The Power of THEY

I want to talk about THEY. Don’t look at me like I’m crazy – you know what I mean. THEY. Those people. The ones you surround yourself with on a daily basis. The ones you associate yourself with. Your THEY.

They are everywhere. From social media, to work, to school, personal life, we are surrounded by a THEY.

But are we really? When we really, and I mean really, start to think about who they are, are they really the people we want to be surrounded by?

maxresdefault

Let’s back up a little bit –

On Wednesday nights I go to a bible study in Grapevine called Flavour. Last night we talked about who we do our battles with, otherwise known as our THEY.

Think about it – you have your friends on social media, but then you have the group of people you’d be willing to invite to an event or something (and I mean like the extended-extended-of extended family/friends here), there’s the people you’d want at your birthday party or graduation or wedding, but then what about those people, the one’s you know who will go into battle with you no matter what. These are your THEY.

Now, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, or you just think I’m a weirdo who has a problem with caps lock, THEY is an acronym. There is so much more to the people who are your THEY than just those you would consider your “ride or die” style friends. And let me tell you, you may think there are some who could or should be your THEY, until you really start to analyze what this means, then you begin to realize your THEY isn’t as large or as strong as you thought it was.

Here’s what I mean:

T

The first letter we have is T. T stands for tough. These are the people who are solid and steady. The ones who give you a firm foundation when you feel like you don’t have one. More importantly, the ones who remind you of the foundation you stand on when you feel like you’re struggling to remember. They really are the epitome of ride or die.

H

H stands for honest. These are the people who will speak truth into your life even when you don’t want to hear it. This goes beyond just telling someone they’re being a brat. They are honest about living up to the life God created you to have. They provide honest perspective on your difficulties. They will tell you if your decision is rash, or if your words are harsh. They provide the level-headed perspective we all need in our lives.

E

E stands for encouraging. These are the people speak constant encouragement into your life no matter what. They do not display signs of jealousy or a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. You can come to them with good news, the best news, and they won’t try to break you down, or show you up, or throw a pity party for themselves. They’re just always happy to you and for you.

Y

The last letter is Y. It’s also the most important letter. It stands for yielded. Are they a whole-hearted, committed, commissioned, follower of Christ? I don’t think I can ever emphasize this enough. These are the people who both speak and live the word of God. They don’t just know God’s word, God’s word is written on their hearts. And they will take the word and transmit it to you during those times you need it. They are the one’s who shine for Christ in all that they do. You never have to ask them if they’re a Christian because you know they are. They walk with a different beat in their step because you know they live a life totally surrendered to Christ, and this type of surrender is displayed in everything they do. And let me tell you – this is absolutely the most important quality you want in your THEY. The other three letters are mediocre to this sense of yielding all that we have and all that we are to Christ.

So why is THEY important? Because it’s not about how many there are. It’s about who they are. THEY are the ones who display these qualities through and through, no matter the stages or seasons of life. THEY are the ones you can always turn to to be tough, honest, encouraging, and yielded. Without these qualities, well to be quiet frank, our THEY isn’t really a THEY worth having.

So who is my THEY? It’s a list I made last night as an exercise during bible study. Like most, some who I thought would make the list were quickly cut off. Then there were others who removed themselves from the list by removing themselves from my life. At the end (not counting my parents or my sister) the number of people I can turn to at any time of day for any reason, is three. Three people. Three people in my inner circle I would trust with my life. They are my THEY.

Emma Vance. Kaelan Blok. Haley Wolters. They are the ones who are both tough and make me tough. They are the ones who are honest with me even when I don’t want to hear it. They are the ones who encourage me. But most importantly, they are the ones who speak the truth of God into my life at all times. They are the ones who offer their prayers and support. They are the ones who bring treats to my house, text me at 4 am to make sure I’m okay, and tell me they’re buying a boat to get my mind off my mom’s wreck. This is my THEY.

Going even further, Haley is my ultimate THEY. She is the Godsend to my life who emulates all of these qualities to me, even if the seasons of life are difficult for her.

At bible study, they asked to share how we met our best friend/ultimate THEY. Haley and I have an interesting story. We worked the same internship. I walked in my first day with my Gilmore Girls coffee cup and it was basically an instant connection from there. We were inseparable that summer. And yes, we are the annoying girls in their 20s who run around Target shopping then lay on the floor laughing while she reads “All My Friends Are Dead” and I play with a giant green bouncy ball.

fullsizerender
I did buy the bouncy ball that day. Makes for good stress relief. 

But what really got Haley and I, where we really noticed God was working between the two of us for each other as best friends beyond all that we had in common, was the night we baked cookies at her house. We baked cookies and watched Gilmore Girls. But we also shared our stories with each other. I told her about how much I found my identity in someone else and as such allowed a breakup to destroy my life. She told me about the struggles she faced with her biological dad and reasons her family is the way it is as a result.

There is no denying we bonded – but this is where we realized it was God at work and not us. In that moment of sitting her on L-shape couch, stuffing our face with cookies, while her dog Ugg begged us for attention, Haley looked at me square in the eye and began talking about the very passage of scripture God had been using to speak into my life for many months leading up to that moment. The weird part? Not once did I ever say in the conversation that was the journey God and I were walking together. Haley just felt the words come on her heart and she spoke them. Except that wasn’t Haley, that was God. Everything was uphill from there.

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-9-02-31-pm

Now, obviously not everyone will have a story like Haley and I, but I do believe it reflects the importance of choosing the right THEY. Without the right THEY, we are marching into battle with people who do not understand our desire and need for God. They point us to each other instead of toward Him, and we need the people who will always point us toward Him.

I’ll end with this – they said this quote last night and I love it – “It’s not the people who will ride in the limo with you, it’s the ones who will be there when the limo breaks down.” Well, this is ALL to real for Haley and I since her car did break down and we (i.e. Micah and Erik, we sat in the car) had to push it to the gas station.

fullsizerender-2
Because who doesn’t want to run out of gas in July in Texas?

Your THEY is important so surround yourself with the right ones. And if you don’t have them, then pray for them. God will provide them. But remember, you have to be the right THEY as well as choosing the right THEY.

fullsizerender-1
One last ode to the bouncy ball. It’s always there for me. 
Advertisements

Faith

fullsizerender
I used to have this verse hanging via decal on my living room wall. Then I moved from Waco and never replaced it. Still I find myself doodling it a lot

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gain approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible…and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” –Hebrews 11

If I told you I took a spiritual gifts test on Sunday and faith came back as one of my strongest spiritual gifts would you believe me? Honestly, I was somewhat shocked. The knowledge and wisdom aspects didn’t surprise me as much. I am a learner. I love gaining knowledge about anything and everything. Scripture is no exception to this rule. Concerning wisdom, I understood how I ranked so highly on that. From my knowledge, I had experienced spiritual maturity and began to be able to practically apply that knowledge I had grown up with my entire life.

But faith…really…faith? Faith is for the crazy people that believe God is capable of everything right? Faith is for people like Abraham, Moses, and David. But me? God granted me the gift of faith? I was honestly taken aback. This simply cannot be so. Yet then again, I did mark a five out five on the line “I feel assured that a situation will change for the glory of God even when the situation seems impossible.” 

Then I read the text box for faith:

Faith trusts God to work beyond the human capabilities of the people. Believers with this gift encourage others to trust in God in the face of apparently insurmountable odds. (1 Corinthians 12:9)

If you want to talk about yelling at God for saying a situation is impossible, I am probably your poster child. Still, I realized this very reason is why it hit me so much.

Make no mistake, I am always the first person to say “don’t doubt God, you never know what He could be up to.” But saying it and believing it. Well, those are two completely different scenarios. Yet here I sit, faith tied for the highest score on my spiritual gifts.

The faith one is the one that hit me the most because it’s the one that has felt so real in my life for the past few years. I had to go beyond hearing it and knowing it to living it and believing it. Ultimately, it was this faith that God is in the midst of everything and is able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds that my ex and I became so close.

He was going through one of the, if not the, toughest time in his life up to that point at least. I could sense his anger. I could sense his hopelessness. I could sense there were moments he wanted to ask God why He would place such an egregious situation in his life.

As he went through these circumstances, I would sit with him and try to make him talk to me. I knew he didn’t want to, but I still encouraged him by letting him know that I was there 24/7 if he ever needed a support through everything he had to face. Although we weren’t yet dating at this point, let’s be honest I inherently knew I loved him (whether I was ready to admit it or not is a topic for later discussion), and all I wanted was assurance he would be okay no matter what happened.

I distinctly remember one night at our local city park. He and I and a few other friends all went down to the park to hang out, goof off, be kids, whatever. We were 16 year olds that wanted to stay out until curfew. Though while we were all joking around, he separated himself from the group. He climbed up to the top of one of the slides and just stood there analyzing his surroundings. I figured his mind had to be racing with thoughts so I climbed up there with him to see what was going on. Like I said, my goal in the entire situation was to always make sure he was okay.

He opened up to me that night. He told me how angry he was at everything. He told me how he felt alone, almost like his other siblings didn’t quite understand the feelings he was trying to work through. And most importantly he told me he just didn’t get it. I sat there and listened and then proceeded to talk him through his anger. I told him God had an end to this situation but it would require a lot of faith on his behalf. I told him God would use the hurtful and seemingly impossible circumstances in his life to not only grow him stronger as a person, but also bring glory to His name. I remember telling him it may seem weird now, but you’ll see how God will work this out.

I held his hand (literally and figuratively) as he moved forward with a battle he never thought he would have to face in his life. It’s coming up on seven years, and I pray he is able to see how God used and is still using this situation and how everything worked out because I know I can.

Little did I know, however, that years later God would use him to shatter my world, and in my heart-broken state I would have to begin uttering those same words of faith I gave him on the slide that night to myself. I could no longer look at him and tell him everything was going to be okay and move on with my life. I had to learn how to hear and believe the truths God was speaking into my life, even though I can recall pulling into the parking garage at Baylor one day and in my prayer simply saying “God…it’s impossible”, to which his response to me was “I am God all-sufficient. I will make it possible.”

My faith grew that day.

2014-05-23_14-39-54
El Shaddai in Hebrew

As I discussed this aspect of faith with those around me, I realized the journey God brought me down was one very much of faith-solidifying. God knew the faith was there, but I had to realize it. I had to dig deeper into myself than I ever had before and cling to God harder than I ever had before (which I am still doing). It was either that or fall WAY off the deep end. I would think my friends and family are happy I chose the former as opposed to the latter.

But faith-solidifying is really where I fell at. Once that was laid out before me, I could see the truth in my spiritual gifts test. I could tell God had given me this faith for a reason, even if I cannot yet see what that reason is.

I was brought to the edge of myself so I could reach something greater. It was an unknown. It’s still an unknown. But I have faith one day I’ll see that place, whether on earth or in Heaven. The important part was I didn’t step out in blind faith, but instead in all-consuming readiness to be used by God through what I viewed as insurmountable circumstances.

I have said it before but I want to reiterate it – my faith grew stronger because in seeking explanation from God, I found revelation instead, and through this revelation my mind was elevated. I know longer saw my circumstances for what they were but instead saw God for who He was and the things He is capable of (which is a lot).

While it was weird at first, faith was actually spot on. Faith is that God is who He says He is and will do what He has said He will do. Faith that in God I can experience immeasurably more.

FullSizeRender-1.jpg

If I’m Being Honest…

47caa5e7fa0a83df60013a4e3a941335

Have you ever been completely honest with someone even though you were scared to death? Have you ever faced that moment where you laid everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, on the table for them to analyze and pick apart? You knew you would face the possibility of judgment for your actions, but what you were facing could no longer be held in anymore?

Last night I faced that moment. A simple conversation with my friend Emma turned into a heart-to-heart, and I became the epitome of “all the feels.” I don’t let my guard down easily with people (I know that doesn’t make sense since I’m sitting here telling you this story now), but I don’t. I’m an open book in so many, many ways and in other ways, I refuse to show any amount of affection. Seriously, if you want to see awkward just watch me hug my sister or my friend Kaelan. I don’t get affectionate often. But last night, I finally let my guard down with one of my closest friends.

Letting my guard down, allowing myself to trust in abounding ways, is something I have not done in a couple years. I was unashamedly honest with Emma. I told her things I have been holding in for an incredibly long time. I told her things that are probably the bravest confessions I’ve made in this time frame.

It’s not like she didn’t already know. She is one of my closest friends after all. But the importance is after all this time, I finally felt like the door was open, and I wanted to admit it. I told her I was done hiding, I was done pretending, I was done fighting by myself, and I needed someone to know.

The experience was liberating and a moment of revelation for me. Who am I to say God is working something wonderful in my life, something meant to bring Him mesmerizing of amounts of glory, and then never tell anyone about it? I realized if I truly believe God is working these things in my life, I should not be ashamed of what people think or how they perceive it. It’s God’s plan for my life, not theirs.

The same way I had to learn to stop rejecting grief in my life, I had to learn to simply let God work in my life, but not be afraid to let others be apart of that process.

I sit behind a computer screen a lot and talk about and glorify my faith journey. But in theme of honesty, y’all deserve to know I struggle. A lot. I’m still being shaped and molded into the person God wants me to be. I’m still trying to learn how to heal from people and situations that consistently make me feel like I will never be good enough. I still look at God and wonder how long he plans on having me wait for His promises. I doubt if I even understand His promises for my life. There are times I’m confused by his plan for my life. I just struggle.

Had God shown me His plan for my life six years ago, I would’ve ran the complete opposite direction. Who willing wants to face moving (well, that part I did want), heartbreak, anxiety, death and all the dreams for their life turned upside down. Had God shown me that where I am now, is where I would’ve been six years ago, I would’ve never moved, I would’ve never let myself fall in love, I would’ve distanced myself from everything and everybody in efforts to preserve my fragile soul from a world of hurt.

However, that’s the very problem. Had God shown me the entirety of His plans, I would have planted myself like a tree. God cannot show me the entirety of His plan because He knows I am humanly incapable of grasping how bad and good will somehow combine for His glory. He knows how unwilling I would have been to follow. That’s instead why He walked me through it, step-by-step, building my faith to trust Him every step of the way. Though, as I stated earlier, it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle comprehending His plan, because I do. But, it’s still a journey we make together.

I think I’ve told this story before, but on the plane back from Guatemala in 2014, I swear I met my guardian angel. As a bit of back story, I had been broken up with my ex-boyfriend for four months, I was deep in grief and heartbreak, and I truly had no idea where to go in life anymore. I was at the epitome of loss and I felt like confusion toward the circumstances in my life displayed a lack of trust in God. I was hopeless. This, combined with my trip to Guatemala, placed me on a plane from Miama to DFW reading The Lady in Waiting by Jackie Kendall.

Halfway through the flight of trying not to break down and cry, the lady seated next to me asked about the book I was reading. We strung up a conversation over the book that eventually led to the apex question – “well, why are you reading it?” I could not have held back if I tried.

I told her everything. I told her how I was in love and wanted nothing more than a future with that boy. I told her how things got difficult, in a matter of weeks our relationship ended, and I was left heartbroken. I told her I was hurting. I was confused. I admitted I wondered if it was apart of God’s plan for me to get married. I even flat out told her I thought I was a far better match for him than his new girlfriend. (Please don’t judge, I was heartbroken and in need of a confidence boost) Every feeling I was trying to cope with and understand, I dumped on this complete stranger on a plane.

I held back tears, but she heard the authenticity in my voice, and I heard it within hers. The conversation she proceeded to carry with me struck me. She told me the story of two boys who lived in a neighboring house to hers. The boys started dating a pair of friends, yet all felt something was wrong. The four of them sat down to talk and pray because they believed God was calling them to date the other. So they amicably ended their relationships and began new ones. All are now happily married.

Maybe she made this story up. Now that I go back and tell it, it seems like she was. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this story. I certainly don’t believe she was telling me to date my ex-boyfriend’s brother (awkward, right?). But I think it was the bravery to follow God’s calling, no matter how risky, complicated, confusing, or difficult was the message she was trying to relay to me.

Beyond that, she told me I would be married, and to someone who loved God more than me. She reminded me it would be my choice who I married, and who I gave that chance at my heart. Yes, I know I shouldn’t place the possibility of my future in the hands of a complete stranger, but I can never forget the words she spoke to me. Her assurance was the comfort I needed. Like so many things in my past, a little moment with a stranger became a big moment in helping to shape who I am becoming today. I refuse to deny that because then I’m denying myself.

So why does all of this matter? Because in the moment of honesty I shared with my friend Emma, I realized I wasn’t scared anymore. The same way my moment of honesty with the stranger on the plane gave me a solace that I needed. I didn’t want to feel crazy for sharing very real experiences I had with God and others in my life. I just told her and decided we’d sort out the details later. I realized I could move forward with God’s plan with a sense of grit. I didn’t feel ashamed of the work God was doing in my life. Maybe I didn’t find the all clarity I wanted from my conversation, but what I did find was a bravery I didn’t even know I needed. I went to bed last night and told God “whenever it’s time to lay it all out on the table, I’m ready.”

Being honest reminded me that it’s okay to struggle. Honesty reminded me of who I am, and what my worth is in Christ, which I really needed. If I’m being honest, as hard as it was let my guard down, I felt free.

The Cause of Christ

81f4ed6e144cca1721bce4def3154d05

Kari Jobe released a new song, I’m not sure how long ago, but I just heard it this past week. The song is beautiful, though it did take me a couple times of listening to it before I finally registered what she was saying.

“The only thing I want in life is to be known for loving Christ. To build His church, to love His bride, and make His name known far and wide.”

It’s a goal I believe all Christians should have. I would like to say about myself that at the end of the day I’m someone trying to walk with God and give Him the glory the entire way. But I also see my failures every day and I’m reminded I’m human. I find myself acting like Abraham in many ways and saying “but God maybe if we did it this way” instead of just walking and trusting with the Lord.

It’s a journey to go down. I try to live by the idea of “don’t think less of yourself but instead think of yourself less” but at the end of the day, I know that’s not always true.

God has done amazing work in my life, and I mean truly transformational work. But that doesn’t mean the work is done yet. We’ve have our ruts and those moments where I have to ask God where and how he wants me to go forward. There’s always the moments I look at God and say “well, I think this can wait.”

The cause of Christ is a continuous journey. My fire for God is not by any means something that just happened overnight. I had to learn how to trust God. I had to learn how to saturate my life Christ.

The most joy I ever find in my life is when no matter the circumstances around me (which is incredibly difficult at times), every part of my mind is focused on Christ and His word. Holding true to the word of God is the only way I’ve made it through those tough, confusing, and frustrating times in life. And when I hit those ruts, those are again the moments I realize how greatly I need my life saturated with scripture.

So how do I do it? It’s fairly simple actually.

  1. Read scripture every day.
    But I have homework. But I have to work. But I’m tired. But I don’t know where to begin. What if I do it wrong? Believe me, these are ALL excuses I have used. I’m convinced if Satan can’t make you bad, he makes you busy. It is a discipline, I will not lie, but it is a discipline that is worth it. The more time we send in scripture, the more we can see it transform our lives. That in itself is a great reward.
  2. Memorize scripture.
    Okay, so I don’t recommend asking me to cite a verse for you word-for-word. I’ll probably fail that test. But understanding scripture, having it written on your heart, knowing the meaning of what God is saying, that’s the important part. The more we read scripture, the more our lives are transformed, the more we will begin to find these verses sticking and impacting our hearts. Our minds are then transformed even more.
  3. Worship with God.
    Do you sing in your car? Don’t lie, I know you do. And I’m not calling anyone out because I do too. There are times it’s a full-blown concert in my car and that’s okay. But one of the biggest ways I found to transform my daily life is to begin every single day by worshipping God. For the past 2 years, I have been unable to get ready in the morning or drive to school/work without listening to worship music. I also make new playlists every few months to keep it changed up. There’s something about when I take the time to meditate with God that helps me throughout my day. We all worship differently, but finding the music you love helps. Need some ideas? I’ll list some of my favorites at the end of the post.
  4. Write scripture down.
    Maybe this is just a “me” thing, but I remember things so much better when I write them down. (It’s also why I take hand-written notes for class) Plus, I’m a writer so writing what I’m reading and thinking helps me process it. It’s not uncommon to find sticky notes and sheets of paper taped around my apartment with scripture on it. Plus one of the biggest things I do is at the end of every devotional is find a key verse and write it at the end of my journal. The connection between my hand and my brain helps bring things to a new light. Maybe it’s worth giving it a try?
  5. PRAY.
    I don’t think I can ever emphasize the power of prayer enough. It is a direct line of communication with our heavenly Father. If you’re praying, God is hearing. I think Max Lucado says it best when he talks about how the power of prayer is in the one who hears, not the one who speaks (yes, I paraphrased that too). Some of the best conversations I have had with God, some of the moments I have heard him the loudest, the moments I have shared the most intimate portions of my life and heart with him have come through prayer. Prayer provides solace, comfort, strength, and also challenges us to live out the truth God is speaking to us. I probably sound like a fangirl here, but it’s worth it. Prayer changes things for us. It is so vital to our spiritual lives and we should use it daily.

So there you have it. The cause of Christ is nothing more than a journey. No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter the circumstances around us, it’s walking with God to find joy and bring glory to His name in everything.

Then we too can utter the prayer of Kari – “It is not fame that I desire, nor stature in my brother’s eye, I pray it’s said about my life, that I lived more to build your name than mine.”

P.S. Don’t think I didn’t forget song ideas!

  • Come Thou Fount – David Crowder Band (FAVORITE)
  • Messiah/You’re Beautiful – Phil Wickham
  • Here as in Heaven – Elevation Worship
  • Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong
  • Be Thou My Vision – Ascend the Hill
  • How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin
  • Build Your Kingdom Here – Rend Collective

Obviously there are tons more, those are just some of my favorites (and by some of my favorite artists) Give them a try!

What It’s Like to Find a Home Church

I was raised in the church. I am a preacher’s daughter. I was at the church every time the doors were open and then some. Growing up, I never knew the struggle of finding a good, home church because everywhere my parents went, I went.

North Hardin Baptist Church. McDonald Memorial Baptist Church. First Baptist Church Hillsboro. I never knew anything different.

But now I’m not with my parents. I live on my own in DFW. Now I have faced the real struggle of finding a home church, and I will flat-out say it has been a struggle.

I’m sure you’re thinking – but didn’t you go to church in Waco while in college? Yes. However, my first two years of college I came home for church. Some (most) would argue I only came home to see my boyfriend. I won’t try to deny it, they were right. Of course I wanted to see him and I wanted to spend time with him, and that meant going to church together every Sunday.

Yeah, but y’all broke up right? Yes, we did. While this didn’t necessarily mean I had to find a church in Waco, now I wanted to. I wanted to find a church because I wanted answers. I wanted to find community. I was at the lowest point in my life, and I wanted to find and feel loved. I was able to achieve this at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church.

But now, now I live in DFW. I live surrounded by churches, but knowing where to begin is a different story entirely. My parents and I reached out, we tried to find recommendations, but it was up to me to go.

I tried two different churches with my cousins. Having been closed-minded to different churches in the past, I tried to stay open and give each church a fair shot. I went to these two churches twice with my cousins and both times I felt like the church didn’t have what I wanted and what I was looking for.

Sounds weird, right? Yet what I learned is churches truly are different from one another to an extent. I know my convictions, I know who I believe God to be, and I know what I believe the church should be. I hold nothing against these two churches my cousins attend, they just weren’t the churches for me.

But why? It was the most important question I had to ask myself when making these decisions. But why is this church not for you? What is it about this church that makes you think it’s not where you need to be. To do this I had to evaluate both churches.

Cousin #1

The church of cousin #1 is non-denominational and very contemporary. My first Sunday there we sang Hillsong, Elevation Worship, and some songs from Passion. To say I loved the music was an understatement. I love contemporary worship music (notice I threw the word worship in there because I feel there is a difference between contemporary worship and Christian contemporary).

The preaching, however, felt more like a motivational speech than a sermon. I sat in the audience thinking “Did I come to church or a TED talk?” Not wanting that to be my only impression of the church, I tried again. The second time I went, I felt the same way. I found myself sitting in my chair wondering when the pastor would dive into the scripture.

The pastor would say things like “Here are the practical reasons you should do this and here’s what the bible says too.” Sure, I would love to know the practical reasons to do something, but I kept feeling like that’s all the pastor focused on. For me, it never went beyond health, wealth, and prosperity, but the Christian life is not about the “benefits”, the Christian life is about looking like Christ.

Cousin #2

Similar to cousin #1, cousin #2 as well goes to a non-denominational and very contemporary church. The music consisted of songs from Vertical Church Band and I Am They. As with the other church, I was hooked on the worship, but church is more than just the worship.

Quite opposite of the pastor from church #1, the pastor at church #2 was a firm believer in diving into scriptures and understanding the meaning of everything. He consistently reminded the audience scripture is the divine revelation of God, even if something doesn’t make sense to us, it is no accident the verses inscribed in our bibles, and we should seek to find out why. This was something I could agree with. I felt like I was getting closer to a match.

While I hate there is a caveat, there is. What I couldn’t seem to move past is in the middle of the sermon the pastor said “If you allow sin to thrive in your life, you will receive a letter saying you are no longer welcome in small group because we will not let you bring the rest of us down.” Ummm…excuse me? If you’re rolling your eyes, don’t worry, I was too. This, among other statements, I couldn’t seem to move past.

I struggled so much with this I called my dad. I couldn’t understand why a pastor would outright say someone was not welcome in the church. I explained to my dad that as a visitor, it turned me off to the church. I felt like if I continued, if I joined, I would live more under an umbrella of legalism than grace.

I remember telling my dad I know grace doesn’t mean go live the life I want and feel no remorse, but I simply couldn’t understand why they would say someone who is struggling with anything in their life isn’t welcome. I felt as if I would constantly be judged because I struggled with things differently from them. All I could think was “How can you sit here and say you’re a sinner saved by grace and not extend that grace to someone else? Where is the ‘love like Christ’ in that?” 

Sure, you can guilt and shame a person into changing their behavior, but kindness and mercy are what have the potential to change a heart. Grace spares us of our shame (which we ALL have). We can’t experience transformational change with God when we pretend like certain pieces of our hearts aren’t broken.

So I kept searching. From the recommendation of a friend of my dad’s, and wanting to try it personally, I decided to go to a church right off the interstate in Fort Worth.

I went even though I didn’t know a single person. I walked in alone. I felt vulnerable and exposed. It was a feeling I had never known before. After all, I grew up in the church. I always knew everyone there. And even if I didn’t know them, they certainly knew me. This time, that wasn’t the case.

It’s hard not to wonder what people think about you. Is she coming because she’s a “good girl”? Is she coming because her life is screwed up and she’s desperate? Though if we’re honest, it’s a combination of both. I didn’t know what to think or feel. All I knew was I wanted a church I could call home.

Again, worship in the church consisted of music from Hillsong, Bethel Worship, and ChurchHouse. However, what felt different about this church was the preaching. My first Sunday there, my dad’s friend Scott that recommended I try out the church was actually guest preaching. Talk about an act of God. Then the pastor began a sermon series entitled Authentic Hope. It was one of those moments I just felt like I needed to keep coming (even though Scott joked with me I would have better luck finding a husband at a mega-church).

I was so worried about people in the church, and what they would think of me, God took care of even that. On my second Sunday, I was walking out when I reached the exit at the same time as an elderly couple. The wife insisted I go first because they were slower, but I told her it was no problem and I would walk out with them. She wasted no time striking up conversation with me, asking me what brought me to the church, was I in school or a young professional (but I’m both), and just casual conversation. She introduced herself and her husband to me, shook my hand, and said she genuinely prayed she would see me again. It was that very act of kindness that I needed.

Similar to my spiritual apathy post, I think very rarely does someone walk into a church and know it’s the church for them on the first try. You have to make sure you will be comfortable there, and more importantly it is where God has called you to be. In Waco, I knew I wanted to join Columbus after three weeks (though I waited another month before I finally did). For now, this church of I-35 in Fort Worth feels like the best fit for me.

 

You Are Not Too Far From God

%22look-for-christ-and-you-will-find-him-and-with-him-everything-else-%22

This post is one of those posts I have tried to post about for a REALLY long time but every time I sat down to write I just felt stuck. It’s weird – knowing what you want to write, knowing exactly what you want to say, and then feeling unable or inadequate to say it. I guess you could call it writers block in a way, but something about it felt different.

Personally, I feel it’s something I struggled writing about because it was something I was struggle with in my own life.

So what is it you ask? Spiritual apathy.

Spiritual apathy is…weird. It’s something we all go through, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s those moments where we’ve lost our zeal in seeking the Lord. We tell ourselves we’re too tired to do our devotional, or it’s okay if we skip this one (or two…or three…). We don’t need to go to church this week, or the next, or the next because we’ve got our relationship with God sorted out. We’re guilty of having both the best and worst days of our lives in the same week. We’re human and our emotions are fickle. While we may not become completely indifferent to our spiritual well-being (I hope, though I know I’ve been there before), we also recognize the fire that was once there has faded. Now what?

Isn’t this something people talk about in relationships all the time? When the “new love” and “newly wed” flame ends? Then what do you do? You fall into your routines. Life isn’t as exciting any more. You’re more comfortable around each other. You know, that kind of stuff.

Well, who is to say our spiritual life isn’t any different? We face our fire with God. We feel as if we are on top of the world. No one can stop us. Isaiah 40:31 feels so very real in our lives. Then suddenly, things change. We fall into our routine. We do a devotional to say we did a devotional, but it doesn’t have that profound, life-altering, heavens-open affect it had on us before. We find ourselves not listening as closely to what God is trying to tell us. We pray to say we did it or to ask God for something, but we don’t talk to God like we did before. We don’t talk to God as much as we did before. You can feel it, you know something is just off. The circumstances are different from person to person, but the separation is there.

People often say that when a relationship has lost its “spark” the couple needs to find something that can reignite that flame for them. Why, then, should our relationship with our heavenly Father be any different? After all, God not only knows us but wants to know us at the same time. The same way a husband and wife communicate with each other, we should communicate with God. He is the one who understands us and loves us best.

It sounds silly, but it’s true. We are taught to have a reverence for God, but we are also taught that God is our friend, and that we should always feel comfortable coming to Him. Don’t believe me? Trust me, it works.

Throughout the past couple years of my life, I have learned that those moments where I lay in bed at night and do absolutely nothing except tell God about my day, my struggles, my successes, what confuses me, and what is truly on my mind and on my heart become the very moments that aid in transforming my life and my relationship with Him. Being able to say “God this happened and I don’t understand” and “God this is what I think about this” opened my mind to being receptive to things He would tell me. I could hear Him speak loud and clear through my devotionals. I could feel His overwhelming presence throughout my day. Overtime, I often found myself not only wanting but needing to talk to him about my days. Those moments I felt most alone, I knew He would be there to hear me.

All of this sounds great and wonderful. All of this sounds exactly like what a relationship should be, especially for us women who just want someone who will sit and listen to our problems. However, it should be noted that none of this happened overnight.

Yes, I eventually built up a strong communication relationship with God, but not after wanting to yell about some things and completely neglect other things. It’s also something I had to and continually have to work at to maintain.

I have those moments where I doubt the path God is taking me down, and I have them more often than I care to admit. Where you are now doesn’t define where you are going, but that does’t mean it’s not hard to overcome the doubt while you are there. Maintaining communication with God is maintaining trust with God.

When a relationship falls into routine and the couple is looking to reignite that spark, very rarely are they able to try once and have everything go back to normal. I’m probably preaching to the choir when I say relationships take work, but they do. You have to give time to figure out what’s working and what isn’t working. You have to keep running toward lighting that spark together. It could take a week, it could take a month, it could take a year. But not walking away is the important part. It’s not easy to walk away from the one’s we love, so why do we make it so easy to walk away from the very person who knows and loves us best?

It’s a really corny example, but it reminds me of those stupid spark starters we had to use in chem lab. The ones where you scraped the medal stick across the plate with your thumb to get the gas flame lighted (You can see I did really well in Chemistry…) Anyway, those things were without a doubt one of the biggest pains ever. Almost always you could never get them to spark on the first try and there were times it seemed like I would be spending 5 minutes trying to light a Bunsen burner or whatever that thing was called.

But do you see my metaphor? It took work. There were always those people in lab that would grab one igniter after the other trying to get them to spark on the first try. They were the impatient ones. Then there were those who had their igniter and would hold onto it until they could get their flame to light. I told you, it was a corny analogy, but it fits almost perfectly.

You can’t expect things to magically happen or miraculously heal themselves if you always give up and walk away after the first try. Our relationship with our Father is no different. There have been so many times I have had to remind myself, or even to an extent force myself, to do devotionals, to pray, and to keep God at the center of my life. But when I continue to strive after God whenever I feel distant from Him, I find Him. Every. Single. Time.

No matter how far we go, we can never outrun God. No matter how far we stray, He is always there to welcome us back. We are never out of His reach. We can feel Him, tugging on our heart-strings, calling us back to Him, calling us home. He will always be there reaching out to us, working in our lives and in our hearts. In those moments, the most important action we can take is simply to follow His calling and answer.

Relationship Goals: Identifying the One

1

As promised, this is the second part of my two part series on Relationship Goals, a sermon series I have heard the past two weeks at The Porch in DFW.

“The one” is such a haunting concept. Who is it? What do they look like? When we will meet? And the biggie – when will I know?

These are questions I am willing to bet we have all grown up asking ourselves. Of course, when we ask them out loud the answer we get is along the lines of “you’ll know when you know.” But what does that mean? Yes, I am willing to bet 100% of us have asked and wondered the same questions.

However, here’s the thing about “the one” – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wondering and dreaming about the future, but when it comes to marriage, you can’t wonder about the one, you can’t date looking for the one, if you don’t even know what you’re looking for in the first place.

An interesting twist to the sermon series (I felt) – JP did not take us down a traditional path of scripture focused on love and marriage, but instead used a scripture often quoted by church youth groups:

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
1 Timothy 4:12

Interesting, right? Youth groups often use this verse to encourage the kids based on the first part of the verse – let no one look down on your youthfulness. Yet as far as JP was concerned, it’s the five traits listed in this verse that are more important – but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

These are the five character traits that should define our entire outlook on dating. Or, as JP would put it –

“If your standards are not God’s standards, then your standards are stupid.” 

You laugh, maybe roll your eyes, I did too but it’s true.

SPEECH

What does a person say? You can tell a lot about a person by their speech. As James would put it, we need to people who are quick to listen and slow to speak. Not quick to speak and then apologize later for what we said. Listen to what they’re saying. Whatever comes out of a person’s mouth is what lies in their heart. Watch their speech, and watch yours as well. Then you can find your identity in Christ and not your attitude.

CONDUCT

What are they known for? Similarly to speech, studying someone’s conduct and how they act can tell wonders about them. Proverbs tell us in chapter 11 verse 20 that the perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord. Now, I could be wrong about you, but I know personally I would never want to be an abomination to the Lord. Though, if I’m being honest with myself, I know I’ve been there before.

Yet Paul tells in Philippians 2:15 that Christians should conduct themselves in such a way that they appear as lights to the word. As Christians, we should literally glow with Christ. Our conduct is a direct indicator of that.

Past behavior is a perfect indicator of future performance. But that does not mean Christ cannot heal anything and anyone. He can. When it comes to conduct, their repentance needs to be as strong as their rebellion.

LOVE

How do they love? How have they loved others? This is huge. Major. You don’t love someone because of your feelings. I hope you realize how selfish this is. A major sign of immaturity is when a person allows their feelings to design reality. Feelings do not define a relationship, who put you here does.

When we love, even if a relationship doesn’t work, we should leave someone better than we found them.

Let me repeat that: leave someone better than you found them.

I hope you realize how truly radical this idea is – to love someone so much that no matter what happens between the two of you, you never, ever beat them down but instead continue to love them and lift them. You continue to help them become better than who they were you met. That’s love.

FAITH 

I feel this is very commonly understood, but what do they believe? What is the trajectory of their life faith? Does it align with yours? These are such important questions to ask. These will be things that begin to define, and possibly divide, your relationship. If you can’t agree on matters of faith, you will not be able to agree on other issues as well. Run with Christians and a myriad of issues can be missed.

PURITY

Yes or no. That’s the only way to answer this questions. Are they relentless about purity or no? This is the time to set an example. God can restore anything. I truly, truly believe this. God can restore anything, but the time to pursue the discipline is now, especially if you’re single. Pursue purity now. Remember you were bought with a price. The Holy Spirit lives inside of you. Your body is not yours. Respect that.

I may sound crazy here, JP probably definitely sounds crazy here, but the important thing is you’re not dating to find someone perfectly compatible. If you’re dating to find someone you match up with as your friends would say “perfectly,” if you’re dating because of they way someone makes you feel, you’re dating for the wrong reasons. You will run with things get hard, and then wonder why the relationship failed.

Find someone fully committed, fully yoked to Christ.

JP joked with us on Tuesday that he once dated this girl and no matter what she never ceased to surprise him with how committed she was not only to him, but to Christ. She was always there, but she always loved Jesus more. He stood in awe and wondered “what am I doing dating this girl? She loves Christ so much. Why am I dating her?”

No, they didn’t break up. To quote JP exactly – “So I stopped dating her and put a ring on it.”

Those fully committed and fully yoked to Christ. Those who seek to do the will of God in every facet of their life, as Christians, those are who we should surround ourselves with. Christ first, ourselves second. This is how we identify “the one.”