Easy Love

“I’ll love if I’m in the mood.”

“I’ll love if they agree with me.”

“I’ll love if I gain from it.”

“I’ll love to get what I want.”

“I’ll love as soon as I get the last word in.”

 

This is what easy love looks like. Love is really thrown around, mostly masked with bitterness (ironic, huh?). I’ve seen these words displayed almost everyday in actions in public, on the news, and on social media. And the sad thing is this type of tainted love is covered in pride. I’m guilty of it; we all are now more than ever.

 

Maybe love isn’t as easy as we thought. Maybe Jesus was right; maybe we don’t have to agree to love one another. Maybe I really can love my enemies and pray for the ones who curse me (Matthew 5:43-44). Maybe my Facebook status feed of rants are wrong; maybe love takes wisdom to swallow our selfish nature and do uncomfortable, God-glorifying things.

 

And maybe—just maybe—the Church has poorly exemplified what it means to speak with both truth and love. You know, the kind that’s both decisive and unwavering, yet filled with grace. May the Church be the one who tells the world that disagreement does not mean hate. May we not only tell them, but also show them.

 

I’m starting to see the consequences of a society that’s used to having everything catered to “me” at the speed of light. Enough is never enough, and it’s turned us into a greedy, ever-growing monster. It’s making us selfish and ungrateful; it’s making us angry and hateful. We are disrespectful, scared, and unable to compromise. We have forgotten how to live with difference…not just tolerate it by harboring anger, but loving the differences and the people.

 

I have several challenges for you if you want a genuine love. This love is not easy, but it is pure freedom. So here they are:

 

  1. When you turn on the news, pray for the people you see.
  2. Respect authority. If it is your boss, if it is your teacher, if it is our President, each need prayer. And the best part is we don’t always have to be in agreement to show respect. And thank Jesus for giving us grace on the cross so we can show it to those that are harder to love and respect (Romans 13:1).
  3. Love even if you don’t feel like it (1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 5:46-47).
  4. Don’t add gas to the fire of arguments—YES, social media does count (Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 26:21).
  5. Speak with truth of the Word and love of God—neither all grace nor harsh condemnation (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
  6. Live life not by the flesh, but by the Spirit (Romans 8:5-11). Oh, it is so unlike the human nature, but there is freedom on the other side.
  7. Listen first (James 1:19, Ephesians 4:26).
  8. Be filled by Jesus daily (Luke 6:45).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not saying this is easy; in fact, it’s brutally harder day-by-day. But living for God is not easy. In a world that runs to violence to obtain freedom, let’s show them the right way. Let’s show them that love does not crumble, but it restores. May we not leave the world confused, but with their questions answered by God’s love.

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Close The Door Behind You

“Close the door behind you.”

 

It’s a common phrase that maybe you’ve heard when you’re leaving the house. Maybe it’s a simple-minded task to close the door when you rush out the door, but God reminded me that it’s not just for the daily rush. Sometimes we need to be reminded to close the door on the things we leave so we can walk into something new.

 

Transition is hard. I’ve had my share of change and transition in the past two years. I’ve learned to accommodate to the change; I’ve thrown my hands up on this roller coaster and embraced the ride because somewhere in between the huge drops there’s really fun parts to laugh. And if I’m honest, transition implies that I have to leave some great things behind. I don’t always want to do that, and I know I’m not alone.

 

Somewhere scrolling through social media, we’ve stumbled across cliché quotes that beg us to believe that there’s better things ahead for us. But it’s really hard to believe that when you are closing the door on your own plans that crumbled. You close this door in faith that God has a better plan than you can dream up for yourself.

 

I know of a few Israelites who looked back on the past and were wandering in the desert wishing away the very freedom that God gave them (Exodus 16). God gave them the very food they needed in order to move forward out of captivity, yet they were blind to God’s grace because they decided their way was better than whatever provision he was trying to give them. I don’t want to live like this. I want to be confident in my transitions from one door to the next. Sometimes it requires patience—a lot of patience. Sometimes it requires remembering that God is good, worth my trust, and a promise keeper.

 

I have no idea what type of transition you are in. I have no clue what amazing things you are forced to leave behind in this new season. But I do know one thing: if you dare shut that door behind you (to maybe some amazing things that make it hard to leave), God will surprise you. It’s hard to believe that our future can be as beautiful as some of the things we are leaving behind. But if you shut the door behind you and walk in faith, God will be right there to walk to the next place with you. Ask God to help you see the beauty in shutting that door—and leaving all of that (whatever “that” is to you personally) to stay behind you.

 

I know it is hard. But I can tell you it’s possible. Don’t be scared to leave the beautiful behind you to step into what God has next. God is good at making beautiful twice.

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Honest Hour

I have fallen into the trap of believing that whatever I write a blog post about, I have to have already perfected. This is such a lie, and it struck me as I read part of Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited this morning. We humans are a work in progress and it’s so important for us to admit that we aren’t perfect. More importantly, it’s important for me to admit that I do not have it all together, and I never want this to stop my ability to let God use my words through my imperfect heart. I do not have to master everything I discuss. And while God does a work in my heart with the things I post, He is ultimately the one who speaks through me. And sometimes, I am blown away at the things that come from the pen to paper because He is in control of the thoughts and words coming through my mind when I shut out distractions. I know I’m not the only one (pause to serenade Sam Smith for everyone) who feels this pressure from either myself or any other outside factor to have it together as a Christian. The danger is when we regard our appearance for people over what God sees (Galatians 1:10).

I can think of a couple people who made a mess and tried to look perfect on the outside: Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3, they both hid from God because they were afraid of honesty and being exposed. But I’ve learned that being exposed and vulnerable actually medicates the addiction of looking perfect on the outside. Let us face the reality that looking at our sin or shortcoming in the face is not pretty. But like Adam and Eve, healing comes after we face the ugly. When we realize we are messy, that we have poison on our flesh, and we have created a tangle of lies, God can redeem and restore. And He is really good at it.

Leading from a place of vulnerability is not a matter of complaining about your struggles in order that others can fill the gap for you; rather, it is about sharing the brokenness we all experience, and giving God the glory in the ways He is walking alongside you.

So, what are we supposed to do with this? How can we become vulnerable?

We admit that we cannot be perfect (1 John 1:8-9), and we accept God’s invitation to come close. Sometimes you might not have to look or listen too much in order to hear God. This is not the case for me in this season. I am in a place of being silent because God’s voice is a whisper. I am fine-tuning my ears because God is leading me in less obvious ways than I have been used to in the past year. Regardless of where you find yourself, we need to choose to accept the invitation to His presence in every single day. He invites us to come close (James 4:8). He is already here, but when we choose to come, it changes everything.

The very name of Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). What a fitting name for the God that lives inside our hearts and walks alongside our imperfections even when we mask them as perfections.

There are distinct moments when people in the Bible chose to accept the invitation of God to come near and He met them there. The common thread for each one: faith to show up and vulnerability to be seen through mistakes. God is showing me that vulnerability present tense; it is not vulnerability only after I have cleaned up my mess (or so I think). In order to expose my faults, it requires the faith to believe God’s grace loves me through this, and if you allow Him, He will meet you right in that mess and restore your soul.

 

But enough about my words. Try it for yourself.

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Good Grief: I’m Not Mad at God Anymore

It’s been one whole year without my mom. And I’ve decided that cancer sucks. It stole my mom’s health, and it eventually stole the presence of her life in everyone she knew.  However, it did not steal joy. Yes, it ripped the breath of happiness right out of each of our lungs when reports stated worse each time, but joy was always present. Peace was incomprehensible (Philippians 4:7). Only Jesus Christ himself could give that so graciously in the most devastating moments of life, whether “cancer” is a part of your vocabulary or not. Because the truth is, we’ve all faced loss of some sort: a job, friendship or relationship, loved one, home, or sense of normal. And Jesus paid to restore all of it.

 

In case you are unfamiliar with part one of this post, I was pretty angry with God in this very week last year. And as much as I hate grief, I am a different person than I was on July 29, 2015. God uses grief and loss to mold, sharpen, and fine tune the best in us. God does an amazing job at taking the most broken parts of our souls and restoring them back to health. This year has been the toughest of my life, but He has walked with me and my family through each moment. I’ve seen Him stay the same as He always has been. And I’m not mad at Him anymore.

 

Lessons learned about life and God after a year of grief:

  • It’s okay to be mad at God
  • But then work through it
  • It’s okay to question the goodness of God
  • Sometimes there are just no words
  • Comfort is 99.9% better than any advice
  • God uses people, so look
  • Jesus is truly enough to satisfy every need
  • It’s okay to skip English on a Tuesday for Starbucks with your best friend to cry instead
  • God does understand
  • Grief sucks
  • No, everything does not happen for a reason
  • No, God didn’t do this because He thought I was “strong enough to handle it” (my weakness equals His strength- 2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • God is Healer…on earth and heaven
  • He comforts the brokenhearted
  • He turns a mess into joy
  • Tears aren’t for the weak
  • Humanity was made for community
  • Family is a beautiful thing
  • Healing does not equal forgetting
  • Relationship with God shatters religion
  • Sometimes it’s hard to mutter “God is good”; lean into the questions
  • He cares so much that He’d walk with me in the darkest pit of my life
  • Thank God for Jesus’ death that paid for my joy
  • Cancer sucks. Cancer sucks a lot
  • So does death
  • Sarcasm is just enough to get you through
  • The pain of earth reminds us of the beauty of heaven
  • God will care for you; you might have to look harder right now though
  • His peace is truly dumbfounding
  • Now is not the time to expect a lot from yourself
  • You will make it through, but you can’t go around
  • Don’t waste precious days by worrying
  • God is not punishing you
  • God didn’t leave me
  • God isn’t afraid of your honesty…or your questions
  • Worship isn’t circumstantial
  • Life doesn’t stop for you to grieve; you have to multitask
  • Grief reveals the tender, gracious, loving heart of God
  • Sometimes tears are the best (and only) prayers
  • Counseling. Please save your life and go (sometimes your dog counts)
  • You can trust God despite the questions
  • “Why” is the beginning of faith
  • God loves you even if you’re mad
  • He has amazing plans to prosper your life–still (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

 

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Our Heaven on Earth

It really wasn’t until my mom passed away that I experienced the distance between heaven and earth. There is such a separation between the perfection of heaven and the brokenness of earth. I am thankful that my mom is experiencing the fullness of God, and she is whole and well in a perfect heaven we can only dream of until we experience it ourselves. I can’t help but wonder how perfect it must be, because we remain on an earth filled with sorrow, heartache, fear, uncertainty, and brokenness. Because I’ve become aware of this separation, I am hungry for the perfection of God. That’s what we long for. It’s the emptiness we feel when we’re lost; we need Jesus to fill it. I long for that closeness of God where I don’t have to experience a deep pain like we do on earth. Wars, bad test results, job losses, mistakes, and deaths. But because of Jesus we can experience heaven on earth.

 

We can be made whole, and we have an answer to that longing for God’s presence: Jesus. Though the world shakes with terrible news, diseases, tears, and heartache, we have the strength of God because Jesus Christ was heaven sent to earth. He flooded the earth with heaven and Jesus is the threshold to that paradise. How intimate that such a God would send Jesus to be the pathway for us. Jesus came as a tangible gift when he came as heaven in the form of flesh and bone. Even though we are made in the likeness of God, he came down to walk a life in the flesh; a man born into an unforgiving, selfish world who was willing to live among imperfection despite being perfect.

 

Jesus is the very threshold we enter to the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is heaven itself that entered the fragments of earth. Even you and I were born in a more dignifying way than he was. His humble arrival was less than perfect. No one could even make room for Mary to deliver the one who would save the world. But he accepted a life of imperfection. How loving of God that he would think up a solution to our mess by allowing Jesus to experience this painful world. He is the hope of the world, and he’s alive in us. Because of Jesus I can have the hope that heaven brings; a hope that breathes life into my dreams. I’m thankful that he didn’t leave us alone in our tangled mess; instead he left a tangible, human solution. His name is Immanuel. He is God with us, present with us on this desperate earth as living hope. With us (Matthew 1:23).

 

I’m forever thankful that my life is changed and I can live eternally in the presence of God all because He sent Jesus to our desperate and lonely earth that night. Eternity arrived in human form to be with us; what a reminder that we’re not alone. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to fill our hearts with any counterfeit versions of the wholeness heaven has to offer. Jesus is the wholeness we crave, and because he came to earth, we can access the wholeness in the middle of our struggles. What a Savior.

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The Unfair Love

Grace and love are topics that are often talked about in church (obviously, because it’s the gospel). But I have had the tendency to listen to the words without really understanding the full meaning in my heart. When we try to grasp the meaning of grace in regards to our own struggles in life and measure them against the sin that God pardoned for all mankind, we will be overflowing with gratitude.

 

Here’s the thing about God’s love: it does not hold out on us, it’s not passive-aggressive, it’s never small, but it is always daring, bold, and too vast for our understanding. Grace meets us right where we’re at. It takes us by the hand and leads us to deeper places that are hidden in God’s heart. It doesn’t keep us in the low places; rather, it tenderly loves us while we’re mending. Grace calls you “enough.” It says that even though God is completely aware of your sin, mistakes, trials, and flaws, you are unconditionally loved (all parts of you) infinitely more than you are capable of imagining. This grace isn’t fair; it’s not at all what we deserved. God knows this, and He still chose to love us instead of punishing us. This love isn’t broken; it’s whole and unchanging. My failures don’t stop his love, and yours don’t either. This love doesn’t force me, but instead leads me to living fully abandoned to God. I am radically changed by a love that could take a broken, shattered heart and mend it back together as if to never be broken to begin with. He knows each crack, bruise, and hole in my heart, and this makes him the best healer. I don’t want to fill these spaces with anything but the best remedy: God’s infinite love.

 

Grace gives me permission to not measure up. I can just call on the name of Jesus despite my mistakes and imperfection, and I’m forgiven. What an unfair love this is.

 

His love is so detailed and so intricate. He is so intentional in the way he loves. He sees you and He takes notice. He cares so deeply about you, about where you’re at, about what you care about, and about the journey you’re on. He didn’t miss or skip over you. Allow him to love on you. Allow yourself to feel His love. It’s the most compassionate love you’ll ever feel both in this life and in eternity. Grace and love are tenderly waiting for you; all you have to do is just ask for it.

 

Because I have God working in me, I am challenged to lend tangible grace and love to people so they notice that it comes from a well that never runs dry; this well can handle the scarcity of drought and it doesn’t worry about my natural inability to love. This well overflows. I’m in awe and wonder at the thought of a God who would repay my sin and wicked heart by spending eternity with him, handing me victorious freedom, and a spotless heart. I don’t want to abuse this grace by living in sin; but because of His wild love for me, I am drawn to this mysterious love, and I want it. He paid my sin back with a way out. What a beautiful, crazy, and unfair love.

 

When you’re going through trying times and your faith is shaken to the core, He is not punishing you. I don’t know why the terrible things happen aside from a result of our fallen world. But I do know He cares and He doesn’t like to watch you suffer. He endures the pain with you. He walks with you through the fire time and time again. The flames of that fire won’t even burn you (Isaiah 43:2). His love is all protecting; it’s a living shield of protection and help as you walk this earth.

 

I have no clue why God’s love saved us. He sent Jesus to bear the weight of the world’s sins. This didn’t take our human nature away, but it allows us to be completely pardoned and wiped clean of sin. In spite of our sinful nature, God still says we are forgiven and He loves us the way we are. Jesus is the way to eternity in heaven. Because he lived a perfect life, you and I don’t have to measure up. Because he paid for my sin, you and I don’t have to. What an unfair love this is. Thank you, God.

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What My Mom Taught Me About Worship

There are so many things my mom did for me, but the greatest thing she did for me was set an example for how to live for God. She not only told me how to pray and worship, but she showed me. It amplified my desire to instill this love in the people in my life, and eventually my own kids. We often think of worship as a song on Sunday. We can minimize worship when we compartmentalize it to only ten minutes worth of our Sunday dose of God. Worship is not just a few songs, but it’s how we live in our decisions, words, habits, and hearts. My mom lived the lifestyle of worship. But it wasn’t a path paved with a white picket fence, flowers, and bright sunshine; it was real life (the good and the bad). I found worship in every role she played: mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, and mentor. She was always an inspiration to everyone who watched, especially when it came to worship. But when she was diagnosed with cancer, her worship didn’t change. In fact, it increased and I saw her relationship with God dig deeper before my eyes. I saw her press into God in the middle of her questions, fears, wonders, confusion, and her worship taught me a few things:

  1. Worshiping Him comes first. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is in Martha and Mary’s home. We know that Martha is busy making preparations (this today might look like frantic stress of staying on top of what’s to come tomorrow). She becomes frustrated, but Jesus calls to her attention that Mary has chosen what is better: listening to Jesus’ words at his feet. Putting Him first looks different for everyone depending on certain seasons of life. You might not have an hour of quiet time, but find small moments in your day to make Him the priority of your life. When He’s not first, we’ll become distracted from our worship.
  1. Worship is not circumstantial. It’s easy to go through easy or hard seasons and not rely on God. We might go through good seasons and “not need” God, and it’s tempting to fill our empty spaces with physical things. In one of her journal entries, she wrote, “When we face struggles and challenges we can fight it, get angry, turn from God, or withdraw. God’s plan is for us to accept our circumstances and humble ourselves under His hand so that we take the pain, struggle, fear, and move into the position with our circumstance under God’s sovereign, loving hand. In this positioning we will experience peace in the middle of life. At the right time (God’s time), He will lift us up.” She walked this unconditional love for God out not only in her journey through cancer, but also in her life before the diagnosis.

 

I think of Paul and Silas when they worshiped in prison. I find it hard to wrap my brain around two men worshiping in prison (I think I’d be throwing myself a pity party and then jumping in a puddle of tears). But their chains were broken through their worship, and ours has the power to do the same. I’d chose to be made free over a pity party any day; and yes, that is easier said than done.

 

Even though she walked this life of worship my whole life (and before I was born), this past year was a bold chance for me to tangibly see this. My mom deepened her worship like never before during her walk through cancer. But in any type of hard season (whatever this looks like for you), it’s not enough to go through it with the same spiritual mindset you had in some of your best seasons. We have to fight harder and dig into God deeper. This not only gives Him glory during your hard seasons, but it also allows you to find a new strength in God like never before.

 

  1. Worship is authentic and transparent. Embrace the hard parts of life all because you can depend on God to pull you through each moment. The hard ones aren’t fun. Tell God. I believe this is the essence of worship: that it’s completely transparent, a mix of the human heart, and a godly soul. We can bring our raw emotions and bring our questions to God; we don’t have to pretend we aren’t humans with emotions and perfect days. There are days life is completely unfair, and being a Christian doesn’t mean we have to pretend that our unfair days are held together by perfection. Let me tell you, it takes a load off your shoulders when you take your God-given emotions to God. He meets you there. By living like this, we are giving God a chance to see right through us, but we are the ones responsible for presenting this authenticity, because He can already see those dark places of our hearts but He wants to mend them. We can come stained with sin and he purifies us. John 4:8 promises that we can take a step toward God and He meets us there and we can move forward, and not linger in our struggles!

Here are a few of my mom’s journal responses of authenticity:

“This morning is hard emotionally. Emotions of all of this just came at me. It all just stinks!! I don’t have hair. I am so ready to have hair. It gets consuming dealing with the side effects. I let myself cry more about it than I have before. I realized I have to give myself more of these times to grieve what I am going through.” (May 14, 2015)

“So many feelings and some just too hard to put into words. Thank you God I can pour out my heart to you. You take my thoughts and feelings and make them obedient to Your Word. You strengthen me in your grace to move on. Moving Forward!” (May 27, 2015)

  1. Worship is being thankful. This is the most valuable thing I could ever take away from my mom’s worship. This is what worship is: it’s thanking God for who He is. You’ll notice that if you list off things you’re thankful for, it shifts our focus off of ourselves and onto God’s wonderful provision for even the simplest things. Thankfulness literally invites the presence of God. My mom listed being thankful for the strength to go to Target in one of her journal entries. There is always something to be thankful for (also the most annoying statement to hear when your life is a mess), but I challenge you to not be surface-level with God. Find something that is truly meaningful. It is our greatest joy to give God glory because He is good.

We can also show thankfulness by being content. Philippians 2:14 tells us to Do everything without complaining or arguing. Discontentment with what God has in place in our lives right now will stop us from worshipping Him.

Thankfulness can also fuel our trust in God. When we step back and thank Him for the big and small things He’s doing in our lives, it allows us to see that He does care, and He does see us even when we feel unseen. We can rely on Him to care for us in our low places (Psalm 112:7).

  1. Worship is our choice. We know this, but it’s just difficult. And a lot of times it goes against our human emotions and desires. But if we take our selfish thoughts about everything that’s going wrong and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), we are gradually transforming the way our mind thinks (Romans 12:2). We are making worship what we run to instead of our natural human desires. As we choose to keep our natural thoughts and desires under the submission of the Holy Spirit, we are worshiping God. We have a choice to draw from our human strength (normally negative thoughts or stress), or we can draw from God’s almighty strength. It seems like a no-brainer when we compare those two options, but doing it is the real challenge. When we incorporate these ideas together in our walk with God, we’ll see our worship transform. And God delights in giving grace to us in our process.
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Harvest Time

Life is all about the seasons; some are good and some are bad. Sometimes we are hesitant to the change of a season, and other times it is embraced. As we immerse ourselves into fall, I’ve had seasons on my mind. They come like clockwork, and we all know the patterns: the weather starts to cool off (sometimes a little slower than I would like), and the leaves start to change color and fall off the trees. The trees go from lush, green, and full to dry, bare, and frail. We see this process and find beauty in the dry and barren trees, because we know that in just a few months the trees will flourish with new life and beauty. I want to look at my own life like this, but some days it is too hard to see the beauty in the empty parts of life. But we serve a God who faithfully turns our seasons over to new life and flourishes the barren places into beauty and restoration; He’s the one who creates rain after drought, and spring after winter. He’s the one who produces harvest after pruning.

Pruning is essential in plants. It removes the dead and broken areas and actually produces a greater harvest. Think of it as getting rid of the excess. It’s an essential step in growing, and spiritual pruning will beautifully mold us just as it does to a garden of roses. Though it does have a beautiful outcome, it’s the process that’s painful, uncomfortable, and confusing. It’s a process of development and faith in the new life to come. This new life is a full life that glorifies His goodness. He will delete the unhealthy areas that are harmful to growth and show decay, and give our fruitfulness better quality to the pruned areas. He rearranges the things that were once good for a past season, and produces the higher quality for what you are about to walk into. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:2).

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. We have little control over the grand scheme of our lives as well as the details that go into each day because sometimes life is just an unpredictable mess, but God divinely arranges the seasons in our lives. He’s never early and He’s never late, and He’s oh so detailed. We are sure to bear fruitfulness when God is the source of life that we draw from.

God is well aware of the season you’re in. It is part of your story, and it’s a carefully orchestrated plan. Maybe you’re in the best season of your life (harvest), or you find yourself in a difficult one (pruning). He’s got it all mapped out, and He is a very detailed and careful planner who has the harvest in mind. I know that we can embrace our process of pruning as we realize that God is faithful in what He starts, and He won’t leave us empty.

Get ready. Your harvest is coming.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

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Thanks a Bunch

I’ve learned quite a lot about thankfulness in the past year, and it’s changed my life. Whether in the middle of organized chaos or your mountain top season, thankfulness will turn your heart upside down, and you’ll realize God is actually fighting for you, that He keeps His promises, and that He sees you. We can be thankful because…

The Bible says to. This is our number one reason for living a sincerely thankful life. When our hearts are sincerely in awe of God’s character, we begin to realize that we don’t deserve the way He made through Jesus, which truly turns the attention to Him. Thankfulness is entirely about God, not ourselves. Our existence is to glorify God; our very nature of living our lives out for God is an act of thankfulness. It’s our pleasure to do the will of God, because we were made for it (Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 32:11).

It displaces fear. And when I say fear, I am also talking about its close relatives too (worry, anxiety, stress). When we are busy putting Philippians 4:6 into practice, we are spending more of our time trusting and relaxing in the faithfulness of God to carry us through. I want to be there. I used to fear trusting in God (ironic, yes) because it would put me out of my own control, and leave me available for plans and possessions to be ripped from my hands. On the other side of surrender, I can assure you that God is not out to get you, but He does in fact want to give you an abundance of life at a higher quality than what you’re currently clinging onto for dear life.

It increases your awareness of Him. Sometimes I feel like God has taken a lunch break on me; maybe He left and decided someone else’s prayers were more interesting. Or maybe He is right in front of me, holding my hand as I carefully maneuver through every moment. Thankfulness makes me aware of who God is: never changing and always faithful in the darkest, coldest, lowest valleys. It makes me aware that even in the middle of my sorrows, He provides peace, comfort, and joy; that is something to be thankful for at any time of life.

It destroys discontentment. Discontentment is a competitive, negative, and exhausting disease. It will nag at you, persuading you that nothing is good enough. A “nothing is good enough” mindset can apply to any area of our lives in more ways than one if we’re not careful to keep it in check. However, a thankful heart will recognize the blessings already around you, and you realize God is sustaining it all so you don’t need to strive to keep up. Living in discontentment will actually create a hurdle that keeps us from doing what God has called us to do (Philippians 2:14-15; 4:11). It becomes all about shifting our focus to God, rather than to the ever-changing stuff.

 

It creates peace. By being thankful, we are celebrating who God is. Philippians 4:7 says that when we combine prayer and thankfulness, peace will wash over our hearts. This peace goes beyond what we can even understand. Again, it is completely from God, and not anything we could do for ourselves. It removes anxiety, replaces it with peace, and opens the door for God to move in our lives because worrying in circles is long gone. His warm presence will be openly invited when you decide to be thankful.

It is surrender at its finest. “In everything,” is a little part I like to skip over sometimes in Philippians 4:6. But I want to help you out here: God is not asking you to be thankful for a bad day, week, or year. I’m personally not thankful for what I’m going through right now, but I am incredibly thankful at how God is holding my family and me up in the middle of the most outrageous time in our lives. He asks that in the middle of your toughest (or best) times, be thankful for all of it. It’s easy to question God’s plan sometimes. But just when you think He’s misguiding your steps, you realize He was graciously arranging you to fit His mold in a way you could’ve never dreamt up if you tried. By being thankful, we are also expectant for all that God has in store in seasons to come.

These are only a few reasons to be thankful, and your reasons will be beautifully personal to your own life. But I hope that when life rains on your parade, you have a little umbrella to keep yourself dry. Oh, and remember to use the umbrella when it’s sunny too.

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The Day I Was Mad at God

Now before you read the title of this post and get concerned, let me inform you that I love God with all my heart, but this is an extremely raw post.

As many of you may know, my mom passed away on July 29, 2015. It was a day I never imagined I would be walking through as I barely stumble into adulthood. I needed her to help me pick out my wedding dress, and I needed her to help me as I raise my children someday. Not only those things, but I needed her prayer, love, and advice as I do everyday. It’s not fair. So not fair.

A few things led up to the day that dramatically changed my entire life. I was just coming home from an insanely amazing trip, excited to share what I experienced at Bethel’s WorshipU; I was bursting with everything I learned about music, Jesus, and myself. I was excited because we would soon go on a family vacation to have a break from life, and we would have a sense of “normal” to our interrupted life. But a whopping four days later, we got heart-wrenching news that my mom’s cancer spread viciously to her liver (which was then pronounced stage 4), with multiple lesions attacking it. When my parents came home with this news, it felt like someone took my stomach and tried to wring it out. I’ve never hated cancer more in my life. More importantly, I’d never been so angry in my entire life. And that’s what caught my attention.

You know, I’ve never understood (even through the initial diagnosis) why people become angry with God. I always wondered why they were angry toward a God who loves them, cares for them, and is good. That day I knew exactly what people meant. Let me be even more honest: I felt like God was sitting down just watching me cry as His arms were folded. I got in my car and I screamed as loud as I could handle. It felt dark, it felt lonely, and I felt stranded. I thought God left me. But He never left me. He’s also not going to leave you.

In this moment, I was not thankful. These were raw emotions to be felt and given back to God as our family moved forward into the terrible days ahead. I had to make the choice to not become bitter at my circumstances. A very hard choice.

From there it was a hard, consistent battle between trusting in God, and not acting like my mom’s life was not being threatened by a disgusting disease. What a difficult balance. Our family’s verse ever since the diagnosis is Psalm 112:7 which reads, “They have no fear of bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” This verse became more stripped down than ever, because in the midst of bad news, God would guide our family through it. We could confidently trust God to care for us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, nurturer, and he’s with us everywhere we go at any moment that we call on the name of Jesus.

I know that my reasoning for being mad at God may not be the same as yours. I won’t pretend to try and know your reasons, because there are reasons very specific and personal to your life. But let me tell you something very important: God is not the source of your sticky situation. It’s not His will for your life to fall apart. It’s not His will for disaster, disease, loneliness, loss of a job, or whatever else you may be dealing with. All of earth’s beauty and order was destroyed the moment Adam and Eve ate the wrong fruit. But I’ve seen that God loves to turn things around for good, and He’s amazing at it (Romans 8:28) even if our “good” is not the same as His. He swings doors open that I couldn’t pry open for myself, and He closes doors to protect our paths.

It’s okay to be mad at God. He can take it because He’s pretty tough. It’s when we soak in our sorrow, wallow in self-pity, and remain in bitterness that we actually shut God out, making the problem far worse than it all ready is. Life is rough, and I know it’s excruciating when we don’t allow God to go before us. In as little as a week and a half, I’ve learned a few things that I hope will help you as you find yourself in a mess in this crazy life:

Remind yourself who God is. You may not believe the characteristics at the moment, but just do it. Write down all those verses that reveal God’s character. Remind yourself that He does see, He does care about details, and He does love fiercely. This is the perfect time for all your Sunday school memorizations to come out.

Acknowledge that your heart doesn’t line up with your head. Your head has all the Bible verses memorized, and it has the audacity to tell your heart that trials will increase your faith, but your heart doesn’t quite know if that’s honestly true. Your heart could care less about James 1 right now, and your heart doesn’t want to trust God. It’s this beautiful tension here on earth that we can bring these two areas of our being to the feet of Jesus, leave it there, and ask him to mend it. I’m learning that this is probably the most authentic form of worship.

Get into God’s presence. When you have no words, when you have no idea what to pray, worship. God’s presence changes your entire being the second He floods your space. All we have to do is call on His name and He comes running. Thanks Jesus for what you did on the cross for us. I don’t think we’ll ever say it enough.

Don’t power through and be “Mr./Ms. Super-Christian.” It is such a dangerous mask. The world is aching for authenticity, especially from Christians, and we cannot offer it if we are lying to ourselves about our emotions. Feel them and bring them to God. But please, I’m begging you not to mask your tender and real God-given emotions with a half-believed “God is good.” Get to the bottom of this so you can whole-heartedly believe it!

I don’t know what your situation is. But I hope these small amounts of realizations help you overcome your battles. The best part is God all ready won our battles, but we actually have to claim that over our life. Let’s claim it today.

“This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:5-8

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