freshman year :: vol. one

“How’s college?”

Amazing. I truly love it. It’s not perfect and I might have a few gray hairs from the stress. But life has been treating me well at Kansas State this first semester. The photo above is the most accurate representation of my life right now — I’m loving life at Kansas State while simultaneously much of my heart is with my boyfriend, Zach, who lives in Iowa! It is overwhelming to see how much my life has changed in such a short amount of time. It has been a fast and furious season — so I’m starting here, with gratitude. Here are a few highlights from some of the hardest, sweetest months of my life so far!

long, hard, fulfilling days and nights creating at the studio 

adventures with friends

studying so hard it hurts

my favorite thing… coffee dates

FaceTime is such a gift in the chaos of college

so many road-trips to be with the sweetest man I know

slices of sanity and worship

visiting with author Eric Metaxas

finally hugging author Jess Connolly

The natural and architectural beauty in this place, always beckoning my eyes to look up and thank Jesus for such a season as this

 

I look at those pictures and have one gut reaction: THANKS, GOD. He might feel far from you right now, but I’m here to tell you what my soul also needs to hear: His love for you will not run out and He delights in writing the wildest love stories over your life. Stay in your lane, stay content, and do the next best thing. He is with you.

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve already got 2 classes down and 3 to go! There will be many late nights, moments of freaking out, and cups of coffee in the next 7 days. But there will also be laughter, reflection, hugs, and counting fruit. Pray for me as I finish this semester strong and dive into this merry and bright season. See y’all on the other side.

love, 

your favorite wildcat

 

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let’s dance, stand, and run!

Today Dance Stand Run launches into the world! *insert dancing emoji here*

If you haven’t heard of Jess Connolly, she is a sweet daughter of God, wife, Momma, author, speaker, and business woman.

I first heard of her via Hannah Brencher’s Instagram when HB got Jess’ first book she coauthored, Wild and Free. I read the tag line “An anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and not enough” and said SIGN ME UP PLEASE!

Since then, I’ve been growing in my walk through the simple act of following Jess on Insta. From the first day I heard about this book stirring in her heart, I was on board. It was so fun to read the book before it launched with a lovely group of women, and it is my honor to share it with YOU today.

I’m a kingdom girl! I’m not a slave to sin or a foreigner living in a world where I’m trying to fit in. I belong in heaven, but I’ve been sent to earth by God to believe and receive the gospel, and to be an ambassador of light, calling others out of darkness and into relationship with my King. I’m a kingdom girl.

What does Dance Stand Run stand for? 

Dancing in God’s grace, agreeing with our righteous standing before Him, and running on mission.

Jesus bled for this message. 

It’s not because Jess has some crazy super power. It’s that she leans into the power of the Holy Spirit in her weakness. Because of this, we get a book that is saturated in the GOOD NEWS. Which brings me to my next point….

Is this book for me? 

I honestly believe that if you’ve been a Christian for years or you are just beginning to walk with Him, this book is for you. I have been in the church my whole life. I was familiar with all the truths and the Bible stories in this book. But I was still able to engage with them in a fresh way that drew me deeper into the reality of Christ’s love! So whether this book would work as a foundation for you or a refresher, it’s worth your time. (Also, fun addition: there is a glossary in the back of the book for all those “churchy” words we use so often but rarely know what they truly mean. SUCH a beneficial tool!)

So engaging. 

Stories of pregnancy and pop culture references? YES PLEASE. I laughed, I cried. Grab your pens (you’ll want to process through this book, not just read it), a hot drink, and your girlfriends. Because this is the perfect book to grow in grace and truth AND laughter.

The headlines. 

Jesus is better than pretty little liars.

We aren’t becoming more holy; we are agreeing with the truth He has already written over our lives.

We can throw off guilt and dance in grace!

We are not here to belong; we are there to be used by God.

I get to call brothers and sisters out in love, but first and foremost it’s important for me to examine my own heart.

We get to pray, we don’t have to.

We don’t live in America, we live in the Kingdom.

We are not here to stress about our hot bodies, but to know we are loved and to pour out that love on the world.

We are safe to celebrate.

We are already runners.

We have been called.

Join me? Are you ready to dance, stand, and run? 

Don’t read this book if you are wanting to make your life look more tidy. It’s not a self-help book that will get you to your desired goal in 10 days. Read this book if you want a deeper walk and an re-energized mission with Jesus.

Get your copy here. 

Follow Jess here. 

Let’s talk about grace, holiness, and mission here.

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dorm sweet dorm 

Since I pressed Publish last, my summer of life change, travels, and preparation flew right before my eyes and all of a sudden — I’m here! At the school I’ve been dreaming of! Running late to class with the best of them!

I moved in to the dorms a week and a half ago (it feels like approximately three months in mostly great ways) with my best friend. Dorms tend to have a cold, plain feel, and I am happy with how we spruced up our space.

OUR INSPO:

 

 

This “ABIDE” print comes from All Good Things Collective. When my roommate Rachael and I first started brainstorming about decorating our dorm room, we found this print on their website and from there we used it as our whole basis from the rug to our towels.

You can see the bulk of our inspiration at our Pinterest board: college.

MY FIRST LOOK ::

“Here it is. This is where you’re going to be thinking all those impressive thoughts. It’s just waiting for your decorative stamp! …And a little air freshener.”

– Lorelai Gilmore

 

 

 

 

 

Without further ado,

Welcome to one of my favorite places to hang my hat! Rach and I will be glad to host you any time. 🙂 

 

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LITTLE DETAILS ::

Iowa heart print from Etsy. Chalkboard was a gift. Curtain, Christmas lights, and globe (and so much more, if we’re honest) from Target. Entry poster and all prints above my desk are from the one and only All Good Things Collective. Coffee bar print from Rifle Paper Company. I literally can’t card from Lindsay Letters. Ann Voskamp quote canvas was created by yours truly! Isaiah 41:10 Print from Etch. 

LET’S BE REAL, THOUGH ::

I think our dorm room is cozy. I love inviting people over. I love hanging out here. I love the Scripture prints and the floral accents. But what makes a place a home are not the objects, but the heart.

“It’s not particularly beautiful. . . .I mean to say it’s not a museum piece. . . Take your furniture: it does not make one say, “What lovely things!” No. And yet this room has a soul.” –  Vercors, Silence of The Sea

I think our space is beautiful, but what I love most is that it is ours.

Thank-You, God, for a roommate that prays with me, goes deep with me, and makes me laugh so hard that my stomach hurts on the daily. Use this space for Your glory, not ours. Keep us expectant and obedient.

If you’re looking to make a space feel like home and to create a culture that furthers the kingdom of God, cultivate the hearts that live within those walls and watch God move. 

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P.S. Deck out your dorm with these awesome tips from All Good Things!!! (And if you haven’t noticed, I kind of like what they’ve got going on.)

summer to bloom: your guide to planning + surrender

Have you ever arrived to August, looked back at the rhythm of your days, and wondered, “What did I actually do this summer?”

When I look at that question I find myself shooting out some real, some impressive, and some sad answers: I slept in everyday I wasn’t working. I hosted a Bible study. I binge-watched Scandal. I swam. I wrote, but not as much as I wanted to.

When finals week approached me early last month, I knew one thing: I wanted to practice working without distractions and resting without shame.

I want to sit down at my writing chair when I’ve penciled it in on my calendar and leave my phone out of sight. I want to go to work and be fully present with the kiddos I have a chance to invest in. I want to prep for college in a less frantic way that my creative soul tends to allow. But I also want to CHILL OUT. I want to sit on the front porch and read, make time to pour into others, watch movies, and take the occasional afternoon nap without feeling this draining, heavy guilt over all the things I could be accomplishing. In summary? I want to do everything I must do with discipline and everything I have been dreaming of doing with persistence when it would be easier to just watch Netflix.

Balance is a tricky thing. There isn’t a secret to it. I won’t accomplish all my goals exactly as I first imagined. Honestly, I’m not interested in balance — I am interested in an abundant life. I know that I have to begin with some goals. At the cusp of summer, a good friend and I sat down with our planners, Bibles, and journals and went crazy. These goals are not meant to be written in stone, but rather to know the general direction of how I want to schedule my time and splurge with my fringe hours.

I am starting here. Join me?

When I get to August, what words do I want to describe these months? 

You might be craving rest. As you proactively remember that your identity and victory is in Christ alone, you are able to breath afresh and go into Autumn energized. You might have had an amazing, refreshing spring and you need to go into summer being poured out through service. Your words might be: loved, laughter, joy, rich, light, dance, sunshine, thrive.

e x a m p l e :

My word is bloom. Bloom means to flourish or thrive, to be in or achieve a state of healthful beauty and vigor, to glow with warmth.” I felt like it summed up so many of my dreams and plans: being confident in my writing not because of me, but because of Him, buying flowers, exercising and eating well, a face radiant because of time spent with God, growing right where I am.

I also considered playing with these phrases: invest, worship over worry, fly, building the kingdom, honesty, writing, freedom, praise hands.

What are your ideas that seem too big, too simple, too weird?

MAKE TIME FOR THEM. And not only time, but make the space to listen to those ideas. We often say no to dreams because they seem like too much work or we wonder what people might think — what would you do if you weren’t so afraid?

e x a m p l e :

I want to write a book proposal this summer. Every part of me was squirming in my seat as I wrote that down on my list of goals. Who am I to write a book? To actually be read by someone other than myself? I don’t know where to begin. But I ultimately knew that writing this book proposal has been something I know God is calling me to regardless of where it goes, something that has been increasingly stirring up in me since September of 2016, and that it was only fear keeping me from going after it.

Take your wild dreams and brainstorm attainable steps. 

Once you have considered these wild, beautiful dreams that have been planted in your heart, you’ve got to create step one. Because as soon as you get discouraged, it is likely you will quit sooner if you haven’t broken this amazing thing down into daily habits or weekly ideals.

e x a m p l e :

  1. Writing a book proposal isn’t a simple task. Instead of focusing on everything that would entail, I scheduled writing times away from my house to (1) help me to keep that time sacred and (2) to get me away from the distractions of home where so many quicker projects are within my reach. This isn’t the only step that is necessary in order for me to reach my goal, but it was a significant step that helped me invest in my wild dream so that when the free time presents itself I don’t shrink in fear but walk forward with my plans.
  2. I want to live healthier this summer than I have the past few months. I have thought out exercises, wrote down the classes I want to attend, thanked God that avocados are good for the human body, and will allow for one ice cream sandwich or Dr. Pepper a week (basically, I’m keeping my eyes on foods that nourish and sizes that are reasonable, but will allow for a meal with queso because I’ve got to live my life).

Make it your own. 

Make a fun bucket list of summer wishes. Ask someone (or many someones!) to keep you accountable. Make a hashtag. Create a playlist to play to keep you dancing and worshiping as you work.

e x a m p l e : 

My hashtag is #summertobloom!

I have asked for prayer and accountability from brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have made a loose, fun bucket list, but I’m keeping it simple this year compared to ones in the past. The shorter the list, the more I am apt to really dig into what DID make the list.

I’m slowly but surely building playlists for running, writing, and riding in the car.

This is for you even if your schedule doesn’t change with the school year.

God designed this season, and I believe there is something new for you in it. I believe there is a reason it is light later in the evening, that you bump into new people in the community at the pool, that people are sitting outside instead of always being in. These beautiful little details of summer are opportunities, and they don’t go unseen. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box even though your schedule hasn’t given you the freedom to mix it up as naturally!

Surrender.

His plans are bigger and smaller and holier than our own. You can’t guarantee that your summer aim will be your summer understatement — it’s not a magic formula, it is a way to see the direction you’re heading. Midstream you might be led to take ten goals off of your list for one aim that will take more of your emotional and physical energy. We weren’t made to be productive machines, we are disciples walking in step with the Spirit.

God, keep us faithful in the little things, expectant for Your movements. We want to live these days You’ve given us on purpose — keep us disciplined, yet rested. Help us to be bold, to see mundane ways as opportunities for Your goodness to be shown. Keep us rejoicing in all things. And God, even if we reach the end of this summer and we are completely heartbroken and burnt out, but an abundance of Your glory spilled out along the way? That’s all we want. Just lead the way. 

[P.S. Want to dig deeper into being intentional with your precious days this summer? Follow Jess Connolly and sign up for her newsletter to receive the Summer To Thrive guide! I have found her ideas SO helpful and life-giving in my own planning.]

on the promises of growth and green fields.

You can find this post at it’s original home, and other favorite place to hang out on cyberspace, The Rising! 

big thanks to Phil Frigon for letting me use his stunning photos! 


Every spring in the Flint Hills of Kansas, when wind is unusually slow and the promise of summer introduces itself once again with each evening growing longer, the farmers burn their fields.

To someone traveling from either coast, it is both brilliant and mystifying. The smoke-filled sky at times would warrant for shelter. The smell would send you packing. Either it would look unsafe or it would be chalked up to Midwestern madness.

In all seriousness, though, it is an annual event and it is crucial to the health of our land.

The burnings are preventative and protective. Like a pruning. It helps to keep destructive growths from invading the invaluable prairies and reproductive fields.

I remember, just a few weeks ago, I was on my evening commute observing the fires around me on each side. I whispered with a smile, “It’s all going to be green soon.”

The fields were charred black, smoke filled the air, and I saw the promise of growth.

When I look at my own life, I usually see regression before I optimistically claim victory.

Consequently, every spring I usually fight a hard spiritual fight due to lack of focus, my increased desire to sleep for as many hours as I possibly can, and because of laziness in my quiet times. I mistake pruning for destruction, bad days for a bad life, and spiritual dry spells are wrongly defined in my heart as a withdrawal from the Father.

Job didn’t do this. In Job chapter 1, Satan has asked if he can try to divert Job’s faithfulness. He believes that Job only loves the Lord and lives righteously because he has had a good life. Therefore, he has in mind to make Job curse God’s name. Step one of the process has begun. Job’s whole family has been killed and his property had been stripped away. The evil one wanted and expected Job to curse God’s name, but instead he blesses it. After he had lost what some would call his entire life, this is how Job responds:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

— JOB 1:20-22

He fell on the ground and worshiped.

Job could have chosen to tear his robe, fallen to the ground, and given up entirely. But he chose worship. He did not ignore his grief, numb his grief, or live in denial. He saw the reality of his surroundings and still chose a godly rhythm of grief and trust.

Because of the fields in Kansas and Job’s riveting example, we know that living a God-glorifying life is not stitched together by good intentions. I don’t find the presence of God by ignoring His Word, by staying closer to my phone than my prayers, by covering up hurts with busyness. Living life with bare-minimum risks means that we reap bare-minimum harvests.

“If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface, I must be ploughed and re-sown.

Hand over your whole self. Your whole broken self. Given-ness. Because this is far easier than pretending to be whole and not broken. . . .The heart has to be broken and plowed and resown if it’s going to yield. The change must go deeper than the surface.”

— ANN VOSKAMP, THE BROKEN WAY

What you and I must do is be proactive. Ask God to test our hearts with fire for things that will hinder the growth of His kingdom. We open our Bibles when we don’t feel like it and ask Him to show up. Because when we ask for more of Him, He never says no. Instead of slapping clichés on our wounds, we tear our clothes and expose the wound, so that His wounds touch our own. We can look great darkness in the face, because we know the Light is always near. The call of the Christian is not to always be happy about our life – but to keep walking daily with our God, trusting in His promise of joy and the fullness of life, in the midst of it all.  If our faith is a faith that only believes in the fruit we can see, it isn’t faith at all. Because what looks like destruction can be a resurrection of our hearts, our lives, our land. What may look like nothing on the surface, is new life being rooted in the ground. A pruning that is making all things better than before.

I’m praying that God would give us that same rhythm of grief and trust. I am praying and I am taking action steps. So that when winter seems like it is never leaving, we can look at the horizon and say, “My help is coming. It’s all going to be green soon.” On days when we don’t see the victory, instead of running away in fear we can bless the name of God with quiet trust. When we look at near-destruction we say, “He is making all things new.” And when we feel the aches ravaging on our own heart we have the hope to say, “He is here, even now.”

Because the storms will come – Oh God, let us fall on the ground and worship. We don’t want to ignore You, deny You, or curse You. We are here. We are not submitting to mediocrity in our Christianity – we want more of Christ. We are waiting expectantly on Your Presence to do something remarkable with these ruins. We acknowledge that we are not the point, we never have been. Ours is the victory, not all the answers. When we see charred black seasons in our lives, help us remember you are preparing a life worth waiting for in the tension. Let our lives be a set of praise hands toward heaven – You give. You take. Keep our palms wide open in worship.

 

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a letter to the wanderer. 

Hey there, wanderer.  
I call you a wanderer because that something that binds my heart with yours. We both know what it’s like to walk away from all that is holy and come back with empty arms and hearts. It’s something that breaks my heart over yours. I wish that you would look up from the mire where you are living, remember that your name is beloved, and come home.
When I think about you, my friend, I think about Peter. When I look at myself, I find him in my own heart, too.
Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples. Leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter told the Lord that he would never deny Him. Jesus was under trial for blaspheming God — by people that were blaspheming in His earthly face. Jesus knew the truth in Peter’s heart and told him that before a rooster crowed two times, Peter would deny Jesus three specific times.

True to Jesus’ word, that is exactly what happened. Two separate groups of people asked Peter if he was associated with this Jesus on this night, and three times Peter said that he did not even know of the man these people were questioning him for. Peter denied the man he had seen transfigured in glory, seen feed the thousands, he heard the joyful shouts of blind men healed.
Instead of again denying Him, again let us praise the name of Jesus.

As recorded in Mark 14:72, “And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he [Peter] broke down and wept.”
After Peter denied Christ, He died and there was despair for three whole days. Three days of Peter grieving his sin and wondering if he could ever be redeemed. Three days of righteous weariness.

Let us break down and weep over the areas in our lives that don’t shout the name of Jesus.

When Jesus had risen, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene, then a small group of disciples, and soon follows: seven disciples including Peter. Jesus approaches them on the beach. The seven disciples were fishing, and similar to when Jesus first called them, He instructs them on where to drop their nets in order to catch more fish. When they followed His instruction, the net was so heavy they could not hold up the abundance on their own. One of the seven exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” (See John 21:7)

Days led under our own leadership become void. Walking with Him? Our nets and our hearts break from not being able to hold all this abundance.
When Peter realized it was the Lord, he grabbed his tunic and jumped in the sea swimming straight towards Jesus.

No matter where you have been lately, you don’t have to be afraid to jump all in to your Redeemer.

Today, I urge you, I urge all of us – jump off the boat and swim towards your Redeemer. We’ve got to be okay with looking ridiculous if we are to make our lives about this ridiculous love. 

He is waiting on the shore. He will sit with us over a handmade feast. His message to us is clear: Wanderer, if you love Me, if you truly love Me back? Show me. Feed my sheep and keep them close to Me. Point them to the love we have. Walk with me. We’ll start here, and I won’t be leaving you alone in the gory and glorious fight.
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I would just love it if you dropped by to read the rest of this post HERE @ The Rising!

what i read in march.

This month, I continue my average from February of four books in four weeks and add my 2017 stack to a total number of eleven books! I hope that as I reach one of the busiest seasons of my life (I see you coming, May!), I will only continue making reading good, long, sharpening books a priority. (And what better way to procrastinate homework?) March held: Two memoirs, one novel, and one biography. There were two books out of this roundup that were winners for me – they are compelling, convicting, and stories that I personally connected to immediately. The other two held little substance for me. Let’s dig in!

  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines 

Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.

For those of you who may not know (who are you? where do you live??), Chip and Joanna Gaines are the TV hosts of Fixer Upper on HGTV. They are strong believers and hard workers. This book read as an easy-going dialogue between Chip and Joanna as they gave us glimpses into their childhood, dating years, newlywed adventures, and into the details of how they have built their career and family. I traveled to Waco over Spring Break and this book brought the details of everything I experienced (like driving by where Chip and Jo met, swinging at Magnolia Market…) to a new level of appreciation. On the other hand, it also spurred me on personally to tackle my God-given desires with boldness. If you love Chip and Jo, you’ll have more reasons why when you get your hands on this book. I am cheering you on Gaines’ and praying that you continue restoring dusty, beautiful things to bring God glory!

 

  • Chasing Slow: Courage To Journey Off The Beaten Path by Erin Loechner 

Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace. We were meant to surrender it.

Chasing Slow is about living an abundant life, saying no to the rat race and certain components of the American dream, simplifying, and also giving yourself grace in the mess. This book is SO aesthetically pleasing with beautiful typography and photography. I am tucking many ideas from this book in my pocket! I started cleaning out my closet (again). I took stock of my priorities. I prayed hard prayers about loving the poor and then did something about it. For this, I am so grateful! But, overall, I found Loechner’s voice to be condescending and life-draining. I found the extras in the book (recipes, added blurbs, a few misplaced stories in my opinion) to be good, but just not fitting. I’ll be recommending and furthering the ideas and a few quotes this book carries to friends for many days to come, but probably not the book itself.

 

  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor 

The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.

My girl Flannery disappointed me with this one. This novel was haunting. Unlike Flannery’s short stories, I missed the redemption song she usually, however subtly, ties into the narrative. There were many paragraphs that blew me away with her imagery and understanding of humanity. O’Connor is amazing at capturing heartbreaking human emotion and transforming that into tangible empathy for the reader to take away. That’s the best I can say about Wise Blood.  (Also, book cover goals. But that’s not the point. 😉 )

 

  • Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior 

More’s life shows that the facts and our wishes can produce great stories when serving things much grander than ourselves, and that the stories we tell ourselves and others matter.

I first heard about Hannah More when I was reading Seven Women by Eric Metaxas last May, and I was shocked about how quietly her story is being told in the 21st century. Hannah was, as the the book title describes, a poet, reformer, and abolitionist living from 1745 – 1833. She was known for her wit and her never-pausing pen. A pen that aided the abolition of slavery in England weeks before she died. More’s life proved the importance of friendships and hospitality, the balance between strong convictions and tolerance, and loving God with your whole heart. She pushed the boundaries, but stood tall in the lines she believed in. I hope to be like Hannah More as a writer, as a citizen, as a friend, and as a woman of God.  Hannah’s story needs to be told and rewritten in our lives today — start by learning about how Hannah glorified God in her life with Fierce Convictions!

Next Up…

You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (I am making progress!)

What books have you put down this month and what books can you not put down?

saying yes to being eternally set free

[post originally published at my favorite home-away-from-home, The Rising.]

What does freedom in Christ mean? If I am free, then why is it not okay to do whatever I feel like doing? If freedom doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want, then what is it for?

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

This passage answers our questions by saying: Freedom doesn’t mean living according to the flesh and the countless paths it might take you down. It means submitting to a good God and throwing all empty promises behind. Freedom doesn’t leave us defenseless and wandering for our own sense of purpose. Freedom gives us a place where we can throw our worries behind and plant our feet safely. Freedom is not carelessness. Freedom changes our place of submission. Freedom does not mean that your life is summed up by a dictator, but given by a Savior. Christ died so that we could live under a life-giving law made to protect us and give Him all the glory.

If I am free, why do I feel weighed down?

In Galatians 5 verses 2- 6, Paul explains why the church of Galatia needed to give up their hang ups. “…if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Galatians were convinced that you couldn’t inherit eternal life unless you were circumcised, and Jesus suddenly shows up on the scene and changes everything. Jesus changes the requirements from laws and sacrifice to accepting a gift? Yes. The Old Covenant had taught that their life was all on them. God has always been the same good God, and He graciously provided a way that didn’t leave those under the law hopeless, but He knew that they couldn’t keep the entire law on their own. He made another way. The Old Covenant said, “Follow these rules and when you mess up take care of it very carefully.” The New Covenant says, “You are mine. Accept my grace. Take it as a gift. Come follow me, and if you truly know me, you can’t help but be changed.”

I think we all have a bit of Old Covenant thinking in our midst. We stuff lists and lists of ways of life and things to accomplish in our heart and say, “When you finish, He’ll love you.” On the alternative, He loved you therefore He came to free you from all kinds of bondage. If we think that others have the foundation of their relationship with Christ on a petty requirement, we have fallen away from grace. He died so that we could live unafraid and unashamed. Accepting anything less is man-made religion that means nothing to Him, and ultimately means nothing to us. If you feel weighed down instead of taking heart in the gospel of Christ, perhaps you’ve carried an Old Covenant truth as your New Covenant way of life. Clinging to those ideas and promises leave us confused, because that carries the weight on us and not on Christ. If we make our lives about us and not about life from and because of Christ, if we accept empty religion, if we carry everything over from the Old Covenant, we accept a perversion of perfect, present grace.

If I’m not under the law, what does it look like to work under a standard of grace instead

Galatians 5:16-25 points to walking according to and with the Spirit, opposing the way of your flesh and defying the odds in the way you live your life. Paul instructs to stay pure in your heart and with your body, to fight back feelings of bitterness with forgiveness, to be united amongst one another, and to not rely on the things of this world to satisfy what only God can. At first glance, it seems surprising that after Paul rants about their obsession with the law, he gives more rules. But there’s something different here. It’s not just a list of do-nots. With the command, comes a promise: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is now law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Jesus isn’t about boring, petty requirements – He is about faith worked out in love, called fruit.

Work in Christ might be hard temporarily, but it’s not heavy permanently. It is not oppressive. John Piper says, “He offers his fellowship and help, and even makes the life of obedience a life of joy. The Christian life is a life of freedom because it is lived in the power of the Spirit.” Following the world leads to temporary pleasure and eternal destruction. Obedience in Christ may involve temptations and hard decisions that say no to the things that entangle us to the world. Saying no to the things of this world may not feel joyful, but produce long-lasting joy. When we obey Christ, we don’t become His by our own doing, but literally love Him back. To obey Christ might mean momentary confusion, hurt, or seclusion → but a life dedicated to obedience guarantees a life of love, community, adventure, and joy.

Life with Christ doesn’t exclude trouble, but it promises victory. If you are wrestling with God, or feel far from Him, I ask you the same question Paul asked the church of Galatia in chapter 5 verse 7. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you are hindered from running on the mission of Christ, that didn’t come from Him. Anything that destructs and oppresses is not from the Father. Because…

For every hard no required of us, there lies a better, sweeter yes in Christ.

What is freedom? Freedom is running unhindered and being kept close to the heart of God. Living out commandments that were made for our care in mind with His glory at the center. We accept the grace that allows us to not be justified by what we do and show the world we love Him back when we say yes to His will. We loudly proclaim Galatians 6:17:

“From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.”

the secret to finding holy rest

In 2 Chronicles, there are two battles that are told side by side that note two important components of the Christian life. We can’t afford to only see each of them individually, but to open the eyes of our hearts to both of them in order to more fully see the truth of who we are to be.

2 Chronicles 18 describes the king of Israel, Ahab at the time, fighting in the midst of everything with his army, disguised so that no one would recognize him from the others, considering the whole army of Syria had been ordered to only be after him. The army of Syria thought Jehoshaphat was king of Israel (instead of king of Judah) and fought against him. In the midst of the fight, Jehoshaphat cried out. It says in verse 31: “Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him; God drew them away from him.” They realized he was not indeed Ahab and soon scattered. When the story seemed to be looking up, Ahab was struck and immediately realized his fate, asking to be taken off the battlefield. The battle did not cease. He listened and watched the battle, “propped up in his chariot”, and “at sunset he died”. I It was a battle where the army was pulled together to fight hard and fearlessly. Afterward, King Jehoshaphat returned to Judah.

Later in 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat is once again heading to a discouraging battle and calling out to God, humbling himself at the thought of battle: “In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you…. For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (verses 6,12). God answers Jehoshaphat in verse 17: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

There are two kinds of battle we face in our daily walks: the ones we fight until we are dog-tired and bloody, confused at the ending but surrendering it all to the Lord and the ones we watch and wait with belief for our deliverance.

There is one thing that is required of us in every single type of battle, regardless of what it’s for, whether we will be doing the fighting or God will completely take care of us without our interruptions:

We are always, always called to show up.

 We are commanded to stand firm, to hold our position, to remain unafraid regardless of what we can see.

We don’t have to worry about the outcomes, but we still go out to meet the battle. Whether we fight hard or watch for the Lord, in both situations we call upon the Lord to move.

We can’t stand firm in how we want to see the battle becoming, but we can stand firm in the promises of God. That He has got us. We don’t have to fight, love, walk, win, forgive, or surrender alone.

What does standing firm accomplish? As we see in 2 Chronicles 20:29-30, “…The fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.”

When we stand firm we can be confident that people will take note. And whether we are the destination or a stepping stone on the way to this realization, people will know that something as amazing as a battle lived like that can only come from God. They will see that even when you didn’t know what to do, your eyes were on Him.

Your battles, beloved? I know that they are tantalizing. Confusing. They make you want to stay home and face your back to them. But the focus is not on the success of your battle, but a dependence on God that lead the nations to see His face. When you get on your face before the LORD, call for help, and stand firm in the promises of God? Overwhelming armies are exchanged for rest all around. Rest is not found in laziness, but reliance. Rest isn’t in numbing yourself away from your one life, but from embracing what God has for you in all that lays ahead. Your battles are complex. Show up to them anyway. Stand firm in the hope of your God being with you. Maybe your battle won’t recede, but your holy rest is coming.

[ visit my friends @ Walk In Love & find my Stand Firm sweatshirt here! ]

what i read in february

This month puts my tally to seven books so far this year! I am passionate about each of these books on my shelf this month. The common threads, unintentionally, have been solitude, idolatry, technology addiction, pressing against lies, ministering with compassion. These books have made me wonder why people don’t read and how in the world they function without books. Everyone that owns an iPhone would benefit from Changing The Subject, every minister should read The Way of the Heart in seminary, every Christian should invest in Counterfeit Gods, and The Broken Way continues to take my breath away. Humor me? Read on for all the good words about these books that my nose was stuck in this February.

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  • The Way Of The Heart: Connecting With God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J. M. Nouwen 

We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of the Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others. But with such a spiritual abode, we will become increasingly conformed to Him in whose name we minister.

Henri Nouwen’s pen, I am convinced, was made of gold. This account is easy to read and gives a deeper level to Christianity’s simplest lessons in a way that convicts and inspires. This book touches on how we have replaced compassion with systems, living life together for meetings, action for God as intimacy with God. Nouwen redefines ministry, what it looks like to live out a true ministerial life, and the problems of how we have been approaching it in the 21st century. I highly recommend this read if you are seeking more prayer, solitude, and compassion in your life… or, maybe, especially if you don’t know why those components even matter on the daily. (This book would be especially profitable for church staff, pastors, and those in leadership roles in their communities!)

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  • Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope That Matters by Timothy Keller

We become like what we worship.

In this book, Keller takes the three main things that we have set before God as a culture and points to the truth of how life in Christ trumps everything the world has to offer. What made me love Tim Keller even more in this book, is that he is aware and awake to the problems of our secular and church culture. He knows what is going on outside of his generation and has such a gift for pointing us to the Scripture that applies to the same issues we are wrestling with today. Counterfeit Gods made me ask myself what motivates me to wake up in the morning (is it an idol or my God?) and made me look at money, sex, and power completely differently. This goes on my list of “Christianity Classics” and I’ll be recommending it for years to come.

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  • The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into The Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

In Christ, I  am chosen, accepted, justified, anointed, sealed, forgiven, redeemed, complete, free, Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home.

Oh, The Broken Way. This was my second journey through The Broken Way, and so much more came alive to me on this time through. I led a small group in my church and we watched the accompanying videos and discussed our readings each week. Something I appreciated that wasn’t at the front of my mind when I read it last October, was how Voskamp doesn’t just tell us truth, but invites us to live the story with her. I appreciate her honesty that doesn’t make me feel like it’s impossible to live a messed up, cruciform, yet-truly-abundant life. To see my first full review of the book, go here. If you’ve read The Broken Way and don’t want to let the truths of the book get dusty in your mind, check out my book-based playlist. 

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  • Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts

Do most of us truly wish to be in the swim of the digital “now”? Or is it more that people are afraid of not being in that swim? Could both be true at once? Almost everybody I know makes the same superficial complaints about the distraction, the triviality, the frustration, the self-alienation, you name it. At the same time, there is clearly such a powerful, and, it seems, increasing desire to be in touch – to express ourselves, to hear from others, to  be caught up in that pulse for a time eases our essential loneliness.

A T T E N T I O N: Everyone that owns an iPhone needs this book. While The Way of the Heart was about the spiritual implications of noise in our lives, Birkerts takes on a more intellectual angle. It’s about our generation’s “fragmentation of focus” & being “choked by noise”. How technology is literally rewiring our brains, our kids’ brains — how it’s changing the way we communicate & see art. It initially made me want to pull every iPad from every little kid’s and grown adult’s hand, and honestly? I don’t think that a bad thing. We need to be more aware of the issues of connection, attention, and communication because of the silent change brought on by our devices. Simply put: this book has encouraged me to forget about my phone more often, embraced people over systems, buy in physical stores when possible, create with no distractions, and read more books. If I ever go completely off the grid, y’all can blame Sven Birkerts.

Currently reading….

 

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

…and currently contemplating on what titles to choose for the weeks and months ahead!

What authors and topics have been keeping you flipping pages as we dig in deeper to 2017? Tell me what books have been on your mind in the comments!