Value

In a world that wants to keep you consuming, there is a laundry list of things determined to mark your value just shy of perfection while simultaneously offering some kind of wonder product to help you reach your ultimate self worth. I bet you can hear the announcements, or even visualize the ads, 

You’re one workout program away from your dreambody!

Just start using this beauty product and you’ll be a completely new person!

Invest with this bank and you will be worth so much more in the future!

We live in a society and culture that dangles their crafted idea of perfection in front of our noses all in hopes that we keep dishing out cash to them in a pursuit of more self value. It’s exhausting. But the problem is even deeper than a societal problem. It is rooted in the context of our families and friends, and even our own hearts. We want to be valued. We want to be worth something to someone, anyone. So the question becomes, 

Where does your value come from, and is it a sustainable and sufficient source?

You can’t let other things determine your value. No stranger, partner, coworker, friend, or even family member should. No occupation or circumstance, good or bad, such as mental health issues, diseases/physical ailments, job titles, diplomas/certificates, or location should either. All these things are labels. You can let them sink deep and become a part of your identity, but ultimately, you must decide where your value comes from. A say this hesitantly, however, as our culture has absorbed this idea and corrupted it. I hear things like, “You, and only you, get to decide your value. It’s been twisted so that instead of you deciding where your value comes from it’s being pushed that you must cultivate your own value. This is the trap I see most people fall into nowadays, busting their butt and doing everything on their own power to create self worth. If your bar of peak self value is still the one crafted by society you will always fall short and still feel unsatisfied, and the whole thing becomes as draining as chasing external factors to determine your value. Our culture has shaped our heart to associate our “best self” with perfection, and as long as our heart views our self worth in this light we will be disappointed and weary. The truth is, you will never be able to produce enough self value and worth to fulfill that desire you feel. 

But GOOD NEWS!

The way society is set up and how we find our value reminds me a lot of the overarching story of the bible but missing the main guy: Jesus. Most people outside the faith don’t realize this, but a big theme of most of the bible is that we just can’t live up to the bar of perfection that God has set. And just like our society we see this standard of perfection throughout the 10 commandments, the law, and most of the Old Testament, that God seems to be holding over us. But one of the main points of all this is to realize that we can’t do this on our own. 

Romans 3:20

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

And becoming conscious of our sins, really means understanding we don’t make the cut which is stated just a few verses past the previous one. 

Romans 3:23

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

But unlike our society, we aren’t left here. This isn’t the end of the story. Between Romans 3:20 and Romans 3:23 we read:

Romans 3:21-22

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

You see, God sets the bar of value high but through His grace He sent His son Jesus to bring that bar to us, so that we don’t have to run the rat race chasing perfection and wearing ourselves out. Now we can rest and finally look around us and enjoy the present. We can understand that by listening and following Jesus we don’t have the pressure of pursuing value or trying to cultivate it on our own. He helps us see that we don’t need to be perfect for God to want us. We just need to be humble enough to admit that we can’t do it on our own, and give up control. Where we fall short, Jesus makes up the difference. 

So place your value in the hands of an all knowing and all loving God, who says you are His, you are loved, and that you are worth the price of His son’s life. He wouldn’t pay that price, and do all the work if He didn’t want you. When this kind of unearned value takes root in your heart it changes the way you live. Surround yourself with people who see you like God does, people who will remind you of your value when you yourself can’t see it. Pursue a passion and do work that serves as an avenue to tangibly create or express the value God has placed in you. The paradox is that in realizing you are broken, you become perfect in the eyes of the One who really counts. So continue to walk in humility and with a humble heart with Jesus, and He will lead you through a life full of potential and purpose, a life overflowing with a value we didn’t pay for, all while glorifying the One who did. 

Luminescent Followers

Be weird.

That’s what I heard from God. 

Thanks God…

But what I think He was truly saying was to be myself.

2 Corinthians 4:6 

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Being genuine means being transparent to the light within our hearts…that was never our own light to begin with.

Matthew 5:16

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Transparency means allowing more light to pass through. It means opening ourselves up to God’s light, His love, and allowing our heart to reflect that love back out to others.

Ephesians 5:8

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Living this way means living as a child of the light. We can’t do that by faking vulnerability or hiding our true self but only by being genuine, by cranking up the dimmer switch we’ve placed on who we are. 

Luke 8:16 

16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Embrace it. Put yourself out there, for all to see, so that the light placed in your heart by the Lord can remind others of the light in themselves. 

Be weird. 

Black Lives Matter.

 

17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;

    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,

    so that mere earthly mortals

    will never again strike terror.

〜Psalm 10:17-18

The reason I am posting this is because I woke up convicted. Well, really, I had been feeling convicted for awhile. I want to share in this post how I let that conviction change me and my heart, how I was given the words to express my feelings and understand them, and what I have come to understand and now live out as a result. When the Black Lives Matter movement started around 2013 I was relatively young (15) and I didn’t really understand at the time. Over the course of the next few years, as I got a little older and understood a little more, I was kind of bothered. I thought, all lives matter, not just black lives. Why are there signs saying this? But I never said or did anything. Now, with everything that is currently happening my conviction seemed to not only change, but grow stronger. I felt a heavy heart with all the hate and anger festering in America and other parts of the world, and now it was signs that said All Lives Matter that made me angry inside. Why did I feel anger in the first place? Why was my heart so troubled and my soul so uneasy? I knew I needed to give it to God. I also knew that I didn’t want to deny this conviction anymore, and that I wanted to educate myself so that I could release this burden and truly begin to change. So I started with a prayer, and then turned to the greatest source of wisdom I know: scripture. 

June 6, 2020

Dear God, 

      Okay God. I feel your conviction. I am beginning to know Your voice and feel your presence in my life and You have made me feel this conviction in my heart about all the injustices happening right now. About all the people being killed, about all the hate and feuding brought up by race. I want to be educated, Lord. I want to know what to do and say and what my part to play is Lord. But I want Your wisdom, and I want to learn from Your word, and I want to act through Your Spirit and I want it all to be fueled by the Love of Jesus. Lord Help Me. You are sufficient!

〜Amen

So I began the search to see what scripture says about racial reconciliation. Ephesians 2:11-22 is a powerful summation of the massive reconciliation that was made possible and done by Jesus Christ sacrifice for all our sins. It tells of how the Jews and the Gentiles were reconciled through Christ. You have to understand, to be a Jew during this time meant you had access to God’s presence and if you were a Gentile (anyone not Jewish) that wasn’t really a possibility. Sure you could stand way outside the temple gates, or maybe in the courtyards at the very back but to be fully in God’s presence, to be that close, was for the Jews. Naturally, there was opposition and segregation, sadly, in regards to God’s presence. What a devastating injustice to deny people God. Paul writes how the Gentiles were, “foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). After thousands of years of war, oppression, racism, hatred, judgement, and bias we are left asking how can they ever be reconciled. The answer: Jesus. 

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

~Ephesians 2:13-22

 

This is amazing. Christ died so that the walls of hostility could come down. So that the people in the back who felt discriminated, cheated, and unloved could be welcomed to the front. So that the ones who felt left out and wronged had a place at the table and were in. So that we could all be one. So that we could all be family. Aside from Christ already paying the price, Ephesians 2:11-22 isn’t a reality yet, it’s the goal. We haven’t reached that point. Even to this present day in America. We aren’t there yet. Why do we feel the need as people in the front, people in God’s presence, to hoard it for ourselves? With God, there is plenty of space and love to go around. Why are some of us so hesitant to let others come forward? Worse yet, when we should be helping them, we are killing them and rebuilding barriers. The injustice today in America is not denying people God like in this scripture, but denying others are made in the image of God, and therefore we don’t treat them how they deserve to be treated, with equality. Scripture tells us we are all one family, reconciled and restored by Christ. Why can’t we see that today? As Christians, we should be more willing to shine the love on those who feel unloved. When I see a cop, that’s my family. When I see a black man, that’s my family. When I see rich, poor, broken, successful; that’s my family. I love my family. I know everyone doesn’t see the world this way, and I know for certain that we don’t all treat each other this way. What I do know is that if any part of my family is being oppressed, killed, discriminated, or hated that I will stand with them and support them. 

Black Lives Matter. When I say this people think that means I hate law enforcement, or I think that only black lives matter. Not true. Do I want change? Absolutely. Do I want peace? Absolutely. Do I appreciate the police that protect us? Absolutely. I don’t want people to think that this post is attacking police officers. Here’s the deal: All cops aren’t bad because some mess up, just like all protestors aren’t violate rioters. What that cop did to George Floyd wasn’t evil because he was in uniform, it was evil because he abused his power to kill another human being. That’s wrong. Floyd has been made a martyr and even been called a saint by some. I don’t agree with that because he is another human like you and me as well. But we can all agree that what happened to him was wrong and shouldn’t happen to people period. But it happens to black people a lot, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with using this massive injustice caught on camera to open people’s eyes to the faults in some of our systems in this country. So, when people say what about all these other people who have died recently, or why is no one talking about this or that it’s not that people don’t care about these things. It’s that people are focused on fixing and addressing a huge lack of justice for a group of people right now. Don’t get me wrong. Please mourn, post about people you care about on social media passing away or other problems in the world that you want to shine a spotlight on. Every lost life is tragic, regardless of how it happened. Every world problem is devastating. But in response to the Black Live Matters it is confrontational and undermining to the movement. I regard comments like these in the same light as all lives matter comments. I think that this point is important enough to provide two examples, one normal, and one biblical. 

America is a dinner table. After white people have excused almost all Native Americans from the table they sit down at the dinner table ready to eat. The meal is made by black people who aren’t allowed at the table and are only given a few scraps of food. This goes on for a long time. Finally some people realize that this is wrong, and say, “black people should be able to sit at the table with us.” After fights and arguing black people end up getting a spot at the table. However, they still have no food but are happy to just be at the table at first. White people continue to eat their meals and over time, black people start to say, “We deserve food too.” White people ignore them. Every night they say, “We deserve food too.” Still, white people ignore them. Finally they say, “Black people deserve food too.” White people respond, “We all deserve food.” Black people raise their voices, “Black people deserve food too!” White people, “We all deserve food!” 

Why are we so surprised then when black people start pounding their utensils, breaking dishes, and flipping the table? How many times, and for how long must they ask politely before we give them some food? 

I have mixed feelings about the violence and the riots. I feel like I am not really for that, and the first thing I’ll add is that there are a lot of third parties that come in and take advantage of the movement to work their own agendas. That just needs to be understood. Not all vandalism, aggression, and rioting is by activists for the Black Lives Matter movement. However, there are a lot of supporters who are for it and even still there are some who are against it, but understand it. That’s where I am. I will never fully be able to understand where they are coming from but I can to some degree. A lot of it hinges on and is explained by the Martin Luther King Jr’s quote, “And I contend that the cry of ‘black power’ is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.” Replace “black power” with “Black Lives Matter” and here we are. MLKJ was never an advocate for violence, but he understood why some would riot. Emmanual Acho also discusses this in Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man Ep. 1 (linked below) and brings up the point of this being one of the stages of grieving. He talked about how his mother, when she lost someone, was throwing herself against the wall in her pain and mourning. It was hurtful to herself but she just didn’t know how to respond, how to express the emotions she was feeling. We have a nation processing the recent and tragic deaths of people, as well as the feelings and responses to injustices they’ve suppressed. I think that we are in a time of very high emotions, and it is very easy for these emotions to be untethered to reason and become destructive rather than constructive. I am not trying to justify looting, rioting and vandalism. I do hope however you can at least understand where they may be coming from.  

The other example is in scripture. It is Matthew 18: 10-14 and is called the parable of the wandering sheep. 

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 11 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

〜Matthew 18:10-14

There is plenty of scripture that shows the kind of character Jesus had, and ultimately, as Christians, we should model our lives off of Jesus’. I try to think about how Jesus would respond during this time. What would his actions be? Jesus went out of his way for the marginalized, spent his time loving people who didn’t feel loved and made it clear he accepted those who didn’t feel accepted. I love the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18. I just want a society that matches these values that Jesus lived for. The Black Lives Matter movement is like the lost sheep looking for justice, and righteousness. Jesus going to help the one sheep doesn’t mean he loves the 99 sheep any less, or that they don’t matter. He just wants everyone to know they’re loved, and right now we can stand with Jesus in seeking justice for the one sheep. Even when you say in all sincerity, all lives matter, which I and everyone agrees with, it seems like you’re opposing black lives matter. When we say black lives matter we are saying we see you, lost and unheard sheep, and we want justice and righteousness for you, like we have.  

With all that said, it’s clear there is a lot of disagreement with others and a lot of times right now that seems to be expressed through social media. I don’t have any problem with people doing that. But what irritates me is that people so easily forget that the comment they’re leaving is addressed to another human being. It’s easy to feel confident and assertive in your retorts and rejects to others behind a keyboard and screen, but we need to keep in mind that commenting on everyone’s post that you disagree with, and doing it in a very close minded and rude way, is only adding fuel to the fire and does nothing to work towards a solution. We let our frustration from disagreement take over, but “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:20). It’s important to express your opinion, but in healthy and productive ways and not in ways that exhaust you and/or the situation. Proverbs 15:1 says it well, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a hard word stirs up anger”. Don’t use your words to stir up anger, don’t go picking fights, but respond and state humbly your opinion. Let’s use our voice on social media to be a place of education, open mindedness, and ideally, positive discussion so that we can focus on change and growth as individuals and as a community. 

I started this quest seeking truth and wisdom, and relief for my aching heart. I turned first to God, and His word. I let Him set the foundation for my understanding and stance on all of this. However, I also looked into so many other sources. I tried my best to educate myself as much as possible. I found material that claims white privilege is a myth, or that there’s no such thing as systemic racism. I have read plenty of material that says the opposite. I have talked to family friends who have a member serving in law enforcement, I have talked to friends that are people of color, black, Christian and non-Christian. I have talked to my Uncle who is a Christian working in law enforcement. Some people say they have experienced racism, others say they haven’t. Some say they can’t get behind Black Lives Matter because they are procop. Some people say they can’t support law enforcement because they are standing for Black Lives Matter. What they all said though was, they were all fine with change, and wanted peace. 

I could sit here and spew out all the facts I have found to support either side, or I could type up an exhaustive list of every single testimony and look at which side of the line they fall on, but at the end of the day I think all of us, including myself, just want people to love one another. We want to be respected, loved, and accepted and I truly believe that it is going to take radical love by all of us to make that happen. We can educate ourselves all day, consume all the social media out there, and keep ourselves up to date on the latest news but it will require living out a transformational love like Jesus to truly make an impact. As Bob Goff says in his devotional Live in Grace, Walk in Love, “The people with the greatest love, not the most information, will influence us to change” (LIG WIL, 194). It is not enough to recognize the marginalized and the lines of division separating groups of people. We need to move into the margin, erase the separation through active acceptance, acknowledging where we are as individuals, and start seeing each other the way God intended, as family.

Scripture tells us in James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” We too easily become polluted by the world through selfish agendas, lies on social media, political pursuits, etc. so much so that we get caught up in being right, and forget to look after the orphans and widows. Or our vision gets so distorted by the world’s pollution that we can’t see sin rooting itself in us. “Orphans” and “Widows” are people who need a family and are hurting. Right now, black people need us to stand by their side. Even if we say, there’s no facts, or at least not enough to show that there is systemic racism, or white privilege it doesn’t negate or change the very real cries of help coming from black people in our country. Who are we as Christians, and fellow Americans to say that it’s not real for them? Wouldn’t we be foolish not to look into the matter and help? We cannot deny the very real emotions connected to experiences. However, I do believe that there is evidence, and there are flaws in our system. We live in a broken world and that’s a truth we need to understand. But that’s no excuse not to help those in need and pursue change.  

I want to end on what this whole endeavor has taught me, how it has left me changed, and what happens next. Like I said, I came into this uneducated, and with a deeply troubled heart.  I was so scared of being called a racist, I chose to hide in ignorance for so long. In 1 Peter 4:1-2 it says, “Whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” I realized that my internal struggle and suffering was a spiritual battle between my sin nature and the Spirit God’s given me. I really had to dig deep and ask why is all this clamping so hard on my heart. It became so clear through God’s grace that it was my white privilege pushing back. It was the enemy and sin nature that had rooted itself, disguising itself as normalcy, in my heart. I was uprooting this thing that for so long I thought was a part of me and what I was feeling was the cry of all that being brought to the light. But when I finally let go of my biases, let go of pride, and let in humility and God’s love it was like a breath of fresh air brought by the Holy Spirit. My heart was liberated. 

If you know me, then you know I’m not very political, or one to usually state my political views on the internet. But this is beyond politics. This is a heart posture problem. This is a human problem. I would be lying if I said now I have all the answers and my work is done. The truth is this internal revelation was really just the beginning. I also don’t claim to know all the stats and facts out there, but I hope that this helps convince people there is a problem, and that sometimes all you need as confirmation of that is the twinge in your heart, and the tug on your soul. Lean into that. Please do not sweep your conviction under the rug. Dig into and ask yourself why you might be feeling that way. I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not asking you to have them either. A big step to finding a solution is doing the inner work in yourself first. I took the time to self reflect, process and mull over the emotions I was feeling, and really examined my heart and myself. That’s what I’m asking you to do. I’m striving to be someone who listens to that still voice in my heart, listens to the Holy Spirit and engages it, lets it teach me, and God willing, change me. We cannot be content to ignore the problem, or retreat back into our bubble due to fear of change and exposure. As Christians, we work in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) and I believe that means in these times that we stand by the people who need to be reconciled. That means that we do what we can to fix the systems, but also address the spiritual evils involved in those systems and in our own hearts. I know my writing a blog isn’t going to solve the problem, but I hope maybe my words can help people understand, or put into words the struggle they feel in their own heart. All of this has given me the confidence to stand with people and overcome a war in my heart, despite the conflict that it may cause between family and friends, a say with confidence and pride, BLACK LIVES MATTER. 

 


Please, if you disagree or have any questions or concerns bring them to me. I’m learning and seeking the truth and trying to find ways to help and get involved. If you have information that you want me to read, I’d be more than happy. If you want to share opportunities or different viewpoints, I’m all ears. Let’s talk, because that is part of how we are going to find reconciliation. Then let’s take positive and constructive action! As always, much love. 

I have listed below a bunch of sources I used in composing this. Not all are listed, only the main ones. They aren’t really in any particular order, and they vary from a few minutes to over an hour, from biblical teachings to movies to articles. I will say the first three I found to be relatively short (all around ten or so minutes) and very impactful. 

Sources:

BibleProject: Justice

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man Ep. 1

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man Ep. 2

Voddie Baucham Teaching on Racial Reconciliation: Main Point

Voddie Baucham Teaching on Racial Reconciliation: Full

Police. Protestors. People: Jocko Willink

The Symbols of Systemic Racism: Ted Talk by Paul Rucker

Systemic Racism Explained

Hope

The Cure for Racism Podcast

Evidence of Systemic Racism in our Justice System

Bridgetown Church Teaching

Churchome Teaching

Transformation Church: Racial Reconciliation by Michael Todd

Live in Grace, Walk in Love by Bob Goff

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

13th (Film on Netflix)

When They See Us (Film on Netflix)

Ways to Support:

Equal Justice Initiative

Innocence Project

Cover to Cover of You

*This was originally a little paper I wrote for class, but I put a little twist on it. Hope you enjoy!

After hearing Sandra Kroupa’s talk with my class, where she said she “never defines the word ‘book,’ I am beginning to rethink how I myself define a book. Kroupa further opened the possibilities by introducing artist books, which completely reshaped the way a “book” is thought of and used. Artist books go beyond the paper and ink of our standard books and re-purpose them to be just as much a part of the story as the text itself. The physical object, then, has just as much to say in the story and actually adds to it. Artist books incorporate the reader, involving them in the unfolding and telling of the tale. I wanted to take this idea even further and create my own definition of what a book is: A book is a vessel for a story.

A book is something that carries the story. Most of us would think of bound paper as the vessel and a collection of words, usually unified and ordered somehow, as the story. But to think this way is very limiting. Vessels are all around us and can be anything. In the same way, stories make up everything and have many forms beyond just writing. Spoken stories flutter from the mouth of someone, unbound, and if impactful enough will make their home in the hearts of whoever listened; a story without a vessel. This approach to defining a book asks you to open your mind to finding tales in odd places, to creatively thinking about the world, and experiencing the power and beauty of stories in a new light. Once you embrace this you will begin to see “books” and “stories” all around you. 

Furthermore, this drastically broadens what can be considered a book. The artist books make things like a pack of cigarettes, a blouse, a board game and so on, all vessels that add to, and play a role in sharing the story. It is imperative that whatever the vessel is, it accepts that it contains a story and becomes part of it or else it does not work as a book. Even the books made of paper and ink do this. The cover usually has a picture, a title, excerpts, and quotes all of which point to the book embracing that it contains a story. 

You might be saying well then, by your definition everything is a book. In some ways I am. However, I am not saying that all these things that can be defined as a book, a vessel for a story, should be read as a book. My definition defines it as a vessel for a story, not a vessel with a story. You see, there needs to be some intentionality behind the vessel, a main purpose to serve the story. I believe that every vessel can have a story, for example a coffee mug with some writing on the front and a chip out of the top lip… is it a book? Well if the definition was a vessel with a story then yes. That chip, the writing across the front, the coloring and stains all point towards a story if you’re willing to let yourself be creative. However, is it a vessel for a story? Well, no. The primary purpose of a coffee mug is for drinking coffee and not telling stories. 

This definition of a book is quite radical. It is asking a lot of a person to think of books in this way. But I truly believe that wrestling with this idea will be interesting and expose you to a much more vivid and interesting world. Stories make up so much of what it means to be human. That’s why my favorite books are people, and the stories of their lives. We are all, as human beings, a vessel with a story. Things like fear and control keep us stuck trying to cross out old parts of our story, or trying to write ahead, go our own way and deny who we’re meant to be. Deep in our souls we feel our identity that has been divinely placed there, giving us purpose. We feel the burning of our story etched in our heart giving us passion for what we were created to do. The people who choose to serve their story, to embrace it, and be a vessel for their story begin to relinquish control of the pen and live in the current unfolding of their beautiful and intriguing life. Truly leaning into our stories has the power to inspire, connecting us to others while highlighting how unique we are. The true gift of embracing our story, however, is the freedom that comes from giving up the burden of control, and the love that is revealed for us in each and every moment from the Writer who is so, so good.

A Positive Note in a Dark Time

I know someone needs to hear this today. Things will get better. Have peace knowing that the story’s end has already been solidified through Jesus. In understanding that peace open yourself up to participation in the here and now. Use this time to dream and scheme up ways to love, and when things get better, put those dreams into action.

From Bob Goff’s Devotional: Live in Grace, Walk in Love

Thanks Bob Goff for the inspiring and uplifting words in a time of confusion and fear.

As always, much love.

Thoughts on the Heart 3

My heart is a gift to God.

With Corona Virus running rampant throughout the world, people are scared. Covid 19 is devastating families and placing fear in people’s hearts, and a lot of us are asking what we can do. 

Man, everyday God is doing things in my heart. It is amazing following him. Every day he breaks my heart for others which leads to humility and makes me more humble. BUT HE DOESN’T LEAVE ME THERE. He fills it back up with passion and compassion which inspires me to help and care for others, and to savor every moment I have here on earth and the people I get to share those moments with. He fills my heart so full with identity in Him that I can’t help but overflow with joy and peace and be reminded of how blessed I am.

With everything going on, I pray that we can give our hearts to our creator because I promise you He will treat it for what it is, a gift. I pray that if you don’t believe in God that you give him a chance now. God is so present in the midst of suffering and chaos. His arms are open for you, always. I pray that we take our hurting hearts during this time and give them to God. I pray that we take our full hearts and use them to help our families, communities, and the world during this time. Don’t let your hearts be filled with fear but with peace that God’s got us and is using what the enemy intended for evil to bring people into His love, which is bigger than any fear or obstacle we will ever face, Covid 19 included. 

Gosh man, my heart. It aches for those hurting, yet is full from God’s gracious love. I am open to God using me to help however He wants during this time. Maybe He will use these words to bring peace into some people’s hearts. I am praying for you all. I pray that you don’t think your role is unimportant in stopping Covid 19. Distancing yourself may seem like a small act, but it’s a huge act of love to your neighbors right now. 

Events like this sometimes help us to see the important things in life; family, love, identity. God can be all those things and more for you if you let Him. Spend this time with family, helping how you can, and consider gifting your heart to God. You don’t need to wrap it and place a bow on it or wait for it to be in better shape or until it’s in worse shape, hand it over to Him now and see what He does with it. 

I give my heart as a gift to God and He returns it to me more full than when I sent it.

God is a gift to my heart. 

A New Year of Action!

Hello everybody, and happy New Years Eve! Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I have been on Christmas break spending time with family and friends, and I also went on a trip to California (if you want to see what I was up to in Cali, I have linked a video below). I have been busy enjoying the holiday season, resting, and living in the present. I hope you have been doing the same! 

Going into this new year, I want to dive deeper into storytelling and relationships. I have a lot of projects in the works and a lot of people I want to connect with, and I want to give both things more of my time. With that said, I am no longer going to hold myself to posting a blog once a week. Ideally, there will still be a new post each week because I really do enjoy sharing here with you all, however I am giving myself some leniency to work on other things. From now on, I will post sporadically as time allows. 

So that is one new thing happening going into 2020. But what I really wanted to share with you is what I’ve been learning in Bob Goff’s new book, Live in Grace, Walk in Love. The last two days of the devotional have really got me thinking about how I want to live this next year. One quote that really stood out to me was “God hopes we’ll develop a greater fear of inaction than of failure.” I think for a long time, my mindset was to not be afraid of failing. All of us strive for that goal, to embrace failure and understand that it is how we grow. I have made it to this place, but God has more for me and you. I am more afraid of not trying than of failing. I’m afraid of inaction because I get nervous about change, I’m being lazy, I’m being antisocial, I’m listening to the enemy and believe that I don’t have what it takes to make it to the end so why start. Now, there is a place for rest and recovery which is different than inaction. But God calls us to people and to go on an adventure, and I want to embrace that in 2020. My prayer for you, and for myself, is that this next year we are able to differentiate between rest and inaction. I pray that we lean into God and just start; Just begin whatever adventure He has for us, with no fear of failure, or how we are gonna do it but just trusting that if God wants us to pursue this path that His validation is all that we need. If He has called us to this journey then we must believe that He will equip us to handle it. 2020 is going to be a great year for us. It will be full of amazing experiences and people and a year of action!! As always, much love!

My Trip to Cali Video 

PACE

New Depths & Final Thoughts

I have learned a lot about what it means and looks like to approach PACE like Jesus, and I am thankful for each of you who have tagged along. Hopefully, there was value in this for you as well. Being present is so important. It helps you connect with life, with Jesus, in the people and things around you. You get the most out of each moment and begin to realize all the opportunities that God has placed all around you. In this final post about PACE I want to share a few final thoughts I have discovered through addressing hurry in my life.

•      •      •

When I started this series, I thought it would be really cool to make PACE an acronym and I have come up with two that I like.

Patient
Atmosphere for
Christ to
Endeavor

I like this one because I think that when you slow down and become present, you really are creating the space needed for Christ to do really big things in your life.

People,
Atmosphere, &
Christ
Engaged

This one sums up what it means to be present. It means allowing your pace to encompass people, your surroundings, and Christ and then taking that final step to engage in them. That’s being present.

•      •      •

I am not the first to address hurry in life, or to look at it from a Christian perspective. This last summer, before I really started to look at the pace of my life, I got a tattoo. It is of the lyrics from one of my favorite worship songs, Not in a Hurry by Will Reagan and United Pursuit. In musical notes it says some of the lyrics, “I’m not in a hurry.” The tattoo is on my forearm, in a place where I see it all the time and it is a great reminder to be present. I notice it often, and I saw it while I was working on the previous post. I smiled and realized that God has been putting this topic on my heart for awhile now. I looked back over the chorus of the song, and it is all about being in the moment with God.

I’m not in a hurry
When it comes to your spirit
When it comes to your presence
When it comes to your voice
I’m learning to listen
Just to rest in your nearness
I’m starting to notice
You are speaking

These lyrics are beautiful, and I think they hit it right on the nose: When you slow down, become present, and rest in His nearness, you begin to hear Him more in your life. I believe that you begin to start seeing the world and experiencing the world the way Jesus intended it to be; beautiful, rich, and deep. There is a depth that comes from being present. It deepens your calmness turning it to peace, your compassion turning it to love, and your happiness turning it to joy. When you lean into the life that God has for you by being present, your life becomes deeper giving you a new capacity to be full. Life becomes more meaningful.

My prayer for you is that you begin to really address hurry in your life. I pray that you lean into God and rest in His nearness, that you give Him all your thoughts and moments, and let a new depth be created in you so that you can have your heart filled like never before. I pray that you slow down your life and walk with Jesus so life doesn’t pass you by. I pray that you are able to get the most out of every encounter and that everything you experience will remind you of your potential, your purpose, and how loved you are. Thank you so much everyone. As always, much love.

PACE

Accessing the Kingdom

In this post I want to continue the conversation of what it looks like to live a life at the pace of Jesus. Last time, I left you with the verse Matthew 6:25-34, the section titled in scripture Do Not Worry, and today I would like to dive more into what this verse has to say about hurry. 

Here is that piece of scripture again,

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.                                                                                                                               

In verses 25-27, Jesus tells us not to worry. Worry causes us to hurry because it gives us a feeling that something is wrong, and that we must fix it. We start to dread the future when we worry and because of that we have no peace in our present. Jesus tells us not to worry about our life and not to worry about our body. Throughout the Gospel, there are many instances where Jesus tells us not to be so concerned with food and drink because He can feed us in ways that satisfy us on a spiritual level. He provides when He feeds the five thousand and He provides when He rains down bread for the people because He knows what we need. But beyond that, our Lord feeds us on a spiritual level.

John 4:14 (NIV)

14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

So, do not worry about what you will eat or drink because God will provide. Instead, focus on drinking from the eternal well, nourish your spirit by drawing close to the Lord, and He will fill you in deep ways.

Next, Jesus draws a parallel to nature. This is important because not only does it serve to show us how God provides for nature, so He will of course provide for us, but it also shows how in-tune Jesus is with nature. He often retreats into the mountains to be alone with the Lord. Jesus is consistently looking at the beauty that God has placed Him in, looking to nature to draw wisdom and life. Jesus lives and teaches at a pace that is slow enough to appreciate these things, to reflect on them, and see God in them. Lastly, in verse 27, Jesus points out how worrying only takes away from our time. It wastes our time just like hurry, and just like sin, that wants to see our time here on earth squandered. 

In verses 28-32, Jesus focuses on clothing, and again looks to nature to inspire and teach us. He says the flowers do not “labor or spin” which is exactly what we do when we worry, when we get into a hurry; We work harder and move less, spinning out and tiring ourselves. The flowers are a creation of God, but with no free will to choose and no consciousness, so they have no choice but to be what God intended them to be. Can you imagine if we lived our life like that? Finding our beauty simply in what God intended us to be, in the identity He has written on our hearts. But because our God does not create robots and has given us free will, and because sin has entered the world, we clothe ourselves. Clothing in the scriptural sense is not jackets, pants, and shirts but are all the ways we try and hide our insecurities, all the ways we try and fit in. Clothing here means how we present ourselves to the world, and this often reflects how we view ourselves. We feel ashamed about things so we cover up our identity. We want to be who the world says we should be instead of who the Lord wants us to be so we mask ourselves. We can never fully feel accomplished in all this so we are constantly in a hurry, stressed that someone might see our true selves. 

But if we can slow down enough to draw close to our Savior, to come back to who He says we are and who He wants us to be, our life would not be misspent trying to be someone we’re not. Our life would become deeper, richer, slower. We will find that the only clothing we need is the armor of God.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.                                                                                                                                                        

When we deny clothing ourselves to please the world around us and hide things, and instead dress in this way, in the armor of God, we will remember all that God calls us to, all the ways He protects us, and ultimately, how much He loves us. 

In verses 33-34, we get the answer to how to end worry, and ultimately hurry, in life. To address hurry in our life we must “seek first his kingdom and righteousness.” But what exactly is His kingdom and His righteousness? Jesus answers this for us.

Luke 17:20-21 (NIV)

20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”                                                                                                                                                      

The coming of the kingdom of God is not an event, the kingdom itself is not a location, the kingdom of God is in our midst. I truly believe that this means that we are in the kingdom right here, right now. The kingdom is the people around us and our environment. The kingdom is community. And how do we seek first this kingdom? Well, by being present. By engaging with Jesus in ourselves and finding Jesus in the people and things that make up our atmosphere.  By being present with the kingdom, embracing it, we begin to discover God’s righteousness. 

Romans 14:17 (NIV)

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit                                                                                                                                                     

Righteousness looks like being right with the Lord, with the people around us, and with our atmosphere. Doing that will bring peace to our lives, and that peace will bring deeply rooted joy. So, looking back to Matthew 6, when we seek first His kingdom, when we are present, “all of these things will be given to [us].” Jesus concludes in Matthew 6:34 by again telling us to not live worrying about the future, when we have enough in today to address. 

My prayer for you is that you focus on Jesus in your present and that you begin to access the kingdom of God. You are already in it, you just need to embrace it. Living in the kingdom is a beautiful thing. It is extremely challenging, but it is something that I am working towards, and it looks a lot like trying to slow down and walk with Jesus in every moment, letting Him be at the forefront of my thoughts and actions. In Acts 4 there is a beautiful example of what living in the kingdom looks like. When we access the kingdom by being present we begin to live in the kind of community that our Savior has called us to; a community where the Gospel is not about a building, or about singing certain songs. It is not merely something you experience in your head, no, it is about Jesus and people. Living in the kingdom affects your heart, your actions, and your thoughts. Wealth is redefined. Being present with Jesus releases us from the control of our possessions because it reminds us that the love of God, the freedom and forgiveness from sin, is worth more than all that. So I pray, lean into the present, into the kingdom and let God not just be in your heart, but the king and ruler of it so that you may be right with Him and others, so that you may live in peace, and so that you may experience joy. 

 

PACE

Addressing Hurry 

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted on my blog in awhile, about a month. My usual goal is a post every Friday, but I’ve just been really busy. This last month has made me start thinking about hurry in my life. So, I am starting this series called PACE, which is going to be entirely spirit led, meaning it may get messy and unorganized, however, I want to extend an invitation to you to join me on this adventure as I continue to lean into what exactly hurry is, how to address it, and how removing it from my life will affect me. 

The talk all started in Vancouver B.C with my small group where we talked about John Mark Comer’s book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, and listened to the first episode of a podcast, Fight Hustle, End Hurry, where him and Jefferson Bethke talk more on the subject. I haven’t gotten into them yet beyond what we listened to and talked about yet, because I wanted to explore this topic for myself first. I can honestly say that I am beginning to really realizing the truth about hurry; It deprives us of life. Think about how we treat people when we are in a hurry; rude, closed off, and selfish. It’s not necessarily our fault either. Society demands us to hustle, rewards us for not resting, and encourages us to hurry hurry hurry! But that’s not the life God intended us to live. Even if you don’t have a relationship with Christ, taking time to rest and slow down will help you get the most out of this beautiful life and fill you in new ways. But for the purpose of this post I want to look at how Jesus lived. What was Jesus’ pace?  

I believe that there are three ways in which a person can hurry; Physically, Mentally, and Spiritually. Physically hurry looks like actually moving your body, fatiguing your muscles, an action that will eventually lead to exhaustion. Mentally hurry is when your mind is too focused on the past or present, your thoughts are unclear and scattered, you aren’t giving attention to what you are doing in the moment. Spiritual hurry looks like focusing on your own wants, being caught up in the daily routine, not prioritizing the Lord. I would like to disclose with you some of the factors that contribute to a quickened pace in any, or all, of these. 

  • Selfishness
    • Prioritizing our own agenda makes anything that presents itself a nuisance to us. It’s okay to have our plans but if we let them lead our life, with no room for interruption, then we will constantly be in a hurry.
  • Conforming
    • Rushing to be who others want us to be. Feeling like if we don’t have that job, look a certain way, have certain possessions, know specific things, that we are inadequate. Feeling like we have to get to a certain place before we can really start enjoying life. We are in a hurry to fit in. 
  • Procrastination
    • Not dealing with things that are important. When we put off the things that really do need our attention it can lead to anxiety. It can become taxing mentally, mulling over these things, and cause us to feel rushed. 
  • Over stretching 
    • On the surface level, this can be just trying to do too much. However, on a deeper level I think that this can look like living in the future, or trying to reach far beyond the community and atmosphere that you are presently in. Your mind and spirit are thinking about things beyond your control, beyond your environment. 
  • Worry
    • We don’t have peace about the future. We feel like something is wrong, so we extrapolate what might happen, what might be done or said, and we hustle through the moment so that we can get to and over whatever has us worried. I think procrastination can lead to this very easily. 
  • Technology 
    • I listed technology here because I think that it has the ability to contribute to all of these other factors. It’s very easy with social media to fall into conformity and procrastination. Through technology we can live in the future, over stretching ourselves and taking away from the present. 

Looking to Jesus’ life you can begin to find the remedy to all these factors that cause hurry. One thing that I find through scripture is that Jesus embraces interruptions. When people and opportunities present themselves, Christ uses them to build people up, speak truth, and spread love. I think a really good example of this is right before Jesus feeds the five thousand. Things are getting crazy; Jesus and the twelve disciples have been going from village to village teaching, Jesus has been performing miracles, and John the Baptist has just been beheaded. Things are chaotic! But look how Jesus responds. 

Mark 6:31-34 (NIV)

31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.                                                                                                            

The first big takeaway from this verse is that in the middle of all this chaos, Jesus recognizes that rest is needed, and addresses it. In fact, Jesus can be seen at multiple points in the bible taking time away in nature, to rest, which looks like drawing near to God (Luke 6:12). The Lord takes time to seek out solitude and repose, yet we often say that we don’t have time to do the same. We postpone it, say we will rest later, and keep pushing ourselves. What would our lives look like if we approached rest the same way that Jesus did?

Through this verse we also see the ultimate answer to ending hurry in our life: Be present. Jesus is always in the moment, aware of the beautiful environment and people that God has surrounded Him with. I believe that Jesus has addressed hurry very well in the sermon on the mount, specifically in the section Do Not Worry (Matthew 6:25-34). I highly recommend reading the entirety of this section, as it addresses hurry on many levels and is at its core, a call to be more present. There is a lot to unpack in these verses, and I want to leave them for the next part of this series, but put them here so you can reflect over them. 

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.                                                                    

The enemy wants us to run through life, to sprint to the finish line. I have often heard Christians say that life is like a race, that you are running to get to Jesus as fast as possible. But, sprinting to Jesus is like sprinting to the present; You’re already here so stop running, stop hurrying! Instead, enjoy His company, in His beautiful creation, unwrapping His beautiful gift called life, every… single… day. When we live each moment walking and holding hands with Jesus, days are long and full. I want to savor every single second while the Lord has me here on Earth. I am in no rush to get to the finish line because Jesus has already made it to me.              

I pray that you embrace the interruptions that come your way, seeing them as an opportunity to spread joy and bring peace. I pray that you take the time to rest, to draw near to God. I pray that you leave here aware of the dangers of hurry, and what might be causing them. Most importantly, I pray that you leave knowing that the key is Jesus… it is always Jesus. By giving our attention to Him we begin to become present. I believe that being present looks like first turning inward to Jesus in you, to the name He has called you, to the life He has placed in your heart, to the characteristics that He fills you with, and letting that become your identity, your mindset, and your viewpoint. Then,(This is the really cool part!) take that and spread it to everyone and everything that is in your surroundings. Pour it out into the strangers you pass, the friends and family that walk with you. See it in the gorgeous gift of nature, in the trees, the sky, in the fields. But first, see it in yourself. Through being present in this way, each day, each moment, will be deeply filling, and you will begin to tap into the rich depth of life that God has intended for you.

I look forward to exploring PACE more in the next post with you all. I am learning a lot and hope that you can find something of value here as well. I want to leave you with a few questions that are on my heart, ones hopefully I will be able to address in the next post, along with the verse Matthew 6: 25-34. 

Questions

  1. How would Jesus handle technology? Is using technology ever living in the present? For example, when I call someone is that being present?
  2. Is presence a scale? Are there things that would be considered more present than others? For instance, is a letter to someone more present than a phone call, but less present than a conversation in person? Or, is presence dictated by your hearts intentions? As long as you are connected to God, is anything considered being in the present?
  3. Lastly, what is the relationship between spontaneity and living in the present?

Thank you so much for your time. Please, let’s continue this conversation! If you have any questions please send them my way. If you are really looking forward to more on this topic let me know, it means a lot. If you feel like this post has impacted you then I encourage you to share it. Once again, I am really excited to lean more into this conversation with you guys! As always, much love!

John Mark Comer’s book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: https://www.amazon.com/Ruthless-Elimination-Hurry-Emotionally-Spiritually/dp/0525653090

The Podcast, Fight Hustle, End Hurry: https://open.spotify.com/show/4RVAv8IK4vWARCmRP18f8D

Here’s a link to my Small Group Retreat Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6IGQ9Tdkrw&t=1s