Who Told Us To Live Like This?

I value the wrong things.

I focus on the wrong things.

I prioritize the wrong things.

Maybe you do too.

 

This week, I found myself wandering around my life only half-present.  I was caught up in my own world, my own problems, my own trivial worries, my own empty anxieties.

Something had snagged my mind.

I caught myself dwelling on my own little world a little too much. What I wanted. What I deserved. What my life should look like.

 

And then, I woke up one morning, saw the news and was slapped in the face with the injustice permeating our world. It felt heavy. It felt distant. It felt out of my control. It felt real.

 

I sat outside with my steaming cup of coffee and allowed the silence of morning to wash over me.  I needed space to process. I needed time to grieve. I needed to sit in the discomfort and allow my soul to mourn the injustice, the hate, and the disunity of our world.

 

Slowly, I opened scripture, doubting I would find anything that could address the stirring in my soul.  

 

Now, let me get one thing very clear.

I’m not usually the, “Flip the pages and point your finger and magically land on the perfect verse” kind of person. It’s never worked for me. 

 

But the Spirit was determined to catch my attention that morning. Without any direction or plan, I found myself entrenched in the story of the boy turned King- Jeremiah.  And there was a chapter that put words to the stirrings in my soul.

 

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place....

Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.

He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’

So he makes large windows in it,  panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.

Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?

Did not your father have food and drink?  

He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.

He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.

IS THIS NOT WHAT IT MEANS TO KNOW ME?’ declares the Lord.”

 

Here’s where I’m at friends. So often, we try so hard to build our, “great palaces.” We work and strive and build and run towards the perfect and beautiful life.  We compare our lives to the world’s standard of the “good life” and complain that ours is less than perfect.

 

Our life isn’t fun enough.

Our house isn’t nice enough.

Our car isn’t new enough.

Our food isn’t fancy enough.

Our town isn’t trendy enough.

Our situation isn’t glamorous enough.

Our schedule isn’t free enough.

Our weekends aren’t crazy enough.

 

But who told you that?

 

Who told you that your life had to always feel fun?

Who told you your house should look like a Pinterest post?

Who told you that you deserve a newer car?

Who told you your food should be picture perfect?

Who told you to live in the coolest place you can find?

Who told you your situation should be glamorous?

Who told you that you deserve all the ME time you want?

Who told you to party hard while you’re young?

 

Who told you that’s how life is meant to be lived?

 

What if, instead, we ARE told how life is meant to be lived...but we’re ignoring it?

 

What if the goal and purpose of our lives has already been presented to us, but we’re so busy pursuing the things of this world that we’re completely missing it?

 

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”

 

Here are the questions we should be asking:

Are you fighting for what is just?

Are you actually working for what is right?

Are you rescuing real people out of oppression?

Are you providing for individuals who are struggling to make ends meet?

Are you standing up for the rights of the foreigner?

Are you caring for the orphans in your town or around the world?

Are you showing up for the widow who is lonely in your family?

Are you defending the cause of people who have no voice to defend themselves?

 

Our perfect houses, perfect lives, perfect image, perfect posts, perfect schedule, perfect routine, perfect meals will not change the world.  They will not be here forever. They will not matter in eternity.

 

What will matter?

PEOPLE.

The sacrifices we made for PEOPLE.

The love we showed to PEOPLE.

The resources we gave up for PEOPLE.

The time we poured into PEOPLE.

 

I’m done trying to grasp a life the world tells me I should have.

Rather, let's give everything we are and sacrifice everything we have to see justice thrive, hope grow, love multiply and redemption received.  

This is worthy of our lives.  

 

Comment

To The Person Waiting For A Sign

We often hear the stories of incredible men and women who were called to enter into prolonged seasons of waiting with little clarity and no apparent purpose.  

 

We read these stories and tell our friends, “Keep waiting. All in God’s timing. If you’re waiting, you're in good company.” And that is true. 

 

Abraham waited for 100 years to have a son. 

Moses waited for 40 years in the desert before God spoke to him through the burning bush. 

The Disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to them. 

Paul was left waiting for freedom in a prison cell. 

 

These people waited with astonishing courage and incredible tenacity. 

 

Waiting is important and holy and sacred and beautiful.

But waiting is not the end of the story. 

 

The Bible is not just a book about people who waited.

It is also a wild narrative, telling dramatic stories of individuals who showed extraordinary bravery as they took action; even when they didn’t have the full picture.  

 

Esther didn’t wait for someone else to stand up for her people. 

She didn’t create a pros and cons list to decide what to do. 

She chose to stand before the King. She took action. 

 

Joshua didn’t laugh at God when he was asked to walk around the walls of Jericho. 

He didn’t schedule a meeting with his mentor or pray about it for three years. 

He just started walking. He took action. 

 

David didn’t read a stack full of books about how to operate a sling shot when he heard the threats of Goliath. 

He didn’t pass the job on to someone who appeared more qualified. 

He just grabbed five smooth stones. He took action.  

 

Sometimes we are called to wait. And that is good and right. 

And sometimes we need to take time to pray, to reflect and to pursue the wisdom of trusted voices in our lives.  

But, is it possible we can absorb the stories of waiting so deeply into our souls that we assume we will always be called to wait? 

 

Maybe, sometimes, we just need to take action.  

 

What are you putting off under the excuse of, “Waiting?” 

 

What if the ideas, the plans, the hopes and the dreams we have within us aren’t mistakes? What if, instead, they are glimpses of the person God has created us to be and the story He has called us to live?

 

What if God is handing us wild ideas, big plans, remarkable hopes and imaginative dreams and He is waiting to see what we will do with them?

 

What if our ideas could change the world?

What if our plans could transform lives?

What if our hopes could inspire the people around us?

What if our dreams could usher justice into places of injustice?

 

So let’s take our ideas, our plans, our hopes and our dreams and let’s actually do something about them.

 

Because the ideas, plans, hopes and dreams God has placed within you really, really matter.

 

Comment

You're Invited

Everyone is welcome in this wild adventure of life.

 

In fact, you’re not just welcome. You’re invited.  

 

We live in a culture where young people, more than ever, seem to be waiting to be invited into the adventure of life.

 

We expect someone to invite us into community.

We desire for someone to invite us to participate in their cause. 

We want someone to invite us to make a difference and do something great with our lives.

 

And so often, we stand still until someone invites us.

We feel stuck, and restless, and unwanted, and purposeless.

Because no one has invited us.

 

But, what if we have already been invited?

Maybe, all that’s really left to say is, “Yes.

 

It is easier to justify our mediocre routines and mundane lives if we can convince ourselves we are still waiting for our invitation.

However, if we actually take the ownership over our lives, the responsibility is suddenly thrust back into our laps and we are forced to confront the question, “How will I contribute to this world?”

 

Here’s the question.

 

How would you live if you believed you were already invited?

 

Because, you are.

You’re invited to love without hindrance.

You’re invited to live with great intentionality.

You’re invited to laugh as loud as you’d like.

You’re invited to lead with remarkable courage.

You’re invited to travel far and wide.

You’re invited to stay home and spend time with people you love.

You’re invited to create beautiful art.

You’re invited to fight for justice around the world.

You’re invited to confront the injustice in your hometown.

You’re invited to make great speeches.

You’re invited to dress in bright colors.

You’re invited to speak boldly for truth.

You’re invited to preach the Gospel in back alleys.   

You’re invited to preach the Gospel on a stage.

You’re invited to create relationships across divides of race and culture.

You’re invited to start world-changing initiatives.

You’re invited to provide a meal for the hungry man in your city. 

You’re invited to welcome people into your home.

You’re invited to design beautiful spaces for community to happen.

You’re invited to write soulful poetry.

You’re invited to start world-changing companies.

You’re invited to raise funds for children across the globe.

You’re invited to pour into the lives of children in your own neighborhood.

You’re invited.

 

What are you waiting for?

Don’t waste your life waiting for an invitation you have already received.

 

God is still calling to His people and asking, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a)

He doesn’t force us to say, “Yes.”

He invites.

He asks.

And He waits for us to respond and say, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8b)

 

The invitation is already extended.

Raise your hand.

Say, “Yes.”

 

You’re invited into this wild adventure of life. 

We Love Justice...Until It Costs Us Something

If we were to gather a handful of young adults in a room and ask them to brainstorm some ideas on how they can make a difference, we might hear suggestions such as, “Bring a sandwich to a homeless person.” 

Or, “Buy a fair trade bracelet.”

Or, “Donate your clothes to a shelter.” 

Or, “You know…just love everyone.”

 

It seems we love the idea of making a difference, especially if it doesn’t actually cost us anything. 

 

But are we actually helping the people we are claiming to serve?

Or, is it possible, our spontaneous justice is actually hurting our communities? 

 

Young adults worship the idea of spontaneity.  

So often, we run full speed in the opposite direction of anything that threatens commitment, routine, or consistency. 

This can lead to great adventures, new experiences, and unexpected friendships.

Spontaneity can be good and healthy in our lives.

 

However, this spontaneous lifestyle becomes dangerous when it begins to characterize our approach to fighting injustice. 

 

Spontaneous justice often leads to privileged people swooping in and out of lives, situations, places, and experiences that “need our help” only to swoop out again when we feel we’ve fulfilled our quota of justice for the year. 

 

We swoop into our cities, pass out a sandwich and drive home.

We swoop into the homeless shelter, spoon some soup and leave.

We swoop into our food pantries, donate some cans and go about our lives. 

We swoop in, bring a temporary fix, feel good about ourselves, and leave. 

 

But this is spontaneous justice. 

Does it really fix anything? 

Or does it simply curb our appetite and make us think we’re making a difference? 

Could systemic injustice really be defeated through a spontaneous approach? 

 

Or, will it be defeated when we move, both figuratively and literally, into the lives of the people we are hoping to reach? 

 

When we show up, day, after day, after day, after day. 

When we go where brokenness exists and we ask questions. 

When we listen to people and understand their stories. 

When we ask, “What do YOU need? How can I serve YOU?”

 

No one has ever contrasted spontaneous justice as beautifully as Jesus Christ, Himself. 

 

As the God of the Universe, Jesus could very well have redeemed the entire human race with a snap of His fingers or the whisper of His voice.  

 

But He didn’t. 

John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (MSG)

 

He entered into your story and into mine. 

He walked the earth, He heard our stories, He touched our pain, He embraced our messy lives. 

He did life alongside real people and, as He did, He ushered true and lasting justice into their lives. 

 

Although He is the ultimate Hero of our stories, He didn’t act like one. 

Rather, He asked questions, and healed people, and then told people not to tell anyone. 

His healing and justice was strategic, intentional, and long term. 

He was here to break the chains of systemic injustice, not to swoop in and play the Hero. 

 

Because Jesus doesn’t see His people in two groups. 

He doesn't see the privileged as His “helpers” and the less privileged as the “others.”

 

He sees people as people. 

He sees value in every life. 

He sees world changing potential in the eyes of every one of His children. 

Black or white, slave or free, woman or man, refugee or immigrant, prisoner or homeless, rich or poor, first world or third world. 

Jesus just sees people.

 

If you and I truly want to reorient our approach to justice according to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, there are two steps we must take. 

 

1) Stop Using the Word, “Other.” 

 

During a trip a few years ago,  I found myself sitting in a church auditorium amidst a mostly white, privileged congregation. The church was sharing their excitement for a new initiative they were launching that would help their community in significant ways. The man on stage shared passionately about how much our money and resources and time could help those people who were living below the poverty line in their community.  

 

It was an extremely honorable aspiration. 

 

However, something didn’t feel quite right. As I looked around at all of the people who looked just like me, I wasn’t surprised. No wonder this church wasn’t ethnically, socially, or economically diverse. The leadership of the church was talking about the less privileged people of their community as “Others.” Using phrases like, “Those people don’t have enough money to provide for their families.” And “Those people are in great need.” And “Those people need our help.”

 

It was clear “those people” were not in their church.  

But it made me wonder, “Shouldn’t those people be the very people the Church is built on?” 

“Shouldn’t the others be welcomed and expected to be a part of our Churches and communities?”

 

Without even realizing it, this church was communicating, “We do not expect these people to be in our church.”

 

We must stop speaking as though the others are not welcome in our communities. 

Are homeless men and women a part of our churches and small groups?

Are refugees volunteering in our ministries?

Are our events filled with people who look just like us?

 

Instead, let’s speak in a way that communicates to our congregations, our audiences, our communities and our friends that every person is welcome. 

The way you talk will shape your culture. 

Don’t underestimate the damaging power of the words those people or the others.

 

 

2) Move Into Their Lives

 

Ushering justice into our communities isn’t just about solving external issues. 

It’s also about confronting the internal brokenness and spiritual poverty that exists in our world. 

Whatever God calls you to confront and fight against, don’t swoop in and out. Move in. Plant deep roots and allow yourself to be transformed in the process.

 

If you are called to speak into the lives of girls who wonder if their life is even worth living, do life with these girls and understand their stories. 

If you feel led to invite refugees into your community with open arms, then invite them over for dinner and hear their journeys.

If you desire to seek justice for those living in deep poverty, ask them questions, see them consistently, become a familiar face and establish deep trust. 

 

Move into the neighborhood, enter into their lives, and learn their stories. 

Get your hands dirty as you enter into the mess of humanity. 

 

Above all else, we must remember we are all broken.

 

If there is any beauty, goodness, hope, redemption or love inside of us, it is only by the work of the Holy Spirit and through the power of Jesus Christ. 

 

As we spend time with people who are walking through different experiences than we are, we must allow ourselves to be transformed as well. 

 

As we encounter the work of God in the lives of people, we may just find that God does the greatest healing, restoration and redemption in our own lives. 

 

I’m not the hero. You’re not the hero. 

Rather, we are called to reflect the heart and life and ministry of our Hero. 

 

So let’s go into our communities and see people through the eyes of their Creator. 

A Deep Breath Of Redemption

Chicago has finally taken it’s first, deep breath of spring.  

And it feels like my whole corner of the world has breathed a deep sigh of relief.

 

The brown, slushy mush has slowly melted away and the sun is more gracious in making itself known.  Birds are coming back to the party, warming up their vocal chords for the summer that is to come.  The wind is even different; gentle instead of biting.  It’s kindly drifting through the open windows of my Jeep instead of harshly whipping around the corner of every building.

 

And as I’m watching these external changes take place all around me, I am reminded of the renewal, the redemption and the new-birth Jesus wants to bring about in my own life.

 

I’m the kind of person who really wants to...arrive.

I want to reach my happiest life and I want to realize all of my dreams. Yesterday.

 

But the beautiful thing about this journey of following Jesus is the never ending, ever deepening redemption Jesus is inviting you and I to experience.

 

We love to post on instagram about the achievements we’ve realized, the dreams we’ve completed, the goals we’ve reached.  

But, more of than not, life is messy.

There is unrest in our souls, dreams still in progress, hopes yet to be realized and deep desires that are still unfulfilled.   

 

This wild journey of life is not about arriving at a destination and staying there.

 

Rather, we are in need of daily redemption. Daily renewal.

We need to be made new over, and over, and over, and over again.

 

Jesus longs to a work in our hearts and our souls and our innermost places to bring redemption into places of darkness, hope into places of despair, renewal into places of brokeness, joy into places of longing.

 

Steep your soul in the presence of the Almighty Creator who longs to bring rebirth into every part of who you are.

Take a deep breath of hope.

Welcome the gentle wind of renewal.

And take delight in a Jesus who loves us so deeply, so sacricially, so unconditionally He invites us to experience His redemption each and every day.

The Transformative Potential of Your Everyday Life

"So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you.  Take your everyday, ordinary, life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life- and place it before God as an offering.”

-Romans 12:1 MSG

 

We live in world where more is more and less is weak.  

We live in a culture that tells us to be busier, do more, and fill our calendars to the brim...especially if you follow Jesus.

 

But what if, when Jesus asked us to go out and make disciples of all nations, He wasn’t just referring to all the stuff we add to our calendars?

What if, in fact, He was talking about making disciples in our normal, everyday life?

 

The truth is, there are people right where you already are who need to encounter the love of Jesus.  

 

There are individuals around you right now, at the coffee shop where you’re sitting, who are desperate for hope.  

There are men and women at the desks next to you at work who are searching for purpose and meaning.  

There are neighbors you walk by every single day who are wondering if life is even worth living.

There are baristas you interact with every morning who feel like no one sees them.  

There are strangers you see every week at the gym, who have placed their identity in the image of perfection they are chasing.

There are siblings and parents in your very own family who are yearning to feel known and loved and cared for.

 

These people need the Gospel too.

These people need to encounter Jesus too.

These people need the hope you have too.  

 

So, take your, “everyday, ordinary life,” the places where you already are, and see them through a Gospel lens.

 

Here is the question:

How will you intentionally create relationships in the places where you already are for the purpose of seeing the Gospel transform lives?

 

This is not an event to add to your calendar.

It’s not a obligation to pile onto your stressful life.

It’s not a program you sign up for or a volunteer role you commit to.

 

This is about seeing your places, your people, and your positions with greater intentionality.  

 

Your life is meant to make eternal impact.

So take your life, your places, your positions and offer them back to God as an offering and ask Him to give you HIS eyes to see the world through a Gospel lens.

Wake Up.

I was determined.

I wasn’t going to miss it.  

 

After four days in the mountains you would think I wouldn’t still be so infatuated.  

But I was.  

 

I couldn’t help it.  

 

I always tell my friends, I think God had me in mind when He created mountains.

They say He may have created them for more people than just me.

I’m not so sure.

 

I sat in the backseat of that car zooming down the road, coming home from a weekend road trip across the country with some of my soul-iest friends.  

 

My soul-iest friends are those people who just seem to know me so well and for so long that they seem to know what’s in my soul before I do.

Those friendships are good.

 

We left our friend’s house in the cutest little town in Pennsylvania before the sun rose, hoping to get home before the midwestern snowstorm hit.

 

Everyone was exhausted from exploring and adventuring, so it was still and quiet in the car.

 

My sister was driving and everyone else was knocked out.

 

Except for me.

 

My eyes drooped.

Hard.

It felt as though I had 10 pound weights pulling them shut, and I was using all of my strength and will just to keep them open.  

 

My sister looked back at me in the rearview mirror and ssaid, “Hannah, it’s ok. You can close your eyes. You can fall asleep.”

 

To which I stubbornly responded, “No. This is my last glimpse of the mountains before we return to the flat land of Chicago….I don’t want to miss it.”

 

My sister chuckled and nodded.

She knew better than to argue with me when my deep stubborn streak combines with my passionate love of mountains.

It would be fruitless to try and convince me to go to sleep.

Because I wasn’t about to miss a minute of drinking in the magnitude, and the majesty, and the might of those mountains.

Not. Even. A. Moment.

 

So there I sat, for hours, willing myself to stay awake and delighting in every shifting shadow that crept over the rocky ridges of the mountains all around us.

 

And, it was worth it.

I wasn’t about to close my eyes and MISS anything.

 

Do you ever feel like you are sleeping through your life?

 

Like you have forgotten that on the other side of your eyelids lies the magic and whimsy and beauty of your life?

Like you know you could will yourself awake to experience life in all of its magnitude...but it’s so much easier to just allow your eyes to droop and to sleep through another day of your life?

 

We live in a world that is in the midst of waking up.

Millennials ushered in a whole new way of living where adventure is chased and beauty is celebrated, and now Gen Z is getting to benefit from this new, waking up world we are creating.

 

But, we are so far from fully awake.  

We have so much farther to go.  

 

Because, here’s the deal.

When Jesus described this life of following Him in a radical way, He wasn’t talking about an eyes-half-closed kind of life.

He described an abundantly open, free life.  An eyes-wide-open life.

 

Galatians 5:1 says. “Christ has set us FREE to live a FREE life. So take your stand!”

 

In other words.

WAKE UP.

OPEN YOUR EYES.

Life is being lived all around you.

 

Flowers are blooming and hills are rolling and waterfalls are roaring.

There is injustice to be solved and people to be loved and good work to pour yourself into.

There is beauty to be seen and laughter to be had and journeys to be taken.

 

So.

Wake up.

Keep your eyes open.

Don’t miss the moment.

Don’t fall asleep.  

 

Fight like heck against the temptation to coast by, to close your eyes and to fall asleep.

 

Instead.

Live boldy.

Live loudly.

Live like your life matters.

 

WAKE UP.

What You Are Actually Living For

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.”

Ephesians 1:13 MSG

 

What are you living for?

No. I’m not talking about the Church-y answer you usually give.

I’m talking about the pause, take a look inside, examine your soul answer.

 

What are you actually living for?

 

So often, we look around at our 21st century context and compare ourselves with the people around us and convince ourselves, “I am nailing it. I am living for Christ.”

 

But then….we complain our house isn’t big enough, our job isn’t fun enough, our car isn’t fast enough, our clothes aren’t new enough, our singleness isn’t fair enough, our spouse isn’t supportive enough, our kids aren’t well behaved enough, our bodies aren’t skinny enough, our lives aren’t happy enough, our church isn’t modern enough, our church isn’t traditional enough, nothing is...enough.  

 

And suddenly, we realize those things all actually really matter to us.

Because...we’re living for the things this world values instead of living for something greater.

 

Here is the question.  

What in your life have you given the authority to dictate what you should be chasing?

 

Have you allowed the media to dictate you should be chasing an image?

Have you allowed tv shows to dictate you should be chasing romance?

Have you allowed billboards to dictate you should be chasing happiness?

Have you allowed the success mirage to dictate you should be chasing bigger houses and faster cars?

Have you allowed an entitled theology to dictate you should be chasing a perfect church?

Have you allowed your friends to dictate you should be chasing the, “the one?”

Have you allowed movies to dictate you should be chasing your own selfish desires?

 

And what would change if you actually, ACTUALLY, walked away from all of it in order to live only for Jesus Christ?

 

What is your biggest distraction from living for Christ right now?

 

And what would it take to release it, to align your heart and desires with the person of Jesus, and to live a life fully surrendered to the only One who died so you could live?  

Discover Beauty In Everyone

“Discover Beauty In Everyone.”

Romans 12:17

 

I appreciate how, “real life” Paul is.

He wasn’t someone who sugar-coated or danced around a topic.

He was straightforward, sometimes blunt, and always honest.

 

And I love what he says in Romans 12:17.

Discover beauty in everyone.

It’s as though he is saying, “I know you won’t always see beauty in everyone at first. You may have to do more work to find it in some people than with others. It’s not always...easy.

You will have to DISCOVER it.”

 

Discover is defined as, “Find (something or someone) unexpectedly or in the course of a search.”

 

It is found.

It is unexpected.

It is discovered in the search.

 

But sometimes, we would rather not start searching for this beauty at all.

Because it’s easier to write that person off, to ignore them, to reason that you can love everyone else...besides them.

 

Maybe because they’re different.

Or, maybe, they’re too much like you.

Or, maybe, because they just aren’t that...cool.

 

Let’s be honest.

For those of us in the millennial generation, it is, “cooler” to love the homeless man on the corner than it is to love our families.

It’s, “trendier” to love the orphan in Africa than it is to love the neighbors who live right next door.

It’s, “more exciting” to love the widow across the ocean than the one in our very own family.  

 

Ironically, our generation is better at discovering the beauty in individuals far away who we barely know than the people we interact with on a daily basis.

 

But Paul doesn’t challenge us to only discover the beauty in the individuals who are removed from our daily lives.

He tell us to discover the beauty in...EVERYONE.

 

Your roommate.

Your Boss.

Your parents.

Your spouse.

Your co-workers.

Your Professors.

Your grandparents.

Your children.

Your neighbors.

Your clients.

Your friends.

 

And.

 

The orphans.

The widows.

The homeless.

The marginalized.

The forgotten.

The silenced.

The abandoned.

 

Everyone.

 

Discover the beauty in each person you interact with.

See it.

Name it.

Speak it.

 

And as you see the beauty in each person, treat them as though they matter, honor them with respect, relate to them with compassion and engage with them in love.

Messy Love

Maybe it’s just me.

But doesn’t it usually feel way easier to talk about radical love than to actually live it out?

 

 

So often, love can just seem like a really good idea that we plaster on the walls of our homes, tattoo on our arms and talk about with our friends.

 

Love is trendy, cute, and popular...especially when it is written in some script-y, fancy font.

 

But as I flip through the pages of the Gospels I am struck with a love that is anything but trendy or popular.

 

The love that Jesus lived out was messy, and inconvenient, and difficult, and painful, and hard, and uncomfortable and always, always about OTHER people.

 

For the King of the World, loving people was never about earning approval, or being “good,” or impressing others.

 

It was always about loving for the sake of another person. It was sacrificial. It was selfless. It was pure.  

 

As we walk through life, we must live with eyes wide open, hearts surrendered, ready to be used by God to love in radically inclusive, stunning, selfless ways.

 

Let’s become a generation that claims a different brand of love.

A love that cares more about others.

A love that believes deeply.

A love that risks daringly.

A love that crosses divides.

A love that creates unity.

A love that stands for truth.

A love that is inconvenient.

A love that changes our culture.

 

I pray God would change and refine my heart so that I no longer bring my own expectations and needs into the love I show others.

 

Rather, I want to love the way Jesus does.

 

 

Let’s love people.  I mean, let’s really, really love people.

 

Is Rest Sometimes An Excuse For Apathy?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

 

The idea of rest is a popular one in our generation. 

Every young person has heard the message, “You need more rest.” 

And most of the time I would agree. 

We live in a fast paced, fast food, fast wifi, fast walking culture. 

 

And in the midst of this crazed, highly caffeinated generation...Jesus' voice is one of stillness and simplicity and rest. It's beautiful. It's good. 

I believe we must have routine in our lives that provides room for real rest and authentic replenishment. 

I have experienced burn out and I have experienced seasons of healthy rest. 

I understand first hand the danger of missing the necessity for real rest and the power of healthy rhythms. 

 

But, in all of this talk about rest, how often we do ask the question, “What are we actually resting from?” 

 

We often seem to take this scripture out of context. 

 

Sometimes, we look around and say to an overly rested, apathetic culture, “Just rest. Jesus said it was important.” 

 

But we never seem to clarify why Jesus would tell His followers to take this deep, soulful rest in the first place.  

 

Jesus wasn’t telling people to rest because they were already really good at it. 

Jesus wasn’t preaching rest because His followers were already doing it.

Jesus didn’t have to demand rest for His children because they weren’t spending enough time on Netflix.  

 

Jesus preached a message of rest because His people were being sent out into communities where they were preaching the truth, performing miracles, healing people and more. 

Yet even with all of the good they were doing, they weren’t always welcome.  

 

In fact, Jesus warns them two chapters earlier, “Stay alert.  This is hazardous work I’m assigning to you.  You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove. Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation - just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities.” (Matthew 10:16-18)

 

These people were being run out of town and brought to the authorities all while their motives and reputations were dragged through the dirt. 

 

They weren’t just tired because of some ordinary, mundane life. 

They were pouring themselves out for the sake of Christ.

They were exhausted becuase they were sacrificing everything to do the work of Jesus.

 

When I read this passage, I imagine Jesus looking at His band of twelve young world changers with compassion and deep love.

I imagine they were dirty from walking down dirt roads, bruised from being pushed out of town, shaken up from their time before the authorities, and discouraged from the negative reaction of the people they were trying to love. 

 

Maybe they were ready to throw it all away. 

Maybe they were done. 

 

Rejection, hate, persecution, discouragement and weariness certainly wasn’t what they had signed up for…right? 

 

And it’s in THIS moment, looking at this rag-tag group of discouraged, disheveled twenty somethings, I imagine Jesus would have smiled and said, “Now, it’s time to rest.” 

 

Please don't fall into the danger of burn out or overwork yourself to a place of emptiness. 

Rest and replenishment is holy and needed and right. 

 

While we are allowing Jesus to fill us with Himself, let's ask ourselves honestly, "What am I actually resting from? And is it worthy of my one and only life?"

 

 

 

To The Millennial Who Is Afraid To Dig Their Roots

79% of Millennials want to visit all 50 states.*

75% of Millennials would like to travel abroad.*

69% of Millennials say they crave adventure. *

 

I love being a Millennial. I love our sense of adventure, our fearlessness, our crazy risk-taking nature, and our passion to experience all of life to the very full.  

 

But. 

For all of our adventuring, and exploring, and traveling, and risking…there is still one thing that seems to scare so many of the millennials I talk to. 

Let’s be honest…it scares me too. 

 

Roots. 

Commitment. 

Settling in. 

 

We love the idea that we can pick up and move at the drop of a hat. 

We idolize the gypsy lifestyle that allows us to travel from place to place. 

We dream of a nomad existence, wandering to and from, without any commitments. 

 

But. 

For all the glamour that surrounds this idea…we often seem to forget one of the central principles of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. 

 

It’s people. 

 

And if we want to make real impact in the lives of real people, we have to actually be present in their lives. 

 

We need to show up consistently. 

We need to be present in the pain. 

We need to invite them into our lives. 

We need to do life alongside them. 

 

When Jesus invited Peter to leave his boat, He could have said, “Come obey me.” Or, “Come read my laws.” Or, “Come with me and I’ll grab a quick coffee with you just this once.” 

 

But He didn’t. 

He said, “Come follow me.” 

It was invitation to join Jesus’ life. 

It was an invitation to be a part of Jesus’ story. 

It was an invitation to be led in a way that would eventually propel Peter into his own story of adventure and world change.

 

Because Jesus knew life change rarely happens through one cup of coffee. 

It happens through consistency. 

It happens though life-on-life investment. 

It happens when we show up time, after time, after time, after time in the lives of the people we are called to love and lead to Jesus. 

 

 

Don't abandon your love for adventure or risk or exploration or new places.  I never will. 

And if you desire to move somewhere new or travel around the world, by all means, go. 

 

But, please, don’t pursue a nomadic life at the expense of making real impact. 

Don’t keep your roots short for fear of becoming, “tied down.”

 

Instead, dig your roots down deep wherever you are, for however long. Create relationships, invest in lives, show up consistently, and lead people to Jesus. 

 

Watching Jesus transform a life through your faithfulness and consistency and intentional love may prove to be the greatest adventure you ever embark on. 

 

 

 

* Statistics taken from http://www.millennialmarketing.com/who-are-millennials/

A God Who Belly Laughs at Our Wonder of His World

As Fall officially makes it’s grand entrance into the midwest, I am reminded of the beauty of this season.  Some of the most magical moments are spent surrounded by a canopy of bright leaves, causing the whole word to feel golden and warm and...magical.

 

These moments are magical because they shout and leak and drip of the goodness of a beautiful and fun God who belly laughs at our wonder of His world. 

 

When we laugh from our gut...I think God cheers.

When we stare in wonder at what He’s made...I think He celebrates. 

When we dance for joy…I think He turns the music up louder. 

When we stand in awe of the bright hues He’s painted…I think He grins. 

 

When we pause and see and touch and feel and experience the beauty of life...I think the world starts to look just a little bit more like Heaven. 

 

Because I don’t think Heaven is just perfect. 

I think it’s also fun. 

It think it’s also beautiful. 

I think it’s gonna make me laugh. The big, belly laugh. The loud, tears-coming-out-of-my-eyes laugh.  

 

And I want other people to know how fun, and beautiful and perfect the place God is preparing for us is going to be. 

 

If we follow Jesus, this is part of our calling.  

 

Let’s show the world just a glimpse of our eternity. 

Let’s live with joy and remind our world what could be in store for them. 

 

Let’s laugh loud, walk slow, dance more, live wide-eyed, and just let ourselves fall completely in love with the magic of life.  

 

Let’s live in such a way that reflects the hope and the joy and the goodness and the fun and the beauty that we know is waiting for us on the other side of eternity. 

 

And then…let’s invite our tribe to join us there. 

United Around A Dream

The air was heavy with somber emotion and the hush fell thick in the little auditorium on that rainy day in Atlanta Georgia. 

As I walked through Ebenezer Church on Jackson street, I closed my eyes tight and tried to imagine what it would have been like to live in that community, at that point of history, in this part of the world.  

 

To walk side by side with an individual who would go down in infamy as one of the most influential men of our time.  

My hand brushed the light wooden pews as I looked around at the stained glass windows, sparkling as rain drops dripped drearily across them.

We slowly wound in and out of the room, as though we were winding in and out of history only ever brushing up against it and never able to fully understand all that took place in the hearts of the people who sat in those pews. 

 

We found our way downstairs to the Fellowship Hall, cool and white and quiet. 

We read the words on the wall, telling us the story of that incredible family who really did live and die in this place.  

 

There weren't as many visitors as I expected.  

But, maybe, I shouldn’t have been surprised. 

Maybe I was naive to have expected hundreds of people to pause and remember the life of a man who fought for equality in a country where so much hate still exists. 

 

Slowly a voice emerged from the front of the room. 

A gentlemen in a suit announced that in just a few moments, a presentation was about to begin.  This presentation was a special, unique event: An impersonation of one of MLK’s most influential speeches, done by the only man in the world who was licensed by the King Family to impersonate him.  

We quickly sat down, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to learn, to grasp, to glean anything from the life of this man who so often seems more of a legend than a real individual.  

 

I looked around as black and white gathered in folding chairs in a brick church in a normal neighborhood at the outskirts of Atlanta.  

And in that little basement, just for a moment, heaven touched earth and goodness was seen and justice was spoken. 

The voice of equality, of hope, of a dream that seemed so impossible rose above the sounds of hate, and violence, and revenge that previously had seemed so prevalent.  

 

“I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

 

These words echoed off the walls and the tears felt thick in my eyes as I thought about what this dream looked like today, in our world, in our generation.

 

Suddenly, the shootings and the riots and all of the evil that has invaded our world seemed to grow strangely dim and the sounds of angry shouts and inherited hatred seemed muffled.  

 

As I heard these words, spoken with passion and with belief, the dream seemed real and even…possible. 

Our world is hurting and unity seems as pervasive as ever. 

But in the midst of fear, and anger, and injustice we must never give up on the dream. 

We must remember those who have tirelessly walked these roads and bravely dreamed these dreams. 

We all need to walk past the divides and sit in a posture of humility to hear the stories of others. 

The baton is now in our hands and it is our turn to carry the dream forward.  

It’s yours and it’s mine. 

It is time to speak boldly, act courageously, unite humbly, and live differently. 

 

It is time to ask questions, to admit our own naiveté and to seek to understand.

 

Let’s unite around the dream. 

Let’s commit to see the next generation to grow up in a different world. 

Let’s be a country unified in hope, centered around a dream, and committed to justice for all.  

Dear Millennials: We're Not The Heroes

We love the idea of making a difference,

especially if it doesn’t actually cost us anything. 

As long as we can throw some money, or old stuff, or cheap food, or vague love at a problem and feel good about ourselves, we love justice. 

 

But, are we actually helping the people we are claiming to serve?

Or, is it possible, our spontaneous justice is actually hurting our communities? 

This is an issue we cannot be silent about. 

We must speak out, speak up and create change.

Justice is not a fashion statement or a good idea.

It is the calling of every follower of Jesus. 

 

Share this video on social media and let's ignite change in our world together. 

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 11.01.14 AM.png

The Truth About Beauty

I recently posted on Instagram about my thoughts on beauty and social media and how confusing it can all get. And as I read the comments and responses from girls around the country I realized…this topic is important. 

And it’s not just for girls. 

It’s not just for teenagers. 

It’s for all of us.  

As followers of Jesus and individuals who desire to live distinct lives, we have to get clear about the beauty conversation. 

This isn’t a neutral topic. 

 

It is one that is deeply embedded in our identity and our insecurities. 

We can easily pretend we have it figured out and claim we always remember the truth. 

 

But, we’re human. 

And so often…we just forget. 

 

Let’s keep talking about it. 

Because how we see ourselves matters. 

 

If we see ourselves as second-rate, mediocre, or “less-than,” we will never truly be able to live a distinct life. 

 

So, here is what I shared on Instagram. 

Let’s keep sharing, keep talking, keep opening up in vulnerability. 

 

Let’s see ourselves through the eyes of our Creator and live in the freedom of our identity in Him.

Because when we do, we can truly live a distinct life. 

 

Instagram Pic.jpg

To The Girl Who Learned Beauty From Instagram:

You open instagram and type in their name.
You stare longingly at their perfect outfits, and hair, and makeup and…everything.

Then you go put a face mask on, and buy that outfit online and workout…again.
You try harder and say, “I can look like that too.” So you change. You morph into whatever society says beauty looks like.
We work and we strive and we buy and we try…to look just like everyone else.

But as you're swiping through perfect picture after perfect picture…you begin to crave something entirely new.
Different.
Real.

Natural and imperfect. Real and yet beautiful.

Not beautiful like the world had told you how to be beautiful.
Beautiful like you were telling the world how you decided to be beautiful.

It’s so striking, so rare, so unexpected.

Because, it’s YOUR beautiful.
Just YOURS.

Unique and unlike anything that has ever been seen before.

Dear friend- be YOUR beautiful.

You aren’t beautiful because you fit into the world’s definition of beauty or perfection.
You are beautiful because you were hand crafted, carefully molded, uniquely designed.
You are a masterpiece of the creative Genius who painted sunsets, and sculpted mountain ranges and sprinkled the oceans with rainbow colored fish.
God doesn’t want to look at you and see someone else.
He wants to see YOU.
Imperfect, but full of life.

Sometimes wild, but full of joy.

Flawed, but full of hope.
Beautiful…in your own way.
Right in the very center of who God created you to be.
This is where we feel most free.

So go…be YOUR beautiful and live truly FREE.
#distinctmoments

The Simplicity Of An Adventurous Life

I woke up early each morning to the creak of our cabin and the wind brushing my face as I slept on the top bunk, right next to the open window. 

I climbed down the ladder and walked through a winding path, under a canopy of bright green leaves.  

 

The leaves crunched underneath my feet and there was something about going out into the world without having looked in a mirror that made me feel natural and truly authentic.  Like I somehow fit in more with the nature around me because I was just as authentic and in my natural state as the creation I was walking through.  

 

The woods felt thick with expectancy.  It was as though the trees, and the sunshine, and the lively wind were preparing for the hundreds of young lives that were about to spring out of their cabins and hoop and holler through yet another full day at camp. 

 

It was silent as I opened the door to the lodge and poured the thick black coffee into my white styrafome cup. 

Pulling my flannel a little tighter to shield myself against the cool morning air, I would select the perfect spot on the wide front porch and sit down, full of expectancy and confidence that Jesus would meet me. 

And He did. 

 

Sometimes I would read, or write, or just sit there, staring out at the camp gently enveloped in the glow you only see at sunrise.  

 

I breathed…something I hadn’t done in months. 

I paused.  

 

Those moments were sweet and sacred for me. My favorite memories of this summer were the ones I spent sitting on that front porch wrapped in flannel and sipping black coffee and communing with Jesus. 

 

I honestly don’t remember everything I thought about from that front porch or everything I was praying about or everything I read.

But there was one statement that continues to play over and over and over again in my head after I returned home. 

I had written it in my journal, almost frantically and without considering the cost of the statement. 

Without thinking twice, I had written, “Life here seems simple and I long so desperately for a simple life.”

 

It may not seem like much to you. 

But for me, it was as though that statement had been pounding on a door inside of me, just waiting to be spoken and acknowledged. 

And once I created the space… it finally broke through. 

 

It shocked me and was familiar to me all at the same time. 

 

Because, here’s the thing.

 

I’m most often known as the achievement-aholic, extroverted girl who has 5 million big dreams and careful plans to make them all come true. 

I can think of many words to describe my life.

Wild, exciting, thrilling, full, busy. 

 

But, simple? 

 

Isn’t that for…the weak?

The quiet?

The normal people? 

 

Aren’t I better than just wanting…simple? 

 

But in that moment, when my truest desires were unleashed and given the platform, my soul screamed for simplicity.  

 

For beauty.

For times of silence. 

For moments of pause. 

For baseball hat wearing and wild hair days. 

For walking slower and leaving my phone behind. 

For forgetting about a calendar and seeing the opportunities that were all around me.

For being impressed by Jesus, instead of impressed by myself. 

I wanted simplicity.  

 

What do you actually desire? 

When you take a moment to pause, to center yourself, to exist… what is your soul screaming? 

 

Is it screaming for attention or for care? 

Is it yearning for a pause? 

It is seeking purpose and fulfillment outside of your to-do list?

 

The thing about my simple life is that I still have big dreams, and audacious plans, and lots of stuff to do. 

I still love grand adventures and I still want a wild and full life.  

 

But I have started to ground myself in simplicity.

And from that foundation I am better able to bring simplicity and beauty and pause even into the craziness of life. 

 

My pace of life hasn’t exactly slowed down. 

But here is what has changed. 

I’m grounded in simplicity. 

Every morning, my day starts the exact same way. 

 

For this adventurer, consistency wasn’t really ever my thing. 

 

But for my simple life, it has to be. 

 

For me, this means setting my alarm earlier than my first meeting or deadline or work day. 

I pour myself the strongest cup of black coffee I can make, grab my Bible and head outside to commune with my Savior.  

I write out my prayers, or I read His word, or I listen to music or I just….pause.  

I breathe. 

I ground myself in simplicity. 

 

The beauty of this discipline has made me wonder why I didn’t start doing this years ago. 

 

But that doesn’t matter now. 

 

I started. 

And so can you. 

 

Life is crazy sometimes. 

It’s full. 

There are things to do, places to see, experiences to relish, people to be loved, and wonder to be had. 

 

So before you do all the good, crazy, overwhelming, amazing, beautiful life stuff… make sure to ground yourself in the simplicity of who you are in the eyes of your Creator.

To The Person Waiting

I see you waiting. You’ve been patient. Or maybe, more honestly, you haven’t been.

You’ve waited and watched it happen for everyone else but you.  

You’ve dreamed about it, wished for it, you’ve even prayed about it. 

But still…it hasn't happened. 

You haven’t landed the job.  You are still the same size.  That girlfriend hasn’t shown up or the pregnancy test is still negative. The big break is as allusive as it ever was and the opportunity is nowhere to be found.  You’re still searching for community and your big dreams still seem miles away. 

Still. 

You’re still waiting. 

It’s still not here. 

So…you just keep waiting. 

The word waiting seems to come with a lot of baggage and stigmas. 

So, it made me wonder. Did the heroes of our Faith, scattered all throughout history, ever wait? 

And if so, what did their life look like as they… waited?

 

It seems to me there are few people who had to WAIT longer, or as often, as Joseph. 

Yep, the Jospeh with the tenchnicolor dream coat and the 11 singing brothers. 

For a man who waited in pits, jail cells and deserts, he sure accomplished a lot. 

So, what did He do in his waiting that seemed to prepare him so well for the rest of his story?

And what can we learn from His story that can provide purpose and vision to our seasons of waiting? 

 

As we dive into this beautiful, complicated, compelling story, we can identify two elements of Joseph’s life that change everything we ever thought about waiting.

1) Choose To Thrive

“After Joseph had been taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelites, Potiphar an Egyptian, one of Pharaoh’s officials and the manager of his household, bought him from them.

As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him. He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master. His master recognized that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did. He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide. He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian—all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day.”

 

Jospeh was a slave, living in a foreign country, bought by a man, against his will. 

He was in a season of waiting. 

Waiting for freedom, waiting for rescue, waiting for his big dream to come to fruition. 

 

It seems to me he had every reason to just settle in and wait. 

To scrape by, get the job done, and just dream about the future.  

 

But, surprisingly enough, He didn’t.

He planted himself and he chose to thrive. 

He didn’t only survive. He actually thrived as a slave living in a foreign country against his will.

 

Hear this: 

You can feel sorry for yourself and your situation for as long as you want, but it’s not going to help your thrive and it won’t get you to your next season any faster. 

You can tell me that your life sucks.  

You can tell me it’s just hard to wait, and you would be right. 

But as we look at the life of Joseph we can agree this man exemplified a shocking tenacity through incredibly difficult seasons of waiting.  

He was a slave. Living in a foreign country. Bought by another man. Against his will. 

And yet, he chose to dig roots and reflect the heart of God even in THAT season. 

And because he did, the entire home of Pharaoh was blessed. All because one servant boy decided to thrive DURING a season of waiting. 

 

2) Serve In The Waiting

“Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the jail where the king’s prisoners were locked up. But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners—he ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.”

“After they had been in custody for a while, the king’s cupbearer and baker, while being held in the jail, both had a dream on the same night, each dream having its own meaning. When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low. So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong? Why the long faces?” They said, “We dreamed dreams and there’s no one to interpret them.” Joseph said, “Don’t interpretations come from God? Tell me the dreams.”

Next we find Jospeh in his lowest place yet: Thrown in prison for a crime he didn’t even commit. 

There he sat, a young man in his prime, forgotten in the dark of an Egyptian prison.  

 

Surely now, Joseph would sulk. 

Surely now, Jospeh would complain and admit to failure. 

Surely now, Joseph would just…wait. 

 

But, once again, we witness the incredible tenacity of this man. 

He doesn’t only look out for his own needs, he actually looks to the needs of others. 

 

He ends up managing the prison, taking a role of leadership and honoring God with the opportunity in front of him.  

His leadership was noticed time after time after time in the most unlikely of places. 

 

And then, when you already think Joseph is going above and beyond, Jospeh notices the “long faces” of two of his inmates. 

 

Why? 

Because Joseph was not so preoccupied with the WAITING that it prevented him from serving, caring for and loving the people God had placed around him. 

 

Instead, Jospeh’s eyes were open and looking for opportunities to invest in others, even from the desperation of a jail cell. 

 

So where are you struggling? 

Are you dreaming?

Are you thriving? 

Are you serving? 

 

A season of waiting is not a season that is wasted. 

 

Rather, as we see in the story of Jospeh, these seasons of waiting may just be preparing you for a future beyond your wildest dreams. 

After all, Joseph went on to become the second most powerful leader in Egypt, saving an entire nation of people from famine and starvation. 

But. 

Your season of waiting will not prepare you if you do not embrace them, dig your roots down and CHOOSE to thrive and to serve right where you are.

The season you are in is not a mistake. 

It has purpose.

Let's be a generation who trusts God to work in the seasons of action and the seasons of waiting. And as we wait, may we choose to thrive, choose to serve, and choose to bring glory to our Creator. 

How Do We Actually Die to Ourselves and Live for Christ?

I am always honored to write for other blogs and organizations.  

The article below is an article I wrote for Christianity Today and I am so excited to share it with YOU, my Tribe, here! 

Find the original here: 

(http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/dying-to-self-and-living-for-christ.html)

I sat in the midst of prosperity and entitlement at a beautiful resort on the gulf coast, sitting by a pool, soaking in the southern sun.  

There I was, surrounded by comfort and ease, reading a book that made my heart yearn for something completely different.  

 

I was reading a book that told the story of individuals who were willing to sacrifice everything to bring the Gospel into unknown places. 

They sacrificed their comfort, their culture, their wants and, ultimately, even their life in order to follow the call of Christ to “make disciples of all nations.”  

 

My heart burned with the desire to have that same relationship with Christ. 

I yearned to love Jesus and His Gospel so earnestly that I could truly say, along with the saints and missionaries of the past, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 

 

As we read books about famous missionaries or read the stories of the disciples from the Bible, it is easy to claim we will pour our lives out for the sake of the Gospel just as they have.

 

However, if we are called to be missionaries in our own country, as so many of us are, it can be difficult to know what that radical surrender and sacrifice looks like in our first-world context. 

After all, in a country known for it’s comfort and ease, how can we stretch ourselves? 

 

How can we put ourselves in places of discomfort while living in our comfortable houses, shopping in our comfortable stores, and eating our comfortable food? 

 

How can we be grateful for our many blessings, while also pushing ourselves to grow in new ways? 

The call of the American missionary is different from those missionaries called to cross oceans. 

Individuals called to serve in an international context will be forced to sacrifice their wants, desires and comforts as they enter into a new culture.  With each opportunity to deny their own comfort, their ability to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Gospel increases. 

 

Just as our muscles grow stronger as we lift weights, our “muscle” of sacrifice strengthens as we accept more and more opportunities to deny ourselves in order to love others radically, serve others selflessly, and minister to people when it is inconvenient or messy.  

 

This leads us back to our original question: 

How do we, as missionaries called to serve in America, strengthen our muscle of sacrifice and selflessness for the sake of the Gospel? 

 

I believe there are two steps we can take in order to prepare ourselves to be ready to surrender our own selfish ambitions in order to see God’s Kingdom come to earth.  

 

1) Surrender Spontaneously

Each day we encounter small, unexpected invitations to surrender. Our mistake comes when we consider these invitations as inconsequential or trivial.  

Rather, it is these daily invitations to deny ourselves and surrender our wants that prepare us for the larger risks and invitations God may ask of us in the future. 

 

Can you pause to have a conversation with the neighbor you always wave to through the car window as you speed off to your next activity? Can you set aside your to-do list in order to sit with a friend through their pain and tragedy? Do you have time to buy dinner for the homeless man you see standing on the corner in your town every evening? 

 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:37-40

 

2) Sacrifice Strategically

While we have daily, unexpected opportunities to stretch our muscle of sacrifice, there are also ways we can strategically place ourselves in situations that cause us to grow in our perseverance to further the Kingdom of God on earth. 

 

Could you sacrifice sleep in order to gather with your community before your busy day to unite in prayer for your city and the people you have been called to reach with the Gospel? Would you give up your time to commit to mentoring a student in your community?  Could you schedule time in your week to serve with a ministry doing great work in your town? Would you strategically plan to wake up early to read the word of God? 

 

These sacrifices are not meant to be legalistic or confining. 

Rather, they are invitation to freedom as they guide us into deeper surrender to Christ and His purposes. 

 

“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

1 Timothy 4:7-10

 

We were not placed on this earth only to strive for happiness and our life is not meant to be lived for ourselves. 

 

Jesus has called us to see our places, our communities, our neighborhoods and our families as our mission field. 

 

Let us train ourselves to see our life in light of eternity. 

Let us remember we are on this earth to save the lost.

Let us sacrifice and deny ourselves as we surrender every moment to the work and leadings of the Lord. 

 

As followers of Jesus, we know our eternity is secure. 

So while we are on this earth, we must be ready to sacrifice anything or everything to do the work of the Lord and see eternities transformed. 

In this way, we will truly be able to say, with the saints and missionaries of the past, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 

 

Dear Friend, You're Enough.

Dear Friend,

I see you scrolling, liking, editing, posting, friending, and waiting. 

Waiting for the affirmation and approval to pop up on the screen of your phone.

Always wondering, “Am I enough for these people? Do they like me?”

 

I know it because, well, me too. 

But it’s not just social media. 

It’s life. 

 

Right? 

It’s the earning, and striving, and silent conversations in our heads. 

It’s the wondering if we’re enough or if we’re worthy. 

 

We walk into a coffee shop…and we wonder if we belong. 

I run down the path in my neighborhood…and I wonder if I’m enough. 

You meet up with your friends…and you wonder if you’re worthy of their friendship.

I wander around my city…and I wonder if people think I’m too…fill in the blank. 

 

Can we just be real?

 

I have insecurities. 

Insecurities about how I look, who I am, and if I could ever be enough to be used by God. 

 

But we keep these insecurities inside, as though pretending they don’t exist will make them magically disappear.

 

But they don’t.

In fact, they grow bigger and stronger until they seep into every single part of our lives.

 

And we wonder, “Why do I feel so disconnected from God, from my community, from my life?” 

While all the while, there is a giant black cloud of shame and doubt and insecurity hovering around us.  

 

So, let’s be done with hiding the icky, real, messy life stuff. 

Let’s acknowledge it. 

Let’s speak it.

Let’s invite others into our real life thoughts. 

Let the people who love you speak truth into your doubts, your insecurities and your shame.

Let the fierce light of truth pierce the black cloud.  

 

May we embrace the love, the mercy, and the goodness of a God who delights in communing with us in the very center of our most messy, icky, shameful moments as He draws us into the light. 

 

And let’s accept the radical, Christ-like love of people who want to know us; The real us, the ugly parts of us, the most authentic us.  

Allow that love to transform you. 

 

Speak your insecurities and allow people to speak truth. 

Be brave. 

Be real. 

Be free.