Thursday, August 14, 2014

rock foundations.

How are foundations built? Tonight I was challenged to build on what's solid, not shifting. Matthew 7 teaches, "A wise man builds his house on a rock." We're a people good at "doing," but we're not all that great at "being"...sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to what He is saying. It's in the sitting that rock foundations are established.

What am I discovering about my foundations? Those that are built on solid rock are founded on pure trust in Jesus. The shifting foundations in my life—the moments I get stressed, worried, anxious, or try to control what's happening around me—are the moments I'm not sitting and listening. Those are the moments I find myself talking at Jesus more than I am listening to what He's saying. Ouch.

Worry reveals a sandy foundation...a foundation built on trusting myself rather than Jesus. It's in those moments I have to choose to either embrace wading through the quicksand or stop what I'm doing, sit down, listen and ask Jesus to rebuild me from the inside out.

Foundations are discovered and built at a crossroads of trust—choosing to trust myself or Jesus. My own wavering inability or His rock solid, never failing strength.

And it's at this crossroads that we discover what we're really made of & who we are really striving to become—attempted self-made men and women or people relentlessly chasing after the heart of Jesus, choosing to put our trust in Him.

Tonight, I'm wrestling with this question: what do my foundations say about me & the woman I'm becoming?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

To Love, Be Loved.

I guess you could call me a list maker. Currently, I have eight running to do lists on my phone, all of which I update on a daily basis. I have lists outlining who I need to send thank you cards to, work projects I need to conquer, personal goals I want to meet, and even a list of adventures I plan on tackling with friends. I like the feeling of being organized and knowing where to find information when I need it. But perhaps more than a need to be organized, I like that rush you get when you finally scratch an item off your list, banning it from your memory entirely, leaving no loose ends behind.

Recently, I’ve found that I’ve translated this to do list mentality to other areas of my life…areas outside the realm of projects and items requiring action steps. I’m discovering that much like my reminders of who I need to send thank you cards to, I’ve looked at seasons of my life and even certain friendships as to do list items as well, anxiously trying to check them off my list in order to move on to the next.

But life doesn’t really work that way. And honestly, God never intended for life to be a series of check marks. In fact, I’m beginning to see that perhaps, He never even intended for every chapter to end with a period. Maybe, just maybe, we were never designed to fully close some chapters. Maybe certain chapters are meant to stay open.

If I dive straight to the core of the issue, it all boils down to control. Lists give me a sense of control. I dictate what makes it on the list and can pull an item from the list at any time. Seeing this freedom (or false sense of it), I began organizing my friendships and relationships into to do items in my head, adding a friend when I wanted to, pouring all of my heart and soul into him or her, and then cutting them loose when I felt the friendship was through. Relational list making became a defense mechanism. Rather than choosing to extend and receive love, I neatly categorized my relationships, holding the control in my fists as tightly as I could muster.

But here’s the catch: lists offer a false sense of control.

I could ditch a project to do list tomorrow and the world wouldn’t come crashing down. The project just wouldn’t get accomplished. And you know what, sometimes that’s ok. Categorizing friendships in a list also offers pseudo control. Those relationships never fully blossom into what they could be because I put a lid on their potential. In doing so, I assessed what I assumed the other person was willing to invest in me relationally and kept them boxed into a neat relational category in my head, closing myself off from potential hurt and pain. Do you know what’s utterly heartbreaking about that? I’ve missed out on some incredible relationships because I never allowed the friendship to become all that it could be. I boxed it in. I checked it off. I held onto the cards of control…a control I never really had in the first place.
“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.  If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:17-21

I love how Eugene Peterson translates the 1 John passage: “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. If anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.”

When I read those five verses, it’s like a light bulb went on in my head. I’ve been living entirely wrong! John contrasts both love and fear, stating that they can’t co-exist. You can’t simultaneously choose to love others, yet live in fear. It’s impossible. So in essence, my to do lists and false sense of control over my relationships revealed the lack of love in my life—the lack of God’s presence.

1 John 4:17 clearly states God is love. This is the character of the God I serve; it’s His very nature. Later on, John bluntly declares that we can’t even claim to love God if we don’t love others. Let’s break this down, shall we? God is love. Fear is the opposite of love. Therefore there is no fear in the nature of God. Simple, right? Let’s go a step further. Both love and fear are an outward expression each of us choose to live by each day. So if love is the very nature of God, then love is the outpouring of God’s presence in my life. Fear represents a lack of His presence and lack of trust that He will show up like He says He will. Ouch.

There’s one more aspect of this thing called love in 1 John 4 that has become engraved in my mind: to love, we must be loved. Love is a reciprocal act—love is found in both giving and receiving. And that’s where vulnerability comes into the mix. When we choose to extend love, we don’t know if it will be offered back. And that’s downright scary. That alone drives us—me!—to trying to control and categorize relationships, building barriers around our hearts attempting to escape as much pain as possible. But caged love isn’t love. It’s like eating pre-packaged cookie dough. Sure, it tastes sweet and is close to the real thing. But it’s nowhere near as good as that homemade cookie dough your Grandma makes each Christmas. There is a distinct difference. When we stare vulnerability in the face, we must choose fear or love, and risk receiving nothing in return.

My Heavenly Father modeled this for me. God saw me before I even knew Him, and risked vulnerability. He sent His Son to die for me, taking the ugly stench of my sin and replacing it with a clean, white slate. He chose love. He chose to love me regardless of if I would choose to accept His love. He loved me regardless.


That is exactly how He has designed me to live. To stare vulnerability in the face and choose to love—to risk receiving nothing in return and being ok with that. To ditch my fa├žade of to do lists and fully live! I can’t choose both fear and love. I must choose. But here’s the best part: I’m already equipped to love. To love, I must be loved, and I already am. The greatest act of love known to mankind has already taken place! God sent His Son for me! Because of that love, I can extend love…even if no human ever gives it back. I am loved, so I can love.

This post originally appeared on pickyourportion.com.

Monday, July 28, 2014

look up.

Perspective is a choice. It takes courage and is messy, but absolutely beautiful at the same time. The circumstances around you may seem bleak, but there is always a ray of hope pushing through. We just need to look for it.

What is your ray of hope today? Don't miss the beauty pushing through the clouds simply because you chose to not look up.

"For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." {2 Corinthians 4:6-10 NLT}

free movie tickets & 79 degrees.

We picked a movie. We had our tickets. We had our seats. And I was already digging into a fresh box of chocolate covered raisins. Now that's what I call a Sunday night.


The lights dimmed, the previews came and went, and we finally settled into the latest blockbuster flick. And then the power went out. There wasn't a flickering of lights or even a warning. For a split-second, I thought the blackened screen was a part of the movie itself...but then the movie never moved forward. It was frozen on a blank screen.


The emergency lights were lit, but everything else remained pitch black. As if on cue, a sea of iPhone lights began to flood the theater, interspersed with a few iPhone flashlights. Several what seemed like super long minutes passed by, and then the voices started.

Someone call the theater.
Why is this taking so long?
I'd better get a refund.
Will someone start the movie already?!

More minutes ticked by.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

With a sudden flash, we were back in business. The movie picked up right where we left off. But we were missing one key element: sound.

Cue the voices again.

Helloooo...we need sound!
Someone fix this already!
This is unbelievable.

And along with the sea of comments came silly interpretations of what the characters were saying and groups of movie goers who, fed up with the situation, just got up and left.

Awkward.

In a matter of minutes, the sound too returned and we finished the movie without missing a beat. We even received free movie tickets for the inconvenience...and walked outside to a breezy 79 degree Nevada night. For my fellow desert dwellers out there, you know that monsoon season has its upside!

Now this is a great story and all, and I'm sure many of you are wondering why I've even rambled on about it in the first place. No, my point wasn't to simply blurt out my movie going experience for the world to hear. My point centers around the word perspective.

The series of events described above literally took place within the timeframe of 10 minutes. In that short window, a group of people quickly passed through the emotional stages of excitement and anticipation to be hanging out on a Sunday night, to anger and rage towards a movie theater who can't control whether the desert monsoon season decides to send massive lighting bolts its way or not.

In the midst of the chaos, I looked at my friend and we both couldn't help but laugh. People's responses were hilariously appalling...and honestly, kind of sad. And then it dawned on me how strong our perspective truly is. How we think about the circumstances around us has the power to shape them both for the positive or the negative.

For the movie goers who viewed the slight setback as a problem, the entire experience was ruined...and brought out a side of anger towards others that just wasn't even necessary.

For the movie goers who saw the power outage as an opportunity to think about cooler weather outside and a break from the 100+ degree Nevada surges, the experience was a win-win. We were able to finish the movie we intended to see, receive free movie tickets to come back another time, AND walked outside to a gorgeous night!

We were all sitting in the same theater with the same set of circumstances. Yet two completely different experiences took place. And it all stemmed from our perspective...our vantage point...our attitude...our thoughts.

I love how Philippians 4:8-9 guides us: "Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies."

Tonight, I'm wrestling with this question: how does my perspective guide and shape my circumstances?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Next.

This post is a throwback of sorts. Originally posted over at pickyourportion.com and before I had graduated from college, the principles surrounding this word "next" still ring true today!

So, what are you doing after graduation? This question, often birthed out of innocent intentions, became one of my least favorite conversation starters a year ago.

I was stepping into my last semester of college and feelings of anticipation were creeping in, primarily centered around one word: next.

It was a season of transition marked by job interviews, final exams, resumes, lots of coffee, goodbyes and hellos. And at times, it felt like a blessing and a curse.

The dreaded “what are you doing after graduation” question left me with mixed emotions, making me feel as if I should have the next 10 years of my life mapped out, career moves in place, relationships in check. But then the weight of that reality would sink in: how was I supposed to plan the next decade of my life when I didn’t even have the day after graduation figured out?

Interviews lined up. I was applying for jobs I’d dreamed about, and then those opportunities were actually extended to me in a pretty package, but something wasn’t right.

I distinctly remember having a conversation with my Dad about one of my job opportunities and he looked me square in the eyes, asking one simple question: Have you talked to God about it?

Ouch. Well, in all honesty, I hadn’t…not that much anyways. I’d thanked Him for the opportunities, but taken them as a “sign” that God was blessing me with the “job I’d always wanted.”

I had to face a heart check. I could have all the opportunities in the world, but if I wasn’t where God wanted me to be, it was all pointless.

So I got on my knees. I grabbed my Bible. And I began asking for advice from trusted mentors who had already been down the graduate-from-college-and-apply-for-a-job road. One response took my breath away: “He [God] has never given me much of a blueprint or a five year plan…but He’s always faithful to show me the exact next step.” The. Exact. Next. Step.

That statement and the words in Galatians 6 paved the way for a paradigm shift in my life. I wasn’t marching towards a graduation stage to have life all figured out. I was marching towards a next step…a next step that God would provide.

Galatians 6:4-5, 8 in the Message says, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life…the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.”

These words coincided with advice from a second mentor, who shared this: “Discontent comes by comparison. I realized [in my journey] that I was comparing my situation to others and was becoming discontent. I was neglecting to be grateful for what was right in front of me.”

Later, Galatians 6:16 in the Message says, “It’s not what you and I do…it is what God is doing, and He is creating something totally new, a free life!”

Here I was doing, doing, doing. Applying for one more opportunity. Going to one more interview. Making one more update to my portfolio. And while I was responding like a frenzied windstorm, I was having conversations with my friends comparing my progress to theirs. Were they having interviews? Had any of them landed a job yet?

But I had it all wrong. Next steps aren’t about what I can or can’t do. They’re about what God is already doing.

My wise friend didn’t leave me hanging with his comparison truth. He invited me into the rest of his story: “My perspective began to shift as I felt God telling me, ‘Quit trying to figure out what’s down the road. Be obedient here and now, and I will open the doors.’” It’s not what I do…it’s what God is doing.

So I let go. I kissed pseudo-control goodbye and said, “God, I’m going to explore who You’ve called me to be, and in doing so, You show me what’s next.” You know what’s cool about that prayer? God showed up. He didn’t abandon me. He showed me a next that was even better than anything I could have created on my own.

And here’s the best part of it all: that’s who God is. He’s the God of next. But He’s also the God of yesterday, today, and right now. He goes before me and behind me.

I’m learning that it’s really ok to not know what I’m doing next. I’m just going to hold tight to Him, the very creator of my next.

This post originally appeared on pickyourportion.com.