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Do You See?

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The classroom could be the battleground.
The risk could be the failure.
The cancer could be the life-stealer.
The child could be the nuisance.
The silence could be the frustration.
The rules could be the lifeline.
The CEO could be the rich one.
The mountain could be the impossibility.
The grunge bar could be the prison.

But then we remember,
we must remember,
through human eyes
fireflies resemble stars.

And we, mere fireflies,
resemble our Creator-
to light up the darkness,
to illuminate as galaxies.

And then:

The classroom could be the mission field.
The risk could be the dream.
The cancer could be the Life-bringer.
The child could be the leader.
The silence could be the invitation.
The rules could be the distraction.
The CEO could be the poor one.
The mountain could be the adventure.
The grunge bar could be the Throne room.

Do you see?

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These Words.

These words are for the loner, for the outcast, for the one they called “fag”,
for the lanky girl, the pudgy boy,
the failure and the addict,
for the over-eater, the under-eater, and the self-induced vomiter.

These words are for the shame-filled antagonist,
for the stealer, the home-wrecker,
the abandoned and the abandoner,
for the rejected and the one who cannot seem to quit taking wrong turns.

These words are for the cheater, for the liar,
for the broken hearted, the class clown hiding behind that suffocating mask,
the scaredy cat and the over-exaggerator,
for the fear-filled, tear-filled, and guilt ridden.

These words are for the ones who are lost, who have lost,
for the persecuted, the persecutor,
the silent sufferer and the one who is never busy enough,
for the attention-starved loudmouth and the one who always finds themselves at the punchline of the joke.

These words are for those whose heart is terrified to see what lies outside of the box,
for the skeptic, the cynic,
the nay-sayer and the one too shy to give an opinion,
for the one who is dying to belong and the one who quieted their dreams long ago.

These words are for you.

May these words remind you are more than the sum of the labels placed on you.
May these words cause your soul to stir, your heart to race, your head to bow and your knees to hit the earth for which they were intended.
May these words ring in your ears long after you read them and cause you to remember that Truth has always been for you and not against you.

These words:


 

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us… nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NIV)

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)

“Instead, in immense mercy and with an incredible love, God embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all of this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in the highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now, God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it.” (Ephesians 2:4-8 MSG)


Dear friend, may these words of Divine, Unending Truth be the words that forever label you.

Dive Deep.

 

Can I be honest about something?

Faith is hard.

It is thrilling and difficult and powerful and completely terrifying. To trust in the unseen seems like the most exhausting task on days when the fog of the unknown is surrounding you. This faith is the stuff of full surrender, of open hands, of a commitment to abandoning our way even though the new way is not yet clear. It is sticking our flag of belief in unstable ground and believing God for stability. It is trusting in the still, small voice from Heaven that whispers, “dive deep, child” even on days when we plead along with the prophet Isaiah for God to strengthen the feeble hands and steady the knees that give way.

 

But please, friend, hear me. This faith – it is worth it. Every time.

 

Here is some back story:                                                                                                                             

 

After endless conversations consisting of confident head nods paired with anxiety-drenched tears, in July 2013 the worship band I am in moved our home base from Orlando to Atlanta.  We had many reasons but the most vulnerable response we had was, “We just feel like it is the next step.”

 

Plain. Simple. We knew it was being asked of us and we had to respond.

 

Dive deep or run away. You can’t do both.

 

It was humbling and nerve wracking to leave the comforts of community, of consistent income, of knowing our surroundings. But we did it. We dove into this not yet known “next” with our arms linked, hearts tied and in utter dependence on God.

 

This whole moving thing may not be a big deal to some but this adventure has sifted me to the core of who I am. It has been full of joy, pain, inspiration, often confusion. Quite honestly, I feel crazy every other day. It is terrifying to wake up and realize the only option you have is to rely on God for the “next”. But it is also one of the greatest gifts, you know- realizing that in your human power, you literally cannot make it through the day. Realizing we cannot do this life thing on our own.

 

Reliance is a gift.

 

This move to Atlanta and all it brought with it has changed my perspective. I don’t know a lot but I do know that while faith may be simple, it is anything but easy. It is gritty, this faith. The book of Hebrews says faith is the stuff of heroes.

 

More times than I would like to admit, I have failed. Miserably. Ask my band-mates. I have spent many days crawling after my own vices, depending on my own strength, relying on my harsh tone and stomping off after not getting what I want in the moment.

 

It’s silly and beautiful to think how gracious they have been towards me, how loving, how accepting – always opening their arms again to come back to the faith place.

 

I have learned some things, though. I want you to know them, too:

 

Faith is a fight.

 

Watch the cynics come out of hiding when they see someone diving into the unknown. These critics combat the adventure of faith through destructive means- often through weapons of fear, shame, condemnation, distraction. These weapons are incessant bullies- always trying to position themselves in the parts of the heart that the Spirit has marked as His own. However, with the Cross as our filter, we must remind ourselves that though we are in a broken world, we fight on the forever-winning team. We are fighting alongside legions of angels that forever cry “holy, holy, holy”. We are fighting while Jesus is praying for us even in this moment. We must remind ourselves that God’s grace is made absolutely perfect in our weakness. I have learned that faith will always win in the fight against fear. I promise – the fight is worth it.

 

Faith is a flame.

 

It catches.  It encourages. It inspires. Take the Samaritan woman that Jesus meets at the well. The first thing she did after encountering the Messiah and putting her faith in Him was run and tell her story to anyone who would listen. The result? “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.” (John 4:39) It is through these stories, your story– that people can see the character of God in fresh ways. It may start small but before you realize it, the steadfast flame of faith can create a bonfire of trust in your community. I promise- the flame is worth it.

 

Faith is a freedom.

 

It is incredibly freeing to release our dreams into the hands of God. When we put our faith in Jesus and truly trust Him to bring whatever outcome He wants, we become free to stop wasting our time on worrying about what will happen next. There is space here, space to focus on being co-heirs with Christ which is the ultimate job description in the Kingdom. Our responsibility is not to be God- but rather let God be God and trust that we are sent as His messengers of the undeniable Good News. When we set free our dreams, we also are free from the lousy god of “success”, of having to prove ourselves. And once that freedom takes root in our heart, we are able to run- bold and unashamed into the future of all He has for us. I promise you- releasing your dreams into the hands of the One who made them- it is worth it.

 

So may faith may be your most sincere form of worship on days when the fog is all you see. Though it might feel broken and frail, faith that is marked from a pure heart is more precious to Him than a hundred heartless rituals.

 

Dive deep, friend.

Faith is worth more than we know.


 

These trials have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 peter 1:7

endure.

I have debated on starting a blog for a while now. What do I have to say that has yet to be said?

I recently figured out that I need to be reminded of these words come out of this blog… probably more than you do. But in the midst of a task-filled life I tend to forget the Cross. Doesn’t that sting? The Cross- the only truth that should consume the whole of our lives, the very thing that gives us the strength to take a real breath and have real life. I forget The Cross because I am distracted by my circumstances.

I forget because I have to make sure I take my trash out and pack my suitcase for the next trip Bellarive takes.

With that in mind, the intention of this blog is to encourage you and I to shift our  gaze back towards the Cross- to remember the defining, unmatched act of Love that is worthy of eternal celebration. If it does not point you there and all you hear is a twenty-something blabbing on about how their opinion is the right one, go ahead and stop reading while hearing me say, “I’m super sorry”.

Moving on!

 

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good- His love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

I have always focused on the first part of this verse- “Give thanks“. It’s actually sweet timing, for what could be more appropriate than to come before Him with our hands open, our heart lifted and squealing through a joyful smile, “Thank You, Dad!” for the hell that He lovingly saved us from.

But circumstances have this nagging way of wearing us down. Wearing us out. Causing us to lose focus.

Circumstances breed exhaustion. Exhaustion’s game includes wooing us away from running the race God has called us into, to instead lead us down any rabbit trail whose goal is to numb the pain. Seen any of the rabbit trails like vanity, alcohol, sex, entertainment, the applause of others… the list goes on?

Exhaustion shifts gazes from the Kingdom to self. Shifts it from looking upward to looking inward. We become too tired to think about anyone but ourselves.

So I was reading the 2nd part of the verse the other day, and it just hit me real hard – “His love endures forever“.

Endure. The King of Kings. His love endures. Hm.

What? Why?

I couldn’t shake it, so I looked it up.
Endure- suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently.

Do you hear that?

God suffers patiently for you and me and Kingdom come. From everything that I have read through His Scripture, He is not going to stop enduring until His Kingdom actually does come… which makes me want to fist pump.

His love endures through the horrendous, through the faults and failures caused by our insecurities, through clouds, rain, through the hospital visits that end in funerals, through the dark nights of the soul, through the silence, through natural disasters and man-made monsters. He endures those things WITH us and FOR us. See, He can’t help but remember the end goal of the Kingdom. He knows that this world started in a beautiful garden and is ending is a sacred City.

So why don’t we remember this when we are going through seasons of endurance? And hear me on this- there will be seasons of trial, when we feel like we are actually crazy for following the dreams God has given us, for enduring when everyone else thinks you are a wacko.  I’m getting anxious even thinking about it.

Seriously- stop for a moment and think about it. When have you had to “endure” a great day? No. You enjoy the days of sunshine, crisp skies, conversations with best friends, donuts in the morning, Chick-fil-A for lunch and Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner. You do not endure days like that. You enjoy.

At the end of all this, I’m left with the meek question:

Why does God endure for us?

Why would God endure forever for us, this broken humanity that on its very best day is a bunch of filthy rags raised to Heaven? Why?

The only answer I can give you and I is that because of His great love for us, He endures. He endures even to death and back again for the mystery of His promise that He is the groom, we are His bride and we are grafted into the Kingdom celebration.

At the very moment I remember the mystery, it leads me to thankfulness. Because honestly… what else can we do? The King of Kings endures this life with us by His never ending love. My spirit just has to scream “Hallelujah”!!

So if you’re enduring today- you are not alone. If you are suffering today, may you suffer patiently with your Creator. May we run this Heavenly race through all of our circumstances, temptations and trials because He has already won that race. We may surely be stumbling, falling, parched and desperately desiring to quit- but take heart, for He has already overcome. He has endured the world and won. May the God of all grace give you encouragement and hope as you trust in Him. May He give you Kingdom energy to run the race He has graciously marked out for you.

Press on, friend.