Glory

A poignant question posed

A beautiful message sent

Amid a tender world

Ringing, ringing ethereal

Delicate light not of this world

Gaseous, invisible, barely detectable

Shining, shining iridescent

Its quiet eloquence rides the wind

Its brilliance paints the sky before twilight

Look about and find sprinkled glory

Find a lingering question hauntingly beautiful

Forever, forever answer unabashedly.

Goodbye Shame, Goodbye Guilt

It hit me the other day just how much our society likes to measure us up. It starts with school. Each assignment is measured according to a number and letter system. The higher the number, or lower the letter, the better. It seems like a lot of life includes some sort of grading system like this. It becomes part of our mindset to try to perform well and wonder how we measure up. When we start viewing God as though He’s grading us, though, things go awry.

A big part of why we see God like this is because we focus so little on the relationship, and instead, end up focusing on the action part of faith. We do all the right things because we’re supposed. But living as though God were waiting for us to mess up so He could be mad at us is not good motivation for living a moral life.

In any healthy relationship, the people involved feel free to be themselves. The same thing applies to a relationship with God. He won’t hate you if you mess up, but He will convict and encourage you toward real holy change. Patience is an incredible attribute of God we can easily forget about.

We will mess up; we will sin. This is a fact, not something any one of us can defy with the most meticulous work. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b) If that isn’t encouraging- that we are loved even when we’re at our worst- than I don’t know what is.

You and me will never be “too far gone” to approach the throne of grace. Any moment is a good moment to talk to God. And maybe by realizing His forgiveness and love for us, we can begin to let that define how we see ourselves.

It is the enemy who wants to destroy us with guilt and shame and fear; God brings peace and joy and love. That is the kind of relationship and life we are offered.

The Time Before Marriage

Growing up is strange and one of the most mysterious parts to me is dating and marriage. Dreaming lots of dreams for the future is part of growing up and that includes many you have no control at all over. The dream of marriage is one of those, in my opinion. American culture has placed so much value and attention on being in a relationship, and I have to wonder if it’s healthy. I watch old TV shows and they show a man pursuing a woman. It is so sweet and gets my mind and heart desiring that kind of story- right now. An appreciation for a sweet love story is good, especially in light of how it is a picture of Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:22-32) When it becomes an obsession, though, it’s no longer so good and sweet. I believe God has a different plan for his people when it comes to the time before marriage.

I was not the girl who planned out her wedding at age 13. In fact, at age 21 I still can’t tell you what colors I’ll go with for my wedding day. (Of course, that’s assuming I will get married.) As a teenager I made multiple lists of characteristics I wanted my future husband to have, though. Looking at these long lists now, only a few of the items still stand.

  • Loves God and has an growing relationship with Him
  • Is a good leader
  • Loves people well

These are fairly general characteristics (yet it’s quite obvious when someone has them). There is a reason why they are so general: God can bring a man into my life who has a million little “perfect” characteristics that I would never ever think of. Honestly, some of the characteristics God would choose, I would not have appreciated as a younger me (including my-age me). (Also nobody is perfect, so that must be kept in mind.) At the end of the day, or life that is, God is much better at writing love stories than I am, so I don’t have to try to create the exact person I’m looking for on a piece of paper.

Even more than love stories, though, God is good at writing stories period. They’re never perfect- just look a the stories in the Bible! So living the single life is more than okay. (Despite what you may have heard at church or elsewhere.) Article after cliche online article tell us how life works and when the best time is to go to college, get married, have kids, etc. Life isn’t calculable enough to fit into any article- it’s amazing and beautiful and diverse- at least when we let God take the lead and stop trying to fit into those guidelines.

God is still good to those who don’t get married. In the season before getting married, and maybe even before seriously dating, is one that stretches our trust in God. So do you believe God is good no matter what? Is God good even if you never say, “I do”? I think that’s a good place to start. Falling in love with Jesus isn’t so much the replacement for a romantic relationship, but the bigger, better, authentic version. To live life everyday out of Jesus’ love makes everything sweeter, whether or not you’re dating or married.

Maybe, just maybe this season isn’t to be treated as one of waiting. What if we viewed it as a time to learn about and use the gifts we’ve been given? What if we learned to live and love well? What if we grew a trust in God so strong nothing could shake us? What if we stopped waiting for marriage to save us, and let Jesus save us and bring us into a fuller life right now?

Peace to You

It’s Christmas time once more! Despite the many almost car accidents that happen this time of year, it still holds a little more joy and peace. Honestly, that’s probably because I haven’t been consistent in preaching the Gospel to myself. This time of year, though, my mind is brought over and over to the wonder of God coming all the way from heaven to walk among us. It’s truly an amazing thing.

Believing in, and contemplating, that action gives me greater confidence that I can trust God. If Jesus went so far to fulfill promises from the Old Testament to restore relationship with us, than I can . Even when circumstances around me would make me question God’s goodness,  I can look at the Gospel feel confident of His love. There’s nothing like the Gospel to give, or restore, faith. And along with this faith comes peace.

Abraham was the man in the Old Testament who is accredited for having great faith.

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised.” – Romans 4:20-21

Faith gives peace because we are sure that God will provide, guide, and protect as we follow Him. The interesting thing is that Paul says that Abraham’s faith grew stronger as he gave glory to God. It makes a lot of sense that when we’re focusing on who God is and what He’s done that we would rest easier in His present and future sustaining grace.

In comparison to Abraham’s faith, I’ve noticed that the people in the Old Testament who did not have faith were afraid and made terrible decisions out of that fear. (1 Chronicles 19-20) So trusting is incredibly important if we want to make wise choices.

The is post has gone a little off the topic of the birth of Jesus… But can we really appreciate Jesus coming without a heart of faith?

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” – 1 John 4:9

69. Walking in Grace

Grace. It seems like I’m always coming back to grace. “Our job is to gracefully interpret the story of our lives.” -Robin Jones Gunn (That’s loosely quoted… the book went back to the library already.) Anyway, the concept struck me when I read it. This world, the Enemy, and our flesh do a fantastic job of helping us forget the position we hold under the blood of Jesus- forgiven, guiltless, loved. Living in grace means living in these realities.

Being a Christian should not be a constant guilt ride. At times the Holy Spirit will point out sin, but He also highlights a way of escape- He doesn’t leave you wallowing in guilt. Instead, the Christian walk is one more of encouragement and motivation. We walk in love. One thing that always reminds me of this love and encouragement is reading about how Jesus prayed for those who would come after Him – specifically for you and me. Jesus thought of us when He was about to endure the cross. (Honestly, He was probably thinking of us throughout the entire event. To save us was the reason He went experienced such anguish.)

 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. -John 17:20-23

Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us and the Holy Spirit helps us and prays for us. Even though there are times when it’s hard to feel this, our journey of faith is overflowing with help, encouragement, and grace upon grace.

66. Into the Unknown

It’s always an odd feeling when life, or God, leads you to someplace you weren’t expecting to visit. This is where I find myself right now. God is transforming my mind and bringing me healing in ways that are truly impossible, at least impossible on my own strength. (Trust me, I have tried to “fix” myself in these ways many a time..) It’s so strange to finally be in the transition period and yet not be the initiator of it; so amazing and scary to feel and see these changes and new patterns of thought.

The “scary” got a lot bigger than the “amazing” this week, though. Honestly, there was one day when I would just randomly start crying over seemingly little things. Except that they represented this new place God is taking me, so they were actually really big things to me.

At the end of that emotional day, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I can trust my Father. It’s not me against the world, nor me on a journey to miserableness by myself. Nope. It’s me traveling the road to wholeness with a good, good Father and Friend. (Having great friends and family helps a whole lot too.)

I was reminded of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Isn’t it great when the cliché verses take on whole new meaning!? Well, in my unsureness, this verse became a rock of truth.

I don’t know what the next months, or even the next few days, will look like on this transition journey. That’s an acute fact right now. But really, do any of us really know what the next days will hold? That’s why the Bible encourages us to say, “If the Lord wills it, we will do _______.” Keeping hold of the promises that God has a good plan and that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him will make every weird day and odd “I don’t know what’s going on” feeling much easier to roll with.

63. Love and Power

There are times when we see and feel God’s love clearly. Then those times come when we don’t feel or see anything. I’m beginning to see that this is not always the simple equation:

sin in your life = feeling far from God.

Sometimes God just seems further away, and while it may be disappointing, it’s not fateful. You can spend time in prayer and reading the Bible and not feel like you met with God, but you still spent time with Him. It only seems like we haven’t. And it’s only for a limited time; we will feel the intimacy once more.

Lately this pattern has been on a shorter, day to day basis for me. It’s been a practice in remembering the sweet things He has promised to fulfill in me. Even more specifically, I’m learning to step out into that promise. So often I don’t feel like living the life I’ve been called to. Yet, the Spirit will make it possible to do so if I’m willing.

“I am at work in you, giving you the desire and the power to fulfill My good purpose for you.” Philippians 2:13

I’ve met some amazing people who don’t follow Jesus, but in my experience, without His strength, I’m not going to make any truly lasting growth.

In my life right now, that verse looks like: saying hi to people I don’t know at school, being intentionally caring toward friends, focusing more on God than anxiety, practicing the presence of God…

But it’s also realizing that all this comes from God, who made the first step toward us. It means living in and from the unconditional love that Jesus extended. “My love for you is not based on your love for me.” 1 John 4:10

Once again, I find the Gospel at the center: that good, good story is a recurring theme. I hope I never escape it, either.

What is it that God is giving you the desire and power to do right now?