Following Jesus with Media & Technology

I am quickly becoming passionate about careful technology use. I believe that Christians need to be methodical about how they use technology because of its harms, but also because of its benefits. With its addictive nature, it can be harmful to the faithful walk of a Christian. If we’re intentional in our use, it can encourage brothers and sisters and bring outsiders to Christ.

Besides applying the principles I was taught growing up, I’ve done some soul-searching over the past couple of years about how I use technology. I’ve been trying to nail down how, when, and why I should use it based on Biblical principles and sometimes emotional preference. For me this includes movies, TV shows, social media, “web surfing” (do they still call it that?? I don’t even know.), and whatever else modern technology entails. I’ve spent the majority of my time being frustrated with technology and media because I was only seeing the harms.

Technology sometimes seems myterious to me, like it’s another world. Because of that it can also seem like there are no consequences.

And that’s not the case.


“Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

2 Corinthians 5:9-10*

That verse should be scary, but it should also be encouraging! We’ll answer for everything, but that everything does not have to be bad if we are diligent in Christ Jesus. Our deeds done in the body are all of our deeds, both on the internet and in the “real world.” I’m growing in this and learning how to be better so that I will answer well; I’m not perfect. However, I’d like to share some things that have been helping me in my journey.

Since I wrote this post three years ago, I have streamlined my view of technology. In the post I focused on the pros and cons, and I barely scratched the surface of my thoughts. I still agree with myself, but I wanted to lay out something more practical.

Guiding Verses and Questions

It’s important to look at technology through a Biblical lens, just like anything else that’s of the world. Before we pick it up, I think that we should examine ourselves. I usually have some verses in the back of my mind and questions I ask myself. I’m not going to address each of these, but they might be helpful in your own studies.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

  • Does this glorify God?
  • Is this helping me transform and renew my mind in the will of God? Or will it be harmful to me?
  • Is this a waste of time?
  • Should a Christian be thinking on the things that I’m bringing into my mind?
  • Am I sharing or bragging?
  • Am I glorifying God with my action?
  • Am I spending God’s time wisely?
  • Will this make me more like Jesus?
  • Would using this form of/taking part in this technology cause a fellow follower to stumble? Or would it edify them instead?
  • Am I entertained by what God hates? (a good one from Real Christianity** podcast episode “Setting Biblical Boundaries on Movies, Media, and Music”)
  • Is this deadening my joy? (Real Christianity podcast)

As Christians, we are to be completely filled with doing God’s will. It is to be our top priority and purpose. If everything else doesn’t align with that, then we have some changes to make. This is why my husband and I are so passionate about the media we bring into our home and the way we spend our time using it.

With technology’s promise of instant gratification, we have to be very careful about what we type, search, click, and post. Here are some ideas:

Prioritize Spiritual Wellness

My recent mantra on this: Bible most, entertainment least. I don’t want to look back at my day and realized I’ve spent more hours saturating myself with things of the world than with things of God. There is nothing wrong with using technology if its content doesn’t go against God’s will or hinder your spiritual growth. I think that one way to make sure that we’re using it wisely is to put spiritual health first. Read your Bible before picking up your phone to scroll. Don’t let yourself watch TV until you’ve read, studied, and prayed. If you listen to podcasts, choose a Bible-focused podcast or sermon to listen to for most of your day and save entertainment for last. You could even listen to the Bible through an app. I’m not suggesting a checklist, but I am suggesting stimulating your mind with godly things and choosing those first.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

Use Filters and Choose Media Carefully

Movies and shows are outside things you bring into your home, even if you don’t have physical copies. If you wouldn’t want a physical person coming into your home and doing or saying the things you’re allowing to be on your screens, then you probably don’t want a “simulated” version of that there either. TV can trick us into thinking that “it’s just acting,” “I’m not actually doing that,” or “it’s not causing me to stumble right now so it’s ok.” Friends, that’s not true. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could have the freedom to passively partake in sin. When we become Christians, we renounce the things of the world and replace them with godly things. If the actions and speech you’re seeing and hearing is doing a complete 180 from glorifying God, I encourage you to turn it off. Even filtering resources can’t take away ungodly plots and subplots or normalized sin, but those are available to use with careful judgment.

I’m also talking about music and podcasts. I don’t want the podcasts and music I listen to to go against God’s Word. If there’s filthy language or they’re singing/discussing something that Christians shouldn’t have any part in, then I assess that situation and turn it off or change the episode. Ephesians 5:3-4 says not even to let these things be named among you. We should have no part in ungodliness, including within the realm of technology.

Find Accountability

When I say accountability, I don’t necessarily mean someone you have to report to at the end of each week with a detailed list of the ways you used technology — unless you need that. What I really mean is find good friends and godly family help you and influence you. Do not underestimate the power of a positive friendship. I’ve found some friends (and a husband) who I know will tell me when I’m doing something that might not be a good idea. These people will not only tell me this, but also practice the same methods in their lives. Because of their influence, I have accountability in my own life. If I feel like I can’t tell my godly friends about some kind of media I’ve been using, then I might need to rethink my actions and consult the Bible. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” If that’s true, then how much more so can good company restore good morals!

On the other hand, if you have found a friend who encourages you to use your technology to God’s glory, thank Him for that friend! And then thank your friend. These are the kinds of relationships that will sharpen us in the Word and lead us closer to God, not farther away. I also encourage you to work on becoming that friend if you haven’t yet. Not only do we need to have these life-giving friends, but we need to be them so that we can fulfill the command to encourage.

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

Use iPhone’s Downtime Feature

This is my new favorite thing on the iPhone. It allows you to set a time limit to your phone usage. It’s great for setting personal boundaries if you have trouble breaking away from your phone. But, if you want to stop yourself from using your phone for entertainment (or mind-numbing) purposes during the work day, you can set it to limit time between 9-5, or the hours you prefer, and it will gray out the apps you don’t allow; if you click on them, it will tell you that you’ve reached your limit on that app. You will have the option to ignore for 15 minutes or ignore for the day, but it makes it that much more difficult to get into the app in the first place. I especially like this feature because it helps me avoid laziness and excuses like, “I could use a break” after doing work for five minutes. Instead, if I do sit down and start clicking, it gives me the “Time Limit” pop-up and gives me time to assess if I really need that break. I’ll at least think before I click.

Aside from Downtime, you can also access a setting that lets you block websites or apps on your phone. If you need your phone, but don’t want to be tempted to use a particular site, go ahead and enable that.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Colossians 3:23-24

Focus on Real People

No technology comes without real people behind it. If we can focus on the fact that what we’re sharing or liking is going to be posted for a whole lot of real people then we’ll probably be more careful about what we’re doing. We’ll become more selfless. It encourages me to remember this because I know that I could be using my time to discourage and cause someone to stumble or I could be lifting them up and sharing Truth (whether explicitly or by example). I could be choosing my entertainment choices wisely and encouraging others in the fact that it is possible to be fully set apart.

Those people you’re watching on TV? The author of that article? And the influencer you’re following on Instagram? Yeah, they’re real too. They’re all souls. If you focus on that, it could be harder to watch them sin and be entertained by it. The whole world needs Jesus, and just because we aren’t seeing each person face-to-face doesn’t make that any less true.

For example, if I’m on Instagram and I like a post, I try to make sure that what they’re saying and how they’re saying it aligns with my beliefs, the person in the photo isn’t dressed in a way that might cause someone to stumble, and they’re not hurting someone else. That might seem extreme, but other people can see what you like and be affected by it (and the person can be encouraged to continue in their sin), and I want to please God in that.

View it as a Tool

Movies and TV shows are created for entertainment. But I think that all technology can be used as a tool. It’s either a passive tool to show others that you’re careful about what you choose to fill your mind with or an active tool to bear fruit. We must remember that we’re sojourners, pilgrims on this earth, if we bear the name of Christ. Whatever we do is to be under Christ’s authority and to God’s glory. Jesus came to earth to complete a mission and He didn’t even speak without being in obedience to God. It’s humbling to think about our Savior being in complete submission to God — even I, one who has zero authority, don’t hesitate to run to the world sometimes. That said, I think that technology (especially social media) should be first a tool, then entertainment, just like spiritual wellness.

First, I want to make sure I’m using my platforms, outlets, and media sources for Biblical reasons, or at least not against Biblical teaching. Next, I should make sure I’m being obedient in what I’m saying, searching, or seeing. Then, I need to think about how I might affect others. And maybe then I can use it for entertainment. Personally, I like to even use my outlets (like this one) for active encouragement from God’s Word. It both holds me accountable and exposes others to Truth.

It can also be a tool to build yourself up. Follow like-minded accounts or pages, and unfollow or mute the ones that might cause you to stumble. You could even watch and listen to something that’s educational or Biblical to engage your mind. Interact with the people who are trying to encourage you or pray with you, and let those relationships grow.

For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.

John 12:49

Every single aspect of the Christian life should be filled with questioning and double-checking the things we’re allowing in. It should also be filled with building up our brothers and sisters and bringing outsiders to the Truth. I believe this topic needs to be discussed more among friends and churches because of how deeply it permeates the members. We have to be aware of every single action so that we’ll be prepared to answer for that.

If we’re careful in the other branches of our lives, then we need to treat this just the same — a tool to shine our lights and a part of our lives, not our whole life. I encourage you to search your heart as I continue to search mine and decide if your technology use is fitting in your bodily temple.

*All passages come from the New American Standard Bible **Quotes and tools provided do not necessarily mean I endorse everything the person does or teaches

Always, Every Time, Perfect

Look at that girl. See what she’s doing, posting on Instagram? See how her life is perfectly curated? She has a baby and her house is still pulled together. She travels, she looks great, her family is perfect, nothing goes wrong for her. She always gets what she wants. Why can’t you be like that?

This is the constant comparison, making up stories about other people’s lives that I think far surpass my own.

Taking one post, one comment, one smile, one conversation, and turning it into better than I. 

One person’s good day turns into always, every time, perfect. 

I leave smaller, but not humble. I leave insecure, from a place of pride in working to achieve earthly perfection. A place of envy.

My husband tells me that I often say always, every time, never, everything absolute, especially when I’m criticizing, but also when I compare. I take a sometimes, a possible just this time, and I turn it into every single time.

But people show the world the person they want to show. Only the best parts. Why do you let that bother you?

I compare myself to other imperfect human beings, human beings who are, just like I am, made in God’s image. Made to be different than I am but somehow still the same.

But no, different means better.

Healthy comparison encourages, while unhealthy comparison slowly tears down.

None of us is perfect, none of us has a good day every day. None of us is made to be like the other one. But all of us are made to be like God. Comparison of ourselves with Jesus has turned into comparison of ourselves with Jesus’ people. The One we’re supposed to be like is swept aside for the other ones who are supposed to be like Him.

I willingly forget the facts.

If I look at God’s people, choose one,

that’s who I’m going to be, 

I’m going to be wrong. If I want to be better than I am, I need to look at Jesus.

No wonder trying to be like her isn’t fulfilling. 

Jesus is the bread, the light, the door, the shepherd, the vine, the resurrection, the way, the truth, the life.* He is the answer, not His people.

Imitate them, but only if and when they imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Then I’ll leave replenished. I’ll leave assured, from a place of humility. A place of my Shepherd’s rest and life.

There can be no unhealthy comparison with One who perfectly lived, yet perfectly empathizes. He’s not surface-level only, not Instagram-only. This comparison uplifts; it’s completely satisfying because He wants us to work with Him, to be molded by the Father. With this comparison we don’t just have always, we have forever, eternally. 

We have a total paradigm shift.

I’m not writing any secrets to success or Five Ways to Stop the Comparison Game!. No delete your social media or find more authentic friends, as if distractions can heal.

If I only look there, on the surface level, I’ll try and try and try

and I’ll still compare.

But if I read His words, choose One,

that’s who I’m going to be,

I can’t be disappointed.

He’s the only One who is always, every time, perfect.

Always Every Time Perfect

*”I Am” statements in the Book of John

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Embracing Little By Little

I finished reading Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life by Lara Casey about a month ago. Here’s a snippet from the back of the book: “Welcome to the journey of getting messy in the rich soil of possibility — embracing imperfect, grace-filled progress to grow a life of joy. . . Find the joy and the freedom that comes in cultivating what matters, little by little, with God’s transforming grace” (emphasis by me). The book is filled with Lara’s own anecdotes, action steps toward cultivation, and prompts and thought questions for her readers. The biggest theme in this book is the concept of growing a garden. But what strikes me the most is the emphasis on small steps causing big change, progress over perfection.

The Discontent Cycle

Our society as a whole is completely engrossed with the idea of getting what we want and getting what we want now — which isn’t a new concept. With this, we’re each searching for a purpose. Unfortunately, it’s easy to look for quick fixes to our problems and try to cover up scratches with Band-Aids that we think will get us by instead of looking for the root of healing. The scary thing about this is that the more immediate gratification we look for, the further we are from purpose.

It comes from a place of impatience and discontent.

In the 8-10 year-old Bible class I’ve been teaching at church, we’ve talked about the Israelites in the context of what God is good at. Right now that’s life and bread. The Book of Exodus tells us that God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and guided to Canaan (the land promised to Abraham for his descendants). The Israelites picked up the habit of complaining about pretty much everything, especially food and water. It was a vicious cycle, but even though these people complained, God still provided. Each time God provided, they were happy for while, and then discontent set in.

God’s plan was to take care of them, but they were looking for instant gratification and overlooking their Provider.

There were consequences to their sinfulness, but God still offered a way to deep joy and contentment if they chose to accept it: Himself.

On the other hand, Hannah, who was infertile and yearning for a child of her own, also knew the Provider. Instead of complaining and becoming bitter, she chose to pray and trust God, and vowed to dedicate her child to the Lord if He blessed her with one. As with the Israelites, God provided and blessed Hannah, but unlike the Israelites, she praised God, kept her promise, and dedicated Samuel to God’s service in the temple. Hannah let each part of her situation grow her faith instead of becoming selfishly complacent. She remained faithful and God was continually with her (1 Samuel).

What the Israelites demonstrated is no different from those Band-Aids. We move through life discontented until we see that God has provided us a good thing. So, we take that good thing, thank God briefly, and keep going in the same direction, bandaging instead of going to the Provider. It’s a process of constant taking and never giving, never living in thankfulness.

The Israelites lived on surface-level faith, while Hannah dwelled in deep faith that was so obviously her root. The difference was fully embracing God and His plan.

God has provided the same way to joy and contentment for us as He did them so long ago (something Hannah recognized): again, it’s Him. To cultivate this within ourselves, we have to learn to go deeper into our hearts to figure out what needs to be tended to and trust God to guide us through the process.

Progress + Little-By-Little

Once we’ve started digging deeper, trying to find the root to cultivate, it’s easy to get caught up in the cycle again. We’re eager, we hit the ground running, pray our way through it, think we find the fix, and forget God. Inevitably, more challenges arise; at this point we have two choices:

give up completely or give it completely to God.

 

Acorns are pretty common around my house. We trample them underfoot, dismissing them as squirrel food. But an acorn cultivated can become something mighty. In John’s Island, South Carolina, stands the massive Angel Oak tree that is more than five hundred years old, sixty-six feet tall, and twenty-eight feet in circumference. It produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. And it started with a common acorn.

There is power in a single seed.

A kind word spoken.

A leap of faith taken.

A goal cultivated.

And in the simple yet profound act of taking one step forward.”

(p. 75, Cultivate, emphasis by me)

It takes one step, and then another, and then another. . . until we reach the end goal — in this case contentment, embracing God’s plan.

little by little.

When you read the Bible as a whole, you understand that all sixty-six books point to Jesus Christ. God created the world with a purpose for mankind, and He began Jesus’ lineage with the seed of one man: Abraham. Besides Abraham, there are several men and women — some of whom aren’t even named — who took one step forward in faith, but left profound legacies. Many of them didn’t know that their little-by-little was going to be recorded as a faith-builder for the rest of time, but because of their little-by-little, we can rest assured that God will carry us through.

progress.

As the Bible story unfolds, we see that not every action leading to the eventual death and resurrection of Christ is elaborate, and many story-changing people weren’t well-known by the people of their time. The Bible is an unfolding plan of progress with the most beautiful outcome. While the people in God’s story weren’t perfect, His plan is. This perfect plan we read about them is the same plan made for us — our purpose. So, we, imperfect people, have to embrace the little-by-little as progress toward our purpose, no matter what that little-by-little is and no matter what it might bring.

purpose.

And this is where we give it to Him.

God’s perfection.


Copy of Embracing Little-By-Little

My 2018 Word + Goals

Let’s start with this: I rarely set goals. When I do, I rarely achieve them. I’m a planner, but not a goal-setter — never a goal-setter. They’re intimidating and scary and they seem completely unreachable; it’s hard to know where to start. It’s even more rare that I post about them on the internet for fear of seeming humble-braggy, over-sharing, or just plain not following through. Although I have hopes of bettering myself and hitting certain targets, I struggle to prioritize them and carry them out (Obliger, here). It’s bad, guys.

But I do want to be better. So, this year I’ve chosen to set a word for the year and 5 main goals, each with a set of action steps I can take each week and month to achieve it (and idea I got from Lara Casey’s Powersheets, even though I haven’t purchased them). I started with Lara’s Goal Uncovering series (also found in the linked website), and mapped out my previous year in order to decide what exactly I need to aim for this year — along with my theme word. After I mapped everything out, I chose my word based on what in 2017 stood out to me. I juggled between two significant words, and finally decided on this small word:

Free

The definitions that best suit my intentions are these:

exempt or released from something specified that controls, restrains, burdens, etc.

not held fast; loose; unattached

to relieve or rid

to disentangle

(All found at Dictionary.com)

 

free in Christ

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Much of 2017 was not an easy year for me.

It was a truly blessed year, that’s for sure. We went on several trips, saw all of our family + watched as some achieved amazing things, had a two-year anniversary, learned better ways to love each other, became more rooted and active in our town and church, and I went on a couple of trips with my best friends and marked things off my mental bucket list. John Mark and I were both encouraged greatly.

IMG_8697
2017 Best Nine from Instagram

But underlying that — full disclosure — I’ve still struggled with anxiety and loneliness and keeping myself physically and mentally healthy (see this post and this post). It just goes to show that no amount of earthly joy can fill the joy-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill. So, if you’re wondering how “free” fits in here, I don’t mean it all literally (only in terms of health). I mean free from emotional burdens, free to be lighthearted, free from physical pain (nothing serious, just some muscle issues in my neck), and free to be who God created me to be — all adding up to freedom in Christ. I think that’s what we all long for, but don’t quite put our finger on most of the time.

Before I end up writing two blog posts in one ( 😉 ), I’ll get started on my goals. I decided to go completely against my nature, make some goals, and actually achieve them. Granted, I’ve been having to shake things up and find ways to hold myself accountable for upholding my expectations, but in just this first week of January, I’m already noticing a difference — a glimpse of freedom, if you will.

For accountability’s sake and encouragment to you in your own goal setting, I’ll list them below with my planned action steps. Before I start, I’d like to say that this is a *plan* — any plans are subject to change, something I’m learning very slowly to accept. Emily Ley says to wrap your plans in a big “grace hug” and keep in mind that they might go differently.

My 5 Goals

1 | Read my Bible more consistently + pray without ceasing

This is a big one. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide where to start, so I’ve decided to follow our church’s Bible reading plan for the year. Each day we will read roughly 4 chapters of the Bible, starting with Genesis, and two to three chapters of a specified New Testament book or groups of books. Usually these are focuses of our Bible studies together. Along with this I’m going to Journible and read a Chronological Bible whenever possible. I try to always accompany my Bible reading with prayer, as well as meditating on what I’ve read and praying throughout the day. I’m also keeping a gratitude log in my Bullet Journal that will remind be to thank God for my blessings (and be more positive!).

2 | Exercise four times a week + eat healthier

Many people find it easy to eat healthy even if they aren’t working out, but that’s a challenge for me. So, I’ve put these hand-in-hand. I need to take care of my body so that’s it’s in good shape to carry out my daily tasks. When I’ve “worked out” in the past, it’s usually been some form of yoga — Vinyasa or Hot Yoga — which can be hard to keep up if you’re not a member of a studio or finding individual classes to attend, like I did when I attended Auburn University. Because of this, I’ve started using a “real” workout plan (I think it’s by Kayla Itsines, but who really knows?) that I found on Pinterest, that I can do at home. I know next to nothing about working out, but I’m also hoping this will boost my confidence in that area. Along with this workout, I have prescribed stretches from my chiropractor that I need to do every day or my physical structure will go downhill, giving me back pain and headaches. As far as eating healthy goes, I’m not starting any particular plan like Whole30 or Paleo like I have in the past because I’ve found that it’s easy to beat myself up over eating off-plan. And it’s the hardest goal for me because I love junk food. This time, I’m simply trying to limit sugar, grains, dairy, and caffeine, and drink LOTS of water, plus making sure to eat breakfast. These will be trial-and-error, and I might end up eliminating something in the future.

3 | Creatively encourage others

I’m a pretty elusive encourager. Because I’m shy, I find it difficult to actively encourage by walking up to someone and complimenting them or praying with them or taking them a care package or even simply asking specific “how are you” type questions — but oh, how I love writing cards! Although writing cards is an awesome thing to do, I think I need to branch out. I’m starting with small steps by simply putting myself out there more than usual. I teach a kids’ Bible class within our church, which is teaching me confidence with their parents and helping me find Biblical ways to encourage that may be outside of the usual. I made a Pinterest board and a note in my phone that I can save service and edification ideas to for easy access when the time comes. Because I’m taking baby steps with the “creative” part here, I’m not doing everything on my own just yet; I may get a small group — by group, I mean about two or three other women — together to make a care basket, and then deliver it myself. This goal is going to be a little more challenging and a work in progress.

4 | Love my husband better each day

Y’all, I very much love my husband. But the way he can know that is by my actions. He’s not very much into receiving gifts, so I have to really brainstorm action steps for this one. Confession: for a long, long time, I have slept in as he gets up and goes to work. I’ll have spurts of motivation, and get up at the same time to see him off, but for the majority of our marriage, he’s had to tell me goodbye while I’m half-asleep. Yikes. Although he doesn’t necessarily mind this, I think I can be helpful to him in the mornings. My action steps here are simply to start by waking up with him, making our breakfast so that we can eat together and visit before work, and pack his lunch — although sometimes I pack his lunch the night before. I’m also trying to make sure I’m done with my to-do list and in a good mood when he gets home, so that I’m more of an encouragement and less of a nuisance and can give him 100%.

5 | Read at least 25 books

This one is pretty straightforward. I love to read, but I find that I’m distracted easily and end up frying my brain in front of the TV all too often. So, I’m making a point to be specific with the number of books and names of books I want to read/finish by the end of the year. Hopefully I’ll read more than 25, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with some crazy number! I’ve been reading at the end of the afternoon if I’m done with my to-do list and at night when we’re relaxing — I sometimes pair this with a bubble bath and have started turning my phone off for that period of time so I can give full attention to the book.

Aside from my planned-out goals and action steps, in the past couple of days, I’ve found a few helpful strategies/items that increase the likliehood of getting this stuff done:

  • Starting a Bullet Journal
  • Bible reading first thing in the morning
  • Talk about plans each morning at breakfast
  • Exercise first thing in the morning or in the afternoon after most of my list is checked off
  • Organizing the apps on my phone so that only the ones I need the most are on the first page
  • Turning off all notifications (including messages!) so I’m not constantly distracted by my phone
  • Cheerful colors and calming imagery
  • Energizing music throughout the day
  • Emily Ley’s Simplicity Challenge that she’s posting daily to Instagram (some of these strategies I’ve actually borrowed from her) and her book Grace, Not Perfection
  • Being ready for bed by or before 9:30

Hopefully these goals are going to help me climb the ladder up to my 2018 word-theme and shape me to be the best I can, fully believing in myself and fully trusting God.

I probably won’t be “checking in” with my progress on the blog because that’s not really my style, but I hope this post has encouraged you in your goals or encouraged you to make some! I know it will help to hold me accountable. If you have some goals, I’d love to know what they are and how you plan to follow through in the comment section. 🙂

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My 2018 Word + Goals

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. All glory goes to God. Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day. 🙂

 

 

 

Reframing

Sometimes I don’t know how to translate what I feel and what I think into English, like it’s a whole other language. My emotions tend to speak louder than my words, but I have things to say, and I know what’s been on my mind, so bear with me.

I’m coming to terms with some things about myself: I’m introverted, shy, sensitive, pretty high-strung, and I have Anxiety.  I often think in analogies and imaginative pictures because words aren’t always adequate to translate emotions and are more easily described than defined. I feel deeply my own feelings and others’ secondhand, even if I’m not putting myself in their shoes. I process differently than most people I know, and I’ve tried to suppress that, like it’s wrong or weird or like I have to be just like them and not my own person.

These sensations make me feel inferior and I can get caught up in thinking that nobody understands, like I’m a total outsider; I feel lonely. Irrational fear after irrational fear swirl into a tangled chain of emotions that I’m left to process the way someone else processes instead of the way I process because I can’t accept it, and I think they won’t accept it. 

It’s circular.

But you know what? This is good.

The fact that I don’t feel at home here, like I don’t fit in, like something is different or weird or wrong with me, that I feel so deeply — that’s all good. I learned in a TED Talk that reframing stress leads to better health and quality of life. People who accepted stress and viewed it as a good thing — their body gearing up for a challenge — were healthier and lived longer.

If viewing the stress response as a an able body ready to fight can lead to better health, quality of life, and a longer life, I think the same can be said for adversity and spirituality. What if I use this same idea and apply it to my emotional reactions, my personality and processing style, and anxiety (insert your struggle here) and let it do exactly what God wants me to do with it? Let it nudge me closer to Him.

I’m tempted to let it shrink me and silence me, but that’s the smooth cruise to separation from God and more unquenchable loneliness. 

We can look at the struggles as bad. Or we can look at them as challenges, tests, that are going to make us stronger so that we can thrive with God on our side. We can recognize that whatever it is we struggle with is an opportunity. Then we can put that thing in our hands, give it to God, and move forward, leading to a eternal, more fulfilling spiritual life with Him.

If we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and rejoice always, in all circumstances, and pour ourselves out to God, then we can have perfect peace. It’s a beautiful, comforting thought to picture Jesus, the ultimate empathizer, interceding when we pray. It’s strengthening to pray when we suffer and sing praises when we’re cheerful, and these are all things God commands because He knows we need help and we need hope.

If you’ve been around the blog for a while and wondered why I talk so much about perspective — this is it. This is the reason. And I think I’m realizing that with you.

So, yeah, I’ve got these struggles. And that’s good.

God is working them out.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as  without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:6-7

Reframing

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. All glory goes to God. Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day. 🙂

 

 

 

Intentionally Living For God

People are always searching for purpose, something that makes them feel complete and happy and worthwhile. As they search and don’t find, they come up with new ways to live that they think will introduce the solution and end the searching. 

What’s been emphasized lately is intentional living. 

In a nutshell, intentional living means trading a habitual lifestyle for living in a way that makes us happier, more satisfied; it means living on purpose.

It’s an attempt to make today matter.

It’s a very appealing way to live — with good reason. Most of us live in a go-go-go society with a busy mindset, and the result of this is living our lives without real focus on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. All of this leads to stress and overwhelm, and even doctors are suggesting that people slow down. These consequences of a too-full lifestyle have made people want to change and evolve their lives into lives of substance.

One of the ways people choose to do this is by focusing on their own well-being so that they can cherish each day. The main facets are mind, body, heart, and soul (in a spiritual sense, not always a God-focused one); this would include meditating, exercising and being mindful of what you eat, being grateful, unplugging, spending quality time with loved ones, and finding time to do “soul-nourishing” things, things that make you feel happy and alive.

I love white space on the calendar, time to rest and reset, and having a reason for what I do. So, naturally, I’m on board with this new mindset. In fact, I think most of the concepts are more than beneficial for mental health and spiritual growth.

But, there’s a catch that’s often overlooked — one more thing missing that would enhance these concepts and make living on purpose have real purpose: living intentionally, but for God. What I mean by this is living with a focus on God, with every thought and action we decide to make based on God’s word and His will and His purpose. It means recognizing that everything we do should be for the glory of God.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

Romans 8 discusses trading living for the flesh (earthly things) for living for the Spirit because living for the flesh is a fruitless bondage. Living for the flesh means that our minds are set on the things of the flesh. Some of these are also things that intentional living tries to avoid, such as materialism and unbalanced priorities, so most of the intentional living principles are excellent ways for Christians to live! They emphasize the fact that we need to prioritize and be steady-minded and careful about how we choose to live our days.

The problem is that the focus is often on serving self. Many times the reason people choose to live intentionally is because they want to be happier or more fulfilled. I don’t disagree that these are good things, but happiness is a stepping-stone, and fulfillment is found Christ.

I was recently watching a YouTube video made by another Christian. In this video, she discusses minimalism (intentional living applied to physical belongings) as Christians, and she says,

“I think as Christians we are just called to live that way, to live more intentional lives, and to be more aware and thoughtful of how we live. And so minimalism is just kind of like a side part of that…I feel like if you’re really trying to be aware and mindful and a good steward of what you have, and just trying to live a life that is pleasing to God and just being more mindful in your walk with Him, I feel like minimalism just naturally…comes out of that.”

— Joyful Mothering

I think this is spot on. Intentional living, and even minimalism, are just small facets of a bigger purpose for living, which is following Jesus Christ and pleasing God. The only difference is that now, these facets have trendy names! This zoomed-out mindset can be a hard thing to achieve, and amid this intentional living movement, I often find myself forgetting that intentional living isn’t the point. Without God in the picture, intentional living is empty.

Here are some intentional living concepts that are rooted in basic biblical principles:

1 | Living in the present, living as if it’s your last day | Don’t worry because God holds your days, and live in a way that demonstrates you don’t know how much time you have on this earth (Matthew 6:25-34; Psalm 103:15-16; Psalm 90:12).

2 | Knowing and trusting in something bigger than yourself | Recognize God’s power and realize how small we are compared to Him and eternity, and trust Him to take care of you because He loves you (Isaiah 55:8-9; Psalm 8:3-4; Luke 12:4-7).

3 | Living a grateful life | Live a life of thankfulness to God, and express that thankfulness to Him (Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

4 | Keeping a relatively open schedule so you aren’t overwhelmed | Don’t overfill your life with worldly things so that you can focus on God and His purposes, not the things of this earth — make time for God first. Give Him your first fruits! (Matthew 6:33; 2 Timothy 2:15-16; Ephesians 5:15-17).

Though I don’t think God is always purposefully left out of this equation, especially among Christians, I do think that often the emphasis shifts from Him to our introspective selves and stops there.

I’ve started asking myself why. I ask myself why I want to be more intentional in my life — is it because I want to serve myself or because I want to be better and more stable so I can serve God? If the answer is the former, then I need to regroup and change my heart.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:15-17

If you’re looking for peace and substance and spirituality through intentional living, then look to the One who really has it! Let everything else simply follow suit. The peace He gives surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and the substance and spirituality you’ll receive is a transformed, eternal life.

Try intentionally living for God. That’s how you’ll make today matter.

living intentionally pinterest (1)Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. All glory goes to God. Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day. 🙂

 

On Change, Bitterness, and Standing on the Rock

Things have been getting more real over here on the blog lately. I don’t enjoy writing about things that I can wrap in beautiful paper and tie up with a bow because it’s not real life. That’s just not how it goes, and I don’t always want to write about my highlights and list the great ways I choose to do great things. I’ve been challenged by an encouraging friend to be more thoughtful and intentional in my writing because that’s when I and others will reap the most benefits (she doesn’t know she did this — hi, Rebekah 🙂 ) Sometimes writing and posting is therapeutic while giving others hope that they’re not alone and that there’s a solution. That’s simultaneously what I’ve been trying to do and why I haven’t posted as often. So, these posts that are more open and raw aren’t pleas for encouragement or compliments or recognition; they’re just me sticking closely to the premise of my blog, speaking the truth in love: inspiration for seeking souls.


After we moved to Arkansas in 2016, I wrote a post called Bloom Where You Are Planted. I was excited and motivated and ready to face new change and challenges — something that’s a little out of character for me, but I embraced it fully. In that post, I described plants being uprooted and given the choice to grow or fail where they’ve been planted. I said:

“Just like those plants, if not more so, we have the ability to bloom where we’re planted. And we can grow taller and more beautiful than they can because God will help us if we trust Him. It doesn’t matter if you’re living at home, in high school, in college, recently married, moving away or about to do any of these things – we are all in different seasons of life than we were before this moment, and we have to learn to bloom right there. Because you can’t change your situation but you can change yourself.”

In the past two years, I’ve been replanted four times, which is two times more than I expected — home from college, home to a new town with my husband, new town to another new town, another new town to another new town — you get the picture. Almost nothing has gone the way that I anticipated when we got married, and I think that’s been teaching me about the unpredictability of life and walking through God’s will. My patient husband consistently reminds me that life is full of change, and not much is going to go the way I’ve planned; God’s ways are higher than my ways.

As many of my readers know, we moved from Arkansas to Mississippi five months after adjusting and making friends. Our new town is smaller, with far fewer places to shop and eat, and slim to no Christians my age. It’s just different. Before you think I’m complaining: the church here has been more than accommodating, we like small-town feels and really don’t care to shop that much anyway, we probably like Zaxby’s more than sit-down restaurants, we’re close to our families, we keep in touch with our distant friends, and God blesses us richly. But I have to admit,

I haven’t been blooming.

I’ve been that plant that gets replanted and is like, “Whoa, no, stop. I don’t like it here; I’m just going to shrivel up instead.” I’ve struggled to answer when people asked me if I like it in my new home; all the things I don’t like have come sliding through my mind like a PowerPoint, and I just mumbled some kind of answer like, “It’s OK, I guess. The church is good.” I’m not naturally an optimist. I’m actually inclined to be more of a realist-pessimist, so I have to work at finding the joy and beauty in situations instead of looking at all the little things that went wrong and catastrophizing the fact that I spilled something in the floor. So, when we moved here, I was excited, motivated, and slightly less ready to face changes and challenges. For the first few months, I soaked it all in, got used to the roads and back ways to my favorite places, took time to try new things. But, I had been through that a few times already, and it was losing its appeal. I’ve become more like one of my struggling petunias outside that’s kind of alive, but kind of has dead leaves and stems, and has kind of happy petals occasionally even though it gets watered all the time (I like plant analogies. *insert shrugging emoji here*).

Instead of finding joy and thanking God for blessings, I’ve buried them and piled negativity on top.

Instead of being excited to wake up and walk my dog in the mornings, I’ve dreaded rolling out of bed.

Instead of joyfully going about my daily tasks, I’ve let them pile up and then complained when I felt overwhelmed.

Instead of asking God for satisfaction through His word, I’ve looked for satisfaction in Instagram feeds and an organized life.

Instead of looking ahead to the future with confidence, I’ve constantly looked over my shoulder for what has been.

This is a recipe for bitterness and the world’s most unpleasant person, and it’s simply one of the things that I deal with.

Once we got used to the new place and got everything situated, I started having these snowballing feelings, but I couldn’t put a finger on why (typical me), and I let them happen instead of confronting them until I felt consumed by them.

Finally, after about six months, I became fed up with them. I figured out the problem: I went from getting used to extra socializing to getting used to not much at all, which is a sensation I have never experienced.  Before, I could text a friend and within a few minutes, we could meet up for dinner or a movie or just a cup of coffee on the couch. Because I’ve lived a comfortable life with friends minutes away and regular coffee dates, I’ve become blindly accustomed to leaning more on other people for support and less on God. That’s disheartening to think about and even more disheartening to write. But it’s true! It’s probably true for many of us. And it’s something we have to get a handle on for the sake of our souls and the Kingdom of God. I have to learn to find a healthy balance between letting myself be edified and encouraged by God’s people, but leaning wholly on God instead of totally relying on God’s people and sometimes being edified and encouraged by God.

What if every Christian chose to keep pressing forward with God instead of living in stagnant dissatisfaction with the world? What if my attitude looked like this?:

Instead of putting minor inconveniences on top of God’s blessings, I praise Him anyway and thank Him for all good and perfect gifts.

Instead of dreading the next day, I joyfully put my feet on the floor and tackle the day’s challenges.

Instead of letting my daily tasks pile up, I get them done immediately without complaining and keep myself from laziness.

Instead of looking for satisfaction in my “highlight reel” and a perfectly organized schedule and home, I accept imperfection and seek satisfaction through God’s word.

Instead of living in the past, I look forward to the future of my life and God’s Kingdom and reach for Him.

That is a major paradigm shift. It’s a necessary and simple and concept, but it’s never easy to adjust a habit-formed mindset. But, imagine the spiritual and physical work that can get done if I intentionally think this way! I’ve experienced it on good days, but rarely when my day goes sour, and that needs to change.

If we live with our feet in ever-shifting sand instead of standing on the solid Rock, then we’re going to be unstable if life doesn’t go the way we expect.

I want to include a snippet from my friend Rebekah’s blog post about her move states away from her comfort zone:

“As you are working through the transitions of your move, it’s important to keep two different “Better Day”s in mind. First, there’s that day somewhere off in the future when you’re driving around town and you think, “Whoa. This is that Better Day I read about in some random blog post about moving.” It’s that day when you have somehow managed to turn the anxiety down and the town feels like home and you’re genuinely excited about your niche. Granted, these days still kind of come and go for me (and really, they do for everyone) but that’s when it’s most important for me to lean on the best “Better Day”:

It’s that Better Day when God’s presence fills every hole of loneliness and doubt. It’s that Better Day when I am finally in an assurance so strong that I am no longer vulnerable in any shape or form. It’s that Better Day when I achieve the unmerited success as a “good and faithful servant”. It’s that Better Day when I am finally able to say, “This is it. This is the place I’ve been looking for.””

In the past six months of dealing with bitter and uncomfortable feelings, I forgot this important piece of truth: the point of blooming where you’re planted isn’t just so you can feel comfortable. It’s so that you can glorify God in every situation you find yourself in. So that you can say, “I did this thing. God helped me through. Everything is always going to be OK because of God.” So that you can work toward the true Better Day that Rebekah talks about above and you can please God in all aspects of your life — no matter what changes you experience.

Philippians 4:8-13 (NKJV)

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. 

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Count your blessings, give God the glory, and keep moving forward. Giving up is never an option.

Philippians 3:14 (NASB)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

change bitterness rock pinterest

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. All glory goes to God. If you want to see more like this, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day. 🙂

It’s Not About Us

Being a Christian is an amazing privilege — we get to worship our Creator in spirit and in truth, and we get to pray to Him about anything and everything according to His will. We worship a God, Creator, Sustainer, and Rock who keeps His promises and is faithful to us as we’re faithful to Him. It’s indescribable.

But, being a Christian also comes with the monumental responsibility of spreading the good news further and acting in a way that not only would be approved by Jesus, but in a way that Jesus would have acted. It comes with making constant changes in our lives as we see errors. Christians have the responsibility of adhering to the unwavering standard that’s been set before us so that we will be in heaven with God and His Son in the end.

Because of this responsibility, there’s one big thing that we all need to remember on a weekly, daily, hourly basis:

Nothing is about us.

Every Christian or person thinking of becoming a Christian should always be conscious of this fact: a fact that takes humility to recognize and accept. From the beginning, it’s never been about us. There’s a thread throughout the Bible, beginning to end, that all people are to magnify God and glorify Him in all things. Old Testament worshipers were completely consumed by sacrifice after sacrifice for the one true God (see the book of Leviticus). Although the Old Law has been replaced with a perfect, Jesus-focused, New Law — one that only required the sacrifice of Jesus to cover all of our sins, modern worshipers (Christians) still need to be consumed with serving God. In fact, David says in Psalm 69:9 that “zeal for Your house has consumed me” (some versions say “has eaten me up”) — the very attitude Jesus demonstrates and that we’re supposed to imitate!

And it starts with recognizing that nothing is about us. 

God has had a plan since the beginning of the world, and that plan was never really about us. In short: He created the world, established the Old Law as a shadow of things to come, brought prophets forward to pave the way for Jesus, brought Jesus into the world, sent Him to teach the gospel and perform amazing miracles as well as sending disciples into all the nations, allowed His Son to be crucified for our sins, and made sure the church was established. He also made sure the Word was preserved for Christians until the end of time. Do you see a running thread here? He established this plan, and as we read through the Bible we can clearly see that it’s not about us.

Of course, God wants His people to be with Him — but that’s exactly the point — we were made to be with Him, not the other way around.

Humans all were made in His image (Genesis 1:27) because we are supposed to glorify Him, but even the non-human creations point back to God. If you look around, you’ll see God’s majesty clearly in the clouds and the trees and the oceans and the grass and in every tiny, microscopic being. All things glorify God and through Christ all things were made.

Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word [referring to Jesus here], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The life of a Christian should be no different. All humans have an innate need to worship; whether we recognize that or not, we need something to worship. Sometimes the things we obsess over are the things we’re choosing to worship consciously or subconsciously; that could be a person, hobby, thing, place, job, whatever it is we put first in our lives. The reality is that what we were created to worship was the Creator Himself. Christians need to remember to put God first and put worshiping God first because that’s what we were created to do.

I want this to be abundantly clear: Being a Christian isn’t a tagline; it’s not something to use to our advantage because we like to think we’re good people or because we want to seem like good people if we’re not. And it’s certainly not just something to put in our social media profiles to make us look good or fit in with any particular group of people. Our ability to be Christians is a gift that was only obtained through the world’s most meaningful sacrifice: Jesus on the cross. Holding the title “Christian” is an honor, and it should be taken seriously so that we don’t drag Christ’s name through the mud.

Because it’s still not about us.

Every single material thing we have, talent we possess, good thought that crosses our mind, kind deed we do for others, post we write on the internet — for these things we owe each and every ounce of glory to God. Jesus said in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus knew. He knew that His purpose was to glorify God in heaven and do only those things that please Him. If this was Jesus’ purpose — our Savior and Intercessor — then let us follow His pattern!

This life is about lost souls. It’s about sharing the gospel with people who need it (read: everyone). It’s about taking time to serve others because that’s what Jesus did. It’s about giving our best even when we feel our worst. It’s about getting up and trying again when we fail, and praying to God through each failure and success. It’s about giving, not receiving. It’s about serving a glorious, giving, patient, and just God who gave His Son’s life when He was falsely accused so that we could be in heaven with them both. 

It’s about giving the glory to God through Jesus who saves.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

// I’ve reposted this from October 6, 2016. It’s been edited and updated.

It's Not About Us Pinterest 2.png

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. All glory goes to God. If you want to see more like this, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

Souls Like Ivy

I look toward the window to see my small, potted ivy. Some leaves are healthy and grass-green, but others are withering, dying. I see the edges turning brown and holes where the leaf should be one.

I water it, give it extra light, walk away. I expect the brown leaves to heal themselves, and the green ones to grow greener.

It doesn’t grow; it doesn’t heal. Extra leaves are turning brown, and they look to be choking the green leaves, the ones that are still striving to do what I left them there to do. They’re trying with all of their might, but instead of healing, they’re ever so slowly failing.

I become frustrated. I give it more water; I give it more sunlight, more warmth. Every day I find the same condition, maybe worse. But, I’m giving it all it needs.

A last-resort thought comes: I’m not taking away what it doesn’t need. It’s suffocating. I’ll cut away the withering leaves and give it a chance to breathe.

So, I do just that.

I look toward the window to see my small, potted ivy. All of the leaves are healthy and grass-green! They’re breathing, beautiful. It’s grown taller in the past couple of weeks.

I give it more water, more sunlight, and none is wasted. It isn’t suffocating; it isn’t dying.

It’s thriving.

***

When I look at my soul, what do I see? I may look toward my soul and see healthy, grass-green leaves, God’s goodness and light, thriving in an environment that’s ready to process and grow.

I may look toward my soul and see brown edges and holes, blatant sin that I shrug away, that I conveniently ignore, all the while saying, “those brown edges will heal themselves if I give them more of Water, more Light,”

or worse,

“the green, healthy soul-leaves will be fine if I leave a little brown behind. They’re strong enough to manage.”

More light piled in with more dark.

I don’t grow; I don’t heal. Extra soul-leaves are turning brown; they look to be choking the green leaves, the ones that are still striving to do what I left them there to do. They’re trying with all of their might, but instead of healing, they’re ever so slowly failing.

Once more, I become frustrated. I give my soul more Water, more Light. Every day I find the same condition, maybe worse.

But, I don’t understand,

I’m giving it all it needs!

I look toward the window and see my thriving ivy. A last-resort thought comes: I haven’t taken away what my soul doesn’t need. It’s suffocating among brown-edged, deeply cut sins.

I have to remove them; I have to give my soul a proper chance to breathe,

a real chance to surivive.

I begin cutting away at my sin. So, I give my soul more Water, more Light, and I cut some more. I now look toward my soul and see buds!

My soul is ready, and it’s growing.

It takes the Water and the Light, and it grows — none is wasted anymore. My soul isn’t choking. It isn’t suffocating.

It’s blossoming.


This is one way I look at repentance and growing in Christ — in fact it’s a concept God Himself teaches.

We’re each much like a plant. All plants require particular environments in order to thrive. The ivy couldn’t handle one pot with the much disease and life all combined, some flowers can’t be potted with anything else because they don’t share nutrients well, most plants can’t handle extreme temperatures; yet, they must all be watered, and they must all have access to light.

We require water and Light from Jesus. But, before we start trying to add new virtues, we must examine ourselves in an effort to find anything to cut away.

And then cut it.

If we want a chance to survive, we must first learn how to thrive.

See Galatians 5, Matthew 13, Ephesians 4:17-32


Souls Like Ivy Pinterest

Thank you for reading! I hope you’re always encouraged to be like Christ and learn more about God’s word when you’re on my blog. If you want to see more like this, follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.  Feel free to print, pin, and share my posts on all platforms; I only ask that you link it back to this site. For thoughts and questions, comment directly below or click the Contact Me tab (here) to send an email! Have a blessed day.🙂

Guilty of Comfort

This will be the most me-focused, raw post to date, so if that makes you uncomfortable, I won’t make you keep reading (I don’t always put myself out there in this way). But I encourage you to stay and let yourself be challenged like I have. There’s something that has been on my mind lately, that I haven’t quite been able to put a finger on — until last night.


At our Wednesday evening worship services, we usually have a Bible study with different classes based on age, singing, prayer, and a short sermon or message before one last song and a closing prayer. During that small sermon, our preacher took us to Luke 18:18-23; that’s the story of the rich young ruler.

In this story, there’s a man who is very rich, and he wants to know how to receive eternal life: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers by saying that no one is good but God (a humble response from our Savior, always pointing to God), and he lists some of the commandments that we also find in the Book of Exodus. Ruler (I’ll call him this to make typing and reading easier) replies that he’s kept all of these things since he was young.

This is what followed:

“So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.” (vv. 22-23)

There are a couple of points our preacher made last night that I want to bring out. The first is that Ruler’s sorrow was symmetrical to how rich he was — he became very sorrowful because he was very rich. He based so much trust and love and comfort on the stuff he owned that he was equally as sad to be told to give it all up. How sad is that? The more he had, the less he was willing to sacrifice.

Next point: People often think (and I’m guilty of this), “I’m so glad that Jesus wouldn’t ask me to do that.”

Think again.

The attitude behind this way of thinking is appalling. Who are we to say what Jesus would ask of us? How great do we think we are? If this is something I’m guilty of thinking, then this is exactly what Jesus would ask me to do, because we have to give things up to follow Christ. If I’m putting more stock in what I own than what Jesus offers, then that’s what I need to give up the most.

Upon hearing these points, I asked myself what this thing is for me, what I find the most uncomfortable to give up. What would I say, “I’m glad He’d never ask me to do that” about?

You know what I came up with? Comfort. Just comfort. And the more comfort I find, the more uncomfortable I feel about giving up even a small portion of that; my comfort level is symmetrical to my sorrow. I’ve lived most of my life in my comfort zone, looking for more ways to be comfortable instead of ways to move through discomfort gracefully. It’s funny that the thing holding me back the most is something that seems so innocent, something we all feel entitled to. It’s not even something that’s tangible. I can’t hold comfort and I can’t see comfort. But I can feel it. It’s there, and it can be a stumbling block, even a brick wall. I was never promised comfort. I was promised persecution; comfort is only a luxury.

Feelings and emotions or states of being, things like comfort, can be my fiercest enemies if I don’t treat them as a tool instead of a fact. They can make me hobble along, or they can be a foundation on which I can build along with truth and growth. As a shy, sensitive introvert, my emotions like to remain front and center, and comfort is like gold. It can hold me captive: comfort in my own home, comfort with the things I love, comfort with my people, comfort sticking to myself in a large crowd, comfort scrolling through my phone instead of challenging myself to get up and do hard things, comfort only associating with Christians for fear of having to speak up, comfort not sharing the good news because I’m comfortable. The list could go on, but it’s crazy how something as simple as comfort can be so complicated. It’s an idol and an obstruction in my relationship with God.

I know I’m not the only one.

The devil can use your own personality against you. He can pick the thing you feel most strongly about and he can use it push you backward. And he will.

Christians need to be OK with being uncomfortable. We need to be happy about being uncomfortable if that discomfort means that we’re serving God with all that we are and all that we have.

There’s no doubt that comfort is partially, if not entirely, the reason that Ruler became sorrowful; he was comfortable with his abundance and his excess, and comfort became his wall. The rest of his story is sad, yet motivating. I don’t know that he ever decided to give up his riches, but I do know Jesus’ response to Ruler’s sorrow in verses 24-29:

“And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'” (v.24)

The more we own, the harder it is give it up. I have to recognize that the things I own aren’t truly mine. I have no more right to it than anyone else, even my own comfort. It all belongs to God. The more excess I have, tangible or not, the harder it will be to give it up and give it to God.

The people who heard Jesus’ response asked, “Who then can be saved?” Basically, “if that guy can’t be saved, then who can??” Jesus indirectly answered, but he answered nonetheless. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Jesus is still saying to forsake all else, He’s just saying that even though it might seem impossible, with God, it’s more than possible. He also implies that it’s more important to give it up than to have it all. Peter then said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” Peter points out that they’ve already forsaken everything else for Jesus’ sake, and he wants to Jesus to know this.

It’s possible with God. It’s feasible with God. I can do whatever the thing is with God. I can give up comfort because God is with me. I can choose to put myself in personally uncomfortable situations because God asked me to and because He won’t abandon me there — if only I’ll trust Him.

Jesus’ reply to Peter’s statement is what’s most edifying, especially after watching Ruler turn Jesus down because he loved his material possessions more.

“So He said to them, “’Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.'” (vv. 29-30)

No one. No one who leaves all he has, people included, for the sake of the kingdom of God will not receive many times more now and eternal life.

There are a lot of things that make me uncomfortable, but what makes me the most uncomfortable, what hurts the most, is that I see myself in this rich, young ruler. No, I’m not rich and I’m not a ruler. But, I have said no to Christ simply so I can say yes to my own comfort, yes to my own insecurity. I’ve kept quiet when I should have spoken up about the gospel and the truth. I’ve given my meager, earthly self priority over other people’s souls and Christ’s crucifixion. That’s what’s really uncomfortable.

In the end, what is my comfort really worth? Not much. And I can say for sure that my comfort is worth giving up for the cause of Christ. Giving up my comfort to share the gospel with others and to be the salt and light and to follow Jesus with all that I am is worth all that He is. Who cares if I have to feel uncomfortable if it means God is being glorified through me? All that I have and all that I am already belongs to Him, and it’s nothing in comparison. I don’t want to care more about the things I enjoy, tangible or not, than I do following Jesus.

(related: Be Holy, For I Am Holy)

“Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.”

-C.S. Lewis

There are people who need what I have — they need the good news. I cannot allow myself to be selfish with it. And if my comfort gets in the way, then by all means, I ask the Lord to take it away from me and to help me do it afraid. I’m tired of the devil using my personality against me, and I’m tired of this world hungering and thirsting for the truth with no one pointing them in the right direction. This world needs every Christian — every comfortable, stubborn, scared, searching Christian. We need to shine brighter in more darkness — on every platform.

It’s not OK to hide behind comfort, behind a screen, and say that I’m doing enough. Following Christ requires more — more giving, more doing, more praying, more talking, more of me. So, I want to challenge myself to be OK with uncomfortable. I want to focus on that and be what God really wants me to be — a servant and a light — no matter what I need to do to make it a reality and whatever happens as a result. It’s time to get over it.

 

// What’s your brick wall? What’s your crutch that keeps you from serving God fully? You don’t have to tell me here, but I want you to think about it. No matter how old or young you are, no matter what stage of life you’re in, think about what holds you back the most, what Jesus would have you give up if you asked Him what you need to do.

And then get rid of it.


Related: Journey to Joy: A Resolution // It’s Not About Us // To the Work // Bloom Where You Are Planted

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