Tag Archives: Jesus

Don’t Pretend they’re Strawberries

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How many times have you ever asked someone how they are and you get the, “I’m fine” response, even when you can tell that something is wrong? Have you ever given someone that same answer, covering up so as not to expose your weaknesses to people?
I know I have.

Our first instinct always seems to be to hide ourselves away, to not let anyone see our pain or failures or insecurities. Nowadays there are lots of posts, articles and programs geared toward making one’s self ‘better’ by disguising real life and heart problems through changing looks, diet, schedule, motivations, or by covering it up with makeup or surgery to hide the fact that not everything in life is always peachy. And we as humans tend to buy into the lie that if we don’t have it all together or if our lives aren’t perfect that we’re somehow inferior to others who (appear as though they) do. Some hide behind their money or a smiling picture on Facebook; others behind a mask of self-confidence or the classic “I’m fine” to their friends; while others hide behind bottles that drown their sorrows or behind closed doors where nothing and no one can get through. Even in our churches, we hide our weaknesses, for fear of being thought of as “less Christian” or “unholy” by our fellow believers.

Why is this?

Maybe it’s for fear of rejection or being misunderstood that we put masks on to hide our imperfections. Maybe it’s because we see ourselves as not being good enough for someone to actually care. Maybe it’s because of a rejection or betrayal in the past. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid to change or don’t know how. Maybe it’s because we see others around us who look like they’ve got it all together and we don’t want to be compared. Maybe we don’t want to be a burden on someone else. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of letting people in. Maybe it’s because we know if we start crying we may not be able to stop. Maybe it’s the fear that God couldn’t possibly love us anymore. Maybe it’s for a different reason.

While being real means opening up ourselves to more hurt or vulnerability, being open and honest gives us more ways to connect with other hurting souls. Pretending that life is all roses puts walls between us and others who are in the midst of the thorns. It prevents us from helping each other. It keeps us from being able to offer support or encouragement. It means carrying the weight of our owns burdens, rather than sharing (and lightening) the load.

So easily, we buy into the lie that tells us if we make ourselves vulnerable, people will lose respect for us. They will think things about us, or judge us unfairly, or reject us. We think that if we can control things that show on the exterior (our words, actions, appearance, etc.), then we will be able to control what’s going on in our minds, heart and thoughts. But no one can change themselves. Not for the better at least.

If you’re living your life for God – does it really matter what others think? So what if they see your tears? So what if they have their own opinions of you because you express a need for support? So what if you’re not perfect – and if people know it? Will the opinions of others change your decision to fully commit to trusting your Creator – even when you’re broken in the process?

And what if we go to church, or our jobs, or the mall and we pretend that we’re fine when people ask? What if we try to contain our tears behind the wall of a forced smile and don’t share the hard things we’re dealing with? Things like broken hearts, suicide, sickness and health issues, worries about our families, brokenness, loneliness, feelings of despair, worries about jobs or finances, the death of a loved one or even just having a bad day. What good does it do for us or the people around us to pretend that we’re “fine”?

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My life has changed drastically in the past month and a half. It started with the decision to surrender my life back to Jesus Christ. With that came a whole new outlook on my life and the way I was living it vs. the way I should be living. And so a chapter (one of my own selfish ruin) has closed, and a new chapter is being written in the story of my life.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

But that doesn’t make life easy. Living for one’s own selfish ambitions only leads to heartache, brokenness and distance between you and God (and sometimes others).
One cannot go on doing the same things and expecting a different result.

So hard things have to be done. Changes have to be made. Repentance and forgiveness has to be sought after. And it can be really, really hard. Hard to give up the things which were once considered so important (by my own standards). Hard to die to self in order to become like Christ. Hard to forgive myself for wasted time.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of my life changes, as that matters so little in comparison to the hope for our lives that is made available to all through the Lord Almighty.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness though our knowledge of him
who called us by his own glory and goodness. 

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises,
so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness;
and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control;
and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 
and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective
and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,
forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
2 Peter 1:3-9

It is so reassuring to know that, through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for me, I have been forgiven, made new, and I am loved immensely by my Faithful Creator. And although it’s hard to even fathom sometimes, I can cling to the hope that my life is worth the living (every. single. day.) because He Lives, and He holds my future in his hands. He knows my hopes and my dreams, and He is working in my life today to prepare me for the future.

With all this being said, some days can still be plain ol’ hard.

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Sometimes it feels like we’re all alone in the fight to pursue holiness, or like we’re by ourselves in the middle of the trials of this life. One thing I realize the more I share the victories and struggles in my life – I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one who’s ever felt alone, or confused. Or had a broken heart or dreams that weren’t meant to be. I’m not the only one who’s ever struggled to find meaning in my life, or been broken by the hurtful actions of others. I’m not the only one who has said or done things that I regret. I’m not the only one who has gotten trapped in a web of lies and/or sin. I’m not alone in my daily walk with God. And we’re not meant to go it alone or close ourselves off from others.

In Acts chapter 2, the writer tells of how the “believers were together and had everything in common” (2:44). They sold their possessions, shared meals, praised God and worshiped together. They were the Church to each other. They didn’t keep to themselves and go on living their separate lives, hoping things would get better or that their problems would go away. And I’m pretty sure they didn’t always have meetings together that were happy and joyful every time. These were people who heard the Gospel message and had to repent for the forgiveness of their sins. They weren’t perfect people, and their lives didn’t automatically become perfect just because they decided to believe in Jesus. They still had to go through the process of changing their lives (just like the 12 disciples did when they followed Jesus). But they went through it together.

The letters that were written by Paul, Peter and John weren’t just written to individuals who were struggling on their own. They were written to the Church – the body of believers! In order that they could work through the things that kept them from being wholly devoted to following Jesus – together! That’s what the Church (all the believers) is for – for spurring each other on in our walks with God, for carrying each others burdens, for accountability and encouragement through the Word of God. No one is supposed to go through life pretending to be “ok”!

So my challenge for you (and for me) is to start being real. And not just when you’re by yourself, having alone time with God. Get involved in a small group (I did last week). Find an accountability or Bible study partner. Open up to someone you can trust who inquires about how you’re doing. You never know what opportunities will come up for you to share (or to be encouraged by another’s story). And you don’t know what you can do for someone else by being open. It might even save someone’s life.

If life has handed you lemons, don’t pretend that they’re strawberries
and try to convince everyone around you of that.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled 
so that you can pray.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.
Amen.

2 Peter 4:7-11

 

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Are You Carrying Rocks Around?

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In Outdoor Ed, we teach a geology unit, where students learn to identify common rocks and minerals found in Missouri. We then take them up to an old tailings pile (from what used to be a mine) for the kids to dig and find/identify rocks, and they are allowed to keep some of the samples they find.

We encourage them to find galena (state mineral of Missouri), calcite, limonite (pipe iron), quartz and many others that generally have some sort of value associated with them. Some of the most common and most abundant rocks are sandstone and limestone, which (at times) can be pretty to look at, but are so commonplace and have zero inherent value. Yet the kids get so excited when they find it and they try to collect large samples (of heavy, plain rock) to carry back with them.

They carry worthless rocks, thinking it will benefit them!

Almost every time, after lugging around those rocks, they finally give up and toss them to the side. But at that point, they’ve wasted most of the activity time and don’t get the chance to find anything else successfully.

It makes me chuckle to myself when I see this, but how often do we do that with things in our lives that have no value or eternal worth? We get so stuck not only on searching for and hoarding things that make us temporarily happy or satisfied, but we also hold on to what we think is important or worthy of our time & energy, not realizing what we’re missing out on. Sometimes we do this even after we’re told that “it’s just sandstone.”

Instead of investing the time and effort to find small quantities of things that will give us learning experience, or the true satisfaction of having learned to collect something meaningful, we sell ourselves short by having a “gimme” attitude. We settle for big ‘ok’ finds rather than persevering to find the great ones.

Now, I can’t say what those ‘rocks’ in your life are, or more importantly what the things with value are in your life. But I know in mine, there is a clear difference, like black vs. white or right vs. wrong.

So it’s time to take heed of the teachings which we know and have been taught. It’s time to throw away the ‘rocks’ or burdens of sin in our lives and seek after the things which will truly bring life and happiness and peace. It’s time to empty our hands of the things we once held so tightly to and empty our pockets of the dirt, dust and pebbles that have accumulated over time. We certainly can’t assume or keep pretending that those rocks (however great or small) will not become stumbling blocks to us later on.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith,
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 

Hebrews 12:1

I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.

 

This post is about Jesus (and my tattoos)

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Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 John 5:5

I know the subject of tattoos can be a very controversial subject matter. I don’t mean to offend anyone by having them or discussing them, and I understand if you might not agree with them.
But bear with me, cause I am going to explain the thought process behind a few of mine.

I have always had a sort of fascination with ink (tattoos). The way they look, the ideas they can represent, the expression of the individual. They work as conversation starters, an easy way to find something in common with someone else, even if they don’t have tattoos. They give me a way to share my story without having to say it. And I just really enjoy having them. The tattoos I describe here are not the first tattoos I got, nor are they the only ones, but they are the most recent.

This past Monday, I went to St. Louis to get some more ink work done on my arm. Prior to this trip, I had already gotten a world map around my left upper arm, and then a person parachuting down over the map (on my shoulder).

I got the globe design in early 2016 shortly after I returned from my trip to Manila, Philippines, which was a very eye-opening experience.  The world map represents my love for travel and serves as a reminder for me that beyond my little bubble and my own self – there is a whole world that needs to know and love Jesus too.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

The parachute was done a couple of weeks after I went skydiving for the first time last summer. It was absolutely amazing(!!!), and if I could do it at least once a week, I would without hesitation. Being able to see the world (or at least part of it), floating around the clouds, the wind in your face and hair — there’s nothing like it. Being able to fly (even just for a couple of minutes) is exhilarating, breath-taking and 110% more than worth it.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Earlier this week, I was reading 1st John 4-5, and there’s a section in chapter 5 where John talks about loving God and following his commands. You can’t have one without the other, they go hand in hand. When we love God, we also must love others and none of this can happen without believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God – the only Saviour of the world. These thoughts and some thoughts that I had shared in a previous blog post were the basis for the ‘inspiration’ of the newest additions to my arm.

To fill the space between/around the parachute and the earth tattoos, there were added: 3 mountains, pine trees and a lamppost.

The three mountains are toward the inner part of my arm, and they represent several things to me. The largest of the three mountains is in the middle, and on the top of that mountain is a cross. The mountain represents Everest, the top of the world, or the Summit of my hopes and dreams. Jesus has already conquered them all. And by believing in him, I can conquer them too.

This is love for God: to obey his commands.
And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.
This is the victory
that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Who is is that overcomes the world?
Only the one that believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:3-5

The pine trees remind me of 2 things: Alaska and Isaiah 55. The pine forests on the Alaskan coast were my favorite thing about my brief trip there. They smell so good, the air is so clean & fresh, and they are just so beautiful. And as God promises in Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst
into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”

Isaiah 55:9-13

On one side of the parachute (on the outer part of my arm) there is a lit-up lamppost in the midst of the pines. This also represents 2 things: Narnia (my favorite book series) and the lamp that lights my path (God’s Word, the Bible).

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105

 

Most people don’t ever want to sit and talk about (or listen to) the meanings or thoughts behind the ink, but I think that can be one of the easiest ways to get to know the person that has them. That doesn’t mean that every single tattoo has some deep meaningful purpose though, cause honestly some of mine are there just cause I like them. And if you’ve made it this far through my post and still disagree with my decision(s) to get tattoos, that’s ok by me; I just hope it gave you an idea of the whys behind the ink. I love them and I’m never going to regret them.

Faith in the Valley

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This week has been great – I finished up my last couple of finals and on Thursday I walked with the Class of 2012 and graduated with an Associate’s degree. My grandparents came for the commencement as well as another good friend and we were able to spend time together visiting. Earlier this week I also got to go see the Marvel’s Avengers movie. It was a lot of fun and the giant strawberry shake afterwards was an extra bonus. 😉

But there have also been times this week when I have really struggled with what God wants me to learn or how I need to grow.

I know that God has a plan and purpose for everything that happens, and I know He holds my entire future in His hands. But I have a hard time comprehending why He would let certain things unfold the way He has when those things turn out to look hopeless or seem to have no purpose except to hurt or disappoint.

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 23 a lot this week, especially where it says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”
My own “valley” is filled with uncertainty, fear of failure, fear of rejection, loneliness, heartbreak, and questions.

It’s easy to have faith when the right answers and reasons are right in front of you. It’s easy when no one else is involved, when there are no consequences, or when you’re not required to give anything up.
But it’s hard when you don’t know what the right or the best thing to do is. It’s hard when you don’t understand all the ‘whys.’ It’s hard when there seems to be no hope, when things don’t seem like they can ever get better.

Through it all I still believe that He is with me – through all the trials, with every tear and hurt, in decision making, in the good and the bad, every step of the way – He is faithful.
If He could give the blind their sight and make the lame walk; if He could provide a wife for Isaac at a random well in the desert; if He could die and come back to life 3 days later, then He can and will be enough for me.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

and it’s…2012

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Last week, I had the opportunity to gather with 44,000 other college-age young adults in the Georgia Dome for Passion 2012.
For 4 days we gathered together to worship God and lift high the name of Jesus. We became aware of the 27 million people still trapped in slavery today, and joined together to Do Something Now about it. We heard speakers, met people from across the US and other countries, and shared with others what God was doing in our lives.
A thousand thoughts come to mind when asked what Passion was like. I don’t even know where to start. I loved taking part in something totally bigger than myself. It was amazing and incredible!! To God be the glory!
Each day started bright and early, with several main sessions in the Dome, community groups in the morning and evening, and short breaks to grab something to eat for lunch & supper. The first two nights, which were closed with the David Crowder band and Hillsong United, were fantastic!
Community groups were some of the best times during the week. When we met, we discussed Scripture, the main sessions, and what God was teaching us through it all. Everyone was given a colored wristband, and depending on the color, we were divided into one of 19 community groups. My group was Burgundy (also called Crimson, Dr. Pepper, and the Burg). We were further divided up into groups of eight, which became our ‘family’ group for the remainder of the week. I was blessed to share with and learn from an incredible group of people during that time.
Another of my favorite things from Passion was having conversations with friends when we walked back and forth to different buildings and when we stood outside waiting to enter the Dome. We talked about the Bible, Jesus, and how everything learned at Passion applies to life after we left Atlanta back to home or the dorms. I am so thankful for friends who are also committed to following Christ and are willing to keep me accountable.
By far the best thing about Passion is: JESUS! After coming back home last week, our church group gathered Friday night to share about the week in Georgia. It was amazing to hear about how God answered so many prayers throughout the week, and how he worked in the lives of others to bring about change.
What Passion has opened my eyes up to is how easily I live my life day to day, just getting by, not really being dependent on God or daily putting my faith in Him. I find myself being ok with the status quo, but not moving forward or growing. And I don’t want to be that way! I don’t want to complacent or only care about my faith when it comes to something big like Passion or a revival service.
It’s easy to talk about surrendering everything to God, but even harder to put it into practice. For me, what surrendering to God looks like in my life is putting Him first, especially in the small things. It means taking time to read my Bible first, rather than the book I just got from the library. It means going to God in prayer before logging into Facebook first thing in the morning. It means doing things like cleaning or helping out around the house with a good attitude. It means being cheerful at work, even when customers are rude. It means not wasting time playing Plants vs. Zombies while I should be cleaning my room or going to bed. It means talking to people about Jesus rather than minding my own business. Yes, I am guilty of all these things. And making changes is not going to be easy.
But is a thriving relationship with the Creator of the Universe and my Savior worth giving up what I want? I think yes. (I hope you’ll help keep me accountable.)
This is only one of the things God has made me painfully aware of in the past few weeks. I still have a long way to go before becoming the person God created me to be. I’m thankful that God will continue to grant me grace and forgiveness for every day.

Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

(il)Legitimate Christians?

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It really frustrates me when people who claim to be Christians live contrary to what they claim to believe, causing non-believers to scorn the cross and tear apart everything Jesus came to do. In my Arabic class, there was a discussion going on about the Islamic religion and Christianity. They (all non-believers) tore apart Christianity, criticizing the Christians for being a bunch of hypocrites and judging the rest of the world. They had several arguments about Christians and why they want nothing to do with Christianity because it’s all a bunch of lies.

For example, they were talking about how the government supports Israel just because the Bible says that those who support Israel will not be condemned, but while they ignore when Israel causes problems or hurts other nations. They also pointed out that the Bible has many contradictions in the Old and New Testaments, which is why it’s all just a bunch of lies, and therefore Christians are just people who say what they want to believe.

I have also heard many more arguments against Christianity, saying that Christians are all hypocrites. For example, there have been instances where preachers condemn homosexuals, then later come out as being gay. In other cases, Christians are the ones persecuting people who are not believers.

This is true; there are many hypocrites and people out there who call themselves Christians, but do not practice what they  preach. This makes it hard for those who are really trying to follow Christ and become more like him. A lot of times, as soon as you tell someone that you are a Christian, they assume you are just like all the other “Christians” out there, making it hard to have a good testimony.

While I do not have all the answers or reasons why people act the way they do, or why they do not practice what they preach, and while it bothers me a great deal that Christians today have a bad name for themselves, what I DO know is that Jesus Christ has changed my life, and that is why I call myself a Christian.

I know I am not perfect (and never will be until I get to Heaven), but I know the One who is perfect.

Christianity is not about a religion or doing good things to make you ‘right’ with God. It is about having a relationship with the One true God through believing in Jesus Christ, and letting Him change you to become more like Jesus.

*Don’t know what Jesus is like? Check out Christ’s ministry in the four Gospels, as well as Philippians chapter 2.

Ultimately, your destiny is between you and God. He has given us His Word (the Bible), and more importantly, His Son to die for our sins. I can’t answer for others who call themselves Christians, but all I can say is that God has changed my life, and He has worked in me and saved me from what I would have been.

Without Him, I would have no purpose or hope for my life.

Questions? Leave a comment!