All the Feels // Anxiety

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We’re all looking for a cure for our ailment, are we not. Looking for that “thing” that will bring instant relief to our anxiety or get us out of the season. Cures are hard to come by but we do find one for anxiety in Luke 12.

And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.’

‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’
— Luke 12:22-34
 

In this passage, Jesus is sharing with his disciples on the topic of anxiety. He references the birds and the grass—God takes care of them. And if God takes care of them, how much more will He take care of you!

Worry and anxiety don’t add any value and only rob today of its value. In fact, Jesus says he knows what you need. Indeed, pray for what you need but don’t let the worry of what might happen drive you to a place of denial. Instead, fix your eyes on the Father and He will take care of all of these things.

So, what’s the cure exactly?

1. Remember that God already has your needs in mind. (v. 30) He knows what you really need in this life to thrive in the calling placed on your life. He knows your struggles and tension, even before you do. Nothing in your life will ever surprise Him, so trust Him to work all things out for good. Trust that He will take care of all your needs.

2. Set your focus on Him. (v. 31) Fix your eyes firmly on Him. Not on your needs or the fear, but on Him. Looking only to Him in your hour of trouble. With this kind of focus, fears disappear on the horizon.

3. Store up your treasures in Heaven. (v. 33) Live with a Kingdom purpose. This means living out your purpose with conviction, serving others, having pure motives, and doing all things with the mission of building the Kingdom of God. May all that you do have eternal value.

At the core of this cure is keeping Christ at the center!

NEW YouVersion Plan // God Is On Your Side

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Do you sometimes feel alone or bullied, struggling to believe God has your back when things get tough? In this 7-day YouVersion reading plan, come explore the Bible and be encouraged that God is your Defender!

You can read it online by using the link below or find it on the YouVersion app by searching "God Is On Your Side."

All the Feels // Lost

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I wasn't sure where I should go or what I should do next. On the heels of my moral failure, I was no longer in ministry and wasn't quite sure what else I could do. It was all I had known, but more so, it’s what I was incredibly passionate about doing.

I was lost.

Have you ever felt this way? Wondered where to go or what to do next. Asked God to give you direction because you were unsure of your purpose or passion. Feeling lost can resemble hopelessness or playing a waiting game and you may feel lethargic, unfulfilled, or lonely in the middle of it.

I have two thoughts for you if you find yourself in this place. Two nuggets that have been helpful to me when I felt lost:

1.  Know that you have a purpose and that God has a plan for you.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
— Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV)

Regardless of how you might feel (although I don't discount the emotion because I know the feeling is very real), the TRUTH is that God has a plan for your life. He has a path for you to walk confidently and with purpose.

If you are feeling lonely, remind yourself that God sees you and knows how you fit into His big, beautiful plan.

2.  If you don't know what to do now, start with the basics.

He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’
— Acts 1:7-8 (ESV)

I really like--and I mean REALLY LIKE-- to plan and know what's coming next. So feeling lost for me is incredibly challenging.

Before Jesus ascends to Heaven, in his final words, he shares the above message that has transformed my waiting season. That has given me purpose when I have felt lost. 

Instead of trying to have all the answers, you are called to a basic purpose: 

Operate out of the Holy Spirit and make disciples.

That's it. Lean into God and do His work. Tell people about Jesus.

If you are feeling lost and wondering what to do right now, start telling people about Jesus. Make disciples. Be the hands and feet of God on this earth.

If you can do these things, I truly believe God will begin to reveal to you how to live out that calling in very specific ways. Your purpose will come into focus as you make God's basic mandate your mission.

Feeling lost doesn't have to be permanent. It's a very real thing to go through and process but don't get so locked into the emotion that you fail to see how God wants to use you. Trust that He has a plan for your life and make His name as famous as you can!

NEW Crosswalk Article // 10 Old Testament Promises God is Speaking Over Your Life

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I absolutely love the Old Testament and could spend hours poring over its words. It’s full of powerful stories, vivid prophecies, and beautiful promises that captivate the mind and heart. It’s the promises that can really carry you through a difficult season or unsure situation--words of hope in your storm, doubt, and anxiousness.

You can depend on what God says about Himself and what He will do. His promises are never empty but always true!

Come explore 10 Old Testament promises in my latest article for Crosswalk.

The Greatest Love

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Dirty. Filthy. Covered with the dust from the streets, the feet of the disciples were left black and sore with cuts as they entered the room for the last supper. It was a servant’s job to wash the feet of those entering the house, but no servant was to be found. Reclining next to each other as they ate at the dinner table, Jesus laid aside his outer garments, took up a towel, and carried the basin of water over to Simon Peter. One by one Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself to wash the grime and dirt off of the feet of each man. 

Can you imagine sitting there at the dinner table as God washed the mud off of your feet? The task, however disagreeable, had to be done and only Jesus took the initiative to see it accomplished. It was out of love that he performed the service of a slave. 

Later on in the evening, Jesus continued his ministry and proclaimed, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love another,” (John. 13.34). 

How did Jesus love? He had just given an example of his love at dinner by washing the disciple’s feet. If you have any doubt that it was an example of love, go back to verse 15, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” 

Jesus is calling all people to have this same kind of love.

A love that initiates when others sit back. 
A love that humbles you to face what may seem unlovely and serve position underneath you. 
A love that acts in the knowledge of another’s impure motives or betrayal. 
A love that cleanses. 

Among a group of men who quarreled over greatness, Jesus set the example of service instead of strife. 

Loving a person isn’t always easy. If any person has a reason to withhold love, it is Jesus. He see’s the unlovely in a person and nothing is hidden from his sight, yet he loves unconditionally. This love served others by putting a person before himself. Men and women, that is the love that God is calling us to show. It won’t always be easy, but it is always worth it. And when you do, God is glorified. 

Verse 35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

In a self-serve world, service stands out. Love for other people is a witness to the ungodly. In this season of “love,” set the example to others. With those around you, whether friends or strangers, show love by taking the initiative to humble yourself and cleanse people. Put others before yourself and let God shine!

All the Feels // Sadness

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As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’ As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God’

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
— Psalm 42

Have you ever been in one of those seasons that feels incredibly heavy and sad? Where your soul longs for relief of almost any kind? These seasons are our hardest and can cause deep reflection on both who we are and who God is.

David is in one of these seasons in Psalm 42. In all honesty, he's depressed. He's been exiled and is on the run, in hiding, and mourning what has been left behind. Can you imagine being driven from your home, away from your family, with people looking to harm you? It was a very hard season for David and we get a glimpse into that as he shares with great vulnerability.

David opens the psalm with perhaps some of the most quoted words from the entire book. He's recounting his days of being in the house of God and worshipping, and reflecting on where he is now. He misses being in God's presence and craves it with such intensity that he relates it to a deer panting for water.

What I want us to really focus on today are the words that follow. I pray verses 1-2 over you; that you would crave the presence of God! And not just in the difficult times, but in the good. I pray that kind of thirst would be evident in your life in every season!

In what follows, David begins to do something very important and it's a lesson I hope we all take in. David gets a hold of himself.

It's easy when going through a hard time to get caught up in the emotions and sit in the unlovely. I've definitely been there! The trouble with sitting in the unlovely is that your view becomes narrow and hope begins to diminish. It focuses on what's going wrong and not in what God can do.

That's why David gets a hold of himself here. He knew that sitting in the sadness wouldn't do him any good, and furthermore, that hope in God is a much better place to sit in.

No doubt you're going to need this tucked away in your head for some hard time down the road. Perhaps your season isn't hard now but it will be. And if it is hard now, take this in.

When you're downcast and sad, perhaps depressed, get a hold of yourself. David begins to talk to himself, asking his soul why he's downcast. Why are you downcast when God will act! That's cause for hope!

When you're in your hard seasons, it's okay to be sad or to struggle with what's going on. But there comes a point--and it can happen even while you're sad--that you begin to remind yourself of who God is. Remember when He's shown up for you before and encourage yourself with the hope that God will show up for you again.

Hope is powerful. Hope can keep you going. Hope can get you through the season. Hope is faith--faith that God is who He says He is and will be the good Father who takes good care of His children. A good parent--and indeed our God is--doesn't forsake His children. He might seem silent but He's always there.

Again, in closing, David tells himself to hope. If you're wanting to get a perspective shift in your difficult season, take notice of David's response in this psalm. Getting a hold of yourself is purposefully placing your perspective in hope. Hope in God.

Guest Contribution at Sazan.me // Being Enough in a Not Enough World

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I am excited to share with you a heartfelt post I wrote for Sazan Hendrix over at sazan.me! In it, I speak the part of you that compares yourself to others when you peruse social media accounts. I want to help diminish the whisper you hear about your self-worth when you put yourself down in comparison to others.

Read "Being Enough in a Not Enough World" using the link below.

All the Feels // Defeated

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Have you, like me, struggled to find God in the midst of your adversity? Wondered if God had your back when a coworker talked about you behind your back, without any repercussions. Or if He saw when an unfair situation made you out to be the bad guy. Or maybe asked “where are You” when you have felt alone in your troubles.

Even though we read in the Bible that God is our Defender and Protector, we may wonder if He is really there. Questioned if He’ll come to our rescue. Because sometimes it seems the bad guy gets away while we hurt. Or see no justice immediately. How do we know God has our back when the going gets tough?

Psalm 108:13 is a basic but powerful reminder that with God there is victory over our enemies.

With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

Know that Jesus has the victory and that nothing in this world can overcome you when you are in him and the victory is his! God is with you in different situations and in different ways, even if you may not feel it or see it. Let's look at a few examples.

For When You Feel Alone

Sometimes we can go through trials and wonder if God has abandoned us for better things to do or other people to care for. I’ve felt that many times and in my loneliness cried out to God for some glimpse of Him. I want you to know that we’ve all felt that--you are not alone.

Even the great figure Mother Teresa felt distance from God. She once wrote:

[But] as for me--The silence and the emptiness is so great--that I look and do not see,--Listen and do not hear.

What I hope to leave you with today is a promise that will carry you in your loneliness and trial. You might feel as though God has left you in your low point, but know that He hasn’t done so at all. Look at what He tells us in Isaiah 43:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze...Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

Let those words soak in for a moment. Take in the precious words of the Father and know that even when you go through your greatest struggles, God is with you. He cares for you.

Perhaps there will be times He seems far off but we must take heart there is a reason we emotionally feel distant. There is purpose in everything God does. No experience, emotion, or trial goes wasted. He is working good on your behalf. When you do feel this way, however, carry with you the promise that God is with you and He is working, even if you can’t see Him.

For When You Wonder If He Has Your Back

Nehemiah was a godly man who set out to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. His work was noble and his heart pure. Yet, people came against him in opposition. People taunting him and setting out to thwart his work. They ridiculed and insulted him even though he was doing good.

Sometimes you might feel bullied; perhaps your name is being dragged through the mud. I’ve experienced this and know how it feels. To have a good heart and do the right thing, only to unknowingly push a button in someone who then goes and does harm to your character. I also know what it’s like to not feel comfortable to share with someone what happened because the person is respected and looked up to at work. So in silence you feel hurt and betrayed, wondering how people will see you. But you did nothing wrong and you want to believe that God will take up your cause. That He will defend your character. Yet the person gets away with it. You’re left wondering how someone could get away with doing wrong while you get hurt int he process.

Will God show up? Will God defend my name?

Nehemiah’s response to the unjust treatment towards him wasn’t to go back to Artaxerxes and complain about Sanballet, the man who was taunting him. Or to confront with threats or defense. Nehemiah’s response was to pray and continue working on the wall.

When you are being bullied or treated unfairly, your instinct might be to get back at the person by smearing their name or to defend yourself by pointing blame, or many other options that seem fair.

The best thing you can do is pray and keep doing the good work God has called you to. Not to get sidetracked by discouragement from others; that’s exactly what the enemy wants. You keep doing the good and right thing and let God worry about the other person’s treatment of you. Maybe you’ll see Him publicly come to your defense but maybe you won’t. Either way, trust God to work all things out for good!

I want to leave you with three verses you can carry with you to remind you that God is with you and will take up your cause:

God is just and fair.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
— Deuteronomy 32:4

God is a shield and safe.

I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.
— Psalm 18:1-3

God fights for you.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
— Exodus 14:14

All the Feels // Fear

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Have you ever wondered how you were going to get through a particularly hard season or situation? Especially when fear begins to set in and play all sorts of mind games. Me too. In fact, if I’m completely transparent with you, I’ve been know to catastrophize. Which means I’ve had a tendency of believing the worst may happen in a particularly hard situation.

We all struggle at times or have struggled with fear. Isaiah 41:10 speaks to this emotional state of mind.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
— Isaiah 41:10

When you might feel fear or be dismayed, remind yourself of what God speaks in this verse--He will strengthen you, help you, and uphold you. The God who controls all things will be there to protect and aid you in your fear.

In addition, Psalm 55:22 encourages you to cast your burden on Him.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
— Psalm 55:22

You’re encouraged to do this because He can handle it; God can handle anything you give Him. Your worries, fear, shame, doubt--none of it’s too much for Him to bear.

Furthermore, when you do cast it all on Him, He will sustain you. This means in your fear, God wants you to know that you can lean on Him. That He will take care of you in the darkest of seasons.

Will you let Him sustain you? Or will you carry it all alone?

Fear is a theme we find quite common in the Bible. I suppose this might be because our human nature is often prone to fear when things are uncertain and our view is not in the right place. Unless trained otherwise, this can be our default.

All of our sins are rooted in fear. For example, a fear of not being good enough can manifest in the need for recognition, thus igniting pride and advancement in our heart. Or the fear of not being accepted can create a desire to please people. Whatever your struggle, there is a connection to a deep seeded fear. And with that fear, with that struggle, is an obstacle in your life.

Fear is a hindrance to the enjoyment of life. When you allow fear and anxiety to take shape, you’re allowing something to hinder the fullness of your life. It paralyzes you, immobilizes you, causes you to question moving forward.

If you’re living in fear today or might be prone to go there, prepare yourself to face your past and the fears you pushed back into the corners of your soul so that you can be an overcomer by the power of Christ! You don’t have to live there, nor is it what God has for you, so commit to a new way of life today.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 1 Timothy 1:7

NEW Crosswalk Article // 25 Influential Christians You Should Follow on Social Media

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Today, most people have some sort of social media account--it’s how we stay in touch with old friends and family afar. But it’s not just Facebook; it’s Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, to name a few. Social media is a constant in our lives and we often spend hours perusing other’s online persona. If this is the case, shouldn’t we make it a point to have positive influences coming our way from other Christians? You bet!

Here are 20 people from various walks of life that are great Christians to follow on social media. People who can speak life, truth, encouragement, and everyday advice into your day. If you don't yet follow, I would encourage you to do so!

All the Feels // Insecurity

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Insecurity was an ugly, unwelcome companion in my life for many years. In fact, there is one particular phrase that still echoes in my mind like a broken record under the right circumstances. It’s the phrase, “I’m not good enough.” Maybe a similar phrase plays frequently in your mind as well, and it’s so familiar that it feels like an old comrade keeping you company.

  • "I'm not good enough."
  • What will they think of me if I do this?"
  • "Look at their life; mine isn't as good as theirs."
  • "I don't have any value after what I've done."

When we put stock in these phrases and give them validity, we allow pieces of our potential to be chipped away. The truth is, God never wants you to feel inadequate or not good enough. He wants you to be aware of your weakness that you might lean into His strength, but never for a second does He want you to diminish your value.

I get goosebumps when I read The Message translation of 1 Peter 2:9-10.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

It describes that we are CHOSEN by God, not for ourselves, but to be an example of His power to take you, “from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” You are SOMETHING. You are ACCEPTED. When you or the enemy begin to whisper attacks about your value, rebuke such words and remind yourself of what 1 Peter 2 says.

You need to know right now that you are valued. You need to know that God cares more about you than you could ever comprehend. You must understand that His love is deeper, wider, and higher than you could imagine. Collapse into His love for you. Embrace His care. Trust that how He has designed you is wonderful and powerful. You have a purpose and calling very specific to how He wants to use you; that’s a lot of thought and planning set aside specifically for you and you alone.

When you think your gifts are not as important. Rebuke it. When you feel your experience is lacking. Lean into His. When you feel your value is nothing compared to another, trust what His word says about you.

Don’t allow insecurity to diminish your potential or steal away your calling. It will if you don’t keep careful guard over your heart and mind. My prayer is that you will walk forth with the power of Scripture to know you’re valued and have a purpose that insecurity has no part in.

All the Feels // Overwhelmed

I've tried being superwoman and in my attempt, I have failed. In fact, I have failed terribly. Being the perfectionist that I am, I've then beat myself up over not being able to juggle it all with the finesse I determined to show. In my mind, I've diminished my value and purposed to fail in the aftermath.

  • Patient mom.
  • Understanding wife.
  • Faithful friend.
  • Attentive pastor.
  • Dependable employee.

FAILED. AT. ALL. 

Just thinking about all the roles I play and the expectations I have for myself (not to mention others have for me) has left me incredibly overwhelmed over the years. I try so hard to juggle it all and do it flawlessly that I end up dropping balls and admonishing myself for doing so.

  • "I'm the worst mom; Roman deserves better."
  • "I'll never be the wife he really needs."
  • "I'm not as fun or available like she is; people probably like her better."
  • "I don't deserve the honor to serve these people. I'm a mess."
  • "I made a mistake; surely this will negatively affect my perception at work."

These are all thoughts I've truly had about myself. And just putting it out there for the world to see is both a huge bummer and slightly embarrassing. But hey, if there is one person out there who reads this and relates, and finds encouragement, then it's worth it to put it out there.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed to be all things to all people? To be perfect in your execution of each role? Me too. But let me offer some ease from the pressure:

YOU DON"T HAVE TO HAVE IT ALTOGETHER.

Now take a deep breath and let all of that tension go. Shake off the expectations to juggle with perfection. You won't ever be perfect so stop straining towards an unattainable goal.

But you know who is perfect? Jesus. And you know what that means for you? Freedom from perfection. And freedom from having to do anything on your own. In fact, God truly wants you to lean on Him and allow His strength to be made perfect in your weakness.

Here's a food for thought for your week:

When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.
— Psalm 142:3a (NLT)

When you are feeling the pressure to attain and maintain, turn to the One who holds the Universe together. He knows where your strength is best served. Where to turn. He knows your emotions in trying to manage it all. And He alone can take the burden off and carry it.

Want to live a flourishing life free from pressure? Turn towards the Father and He will show you where to go. That's a huge relief when feeling overwhelmed.

5 Things to Do Going into a New Year

1.    How will 2017 and 2018 look different?

 Now is a good time, after reflecting on 2017, to determine how you’d like the next year to look different. Maybe it’s walking in forgiveness this next year, for example. Perhaps you’re ready to make a go at pursuing your dreams instead of settling for less than what God has purposed you for. Do you feel the pull to be a better leader of your family, men? Or ladies, to put aside comparison?

I don’t know what you struggled with in 2017 but if there is something you’re ready to leave in the past for a better 2018, what does that look like? 

2.    Define who you want to be in the new year.

Similar to the previous step, yet more definitive, what kind of person do you want to be in the next year? We all have an area within us we are determined to grow in as a human being. A more gracious spouse, kinder co-worker, attentive parent. Or to finally let go of some of that pride, insecurity, or lust. Maybe it’s to be a more devoted follower of Christ.

Define the kind of person you want to be. A good start, if you’re not sure, can be found in Romans 12:9-21 with the marks of a true Christian. Resolve to be a better you in 2018!

3.    Identify a theme for 2018.

Every year I spend time in prayer and determine a theme for the new year. A word and Bible verse to guide an area I’d like to grow in.

I would highly encourage you to pray and get into the Word to determine a guiding theme for the next year. An area you could grow in. Do you want to go “deeper” with God? Perhaps pursue “humility” to conquer a spirit of pride. Whatever that may look like for you, determine it, get it in you, and pursue it in 2018!

4.    Write out your 2018 goals.

Some might call them resolutions but I like the term goals a bit better. Something to aim for. You might not hit the mark on all the items but if you don’t aim for something you’ll never achieve anything.

Write down goals for the year that you would like to aim for. Start that small business you’ve dreamed about for years by writing a business proposal. Finally, take that cross-country road trip with your family. Increase your giving in finances, time, and kindness.

This is a place for your dreams to begin or be renewed with commitment. 

5.    Make NYE plans!

The year is wrapping up and whether it was good or bad, it’s cause to celebrate. Time to usher in a new year! Plan a family get-together at your house or hit the town with some friends. Make the transition with your community and have some fun!

Celebrating Christmas with Advent // Week 4

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But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.
— Philippians 3:20-21 (MSG)

This weekend is the culmination of weeks of celebrating, preparing, and remembering the birth of Christ. I pray with all my heart your heart has been pointed in the direction of Christ! Indulging in the gifts, parties, and food isn't bad but hopefully, it's not where your attention has been drawn to most. 

As we conclude this Advent series and Christmas season, now is the time to make the most of what you've learned. To really cherish the sweetness of holiday by exalting Christ is Lord and Savior.

The first two weeks we remembered the coming of Christ to Earth more than two thousand years ago. Last week we began to look forward to the coming of Christ yet to take place. We were reminded that Christ is in Heaven even now preparing a place for you and me.

This week we continue down that same thought of the coming of Christ still to come. How? By remembering that in Christ we are citizens of Heaven! Christ is coming again to take us with him to Heaven. What's not to be excited about?!

You and I are expected to be expectant! Eagerly anticipating the arrival of Christ. Sometimes we get so caught up in earthly concerns that we neglect to have an eternal perspective and eagerly await the time Christ will return for us.

In Matthew 25:1-12 Jesus is reminding us through the parable of the ten virgins to be ready and expectant for his return. Are you? Can you say with enthusiasm that Christ is returning and you cannot wait?!

If you hesitate at all--maybe because your heart isn't in the right place or you'd like to accomplish that one last thing on Earth--it's time to pull away and recalibrate. If you struggle at all to express excitement for his return, ask yourself why. Because you are called to be eagerly expecting his return! Your home isn't here...it's in Heaven!

Celebrate this weekend with the hope that Christ is coming back for you!

NEW Crosswalk Article // 10 Things to Do Before 2017 is Over

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The end of a year has this unique and beautiful optimism that only a closed chapter can bring. We often reflect on the good and the bad, and look to the future with hopefulness. As you take in this time and embrace reflection, how can you make the most of this gift? What should you be doing to close 2017 and take on 2018?

In my latest article for Crosswalk, I share 10 things you can do as you step out of this year and into a new year!

Celebrating Christmas with Advent // Week 3

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And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
— John 14:3 (ESV)

If you are a Christian that has placed your sincerest faith in Jesus and committed your life to following him, then you have a hope. A hope only those who have made the same decision have. It's a hope that one day Jesus will return and take us with him to a new place. A place far from sin, pain, sorrow, and disappointment. A place he is preparing even now.

Over the last two weeks, we've explored passages in the Bible that tell of Christ's coming thousands of years ago. In the next two weeks, as we celebrate Advent, we will be looking at the coming of Christ yet to take place. His Second Coming.

I won't be deeply theological because the heart of this series is to illuminate a light on what Christmas truly is about and stir anticipation in your heart for what Christ has done, is doing, and has yet to do.

When Christ gave up his life for you and me and returned to Heaven, he began to prepare a place for us. Our home. Because you see, although we may find temporary comfort on Earth, this isn't our home. Our home is with God--free from all the unlovely and full of life more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

Today, we look forward to that time when Christ returns and gathers his people to return with him. And we have this confidence that he will indeed return. His promises are not empty. He will fulfill what he has said he will do. To come and get you and me.

Take heart that Christ is coming again! This season we celebrate his first coming, but we also get to look forward to another coming. Will you join me in anticiation for this wonderous event?

Celebrating Christmas with Advent // Week 2

As we dive into week 2 and continue exploring the coming of Christ that was thousands of years ago, of course we must read the tale of his birth! I don't know about you but every time I read the account given in Luke 2, it takes me to what Christmas is really all about. I get all the warm feels and a sense of peace comes over me.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

’Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’ When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
— Luke 2:1-20 (NLT)

I honestly don't need to spend much time communicating anything else. Luke 2 does a wonderful job of taking us back and reminding us what Christmas is all about. So for this week, my only encouragement is to take these words in and meditate on all that Christ took on the night he came to Earth. Maybe read it to your children. Spend some extra time studying the passage. Get this passage in your heart and your mind, prompting to you to worship and rememberance.

Celebrating Christmas with Advent // Week 1

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Christmas is this wonderful time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It's more than the twinkling lights, beautifully wrapped gifts, and cozy homes filled with parties. It's so much more than what we've made it over the years. At the heart of Christmas is the celebration of Christ's coming to Earth more than 2,000 years ago.

Advent is a time when this focus is placed back at the center of the season. The word, in fact, means "coming." It's the celebration of the coming of Christ centuries ago and the anticipation of the coming of Christ yet to be. Truly, it's incredibly valuable to prepare our hearts and keep Christ first certainly at all times, but especially now when it can be overshadowed by festivities and gifts.

Advent takes place the 4 Sundays leading to Christmas with the first 2 Sundays focusing on his arrival already made and the last 2 Sundays focusing on his arrival to come. I can't think of a better way to embrace Christmas and prepare our hearts to glorify Jesus before anything else than taking this Advent journey together. With that said, let's dive into week 1!

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
— ISAIAH 9:6-7 (NLT)

In this passage, Isaiah is giving a prophecy of the Savior who would come and reign on this earth. We get such a beautiful and powerful glimpse into this coming and it was with eager expectation people looked forward to this moment. It was an event they longed for.

In this short span, we see so many things about the Messiah to come.

  1. A child would be born. The Messiah would be born to the people of Israel. A son made flesh. (Isaiah 7:14, a child would be born of a virgin and he would be named Immanuel, "God with us.").
  2. The government would rest on his shoulders. He would rule over Israel and the world for all time. His authority would be established above all.
  3. He would be to his people:
    1. A Wonderful Counselor - Intimately aware of the workings of God and every man's heart. He is the wisdom of God and speaks to mankind.
    2. A Mighty God - Not only would he be a man but he would be fully God, mighty to save.
    3. An Everlasting Father - He is the author of life and designer of the universe.
    4. The Prince of Peace - He established peace both on the earth and in our hearts.
  4. He would reign on the throne of David. Established from the line of David, once a king and a prophecy of his human lineage. 
  5. He would have the zeal of the Lord Almighty. The zeal of the Lord overcomes all things and all things depend on God.

There was a time people when heard this prophecy and held it dear to them, hoping and praying it would come soon. We now know it indeed happened and that's what Christmas is about--celebrating this coming that already took place. Celebrating the moment Christ entered the world to save humanity.

Are you ready to prepare your heart? Ready to celebrate Jesus!

This week, reflect on this passage and sit in Christ's love for you. He didn't have to come to Earth and wrap himself in flesh but out of incredible love, he chose to do so. He loves you and honestly would have done it all if just for you. Carry this with you this week and appreciate who he is and what he came to do.

 

A Special Thanksgiving Message

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We find ourselves in a special season that singularly focuses on the act of giving thanks. People hang banners across their mantles proclaiming “give thanks” and others share on Facebook something they are grateful for each day in November

But Thanksgiving is more than a day or a month. Thanksgiving is something we are called to do every day. In the good and the bad, in the ups and downs, our natural response must be gratitude.

Good thing we have some great examples in the Bible! Many men and women we consider pillars of the faith represented an attitude of thanksgiving so well. In fact, there are so many that it was hard to narrow down the list. But today we take a look at people who uniquely gave thanks with all their heart.

1.    Hannah

Hannah is one of my favorite people in the Bible and someone I’ve learned a lot from. There honestly isn’t a lot of information about her but her mark in the Bible is significant.

Hannah was one of two wives to a man named Elkanah; Hannah was barren but the other wife had many children. The other wife, Peninnah, would taunt her regularly and Hannah’s misery was indeed immense. One night, while in the temple, Hannah prayed fervently for a child, so much so that the priest Eli thought she was drunk.

Hannah prayed that if God would give her a child, she would give that child back to Him. Eli blessed her request and soon after she conceived a boy named Samuel, who would become the great prophet of Israel (and my favorite person in the Bible!).

What’s beautiful about this story is that she did indeed give her son back to the Lord--she gave Samuel to Eli. Hannah’s praise wasn’t just the reflection of an answer to prayer, but it proceeded giving up her son. With all her heart she praised God in the aftermath of turning over her biggest prayer request.

Does your praise and thanksgiving overflow from the good you’ve had to let go? When perhaps your sacrifice was difficult.

2.    David

David danced before the Lord in the streets as a response of praise to his holy God. He worshiped after the death of his son. David is a man known for praise. Even in the darkest seasons of his life--as we see in the psalms--he pointed back to the goodness of God.

No matter what season David found himself in, he always had the perspective of praise. We can learn a thing or two from that kind of attitude. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy but he knew thanksgiving was always necessary.

3.    Mary, Mother of Jesus

Finding out she was pregnant with the Savior of the world wasn’t the easiest news to swallow and the aftermath took some faith. But Mary, the young girl chosen to carry the baby Jesus, would exemplify great praise.

While visiting with Elizabeth, who was carrying John the Baptist at the same time Mary was pregnant with Jesus, the young girl had a moment of exclamation. It’s called the Magnificat and it’s found in Luke 1.

Mary’s heart was full of praise and it outpoured into the world. A young girl filled with immense thanks knew exactly where her praise was to be directed. Do you know where to direct your praise today? What are you carrying that at first might have seemed a bit fearful but you can now be thankful for?

4.    The Healed Leper

When Jesus entered a village (Luke 17) there were ten lepers that called out to him for healing. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest and as they did, all ten were healed.

Only one returned to Jesus to thank him. Only one! That man threw himself at the feet of Jesus and gave immense thanks. It’s both amazing to think and sad that only one man returned to give thanks for healing from a debilitating disease. When nine vanished into the crowd one gave thanks where thanks was due.

Don’t be like one of the nine that was blessed and moved on. Stop and give incredible thanks for all God has and is doing in your life!

5.    Jesus

He was God and didn’t have to give thanks for anything, but he often did. Jesus set a remarkable example for us in many ways but one was in thanksgiving. He was a man who gave praise to the Father in so many ways.

  • He gave thanks as he was surrounded by thousands of hungry people and multiplied the food.
  • He gave thanks to God for hearing his prayer for the raising of Lazarus--before Lazarus rose from the grave.
  • He knew the cross was before him and gave thanks to the Father as he broke bread and drank the cup with the disciples.

We have a perfect example of righteous living from Jesus and one thing he shows us is the position of praise and thanksgiving. What I find interesting is that all three of these instances were instances we might find tense. The pressure to feed thousands, raise a friend from the grave, and face death on a cross would be intense for any of us. Jesus’ response was never to panic or run to people, but to turn to the Father.

How can you find that position of praise in your life today? What might you do to cultivate a natural response of thanksgiving? Not just this month, but at all times.


This article was originally written for Crosswalk and can be found here.

All the Feels // Shame

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I'm well acquainted with shame on many levels. Shame experienced by acts I did and felt guilty for before I gave my life to Jesus. Shame that has overcome me in my moments of weakness and failure post salvation. Shame that has pierced my heart when I've snapped at my husband. And don't get me started with the shame that accompanies being a parent--one little flicker of frustration towards my little man when he's been crying for more than 5 minutes and that's a shame unlike any other.

We all experience shame now and then on some level. It cuts to the deepest parts of your being; reaches the dark places nobody sees but an all-knowing God. 

Here's the thing about shame, though. It's something that isn't necessarily wrong to experience. If you have sinned, shame communicates to your soul an offense and compels you to repentance. This guilt is an indicator of wrong. Shame becomes unhealthy when you sit in after repentance and beat yourself up about it instead of moving into grace. This is the shame I want to speak to. The kind that sticks around after God has forgiven you.

Lamentations 3:22-23 is a valuable reminder to you in your moments of lingering shame:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

God has a beautiful gift for each and every day; one of freedom from the guilt. It's a gift He extends every morning and your role is simply to accept it. I know that can seem so hard at times. You feel you have sinned horribly and don't deserve forgiveness. But that's not your call to make--that's Gods. And if you have put your faith in Him and repented, His mercy is yours. Recieve it. 

Let go of the shame and condemnation, and walk in the freedom of Christ.

You are a child of God--redeemed and restored. You won't be perfect this side of Heaven and sure, you will make mistakes. But God won't hold them against you and neither should you. You are not smarter nor a higher judge of morality than Him so stop acting like it as you hoard your guilt.

Live in His freedom and take that message to a hurting world. Share with others how God saved you and forgave you. Not just at salvation but each and every day. Take that message to others and use one of the most powerful tools in your hand--your testimony.


Bible Verses on Shame

Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.”  Isaiah 61:7

"With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death."  Romans 8:1-2

"Let us have confidence, then, and approach God's throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it."  Hebrews 4:16