Category Archives: THINGS I BELIEVE

GRACE

I struggle at times with being selfish at home. A problem arises, and I take it straight to Morgan no matter how weary his own day may have been. I put my issues on the forefront of not only my mind, but his. It’s a mistake I’m constantly reminding myself not to make, but as quickly as I remember, another upset causes me to forget. Hot water is low, tell Morgan. Bugs found their way back into the house, tell Morgan. I’ve put too much on my plate, tell Morgan. And heaven forbid he do something I don’t like because if so, I’m definitely telling Morgan. Those are the quickest complaints of all.

I recently finished “Resolution for Women” by Priscilla Shirer (if you’re looking for an inspirational read, I urge you to get this book). In one of the last chapters, there was a short story that I cannot get out of my mind. It was a perfect example of how a wife can create peace in her home – a lesson we can all afford to be reminded of. So, I’d like to share.

——————–

He was a struggling salesman, rising early each morning to go from one proverbial closed door to another, attempting to sell a variety of products made by the company he worked for. The days were long and exhausting, and he often had little to show for his efforts – certainly not from lack of trying, just from lack of takers.

His young, redheaded wife had been only eighteen when they married. And as their family grew, she spent the better part of each day trying to figure out how to make their small living quarters an enjoyable, satisfactory space, given the difficulties of their financial strain. Yet the day came when the strain turned into the kind that can make a girl want to give up – when she went to flip a light switch, and no lights came on. Thinking it was only a mishap in the electrical system, she went to another light source. Again, nothing. Another, nothing. Throughout the house she flipped switches – nothing – confirming what she already knew but didn’t want to believe. Their electricity bill hadn’t been paid.

Worse yet, it couldn’t be.

So for the remainder of the day, she did the best she could to take care of her household responsibilities. Even as the lengthening shadows of late afternoon slowly shrouded the kitchen in dim light, she prepared a makeshift dinner, then set it out with care and dignity on their darkened dining room table. A flashlight search uncovered some half-used candles, which she lit to create an elaborate place setting. The scene was gorgeous. 

When her husband arrived, tired and road weary, he found her and the children seated at the table, smiling and waiting to have dinner with him. They enjoyed their candlelit meal. Had good conversation together. The children especially loved the unique touch of candles at dinner. Thought it was fun. Their home was full of peace and serenity despite the circumstances – circumstances the children didn’t even know about. 

Neither did her husband.

He went straight from the table and collapsed exhausted into bed, beside which she’d lit more candles. She never said a word. It wasn’t until the next day, when he arose to get ready for work, that he realized there were no lights. Putting some mental pieces together he realized what his wife had done – how she’d preserved his dignity, how she’d opted for peace and beauty rather than friction and discord in response to the inconvenience. 

He walked past the bed one more time on his way out the door that morning, just long enough to brush the red wisps of hair from her cheek and whisper, “Thank you,” into her ear. Whether she heard or not, he didn’t know. But he was too grateful to let the opportunity pass him by. Grateful to be sharing a home – sharing a life – with a woman committed to being gracious, promoting peace, overlooking shortcomings, providing an environment in which her family could flourish, even when living in less than desirable circumstances.

And at their fiftieth wedding anniversary, adult children and grandchildren standing at their side, this was the moment he recounted when someone asked to share his favorite memory from their life together.

This is the picture of a woman living with grace.

——————–

This is who I want to be. I want to be a wife that promotes peace and love and grace. Our homes are holy ground, and we are charged with creating an atmosphere worthy of praise. It’s not always easy, but it can be done.

I hope that when Morgan heads home from a long day at the facility, he looks forward to walking in the door. I pray I can give that to him. I long to have the patience and the grace to do so. And I pray that the Lord constantly reminds me how.

#thingadored

IT MATTERS

Right now my life feels like a 15 car pile up. I am over-committed, under-prepared, and out of my mind. Does anything that I’m doing matter? Can I just quit it all?

My house seems like it’s never clean. But if I stop to clean it, then I get behind on my reading and writing. Reading my Bible every morning is a must, but then I become inspired to write an article. Oh wait! The article I’m writing reminds me of something I read by Priscilla Shirer. Speaking of Priscilla Shirer, I only have two chapters to go in the book that I wanted to finish. Let’s do that really quick. Ugh, now I feel compelled to write a third article, but I can’t keep the three ideas separated. Oh shoot, forgot I was supposed to be cleaning.. Funny you mention cleaning, the pile of newspaper articles and pictures sitting in my basement floor are two years worth of unfinished scrapbooking for football, but I can’t use all my creative juices on that because I have two Etsy orders to fill. Scratch that. A third just came in. What day did you say it was? Tuesday? Cool, so I have to help with a Bible study tomorrow morning and then actually lead another one on Thursday, neither of which I have prepared for. The laundry is half done. I’ve forgotten multiple birthdays and have eight baby gifts to send off. There are two community service projects this week. The vegetables I was going to cook for dinner have mold on them. I really need to run – not just for myself, but for the dog that’s sitting in the corner staring at me as I rip my hair out. And would you look at that, I’ve been submitted for two auditions next week! Perfect, we’re out of ink for my resumes. Oh well, I needed to get more anyway because the books I ordered for our Bible study were discontinued so I’m hand-printing 15 copies of every chapter for the next 10 weeks…

Really.

Help.

I’m drowning.

And I can’t help but feel that not only am I alone, but everything I’m doing is for nothing. Literally – nothing. I’m treading water and cannot for the life of me stay above the surface. Thankfully, as I bang my head against the wall and curse the phrase ‘Yeah sure. I’d love to’, God is watching me. Every move. And He knows what I need exactly when I need it.

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask your parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God did to the Jordan what He had done to the Red Sea when He dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful…” JOSHUA 4:21-24

I know that as believers, we should never become too busy. But I also know that we are to fulfill all our commitments with Christ in mind. Everything I’ve signed up for was appointed to me. I know that without a doubt. And I want to try my best to view each task as a stone.

“What do these stones mean?”

When I do have children one day, I want them to look at everything I’ve done and see the meaning behind it: Reading the Bible gives me wisdom that will eventually be passed down. Writing and sharing articles creates community. Morgan’s scrapbooks remind us of the many blessings God’s given us in this short time with the NFL. Keeping the house clean makes for a peaceful home. Going to auditions and booking jobs gives me opportunities to share my testimony. Running keeps me healthy so that I can continue to serve others. Community service is a chance to reach out to those in need.

Everything I do has a purpose.

And it’s good to be reminded of that.

She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy… She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her… Honor her for all her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. PROVERBS 31:17-20, 26-28, 31

Though I question the value of my obligations, I know there are two that don’t: God and Morgan. And one day, even more will be added to that list. God doesn’t assign us tasks that He won’t provide the tools for. My job is to set aside quiet time to evaluate what’s important, and also to give thanks. I’m thankful that I have a reliable car to get from point A to point B. I’m thankful that my husband’s job provides us with more than enough resources to give to others. I’m thankful for the God given desire to actually sit down and spend time in the Word. And I’m thankful for the people in my life that remind me it’s all going to be ok.

Let’s together be intentional about gathering up these “stones,” about discerning which endeavors will expand the Kingdom and which will only distract us from God. Our legacy is important. God is constantly molding and shaping and buffering and preparing us to do His work. Though it all may seem routine and ordinary, our stones carry a purpose.

#thingsadored

LADY WISDOM

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 8:10-11

What is wisdom? According to dictionary.com, it is the knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight. Urban Dictionary says that it is knowing what you know as well as what you don’t know; not simply knowing what to do, but doing it. The Life Application Study Bible defines it as the ability to make good use of knowledge; ability to recognize right from wrong; good judgment.

When I think of wisdom, I picture an old couple sitting in their rocking chairs telling tales of old about how they made it through the hard times in life and came out stronger. Another image is of Albert Einstein and all his mathematical equations written hurriedly on a large blackboard. I’m also reminded of Solomon when he requested that the Lord give him wisdom instead of riches and power. He desired discernment to carry out his job, not for God to do the job for him.

At first, it seems odd for a young boy to ask for wisdom instead of worldly possessions. Of all the things, you want knowledge? But he wasn’t fooled. Solomon knew that true wisdom could only come from God. We grow wise in the Word because our God allows us that. There is nothing we can do for Him without Him.

Wisdom is not a personal achievement. 

I’m fortunate enough to be blessed with more than one Bible study in Baltimore that I can attend. In my Wednesday COFFEE study, we are learning about not just wisdom, but lady wisdom. Proverbs speaks a lot on wise women – I’m sure many of you are familiar with Proverbs 31’s epilogue on the wife of noble character. It describes her as hard working, respectful of her spouse, God fearing, encouraging, caring towards others, successful, honored, and worthy. She is a model for all women of Christ. So what does it mean for a woman of faith to be wise?

In Proverbs 8, wisdom is portrayed as a woman that is trustworthy and detests wickedness (vs. 6-7). She is more precious than rubies (vs.8), and her fruit is better than fine gold (vs. 19). Wisdom was present at the creation and works with the Creator (vs. 22-31). God approves of those who listen to wisdom’s counsel (vs. 32-35). The more she fears and respects God, the more she will hate evil. She knows that love for God and love for sin do not coexist. Chapter 9 goes on to tell us even more of Lady Wisdom and her ways. But if you go back to Chapter 7, there is a stark contrast to be found…

Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. Proverbs 7:24-27

Before wisdom’s call in chapter 8, there is a warning against the adulterous woman in chapter 7. Why did Solomon feel the need to put these two messages side by side? Because we as women need to be reminded of the death our power and influence can bring.

You know it. I know it. Women have the ability to sway men any which direction we desire. Our impact can either be that of the wise woman or that of the adulterous one. This deadly woman is dressed to allure men (vs. 10); her approach is bold (vs. 13); she invites him to her place and cunningly answers his every objection (vs. 16-19); she persuades him with smooth talk (vs. 21) and traps him (vs. 23). Although an adulterer is referred to as one that allures with sex and lust, there are other ways we can become adulterous to those around us by thinking we are wiser in our own ways.

Have you ever tempted a friend to do something wrong with sweet talk? Oh come on! Just one more drink! I won’t tell anyone you drove home! Have you ever lied to your boss to keep your job? I’m sorry I’m late again. It’s just that I had a flat tire and got caught in some unexpected traffic on the way. Have you ever manipulated an employee into giving you some sort of discount that you didn’t deserve because you knew you could squeeze it out of him/her with your cunning words? Well, my friend just told me that she spoke to your supervisor and was given permission to omit the expiration date from the coupon. It should still be good towards my purchase. Do have a quick and hateful response to someone that rebukes you, or do you mind your temper, keep your mouth shut, and try to learn from what was just said?

These examples, plus many more, are how we as women use the ways of this world to get what we want when instead, we should be asking God for guidance like Solomon did. He had every chance to be cunning and deceitful and manipulative, but he chose to ask for a discerning heart in order to live wisely and carry out his duties.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. 1 Corinthians 3:19

Wise women don’t lie to get what they want. They don’t flirt with tempting invitations. And they don’t use sex appeal to win people over. These harmful actions lead to death and destruction (8:9). Lady Wisdom is hard to come by. She’s desired by all, yet so difficult to find. She’s pure, strong, truthful, and bold in her faith. Her confidence comes from belonging to Christ, not by the materials that belong to her. Be the ruby. Be the diamond in the rough waiting to shine for Christ in this world so dark.

If we are to claim our position as followers of Christ, we must do things His way. It’s time to seek His Word, His Truth, His Knowledge, not the wisdom those around us think they possess. The world tells us to use temptation and manipulation to cause people to covet + serve us and to envy our lives. But God says no, don’t direct attention to yourself, point people to Me through your wise example.

Friends, how beautiful it is when the Lord begins to reveal His Truth to you. How close you feel to Christ when you are able to discern our Father’s knowledge from the foul advice of this world. I encourage you all to pray. Ask God for the desire to follow Christ and for the wisdom it takes to know Truth. It’s such a sweet, sweet reminder of His love and grace. And He wants it for us all.

Wisdom is knowing what the world doesn’t.

Seek it. Live it.

#thingsadored


Anna Grace Photography

STAGES

In my short span of life, I’ve found that the Christian faith comes in all shapes, sizes, and stages – each one different than the one alongside you. We never stop the learning process, the drifting process, the roller coaster we call the Christian Walk. Just when you think you’ve got it all together, you realize you don’t. It can be a very discouraging road at times, and even as Christians we are capable of making huge mistakes. But do not fear. He knows we aren’t perfect, and He never leaves our side.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

From birth, I was taken to church where Sunday school teaches you all the basics. Jesus was born in a manger and died on the cross, David survived the dangerous lions den, Jonah was swallowed up by a fish, Palm Sunday means you get to cut up green construction paper and wave it at your classmates, and Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. We knew it all, and we weren’t afraid to say we believed in Jesus and talk about it to anyone and everyone.

Then you move up to junior and senior high. In high school is where I felt I was truly coming into my own. I was super involved in our youth group, went on as many church trips as I could, did all the Bible studies available, and ta-da!! I didn’t struggle with peer pressure! Gee I sure am glad I loved Jesus back then! Oh but plot twist, after high school came the independent world of college…

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1

Alas, the crazy stage where the “out of sight, out of mind” lie creeps in. I learned a few things in these four years. One, alcohol is demon juice. Two, it is absolutely true that Satan works long term; I started out committing ‘harmless sins’ my freshman year that turned into harmful chains by my senior year. Three, cutting out church, prayer, time in the Word, and Christian fellowship (especially all at once) is deadly. When you’re not spending time with God, and you aren’t surrounding yourself with friends that will hold you accountable for it, you stand no chance. Thankfully, if we are true children of God, He won’t let us go far. But that doesn’t mean we’re safe from learning a few lessons the hard way.

“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.” Proverbs 16:2

Next came the self-righteous Christian stage. This stage is dangerous because it can cause us to come off as judgmental and holier-than-thou. It’s the stage that gives nonbelievers a bad taste in their mouth. I slowly began obtaining more information about the gospel, and everyone around me suddenly got on my nerves. For me, I felt so overwhelmed by the grace I was being shown that I forgot to show others that same grace. I didn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t on my same level or wasn’t accepting the information I had to share. What I was forgetting is that we don’t choose God, He chooses us when He wants to and how He wants to.

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44

We’re all at different stages in our faith. Some are ahead of you, some behind, and some aren’t walking at all. What we are called to do is be like Jesus and spread the word, not just with our actions but with our tongues as well. Patience and grace are pivotal in the growth and invitation to Jesus. 9-year-old Lauren thought she had it going on, 18-year-old Lauren knew how to say no, 21-year-old Lauren didn’t, and 26-year-old Lauren thinks she feels secure in His grace and mercy, but I can guarantee you that 40, 50, and 60-year-old Lauren will look back and laugh at how little I actually know.

Here’s the good news, we never stop growing. Here’s some more good news, pressure’s off – as long as we live on this earth, we can never attain full knowledge of Truth. Paul tells us that Christ gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). Until Jesus returns and brings us all home, we continue to work as the Body of Christ. But then and only then will we be given full knowledge and become like Him. For now, we pray, read, worship, fellowship together, and endure these stages until we reach our final stage: fullness of life in Heaven.

#thingsadored

Originally posted on The Simply Beloved

JOY

“But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?” George Gordon Noel Byron

The word happiness evokes thoughts of newlyweds on their wedding day, children unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning, birthday parties with all your friends, and vacations to exotic lands. Everyone longs to be happy; it’s our life’s greatest pursuit. We spend money, collect things, search for new experiences. But if happiness depends on circumstance and the life you lead, then what happens when your marriage turns into something it didn’t start out to be? What do you do when your toys rust, friends turn on you, and traveling no longer does the trick?

People spend each day desperately attempting to be happy, but daily success, failures, and inconvenience toss and turn us upside down. We’re at a loss when we don’t get that promotion or find out our best friend has been talking bad about us. When we have car trouble that keeps us from affording vacation or the doctor gives us bad news, our world is shattered and ‘life isn’t fair’ anymore. So what’s the cure? How do you escape the unavoidable disappointment of something good gone wrong?

Christ.

The contrast to happiness is joy. Happiness is dependent on happenings, but joy is dependent on Christ. The key to immeasurable joy is living in constant intimate contact with Christ. He is the source of all joy – through suffering, serving, believing, and giving. You can fake being happy for a time, but no one can pretend to have the joy of Christ.

While Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he wrote a letter to Philippi counseling them about humility and unity. Though he was locked up, he did not let that discourage him or keep him from sharing the gospel. Paul shared Christ with his prison guards and lead them to becoming believers. Paul taught us that our current circumstances aren’t as important as what we do with them. How we act in certain situations reflects what we believe.

When Morgan got hurt last year, it was tough. I really struggled with anger over having to go to LA by myself. I spent so much time worrying how I was going to move there alone and questioned why God had allowed this to happen. But the Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8). I realized that even though I didn’t have Morgan there with me, I had God. Even though I’d lost the comfort of my husband’s presence, I had the comfort of His Word. I learned that sometimes when things don’t go your way, it’s for a reason; and despite how unhappy your circumstances may be, Christ’s joy encompasses all.

If I measured my success in LA by how happy I felt all the time, how many auditions I went on, how many jobs I booked, how much fun I had, or how many friends I made – I would have failed by everyone’s standards. But because I followed Christ out there and did it for Him, I succeeded.

Paul could have viewed his imprisonment as a limitation, but instead, God used Paul’s placement in Rome to bring the gospel to the center of the empire, as well as to give Paul plenty of time to write letters that would one day end up in the New Testament to teach you and me. Whether it is an actual prison or a place that feels like one, God wants you to serve Him faithfully. Faith in Christ will make you happy, not your own interpretation of life’s successes and failures.

As Christians, we must not rely on what we have or what we experience to measure how happy we are. We can find joy in all things, both good and bad. Look for ways to demonstrate your faith in the highs and lows. Our prayer should be to desire to know Christ above all else. Rededicate your life to finding joy in Him.

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:8-10

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

#thingsadored


Photo by Anna Grace Photography

YOU ARE _______

For just a minute, I want you to be honest. How many times a day do you compare yourself to others? Your coworkers, siblings, neighbors, classmates, celebrities; the big family with the amount of kids you want; the lady down the hall whose cancer is disappearing faster than yours… How often do you look at other people and say to yourself, “I’m not as good as them” ?

Stop.

There’s absolutely no need for that. We don’t have to be slaves to the world’s standards, especially when the world’s standards are constantly shifting. The world tells us we need big cars, tons of money, lots of friends, and beauty beyond measure to be happy. But God tells us we don’t.

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul begins to defend his authority against those who think he’s timid and weak. They don’t believe he’s as strong a speaker as others, so they begin to doubt what he’s saying. And this is Paul’s response:

You are judging by appearances… We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you… For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Paul was responding obediently to God’s calling, and therefore, was completely adequate for this work – contrary to what the Corinthians had to say. God sets the standards for us, not others. If we are doing His work, then we use His scale.

I’m sure there’s many out there dealing with similar issues right now. I know I am. And it’s been placed on my heart to address some of these in the hopes that you will be encouraged to find your strength in the Lord and not in those you compare yourselves to.


I’m not as successful as her. “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

I’m not as rich as her. “The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them.” Proverbs 28:22 // “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24

I’m not as pretty as her. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 // “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7

I’m not as popular as her. “It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proverbs 18:19

I’m not as happy as her. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 // “For you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thessalonians 2:20

I’m not as healthy as her. “The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desires of his foes. The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.” Psalm 41:2-3

I’m not as talented as her. “God has given each of you a gift from his variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10

I can’t find a husband like her. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14 // “An unmarried woman is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world – how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:34-35 (Paul is not saying it is better to remain unmarried, but he is reminding those without spouses not to be discouraged; some serve the Lord more diligently without a significant other.)

I can’t have children like her. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 // “Because to every purpose there is a time and judgement, therefore the misery of man is great upon Him.” Ecclesiastes 8:6

I’m not as wise as her. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

I’m not as perfect as her. “For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

I’m not as sure about my faith as her. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19


Theodore Roosevelt said it best: Comparison is the thief of joy. And he’s right. We’ll never amount to someone we’re jealous of, so don’t place your value in how you look standing next to someone else. We find our value through the eyes of Christ. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and God made no mistake when He made you.

#thingsadored


Photo by Anna Grace Paulovkin

GOTTA BE SOMETHING MORE

I love thinking back on the simpler times of being young, back when worries were small. I miss the days when winning your Saturday morning soccer game was the most important thing going on. I wish all I had to worry about was getting my book report done on time and making sure my goldfish was still alive. Nowadays, it seems like we’re all on this hamster wheel, get up – go to work – come home – eat dinner – watch TV – go to bed – repeat.

There’s got to be something more to life than this.

We’re always yearning for more – more purpose, more fulfillment, more excitement, more answers, more life. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something bigger. In fact, we were made to want more.

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:4

The ‘tent’ Paul talks about is our earthly body, and ‘life’ is eternity. We don’t wish to be rid of our earthly body, but we yearn for it to be better. While on earth, it is not unusual for us to groan and long for something more because “the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing us what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:5).

Human beings have an innate sense of transcendence and longing for the ultimate reality only experienced in the eternal presence of God. We are wired to want more because God “has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Because of this, we can never be fully satisfied with earthly pleasures + pursuits. Because we are made in God’s image, we have a spiritual thirst that nothing but God can satisfy. The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee of what is to come.

We spend so much time searching the land and sky and sea for bigger things, when in actuality, the search itself is what we’re looking for. We search because there is something to find. We find it in a baby’s cry, a loved one’s death, in the feeling of hope and the feeling of loss. The Holy Spirit fills us with emotion and conviction because those feelings are a promise to us that God has something better waiting.

Friends, if you know the Lord, I encourage you to use this as reassurance that the Holy Spirit is present and working in you. It is calling you to a perfect and holy home. And for those of you who do not yet know the Lord, this urge you have for fulfillment and answers is God calling you. It’s His way of showing you that there IS something out there that’s safe and eternal, and it can be yours. The solution to your restless yearning can only be found in His perfect rule.

#thingsadored

TRUE FAMILY

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to them, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 13:46-50

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about my recent experience in LA and how it had impacted my Walk. A friend of mine that I grew up in school with but hadn’t spoken to in a while wrote me an email in response to it. She said that she was in Jordan doing mission work, and my testimony touched her because she deals with the negative impressions that America’s entertainment has in other countries. She thanked me for being open about my faith and for enduring the struggles of doing the Lord’s work.

A few months ago, I met up with two of my friends in Baltimore at the mall. We shopped around for a while and then went to the food court to grab some lunch. Before we began our meal, we bowed our heads to pray and went back to whatever it was we were laughing at. As we were finishing, a lady walked up to us with tears in her eyes and said, “I saw you pray before you ate together, and I just wanted to say that made my day. It’s so great to see friends do that.” Then, she walked away.

A few weeks ago, I was reading a book called “Love Does” at a Starbucks in LA when a cute little blond girl walked up and said, “I love that book! I read it not too long ago.” We continued talking. Her name is Allie. We’ve been friends since.

This morning, I was studying my Bible at my favorite coffee shop in Collierville. I felt someone tap me on the shoulder, so I turned around and kinda freaked out because I was thinking I should know who this person was, and I definitely didn’t. The girl smiled at me and said, “I just wanted to say that I saw you studying your Bible, and I’m really proud of you for doing that.” We spoke for a few minutes, then she and her husband went on their way to continue the celebration of their third anniversary.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Friends, we should be doing this daily. I can’t begin to express how uplifting it is to have a total stranger, or a friend from the past, encourage me in faith. As Jesus points out in the verse above, we are all each other’s brothers and sisters, and we should love each other as such.

Before that sweet girl tapped me on the back, I was reading in 1 Corinthians where Paul is describing us as the body of Christ. He explains that we all have spiritual gifts that are are to be exercised in love for the advancement of the kingdom. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). When we belong to God’s family, we love each other and encourage each other with kindness and patience, and we protect one another.

In today’s time, it’s extremely difficult to fight for Truth. But what if we didn’t have to do it alone? What if we kept an eye out for each other and let others know we’re there for them, we’re encouraging them, we’re protecting them? That’s what these strangers did. They expressed selfless love for their sister, and in doing so, they spoke volumes to me on what it means to be a part of the body and family of Christ.

My hope is that we do seek each other out and find ways to lift one another up. I hope I can pass this love on to someone else reading a book or studying their Bible or praying. You never know what kind of impact that could have on them or what type of friend you may be gaining in the process.

And now these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

#thingsadored


Photo from Pinterest

DON’T BE POLITE

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

In these passages, Paul is showing us how to put our love into action. These days, we are masters at pretending to love each other – speaking kindly, bringing dinners, avoiding hurt feelings, appearing to take interest in one another. We might even be skilled enough to fake compassion when we hear of injustice and are made aware of the needs of others. But God calls us to a greater love. He calls us to a love that’s sincere, that goes far beyond politeness. This love is selfless. It requires time and effort that will point others in the direction of becoming better people.

Too often we find ourselves helping others with empty hearts and ulterior motives. We serve food to the homeless and take flowers to the sick so that our weekly good deed checklist can be marked. We don’t really love those we are serving, and we’re not actually crying with those who are mourning. These deeds are done to make us feel better, not them. We convince ourselves we are good people, but we’re not loving people. We’re nowhere near it. God’s love is genuine, compassionate, endearing. It spreads to all without picking and choosing who is worthy of receiving it.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:14-16

Now here’s a tough one to swallow in our society – be willing to associate with people of low position. So we have to love and serve those beneath us? Oh, but I’m a lawyer, I’m a doctor, I’m a professional athlete! Wouldn’t it just be easier for people to stay within their class? Come on now, let’s not make things messy here…

Paul says we are to live in harmony with others and not become too proud to enjoy the company of all people. Many today use their contacts and relationships for selfish ambition, selecting people as friends that will help them climb the social ladder. What if we befriended people that helped us off that social ladder? What if we humbled ourselves to serve those who normally serve us – cooks, trash collectors, cleaning ladies, construction workers? After all, isn’t that what Jesus did? He included a tax collector as one of the twelve, he allowed a prostitute to join him in his mission work, he washed other people’s feet. He loved.

But what if those people cause negativity? What if someone mistreats me?

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:17-21

These verses summarize the core of Christian living. If we truly love as Christ loves, then we are able to forgive. Once we experience God’s grace for ourselves, we can pass it on to others. By loving our enemy, we aren’t excusing the misdeed; we’re recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him despite his sin. Isn’t that what God’s grace does for us daily?

Forgiveness helps to break a cycle of retaliation. Repaying evil for evil hurts you just as much, if not more, than it hurts your enemy. It shackles your heart with hate and pride and anger, turning you into a poisonous person. Don’t allow someone else to bring you to that level of animosity. Instead of taking it upon yourself to get even, allow room for God’s wrath to handle it justly. He promises us that He will.

When we love people with more than surface level love, our hearts are invested in them. We spend our time and resources making sure that they see Jesus through us. Our goal isn’t to come off as a compassionate person, our goal is to be one. We need to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1). It’s time to quit being polite and put our love into action. Not only will we lead people to Christ, but we will be glorifying Him as well.

#thingsadored