Monday, April 30, 2012

Does Perception Matter?

There's been some debate recently over how much other people's perception of your actions matters.

For example: 
Let's say I live alone and my boyfriend and I are long-distance. When he visits, instead of him getting a hotel, he sleeps on my couch in the living room while I sleep in my bed in my bedroom. Is it wrong? 

Inherently- no. 
But, the perception of what it could be throws people off. If all someone sees is my boyfriend coming into my apartment at night and then leaving the next morning, they might automatically assume we are sleeping together... right? 

So, at what point would I change my actions that aren't necessarily wrong simply because there could be a wrong perception attached to it? 

It's a weird line. 
We've argued a thousand different scenarios and it seems that as much as you might always try to err on the side of caution, there could always be false perceptions. 

My biggest issue with this is not that people might judge me for their false perception of me, but more that my actions might lead someone to falsely perceive something and then go do that falsely perceived thing themselves. That I might unintentionally be leading others into a bad spot. 'Oh, Debbie has her boyfriend sleep over when he's in town... that means it's probably okay if I have mine over tonight'.... 

Ultimately, I'm not sure we can always take responsibility for other people's false perceptions of us. The more the discussion followed a thousand rabbit trails and back to the main issue at hand, the more we realized that in an ideal world there would be a confrontation. A point where when someone perceives something, they would then go talk to that person about what actually happened...instead of assuming. 

That's an ideal world, though. 
And because we don't live in an ideal world, we're still always stuck in this weird place. A place where misinterpretation happens, where gossip dwells, where rumors fly. A place where people perceive things that aren't always true. 

I guess I think the answer is to simply be cautious of how your actions might be perceived. It doesn't mean don't do them (especially if it's not wrong)... but have an understanding of how things might get interpreted. Be prepared to have those conversations, but also be prepared to let things go. 

When I was in college I joined a sorority and while I hung out with the girls at parties, I made sure to never drink at parties. I made sure to never carry a cup, even if it had water in it. I knew that there was no way for anyone to determine how much I had drank or what I was even drinking. But, in a bar with some of the girls, I didn't have a problem having a drink or two with them as we sat around and talked. It doesn't mean that someone couldn't have walked in later and seen me with a drink and perceived, especially if I were laughing, that maybe I'd already had a few too many drinks. So... was that wrong of me? 

I guess you could live meticulously by a rule book, making sure that nothing you do was ever potentially questionable... but I hesitate to think you'd be successful. And on the small chance that you could succeed, I'd have to wonder if we missed the point... 

That maybe there's just more conversations that need to take place. Maybe more honesty and openness. Maybe recognizing that we can't ultimately be responsible for people's decisions to do wrong. Maybe recognizing that we still aren't perfect. 

I don't know. 

But, I'd encourage you to be cautious with your choices. Consider them. 
And just keep living. 

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Sunday, April 29, 2012


When's the last time you allowed yourself to truly be content?

You know... satisfied, pleased, fulfilled, at ease...

I think I have the natural tendency to consistently be the antonym of content. There's always something that could be better, whether that's within me or someone else or current circumstances. It's a feeling of constant dissatisfaction. A feeling of misery.

Lately I've been discovering what a crappy existence that is. I think, somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that we must continually be striving for something better. That there was a 'better' to always be obtained. Whether it was a 'better' in school, or sports, or choir, or with my family, or friends, or boyfriend, or relationship with the Lord....being 'content' in those things often felt like settling.

Now I realize that being discontent in those things only brings unhappiness and discord- not only for me, but for those close to me. How do you ever really be in relationship with someone else when they are never content with the current state of things? How do you not always feel like you're doing something wrong, or that you simply aren't good enough?

It feels like a disease sometimes.

But, in being aware of this mindset I tend to have... there's been a lot of letting go that's need to happen. I think it first started with my relationship with the Lord.

I think it started here because somewhere along the way many of us have adopted a mentality that we will always need to grow in our relationship with Him. That we will never be where we want to be. That we should never be satisfied with where things are at with Him.

Now I'm wondering if those thoughts have been more damaging to us as believers than they have been motivating or encouraging. It's almost as if we've been saying that God isn't satisfied with our relationship with Him, that He wants more and more and more. He wants us to be more obedient, more loving, more selfless, more joyful. And maybe it's true that He does desire those things, but I don't necessarily think it means that God is upset with us if we are truly seeking Him.

I think God gets upset when we become people who honor Him with our words, but don't really meant it. I think God's upset when we are fakers. But, I don't think He's upset when we are honest with Him and others and still following... even if it's not yet perfect. For us to think he's always dissatisfied, that He's always disappointed? It seems damaging.

In fact, I think it's been damaging.
I've told you all a bit about how I put down my Bible for the better half of this year... and when I finally have been able to come to a place where I'm not trying to hard to be this 'perfect' Christian, there's been a lot of content that's been able to flood in.

What if where you're at right now is okay? Even if you could 'do better' or 'be better'... what if God is satisfied that you're exactly where you are? Could you be satisfied, too?

'Cause, the thing I've discovered, is that life is continually going to bringing us to new things. New challenges, new people, new jobs, new locations, new struggles of it's own. I don't think our relationship with the Lord is supposed to be a struggle. I think it's supposed to be the thing that brings peace, and comfort, and healing.... the source of our joy, Him as our only constant.

But... we've turned it into this thing that we have to fight through, and struggle with... and be dissatisfied with...because we think He is dissatisfied with us....

And I can't help but wonder....
Did we miss something?

Today I'm content.
I'm not perfect.
I didn't go to church today. I didn't really even read my Bible today.

But, I'm content with where I'm at with God.

Are you?

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Does Jesus Hate You?

'I was a virgin because I love Jesus and now Jesus hates me.'

April, from Grey's Anatomy, says this to Jackson the morning after their intimate night together. It's one of those lines that makes me cringe.... and it's one of those lines that gets broadcasted all over the world.

Is this how Jesus is viewed?

Unfortunately, I think it is a lot of times. Not only by the world, but by Christians. And I think this statement is evidence of our lack of understanding who Jesus really is.

Honestly, I've probably felt like this a bit myself in times when I've knowingly sinned. That my sin causes Jesus to hate me. The guilt is too overwhelming. There's no way I can ever be forgiven of this (whatever 'this' is at the time). It's especially worse when I've chosen to sin, knowing it was sin. I can't get by with a, 'Oh, I'm so sorry... I didn't mean to' type of confession. Instead, I must throw myself at His feet... acknowledging my unworthiness, acknowledging how undeserving I am of grace and forgiveness.

But to honestly think that He hates me?
It seems absurd and contrary to everything I read about Christ in Scripture.

Remember the woman at the well?
Or the woman caught in adultery?
Or the prostitute that washes His feet?
Or the disciples that had given their lives to follow Him and then betrayed Him in an instant?

Where is the hate, then?

How do we go from reading this about Jesus to believing something false about who He is? Where does the disconnect happen?

It makes me wonder how interested we are in even wanting to know who Jesus is, or if we're more caught up and consumed by who we are, what we do, our guilt, our freedom, ourselves. It's almost as if we take our own feelings of guilt and despair and because we don't know what to do with those emotions, it's easier to make false statements like, 'Jesus hates me'.

'Cause sometimes it's easier to think that Jesus hates us when we do something wrong than to think that He still loves us even when we do something wrong.

Think about it.
We have this mentality that demands justice be done.
When we do something wrong to someone else, it sometimes seems easier if we pay the price for what we've done wrong to them. If they let us off the hook, there's this feeling of debt that we have toward them.

Do we feel like that about Christ?
That there's this debt that's been paid that we're constantly trying to pay back.... but we never can... because we're never good enough?

Does God hate sin? Yes. He has to... He's too holy to even have it exist in His presence. But does He ever hate us?
It's completely contrary to the Gospel.

Soon I'll probably talk about this whole cliche of 'loving the sinner, but hating the sin' that we spout of quite regularly. But, for now... I'll agree that it's true of Christ. That while we may not be able to separate the two in our human little minds, I believe Jesus is fully capable of loving us despite our sin. He is able to see us and know us beyond anything that we do or think or say.... and love us.

That's the Jesus I'm interested in knowing. The one that contradicts everything I think I know about how we are naturally wired... the one who came so that we might live.

Who is the Jesus that you know?
One that hates you because you messed up? 'Cause that Jesus doesn't exist...

Seek to know Him today for who He is. The one full of mystery, power, healing... and love.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Scared & Hiding

I started writing this blog thinking that it would cater to a younger female audience. My vision was that high school and college-age girls would identify the most with my rants about the craziness of the female race.

Turns out that my rants about crazy girls are more sporadic and my random thoughts about issues in life seem to be the overwhelming theme of this blog.

I've been incredibly surprised by the amount and type of people who consistently seem to keep up, though. Moms, youth pastors, 30-year-old men, single women in their late 20's, college guys... and of course, the high school and college-age girls. It's weird..

But it makes me wonder how much we're all (no matter where we are at in life) really searching for answers. It makes me wonder if deep down, none us really feel like we know anything at all. That as much as we can speak with authority and conviction on certain subjects... I wonder how much we're really hiding. I wonder how many of us are scared of being known, scared of being discovered, scared of failing. 

In the last 5 years or so I had this vision of writing a book some day. It was to be a book about fighting. A book about not having all the answers, a book about struggling to live each day and letting that be 'normal'. 

I grew weary of reading so many Christian books that seemed to have all the answers for us. I was annoyed by the easy solutions and fixes to the things in my life that didn't seem so easily fixable. I was frustrated by simple Christian phrases that are tossed around so easily, and when I took the time to really consider what they meant... I still wasn't sure. 

Instead, I wanted to write a book that said, 'Hey world, this is me... this is me raw, and broken, and not having anything together... but still believing in Jesus, still believing Jesus is worth it. This is me fighting for something better, hoping for something more... and sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding.' It was to be an invitation for people to join me, for people to journey with me. A grand idea that the more we could all admit that we don't have it figured out, the more something beautiful and changing could sweep across the world. 

I tried to write it. I wrote clips and bits of it. You've maybe read some of it here, actually. I even sent in a sample of it with the idea for the whole thing to be published.  Too personal, they told me. No one wants to read that type of thing. Maybe they're right. 

So, I stopped writing for a long time-- except for job required things. 
I got scared. 
I'm still scared. 

When I started up this blog in January, it didn't come without fear, doubts and worries. Every day I debate whether or not I should keep writing, how often I should write, if anyone even cares about what I have to say. It's been a battle. 

And I realize that the fear is consuming. 
I fear being judged, I fear disagreements, I fear being wrong, I fear failing. 

Do you? 
Yours might look different than mine (in fact, it probably does)... but, I can't help but wonder in the deepest places of our hearts if we're still searching. If we're still searching to be known, but desperately scared of the fullness of what that means. If we're still searching to fully believe in a God who sometimes seems full of contradictions. If we're still searching to follow a Messiah who spoke in riddles and parables. If we're still searching to find ourselves and simultaneously get over ourselves. 

And because we're still searching, we are terrified. 

Does our fear of being found out, of being discovered... of being seen naked, exposed, vulnerable... does that fear drive us more than anything else? 
I sometimes think it does. 

What are the things you avoid, the things you run from, the things you put off... because of fear? 
How much of your life are you living in fear? 

Is there something that you know you should do, but you've been too scared to do? Whether that's fulfill the purpose of your life, or have a hard conversation with someone, or quit your job, or move somewhere else, or forgive someone, or break up with someone, or propose to someone, or confess to someone... I don't know... 

But, I just want to urge you to think about it.
And then to be willing to walk through the fear. 

I'm writing again. 
It doesn't stop being scary, but I still keep doing it. It hasn't been what I've expected, but it's been good. 

What is it for you? 
Do it. 
Right now. 
And then tell me all about it. 

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is 'Sin'... Sin....?

Has someone's confession of sin ever led you into that sin?

It seems that there's a fine line in confession of sin and being vulnerable with each that we need to be aware of. While it's a powerful thing to share the things that we are struggling with openly and honestly, I wonder if the confession can sometimes be more detrimental for others than positive.

This seems especially plausible when older people share their stories with younger people. While there can very much be a reassurance that a student is not alone in their sin, it seems like there can very much be an attitude of, 'Oh, if he/she has done that... maybe I can too?'

I only think that because I remember feeling that way as a teenager. I remember feeling more okay about sin when I knew it was something one of my brothers, or an older girl in my youth group had done. I remember feeling okay about things because my 'solid' Christian peers were or had struggled with it.

My radar of sin is sometimes more indicative of what the people around me think over what the Lord thinks about it.

I fear that we forget that God hates sin and cannot be among it because He is thrice holy... but we are very quick to remember the sin that the world hates, the sin that the world condemns, the sin that other Christians judge us for. It seems that, more often than not, sin affects us more not because God hates it.... but because other people condemn, judge, and outcast us for it.

Quite oppositely, when our Christian crowds, churches, leaders, friends, mentors, families let us in on the sin in their's easy for us to go one of two ways. Either judge them for it, or think 'oh...that's not so bad....' which can lead us into a spiral of even trying it for ourselves (if we haven't already). I realize there's a middle ground, but in my personal experience I tend to take everything to either extreme.

Sometimes I think we even call things sin that aren't sin because that's what others around us have told us for so long. I wonder how much we even seek the answers for ourselves instead of just readily accepting that something is sin. It's a real bummer, actually. I think we can get so consumed by what religion is telling us is bad, that we forget to search it out for ourselves.

I know I'm briefly touching on a lot of big subjects here...
So, in a brief summary, here are my thoughts:

  1. In sharing your stories/struggles with others, use caution. Be aware that your confessions of sin might lead others astray. Be willing to leave out details and specifics if necessary. Find a safe place to spill all, but know that there are appropriate venues in which to do this. Know that while your story might resonate deeply with one, it could very easily lead another into sin. 
  2. Make sure your standard for sin is coming from the Lord and not from men. 
  3. Make sure the things that you are calling sin and treating like sin are sin. Not just because someone told you that...make sure you have a good understanding of what conviction from the Lord is vs. conviction from man.
While I wish the conviction from man would be a good indicator of what sin is and isn't, if we look at many things of the past, we find that we have been so very wrong so much of the time. 

We can go deeper with any of these things if you'd like. Just let me know. 

As always, please feel free to submit your own thoughts and questions that you have about any topic you're wrestling through or thinking about. I'd love to hear from you! 

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is Change Even Possible?

Are you ever skeptical that people can change?

I am.

I wonder how often our skepticism not only allows us to live in a place of discouragement and hopelessness...but also lends itself to creating a mold for others that they cannot get out of.

For example:
I feel like I changed a lot between high school and college. I felt more mature, I felt more servant-hearted, I felt like I understood a whole lot more about who I was and my purpose in life. But, every time I went back home, I felt myself reverting to this high school version of myself. I was suddenly selfish and expectant. I suddenly needed my mom to wake me up in time for things, I suddenly found silly reasons to have my feelings hurt by my older brothers.

I think part of this was the fact that coming home provided a comfort and familiarity that allowed me to be a more raw and rough version of myself...'cause I always know they'll love me unconditionally. I think part of it was that my family expected me to still be the bratty, selfish teenager that I had left home as. How could they know I'd be any different?

It took many years before I felt like I could really be more of who I was becoming around my family, it took time for them to see that maybe I wasn't the same girl I had been. It took me continually striving to be the same person I was becoming at camp and at school while I was also at home...even if it felt much easier to slip into that old person again. Change didn't come easily.

And I recognize how often I tend to hold others to this previous version of themselves.

It's really backwards.
I proclaim to believe in a God that is all about changing people. Eternal change, lasting life-change... but then I don't let them change. I question their motives. Are they changing for a guy? Or for a girl? Are they just appearing to change, but really the same person deep down inside? Are they just desperately wanting that job, so they'll say anything they can? Is it just this temporary deal, but give it some time and we'll see the old them resurface soon?

I hate this.
I hate that this is what I've become.
Haven't I truly seen enough people's lives drastically changed? Or am I still always expecting the worst?

Not only am I allowing room for disappointment and discouragement to set in in my own heart, but I'm also failing at offering hope to anyone around me.

I want to be a person who believes fully that people can change, that they can be different. I want to be a person that not only believes it, but inspires it. Instead of looking at the former pothead, sex addict, alcoholic, compulsive liar, pharisee and not believing that they'll ever change... what if I held true conviction that they can, that they will, that there's hope, that there's more?

What if people are unable to really change because we don't let them?
What if people are so discouraged and hurt by their friends, their families, their churches, their co-workers treating them like the same person they've always been...instead of with the belief and hope that they can and will be different?

What if we're doing the exact opposite of what we claim to believe?

I don't know about you guys, but I need to believe that lives can be changed.
I need to be a person who hopes...
A person who offers hopes to others when they might not even have hope for themselves.

Change can happen.

Let's be cautious with how our words and our actions may debilitate others from being able to live in their new flesh. And maybe, as we allow others to live in their transformation, we will also be able to take steps forward in ours.

For you, my friend, have probably changed, too.
Believe it.
Live in it.
There is power here.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The End....or the Beginning?

The Comment:
I think we need to be careful not to go too far to the extreme the other way by encouraging people to stay in dating relationships and/or proceed into marriage with someone who may not be the best fit for them just because they dont want to seem like they are only searching for happiness or bailing when it gets hard. I think that dating is the process by which we learn if someone is a good match for us or not and that there is a difference between looking for perfection and looking for the person who is best compatible with you presently and who will still be compatible with you in all future stages of life.
This was in response to my blog, Dating For Divorce?... and I wanted to make sure and hit on this side of the subject as well.

When is it a good time to break-up?
At what point do you realize that the two of you aren't a good fit and trying to force something is more detrimental than just ending it and walking away?

I think your comment is spot-on. We do need to be careful to not go too far to the extreme by encouraging awful dating relationships to advance into even more awful marriages.  It is a time to 'get out before it's too late'...

But, it's still a tricky transition into marriage. I mostly think that marriage is this land of a thousand things you never could have really prepared for. Through various life circumstances, a wonderful dating relationship could easily transform into wretched marital hell. How do we get people to stick with it in those moments, when fleeing has become the acceptable and expected solution though? How do we get people to stick with it when taking the out is the easier thing to do, when it's the thing they know best?

Marriage is hard.
Dating is hard, too. At least, I think it should be.
It seems impossible to gauge compatibility for our future selves...and I wonder how much we are even able to gauge compatibility for our current selves. I might argue that while I think I know what I need in a mate, what I actually need has turned out to be quite different from that.

I guess I think you have to decide if someone is worth it. They have to decide if you're worth it. You must be willing to make a commitment, to stick with it... for better or for worse. In dating, we get to decide this.

Early on in dating my current boyfriend, I remember thinking how terrifying the thought of marriage was. Marriage was this world of unknowns...and the thought of breaking up seemed much more manageable. Why? Because I know how to break up with someone. I know what it takes to get over someone. I know how to move on, I know how to cut them out of my life, I know the pain and the heartache.... because I've been there before.

But being with someone forever? Choosing to love someone when it's hard and I don't always want to? Allowing them to love me in my weakness and my sin and when I don't think I deserve love? Trying to raise a family together? Sacrificing myself constantly, having to be selfless? Being hurt by the person who is supposed to love me more than anyone else?

Those are things that I don't know.
Those are the things I won't know until I'm there.
And it's terrifying.

But, at some point.... you just decide it's worth it. Regardless of your compatibility or your happiness. And you choose each other.
Again. And again. And again.

There's no outs this time. We choose to love each other every day, until death do we part.

So, sure, maybe get out while you can in the dating process. But date with a purpose...  especially all you young guns out there. And once you realize that it's not worth it, that you can't ever envision yourself choosing that person no matter what they've done to you, no matter what they might turn out to be, no matter who they are right now... then do them a favor and end it soon. No need to drag out the inevitable.

If you're unsure...?
I still challenge you to consider working through the hard things. Maybe it takes you more time. That's okay. You're not on a certain timeline. Take the time you need, don't rush it, and don't delay it. Be willing to ask yourself if you've been selfless, if you've been sacrificial, if you've truly loved them. And if you don't really care about that...I'd venture to say it may be a good time to call it off (as long as you're not in a highly emotional state-- read up on some dos and don'ts here).

I still don't really know much about love. You get to hear me process through it all as I go. Thanks for all your comments, questions, encouragement and feedback. It's good.

I hope you have a little clearer idea if you're heading toward the end of a relationship or the beginning of a different type of relationship.

And may you find hope, whichever way you go. There's always some to be discovered.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Dating for Divorce?

The comment:
I read or heard a statement that dating in our culture is really training for divorce - hook up/break up/broken heart/recover/repeat....I had never considered this, and as a mom I want the best for my kids, and hate the thought of them training for divorce! Would love if they never exposed their heart to anyone until they found THE one....this was never a thought I had heard or considered as single, now I'm old and married and have mommy you have thoughts on this that you'd be willing to share?
Great topic... 
Hard topic... especially since we live in a culture where dating is the standard pre-requisite to marriage. Oftentimes there's even a standard length of dating in order for marriage to be socially acceptable. 

In the last year, I've even begin to think how unnatural dating is. Take two people who are attracted to each other and put them in an environment where they're essentially 'playing' marriage...only there are a million boundaries, a plethora of rules to follow... dos and don'ts, cans and can'ts... We're playing in this gray area that I'm not sure we were ever created for and then we wonder why it's confusing, why we go too far physically, why our hearts are often broken.

I think the concept of dating trains us up for a mentality of believing we 'deserve happiness'. I think a phrase that's commonly used in regard to relationships is, 'I just want him/her to be happy'... and I always think... is that really what it's about?? 

In dating we learn that when someone stops being who we want them to be, we should end it. We learn that when we find someone else that we are more attracted to, we should end our current relationship. We learn that when it gets hard, it's probably not worth it anymore. How can we expect our mentality to suddenly shift completely once we are married? 

I think dating sets us up for this unrealistic idea of what marriage is supposed to be, and even what the person we are going to marry is supposed to be like. I think dating sets us up for a selfish mindset, of finding the man of our dreams. 

So, when we go into marriage with this mindset, it's no surprise that over 50% of them end in divorce. We've set ourselves up to fail. We've set ourselves up to be thinking about our own happiness and how we deserve to be happy above all else. We dabble in this marriage and decide it's not for us and so we sign the papers and get out quick. A little messier than a verbal break-up between boyfriends and girlfriends, but at this point divorce seems conveniently do-able. 

I think a lot of the danger comes in basing so much of our decisions on feelings and emotions. We do it with everything... too much of the time. Our feelings dictate our actions and lead us into romance, into break-ups, into revenge, into friendship, into running from God, into believing in God... you name it. 

I don't necessarily think not dating is the solution- especially in our culture. People are going to date... But, I think the way we talk about dating and the way we encourage dating needs to change. I think we have to be people that recognize that marriage and romance isn't about our happiness. It's about so much more... it's about being better together for something greater than you could ever be by yourself. It's about sacrifice and selflessness (which isn't often a great contributor to our own happiness). Can joy and happiness be found in marriage? Absolutely... but it can't be the end goal. 

Maybe, in relationships, we should encourage others to stick it out through the hard things, to forgive, to continue to choose each other even if they don't always want to. I think there's a way that you can date that can very much be 'training FOR marriage' just as easily as I think a lot of dating can be 'training FOR divorce'. It's ultimately all in how you look at it, teach about it, and then do it.

Unfortunately, we can never really protect other's hearts from being exposed to the heartache and pain of romance (some of my biggest sources of heartache came during my years of not dating). At some point you have to let people make their own decisions, even if it's brutal for you to watch. 

But, I'd encourage you all to not view dating as this decision that you can 'get out of' in a heartbeat. Be willing to work through hard things, to be patient, to bear with each other, to choose each other even if you're not attracted to them 100% of the time. 

If you're willing to do this in dating, you will be more likely to do this in marriage... and I can guarantee you that as much as you want your Prince Charming to be perfection, there will be times when he fails, when he disappoints, when he annoys, when he's not so charming or handsome... and you might just be better equipped to choose to love him anyway. 

And it's worth it. 
Loving through all the gross, ugly, dark crap? 
It's worth it. 
And it's more beautiful than any 'perfect' romance out there... because there's depth, there's honesty, there's rawness, there's vulnerability. 

Don't give up on each other so easily. 

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Strong and Weak

Are men strong and women weak?
Do men desire to marry strong women?
Do women desire to marry strong men?

What does 'strong' even mean? Is there ever to be allowance for weakness in the opposite gender?

I've been a part of some interesting discussion lately regarding this topic. It's kind of become this fascinating thing to me that I haven't given much thought to previously. I'm still wrestling through a lot of conflicts that these questions inevitably bring up.

Lots of single women I know (notice I said lots and not all) want to be seen as 'strong'. I think, for us, it means independent, capable, adventurous (willing to try new things).... just an all around ability to function in the world on our own. We don't need others to get by, certainly not guys.

It seems that these traits can be valued in a woman, if not taken to the extreme. Guys seem to appreciate a woman who can take care of herself, who isn't needy and dependent and whiny. He pursues, they get hitched... and then truth is revealed.

We aren't so strong after all.

We may continue to be for a while, but eventually something will happen and the man will see weakness in his wife. Maybe she'll get injured, maybe she'll cry a lot, maybe she'll scare easily, maybe she'll want to curl up in her pajamas and watch movies because she had a bad day. The glass shatters... his wife has weaknesses.

Quite oppositely, I think women want their men to be strong. They want them to take care of them, to be there to lean on, to comfort them, to hold them, provide for them. There's no room for illness or slacking off. But, eventually the glass shatters here, too. He cannot be strong all the time.

I guess, ultimately, regardless of your definition of 'strong' ('cause we all have a different one that we're operating on and holding others to)... it would seem that the best thing we can do is acknowledge that expectations are not always going to be met. We all have moments of weakness, and it seems in loving each other through weakness is where love grows stronger.

I get that weakness isn't this desirable trait...
I personally don't want to appear weak or that I can't handle hard things or that I am a push over or too dependent or... whatever else can convey that. I personally don't want to marry a man who is soft spoken or who lets me walk all over him or that I can literally physically beat up. I want him to be strong. I want him to see me as strong.

But, it's unrealistic to believe that he will always be strong... just as it's unrealistic for him to think that I will always be. Sometimes I need to cry on his shoulder, sometimes I need him to make a decision for us, sometimes I need to depend on him. Sometimes he'll get sick, sometimes he'll make a bad decision, sometimes he'll cry, sometimes he won't be able to pick up that really heavy thing for me.

Will we let that be okay?
Instead of disappointment and rejection setting in when we glimpse others weaknesses, I wonder what it might look like if we took on the Lord's perspective of weakness. What if... when they were weak... we stepped in and were strong?

What if there was give and take?
What if we could be both strong and weak?

And what if, in the end, we're all just weak and in need of saving?
What if all the 'strength' we are witnessing is just an illusion?

What if.

Whether your a male or a female...
Let's let people be people. Human. Imperfect. Weak.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012


The comment:
One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing young christian girls wearing way too much make up, fake tanning, and just looking completely fake in general, yet serving a God who created them beautiful. I understand we all have insecurities but we have to draw the line somewhere. Any advice on this for other girls who aren't embracing their natural beauty?
This is a hard one for me to address.
It's hard because I don't know where the 'line' you speak of should be drawn. While I could easily discourage women from wearing too much make-up, going tanning or looking 'fake'... there's a whole other host of women who are doing a thousand different things that you could argue are not 'embracing their natural beauty', either.

Consider all the things that women do to alter their appearance, aside from the ones you mentioned:

  • Wear some make-up
  • Lay-out in their backyard, by the pool, anywhere sun is found
  • Pluck/wax their eyebrows, chin hairs, mustaches
  • Shave their armpits, legs, arms, bikini lines
  • Paint their fingernails and toenails
  • Straighten their hair
  • Perm their hair
  • Dye their hair
  • Cut their hair
  • Pierce their ears, noses, lips, eyebrows
  • Get tattoos
  • Put on lotion/age cream
  • Take/use acne medication/facewash
  • Wear clothing that's 'flattering' to their figure
  • Lose weight (through exercise, dieting, eating disorders) 
  • Plastic Surgery (breast enlargements, liposuction, face-lifts...etc.)

I probably haven't covered everything... 
But, my point is that while we may not be doing what we think is the extreme, I very much am guilty of doing many of the above things to alter my appearance. Probably some of them on on a daily basis. 

It's an instance where I think we are quick to look at the speck in someone else's eye without first looking at the plank in our own. It's an instance where we are quick to judge someone's appearance without being willing to look at the heart. I'm also guilty of this. 

I think the whole point is that this is often a line that all of us women can typically identify with each other on- we are all striving to know what it means to not let our beauty come from outward adornment, but, rather, focus on the 'unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit'. 

It seems, instead of letting what other people are doing consume us and annoy us, that we should seek to love them. We can probably identify with them a heck of a lot more than we think we can, and I think once we take the time to get to really know them and their hearts, this will be quite evident. Some of my closest (unlikely) friends have sprung out of taking the time to get to know them behind the painted face and the orange skin. 

I don't necessarily think any of the above things are wrong. I do think that when they become consuming, when they become vanity, when they become our focus... that we've lost sight of what really matters. I think that it's a thing of the heart, where each person has to realize within themselves and for themselves that beauty is in inward thing, not an outward thing. Check out one of my recent posts about my latest thoughts on this issue: Quest for Worth

That probably isn't what you were hoping for... but, I can't in good conscious tell other women to stop doing the things they are doing that don't seem like 'embracing natural beauty' when they could just easily tell me the same thing about the efforts I make toward my appearance. 

My advice?
Let those girls do what they're doing. It's not your job (or mine) to stop them or draw a line for them. Get to know them, get to know their hearts... and be willing to admit that you probably also do things to alter your appearance before telling them that they need to embrace their natural beauty. 

Maybe you do, too. 
Maybe we all do. 
Maybe we're all hiding behind a bit of a facade. It doesn't have to look like make-up and fake tanning to try to mask who we really are. 

Perhaps we're all just a bit clown-faced, struggling to figure out where we fit in the world.
Or, maybe that's just me. 

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Forced Kindness?

I have a guy friend who hates being obligated to encourage others.

I've scoffed at his resistance to it for the last year, but just today I realized what he was really saying. In my head I had always heard, 'I hate encouraging people, especially when people ask me to do it.'  In reality, he's been saying, 'I hate empty encouragement...and when people force me to give encouragement, I usually feel like it's meaningless.'

I get that. I agree with him. I, myself, don't typically offer any sort of encouragement if I don't really mean it. The difference is, when obligated, I'm usually able to find some sort of sincere encouragement to give someone. Stuff that I know I should say and that someone else might need to hear, and I recognize that this a good way to love others. I'm just not super awesome at offering up kind sometimes the extra push from an outside source is a good motivator for me.

Aside from that, he raised another interesting point I want to focus on more. Obligatory encouragement to girls (from guys) is probably a bad idea. Not always... but, hear me out.

In Christian circles we're especially fond of forcing others to encourage others. In and of itself, I don't think it's a bad thing... and I don't think we typically have bad motivation when doing it... but, here's what seems to happen:

In one particular setting, a group might be participating in a 'love' circle. One where they stick a person in the middle and everyone goes around and says one nice thing about that person. Inevitably, this one guy (or girl, for that matter) will say something about the person in the middle that makes people raise an eyebrow. Just what did he mean when he said that?

It's especially awful when the girl in the middle likes one of the boys in the group. He has no chance at success, for if he says anything kind, she will read into it. Us girls can make something as simple as, 'I enjoyed getting to know you better' mean the world to us. We take any good thing that comes out of his mouth and we read into it. Immediately we go into la-la land and wonder what he means, if he likes us, if he would consider dating us.

We've forgotten that he was required to say something nice to us (well, I guess there was always a choice... but his options were to say something somewhat positive or just look like a complete jerk). He may mean what he says, but for us to take it the wrong way isn't cool. I realize guys with a crush may be tempted to take things the wrong way, too.

My point?
Maybe these Christian love fests aren't the most productive things in the world. Maybe they don't always accomplish what we hope they will accomplish. I get the idea behind them, and I do think there's some validity there... but forcing others to tell someone else something positive? I do wonder how much of it is meaningless- just empty words to fill the silence. I do wonder how many girls cling to the words of their current crush in these moments and build them up to be something that they're not.

Crazy us.
Crazy Christians.
Sometimes I think, while our hearts may be good, our methods are off.

I don't know. I'm still considering it... but I do know that I'll think twice when given the chance to lead others through obligatory encouragement exercises.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Worried Sick.

He should have died.

A sudden swerve to the right, an over-correct to the left... across the highway, another pull back to the right... and then it flipped. 5 times, landing upside-down, car totaled. I fumbled for my phone, in disbelief that such a thing that happened before my eyes, thankful that I was close enough to town to have cell phone service.

My boyfriend grabbed a light and ran to check on the driver, while I tried to calmly talk to the 9-1-1 Operator. She asked questions, I yelled across the highway to find the answers.

'I think he's going to die'...
Upon hearing those words, a lump formed in my chest. Promising the operator that we would leave the driver exactly where he was, I hung up and made my way slowly to the overturned vehicle.

He was young, barely 20. He couldn't remember much, but I found purpose in asking questions and talking to him to keep him awake. Help arrived, carried him to safety, and the boy miraculously lives on to tell the story. Don't worry, we're Facebook friends.

The incident put this irrational fear in my head, though.
It happened over 6 months ago and I dread thinking about traveling long distances early in the morning. If the clock reads somewhere between 3 and 6 a.m. I half convince myself that I should say my final good-byes before I leave.

Perhaps this worry seems justifiable to some of you.
Mostly, I think it's ridiculous and debilitating.
I think I try to justify worry a lot, actually... and I get quite defensive if anyone tells me that I'm a worrier. But, I'm here to tell you all that I am a worrier. Ugh. The way it sounds is... gross.

I worry about car accidents, about making the wrong choice, about not having enough food for my guests, about summer falling apart, about giving you unsound advice, about having babies or not being able to have babies, about getting married, about messing up my kids, about the future, about the present, about change, about friendship, about.... most things.

Worry is stupid.

Perhaps Oswald Chambers speaks on the subject better than most:
Worrying always results in sin. We tend to think that a little anxiety and worry are simply an indication of how wise we really are, yet it is actually a much better indication of just how wicked we are. Fretting rises from our determination to have our own way. Our Lord never worried and was never anxious, because His purpose was never to accomplish His own plans but to fulfill God’s plans. Fretting is wickedness for a child of God.
If that doesn't make you squirm just a bit...
Especially all you control freaks out there...

We want to have everything go the way we've planned, we want to exist in our perfect little world of nothing going wrong... but because we know how reality tends to look, we worry about every worst-case scenario becoming our scenario.

We dwell in worry. Especially us women.

I challenge you to allow yourself to recognize your worry as worry. No more defending it, no more justifying it, no more calling it something that it isn't (i.e. 'I'm not worried about it, I'm just a little concerned'). Recognize it, and then confess it. To the Lord, to a friend, to your significant other, to your mentor.

If I claim to believe in a God that is Sovereign and good... why would I ever worry about a thing?
I do believe I miss out on so much freedom because of my constant angst.

Why worry about tomorrow, dear friends?
Why worry about the unknown?
It's as if we think we could control it all...
I imagine that we'll continue to get in cars... and maybe we'll live, and maybe we'll die... we don't really get to choose.

It's risky out there, for sure.
But... if you say you believe in a God who is Sovereign and good? Live like it.
After all... whose plan are you trying to accomplish, anyway?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Ain't No Foodie, But....

I just made banana bread. With honey. My house smells awesome... if you're into that sort of thing.

One might call me a glutton. Well, I might call me a glutton. It's kind of always been this joke among my friends and me.

My freshman year of college, my roommate and I put up the verse 'put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony' on our micro-fridge in the dorms. A year later we had what we dubbed 'The Obesity Counter', where we would set our baked goods and candy delicacies so we could devour them at any point throughout the day. It was a beautiful set-up.

I remember eating 7 grilled cheeses in one sitting at the all-you-can-eat buffet the dorms provided for us. Another time, at camp, I scarfed down 5 enchiladas when most others could only consume 1 or 2 at most. I was told just a year ago that you, in fact, have a separate stomach for cookie dough. What this really means that as full as I might be, I can always find extra room to eat several giant spoonfuls of that wonderful raw eggs, sugar, vanilla with a fleck of chocolate concoction.

I'm in no means a foodie, but if you start talking chimichangas, white queso, pizza, a good burger, macaroni & cheese (the blue box), fruits, fruit pizza... Okay, I have to stop because I'm salivating. Yes, I know I have the appetite of a 5th grader... but it's so good.

So I love food.
Most of you probably do, too.

But, I've been thinking lately... as much as we judge and condemn others and ourselves for so much sin, have we forgotten about gluttony?

Instead of seeing gluttony as a sin, we are quick to encourage others to consume more food. Girls- I sometimes think we do this so we don't feel bad about the amount of food we are eating... 'cause if someone else is eating more than us, we're good to go. Or maybe we just have a lot of food and we don't want leftovers so we tell our guests to eat up! Maybe we just love it and for some reason, in that moment, we are scared we'll never get a bite of a food that tastes just like this one...and so we eat as much of it as possible.

And then we want to vomit. Some of you probably do vomit.

How often do you hear anyone encourage someone to STOP eating? I wonder if we don't because we're scared of offending people. We might as well be saying, 'Hey fatty, don't you think you've had plenty of pizza? Why don't you     s l o w it down?'

Mostly I've just realized my lack of self-control lately. Well, and the fact that my pants started fitting a little tighter and I certainly don't want to buy a new wardrobe. But, it's made me think.

Is my overeating sin?
Is it something I should be conscientious of?
Is it something I need to confess?

I kind of think that it is.
And, to tell you the truth, I've had a lot of various thoughts about food and faith in the past. I've thought that fasting would be unhealthy for me because I would be doing it more to lose weight than anything else (some of you might have given up something for Lent just to lose a pound or two...). Quite oppositely, I've thought that overeating/not caring about what I eat was better than having an 'eating disorder' and being consumed with calorie intake and carb consumption. I thought, in some capacity, that it meant I had a healthier view of myself. I realize now that maybe I've had a different kind of eating disorder: gluttony.

Ultimately, I think that self-control matters.
I think there's a balance (isn't there always?)... but it's one that we do need to be aware of.

There's no reason indulge in food to the point where we feel sick.
It's been amazing the last few weeks as I've been able to eat good food every day, but not to the point where I'm busting at the seams. It's been amazing to be aware of how much food I used to eat unnecessarily. What a waste...

My advice to you today?
S l o w it down.
Enjoy food, yes. But, don't idolize it. It can be a god, too... both the presence and the absence of it.

And if nothing else?
Maybe you'll at least be a little more conscious of it today. Not super-obsessive conscious... but a healthy-type of conscious. An 'Oh, I've eaten plenty...I am satisfied' type of attitude, instead of a 'More, more, moreeee' type of mentality.

You can do it!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Brené & Me.

I just watched Brené Brown's talks, The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to ShameYou should, too.

She said quite a few things that struck a chord with me, but perhaps the most humbling was that it takes 'courage to be imperfect'.


In my efforts to attain perfection, I finally see myself for what I really am: a coward.
And it's true.

In Listening to Shame, Brown asks the audience to raise their hand if they think of vulnerability as a weakness. The majority raise their hands. She then asks (in reference to The Power of Vulnerability where she puts herself out there in front of several hundred people) if they saw courage in her vulnerability... and again, the majority raise their hands.

So where's the disconnect?
When we see others show their true colors, we applaud and commend them. We are thankful and appreciative of their ability and willingness to be raw and authentic. But when it's our turn...? When it's our turn we want to clam up and hide out... we want to unveil as little as possible about our imperfections. We are filled with shame.
'Shame, for women, is this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we're supposed to be... and its a strait-jacket' -Brené Brown
Absolutely, it is.
Confined to a life of desperate living, hoping someday that somehow we will attain the impossible: perfection. Or, rather, whatever we've personally deemed to be perfect.  I imagine the standard is different for all of us, but no matter who we are or what we're striving for, I doubt there will be a time when we think we've actually achieved it.

There's always room to be skinnier, or prettier, or smarter, or more athletic, or more popular, or more spiritual, or closer to God, or a better friend, or richer, or funnier, or.... you get the idea.

Brown's point is that there's a certain wholeheartedness that comes when we allow ourselves to be real and honest about our weaknesses, about our imperfections.  Her point is (after years of research, I might add) that vulnerability results in connectedness, and that connectedness is what we are made for.

She challenges her viewers to look at a baby, innocent and new, and to not lavish untrue things upon it (i.e. 'You're perfect...') but, instead to say, 'You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.'

I don't want to be a coward any longer.
I want to embrace imperfection within myself... and I believe that the more I'm able to do that, the more I'm then able to have compassion on and embrace it in others.

I can be imperfect.
That can be okay.

Vulnerability can be transforming.
So, when it's our turn to rise to the occasion... will you join me?

May we find a greater wholeness in the vulnerability of our imperfections than we will ever find in attempts for perfection.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Befriending your Man

I've had a few conversations lately with women where we've had to acknowledge how hard it is to sometimes be a friend to our men.

Whether it's your boyfriend, your fiance, your husband, or just the guy you're currently interested in... we sometimes forget how to simply be their friend. All of a sudden things are more complicated and expectations are placed on them that, oftentimes, they can't meet or, worse yet, don't even know their 'supposed' to meet. 

Somehow, our (sometimes) former friendship fades into oblivion and we forget how to laugh at their jokes without wishing they would filter themselves, we forget how to enjoy hanging out at their house without noticing the mess around us, we forget how to go on a fun date with them without thinking it's the perfect time to bring up some unresolved argument. We nag, we blame, we find fault even in their attempts for good... and we make sure they know about it. 

Lately I've been aware that my friendships with all other males are a lot less complicated. But, the moment friendship turns into something more romantic...something changes. I remember just liking guys when I was single and having our friendship move from the plane of friendship to something.... different. Eye contact suddenly meant something special to me, I was always going through a list of pros and cons in my heads of if they were a good guy for me to truly set my sights on. I inevitably began to treat them a bit differently. 

And now, in a relationship, I'm aware of my struggle to simply be his friend sometimes. To enjoy him, to appreciate him, to do things with him, to not expect so much out of him. I feel like I've lost the ability to let him be himself...because I still have these expectations and ideals for what a man in a relationship is 'supposed' to be. 

It's a crock... and it isn't fair. 

I don't know if you can relate to this at all, but I'd encourage women everywhere to reevaluate your friendships with your men. Reevaluate whether or not you are being a good friend to him... or, are you being a selfish, nagging, blaming woman? Are you willing to do things with him that he enjoys, even if you have no interest in them? Are you willing to lay aside your expectations of what your perfect man is 'supposed' to be and let him be who he is? Might you ever believe that who is he could actually be better than who you want him to be? Better for you, even? 

They want to be our friend...they want to have fun with us and laugh with us and just enjoy being with us. They want to pursue us and to love us and to care for us. They just don't want to be told how to do to it. I don't blame them.. 

So, enjoy your man (or the guy you want to be your man) today. 
Be his friend. 
Do something with him that he likes, and don't complain or whine about it the whole time. Don't rub it in his face later when he doesn't do something with you that you enjoy. The point isn't to get something out of him for your sake... the point is to put his needs above yours. 

I think that when we're willing to set our impossible expectations to the side and just enjoy the simplicity that can come with true, deep friendship... we might just be much more content in our relationships (or friendships) than we ever thought we could be. 

Try it. 

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine...

The comment: 
I recently saw pictures of two of my friends at their engagement party.  And realized that I wasn't invited.  And all of a sudden, all of the thoughts in my mind turned into thoughts of why wasn't I invited, and maybe if I had invested more here I would be more valued.  And the Lord gently reminded me that it wasn't about me.  My first instinct was, "duh, it's about them."  And He said, "no, it's about Me."  Why is it so hard for me to remember that?  Why do I constantly want to worship myself instead of Him?
When I initially read this, I laughed. I laughed because I closely identified with your feelings. Just yesterday I was thinking about what life will look like when I leave my job in the fall and how I want to be remembered and missed. I began thinking of the ways that I need to intentionally seek out my co-workers and friends more so they will actually miss me instead of just being another person to come and go in our constantly changing environment. Pathetic, right? 

Instead of caring abundantly more that camp is left in good hands and is doing good things to further the Kingdom, I was more concerned with my own emotions, my own heart... myself. 

Unfortunately, I think it's natural. 
It's natural for us to want to be included, to want to be invited, to know that we're worth it and that we matter to other people. 

I guess, at this point, I think that life is going to be a series of these humbling moments where we aren't included, when we don't get invited, when we don't feel worth it or that we matter to other people. It's in these times that I feel like the Lord really gets to speak to our hearts... and we go through exactly what you described. 

We realize it's not about us...and it suddenly hits us that it's about those people, or about camp, or about whatever else. And then the Lord prods further and reminds us that it's actually about Him and Him receiving all the glory. Oh...  yeah... that. 

I think it's okay.
I think this shows that the Lord is going to bring us to these places that we aren't even capable of getting to ourselves. He takes us deeper into a place beyond us realizing what it's really about... a place we don't typically go on our own accord. 

Instead of beating yourself up about how you fail over and over again about not remembering that He's the one who receives the glory, or that you worship yourself instead of Him... simply let Him take you to that place with Him. 

'Cause the moment you start beating yourself up over how you didn't remember and how you constantly want to worship you...guess who you just put the focus on again? 

Let those 'Oh yeah' moments take you further into a place of worshipping Him, into a place of thanking Him, into a place of just being with Him and all of His glory. 

Clearly, I need to do this, too. 

It's not about us. It's not even about them. It's about Him. 

For Christ's sake, right? 

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

For Christ's Sake

I'm overly cynical lately.

I'm overly cynical because I'm weary of Christianity. I dislike so much of what it's become. And, if I (a Christian in full-time ministry) don't like what it looks like... why would anyone else? The more aggravating part of not necessarily liking how things look, is recognizing how I've fallen prey to the Christian culture.

I'm just as guilty of spewing out commentary that I don't actually mean, of wanting to tie everything into a pretty package with a bow on a top, of acting like I have it all together, of using Christian lingo without really understanding what it all means...

I heard an incredible sermon a few weeks ago about all of this. One of the things the pastor said that's stuck with me is the need to 'let God be who He is, not who we want Him to be'.

I think that's where my frustration stems from. That everywhere I look God has become so much of who we want Him to be. Whether it's verses that get posted on Facebook out of context, or the ways that we try to cope with each day--Christianity has become so much about us... It seems we tend to serve God for our sake, more than His sake.

It seems like we care more about God working everything out for our good.
We care more that we are given eternal life.
We care that He gives us everything we ask for.
We strive to be good people because we like the way it makes us feel, or we think it's the way that we are supposed to live in order to do things 'right'.

Check it out:
'But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ...' 
In context, Paul is basically saying that no amount of righteousness attained through the law (legalism) means anything. Even his good deeds, even his perfection as a Jew... none of it matters next to knowing Christ. Because of Christ, He has lost everything... not because of himself, not because of what he could attain... but for Christ's sake!

I honestly wonder how many of us have given our lives to Jesus for our sake and not His sake... because of who we want God to be vs. who He actually is.

Yes, God is good, He is love, He is gentle, and sovereign... but He is also jealous, and righteous, and holy, holy, holy... and filled with wrath. He is a God who demands His glory. And honestly, when I lay out all of His attributes, I don't necessarily like all of them. I don't like them because I don't understand them... and I have to choose to still love Him even when I don't understand Him, I have to choose to still trust Him.

Can our faith be transformed into a journey that is for His sake and not our sake?

I'm tired of making life about me.
I'm tired of making God into who I want Him to be.

He is.
I have to worship Him in the fullness of who He is, not just the parts of Him that I want. I have to get to a point where I know who He is, so I'm not making Him into something that He's not.

Let us toss aside that we may truly know Christ.
Let it be for His sake that we lose it all...

May we die, so we might truly live for Him.

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