Category Archives: Gospel

Joy, Where Are You?

Some mornings I can barely find the energy to get out of bed. I’m exhausted and worn out and in pain and I simply don’t want to do anything but lay there. This morning was one of those mornings. My alarm clock (AKA, my children) started screaming in my ears and I had to get up and face the world. Before I could even get out of bed, the girls were already dressed for church and chattering in their fastest, most excited voices about what they might do at church today. So, begrudgingly, I got up, showered, and got ready for church.
And I’m glad I did. 

We sang some of my favorite Christmas songs, which immediately lifted my mood a bit.

  

“I rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel.”

Today’s sermon was titled, “Joy” and based on Luke 2:8-20. My first thought, from anxious and depressed mind was, “oh great, joy. That’s the last thing I want to talk about right now.” But that’s exactly why I needed to hear it. 

Luke‬ ‭2:8-20‬ ‭ESV

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

So apparently, joy is command. My pastor opened up the sermon with that and all I could think was, “great, we’re starting the morning off with something I suck at.” But as he kept talking, I understood it more. God doesn’t want me to have fake joy, like the fake smile I tend to plaster on my face when I tell everyone I’m doing great. But God wants me to a real, genuine joy – the kind that only He can give me; the kind that comes from being awestruck by an amazing God. 

  

Let me be real here for a minute, the last few weeks I have been stuck in a cycle of sadness and feeling sorry for myself. I’m having brain surgery in four days and I’m scared – really scared, about all the “what ifs” and things that could possibly go wrong. I really haven’t felt much joy at all. I haven’t been praying. I haven’t been reading my Bible. I’ve just been quietly simmering with anger at God for not making me healthy. But the more I’ve ignored God, the worse I’ve felt. The more I’ve pushed Him away, the angrier I’ve gotten. My joy has been nonexistent.

I feel like an outsider in this world, like I just don’t belong anywhere. I have some wonderful friends and great church family – but often, I just feel different, like I don’t fit in with anyone. I feel lost. My pastor’s first point today was that joy is for the outsiders. We explained how God sent His angels to the shepherds, of all people. He could’ve sent the angels to someone powerful, like a king or ruler, but He didn’t. He sent them to shepherds – to the outsiders. 

In the same way, in our current society, God doesn’t come only for the “insiders.” He doesn’t come just for the powerful and popular – He comes for the outsiders. But here’s the thing, if you really think about it – we’re all outsiders. None of us in this world are insiders; we are all OUTSIDE of Heaven. And my pastor made a good point, even the people who I look at and think have it together and appear to fit in so well – even they struggle with feeling like outsiders, it simply part of being human. And we all feel like no one else feels the way we do so none of us talk about it; but if we did, we would know we weren’t alone. 

  

So in acknowledging that others feel like outsiders as well and many of us never speak of it, how well do I reflect God to others? How well do I reflect God’s love to those who feel like they don’t belong?

The second point that my pastor made today was that joy comes from Heaven. We don’t create joy from within ourselves. I can be sad or depressed or going through a rough time and still feel joy in my heart. God is perfect and Holy and separate from us, but He is also imminent and close through Jesus. 

The glory and power of God reassuring, but it should also leave a healthy fear in us. When the angels came to the shepherds, they were scared because they felt unworthy of their holiness. But the angels told them not to be afraid, for they had new that would bring great joy. The birth of Jesus brings us joy by reminding us that even though we may be going through a rough time now, even though we’re scared, even though we feel lost, even though life is hard – a savior has come to save us. 
How much different would my life be if I believed, I mean rally believed deep in my heart, that Jesus came down from Heaven for me? 

  

Lastly, my pastor touched on having joy in the valley – this was, I felt, the most fitting part for me today. I’ve had “mountaintop experiences” – times where God’s love and glory are so apparent that I am in awe and filled with joy. The goal is to live out the joy from those mountain top experiences while we’re in the valley. God wants me to treasure His words in my heart and live my life in faith. It doesn’t sounds THAT difficult. But when you’re in the valley, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative – the fear, worry, pain, and anxiety. But God calls us to remember the things we know to be true, to remember the mountaintop, remember what His closeness feels like – those are the things that will bring us joy in the valley. 

Each day that God gives me in a gift and I should rejoice in every day – even the days when I’m in the valley. 

So let me rephrase my current thoughts and worries…

  

I’m having brain surgery in four days. I may be scared, but even if the worst happens – if I were to die, I would go Home to Jesus and have no more pain. If it’s successful, I will stop going blind and my vision will be saved. If something goes wrong and I come out of surgery with some type of disability, God will use that to glorify Him. I am scared and I really don’t want to go through with it. But just like He always does, God has me in the palm of His hand and whatever happens will not be a surprise to Him, He already knows and He will care for and provide for me no matter what.

I simply need to trust Him and find my joy in Him, not in this world.

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For Those Who Don’t Understand

Living with a mental illness can often be a living hell. Before you try to tell me I’m being dramatic, you should reasses how you view mental illness. The name, in and of itself, says ILLNESS. It’s not a choice I make. I don’t CHOOSE to be depressed. I don’t CHOOSE to be anxious. I don’t CHOOSE to be emotionally unstable. And yet, I am all of those things.  

 I know many people who, although they mean well, simply don’t get it. I’ve been told, “just be happy,” or “stop worrying,” or “can’t you just calm down,” or “just be normal, like everyone else.” The problem with all of these statements is that it completely invalidates who I am and what I feel. What if you told someone with a broken leg to just get up and walk? Unless you’re Jesus, you just sound like an idiot. Same concept.  

 My feelings, while you may not understand them (and don’t worry, because I often don’t understand them either), are just as legitimate as yours. My life might look okay from the outside, so you can’t understand why I feel the way I do. But on the inside, I’m a mess of emotions and chaos. You may not understand my overwhelming fear of being in large crowds or my tendency to completely shut down when I’m upset, but that doesn’t make it any less real. 

We live in a world that caters to healthy people. But when you’re healthy, you don’t realize how true that is. Until you’ve fought a war against yourself, every day of your life, you can’t understand how hard it is to function in a world that isn’t made for you. 

 I’m tired of being ashamed and trying to hide my mental illness. Because you know what, Jesus loves me even with my self-harm scars and anxiety and watery eyes and depression and PTSD and my inability to focus – He loves all of me. And if Jesus isn’t ashamed of my mental illness, then why should I be. 

So next time you meet someone who seems a bit more anxious than you think necessary or more sad than you think they should be, try having some compassion instead of judgement. Those of us with mental illnesses feel our emotions – whether happy or sad, on a much deeper level than most.  

 We’re not trying to make your life more difficult. We’re simply trying to get through life the only way we know how. 


Expect the Unexpected

It’s so frustrating when life takes an unexpected turn that you weren’t prepared for. This past week has been a rough one for me – for our whole family. Emotions are swirling around me in a chaotic whirlwind and I’ve simply been trying to keep my head above water.

Over this past weekend, we had to make the very hard decision to put down our precious puppy dog. He’s such a sweet boy and we love him dearly. He’s great with the kids and he’s so loving and affectionate and we are so heart broken to have to say good bye.

After spending most of Sunday in tears over having to make this decision, Monday turned out to not be much better.

Monday, my husband called me to inform me that he was going to be deploying soon…VERY soon. My heart sank and I felt as if I had been punched in the gut. It was like someone had reached into my chest and literally stolen the breath right out of my lungs. I sat in my car and sobbed as I was just overwhelmed by fear. I called a friend, and I’m pretty sure she probably had a hard time understanding me through my hysterical sobs. I tend to live and die by my emotions, so I’m very thankful for friends who are willing to interrupt my chaotic feelings with truth and reason (even though I would never admit that to them).

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Now that I’ve calmed down over the initial shock of re-entering into a season of deployment, I’m beginning to understand the importance of the mission my husband is being called to do…even though I don’t like it one bit.

So then, yesterday, I went to see my surgeon for a follow up from my sesamoidectomy, almost 8 weeks ago. He is pleased with my progress and how well my foot in healing. However, I also had an ingrown toenail (in the surgery foot) that had to be cut out. I also had some concerns about some pain I was having on the top of my foot and he told me that, because I am have been walking on the side of my foot instead of evenly distributing weight through my foot, I am quickly on my way to a stress fracture if I don’t correct my gait – so I’ll be starting physical therapy next week. And if that’s not enough, he also told me that because of the drastic instability of both my ankles, he wants me to consider a brostrom procedure on both ankles to help stabilize them. I’m a bit anxious about the thought of another surgery, but I’m considering it because if I go through with it, I will be able to run again without such a high risk of injury.

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So life this week has been chaotic and I’ll be happy when things settle down. But I’m also very thankful for where I’m at and where I’ve been and how God is going to use me from here.

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The Author of My Story

Truth: I really didn’t want to go to church this morning. I got woken up early this morning and by the time it came time to get ready for church, all I could think was how much I didn’t feel like being around people. I’ve been in a slump lately. It’s been a crazy roller coaster of ups and downs and it has left my emotions feeling strung out and tired.

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So I went to church anyway. I sucked up my anxieties, packed the kids up in the car, and we went. I sat in the same spot I always do and I stared down at my phone in my lap in hopes that no one would try to talk to me. My motto: don’t make eye contact with anyone.

Then we started singing. Worship always softens my heart. It’s impossible to honestly worship God and NOT feel something.

“Lift us up, for we are heavy laden,
only need and brokenness we bring.
You alone can rescue us falling
We are weak, but You are strong
Lift us up.”

Those words rang so true in my heart as I sang them. I was singing out to a mighty God to lift me up. I often feel like I’m falling, like I’m going to crash and burn in the rubble of my sin and I know that only He can lift me up.

My pastor is doing this series through Galatians right now. Last week, if I’m totally honest, I didn’t go to church because I had read the passage that he was going to be preaching on and it was so very applicable to my life that I REALLY didn’t want to hear the sermon on it because I knew it would leave me feeling convicted about my secret sins. So this morning’s sermon was titled “God Centered Story” and one of the first things he asked was, what centers us and guides us? (I’m paraphrasing from my notes, of course). Clearly, the good, Christian answer to that question is God…and that’s what I wish my answer was. But if I’m totally honest, what centers and guides me in life is my desire to avoid dealing with or feeling my emotions. If I’m totally honest, I don’t really trust God with my life.

We all have different stories. We all come from different backgrounds and have different biases, but for believers in Christ our stories all share one very big similarity – we were wrong and God intervened. God is the author of our stories. He is writing a beautiful story from the ashes of my life.

My story began almost 27 years ago. My story has taken me through joy and grief, happiness and sadness, blessings and curses. My story has led me to do whatever I could do to find immediate relief from my pain. But one big lesson I have learned is that Jesus is WAY better than any of the immediate relief that I have searched for. Jesus is so much better than trying to bury my emotions deep inside my heart. Jesus is infinitely better than any of the “quick fixes” that I come up with on my own. Jesus is so much better and I am NOT the only one who struggles to trust Him.

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God knew me before I was born…I really struggle with this concept. I have always wondered, if God really knew me before I was born, if He really knew my life before it happened, then why did He give me life knowing how much pain I would experience. But I am not God and who am I, as the created, to question the Creator. He chose ME! Me, a broken and wounded sinner – He chose me. He knew that I would walk away from Him and deny Him on countless occasions, but He still chose me. He called me by His grace. I have nothing to bring to Him, just like the song says, “only need and brokenness” I bring. But somehow it pleased Him to show me grace.

You see, if you’ve followed this blog for very long or if you know me at all, I’m sure you know that I tend to shy away from asking for help. I tend to convince myself that I can make it through life on my own accord without God’s help…now, clearly, we all know I’m wrong. Doing life on my own leaves me dead and isolated in my sin. I get scared and trapped by the shame and guilt of my past. But in His infinite grace and mercy, He searches me out and saves me every time (see Luke 19:10).

I get frustrated with God quite frequently because I don’t think my story looks the way it should. I don’t like the way my story has been written. But God didn’t ask me for my editing suggestions.

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I am still in the middle of my story. Pastor Dave used the analogy of doing a flip-turn (as in swimming). Being that I am a former swimmer who loved doing flip-turns, I very much loved this analogy. My story is still in progress. God, the Author, knows how it will end. My choice at this point is to trust that He loves me. This is where I can make a flip-turn and trust His grace. This is where I can let the love of Jesus direct me through the rest of this story.

On my own I am nothing, I have nothing. But with God, I need nothing. With God, I am much stronger than I think I am. I can quit turning to those things that have kept my secrets hidden. I can bring my secrets into the light and let God use those as a part of my story. He can, and He will, use my story to bring others to Him.

Like Joseph said Genesis, what you meant for evil, God will use for good. God never wastes a hurt. He is spinning all the ugliness and hurt in my life into a beautiful story centered on His grace, mercy, and love.

I’m not perfect. I struggle daily. But the Author of my story knows what He’s doing and I will trust He knows more than I do.

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Jesus, I Need You

You ever have one of those days where the enemy feels the need to remind you of every bad thing you’ve ever done in your life? Yup, today was one of those…this was my response – I had a talk with Jesus.

Jesus, I Need You
Here I stand broken
I’ve got nothing to bring
I’m holding on to the lies
Like a cat on a string
I’ve pierced my own skin
And denied Your truth
I’ve gotten lost in my mind
And I let go of You
Jesus, I need You

My stomach is empty
Poison courses my veins
My body is fading
I can’t handle this shame
You say You can reach
All the way out to me
But I feel just one step
Too far to be free
Jesus, I need You

If You know my heart
You know my evil thoughts
I once held on to You
But I let go and I’m lost
I’m trying to fight
The lies and temptations
But few things can compare
To power of starvation
Jesus, I need You

My sin is enclosing
Around my every side
The truth is fading
While I cling to the lies
I worthless and useless
You’ll never love me
The voices keep screaming
That You can’t save me
Am I too far gone
To receive Your grace
Your love and Your mercy
I’m just a disgrace
Jesus, I need You

I’m crying to You
As loud as I can
My ground has been shaken
And I can no longer stand
My voice, it cracks
As I beg You to answer
Because, Lord, if You don’t
My heart won’t endure
If You can’t save me
I have nothing left
The only choice I will have
Is to end it in death
Jesus, I need You

Then I heard Him…
“Daughter, You have me.
I’ve always been right here
So let me confront you with truth
In the midst of your fear
You are faced with two choices
Only you can make
You can wallow in pity
Or admit your mistakes
It comes down to one question
Do you believe
That I died on a cross
Nails in my hands and feet
I was scared too
Just like you are now
But even then I loved you
Enough to pour my blood out
You could never pay
The price of your own sin
My death on that cross
Is the only way You’ll see Him
I conquered death
And I took on satan
So that you could be free
From this life you are living
So tell me, is that enough
For you to trust
Will you stop fighting
And just give it up
Or are you gonna tell me
That my death was in vain
That I died on that cross
Just to feel the pain
I died for you
So that you could live
I’ve made your heart new
You’ve been forgiven
I didn’t deserve
The death I received
It was meant for you
But I took it on Me
So don’t you yet see
That I want to help you
If you’ll give me your hand
Just trust that I can rescue
You must make a choice
So what will you choose
My arms are always open
Just waiting for you.”

Jesus, I am so sorry
For my doubt and control
Please take it all
My heart, mind, and soul
I need you to heal me
I need your strength
I’m scared and confused
But I’ll trust what You say
Jesus, I need You


7-in-7 Day 5: Almost Within Reach

I want to tell a story
Of the power of grace
You may not believe it
But I’ll tell it anyway
At one time I thought
I could be good enough by myself
I didn’t need Jesus
Or anyone else

You see, not long ago
I was lost in this world
Broken by shame
I was a scared little girl
A smile on my face
Would tell the world I was fine
But the shame in my heart
Would tell me that I’m lying
I had endured abuse
And tried to take my own life
I had heard talk of God
But didn’t believe the hype
If He was so great
Why were my arms lined with scars
If He was so loving
Why was I falling apart

So I just kept on reaching
For the next thing I would need
To be happy, find peace
As I watched my soul bleed
At some point I would find it
Joy, love, and peace
If I would only try harder
It was almost within reach

“Almost within reach”
That’s a funny thing to say
It means the same thing as
“It’s too far away”

My mind was convinced
That I could fix all my problems
I didn’t really need to face it
In order to solve them
I could push them away
And ignore the burning pain
That rose in my heart
With the break of each day
It was almost within reach
I had almost achieved it
I was almost enough
I really couldn’t believe it

“Almost within reach”
Means I’d still fall on my face
When I jumped out to grab it
I’d land in a pool of mistakes
If I had only tried harder
If I had just been better
I’ll reach it one day
I’ll just try over

What was I reaching for?
What did I want to achieve?
Every time I thought I made it
I still landed on my knees
Peace, that’s what I wanted
Peace in my heart
Peace that would stay
In spite of my scars

That’s when I met grace
It was “almost within reach”
Almost, but too far
So God reached out for me
He said, “this is yours,
Stop trying to earn it.
Let me love you where you are
And you can have it.
You are a sinner
You can’t be good enough
But if you’re willing to see it
I’ll show you true love.
Look at the cross
And the love that was shown.
My Only Son gave His life
To make you my own.
To you, new life is given
It is freely yours
Only because Jesus died
To conquer the war.”

New life, grace, mercy?
What exactly did that mean?
Could I really stop trying?
Could I really “just be”?
The answer was yes
That’s all He wanted from me
God simply wanted
To give my soul peace

“Almost within reach”
Was always a lie
Peace couldn’t come
From clinging to my life

I don’t pretend to understand
Why God is who He is
I can’t fathom His greatness
All I need to know is this –
I’m not who I was
His grace changed my heart
Jesus loves me, He saved me
And He’s healing my scars
Day after day
His mercies renew
And day after day
I find peace in the truth


7-in-7 Day 3: Safe

Safe
Do you ever feel like you’re drowning
Under the weight of your choices?
And you just want to ignore
The condemning voices
You want freedom from sin
But your too afraid to let go
What if living this way
Is better than the unknown?
If you’re not in control
You don’t know what comes next
But at this very moment
You could take your last breath

Let me tell you this truth
And just let it sink in
You’re not in control of your life
Without God, you can’t win
You can’t save yourself
You can’t try hard enough
Doing it on your own
Will leave you giving up

So give up, it’s okay
That’s all God asks for
Give Him the life that you have
And He won’t ask for more
Your sins and mistakes
He will take those away
If you’ll only commit
To doing life His way

It’s easy in theory
Harder in action
To let go of your own will
And trust in His salvation
He knows what you need
He won’t settle for less
And knows you’re a sinner
And your life is a mess

But still He loves you
Just as much as before
He’s still there waiting
Gently knocking your door
He just wants you to open
Let Him into your life
He already knows you
So remove your disguise

Trust in the grace
He pours out every day
When you’re falling, let go
Just let Him keep you safe

Background: I’m tired of being the old me…the me I don’t want to be anymore…the me that hates myself…I choose to believe who God says I am and to rest in Him to find safety!


All I Need

God is all I need; I know that. But I am still scared of this world. I am tired of this world – the pain, heartache, sickness, and death. I’m ready to go Home, to my eternal Home where death is no more.

Sometimes life seems so surreal. It’s so hard to fathom the things that happening right now. We always think these things can never happen to us – until they do. My family shed many tears in the last 36 hours with the diagnosis of my sister’s brain tumor. We are all scared and wondering why and how this happened.

I can’t answer any medical questions. I don’t know why and I don’t know how. I don’t know what the outcome will be and I don’t know how we will all hold up through it all. All I do know, the only thing I have to hold on to when life hurts this much, is that God is with us. He is here. He has a plan. And He is active through all of this, even though we may not see it.

I need grace for every day. Some days I need more than others, but He ALWAYS gives me exactly what I need to keep on keeping on. So yes, I am scared, terrified even, of what the future of our family will look like, but I am trusting the One who holds my heart. I trust that no matter what happens, His grace will always be enough.

All I Need
In times like this when I can’t see
All I have is hope in Thee
I’m letting go and falling hard
I need to know You’ll catch my heart
I’m trusting you to be right here
With your love to calm my fears
I need Your arms stretched out to me
Embrace me now and let me see

Walking blindly through the rain
The grip of love holds my pain
I’m scared, I’m desperate, I’m confused
Waiting to see what You will do
The only One who’s conquered death
Gives me hope for every breath

Life is hard, I want to flee
And all I have is rest in Thee
I lay my life here at Your cross
And trust in You to find the lost
Fighting this world all by myself
Leaves me crying out for help
I’m exhausted of all my strength
And trusting in Your priceless grace

Walking blindly through the rain
The grip of love holds my pain
I’m scared, I’m desperate, I’m confused
Waiting to see what You will do
The only One who’s conquered death
Lifts me up to give me rest

Hear me now, hear every plea
All I want is peace in Thee
In the chaos of this place
Help me now to seek Your face
Your love all I’ll ever need
I’m crying out on bended knee
Though it seems like it’s the end
You are there at my defense

Walking blindly through the rain
The grip of love holds my pain
I’m scared, I’m desperate, I’m confused
Waiting to see what You will do
The only One who’s conquered death
Gives me peace, He’s never left


Who am I: Loved in the Son

Yesterday’s sermon was a great reminder of things that I REALLY need to remember right now. I need to be within the protection of Christ to be able to do the things that God calls me to do. I may not be able to see how it could possibly get things done by my abilities and knowledge but if He calls me to do something, He will also provide a way for me to do it.

Philippians 2:13 – for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Recently, I have felt God’s call in my life. I have felt moved to do things that I wouldn’t have done before because of my severe introversion. But since I’ve hidden my life in Him (Colossians 3:3 – For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.), He has transformed my mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still broken, but I think I’m just more happy about it because I know I’m loved through it.

God sees me as more beautiful than anything I could ever imagine. He adopted me as His daughter because He loves me, not because of ANYTHING I have done. And because of that, He can do great things through me.

Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

Apparently, in the Greek, redemption literally means the price of freedom. The first century Jews would’ve thought back to the Exodus when they thought of redemption because God redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. But what the New Testament is pointing towards is that we still have a need for redemption even if we’re not physically in bondage to slavery. We are in bondage to sin.

We are not everything God created us to be because of our bondage. We are broken and bent and tied down by our own sin, and often times, we don’t even know it. In fact, if we think we have it all together, it’s harder to recognize our own sin and brokenness that has us in bondage.

We all sin, which means to miss the mark, and we all have trespasses, which means to deliberately do something you shouldn’t. But the glorious part about that is according to the riches of his grace. He renews up daily and one day at a time He is liberating up from our sins. In Jesus Christ, I no longer have to be a slave to my sin. I now have the power to walk away from my own evilness because of Him.

Jesus is like a protective big brother who wants to pull you out of the pit you’ve fallen in to, but once He’s gotten you out, He wants to continue to keep you safe by hiding you within Himself.

For a long time I didn’t realize that I was in bondage to my own sin, I just thought that it was other people who needed to fix their problems and then my life would be perfect. I didn’t understand how deeply my own slavery to sin was a part of my life. But I have learned A LOT over the past year and have gained wisdom and insight that I before didn’t have. I’ve learned passing the blame doesn’t make things better, it just makes me bitterer and if I want to live a peaceful life and be able to love other people I need to accept the blame for my own sin. I can’t love others very well if I am busy blaming them for my sin.

Ephesians 1:8-9 – which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

Because we are in Him, we have all the wisdom and insight we’ll ever need. Wisdom is basic life principles and insight is everyday practical knowledge of how things work. At a foundational human level, Jesus has taught of all we need to know in life.

When I first started coming to my church and getting involved, I was terrified. I thought I didn’t belong or that I wouldn’t be accepted. I felt like I didn’t understand anything. It seemed like everyone was so happy, and I didn’t know I wasn’t. I was terrified.

When Paul uses the word mystery in this verse, he is turning the word totally upside down from what people would’ve used it for during the 1st century. Back then, mystery referred to a secret society where you have to be initiated and welcomed in to have the inside knowledge of how it worked. That kind of reminds me of like a sorority. In college, I joined a sorority. It was my sister’s sorority and I was a legacy so they had no choice but to accept me. But generally, the sisters would decide whether or not they liked a person before inviting them in. I really didn’t understand much about it and I was a bit confused in the beginning. I wasn’t really sure if I fit in. Then there was initiation and after that the secrets were revealed to me and I realized I still felt like I didn’t fit in.

I am socially awkward…yup, I’ve admitted it. It’s out in the open now. I think this just might make social engagements even more awkward now that people KNOW I’m awkward. But I’m confessing it anyway because I am loved regardless because of who I am in Jesus Christ and not because of my social awkwardness.

I have, for about as long as I can remember, been terrified of social situations, of large crowds of people, of saying the wrong thing, and/or of doing the wrong. But I think this all boils down to the fact that I’ve ALWAYS been afraid of rejection. For me, rejection has always seemed like the worst type of pain imaginable.

So often, I have felt like I wasn’t a part of the “in crowd” because I didn’t understand or know the dynamics of the group or I wasn’t the same as everyone else (similar to how I felt with the sorority). But the cool thing is that in Heaven, none of that matters. Through Jesus bloodshed on the cross, the mystery is revealed to us and God invites everyone in. God doesn’t pick and choose who he likes, like a sorority does, and He doesn’t tell anyone their too broken to get in. Instead, if we accept Jesus and have faith in Him, we are invited into a new inner circle. There’s no need for social awkwardness here (oh, how I am looking forward to that day).

There’s a security in knowing that I am accepted by God. I am still painfully introverted, however, I’ve also learned to accept that it doesn’t matter what crowds I am or am not a part of because ultimately, I am a part of God’s crowd. I’ve been educated and initiated into His inner circle.

Ephesians 1:10 – as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Christ IS God’s plan. It is through Him that God is bringing everything together.

My pastor taught us all a cool new word yesterday that I’d never heard before: danuma. It means the resolution of all things. I like it 😉 Jesus is the danuma. He is the resolution. Every story needs to have an ending and if the ending doesn’t make any sense, the story wouldn’t be very good. God doesn’t write bad stories, so His story ends with Jesus bringing everything together in Him.

This concept of everything coming together for good seems to be showing up quite frequently for me lately. Which I am glad about because I truly need the reminder right now. It is extremely comforting for me to know everything will come together in Him and for His glory. But the truth everything is coming together in Christ should leave us in awe at wonder of Him.

Other people should be able to see Him in our lives. Before I was a Christian, I thought all those Christian people had perfect lives that were neat and put together and that they never had any problems. Boy, was I wrong!! Our lives are just as messy and broken as the lives of non-Christians, but the difference is that because of Jesus Christ, we have a hope and joy that they don’t. We always want other people to see us doing good things, but we also need to let them see us fail as well. People need to know that we’re human just like they are and that we fail too.

Bottom line of all this: there is refuge in Christ and it is only being protected in Him that will get us through whatever we’re facing. We are not perfect, in fact we are pretty far from it, but in Him, we are loved and protected and He will never leave us.


Loving the Unlovable

Let’s face it, we’re not very lovable. And by we, I mean the whole human race. We’re cruel, bitter, resentful, angry, hurtful, and whole other slew of adjectives that I could use to describe us. Even on our best days, we’re still pretty crummy people. Even when we think we’re pretty good, we’re not!

Isaiah 64:6 – We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

We are all sinners, I don’t care how good of a person you think you are, you’re still a sinner (I’m sorry if that sounds judgmental. I’m not judging, I’m just stating the truth). God is so perfect and holy that He can’t even be the in the presence of our ugly sinfulness. We all have days where everything is going right, we’ve done great, productive, helpful things, we’ve served others, and we feel like we’ve made a great difference in the world. And we need to remember, that even on those great days, we are still infected with sin and still not good enough to get into heaven.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying we’re all horrible people and there’s no hope for us so we might as well just give up now. On the contrary, what I’m saying is the exact opposite. What I’m saying is that we are sinners and without justification for our sins, we can never be right in the sight of God. That justification comes from our faith and belief in Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In small group we’ve been studying 1 John and last night the passage really struck me. At first, when I read it I was thinking about how it really applied to some people in my life. But then, as we were discussing it I had a shockingly convicting realization that it applied to me as well (talk about a damaged ego and a harsh reminder of my selfishness).

1 John 2:9-11 – 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

So going back to my initial statement in this post, we are not lovable. I have quite a few people in my life who I tolerate and I “love” them when I have to. But it’s not real, unconditional love. It’s an “I really don’t know what to say or how to act because I don’t want to be mean, so I’m just going to pretend” kind of love. And I’m pretty sure that kind of love is frowned upon. We can say that we know Christ all we want and we can have a lot of really good theological knowledge, but unless we love others we are just blowing smoke.

Verse 11 sacres me, the thought of becoming so desensitized to my own sin that I can’t even see where I am headed…it makes me shudder. It’s really easy to convince myself that I shouldn’t have to go out of my way or be inconvenienced by loving someone who I can’t stand and who admittedly doesn’t want much to do with me. But that’s exactly what God calls us to do…and to be honest, I wish it weren’t so dang hard!!

Matthew 5:46 – For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

One thing that really struck me during our small group discussion last night was that it’s either love or hate. There is no grey area in this one. There are a lot of things that are not clear cut and black and white. I generally see this world as having a lot of grey area, so to acknowledge that there are things that are only black and white kind of scares me. Ultimately though, it’s pretty simple, if you are not loving someone, if you only “like” them or claim to be indifferent to them – you are hating them. If you are avoiding someone, don’t want good for someone, or want evil for someone, you are hating them.

We’re pretty unlovable, and yet God still love us unconditionally. So what’s stopping us from loving other people?

Early in my Christian walk, when I realized that I am supposed to love as Christ loved, I was really kind of offended in a way. I was angry that I was supposed to love as Christ loved because He was perfect and I am not so much, so how could I EVER be expected to love as He loved?

Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I am not perfect like Him and I won’t be until He brings me home. However, it is no longer me who lives but He who lives in me. So where I once couldn’t do things like love others, I now can because of His spirit inside of me. I have the power to love people who drive me bonkers and to share Christ with people who I would really rather not. Why? Because He first loved me. I know enough about myself that I am pretty unlovable, and somehow, He loves me anyway. It’s not about me anymore, but rather about sharing His love with everyone else.

So what’s my excuse? Ultimately, I don’t have one. I am lazy and selfish…which is just another reminder of how much I need Christ.


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