taking strides when we’re mapless.

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This phase of life rocks.

I’m fumbling through most things + feeling quite small + hearing a million voices from a million different directions.

I’m being met with questions of myself that I never seem to know the answers to + supposed truths from authorities which I am left to measure against biblical truth.

My GPS is broken and I’m driving through miles of fog.

BUT I’m blessed with youth + free time + sweet friendship + travel + soooo much learning.

Most of all, I’m learning that I will be  m i s e r a b l e  if I don’t master the art of laughing at myself in the humbling moments, and that I’ll be  r e s t l e s s  if I don’t choose to love where I am.

Allen Stone’s song, Where You’re At, talks about “keeping your dirt on the surface” & “loving where you’re at”, and I think that’s so relevant to this phase!!

I adore this concept of not only loving where I am but loving from where I am (like, COVERED in dirt).

I’m tired of calling it the in-between. This is not the waiting. This is LIFE, happening right now, not a someday husband or degree or job or home.

& I’m tired of talking about God’s plan for my life as if it were one right answer that I just have to land on.

I believe with my whole heart that he has planto bring fruit out of my daily obedience, wherever he has me in the present time. I want to step aside from the cookie-cutter model of what my life should look like according to the world & into the daily will of the Creator!!!

…into the discomfort, the risk, the thrill of the unknown spaces in which I have to lean completely upon Him.

I’m often so terrified of making the “wrong choice” that I don’t move at all. I wallow in what feels like constant gray & complain that my prayers aren’t being answered.

Then suddenly I’m paralyzed, sitting in spiritual limbo, waiting for a green light when all he wants me to do is take a step.

What if he’s just answering my prayers differently than I expect, and what if there are lessons and opportunities for growth that can only happen in the absence of answers??

{{ This is faith, y’all!!! }}

It means obedience in the now, even when I don’t know where I’m going and what I’m even doing. I was not created to sit in comfort with a box of answers in my lap; I am called to MOVE and ask the Spirit to lead me into spaces where I can make God known.

Bob Goff says, “We shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t understand what a God who says He surpasses all understanding is doing.” Would I really want to worship a God whom I have figured out?

Beyond the comfort of the black and white, I trust that he is God & I am not. He is always merciful and just.

“And we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” // Romans 8:28-30

This doesn’t mean that things will always be good, but that he will use difficult circumstances for ultimate good. He has predestined us for his promises. As hard as I try to make my own plans, he knows what is truly good for me better than I do.

I’ll step back and let him be God. {after all, WE are the ones who brought sin into this world: depraved abusers of freedom – far from what we should be – but STILL saved by the sweetest grace!!}

“Do the next right thing.”

Take a step forward in expectation that he will bring something good out of it. Just go somewhere, do something, and make more of Jesus.

Ben Rector (OOPS quoting another singer-songwriter) says that “life is mostly what we choose to see.”

I choose to see the pieces of beauty woven into the crevices of these ordinary days. So yeah, this phase of life rocks and so will the next one!!!

 

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the threat of seeing only threat.

“It could be worse; I could be ____.”

Fill in the blank with just about anything in order to magnify another’s weakness or minimize a personal sin, because society says that it’s all relative. In spite of the individualistic proclivity of American culture, we spend a lot of time watching our neighbors, and measuring our own worth in proportion to their [public] image. The obsession with what others are up to can circle back to self in dangerous ways.

It’s like Snakes & Ladders—one-upping and climbing to the top. We’re constantly aware of where our neighbor’s piece is located on the board, checking to make sure that we’re ahead. We may even groan when they get to climb up a ladder, and celebrate when they slide down a snake. 

Silently, of course. 

We offer up pseudo congratulations through a plastic smile.

I’d like to carefully select the word envy within this conversation.

Envy refers to “an uneasy awareness of another’s advantage and a desire to possess it”. It is a state of resentment toward someone else’s well-being, arising when our eyes lock upon something that they have that we don’t.

It is sometimes accompanied by feelings of jealousy, which refers to “fear of loss of possible rights or love”. Jealousy entails the negative emotions, self-degradation, etc. surrounding this fear. It tends to occur within the context of a friendship when a third party is involved. I know too well that it can wreck relationship with one another.

But envy is the offspring of comparison, manipulated by the puppeteer sin with its dirty hand beneath all other six: Pride. 

Comparing ourselves to others breeds selfishness in one of two ways: We either place them on a pedestal and therefore think less of ourselves, or tear them down so that we might think more highly of ourselves.

Why is it that when a friend receives or accomplishes something, my first thoughts are self-centricalPride is hard at work here, because I shouldn’t even be thinking about myself in the first place. Rather than genuinely appreciating someone else’s success, I wallow in thoughts of self-degradation.

Do I measure up? 

Imagine running on the treadmill at the gym. You’re feeling confident until you look up and notice a group of girls nearby. They carry weights in hand, and their perfectly sculpted figures model the results. You start to wonder how you should change your workout routine.

Or you’re sitting at an easel in the back of a classroom. You’re content with what you painted, until you look up and scan the room. Suddenly, your canvas feels inadequate, because your peers’  look differentbetter. 

The eyes follow, and the heart wavers.

The message that I hear from others’ successes is that I am not enough. I long to be prettier, smarter, and better than them [Andy Stanley’s -ER principle]. Nothing robs me of my joy quite like this.

“And the thing about meausuring sticks, girl? Measuring sticks try to rank some people as big and some people as small — but we aren’t sizes. We are souls.  There are no better people or worse people — there are only God-made souls. There is no point trying to size people up, no point trying to compare – because souls defy measuring.” -Ann Voskamp

I think that a lot of times, our armor to comparison is the comforting reassurance that all of those picture-perfect people are actually carrying heavy baggage not shown by their polished Instagram. We’re encouraged not to compare our insides with their outsides, the core of who we are with the “highlight reel of their lives”. This is true. We all carry burdens, hurts, and weaknesses.

However, is stating that someone “isn’t that happy [interchangeable with great, successful, attractive] after all” really a healthy way to approach strengthening self-identity?

We’re all created in the image of God. Their victory is not my loss, and their loss is definitely not my victory. 

Would I ever want another person to look at me and see only flaw? To wait in anticipation for me to stumble? To seek out opportunity to rip me apart?

A classic biblical example of comparison is outlined in the story of Cain & Abel (Genesis 4). Both brothers brought an offering before the Lord, Cain’s being some of the fruits of the soil and Abel’s fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. God favored Abel’s offering, but looked down on Cain’s. Cain was greatly angered by this and his face was downcast. He then led his brother out into the field and killed him.

The jealousy that led Cain to murder his own brother was most likely the result of Abel’s favor with God, although we can’t be sure of what their conversation in the field even looked like. Three parties were involved. Cain felt that he wasn’t enough, and responded in anger.

Tearing down his brother didn’t bring him closer to God’s heart. Tearing down my brothers and sisters won’t either.

Community is shaken where comparison is present, leaving us in polarity with our neighbors. It removes the sense of us.

Why can’t we have both? You participate in my joys, and I in yours. Celebrating in friends’ victories breeds a deep kind of multiplied joy. 

Shared joys, y’all!!!

I could lay out a 3-step action plan or formula or tool of some sort to guide the process of celebrating with others, but I think that it has to be tackled at the heart-level first. Honestly, I can’t give definitive answers. Comparison is a sin that I’m constantly working through. It’s endemic in our media-saturated society and especially prevalent among the college scene, where everyone can seem to have their crap together and pressure to advance up the ladder is impending.

A first step toward authenticity in relationships: meditation on words of truth.

Philippians 2:1-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

For now, we can lean into the truth and pray for the Spirit to transform our way of seeing.

When looking too closely at others’ lives, we always seem to wind up nit-picking in front of the mirror. 

Let’s just step in front of it now and ask some raw questions of our hearts.

Let’s encourage one another.

Let’s walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing in burdens and joys.

Let’s be willing to learn from them.

Let’s speak the beautiful things we see in them and mean it.


http://annvoskamp.com/2013/11/how-the-hidden-dangers-of-comparison-are-killing-us-and-our-daughters-the-measuring-stick-principle/

For more reading on the topic, here’s this!!! ^

the beauty between.

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Do we find ourselves preoccupied, or is it plausible?

Could we possibly even afford—amidst our oh-so-exigent and eternally significant daily pursuits—to do so?

…to carve out a space of reverence for the melodies unheard, the mountains left to climb, the story-laden gazes we’ve yet to meet?

Is there room here beneath the clock’s thumb to do such a thing?

We all know, after all, that there are simply not enough hours in one day to accomplish the work we have yet to get done.

There is a house to maintain. There are deadlines to be met and dishes to be done.  Plus, there are many important kingdom-building ministries to fill our schedule, of course. If only there were more time for all of it, right?

But I feel it still.

Yes, in spite of the daily junk I’ve piled upon my agenda in insistence that I am being dutifully “multifaceted” and “stretched”, I feel the call to slow down and look up.

As I bow to the clock, the trees surrounding me bow to their Creator, and I am too busy doing “important” things to notice.

But beauty tugs at me still.

It’s captivating. There is always more to be uncovered, and although we subliminally suppress it—our overloaded schedules operating as blinders—it pursues us nonetheless.

Rays of sunlight sometimes slip through the clouds just the right way and in a single moment uplift the most downtrodden spirit.

Fingers changing chords on an acoustic guitar squeak across its strings with warm allurement.

A child’s smile—breaking into laughter—momentarily discards worries and fills a soul with an unalloyed bliss.

In infinite forms,

often in fleeting moments.

If only we’ll abide in him enough to see

these arrows pointing up.

Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

To whom else could we attribute these wonders?

Our finite vocabulary tends to box God in as another facet of OUR life for which we “make time”, as if he isn’t above all and in all and through all.

He IS our life, transcendent of time.

How lightly I toss the Name around on my tongue.

How little I am, how little I know.

Lord, I praise you for all the things that I cannot understand!

Beautiful complexities fly over my head as beautiful simplicities synchronously slide right under my nose: from the microscopic activities of an axon, to the droplets of rain on leaves in the morning.

Both point up all the same.

I sense such immense grace in all of it: what did I do to deserve this beauty abounding?

Oh praise him, the wildflowers & the birds & the bees & I.


I recently cocked my head to the side in confusion as my friend commented that her favorite band “stirs her affections for Christ.”

The question left my mouth quickly, “But they’re not a Christian band, are they?”

How outrageous.

As if a God so supreme could not be found in the secular.

Again, if he is, indeed, above all, through all, and in all, why compartmentalize?

Every beautiful thing is a glimpse of eternity. {also see James 1:17}

May we seek out and highlight beauty, allowing it to point us toward the future world we hope to attain. More importantly, may we cultivate it here on earth.

With artistic vision and incredible attention to detail, he created

(even beyond practical purposes),

and he made us to create.

Our art matters.

Authentic Christian life & love can reflect the good world to come. We are little glimpses of eternity, pockets of God’s good design for humanity.

// image-bearers + his most precious artwork //


I would imagine that bystanders of Christ’s death would not have looked at the cross in awe of its beauty. In reality, they probably found it to be barbaric. Splinter-packed. Rugged. A cultural instrument of torture and punishment, a propagator of absolute agony, and a symbol of death.

At that time, if I were to have referred to the cross as a thing of beauty, they would have called me crazy.

In the darkness of the crucifixion, they couldn’t yet see the light coming.

& here we find ourselves stumbling through the wilderness, lost in deep pits of brokenness asking ourselves how in the world there could be beauty in all of this pain.

But then the tomb opens. There IS, somehow, beauty in the cross. We can’t talk about his brutal death without talking about his victorious resurrection. Without the hope following, the cross would remain solely a symbol of death.

He was who he claimed to be; he truly loved us enough to take the nails for us.

In the breaking: beauty directs us to the hope of heaven.

We will never be stuck. Where there is faith placed in Jesus Christ, there is always a resurrection.

“When the sky is falling, when life is a dream, I fortunately fall into the beauty between.” ₂

Still our hearts yearn for a walk in the Garden of Eden, where everything was right and whole.

But for today we cling to hope that all WILL be made right and whole again someday when Christ returns.

Maybe heaven and earth can overlap,

and we find ourselves here in the beauty between.


http://unlockingthebible.org/2017/04/beauty-cross/
₂ Kings Kaleidoscope- “The Beauty Between”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

be the one, find the one.

“Let not your longing slay your appetite for living”, wrote Jim Elliot, whose legacy gave full weight to those words. Although Jim had fallen in love with a girl named Elisabeth-and proposed to her-he was called to serve as a missionary in Ecuador as a bachelor, and did so for five years (during which he made the journal entry above regarding their separation). He dedicated his time to learning the Quichua tribe language before he would wed Elisabeth. They eventually got married in Ecuador and settled down to serve there together. However, three years later, the tribe speared Jim to death. Elisabeth, along with her three-year old daughter, continued to serve them and attempt to share Christ.

What a sweet love: devotion to the Lord above all else.

How does my longing put fetters on the joys of today?

Girls, I want to tackle some of the lies that the world tells us about our singleness. Don’t shut down. I know how exhausting it can be to be told that singleness is a gift, that all it takes is patience, that he will come someday, or that you should just embrace it while it lasts. It is hard to hear from happily married lips and every bit easier said than done. However, because I am reaching out in vulnerability, I pray that you’ll hear comfort in my words, as I also struggle to work through what can at times be painful, but is ultimately good.

Lie #1: Singleness is a setback.

I know the feeling. You’re in a room full of people, and you can’t get past how alone you feel. It seems like everyone has someone, and you’re just watching from the corner as they all happily couple off, wondering what you did wrong to deserve this terrible curse and when it’ll be your turn. To ice the cake, the whole dang world seems to be getting a ring on their finger, right? A trip to Facebook equals another flood of engagement announcements, and all you can do is groan in agony. With a few taps on a little screen, a sneak peek into others’ lives is more accessible than ever, and before we know it, we find ourselves scrolling endlessly with green eyes, coveting someone else’s relationship, someone else’s looks, or someone else’s life-and in doing so, we suck the very joy out of our own.

In our present phase, doesn’t a part of us tend to cry out for another? This inferiority complex is crippling. The single long to be married, and the married miss the freedom of their single days. Adolescents rush to get out of school, and adults long for simpler times when their only worries were homework assignments and high school drama. We see only the benefits of the other side, and elevate the shortcomings of the place in which we feel that we are “stuck”.

// In a world jealous for any time other than the present, see the value of what is to come  without letting it steal a second from your today. //

“If you spend your time being frustrated in it, you are missing the point for which you have been given it.” (Ben Stuart)

So yeah, I’m about to go there: this time is God-ordained, and there is great purpose in it.

Learn to be alone. And here, you will find that you never truly are. How can I be fully devoted to Christ if I’ve spent my whole life chasing someone else? But how can I be with someone else in confidence if I haven’t had time to unpack who the creator says I am?

You were worthy long before [insert boy name] deemed you so. {psalm 139:14}

The truth is that although companionship is God’s beautiful design, it is undeniably distracting, and a period of singleness is a time to abide in the presence of the God in whom your identity lies. Get the right relationship right first.

Colossians 3:1-2 // Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

If the resurrection is true, this changes everything. This calls for my heart’s own resurrection TODAY, so it is the perfect day to fall in love with Jesus. He wants my whole heart now. I am free to pursue only him. This is not a setback.

// what we want is not always best for us. //

This season is needed, designated “not that we would fill it with distraction, but that we would pursue undistracted devotion to the Lord.”₁ Stop and look at what you have. It’s beautiful.

“God, forgive me for chasing lesser things.”-Lysa Terkeurst

This is a chance to become the best version of you. Don’t beg for a godly man if you’ve not spent time on your knees yearning to be a godly woman. Invest in worthy things and take advantage of the freedom that may not always be yours. Rest in the truth that contentment lies in the Lord, so whether single or married, you are loved.

I’ve wrestled a lot with the concept of being “ready” for a relationship. I guess I’m learning that readiness entails intentionality (hint: marriage in mind) and realization that a relationship is not a tool for healing/fulfilling but for growing together.

{p.s : don’t forget to celebrate with your friends when they fall in love.}

Lie #2: One day you’ll find THE ONE, and he will complete you.

Let’s go ahead and dismiss that one:

“A good relationship is more about becoming the right person than finding the right person. A healthy marriage is the union of two already complete people who choose to invest in each other.”-Shannon Ethridge

Marriage is not the ultimate goal, in spite of what the message of the world shoves at you. As an individual, you should consistently be running toward the Lord. If someone grabs your attention along the way, you shouldn’t have to stop running to be with them, but rather, run alongside them toward the shared goal of building the Kingdom. Therefore, you are, indeed, two already complete persons who love God wholly and praise him with your love for one another.

… he is not your other half.

There is great disappointment when we trust in humans as the sole source of our happiness. Keep the Lord in his rightful place and boys in theirs.

“Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love.” –Lysa Terkeurst

Love is awesome, and marriage is one of God’s most sacred and special gifts. However, human love, even at the most God-venerating level, can be rocky and so very flawed. Be open to learning from watching others. Understand beforehand how blinding love can be, and start to build solid ground now.

Lie #3: Just follow your heart.

I hear this all the time. When you’re unsure of what to do or where to turn, just follow your heart, right? HOLD UP. I don’t know about you, but my heart is a pretty messed up place.

Though embedded within each of us is a desire for what only the Lord can fulfill, evil desires, too crept into our hearts at the fall. There are shameful inclinations within me, and shameful moments in which I have acted upon the desires of my flesh. We are all deeply broken people, and far from what we should be. Our hearts are “deceitful of all things.” (see Jeremiah 17)

Yet, throughout scripture we see an emphasis on the heart as the source of life and well-being. Proverb after Proverb emphasizes its vitality to the whole person:

keep my words within your HEART // trust in the Lord with all your HEART // seek him with all your HEART // write these words on your HEART…

Maybe it’s less about following my heart and more about guarding and aligning it. I cannot fight the desires of the flesh alone. “When the flesh wrestles with the spirit, that which is fed the most will win”₂, and hear this: your singleness bears no fruit if your heart is unguarded. As Paul says, it is better to marry than to burn with passion. Because evil enters the heart through your thoughts, examine the impurities entering your mind and cut off those sources. Before you let temptation blossom into sin, redirect your thoughts to a healthier place.

Purity is not merely a physical spectrum by which two lovers abide, but a state of holiness in body and spirit that starts now, even in the absence of a man. Pursue what is holy. Let the heart beat parallel to the desires of the creator, shielded from fleshly desires.

Matthew 5:8 // blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

I hope that you shine, that you turn his head with your INWARD beauty. The man drawn to that gleam of Christ in your eye is a man worth having.

But for now: be a woman worth having.

 

 

 

 

 

 

₁   https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-gift-of-singleness/id129084376?i=1000361983652&mt=2
₂   Every Young Woman’s Battle, Shannon Ethridge

 

 

 

 

 

give me your eyes.

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“But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Vision is an art form.

Through our eyes, we all take in and process the world around us, but not all possess the gift of true seeing. Many-though their eyes work fine-are blind, because isn’t vision so much more than the visual?

lens/lenz/
:  a. a piece of transparent material (such as glass) that has two opposite regular surfaces either both curved or one curved and the other plane and that is used either singly or combined in an optical instrument for forming an image by focusing rays of light b. a combination of two or more simple lenses c.  a piece of glass or plastic used (as in safety goggles or sunglasses) to protect the eye
2:  a device for directing or focusing radiation other than light (such as sound waves, radio microwaves, or electrons)
3:  something shaped like a biconvex optical lens <lens of sandstone>
4:  a highly transparent biconvex lens-shaped or nearly spherical body in the eye that focuses light rays (as upon the retina) 
5:  something that facilitates and influences perception, comprehension, or evaluation 

 

There are millions of lenses. Literary lenses, for example, alter the way a reader comprehends a text, provoking deeper consideration of the author’s underlying motivations, as well as how the time period in which they wrote shaped their ideals. Psychological and sociological lenses promote unique pathways to understanding the struggles of humanity, and functions of groups within society. Artistic lenses challenge viewers to see more than what is at the surface, and keep a work in concurrence with its context. Camera lenses rework light rays in order to recreate the desired image as accurately as possible. Contact lenses correct vision. What do all of these lenses mutually accomplish? Enhancing sight. 

 

Naturally, we see the world through the lens of our personal experiences, clinging to presuppositions that our circumstances led us to develop. What if we move beyond our fixed lenses and adjust our focus in order to better understand God and those around us?

It is our lens, after all, that determines what we see.

Fresh perspectives.

Give me your eyes, Lord, that I may see abundantly more than that which lies in front of me. May I excavate fragments of eternity from the mundane and dark places in this world.

“It is not what you look at that matters; it is what you see.”-Henry David Thoreau

Change not what you see, but the way that you see.

Am I truly living with eyes wide open? With eyes wide, all other senses follow in receptivity to the spirit.

For they are the portals to our very soul.  

Seeing is worshipping the one who sees me. In accepting his gifts with thanksgiving, I am embracing his grace. I am calling attention to the gap between me, so finite and frail, and the infinite giver of every good thing. I am understanding how much I need him. I am grasping the magnitude of my salvation like never before.

After reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, I was excited to begin a journal like hers. It is filled with happy little things that open me up to see the big things. In just over a month, I’m halfway to one thousand. My life is such a blessed one.

-freckles across cheeks, art galleries, acoustic sounds, the colors of fall, finishing a workout, piles of books, weekends with nothing to do-

This act of listing blessings has shifted my perspective and trained me to notice things that I would not have before.

Immense beauty. Every sweet whisper of grace. A heart that is thankful in all circumstances is a full heart. 

-hikes in the mountains, care packages, porch swingin’, colorful buildings, fresh bread, summertime sweet tea, fields of wildflowers-

It’s addicting, in a strange way. My pen carries on. I threaten to burst with rich contentment.

-fireplaces in the cold, running water, beach fireworks, fuzzy socks, naps, bible studies, laughing until I cry, fresh paint upon canvas-

The power of thankfulness is that it awakens joy that cannot help but overflow. When we open our eyes and choose to offer thanks, joy becomes tangible. It becomes obvious to others. It is contagious. 

I can’t expect to help others see if I am not truly seeing.

Learn to turn your gaze upward and say, “Thank You, Lord” in all circumstances. 

See every hurt and ache as formational. Stand rooted in the knowledge that he has already given so much. 

When all you can see is loss, see the cross, where the Father proved once and for all how deeply he sees you.

He sees past every sin you’ll ever commit and looks into earth-worn eyes with love.

-coffee in the morning, down syndrome smiles, long drives, Papaw’s singing, ocean mist, the starry sky from my rooftop, thrift shops, warm sheets-

If I miss the little things, I will surely miss the big things.

Voskamp paints a picture of the garden:

“Do we ever think of this busted up place as the result of us ingrates, unsatisfied, we who punctured it all with a bite?….Ingratitude was the fall-humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives. That is what has scraped me raw-ungratefulness.”

We who punctured it all with a bite. We who say no to his grace every day with our constant sin, our insistence that we can do it on our own. We crave more and more and more, when he has already given more than enough.

They had everything. With them were all of the creatures of the earth, the birds in the sky. A river, separated into four headwaters, flowed from and sustained Eden. There were “all kinds of trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” (Gen. 2:9) But it wasn’t enough. So they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

I’m obviously no theologian, and understand that this take on the fall be a bit flawed. We could always get into how Satan is a sly dude and all of that. However, I deeply appreciate her juxtaposition of God’s abundant giving and the collective ingratitude of mankind. It tugs on my heart, calling me to say Yes, Lord, I long for your grace.

In order to receive his grace in its fullest, we have to admit how much we need it.

Our gratitude becomes real when our eyes are open to behold the glimpses of glory in all things. The slices of grace that make life so sweet.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.

Keep looking up. There are traces of beauty paving the way for the good world to come in heaven.

Don’t miss it.

 

 

exploring the braid of divinity.

Before we attempt to “define” God, we must humbly accept that as humans, we will forever be comprised of vicious understatements. I dare to say that even from Martin Luther to C.S Lewis, every being has failed to manifest phraseology which successfully pins down the character of God. The task of describing the holiest of holies is far too heavy for pen and paper. Our words are laughable, our attempts feeble. My writings, although often dripping with over-spirituality and provinciality, do the best they can. The Creator is a beautiful mystery, never to be wholly understood. However, devotion to him requires relentless seeking and questioning, familiarity with his nature and what makes him a God worth giving our all for, even though we will never grasp it all. If we could figure him out, he would not be God. So what makes God good? (PRAISES for my Christian liberal arts university and its crazy questions)…

According to Michael Reeves, author of Delighting in the Trinity, it would be impossible to call God good without the Father Son, and Holy Spirit. His triunity is what sets him apart.

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God’s identity is that he IS goodness, but by what basis could we determine this? Let’s acknowledge that as only one, God could not possibly be good. Yes, in order to grasp what God is, we can for a moment consider what he is not. If he existed apart from his Son and his Spirit, the inhabitants of his earth would not have any proof of his love, because he would have simply created and then stood aside, leaving the world in sin and chaos. He would be a rather selfish Ruler, and no more than that, according to Reeves.

Yet, “The Father finds his very identity in giving his life and being to the Son; and the Son images his Father in sharing his life with us through the spirit.” (pg 45) He is a Father, “relational and life-giving” (pg 22), and therefore the kind of God that we could love. He cannot be defined by his creation, because that would make him dependent upon it. God’s goodness is made known through the Son, whom he gave up in order to demonstrate love for us.

We know that God is good because he is a Father. Before all things came to be, he loved Jesus. He sent him to walk with and die for sinful man, not only that his sacrificial love may be revealed, but that all people could share in it. Without the image of God as a father, how would we ever know that he loved us? “Father” is used of God in the Old Testament only 15 times while it is used of God 245 times in the New Testament (www.bible.org). The prophecy whispers of a coming redeemer, and the New Covenant emanates a love mankind had never known. Jesus answers all questions about what God is like, and here his love overflows. What a fountain. This is an eternally triune fellowship of love which Jews and Gentiles alike are invited into, righteousness with the Creator of all things. We are heirs, now adopted into the family of God through faith in Christ. “Abba” stands preeminently to all other names of God.

Romans 8:14-17 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 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.

Jesus upon the cross: a miraculous visual extension of love. “Without the cross, we could never have imagined the depth and seriousness of what it means to say that God is love.” (pg 69)

My view of God is enhanced greatly by the leadership of my earthly father. I know that he is my Protector, and that he would give up anything for me. He recently said that being a dad has shown him how deeply God loves us, and I now see that as well, because he chose to take up the responsibility of devoting his life to me. This is such a beautiful parallel, that because my father is loving, patient, and caring, I think the same of my Heavenly Father, whose love became evident as he lavished it upon Christ.

Conversely, absent or abusive fathers distort a child’s view of God. If one never knew love from a physical father, how could they begin to grasp the love of an Unseen father? Many have been dehumanized and utterly abandoned by their dads. If they were to use them as the reference point for relationship with God, there would be no relationship.

Fatherless: hear that you never are. God is constant and caring, and he is not just like your father. Flee from bitterness and let the name “Father” be redefined by the God revealed in Christ, through which we are now sons and daughters of glory. He has taken each of us in.

“How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.”

The Spirit of the Lord, which so graciously guides each believer today, serves to unite us to Jesus Christ. Because of its great power, we are given the mind of Christ, and can know the Father. I adore the picture of God’s ever-abiding love presented in 1 John 4:7-21, particularly the portion that says, “…By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” The spirit is not a detached ligament of the Father and son, but a uniting force that leads us to the source of life. It points us to Jesus, and gives us confidence in the very goodness of God.

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

The trinity is a beautiful three-strand chord, existing together as one, yet distinctively three. It is not a mathematical equation to be solved, but a reality to be enjoyed and wholly devoted to. God is wildly unfathomable. However, because of his Son and the ever-present Spirit, we are able to taste how deep his love for mankind truly is, because he cared enough for creation to send Jesus to walk as one of us.

Is there a more personal place to meet our Heavenly Father than bowed before the manger in which the very flesh of God laid in Bethlehem? Dare to take yourself there for a moment, breathing in the stale winter air and stooping to sneak a peek at the seemingly ordinary baby resting in a bundle of cloth and hay.

How ironic is it that there was no room at the inn? If they had known what great Messianic royalty was to arrive, surely someone would have arranged that the tired couple be given a place to stay after a long, gruesome journey. He might have been greeted with a massive assembly of enlivened people. They would have prepared a great banquet, with worship and celebration, and maybe fashioned a royal crib for him to inhabit. But, instead, the King of Kings arrived in an unremarkable way. He was brought to life within a virgin, therefore sent wholly from the heavenly realms but still born of flesh just as us. At the manger, one may finally discover that the greatest possible glory is found in humility. Christ was bathed and had his diapers changed. He did not take on the responsibility of redeeming mankind lightly; he was present for every part, each ugly, unfavorable aspect of humanity. He was fully present in divinity and humanity from the manger to the cross. The significance of his life and death was made clear on that cold night in Bethlehem, as the savior of the world emerged, squealing, pink and swollen from the womb. This is a beginning that we can understand, and as he “grew in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2), he too faced similar struggles and temptations, and overcame it all. This is no cheap grace.

If my heart is the inn, have I made room for the one who endured all things in order to offer reconciliation to mankind? The weary world rejoices, so worn from the constant battle with external forces of evil; from constant striving and shortcoming, continually disintegrating beneath the callous ramifications of the fall: discontentment and worship of self.

We are free from hopeless striving and wrapped in grace, a gift sealed at the cross and the empty grave.

Unite with the Spirit in pursuit of holiness, and you will see the Lord.

The path to righteousness is the person of Jesus Christ. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. {2 Corinthians 13:14}

 

A Reshaped Spirituality: Guidelines for the Millennial

In light of the recent tragedies occurring nationwide, I’ve heard many voice their fear of raising children in this generation. I’m sure that preceding generations harbored the same feelings, perhaps reaching child-bearing age during the Great Depression, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, or experiencing the struggles of the civil rights movement, and thinking, “If this now, then how much worse will it be for my kids?” The unique problems that the millennial generation faces are not limited to the shootings and bombings seen daily in the news, the hopelessness of the presidential race, or the rise of questionable social movements, but extend to the advances of the technological world and what they can inflict upon our young minds. Although we’re further digitally as a nation than we have ever been, it is a confusing time for youth.

My heart aches as I watch a pack of girls that can’t be over the age of twelve, each with an iPhone in hand, strut past. So young, and so vulnerable. Their innocence is being shaken by what they see. I, at seventeen years old, have had to fight to guard my heart from what the world is telling me through that little screen, and I hurt to know that they are already being affected at such a young age.

The technological realms have become a natural extension to our being, which we cannot seem to live without. Here are some guidelines for maintaining a healthy, experiential lifestyle in spite of these conditions:

Build your foundation upon the Jesus of the word, not the Jesus that best fits your personal agenda or preferred set of sins. Seriously, what’s up with the tolerance? Since when was the message of the gospel “Love your neighbor as yourself, but be careful not to offend him”? Jesus was the greatest example of love to ever live, but he hated sin. Why must we minimize the gap between the gospel and the ideals of society to satisfy other sinful people? And why must we manipulate the words of Christ to cater to our own sinful desires? It’s not a game of “Did God really say?…” It’s not about being accepted. It’s not about accepting others as “who they want to be”. It’s about diving into scripture and understanding what God has commanded, which is in no way a grey area. It’s about falling in love with him, and not the world. It’s about showing others how valuable they are in Christ, and not leaving them as they are. Our father is a father of love, but let’s not push aside his wrath. Sin is black and white, politics aside. Read into the raw, un-americanized gospel and build your house upon the rock. Know what you stand for and refuse to conform.

Spend time with God first. Mornings suck, but let’s try something crazy. When you wake up, silence that alarm and lay your phone back down. Crawl to the kitchen, grab some breakfast (& coffee, of course), and perch on the front porch swing with bible and prayer journal in hand. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.-Psalm 143:8. This routine is magical. Begin your every day in this way, demonstrating that at your very core, your greatest need is for the Lord to refresh your soul as soon as you rise. Instead of being hypnotized by the sublunary filth that lies behind your small screen, hear from God first and foremost. Commit the entirety of your day to him.

Put on the eyes of the Savior. Goodness, if only I would just stop and pay attention. What a gift my eyes truly are. I believe that there is a lot to learn from the story of the blind man, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). He heard that Jesus was near, and began to shout for him, despite the hushes of the crowd around him. He persistently called his name, and when the Messiah came near and asked what he could do for him, he said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” As in many other stories, his faith healed him, and he followed Jesus along the road. Some of us simply need vision. In an age where the ease of a text leads us to evade face to face conversation, social media profiles hold our precious identities, and every aspect of life moves rapidly, we need a pair of divine eyes to see the world with. “Remember that social media is an aspect of meaningful community, not a replacement for meaningful community.” As Rachel Macy Stafford states it in Hands Free Life, “be a Noticer.” Notice when someone is hurting, and offer your presence. Notice the unique qualities of a friend, and write them a note of praise. Notice the little toes wiggling in the stroller beside you on the subway. Notice the perfectly placed freckles lining your companion’s cheeks. Notice the way a father casts his line out, only to let his son reel in the big catch. Notice the magnitude of the mountains, the coalescence of the sunset’s hues. We’re missing it. Just like Bartimaeus: Lord, I want to see.

Be encouraged, encourage. Choose your influences wisely, staying connected with those that build you up spiritually. Do not be afraid to share your faith; social media is a major platform for ministry. Have fun, remain humble, and inspire people with what you share. Let us not be like the people scattered from Babel…“Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”-Genesis 11:4. If we’re making a name for ourselves rather than simply expressing ourselves for God’s glory, what kind of faith is that? Use the platform for good, and decide for yourself to eliminate the negative influences.

Monitor what your kids do online. You may think that since I’m a kid myself, I’m not qualified to instruct you on how to be a parent in any way. Well, first of all, I have a solid set of them to model for me what Christian parenting exemplifies. Secondly, I am a teenage girl. Whether posted publicly via social media, or sent in a private form of communication, I know what the issues at hand are. I have stumbled upon scarring things hidden on loved ones’ phones, witnessed them become engulfed by temptation and trapped there, feeling that they have no one to hold them accountable.

What if our little girls are given the first inkling of sex-education through content on their phones/ipods/etc., and further pursue information at their own hands? What if that put-together group of guys in youth group is struggling with pornography? What if your daughter is sending explicit photos to her boyfriend weekly? What if your son is constantly texting vulgarities to his friends or to young ladies? What if your best friend spends hours looking at other girls on Instagram, grieving over the body that she can’t have? Well it’s happening. You would be amazed at what your children are doing, parents. Wake up and set some boundaries. Talk about it.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

foundation firm, eyes up, time managed, influences positive, accountability offered.