In Christ Alone

This is a repost from July 11, 2013. I’m working on a requested post/series of posts right now, so in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short post! 

In Christ alone my hope is found.

He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this Solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love! What depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All;
Here in the love of Christ I stand. 

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save!

‘Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied!
For every sin on Him was laid 
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay.
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me!
For I am His, and He is mine.
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life – no fear in death!
This is the power of Christ in me. 
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand.
‘Til He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I stand.

This song has been on my mind so much lately. It’s such a powerful song that says just how much Christ loves us. He went willingly to the cross to be crucified for sins that He never committed. (2 Corinthians 5:21). This Man, Who was beaten, scorned, made fun of, and betrayed by His own friends, eventually died in place of everyone’s sins so that we may have the hope of living eternally with Him. (Matthew 26-28, Mark 15-16, Luke 22-24).   This is a gift that we did nothing to deserve and we can never repay.

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. (HCSB)

Because of this gift, we can repent of our past sins, confess Him as God’s Son, be baptized into Christ’s body, and be forgiven of our sins. We need to put away our past sins and “walk in newness of life” to live a life fully devoted to obeying God’s Word. 

Romans 6:1-4

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (NKJV)

Ephesians 4:17-22

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (NKJV)

Christ’s sacrifice gives us this freedom from sin; we are no longer “alienated from God”! We have the choice to put on Christ, take up our cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). We don’t have to be blinded and held down by all the cares and restraints of the world, but we can be free with the truth of God’s Word, through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

John 8:31-32

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (NKJV)

Why would we ever consider delaying in doing only and all of what God has asked of us? Did He delay in sending His Son to the cross? Did Christ delay in giving His life for our sins? We should have the same willingness to whole-heartedly give back to God just as He so willingly gave to us.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (NKJV)

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Bloom (v): to change, grow, or develop fully (Webster’s dictionary)

Think about a garden.

Think about how many flowers and plants are constantly uprooted and replanted, then uprooted and replanted again.

Yet most of the time, if they’re taken care of properly, they still grow up with fresh leaves and beautiful new blooms, some of which weren’t visible before. It’s a lovely thought, really, that God created these living things to be able to grow strong and weather storms and resist all kinds of diseases. They can’t run away or quit, and they don’t have complex immune systems. All they can do is bloom. Right where they’ve been planted. All they can do is continue growing as if they had never been replanted.

They’re taken care of as God sees fit for them to be taken care of, yet He cares more for us, His human creation. His human creation that he has given brains and immune systems and emotions and the ability to have self-control and the simple ability to bloom.

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.

[What I’m like] I have a very large comfort zone – socializing exhausts me easily, and I’m OK with that. It just means I have to take time to recuperate again. I’m not one for change, and often I’m afraid of the unexpected and the unknown. But I’ve also moved away from my comfort zone a few times in my life, literally and figuratively. I’ve been as far out of my comfort zone as I’ve been able to get so far, and I know that it’s easy keep your mind tethered to your comfort people or your comfort place just in case you have that split-second opportunity to reel yourself back in when everything is just too much.

[What I’ve learned] But the one problem with this is that you can’t move forward if you’re constantly looking back. It’s perfectly fine to be sentimental, to love whatever or whoever is behind you, but when it becomes inhibitive and you’re pulling that tethered line so tight that you can’t go any further – that’s when the just-too-much needs to become the comfortable. It’s a sign that you’re stunting your own growth. Don’t cut off your people or things or places. In fact, keep the line, but let it stretch (see Matthew 6:25-34).

The secret to blooming is a life with God.

Blooming where you’re planted is more than just making new friends, learning a new town, or adapting to change. And although it is all of that combined, it really starts with a heart examination and sometimes a major perspective change.

This is where we can’t always do it alone – and it’s OK to admit that, too. But we can do it with God. In fact, we have to trust God if we want to truly be at peace with where we are. God will be there when we feel confused and lonely and uncomfortable, but He’s also there when we’re excited and hopeful and content – if we put our trust in Him. The best kind of blooming and growing is the kind that’s done with God on your side and Christ in your heart.

And eventually, the hard things will feel like the easy ones, so we can grow even taller with every step.

Life should be a journey to a destination. Not a wandering, aimless journey, but a journey that has a real, solid end goal. For me, that’s heaven (I hope it is or will be for everyone).

Because of this, growing is completely and utterly necessary. I don’t just mean growing into comfort with my personality and my skin and my situation, I mean growing spiritually and emotionally.

Spiritual growth is the most important type of growth. I can only do that if I push myself to grow out of my comfort zone no matter what season of life or city I’m in. If I constantly push myself spiritually, none of those physical things will matter. All things will be counted loss for Christ (Philippians 3:8). I can be at peace with all things and content with all things, confident that I have God on my side because I’ve been crucified with Christ. I have learned in whatever state I am to be content (see Philippians 4). Growing up into full bloom will mean that I’m constantly working for God every second of every day, with every thought that comes into my mind, every word that comes out of my mouth, and everything that I do.

Emotional growth closely follows spiritual growth (especially if you’re like me and you really do have so. many. feelings). Emotions can play a big part in how distracted from God I let myself get. I have to be sure I’m constantly aware of my emotions because I have to know how to control them. I have to know how to react and when to react so that I’m not letting my emotions drag me back down into spiritual immaturity.

Spiritual and emotional maturity will lead you to growth in “the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and you’re that much closer to full bloom. And just think – you’ll be even more beautiful to God than that full-grown blossom outside because you’re His creation doing His will so you can be with Him.

//

As long as you’re taking care of yourself the way God would have you to (in His will), leaning on Him, and you keep on growing, you’ll find a way to bloom no matter where you’re planted. So if this is something you struggle with, as so many people do, I highly encourage you to pick up your Bible. Read about Ruth and Esther, read about Jesus, read about Paul, read about each and every person who knew what God’s will was and fully committed. Then learn God’s character, commit to Him, and let yourself grow.

Philippians 4:8-13

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.

 

 

 

 

 

April Roundup: Blogs

One of the most helpful things to do when it comes to having my own blog is keeping up with other blogs that I’m interested in and/or have similar content that keeps me inspired to write (or keep me inspired in general). It’s amazing to have such easy access to so many people and their ideas. I don’t have an extensive list, but I do have some that I want to share. This post isn’t sponsored, nor does it contain affiliate links.

1 | Blair Blogs

Blair Blogs is written by a girl named Blair Lamb, and it’s my #1 favorite blog to follow. I’ve been reading her posts for a few years now, and I can honestly say that she almost always writes about a topic I need the most.

Blair writes about anything from lifestyle to organization to spiritual encouragement. We most likely don’t agree on everything spiritually, but she honestly shares her life’s story, and that’s what I appreciate the most. She has good ideas and strives to encourage women in their everyday walks of life. I mentioned her podcast (Simplify Everything) in a recent post – you can read it here. Not only does she write and have a podcast, but she has recently launched a self-designed t-shirt line where she sells on Etsy.

I also follow Blair on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and Bloglovin’.

2 | Radically Christian

This blog is one I’ve seen shared on my Facebook timeline over and over by friends and fellow-church-members. Wes McAdams discusses serious issues that all professed-Christians need to take into consideration.

Our beliefs are much more similar than the blogs I’ve already mentioned, and I believe Wes attends and preaches for a church of Christ. Radically Christian is a full website with FAQ, sermons, and videos.

His posts are more along the lines of what God has commanded, not commanded, and how a Christian should be walking in his or her everyday life. I’ve seen everything from posts about instrumental music in worship to dating. It’s both challenging and encouraging, and I’m thankful that Wes has the courage and dedication to share these thoughts with the world.

I recently found out that Wes also has a podcast called CrossTalk. It deals with the same types of issues, sometimes with guest hosts.

I follow Radically Christian on Facebook and Bloglovin’.

3 | Phylicia Delta

I was recently introduced to this blog by a new friend, and I’m glad I was. Phylicia Masonheimer is a wife and a mom who, like Blair, strives to encourage women to put their faith in God. Although I haven’t gotten to read all of her posts yet, I appreciate how seriously she approaches the Bible and how seriously she studies to produce these posts. I’ve read posts about modesty (she wrote a viral post about yoga pants), struggling with sin, marriage, and her everyday life; each of them are very well thought-out and well written. (I do feel the need to say again that I don’t agree with everything she outlines specifically, but it can be a huge encouragement in a world that is mostly driven by sin.)

Along with her blog Phylicia  hosts a podcast with another spiritual blogger. It deals with the same issues, but the two women discuss them together in a casual setting in an effort to encourage. Think: coffee with a friend while discussing your thoughts and struggles.

I also follow Phylicia on Instagram and Bloglovin’.

4 | He’s Still Workin’ On Me

I’m still fairly new to this one as well, but Courtney shares recipes, essential oils recipes, crafts, and being a wife/mom (link here). She does all of this in a way that glorifies God. Her “About” section says, “Workin’ on making a little difference in the world while God makes a huge difference in me.” We have the same belief system (and I think we even grew up near each other!), so I know that I will agree with most, if not all, of the spiritual things she posts.

I appreciate Courtney’s positivity and the light she shines for Christ the most. I’ve never seen a post that goes against what God would have her say or do or one that doesn’t glorify Him.

I follow He’s Still Workin’ On Me on Facebook – she shares Bible verses fairly regularly here, as well. I also follow her on Bloglovin’.

 

// Do you have any blogs you like to follow regularly? What are they? I would love to know if you do! You can comment below with thoughts about mine and suggestions for later. If you want to know more about what I believe, shoot me an email at eahblog15@gmail.com. 🙂

*UPDATE: I now use Feedly to follow blogs instead of Bloglovin’.*

 

To My Friendship Circle

When you grow up with such a large, tight-knit group of friends, it can be easy to forget that they’ve been there for you – some since birth, some since elementary school, and it just keeps going from there. It can be hard to thank each of them for just how much they taught you, gave you, and helped you. You forget to thank them for what really matters.

So, to my Friendship Circle,

Past and present – you know who you are. I thank God upon every remembrance of you (Philippians 1:3).

I wish I could bring you all here together, take you out for coffee, and tell each of you how much you’ve meant to me over the course of my 23 years. But since I can’t, this will have to suffice.

Thank you for deciding to be my friends when we were little and bright-eyed (and some of you when we were going through that horrible awkward phase – you know the one). I still remember how some of us became friends, but the majority of you just seem like you’ve been there the whole time. There’s not always a definite beginning because, especially when we were young, it didn’t matter who it was or how it happened – we just made friends and we always loved each other.

Thank you to the ones who’ve drifted away. You were there to help me grow as a child and a weirdo middle schooler, and some into high school. We may not always be close, but I cherish the memories we made and the times we had because I’m certain that you were in that season of my life for a reason. We all change, but what your friendships meant to me never will.

Thank you for crying with me through the bad times, laughing through the good times, and celebrating through the best times. We’re all so different, but we love with the same big heart, and for that I’m grateful.

Our GIF texting conversations and hideous Snapchat faces will never fail to amuse me no matter how much I forget to reply – just remember, I really am reading them. 😉 And really, one more Netflix marathon couldn’t hurt.

We’ve all had our fights and differences and little rants, but I’m glad most of you have stuck with me. We didn’t all hang out at the same time, but we all had different fun, and I’ve loved each of you equally. From aspiring fourth-grade rock band members to hosting fake TV shows to singing together in recitals to those horribly-executed study parties, we’ve pretty much done it all. And I wouldn’t take any of it back for a second.

I’m thankful to have friends from all walks of life, and all kinds of places. Some of you I became friends with later in life, and we’ve made up for lost time with heart-to-hearts about our fears, hopes, regrets, dreams – anything and everything. You might not all know each other, but to me you’re part of that never-ending circle of friends (“the circle is round, it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend,” TBT to Brownies) who I love and care about just as much as the others.

We all have our weaknesses, and because they’re all different, we complement and push each other along. You let me totally obsess over all things Christmas and every puppy I see. Some of you brought me ice cream when I was sick and drove me around when I didn’t have a car or was just too afraid I would get lost. You listened to me go on and on about everything that seemed the end of the world to me and didn’t ask me to stop. So thank you for understanding me when I’m completely out of my mind and loving me when I’m the least lovable. For showing me compassion and empathy and grace and kindness even when I don’t deserve it.

I know you support me in my dreams even though you don’t always tell me out loud; I appreciate each of you for that.

Thank you for all the times we’ve sat in our cars and talked for hours, “Random Thursdays” spent in Wal-Mart, and late-night Taco Bell or coffee runs when we were supposed to be taking care of real-life responsibilities. It was needed for our hearts and our souls and our friendships. Thank you for correcting me when I needed it and encouraging me every day. You’ve all been your own kind of light.

I imagine it’s the same for most friend groups, but this one is special – because this one is mine. I’ll cherish your friendships for the rest of my life, no matter what happens.

Thank you, friends, for being you. I couldn’t do life without you by my side. There will always be room in my heart and a spot on my couch for you. 🙂

I Am a Person of Action

If you know me, you know that the title of this post doesn’t always describe me. I don’t like decisions, I have a hard time with change, and I would rather stay passive than stir things up most of the time.

But lately, I’ve been reading a book called The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. A friend of mine gave it to me before I moved and told me that it helped her through each of her moves – and I can see why. Each chapter has a different decision, or lesson, at the end that the main character is supposed to learn to help make his life better.

Just last night I had a hard time getting through a particular chapter because I thought I couldn’t relate to it; I thought it wasn’t making sense – similar to the character in the book. By the end of the chapter, when I reached the “decision,” I quickly realized how wrong I was.

Beginning today, I will create a new future by creating a new me. No longer will I dwell in a pit of despair, moaning over squandered time and lost opportunity. I can do nothing about the past. My future is immediate. I will grasp it in both hands and carry it with running feet. When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act! I seize this moment. I choose now.

I am a person of action. I am energetic. I move quickly.

Knowing that laziness is a sin, I will create a habit of lively behavior. I will walk with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. The lifeblood rushing through my veins is urging me upward and forward into activity and accomplishment. Wealth and prosperity hide from the sluggard, but rich rewards come to the person who moves quickly.

I am a person of action. I inspire others with my activity. I am a leader.

Leading is doing. To lead, I must move forward. Many people move out of the way for a person on the run; others are caught up in his wake. My activity will create a wave of success for the people who follow. My activity will be consistent. This will instill confidence in my leadership. As a leader, I have the ability to encourage and inspire others to greatness. It is true: an army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep!

I am a person of action. I can make a decision. I can make it now.

A person who moves neither left nor right is destined for mediocrity. When faced with a decision, many people say they are waiting for God. But I understand, in most cases, God is waiting for me! He has given me a healthy mind to gather and sort information and the courage to come to a conclusion. I am not a quivering dog, indecisive and fearful. My constitution is strong and my pathway clear. Successful people make their decisions quickly and change their minds slowly. Failures make their decisions slowly and change their minds quickly. My decisions come quickly, and they lead to victory.

I am a person of action. I am daring. I am courageous.

Fear no longer has a place in my life. For too long, fear has outweighed my desire to make things better for my family. Never again! I have exposed fear as a vapor, an impostor that never had any power over me in the first place! I do not fear opinion, gossip, or the idle chatter of monkeys, for all are the same to me. I do not fear failure, for in my life, failure is a myth. Failure exists only for the person who quits. I do not quit.

I am courageous. I am a leader. I seize this moment. I choose now.

I am a person of action.

This lengthy portion of the book stepped on my toes in so many ways. It also opened my eyes to something I’ve known for a long time, but never quite realized the importance! Underneath the heading, my friend wrote “Colossians 3:23-24,” which says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Being energetic, courageous, active, moving quickly, being a leader – all of these directly apply to working heartily at whatever you do. They each directly apply to being a Christian or even just a successful leader.

I won’t comment on everything he said, because he said it better than I can, but I will say this: Action here means making decisions; it means being OK with change and doing it joyfully. No one can both mope and act. No one can be lazy and and lively. No one can be (unhealthily) fearful and courageous. But in order to work at anything heartily, successfully, in a way the would please God, it only makes sense to be the latter. And to do that we have make a decision to move forward and think about now.

Andrews touches on so many aspects of life that I struggle with and I know others do, too. I can no longer excuse fear or worry or even despair about any given thing as “just how I am” or “my personality.” Because when I was baptized into Christ, I came back up as a new person. Someone who no longer succumbs to fear or mediocrity. Someone who is going to act for the gospel’s sake. Someone who is going to have zeal and energy for Christ. Someone who understands what it means to be a leader by example and teaching – no matter where I am, what season of life I’m in, or who I’m with. And I’m to do all of this humbly (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34). The world needs zealous teachers, examples, and doers, not people who are fearful, lazy, and indecisive. This is how we set examples and become encouragers. It’s how we focus on the goal. Just like we can choose to be happy and joyful (posts here and here), we can choose to be people of action.

No matter my circumstances, I am to choose to act when given the choice (and I always have a choice), because it starts with a renewed mindset. I can choose to act through prayer and grace,  with God’s help. My “decisions come quickly, and they lead to victory.”

I am a person of courage, of energy, of decision, of confidence, of consistency, and of leadership.

I am a person of action.

 

 

Why Example is (Almost) Everything

Influence. Presentation. Being a role model. There are a lot of words and phrases closely related to “example.” My mom and others have told me countless times: “People are watching you whether you know it or not.” You might not know who it is, but you need to know that you’re being watched by someone, being an example to someone all the time. Your words, your actions, your friend groups, they’re most likely being watched, especially in the age of rampant technology. Something you’re doing is probably encouraging someone to act the same way. You’re most likely being imitated. It could be children or peers or people older than you. Either way, you need to know your example is powerful, no matter who you are.

Example is almost everything. Even Paul said “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). It’s only almost everything because God’s glory is everything. Being like Christ is everything. It’s only a stepping stone to showing God’s glory, but it’s one of the most powerful ones out there.

Especially recently I’ve seen many, many posts on Facebook and Twitter about how disappointed parents are in celebrities for being bad examples or role models for their children, fans are disappointed because well-known people have gone back on their word publicly, how they don’t like someone’s actions because these actions don’t reflect what they have said they stand for. It’s difficult to stay consistent outside of the spotlight, and I suspect even more so when you literally have cameras following you around constantly. So when these people mess up, they get criticized, bashed, and they lose people’s trust.

But that’s just it. It’s all because their actions don’t reflect their words. Which is something every single person on this earth has been guilty of at some point (Romans 3:23). But, it’s not OK to throw our hands up and move on exactly the way we’ve been living, using this verse as an excuse to do what we want and act how we want. In order to be a positive example, we have to repent of this and fight every day, being careful about what we say and what we do – it can turn into blatant hypocrisy if we’re not diligent. That’s not appealing to Christians or the world, and it’s especially hated by God (Matthew 23 covers this topic fairly extensively). No one can be a positive example or influence, and certainly aren’t doing themselves any good, if their actions don’t match up with their words (Matthew 12:33-37). Friends, if we want to be good examples for other people, especially if we’re Christians, we need to match our actions up to our words. It should never be a “do as I say, not do as I do” situation. Consistency, continuity, and unity in our actions and words are more important than many people like to believe.

Even if our words and actions do line up, and we’re saying and doing things that aren’t right or excusable, people are watching. People see what you say and do: your peers, your church, your family, people in the world. I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: bad company ruins good morals.” Most of the time, this verse is used to warn against the people we hang out with and spend our time around. But what about being bad company? It could be worse if we’re the people who are ruining good morals for other people. People can be easily influenced, which is why Romans 14:13-23 says to “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” If something we’re doing is going to cause another to sin or even just discourage that person in some way, then we aren’t doing what’s right. Do you really want to be the downfall of another person, another soul?

I do want to emphasize the positives because this post isn’t meant to be harsh or judgmental; it’s meant to be an encouragement, to make you think. There are so many good and right things we can be doing with our example that won’t cause others to be discouraged. I talked some about this in my post called The Thing About Social Media, but, especially if we’re Christians, we can be using our social media accounts to bring others to Christ, not only in the words we write, and the links we share, but also in the way we live and portray that to others. We can share as many Christ-focused articles and Bible verses we want, we can talk about how much we love God and want to be like Christ, but if our pictures and “likes” and attitudes don’t line up with that, we’re only being a negative example because we aren’t truly living it.

The greater power and influence you have, the greater responsibility to follow through and make a positive impact on the world. If we know there could be people watching us, if we know there could be focused attention on us, even if it’s just one person, how much more of an opportunity to show them a good example!

But you can be a good example even without this earthly power. The most humble people in the Bible were the greatest influences – Ruth, for example. She wasn’t a queen, she didn’t think she was someone who had all eyes on her, but she was determined to live the way she should, showing kindness to her mother-in-law after they had lost some of the people dearest to them. When everyone else left Naomi, Ruth stayed at her side. And Boaz noticed ( Ruth 2:11 & 3:11). Someone watched her, and told Boaz. He wanted to be associated with such a “worthy woman,” and eventually they were married. Your example is that much more powerful if your character is what makes people want to associate with you.

Be like Christ.

You can take your example and help someone. If others see you legitimately living as a good person, an encourager, a helper, it’s going to be so much easier to gain friends and gain souls for the kingdom! No one wants to be part of a church or a group of people if they don’t see them spending their time differently than the world;  if they want to act like the world, they’ll just continue to be part of the world. A friend once said “Don’t look like the world because the world doesn’t look like God.” Be different from the world, and you’ll have a big impact. It’s what Christians are called to do in the first place! “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). This is what it’s about. Not being of the world, not being interested in the world’s things, but being interested in God’s things – following Christ’s example.

Follow Christ’s example to use your example to spark a light, start a conversation, enlighten someone, point the way to God, make friends and make brothers and sisters out of those friends. After all, Christians are called to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When you’re not speaking it, live it. Live and show others why being in Christ is such a blessing.

What does it mean to be like Christ? It means to be a truth-teller, to be just, to be humble, loving, merciful, completely obedient to God the Father (see any of the gospels to read how He lived while He was on this earth – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). It means to serve others instead of asking to be served 24/7, to tell the truth peacefully and with love, to give to those who need it, to be patient, and to treat others well. It means to do everything in your power to please God and influence people in the most important of ways, leading them to salvation. I challenge you (and myself!) to ask yourself if how you’re acting, talking, and living is a way that Jesus would be living. Be the type of person who sheds light instead of darkness on people’s lives (Matthew 5:16).

The greatest of responsibilities when it comes to example is to glorify God through your words and actions because ultimately it’s not about us. It’s not ultimately about being liked or friend groups or popularity or money or whatever else your influence might bring you. It’s about bringing glory to your Maker. He made us all in His image, and we need to act like it – to act like people who will stop at nothing to bring honor to God.

 

Home of the Soul

Friday and Saturday I was blessed with the opportunity to go back to my first home-away-from-home, my little town of Auburn. I got to go back to the place where I did the most learning, growing, loving, laughing, and crying in the shortest amount of time. Auburn University’s theme is that everyone in Auburn is a family. The students and teachers and alumni are all family. They say you don’t understand until you live it, and I’ll say that I didn’t understand it fully until I lived it and left it.

I got to go back last weekend and fit right back into the groove, into the place that I felt that I fit almost perfectly. From the second we drove into town, I felt like I was home. Really, I have a few homes. I have my home where I was born and raised, then I have my Auburn home, and now I have my new-family home. I love all of these homes. But there’s something about the one I took myself to, not knowing that I would always feel a tug on my heart in that direction.

Going to school at Auburn was an exciting new experience that I’m ever-thankful I had the opportunity to do. I saw firsthand the reasons everyone says “I believe in Auburn and love it,” and I’ll more than willingly say it myself.

But my favorite part wasn’t just Auburn’s family theme. It was that I had such a large portion of my spiritual family surrounding me, too. My favorite memories and lessons weren’t the ones I learned in class, they were the ones I learned with my friends, with my Christian brothers (plus my biological one), sisters, and with myself. The kind you can only get from really living your life – from learning yourself through your own mistakes and discoveries. There’s always a place associated with these lessons. A place where you learned it or realized it or found it or lost it. The places where you saw with new eyes and made the changes or let them be. Places inside the big-place where you completely decided who you were.

One of those places was the building where I worshiped every Sunday and Wednesday and some days in between. It was where I truly understood the meaning of church, truly understood why the church is my family. It’s where I got to spend most of my weekend with most of my people growing and loving even more. An all-too-familiar place where I’ll always feel I can go back to. I made a few realizations while I was there:

1. No matter how far you go or how long you’re gone, spiritual family welcomes you back.

I saw people I loved, most of whom I hadn’t seen in at least eight months, some in six, some in a little less. They each overwhelmed me with hugs and “how are you” and “I haven’t seen you in so long.” We studied together, prayed together, sang together, ate together, and after that we played games together. It was just like always and just like it should be. And just like my Christmas it was exhausting in only the best way.

2. God’s things never change.

No matter what’s going on in the world or in my world, worshiping God and fellowship with His people will not be different. We do it how He wants it every time, and every time it’s just as perfect because it comes from Him. Praising God doesn’t change because I move; His word doesn’t change just because the people do. We praise Him here, and we’ll praise Him forever. I got a small glimpse of heaven this weekend and a strong desire to be there with each and every person in the room.

3. Learning doesn’t stop just because you grow up a little.

When I went to my Auburn home almost five years ago, I didn’t imagine that by the time I was a year older I would have learned as much as I did – about life and about God. When I was a year older I couldn’t have imagined I would have learned as much as I have today, but it truly doesn’t stop. No matter how many times I open my Bible, I see something I didn’t notice before. No matter how many lessons I hear about the same Bible story, I always get a better understanding. The Word of God always has more to reveal than you think.

4. None of these homes are really my home.

No matter how much I love a city or a town, and no matter how much I invest myself in it and in the people there, it will never be my home. This world isn’t even my home. Heaven is my home. We were all made with an eternal soul, pattered in God’s image, truly meant to be with Him – not on earth. That fitting in “almost perfectly” feeling? I’m not supposed to feel like I perfectly fit in because I don’t. I didn’t really fit in in Auburn, even if it was one of the best comfort places on earth. We won’t ever fit in until we’re completely devoted to God, until we’re with Him eternally. That’s why my spiritual family makes me feel at home – because they’re my true brothers and sisters. Anywhere I go where there are God’s people, all together praising God, that’s when I can fit in. That’s when I can be who I was really meant to be.

So as I was sitting in the room, surrounded by spiritual family, all singing praises to our Father, I realized why I love this one place so much. I love it because it’s the place I chose to grow, my most significant place of growth in Christ. It holds a special place in my heart for the love I found and the realizations I made – for the people and relationships and adventures and experiences. It taught me that it isn’t, and will never truly be my home. For that I’m thankful.

 

 

The Living Will Lay it to Heart

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2, ESV).

I used to have a hard time understanding why the writer would say something like this. Why would anyone benefit more from sadness, grief, and mourning than joyful fellowship? What does this mean?

I learned the answer to my questions over time, as I grew older. Funerals are not particularly fun events to attend. They aren’t exciting or happy; in fact, I usually end up in tears even if I’ve never met the person. They make my heart hurt for the family and friends because they’re now missing their loved one. They make me wonder why things like this happen to some people, to people who are wonderful people and others who seem too young. But it’s grown more apparent to me over the years that this is exactly why the Ecclesiastes writer says what he says (despite the fact that it’s an inspired message from God).

The living will lay it to heart.

Heart-wrenching times can be the most heart-changing. The still-living will have a chance to reflect on the purpose of life. Those with honest and open hearts will observe their lives and the state of their souls in that moment – second-guess the way they’ve been living, or decide just in what ways they could be better. They have an opportunity to learn Who is in control and just how short this life on earth is. It’s a somber occasion that could be life-changing to those who haven’t yet found life in Christ. A funeral could be the moment when someone realizes that they want what Christ offers because that person now sees how much time is lost by waiting. Realizing that only God can fill the void. Even just that one soul whose eyes were opened in a house of mourning will be rejoiced over (Luke 15:7).

I’ve never been to a funeral or memorial service in which God wasn’t mentioned, one in which some trace of faith wasn’t shown. I’m sure there are some in which He isn’t acknowledged, but He’s there nonetheless; He still sees, and He still knows the state of each person’s soul. During grief is when people want to talk to God the most – to understand the situation or at least find some inkling of comfort. It shows that God will be praised in all aspects of life. God will and should be praised even in the darkest times because He is the light (1 John 1:5). If God is on our side we won’t be surrounded by darkness.

I’ve come to appreciate funerals and use them as a chance to pray for yearning and hurting souls, pray for my own soul, that I’ll live a life worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1). I hurt for people and with people, I cry and comfort and love, and it’s because of God that I can do all of these things. It’s because of God that anyone can move forward after a loved one’s death. I’ve learned to pray the hardest and display the biggest faith because of my attendance at funerals. I’ve learned that it’s OK to be sad and it’s OK to sit in my feelings for a while because I know I’m laying it to heart. The lowest points in life are often the most eye-opening moments – the ones in which I come to see God’s majesty more clearly than ever. I never want to discount the grief that those touched by a loss have during this time, but, more often than not, it takes an event this extreme to bring others to the realization that their lives are worth something to God, that they need to live a Christ-filled life.

God is there, and He is working. I pray that everyone’s eyes are opened, no matter the reason – because a life in Christ is worth the grief and worth the tears. They won’t last long, and time certainly won’t last long enough to miss the open door.

1 Thessalonians 5:2 (ESV)

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

 

8 Ways We Can Serve Others

Serving is one of the biggest responsibilities Christians have. It’s one of the most rewarding things for both the servant and the receiver, and there are so many ways to do this! The word “serve” is a verb, and a verb implies action. We are told to actually do something for someone. Kind words are great, but actions go a long way. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few good deeds (some for no particular reason), and it made me feel loved, understood, wanted, and encouraged.

Recently I was at a Bible study, and this was a topic that came up. We were asked to think about ways we can serve others – to get creative with it. You have to tailor a service toward the person (a lot like choosing an audience when you write). What would make that person feel the best? What does he or she really like? We didn’t have very much time to discuss what we thought, but since then, I’ve been brainstorming, and here’s what I came up with.

1. Send a card.

I love love love writing and receiving cards! It doesn’t seem like very many people do this anymore, so it’s especially heart-warming to get an encouraging letter to your mailbox. I think sending a card is a great thing to do because the receiver will feel loved and if you’re sending the card, you get to be reminded of your blessings. You could send holiday cards, birthday cards, or old-fashioned letters on stationery. It takes some effort to write a card, address it, and send it, and that’s part of the joy of receiving it! You know someone put in the effort to do something kind for you.

2. Take a meal to someone (or just a snack!)

This is probably one of the most-done acts of service I’ve seen. When someone is sick, they get a meal! Had a baby? Meal. Surgery? Meal. Just moved in? Meal. You get my drift. It’s a pretty easy thing to do for someone – you can just make a double batch of whatever you’re having that night, and take part of it to someone who could use a little encouragement or company. Although it can be cliche and overdone, it’s a very thoughtful thing to do, especially for someone who lives alone or isn’t able to make a meal for herself. It could even just be a batch of cookies, brownies, or a big bag of snack mix. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way.

3. Visit people.

A lot of people, especially elderly people or others in nursing homes, really just need some company. They don’t want a meal or a card – they want a visit. Sometimes the best thing you can do is go sit and talk to people. You could meet them to eat or to get coffee and catch-up, or if they can’t get out, just go see them. Let them talk to you about what’s going on in their lives; listen to them and try to understand what they’re saying – maybe take that information and see how you can help them further! When my grandfather was in the nursing home, we would go visit him. Even if he was in the middle of a nap, he jumped right up, so excited to see someone in his room who wanted to visit with him. I could really tell how much it made his day just by the look on his face.

4. Take someone a gift basket.

Pay attention to what people around you are talking about and how they’re feeling. You can easily make a gift basket to meet their needs. Use your resources to help other people. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I took a basket to one of our new friends who had a terrible cold and was working 12-hour shifts at the hospital. We decided to take her a basket with a couple of oranges, Epsom bath salts, an essential oil “cold bomb” blend, and a couple of other things that always make us feel better when we’re sick. Plus, we had all of these things on hand already! We took it to her house the next day, and she was thrilled. It wasn’t much, but anything in a basket sounds great to me.

5. Clean someone’s house.

It’s so helpful when people are busy and overwhelmed, and someone comes in to clean their house just because they want to. This was both mentioned at the Bible study I talked about earlier and something I’ve seen firsthand. Several years ago, when my grandmother passed away, my family had some wonderful friends who came into our house while we were taking care of funeral business and standing in long visitation lines and cleaned our house. They vacuumed the floors, picked up the (extremely messy) rooms that both my brother and I lived in, cleaned the bathrooms, kitchen, and probably more that I didn’t know about then. They knew extended family would be coming over, and that we would have visitors coming to bring us food, so they deep cleaned our home. It didn’t hit me then how kind of a deed that was, but thinking back on it, I can imagine just how much that comforted my parents.

6. Make something.

If you know a person who doesn’t have much money to buy clothes and you can sew, make them clothes! Dorcas (Acts 9) did this for people in need, and she was such a servant that she was restored to life so she could help others keep serving. If you know someone who needs help with repairs, do that. Some people quilt, some crochet, some know how to make things with wood or paint on canvas. If you can make something with your hands that would be useful to anyone, do it! What a wonderful surprise it would be to have something you need handmade by a person you love.

7. Read the Bible to someone.

When my grandfather (on the other side of the family) had dementia, he couldn’t read the Bible like he used to and always wanted to. One day I was reading a devotional book along with my Bible and he kept sitting up straighter to see what I was reading, and I finally asked him if he wanted me to read to him. He nodded that he did, and I ended up reading the entire book of 1 Peter (if I remember right) to him. He listened so carefully, and at the end of the reading, I said, “You used to read this a lot didn’t you?” (more about that here) He nodded and said “yes.”  We never know who needs help reading, who longs for the Word of God, but struggles to get through it or understand it. Pay attention to other people, and meet their needs!

8. Invite others to your home (or to a restaurant).

Since John Mark and I got married, we’ve gotten to enjoy a meal with at least three families in their homes, with one who paid for our meal at a restaurant, another family included us in their family meal outing later, and were invited to another home but we had already made plans that day. I was still getting used to a new place, and both of us were getting used to marriage, so it was nice to be able to eat a meal prepared by someone else and enjoy their company. Even if you don’t feed them, you could have them over for a game or movie night, light snacks, even overnight if they need a place to stay. Even if your house is small, you can have a couple of people over (something I’m learning). It’s really the thought and the company that counts. If you can’t have them over for food for some reason (the people we went out to eat with were having kitchen renovations done), I’m sure they wouldn’t mind going out to eat with you.


 

There are many more ways to serve people, but these are the simplest ways I thought of. People of almost any age can serve in these ways! I did some of these in college and even while I was still in high school, and they were beneficial to all parties. Don’t get too shy or insecure or busy to serve. You never know whose day you’ll brighten.