Blog

Bridging the Gap

I remember watching this video for the first time. I had to have been a freshman or sophomore in high school and I remember one line in particular really stood out to me. It didn’t stick in my memory because I related to it, but rather because I couldn’t relate to it.

You are never too much, and you are always enough.

Too much? Enough?

Up until then I had never felt as if I were too much and had for the most part always felt like I had a lot to offer.

However, several years later, one too many heartaches and a few too many tears brought with them an awareness; a painful awareness of my own seemingly problematic complexity.

One too many minutes of looking in the mirror, a few too many numbers on the scale under my feet, and several crushing rejections told me I had plenty of room for improvement to be considered enough.

I finally understood that line as the lies seeped into the depths of my psyche.

                I am too much to handle.

                I am not enough.

Somehow you can feel both of these lies at the same time even though they are opposite of each other, but that’s how the devil crafts his deceits – to defy logic and resonate in our hearts rather than our minds because the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).

What’s the first thing we say when given encouragement or advice as we’re faced with trying times?

“I know, I know…” (eye roll included)

We know the truth.

I knew I was cherished by God. I knew my beauty was found in His Spirit rather than my outward appearance. I knew because of Him I had worth. I knew He understood the depths of my complexity and loved me all the same.

This was logic.

This was head knowledge.

We find these truths in the Bible and repeat them to ourselves over and over again hoping that they will eventually find their way to our hearts.

However, rather than embedding themselves deeper and deeper into our hearts and minds, the repetition serves as a numbing agent, causing us to lose touch of the freedom these truths offer.

The 12″ gap between the mind and heart is overwhelmingly immense, but we try nonetheless to bridge the gap and always end up with an abundance of knowledge and a waning spirit.

I wish I could say that there is a point where our hearts might fully believe the truths we pound into our minds, but unfortunately that won’t happen this side of heaven.

For now, we only know in part…(1 Corinthians 13:12).

We don’t know the fullness of these truths because we are still human beings; our hearts are still deceitful and will always lead us astray.

We only know the freedom these truths offer in a limited sense; restricted by our finite minds. There is a day though where we will be able to inhale the fullness of God in entirety and feel our hearts pulse with living, breathing truth.

One day.

Until then, rather than dwelling on all that we are not, we should focus in on all that God is and all that eternity has to offer us.

Our identity; our worth does not lie within our own ‘enough-ness.’

Our worth lies just beyond our reach.

Our worth lies at the edge of the parted waters (Exodus 14:21-22).

Under the looming walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:15-20).

In the shadow of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45-50).

At the doorsteps of Nineveh (Jonah 1-4).

At the foot of the bloodied cross.

Our worth lies where our own ability ends.

Our worth lies where Jesus Christ begins.

I can’t tell you anything more than you already know my friend.

You know the truth.

God’s love for you is more beautiful, more powerful, and more satisfying than anything this world has to offer.

So when you’re feeling as if you are too much and want to hold back, don’t.

When you are overwhelmed by your own failure and inability, look up.

Go ahead.

Allow the power of Jesus Christ to bridge the gap.

“Dare to be a little more of your honest to goodness, daring, real, raw, messy, imperfect, complete, and wholly loved by God self.” –Anonymous

 

A Bigger Narrative

Have you ever picked up a book and started reading in the middle of any random chapter?

After falling behind in high school English class, I was forced to pick up in the middle of a book so that I could understand just enough for the upcoming quiz.

In hindsight, I can now see why I didn’t end up doing very well on that quiz.

I tried to understand a very large narrative within the span of just a few chapters.

In my attempt to do well on this quiz, I tried to grasp the essence of a story that the author intended to be understood over the course of several chapters read in order from beginning to end.

One chapter does not capture the essence of an entire narrative.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

In the same way, one chapter of our lives does not capture the essence of God’s bigger narrative, not only for our lives, but in all of creation.

God’s narrative goes so far above and beyond anything that we can comprehend, yet we so often try to squeeze it into just a few short chapters of our lives; attempting to understand everything through a very narrow perspective.

Just like an author, God has a storyline intended to be read entirely – in order from beginning to end. However, in our efforts to control our own existence, we tend to select a chapter of our lives and build it up to be our entire narrative.

This can be both good chapters and bad chapters.

Some people chalk up the essence of their being to what good they have done. The value of life is often summed up by professional success, relationships, reputation, social position, accumulation of things and experiences, etc.

In the eyes of the world, a lot of these things are good! We often look to those Instagram-worthy lifestyles and determine that their lives as a whole – their entire narrative – is one of success and achievement.

On the other hand, we also find that some lives succumb to the negative chapters.

Tragedy brings a progressive life to a screeching halt.

A mistake snuffs out any ambition for success.

A run of bad luck eliminates all hope.

This happens all the time as we take a small chapter of our lives and because it is all we can see or grasp with our finite minds, we believe that it is the essence of our story – failure, mistakes, and disappointment.

I’ve dealt with this many times as I often fault to the latter.

The whole concept of relationships and friendship is one saturated with disappointment and heartache for me. Many previous chapters of my life have had a lot of disappointment in this area and if I’m not careful, my heart will start to believe that this is the essence of my story – disappointment.

This is a dangerous cycle to get into, yet one that we are so easily susceptible to.

Yet, we have this hope.

We have this hope that there is a bigger narrative out there.

Not only is there more to the story, but the Author is inherently good.

I think all too often we lose the essence of that word – good.

Think about it – God is good. He is always good. He was good, He is good, and He will forever be good.

How comforting is it to know that the God who has already written our narrative is a good God? Our fear of losing control causes us to forget that He is good though, and therefore our trust in Him is crippled.

To the degree that fears have a place in our lives, we neither believe that God is good nor know deep in our hearts that He loves us.  –William P. Young

When the fears take over, we latch onto the only things that we can see and feel, and often that’s the life chapter we are currently in.

For some it’s a good chapter and pride builds up in the heart.

For others it’s a bad chapter and future chapters suddenly turn bleak and hopeless.

However, in the midst of fear and uncertainty, if we could remember that there is a bigger narrative – a greater purpose – rather than holding onto the only things our limited minds can grasp, we will instead hold onto the unchanging promises of our good Author.

We will remember that in all things, He is good.

And with that hope, we will trek through the chapters knowing them for what they truly are – single chapters in a very large scheme.

Whatever chapter you are in right now – good or bad – remember that it is only a chapter. There is a lot of book left my friend.

There is a bigger narrative and the God of all goodness holds the pen.

This We Know

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

How often do we say this and actually believe it, or act on it for that matter?

We like to think that our hearts are content in all circumstances, but when push comes to shove, we find ourselves striving harder and harder towards fantasies of satisfaction.

Why is this?

Why is being content so hard?

Why does even the mention of that word cause a collective sigh of frustration?

I remember in late High School or early college working my regular night shift at Perkins Bakery. I was in the back baking up some pies while listening to the radio like usual when the song Overwhelmed by Big Daddy Weave came on.

I had heard this tune before so I didn’t really pay much attention to it until the lyrics began to pull me out of my distracted thoughts.

 

I hear the sound of Your Voice

All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise, oh God

All that You are is so overwhelming

 

I delight myself in You

Captivated by Your beauty

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

God I run into Your arms

Unashamed because of mercy

I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

 

It hit me. It was more than just head knowledge this time, it was a true, deep-rooted belief in my heart – I. Am. Content.

I was content right then and there, in the Perkins Bakery covered with flour. I was content and fulfilled with all that Jesus was in my life.

I was content with simply knowing Him and seeing a future with only Him in it.

Contentment is hard though. One minute it’s there and you’re happy with life – where you’re at, who you’re with, and where you’re headed.

Then out of nowhere something changes and suddenly what you were aiming for and patiently (or anxiously) waiting for is gone; replaced by something different and often times not what you were hoping for.

Contentment is pretty hard to maintain, but perhaps that’s because it is dependent upon things that are ever-changing.

In order to be content in all circumstances we need to find our contentment in the One who is consistent in all circumstances.

A couple of weeks after this ‘ah-ha’ moment, a friend of mine started dating this guy she had been talking to for a while. It was cute and all, but gosh – I wanted that too!

And wouldn’t you know it, my contentment somehow shifted from the all-sufficient God to an ‘ideal love story’ I was certain was just around the corner.

*insert exasperated sigh*

I told God that I was content in Him, but not in Him alone. Sure, I could be content with God for now, but eventually the thing that I really wanted would come and only then would I be fully, completely satisfied.

Jesus was enough…but only for now.

It wasn’t until about a week ago though that I realized my misinterpretation of what it means to be content.

Often when we ask God to make us content, we think in terms of what we want. We have this mirage of happiness – marriage, children, white-picket-fence lifestyle, a career, or wealth – whatever it may be, we have it dangling in front of us as we run around in circles trying to attain this idea of happiness.

We say, “God, please make me content in waiting for this or for that. Make me content and patient to wait on You.”

But what are we really saying?

Our contentment is based on that idea – that ‘ideal, perfect life’ that we have pictured for our future, and yet we wonder why our sense of contentment falters in the face of change…

We are asking God to make us content on our terms, and according to Paul, that’s just not how it works my friend.

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

Contentment is not found in waiting for what we hope will be.

Contentment comes when we find fulfillment in what we know to be true today; right here, right now. Today.

So we ask ourselves, “What am I absolutely certain of in this moment? What are the truths that I can hold onto right now?” Consider the following…

**This is an excerpt from my prayer journal on June 14, 2017 –

Help me to be content in the only things I know for sure:

  1. You are good;
  2. You are faithful;
  3. My purpose is to glorify Your Name;
  4. Today I am alive;
  5. Tomorrow I do not know.

This we know to be true.

Each of these statements are unchanging, never-ending, and ever-present in each moment of our lives.

These truths are consistent in all circumstances. You will never find yourself in a situation where any one of these is not true.

Therefore, if your faith and contentment is found and nurtured on these consistent truths, then believe it or not, you will have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

This we know, and it is in this that we find true contentment.

The Love of a Father

I remember looking on as my older brother, who was probably six or seven at the time (putting me around the age of five), pulled himself out of the pool and turned to offer me a hand.

We had managed to make our way over to the deep end against the very strict rules of our parents, and at the age of five, I hadn’t quite mastered the skill of swimming yet, though I had no fear.

My trustee floaty was keeping me safe.

Or so I thought.

In an attempt to get out of the pool, I slipped off my floaty and before I knew it, was sitting at the bottom of the deep end.

At five years old I suppose I should have been freaking out, but I wasn’t.

I very distinctly remember sitting there, not really knowing what to do, but knowing without a doubt that my dad would come.

I remember thinking, “…any minute now. I know he’ll come…”

Sure enough, my dad was there, pulling me back up to the surface where my mom was looking on. I knew it had scared them terribly, but I was as calm as ever.

I knew he would come.

And he did.

I’ve found myself at the bottom of the deep end many times since then. Not in the literal sense of course, but rather in my walk with Christ.

The deep end can be a very scary place. Our vision is blurred by the confusion and tears, we can’t seem to breathe and every time we try, we suffocate on the pain that’s overwhelming us, and the surface is so far away we find ourselves way in over our heads.

We sit at the bottom and hope to God that we are rescued, because we know we don’t have it in us to rescue ourselves. We don’t know how.

So we panic.

We fight to get back to the surface on our own, and when we’ve fought long enough, we simply give up in our frailty and accept what our lives have become.

I’ve been in over my head many times, fighting back with every ounce of strength I’ve had left because that’s what we do as Christians, right?

We fight.

We fight to be okay.

We fight to be happy.

We fight to have it all together.

We fight to have hope.

We’re always fighting, and for what? Why?

I think little 5-year old me was onto something.

She knew that there was someone who would, without a doubt, rescue her. She had no need to fight; to try and get back to the surface on her own because she knew the love of her father.

She knew that her father loved her too much to leave her there at the bottom of the deep end.

Jennie Allen sheds some light on this topic in her book Nothing to Prove. She explains that the reason we can rest; the reason we can sit calmly at the bottom of the deep end is not because the job is easy. We have a long ways to go to get back to the surface and it is certainly not because we have the capability of doing so on our own either.

No. We can rest because we know the love of our Father in Heaven.

I think too often we forget that God doesn’t want anything from us.

He isn’t sitting at a distance, allowing us to approach only if we’re okay, happy, have it all together, and practice hope and trust in Him without fault.

This is why we fight so hard though, isn’t it?

We think that if we’re not fighting, we’re not living passionately.

My friend, fighting and living with passion are two very different things.

In order to show my passion for baseball, I go to the College World Series with my dad and family every year for Father’s Day.

We enjoy ourselves; taking in the atmosphere, having our fair share of hotdogs, and making many wonderful memories along the way.

There’s not a whole lot of fighting involved in this scenario, is there? Sure, we might have to fight the crowd, but you get my point.

God wants us, He doesn’t want what we can give Him.

Instead of fighting to earn enough money to give my dad a ticket to the Series, I can say without a doubt that he would much rather go to the games with me rather than receive a ticket from me.

Jesus wants you. He wants to be with you.

When we quit fighting and rest patiently and contently in the knowledge of His unending, perfect love for us as His children, passion will come more naturally than breath itself.

To live with passion for Christ is to live with Him, not for Him.  -Jennie Allen

If you’re sitting at the bottom of the deep end right now, I want you to remember something. Remember that the God you serve is a BIG God; a perfect God, and an all-loving Father.

He doesn’t need your fight, He wants your heart.

I know it might hurt and I know it can be scary, but be at rest in knowing the love of a Father that loves His children way too much to leave them at the bottom of the deep end forever.

 

*This blog post is dedicated to the man who pulled me out of the deep end that day 18 years ago and has continued to remind me every day since then how much I am  loved by my heavenly Father. You have shown me how to live life with purpose and have taught me how to face the challenges with strength and humor.
I love you Dad!
Happy Father’s Day!

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

The whole idea of starting my own blog came from a small email chain between several close friends of mine. Since my nose is constantly in a book, I decided to start sending out daily emails with encouraging tid-bits that I had learned from the previous night’s chapter.

This was manageable.

With an English minor in my back pocket, I knew how to write, I knew every person who read my writing, and I knew how to tailor my writing for each of them.

Though it was all Scripturally-based, it required very little faith on my end.

Everything fell within my control and my understanding.

When God laid it on my heart to start expanding my reach from a few emails to blog writing, I was really excited.  I had grown to love sharing stories, lessons, and Biblical wisdom and couldn’t wait to start sharing that on a larger platform.

Eventually though, as I started taking the first steps toward this change, I began to recognize my own capabilities, which were nowhere near enough for this kind of ministry.

I couldn’t do this.

I didn’t have it within me to continually pump-out Godly wisdom week after week.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Believe it or not though, my own inability has turned out to be the best part of blogging for me and the only part that keeps me coming back week after week.

I have no idea what I’m doing, and that’s okay!

In fact, it’s more than okay because it has opened up my heart in such tremendous ways. It has allowed the Holy Spirit to flow through me in ways that are nearly impossible to explain, but I’ll do my best.

All of my blog posts are inspired by someone or something. Most of the time I’ll get ideas from church services I attend or sermon podcasts I listen to. Other times, it will be through simple conversations with friends and family (that is why I always have a journal and pen on me).

The fact that I have to rely on God’s daily inspiration and intervention to provide me with the wisdom and insight I need for my next blog post has stimulated a whole new approach to life and dependence on God.

I see circumstances – good and bad – in new ways. I see people and my conversations with them differently.

Everything is inspiration, and I truly believe that is how God intended us to live our lives here on earth – in full anticipation of being inspired each and every day by His marvelous glory!

He is everywhere and in everything if we’ll only look to see. We can ‘see God’s heart ten billion different ways’ in His creation of man, not to mention in all of nature; earth, water, and space.

Once God plants an idea in my heart, I start formulating it through rapid note taking, doodles, and exploring different avenues until I eventually land on a solid platform.

Once I have my format, I start writing. I do what I like to call ‘word vomit’ (gross, I know, but it’s the best way to describe it). I just write and allow the Holy Spirit to take over.

By the end of my writing session, I’ll look back at what I’ve done and see a mess of ideas, but when I read through it, I see unbelievable beauty; as if I’m reading each piece for the very first time.

Each blog post is new to me; a new story, a new idea, a new facet of faith.

When I sit down to write, very rarely do I have a complete – beginning to end – idea laid out. I usually know how I’m going to start, but have to trust God to guide me to an end, and without fail He always produces a lesson that I need to learn.

God has spoken to me through my own work because I have to be unreservedly dependent on His wisdom flowing through my fingertips.

In other words – none of this is me. I am but a tool in His hands writing what He speaks to my heart through whispers of inspiration.

The God of all glory speaks when we completely depend on Him.

I literally sit down to an empty slate and fully expect Him to show up…

…and believe me, He does.

I recently had a friend describe to me her first experience with this kind of writing. She explained that once she started, she just kept going on and on and on and by the end of it, she looked over what she had written and didn’t see her words, but rather the words of God.

She looked at me with amazement in her eyes and asked, “is that what it feels like when you blog? Because if so, I now see why you love doing it so much, because the Holy Spirit moves so powerfully through that kind of unrestricted writing.”

I just smiled and nodded because that is the exact experience I get every time I write.

I get to feel the Spirit move through my fingertips; orchestrating a beautiful string of letters into words that inspire with wisdom and understanding that are far beyond my own capabilities.

It is an experience unlike any other.

Now, don’t think for a second that you have to write to experience this though.

Absolutely not.

I’ve just discovered that writing is my way of worshiping and drawing near to Christ.

There are so many other ways of doing this!

Music.

Art.

Creativity.

Dance.

Even exercise and working out.

The list goes on and on. God has created each of us with a unique trigger in our hearts; that thing we do that is our own personal act of worship to God Almighty!

When we fully embrace this kind of personal worship and follow its guiding to the point where our ‘faith is without borders,’ we experience the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit, molding our passions into a purpose that will glorify God to the fullest and inspire others to do the same.

My Purpose Is Not My Own

It is a well-known fact for anyone who knows me in the slightest that I love my books. It could even be said that I have the makings for my own personal library, as my bookshelf is nearly overflowing with these wonderful gateways into other worlds; into the sagas of our past, the present realities of others, and many marvelous future creations.

I love my books.

I also love sharing my books. As with any library, I encourage friends and family to borrow any book that catches their eye.

I wasn’t always like this though. In fact, I used to be extremely stingy with my books and sometimes even now I revert back to that.

It all changed when someone lent me a book. It isn’t necessarily the book itself that sticks out in my memory but rather the selfless manner in which it was given.

I remember this friend handing me this book as I promised to return it as soon as I was finished. I can clearly recall their words as they told me to pass it on rather than return it.

God had used that book in their life. Now it was time that it be used in someone else’s life.

A number of things come to mind when I think of what God has done in my life to get me to where I am today. The string of events that had to take place for me to be who I am and to do what I do can be traced as far back as I can remember, all of it forming in front of me a purpose.

We get wrapped up in this though, don’t we? We get wrapped up in this ideology of purpose.

Our God-ordained mission in life.

Our ministry.

What our impact in this world might be.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” right?

Fueled by this mindset, which only seems to be further stimulated by the national stance of self-empowerment and social tolerance, we find ourselves contorting the whole idea of God-ordained purpose.

We build up such complex, detailed images of what we think our purpose in life should be that we miss it all together. When manufactured in our own minds, our purpose will naturally bend towards self; centering on self-glorification and praise.

That is not God’s purpose for your life.

Consider Joseph. He actually saw his future – his purpose even – through the lens of visions and dreams. In his mind, the only way to a life of power was through self-empowerment.

His dreams showed that others would bow down to him, therefore he was destined for a life of authority and praise. However, in his decent to the lowliest status of all, his expectations for what he thought his purpose was created a sort of blindfold over his heart.

He couldn’t see God’s purpose for his life but only the pitiful remains of his.

Through many years of trials and lessons, God slowly removed that blindfold to reveal the glory of His purpose – the preservation of His people.

We find in Genesis 45:4-5 that underneath all the heartache of betrayal and abandonment, God had a purpose; a redemption story if you will, for Joseph’s life.

“I am your brother,” Joseph said, “whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

That’s the thing about God’s purpose for our lives though, isn’t it? Very rarely do they actually have anything to do with us, but rather for those around us; those we touch and those we have the chance to inspire and love.

Joseph could have easily missed this had a remained self-absorbed. He could have missed all that God had in store for him and for His people if he had remained stubbornly focused on his self-proclaimed purpose.

Whose purpose are you focusing on?

Is it the purpose you have created in your own mind or is it God’s?

It could even be a purpose contrived on God-given insight, but has since evolved into a self-righteous, self-glorifying purpose that has no resemblance to God or His glory.

To align with Christ, our focus must remain outward towards others instead of inwards toward ourselves. It must remained fixated on His glory and on loving those around us.

This is not an easy thing to do and often it is the most selfish endeavors that are the hardest for us to see.

But God reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

God does not bring us through the fire solely for our benefit and for our growth.

He does not show us love and mercy just so we can bottle it up for ourselves.

He comforts us and strengthens us so that we can then go and do the same for others.

Marshall Segal, an author for DesiringGod.org considered that ‘maybe the greatest earthly good that God will do through the things we have endured will be in someone else’s life and not our own.’

God’s will for your life; His very purpose for your existence may in fact have very little to do with you. -Anonymous