Taste And See.

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“In the darkness I’ll dance, in the shadows I’ll sing… There is strength when I say I will praise You.” -Rend Collective

God is good, no doubt. I’ve experienced and felt the incomprehensible reality of this statement in my life over and over.

But truth be told, sometimes life is still hard.

Sometimes prayers go unanswered.

Sometimes dreams shatter.

Sometimes sickness takes over.

Sometimes confusion leaves us broken.

And sometimes fear feels crippling.

I’ve walked through each of these valleys. I’ve felt what it is like to not know, to not know why, to not know how, to not know when. As I know you have too. And I’ve sought God in these times, I’ve looked for Him in the pain this life brings. But if I’m to be honest, I don’t think I ever expected to truly find Him. Or at least, I didn’t know what it meant to truly find Him. I’ve merely called out for and expected an artificial version of God to show up. A version that calls to me from a distance, and merely encourages me to “get through”.

But this artificial version of God is not our reality. We serve a God who does not call out to us from a distance, but one who walks right beside us, in the darkness, in the valley, and in the desert. And He does not simply encourage us to “get through”, but calls us to stand up, and walk with confidence, knowing that His sovereignty reigns above our circumstance and that because of that, we can find joy and peace in the midst of our difficulties.

We have to remember that He is just as good now in the confusion as He was in the triumph. He hasn’t changed. Don’t forget the days He redeemed you, the days He spoke to you, the days He showed you His great favor. Take heed to the words of David when he said, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord, yes I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works, and meditate on your holy deeds. ” (Psalms 77:11-12) Because that God is the same God that is walking right beside you now, and He is the same God that is going to finish with you.

So stop expecting pain. Stop doubting the promises of God. Stop doubting the sovereignty of God. You don’t have to wait for this struggle to end to regain your perspective, to regain your hope, to regain your joy. Find it right now through the presence of God that overpowers your situation. Take hold of the presence of God from which all good things come.

So worship Him. Worship Him for all He has done, all he is doing, and all you know He will do. It doesn’t have to make sense, but choose to put your faith in front of your pain. And worship Him. Worship Him widely.  Worship Him relentlessly. Worship Him not from the place of fear and doubt you may feel, but worship Him from a place of faith and hope that you know. Worship Him like your already on the mountain. Tell Him He is good. Tell Him You trust Him. Even if you are broken, tell Him He is good. Because He is, and if you keep telling Him, you will remember too.

 

“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.” ~Psalms 34:8

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Letting You Love Me

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“But if I refuse to feel, I’ll never bleed, but I’ll never heal.” ~JJ Heller ‘Sound of a Living Heart.’

I was a master of camouflage. Learning how to hide away, deep inside myself. Eyes down, head down, behind layers of skepticism, doubt, and bitterness, I hid.  Away from humanity. Hiding from the potential of community. Because my experiences had always taught me that that community comes at the cost of vulnerability, and vulnerability results in betrayal. So I did’t seek you out, and when you sought me out, I approached you quickly through the eyes of a skeptic. Doubting you, resisting you, and making sure the wall between us was not compromised.

This wasn’t always conscious. I became so accustomed to doubting people, their intentions, and their sincerity, that I didn’t even realize what was happening, nor did I realize the extent to which it was happening.

The condition of my heart progressively transformed my interactions. Not only did I begin to doubt the sincerity of those around me, but I also began doubting the importance of what I had to say, what I had to offer; therefore, constantly redirecting the conversation back to you, for fear of loosing both your interest and your validation. I didn’t realize how much I needed you, how much you could offer me. So I never sought more than surface level encounters, because that was all I believed in.

Then, the loneliness crept in. The isolation became too strong. Suddenly, I was not protecting myself anymore, I was only hurting myself by trying to suffocate this essential human need for community. In broken surrender I had to learn to forgive in order that I could learn to love and be loved. I did this the only way I knew how, by following Jesus’ example of love. We love because He first loved us. This love is not circumstantial. This love is not a response to good deeds. This love is not a attempt to gain some kind of mutuality.

That truth was all I could hold on to as I bridged the gap from my island of insecurity and skepticism to the land of the living.

But it was enough.

As I surrendered, He broke down my walls of bitterness, and I learned to forgive. He broke down the walls of doubt, and taught me to trust again. He broke down my walls of defense, and reminded me I was not dependent on the love of other’s. And he broke down my my stubborn independence, and taught me of a community stronger than my self.

God changed my perspective of who He was, and therefore redefined my expectations of people. I learned God’s desire is to flow through all my empty places, leaving me with no voids left for others to fill. Because of this, I could let them into my life, not dependent on the outcome of these relationships. 

Cause that was never the goal of community anyway, for us to get what only God can provide from others. Community is a gift, but not a replacement for God. Bring to Him your broken pieces, painful memories, and empty places. Let Him invade these places. Then, and only then, can you can take a hold of the hands around you, allowing them to be your support.

Sometimes I still forget this though. Sometimes, I still forget that God wants me to let people in, and I realize yet another layer of my doubt and skepticism. And in this, I instinctually flee towards the old, skeptical version of myself, and remain hidden, using my instinctual quiet personality as an excuse to shut the world out of my heart. I have to be reminded, by both God and others, that this idea of community is part of God’s plan for us, and it is well worth the risk.

I Wanna Love You

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“To keep loving someone is an act of bravery. While it deals with matters of the heart, it is not for the lighthearted. There is nothing weak about loving someone. Nothing timid about it. It is for the strong, the ones willing to let love ruin them.” ~Jamie Varon

Lord, teach me how you love. Teach me of an active love. A love that is always in pursuit of the object of my love. Teach me of an unconditional love. When everyone else doubts, and everyone else accuses, teach me to lovingly trust instead. Teach me to fill my gaps of skepticism with love. Teach me of a sacrificial love. May I know the cost that loving often brings, and choose to love anyway. May I not be afraid of the cost of sharing my love. Teach me of a fearless love. When everyone else runs, when I myself want to run, may I draw nearer Lord. Trusting your love to cover all in these moments. Teach me of a relentless love. A love that comes after people, one that does not surrender to a resistant, and hesitant heart, but a love strong enough to work through that resistance with Your unstoppable love. Grant me a love so strong that it creates in me a burden for those suffering around me. May this burden not leave me paralyzed in pain though, but draw me to your side, and their side. Lord, teach me how you love.

 

“Even if my heart turns black and blue, I will love you.” ~ ‘If You Fall’ JJ Heller

Having Hope In the Midst Of Tragedy

The Advent season just began this past Sunday, and with the lighting of the first candle of the Advent wreath we are reminded of our eternal hope in God’s unshakable promises. We are reminded that He has come, that He will come, and that even now He is here with us through His Holy Spirit, and through this, is great hope.

But what when the reality of this hope isn’t tangible? What when everything around us points to a dim future? It’s no secret that our world has witnessed disaster after disaster with no indication that the pattern will end. Everyday we hear a new tragedy, many of us experiencing these tragedies first hand. Our world is facing death, natural disasters, murder, cancer, terrorism, and so much more at a increasing rate. How do these things coexist with hope?

It’s hard. But that is exactly what hope is. Hope is the expectation of that which has not arrived. We have yet to receive the peace of the Heavenly realms, where disease and violence finally cease to exist. For now, we remain here, where sin is alive and active, bearing with it growing consequences. Yet, while we wait on the returning of Christ which will bring about this peace, we have the Spirit with us here and now. The Spirit is our gift to live in this season of waiting and anticipation with hope. We may still experience pain and confusion while in expectation, but we have the peace and strength of the Spirit to teach us that pain and hope can coexist, that they have to.

It’s not about having the answers, the solutions, or the reasons why. That is beyond us. Our hope is in God, and God’s promises remain even when everything else fades. Jesus Christ has come, and He will come again. And in the waiting, His people will remain confident in hope, for even now His Spirit is with us.

“I will remain confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord.” Psalms 27:13-14

Be My Strength


We all want to be the strong ones. The ones who have it figured out. The ones with all the answers. The ones to overcome temptation. The ones who encourage and uplift. We want to be the ones who don’t cower down in moments of fear, or run and hide. We all want to be the strong ones.

But sometimes we aren’t, and that’s ok.

You don’t always have to be the strong one. You don’t always have to have it all together. It’s ok to not have the answers this time. It’s ok that you your still fighting off that temptation. It’s ok that you have no encouragement left to offer. It’s ok that you don’t wanna stay and fight. And it’s ok that you feel unbearably weak. It’s ok to let someone hold you up and be your strength.

But it’s hard. We would rather fight the current, struggling to just keep our heads above the water than reach out and let someone take hold of our hand. At least I would…

I’m scared to show you my weakness. I’m scared to admit that the strength I once extended towards you, is slowly fleeing from myself. I’m scared to let you in to see the parts of me that don’t quite measure up.

So instead I hide my weakness. I hide my struggles and my temptation. I hide my failures and I hide my fears. I put on my mask of strength, and tell you that I am good. I tell you about my life, filtering out the things that don’t reflect the deep, inner strength I so long for.

But the truth is, sometimes I am weak. And I need you. I need you to be the strength that I am so desperately fighting to find. I need you to throw me that life vest that you hold, and help me get back to the shore. I need you to remind me of the things I know, the things I believe, and the things I am still fighting to hold out hope for.

But I have to let you in first. I have to let you see the parts of me that aren’t as pretty as I’d like. I have to be honest, vulnerable, and transparent with you. If I want you to love me, I have to let you love me. I have to break down these walls that surround my heart, and take hold of your hand. I have to be willing to lay aside my pride, my unrealistic expectations, and my skepticism and let you love me. Because I need you, and that’s ok. 

Orpah Left, And That’s Ok.

20150714_194027“Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, and said goodbye.” Ruth 1:14

When we read the story of Ruth, Orpah, and Naomi we normally tend to focus in on Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi and return to Moab with her. We glorify her decision, and teach this lesson as an example of sticking it out with people for better or for worse. And don’t get me wrong, Ruth was surely following God’s will by staying with Naomi. Through this, God used her to bring about His son into the world. But what about Orpah. Orpah also set out on this journey to Moab, but Orpah turned around, and went home before reaching Moab. What does this mean? Was Orpah wrong to go back? Did God maybe want her to go with Naomi too? Did He have great plans for her in Moab? I don’t know, but I do know that her leaving did nothing to harm the plan God had for Ruth and Naomi’s lives.

And because of this, I know that the people who leave me on the way, and the people who leave you on the way, or not going to take anything away from the great plan God has for us. They are not going to leave us lacking anything essential for our journey. Because the Lord is a provider.

But it still hurts when people leave. Especially when they leave with no warning or explanation. We find ourselves standing there, alone, right where they used to be standing. Standing there in that place of solitude, the questions are unavoidable. We question if we did something wrong, or maybe could have done something better. We wonder if they regret leaving, if they ever will come back, or if somehow they have already forgotten that they were suppose to be here still. Sometimes the questions take on the face of bitterness. We ask ourselves how anyone could treat us that way, how they could leave in such an abrupt manner without any form of reasoning. We are hurt. We are betrayed. We are confused. Not only do we have to answer these questions ourselves, but we have to face the same questions from those around us; they’re wondering the same things we are, and somehow expect us to have the answers. But we don’t. Because all we know is that they left.

But that’s ok.

It’s ok that they left, and it is even ok that we don’t have the answers as to why. God is not taken off guard by the unreliability of those around us. He is not baffled at inconsistencies. And He is not shaken by abandonment like we are.He is all-knowing, all understanding. He is a firm, constant, and reliable source. He sends what we need, when we need it, and for how long we need it. We may be thrown off balance when people leave us, but God isn’t, and He is standing right beside us, right in the same place we were betrayed. He nudges us onward. He reminds us that it is in Him we find our source of strength, our hope, our joy, and our identify. Not only is He not leaving our side, but just as He let Naomi keep Ruth for her journey back home, He will give us the people we need in our lives too.

I know it hurts when people leave, but it hurts even more trying to hold on to what is already gone. Release those who have left you. Release them, and don’t cultivate hatred to them. God is bigger than what they have done to you. Their mistake does’t have to result in your bitterness.

Relatable?

I visited a new church a few weeks back while back home with my family. And it got my brain going on the church and it’s mission.

Before service, the pastor got up to give an analogy using his family as a example. He began to tell us how his boys are currently using the word, “relatable” with their friends as their new catch phrase. If a friend would be complaining about the load of homework he had, the pastor’s kid would respond with, “relatable,”. As if to say he was experiencing the same thing. He then paralleled that with his church. Explaining to us how maybe this atmosphere was different that we are used to for a church setting, the lights, the music, the technology, ect. He explained that this is their way of making the gospel, church, and Jesus Christ more relatable to unchurched individuals.

Let me begin with this. I’m involved with church organizations that are also using fancy lights, different music styles, and updated technology. And this doesn’t bother me. Because maybe some people are drawn to a unique atmosphere that doesn’t fit their stereotypical, condemning church mentality. So they come in. And when they come in, they find Jesus.

But when our attempt to make the church a relatable place pushes Jesus out of it, we must reevaluate our choices.

And that, that is the very fear that struck me this Sunday morning. I looked for Him. I looked for Him in the worship, but all I found was feel good lyrics and a performance with fancy lights. I looked for Him in the word, but all I found was a self-help motivation. I looked for Him in the silence leading to and following prayer and worship, but all I found were desperate attempts to fill that silence with noise, any noise.

We are called to be missionaries of the gospel. To proclaim truth. To spread joy. To heal the wounded. We are called to bring Jesus to the lost. And to do this, I understand we have to reach different individuals in different ways. Even Paul himself said, ” I have become all things to all men, so that by some means I may save some,”(1 Corinthians 9:22). But I don’t believe that in doing this, Paul ever compromised who Jesus was for the sake of anyone’s salvation. Because fact is, if we are going to bring someone to salvation, it’s going to be through Jesus and His untainted identify, not some artificial Jesus. If we think that a cheap imitation of jesus is going to save someone’s life, we are sorely mistaking. Because just as easy as they accept this lie, they will loose grip of it as temptation and heartache come.