“I’m Not a Regular Church, I’m a Cool Church…(Mean Girls, Anyone?)”

I have been a bit frustrated with myself this week, to be honest. I simply have not been able to find anything to write about. It’s not writer’s block, seeing that once I start writing, words seem to flow with ease. It’s just been more of a lack of any inspiration. But maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for inpiration and much as simply seeking God and listening to Him speak to me. Yep, that’s probably it. But even still, I never want to force words onto the page. It needs to be real and honest. It needs to have soul behind it so there is something to really grasp. I believe authenticity must be at the heart of any creative venture and I was sensing a void of any real, true words to speak on. So, all that to say, I do sense inspiration (Well, God) in this moment….and it seems to happen one sentence at a time. Bear with me because I don’t even know what will be written on this page in the next few hours but whatever it is, I sense it needs to be said.

If you’re reading this, you either go to my current church, went to my old church, went to my christian school, or you’re my mom. So presumably, you are a Christian or you at least know about God on some level. If you do know God, this post could be offensive to you. It really shouldn’t be but I know someone will think I’m wrong about this (if I say something fundamentally incorrect, please let me know…seriously). But sorry because I’m not sorry at all. I must write about it. I must. I’m not writing out of anger but out of urgency. So please, judge me if you want. But believe me when I say I’m not trying to come across condescending, judgmental, or jaded. Perhaps, you’ll agree with what I have to say. Who knows. Either way, it’s important to address and it’s becoming the common way of the Christian church and that is what scares me.

So, if you hadn’t noticed, churches are trying to be “cool” or whatever. The typical church promos look more like a Fyre Festival ad *cue lo-fi indie instrumental* than an informational video about the upcoming sermon series on the life of Paul. The over abundance of fedoras, leather jackets and Chelsea boots on virtually every guy makes you feel slightly uncomfortable and confused. And my favorite one of all, “church merch”. Ahhh yes, I love overpriced t-shirts I will only sleep and paint my house in. Of course, I’m only teasing about these things but it seriously does make me want to throw up in my mouth from time to time. It can seem gimmicky but in their defense, humanity will always create and replicate ideas, which is a beautiful thing. However, it does seem the church attempts these particular ideas on such a massive scale which typically comes across as “trying too hard”, which is so painfully obvious to spot.

Now, what is the motive? Why must churches personify themselves this way? There may be multiple reasons on the surface but at the core, it’s all the same. I believe it’s because churches are trying to emulate societal fads in an attempt to demonstrate that being a Christian isn’t actually lame, which will draw masses of people on any given day. (I’m generalizing but there is some truth to it.) If I’m honest, I cannot stand it. It just feels…..fake. Now maybe that seems harsh or whatever but I’m just putting it bluntly. That may not be the heart of whoever is promoting this idea. This could be a subconscious thought. There are probably are good intentions behind this, but I believe it brings about a myriad of destructive issues into the house of God.

There are two main points I would like to address: Vanity and Grace. One relates more to the promotion of the Christian church at large and the other deals with the heart the Christian individual. These two issues may seem like an uncommon pairing but they are the main themes I notice. I will relate them back to one another but will address them separately.

 

-Vanity

You could say the “cool church” thing is similar to pop music. Take Maroon 5 for example. They are massively popular. They just played the Super Bowl Halftime Show, which is one of the pinnacles of any major artist’s career. They have so many hit singles and I’m sure their concerts sell out. Adam Levine is hot, he sounds good, has good branding, and his music is undeniably catchy. But how many people do you know that are die-hard Maroon 5 fans? Probably none. They are good (well, their first album was) and their music makes people happy but it’s not sustainable because the message behind their songs doesn’t have much substance. I mean, “Moves Like Jagger” has ZERO substance and if you like that song, I deeply question your musical taste. Of course, I suppose this is all an opinion but I think there lies a point here. On the opposite spectrum, take Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, or The Beatles. These are artists who have completely shifted the musical culture for generations. But why? I believe it’s because they defied the societal mold of the time. They presented ideas through their lyrics that move the soul to acknowledging change as well as a solution to a problem. Their music is riddled with emotion and depth, not just surface level niceties. Obviously, these artists are not always promoting positive values, or certainly Christian ones at that, but the underlying theme possess similar parallels to the church. Is the motive of church culture to encourage happy thoughts, free of any substance or permanent change or to encourage change on a soul level? Is modern Christianity really promoting  for the unpopular, scandalous, passionate, fully immersive, all-consuming version of Jesus?

I find being “cool” to be quite subjective. I said in a previous post that it really doesn’t exist. There are trends which may find more cultural popularity than others but really, it’s a facade. Overcoming the fear of people’s perceptions is terrifying, and so many times, being “cool” and conforming to society is actually easier. When I look at churches today, I notice a massive amount of effort being spent to make church seem hip and relatable. Every established church seems to have fancy lights, cool graphics, Insta- influencer inspired promo videos, a donut wall, and the list goes on. In theory, these things are fine, but I would question if maybe too much reliance is given to these tools. Also, church is intended for believers to gather to praise God and more commonly, I see the praise being directed to the individuals for accomplishing a successful Sunday service or creating cool branding which draws the people in. Maybe I’m wrong about this but perhaps there’s a subconscious desire to want “cool” people to attend the church, more so than others. Perhaps one would want these people to feel comfortable in the church environment and not be turned off by “Spirit- filled Christian” words, phrases, or practices. But why?! This is Jesus we are talking about! He was the most passionate person who has and will ever walk the earth and was crucified for His highly criticized teachings! Church should never be about appearances, but about speaking truth! But for some reason, I see Christians dumbing down the Bible in an attempt to make the non- believer or new Christian feel at ease.

It bothers me just how much comfortability has become a selling point. I suppose I understand why this kind of promotion is encouraged. Walking into a church is scary enough if you don’t do it often so, naturally, one would want the guest to have an enjoyable experience. I believe this is well-intentioned. But why in the world would anyone ever want to present a mediocre version of God? This consistently confuses me. I’m just going to say it: Why bother making church comfortable for a new attendee if Christianity requires the complete abandonment of comfortability? Being a Christian is one of the most uncomfortable things you could ever do. Death to self and devotion to God requires submission and what good could ever come from a softened version of the Bible, especially when it sometimes come from the one place you wouldn’t expect? I mean, let’s present the facts as they are! I would argue that if the church helps to properly equip people with the knowledge of Christ, an authentic, passionate, evangelistic faith will take care of itself. As you follow the leading of the Spirit, you will naturally stumble into a growing church, not because of some strategy meeting and free coffee. I believe this kind of authenticity is what’s actually “cool”. Not by societal standards, perhaps, but because people who actually know what they believe, are passionate about it, and don’t care what the world thinks are the ones to be admired. And they probably don’t even know it.

-Grace

The argument may be, “Who’s to say these churches aren’t passionate?” “Who say’s these churches don’t have substance?” “What’s wrong with being culturally relevant?” (I say “these churches” because there is a specific movement of Christianity I’m addressing.. I’m aware many churches are not like this). These are really difficult questions to answer (please know, I am trying to speak truth in grace, as best I can). I believe some of them are passionate, do have substance, and can be relevant while simultaneously walking in truth. But there’s a deeper issue here. Although I believe these churches teach Jesus, there seems to be somewhat of a contradiction happening. If you have a love for God, and I mean that you truly know Him, it is presumed you desire to be like Him. You make every effort to walk the “narrow way” (Matt. 7:13-14) in pursuit of divine obedience because you actually desire to please Him. I know Christians who believe in God and love him deeply but their passion seems maybe…”watered down”. This is the best way I can describe it: If you really believe something, it is likely won’t compromise your position on the subject. If you know any vegans, my point is here is proven. Hardcore vegans will not only adhere to a strict diet but will also not even want to own anything actually made from and animal, like leather and things like that. (These people would despise me.) And as crazy this lifestyle seems to me, there’s dedication is something to be admired. The same is true for Christians. Full devotion to God on that sort of level is what we ought to strive for. However, I know many Christians who claim to follow God, yet there lifestyles make me question their position.

Now, we are not perfect. Our sin nature proves this. We sin time and time again and we will continue to do so. But how often do we sin and are comfortable with it because we know we are covered in God’s grace? In Romans, Paul confronts such thinking: “Should we sin because we are not ruled by law but by God’s grace? Not at all! Don’t you know that when you give yourselves to obey someone you become that person’s slave? You can be slaves of sin. Then you will die. Or you can be slaves who obey God. Then you will live a godly life” (6:15-16).

I’ve encountered many believers who usually attend the churches I speak of, who seem to behave in this manner. I see this to be the widespread issue: lowering God’s standard of living to suit the non-believer (and the Christians, too)  for the sake of, as I mentioned, “comfortability”, and using the religion of love as a means of justification. “You are covered in God’s grace….You are no longer called a sinner….It’s doesn’t matter what you could ever do, God will still love you and call you a son or daughter” and things of the like. PLEASE understand me, I wholeheartedly agree with this but I notice this kind of preaching can tend to be one-sided, leaving out the other vital element: you must abandonment sin, live in repentance, and choose daily to live to the higher standard that God would call you to if you really call yourself a Christian! The Bible says, “Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Yes, God does love you so much! Yes, you are covered by His grace and He loves you regardless! But you cannot use His love as a way to continue living like the world!

I have to say before I continue that I am no better than what I’m discussing. I am guilty of these things just like everyone else and I do not place myself on higher pedestal. But I grieve these things. I grieve that I behave this way. I do not like it and continually work to walk in holiness to then encourage others to do the same, out of care and concern.”“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.” –John 7:24

I look at the lifestyles of Christians and sometimes I cannot even tell who is the Christian and who is the non-believer because their lives almost mirror each other. For example, I see Christians speaking like world, using foul or crass language. I see Christians drinking like world, continually getting drunk and going to bars with other Christian friends. (Will this action really bring you closer to God? Can His spirit properly work through you when surrounded in such an atmosphere?…..WAY different topic for another time, but I will get there). These things don’t mean that you do not love God or that you God doesn’t still call you a son or daughter. But shouldn’t we live to walk in holiness while encouraging our neighbor to do the same?

This is the common issue I find with many modern Christians and perhaps this is why “cool” church can feel stale. The lack of conviction proves so obvious and it causes church experience to seem fake. Following Christ is not lame, in the least bit. It’s the greatest decision you could ever make. I want to be around Christians who live in holiness and believe is so strongly, that I have no choice but to be excited and inspired by their convictions. I want to become better after I spend time with them, not feel validated in my current lifestyle. I want to emulate Jesus so much and to be “transformed by the renewing of my mind”, not be fed the religion of love and happiness. That will never bring about permanent change to my heart.

In conclusion, there is nothing I desire more than to be genuine. I just want live as Christ lived, free of any social constructs to determine my lifestyle of faith. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be “cool” but I find that we just take it too far. Focusing on God’s holiness will bring about passionate people and speaking Biblical truths will bring authentic life into the heart of the believer and then to the church culture, not just making church a hip place to meet some nice, well-dressed, people who will make you feel good about yourself. We are all a continuous work in progress, I know this. But may I encourage you to be passionate! Live with a fierce desire to live as Christ did! Don’t try to keep up an image or live in contentment with your current lifestyle because God continually calls us to more of Him, and less of ourselves. Let’s believe what we claim! Belief is the driving force behind passion, and in turn, passion makes one believe what is being promoted. There must be belief, which is faith. This is essential. If you don’t want to believe in Jesus, then don’t. But if you do, believe is with every fiber of your being. There must be passion. In my opinion, if you believe Jesus, passion has no choice but to follow. God is too good to let us not fall in love with Him over and over again. Lastly, there must be change. When in love with Jesus, change will follow suit because must. The more we understand the heart of God, the more we will change, even if it seems nearly impossible.

 

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the Word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight reign on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”
– James 1: 21-26

“World’s (Least) Greatest Dad!”

This is, without a doubt, the most vulnerable topic I’ve addressed thus far. There is no beating around the bush about this so I’m just gonna give it you straight. This post mainly consists of my childhood experience so I do apologize if it seems sappy or filled with self-pity. My heart is not to make this blog purely about my life but I suppose you can only speak from what you know and I know my fair share about this. I have wanted to discuss this for a while now, but I was timid. But…..screw timidity because who really cares?  Also, if you start to feel sorry for me while reading this, don’t. I genuinely don’t care that people know this information. I don’t think it’s spoken about enough. God has healed me in miraculous ways and I’m stronger and wiser because of it. With that said, I sincerely hope this ministers to someone, or at least, to one of the five people who actually read these things. If you have gone through a similar situation, just know you’re not the only one! Here it goes…..

So, we all have parents, like, duh. Many of them are wonderful and so full of love. If you have these parents, I’ve nothing but happiness for you. It is a rare blessing. On the flip side, some parents are less than extraordinary. Actually, they can be pretty awful. I’m lucky enough to have the awful kind. Now, to be clear, this does not NOT apply to my mother. My mother is the most beautiful, loving, supportive mom I could have asked for. Actually, my entire family is fantastic. I love them endlessly. It is solely my dad who falls in the “less than spectacular” category…and I mean, like, way, way less.

My mom had me at a young age and as a result, I lived with my grandparents and three aunts for much of my childhood, which I am SO beyond grateful to God for because I do not know who or where I would be without their raising. My dad has never been a stable figure in my life but his presence become more consistent around age 7 or so, when my parents married. Surprisingly, I do have a few fond memories of him but my negative recollections are the most notable in my mind. To put it bluntly, he was just an angry, manipulative, narcissistic, yet extremely charming liar (think Ted Bundy documentary minus the psycho killer aspect) and he took out his anger in “less than spectacular” ways. (*Hint: abusive. In every sense of the word.*)

There are many types of fathers out there. As I mentioned, there are the rare great ones, the toxic ones, the absentees, and the overworked and thus, disconnected ones to name a few. Mine falls deep into the toxic, dysfunctional category. Lovely. If anyone has ever been in an any kind of abusive relationship, you know that calling the dynamics of dysfunctional relationships “complex” is a severe understatement. It is STRAIGHT UP TWISTED. It typically showcases co-dependence, with the recipient of the abuse on a seemingly endless mission to please and receive validation from the abuser, who seeks power and control. The recipient lives in fear and self-loathing and it is a pattern that painfully destroys you from the inside out. It’s tragic, to say the least.

I’m not sure I realized how abnormal my life was until I grew older. We all have the tendency to normalize the dysfunctions we witness growing up. Of course, I knew something was wrong due to the fact that my grandpa (the other constant male figure in my life) was always so kind (not to mention, genuinely just….cool). How could he have been so good to me and my own biological father be so cruel? How could my mother be married to him if he was so mean to her, myself and my siblings? These were all thoughts I pondered many times as a child. It was all very confusing. The older I got, the meaner he became, and I’m afraid I did as well. And the worst part of  all of it? NO ONE KNEW. Almost every person in my family’s social circle, outside of a few close family friends and people in my parents’ past, thought he was a great guy and it made me sick to my stomach. Sure, he had his nice moments, don’t get me wrong, but there was typically an agenda behind these niceties.

We all possess coping mechanisms, some beneficial, some not. When I became a young teenager, I learned to just shut myself off with apathy. I lived on the assumption that if I wouldn’t think about the problem, it could magically disappear, if only for a while. And I was ok with that. I simultaneously became combative because frankly, I did not want to feel helpless anymore. If he would yell, I would yell back. If he hit me, I would hit him back. Admittedly, there was zero respect on my end but I didn’t care. I was sick of it. And then I would just forget about it and move on. I knew this was dangerous territory but I was numb. Of course, with age comes wisdom and thankfully, I possess enough now to know this was my coping mechanism, but it could have easily become part of my character if I hadn’t stopped it when I did. I felt I needed to act out of necessity. There were moments when I might have had to, but it came with a cost.

I recall having a conversation with one of my youth leaders when I was around thirteen or so. I opened up to him and mentioned everything happening in my household. He wasn’t surprised. (Unbeknownst to me, he already knew.) He offered me a piece of advice I still think on to this day. He similarly experienced the negative effects of an abusive dad and said this to me, “You have to make choice. You can become him or you can walk in the opposite direction. It’s up to you.” This really shook me because it was the simplest, yet, most profound thing I had ever contemplated. The last thing I ever wanted to do was repeat these patterns in my adult life. So I decided then and there I would walk (actually run) the other way.

Fast forward about twelve years and I’m twenty five, married, and live a greatly blessed life. I’m (almost fully) healed from that which is why I’m able to be so open about it, but I still notice remnants of these experiences today. I do still have a strong tendency to close myself off. I still become apathetic (or occasionally, too consumed) with negative experiences and relationships, thus delaying the healing process. I seek an absurd amount of validation. I have difficulty developing close friendships. I struggle with resentment. I am a horrific communicator in an argument. And the list goes on……However, I can now admit to these things. It was not all the long ago that I was unable to do so.

I believe what God has helped me work though is the art of forgiveness. Sometimes it’s hard to admit you’ve been hurt because doing so intensifies the feelings. But feelings with betray you. Don’t live based on feelings. Live in God’s truth by taking one action step at a time. Forgiveness requires immediate action. Growth never comes from apathy and procrastination and if you prolong surrendering hurt, bitterness with grow. And it will continue to grow larger and larger until you lay it at the feet of Jesus.

I mean, Jesus was whipped and beaten, forced to carry his own cross (which probably weighed a ton) on his bleeding back, was nailed to a wooden cross with a crown of thorns crushed into his skull with a sign made by Romans intended for mockery hanging above His head for the SOLE purpose to forgive US! Just sit and think about that for a moment. It’s severely humbling. What a price He paid. And we think we have it hard? We do not. But he is a gracious God, and “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness,” (1 John 1:9). He also calls to be WILLING to extend forgiveness to others “from your hearts” (Matthew 18:35). You cannot simply desire to forgive and live delaying the action step. There is a difference speaking forgiveness, and acting out forgiveness.

In what sense, then do we forgive one another? I believe our forgiveness has to do more with an attitude than a specific act. When I look to the Bible, I see a few defining principles we are called to:

  • The forgiving person does not attempt to take revenge on those who have wronged him (Romans 12:17).
  • The forgiving person does not hate the offender; rather, in spite of the person’s evil, he continues to love.
  • The forgiving person is kind and tenderhearted toward his adversary (Ephesians 4:32).
  • The forgiving person is approachable; he leaves the door open for reconciliation and longs for the welfare of the offender.
  • The forgiving person is not passive in waiting for the offender to repent; he actively seeks the repentance of the one who wronged him (Matthew 18:15-17).

I have to note that forgiveness does not assume that offender’s sin is to be ignored. However, this does not imply hanging the past offense over the offender’s head but simply not letting them continue to hurt you. It’s imperative to guard your heart. But the offender still must be held accountable for their conduct. It requires a tedious process of rebuilding lost trust but it will certainly bring new life to your heart and mind, if you allow it to.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:17–21)

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to request that the Father “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). This prayer captures something significant about being a Christian. We live by faith under grace and are called to act out of this grace. We are free to forgive in the way the rest of the world is not. We can act in mercy because God has carried out justice in Jesus’ life and death for us. People sometimes must suffer the natural consequence of sin in this world, but we don’t add to their misery by making them pay a debt to us. Forgiveness means that we shoulder the burden of their debt. You should, by all means, protect yourself from dangerous, unrepentant, hurtful people, but leave vengeance (and the healing process) to God.

So….when I view my current relationship with my father, it seems to have shifted to a more positive light. I am cordial. I may have lunch with him……eventually. But I no longer wish him ill. I truly want to mend the gap, at least for the sake of my future children. To be honest, I am filled with compassion for him. I can’t imagine what kind of childhood he must have had to make him behave the way he does. I pray God continues to work miracles on his heart and soul. But I do know this…. God created him, God loves him, and God chose him as my father, whether I like it or not. I’m grateful. God somehow, in all his divine perfection, manages to take pain and turn it into beauty. So perhaps, if you have experienced a similar story, mediate on God. After all, he does call Himself our “Heavenly Father” and I can’t help but believe that one of the many intents of this name is to bring comfort the fatherless. Ask him to heal you. It’s slow and quite painful but it will bring to light the beauty of God’s mercy working through you.  He desperately wants heal you. So let Him.

 

 

“You make beautiful things out of dust…You make beautiful things out of us.”

-Michael Gungor

 

“Forgiveness is the strongest form of love. It takes a strong person to say sorry and an even stronger person to forgive.”

-Ravi Zacharias

 

“You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware”

This post is intended mainly for the ladies. Of course, guys will absolutely identify with this too, unless Ryan Gosling is reading this, because he is perfect and self image does not apply. But in the world of regular people, I’m afraid no one easily escapes the grasp of self image. It’s a dirty business and I’m fully confident it’s only getting dirtier. So, enjoy…and don’t stare in the mirror too long or weigh yourself afterwards. And boys, don’t start analyzing your dad-bod or think about how you won’t eat Carl’s Jr. tomorrow.

I read a meme today that said “Being a woman on the internet is an extreme sport”. First of all, I want to say memes are one of mankind’s greatest inventions. Honestly, if you could just see me in my room alone at night, listening to music and laughing hysterically to myself at all the brilliant meme profiles I stumble upon, I’m sure you would no longer speak to me on account that I’m seriously OUT. OF. MY. MIND. (I am blinded by my major loser tendencies from time to time, if you couldn’t already tell.) But it made me laugh because not only is it true but it’s grossly understated. Being a woman is not only an extreme sport, make no mistake. Oh no… it is so much more. Sorry boys, but you will never understand this life we live. (I know guys, it’s not easy for you either. All the burgers, motorcycles, sports, desperate attempts to prove your manhood. I’m sure it’s exhausting. I am kidding here. Sort of.) So boys, you can try, and you will fail. But ladies…we know. The female mind is probably the second most dangerous place in this universe, aside from hell. (I’m sure it’s a close rivalry.) But despite this, I am so proud to be a woman. I love every aspect of femininity. The way God has designed women to function is nothing short of a miracle. But even with all the beauty of womankind, there is a dark side that lies in wait, anticipating the perfect moment to torment you, and it most certainly will. So get excited, cause it’s super fun! *Sarcasm for all the lame, serious people. Wow, too much Gilmore Girls. My fingers can’t keep up.*

Before I begin, I want to be clear. The discussion of self-image is a slippery slope. In no way do I want to mislead anyone into believing this post is about the glorification of “self”. Yes, God made you perfectly and continually sees you as a stunning creation. But make no mistake, this is not a revelation about your greatness, but God’s greatness through you. Period.

So, everyone’s favorite topic….self image. It is described as “the idea one has of one’s abilities, appearance, and personality.” I first notice that this description says the “idea”. I love that because I think that an idea of all these traits is really all I have. I’de like to think I’m sure of a few things about myself but how sure am I? Frankly, I’m not sure at all. I am constantly growing and changing and the things which I was once sure of always seem to shift. My abilities get better and occasionally get worse. My appearance rarely gets better and usually gets worse. My personality… just gets worse. *self- deprecating joke, ha.* But wouldn’t it be wonderful to have not only an idea, but a concrete assurance in who you are and how beautifully God has made you? I know I strive for this. But alas, I am insecure woman in constant analyzation of my being and insecurity is always birthed from pride. Ouch. But i’m getting ahead of myself here….

God assures us that “we are beautifully and wonderfully made”. He finds delight in His creation. He loves each and every part of us that makes us unique. Yet, we consistently find ways to go and change his art to something we find seemingly more pleasing to the eye. But who’s eye are we referring to? I’m guessing it is probably not God’s. I’m so guilty of this which is probably why I’m writing this. So, I would have to ask you, what standard are you comparing yourself to? Is it an actress? It it whatever the newest lame Instagram influencer is? Is it fashion model, who by the way, doesn’t eat and probably has bulimia and chronic hair loss from malnutrition? Or is it God’s standard? I can be sure that for most of us, it’s probably not the latter.

What is your self-image? How do you see yourself? Do you think you are good-looking, intelligent, kind, or important? Maybe, like me, you are unable to answer some of these questions with any sort of certainty? Maybe the answers might be too certain. But might I propose, that both the uncertain or overly- confident answer might be the product of self absorption? Perhaps you place these questions on an impossibly high pedestal and in turn, are constantly disappointed with your lack of ability to measure up? Perhaps, arrogance drives the excessively assured response? Either way, the origin of this problem is that we love ourselves with a blind passion which will always lead to idolatry. This idolization of self, whether positive or negative, drives an insatiable need for validation. Does this validation stem from “low self image”? To the world, I believe that would be the correct interpretation. However, I think low self image may just be a frustrated, highly inflated self -image, which is always rooted in pride. I believe Paul would say we are thinking to highly of ourselves when he writes in Romans 12:3, “ For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself too highly than he out to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This is a caution against pride as well as a warning not to judge yourself by your talents, wealth, or function, but to form the standard of judging by God’s character. Instead of judging by Godly character, humanity prides itself on things of zero intrinsic value; on ranks, titles, and external accomplishments; or on talents, learning, or wealth. We are failed time and time again in the search for human validation because it rarely exists. We cannot find identity in flattery from anyone else because everyone, in their human nature, is solely consumed with their own agenda. There’s nothing of greater importance than their own.

It’s almost humorous how many of our struggles stem from pride. “Love Yourself” has become the slogan of our generation, despite being the antithesis of God’s call to “deny yourself daily”. When Jesus was asked to define the greatest commandment, he told the Pharisees that the greatest command had two parts; to “Love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 ). Humanity is so self-absorbed, however, it is constantly seeking out opportunities to take this out of context. “Love your neighbor as yourself” becomes a call to realize the thing most important doesn’t lie with actually loving your neighbor at all, but with the understanding that you love yourself equally and how to foster the relationship you have with you. God assumed that you already love yourself, but this selfish love will leave you empty because true love is selfless and sacrificial. The sacrifice of self is the creed Jesus calls us to; to lose ourselves in God and selflessly love the people around you instead of wallow in self- contemplation. *I know I’ve probably sounded very preachy in this but trust me, this is beyond tough for me to accomplish.*

It does seem contradictory to believe that self-denial, rather than self-esteem, could actually be the solution to female insecurity. But when we let self fade into the background and become consumed with Jesus, personal insecurities seem to melt away. We no longer look to ourselves – our own merit, talent, beauty, or uniqueness – to find confidence but instead, we find our confidence in Him. To think that God has made us wrong or ugly, or incompetent is an offense to God Himself. YOU are his creation. He pieced you together in all this infinite wisdom and you would say you are made wrong? Is “wrong” being not pretty enough, not rich enough, not funny enough, not “cool” enough? (What is “cool” anyway? No one’s cool. Everyone is weird, there are more popular versions of it.)

Charles Spurgeon said, “If a soul has any beauty, it is because Christ has endowed that soul with His own, for in ourselves we are deformed and defiled! There is no beauty in any of us but what our Lord has worked in us.”

We are so often led to believe that we all have “beauty within us” and that if we could only learn to love ourselves “just the way we are” we would find confidence and happiness. But the reality is, as Spurgeon so straightforwardly put it, we do not possess any beauty or goodness of our own accord. The only beauty or merit we can ever have is found Jesus Christ and all His loveliness will only come shining through when self has gotten out of the way. As John the Baptist declared, “I must decrease, but He must increase” (Jn. 3:30). So ladies (and gentlemen too,) rather than trying to build up your self-esteem with false sense of pride and “feel good about yourselves” (which doesn’t produce lasting confidence anyway), you might challenge yourself let thoughts of self dissolve completely. To “deny ourselves” according to the biblical pattern literally means to lose sight of ourselves and our interests. The question “who am I?” is not nearly as important as the question, “who is He?”

Of course, all is much easier said than done. But I’m finding that as I grow older and more mature in my faith, I’m starting to care less about the world’s judgments of me. It’s quite liberating. I mean, I’ve actually been going out into the world wearing my sweatpants, fuzzy socks and slides combo and fully enjoying every minute of it because I know who I am. I know God loves every little thing I deem an “imperfection” and would love to change. (I repeat, LOVE to change. See? I’m working on it….) I know what he has called me to and I’m at peace because of it. “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Now, if only this botox wouldn’t wear off so quickly……kidding. Sort of.

 

 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I Think I’m Falling, I’m Falling For You”

Just a thought…

The yearning of my heart can be a deafening noise sometimes. These things can be beneficial, but more commonly, I yearn for things I shouldn’t. I feel this strongly today.

I know popular culture says to follow your heart. May I suggest that this is a horrible idea. This creed was never taught by Jesus, but instead he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God and also in Me.” (John 14:1) The heart demands that reality ought to serve my desires. But the heart was not designed to be followed, but it was made to be led. Look to Jesus, so that He may save you from your heart.

 

 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3: 5-6

 

“God is the shaper of your heart. God does not display his work in abstract terms. He prefers the concrete, and this means that at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes.”

– Ravi Zacharias

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Life Is Tough, Darling, But So Are You.”

Do you like to wait? Do you like waiting in line, waiting for a package to arrive, waiting for your next boyfriend or girlfriend, waiting for your direct deposit to hit, or waiting for your Postmates driver to get smart and figure out your correct address so he can deliver your food that’s already 30 minutes past its promised delivery time? No, you don’t. If you answered “yes”, then first of all, who even are you and second, please don’t even continue reading this post cause I ain’t got time.

I will preface with this: I am stubborn to the core. I can admit it. I’m realizing this about myself the more time I spend living on my own. I also hate waiting. I want things to happen at my pace, which is impossibly fast. I want to spend money at my pace. I want to develop relationships at my pace. I want to change at my pace because I’m painfully impatient and conversely, painfully indifferent at times. And although irritating, I know exactly how to fix it. Lucky me.

I have a friend who is blessed with the gift of prophesy. (Perhaps you read this and get turned off by that word. I do hope that is not the case but if you do, maybe you have yet to encounter someone that truly possesses this gift. If so, I pray one day, you might. I will write on this topic eventually, but that is another post for another time). In a nutshell, he told me that God has big things in store for my life, I but I need to trust his timing and let go of certain areas of my life, and by doing so, it will lead to a greater movement. Not everyone possesses the gift of prophesy, and many people never will. But I must admit, my sweet friend hears the Lord in supernatural ways and his accuracy is bone chilling. Even despite knowing this, I thought to myself. “Ok, sure, whatever. You’re probably right but I’ll see for myself. I’ve been told this before”. SEE? So stubborn.

I went to church tonight and again, I heard God say, “Trust me”. Like, why do I have to hear Him speak so much lately?! Wouldn’t it just be easier if I never heard Him? Honestly, in certain aspects, it probably would be but I know I would be living a numb existence, at best. Growth will never come from apathy, or so I’m learning.

The preacher spoke on trusting God’s timing, one of the most frustrating aspects of the Christian walk. I don’t believe God to be a mysterious God seeing as He has given us every possible tool to understand his character. I believe He is simply too great for my mind to comprehend. He’s God and I’m a human. I believe therein lies the mystery. Waiting for this unfathomable God to reveal the path He’s laid for my life does feel like forever, I will admit. But trusting Him at all times; in times of affliction, temptation, and darkness, I believe there is a great deal of reason for it. The power and strength He possesses are here to help. His love, grace, and mercy, move him to it, and are always the same. Considering what he has done for others that have trusted in him, and for ourselves presently, we should be encouraged.

The speaker said something, which is really very practical but insanely difficult to actually accomplish. He encouraged the church to “…take it step by step.” I found this to be really beautiful in its simplicity. Just take one small step towards God. Then, take one more small step. Eventually all the small steps will lead to a larger movement. And then to an entire season of life. Our life made up these seasons, all the beautiful ones as well as the seasons of trial.

I’m currently in a season of trial (feels like it’s been forever) and frankly, it’s very unpleasant. When my friend spoke of “letting go” of certain things, I knew in my heart what that meant. How I wish I could just avoid these dealings and go my own way but what I disservice I would be doing to my soul. I desire (well really, I desire to want the desire) to welcome hardship, as Peter did when he writes, ““In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”. (1 Peter 1:6). Honestly, it terrifies me to welcome the season of difficulty because I know what I have to let go. And like, I said, I’m insanely stubborn and sin always seems easily managed on the surface (How I long for a quickly repentive heart).  How wrong that mindset is and I continually urge myself to surrender this God. However, I find comfort the assurance that these trials are only for “a little while.” But how long is a little while? In what way is this temporary? It is temporary, not just because of the fact that it will end in time, but it is only a “little while” in comparison to the salvation and inheritance we will experience for eternity.

I do pray to remain hopeful, despite the waiting, because I know God will reward it with renewed strength. I hope to silence the impatience in my heart and move ahead of my worry so I can wait in hopeful expectation for what God has in store. A frustrating task to take on but so worth the struggle. Waiting quietly seems even more difficult, we can learn so much in the quiet. When we seek him with a quieted soul, we can sense His goodness speaking but we will miss it if we are too loud in the waiting. I know these things, but to practice them is the true test of humble surrender. So…pray for me, guys.

 

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” – Lamentations 3: 25-26

 

 

“CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’RE A JERK!”

I decided to make dinner tonight, which is a rare occurrence but something I’ve been finding more enjoyable as the years go on. I had to make a trip to grocery store because my kitchen is basically devoid of anything to make any semblance of a meal. I was in the checkout line and the clerk bagging my groceries asked me, “Do you wanna know something?” I immediately thought to myself, “Ok, seriously? Why are you asking me questions, just bag my food.” That is so horribly mean, I know. But right then, I noticed that this gentleman was significantly autistic. Guilt flowed through me. (Ok, honestly, I feel equally as guilty now that I only felt that way because he was autistic. Like, what is that about? I should feel guilty reacting that way to anyone asking me a question. Man…but, to continue…) Whenever I talk with someone with any kind of mental disability, I have so much love and compassion and make every effort to speak to them as I would to anyone else, because why wouldn’t I? They are no different than me. I cherish these interactions because these individuals never fail to teach me the beauty of the innocence in life. They might struggle with something different than I do, but we are all dealt our own cards and who knows, mine might be worse. I replied, “Tell me.” He asked me if I take selfies, which I reluctantly confirmed that yes, I am self absorbed and do take selfies from time to time. I already loved where this conversation was going. He asked me if I do the “duck face”. I just laughed. “Sometimes”, I replied. He proceeded to tell me that he recently took a selfie, did the duck face, and that he wanted to confirm if he was doing it correctly. He showed me his photo and I immediately began to double over in laughter. His photo consisted of him smiling in front of a massive rubber duck. I have no idea where he was where there was a blow up rubber duck of that size, but I was jealous. His brilliant irony began to make him laugh, as well. Once, I realized he was messing with me I continued to laugh for about twenty seconds, because honestly, that one minute interaction was the most real- life, authentic, perfectly sarcastic conversation I’d had in a while. How depressing. I told him he had most definitely achieved his goal. I absolutely loved this guy. I shook his hand, grabbed my groceries, and as I began to walk out of the store, he looked at me said, “I’m glad I was able to make you laugh today.” I melted. My heart actually MELTED from the sincerity of that comment. If only all moments in life where this sweet. I sense these moments are reflective of God’s heart. True kindness. True joy. True innocence. That is where His heart is. I’m sure of it.

I am sitting here in my living room thinking right now, “Why do I love those moments? What makes those moments special?” I believe it’s because innocence is rare. It is lost so young. Our world, as it currently stands, worships the “intellectual”, the “successful”, the “beautiful”, among other things. In turn, society encourages the young to abandon childhood quickly for the sake of these impossibly high standards. Even in my adult life, I’ve been asked many times, “You’ve never done ___? Or, You don’t have ___?” I wish I wouldn’t have reached for adulthood so prematurely because exposure doesn’t mean enlightenment. Of course, we all grow in maturity and our adulthood is a thing of beauty, but why do we abandon the sweetness of sincerity and joy in the small moments, as children do? Now, this man was obviously not a child, but his limitations proved a greater witness than the seemingly “superior” mind. Similar to a child, his joy spoke volumes. His fulfillment in that small interaction was only reflection of the beauty of God’s character. This ministered to my spirit in a greater way than that man will ever know.

Matthew 18: 2-6 reads, “He called a child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of a child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Children, when very young, do not desire authority and do not observe outward characteristics. They are free from resentment, are teachable, and are willingly dependent on their parents. They simply embrace what they observe. I strive for this contentment. Of course, as they develop, they begin to show other inclinations and ideas which are taught to them at an early age; but these are the markings of childhood, and they prove to be virtues we as Christians should strive for if we are to be “lowly and humble”, while abandoning pride and acknowledging the necessity of humility so that we would bear the image of Christ. I would encourage you, whoever you may be and whatever you may be going through, embrace innocence as a badge of honor because God has promised that “the meek shall inherit the Earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

So, thank you, sweet man at Ralph’s. You absolutely made my day.

 

 

“Christ wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head. He wants us to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but He also wants every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at its job.” – C.S. Lewis

 

“The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.” – G.K. Chesterton

 

“Click to Listen…”

*P.S.A.* I hate this post already. This is definitely the cheesiest, most emo thing I’ve written thus far. Also, this writing is brief and more of a contemplative monologue than anything. But I said I wanted to write down my thoughts……smart move on my part. So, here are some thoughts to ponder. Enjoy, I guess.

Tonight, I was feeling anxious so I got in my car and started to drive. It didn’t matter where. I do that a lot. Weird, I know, but I actually enjoy driving. It seems most people hate it but I find the solitude of my car to be a very cathartic place. It gives me time to myself, time to think (no surprise there), and time to completely blast music at an obnoxious volume. Tonight I ended up in a random neighborhood and took a walk. I realize this was probably an unwise and slightly unsafe decision, considering how late it was, but I needed fresh air. I left my phone in the car and walked to a dimly lit curb and continued to drink my crappy 7-11 coffee.

***ok, completely unrelated but can I just vent on coffee for a sec? I love coffee. It’s my lifeblood. But flaunting your fancy, organic, whatever coffee at the newest whatever hipster shop you’ve discovered doesn’t make you cool. It makes you annoying. No one cares. I love a cup of quality coffee but at the end of the day, any kind of coffee will do as long as it gets the job done. I’m sure many would firmly disagree with me on this.***

But okay, anyways, upon finding a decent spot, I closed my eyes and tried to shut my brain off and just be still, if only for moment. As I sat, I breathed in a deep breathe of crisp air and started to observe to the noises around me. It’s surprising what you discover when you don’t have a screen glued to your face. I heard cars zooming by, the opening and closing of bus doors, trash cans being rolled in, people talking, the wind blowing….it was really lovely, actually. Then this thought hit me, “You just need to listen.” Perhaps God was speaking to me in this moment, I’m not sure. But I sensed it was important to pause and focus on what I could hear, instead of what I couldn’t.

My life gets wildly busy at times. There seems to be an ever growing list of tasks to accomplish, that for whatever reason, never get done. That’s mostly my fault, seeing as I am a self – proclaimed professional procrastinator. I just keep putting things off, one by one because I know it’ll somehow get done, right? I find I do this with many other things as well and unfortunately, I tend to do this with God. I severely dislike that about my character, like, why do I do that? Why would I close myself off to the one answer to every problem I’m facing? Hearing his voice is such a perplexing thing to say sometimes, because what IS his voice? Ninety nine percent of the time, it’s not audible (I envy the one percent), it’s not loud, and it’s not always clear. But his voice speaks truth, and why would I want to deny that? I’m guessing its because I don’t want it most of the time. Sad but true. But in that moment on the curb, I just felt I needed to be still.

That tug on your heart, the small voice in your head that urges you to do the right thing, I believe that to be God’s voice revealed through His Spirit. It can speak at any moment. Maybe it’s speaking to you now and you’re not even aware. He reveals himself is the most peculiar ways sometimes and it takes an open heart and mind to see it. But openness without willingness is worthless. You can be open to hear the voice of God, but are you willing to listen to what He has to say? Are you willing to meditate on in it? Are you willing to live it out in obedience? These are the questions that stir my spirit in those quiet moments. He has promised that if we can ask, seek, and knock, He will open the door to those who humbly seek Him.

We are so blessed. Like, SO blessed! I can’t comprehend the magnitude of His love and his kindness. As we listen to him, he also listens to us. He wants to know us. He wants to communicate with US despite every mess we’ve made. What a gift. Why would I ever deny this? “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)

I strive to listen and seek Him in prayer. To still my spirit, and listen, despite the chaos. It’s not easy but it is well worth every moment. You should try it too. You might actually hear something.

 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis