Somewhere Beautiful

I know I have been on a bit of a song-kick lately, but I have been stumbling across some great music that deserves a listen! I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who can hear any song and relate it to Christ. (Well, maybe not ANY song…”Baby Got Back” just doesn’t quite translate into a good worship tune.) Nevertheless, I love to flip songs in order to praise our King! Good example: listen to “Run To You” by Lady Antebellum. Every time they say the word “baby”, replace it with “Jesus”. So awesome.

Anyways, while there are some songs that you have to really work to adjust, others are just naturally poetic ballads to our King.  I grew up in school with the McConnell siblings. While they were all in different grades than myself, their family’s talents were well-known. Prime example: Sean McConnell, the vocalist on this song. I would encourage you to look up his music. He is an amazing artist and has a fantastic heart for Christ.

I have always loved this song. It is an example of a great acoustic song that can appeal commercially, but also has a more subtle, grace-filled message. Take a listen…

Somewhere Beautiful

written by: Wade Bowen, vocals by: Sean McConnell

Looking down at the strip from my hotel room,
It must be a full moon, cause their all out tonight
All the insecure boys in their muscle cars,
Young girls in their push-up bras under neon lights,
They come here for freedom, freedom from anything
And for miles and miles down this road, you can hear them sing
With their voices, and their engines, and their pounding radios
It seems like round here, no one knows

No one knows that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and these filthy streets
Take my hand and let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful

Is there any way to learn from what you’ve been told
Or do you really have to hold the experience
Cause you can hear me now, and come out clean
Trust me, I could spare you the consequence
I can tell by your eyes, that there ain’t no getting through
Cause you’re hell bent on doing exactly what you’ve gotta do
So welcome to a long line of sinners and saints
Is there anyone around here who ain’t

Don’t you know that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and these filthy streets
Take my hand, and let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful

Don’t you know that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and all these filthy streets
So take my hand, let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful
Yeah, to somewhere beautiful…

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*How He Loves*

LOOK WHAT JESUS CHRIST DID FOR YOU…so that YOUR soul could be saved. I wanted to share my favorite version of one of my all-time favorite songs with you. The video attached to the song is an unbelievable recreation of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. SEEING what this man did for us will make your skin crawl..but it is TRUTH. This is what He went through to save our souls. If it is too graphic for you to watch, minimize the video but continue to listen to the song. Let the lyrics move you and the beat slide through your veins…He loves us SO much. No matter our past, no matter our flaws. He is so jealous for you…

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BetW_6vtNU&feature=related

 

“How He Loves”

David Crowder Band

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.

A Hint of Beauty

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.

These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.”

–Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Position .v. Condition In Christ… (part 2)

Alright, to pick up where we left off, let’s take a look back at this awesome visual…

We discussed an overview of what the graph represents and what the lines and colors represent up until the big “dot”. Then we discussed that, BAM!, that dot represents something so unbelievably powerful–that dot represents our salvation! (If you missed yesterday’s post, I would encourage you to look back and read it so that you can follow along from this point on.)

Alright, so our life-line hits the point of our salvation and suddenly breaks into three trails. Immediately, in that instant, everything changes.  Don’t be mistaken here, being saved is not just an emotional movement. It is a literal change that takes place inside of us. We are physically filled with the Holy Spirit. We are unmistakably different.

Let’s take a look, first, at the blue line that immediately shoots straight up to 100% righteousness and then travels horizontally at 100% throughout the rest of our lives. This line represents our POSITION in Christ. In other words, this line represents what God sees when He looks at us.  We discussed earlier in the “Redefining Our Reflection” posts that after we are saved, when God sees us, He sees His Son in us. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. So no matter what we do, we cannot change that position. We are Saved. We are SAVED! Wow. Take a moment to let that sink in. THAT is God’s unbelievable grace. That is the TRUE definition of God’s unfathomable grace. That no matter who we are, no matter what we have done in our past, no matter where we came from…we are SAVED. Our souls are sealed. The red zone disappears because we are His. Can you even imagine that? That concept literally brings me to my knees. He would forgive a sinner like me? He would immediately, without question, secure my soul? I don’t have to prove anything to Him? I don’t have to be flawless or have a perfect past or even understand all there is to understand about Jesus? He loves me THAT much? YES. YES! YES!!! It’s unfathomable. It’s overwhelming. WHAT AN AMAZING GOD WE SERVE! WHAT A GRACIOUS KING!

THAT is what Jesus Christ’s life did for us. THAT is salvation. We will study much deeper into that a little later on. It is such an unbelievable concept. We will definitely return to it. But what an unbelievable truth. No matter what we did or what we do…no matter how many times we stumbled in the past or how many times we stumble in the future, if we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, that’s it. We are saved. Unreal. Check out this AWESOME verse. One of my favorites…

Paul, who once murdered Christians and was truly a horrible man–a man who society would dismiss and judge without thinking twice–was SO filled and moved by the Holy Spirit, that he wrote this scripture,

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The GRACE of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1: 13-14

Beautiful. He is so unreal.

Okay, now let’s take a look at the black, wiggly line that breaks from the salvation point. This line represents our CONDITION in Christ.  This is a line that is ever-changing.  A line that represents our walk with Christ and our growth in our faith.  It is wiggly because we are human.  Like we discussed before, we are bound by human flesh.  We are bound by temptation and emotion and greed and lust and everything else that falls into our human-nature. AND, to top it all off, we live in a world that sin thrives.  So this line illustrated our journey.  We have highs and lows in our walk. Everyone’s looks different. We have struggles, we give in to temptation, we learn, we grow, then we repeat it all again. We are incapable of doing it perfectly. But this line, this condition, is so important. Because this represents how Christ-like we are living our lives. And it represents how bright His light can shine through us to others.

In studying this line, you have to take into account the red line that breaks from the point as well. Just because we are saved, doesn’t mean Satan just goes away. No chance. He doesn’t have a shot at winning our souls anymore, but he definitely still has a shot at affecting our earthly condition in Christ.  Ideally, he would love for our paths to follow that red line’s course. That is what he is trying to drag us down to–because if we are incapable of rising above his lies, then we are incapable of properly teaching non-believers and spreading God’s word.  The more he can affect our condition, the more he causes confusion, and deceit, and temptation and resentment.

Our condition in Christ is basically what we work at our whole lives. The reason we study the Word and go to church and participate in fellowship and constantly strive to grow in our faith is so that we can grow in our condition. It is NOT so that we can “impress” God and get a better seat in heaven. No way. It is impossible to “earn” His love. It’s already granted–100%–when we accept His Son as our savior. I think we often have the perception that we are “working” our whole lives to “get in” to heaven. No. That’s just not the case.  What we are working at our whole lives is to grow closer to Him. To teach others and to share His love with as many people as we possibly can. Not just through our words–but through our actions and through our hearts.

Does that make sense? It’s so beautiful. It’s blindingly beautiful. And it’s so humbling.  I feel like this is a topic that isn’t taught clearly enough in our society.  So many people have such a skewed perception on what salvation really is and what our true purpose is, as Christians.  He loves us SO much and He asks SO little of us, but SO much of us at the same time. Nothing about our condition in Christ is easy. It’s so challenging. And it’s even harder growing in our condition in this world that we live in.  But that is what we strive for, as Christians.

So that is a general overview of that visual. I hope it all makes sense. In the next several posts, we will start to look at each specific component in much more detail.  We will break it down and see how it applies to our lives and how we can better understand it all. He loves us so much. That blue line says it all…

Redefining Our Reflection… (part 3)

I want to take a deeper look at what it means to be a true woman and a true man of God.  Now only can this help us reevaluate how we act, but it can also help us identify characteristics we should seek in others–especially if we intend on spending time with them or entering into a relationship with them.  We discussed our identities through salvation and the beauty God sees in us, but in order to redefine our reflections, we have to learn a little bit about how we should strive to carry ourselves.

An individual brought up a great point in the comment section of the last blog post.  This was a point I was planning on studying, in detail, later on, but I would like to touch on its relevance now, as well.  As humans, we are stuck in a bit of a predicament.  Because, in recognizing Jesus Christ as our Savior, our souls are sealed and protected.  We are emptied of ourselves and filled with the Holy Spirit.  However, we are still bound by our humanly flesh during our time here on earth.  And that flesh is ugly and riddled with temptation, lust, greed, and sin.  It is the “human” in us all–and it’s gross.  That’s what made Jesus Christ so phenomenal. He was a human being. He was bound by the same flesh we are bound by.  He felt all the same temptations, emotions, urges, desires.  But He STILL lived perfectly.  We must recognize that, for us, that is an impossibility. There is no way we can do it flawlessly. But, it is something we should STRIVE for–something we should live for, daily.  As Christians, we should work towards thinning that flesh so that His light can shine through us as brightly as possible.

With that being said, it is not enough for us to sit back and coast. To think, “Okay, I recognize that He’s real, I recognize what He did for me. But, I guess since I’m bound by this flesh and since He’s always going to forgive me, then it’s alright for me keep living how I’m living. I guess it’s alright for me to remain comfortable in sin. Because, this guy’s sin over here is far worse than my sin. I’m a good person, so I’m good to go.”

That mentality is so off-base.  It’s a mentality that I, myself, held for a long time.  That’s a very human thought process.  If this forgiveness is endlessly offered, then it is a human reaction to attempt to take that for granted.  To try to slide by. To compare ourselves to others and to weigh our sins. But that is so far from what’s real and true.  That mentality is so dangerous.  I know I functioned like that for a very long time.  And I can tell you now that, even though those thoughts still run through my mind occasionally, the Holy Spirit is convicting.  And if the Holy Spirit is truly living inside of your heart, you will feel the conviction of wrongful action.  Whether or not you show it on the surface, whether or not you express it, whether or not you even openly acknowledge it, you know where your heart stands.  You know when you are acting in flesh.

I told you this year would be convicting.  I refuse to sit back and say only what is going to “feel good” and make us all feel warm and comforted inside.  We have to be broken of our earthly mentality.  We have to be broken of our thought process that has been conditioned by this crappy society.  And in order to be broken, we have to be uncomfortable.  We have to reevaluate ourselves and be honest with ourselves.  If you are surrounded by people who constantly tell you that what you are doing is so wonderful and right and good, and you never stand eye-to-eye with someone who tells you that you could be better, and holds up the BIBLE as proof of the improvement you can make, then you will never grow.

If we are going to TRULY redefine our reflections and live for Christ, then we have to humble ourselves. We have to let down our guards and open our hearts.  We have to feel that conviction and RECOGNIZE it! Recognize that it may take a shot at your ego or your pride; that it may embarrass you or anger you or stir up your emotions. But there is BEAUTY in humility. There is BEAUTY in our scars. So let down your walls. I’m right here with you, doing the same.

Break through the flesh that is binding you down and strive for greatness.  We strive, daily, for advancement in our lives.  We strive for the starting spot on our athletic teams. We strive for the promotion at work.  We strive to make more money. We strive to be perceived as having the perfect family. We strive to be the most popular. We strive to be the most famous.  We strive to be the most attractive. We strive to be the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, the best. SO WHY DONT WE STRIVE FOR THAT SAME ADVANCEMENT IN OUR FAITH? What are we so ashamed of? What do we have to lose? A little ego? A little pride? Get real. Break down the barriers this society says we should build around “religion”.  Break down the perception you have of where “religion” should be kept on your schedule!

Being a Christian is not about just being in church on Sunday. Being a Christian is a 24-7, 365 day a year TRUTH.  Why are we suppressing Him? He is in fellowship, He is in bible study, He is in church, He is in the workplace, He is in our schools, He is at the dinner table, He is on the football field, He is at the bar, He is in the port-a-potty, He is in your car, He is in the airplane, He is in the homeless shelter, He is in the huts of the homeless, He is in the fields of the farmers, He is in the waves of the sea, He is EVERYWHERE! He is everywhere. Who are we to ignore Him? Who are we to try to stifle Him? All He wants is for us to see Him. And to love Him. And in return, He will love us more passionately and more fantastically than any other love we will ever know. He is waiting for us…He is waiting for you. Open your eyes and see Him. Then fall in love and break down your barriers and climb on top of the tallest platform you can find and PRAISE Him. NEVER be afraid to praise Him. Never stop praising Him.

Let’s step away from who we were. Let’s make ourselves so vulnerable that we are raw. Then let’s study Him. Let’s study the Word, and let’s figure out what it all means together.

I know I went off on a bit of a tangent today. I promise next post we will get back to the topic of being men and women for Christ. We will start really studying together.  I just really had all of that on my heart and had to let it pour out. I love you, and He loves you. Let’s be exceptional. Together, let’s learn…

Redefining Our Reflection…(part 2)

Okay, we discussed the beauty God sees in us once we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We discussed that, in His eyes, we are literally emptied of ourselves and filled with His Son–and there is no greater beauty than that of Jesus’ Spirit. (Still mind-boggling to try to understand, but amazing!) So how does that define us? We know what we look like to God once we are Saved, but what does it look like to other people? How is that beauty reflected through us?

To put it in the most black and white terms, when we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ literally lives inside of us, it is impossible for Him not to shine through us.  So the beauty that defines us and that others see, should truly be the beauty of Christ as well.

To sit here and say, “We must live our lives like Jesus Christ did…” would not only sound cliché, but it would also not even touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an explanation of the beauty we should host in our hearts.  1 John 3:18 does an amazing job of summarizing it in saying,

“Dear children, let us not simply love with words and tongue, but with action and in truth.”

If you look at the context of 1 John (not to be mistaken with the book of John) it addresses our salvation and clarifies what it means for us to truly be saved and for the Holy Spirit to live in us.  It also provides “evidence” of exactly what it looks like for Christ to live in someone’s heart. Evidence of the beauty that then shines through that person.  So, this particular verse, though not drowned in detail, says volumes.

A study of the Bible, or simply of the New Testament, for that matter, is a study that lasts a lifetime.  It is a study of the life of Jesus Christ and a guideline for how exactly we should strive to live our lives.  It is extensive and detailed and FILLED with unbelievable truths, but it takes patience to learn.  Each passage addresses a different concept, each book addresses a different pillar of our foundation in the faith.  We should strive to study the Word and mature in our walks daily…hourly…constantly.  But we must also understand that we will never learn it all. We will NEVER be able to do it all perfectly. Only He was capable of doing that. HOWEVER, the Bible also tells us that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with hunger, filled with comfort, filled with conviction. So, though it may be impossible to ever learn it ALL and apply it ALL constantly, when you are TRULY saved, that becomes your all-consuming objective.  That becomes your identity. That becomes your greatest goal. And THAT is the beauty that others see within us–the beauty that truly matters.

As Christians, if we are truly walking in the light, then not a single person should ever be able to cross our paths without clearly seeing that there is something different about us. I’m not simply talking about the people closest to you, I’m talking about everyone–I’m talking about our teammates, I’m talking about our fraternity brothers. I’m talking about the man you bumped carts with in the grocery store. I’m talking about our co-workers. I’m talking about the taxi driver you sat with for 5 minutes. I’m talking about your neighbor, your doctor, the janitor where you go to school. I’m talking about the one person you despise the most. The person that bullies you or torments you or makes you feel any less beautiful than you are. That person deserves, more than ANYONE, the opportunity to see that light through you. Because that light will affect them. No matter what. Whether it hits them now or it hits them 20 years from now, that light WILL change them. And you may be the only person in their life that has the opportunity to shine on them. (We will touch more on this concept later in the year, as well, so stay tuned!)

But THAT is the beauty we should search for in others and that is the beauty we should allow to shine through us.  It is not hard to see. At all. It is not some mystical element that you have to be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of.  This world would love to tell us that form of beauty is an illusion or reserved only for the “best” people. No, it is not visible on the surface of our skin, but it should pour from us the minute we open our mouths. The minute we move. The minute we smile.  That beauty is not the beauty this shallow world recognizes and, sadly, not a beauty that every person has recognized is within them yet. But it is a beauty that is contagious.  And it is a beauty that can only be spread through us. We are His vessels.

Step back. Take a look in the mirror. Take a very long look at yourself.

Do you find yourself beautiful?

(to be continued)

Redefining Our Reflection…(part 1)

Step back. Take a look in the mirror. Take a very long look at yourself.

Do you find yourself beautiful?

I don’t mean “beautiful” in the same sense that this world defines beauty. I am not talking about how groomed your hair is, how tan your skin is, how white your teeth are. I’m not talking about whether you are a size 2 or whether or not your clothes are expensive and new.  I’m not talking about your body type or even your smile. I’m talking about true beauty.

I am talking about the only type of beauty that God sees when He looks at us.  I’m talking about the most magnificent beauty–the beauty of our hearts and the beauty of our condition in Christ.  I am talking about the beauty of your soul as a true man or woman of God.  I’m talking about the type of beauty that this world is blind to, because it is not simply visible on the surface.  I’m talking about the type of beauty that people so easily disregard now-a-days. REAL beauty.

Before we can even begin to look at love and relationships, we have to redefine our own reflections in the mirror.  How can we be anything for anyone else, if we aren’t even aware of who we are for our King?  How can we enter into friendships, fellowship, and romantic relationships, if we don’t know our own identities? Too many people get lost that way. Lost and never found. We can’t be defined by any other identity than our identity in God.  Meaning, we aren’t defined by our athletics, we aren’t defined by our careers, we aren’t defined by our husbands or our wives or our children. We aren’t defined by our “roles”. We aren’t defined by our hardships, nor are we defined by our successes. Our identity is defined in Christ.

What, then, does that look like? What does our beauty look like to Him?  What does it look like to be a man or woman in Christ? That answer lies, most clearly, in the gospel.  In understanding our salvation, we can understand our beauty.

We discussed earlier that the way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. Plain and simple.  The belief in Him and the belief in the truth of His life, His death, and His resurrection.  The Bible clearly tells us that when we are truly saved–meaning, when we TRULY accept Jesus Christ into our hearts–then we are emptied of ourselves and filled with the Holy Spirit.  THAT is the true definition of the grace God shows us.  The Bible tells us that the moment we accept Christ into our lives, Christ literally lives inside of us.

Woah…take a moment to let that sink in.  Because that’s incredible.  You may be sitting there, staring at the computer screen, totally confused right now–so let me explain in the most basic of terms.  The book of John does a fantastic job of teaching us about our beauty because it teaches us about the Holy Spirit.

Imagine waking up every single day and not worrying about a single thing.  Not analyzing what you were going to be doing that day. Not living by a schedule or a plan–but simply waking up and following one man.  That is what Jesus’ disciples did for years.  They followed Jesus, with complete trust, through every step of every moment of every day.  Throughout His life, Jesus made it very clear to His disciples that He would die one day.  The disciples were really upset because they didn’t want Him to leave them. They didn’t want to be abandoned.  They placed so much dependency and faith in Him, that they didn’t know what they were going to do without Him. But Jesus was prepared for their reactions, and He made a promise to them (and to all of us).  He told them that, though His body would be gone, He would still be with them.  His spirit would live in them.  He may not PHYSICALLY be there with them any more, but He would never abandon them.  They believed in Him so, therefore, He would always dwell in them. THAT is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is Christ’s spirit inside of us……..wow. (I just did a fist pump thinking about how amazing He is! haha) Therefore, when we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, it is not a one-sided deal.  We aren’t just making a sacrifice and giving, giving, giving…it’s an exchange.  In giving control to Him, He fills us with His spirit!

Can you even imagine? Can you even wrap your head around that? Incredible! When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are completely filled by the Holy Spirit. We are drowned in Him.  Once we have accepted Christ into our lives, we are emptied of ourselves.  When God looks at you, He does not see YOU anymore. He sees Jesus Christ. He sees His son. What an unbelievably humbling concept. Can you believe you even have the honor of hosting such a spirit? But that is what He tells us.  That we are no longer ourselves. Rather, we carry Christ in us. Ah! No wonder it always feels so amazing! 🙂

To tie all of this back toward the beginning, ask yourself again what God sees when He looks at you.  Ask yourself again how beautiful you are. If you believe in Him, the answer is simple…He sees His Son! He sees the beauty of Jesus Christ! And THAT is the truest, most overwhelming, most humbling beauty that exists. You are SO beautiful. You are SO BEAUTIFUL. You have to believe that fact.  If He is living in you, you are SO unbelievably beautiful.  No matter your past, no matter your flaws, no matter your sins, you are beautiful in His eyes.

Now how does that beauty define us?…

(to be continued)

“His Mosaic”

I fancy myself a mosaic,

a mosaic constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed,

beautifully humble, yet odd.

 

For I once was I clean sheet of glass,

free from blemish or flaw.

I was polished and buffed, fragile but tough,

pure and simple, yet raw.

 

What you must understand, is a clean pane of glass

reflects light with splendor and awe.

But it lacks dimension, lacks retention

and only shines on an area, small.

 

But God took notice of my flawless pane

and saw potential for greatness and use.

He knew it would sting, He knew I would scream,

but He knew I could withstand abuse.

 

So He sat down, alone, on His sturdy workbench

and slid my heart into a darkened sack.

Though it hurt Him to do, He knew what was True,

so He swung a hammer and felt me crack.

 

The first blow of the hammer, I lost control

and was broken by an evil disease.

It consumed my thoughts, consumed my body,

but His hand still held me with ease.

 

The next blow of the hammer, my father was gone

and the pain split through to my core.

My breaks turned to shatters, my heart was left tattered,

but He knew I could withstand more.

 

The final swing of the hammer and everything stopped,

I stared death in its formidable eyes.

My body was broken, the pain left a token,

but my spirit was ever alive.

 

The King then sat back, with the sack in His hand,

filled with my broken self.

He then gently restored me, gently He poured me

onto a magnificent, heavenly shelf.

 

With much care and patience, God pulled on His gloves

and began to sift through my remains.

He took His sweet time with a vision, divine,

and pulled pieces of virtue and pain.

 

One-by-one He gently placed the fractures He pulled

into an empty and pure frame.

While I struggled and grew, a battle ensued,

and He humbly took all the blame.

 

But He never stopped working, rebuilding my heart,

He toiled throughout many years.

He so often showed grace, loved me through my disgrace,

and in time, He banished my fears.

 

An artist of power and an artist of Truth,

He carefully re-sculpted my heart.

With much concentration and much designation,

the beauty shone through from the start.

 

When His work was complete, He welcomed me back

and led my soul to His humble workbench.

With the pride of a Father in love with His daughter,

He held tight to my hands as they clenched.

 

He pulled back the canvas that shielded His art

and revealed to me His masterpiece.

I was blinded by beauty, in awe of it truly,

and humbly, I fell to His feet.

 

You see His light that shined, through my restructured heart,

shone with glory and refracted abound.

It danced to the ceiling, sparkled with feeling,

and touched all that rested around.

 

Before my adversity, before all the trials,

I was a pane of unweathered glass.

His light could shine through me, but though there was beauty,

it had no opportunity to refract.

 

In breaking me down and building me up,

He had very clever intent.

For now when His light shone with delight,

it was scattered, refracted, and bent.

 

It could reach every corner and touch every heart

that came within its new bounds.

I could now shine His light, with power and might,

to all who yearned to be found.

 

I was humbled in thought that He cared for my heart

with such personal, attentive grace.

It was then that I learned, it was simply my turn,

and that others filled infinite space.

 

You see He works on us all, every single heart,

for we are all His children anew.

He loves us so deeply, and spends time with us neatly,

rebuilding even YOU.

 

I fancy our hearts as mosaics,

mosaics constructed by God.

Intricately made, passionately displayed

Beautifully humble, yet odd.

“Back to the Basics” (part 1 of 3)

So, now that I have finished sharing my personal testimony with you, it’s time to embark on this incredible journey together and grow closer to our King! Before I begin, I really want to thank you for following up to this point. Can you believe it has already been a month? I hope you are as excited as I am for what this year has in store. It’s my belief that, no matter age, race, gender, social class, or any other “category” this world may label each of us in, we are all beautifully equal and we ALL have the ability to learn from one another and be inspired by one another.  It has been such a blessing hearing from SO many; I hope you understand how much you play a role in this challenge. You are the one encouraging me and keeping me focused. So let’s get started!

I find that in sports, as well as in school and relationships and work, it is unbelievably beneficial to go “back to the basics” and periodically re-visit the fundamentals of what we do.  At times, we get so comfortable in our successes, that we have the tendency to unknowingly become stagnant in our progress and growth. But, if we take a little time to humble ourselves and study the core principles of our activities, it’s often refreshing and beneficial.  With that being said, what are the core principles of our faith? If somebody walked up to you today and asked you what it is you believe, what would you say? How would you summarize all that Christianity entails quickly enough to keep their attention? And would you truly believe your own words? What are the foundations of your life?

It’s easiest for me to break it into 3 points. Three core, elementary principles that we MUST believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Three fundamentals that are all interconnected and are the basis of our Christian walks.  It is not up to us to pick and choose which one we like best, we must be convicted in all three, wholeheartedly.

First, and most simply, we have to believe that Jesus Christ was a real man.  A human being that walked this earth and was bound by all of the same temptations, tendencies, desires, and abilities as you and I. He was real. He is a historical figure.  There is little that can really even be debated about this point because it is simply historical knowledge. He was a human being that existed.

It’s a bummer for Jesus that there wasn’t internet or twitter or cameras back then, because it seems like, now-a-days, the only content people will believe is the content the pops up on their iPhones.  The content they can physically see.  But all it takes to prove this human being’s existence is a trip to the library. Christianity is not the only religion that recognizes that this man was very real.  He was a magnificent man and a true leader.  He was a man who lived with purpose and a man who lived PERFECTLY.

That’s the one factor that boggles my mind the most.  This man lived in a way that no other man had lived before Him and that no other man has lived since Him.  He lived PERFECTLY! He was bound by all of the same human limitations we are bound by, and He STILL lived without flaw.  He was never afraid to live completely differently than every single person around Him.  He was never afraid to defy the kings and leaders of the land in order to stand strong by what He believed. Can you even imagine? It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around sometimes. And it gets me SO fired up.  This man was exceptional! He was 100% convicted in His purpose and He never faltered.  He never stumbled.  Good grief, I stumble daily. I stumble hourly. Yet this man lived His entire life and never lost His footing.  He was completely obedient, no matter the sacrifice or suffering He had to endure. And He taught, passionately.

Whether or not you choose to recognize this man as the son of God, which is a point we will look at tomorrow, you cannot deny that this man was exceptional.  He was real and He was fantastic.  He was a genuine leader and He stood strong on the principles of everything we should strive towards.  He must be respected.  He was a human being that must be respected.  It drives me crazy to sit through history class and leadership class and listen to all of these other individuals addressed (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, Hitler, George Washington, etc.) for their exceptional leadership and sacrifice, yet modern culture refuses to print and teach content about Jesus Christ. HELLO! He was the greatest leader that ever walked the face of this earth.  He set the example for every single individual that has followed Him.  He, single-handedly, built the framework for what leadership is and how we should strive to live our lives!

I could ramble on for hours about this first point, but the basics of this first fundamental are simple.  We must recognize and give validity to the man, Jesus Christ.  He was a human being that deserves every single person on this earth’s respect. All spiritual and religious components aside, He was a human being that must be celebrated. Because He did it all correctly. And He never failed.

How, then…you may be wondering…was this human being capable of such perfection? How was He able to perform all of the acts that He did and resist all of the temptations? How was this man capable of living so flawlessly? Well, that leads us to the second pillar of our foundation…

(to be continued)

My Story (part 17)

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:4,7

Two hours into my drive, my mind was exhausted from juggling all of the information that had flooded over me during the new year. I had yet to take it all to prayer because, in my ignorance, I wanted to figure it all out on my own.  I wanted to have a “game plan” going into my conversation with God so I could be prepared to dodge anything outside of my comfort zone.  (I’m amazed at how patient He is with us 🙂 ) Finally, I gave up on trying to put the puzzle pieces together on my own.  Disgruntled and frustrated, I turned off my radio, let out a grunt, tossed my game plan to the wind, and dove into prayer…

What do you want from me?! What are you asking for here? I have been faithful, I have been following You, I have been disciplined. What more do You want?!  I’m trying the best I can…I’ve already sacrificed so much…what more can I possibly give?!

With all of that pent-up frustration finally off my chest, I took in a deep breath. I have come to learn, in my spiritual walk, to never expect an immediate response. That patience is key when you are searching for answers. Patience is key to a balanced sense of discernment.  That is why it stunned me when, as quickly as I had cried out, He responded!…

Give Me the next level of control…

In those 7 simple words, my heart was moved. It felt like an earthquake shook through me and the doors of a dam within my spirit burst open.  It was simple. Beautiful. A request of unbelievable magnitude, but of humbling nature.  I had been faithful, yes. And I had been disciplined in the pursuit of Him, yes. But what He was asking for was more.

You see, we live in a world where complexity is synonymous with success. Where things must be so complicated in order to encompass inclusion for all. Where there is no simple answer or definitive position, because everyone has an excuse or an exception or a reason as to why not. But God is the exact opposite. He is simple. He asks for so little. It is all very black and white. He grants us free will; grants us the right of choice.  We can choose to follow Him, or we can choose not to. If we choose to follow Him, what He asks for is simple–to give Him complete and total control.  To empty ourselves of “us” and allow Him to fill us with His light. He desires to protect us and to love us, unconditionally. He desires a relationship with us–for us to give Him the reigns and allow Him to lead us for His purpose. Though that is a request of unbelievable magnitude since we, as humans, are wired to be self-centered and in control, it is also a request of beauty. He just wants us to love Him and to trust Him. He asks for nothing without the promise of greater return. Return in our earthly lives, and return in the form of salvation.

With those 7 simple words placed on my heart, I was almost embarrassed at the ignorance I had shown in my state of self-serving frustration.  His request was so beautiful. True, I had given Him some control earlier in my walk, but He had worked on my heart in that time. He had been preparing me, slowly and methodically. And now, He had deemed that I was ready, and He had asked for just a little bit more. You see, God is not so ignorant as to think that the minute we acknowledge Him, we are all capable of turning our lives over to Him 100%. That is nearly impossible. He evaluates us, assures us that He will never give us more than we can handle, and tailors a walk for each of us.  He prepares us, nurtures us, and when we are truly ready for His next request, He asks for more from us.

If I could have fallen to my knees in that moment, I would have. My body was made limp in His moment.  It took me a while to compose myself, but when I did, I stepped back into prayer…

I am Yours. I give You control. I love You so much. Help me to love You more. I know You. Help me to know You more.

I must have prayed that prayer 500 times within the next hour. I was so humbled at His feet.  It was all I could do to express the energy in my heart.  I asked Him to reveal to me what He wished for me to know, and I promised Him I would fulfill His request.  Then, I waited…

(to be continued)