Friday, December 23, 2016

a bit of truth this Holiday Season

Hello, dear friends.

I have compiled a few thoughts on the passage of scripture I read this evening; Christmas is in a day or two, and I have been blessed to have the ability to dwell on one of the most glorious, substantial truths of hope and life beyond what we know as human beings. There is something to be said about the *true* meaning of Christmas, indeed.

We see, "rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you," (Matthew 5:12). This is a beautiful verse for many reasons, mainly due to the fact that it reveals to us that we can have joy regardless of our circumstances; there is such a beauty and power in knowing what we as believers are blessed to know. I know I replay this (highly sincere) scriptural evidence time and time again, and I am not sure that I will ever cease to do so. I have the greatest understanding of this perpetuating, life-changing truth (all thanks to my savior) as it has affected my own personal life in multitudes, and I want more than anything for the world around me to know the same.

This story, this perfect message, explains our one hope for salvation and allows enough joy and satisfaction alone, yes, apart from every single thing within this life. We are able to thrive off of this one truth alone; we need nothing but Christ and his redemption story, his true gift to us this holiday season, as well as for the entirety of our lives.

Live and breathe, and feel this within your soul and being.

Truly, I have no hope in any one thing while I am here on this earth, living this unsatisfactory life alongside every hopeless individual who misunderstands what true joy and love is. Yet everything that I have and know is perfect and glorious and well beyond effortlessly beautiful, simply because I know him.

That is the only reason why, and because of that, I am able to better understand what this raw, unspeakably and inherently perfect joy truly is. Not the emotion; not something that can be felt, but something that is always there no matter what. The thing that reflects back to what Christ did -- back to what God did for us when he had his only son die the absolute epitome of worst deaths ever in order to take our place, all that we might know salvation and grace from sin and death.

Our creator and father and king did this for us, and this joy is unfaltering and unfailing and completely necessary for survival. No one and no thing can save me; none of this can take my full focus or bring me satisfaction and contentment. Nothing. He is it.

Another few verses in Matthew passionately describe our purest calling as long as we walk this earth: "you are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven," (Matthew 5, verses 14 & 16). We are given this gift; granted the full ability to be light within the darkness; to sustain the beauty found in who God is and how he planned to save his children.

We have the opportunity as believers to share our faith, this story of Christ giving up his life for each one of us, ultimately to make every single individual alive aware of the free gift of salvation; this gift of life after death, but also life as we live it today, but infinitely greater, because we know his love. There is a freedom in knowing this truth, and there is no end to its power and what it can and will accomplish within the lives of those who choose to believe it and accept it as their own.

This life can be lived to the fullest, and we will experience the greatest of his love and joy when we completely understand that by praying for opportunities to bring this loving, flawless free message to the world, God will give us those moments; those opportunities will arise, as will the ability to reveal Christ to unbelievers through our words and actions. What a beautiful, life-giving thing. We take for granted the fact that this perfect, unending joy comes only when we obey him and when we are sharing what we know. We cannot afford to be stingy with this, and why would we want to?

There is no greater love. No greater joy. No one thing that is more perfect than the way God intended for us to live our lives entirely for his glory and his name.

We must take this and remember who we are in Christ and what we owe to him as the one who gave it all for us.

Much love to all,

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Something Lovely

It's funny- we hear God warning us about the bad in the world; the world as it is entirely sinful & unforgiving. Its clutches are harsh, unruly, unsatisfying, and painful- SO painful. We ignore the voice of God and look longingly at the things masked as "beautiful," and we reach out to them. We grab them, jumping in with our physical bodies, strength, might, and entire beings- then somehow we try to understand why we've not yet been able to touch the end; why we've not been able to feel the satisfaction in winning, in attaining everything "good," in accomplishing the most we are capable of, regardless of the fact that He once reminded us of their uselessness and disappointment. Still, we look deeply into the only things which will never be able to satisfy. We scratch the surface of every talent, ability, interest, opportunity of surpassing the mediocre lifestyle, and yet in the end we see no real results- we are blinded by the perfectly translucent nothing that we've obtained from accomplishing everything. It's purely useless, we eventually discover; all of it is unable to bring fulfillment, unable to quench the thirst that grabs viciously at our throats, begging that we find a way to satisfy it. We cannot. But we keep reaching, keep pulling, keep striving to become, to create, to grow, to aspire to aspire, to overcome and accomplish and change and FEEL. Nothing is ever enough; nothing is ever satisfactory. We are never enough for each other and never enough for ourselves. We place the world and its things and creatures and diamonds and gold and money and work and success and POWER above what matters ultimately and above what really means something within our lives and the lives of those around us. We cheat ourselves out of happiness- out of pure joy- by pursuing every one of these things. We cheat others by ignoring the fact that we'll never be enough for them, and we cheat the entire world by selfishly keeping the mindset that we can do it all and win it all on our own. We've got it all wrong. We act like it's all OK, and when the song is finished we turn on another and refuse to attempt to figure out why the first even ended- we continually tell ourselves that times just change, people change, things are going to change for as long as we are walking on this planet. That's just the way things are. Life goes on. But the thing that we miss in all of this chaos and distraction and regret and unwanted change is the fact that we have always been doing it all wrong, which is why it turns out exactly the opposite of what we desire. We are too blind and selfish and foolish and ridiculously petty to understand and fully grasp the fact that we are not here on this earth for ourselves. We are not here to purely have a good time or become successful; we are here for something more, something far beyond all of that- beyond all of this. God warns us about the lives we are about to live; He shares with us the secret to becoming the greatest, the most successful, the winner of it all. He clearly points out to us the fact that none of that "success" will come from a world like the one we live in. We are warned again and again to look out for distractions and idols- these items are poisonous, ravenous, destroyers of our souls. He screams out to us in as many ways possible to STAY AWAY, run far from the evil which lurks in the midst of this universe. He tells us it will be difficult- He explains the procedure in which we must follow in order to survive; not only to survive, but to thrive among sin and darkness. We are made conscious of the ever present glow, the light, the saving grace. We are told it is beyond any glorious thing we can imagine, yet it is entirely free if and when we choose to take it. We have His salvation, His forgiveness, His redemption, His power and glory and honor, and we are to praise Him for it all. He holds the truth- He holds the single thing we need in order to survive in this world. He holds it, and it is free. It is perfect, unfailing, completely satisfying, and joy-filled. He wants us to have it; He is pursuing us, begging us to take it before it's too late. And though sometimes I forget, I HAVE taken it- I've been able to understand what it looks like to have Him, to know Him, to live completely for Him. It is satisfying and perfectly joy-filled, regardless of the circumstances. I know that there is nothing good for me in this world, and so turning to Him when I have nothing to offer or gain of earthly value brings me the Ultimate Prize- a possession found only in Him. It is beautiful, perfect, lovely, true, honest, pure, and SO. DARN. REAL. I have Him, and I am blessed. No evil, pain, darkness, or hurt comes close to this sweet, sweet blessing found in His powerful name.

My heart to you,

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Missions Trip 2016: The reality of the Holy Spirit's power through humility

Hello friends,

So, a whole lot happened on this year’s missions trip. My eyes were opened to new ideas and experiences, and I was so glad to know that I wouldn't be doing any of it alone. The people around me on the trip were incredible; they ARE incredible, though, that is definitely an understatement. Thinking about those people, my family, and what they have done for me leaves me speechless. Having a community in Crossroads to experience Christ, as well as see Him within each individual, has grown me and encouraged me and given me such a sweet perspective on life. I don’t deserve any of it.

So yes, I really don’t deserve any of it.

I am inadequate and unable to do anything for these people, let alone Christ. I am extremely unworthy and far from good enough, spiritual enough, smart enough. Nothing I can ever do or “accomplish” will be good enough, period. God had been revealing this to me especially on the trip this year, and He allowed me to understand how real that is — how unable I am, and how much I need to rely on Him rather than on anything that I can do (which isn’t a lot). I am nothing without Him. Because of this, I struggled a lot in my heart during the first few days of the trip.

Sometimes there is nothing we can do, and that is so humbling, yet possibly one of the most difficult realities to accept. Being the person I am, I really like to solve my own problems, trying my best not to bother others for help, but in this situation on the missions trip, I felt completely hopeless, simply because I could not “fix” the issue at hand on my own. I ran out of things to tell myself in order to make everything right again. My words and ideas and problem solving were all inadequate, so I sat and actually journaled about how I really could do nothing. Talk about being humbled.

The reality is that I need help; I need others, and I need prayer. Ultimately, I need Christ. I am not big enough to solve all of my own problems or strong enough to help those around me. I have no power in this, and understanding that reality in my heart allowed me to fully let go of my pride, look to Jesus, and continually beg Him for help.

Throughout the rest of the trip, I prayed a ton. I was constantly praising God in my heart, as well as asking Him for strength, encouragement, and love. As a result of leaning entirely on Him through prayer in every situation, my heart and whole being were overflowing with this unexplainably massive JOY. I could rejoice with those who rejoiced, praising God for all of the wondrous works He was doing — even those things we often overlook, like someone sharing the Gospel for the first time.

I smiled until my face hurt, almost laughing, because what He was doing within the lives of the people around me was so beautiful, none of it could be expressed with words. I was bursting with joy at being able to listen to and see others share the Gospel and be love to the lost, and could clearly and obviously see the joy they had in their hearts as it radiated from the words they spoke in love. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News! Seeing God work through every one of the individuals on this trip was a massive blessing to say the least.

Seeing the Holy Spirit SO alive within myself and others allowed me to understand how truly powerful He is, and how great the work He will do through us is when we just give it all up to Him through humility and allow Him to use us. He is waiting on us to allow His Holy Spirit to move — He is always there and is always ready to work. Whether or not we allow Him to is up to us. I am so unable, yes, but He is ALWAYS able, even within me. This brought me an unspeakable joy in Him.

God really is good all of the time, and I hope you take the time to further understand that glorious, perfect, unfailing truth.

Much, much love,

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Aspiring Towards A Life Of Humility

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3, verses 12-14).

God is my everything- I cannot go about my life being inherently impatient, rude, and insensitive; I need to- as spoken in His word- live my life with the love of Christ. That, accordingly, means being slow to speak and slow to anger, quick to sympathize and relate with the emotions and thoughts of my fellow believers and friends. That means being completely humble, seeking to help others out of sheer compassion, rather than boasting in my knowledge or for personal gain. Compassion. That word is so deeply intertwined with my God- my Christ Jesus, whom willingly gave His life in the most gruesome, pain-filled way.

I cannot comprehend what it looks like, or even means, to live a life filled with this type of compassion. One that looks only to the interests of others, and one that never ceases to lend a hand, while speaking words of encouragement and an ear to listen through complete humility- this is not me at all. It should be, but it is not.

Likewise, the phrase "bearing with one another" urges me powerfully, warning me to surrender my entire being to His name and act of love. I've done nothing, and so I deserve nothing (thank you, Redeemer Summer Camp). Because of this very phrase, I have the obligation to legitimately go and bear with the unbearable, painlessly adhering to the hardships within these said relationships- this is my guaranteed work here on earth. Nothing less is expected of me.

Christ didn't set a limit on how much He would love others or how many times He would heal; He didn't grant compassion to those who easily obeyed and respected His teaching. He loved all. He bore with every man and woman and child, regardless of their actions or motives towards Him. He freely listened, helped, served, healed, and forgave, not asking for anything in return.

Every word He spoke, action He committed, and step He took, He remained meek. It's clearly impossible to imagine myself being any sort of "meek," achieving any sort of progressive modifications within this life alone. Literally not attainable. This, without Christ, is entirely accurate: I am nothing and can do nothing apart from Christ. Only He can enable me to be kind, meek, humble, compassionate, forgiving, and all around filled with love when I ask it of Him.

It's not easy- though, when I am obeying His word, following His teachings and commands, that is when I will begin (key word, BEGIN) to grow. It's a process. He is there. It can happen. It will.

Somehow beginning this process by first attempting to obtain this mindset (Col. 4:6):
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."

Much love & sparkles,

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Beautiful Life!

I am here. I am alive. I am well! My God is great; He is wonderful and perfect and holds truths to save the universe and a word to spread sacrificial love and the most joy-filled days. I am proud and boast in the fact that I know this in my heart, and I feel it deep within my soul and being- I am His, and He is mine!

He has taught me many things throughout my years; many things I have learned and grown through. I have a relationship with my Savior and it is personal- it is unflawed and completely satisfactory. I am alive when I seek him and He is beyond glorious and His face beautiful to me.

My God has revealed to me, after months of anxiety and pain and suffering and struggles beyond measure, that I have a community of people who love and care deeply about my well-being, many of whom will willingly do anything for me; pray for me, listen to my cries, and cry along with me, all under the name of Christ and the free, merciful gift of salvation He has given us- completely without cost. These people love me and serve me and lead me towards God and His gospel message.

For a while, I sat stuck in one place, dwelling on a very poor assumption on my part that I had no community- I got caught up in believing that I used to, but over the past few months I most definitely did not. I continually began seeking an answer from God, wondering where He would lead me next and where I could find solitude from a community and fellowship with other believers, ultimately resulting in the ability to grow and become closer to God. Clearly, I found nothing. I looked at others' situations revolving around the same issue and noticed growth, good friends and encouragement, and a community in which speaking, singing, and learning more about Jesus alongside other believers was totally doable. Somehow that seemed, in every aspect, unattainable. What a gross feeling! How upsetting to look around and see others- close friends even- being blessed by the opportunity to have people around them consistently who love them and want to help them grow spiritually, while all the while feeling alone, upset, anxious about nearly everything, and as far from having a community as possible. This was me.

The other day I was blessed with the opportunity to hang around some of my oldest friends to simply have a good ol' time celebrating old friendships, laughing and conversing about grits and the latest lightsaber trend- far be it from boring. Those people made me smile, on my face and in my heart, and not only that, but they caused me to feel loved and to appreciate my Creator even more- this was through minimal contact alone. I enjoyed that time, and then Wednesday came. Friends were awesome, conversations about life were had, prayers were spoken and given up to God, and encouragement was overwhelming to the point of tears, obviously purely of joy!! That is something I cannot explain, though, I could sit for hours on end just thinking about it. Thinking about the joy my Father brings me- the blessing it all is to my life and being and eternity.

I left and went to bed feeling so overjoyed, so filled with the spirit, and so loved by a community. Just days before I was considering leaving town and moving out in order to seek after a new group of people who could encourage and be there for me, and I for them- one that I, for so long, could not find, or better yet, refused to notice. Somehow, I disregarded the fact that I'd always had a community in that place and with those people, and that would never change; they have been my home for nearly four and a half years. It has been a long ride, so many ups and downs, so much change, and so many new people, but the goal and the mission has remained the same. The gospel message will never cease to be the focus at Crossroads, and every being that steps foot in that building- amidst that community- belongs. Every individual has a place and is loved and cared for, simply because we each have the greatest thing in common that any one person could have: Jesus. This is the truth.

This place has been wonderful to me; I have learned absolutely SO much and have befriended the most genuine, beautiful humans I could ever dream of knowing. I am blessed beyond compare, and every moment I spend with these people reminds me why I ever began attending youth group in the first place. The joy that overflows throughout the conversations with various people is something like a gift. My community has always been around me, I just chose to forget. God clearly can work anywhere, at anytime, and in anyone's life. I am an example of this (still, I am not entirely sure yet where God will be leading me this upcoming fall! But if it is to stay, I am content in that decision).

Today I am thanking God for the ability to wake up in the morning and praise His name, feel completely full with joy, and have a smiling heart, regardless of the circumstances. He has given me this opportunity, and I've been lucky enough to understand that it is because of Him. To be able to wake up and feel genuinely happy, to feel fulfilled, while glowing with praise for His name, is a blessing. It's not something I can personally achieve, nor can I find in the midst of life in this world. It is outside the box, away from societal norms, and far deep into His inexplicably perfect heart. He has answered my prayers, and I could not be more grateful.

I will remain smiling until I die, and by His strength, His word and power and glory and LOVE shall pass my lips and be shown to those around me. I love this life, because He is at the center of it.

Much love,