Tag Archives: Life

traditions: gift giving

untitledI have many fond memories of Christmas, in case you haven’t noticed, and this is one of them. When I was a child and didn’t yet earn a paycheck, my parents would take us kids shopping and we’d split up. The guys would go one way and the girls the other and then we’d swap – girls with Dad and boys with Mom. We all got to pick out the special (at the time) gifts we each individually would give each of our immediate family members; and I’ll admit that I enjoyed receiving gifts. Still do, even though the joy of giving outweighs receiving.

That holiday tradition went on until all of us were over the age of five and the gifts were starting to get more expensive (not that baby clothing, toys and Christmas dresses for little girls aren’t expensive). Times were changing. In 1996, we decided to start drawing names with a few other relatives instead and when the farm had a good year, Dad sometimes saw to it that he and Mom got gifts for all four of us kids.

Now that I’m an adult and it’s been nearly 20 years since that change, my holiday shopping consists of gift-exchanging with a few friends, brewing up some holiday goodies to give away – I can’t eat them all!, name drawing, Secret Santa gift exchanges and white elephant holiday parties (the latter can be quite a hoot).

But what does this have to do with Jesus?

Everything

Jesus was the ultimate gift that God could have given us.

He gave Himself

Wrapped in human flesh

Confined to our limitedness

Our finiteness

Death was the only way he could save us.

He could not die as God, but he could as man.

So he gave up his infiniteness and became a baby; a baby who grew in the womb, was fed, clothed, held and cared for…just like you and me.

That baby grew into a man; a man who experienced the same things you and I face each day – temptation, trials, decisions, death, sadness, laughter, scraped knees – and more.  And yet, he was perfect. His life wasn’t ruled by emotion, but based on His Father – on joy, on peace – on a state of being rather than that which is fleeting.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…John 3.16

He gave

Everything

John 3.16 tells us that God loved us – loved you and me – so much that he gave us Jesus. Through Jesus, we can have so much – the gifts are endless. Just look around you!

These are just a few of the gifts God lavishes upon his children and I’m sure, that much like the Christmas mornings of my childhood, He can’t wait for you to open and respond to His gifts:

  • The gift of Love

God loved us so much that he gave of himself to fix what we broke in our relationship with him. The Fall had left a hole so deep and wide that there didn’t seem to be any hope for saving – then Jesus came. The prophecy of the coming Messiah brought hope and anticipation with it until one night, in a sleepy, little town called Bethlehem, Christ came. That love led him to growing up, to his ministry, to the cross and to the resurrection. That love lives today – in you and in me. That Love gives us the ability to love others the way he did and still does…talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. Romans 8.9

  • The gift of Grace

Through Jesus we have access to a wonderful gift called grace – getting what we don’t deserve. Jesus paid the cost of our sin so we could have it.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5.1-2

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow of the many! Romans 5.15 

…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2.7

Amazing grace
how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
but now I’m found
was blind but now I see!

  • The gift of Resurrection

This is one gift worth getting excited about. Just as Jesus was resurrected in his new human form, we too will be resurrected in similar fashion when he returns to take us all home. Without the resurrection of Christ, we have nothing.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15.17

I eagerly wait in anticipation for that day and what a glorious day that will be!

The sing of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15.56-57

Praise be to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1.3

  • The gift of Inheritance

Because of his sacrifice, we too can be heirs in the Kingdom of God. 

…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil of fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you… 1 Peter 1.4

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8.16-17

 The gift of the Gospel

There are no words for this gift, on my part at least, so I’d like to let Timothy Keller do the talking:

The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.

…the gospel, however, is that Jesus takes the law of God so seriously that He paid the penalty of disobedience, so we can be saved by sheer grace.

The gospel changes our status… How has your status been changed by the gospel?

Where we once were slaves, we are now free.

Where we once were lost, we are now found.

We have become children of God.

The list goes on…

  • The gift of His Word

The Word, the Bible, never runs out. It’s a book that lives, literally. You can’t go through life reading the same chapter over and over again and expect to get the same results. Passages I read when I was a child impact my life differently now that I’m an adult, even passages I read last year impact me differently today – whether that be due to life circumstances (which always change), my ever-deepening relationship with Jesus or the fact that I’ve grown up and can now understand on a deeper level what the Bible teaches.

Every day, we can find new things in his Word that give us strength and sharpen us, build us up, and even rebuke us. God knew we needed it, so he gave it.

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your heart. Colossians 3.16

There’s so much that we have been given through Jesus, the best gift ever! In Christ, we are free – free from the bondage of sin, free from tying ourselves to what does not define us (anything but Him), free to choose life – to choose Him.

How about you? Would you leave gifts unwrapped and laying under the tree? No. Would you leave this gift unwrapped and untouched? Will you choose to accept the gift God offers? What better time to be intentional about your walk with God than now?

The choice is yours:

Freedom

Redemption

Life

Love

© Anita J. Brands. 2013. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

18. good food

Thanksgiving

That holiday evokes visions of turkeys, cranberry sauce, and other sights, smells and sounds of noisy, family gatherings. It triggers memories of the tastes of stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie and leaves my mouth watering.

It brings a smile to my face.

Thanksgiving

November

The time of year that kicks off the holiday season, falls smack dab in the middle of my favorite time of the year and well, consists of food. food1

And I love food. Not in the sense that I pig out every chance I get (my body wouldn’t thank me if I did), but in the sense that I enjoy it. I enjoy cooking, baking (especially this time of year), tasting and, of course, eating.

Every year, I try a new holiday dish and make my pumpkin and sweet potato pies…which, apparently, are to die for according to my Dad’s side of the family. Not to mention the fact that Thanksgiving weekend is when I do the majority of my holiday baking in my mom’s kitchen. It’s bigger than mine and, on the plus side, I get to spend time with her and my sister, which makes it that much more enjoyable.

I firmly believe that baking and cooking should be a social event. In fact, I spent this past Saturday baking pies with a friend. Fun times…

My love of food doesn’t simply stop there. It also spills into my spiritual life, which should cover every other part of my life.

Jesus referred to himself as the Bread of Life:

“I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6.35

Jesus had just fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. The crowd was excited and thrilled over what he had done and he used that miracle pair with a moment in Israel’s history to “land the plane,” so to speak. Jesus reminded them that it was God who had provided the manna for them in the desert and used that moment to point the truth of their spiritual depravity back to him.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

He is the Living Water.

What nourished the body, he uses to picture what nourishes the soul.

Only he can satisfy those soul cravings.

We were created to hunger and thirst for only that which can fill us in completely.

Him

Only Jesus

We have a hunger for God that nothing in this world can fully satisfy.

Sure, the things of this world do satisfy…and that’s the problem. We can deceive ourselves into thinking that the “next thing” will bring fulfillment and it does…but only for a short time. And then we’re off, looking for that “next thing.” We all have our own vices and maybe even an addiction. Much of what is of this world can be good in and of itself but if that thing becomes the “main thing” (whether it’s a job, a relationship or a new “toy”), it becomes and idol and therefore, takes precedence over God.

Sadly, many will live life search for “bread and fish” and miss out on the Bread of Life. Many will get stuck in the never-ending cycle of pursuit to fill that void and miss out on what it means to “have life to the full.”

Only Jesus lasts.

I’m slowly learning that truth in my own life and have discovered when I choose him over anything else in my day (meet with him first thing in the morning, choose to pray on my way to work rather than ponder over whatever situation I may dealing with or that of a friend, and putting him first in each decision I make…not to mention my writing), I experience such depth and richness in this relationship and in my life than I would if I didn’t choose him.

Only Jesus lasts. Only he can fill.

And when we embrace that truth and seek Him first, we will be filled beyond what we can imagine and we’ll keep coming back from more, become so satisfied that we won’t hunger for anything else.

1. my crazy, beautiful, mysterious life

c98fcd40d084c03bc49124224b2bfee4I’m not perfect.

The life I live isn’t perfect.

It’s crazy.

It’s a disaster waiting to happen (figuratively speaking, of course).

It’s messy.

It definitely isn’t easy navigating through the storms that come and go, but I’m learning to dance in the rain.

It’s beautiful and mysterious…and it’s mine.

I’ve truly been blessed. Beyond measure.

Loved more than I dared hope…by a God who became a man, confined to flesh, and died to save me…

…from sin

…from death

….from myself.

I am loved and accepted more than I ever dared hope.

I was reading through 1 Peter this morning and stumbled on this:

“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1.23-25

This life won’t last. It fades and withers like the grass and the flowers. It is but a mist, a vapor, that f5ba746f1168271a65bf50fc6840cffcevaporates in due time. My days are numbered and I intend to live each and every single one of them with more love and life than the number of years I’m given. That number doesn’t matter. What matters is what I did with the time God gave me. Did I love well? Did I serve with compassion and mercy? Did I live with grace and humility; with the heart of a servant? Did I go? Did I carry his gospel with me and share it with everyone I met? Did my life portray that? Did I do anything that mattered? Yes.

Life is a one time offer, and I intend to use it wisely.

I’ve fallen.

I’ve gotten back up.

I’ve made mistakes, but have no regrets.

I’ve lived.

I’ve been hurt, but I’m alive.

I’m not perfect.

I’ve been forgiven much and I’m thankful.

Through those trials, I’ve learned to appreciate life at every moment. I’m continuously learning…

I am thankful for this life I’ve been given and while I’m still figuring out what to do with it, I intend to live it.  

dancing with Jesus

Dance.

I’ve always loved watching people beautifully and gracefully move from one end of the dance floor or ice rink to the other. I’ve even come to enjoy watching Dancing with the Stars this year, particularly Amber Riley, who plays Mercedes Jones on the hit TV series Glee. You see, she’s not what Hollywood defines as perfect. She’s not skinny. She’s not morbidly obese either. She’s real. She’s genuine.

And she’s not afraid to show it.

I love that!

I wish more celebrities were like that. The list may be short, but they impact their world more than they know, including Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen DeGeneres, Denzel Washington, Emma Stone, Jennifer Hudson, Tyler Perry, Zooey Deschanel…just to name a few.

Anyway, before I go too far with that tangent…

Have you ever watched professional dancers or skating partners? There’s an intimate dynamic that occurs between them. The crowds ooh and ah over each turn and spin, cameras flash, but the two at the center of it all don’t see it. They are focused 100% on their partner, attuned to the slightest signal, responding instantly, beautifully and effortlessly.

There is a part of me that hopes to actually experience dance one day outside of the walls and privacy of my apartment. I remember wanting to learn the art of it when I was a child but my parents couldn’t afford it…then again, I never mentioned it. I didn’t want to be a “burden.” Looking back, my choice in not voicing that dream also had to do more with fear than anything else.

You see, I lack a certain amount of physical grace. Then again, perhaps an accident-prone young woman would be gifted in that area. I might just have to find out.

Dance:

  • Noun: an artistic form of nonverbal communication
  • Noun: taking a series of rhythmical steps (and movements) in time to music
  • Verb: move in a graceful and rhythmical way

Life is a dance. We get to choose the type: divine or worldly. In choosing the latter, it can be easy to perform for the applause of those around us. Girls dress a certain way to get the attention of boys. We talk a certain way because our friends do. Parents send their children to certain school because it’s what the neighbor or community does. We sometimes even watch certain TV shows or listen to a specific style of music just to fit in.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. In high school, I dressed a certain way and listened to Limp Bizkit and Metallica (even though I secretly hated it) just so I could fit in or get a little attention. I wanted them to genuinely like me. I was sick of being the outsider, always looking in.

Thing is – any attention and most of the conversations or invitations I received were not genuine. I came to that realization when I began to learn what having a real relationship with Jesus meant…in college.

There are times I find myself riding that same carousel. Around and around I go on a seemingly endless cycle that leaves me empty and never heading anywhere.

But it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I really crave the former: a lifetime spent dancing with Jesus.

I’m wired to.

Remember the description of dancers/skaters in the midst of their act; the intimacy of it?

What if we knew God that intimately? What if we were so focused on Him, so in tune with Him, that like Jesus we could say, “I do only what my Father wills.”? What keeps us from that? What keeps us in angst; keeps us striving and experiencing burnout?

I use to focus solely on me. I sometimes still do.

And I’ve learned, and continue to learn, this important truth: human beings can only serve one thing at a time and we should not have any other idol before God (Exodus 20.3). If I’m going to proclaim I want to worship God with my life, I can’t and shouldn’t esteem the opinions of my friends (or what people in general think) more highly than God’s opinion of me.

Affirmation is a huge thing for me. Encouragement means the world to me. Those things leave me feeling full, flying “high as a kite” (so-to-speak), and feeling better equipped to take on anything that may come my way on a daily basis. They are not sinful things in their own accord, but when I begin to make them my ultimate goal in life, it becomes an idol, or a sin, and therefore, a serious problem. That feeling equipped thing is an illusion…I can’t do anything apart from Jesus (John 15.1-8 , also see Philippians 4.13).

I can either dance for His applause or I can dance for man’s applause, but I can’t do both at the same time.

This is something I’ve been wrestling with for the last couple of years (thank you Beth Moore and two of my dearest friends) and probably will continue to for some time. I know that He’s giving me more than I can handle in this morning, but there is beauty in the fact that I don’t have to face that junk alone. He’s there with me, swinging me through that next dance move.

Romans 12.1-2 has been extremely helpful to me during this time (among others) in my life:

“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.”

When we offer our lives to God as living sacrifices, He considers that worship. Dancing with Him is worship. Letting Him into your life is worship. Trusting Him with your life is worship. Life itself should be an act of worship.

I’d like to share a poem penned by Amena Brown that inspired this entry and God has also used it to further the progress Jesus is currently making in the dimly lit corners of my heart and in my life:

Dance with Him ~ Amena Brown

Dance with Him
He puts His hand on the small of my back
Two fingers pressed into the center of my palm
He pulls me close
Steps with His left, my right
I focus on His eyes and try to ignore my feet as they clumsily count one – two – three

I recall that first moment quite beautifully. The only difference is that then, I can envision placing my feet on His, as a daughter would on her father’s, as He took me around the dance floor. Oh, how easy it was to simply trust and believe then.

I can also relate to those clumsy feet. They still are, most days anyway.

Have you ever watched someone learn to dance? Watch this video – see that little girl in the middle? I can relate to her…in more ways than one. 

I’m often like that with God. I’m so focused on what I think needs to be done or on what I already know to do, whether that be reading my Bible, leading a Bible study, fulfilling other responsibilities to those around me and my church; it’s easy to take my eyes off Him. It’s easy to turn what should be an act of intimate surrender into role behavior which ultimately leads to burn-out and ineffectiveness. That happened yesterday…

Nothing went as planned and that just goes to show Who is in charge and it’s definitely not me.

When I surrender to Him, forsaking my ideas and agenda, clearing my mind of everything but Him, everything flows.

I’m trying to trust Him
He knows this dance better than me
I’m still a novice and it’s obvious
I have yet to lean in and let Him control the turns

God knows I’m trying. He definitely knows this dance better than me, little “Miss Know-It-All” that I am. This patience thing is tough.

He takes His time and even when I miss a step
It’s fine
He knows I’m learning

His patience blows me away. I can’t even fathom the depth of it all…

He wants me to put my hand in His
Close my eyes and trust Him
With my life
My heart
With worry
And “I’m so scared”
With hurt
Worth and unworthy
Loving and unlovable
And my heart has been hurt before
I have been burned before
Loved
And endured loss before
I am in no mood for a dance
No mood to be romanced
I have become a grace cynic
And love’s worst critic

This world is a beautiful, broken mess and the echoes of Eden affect every part of it . Life isn’t easy. Life hurts. And that fact makes trusting hard.

Do I trust Him with my life?
With my heart?
With my worries?
With my fears?
With my worth?
With my identity?
With my life’s purpose?
With the pen of this beautiful, broken story; the story He’s given me?

I can honestly say that most of the time, no…I don’t. There’s a huge part of me that wants to, but, in my human condition and the world I’m in make it difficult to simply make that move.

I will continue to strive to trust Him, and, by His grace, I can…One day I will…when His strength has been made complete in me (2 Corinthians 12.9).

He sends me invitations every day
And even though I have yet to RSVP
He doesn’t remind me
He keeps pursuing
Taking steps in spite of me

I always dreamt of being pursued this way. What a wondrous thing it is to realize that I am! If only I would accept this truth each and every day.

He is a songwriter
Composing the notes that hold together eternity
And He wants to teach my limbs to sing
He’s been waiting to watch me let go of woe
And worry…until my soul
Sings in that beautiful voice He gave me
That I have someone come to think
It not so beautiful

He wants me to let go. Will I? When? And I’m guilty of buying into Satan’s lie that the voice God gave me isn’t beautiful. It is!

To dance with Him
I must give in
And give up
Plus
The trust it takes to really love
And I want to love Him unbridled
Believe in Him with a faith that is unshakeable
Like tree roots centuries deep
Until I learn to follow His time
Take deep breaths
Rest my head on His chest
And my cares at His feet
But I never fear –
As long as I depend on me

“As long as I depend on me…” Funny how that works, isn’t it? It’s funny how, when we depend on ourselves, we think we’ve got it all figured out and something happens, forcing us to realize that we don’t. It happens all the time. I really should fear when I find myself making plans without Him. Yesterday is a prime example and still sticks out like a sore thumb. I had planned on coming into work early and was looking forward to an awesome new upgrade to my computer (Windows 7!) prior to the start of my shift. That didn’t happen, nor did the rest of my day go according to plan:

  • Creative juices were flowing and I wanted to finish this post – didn’t happen.
  • Project work needed to be completed – didn’t happen.

I was frustrated, found myself thinking rather negative thoughts (which is not usually the norm for me) and annoyed with the world for raining on my parade.

But…

God spun those plans on their heads and in turn brought a fullness into the midst of that chaos with opportunities to serve my boss, my co-workers and my neighbor when I finally arrived home, not to mention those on the other end of the line on the calls I take on a daily basis.

Countless opportunities.

The frustration ebbed and my general annoyance vanished almost immediately.

God is in control.

When I live in constant surrender to Him, forsaking my ideas and agenda, clearing my mind of everything but Him, everything flows.

Take His hand
Take a chance
Fingertips in the palm of the One who holds galaxies
In His hand
Hand on His shoulder
Heart in His hand
We dance
To a down beat
That keeps time with His heartbeat
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
Sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me go
When He’s only letting me turn
And sometimes
It feels like He’s letting me fall
When He’s only letting me learn
His is the song that never ends
His love
Sinners become friends
He wants to dance with you
Until the only Song you hear
Is Him

To be filled, we must first bet emptied – of ourselves, our sin, our wants, our desires. I believe that anytime we cling to anything – even good things – other than God, they become a hinderance to the working of the Holy Spirit. That job we fear losing, the ministry we can’t let fail, that relationship we’re afraid of letting go, whatever it is…when we begin to strive only for that thing(s) – hold tight to it – we begin to operate in our own will. To be overshadowed, we need to stay surrendered completely, focused on our Savior and not the dance itself. Our actions will otherwise lose power because we’ve left Him behind.

I’m nearing there. I’ve taken His hand. I’m learning to surrender. I’m learning to trust Him with my heart. I’m learning to let Him lead…bending, twirling, twisting, turning, falling…until the only Song I hear is Him.

feeling inspired: a fall bucket list

Good afternoon friends, family and fellow bloggers (or blog readers)! With the storms rolling through the Twin Cities metro area and the change in temperature the last week, I’ve been filling just a tad bit inspired.

Autumn is by far my favorite season.

Sure, I love bits and pieces of the other three – one has to if they choose to live in Minnesota/the upper midwest – but fall…I just love it. Everything about it.

And while I was sipping my pumpkin chai this morning, I felt this sudden urge to write down a bucket list of things I would like to do this year, during this lovely season:

My Fall Bucket List

  • Go apple picking
  • Bake a pie
  • Go on a fall picnic – by myself – this should be fun!
  • Take a scenic drive to see autumn foilage
  • Visit a local pumpkin patch
  • Carve/Decorate 1-2 pumpkins, save the seeds for next spring
  • Take multiple nature walks with a camera
  • Bake and decorate leaf cut-out cookies
  • Host a fall dinner party for my friends
  • Decorate my mantle with a fall theme
  • Buy locally-made apple cider
  • Experience a corn maze, hay ride, etc.
  • Collect leaves, acorns and pine cones
  • Watch football
  • Take in a bonfire — with S’mores
  • Take in a fall festival in a nearby subhurb/small town
  • Bake bread
  • Make soup/stew
  • Enjoy it!

What’s on your list this fall?

Shared Post: 11 Questions Every Twentysomething Should Ask by Paul Angone

I’m a twentysomething and upon reading this article, written by Paul Angone and shared at RelevantMagazine.com (here), I couldn’t help but share this with my readers. I do not want to stand at the end of my 20s thinking I didn’t do something for God’s Kingdom, rather than it all being for my own.

===============

11 Questions Every Twentysomething Should Ask : Questions to help move on from “what now?”

Your twenties can be a rough time. You graduate college. You get a job—not necessarily the one you always dreamed of. You may move to a new city and start trying to establish yourself. But a lot of the time, you’re just not sure where you’re headed—or even where you want to be going.

Often, the question of “what now?” plagues us in our twenties like chickenpox. The more we scratch, the worse it itches. The overwhelming vagueness of “what am I doing with my life?” can crush us like the bully who sat on our head in third grade.

Our twenties can feel like being smothered in questions, but if we don’t ask the right questions, we will forever remain stuck.

After years of struggle, studying, searching and being un-glamorously squashed over and over again, here are 11 questions I believe every twentysomething needs to ask to be successful:

Our twenties can feel like being smothered in questions, but if we don’t ask the right questions, then we’ll forever remain stuck.

1. Do the people I’m surrounded by bring me life?

Are your friends taking steps forward or are they still playing beer pong in the basement? Do you leave from hanging out with friends feeling anxious or alive? Are your friends anvils tied around your ankles or jetpacks helping you fly?

Your life will resemble the lives of your closest friends—does that fact excite you or freak you out?

2. Who inspires me the most?

Think about the one person you most want to emulate. Who is it? Now what is it about their story or character that draws you to them? Write down the words that come to mind. The person you want to be like the most tells you a lot about who you hope to become.

3. What are my favorite stories?

What are your top three movies? Is there a common thread that runs through each story?

If you want to see what matters most to you, look at the stories that resonate the closest. For me, the common thread in my favorite movies is the underdog who perseveres through pain, thrives from their authentic self and succeeds at something sane people would never attempt.

Your core values are lying on the surface of your favorite stories.

4. Would I want to live with me?

Before you start thinking about living with someone else, do you even want to live with yourself? Have you opened up your closet doors and faced your monsters?Too many people go into relationships hoping that they will fix all their problems, when relationships actually have the magical ability to show you how many problems you really have. Like a third-rate magician, marriage puts big things behind a curtain, but does nothing to make them disappear.

If you don’t like living with yourself, is it fair to ask someone else to live with you?

5. Do I love from my insecurities or do I love from my strengths?

Loving from your insecurities demands from others. Loving from your strengths gives to them. Loving out of your insecurities means you don’t want to see people succeed more than yourself. Loving from your strengths means you are the first to celebrate with others when you hear of their successes. Loving from insecurities daily demands “what are you going to do for me?” Loving from strengths asks others, “what can I do for you?” Too many people love from their insecurities, and that’s not love.

6. Where am I ripe with talent and where do I quickly deflate?

We all have talent. And we all have loads of non-talent we keep trying to transform into talent. Write down a few things you’re talented at and a few things you’re not. Then focus on the things you’re good at. Stop trying to chip away at that solid cement block when you have a soft block of cheese just waiting to be devoured.

7. What are my favorite hobbies/things I do for fun, and are they something I can leverage into a career or product?

I recently heard John Saddington speak, a serial entrepreneur who’s probably best known for creating Standard Theme for WordPress, and he urged the crowd to examine our hobbies.

There is something you have spent more time doing than most people in the world. How can you leverage that experience into something that could make you money? For Saddington, he loved online computer games, so he started an online dating service for gamers. He knew the gaming world and he knew websites, so he put those two together and had an overnight success.

For me, it’s telling stories. So I started writing them down.

8. What’s the main thing holding me back?

Is it an addiction? Anxiety attacks? Depression? An obsession with pinning pictures of rock-hard abs on Pinterest while drinking? What is the main thing that is keeping you from moving forward and who can help you cut the chain?

What are you willing to give up and what are you going to cling tight to?

9. What are my negotiables and non-negotiables?

What are you willing to give up and what are you going to cling tightly to? Are you willing to move anywhere, but you’ll never take a job that expects more than 40 hours a week? Is job flexibility a non-negotiable, or is it job-stability? Write a list of non-negotiables and negotiables, and then do your best to stick to that list.

10. What breaks my heart?

What injustice makes you angrier than a parrot being poked with a stick? And what’s something you can do about it right now? Knowing what breaks your heart can clarify what makes you feel whole.

11. At 29 years and 364 days, if I have accomplished just one thing, what do I want it to be?

If you only had the choice to accomplish just one thing in your twenties, what would it be? How do you take one step toward that today? Our twenties can feel like trying to walk with shoes covered in fast-dry cement, so how do we keep moving forward? Is it a phone call to ask for an informational interview? Is it asking a crush out on a date? Is it making an appointment with a counselor? What’s one small thing you can do today so that you can go even further tomorrow?

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.

a foundational prayer life

Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. – Corrie Ten Boom

I once had a Sunday school teacher equate prayer to an invisible phone line that went up to heaven. It was her cheesy explanation of how prayer works. The difference being that there were no busy signals and, with today’s technology, nor would there be warnings of a battery dying or calls dropping.

I can honestly say that I’ve since learned that prayer isn’t like that at all. God does not work that way. He longs for a relationship with each of His children; one where the child is changed.

We’re currently studying a portion of the life of Daniel at my church here in the Twin Cities (Daniel 6:1-17 if you’d like to check it out) and the idea of having a foundational prayer life (living in such a way that my relationship with God is the foundation, the rock, on which I stand) was brought to light for me this past Sunday through the gift God gave one of my closest friends. (Sermon can be heard here, located under “Heroes of Faith: Daniel”.) Through this study on this particular hero of faith, we were drawn to verse 10, which ends with “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

Did you catch that?

Just as he had done before…

Prayer wasn’t something new for Daniel. Prayer was an act he practiced each and every day.

Just as he had done before…

Prayer changed him from the inside out.

Just as he had done before…

Talk about commitment!

Daniel maintained a healthy fear of God, which kept his fear in the right place. He wasn’t afraid of what this world could do to him.

God never demanded that Daniel get on his knees three times a day. He didn’t have to – it was his delight. No government decree could keep him from praying to [God], loving Him, seeking Him, worshiping Him. He was much more committed to God’s eternal glory than to his personal survival.” – Scotty Smith

For Daniel, prayer wasn’t based on his situation; it was the foundation on which everything else was built. When the situations in his life changed, how he related to God remained constant. It never changed.

Being obedient to God also led to his safety in the lion’s den (punishment for going against the new rule King Darius put in writing). It was through his prayer life that Daniel’s faith was strengthened and he was able to face certain death to proclaim the name of His God. Oh, if I were to be that bold and daring!

Events, people and situations change, but our relationship with God stays the same. – Rick Wipf & Ben Gietzen

We live in a country where we can freely worship and pray. There are countless believers around the world who are persecuted for their faith, even to the point of death, and they never renounce the name of Jesus as Lord. I also know that we won’t have religious freedom forever…the Bible says so. We must understand that culture doesn’t dictate how we live out our faith. We live our faith out based on God. The rest is just the details.

I long for that in my own life: that consistency, both on my part and coming to the full knowledge of how constant and good God is.

Prior to my college career, I used to pray when I or someone else needed something. I also prayed out of habit before I went to bed and before each meal…that was what I was taught and I obeyed because it was expected. Now that I’ve been learning to move beyond the legality of religion and into the freedom of Jesus Christ, I still pray for blessing over my meals – but not all the time. The guilt that used to come with missing it faded away. Instead, prayer is now a constant in my everyday life. I’m constantly thinking about, focusing on and searching for God throughout most of my day. I say most because, yes, I do fall. I get distracted by the millions of things that bombard me: my responsibilities, that text message coming in, an email, the next phone call. Thing is, I get to choose to come back; to reel my focus back to Whom it belongs.

Prayer is of the utmost importance. It’s not an end even though we tend make it one. It’s the primary means by which we communicate to and relate with God. We cannot develop their spiritual life and grow in actually knowing Jesus Christ in a personal and intimate way if we don’t spend time with Him. We are given the ability to overcome temptation and grow in holiness when we continue to come before Him in prayer, day in and day out. And we become more like Him.

Have you ever heard the phrase “you become like those you spend time with”? It’s true. The more time you spend with God, the more you become like Him. Prayer allows Him to change you from the inside out.

Have you ever just hung out with Jesus?

What does that look like in your life?

For me, it’s a continuous conversation that gets picked up frequently throughout my day. It occurs when I first crawl out of bed in the morning and continues when I’m on my way to work. It happens when I’m talking to a distressed caller. I even carry that conversation when I’m at the gym. You get the idea.

Some may view this as a waste of time and would argue that you can’t “hear” God talk back to you. I’ve even been asked, “Why risk looking like a lunatic who talks to herself?”

I can’t help but laugh…and not this sarcastic laugh either. It’s the deep, joyous kind of laugh because I know His voice. I’ve heard it. I’ve felt His Spirit stir within my heart and soul.

I’ve leaned in.

Close.

I’ve discovered a thing or two about Him and how He relates to me. 

He greets me with the sunrise each morning, even on cloudy days.

He pours His love over me through His Word with each piece of scripture I meditate on to kick off my day.

He reminds of my purpose the minute I open the daily Scripture emails I receive.

He shows me glimpses of His glory when a cardinal or purple finch lands on my balcony.

He soothes my soul with the whisperings of His Spirit when I am at a loss for words. Have you ever sat in silence before God? Sure, it’s intimidating not knowing what He will do when we drop the walls on the box we tend to continuously put Him in, but in doing so, He moves in ways we cannot comprehend. It’s satisfying. It’s fulfilling.

And more often than not, He speaks to me through the music I choose to listen to; He always has. It’s through songs like “Unstoppable Love” by Kim Walker-Smith, “How He Loves” by David Crowder, “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin and more that make me stop and think. They set my emotions on ablaze; passions stir and the next I know, I’ve got “spirit-flesh” (a.k.a. goose bumps/chills).

And as for the lunatic thing: well, I wish I didn’t have to break it to you, but with the technology of the Bluetooth and smart phones, I’ve seen my fair share of people who look like they’re talking to themselves. I should be able to blend right in! Welcome to the twenty-first century. But then, most of my conversation with God occurs in my mind and in my heart.  And it is my hope that I will choose, starting today, to be more intentional when it comes to my prayer life; to delight in Him always.

How about you? Have you experienced God today? Have you simply knelt before Him in silence, allowing Him to speak into your life; into your heart?

Don’t simply base it on your situation, depending on where you are at in life and what you’re struggling/dealing with.  Actively seek to put prayer at the foundation of your relationship with God. Pray based on where you are in this moment, and the next. Be intentional about making the time to hang out with Him. Is life good? Thank and praise Him! Are things hard? Seek counsel, wisdom and comfort from Him. And sometimes, you may simply need to “be still and know that He is God.” Take delight in your God.

 If what God thinks matters most, then you consult Him most. If what God does matters most, then you ask Him to act first. In other words, you live your life by prayer. – Scotty Smith

hope: in light of the incident in Boston

“I wonder…if the rent in the canvas of our life’s backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.
To see through to God.”
– Ann Voskamp –

My heart aches

…aches for those in Boston

…for those affected by yesterday’s events.

I can only imagine what it would be like to live through that ordeal…and the more I think about it, the likelihood of that happening in my lifetime, directly to me or to those around me, is higher than it would have been the year I was born.

Oh, the world we live in.

darkness

sin

brokenness

And yet…there is hope.

Hope because we’ve been saved; by grace through faith.

Hope in Jesus.

Hope in His Kingdom to come.

Granted, I see events (am somewhat indirectly affected by them, rather) like yesterday’s bombing and I want nothing more than to go Home. I also know how difficult it is to see the hand of God in those types of situations, but He’s there…and He’s very much alive.

I’ve been rereading through A Sudden Glory by Sharon Jaynes (find book review here) and taking part in her online Bible study the last seven weeks and this week’s lesson really hit home today: “Trusting God in Tough Times.” She asks some pointed questions right in the first chapter: Could it be that the puncture wounds in the canvas of [my] life might actually become the rent places of the soul through which you can see God? …through which you can see His light burning through the openings?…How do we allow life’s difficulties to become see-through places? How do we see those glory moments?”

I’ve been working on another entry for quite some time – and I hope to have it up soon, but you know how temperamental writers/artists are; not including the fact that I’m a bit of a perfectionist – regarding such an experience. Did you know you can experience those moments on a daily basis? It’s true. It’s easy to find God when things are going well; when life is coasting by with the pay raise; the new home; a new love interest; a new addition to the family – but…

but…

when life gets dark…

when life gets tough…

when the road gets hard…

Where is God in all of that?

Jesus Himself states, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). And the beautiful thing? He has overcome the world! That statement, in and of itself, makes my soul smile. Have you ever experienced that feeling?

“When we experience shattered dreams, broken relationships, tragic losses/events, or unfulfilled longings, it can be difficult to feel God’s presence, to see His hand, and to hear His voice. Moments of His glory cease when we close our eyes in pain and tune God out in anger” or hurt. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t there. He is.

People let us down. Life disappoints. And so does God…in a sense. We expect Him to move one way and He doesn’t. We show Him the roadmap we’ve drawn out for this situation in our lives according to the way we think it should go and He doesn’t follow it to a tee. Then, like a lover wronged, we guard our hearts against future disappoint and lower our expectations and trust. But…God understands. He’s been there. He knows exactly what you’re going through; what I’m going through.

He sympathizes.

He sees.

El Roi

“The God who sees me” (Genesis 16.13).

I’ve always thought the ancient Hebrew language was beautiful…and (on a side note) I’m thankful for the scholars, theologians and researchers who have done research and studied to uncover these truths about the Word of God that make the emphasis and its power that much more real…to me, at least.

Instead of following our tendency to be the child throwing the temper tantrum, maybe we should take God at His word and simply “be still.” I know…easier said than done, right? But not impossible. We simply need to shift our focus from what we see (but don’t completely understand) to what we cannot see (2 Corinthians 4.18). It may not make sense today, but some day? It will.

Isaiah 55.9 reads: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I stumbled on a fellow believer’s blog entry posted by a friend on Facebook today – which can be found here. Tim Meier asked a valid question: How do we respond to these events?

And, being human, I would tend to agree with his answer…and in agreement with Obama: justice. But…

but…

I also know that just punishing these people, while the right thing to do, won’t end a culture of violence or hateful evil.”

Ending that cycle starts with us.

And we must remember that God will bring judgment due to those based on what they’ve done with the life God gave them. That breaks my heart…the thought that thousands of could-be brothers and sisters won’t be saved before Christ returns. It’s my responsibility to live out His gospel on a day-to-day, moment-by-incredibly miraculous-moment basis; to show others what it means to have life to the full; to follow Jesus.

We may never understand the actions behind the tragic events of yesterday’s attack in Boston. But I know that God was and continues to be there. He is omnipresent….everywhere at once. He did not write the story of our lives to simply sit back and watch it play out. He is in the story with you; with me. In fact, He has the leading role.

Does that surprise you?

It shouldn’t.

We try to butt in and take the spotlight…often. Remember the statement I made earlier about showing Him your life’s blueprints? Yeah…we do that all too often. I’m guilty of it. You’re not alone on that.

Imagine this:

Imagine getting to heaven and looking at your playbill…personally, I think it will be the entire tapestry and I’ll automatically see that role He gave me to play in His bigger picture…and you’ll see that God had the leading role all along. His life covers ours. Our names will be listed in supporting roles as a display of His glory.

And His glory can be found here:

  • in your current timeline.
  • in the community that came together to help following yesterday’s events.
  • in the lives that were/are being saved.

Our limited vision doesn’t allow us to see how God is working behind the scenes, but we must believe that He is there. “Difficult times are pregnant with glory moments just waiting to be birthed in the lives of those willing to labor through the pain. The key is to not allow bitterness and anger to make our hearts infertile to God’s gifts.” Those moments in difficult times are not dependent on our circumstances but on our focus.

But how do we focus on God during trying times?

By cultivating a grateful heart…being thankful for all that you have…and keeping your focus on God through it all. Trials test and stretch us (read the book of James); they rip away the flimsy fabric of self-sufficiency and become the raw material for God’s miracle in our lives. God is far more interested in developing our character than doling out a life or comfort and ease. “Consider it pure joy,” James said, “when you encounter various trials.” (James 1.2). Note that he said when not if. It will happen. Believe it. And be prepared to grow in faith and character because of it.

C.S. Lewis (enjoy his work) stated, “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”

Phillip Yancy also wrote: “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” That is so true. Often times, I’ve looked back over past journal entries and have been recognized God’s hand in my life during a past struggle…when I didn’t feel His presence or couldn’t see Him at that precise moment. He was there.

He’s here now.

The dark places are simply opportunities to trust that He knows the way – and the perfect time to hold on…

…hold on to faith.

…hold on to hope.

…hold on to Jesus.

Video – Give Me Jesus – Jeremy Camp

Works Cited:
A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More. Sharon Jaynes. 2012.
When Terrorism Comes Close. Tim Meier. <http://www.theunitive.com/when-terrorism-comes-close-the-boston-marathon-ill-never-forget>

The Resurrection and the Life

I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die. John 11:25

When Jesus made the claim that He was “the resurrection and the life,” it caused heart palpitations amongst the religious leaders of the day. Why? Because He was claiming to be God. Only God has power over death.

Jesus claimed to be deity – God on earth – walking and talking with us. He claimed that He would die and that He would be resurrected and, as a result, we could also be freed from the threat of death.

No wonder it was such a point of contention with the religious leaders! They wanted Him silenced forever! So, they killed Him, thereby fulfilling His prophecies and the prophecies of the prophets. Then, they were worried that His body would be stolen by the disciples. If that could be accomplished, the religious leaders worried that people would believe His claims – that He had resurrected – and was therefore the Son of God He claimed to be.

Jesus was claiming to have power over death. He was claiming that He was the source of eternal life. He was claiming that even if a person dies physically and they believe in Him, they will never die spiritually.

Jesus lived up to His claims. He died. He rose from the grave! He is alive today! These truths are what Christians believe with all their hearts, minds, and souls. If Jesus had not risen, He would have been just another prophet.

However, rise – He did! Jesus’ body was guarded and sealed and everyone knew where it was. It simply was not possible to have stolen His body without someone finding out and spilling the beans. Several people saw Him, talked with Him, ate with Him: Mary, Thomas, and the disciples were just a few of the many witnesses to Christ’s resurrection.

This is the glory of Jesus. Jesus raised Lazarus because he is the resurrection. He is the arrival in history of God’s final, glorious renovation of all things, including our bodies. Believers, you will be raised from the dead and shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father. Lazarus is a preview of your resurrection. Jesus is coming back to this earth in power and great glory.

And therefore it is God saying: I love you. My love for you is not sparing you suffering and death. It is the gift of myself. My glory. Do you see me? Do you see me for who I really am? Come to me. I have much more to show you.

I’m thankful that Jesus died and came back to life.  This means that I too can have life when I believe in him.  And just as he said in John those who believe in me though they may die they shall live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die, so too will I live.