I spent the last fourteen days away from social media. that may not seem like a life-altering, world-turning kind of event, but it was huge for me.
I’ll be the first to admit that a good portion of my life revolves around boxes on a screen — boxes that seem like they hold the entire world, when really they leave me feeling lonelier than when I opened them. boxes that beg me to find my worth in the confines of the internet. but, those same little boxes allow me to talk about Jesus without actually talking to people about Jesus. you know what I mean?
I CAN WRITE 140 CHARACTERS ABOUT GOD ALL DAY LONG, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO SHARING THE GOSPEL WITH SOMEONE FACE-TO-FACE, I HESITATE.
not because I don’t want to share the love of Jesus with everyone I come into contact with. it is just ten times easier to conceal yourself behind a computer screen, because what if you don’t know how to respond? what if you don’t have all the answers?
isn’t that a fear we all have at some point in our walk with the Lord? fear of not knowing what to say next. my computer screen acts as a shield — a barrier I put up so people won’t find out that I don’t have all the answers.
BUT, IT JUST ISN’T THE SAME.
yes, you can share the gospel on your facebook wall and you can quote scripture on your next instagram post. but, there is something so special about looking people in the eyes and telling them how much they are loved by the creator of the universe.
WHEN I WAS CHALLENGED TO “BE LESS OF A TALKER AND MORE OF A DOER”, I KNEW THAT MEANT I NEEDED TO STEP AWAY FROM ALL THINGS SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A WHILE.
and so, I did.
it was lovely. it was peaceful. and I woke up every morning feeling like I could conquer the world. but it wasn’t all cheery and joyful. guys, i’m not kidding, it was so dang hard.
I have chronic FOMO (fear of missing out) and the first days of this challenge were incredibly difficult. my friends would be scrolling through their feeds and I would be twiddling my thumbs wondering what I was missing out on. because i’m the kind of person that likes to know what is going on at all times — whether it has to do with me or not.
BUT AS THE DAYS TURNED INTO A WEEK, AND A WEEK TURNED INTO TWO, SETTING MY PHONE FACE DOWN ON THE TABLE BECAME EASIER. CONVERSATIONS BECAME BETTER. AND MY TIME WITH JESUS BECAME SWEETER.
I discovered that God is an “i’m always here, you’ve just got to look up” kind of God. am I too busy looking down at my phone, that I miss what Jesus is doing in my life?
don’t get me wrong, social media is a great tool for connecting. and I bet you are reading this because you saw it on facebook or twitter. but, I am learning that it is not everything.
let’s turn our phones off every once and awhile. and not just talk about God in 140 characters or less. let’s have deep and meaningful conversations. let’s get back to more personal and intimate relationships — relationships that require you to be intentional. let’s set our phones face down on the table and look people in the eyes.
God and I, we are close. we’re tight. we have been through a lot together. But you know the sort of friend that you always find yourself hanging out with, but you don’t actually know much about them? You hang out with them, because they are your friend, not because you actually want to.
that is my relationship with God, in a nutshell.
I know a lot about God. But I’m not entirely sure I know His heart as well as I say I do.
the story of the prodigal son is one I’ve heard countless times. but, until two weekends ago, I hadn’t dug into the story enough to know that there wasn’t just one prodigal son, there were two.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
I’ve discovered that I am the second prodigal son.
I have been a christian for a long time. I have served the church for as long as I can remember. I follow all the rules. I read my bible everyday and pray before my meals. so where is my party?
God says there is a celebration in heaven for every lost child that returns home. but what about the children that haven’t run off? what about me?
but here is where I’ve screwed up: I do those things because I know I should, not because I want to. My walk with the Lord has become a routine — it has become a list that has to be checked off before I carry on with my day.
God says that everything He has is already mine. why can’t that be enough for me?
I wear a mask, carefully woven together by pride and perfection.
just like the older brother, I serve the Father relentlessly. I do all the christian things. And in the deepest corners of my heart I look at the lost and feel bad for them. if we are being honest, I look at the lost souls on my campus and judge them. When in reality, I have been lost, and have no room to judge their hearts. I have been hiding pride and fear of imperfection in my soul for years, and I didn’t even know it.
with all the being said, I am working on it. I just felt like I needed to be honest. honest with God and with myself. and sometimes writing out my feelings is a lot easier than speaking them.
I have so many pray warriors and encouraging friends that are asking me the tough questions and helping me rediscover what stirs my affections for the Lord.
I want to delight in the Lord. I want to get to know him better.
This year I will be leading a freshman small group through the campus ministry I am involved in. I am excited and expectant. But, if we are being honest, a few short weeks ago, I was far from enthusiastic about this seemingly hopeless challenge.
you see, I am a perfectionist. I’ll admit it, all day long. I devote my time and energy to fixing, to refining, to adjusting. because I can’t sleep at night if something isn’t done well. So when I was told that I would be serving as a small group leader this year, I panicked. How could I, the girl who struggles with fear of imperfection, serve and lead a group of freshman who are just trying to figure it all out? I am far from an expert when it comes to life. I can barely keep my own life in check.
only thing to eat is poptarts? it’s fine.
did I wear those jeans the past two days? probably, but that’s alright.
arrive to class to discover I forgot to complete the homework. take a couple deep breaths and it’ll be okay.
my point is, I am still trying to figure this whole college thing out. so, how can I lead a group of freshman through this exciting, but sometimes terrifying season of life? how I am supposed to give them advice about things I haven’t experienced?
but I have several sweet friends who lovingly pointed out to me that I was looking at it all wrong. leading a small group isn’t about capability. it isn’t even about feeling “ready”. it is about being willing.
it isn’t my job to have all the answers. it isn’t my responsibility to have it all together.
my job is to pray for these students. to love them well. to send them encouraging texts on test day. my one job is to point this group of students back to Jesus. that’s it.
these days, I am trying to be real. transparent with my friends and with my family. real with myself. and I am attempting to be genuine with God. so I am going to be real with you for a second.
I struggle with feeling less than — unworthy, if you will.
when I got the email telling me that I would be a small group leader, I freaked out a). because I know it’s not something that can be done perfectly and b). because I have a fear of not being able to relate to people — on a everyday level, but also on a spiritual level.
my testimony is simple.
I grew up in the church. I was raised by two loving parents, in a home dripping with grace and truth. I experienced first hand what it looks like to be loved by my father in heaven. I asked Jesus to be keeper of my heart at a young age and have been protected from many things this life likes to throw at us. I am so grateful for that.
but, I have always wondered why I didn’t get to experience this crazy moment where God totally turned my world upside down. why can’t I pinpoint a moment in my walk with the Lord where I felt completely changed?
many of my friends have powerful testimonies that leave the entire room in tears. mine is a little different. It’s ordinary — mundane.
but this week, I have discovered that God uses the ordinary too. one of my peers encouraged me this week with this truth-filled passage (stick with me, it’s long):
“My 12 year old daughter dissolved into floods of tears at the kitchen bench not so long ago after being at an incredible conference. She’d heard some of the greatest testimonies of God’s intervention into the lives of her “Heroes” in the faith. Incredible preachers who took to the platform to tell of how God had found them in their bondage and pain, in the drug addiction, their hopelessness, the alcohol stupors, sexual abuse, their reckless lifestyles as hit men and in gangs, as nightclub owners and backsliders and how he’d “taken their mess and made it into a message”.
I wasn’t sure what prompted the tears until she innocently asked if it would be possible for God to use her too. Her gentle heart towards his, her sweet compliant spirit, her pure hearted pursuit. Or whether it was necessary for her to go astray so she’d have something to testify too.
I know it may seem like a funny question, but surrounded by people who tell extreme salvation stories of all that God has saved them from maybe it was a reasonable question
Which made me think.
we are all saved
Saved for relationship with God. The end result is the same. And maybe so too is the beginning
I gave my heart to Jesus when I was 4 – I never got drunk, never had sex before I was married, never smoked or did drugs, never was the victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse… I am just like my daughter. I had an innate sense of God with me from a young age and that awareness constantly governed my choices and decisions as a teenager. I used to wish for the dramatic testimony and would ponder in my heart the verse that says “he who’s been forgiven much loves much”. I wanted to love God the most.
As I’ve grown up. I have realized with hindsight that although I didn’t get saved out of those issues I was most definitely saved from them… Gods faithfulness through the generations spared me from the heartache and pain of living separated from God, from abusing my body and from meaninglessness. Saved from things that I watched my friends endure. We don’t get to choose the families we are born into and therefore often don’t choose how the grace of God gets applied to our lives and the situations we find ourselves in but I most definitely needed the same grace that my friends did. I just saw it at work to spare and save me from the harshness of life. It was more like boundary fences that stopped me plummeting over a cliff rather than the net at the bottom to break my fall. Psalm 145:4 says “one generation declares your work to the next” and providing we tell the story well, it should be possible to spare each other from making the same mistakes over and over. The generations can get stronger and more beautiful as they live out purity and surrender from young ages.
I think of Mary. As a young girl God saw her heart towards his and marked her to carry his son. She found favour with God because of her purity. Paul exhorted Timothy — don’t let people look down on you because if your youth but let your life be an example in faith, love and purity (1 Tim 4:12) God chose Samuel as a young boy in the service of God and marked him as a prophet to a nation.
So to a little girl at a kitchen sink my response is “no”. You don’t have to sin to allow grace to abound — it already does and your story of encountering God is just as rich and necessary as anyone else’s. God found you, saved you and needs your sweet story to accompany all the other ones. He’s a master creative. No two stories of salvation are alike. Each are unique in their own right and point to his infinite ability to restore everything to himself.”
my story isn’t radical — it isn’t the kind that keeps you at the edge of your seat. but the ending is the same as my friend who was sexual assaulted in high school. the ending is no different than my peer who struggled with alcohol.
we were all saved by the same Savior. we are all in need of grace (a whole bunch of it!!).
that is how I can relate to my group of freshman. the common ground will be, and is, always Jesus. today, I’m not looking at leading a small group as a hopeless challenge. I am viewing it as an opportunity.
if you could, will you pray for me as I begin this new season of life?
the three of us were sitting in a cafe on the corner of south college street and martin luther king jr boulevard. the city was vibrant with flashy billboards and car horns — anything to try and keep us from being present.
yet, our eyes and ears were fixed on her.
she was hurting. the kind of hurting that you maybe can’t even see until someone asks you about it. her dilemma? she loves a boy. but not just any boy. she loves a man who might not love her back. and that is where the fear set in.
her relationship with said boy, pulls at her heart in every single way. an impossible force that she can’t quite shake. a late night phone screen, just hoping that the next notification to pop up will be from him. a drive to his house on a sunday afternoon, with nerves that feel as though they could take over at any second. this is her reality.
a reality lived in fear of not knowing if the affection is mutual.
“you have to tell him the truth — you have to tell him how you are feeling.” was the advice that came from across the table. advice that seems like a good idea until it is put into action. because when we let feelings control us, we can never quite escape the fear of telling someone else what lays hidden in the depths of our hearts.
that night, I sat next to her. I nodded and handed out agreements every few minutes, when in reality I had no idea what she was going through. I had never felt this pain that took over her entire body. I have never loved anyone like she loves this boy.
I wore my “brave” giving key necklace, because I liked how it looked, not because I needed to cling to the word. I didn’t wear it as a sign of resilience or capability. and so I reached behind my neck and unlatched it.
because in that moment, I wanted her to be brave.
not just brave enough to confess her feelings to a man who may not reciprocate. I wanted her to be brave enough to own up to those feelings. to walk into a room with confidence and joy in knowing her fears won’t keep her from living anymore.
she put the key around her neck, and I swear it was a moment I will remember for a long time.
be bold. send the text. pick up the phone. tell the boy you love him. write the letter. whatever you have to do. just don’t keep those emotions locked up — don’t throw away the key.
in the words of sara bareilles: honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
so just do it. whatever it is you need to do. we are all cheering you on.
And staying is important. Sitting with friends who need encouragement. Settling into the word and staying there for a while. In the stillness we learn patience. In the quiet we find rest. But we are not called to stay forever.
There will come a time when God tells me to move and I must become a runner.
The point is, we have a purpose. We were created with one mission. one message to spread to the ends of this earth.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20
We were called to be fire starters – the movers and shakers of our generation. As Christians, our everyday is a mission field. The mundane is critical. Our entire existence is all for the glory of God. Every move we make reflects our creator.
You and I, we are the image-bearers.
How beautiful is it that our perfect father would choose to piece us together, bone by bone, to reflect his very own image? How amazing is it that we get to spend eternity praising the king of kings?
You do have a purpose. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are significant. You are loved and worthy, and don’t you let anyone tell you differently.
My job is to love people – to look them in the eyes and actually get to know them. My purpose is to invite people to the table.
I have no idea what God’s master plan is for my life (which is beyond hard for me to accept. Control freak over here!). But, my prayer is that I would get moving. My prayer is that I wouldn’t stand idle while my neighbors walk down the wrong path. I don’t want to be so caught up in the past or the future that I miss opportunities to share the most amazing news in the here and now.
when we started a new series called Welcome To Church yesterday, I laughed a little. all last week I had been defining church & journaling about what that word represents for me.
I just love when God consistently brings certain words or phrases to your mind to meditate on. this was one of those times.
a simple word at first glance. five letters. if you would have asked me a year ago, what does the word church mean to you? my answer would have been straightforward. a place to worship. a place to listen to a pastor tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing in your walk with the Lord. a place to pray.
but the church is so much more than four walls.
the church isn’t a white steeple & rows of pews. it is not an address that siri can direct you to. it isn’t a new place of worship with 50 members. it isn’t even a mega church with thousands of members. the church isn’t a building to enter.
the church is a community – people who wildly love one another & passionately serve the Lord.
the church is people who ask how your week was & genuinely care about the answer. it is people who, with a hand on your shoulder & eyes fixed, tell you God has a plan. the church is pray warriors & sunday night dinners.
hannah brencher beautifully describes it as real, i’m not letting you go, you’re gonna sit and eat with me, we’re gonna have an honest hour and then thank God for breath, you cannot make me run from you church.
what a lovely picture of fellowship. because if we are being honest, church is simply fellowship – a community that keeps each other accountable & sends encouraging texts.
the church is a body of Jesus-lovers with one goal in mind.
to make disciples. that’s it.
“therefore go & make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit, & teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. & surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” matthew 28:19-20
when did church become about how many people we could fit into a building & how many services we can squeeze into a sunday? (totally not hating on mega-churches — love ‘em to pieces. God is doing great things through several big churches.)
church is about sharing God’s love. it is about sending people out.
we are tasked with the job of being witness bearers. as christians, we are called to full-time ministry (jarrid wilson wrote a fantastic post about this, here!). the church is people who love the lost & long to see them delivered.
God doesn’t just show up on sunday mornings. the church is at its best when we are out in the mission field. when we are inviting our neighbors to dinner. when we are kind to those who aren’t necessarily kind to us.
church isn’t just a once a week sort of thing. it is an all day, e’ryday thing.
my freshman year of college is done (*insert praise hands*) — well, it was done a couple of weeks ago. but, I am just now getting a chance to reflect on the year that, in countless ways, changed my life.
honestly, I was not sure I was going to like college, & I completely pushed the idea aside until the last minute, when I had to make a decision. the Lord led me to east tennessee state university (that’s another story for another time) & gosh, am I glad he did.
the best decision I made my freshman year was the decision to get involved with a campus ministry. that was something I told myself that I needed to do from the get-go, & something I forced myself to do when the time came. God was faithful in leading me to The Well.
joining an on-campus ministry gave me forever-friends, it led me to the church I now call home, & it helped affirm my faith and beliefs, for myself.
I know what I believe in now. I feel as though I am at a point where I am walking in my own faith. not mimicking my parents faith. not doing exactly what the pastor says & hoping it works out. I am learning more about God’s being everyday, & I am learning to love his people more fiercely.
here are my (recently established) truths:
first & foremost, I believe with my whole heart that the Lord sent his only, perfect son to the earth to die on a cross for my everyone’s sins. I believe that you should love everyone, but that doesn’t mean compromising your faith. I believe you can love people without approving their decisions.
I believe you have to hold your brothers and sisters in christ accountable. & I believe you should have someone in your life to help keep you accountable. the only way to make it through this journey is to have a community of authentic, raw, encouraging, praying, loving people surrounding you & cheering for you.
I believe that kindness is everything.
no one will want to listen to your story — or your beliefs, for that matter — if you aren’t kind & genuine. people are good at sorting through the fakers & the real guys. I believe every person is equally worthy of love. I don’t care what ethnicity, gender, or age they are — they deserve to be loved.
I have discovered that people will love you for who you are — scars & all. if they don’t? you don’t want those kind of people in your life anyways.
I believe in forever-friends — the kind that drop everything & pray for you.
the kind of friends that walk you home at night, so you don’t have to walk alone. the sort of friends that make you cry (in the best way possible). & know just how to cheer you up. I believe in the kind of friends that know every dark secret & still choose to accept you. those kind of friendships make the world go ’round.
I believe that in all relationships, the common ground should be Jesus, end of story.
there should always be room for him in your conversations. if there isn’t, reevaluate. accordingly, I believe in “the triangle” — if two people are moving toward God, they are simultaneously moving toward each other. I believe there is a man out there for me that loves the Lord and serves the church well. & I believe God will show me that man in his timing (because, it is always better than my timing). also, you can’t force a relationship to work when it is clearly not going to — you will end up hurt. communication is key.
I believe it is alright not to have it all together.
Jesus is perfect so we don’t have to be. give yourself grace. grace, when you don’t get an A on the test. grace, when you don’t feel like you can do it all. grace, when you don’t feel worthy. lay it all down at the foot of the cross. let Jesus’ blood cover it all. it is okay to have mud on your hands and scrapes on your knees. God says come as you are.
I wholly believe prayer is one of the most — if not the most — powerful things in the world.
I have seen prayer do some pretty amazing things. & I discovered this year that the Lord wants to hear our hearts – our fears, our desires, our prayers that go somewhat like eh, I’m not so sure about that God. He is a jealous God. He wants every part of us — good & bad. One of the best things I started doing this school year was just talking to him before going to sleep. I tell him about my day, & he listens (God is a really good listener, by the way).
wounds heal & things change.
let it be okay if things don’t go the way you pictured them in your head or planned them on your pinterest board. just because it kept you up all last night, doesn’t mean you have to let it control your tomorrow. I can’t tell you enough — give it to God. my dad always tells me to let go & let God. it is about time I started listening.
college has been a learning experience.
learning to manage my time. learning to juggle school, work, & relationships. I am learning what it means to live recklessly abandoned for God. learning to let him write my story. I am learning that friends can become family. & that I need to call my parents more. I am figuring out how to be the best friend I can possibly be. I am finding out that people are my love language & I want to fiercely love them & cheer for them when no one else will.
remembering & reflecting on the fact that in the end, God wins. he always wins. nothing I do will change that. but, I do have the capability to plant seeds. to serve passionately & love wholly. to make people wonder why I am different. I want them to see Jesus in me.
here’s to planting seeds & letting the holy spirit do his thing.
I have been thinking a lot about everything God means to me — his attributes and such.
the Lord brought me to the passage in daniel about shadrach, meshach, abednego, and the fiery furnace. my elementary school self was completely terrified and amazed when I first heard this story. terrified, because who wouldn’t be freaked out when about to be thrown into a fire?! amazed because of how flipping awesome Jesus is — homeboy is a superhero that can walk through fire!
God showed me a very important aspect of his being through this passage:
we can’t change God’s status because the status of our own circumstances.
we are a success-oriented people. when we do good things, we get rewarded. that is the world we live in. Jesus isn’t like that. he doesn’t love us any more when we succeed. he doesn’t love us any less when we fail.
I used to think I had to win God’s love by being the perfect christian. I spent the majority of the last four years thinking I somehow needed to be perfect. I thought I needed to fill all the holes, fix all the people, and learn everything there is to learn about God. I desired to please God — which is by no means a bad thing.
But I was looking at it all wrong.
an old friend once told me, we want to be in control when we are by no means qualified to do so. If God was to let us actually determine what happened in every situation we would be more of a wreck than we already are. It’s so comforting to know though, that when we do take control and mess up that He can still use it for Him.
God isn’t looking for perfection. that is what Jesus is for.
God is looking for willingness. he is looking for participation. he is looking to use you in your mess — with your scars and all. God will use you in your sweatpants and t-shirt. he will use the beautiful mess that you are for his glory.
Jesus doesn’t change — ever.
he is good whether you get all A’s or not. he is just as good whether you date for one month or have been married for ten years. Jesus is good whether you feel loved or feel like everyone has turned their backs on you. he is good whether he says yes to a prayer or I have something better. he is just as good no matter the circumstance.
“but if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” daniel 3:18
even when shadrach, meshach, and abednego were facing death, they refused to worship other gods. they remembered that no matter the circumstances, God is just as good as he was yesterday and just as good as he will be tomorrow.
God, help me to remember that you are not only good — you are just as good.
it was a wednesday night and some of the most fiercely loyal women I know were all gathered in one room.
the question was: how do we become women of reckless abandonment?
that night was the first time I had ever heard the phrase reckless abandonment uttered. I thought to myself how outrageous that expression sounded. why would I want to become someone of reckless abandon?
to be reckless is to be utterly unconcerned about the outcome of a situation. and to have abandon is to give up complete control. my mind instantly pictured a girl on a motorcycle with a leather jacket and an eyebrow piercing. that is totally not me. and not really someone I could ever picture myself being.
or so I thought.
all at once, it hit me.
we should be recklessly abandoned to our creator. we should be fully surrendered to our Lord without worrying about the outcome — without fear of what others will think. we should be people that love fiercely and serve passionately, no matter the cost.
think about Ruth for a minute.
think of how completely devoted she was to her mother-in-law, Naomi. she never left her side — not once. while Naomi took a path of bitterness and regret, Ruth chose to be fully surrendered to God’s plan. she handed him the pencil and let him write her story. she gave up complete control and consistently lived a life devoted to the Lord and to Naomi. Ruth didn’t care about the whispers. she didn’t care about the subtweets, or having the perfect instagram feed. Ruth simply wanted to serve Naomi — to be at her side when she needed her. Ruth made a choice to be recklessly abandoned.
I want to be like Ruth. I want to love people hard and well. I don’t want to hesitate helping someone in need because of my own desires. I want to pray and talk about Jesus without fear of everyone else’s opinions.
I want to give God the pencil and let him write the next chapter of my story.
for those of you who don’t know, my old blog got deleted (boo!) along with all my blog posts (boo x 10!). so I guess you could call this my rebound blog – a clean slate, a new beginning. from this unfortunate scenario, I feel like God was forcing me to loosen my grip on my old blog. it was everything to me.
has anything ever consumed your every thought? have you woken up with this thing on your mind? have you consistently thought of ways to improve that object, relationship, or whatever else it may be? we all have that one thing…
and as cheesy as it sounds, my blog was that thing for me.
I was devoted to my blog.
sure, I was writing about Jesus, but I think I was talking about him more than I was actually spending intimate time with him. it is funny how a blog about God could actually pull me away from God.
so, I am back at it again (with the white vans… ha! I had to). and I am going to do things a little differently this time.
and while we are on the subject of “different”, this crisis (okay, that is a bit dramatic) has given me the opportunity to completely revamp the blog… starting with it’s name!
this phrase, with reckless abandon, has made such an impact on me this year. so naturally, it will be the concept of this new space. I can’t wait to tell you all the ways it has changed me and my view on christianity.