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

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What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 2)

Alright, swinging back to where we left off–let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be a Godly man. Men, you will likely be very convicted by the next few blog posts, if you weren’t already by the first of this series.  But that’s okay–that conviction is a good thing. Let these words stir your heart. Take a good, hard look at yourself. Evaluate the qualities you possess and evaluate the qualities you could stand to work on. What you think and feel while you are reading this is between you and God. Don’t slip into defensive denial or over-compensation. Grow from the inside, out. And women, learn from these posts, as well. Evaluate these fundamentals. Evaluate what is important to you and the standard you hold yourself to.  We, as women, could save ourselves a WORLD of heartbreak and empty tears if we could be patient enough to step back and wait. Step back and learn discernment–study what a REAL MAN looks like.

I think this society is coming close to losing, if it hasn’t already completely lost, perspective of the true roles we are called to as men and women.  We live in a world that has taken Truth and distorted it entirely to fit convenience, personal opinion, and circumstance. We live in a world that has made it “okay” to bend the Word however we each see fit in order to “work” with our specific circumstance. In fact, we live in a world that has made it “okay” to ignore the Word completely. We live in a world that feeds off of the opinions and examples of other PEOPLE, rather than feeding off of the Truth and example of GOD. We need to go back to the heart of it all–we need to go back to the TRUTH. No bells and whistles, no exceptions and conditions, no reasons as to why or why not. We need to simplify life and go back to what God taught us was sufficient and good and pure. But, in order to understand our perfect roles, we first have to zoom in and dissect the individual components the profile of Godly men and women.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at a few examples of great scripture in 1 Timothy and Titus that lay out the framework for what a Godly leader looks like.  We discussed, too, that men are called to leadership. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I am not trying to downgrade women here (after all, I am a woman!), but I am clearly and explicitly stating that men hold the utmost responsibility in our world. A man is held to a standard of integrity, character, and responsibility in God’s eyes. How do we know this? Take a snippet from Adam and Eve, for example–the very first people on this planet.  First and foremost, Eve was literally created from Adam (Gen.2:23). And she was created specifically with the purpose of helping Adam (Gen. 2:18).  The Bible clearly states that woman was formed secondary to man, as a helper for man. Does it say that Eve was formed in order to properly lead Adam? No. Does it say that Eve was formed to compete with Adam for superiority? No. Does it say that Eve was formed to show Adam how it’s all done? No. The Word of God clearly, purely, and beautifully states that Eve was created to help Adam–woman was created for the betterment of man, to support man, to assist man. With that said, Genesis goes on to say that Satan tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the ONE TREE that Adam and Eve were instructed, by God, NOT to eat from.  After falling to temptation, Eve ate from the tree and gave the fruit to Adam and he ate it, as well. Why does this matter? What does this have to do with leadership? Eve is the one who made the ultimate mistake. Eve was weaker, she was easily tempted, and she was the one who was deceived. And she is the one who gave the fruit to Adam and led him to eat it. So really, Adam was just  follower in this situation. Want to know the kicker? When God called out to Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the tree, He specifically called out to the MAN (Gen. 3:9). The MAN was held responsible for both of their actions. Even though Eve was the first to eat, the MAN was called out by God for failing. It didn’t matter how it all played out, the MAN was intended to be the leader, and the MAN was ultimately held responsible.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because right there, from the beginning of time, was a simple and poignant example of the ways in which men and women were designed by God. Woman was made from man. Women were created to help men, not to lead them. Women are more vulnerable and susceptible to temptation and deception. Women are, by design, the weaker of the two. But men, don’t start pumping your chests and feeling high and mighty quite yet. This means that YOU bear even more responsibility and pressure and purpose than you can even imagine.  You were created to be leaders. You hold the assignment from our King to lead with integrity and character and passion and heart.  You have the responsibility to lead nations to Christ. You have the responsibility to lead Christ-centered friendships and relationships and marriages.  You have the responsibility to the added pressure of being the strongest. To many, that can likely seem like both a blessing and a curse. You may be wondering, how do I do it? How do I lead effectively? How do I lead as a Godly man and how does that leadership look different from what this society defines as leadership? How do I fill this role? In God’s eyes, you hold a noble position. As a leader, you take on a noble task. And with those words said, we are led back to 1 Timothy and Titus. I want to break down these two, simple scriptures into great detail because, as I said in the first part of this series, the provide amazing illustrations for what a Godly man looks like and is called to…

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task…

Boom. Right off the bat, the Bible is telling you that these following verses are trustworthy. That’s not a word to be taken lightly. This is the real deal. We are being called to takes these words with great weight. They are important, and they are True. All men should aspire to be leaders. As we just talked about, it is your position in your perfect design.  If you are willing to accept this responsibility, your heart is desiring a noble task. What, exactly, does noble mean? My good friend Miriam Webster says that the definition of noble is: having or showing high moral character such as courage, generosity, and honor. Are any of those words easy? Absolutely not. If it were easy to have high moral character, you wouldn’t see this society in such a state of filth. You wouldn’t see people glorifying fools and living in absolute sin. To have character requires taking the higher road, humbling yourself often, and recognizing the necessity of constant betterment and growth.  Being a Godly leader is NOT easy. It is a NOBLE task. A task of character, of courage, of honor. The Word of God is calling you step up and step out of your own tendencies and desires. The Word of God is calling you to be different.

2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach…

What does it mean to live above reproach? (I could write countless pages on this simple verse alone. Understand, for the sake of time, that all I am explaining is greatly simplified. I would challenge you to dig into the Word and grow in your understanding independently.) The word ‘reproach’ means blame, rebuke, disgrace, or shame. As Christians, we are all called to live above reproach. Afterall, that is what Jesus Christ did so perfectly. That is the example He set for us all.  Jesus lived over such reproach that, in His final days, when the Pharisees were trying to find any reason, whatsoever, to hang Him from the cross, they could find nothing.  If you read through the gospels, it is fascinating to see just how desperately the officials tried to find one single thing to pin on Him or use against Him. They couldn’t find a thing. Christ lived above such reproach that they eventually had to charge Him falsely with blasphemy because He truthfully told them He was the Son of God. Now is it possible for any of us to live as far above reproach as Jesus Christ? Absolutely not. Afterall, we are simply human. He was God. But we CAN strive to better ourselves and hold ourselves responsible for our actions and our words.  Let me hit you with a great, modern-day example of a guy that does a beautiful job of living above reproach.  Whether you’re a Tim Tebow fan or not, you cannot help but respect him for the example that he sets and the way that he lives his life.  Throughout his young life, throughout his college career, and now throughout his professional career, Tebow has done something that 99% of individuals can’t say for themselves–he has never given anyone a reason to say “I told you so.” or “I told you he would.” or “I knew he would, eventually…” The man was blessed with a platform bigger than any other college athlete has ever had, and with all the world waiting for him to fail or to slip up or to stumble, he proudly discipled. He remains conscious of every single decision he makes and every word that comes out of his mouth.  He lives with an enormous amount of worldly pressure, but he carries himself with that pressure alleviated by a gracious King.  That is something to respect. That is something you HAVE to admire.  Living above reproach is essentially “walking the walk” while your “talking the talk”.  Humbling yourself, at times, admitting your wrongs, and striving to purify your ways.  Men are called to live above shame, live above disgrace, live above blame. Be a MAN. Don’t give people ammunition to use against you by being your own biggest handicap.  Be accountable. Strive to live in truth.

(to be continued…check back in for the rest of 1 Timothy…)

“What Love Really Means”

“I will love you for you. Not for what you have done or what you will become. I will love you for you. I will give you the love that you never knew…”            –God

I was recently introduced to this song and absolutely fell in love with it.  What a beautiful message. Listen to each and every word….


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk

 

“What Love Really Means”

By: JJ Heller

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please
Could you send someone here who will love me?”

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She’s the woman whose husband has run away
She’ll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would’ve stayed
And she says…

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He’s waiting to die as he sits all alone
He’s a man in a cell who regrets what he’s done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
“Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home”

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said “I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you that I…”

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

What is Righteousness? (part 2)

So how is it, then, that we can be 100% righteous in our POSITION, but must constantly strive towards righteousness in our CONDITION?  We understand that the Bible is our “How To” guide on EXACTLY what a righteous life looks like, but how can we be both ‘all’ and ‘nothing’ at the same time?

Let’s first understand the righteousness of our POSITION in Christ.  As you saw on the graph, when we open our hearts to the understanding of God’s love and accept Jesus Christ, we are saved. And IMMEDIATELY, our righteousness shoots up to 100% and remains there until we die.  This is because, when we truly believe in the Son of God and believe in the opportunity of salvation, we are FILLED with the Holy Spirit! We spoke about this before–we are emptied of ourselves and we are filled with the Spirit! We are saved and our souls are sealed and protected from that point on. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Wow…WOW. So when this occurs, when we make the conscious choice to believe, we are 100% righteous in God’s eyes. How? Because He no longer sees us. He sees His Son in us. And His Son, Jesus Christ, is completely righteous.  So, in God’s eyes, our souls are 100% righteous and we are instantaneously forgiven. Forgiven for everything…forgiven for our past, forgiven for our present, forgiven for our sins to come.  THAT is the power of Jesus Christ and what His life did for us.  It offers every single person on this earth LIMITLESS forgiveness and grace, if they simply believe.  It offers us a seat next to the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE for all of eternity.  All it takes is one simple choice on our parts–a simple recognition that our life is far greater than ourselves.  A simple recognition that we are nothing without Him. A simple recognition that His sacrifice was not in vain, but was for the protection and freedom of our souls. With that simple recognition, we are saved. We are made anew and our lives here on earth can’t help but forever be changed.

Now we understand that our POSITION in Christ is unshakable.  We are 100% righteous, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are saved. Every single one of us who chooses to believe. Why then, does the righteousness of our CONDITION seem so volatile and inconsistent?

The answer to that lies in a topic we discussed before–our flesh. We are human. Every single one of us. And, since we are human, we are stuck in a form that is sinful. On top of THAT, we live in a world that is a whirlpool of sin! So we are stuck in a body that loves to sin, living in a world that sin thrives. Crap. We are 0 for 2 right off the bat. (Which should make you even MORE grateful that His forgiveness is offered so unconditionally, because without Him and His grace, we would be screwed from the get-go.) It is literally impossible to live an entire life free of sin.  Jesus Christ was the only man who ever has and ever will be capable of that.  Should that deter us from trying? Absolutely not.  And if you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, the thought of just throwing in the towel and saying “Oh well, I’m saved anyways. No point in trying to fight these urges to sin…” shouldn’t even cross your mind.  Because, as believers, we must recognize the importance of our role on this earth.

We must live our lives, every minute of every day, working to thin that sinful flesh and grow in our level of righteousness.  We must strive, constantly, to live more and more like Christ. Will we mess up? Yes. Will we be discouraged? Constantly. Will we be criticized and judged and put down? Every single day. Should we allow that to affect us? NO WAY! 🙂 You see, this line of righteousness is so inconsistent because we, as humans, are inconsistent. And we are surrounded by temptation, lust, desire, greed, sin, and everything earthly, impure, and temporary. And, unfortunately, we are surrounded by people who buy into all of that and can’t grasp the concept that it’s all empty.  But should we allow those people, who act in ignorance and unbelief, to affect us?…Or should we take the opportunity to share God’s love and grace and affect THEM? (I choose plan B!)

Lives can be changed and people can be saved if we, as believers, can be brave enough and bold enough in our faith to constantly strive towards righteousness in our condition and let God’s light shine on others. We, as humans, are the primary vessels for God’s light to other humans.  That is the importance of our level of righteousness in our condition.  If we can strive to live more like Christ, then Christ’s light will be able to reflect through us.  Through our actions, through our words, through our relationships, through everything.  And we won’t even always be aware of it! We can affect more people than we will ever know if we simply look in a mirror and work on ourselves.  If we simply open the Bible, understand the words, and work really hard to apply them.

IT’S NOT OUR JOB TO IMPRESS GOD. He already views us as 100% righteous. He recognizes we will mess up. He recognizes we will sin.  He recognizes we can’t do it perfectly. But our seat in heaven is assured.  We don’t have to “prove” anything to Him. It is impossible to “gain favor” with God.  We are already saved and assured salvation when we accept His Son.  IT IS OUR JOB TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THAT UNBELIEVABLE SALVATION AND TO ALLOW HIM TO USE US FOR HIS WILL.  It IS our job to work to thin our flesh.  It IS our job to turn away from the darkness and strive towards the light.  To humble ourselves and recognize we are nothing without Him. It IS our job to set an example for others and to teach as much as we can.  To WALK THE WALK, not just TALK THE TALK.  To grow and to learn and to live for HIM!

The level of our righteousness in our CONDITION is largely determined by us.  And it is completely indicative of the depth of our faith and our commitment to God’s will.  We aren’t trying to impress God, we are trying to show Him to others.  We are His vessels. We are his tools. We are His children.  And it’s our job to take even the slightest bit of the burden Jesus Christ carried and GLORIFY HIM!

So let’s stop making excuses. Let’s strive to thin that flesh. Let’s strive to improve our condition.  Let’s strive to glorify Him and serve Him.  To thank Him for the undeserved, unbelievable grace that He offers us. Let’s strive to live righteous lives!

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…

“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 2 of 3)

I want to keep the explanation of these three pillars as simple as possible.  There are countless scriptures and historical principles I could throw at you, but the belief of those scriptures touches on the third point, and that is something we have yet to cover, so I will write with simplicity and generalization for this segment.

The second pillar of our foundations is, easily, the most important.  It is the pillar that leads to our salvation and a principle that we MUST believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, if we choose to call ourselves Christians.  We discussed that pillar #1 is the recognition that Jesus Christ was a real human being. We also discussed that He was exceptional, different, and lived for a purpose. How was He capable of living so perfectly? How was He capable of performing miracles and walking with such guidance? That is explained in pillar #2…we MUST believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. The Son of God who died and rose again for US.

Now, this principle seems basic, but there is an incredible amount of information encompassed in that understanding.  It’s not enough to say, Okay, yes, I believe He was the son of God...and check that off the list. There is much to be understood if you recognize that truth. I will try to summarize:

First and foremost, this encompasses the belief that there is a God. A God so fantastic, it is impossible to explain His magnitude. A Creator of the heavens and the earth.  The Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End.  A God that cannot be described in earthly terms, because the human mind is incapable of understanding “Him”. (We only refer to God as “He” and “Him” because that is a simple way of wrapping the human mind around the concept.) God is not human, and is not one thing. God is an entity.

Secondly, this pillar encompasses the belief that, in order for God to “prove” to us, essentially, that He exists, He sent a portion of Himself in the form of a human being–Jesus Christ. A Son. This man of earthly flesh and blood was sent to teach. Sent to spread the Truth. Sent to show grace and mercy and forgiveness. Sent to tell all who would listen that God existed. He was sent to lead by example and to inspire. He was sent to share the Word of God. Sent to enlighten generations, for the remainder of time, that God was True and real and good. And He did so magnificently. He proved himself time and time again. He was also sent to die…which leads us to the next point.

The third belief that this pillar encompasses is that this man died for us. Throughout His life on earth, He made clear that He would eventually be crucified. He would eventually be killed. But He promised, to all who believed and to all who still refused to believe, that He would come back to life.  As the ultimate “proof” to everyone that He was, in fact, the son of God. Jesus Christ promised all that He would rise. And in His death, and His rebirth, we would be forever forgiven of our sins and capable of receiving salvation.  All we had to do was believe in Him. Let me emphasize the most incredible point here…in order for us to FOREVER be forgiven and to be SAVED and spend eternity in heaven, He asks us to BELIEVE in Him and to believe in God. To pursue Him and to live for Him. This man DIED for us, in the most brutal and shameful way possible, so that WE could be saved. In order for even the men who were murdering Him to be saved. I tremble at the thought. What an incredible King.

That leads us to the real zinger! 🙂 The best and most beautiful belief that this pillar encompasses…..HE DID IT! He was murdered. Crucified on the cross. And this man, this earthly man, “STUCK IT TO THE MAN!” haha. He rose! He came back to life, just as He said He would!! There are countless historical proofs of this. Countless documentations of this Truth. The man ROSE! The Son of God rose! He proved it to everyone! Incredible. In Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, it made all that He taught, and all that He shared in His life, completely valid. What is there to argue here? Jesus did it!

So we have now touched on the first and second pillars of our foundation as Christians. #1. The recognition that Jesus Christ was a real man. #2. The recognition that Jesus Christ was the son of God and that He died and rose again. As I said before, all three elements of our foundation are interconnected, so that leads us to pillar #3…the proof. Everybody seems to want the proof.  Now a days, to simply have faith that something happened seems like an impossibility to people. Everyone wants MORE proof. Fortunately, God planned on that. And He left us the greatest proof of all…

(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)

 

My Story (part 2)

“…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more…” Luke 12:48

With the control placed back in God’s hands, I entered college a semester early and began to adjust to a very new life.  Eager to explore all that my new home had to offer, I was consumed by the excitement and intensity of change.  I stumbled, as many young freshmen do, in finding my identity and learning the ins and outs of my new routine, but I eventually found my footing and focused on my passion–soccer.

That first spring was a time of adjustment and discipline.  Isaiah 40:29 says that “He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of he who has no might.” And that was most certainly what our King did.  He invigorated my spirit and inspired my heart. By giving Him control, I was able to not only grow in my faith, but physically as well, in a healthy manner.  I worked, relentlessly, taking no shortcuts in my development and, come fall, I was entirely prepared to step onto the field and help lead my team to greatness.

There were many astounding events that defined my first fall season as a Tiger–many overwhelming blessings God placed in my lap almost as to say, “Here. I am rewarding you for pursuing My truth. In turn, remember where to give the glory.” Little did I know, he was building me a very large platform from which to proclaim His name.  A platform that was almost overwhelming.  You see, in my second true game as a collegiate goalkeeper, I lined up to take a routine free-kick right outside of my box, and ending up scoring a goal! A 90 yard goal that took one bounce over the other goalkeepers head and made its way into the back of the net! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3E-dgyo_jw) A feat never achieved before. A feat I most certainly could not have accomplished with my own power and strength.  A feat that most clearly was designed by our King.  Next thing I knew, the goal was splashed across the television, magazines, and the internet.  Appearing as a #3 play on SportsCenter Top10 plays (an extreme rarity for women’s college soccer), strewn across the pages of Sports Illustrated, and linked onto YouTube, Break.com and countless other sites,  the energy of that play took on a life of its own. LSU Soccer was put on the map in a matter of moments, and the recognition and attention seemed to come to our team effortlessly.  However, the thing I was most proud of was something that nobody else saw that day….

I remembered, as I lined up to take that kick, looking up into the stands and seeing my daddy sitting right beneath the press box.  Now before I tell you of my most vivid memory from that evening, there are some things you should understand about my father. There are few other men as proud of their families as my daddy was of his.  Few other men that have sacrificed more to see their children succeed, and few others that have supported their children’s endeavors more passionately. My dad was my biggest fan, my cheerleader, my coach, my jury, my confidant, my disciplinarian, and everything in between.  He was a stoic man, a thoughtful man. A child at heart and an observer. A comedian with the most magnificent smile, but a private man often drowned in his inner-dialogue and thoughts. Though our relationship had experienced its share of strains and tensions (primarily due to the fact that were both as stubborn as a couple of mules), he loved passionately. And no matter where I traveled to play, my daddy was always in the stands.

But to digress, I saw my daddy beneath the press box as I lined up to take that kick. After watching the ball bounce into the net, the crowd erupted. The team came sprinting towards me, the fans shook the stadium with cheers and applause, and the announcer’s voice boomed over the loud-speaker.  However, in the midst of that explosion, I could only hear one voice in the stands.  A voice yelling with the echoes of a pride that is born so deep within our hearts, it cannot be imitated–only felt.  A pride and excitement so organic, so true, that you feel it’s vibrations in the fibers of your being.  My dad was yelling so loudly, I thought he was going to explode.  Looking up, I saw a smile strung wider than any I have ever seen before (I swear his teeth were touching his ears).  I saw a joy beaming so fantastically from him, he took on a glow. And as the game continued and the play progressed, that man was still screaming. Still cheering so loudly, I doubt the men in the press box could even hear themselves think.  Ten minutes later…still cheering. Oozing with a passion that seemed to be waiting to overflow.  A passion that a man, so disciplined in his demeanor, could not control.  A passion, I would later learn, I was fortunate to witness. For that is the moment of which I was most proud.

Throughout the rest of that season, my daddy was always there.  A relationship blossomed between he and I that was so beautiful and pure, I am humbled to have been a part of it.  The season was record-breaking–quite literally.  In my pursuit of the King, I broke every record ever set by a goalkeeper at LSU and began to contend for conference prestige.  I helped lead my team to new heights and was able to experience, firsthand, the power that athletics play in so many people’s lives.  There is no doubt in my mind that God constructed my platform for a much bigger purpose than I could even understand at that time.  A purpose I am fulfilling now, 3 years later.  There is no doubt in my mind that God fostered the improvement in my and my father’s relationship when he did for a very specific reason, as well.

At the end of my fall semester, I was on top of the world. Named All-American, Louisiana Freshman of the Year, Freshman All-SEC…I was invincible.  In a passionate pursuit of Christ, I felt I had the world figured out.

That was until I returned to Georgia for Christmas break and, on January 2, 2009, my daddy didn’t come home…