What Stays and What Goes?

In the midst of the urgent call to stay put, I’m moving— literally. Shoes, folded curtains, and notebooks lay strewn about my apartment floor awaiting their temporary cardboard homes. Although exhausting and chaotic, relocating brings about a freedom rarely found in the comfort of familiarity. It’s a fresh start that paves the way for me to decide what stays and what goes.

With packing, comes purging.

Tonight was movie night. I eighty-sixed the popcorn—in my case, kettle corn—and cozy blanket and grabbed a cute cuddly brown box instead. I pulled in a deep breath as I plopped down in front of my t.v. stand. Faux fireplace ablaze, I popped open the entertainment door and grabbed the first handful of DVD’s, of which only a few made it into the box. I didn’t linger on the titles that were placed into the toss pile for fear that I’d lose my nerve to really throw them away. Both my favorite movie and show found themselves among the discards and to be honest, I was pretty sad about it.

As I scanned the covers of my newly departed, a question was breathed into my spirit: Are these movies worth separation from me?

I firmly placed the remainder of the gotta go DVD’s into the pile in which they belonged. I couldn’t trade intimacy with God for a few carnal laughs and a fight in the back of a limousine. Every single day, I pray for God to purge my heart of everything that separates me from Him, and almost everyday, I feel like I’m being told to let go of something else. My eyes are welling as I write this because sometimes, I feel like I’m losing myself to God. With His righteousness living on the inside of me, at times I’m barely recognizable to myself. And on the brink of 30, having to choose a new favorite movie has me a little unglued.

Though I sometimes feel lost, I know that I am never more found than when I am lost in the savior’s love. This move isn’t just about a physical relocation, God is calling me to a deeper level in Him. But there are things I’m holding onto currently that will have no place in this next phase. So just as I am getting rid of all the items in my home that don’t serve a purpose to the person I am in Christ, God is ridding me of carnal ways that don’t serve a purpose in His kingdom.

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

Luke 17:33

Desert Jewels

The year is 1850 and the town is Bucktown, Maryland. After escaping slavery and fleeing to Philadelphia one year earlier, Harriet Tubman returns to Dorchester County to guide her family through the same wilderness that led her to freedom. Both her life and liberty are at stake as she risks being discovered on her trek back into the place that had long imprisoned her freedom. Upon her arrival to Bucktown, Harriet is greeted by a grim reality: Her husband has remarried, is expecting a child, and has no desire to return to Philadelphia with her. In her anguish, Harriet questioned why God would allow her safe passage all the way to Maryland for a husband who no longer wanted her. Her plans shattered and heart bewildered, Harriet beseeched her savior:

Why, Lord, did you bring me all this way to rub mud in my face?

Have you ever ended up in a desert when you thought God was leading you to a promised land?

Desert: Any area in which few forms of life can exist because of lack of water, permanent frost, or absence of soil.

Believe it or not, there are many creatures who have adapted to the desert’s environment and are able to withstand its harsh conditions. According to San Diego Zoo, desert critters rest in burrows during the heat of the day and some creatures get the moisture they need from the foods they eat, so they don’t need to drink much water. How does all this desert mumbo jumbo apply to you and me, and what did it mean for Harriet Tubman at a time when her own plans had come to an abrupt standstill?

Let’s see if we can piece this together.

The total collapse of Harriet’s plans gave way to momentary stillness. It was an opportunity for God to interject and reveal to her his purpose, despite her plans; a way for Him to redirect her course. Sometimes, we become so headstrong in contriving our own paths, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is muted by our desires. However, Romans 8:28 tells us that all things (even our missteps) work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose. God used the fuel of Harriet’s desires to reposition her onto the course He’d carved out for her. When her husband declined her invitation to return to Philadelphia with her, although heart broken, she instead gathered many other slaves and helped them escape to their freedom. This act (according to the movie, “Harriet.”) was her unofficial inauguration to the underground railroad. And thus, by way of the desert, the heartbreak, the struggle, and the devastation, Harriet stepped into the plan God had predestined for her all along.

So, what about you and me?

As the insect burrows itself beneath the ground during the heat of the day, has God not called His children to take refuge in the shade of His love and protection when our spirits are exhausted? Psalm 46:1 declares that God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Likewise, John 4:14 tells us that he who drinks the water given by Christ will never thirst. The desert creature is not at all dependent upon the desert’s conditions for its water, for its thirst is met by the food it eats. As Christians, we must learn not to look to our circumstances to clothe, feed, or provide shelter to us. All that we need will come from the hand of our Father and His bounty is not dependent on our surroundings. In all seasons of life, have faith that God is working on something far more eternal than our temporary discomfort and pain. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

In writing this post, I did some research on the desert and what benefits (if any) lie in its perceived wastelands. I can’t lie, it took me more than a few google searches to find the desert’s advantageous side, but I was able to gather a little somethin’ somethin’ for us. According to Science.com, “The dry condition of deserts helps promote the formation and concentration of important minerals.” Furthermore, “Minimal vegetation has also made it easier to extract important minerals from desert regions.”

Any particular Bible verse coming to mind?

Okay, there’s a few, but I’m going to go with Romans 5:3-4.

Ya’ll. There are jewels in the desert!!! My lowest moments have produced my greatest faith. My relationship with God has grown far more during my seasons of drought than when I am replete in all my needs. I’m telling you, it’s something about the trenches that extracts the gold. It’s the testing. It’s the stark realization that what we think we are capable of obtaining on our own, will be lost at our hands. It’s the straight up desperation. Stripped of a job, a home, a husband, a wife, or our health, we come to realize that what we are left with is all we need. Don’t worry, that sentence got stuck in my throat too. God, His will, and the fruits of His spirit are all we NEED to survive and receive the crown of a faithful servant. Everything else, and I mean everything else is gravy.

Let’s not circumvent the desert in order to swim in empty seas, because sometimes it’s the desert road we’ll have to take if it’s the promised land we wish to see. And really, an ocean is just a desert in disguise.

Gird your loins, and get to digging, for there are jewels in the desert!

Delayed Obedience is Disobedience

Instead of attending church and licking the plate of a home cooked meal, I spent Easter Sunday in Rochester, New York, held up in a hotel room binge-watching the first season of “Gilmore Girls.” As usual, I’m late to the amazing television series party.

Relax. It’s not like I’ve never heard of the show. A few of my friends watch the reruns on Netflix. I’m a, “Law and Order: SVU” kinda girl myself, so the idea of romance and drama in a small town named Stars Hollow was never all that riveting to me in the first place.

Anyhow, I digress.

During a discussion with my two flying partners the day before, the topic of mother-daughter relationships came up and the less than perfect bond between Emily and Lorelai Gilmore was referenced. The flight attendant who had seen,”Gilmore Girls” raved about how great it was and assured me that it was “clean” and “You could watch it with a five year old.” A wholesome show at least in part about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship? Now the Gilmores had my attention. I figured, what the heck? I’ve got thirty hours to kill in Rochester, why not give it a try. So I committed to watching at least one episode of, “Gilmore Girls” on my layover.

Then I watched eight.

In the days following my newfound obsession, I found myself being constantly lulled to sleep by the heart warming banter between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Night after night, I was peeling my body from the sofa and dragging myself to bed. One morning, after one of those nights, I commenced my quiet time with God. Propped up against the chaise at the end of my bed, I bowed my head and began with thanksgiving. As my prayers transitioned from one topic to the next, the Holy Spirit began to interrupt my thoughts. I stopped talking and listened. Then, I heard. Per the command of God, I had to stop watching, “Gilmore Girls.”

Yes, fully involved and several episodes into the second season, God said no. Completely crushed, I told God, Okay. I’ll give it up…next week. What I heard next was as clear as the cloudless blue sky currently hiding behind my living room curtains: “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” I knew then that I had to decide in that moment whether I was going to heed the voice of God or give in to my own desires. And so, my short lived affair with, “Gilmore Girls” came to an abrupt halt.

It may seem silly that God would ask me to give up something as seemingly harmless as a t.v. show, but it didn’t come as a complete surprise to me. My spirit had already been stirred by some of the minor themes in the show. I’d simply chosen to overlook them because they weren’t that bad. Two things in particular that bothered me about, “Gilmore Girls,” was the promotion of sex outside of marriage and promiscuity.

Because of it’s prevalence, fornication (among many other “little” sins) is sort of…expected these days. Not a big deal, even. Yet God is reminding me that we don’t answer to the culture or times, we answer to His word. And if there is anything we watch, read, listen to, participate in, or entertain that is not in line with His word, then we are out of line. Period, no exceptions. We as Christians should not be entertained by the same things as the non-believing world. We cry out for more of God as we continue to embed ourselves deeper into the heart of this world. Then we wonder why He feels so distant…

I believe that God is challenging his people. Calling our bluff, if you will. Are we really willing to lay it ALL out on the line to follow him? Are we willing to give up all the things that keep us grounded in this world? The answers to our prayers to forge a deeper relationship with God lie in our obedience to him. We fall into step with the spirit of God when we learn to trust and believe him the first time. In his time, not our own, for he is our commander in chief.

War movies are my favorite to watch because I love the art and organization of war and seeing how tactical skill and knowledge lead to victory…and sometimes defeat. One of the most vital rules of battle is to follow the orders of the commander. A Lieutenant/Colonel is not given rank over a group of soldiers, but rather, earns their title by proving that they are capable of leading in battle. They have more knowledge and insight than the majors they reside over, which makes it imperative that their subordinates heed their guidance.

If a Lieutenant/Colonel yells to his platoon, “Take Cover!” and one of his/her majors asks why, exclaiming, “I don’t see the enemy!” it’s likely that that individual will either lose his/her life or become severely injured.

Likewise, if God tells us to stop, go, yes or no, we need to be in a position to act immediately. Christians are taking unnecessary fire from enemy lines because we are disobedient to our commander, which is ultimately an indication that we don’t trust Him. If God tells us to move out of the line of fire today and we don’t move until tomorrow, we will have already been burnt. But grace. Even in our disobedience, He is a good God, for He allows us to get burned without being incinerated. Still, why waste time nursing wounds that can be been avoided through obedience. We can say all the prayers, read the Bible in every translation, go to church three times a week, and still not get any closer to God because we don’t listen.

Before God can transition us to the next level, He has to trust us to trust Him. We cannot sustain ourselves in the place He has purposed for us. Giving up, “Gilmore Girls” wasn’t easy at first, but I’m glad I did it. I’ve given up a lot of worldly pleasures (some things I’m still working on letting go) this year in obedience to God. And I’ll be honest, it’s hard and it hurts. It sometimes feels like I’m being stripped of everything that makes me, me. But I guess that’s the point. The Christian journey isn’t about becoming more ourselves, but becoming less like us and more like Jesus.

When I first started working on this post, I typed up some questions related to obedience to get my writing juices flowing. Feel free to answer them in the context of your own life and walk with God. Share or not, but ponder please.

  1. Why is it important to obey the Holy Spirit at the time of prompting?
  2. What are the consequences of being disobedient to the Holy Spirit?
  3. Should God entrust us with inside information if we can’t follow His instructions?
  4. Is it possible that we wait as long as we do for our desires because God is waiting on us to show that we are capable of being obedient?

What’s Next?

Doesn’t it seem like every year goes by faster than the last? 2019 is encroaching upon us and I can hardly remember what went on in the last eleven months. The most memorable part of this year for me was the beginning. At midnight on January 1st of 2018, I was in the shower. I got out, fell asleep on the couch and I swear, it feels like I’m just now waking up.

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Seriously, where did the time go? I remember opting out of making any resolutions because I didn’t want to look failure in the face when (due to lack of effort) my “life goals” didn’t materialize. I figured I’d just do my best to be better. But if I’m being honest, I could’ve tried harder. Nonetheless, here I am.

That being said, if you’re reading this: congratulations, you’re still here too! We’ve still got time. How much, I can’t be certain, but carpe diem! I think sometimes we get too involved in our long-term goals. Truth is, we don’t know if we will ever get to kiss the brow of what we hope will one day be. Lately, death feels imminent. The axiom tomorrow isn’t promised has become more real than ever. There used to be a time when I couldn’t imagine death happening to me but those days have drifted away like a sweet aroma carried by the breeze.

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Normally, a topic so morbid would evoke a sense of sadness, but in this season of my life, it has awakened an urgency: an awareness, that my purpose can’t wait. It simply does not have the time. Every part of me recognizes the fragility of life and more than I fear not being successful in the eyes of the world (or myself), I panic at the thought of not completing the earthly assignment given to me by God.

This panic has prompted me to make a true effort to put my wants and dreams in perspective. I have to ask myself, do the things I want most align with the purpose God has given me? Not always. I’m currently fixated on moving out at the beginning of next year. The search for somewhere to live consumes a good portion of my day and when I’m not searching for places to stay, I’m busy making photo collages of home decor. It’s pretty bad. All the while, I’ve been given an assignment that I’ve been steadily neglecting.

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Next year, I’ll be making one resolution: Everyday make a conscious choice to take the next step toward my purpose. Whether it’s something as simple as a prayer, reading a novel, or writing the first sentence of my book, I want to step into my future, not leap. There’s invaluable worth in the baby steps. We get so caught up in dreaming “big” that we forget big was once small. So chill.

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In no way am I encouraging small aspirations. We serve a God who is not limited by any human notion and he has great plans for each of us. I just don’t want us to forget that great doesn’t necessarily mean big or famous, or wealthy, or a partner. It simply means surrendering to God’s plan for our lives and taking whatever step is next to fulfill it. That’s greatness. I think we’ll find that if we do this, we’ll gain more than we could’ve ever attained on our own.

So let’s forget about New Year’s resolutions: what can we do right now (and before the year is up) that would be a step in the direction of our God-given purpose?

I’ll go first. For me, it’s writing this entry. I didn’t feel like it and I’m not confident that it’s any good, but I’m going to post it anyway. Beside me are two notebooks, which contain outline drafts for my book, “90 Days of Reign.” I want to open them and work on my story but I can’t promise. Though it is, in fact, my next step and I don’t have forever…

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Thumbelina

Thumbelina is one of the most underrated animated films of my time. What with all the Disney movies hogging the limelight, I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Yet, even with the odds stacked against it, “Thumbelina” somehow failed to go unnoticed by my childhood. By the age of six or seven, I’d seen it more times than I could count. Today, I found myself absently singing one of the tunes from the film. Annoyingly enough, I only remembered one line from the song…”Dearie, marry the Mole.”

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I mentally flipped through clips of the movie until I came to the scene this song accompanied— before I continue, let me give a brief synopsis of the movie for the losers who haven’t seen it or read the tale.

Thumbelina- a girl the size of a thumb- tries to find her place in a big world where she doesn’t quite fit in. On a whim of a night, her angelic singing lures a prince to her windowsill. They fall in love immediately. Typical. They set up a rendezvous for the next evening, but before their tryst can take place, Thumbelina is kidnapped. With the help of a new friend, she escapes. As she goes about trying to find her way home and ultimately her way back to Prince Cornelious, she gets sidetracked by various suitors who attempt to convince her that she should marry them instead. Despite pleas and insistence that she wed one of the available singles, Thumbelina never loses sight and hope of finding her true love.

tumblr_opo359Kx6c1w8zoooo1_500.gifCringe-worthy, I know, but there’s a takeaway.

Back at the scene, an ostensibly well-intentioned mouse friend tries to convince Thumbelina to marry a rich, over the hill mole with an upbeat ditty. She uses a practical argument: stability (i.e. money) is paramount to love. And it almost works. Thumbelina prepares for the wedding ceremony, complete with a hideous coiffure and equally horrid dress. As she saunters down the aisle toward the biggest mistake of her life, visions of Prince Cornelius bring her back to her senses. “I’m sorry, but I can’t marry the Mole. I don’t love him!”

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My fellow singles, I encourage you to take a page from Thumbelina’s story. Don’t settle for available just because your wait has become wearisome.

Your person is out there. Don’t give up on the partner God has purposed for you. They’re worth the wait and so are you. Besides, a partner isn’t all there is to life. While a spouse may be a part of your destiny, all that God has for you is not wrapped up in that one dream. Venture out and see what God would have you do in this season of your life.

Whatever you do, please refrain from entertaining your wait with pointless dating endeavors.

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Sometimes it seems easier to take the reins of life into our hands, rather than wait around for God to deliver his promises. I’ve been there and I get it, but do your best to avoid falling into this temptation. Date with intention, not out of loneliness. If you’re yearning for companionship, draw closer to God. I know, no one wants to hear that, but a boyfriend (or husband for that matter) cannot fill a void in your life that is meant for God.

Remind yourself of Thumbelina. She was lost, and many times throughout her journey, confused about what was best for her. Nonetheless, she kept her eyes on the promise she would live happily ever after with her prince. Thumbelina held on to her hope. If you are God’s child and he is your hope, then I ask you, are you allowing His promises to guide your love life?

Stay focus. Know that God knows what you need more than you think you know what you want. Read that last sentence again. Don’t be afraid to reject who you know is not from God. People will tell you you’re too picky or that you have too many standards that are too high. Your spouse is God’s choice— not your mom’s, friend’s, aunty’s, or cousin’s—God’s choice. His choice, your decision.

If you get to a place where you’re tempted to enter into a relationship just to kill time, question yourself. Ask yourself why you feel the need to be in a relationship with someone who has no real potential of being your spouse. Take those answers to God in prayer and ask him to help you fill those voids with his love. But please, don’t foul things up out of impatience or loneliness.

Stay strong in your singleness. You have not been forgotten.

 

P.S. In doing research for this post, I found out that one of the reasons Thumbelina was going to marry the mole was because she was under the impression that Prince Cornelious had died. Still though, if you’re a believer, has not death lost its sting? Things not panning out the way you want or expect them to is still not a reason to settle for anything less than what God has for you.

Off to watch, “Thumbelina.”

Rescued by the Storm

I’m awake. Thankful as I am for another day, I had every intention of being asleep at this early hour. It’s a cool fifty-four-degree morning here in Calgary, Canada and the sun is in its final moments of rest. Us humans, however, are already up and at it, scrambling toward productivity. I can hear the grumbling acceleration of car engines dragging along the black road just outside my window. Headlights peek through the small opening in the sheer hotel curtains, and some undecipherable fluorescent green sign across the street is pulling my focus away from the task at hand.

I snoozed my alarm at 6 a.m. but couldn’t fall back asleep. I figured a little reading would help ease me back into unconsciousness so I opened the Bible. The Old Testament. I ended up in the first chapter of the book of Jonah. I’ve heard the story of the man who was swallowed by an enormous fish a million times, but I’m embarrassed to say that this morning may have been the first time I read it for myself.

As I read along, my eyes lingered on one word in chapter 1, verse 17:

Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Provided?

I reread the verse trying to understand the use of a word meaning provision when Jonah’s situation couldn’t have seemed more hopeless. God made arrangements for Jonah to be swallowed by a sea creature? I needed clarity, so I continued my reading into chapter two.

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Our prayers to God generally include pleas for him to keep us away from ill-intentioned people and harmful circumstances, but not often enough do we pray for God to save us from ourselves. I love that I’m about to quote Whitney Houston, but something she said in an interview truly comes to mind. When asked what form of substance abuse was her biggest devil, she responded:

That would be me. It’s my deciding, it’s my heart, it’s what I want. And what I don’t want. Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision. So the biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy. And that’s how I have to deal with it.

Love you Whitney.

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She was right, and although there is a very real enemy plotting against us, most of our problems are self-created through stubbornness and disobedience, just as it was with Jonah. God had given him a message to deliver to the people of Nineveh and he refused. He ran away from the will of the Lord and thus found himself tossed overboard a ship in a raging storm.

What I realize is that God’s idea of saving doesn’t always look like what we envision. God saved Jonah by sending a deadly storm and putting him in the belly of a sea creature. Personally, that’s not my idea of a life saver, but hey, I don’t make the rules. I’m sure Jonah would’ve appreciated dry land as a form of rescue.

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But the question is would he have responded to the call of God had God simply placed him on dry land? Sadly, I think not.

Jonah 2:1 says that “From inside the fish Jonah prayed…” That storm was Jonah’s opportunity for rescue, his moment to regain sight of his purpose. And in it, he cried out to God.

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Out of fear, we sometimes run from God’s plan for our lives. Decisions made in anxiety will always lead to disobedience. That rebellion is the catalyst to many of our storms. But what I love about God, is that he uses even our worst experiences to strengthen our relationship with him. Nothing we endure is wasted. He is a resourceful God, who uses the ugliest and most shameful parts of our lives to teach us and refine our faith in him. Because he is a merciful God, he provides a rescue in our storms. More amazingly, the storm itself is often the rescue.

Many times, it’s not until we hit our lowest point that we begin to heed God’s guidance. Most of my spiritual breakthroughs have come in the form of storms I thought I could weather. Whenever they proved to be too much for me, God has always been there, waiting to embrace me with open arms. And it’s in his presence that I was given the strength and faith to trust and obey his will.

The next time you’re in a storm, consider the possibility that you are also in the midst of your salvation. You must choose not to focus on your circumstance, but the God who has the power to pull you out. Trust that through the bad weather, God is realigning you to his will for your life. Remember that the Lord commanded the sea creature to vomit Jonah up. When it did Jonah had found the strength and courage to deliver God’s message to the city of Nineveh.

Know that when God allows your storm to spit you out, you won’t come out empty hearted. He will have prepared you for whatever challenge lies ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling Light

 

In March, I spent two days at Newark Liberty International Airport completing recurrent training: a dreaded but necessary requalification course required annually by all flight attendants. Never a fan of school, I huffed and puffed all the way there on that first day, but by the time class was over I realized how light I felt— literally.

 A normal workday would find me weaving in and out of the ever-crowded Newark airport, my forty pound luggage dragging behind me like a fractious child. But because I wasn’t actually flying anywhere, all I’d brought to training was a backpack to house my wallet, a notebook, some snacks, and a blanket.

Eager to soak up the rest of the day away from work, I galloped down the escalator and hurried to meet my uber driver at arrivals. I shrugged my bookbag off as I slid into the car. Leaning back, I sunk into the worn seat as the driver eased on the gas and the airport faded out of view. Wow, that was seamless.

My temporary dismemberment from my suitcase had given me the freedom to walk and maneuver as I willed without having to factor in their extra weight. On the ride home, I couldn’t help wishing I had access to the science used in the movie, “Honey, I shrunk the Kids.” Of course in my case, the kids would be my annoying luggage. How much easier my life would be if my bags weighed less than a pound and fit in my pocket.

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Putting aside silly notions, I thought of more realistic ways to lighten my load. As I began taking a mental inventory of the items in my suitcase, I found my thoughts drifting off to the less obvious baggage I tote around daily: the unecessary bulk I carry in my spirit.

We spend so much of our lives internalizing weight that was never ours to carry. Our spirits weren’t created to support life’s burdens, yet we bathe ourselves in the worries and trials of this world expecting to be cleansed.

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Hard as it may be to grasp, we don’t possess the antidote to not even a single of life’s troubles. Blinded, we sometimes think we have a responsibility to carry the load on our own, but that couldn’t be farther from what the word of God says.

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Anger, unforgiveness, and abandonment are a few of the more recognizable poisons we hold onto, but it’s the worries we think are natural and harmless that mature into beasts over time. Constantly stressing over money and bills, the future, health, our kids, marriages, and employment— all these normal worries carry heft as well. With time they ossify our spirits and we begin to block the blessings God wants to bestow upon us. Philippians 4:8 instructs us on what our thoughts should be consumed by.

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Giving our lives to God means trusting him entirely. Not only with the big things, but with the minutia of our lives. We cleverly disguise our pain, making sure to evenly distribute it throughout ourselves so that no one will notice the extra weight. We can’t hide from God. He formed and knew each of us before the foundation of the earth. He has purposed each of our lives for his glory. God is not perplexed or intimidated by our pain. However, we must make the choice of whether we want our struggles to be barriers or breakthroughs.

I see so many Flight Attendants hobbling through the airport with their luggage. It’s usually the ones who have been lugging around three and four pieces of baggage for twenty-five years. The weight and strain catches up. The baggage, if we let it, will attach itself to us like barnacles. Thank God though, our pain doesn’t have to be irreparable. We can opt to surrender our excess weight to God and let him deal with it. Trust him to deal with it. Know that He is more than capable of giving us the peace that we need to released our baggage.

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Millennial.

Millennial is a label I’ve grown to hate. Unless it has to do with teaching the Baby Boomers how to work their smartphones, the title has become synonymous with spoiled, entitled, brats.

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I wish I could disagree, but unfortunately, that definition isn’t entirely inaccurate. Yet, what I find far more pertinent than defining us, is figuring out how in the heck we got like this in the first place. How did we become such self-absorbed, pretentious individuals? I’m no Social Psychologist, but being a millennial myself, I do have a few theories on how we wound up a bit of a hot mess, and what we can do to remedy it.

1. Reach for the stars…they said.

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We were sold a dream. When our teachers and parents told us we could do and be anything, we believed them. We were inadvertently brainwashed into believing that a sure and certain path would lead us to lasting happiness. So you can imagine our devastation now that real life has pied us in the face. We put all our eggs in one very promising basket and things aren’t panning out, so we’re busy falling apart. Maybe no one said it, but we were made to think that following our dreams would be easy: graduate high school, go to college, get a career, find a spouse, buy a home, have some children, and run off into the sunset. No one told us we’d be here- drowning in the waters of a reality we were shielded from. We didn’t know there’d be bumps in the road or mountains not ours to climb, or how painstakingly long we have to water our seeds of success before they sprout. We’ve been convinced that happiness only exists in the grandest parts of life. If we aren’t doctors, lawyers, or some glamorous person who makes more money than they can spend, we diminish ourselves to nothing. The ordinary life has no appeal to us. No worth. The quotidian office or factory job is devoid of the happiness we imagined for ourselves. We were bred to be more…they said.

2. Fear of being second best.

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As a result of our warped perception of happiness, us millennials are terrified of failure. Cat’s out of the bag that we aren’t all going to be Space Engineers and Pop Stars, but we’re not taking it all that well. In fact, we’ve resorted to a state of petrification. Unable to move because we fear that if we do, we’ll somehow end up in the same spot. If we don’t cross the line first, we’d rather not cross at all. Ridiculous, I know, but this runs deep. Us millennials don’t do second best. And many of us would prefer to remain stagnant than to finish last, or fourth, or fourteenth. Instead of finding contentment in gradual progression, we’re programming ourselves to find happiness in whatever is on the surface. Whatever is within arm’s reach.

3. Social Media

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Where to begin with this one? Social media is the most life-sucking activity millennials engage in. We’ve belittled our self-value to likes and embellished pictures. Everyone wants to be Instagram famous and many are even striving to make a career out of creating illusions of happiness. Social media has become a mask: a way to hide our real fears and deep pain. The approval of others is like a high for us. We lay our precious worth in the hands of individuals just as broken as we are. To us, the world we create on the internet is more valuable than the world we actually live in. Social media has become a way to escape reality, but what we escape into is even worse. Millennials couldn’t be more enthralled with superficiality if we tried. Having money, being pretty, having a nice body, going on vacation, and luxury have all become paramount to the real beauties of life: gratitude, kindness, and love.

How do we initiate change?

Honestly, change feels impossible most of the time. I pray for my generation, myself, and for our world. The Bible speaks explicitly about the current times. Our world was always going to get to this, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to shoulder one another in these trying times. We have to stop selling the dream that life is all glitter and gold. It’s messy and it’s hard and doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty of happiness. It’s not the world’s responsibility to create a happy place for us, it’s our decision to create a happy place in the world. If we expect only one part of our story to produce happiness for a lifetime, that one thing is what will kill us. Failure is just a part of life and it’s okay not to be first. That’s one of my biggest fears when it comes to my writing, What if I write a book that doesn’t make the New York Best Sellers list? It is a very real possibility that my book will not be on that list, but that won’t make it worthless. I’ve read and enjoyed so many books that never made it to the best sellers list. So what? I enjoyed reading them and they imparted new thoughts and ideas- that’s what matters. Millennials, let’s be brave and make an effort to stop hiding behind social media and deal with our real selves. So what, if we’re not doctors and lawyers- we’re people. Don’t trade the human experience for silver and gold. We have to find a way to be happy and grateful in the place God has us. Move forward when it’s time, but let’s not allow our now to dictate our forever.

I Can Only Imagine

I’ve heard the song a hundred times, listened to it sang at least five different ways, and yet have never been at all curious about the lyricist. “I Can Only Imagine” is the best selling Christian single of all time and arguably the song most beloved by followers of Christ. When I found out a movie was being made about the backstory of the song, I was immediately intrigued. I wondered What did someone have to go through to come up with the lyrics:

“Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine.”

On its own, the song depicts perfectly our wonderment of what it will be like to experience the glory of God in heaven. Yet, the context of the movie unveils a less apparent perspective. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I do want to share my takeaway from the film.

The movie “I Can Only Imagine” broadens the character of the song. It puts the spotlight on the linchpin of Christianity. Faith. It’s easy to preach and pray about, but it’s not always easy to have. Pleadings to God can become tedious when we are forced to live in the now. Our situations don’t yield to our prayers in our timing, but in God’s. A hackneyed phrase, I know. God’s perfect timing can sometimes feel like an eternity.

Imagining our prayers already answered is faith. The areas in our lives and in our world that we wish were different, can be. But praying isn’t enough if all we’re doing is speaking the words we’ve been taught to say. Belief is what anchors our prayers. I know it’s not always easy, but it is necessary. The next time you pray for something, question yourself. Do you actually believe- can you imagine- that what you’re praying for can be a reality?

I have a friend whose salvation I’ve been praying for for years. This friend once told me that Believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus. Talking to him about my faith is like trying to explain long division to a rock. A few months ago the holy spirit challenged me to change the narrative of my prayers: Instead of making requests for things you believe have the potential to happen, begin to picture everything you pray for as if it’s already happened. I started with my friend. Now when I pray for him, I imagine him kneeling at the altar of God, both hands raised to heaven, praising the Father. I do the same for all my prayers. Picturing my requests have made my prayers more fervent, more believable, more hopeful.

So just as the Holy Spirit challenged me, I challenge you: imagine. Paint a picture with your prayers and hang it up on the walls of your mind to create a reference point for your petitions. I will never forget the scene I created the first time I prayed for my friend’s salvation using my imagination. I pictured my prayer as if it were real and since then, for me, it has been. It’s simply a matter of waiting for it to come to pass. 1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that Love suffers long… Don’t give up on your prayers. Imagine what you already know to be real by your faith in God.

Running to God, not from Him

As a child, one of my first lessons in morality was honesty. My mother put an unusual emphasis on telling the truth. I know it’s standard for any half-way decent parent to instill veracity in their children, but my mother really hammered it into her four kids. She’d tell us, “There’s nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you.” To further drive her point, she’d give us these insane scenarios in which her love would abide: “If you killed twenty people, you could tell me and I would still love you.”

So growing up (and even now) it was rare that I lied to my mother. When I did, the guilt would gnaw away at me until I ran to her confessing, “Mommy I’m sorry! It was me who drank your root beer!” Of course, swiping a soda was a minor offense, but I was always astonished by how easily she forgave me. My apologies usually ended with my mother enclosing me in her arms or gently grasping my face in her hands and looking into my tear filled eyes to remind me…nothing.

That seed of unmitigated love ingrained in me as a child was the blueprint I stumbled around trying to comprehend God’s infinite love for me. Even now, as a somewhat seasoned Christian, I still find myself tripping over God’s love. An ineffable love so overwhelming, that at times I flee from it. I feel guilty for being on the receiving end of such a limitless affection.

It seems like my relationship with God is constantly on the rocks. There’s always something to fix or improve. I hardly ever feel satisfied with my contribution to the union. When I take too many steps in the wrong direction I think Oh no, I’ve done it this time and hide my face in shame. There I stay for days, sometimes weeks or months, until God coaxes me out of my hiding place and back into his presence.

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  Recently, God placed a pause in my heart: anchored it in order that we might have a conversation about my distorted idea of his love.

God’s love for us far exceeds the potential of any human affection we could ever hope to receive. There’s no shame in his love and it abounds in grace and forgiveness. There’s nothing we can do, no sin we can commit that would diminish his love for us.

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It’s much easier to read those words than to walk in them. When we give in to sin, it’s sometimes easier to stay there than to confess that we messed up- again. But it’s in those moments that we should be running into the arms of God, not from them. God knows our sinful nature and he knows that we are not capable of resisting on our own. He invites us into his arms when we feel burdened and overcome by sin. His hand is gentle and yearns to correct us with the love of a father.

There is no better feeling of relief than knowing that we can disclose all the messy, ugly, and sinful parts of ourselves to a God who will transform our faults into his glory. Trust him. Trust that God can paint our pain with his love. When we feel most vulnerable, most confused, most tempted, most carnal, God is inviting us to hide in him and let him fight our battles. Our hearts cannot be hidden from God and there’s no hope of refuge in running from him, only to him.

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Note to self.