Embrace Your Curves

Embrace Your Curves

So there I was, chopping fruit and vegetables. Meal prep for the week at 8:00 pm. It was raining and dark outside my screen door. I was alone with my thoughts, a rare and treasured gift, all you moms know! As I diced peppers and cauliflower and sliced strawberries and grapes, I noticed the only straight lines to be found among the produce were the ones my knife left behind.

Such random thoughts seem to come to us in the midst of our most menial tasks, don’t they? I know this is true for me. But that solitary idea got me thinking. About nature. About the things God makes. It dawned on me: God rarely uses perfectly straight lines in creation. He seems to prefer using curves and slopes, rolling hills and rough borders. In a world untouched by humanity, I doubt you’d find many unbent edges at all.

Think about that for a second…

The earth. Galaxies. The sun, moon, and planets. Trees and flowers. Continents and coastlines. Rivers and oceans. Animals. The contours of the human body. Fruit. Vegetables. The list goes on…not a lot of razor sharp perimeters to be found.

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This realization stunned me, floored me really. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

You see, I thrive when things are in order. I’m a rule-follower by nature. I like knowing what to expect. I hate super curvy roads, but give me a highway that stretches straight out to the horizon and I breathe a sigh of relief. My favorite angle is a right angle (yes, I think about things like this). There’s something about the crispness of two objects intersecting at ninety degrees that just washes over me and gives me peace.

We humans have an interesting habit of creating the linear and perpendicular. It’s like we crave order in the midst of our chaos, and so the free forms of nature get interrupted by the slicing edges of our buildings and infrastructure. Ever look out the window of an airplane? From thousands of feet in the air, it’s undeniable just how much of a mark we have made. Our grids and patterns are in stark contrast to the clusters and curves of nature.

Calendars. Neighborhoods. Roads. Houses. Lines. Lanes. Rows. Grids. Control. Plans. Everything in its perfectly-angled place. We create rigid, unmoving, hard and fast rules. We think we need alignment to survive.

But here’s the thing…God doesn’t operate within the straight lines we’ve etched out for ourselves. He’s comfortable with our disarray. He watches us scurry around trying to make sense of our lives. He already sees what’s around each next bend. And He is not afraid.

One of the most adventurous things I’ve ever done is ride on the back of a motorcycle. Actually, it was a dirt bike. Motorcycles give me a heart attack! The first time I climbed on behind my husband and he took off, I was terrified. But as we rode, he taught me to follow the direction of his body, to lean with him around every corner. If I forgot and tried to tilt myself in the opposite direction, I could have easily caused us to crash. So over time, I learned to mirror my body to his. When he leaned right, I leaned right, even though it didn’t make sense to me how putting myself so precariously close to the blacktop was the correct thing to do.

The same is true with Jesus Christ. Once we climb onto his bike, so to speak, we surrender the driver’s seat. We don’t have to be in control anymore. All we have to do is hold tightly to Him and follow His direction. If He leans one way, we should too. And when we get scared of the angle our life is tilting and try to fight against it, we risk a nasty collision. So don’t do that, ok?

God is a masterful driver. Just as He purposefully shaped Creation, he gently maneuvers the sharpest corners of your life and mine. If you’re riding with Him, you can embrace the twists and turns of each day’s pavement. You can find harmony in the chaos.

And if you’re desperately seeking structure and peace, meditate on this: Christ’s mind is in perfect order, but His hands work best with the curves.

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Decorate Your Mansion

Decorate Your Mansion

God cares about decorating.  I’m convinced of this.

He decorated the earth with countless majestic and beautiful things that are unique to each region and vary with each season.

Proverbs 31 speaks of the value in caring for a household. Making your home look clean, welcoming, and yes, even decorated is a part of that.

If you’re like me, you’ve jumped on the Joanna-Gaines-Fixer-Upper-Wood-Metal-Shiplap train and you’re not looking back.  I’ve spent more time than I like to admit pursuing stores for little pretties to display in my own home since that show came into existence. I enjoy picking out color schemes, patterns, and accents that define my personal style and tell every visitor to my home who I am.

I know God cares about the smallest of details. He wants me to honor Him with every aspect of my life and do everything to the best of my ability, even something simple like making my house look presentable. What I struggle to remember most days is how much MORE He cares about the effort I’m putting forth down here to “decorate” my mansion up in Heaven.

Because I’ve got one…a mansion, that is. And you do too if you’re His child.  John 14:2 says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

Jesus was speaking to His disciples, comforting them before He went to the Cross. And as a modern day disciple-in-training, these words also apply to me. Other translations use the word “room” instead of “mansion.” Maybe it’s both: maybe there’s one ginormous mansion with a stellar room for each of His kids. Either way, I’m good. My point is, I’ve got a reservation, a place to call my own, up in Heaven with Christ. So do you!  That truth should make each of us giddy with anticipation.

So what am I doing to decorate my permanent dwelling place? How do I even begin to spruce up a home I’ve never seen and can’t physically get to in this life?

It has to do with treasure. Sound far-fetched? Bear with me, friend!

Treasure by definition is something of value or worth that we seek. Think about how many hours you spend hunting for earthly treasure. Home décor isn’t your thing? You’re not off the hook!  Maybe it’s your physical appearance. Perhaps it’s your vehicle or even your phone. Your treasure might be the number of likes or follows you receive on social media. Possibly it’s the number of dollars in your bank account. The unhealthy relationship you cling to. We all have something here on earth that we value and find our worth in – that one thing in our life that we spend the most time on and sacrifice the most money for. We pursue it because we treasure it.

Matthew 19:16-22 tells the story of a rich man who wanted to follow Jesus. In verse 21, Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The next verse reveals what this rich man really treasured…he went away sad because he had many possessions.

How many times do we neglect to follow Jesus because of our possessions?

Jesus speaks again in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Where is your heart today? What do you treasure?

There’s a clear delineation between earthly treasure and heavenly treasure, according to the Bible.  Let’s compare three differences between the two.

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1. Earthly treasure is all about STUFF. Heavenly treasure is all about SACRIFICE.

When your heart is focused on earthly treasure, you think about what’s yours to take.  You are consumer-minded. It’s all about getting what you want or think you need. When your heart is focused on heavenly treasure, your stuff just isn’t as important. Instead of always taking, you’re the one giving to others. You sacrifice the pursuit of making your earthly life more comfortable in order to help someone else have a brighter day.

2. Earthly treasure elevates your STATUS. Heavenly treasure elevates your SERVICE.

When your ego is stroked or your chest is puffed out because of the latest rung you’ve climbed to reach some man-made status quo, I hate to tell you, but your treasure may be earthly. Pride is dangerous because it can sneak into the depths of your soul, hidden even from you. One cure for pride is to lose yourself in service. There’s not a lot of immediate gratification in volunteering to help those on the fringes of society. But the humility one must have to serve like Jesus will refocus your mindset back to the treasure that counts for eternity.

3. Earthly treasure is like SAND.  Heavenly treasure is like STONE.

When your confidence is in your earthly treasures, it can be taken away and gone in a heartbeat.  What then? Do you think you’re worth nothing if you have nothing? Your possessions make for shaky footing. If and when the ground caves in, wouldn’t it be nice to have a firm, solid foundation holding you up? If your most valued possessions exist in the heavenly realms, you’ll barely feel a tremor when the avalanches of this life come barreling your way.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 says it best:

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

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This world is not my home. I don’t want to get so comfortable here in the temporary that I forget about the permanent, beyond-my-wildest-dreams forever home I have with my Savior. How sad would it be to get up to Heaven and have the most sparsely decorated place in the joint? That just won’t do.

I want to honor the sacrifice He made at Calvary by freely giving myself and my stuff away. I want to follow Christ’s example of service and humbly reach out to those in need. I want to stand with my feet so firmly planted on His truth that nothing shakes me. This is how I will store up that valuable, eternal treasure in Heaven and decorate my mansion above. More of Him. Less of me.

What about you? Have you been challenged, like I have, to live according to 1 Timothy 6? I’d love to hear about it!

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Pull Up a Chair

Pull Up a Chair

“Do you want to help me cook?” I ask.

“Yeah!” she replies with a matter-of-fact nod of her head.

Pulling up a chair up with an eager grin, my girl rests her chin in her hands and expectantly leans across the counter top.

She doesn’t know what I’m making; she can’t even name most of the ingredients. But I talk to her as we work, and she listens closely.

I let her stir, sprinkle, pour and taste. It’s messy, but the smile of satisfaction spreading across her face as she experiences the process of making something new is worth the extra clean up.

It’s our new ritual, my daughter’s and mine.  And while I could make dinner much faster on my own, I choose to include her in the process.  I don’t need her help, but I crave the camaraderie that comes naturally from this shared experience.

 

These nightly cooking sessions have taught me something new about my Savior…

 

I hear the Father calling my name.  “Pull up a chair,” He says.  “Want to help me?”

Of course I do. I long to be close to Him, so I quickly climb up and lean in, eager to begin. I’m not sure what the final product will be. I can’t name every ingredient He’s going to throw into the mix.

But as we work He speaks. He tells me what I need to know for each step. And as I listen, I learn.

Sometimes He lets me stir. Sometimes I add a little seasoning. Sometimes I simply watch in awe as He reveals the miracle of each completed dish.

It’s messy…so very messy. I’ve got dirty and unskilled hands. I constantly spill, overfill, and muck up the batter. But He is strong and wise, and He gently steadies me, cleaning up behind me and showing me how to improve for the next time.

And even though it would be so much easier for Him to mix and pour and knead alone, He invites me along and welcomes me into the process. What patience He must have, I’ve often wondered, to put up with my failures. But then I picture my daughter’s face as she licks the spoon – and I get it.

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The bond that forms between me and my baby girl when cooking together brings joy to us both. In this same way, I know firsthand the happy rewards that come from working closely with my Heavenly Daddy in service for His kingdom.

In the kitchen of your life, there’s an empty chair and an open invitation from a loving Father. If it’s been a while since you’ve felt His presence, climb on up, lean into Him, and get your hands messy again!

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Buried Alive

Buried Alive

Dark.

Dirty.

Overwhelming.

Suffocating.

Paralyzing.

Dead.

I’ve never been buried alive, but I’ve seen enough horror movies to vividly picture myself in that position. And I’ve experienced enough challenging times to know firsthand how life becomes survival when you feel buried.

If that’s you today – if you feel like a member of the walking dead – this is for you.

Maybe a fresh perspective is what God wants to give you today. It’s easy to look at the soil and the mud around you and see yourself as buried. But what if you aren’t buried at all? 

What if you’ve been planted?

Picture yourself as a seed. Seeds are covered with the same soil as what’s been buried. They feel the same crushing weight of the world pressing in. But seeds do something that dead things can’t do:  they grow. 

The sun warms the earth and supplies the seed with nutrients. The rains come and quench the seed, reviving and restoring. The Word of God pours nourishment into your soul. Your friends and loved ones – those who know you best and care about you most – speak into your heart. Sometimes their words fall like gentle showers and other times they crash their way in like a thunderstorm. 

If you’re the seed, you must soak up as much sun and rain as you can! 

God notices. 

He cares. 

He pursues you in your darkest days. 

If you’ve been there, you know how much you needed friends to speak truth and love into your season of pain. So now it’s your turn…who needs your sun and rain today?  

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When seeds receive enough sunlight and hydration, something amazing begins to happen. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, roots start to peek out. They begin to branch off and multiply, solidly anchoring the seed. 

Truth takes root in the darkness of our struggle. 

When I look back at my life and I remember those times I felt buried alive, I’m reminded of the big truths that God placed in the core of my being even in the midst of my despair. Truths that I would have missed otherwise. Truths like:

I am complete in Christ. 

My Heavenly Father is full of GRACE and mercy. 

God is faithful. 

My enemies are not people. My enemy is Satan. 

We need roots. Roots provide stability and security. That battle you’re in? The one that seems never-ending? I promise you, God is at work, planting, pulling weeds, feeding your soul. Roots will grow if you allow His truth to permeate and settle. 

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” – Colossians 2:6-7

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You know what’s coming next if you remember anything about third grade science class.  Once a seed is rooted and grounded, there’s really nowhere to go but up. It’s the way God orchestrated life. Spring comes, the frozen harshness of winter melts away, and new life breaks through the surface!  

For some of you this will be a gradual blooming, slow and steady as you unfold and blossom. Beautiful to watch. 

For others, it’s more of a desperate clawing your way through the dirt. Think Stephen King’s movie, Carrie. Final scene. Raw and scary. 

Either way, you’re going to get there!  Finally, you will experience fresh air, blue skies, and warm breezes. You’re going to be resurrected. If you feel buried, God wants to bring you back from the dead. If you are His, He loves you too much to let you stay underground forever.

There is purpose in your pain. God might be allowing you to experience a season of depression, betrayal, sorrow, or loss because He wants you to know the power of His resurrection in your own life. 

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:8-11

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The end goal is Christ, in other words. When you break through the surface of what’s keeping you buried, you are raised to walk in a new, deeper, closer way with Jesus. You begin to bear fruit. You tell others of what God has done for you. You love Him more. You love people better. 

Wherever you’re at in this cycle, believe that the next phase is coming. And this IS a cycle – you may not be in the depths of darkness right now, but you probably know someone who is. And the day is coming when you may begin to feel the dirt piling up and the light dissipating yet again. This is life. But if you choose to see your position as a seed that’s been planted rather than a dead thing that’s buried, the way you walk through it will begin to change. Trust in Jesus. Cling to Him. Allow the ones who love you to bless you. Keep your eyes open to someone who might need the Truth. 

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

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How can I pray for you in your season of darkness?  Let’s be that gentle rain for each other today!!

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When God Hits Pause…

When God Hits Pause…

We hate to wait, don’t we?

Whether it’s rush-hour traffic, the doctor’s office, or the next major life event on our horizon, waiting tests our patience, our character, and often times our faith. In our daily lives, waiting is usually nothing more than a minor inconvenience, and our response is soon forgotten when the time of waiting is over. It’s when we feel those minutes begin to stretch into days, weeks, and years that our response becomes vital to the health of our soul.

If you’re in a season of waiting and you feel like God has pushed the pause button on your life, you’re probably asking questions like these:

“I’m all alone in this. When is it my turn?”
“Has God forgotten me? Does He even care?”
“How do I survive this when I can’t seem to function?”

At least those are the questions I asked myself in the past when it felt like I was stuck in never-ending cycles of waiting. As time passed and God chiseled away behind the scenes, I eventually learned to ask a new set of questions that helped redirect my heart:

“Who am I becoming in this season of my life?”
“What do I have to be thankful for in this very moment?”
“How is my view of God affecting my attitude?”
“How do I feel joy instead of bitterness?”

The questions you entertain and the way you respond while waiting are litmus tests for how you’ll most likely come through on the other side. Because there is that other side. There is a place where waiting ends. That light at the end of the tunnel is not a myth. There is hope. There is joy. There is peace. The best part is you don’t have to wait until you’re “unpaused” to experience victory and live a fulfilled life.

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God is faithful. And not because of what He gives us or how quickly he answers our prayers. God is faithful because He is faithful. It’s his character, His DNA. If you’re in a place where you keep finding yourself watching the clock and wondering WHEN, try this:  try praising your Heavenly Father for who He is and for His perfect timing. Ask for joy, patience, and peace if they seem to be eluding you. And remember, as much as you may feel like you’ve been placed on hold, your life is progressing with every breath you take.

You see, in reality, God doesn’t press the pause button on your life or mine. If He has called you to wait, He won’t leave you hanging. He will wait patiently with you, hand outstretched, beckoning you to sit with Him and learn from the stillness. And who better to wait with than the One who already knows where your path leads and when you’ll get there?

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Whose Flag Are You Flying?

Whose Flag Are You Flying?

Who do you love? What do you love? How would those closest to you describe you?

Each of us have two identities: one public and one private. Sometimes the two coincide; often the image we project is vastly different than who we are in our heart of hearts. For me, it’s so much easier and seemingly less painful to keep the “real-ness” of who I am a secret to most people. But it’s time to get real. It’s time to shed the mask and fess up to my sin of idolatry.

You see, we do all kinds of things to project the image we want to be known for. As I type this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop wearing yoga gear and Chacos. Earbuds are in place, and a made-to-order caffeinated drink sits in front me. My Jeep is parked right outside the door. It’s like I just came from the gym and now I’m luxuriating on my iPad and checking out the latest bands before I meet my friends for some outdoorsy adventure. Problem is, all of the above is false. I’m sitting inside because it’s too hot to be outdoors, much less go hiking or rock-climbing. I don’t take yoga classes or even belong to a gym. My earbuds are playing classical music. I couldn’t tell you the name of one song on the pop charts. And my Jeep has features that will never be used…4WD, anyone?

What a poser, you may be thinking. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m not the only one…any of this sound familiar?

We wear brands and styles that sell the lifestyle we want to emulate. And we wait for people to notice.

We drape ourselves in jerseys to let everyone know what team we support. We plaster bumper stickers on our cars. And we fight tooth and nail defending our side’s merits.

We drive vehicles that tell other motorists how important we are. And we impatiently overlook the less-fortunate drivers whose cars can’t keep up.

We fly flags proudly to represent our nationality, our sexuality, our faith, or our heritage. And we cause misunderstandings and misgivings when the flag we fly is controversial or offensive.

We sacrifice daily on the altar of public opinion, all too quick to ignore or cover up the thing that makes us who we are in order to make everyone else think we’re something more – more adventurous, more attractive, more spiritual, more well-off, more right.

So what is it that makes us, well, us? And why is it so easy to ignore our deepest, truest parts?

It’s been said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Your soul is the essence of who you are. Wrapped up in your soul is who God created you to be, all uniquely yours. The depths of our souls cry out in worship. It’s what they were made to do. In a perfect world, we would worship only our Father God. In our fallen reality, we worship everything but Him.

God knew when He gave us free will that this was likely to happen. I remember reading in the Old Testament the account of Israel being led by God through a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke as they escaped captivity and made their way towards the Promised Land. Just pause and absorb the reality of how closely this group saw, heard, and felt His presence! One part of this story always dumbfounded me. In Exodus 32, Moses is up on the mountain talking to God. Everyone down in the valley got tired of waiting, decided to take matters in their own hands, and formed a golden calf to worship. These people, who had witnessed the undeniable power of Jehovah with their own eyes, who walked on dry land where there should have been sea, who had received daily provision from Heaven, these people crafted a statue and declared it their new God. I mean, really?? How could someone who had experienced the true, miracle-working presence of a Holy God be so quick to deny Him?

And yet, even as the people were melting their jewelry, God was handing down the rules to Moses. Exodus 20:3 gives the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me.

Back in the day, and in some cultures still today, idols have been worshipped in place of God. When we hear the word idolatry, we most likely envision statues in temples. The Bible clearly states in various places just how common and dangerous idolatry really is. Isaiah 2:8 reads, “Their land is full of idols; the people worship things they have made with their own hands.

Because most of us don’t physically bow down to some graven image, we think we’re off the hook. We fail to recognize the immense tendency we have to worship anything and everything besides the only One who deserves our adoration. We must own up to the fact that as modern-day Americans, we are a most idolatrous generation. We too have experienced miraculous redemption and transformation, provision and grace. We live with His presence IN us! And just like the Israelites, we have focused our worship on creation rather than the Creator. It’s time to take some personal inventory and examine our hearts for traces of hidden gods. Because as Dr. Phil likes to say, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”

So what’s the big deal? Who really cares if we drive a nice car, spout off football stats to win an argument, wear the latest trends, or fly a flag from our porch, our car, or our Facebook page? I’m not hurting anyone and it’s none of their business anyway! No harm no foul, right?

The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s wrong. Satan is deceiving you if you’ve convinced yourself that what you choose to project into the public eye has no bearing on anyone else’s life but your own.

Especially if you proclaim the name of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that rooting for the home team or being interested in fashion is wrong. I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t defend your convictions. And if God has blessed you with nice possessions, who am I to tell you not to enjoy His gifts?

My point is this: these things aren’t wrong in and of themselves. They become sinful when they dethrone Jesus and take His rightful place as the thing we worship…

When we spend more time shopping than we do with our Heavenly Father.

When we know more about our favorite players on our number one team than we know about the character of our Savior.

When we constantly seek approval from our peers but never seek God’s will through prayer.

When the flag we fly (literally or figuratively) causes pain, shame, fear, or anger but we fly it anyway.

The unsaved world scrutinizes believers, looking for a reason to follow Christ. Sadly, we give them plenty of reasons to reject Him instead. The gods of our hearts look and sound just like theirs.

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So what do people see when they look at you? Better yet, what does God see when His eyes rest upon you?

Psalm 106:36 speaks of idols becoming a snare to those who serve them. What’s got you trapped and ensnared?

Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” Is your hope and conviction that God loves you diminishing? Have you forsaken your soul’s deepest desire by paying regard to vain idols?

Mercifully, God is all about second, third, hundredth chances. He’s a living, breathing, REAL being who responds when we put Him back where He belongs in our life. I know from first-hand experience how precious Christ becomes when I give up the idols that keep me from loving Him.

When we die to self and bow in surrender to our King of Kings, something miraculous happens: suddenly it doesn’t matter so much what we’re wearing or who we’re impressing (or not impressing). We gain the ability to lower any flags that previously flew higher than the cross and in their place unfurl the flag of the Gospel. When we realize that NOTHING is worth proclaiming more than the name of Jesus Christ, we lift up our Creator in all we do and say. We worship the one true God instead of false idols made with our own hands.

So what idols are you struggling to dethrone in your own life? I’m praying for you as you ask God to reveal hidden idols in your heart and seek the courage to worship Him alone as King and Lord of your life. Victory is found in Christ!

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
1 John 5:21

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You Are Loved

You Are Loved

I hold my daughter. I stare lovingly into her innocent eyes. My heart overflows with affection. I cradle her in my arms and stroke her hair. I speak:

You are precious.
You are beautiful.
You are strong.
You are special.
You are perfect.
You are mine.

I love your little grin.
I love your noises.
I love your face.
I love your heart.
I love your personality.

I will take care of you.
I will protect you.
I will make it all better.
I am your Mommy.

She peers deep into my eyes and listens. Once in a while, she grins, as if she understands that I’m speaking words of life into her soul. As I softly pour my heart out, she slowly closes her eyes and peacefully drifts to sleep. She knows she is loved.

And I sit and ponder the heart of my Heavenly Father.

He holds you, His daughter. He stares lovingly into your weary eyes. His heart overflows with affection. He cradles you in His arms and strokes your hair. He speaks:

You are precious.
You are beautiful.
You are strong.
You are special.
You are complete.
You are mine.

I love your little grin.
I love your questions.
I love your face.
I love your heart.
I love your personality.

I will take care of you.
I will protect you.
I will make it all better.
I am your Daddy.

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He wants His affirming words to sink into our very core, but it’s hard to hear the quiet whisper of our Father over the rushing wind of our own self-doubt. We are struggling, squirming our way through life – trying to prove our worth and value. Today, if you stop and allow yourself to peer deep into God’s eyes and listen, you might find yourself smiling as you begin to understand that He is constantly speaking words of life into your soul. As He softly pours his heart out, you might just be able to slowly close your eyes and peacefully drift to sleep because You know you are loved.

BraveGirl Emily

Jesus Misses You

Jesus Misses You

“What would Jesus say to you if He were sitting at the table?”

That question floored me. I immediately heard/felt/sensed the Holy Spirit giving me my answer:  Jesus would tell me He misses me.

My relationship with Jesus has been on-again, off-again for most of my adult life. It’s not His fault – He’s been pursuing me, loving me, and waiting for me every time I separate myself from Him. And I don’t mean to…I truly want to be close to Jesus. I love Him for who He is and what He’s done for me. He is a real and undeniable presence, coming to my rescue when I’m desperate and lavishing blessings on my undeserving life.

If Jesus were physically standing right in front of me, I would undoubtedly fall on my face in awestruck reverence, worshipping the one who paid it all so I could even have the chance to know Him.

But He is here. And I’m not living up to my end of the deal. Instead of having a consistent conversation with my Savior, I’m checking Facebook, Instagram, and my email. Instead of falling at His feet in daily praise, I let my thoughts wander to what I’m wearing tomorrow or to the next thing on my to-do list. Instead of acknowledging His presence, I whisk right past Him, slamming the door in His face as I take care of business on my own.

I wouldn’t dare treat anyone I love with that distant, thoughtless attitude. But I do it to Christ multiple times a week.

And He misses me. I feel it. I hear a still, small voice whispering my name, urging me to stop, drop everything, and just be with Him. Some days I comply, and the peace, joy, and assurance I gain from time spent communing with Jesus makes the biggest difference in the rest of my day. I’m more like myself when I start the day with Him.

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So I’m trying something new. A wise friend told me to pray everyday and ask God to give me a desire to meet with Him daily. Ummm, hello…lightbulb! I have never done that…but I’m ready for a new approach. My way (making a plan, setting a schedule, gathering supplies, and basically trying to regiment my time with Christ) hasn’t worked. Jesus wants to be more than a 20-minute appointment I pencil into my schedule. He wants me to desire Him the way He desires me.
The reason I’ve been so inconsistently connecting with Him is because I’ve depended on myself to make it work. I haven’t asked God to give me a desire for Him that overwhelms everything else vying for my attention. Until today. I’m saying a prayer I’ve never uttered before, and I’m going to keep repeating it until I don’t need to anymore.
What about you?  What would Jesus say to you if He were sitting next to you in this very moment?  Can you hear His voice?
Jesus Christ loves you. He wants your heart, your worries, your sorrows. He’s strong enough to handle whatever you might throw at Him.
Listen. Respond. Rest. Seek Him – He’s been missing you!
BraveGirl Emily

 

10 Ways to Live Like Jesus (Romans 12:9-21)

10 Ways to Live Like Jesus (Romans 12:9-21)

Dear Daughter,

You’re going to have many role models as you grow up. From your parents, teachers, family members, and friends, life will give you many examples to follow. You might even look up to musicians, pastors, or celebrities one of these days. Whoever you choose to hold in high esteem, I hope those people point you to Jesus. Above all, I hope you pattern your life after His because there is no greater person to value than the Son of God.

Besides the four Gospels, there are numerous passages in the Bible that shed light on Jesus’ example. The twelfth chapter of Romans finishes strong, offering a clear picture of how Christ followers should strive to interact with and respond to others this side of Heaven.

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Here are ten ways to live like Jesus:

1. Love genuinely. (v 9)

It’s easy to love my own. I love my people, the ones I most relate to, naturally and genuinely. Love becomes a challenge, and often near-impossible, when I’m faced with those who look, believe, or sin differently than I do. It’s easier to write someone off or label them than it is to love them. So how do I demonstrate true affection when it becomes a struggle? The answer is Jesus. He loves each one of us with a deep, authentic, unfathomable kind of devotion. If I am to show this love to the ones I find hard to accept, I have to tap into His supernatural resources. I have to dip my cup into His stream of mercy until it overflows and naturally pours out of me. Walking in genuine love is possible with Christ.

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2. Honor others. (v 10)

It’s been said before, Your life is not about you.” When I get wrapped up in my to-do list, I forget to really see others around me. And if I don’t notice people, I can’t reach them for Christ. Honoring others means I put my own agenda on the back burner so that God’s plan might be furthered through me. What does it mean to honor others? Maybe I go out of my way to do something unexpected and unrequested for someone, whether they’re a friend or a stranger. Perhaps I put somebody’s needs before my own. Any time I sacrifice joyfully, not for recognition or reward but because I want the light of Christ to shine, I’m magnifying my Savior. Jesus himself modeled honoring behaviors by healing, forgiving, and serving. He won many to His cause through this radical, loving actions.

3. Serve your Heavenly Father with passion. (v 11)

The passion I need in order to serve God comes from nurturing an honest personal relationship with Him. I think about my best friends and how none of them started out that way. It took time, back and forth communication, and a deep understanding of a person’s character before a deep friendship based on trust could develop. It’s no different with Jesus. When He walked the earth He got real, eating meals, forging friendships, and making memories with the disciples and other followers around Him. I have to be as intentional in cultivating a relationship with Christ as I am with my favorite people. The passion I feel for serving Jesus is a direct correlation to the amount of time I spend with Him.

4. Rejoice in hope, have patience in tribulation, and pray continually . (v 12)

Jesus set the bar high on this one. He relied on the Father’s plan, trusting that as His purpose was carried out in human form, Almighty God would raise Him back up to immortality. Christ rejoiced in knowing mankind would have fresh hope to be reconciled to God because of the cross. He stayed in close communion with his dad, often retreating to pray. Because He talked to God so much, He had the ability to display remarkable patience in the face of persecution and accusations. He willingly suffered. He possessed true joy. He did it all for me. For you. For all of creation. And because He lives in me, I claim these characteristics in the midst of my circumstances. Whatever darkness I’m confronted with, if I respond with joy, patience, and prayerful meditation, people around me will take note. They’ll see something different – they’ll see Jesus.

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5. Help those in need and be hospitable. (v 13)

I’m extremely blessed to live in relative opulence. I have a roof over my head, some cash in the bank, a cozy bed to sleep in, a pantry full of food, and a little family to dote on. I haven’t been given these amenities because I deserve them or so that I can kick back and luxuriate my way through life. I know that “to whom much is given much is required.” I’m in a wonderful position to take my money, time, talents, and material wealth and pass them along to those who are lacking. I gravely sin when I hoard these blessings and refuse to open my house, wallet, food, and heart to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the orphan. Jesus walked the path of charity. He’s calling you and me to join Him – so I’m slipping on my shoes and rushing to catch up!

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6. Bless your enemies. (v 14)

“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” If ever there was an acceptable time to curse an enemy, I’d say the moment that they’re nailing your wrists and feet to a cross, piercing you with a sword, and mocking you as you die ranks pretty high on the list . I don’t get mad about a lot, but if you disrespect my Lord, I’m ready to throw down. I get angry when I read about the suffering Jesus endured at His crucifixion. Then He goes and speaks a blessing over the ones who are murdering Him, and I’m chagrined, much like Peter after he cut off the centurion’s ear in defense of Jesus. My only real enemy is Satan. My existence is reduced to petulant dramatics when I spend it dwelling on revenge. I want to live the way Jesus died – offering forgiveness even as I’m being wronged. Blessing those who may never feel anything but contempt for me and what I stand for.

7. Share in the joys and sorrows of those around you. (v 15)

Jesus wept when he heard the news of a friend’s death. He celebrated weddings and feasts with family. He had compassion. He delighted in local children. He immersed Himself in the joys and sorrows of those He loved. He’s equally invested in me. One way I want to follow Him is to entangle my life with the lives of my companions, however messy it might get. I can show up. I can laugh, cry, hug, and listen. I can encourage and even talk some sense into them when need be. I can share my junk because they’ve shared theirs too. I can link arms with these kindred spirits I’ve claimed as my own and forge through the muck towards Jesus.

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8. Esteem others higher than yourself in the name of peace. (v 16-18)

But for Christ, we would all look the same to God: black hearted and full of evil darkness. It’s the second I forget about the state I was in when He rescued me that I start to walk a precarious tightrope of self-righteousness. I begin to confuse His presence, the only good thing within me, with my own disposition. I put my opinions, viewpoints, and experiences on this pedestal of self-worship. I become judge, jury, and executioner of anyone who dares to cross me. And it’s like I’ve dressed myself in the finest royal garments shipped straight from the King – oblivious to the fact that I’m actually wearing filthy, soiled rags of my own making. I’m not fooling anyone except myself. I wreak havoc on those in my wake, bruising souls and crushing spirits in the name of truth and justice. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He traded a throne for a cross. His righteousness is all I can boast in. His peace is worth calling a truce for.

9. Leave your battles in God’s hands. (v 19-20)

I cringe when I think of times in my life when I’ve let anger get the best of me and then lashed out impulsively. My heart breaks when I think about how many non-believers are turned away from saving faith by witnessing Christians duke it out amongst ourselves. When I feel justified, filled with righteous indignation, or entitled to my anger, I’m more apt to storm the battlefield without a working weapon or an exit strategy. You don’t have to be in the military to know that’s a recipe for failure. Jesus was accused of things He was innocent of. He was interrogated, beaten, and killed by spiteful, smugly moralistic men. Not once did He defend Himself or argue. Christ knew and relied on a truth that’s sometimes hard for me to accept: God is fighting my battle on my behalf. He is a formidable, undefeated opponent. If He is for me, who can be against me?

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10. Overcome evil with good. (v 21)

In today’s society, evil seems to be gaining ground. At times it feels like darkness is choking out the light. I have to remind myself of one thing when I start to feel discouraged: Christ has overcome ALREADY. If I belong to Him, I’m on the winning side. Why should I live a defeated life when I share a being with His triumphant Spirit? On my own strength I can overcome little. Evil engulfs me if I try to fly solo. But I’m not alone. I’m sheltered under the umbrella of His protection. I am more than a conquerer! I have the ability through Jesus Christ to overcome the evil around me with good. I have love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control on my side. I defeat wickedness by DAILY stepping in Jesus’ footprints, letting Him guide me to loving others. It’s an arduous journey – He never said it would be easy – but it’s a trip with a greatly-desired destination…my home in Heaven.

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I’m praying you’ll join me in this layover-life as I attempt to humbly honor the Father, genuinely love others, and offer everything I am to the One who makes my brokenness beautiful.

BraveGirl Emily

 

Three Things to Remember When Facing a Battle

Three Things to Remember When Facing a Battle

Dear Daughter,

The world you’re growing up in is drastically different than the world of my youth. Society is ever-changing, and cultural norms are constantly shifting. For those of us who have put our trust in Jesus and consecrated our lives to Him, it can feel as if we’re losing ground. Our faith is ridiculed, our Bible is tossed aside, and our Savior is misunderstood and rejected. Turns out, the Enemy is a formidable opponent, skilled in the art of war against Christianity and adept at recruiting both non-believers and believers to his cause. Satan’s ultimate goal is to deceive and distract as many of us as he can, and he never takes a day off.

As mere mortals, we are severely ill-equipped to triumph against such an adversary.  Thankfully, as believers, we have an immortal advocate who stands in front of us, shielding danger with one hand while He fights our battles with the other.  This Jesus I speak of embodies all the wisdom, strength, and love inherent to Almighty God. He left a Heavenly throne, lived sinless among humanity, challenged cultural and religious conventions, and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, receiving punishment that was meant for us in order to bridge the gap between a Holy God and a sinful people.  Regardless of what’s trending or who’s in charge, we can live victorious because He has already vanquished Satan’s evil plan.  

In the meantime, there are three things to remember when we face spiritual battles here on earth.  Here’s my take on how I am striving to respond as a follower of Christ when faced with vehement opposition to my faith and my beliefs.

  1. I am not a victim.  I am victorious.

Romans 8:37 – Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Some of the recent comments I’ve seen from believers on social media have had a fearful and self-pitying tone.  Many followers of Jesus seem to be surprised and offended when they are rejected by those with opposing points of view.  At times it does feel like Christianity is in the minority, especially when it comes to Biblical truth vs. popular opinion.  It’s hard to hold a viewpoint that most people around you think is hateful, even when you don’t feel hate in your heart.  Being a believer in the Word of God doesn’t always win you popularity points; often your convictions place you at odds with the majority.  When you feel like you’re repeatedly fighting the same battle with no relief in sight, it is a natural reaction to feel sorry for yourself and want to throw in the towel.  What’s the point?  It’s discouraging when strangers take your words or your beliefs and twist them into something you never intended to say.  Being misunderstood is no fun.

Remember this truth:  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities , against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Your fight is not with the stranger on Facebook who insults you and your perspective.  God isn’t expecting you to go to war with a friend who believes differently than you or the sinner who defies God with their speech and actions.  Your battle is spiritual.  Your fight is against the evil one:  he who ensnares souls in his bottomless net of sin, despair, and hopelessness; he who tempts you to engage in the name-calling, mocking, and hatefulness that are hallmarks of those unfamiliar with the grace of God.

Not only do we need to remember who our enemy is, but we must remember who our Warrior is!  God is ALWAYS working and fighting for us.  He has already conquered Death and Hell, and He isn’t worried in the least about the destiny of His children.  No matter what the future holds for the faithful in this life, we can rest assured that our Lord will win in the end.  He cannot be beaten.  Satan is doing as much to damage the name of Christ as he can, and we add fuel to his fire when we respond to lost and broken people with self-righteous, pious, and judgmental attitudes.  Approaching someone with a combative spirit is only going to push that person farther away from a God who is trying to use YOU to reach them in their need.

We lead victorious lives as Christians when we allow God to fight for us and instead focus on humbly reaching out with genuine love towards others.  And if we happen to be mistreated or misunderstood, we can have victory over our emotions if we remember that God knows us completely and understands us inside out.

  1. I am not powerless.  I have prayer. 

James 5:6 – Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

So, maybe instead of publicly engaging others in arguments with the intention of humiliating them or demonstrating our own intelligence, perhaps we should turn to God and pour our hearts out to Him when we are facing a fight.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness, and when we pray for those who disagree with us, miracles can occur! Our hard hearts begin to soften, and we see our opponents for who they are:  created and loved by the same Heavenly Father who made us.  God can then use us to speak truth and grace into their lives.

When we pray, God eagerly steps in and lifts the heavy burdens off of our shoulders.  When we intercede on behalf of our city, state, nation, and world, He hears.  Prayer is a powerful thing. Prayer fosters a deeper understanding of God’s character.  Prayer restores shattered relationships. Prayer brings healing and forgiveness, allowing us to treat others with divine mercy.  When all else seems to fail, try praying!

  1. I will not lash out .  I will love others.

John 13:35 – By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another

John 15:12 – This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

1 John 4:12 – No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

I guess what saddens me the most about the comments I’ve read on social media  debating hot-button issues is the overwhelming lack of love.  I see post after post, from both sides, filled with hate and disrespect.  Now, I would expect someone who doesn’t know the love of Christ, who hasn’t been redeemed, to respond to a perceived attack in a less-than-graceful manner.  I truly believe, however, that God wants His people to take the high road when we face those who openly defy our faith.  The high road is paved with love.  Not a cheesy, mushy, naive kind of love, but a selfless, sacrificial, difficult kind of love.  If loving others were easy, I don’t think Jesus would have chosen to command it so many times.  God saw it necessary to remind us that He set the example for loving others by his life, death, and resurrection.

Loving others doesn’t mean I excuse their behavior or support sin.  Loving others means I take time to listen to, mentor, and respect those who may hold a different opinion than I do.  Loving others is not always easy, especially when dealing with people who are irritating, self-absorbed, and simply exhausting to be around.  Jesus loved us enough to die for us – knowing we might not ever receive Him or love Him back.  Follow that example and respond to those around you with honor, respect, and patience.

The next time you’re led to go to bat for the cause of Christ, remember these three truths found in God’s Word:  you are already victorious, your power comes from prayer, and you are called to love others. Before we turn our apologetics into personal attacks on those we consider our enemies, His desire is that we will let our fingers hover over the keyboard long enough to consider the ramifications our careless or self-serving words can have on those searching souls who desperately need the love of our Jesus!