Tag Archives: grace

5 Things I Learned In November

5 things I learned in november

1. I actually really like wearing scarves. I found one from fashionABLE (if you’re not already familiar with them, you should definitely check them out!) this year that I love and have been wearing constantly. And I have no plans of stopping anytime soon.

2. I started reading the Mary Poppins book series and they are crazy fun! It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, so I have no idea why I haven’t ever read the books before. AND, did you know that there’s a new movie coming out (Saving Mr. Banks) about the author of Mary Poppins and how the story got turned into a movie? I’m a little excited about it!

3. My theology is less than perfect. Sometimes I fear it may be more than just a little out of whack. But God is still sovereign. And there’s sweet grace in the correction.

4. The afternoon at the barn with Emily P. Freeman and her sister, the Nester, and their families was so worth it. If you haven’t read my post about it yet, you should. And now I’m trying to figure out how to make available a few hours of more intentional soul space on a regular basis. Because it’s important. And necessary.

5. One of the things I am most thankful for (all the time really, but especially in this current season) is the constancy of Christ.

What did you learn in November?

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*linking up today with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky as we all share different things we learned in November*

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Jesus > Religion

I don’t remember exactly where or how I first came across it, but it must have been within the first 48 hours of it going viral and I do remember my first reaction after watching Jefferson Bethke’s “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” video.

And that reaction? Well. Honestly, it was mixed.

But before I tell you more, if you haven’t already seen it, you should watch it for yourself:

{Side note: for those reading from a feed reader or via email, you may need to click over to the actual post to view the video.}

I liked a lot of what this guy was saying. I liked the medium he was using. I liked the art he was making. I liked the audience he was reaching. But I didn’t like exactly how he chose some of his wording.

Mostly because I thought he had the potential to spread a really incredible and truth-filled message (um, straight up Gospel!) to a generation that desperately needed to hear it. But I was afraid he would be just another voice coming across as negative and critical of The Church. And that just wasn’t okay.

Even at the time, though, I didn’t necessarily think the heart behind the words was that of a critic, I was just afraid that’s how it would come across, how it would resonate with a generation already prepped for attack. But as he was immediately thrown into a larger spotlight than he (by his own admission) ever expected from one video, and as he handled it with humility and grace well beyond what I would have expected from someone his age, it became pretty clear pretty fast that he had a lot more to say about the truth of the Gospel and walking with Jesus.

And that is where this book comes in. In Jesus > Religion: Why He is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough, Jefferson Bethke gives context to the poem as he tells much of his own story … parts of his past and his journey beyond the shame-inducing rules of religion into a freeing relationship with Jesus.

My story is very different from Jefferson’s. Our backgrounds, our childhoods, our growing-up locations and cultures, our church experiences, and our faith journeys really couldn’t be more different.

And from that perspective, there is much of Jefferson’s story that I just can’t relate to very well. But because of that, he can also speak to a completely different audience than I could ever hope to reach – a young audience who is searching and skeptical and absolutely needs someone who gets them in a way that Jefferson most certainly does – and I love that! This is what being a part of the body of Christ is all about. Because even though we’re speaking to different audiences with different interests and we’re using different language and experiences to do it, at its core, our message is really very much the same: it’s all about Jesus Christ. Who He is and what He’s done.

Through this book – and from what I can tell, through his life – Jefferson starts a conversation with a new generation in a new way of an eternal truth that is not only relevant, but essential. He unashamedly points to Jesus who satisfies our every longing. He passionately talks about radical Grace as someone who has experienced it first hand and knows of its amazing power. And he unapologetically encourages getting past merely following the rules and traditions of religion to actually know the person of Jesus Christ.

To know Him. To follow Him. To trust Him. To live for Him.

To experience the pure freedom and joy in walking out the Gospel.

“That is the scandal of grace. I fully believe that as a Christian you can take advantage of grace, but when you’ve truly tasted it, you never will. When you’ve experienced the joy and life of Christ in you, then nothing is as satisfying anymore.” – Jefferson Bethke

No matter how differently we spread that message to our respective audiences, that is a message I will always stand behind!

If there’s a young person in your life struggling to figure out what living out the Gospel in their everyday is really all about, this book would be a pretty great place for them to start. You can find the book and more info here.

And it would be hard to beat Jefferson’s recommended reading list at the end!

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*note: I received a free copy of Jesus > Religion in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions in this post are mine.*

God IS

Sometimes life is hard.

Sometimes life is unspeakably beautiful.

I AM WHO I AM

Most of the time, the categories and seasons of this life aren’t so mutually exclusive. And somewhere in the middle, in the midst of the everyday that refuses to be so easily defined, I often feel like a hot mess of back-and-forth, up-and-down, I-don’t-know-which-way-is-up.

The inner tension and turmoil can become unbearable as I try to process and make sense of and unpack this life as it changes and unfolds.

There is so much that I just plain don’t know or understand.

The more I flesh out questions that don’t have easy answers, the more I try to make sense of how my life intertwines with others, the more I try to understand God’s plan, the more I realize how little I actually DO know and how far I have to go.

And it’s in those moments that I come closest to understanding the reality that I’ll never actually get there.

At least not this side of my eternal reality.

Because the “there” that I seem to be aiming for, that seems to exist only within the confines of my own brain, that demands nothing short of near-perfection and getting every little thing right all the time, doesn’t actually exist.

It’s a twisted perception that assumes if I just had this or were just better at this or could just improve this, life would suddenly be as it should be.

But that’s just not right at all.

And the weight of the error in that sort of thinking is downright crippling.

But on the other side, there is relief and release when I can come to grips with even a dim understanding that I’m not supposed to have answers to everything and that I’m more-or-less supposed to feel helpless and out of control.

Because the hard and unpleasant and I’m-not-even-sure-how-to-live-with-it truth is I am helpless and out of control.

I don’t call the shots.

I don’t control this life.

No amount of over-analyzing or self-evaluating or hyper-spiritualizing will EVER change that.

Yes, if I identify areas in this life that need work, by the grace of God and by the power of His Holy spirit within me, I can be changed. He can and will continue to sanctify me, to make me holy, to conform me to His image.

But I can’t get there by a sheer force of will or by maintaining the ideal schedule.

As I consider the future … having dreams and setting goals and making plans … it’s easy to become so task oriented and short sighted that I fall into the trap of thinking if I just make the plan and do the work, I’ll achieve success. Or conversely, that if I want something and don’t do anything about it, I’m just not driven or ambitious enough, and might as well accept failure.

But interruptions and inconsistencies and inconveniences are just part of life. That’s where God so often chooses to work. And the more I try to do all the right things or to have all the right answers, the more my focus ends up back on myself and my gaze slips from HIM.

This life still isn’t and never will be about me.

And when my eyes are rightly fixed on the Lord, when I’m seeking Him first, while I don’t have all the answers and I certainly still lack understanding, somehow perspective is restored and I can rest in the reality that I don’t make my own path straight. I can dream within the context of desiring more of Him (for myself and for others), but I don’t control how that plays out in this life nearly as much as I think I do.

So this is where I once again admit that I just don’t have many answers at all.

That this life is most right when my eyes are steadily and assuredly fixed on Christ.

That this life is more about seeking His presence than seeking all the right answers.

That this life is so much better when I trust the details and directions to His plan and His way.

That this life is not for me to make sense of because I’m not in control of it.

But in the midst of the unknown of this life, the one thing that I do know, that I can say with absolute assurance, that is beyond comforting is this:

God IS.

In all of His sovereignty, goodness, and holiness.

He’s the Great I AM, in control of this life and this world from beginning to end.

God IS.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
Exodus 3:14 (ESV)

What I’m Learning In the Everyday

Lately, it seems I’ve been in one of those seasons that is mostly characterized by the routine of the everyday.

what i'm learning in the everyday

Oh, sure, I have a couple of trips planned for later this year, I’m doing my fair share of dreaming big (which if I’m being totally honest, still feels a little different and uncomfortable because I’ve always tended more towards the practical and logical side of, well, everything), and there are new things potentially surfacing in the distant horizon, but they’re not right around the corner. So I find myself doing life right now in the everydayness of it all.

It’s good. It’s full. It’s rich. It’s demanding.

It’s just the everyday.

But I want to be wildly, unashamedly, with-abandon passionate, faithful, and focused on the Lord in the midst of this.

Because this is real life. This is relationship. This is walking with Him, trusting Him, depending on Him even when it doesn’t always “feel” like I need Him. Because I do. Desperately. In each moment of the everyday.

And perhaps because of this particular season, when it comes to living this life worthy of my calling, I find myself in the middle of learning so much that serves as a constant reminder of how unfinished and how desperately-in-need-of-Him-each-moment I really am…

I’m learning to keep my eyes fixed on Christ … even though I’m really bad it.

I’m learning to live by the Spirit in each and every moment.

I’m learning to accept the grace upon grace that Christ so freely gives.

I’m learning to walk by faith and not by sight … even when my calendar is too full and I feel like I’m operating in survival mode.

I’m learning to ask God for big things according to His will.

I’m learning to see the beauty in the small things that I far too often overlook.

I’m learning to love well by allowing Christ to fill me, so that I can be emptied on others.

I’m learning to rest in the fullness of Christ rather than attempting perfection by my own strength.

And I’m learning to crave more of Jesus Christ above all else because He is the only One who truly satisfies.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John 3:30 (ESV)

“With Me”

with me

I don’t know when it happened. Or how it happened.

It certainly wasn’t intentional. I barely noticed it.

But somewhere along the way, as the future became less clear, as everyday life became a battle to survive, as my own selfishness became too prominent, I began holding the Lord at arm’s length – at a perceived safe distance. There, but not present. Close, but not intimate.

And in the moment when I realized it, as my heart sank and the tears flowed, all I could think was, “I know better.”

But that was just it.

The “know better” part of me gets caught up in thinking I can somehow do this on my own. That I can get close to God, do all the right things, build this relationship, and somehow win His favor, His grace, and His love.

And yes, my heart’s desire is to please Him, and that’s a really good thing, but when it’s born out of trying harder and doing better and achieving more, it’s all wrong.

I can’t do any of this on my own apart from Him. I am nothing and have nothing apart from Him.

And I don’t have to do anything to win His favor. I already have it.

The grace and love that I too often try so hard to earn is already mine to rest in and enjoy.

Yet I still somehow had been approaching God as if He was like me, as if because I had been holding Him at a safe distance, He had been holding me there, too.

But for the record, He is nothing like me.

He is not made in my image. He is not made at all.

He holds all things together, this Sovereign Creator, and He doesn’t put me in a corner when I mess up or stray or fail.

Yes, He disciplines like a loving Father to teach me, to prune me, to sanctify me, but He doesn’t leave me in the process.

Even when I leave Him.

So this holding Him at a safe distance?

It’s wrong. It’s self-centered and self-serving. It’s lacking in trust and honesty and brokenness and humility. It’s hiding. It’s prideful.

None of which works with Him at all.

God never intended for me to view Him in my image. He never intended for me to project onto His character the human elements of my own.

He is not bound by my rules. He does not regard me the way I far too often regard Him.

He IS better, higher, greater.

He is God.

He IS.

But in the words of Chris Tomlin, “The God of angel armies is always by my side. The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine…”

And yes, that’s said with a healthy dose of reverence, fear, and adoration. It’s said with the recognition of His righteousness, His holiness, His sovereignty, and His greatness.

But He’s so close – He’s here – before me, beside me, behind me.

He’s not a God who will allow me to keep Him at a distance.

And in that very moment of recognition when I stripped it all down bare – when I removed all of the complicated layers, the circular logic, the selfish needs and desires – and prayed, the purest question on my heart was simply:

“God, where do you want me?”

His answer wasn’t a particular job or a physical location or a ministry direction. It was just this:

 “With Me.”

And with that, all I wanted was to collapse into His everlasting arms, completely exhausted from all of the trying, to rest in His presence with the renewed realization that this life is so much less about what I do for Him and so much more about simply knowing Him and trusting Him through all of the unknown details, to allow Him to spill over into every area of my being.

He’s not lost on this journey and He hasn’t lost me. He sees the whole, while I only see a small part. And He’s already written the ending.

And no, complacency is not okay, but maybe contentment is somehow settling into the details that He’s already written and just walking with Him along the way.

Yes, He’s the great God of angel armies, but He’s also the ever present, never leaving or forsaking, God with me.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)

Joy Unspeakable

joy unspeakable

When my head hit the pillow last night, I immediately thought that what I really needed was a do-over.

But from the crazy bad mood of yesterday that fear would have had me believe was more of a permanent shift not to be easily overcome arose a calm, yet firm, hope and possibility for today, and the opportunity to leave what may have just been a bad day behind and move on.

Turns out the finding of joy in that photo was no mistake.

Only the Lord can answer a prayer for more of His joy and more of His peace that I didn’t even fully appreciate I was praying because the sentences didn’t seem complete enough and the words didn’t seem eloquent enough. Though I most certainly was praying … from a place of greater desperation than I realized.

And then this morning, this:

“For from His [Jesus Christ’s] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

John 1:16 (ESV)

Not exactly a do-over. But joy unspeakable.

Thoughts redirected and a heart full of hopes, possibilities, and dreams.

Deeply felt, but loosely held.

Because they’re better in His hands.

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*linking with Emily Freeman for tuesdays unwrapped at chatting at the sky*

{Day 25} I Wish I Could Tell You…

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

I wish I could tell you that after reading that email and realizing this was not going as I had expected (um, at all), I immediately got on my knees before the Lord in quiet confidence, acknowledged His sovereignty, laid my heart out before him, and entrusted the “what now?” to Him.

But I didn’t.

Oh, ultimately I did get before the Lord, but only after first reacting rather poorly. Seriously. In that moment, on that day, I was a hot mess about the whole thing. Just ask my mother.

And in the next several days that followed, I was anything but confident … in the Lord’s direction thus far, in my ability to hear His voice, in how to discern where He was leading next, in how to follow His plan.

I was spiritually and mentally exhausted.

But His grace was sufficient in the midst of that weakness … my weakness.