of past sin and the realization of current sin loom large, blocking out our view of the work Christ is doing in our lives today. Sin has a way of making us forget the goodness of God. Sin denies the presence and power of God in us and our world.”

Satan uses our awareness to twist the truth of grace; to blind us. He uses our sin to trick us into believing it has more power than it really does. Sin devalues us as people and causes us to see others and all creation as lacking worth. It belies the good work Christ does in us and in the world.

Jesus gave His life for you; sin has no power. Death has no sting.

We all have a past. We have things in our lives that cause shame or grief (tools used by Satan to keep us down). We forget the promise of forgiveness and the second chance(s) that Christ offers.  We have a hard time believing that a second chance could still apply after all that we’ve done.

I struggle with my past and my sins just as much as the next person. Satan uses those things to blind me; to trick me into believing that it has more power than it really does.  He has a thing about keeping me down.

But how does one overcome that “but” in their life?

First, we must let go of the lie; the one that we aren’t worth it; that the second chance does not apply.

Second, we must confess and repent and not the way many have preached/taught since the birth of the church. We don’t simply show up to confession, list off our sins and go on our merry way. Grace does not work that way.

It’s about the combination of confession and repentance. True confession and repentance cannot exist without the other. There is a vast difference between the two and yet, they play a very important part in the process of forgiveness. We are very familiar with the term forgiveness. How many times have we been told to simply confess our sin(s)? There is a certain emphasis on God’s forgiveness as a free gift, and in emphasizing it, we unknowingly cheapen it. We hop, skip and jump right over repentance…which includes confession and so much more. It goes beyond simply confessing sin to a definite change in how a person approaches life.

Grace extended/Forgiveness is not a do-whatever-I-want-and-get-away-with-it ticket.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We did nothing on our own to deserve it and, yet, He freely offers it. We are saved by grace, not by works (Romans 11.6). We cannot save ourselves. Only God can and He did. Through His Son, Jesus.

He paid it all. No part of that debt has been left for any one of us to pay by working hard and cleaning up our own lives. We cannot do that on our own. Jesus opened the door. We only have to walk through it. And yet…we struggle with accepting the truth that this gift, the gift of salvation, is free. Who would give away something like that? So we think we have to earn it.

Here’s a nugget of truth that makes my heart and soul smile: The mess you are in, the mess I am in, is why He came.

Jesus isn’t unaware of the brokenness of this world or the circumstances of your life. He knows better than anyone that we cannot fix it ourselves.

He came. He gave.

Everything

Himself

His life

All He wants in return is you…

Me…

Us…

We must allow Him, through that repentance, to change our minds. After confessing sin, a person turns from his or her previous lifestyle and commits to following Jesus. This isn’t easy. It’s something that happens daily; a moment-by-moment decision we must make on a constant basis.

It’s about living out the following:

Then He said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost and destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in His glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” Luke 9.23-26 NLT

or from The Message:

Then he told them that they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels.”

Our minds are transformed when we allow Him a place to start.

Things are not perfect and they won’t be in this fallen, beautiful world we live in until the day of His return. All God is looking for is a place to begin.

A place to start

Jesus Himself took challenges and difficulties in stride. They gave no reason for Him to change course.

When He had been preaching to the five thousand men and their families, Jesus worked with what he had to feed them: two fish and five loaves of bread. He started there.

And when He met the Samaritan woman at the well, He did the same. In Jesus day, men did not speak to women in public – not even their wives – and they definitely didn’t speak with Samaritan women. Jesus did. He came to her in her need. He started there. He opened her eyes to God and His truth: That her being a Samaritan did not lessen God’s love for her. He told her about her life; He didn’t tell her to first get her life straightened out and then come back. He said, in effect, “This is who you are…This is what is going on right now in your life… And this is a good enough place to start.”

“Starting seems to be the hardest part for us…there is always a cost associated with changing your life.”

All Jesus really wants is a place to start.

True change isn’t about you or me trying harder or working on a new plan. It’s not about reading the next best-selling self-help book out there. Until you allow Him to change your mind and your heart, anything you do or attempt to do will be filtered through a mind formed by the ways of the world. Mike Glenn writes, “The Kingdom of God has come near in Christ, so we have to change our minds about love, truth, reality, eternity, Jesus, God, wealth, success, strength, weakness, hope, joy and love. In other words, everything!”

What does that look like in our lives?

Jesus says that we are to love God with our hearts, minds, and souls. To love God is to think in an entirely new way. We think of Jesus in a new way. We see and understand God in a new way as Jesus reveals the Father to us through His Spirit. We transform our minds by spending time in the Word, in prayer and surrounding ourselves with others who believe and want the same things. We grow and are transformed in that; through community, through the body of believers, through His family.

Rather than being buried under our mistakes, failures, griefs and regrets and living in a place where we no longer recognize ourselves when we look in the mirror, we let Him in.

The gift of life that God offers through His Son, Jesus, changes that. When we let Him in; when we let Him take the driver’s seat, the Spirit changes our true identity in Christ. We leave behind everything that is false and start walking toward the truth of Christ and who He created us to be.

But to allow Him the room to change your life, you must allow Him the space to change the way you think. You stop fighting the current of God’s grace and start flowing with it. Once the mind is transformed, the heart soon follows. To be truly transformed, to truly live a new life, our salvation has to be about our entire person, including our minds. This allows us to truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength…and it gives us the ability to love others as we love ourselves. The love we have for ourselves is transformed into the way God loves us…He is our identity.

We no longer condemn ourselves or others.

The truth of the gospel is that Jesus came to offer life; more of life to all of us, no matter what happened before; no matter the choices we made before we met Him. We have been purchased with an immeasurable price. Knowing that should change the way we live.

Peace is more than the absence of conflict and joy is more than not being sad.

We all have a past, but we are not defined by it.

The image of God defines us and the price the Christ paid confirms our worth.

We all have a past and even though you and I have found life in Christ (oh, how I hope you have), no one starts at zero. Our past is part of our story; part of our present and it, along with the choices we make right now, affect our future. We cannot separate it as it serves as our redemption story. The truth of that gives other a testimony of the gospel at work in your life. Jesus is simply asking you to let Him start somewhere. Embrace the truth of Whose you are and to Whom you belong.

the caterpillar and the butterfly

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12.1-2

The joys of being actively involved in ministry in any form are countless. I’ve literally lost count, but none surpass the joy I experience in seeing the life of another believer transformed by the presence and power of God.

A career criminal set free.

An addict finds real release.

A liar finds Truth.

A cynic learns to care.

A suicidal teenager finds life.

Marriages on the road to divorce find healing.

Battered and broken hearts become whole again.

I could spend the rest of my days serving in any aspect of ministry and would never grow tired of seeing real life-change like that.

Every story of redemption is a miraculous and magnificent tale and there are some that are so dramatic in nature an so unexpected that they seem to prove God’s divine power in fresh and unusual ways.

In my mere twenty-eight year existence, I’ve seen such transformation in the lives of those around me. One of my dear friends, Ben, for instance, isn’t the man he could have been had it not been for the saving grace of Jesus Christ and a night at Oasis (which God used) six years ago. Because of the inner transformation he’s gone through since, he is a man of passion; a man of ever-growing wisdom and love and he loves Jesus with all that he is (hear/watch his testimony here).

I used to think that my story didn’t matter; that it paled in comparison. I was raised in a Christian home. I was practically born saved, or so I thought. I’ve discovered that is not how faith and following Christ work. It’s a personal choice. I met Him when I was four, on my mother’s lap during a bedtime story and have encountered Him numerous times since. But lately… I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’d like to take a moment to look at what happens when we conform to the world. Think about nuts – walnuts, pecans, etc. When you crack open the shell of any nut, the nut inside will always be conformed to the shape of its shell. The pressure of the shell on the outside shapes the nut on the inside into its image. The same happens to us when we allow the pressures we face each day to define how we live and how they influence the decisions we make in a world fallen so far from what it was supposed to be.

Temptation is everywhere. The world beckons us to live for ourselves instead of living for Jesus Christ. It lures us towards sensuality, greed, idolatry, complacency and selfishness. If we are not careful, our lives begin to mirror everyone else’s. It’s a slippery slope, this slow fade. into the life of those who don’t know Him.

In the verse from Romans I shared at the start of this entry, God commands believers not to allow the world to form us according to its patterns. Instead, we are to surrender to Him so He can transform us from the inside out.

Transformation comes from the word metamorphosis (the inner English geek in me is smiling with glee at the moment…you have no idea).  Have you ever witnessed a beautiful new butterfly emerge from its cocoon? Did you, like me, wonder where on earth they came from?

It wasn’t until a fourth grade science class project that this metamorphosis became clear to me. Our teacher had brought in a couple of caterpillars – ugly ones – and we monitored their lives with each passing day. Suddenly, towards the end of autumn, they “disappeared” into what she called cocoons. Weeks went by. The poor things were trapped and to my compassionate heart, I couldn’t bear it. Then again, they were ugly critters and yet, I could sympathize. Those weeks were the hardest for me. Waiting.

“What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls a butterfly.”
– Richard Bach

When it finally broke out from the comfort of that dark place, it didn’t emerge the ugly, slow creature it had been before. It was now a beautiful Monarch butterfly. It did not look like the casing it had been wrapped in for weeks. Instead, it had been transformed; gorgeous in its orange, black and white hues. The blue ones were even more beautiful. The cocoon served as a temporary dwelling place while the real change happened from the inside.

I’ve spent the better part of my life waiting. It’s easy to find yourself feeling like life will never get better or change when things seem dark, still or just not moving forward. There were times when I thought I’d stay wandering through that desert forever. Then there came the faintest stirring of hope, the smallest increase of strength and the urge to break free.

I’ve discovered that I’m currently at that stage. I feel it in every fiber of my being.

It’s happening. I’ve always known it would. And I knew it would be a matter of time before I started seeing the fruits of this internal transformation on the outside, actively affecting every portion of my life.

This summer has been a huge season of growth for me (and it’s not over yet!). I went from not being sure when it came to certain segments of my life (i.e. relating to the opposite sex, being vulnerable with new people, stepping outside the box I’d built for myself, letting some walls crumble, searching for ways to grow and move, seeking more of God, expecting more of Him, etc…This list could literally go on) to being certain of so many things. I’m certain of God’s goodness in my life and in the lives of those I cross on a daily basis. I’m certain of His love for me, although I’m sure I’ll need to be reminded again and again (oh, when will it ever sink in!). I’m becoming more and more certain of what it is He has for me in this life…my dreams are changing.

Every

Day

God has been transforming my heart and my mind. He has been shining His glorious light into the dark, cob-webbed covered corners of my life and giving me the ability to see those areas with eyes of mercy and grace. He’s been teaching me to be kind to myself; to love myself the way He does so that I can love others the same way. He’s been bringing up memories, good ones that I’d forgotten. I’m learning to remember honestly and remember well. So much…it seems my mind is overflowing with the knowledge and realization of it all. I’ll be honest. This has all been a tad bit overwhelming at times and I am so grateful for the body of Christ that surrounds me. They’re supportive, encouraging and, most of all, loving.

I’ve also discovered that I definitely have a heart for the lost and that doesn’t mean I necessarily have to go overseas to serve (although I do have the desire to experience that at some point in the near future); I can do so right here. My desire for serving the women in my church and community has been reawakened (that originally started when I was a sophomore in college, but had lessened greatly shortly after due more to fear than anything else) and I find myself connecting to the beautiful, young, vibrant women in my church. He’s been inviting me to dream and dream big. I want to travel and do so with or for a purpose. I don’t simply want to see the world; I want to serve while doing so. I want to write a book…many, actually. What I desire to do in my free time is changing. Gone are the endless days of watching movies out of the need to selfishly entertain myself and escape for a few hours. It’s literally been months since I’ve had the need to watch a movie. Months. And yes, marriage and children are still dreams I have, they’re just not the most important ones any longer. Even though I currently can’t see the path that will get me there, I know He’ll provide a way.

God has been growing my love for Him in ways I would never have imagined and I’ve found that I can’t keep quiet about it. I desire for others to know Him as I do. People ask the reason for my smile, the reason behind the joy illuminating my face. Conversations I have with complete strangers have gone from surface level conversations about the weather to under the surface discussions about faith and the reason we were created. Amazing. I can’t stop talking about my love for Jesus. I fell for Him when I was four, but this newfound love I have for my Savior…there are no words. It’s ever-deepening, ever-widening, ongoing and it never changes…no matter what my circumstances are in this life.

Does the caterpillar decide to become a butterfly? Does it do all the work to turn itself into one? No. I love the imagery God has given through His creation in this in that caterpillars merely allow God to do His work.

Transformation is not something we can do ourselves. Even among the pressures of this fallen world, we must choose to be still and allow God to do what only He can do. We allow Him to renew our minds daily through His Word. It doesn’t happen overnight and there will be periods of waiting. The struggle is necessary for the development and strength of what God has called me to do in His story. I’m a supporting member…He is the main character. And the cool thing about transformation from the inside out is that it never really ends. It happens again and again until we become what He ultimately created us to be.

What about you? Are you conforming or are you being transformed? Nut or caterpillar/butterfly? Rest in God’s presence today and allow Him to transform you from the inside out.