Wrapping Up A Grace-Filled Year

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” –Galatians 2:20

 

There is no verse more fitting to conclude my year-long intimacy fast than Galatians 2:20. The 1,000+ words I’m about to type can’t even come close to summarizing 2011 as eloquently and simply as Galatians 2:20. Perhaps I should just stop typing now…

On second thought, you all know I’m far too long-winded to do that. ūüôā

Wow! WHAT A YEAR! What an intimate, challenging, powerful, humbling year! I cannot believe 2011 has already come to a close. It seems like we began our journey only a few days ago. But the year is set in stone. Another year of life in the books. A year we will never get back. Did you make the most of yours?

There are SO many different ways I could structure this final “Kissless ’till Next Christmas” post. And SO many words I could type. So many things I never had the time to share throughout the year. But, I figure the easiest way to summarize this fantastic journey is by answering some really common questions I got throughout the year, and since the year has ended. Ready for a little Q & A?

Q: Did you REALLY make it the WHOLE year without sharing even as much as a kiss?

A: I sure did. Absolutely. Without a doubt. Did it. Made it. Loved it! It was not an easy year, by any means. It did not come without great sacrifice, bouts of loneliness, apprehensions. At times it really hurt. At the beginning of the year I tried to rekindle a relationship (void of the physicality) with my then-boyfriend, but that wasn’t what God had asked for. He had asked for all of me. 100% of my heart. So I had to cut myself off from a wonderful man and move forward with my pledge to our King. Is that normal? Probably not. But was it worth it? Without a doubt. I am a woman who honors my commitments, and I made a commitment to God. There was nothing that was going to deter me from my promise. Satan tried, Satan failed. People tried, people failed. There was plenty that could have distracted me, but as time progressed, God revealed Himself in such beautiful ways. As time progressed, He cleansed my heart of temptation. He cleansed my heart of lustful desire. He cleansed my heart of negativity, apprehension, fatigue. He cleansed my heart of so many of the emotions and desires that young adults get caught up in. And when my heart was scrubbed clean, He filled it with so much Light! So much hope! So much joy! I would say that after the third month, reliance on a guy was the last thing on my mind. I was, and continue to be, so wrapped in such an intimate and filling relationship with our Lord, that words can’t even do justice for His sufficiency. His grace was enough.

Q. So you didn’t even date?

A. Nope! No dates for me. I feel like half of the people reading this, who have never met me, must have this crazy image in their head of a pale, lonely girl locked away in her apartment with a metal chastity belt strapped on like underwear. HAHA! Get real! Just because I wasn’t out hooking up, dating, or searching for a relationship, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t out living life like a normal woman! Throughout this year I continued to hang with friends and have fun. By tom-boy default, most of my closest friends are guys. I spent plenty of time with them! Heck, I was training with the football boys the entire year. There was no avoiding the smelly testosterone! But, contrary to popular belief, it IS absolutely possible for a girl to have normal, healthy friendships with guys. Those friendships are made even stronger and healthier when you take any chance at physicality completely off the table. I’m not naive. I know how a man’s mind works. I’m well aware that some of their thoughts likely weren’t as pure as mine. But I’m also a firm believer that men aren’t as one-tracked as society makes them out to be. And I have plenty of amazing male friends who would back me on that. Consider it field research. Women, if you want a man to treat you with respect, earn their respect. Don’t assume it will be given. Especially when you are the one teasing them with what you wear, how you act, and the games you play. It comes down to respecting each others’ hearts by being intentional in your actions, intentional in your interactions, and intentional with your words. No dates for me, but so many amazing friendships developed.

Q. Now that the fast is over, have you kissed anyone? Are you going crazy?

A. Probably the most frustrating, and most common, question that I’ve gotten since the end of 2011. *Deep breath* If, by now, you are STILL under the assumption that this year-long fast was simply and solely based around the physical component, you are so far off track. Biblically, fasting and prayer are emphasized as sacrifices to God. In denying ourselves of something, we are showing obedience and discipline to the Lord. We are trusting that He will provide for us, answer our prayers, and nourish us with what we lack. Psalms 35:13 so beautifully states, “I humbled my soul with fasting …” People fast in all different ways. Many will fast from food and drink, some will fast from activity, etc. I was simply moved to fast from intimacy. Not because I was some wild girl before, not because I wanted to cover up my past and let everybody know that I was new and changed. Absolutely not. Why would I have given up an entire year of my life just to prove a point to people? Get real. If those were my motives, I never would have made it. I was solely moved to make this sacrifice by God, alone. And I am so glad that I did. He has changed my heart, piece by piece, from the inside out. He has given me new perspective, new appreciation, and new drive. Those of little faith may assume that a fast only leads to great hunger. But a fast supplemented by the grace of Jesus Christ, leads to wisdom, refinement, perspective, and faith. His grace is so sufficient. I never hungered and never thirsted for intimacy. His love was too abundant. I stand now with arms high and heart abandoned, chained only to the love of Jesus Christ. I have not kissed a boy since my fast ended. And I am planning on saving my next kiss for a man I feel God has very purposely placed in my life, and perhaps has designed for me to marry. I don’t know that man yet, but I know he will come along on God’s timing. And I am more than willing to wait…

Q: Do you feel like you missed out on anything this year?

A: Not at all. And I say that in all honesty. The Lord assures us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He assures us that if we honor Him with our time, our talents, our hearts, He will honor us with blessings, adornment, and comfort. That Man comes through on his Word! Ha! This has been the most unbelievable, fulfilling, overwhelming year of my life! I have lacked in nothing spiritually or emotionally or physically. He has flooded my heart with humbling grace and perfect love. He is all I need. Anything after Him is just icing on the cake. Blessings that I look forward to receiving and then distributing for His Glory and His name! Maybe I sound crazy to some, but I am being absolutely honest. And absolutely transparent. I can promise you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you give a piece of yourself to the Lord, as much as you can muster, He will complete you. He will free you from the bondage of this temporary life, and reveal to you what Life in Him looks and feels like. Man, it’s amazing. And it only gets better. No matter your circumstance, your history, your background, your present…HE has a future for you! And it’s beyond your wildest dream.

Q: What did you learn through all of this?

I was so naive to think that when I began the fast, I knew exactly what God was going to do in my heart and to teach me. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew what He had in store. Man, was I wrong! If I tried to list everything the Lord has revealed to me this year, I would run out of blog space! He taught me what it means to seek His face. What it means to be a Godly woman, and what that looks like. What a Godly man looks like. What it means to truly be in a Christ-centered relationship. He taught me trust, compassion, love. True love, and what that entails. He taught me dependence, unbridled faith, unashamed Life in Him. He revealed to me boldness, courage, and heart. He revealed to me what it looks like for my will to align with His. He taught me the joys of the fruits of labor done in His name. He taught me how to read the Word with clarity. He taught me how to boldly pray. How to constantly pray. How to fearlessly pray. He taught me how to love others based on the foundation of my love for Him. He taught me that He will teach me my whole life. That I will never have it fully figured out, but that it all is based in the root of love. God’s love for us, God’s love for His Son. His Son’s love for us, our love for Him. He taught me more than I can teach. He taught me Truth.

Q: What’s next?

Now that the year is over, a new year begins. And a new journey begins! It is time to live life unashamed. It is time to live life for His glory! As I take on the uncertainty and excitement of this new year, I hope you all will join me! Join me in following the steps I take in my walk with the Lord. Join me in redefining our lives based NOT around the odds and chances of the world, but based solely around God’s Odds. Devalue the doubt and live boldly!

The odds are in your favor! Do you believe?

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In Response to “Mo-vember”

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” –James 4:10

It’s hard to believe that it is already mid-November. ¬†Ten and a half months into my year-long intimacy fast, and I have

never felt so alive!

If you are in-touch with pop-culture, I’m sure you’re familiar with “No Shave November”–a month dedicated to raw masculine appeal. A month defined by spectacular, untouched facial hair. A month honoring the finest form of upper-lip artwork…the mustache. That curly-haired lip caterpillar is so spectacular, it redefines a month. Turning what used to be “November” into “Mo-vember”–a true honor for the studly ‘stache.

Though I’ve had a few friends joke, here and there, about the name of the month corresponding with my name, it wasn’t until recently that I paid much attention to the title–and for unique reason.

You see, this month has been marked by incredible emotion. Intense highs, stunning lows–ultimately, immeasurable blessings. ¬†The three most notable events stand at the forefront of my mind. First, the conclusion of my 16 year soccer career–a loss in the NCAA tournament that closed one of the most extensive and defining chapters of my life, and ended my college career on the LSU Soccer team. Secondly, being voted by my peers and crowned the 2011 LSU Homecoming Queen–an overwhelming introduction to the newest chapter of my life, and a humbling honor that has countless layers of significance to my heart. ¬†And lastly, winning the online fan vote for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award–an award with an overall winner still yet to be named, but with a message of support that floored me. Literally.

It wasn’t until just a few days ago, in the aftermath of so much intense emotion, that I was walking to class and passed a group of college co-eds. As we shuffled by on the sidewalk, I smiled and waved, and they hollered out in kind support. “Congrats Mo! What a crazy year! You deserve it all! Everybody, it’s ‘Mo-vember!'”¬†Little do they know, the things they yelled have turned my world up-side-down these past few days, and have stirred my heart to a new place.

Now before you roll your eyes, click away from the page, and dismiss me as a self-promoting narcissist, I encourage you to read on. Because the reason this phrase turned my world up-side-down, is likely not the reason you would assume.

Don’t get me wrong, the group that shouted their support–as well as all of the fantastic individuals who have written on my facebook wall, tweeted me, texted me, emailed me, and extended their love–have done so with the purest of intentions. All of your overwhelming love and encouragement and affirmation has meant more to my heart than I will ever be able to express. You have given me such joy, you have humbled me, and you have filled me with a passion that is overflowing. To all of the LSU students who voted for Homecoming, to the countless individuals who voted for the Lowe’s Award–often over and over again–, to every person, coach, player, and fan who has ever supported me through my soccer career…”Thank You” just simply isn’t enough. I don’t even know how to put into words the appreciation I have for you. The respect I have for you. The love I have for you. I wish there was a phrase so much grander than “thank you”. I wish I could hug each of you, look you in the eye, and share the passion I have for you. But I suppose I will leave it at a resounding “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” until the day I can shake your hand.

However, all of the praise and attention that has come in the past few months, and this month in particular, has truly humbled me to a new place. A place unfamiliar.

The phrase that has repeatedly echoed with the most intensity is, “What a crazy year!” I’ve heard similar dialog from others in the form of, “Wow, what coincidence that so much is happening all at once!”, and “This has been a storybook year for you.” While these comments and congratulations certainly make my blood pump and excite me, the fact of the matter is that they violently humble me. ¬†And the most humbling element of all is that I should not be surprised.

I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Wow, this chick has got some real ego issues.” But I promise I am getting to the point. Hang with me.

Time and time again, the Bible assures us that if we make sacrifices for God, we will be rewarded. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. If we humble ourselves before our King, He will lift us up.  If we place our faith in Him, He will carry us.  That we are in this world, not of it. And if we can make ourselves uncomfortable in our own lives and obey the Word, we will bear fruit.

That is what this year has been all about in my personal journey. ¬†Humbling myself to the King as best as I know how. Stepping away from my physical wants and desires and turning completely to God. ¬†It has been a hard year. It has challenged me, it has hurt at time, it has left me vulnerable, embarrassed, weak, sometimes lonely. ¬†It has taken every conscious thought of every single day to remain focused and remind myself why I am traveling through such an awkward journey. ¬†Ultimately, time and time again, it has led me to the foot of the cross–pleading for answers, and weak in my inadequacy.

And now, as the year of an indescribable journey is coming to a close, He has followed through on His Word. What? Wow! Why does that shock me? I am supposed to be a solid believer. I am supposed to know that He will do what He says He will do in His Word. ¬†I am supposed to have undoubting faith. So why do I find myself stunned at the end of this year as He lifts my spirit with such fantastic blessings? I suppose, yet again, I’m reminded why I am so human. Aren’t we all?

There is nothing coincidental about this year. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God: for he that comes to God must believe that He is King, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Read that again. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He rewards our efforts to know Him more. ¬†Trust me, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I fail, daily. I sin, hourly. But when all is said and done, I find great humility in constantly seeking to know Him more. Constantly and diligently striving to give more of myself to Him, as best as I know how. At the end of the day, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God blesses those efforts. God smiles on those who love Him and those who use the platform He has blessed them with to glorify Him and His Kingdom.

That brings me to the next thing they hollered–the line that brings me to me knees at the foot of Christ. “You deserve it all!” What great intention so many have had in telling me that. I truly do appreciate your kind regards. ¬†And I do understand what people mean when they express this form of congratulations. ¬†But at the end of the day, I deserve nothing. We earn nothing.¬†I’m sure you are thinking, “Where is this girl about to take this? That’s a kind compliment. Why does she always have to get so deep?” Haha. I know, I know. But there is a great lesson in great success.

Great athletes, great intellects, great entrepreneurs, great missionaries, great service men and women…all great individuals share commonalities. They work incredibly hard at what they do. They invest time, energy, effort, money, and passion into their talents. ¬†They set themselves apart by their work ethic and determination, and often times they are rewarded in outstanding ways. ¬†But at the end of the day, they earned nothing. We deserve nothing. We deserve death. We are sinners and we lie and we steal and we cheat and we lust. We are totally fallible and unworthy of God’s love. ¬†BUT IN FAITH WE GAIN EVERYTHING. ¬†Because Jesus Christ died on the cross, we gain salvation! We gain hope! Because God loves us so incredibly much, He sent His own Son to die for us. Because of THAT, alone, we gain life.

Wow! What a concept to wrap your mind around. In all we do, we deserve nothing. But God loves us so much, He yearns for us to love Him and to use His blessings to glorify Him! Every success I’ve ever had is due entirely to God. My health, my soccer career, my athletic achievements. All are due to the glory of God. I would be nothing without His grace. Every accomplishment, every blessing–from the smallest in scale to the grandest in size–are all due to God and His infinite glory. I deserve nothing. We deserve nothing. But we gain everything through God.

I am nothing. But Christ Jesus inside me is everything! We ALL share the ability to host the King of all Kings in our hearts. Every single one of us. No matter your past, no matter your present–you hold an unimaginable future! Let’s be diligent, let’s be faithful. Let’s seek Him FIRST.

¬†“For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.” –Psalms 149:4

I want to know God more. I want to love God more. And because of that deep, active desire in my heart, God has blessed me with this mind-blowing month of “Mo-vember”. ¬†Such a silly phrase. I wish “God-vember” rhythmed¬†better. This is NOT “Mo-vember”. This is a great month of active blessing. ¬†I hope ALL who see the earthly successes in my life know that those successes are trivial to the spiritual success of knowing Christ Jesus. ¬†I hope people will yearn to love God with the same intensity they yearn to succeed. ¬†I hope people will praise our King like they praise our athletic figures, movie stars and musicians. ¬†I hope people will see, through my journey, that GOD FOLLOWS THROUGH ON HIS WORD.

It is not important what you wear, how you look, where you live, what you drive. ¬†It is not important how many championships you have won, how many trophies you have, or how popular you are. ¬†It is not important that I have broken records, been crowned Homecoming Queen, and won popular fan voting for the Lowe’s Award.

It is important that we know God. It is important that we love God. And it is important that we diligently seek Him, and give Him praise in all we do. I promise you, with every fiber in my being, that if you put God first, you will know His blessings.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” –James 4:8

Imagine This…

Imagine you are a warrior that sneaks your way into a rival Kingdom. A Kingdom that you despise. Loath. Hate. You are praised by your people for infiltrating the Kingdom, and you are glorified for mocking the rulers of that nation.

While in the realms of the Kingdom, you make it a point to break every rule, resist all authority, and destroy all you can.  You degrade the people, you rob and destroy and disrespect. You murder all who try to stand up to you.  You take great joy in ruining all that you can find within the Kingdom; disgracing the authority and criticizing the nation. The longer you terrorize the nation, the more you are praised by your people.

After years of evading capture, antagonizing the locals and degrading all authority, you are finally caught red-handed. You are seized by authority and brought before the rulers of the land.  You are soaked in the blood of those you have murdered and robed in the garments you stole and the jewels you confiscated. You are guilty, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And the penalty for your crimes is death.

Not a simple and swift death. A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death. ¬†A death that kills you before your life is taken–a death that degrades you, pains you, rapes your dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is your penalty. This is how you will die.

But as you kneel before the rulers of the nation, head hung in shame, awaiting your gruesome verdict, you feel a hand rest on your shoulder. When you look up you see the Prince of the Kingdom has risen from his throne and stands in front of you before the King. Before your fate can be sealed, the Prince takes a stance in your favor.

“Take my life, instead,” you hear the Prince say. “I will die in his place.”

You are stunned. Confused. Speechless. You had never met the Prince before this moment. You had never spoken with him or done anything for him or done anything for his people. Choking back tears and stumbling to catch your breath, you ask a humbled ‘why’?

The Prince simply replies, “Because I love you.”

Though you can see the King’s heart is broken, he nods in approval and your life is spared.

The Prince dies in your place.

A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death. ¬†A death that kills him before his life is taken–a death that degrades him, pains him, rapes his dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is YOUR penalty. Yet this is how HE dies–even though He did nothing wrong. He simply offered to save you.

After the Prince’s death, you stand face-to-face with the King again. ¬†Your clothes are no longer blood-stained. You have been bathed, fed, cared for and groomed. You stand in front of the King–a King who has just watched his own son die in your place–free of all charges. You are found innocent. Acquitted on all counts.

Then, something unique happens. Rather than being escorted from the Kingdom and taken back to your people, you are welcomed to stay. Not simply to stay in the land–you are welcomed into the Royal Family. Your life is not only spared, you are invited into the castle and crowned as royalty.

After everything you did to their Kingdom and their people, they forgive you. They call you one of their own. You sit in the Highest Court.

Humbly, you hang your head in shame and again ask why…

“Because we love you,” the King replies.

“What did I do to deserve this freedom? What did I do to earn it?” you ask.

Nothing.

“…then why?”

“Because we love you.”

*****

Did you enjoy that story?

Does it sound familiar?

That is love.

That is salvation.

THAT IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

*****

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Fearless Failure

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” –2 Timothy 1:7

What is your biggest fear?

Think about it…what scares you?

Are you scared of snakes? Spiders? Heights? Are you scared you won’t be able to provide for your family? Job instability? Financial insecurity? Are you scared of the bullies that degrade you? The men that hurt you? The tears you may cry? Are you scared of injury…what about death?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Everyone is fearful of something. No matter if you are a 300 lb. lineman, a 3rd grade ballerina, a 57-year-old business man–or anyone in between–we all face fear. When I sit back and think about the things that have scared me over the years, I can’t help but notice a pattern. Whether directly or indirectly, all of my personal fears are linked to one topic: failure.I think the majority of our fears are rooted in the same thing–the fear of failure. ¬†The fear that we will let down the people around us, the fear that the people around us will let us down, the fear that we will let down ourselves. ¬†So many things are so very scary…

When I was very young, I was haunted by the fear that I would be kidnapped and hurt. Granted, I grew up in the early 90’s, an era when child abductions hit the media like a firestorm. To make matters worse, my parents went to church with John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey. For those of you who don’t know, the JonBenet Ramsey murder was one of the most publicized unsolved murders of our time. JonBenet was 6 years old. I was 7 years old. When a 7 year-old hears things on the news and sees her parents so emotionally invested in the tragedy, it is hard to wrap your head around the complexity of the situation. So, my mind only went one place–I am next. The “bad guys” are coming for me. Almost nightly I would have nightmares that I would be taken and that nobody would help me or find me—that my parents would fail at protecting me.

Through my young schooling, I was fearful of getting bad grades. ¬†I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be, and I wanted to make my parents as proud as possible. ¬†I have always been a perfectionist, and I have always been competitive. ¬†I was reared under a sister who was brilliant–literally, a borderline genius. (This is a girl who was kicked out of her second grade class for arguing with her teacher that negative numbers did, in fact, mathematically exist and that the teacher was incorrect in teaching the other students that 5 could not be subtracted from 3. Seriously? I was the kid that was kicked out of my second grade class for sniffing glue, getting dizzy, falling backwards out of my chair and hitting my head on the whiteboard. Haha. This is also the girl who would play “the classroom game” ¬†with me when we were little and try desperately to teach me about exponents and exponential factors…I was 6. She couldn’t understand why all I wanted to do was dance to Spice Girls when there were derivatives to learn!) To say the least,¬†we were very different, but growing amidst her brains and my competitive spirit, it fostered a desire in me to be better, to be smarter, to be the best. And, later in life, any time I failed and didn’t do as well as I know I could have on a school assignment—I failed myself. And, in my eyes, I failed my parents.

Fast-forward through a decade or so of fears and failures. To list all the times I’ve failed would take another decade, so I will simplify by saying that I’m a failure. Aren’t we all? And while my fears and failures molded and shaped me, the worst was yet to come. For the sake of saving time and space, I will not rewrite my testimony (you can read back in the “My Story” portion for details) but I will share with you my most epic fails.

In high school, I feared non-conformity. I feared a lack of control, and I feared judgement. I feared food. I fell into an eating disorder that crippled me, consumed me, defined me. In highschool, I failed myself.

In college, my father failed me. My hero, my best friend, my everything. He feared…he failed…and he fled. On January 3rd, he put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger. In college, my father failed me.

That year, I feared the pain I felt. I tried everything I could to fill it. I drank, I partied, I lost myself. I feared the darkness and I feared the weakness. I failed to hold my own head high. That year, I failed my innocence.

Later on, I feared for my own life. I failed at driving. I wrapped my Jeep around a tree and feared I would never be saved. I choked on blood and hung broken and battered. On that drive, I failed myself.

Between those points and since that time, I’ve failed and failed and failed.

How do you recover from a life defined in failure? How do you emerge from a life constrained by fear?

We will FAIL constantly. Others will constantly fail us. We will fail others, and we will fail ourselves.  The people around us will fail, circumstances will fail, expectations will fail. You will fail at reaching goals, your friend will fail at supporting you when you need it most. Marriages will fail. Job opportunities will fall through and fail. The stock market will fail, the government will fail. Your boyfriend/girlfriend will fail to provide you with the love you need. You will fail at filling your emptiness with drugs and sex. You will fail tests, fail deadlines, fail budgets. We will slip, and we will fail.

BUT GOD NEVER FAILS.

In the days of my youth, God comforted my worries.  He worked through my parents and protected my heart. God Never Failed.

He calmed my worries over grades and school. He blessed me with the desire to persist and to learn. God Never Failed.

As I battled with bulimia, He clung tight to my body. He protected my health, and nourished my soul. God Never Failed.

As I stared at my daddy’s lifeless body, He wept alongside me and lifted me up. God Never Failed.

As I battled depression in a drunken stupor,  I gave pieces of myself away to boys. But God fought for my purity like a relentless warrior, and though I was battered and broken, He held my virginity with poise. God Never Failed.

As I hung upside down and choked on my blood, He appeared to my heart and found His way in. God Never Failed.

I tell you all this to inspire your hearts! Life is hard. So hard. And we’re really bad at it. We are fallible humans and we mess up constantly. We fail and we fear. We fear and we fail. But as it says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. ¬†In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus Christ DID IT! He came and He lived so perfectly. He never failed. And He never will fail. He died for you. He died so that you can ALWAYS be given new life! So that you can ALWAYS start fresh, clean the slate, and turn a new page.  As he hung on the cross, your fears and your failures were nailed to the cross alongside Him! When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, we accept a spirit of POWER and LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE! We welcome a spirit of forgiveness and grace and second chances!

We serve a God of second chances…we serve a God of LIFE! Alone, we are nothing. We are failures and we are bound by fear. But in CHRIST, we are infinitely strong! We are indestructible! We are SAVED!

What is there to fear?!

At the end of my days, I don’t want people to say that I lived a fearful, timid life. I want them to say that my spirit was POWERFUL in Christ, that I LOVED like Christ, and that I was SELF-DISCIPLINED through Christ.

How will you be remembered…?

Lost In the “In-Between”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ¬†–Jeremiah 29:11

Have you ever found yourself at a place in life where you are stuck in transition? Maybe you are there now. In between two phases of life: the time between college graduation and the start of a career–the time between two jobs after a layoff–the time between relationships–the time between two decisions. No matter the circumstance, it’s a state of “in-between”, an adjustment period, that we often find ourselves resting in. ¬†A movement away from the familiar and the known–a movement into change and uncertainty. ¬†While the lucky handful can move through these transitions quickly, we often find that this phase is the toughest, most confusing time. ¬†Not only is there uncertainty moving forward, but there is also a lack of passion and drive. ¬†When you’re not sure which direction the “light at the end of the tunnel” is coming from, how do you know which way to look?

Lately, this “phase” of in-between has been a recurring theme amongst so many of my friends, as well as amongst some of the individuals I disciple. ¬†And while everyone’s individual scenarios are different and unique, the general theme of discontent has remained constant. In listening to each of them share their hearts, I began to realize a few key things: #1. We are all so human. No matter where we are in our walks as believers, we are all so deeply human–struggling with the same emotions, insecurities, conflicts, and self-serving mentalities. #2. As humans, it is so easy to get tripped up and tangled in these mentalities. ¬†It is our nature to allow ourselves to become fixated–whether it be on positive triggers or negative triggers. ¬†We are creatures of habit. #3. Thank goodness we serve a fantastic King that has immeasurable patience and loves us so passionately. Because… #4. So many of us get lost in the “in-between”. (Myself definitely included!)

As I prayed and prayed over the matter, I dug into the Word and was immediately humbled by such a familiar verse. ¬†A verse that we often list off, but may not fully understand at times. ¬†As we’ve discussed before, the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God. ¬†In every circumstance, a passage can take on new light, new meaning. ¬†It is up to us to drown ourselves in the dialog of our King and open our hearts to His truth and His will. ¬†It is up to us to nourish ourselves with the Word so that, at a moments notice, we can pour His truth into others with conviction and love. Jeremiah 29:11 carries such beauty and truth.

When caught in an “in-between” in life, it’s easy to stand stagnant in our faith. ¬†After all, with so much else to figure out and take in, it seems harmless to put our pursuit of Christ on the back-burner for a while. He understands, right? There is too much else going on. ¬†Too much that needs to be organized, too much that needs to be sorted out, too many other decisions to be made. ¬†Once we are comfortable again with life’s circumstances, we can pick back up where we left off in our faith…right?

If you were dating someone who you were really serious about and truly wanted to build a relationship with, that would consume a great deal of your time and attention, yes? Text messages, calls, dates, conversations, meals together, activities together–you would genuinely enjoy that person’s company and work to maintain a healthy relationship with them. Now let’s say you’ve been getting more and more serious with them and they have been reciprocating the affection and love. They have been doting over you, loyal to you, fun, communicating well…all signs point to this being a fantastic relationship. Then one day everything stops. They don’t call, they don’t text, they don’t come over. ¬†They won’t return your messages, they won’t respond to you on facebook, they won’t even make eye contact when you see them. ¬†When you go over to their house to try to talk, they don’t answer the door, they don’t let you in. ¬†You are left completely in the dark. ¬†When you finally do hear from them, all you get is an “I’m busy.” “I’ve got more important things to do.” “I’ve got too much going on.” 2 months pass–haven’t heard from them. 4 months pass–haven’t heard from them. 6 months pass and all of a sudden the phone rings. Your text message inbox fills up, your facebook status feed blows up, that person is back at your door with a smile on their face, prepared to pick right back up where you left off. Is that relationship going to be the same immediately?–No. ¬†They haven’t invested an ounce of time or attention or interest in you for half a year. They haven’t loved you–they deserted you–too wrapped up in the stress and worry of their own lives to even care to acknowledge you. ¬†And while we are BLESSED to serve a God that infinitely loves us, patiently waits for us, and instantly forgives us–the point of the matter is that if we ignore him when He’s inconvenient for us, we lose time to learn more about Him and grow in our love for Him. ¬†He knows us inside and out, but we cheat ourselves of time to know Him better and love Him more. And if we are cheating while He is loyal, how is that a healthy relationship?

God never brings us to a place to “shelf us” for a while, until He needs us again. He never places us in storage or abandons us. ¬†Every single circumstance and every single phase we find ourselves in, throughout our lives, is perfectly constructed by God to be used for His glory. ¬†Our greatest growth often occurs through our greatest struggles. Imagine the growth we could achieve in our relationship with Christ if we remained faithful to Him during the most uncertain times. Are our relationships amongst one another not strengthened in the same way? Faithfulness, devotion, trust, support, attention, love. ¬†These are all qualities that build solid relationships amongst people–so what is any different when it comes to building a solid, loving relationship with Christ? I think it is easy to get caught up in the “here and now” of daily life. Especially when we hit awkward seasons–phases of transition, phases of uncertainty, phases of confusion, phases of “in-between”. ¬†But newsflash: in those times, who can offer you greater faithfulness, devotion, trust, support, attention, and love than the perfect, magnificent God that created every inch of you?!

I think it is normal to take loved ones for granted at times. I know I have. I have done it since I was young. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I really started noticing that my behavioral patterns with my family weren’t ideal. You see, when I am in public or around friends and acquaintances, I always strive to put my best foot forward. I strive to wear a smile and keep a positive energy and a positive attitude. To be totally honest, that can get a little draining. I’m not trying to insinuate that I’m “fake” when I’m out and about, I just genuinely enjoy bringing positivity with me and seeing people smile…nothing makes me happier than hearing laughter. I’ve never been a fan of drama, so I make an effort to let those around me experience the best of me–you never know whose life you may be touching. With all of that said, it’s hard to run on a full tank 24/7. So when do I shut down and recharge? Either in my alone time or when I’m with family. After all, they are the ones who know me best–they know my heart, they know how I tick, they know my intentions. The only problem with that is that when I shut down, I get grumpy. I get snide and a stubborn and bossy. I’m human too after all, and I admittedly can be quite ¬†the handful sometimes. ¬†I need to vent. I need to reboot, I need to let loose some pent-up tension. ¬†So who bears the brunt of my darker side?–the people I love the most. Do they tolerate me with patience and grace–every time. Do they love me unconditionally–without a doubt. Do they always selflessly support me–without fail. But is that fair to them–absolutely not. Is that loving–not at all. Is that nourishing to our relationships–no way. So why then, did I always pick those times to reboot and to let out my frustration? BECAUSE I KNEW THEY WOULD LOVE ME NO MATTER WHAT.

Man, talk about a sad mentality. ¬†I’m almost ashamed to admit that I fall victim to that mindset at times. But then again, don’t we all? And haven’t we ALL when it comes to our relationship with God? ¬†It is easy to take for granted the things that we know are constant and unfailing in our lives. ¬†“It’s no big deal, God will love me anyways.” “I know this is the wrong decision, but God will forgive me.” “God will understand if I focus on this issue for a while instead of focusing on Him first.” It’s so sad because it’s so true. We rationalize all the time. Especially when we are stuck in “in-between” phases in life. But those times are the times God longs for us the most. ¬†Those times are the times that He wants to use us. Those times are the time He wants to teach us and to challenge us and to help us grow!

So step back and take a look at where you are right now. Are you lost in the “in-between”? Are you working to figure things out on your own the best you can and forgetting that God wants nothing more than to reveal to you all the answers? Stop. Put God First. Pursue God now. Run towards Him as fast as you can. Take a look at Jeremiah 29:11. He is promising you that He wants you to prosper and that He plans to give you hope and a future. It may not come in the exact package you ordered. It may look very different from¬†what you expected. ¬†But put your faith in Him, put your trust in Him.Don’t take God’s love for granted, don’t cheat Him. Love Him now like you love Him when everything is going well. Seek His face–seek His guidance. He longs to love you NOW.

There is no “in-between”. There is here and now. And there is God, always.

Under Attack

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. ¬†In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ¬†John 16:33

Satan is clever. ¬†He is sly, and smooth, and cynical. ¬†Satan is patient. He waits calm, and quiet, and still. ¬†Satan is smart. He is crafty, and tricky, and subtle. ¬†It’s almost been a full month since I have posted last. ¬†Can you believe that?–a month. When I began this blog, I was posting every single day. ¬†Heck, I was so eager to write and to share, I was writing 3 to 4 posts a day, and saving them so that they could slowly filter out. ¬†I was on fire! Passionate, burning, uncontrollable. ¬†Obsessed.

Have you been there? Riding strong on a spiritual high? Invincible in His grace. ¬†Unashamed and impossible to silence? Thirsty for the Word and nourished by devotion. ¬†Obsessed? God fills your thoughts, He fills your time, He fills your mind. ¬†Every decision you make is decidedly executed with Christ in mind. ¬†Every word spoken is delicately selected and the words pour from you with energy and passion and joy. ¬†There is a light-heartedess in your spirit. ¬†There is a curiosity and a desire and an eagerness to learn and to share. ¬†You scoff at your old ways, baffled by how you could have ever been tempted by that which was earthly–how you could have ever been so naive. ¬†Committed to living for Christ–committed to maintaining this sprinter’s pace and committed to being the absolute best example you can be for your friends, your family, your co-workers. ¬†Committed to being different.

Then 6 months pass and you find yourself in an uncommon moment. ¬†A moment of free time in your crazy schedule–a moment of quiet time that you typically would have filled up with another check off the “to-do” list. ¬†But in that moment you take the offered breather and you think…life is still on course. ¬†It is comfortable, steady, placid. ¬†You flip through the elements of your “world”. Work…school…family…finances…schedules…vacations…boyfriends, girlfriends…sports……………faith. Hmm, faith. Well you went to church a few Sundays ago. You prayed a few times when your best friend’s mom was sick. You tossed a few coins in that homeless man’s cup. ¬†You wrapped up all of your emails with a “God Bless!” Oh, and you posted a few Bible verses on facebook and Twitter. ¬†You let your mind wander, you feel that guilt start to boil up, you list off mental excuses and exceptions. Then you rationalize that you will read your Bible more often. You’ll go to church this Sunday. ¬†You’ll start praying every night again.

Have you been there? Be honest. Are you there right now?

I am.

I’m ashamed. Ashamed because I know¬†Satan is smiling. ¬†In a swift six months he has done it again. ¬†He has slowly and steadily weaseled his way between myself and my King. ¬†I know what you’re probably thinking–“Oh my gosh, she’s about to tell us that she cracked. ¬†She had to have broken her ‘Kissless ‘Till Next Christmas vow. She didn’t make it! She…” ¬†Take a deep breath. All is well. I am still going strong on the intimacy fast. In fact, stronger than strong! Yes, the first few months were tough, but we serve a fantastic King. And He lifted that temptation and pressure with ease. So no, I haven’t struggled with the intimacy element of the fast, but I have allowed Satan to sit down at the table and deal his hand of cards.

Just so you know, I’m choosing to share this next portion with you, because I want you to see just how human I am. ¬†Ever since I began this journey, I’ve received so many messages and comments challenging my position. I think people, especially young people my age, have been so confused as to why I would ever start an intimacy fast.–For God? Are you crazy? You’re a senior in college. What are you trying to prove? Who do you think you’re better than? Oh man, you must just be the perfect Christian. ¬†You’ve got that whole God thing figured out, huh? Guess you’re ‘Holier than Thou’. Bible-thumper. Jesus Freak. Blah…blah…blah…–You name it, I’ve heard it. ¬†And while it breaks my heart that people are so apt to put up walls so quickly, I hope some people can come to understand that I’m just as human as everyone else. ¬†My walk is filled with just as many ups and downs. My relationship with Christ is filled with just as much confusion, and inconsistency, and challenges.

Case in point: the place I’m at right this moment. ¬†The other day an executive producer from Fox flew in to spend the day filming me so that they could show my story on an episode of “The Real Winning Edge”, a nationally-syndicated, Christian-based television program that runs on their network. Holy cow. ¬†That is a big deal for a number of reasons: #1. It was overwhelmingly humbling that they wanted to tell my story. ¬†I’m still so incredibly honored to have even been a part of their production. #2. A CHRISTIAN-BASED television program on a major network like FOX? That’s rare. So rare. And so special. #3. This was a project with a great deal of money invested into it, and it was all for the glory of God. All three of those things still boggle my mind. ¬†And the reason I explain it all is so that you can appreciate how rare, how special, and how divine this whole production truly was. A once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity. ¬†How could anyone be anything but overjoyed to be a part of something like that?

I wasn’t. ¬†I woke up that morning irritable, cranky, hateful, and shrewd. ¬†My precious mom had flown all the way in from Georgia to help me throughout the day, and from the moment I woke up I was nothing but short with her. ¬†We had a production schedule that was so jam-packed there was hardly a moment to breath, and this was a day that needed to go off without a hitch. ¬†I was bloated, I was stuffed-up, I was hot, my skin was breaking out in rashes, I was miserable. ¬†Throughout that morning, I was able to put on a smile for the producer and crew, but anytime I got behind a closed door or alone with my mom, I turned into a monster. ¬†Everything was going wrong, we were off-schedule from the start, and I was as cruel as cruel comes. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I felt so terrible. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so hostile and irritable, and filled with empty tears. ¬†The best way I can describe it is to say that I felt like I was about to explode. ¬†I was at a breaking point….

Right before lunch, my mom sat me down on an empty couch we found while we were waiting for the crew to gather their equipment. ¬†Without saying much, she simply took my hands and began to pray. ¬†My mom must have prayed over me for 4 or 5 minutes, but time seemed to pause. ¬†As I heard her intently and diligently praying words of simple beauty and earnest request, I found myself in that “moment” I mentioned at the beginning of this post–a moment of stillness and peace that I hadn’t experienced in far too long. When had my passion softened? Where had my enthusiasm and spirit and energy been hidden? Was it beneath my heavy summer school load? Had I overshadowed my eager faith with the complications of my crazy schedule? When was it that I allowed my time to be filled in front of the TV at night, rather than in the Word?

I realized that Satan had been sneaky.  He had been slow and subtle and sly, as he usual tends to be.  As the months had passed since the beginning of the year, Satan had been patient.  He had slowly and purposefully distracted me, simple moments at a time, from growth in my faith.  It started with missing my quiet time in the Word, one night, because I was simply a little too tired.  Next, it was putting off posting on my blog, because I had a school assignment I had procrastinated on.  Then, missing church, too exhausted from workouts throughout the week to pass up sleeping in just one day.  Little things became often things. Often things became regular things. Regular things became forgotten things. And six months later I found myself weak enough to be vulnerable to attack.

Have we not all experienced it? Mountain-top spiritual moments, followed by gradual valleys in our faith. ¬†Too busy, too tired, too tempted. I found myself weakened to a dangerous point on that special day, a day I typically would have rejoiced in, made the most of, and celebrated for Christ. ¬†On that special day–a day dedicated to the glory of God–a day specifically devoted to sharing the gospel and sharing how our magnificent King has moved in my life–a day perfectly constructed to inspire and teach and love–Satan attacked. ¬†I was overwhelmed by a spiritual warfare and under absolute attack. You see, Satan knows how to hit us the hardest. ¬†He knows where we hurt the most. ¬†For me, when he bullies me, he doesn’t aim to affect anything around me–he goes straight for my body. ¬†He attacks my health first. ¬†My body ¬†has always manifested grief and stress physically. ¬†I get sick, I get hives, I run fever. I battle nausea, my skin blisters, my stomach nots. ¬†He loves to toy with my body, he always has. ¬†And he knows how ill I truly become. Then, he attacks my emotions–capitalizing on my resting depression, capitalizing on my quick irritability and my trauma-proned anxiety. He wraps me up in my own head, distracts me with myself, and laughs as I weaken.

You see, that’s how Satan works. ¬†He slides in, inch by inch, when we allow our lives to run us. He waits, patiently, gradually distracting us. He takes small opportunities, wins small battles in our spirits, and then when he deems fit, overwhelms us and wins us back. ¬†He makes us feel like we’ve fallen too far. He makes us feel like if we go crawling back now, asking for forgiveness, God would surely judge us. ¬†Others would surely judge us. ¬†We’d slipped up yet again, surely we’re out of chances.

WRONG! So wrong. So fantastically wrong. ¬†Don’t let yourself believe Satan’s lies. ¬†Don’t let yourself get tangled up in guilt! As my mom prayed over me, I literally felt a cloak of anxiety, depression, fatigue, heat, weight…lift completely off of my back. ¬†And where the nasty cloak lifted, a cool and reviving stream tickled up my spine. ¬†An assuring, comforting, loving GRACE blanketed me in peace. ¬†With the freedom from that cloak, a fresh page was turned. ¬†I was breathed new life, literally relieved from attack. ¬†Do you understand? God never tires of turning that fresh page for you. ¬†Guilt, depression, anxiety, hatred…these are all things of Satan. These are all things that God yearns to relieve us from! Jesus Christ died on the cross for our souls so that God can turn a new page every single time we come to Him. The rest of that day I was alleviated from my angst. Rejuvenated, positive, and able to rejoice in the purpose of the moment. ¬†My mom’s tiny hands and heart-felt prayers packed more punch than Satan could ever handle. How? Because she called on the Holy Spirit. ¬†She prayed to a God that makes Satan look like a chump. ¬†She prayed to a God who assures us that no task is too big or too small for Him to overcome. ¬†She prayed to a God who yearns to hear our prayers and to work through us. ¬†Through those simple, sweet hands, she silenced Satan and freed me from an attack that had been in the works for months.

You guys, I stumble. I stumble and fall and stumble again. ¬†I let Satan get in the way. I let my schedule get in the way. I’m dismissive to conviction and I ignore God, daily. But, you guys, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Runners in marathons need fuel–FUEL YOUR HEARTS WITH SERVICE FOR OTHERS. Runners need water–HYDRATE YOUR SPIRIT WITH CONSTANT PRAYER. ¬†Runners need rest–REST IN THE WORD OF GOD! Serve. Pray. Read. I often have to remind myself, that I am literally filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is literally living in me. What’s impossible? Nothing. ¬†What can’t be overcome? Nothing. Satan is good at waging war. He will be patient and take small battles. The only thing preventing us from freeing ourselves from his grip is OURSELVES. Set aside time, set aside pride, set aside self.

Be revitalized! God is ready to turn your page and reignite your passion, too.

Be still. Know that He is God. Know that HE has overcome the world…

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ¬†2 Corinthians 12:9

“Fight the good fight of faith…” 1 Timothy 6:12

In the Aftermath of Easter…

I’ll warn you from word one: today’s post is a cry of my heart. I’m sitting and letting my fingers do the talking. If you care for what my heart cries out for our King, read on. But if you are comfortable putting God in a “box” and have no desire to step out of your comfort zone, then these words are too beautiful to fall on deaf ears, and you might as well click away from this page now…

I apologize for not posting yesterday, on such a beautiful Easter Sunday. ¬†I would have loved to have taught on the meaning of that day. That one day–the most beautiful and passionate and celebratory day in our eternity. The day that changed everything–the day we were freed. ¬†I had no access to a computer or to the internet. I would love for that to have been my excuse for not writing, but to be completely honest, I’m not sure I could have typed a word, anyways. ¬†You see, when I was not rejoicing, I was in tears. When I was not celebrating, I was on my face on the floor. Though the festivities of the day carried on like everyone else’s Easter Sunday, my heart was in a different realm. I’m not sure I have ever had such an emotional reaction to such a simple day…but this year, Easter held new meaning to my soul. And as fulfilling and joyful and overwhelming as that emotion was, my tears were exacerbated by the state of the world around us.

You see, this past week was a week of growth. A week drowned in the Word. Reading, studying, reading, praying. ¬†Every time I opened my Bible, I learned more about the grace of our King and the heart of our Savior than I have ever known before. ¬†Understand, it’s not like I intended to spend my Spring Break with my face pressed between the pages of my Bible, but my spirit sparked a thirst. If any person on this Earth ever tries to tell you there isn’t power in the Word, they are lying and they are cowards. ¬†If you discount the words that drown the pages of the Bible, you are foolish. ¬†Because there are words between the covers of that book that have the power to stir your heart and change your life and convict you to the fibers of your being. LET THEM.

When I woke up Easter morning, I felt the heat of emotion stirring in my chest more violently than it has since the day my dad died. A heat that pressed its way up into my throat and inspired a violently joyous cry. A humbled, broken, gracious cry that boiled in my heart. I laid in bed and tried to pray–but how do you adequately thank a God that is SO REAL? How do you thank a King that DIED for OUR SOULS?! What words do you construct to thank a God that DID IT! That made the ultimate sacrifice and fulfilled His Word? Who rose from the dead and redeemed our hearts and showed his face and showed the scars on his hands and smiled upon us and LIVED?! How do you sculpt a prayer that is adequate and encompassing and passionate and ENOUGH?! I couldn’t. The greatest I could do was cry out. To vomit the passion that was leaking from my heart in the form of joyous praise.

HE LIVES! HE LIVES! CHRIST JESUS LIVES TODAY! HE IS RISEN!

Don’t read those words with a settled heart. That HAS to stir something inside of you! That HAS to warrant a response! That HAS to ignite a fire in you so passionate and real and hot that you cry out! Do you understand the magnitude of that grace?! YOU DON’T DESERVE IT! I DON’T DESERVE IT! NONE OF US DESERVE IT! But that’s just it. That is the point. That is the GRACE! We are sinners and we are gross and we are prideful and we are arrogant and we are materialistic and we are selfish and we are everything He taught us NOT to be, but He still loves us enough to offer us salvation. What? What?! I can’t even wrap my head around that. He STILL died for us. He died for the men who were murdering Him. He died for them because He loved them. And He loves us. He loves you.

If anyone in this world has ever made you question your worth or your value, they know nothing. If anyone on this earth has tried to tell you that you¬†aren’t worth it, or you aren’t good enough, or you aren’t valuable enough, they are fools. If YOU have ever tried to define someone’s worth by the standards of this world, YOU are a fool. Because to JESUS CHRIST, you are worth HIS LIFE. YOU. In all your flaw, in all your sin…you are worth EVERYTHING. There is nothing you can do in this lifetime to prove your worth to Him. There is nothing you can do in this lifetime to affect the love He has for you. Because IT IS DONE. He did it. He knows it. Your worth hung on a cross and rose from a tomb when everything in the world said it¬†couldn’t. Your worth is miraculous. Your worth is limitless. Because your worth is in Christ. Whether you know Him yet, or not. He knows you. He already died for you.

A man willingly endured unbearable torture and was crucified for you. Can you say that about anyone else in your life? Can you name another human being that has lived without flaw and has died for your heart and has risen from the dead to prove to you God’s love? I can’t. I can’t say it about my mom. I can’t say it about my dad. I can’t say it about any human being on this earth. Because NO human being compares to our King. So tell me, WHY DO WE PUT THIS KING IN A BOX?! Why is it that when the Saints win the Super Bowl, this city erupts in celebration and brags about it for a year?! But when a child tries to pray in school, we have legislation passed to silence him? Why is it that when everything is going great in life, we are so quick to tweet a ‘God is so good!’? But when adversity is thrown our way, we are suddenly lost and confused and want to question His power and spew hate to others? Why is it that when Easter rolls around everyone’s facebook status is so quick to proclaim a shallow faith and the other 364 days out of the year, we forget what He did for us? WHY IS THIS CULTURE SO COMFORTABLE MAKING GOD “FIT” WHERE WE WANT HIM TO?

Newsflash guys: it doesn’t work like that. I couldn’t stop crying yesterday because, yes, I was in awe of His grace. But another reason I was brought to tears is because of how utterly empty our love for Him is in return. I’m guilty of it, too. And I’m disgusted with myself. ¬†Look around—we want to idolize celebrities and celebrate sin and base our worth on our wallets and base our value on what the media tells us we should be and strive, strive, strive to have more, more, more, and nothing is ever enough. HELLO–wake up! HE IS ENOUGH! End of story. “The American Dream” is a load of crap. Yeah, I said it. What this society prizes is a load of crap. Because what this society tells us is that we aren’t adequate enough. And that there is always MORE. And that we don’t have enough. And that we are defined by our roles–that we are defined by our jobs and our social status and bank accounts and our beauty. WRONG. SO very wrong. Don’t you get what He did for us? We are defined by HIM.

How can we look ourselves in the mirror after what He did for us, and still “box” Him into an hour and a half on Sunday? We “box” Him into holidays–Easter, Christmas, etc. We “box” Him into tweets and facebook statuses when we want all our friends to know we achieved something great. We “box” Him into jewelry and fashion and design when it’s all the rage to wear crosses. We “box” Him in everywhere He is convenient for us. We are foolish. Every one of us.

I want to see 50,000,000 hits on a YouTube video worshiping Christ–not one worshiping Lady GaGa. I want to see people tweeting #humility and #grace and #worship and #Christ–not #winning. I want to see people sacrificing their time and their money and their efforts to the poorest and the hungry–not to cosmetic surgery and newer cars and bigger houses. WE NEED TO GET OVER OURSELVES. AND START LIVING RADICALLY FOR OUR KING!! He doesn’t fit in your “box”. He never will. He is infinite and we have no right to question Him. No right to “box” Him. No right to stifle Him.

We are NOTHING compared to Him, yet we are EVERYTHING to Him. Think about it…

What Is Palm Sunday?

“…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

Good Morning! What a beautiful morning it is. I know I am again jumping off-route with our relationship topic, but there is certainly significance in today’s teaching. ¬†We are nearing a time of year where a lot is recognized in our faith. And days like today, Palm Sunday, and next Sunday, Easter, are such significant times of the year to worship, but even a lot of Christians don’t understand what they truly represent. ¬†So I wanted to break down the basics of what today really means…

Today is Palm Sunday. Just as the date of Easter changes every year, so does the date of Palm Sunday. You see, these dates are marked by the beginning and ending of seasons in the faith, including the Jewish season of Passover. ¬†But Palm Sunday is ALWAYS the Sunday before Easter Sunday. ¬†This week between is known as the “Holy Week” because it recognizes the time frame of Jesus’ journey to the cross–His celebration, condemnation, persecution, and resurrection!

So why is Palm Sunday significant? What actually happened? Let’s take a look…

We talked about who Jesus Christ was. We talked about the life He lived, the struggles He faced, and the unbelievable works that He did. We also talked about how, as time passed and Jesus began to acquire followers and disciples, He began to stir up nations. ¬†Throughout Jesus’ life, it became harder and harder for people to ignore His teachings. And this infuriated the Pharisees and leaders of the nations. ¬†Because they refused to recognize power greater than their own and grew more and more hostile towards this man who proclaimed to be the Son of God. ¬†You see, much of the Old Testament predicted that there would be a Messiah. So many of the prophets of the Old Testament had recorded that the Son of God would come, and they had recorded so much detail of what His life and death would look like. ¬†As people began to see affirmation after affirmation of these truths, divided opinions grew. People either (1) recognized that Jesus Christ was, in fact, the Son of God and worshiped Him, or (2) became so stirred and shaken, by the fulfillment of these predictions, that they refused to believe the Truth. ¬†The Pharisees definitely fell into group #2.

Anyways, one of the final miracles that Jesus Christ performed was raising a man named Lazarus from the dead. (If you want to read about this miracle, look at John  11: 1-43. Or, more specifically, John 11: 38-43.)  When Jesus Christ performed this miracle, it sparked a fire. Many Jews who had seen what had happened became believers and put their faith in Him.  Then, the word spread like wildfire.  People began to worship Jesus, and praise Him, and put their faith in Him. And when the Pharisees found out that He was performing miracles that were stirring nations and gaining great attention, they were livid. They met and decided that Jesus must be put to death. They basically put a hit out on him, and if anyone saw or knew where He was, they were instructed to turn Him in. (John 11:45-57)

So what did Jesus do? Here comes the best part! Jesus knew how all of this was going to play out. ¬†He had been predicting His death for some time, and He knew exactly why it was that He had to die–to save our souls. So, rather than run, Jesus took some time to collect himself and then made His way to Jerusalem where He knew, full well, that His trip would end in His sacrificial death for the sin of humanity. (Now if that isn’t courage and fearlessness and humility, then I don’t know what is. What a boss!) ¬†This is where Palm Sunday comes into the history…Jesus came to Jerusalem and made, what is known as, the triumphal entry.

If you want to read the scripture about Palm Sunday and His triumphal entry, look at:

Matthew 21:1-11…or…

Mark 11:1-11…or…

Luke 19: 28-44…or…

John 12:12-19

There are a lot of really amazing things that occur in this short passage in the Bible. ¬†First, as Jesus and His disciples came near the city , they stopped in the city of Bethphage at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus told two of His disciples to “Go into the village ahead of you and find a donkey tied there, with her colt beside her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the LORD needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21: 2-3). You’re probably thinking, so what, he asked for a donkey. But hold up, there are TWO incredible things present in this first passage. First and foremost, Jesus refers to himself as the LORD. Which is a definite proclamation of His divinity. Powerful stuff for such a humble man…this proclamation is once again emphasizing, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He is LORD. Secondly, He asks for a donkey and when His disciples brought it to Him they laid their cloaks over the animals and Jesus rode them into the city. What’s so significant about that? BOOM! By riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled yet ANOTHER ancient prophecy from the Old Testament–Zechariah 9:9. This prophecy said, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Keep in mind, this was the ONLY instance in the gospel where Jesus rode an animal. And in that humble action, Jesus fulfilled just one of many prophecies that were written thousands of years before His life. It’s not like Jesus carried around a Blackberry and googled the prophecies and figured out, step by step, what He was supposed to do next. No chance! God spoke truth to the prophets of the Old Testament, and God lived truth through our Savior in the New Testament.

Anyways, back on track…So Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem with His head held high. As he entered the city, people rejoiced and cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” They celebrated and cheered Him and the masses threw their cloaks into the path of the donkey and laid down palms along His path. ¬†This is why we call it Palm Sunday. you see, laying down your cloak for an animal to walk over, and laying down palms, and fanning Jesus with palms, were acts of absolute homage and respect. This signified people’s submission to Jesus Christ. ¬†This represented their recognition that He was the promised Messiah! (And just to clarify, the people’s cries of “Hosanna” originate from Psalms 118:25-26, meaning “save now.”)

You better believe that at the sight of all of this celebration, the Pharisees were FURIOUS! They were so jealous of Jesus and so fearful of the Romans. You’ve got to picture it like this–these high priests were in straight panic mode. ¬†All the authority and order they had instilled was being shaken up and stirred by a humble man riding on a donkey–dressed in humble clothes. No riches, no jewels, nothing…Jesus was a man of the masses. He was a carpenter, by trade. He was an average Joe. Yet He brought NATIONS TO THEIR KNEES! Unreal. He was nothing the Pharisees expected. ¬†They expected the Son of God to be some unbelievable, earthly man of power and prestige! Everything they expected Him to be…Jesus was the complete opposite. He was the underdog. And the people were beginning to love Him. This sent those Pharisees into fits. They refused to believe.

What Jesus said next were some of the most beautiful words He ever uttered, in my opinion. ¬†Luke 19:39-40 tells us this: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.”

HA! Do you understand what He just said here? Let me break this down in the simplest of terms: The Pharisees are telling Jesus to keep His disciples from praising Him because they think it’s blasphemy. And Jesus is like, ‘Listen dude, I’m God. There’s nothing you can do to keep anything on this Earth from praising me. In fact, everything will praise me–even the things that don’t hold life. If you try to silence one thing, the next thing will begin to cry out, and so on and so on until even the rocks will scream that I am God!’ HAHA! AHHHH..I love it!

So long story short, the summary of today is that Jesus is a straight BOSS. He performs miracles…the haters put a hit on Him…rather than hiding, He rides into the city and fulfills a prophecy…the people go crazy for Him…the haters try to call Him out…He makes them look like fools. ūüôā I love Him! What a humble, gracious, UNBELIEVABLE KING WE SERVE!!

Happy Palm Sunday!

Swimming Upstream

Hey there! Today’s post was inspired by an acquaintance of mine, and a brother in Christ. ¬†He contacted me in regards to a speech he was preparing to give. ¬†It was a speech about leadership, and He was wondering if I had any insight. I put his question into prayer for a few days and as I finally started to type my response, God painted the most beautiful metaphor in my mind. So, naturally, I wanted to share it with you all…

When we break down what leadership is, there are countless definitions, fundamentals, and examples of great leadership. One powerful element of leadership is radical fearlessness. ¬†Now, that may sound clich√©, but bear with me here and I will explain a little further…

Take a look around this world. Take a moment to think of a handful of leaders. Who are the leaders who you really notice? Who are leaders who you truly respect? The ones who move with the masses and blend in…or the ones who radically set themselves apart? The ones who are fearless of what will be thought of them, and are convicted in what they believe. Those are the individuals who have the power to lead because they can’t help but be noticed for swimming against the stream.

Think about a fish that swims against the stream. It swims with purpose, it swims with drive. ¬†It stands out from the crowd and the flow, because it stirs up attention and doesn’t conform. ¬†But it faces a lot of adversity–resistance from the masses, resistance from its environment. Everything tells that fish that what its doing is much harder than simply turning around and swimming with the flow. A fish that’s swimming against the stream faces a challenge, but faces it with intent. ¬†It has a goal. It’s journey is uncomfortable and challenging, but it swims with heart. And IT CAN’T HELP BUT BE STRENGTHENED THROUGH THE JOURNEY. It can’t help but be noticed.¬†Being a radically fearless leader is tough. When you swim against the stream, you undoubtedly meet a lot of resistance. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable at times, it’s challenging. But if you persist, it can’t help but strengthen you.

Jesus Christ was the primary example of a leader who was radically fearless. I mean, wow, take a look at any passage in the Bible. Jesus Christ was the definition of CONVICTED. He knew what He believed and He stood by His word. He completely set himself apart from everyone and He stood strong as He met resistance, faced adversity, and was criticized by the masses. But He was fearless. He set himself apart and swam against the current with humility, love, and courage. He was fearless in His teachings, He was fearless in the way He lived and, ultimately, He was fearless at the cross when He was condemned by those who couldn’t handle the power of His leadership. He was beautiful. And He was so radically fearless.

Now, as His followers, and as vessels for His truth and His light, we have to be radically fearless, as well. We have to believe in His love, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in our minds AND in our hearts. Then we have to begin swimming upstream from this world. We have to swim with the passion of chasing a Kingdom. We have to swim with the passion of striving for sanctification–a passion inspired by our beautiful Salvation. Swim with such passion and power that the resistance we meet stands no chance at altering our course. This world, everything in our society, everything our popular culture tells us is pleasurable and rewarding and fulfilling–it’s all empty. We have to be radically fearless in setting ourselves apart from this world. We have to be like Jesus–fearless of those that will judge and convicted in what we believe. In being radically different and setting ourselves apart, people will HAVE to see a difference in us. They will undoubtedly be inspired by Christ through us and we will, in turn, become leaders as well. But only if we can be radically fearless in our pursuit of Christ.

Does that metaphor make sense? Really think about it–are you fearless? Are you passionately in pursuit of Christ? Are you willing to swim up stream? 1 Timothy 6:12 calls us to “Fight the good fight of faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.” And Galatians 6:9 encourages us by saying, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Fight the good fight! Don’t grow tired! Be radically fearless and swim passionately against the stream!