How Our Brokenness Leads to Destiny

This morning I listened to the age-old stories of Job & Joseph, two men who faced incredible odds in Scripture & came out like gold on the other side.

Both Joseph & Job experienced great loss in their lives: The loss of dear family, broken relationships with the people closest to them, physical suffering, rejection, silence from God, and (what appears to be) many years of testing.

But you know what happened after their tests?

God LAVISHED love on them from all sides – financial & career success, positions of high honor, respect from the very people who’d rejected them, restored health & relationships – in short, the very things that had been stripped away from them in the hard places of their lives.

I wonder if God allows such people and even us – those He intends to use for His purposes – to experience such hardship, rejection & loss because it’s paving the way for our future assignment?

Scripture tells story after story of God using such “stepping stones” in people’s lives to lead them to their destinies. No, this process doesn’t always end in earthly fame & fortune, but when He prepares us for His purposes, it is in our best interest that He strip us of our dependence on things we’d otherwise cling to in the future. This is how He strengthens us – by removing that in our lives which makes us weak.

Our trials help us loosen our grip on worldly matters so we can shift our eyes to His priorities… to the point where once He restores what we’ve lost, we no longer lean on it like we once did.

This is when we know He’s done a true work in our lives.

In Joseph’s case, he was known among his brothers as a braggart, a dreamer, & a young man full of pride! This is NOT the type of character that would’ve served him (or others) well in his God-ordained future role: Egypt’s second-in-command when a terrible famine hit the earth.

And in Job’s case, God allowed testing to prove a huge lesson to Satan himself – that there existed a man on earth who would remain faithful to Him despite being stripped of all his worldly gains (including his health). I can’t imagine the joy in heaven when Job passed this test & proved such a powerful lesson to the enemy.

After Job’s very long & arduous journey, God restored what he’d lost TWO-FOLD. Our God is so good! He doubly-blessed Job for honoring Him in his suffering.

In a beautiful gesture of kindness, God also gave Joseph the glory & honor he’d sought for years among his brothers, but nearly half a lifetime later after he’d given up hope of ever receiving such respect from them. And even beyond that, God used Joseph to save the very LIVES of his family & of all God’s people. Talk about restoration!

These stories are amazing. They teach us invaluable lessons about how trials & challenges shape our lives. God uses them to chisel His character in us & to open the path before us to greater things.

We may never know the exact reasoning behind the “stuff” we’re facing right now, but I’m reminded of a certain Scripture that reassures me today:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

~Romans 8:28

Yes, all things – even the loss of children, our health, love, our reputation, wealth. Every hard experience in our lives is being worked out for our good. He has a benefit in every wilderness passageway we travel and in every heartbreak, even the ones that seem beyond redemption. Actually, especially those.

I am so comforted by this. It makes me wanna look beyond every hurdle I face to the glory, the goodness, the lesson, the blessing it will bring into my life. I know it’s there cuz He said so.

And so it is with you!

A New Adventure!

This post is written in honor of my birthday today! What an exciting time, beginning a brand-new year of life. I hope to live it to the fullest :)


 

bilboa baggins

I’m going on an adventure!

~Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

So, remember that one time (January 1st :D) when I got my word for 2014? It was simple: Live.

In the time that’s elapsed this year, I’ve been working & reflecting more… writing less… spending more time with people… and less time trying to fit life into a mold. I’ve been observing the world around me, to see it for what it really is (apart from my voice). It’s an interesting journey to take as you embark on your 30’s and a necessary one for me.

We learn a lot in silence. We discover that the world keeps rotating without our every opinion, experience, & feeling time-stamped & recorded. We observe people & human nature in their more honest forms. We hear what those around us are actually saying (& make room for the Lord’s voice, too). We also find fewer reasons to apologize (thank God) and relish the present more.

In short, we begin living more fully :)

There’s a joke that goes, If I didn’t put it on Instagram, did it even happen?? 

This was the small, fishbowl kinda world I wanted to retreat from, just for awhile. To gain some perspective, maybe. To realize not that many people needed to know about my every move (or me about theirs). To gather my thoughts (without the interjection of everyone else’s) and to observe for awhile. To learn & grow in my pursuits without as many interruptions. It’s been such a lovely & surprising relief.

Since then, a new spark has kindled in my heart, one that the Lord relit this January. It was as if He breathed on me & said Live, child. I’ll take care of the rest.

So I’m beginning to.

This word has been resonating within me this year, growing louder each passing month. And a cool experience has been happening: my heart is reopening to possibilities, to new opportunities, to dreams laid to rest too soon.

It’s as if He’s saying, It’s time to live again!

When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment… [then] I made My vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord Godand you became Mine. 

~Ezekiel 16

In 2014, I’ve been going on new adventures and it has been glorious! :) And in times to come, I’m gonna go on more exciting adventures. It has me on the edge of my seat. I can hardly wait for what the Lord is inviting me into!

As with any destination, we never know the twists & turns, dips & peaks we’ll encounter or who we’ll meet along the way. We aren’t even sure who we’ll see in the mirror at the end of them, but all in all, I’d say it’s time for some adventure in my life! I believe God is holding the pen, and I hear Him saying… We’re going on a new adventure!

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!

~Dr. Seuss

Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com

Cheap Christianity

Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com

A thought’s been marinating in my mind lately, the idea of a Christianity apart from sacrifice.

We say we love people, but we aren’t always willing to set aside our desires for them. How great, then, is our love if we love our comfort & security more?

To “outsiders” – those who don’t believe as we do – what shows them our love? Our great theology? How powerful our worship services are? How righteously we live?

Or is it how we treat them & each other, and even moreso, what we’re willing to give up for their good?

Our Christian culture has become largely devoid of sacrifice. We’ve watered our faith down to theological debates on online forums and funny t-shirts (while calling ourselves “brave” & “heroic”). Yet this smacks more of Cheap Christianity – Jesus followers unwilling to lay down our lives for another (or only on our terms). I am just as guilty of this as anyone.

Yet the real Jesus touched & healed people frequently, encouraged people to draw near to His Father, and eventually died in order to make this possible. 

Do I do even part of that? Do I care enough to sacrifice, to surrender my rights for the sake of another? Have I been willing to “turn the other cheek” to show them Christ’s character & heart for them, or am I always seeking vindication?

Am I willing to give money or the shirt off my back (so-to-speak) to help someone in need? Do I let others go first in line? Do I give up my freedoms when they cause another to stumble?

Do you?

Everyday Heroes

Every powerful movie has a hero: Captain America, Braveheart, Thor, Superman. I LOVE these movies (don’t we all?) because they’re so inspiring. And touching. And gripping.

But what makes these characters heroes? Is it their great speeches… or the way they relentlessly give of themselves, over & over again, for the sake of others?

Hmm, yea. These movies are the Gospel story repackaged for the big screen. No wonder we’re so captivated by their tales.

Unwittingly, we are drawn to these “saviors”: Heroes fighting for the betterment of others, to their own detriment. We admire & respect them because they are laying it all on the line for other people. 

These heroes (& people like them) sacrifice every day, which is more of a testament to their beliefs than anything they could ever say they believe.

Our world’s true heroes are out there giving of themselves right now, not duking it out on the web with non-believers – at best a big short-term win, but epic long-term loss. As an old professor of mine once said, You’ll never argue an atheist into heaven – so I suggest we stop trying.

I fear my faith is cheaper than I realize because I find myself MUCH more on the side of the web warriors than the everyday servants… and that has got to change.

I don’t want a cheap religion devoid of the Man I’m supposed to be following. I want an authentic relationship with Him that spills over into other people’s lives, through my everyday living (& yes, even sacrifice).

These gestures need not be grandiose to be great – in fact, most aren’t. But practicing “you before me” regularly will chisel more of God’s heart in my life than any One Year Bible plan or seminary ever could.

More importantly, my love through everyday sacrifice will show outsiders how real His love is for them.

“I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” ~Jesus (John 13)

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” ~John 15

Source: http://spirituallythinking.blogspot.com

 

Source: Creative Commons, Richard Freeman

What is Your Ripple Effect?

Source: Creative Commons, Richard Freeman

Source: Creative Commons, Richard Freeman

“What we do now echoes in eternity.” —Marcus Aurelius

One recent morning I was listening to the book of Joshua & cleaning house, when a familiar story came on my audio Bible: The story of Achan in Joshua 6-7.

Achan’s Destruction

In this passage, after Joshua & the Israelites experienced an incredible victory at Jericho, a man named Achan decided to defy God’s command & keep some of the spoils of war for himself.

Bad idea.

Because of Achan’s decision, when Israel faced their next (much smaller) foe at Ai, they experienced a shocking defeat which left them questioning God’s promise to them. Hadn’t He said He’d give them victory wherever they went?

“What happened, Lord?” they asked after the battle at Ai. God informed them that He’d departed from the Israelite camp because of ONE man’s sin!

“Israel has sinned; they have violated My covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies…

I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction…You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.” —Joshua 7

Achan’s actions brought God’s judgment upon the entire nation of Israel – cursing them all – due to his act of disobedience. What! That seems crazy pants, doesn’t it? Yet his actions led to 36 lost lives on the battlefield & eventually the loss of his ENTIRE family (including himself). What a WASTE!

Every time I hear this story, I feel a little depressed, like:

God, really? Where is the justice in an entire nation suffering for one man’s sin?

As I asked this familiar question today, it was as if He countered me with this:

What if your sin affects people in a similar way?

It made me stop & think. What if…? What if this was reality because, friends, I believe it IS true!

Achan’s actions were foolish, yes, but more importantly – they had an enormous impact on the people around him. If one person’s sin could infiltrate Israel’s camp and cause them to be overcome by their enemies, couldn’t we reason that our sins could have similar results?

While not every decision of ours holds such weight, we tend to underestimate the impact our choices have on the community we live in, especially our family. They experience the greatest consequences from our misbehavior, don’t they? Just as Achan’s family did.

Rahab’s Redemption

Interwoven in this sad story is another, much more beautiful one: The story of Rahab the prostitute. This brave woman hid several Israelite spies in her home in Jericho, shortly before the Israelites conquered her town.

Because of her courage, the Israelites spared Rahab’s ENTIRE FAMILY from certain death in the aftermath of Jericho’s defeat. Just as one man’s sin opened his family up to death, one woman’s righteous act saved her family’s lives!

I don’t think God wove these two stories together coincidentally. He’s sending us this message here:

Your sin has a powerful ripple effect.

Do you believe that? Because our modern culture’s mantra is, “Don’t tell me how to live my life!” and “Only God can judge me.”

Really? Because what you do impacts my life, and what I do impacts yours, so we have a vested interest in each other’s behavior.

What if we embraced reality: That we don’t live in a vacuum? When we have a bad attitude, the people around us are affected. My selfishness hurts the people in my life – my coworkers, family, marriage, parents, even my neighbors. Likewise, your “issues” prevent you from being the loving person your community needs & may even drag others down.

Our actions matter MUCH more than we think. They can even change the course of people’s lives!

Living in Light of Our Ripple Effect

So what if we lived in light of this? What if we allowed our community to have a say in how we lived because, honestly, how we live our lives shapes our community (for better or for worse)?

I’m not talking about people dictating our lives to us. Our decisions are ultimately ours to make. What I’m presenting here is the idea of COMMUNAL LIVING, as opposed to living on our own terms, apart from the wisdom & input of others.

What if we didn’t buy into the lie that “my life is my own”? What if we shed the false belief that I’m king or queen of my island - because the truth is, we share this island with millions of other people! We can’t possibly live life without affecting the people around us, either by our actions or lack of.

Maybe we should start living this way, get our heads out of the sand, and realize our lives have a much larger impact than we ever imagined.

Because when we hold people at arm’s length and refuse to consider them in our daily decisions, we lose sight of our life’s ripple effect. We forget that we impact every person we encounter – in big & small ways.

When we live life “on our terms”, we forget how IMPORTANT our choices are & how much we can impact the world for good (or harm)! We also tend to forget how UNIMPORTANT we are. Life on an island centers around ME. When we recognize that our islands are interconnected, we start to see our lives in light of the larger whole and have a healthy grasp of the ripple effect our actions have on the waterways of other lives.

God gave us the powerful gift of choice, but what we do with this freedom could have significant – even eternal – consequences for other people… and most of all, us!

Is it possible that we’ve deeply hurt others or even caused spiritual (or literal) death due to living life “on our terms”? Have we forgotten the casualties we leave in the wake of our choices? And on the contrary, is it possible that our choices have the power to lead people to a better life?

I believe Scripture says “Yes!”

We can either be Achans or Rahabs. Who will we be? It’s up to us. We can live life to bless or curse the people around us. Let’s live in light of our impact, with others around us, & choose to be a blessing, not a curse!

Have you witnessed the ripple effect of your actions on someone else (for good or bad)? What was the result?

Source: Matt Stavros

Leading Doesn’t Make You Popular

Source: Matt Stavros

Source: Matt Stavros

We all have the capacity to be leaders, whether we realize it or not. 

I shrugged off this idea for a long time, but the Holy Spirit’s persistent voice kept saying this to me throughout my younger years:

You are a leader. Yes, you…

Do you believe that about yourself? Why or why not?

I know I didn’t. If I were meant to be some type of leader, I reasoned, then I should have dozens of followers. No followers – no leader. That’s the formula, right?

But all this time, I’ve been confusing popularity with leadership. To influence people (the essence of leadership), I thought one must be well-liked & accepted. Yet NOWHERE does God equate the two in Scripture. In fact, Jesus – the world’s best leader – was murdered by the people He was sent to lead!

I somehow missed that true leadership isn’t a person’s ability to bend to the crowd but their ability to rise above it & lead it in another direction, even in the face of opposition. This is what Jesus did, and that is why He still influences people today. What a portrait of a true leader!

Many of the “coolest” people I know – those on the cultural cutting-edge – seldom lead anyone anywhere. At best, they puppet the world around them. That isn’t leadership; that’s the path of least resistance.

Can they be counted on to deliver not-so-popular news, or introduce new ideas that may upset the status quo? Nope. Such people have their pulse firmly on the world’s wrist, but are unwilling to do anything to change it.

Contrast that with Jesus. He was a leader willing to go against the grain, to say or do what was completely genuine to Him – things that were possibly even unpopular – for a cause beyond Himself. 

Leaders risk their social status NOT for themselves, but for a higher purpose:

They aren’t trying to be difficult or different – they’re just seeking to make a difference. And they recognize that to make a difference, one must sometimes BE different!

They aren’t chasing fame & applause (which doesn’t last anyway) but truth & love & the One who made both.

They don’t just surround themselves with the “in crowd”. They see people for who they are, not through the lens of social status, and are willing to invest in those who are overlooked.

They encourage the best in others (and tend to bring it out).

They’re simply real & honest. Unhindered by popular opinion. Willing to speak out against things that should be opposed… for the sake of showing people a better way.

True leaders stand for something greater than themselves, and they do so even if it costs them. In fact, that’s when leaders shine most: When no one else is willing to say or do what needs to be said & done.

So let this truth settle in your heart today: You CAN be both a leader & “uncool”. In fact, it’s highly likely you’re a curious blend of both :) And that’s precisely why God chose you & I to lead.

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Five-Minute Friday: {A Writer’s Life}

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Every Friday, a group of bloggers spends 5 unedited minutes writing on a new topic. This fun assignment – created by Lisa Jo Baker – helps us write free from worries about perfection or format. I love the idea & hope you enjoy this week’s theme (“Writer”) in all its rough glory! 

~~~

I’ve written since I was a small child – stories (both bloody & fun), poetry, pages & pages of journals – locked tight with Lisa Frank keys, cards & Valentine’s, daydreamed doodles.

Over & over again, I heard “You’re a great writer” – something I still don’t see. It’s as if God wanted this path for me, wanted me to explore Him through words – both mine & others. I can’t describe the discoveries I’ve had through the written word – mine & His, the joy I’ve had while creating sentences on paper, the sheer exuberance I’ve experienced when stepping into bookstores or receiving notebooks as a gift & new pencils every August.

Writing & me: it must’ve been fate. Yet in recent months, I’ve wondered what God’s greater purpose is for me here? Will my words change the world, or just change me? Will they go to the other corners of the earth, or are they meant to just touch next door?

I can’t know the future, but I know I must be obedient – I must heed this call to write. For, in God’s eyes, good or not, I am a writer.

“Beautiful words stir my heart.
I will recite a lovely poem about the king,
for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.”

~Psalm 45

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Source: staffordlakay.blogspot.com

Tears in a Bottle

Source: staffordlakay.blogspot.com

Credit: staffordlakay.blogspot.com

Tears in a bottle.

For those times you were victimized.

For him cheating on you.

For the weeks & years they’ve taken you for granted, with hardly a care for your well-being.

For the lost job.

The lost pregnancy.

The lost dream.

As I re-connect with friends who have experienced betrayal & heartbreak in recent months, I have no other comfort for them than to say that God sees & hears all. He understands & collects our tears in a bottle.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book. —Psalm 56:8

For reasons I can’t grasp tonight, our God allows our hearts to go through trials & to even be shattered.

No, it’s not fair. No, He’s not pleased with what happened to you. And no, He doesn’t call evil “good” – so neither should we.

What He does promise is to bring beauty from the ashes of our lives, tremendous beauty we can’t fathom.

He hasn’t forgotten. As His bottles fill up with our pain & confused tears, we can rest that He loves us… He’s with us… & He will heal us.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. -Psalm 147:3

O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. -Psalm 30:2

I am the Lord who heals you. -Exodus 15:26

“I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord. -Jeremiah 30:17

He sent forth His word, and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. -Psalm 107:20

happy vday!

My Valentine’s Day Surprise!

happy vday!

Credit: Pinterest

In honor of one of my favorite holidays, I’m announcing today that I have a NEWLY-DESIGNED WEBSITE :) I redesigned it last weekend, tinkered with it, & finally went live yesterday. You guys are some of the first to know!! Hooray!

I plan to continue updating & adding new items, so keep watching to see how it evolves. I l-o-v-e the minimalist look & feel of this design. Thanks for checking it out! I hope you like the new changes :)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Our Valentine’s Day

I hope y’all are having an awesome Valentine’s Day!!! We’re having more of a “Valentine’s Weekend” because of the busyness of this week. Here’s a little peek into what our celebration entailed (our 3rd as husband & wife):

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Lord I need You Matt Maher, Lord I need you song, worship song Matt Maher, Matt Maher

Lord, I Need You [Matt Maher]

Guys, this song has been echoing in my head for WEEKS. Without. Stopping! Yes, I love it, but after enough times I realize God must be giving me a hint here…

Sometimes, He seems to remind us of the perfect song, just when we need it. This is such a time. Enjoy (I highlighted my favorite parts).
~Summer

Lord, I Need You (Matt Maher)

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here, I find my rest
Without You, I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

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