This Blessed Blacktop

It is October which means there are many marching bands right in the middle of their competitive season. While I personally was not in marching band I am certainly no stranger to the sport due to the fact that many of my close friends were in marching band in high school. This past Thursday I found myself sitting on a blacktop observing a rehearsal, and I was inspired to write this poetic thing. This one is for my friends who love marching band.

This Blessed Blacktop

There’s a certain peace within me as I am sitting on this blessed blacktop

Hormonal high schoolers giving their all to a mesmerizing movement of music

Shuffling their feet and playing their tune

The sun sets painting the sky hues of gold, pink, and blue

Adult voluteers scurrying to do their part

There is an undeniable beauty in the dedication and teamwork within their hearts

Truly all I can do is sit here and thank God for evenings like these that have a somehow perfect breeze.


But I NEED her!

My friend was teaching a class of three year olds a couple of months ago. One of these children was a little boy who had a special friend in one of the little girls in the class. One night when he was desperately wanting to be with her he asked my friend if he could be with her and my friend said “no”. His quite dramatic yet relatable reply was “But I NEED her! I NEEEEEEED her!” As ridiculous as a three year old NEEDING another three year old sounds we often do the exact same thing. We pick something that we feel we NEED, and when we do not receive it we get angry and frustrated with God.

This topic of desperately wanting something to the extent that we feel we NEED it makes me think of Hannah, the mother of the Old Testament Prophet Samuel. She was barren and probably felt like she NEEDED a child, especially since she was being taunted and provoked by her husband’s other wife. However, in the midst of grief and confusion as to why she was not allowed to have this beautiful thing, she took her pain and confusion to God. 1 Samuel 1:10-14 finds Hannah praying so deeply and intensely that the priest Eli thought that she was drunk, but she wasn’t. She was taking her confusion, grief, and pain to God. She was vowing that if she were blessed with a child she would give it right back to God for His service. What a beautiful example of how to treat things that we feel like we NEED.

In reality the concept of giving something back to God if we are blessed enough to receive it in the first place is much easier said than done. Hannah shows a profound humility and trust when she gives up the child that she has longed for, hoped for, prayed for. However, the Lord blessed her trust and he used that child to further his kingdom in ways that Hannah likely could not have imagined in her wildest dreams. The things that we desire deeply for are not necessarily bad things. Wanting to be a parent is a beautiful thing. Wanting to be married is a beautiful thing. Wanting to get an education is a beautiful thing. However, those beautiful God given desires become ugly when we hope in those things rather than for those things. As hard as it is to admit, when we act as though we need something more than we need God we look as ridiculous as a three year old NEEDING another three year old.  (and we are definitely not as cute)

A Constant State of Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual warfare is something that cannot be seen in the way of physical swords and helmets, but is still quite real. I oftentimes find that when I am most susceptible to an attack is when my life is going well. Take where I am currently for example; I am doing well. Even within this though I find myself losing interest in spending time with God. It seems that we train our minds to go to God when we are in trouble, which is absolutely what we should do, but in times of joy and abundance we become prideful and act as though we can handle what life has to offer us by ourselves. In these moments of peace we become comfortable and forget that we are in a war; sometimes we even lay down our spiritual armor (if you want to know more about the armor of God go to Ephesians 6:10-20) We forget that simple moments can have a profound impact on the course of someone’s life. Something that I have been reminded of multiple times in the past few weeks is that people are watching and potentially being affected by how we live. It’s interesting, because I know this to be true, I have seen the everyday actions of someone in my life affect me in a profound way, when they probably had no idea, but I still manage to forget that the same thing is likely happening with me. Romans 12:1-2 talks about offering our bodies as living sacrifices by not conforming to this world and living a life of holiness. Those verses are a beautiful reminder to live in a way that is pleasing to God all of the time. It is a reminder that this is not something that we are capable of on our own, so we must receive strength from God at all times. We are in a constant state of spiritual warfare whether we want to acknowledge that or not, so we would be foolish to lay down our armor and act as though we are capable of handling life on our own and yet sometimes we do.

Only Love Can Do That

One of my favorite quotes is something that Martin Luther King Jr. said, it’s “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

There have been a couple of things on my mind the past week, and I have to say the more that I think about them the more I realize how connected they are. About a week ago I was thinking about the political climate and how prone people are to say horrible things about another person because they do not agree with their beliefs. That in itself is sad enough, but what is even more saddening to me is the fact that this attitude is creeping into the church. It’s this underlying sour attitude that we carry because Joe thinks this person is qualified to do this political job and Jane thinks a controversial issue is not a big deal. This sour attitude towards others based on their having different beliefs that truly have nothing to do with salvation or how you are living your life is not loving others and seeing them as Christ sees them.

This brings me to the second thing I have been thinking about this week. I have seen a theme of valuing others, seeing them as Christ sees them, and treating them accordingly over and over again recently. The most unique way I have seen this is in the Sunday school lesson I taught this past Sunday. It was based around this theme, but it was about the story of David and Bathsheba. Initially I was quite confused, as I studied though I began to understand it as a cautionary tale. David was so focused on himself, his pleasures, and covering up his sins he was willing to do horrendous things to the people around him. When we get so caught up in how we feel, justifying our sins, and overall being self-centered we are not thinking of those around us. We are likely not seeing others the way that Christ sees them.

Back to the story of David and Bathsheba; my favorite part of this story is God’s grace. David did things that others would find horrendous and unforgivable, but God forgave him. God valued him; God loved him even though and he had messed up in a huge way. God does this for us too, so as we think of the people who get under our skin or we completely disagree with for whatever reason we must remember that they are beloved by Our Heavenly Father. Christ came for them too; Christ sees so much value in them too. This is our example of how to treat others. The Bible calls us to love others (if you want more information on what that looks like see 1 Corinthians 13). That is how we drive out hate; that is the light that we have that drives out darkness. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.


Lonely but Never Alone

I was feeling a certain bout of loneliness this morning; it was the kind of loneliness that you know means nothing, but still will not leave you alone. This loneliness came with the works: crying, questioning my immediate future, questioning my distant future, and feeling isolated. It soon became very apparent to me that I needed to do something with all of these thoughts that were swimming through my head, so I decided to write. I pulled out a notebook and wrote down the title “Lonely but Never Alone”, and then I started flipping through the pages that I had already filled. As I was flipping I came across something that I had written about an awkward date; I decided to read it because I figured that it would be good for a laugh, but what I got was so much more. What I received in reading that was hope, truth, and yes a good laugh. After reading that I realized that God was giving me what I had been praying for just minutes before. He had given me someone who understood what I was feeling and could encourage me; that person just happened to be a former version of myself writing down my thoughts. As I soaked in this realization I felt the title that I had written down expecting the content to be full of despair turn into one that would have content full of hope. This title and its truth became real to me. I will become lonely at times, that is inevitable, but I am never alone. I have a Heavenly Father who will always provide what I need when I need it. What a blessing.

Is this happening?

I wrote this very short thought just before going on my road trip with Catie last summer. The feeling that comes over me when I am about to do something that I have looked forward to for so long is quite simply surreal. There’s an underlying fear that it won’t meet your expectations; then it massively exceeds those expectations. I’m about to take another trip I have been dreaming about, so once again these thoughts below are swimming through my head.

This isn’t happening. Don’t think of that in an urgent or angry context, but rather a blissful disbelief that something you’ve dreamed up, worked for, and planned for is becoming a reality. It’s been in the making so long you can’t wrap your mind around the fact that it’s time to do this incredibly exciting thing.

Shopping Spree: Music Edition

I have decided to do something a bit different for this post. Within the past couple of days I have bought some songs on my ipod, so I am going to list what those are and why I bought them.

The first is Oh My Soul by Casting Crowns. This is off of their most recent album The Very Next Thing. This song originally got my attention, because it was the song that the lead singer wrote when he was diagnosed with cancer. The brutal honesty about how one feels and what people’s tendencies are when suffering is rather refreshing. I especially like the second verse

Here and now
You can be honest
I won’t try to promise that someday it all works out
‘Cause this is the valley
And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know

I love this verse especially because it is honest, encouraging, and a bit poetic. All around I highly recommend this song it will encourage you in whatever difficulty you are facing at the moment.

The second is Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara. I have to be completely honest and say while this song has a cool message I haven’t studied the lyrics enough to totally understand the depth of what she is saying. The message is clear, but there seems to be quite a bit of depth to this song. This song is one of those “you’re beautiful how you are right now. People need to stop being so cruel to each other/hard on themselves” songs. What sets this song apart for me is the second verse (Yes again. I am a sucker for the second verse of songs. They’re so overlooked)

She has dreams to be an envy, so she’s starving
You know, “Covergirls eat nothing.”
She says, “Beauty is pain and there’s beauty in everything.”
“What’s a little bit of hunger?”
“I could go a little while longer,” she fades away
She don’t see her perfect, she don’t understand she’s worth it
Or that beauty goes deeper than the surface
Ah oh, ah ah oh,
So to all the girls that’s hurting
Let me be your mirror, help you see a little bit clearer
The light that shines within

I see the first half of this verse in so many people I know. Most people I know are not starving themselves so that they can be a certain size, but they are pushing themselves far past their limits. They say to themselves “I can go a little while longer” then fade away. This fade looks different on everyone; it can be spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, or even all of the above. I like this song because it reminds you to take care of yourself.

The next is the clean version of I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb Remix) by Mike Posner. I heard this song on the radio in my car the other day and had a full on jam session while waiting in traffic, so obviously I had to buy it. I don’t have anything deep about this one it’s just something I would likely put on a road trip mix.

The next is sunshine by blanca. My aunt recommended this to me a month or two back; I like it because it’s upbeat/Jesusy and the actual music has a cool island vibe. This is something I would listen to while baking or getting ready on a lazy morning. It puts me in a better mood.

Last but not least is My Lighthouse by Rend Collective off of their album Campfire II: Simplicity. This was recommended to me by a friend today. I have heard this before, but it had been years. I immediately remembered how much I love it. I chose this particular version, because it seemed to have a bit more of an acoustic/bluegrass feel versus what seemed to be their more popular version. I like it because I can see myself listening to this before a more extended quiet time to help center myself and get into a spirit of worship.

I hope this introduced you to a song or two to get into.

I added youtube links to each song!

Have a great week friends!

Stop Telling Me

As I have battled anxiety, particularly within the past couple of years I have found a common theme- well-meaning people saying things like “stop worrying you have nothing to worry about.” Or “stop worrying, it’s going to be okay.” I know that those things are true. I know that I’m not supposed to worry, I know that I’m incredibly blessed and comparatively I have nothing to worry about. I know that it’s going to be okay, but in those dark moments it doesn’t feel like it. Please stop saying those things to people who battle anxiety; even though that person likely knows that it’s going to be okay it doesn’t FEEL like it’s going to be okay in that moment. I don’t want someone to remind me of some cliché that God loves me and because of that everything will be fine. I want someone to speak truth into my life. I want someone to say, “Life sucks, but even when you are facing some of the suckiest moments you will face God is there. Even in the moments when you don’t feel worthy of being loved, you are. Romans 8:37-39 says that nothing can separate you from that love.” Hearing someone say that is more real and honest.

When you say things like “stop worrying” or “it’s going to be okay,” you likely aren’t listening long enough or well enough to help the person heal. So many people are searching for the perfect thing to say to those who are grieving or battling mental illness, but oftentimes you don’t need to say anything; oftentimes you just need to listen and physically be there. When I would be in the midst of panic attacks, I yearned for someone to physically be there, not because I wanted them to word vomit things to make them feel like they attempted to help, but because I wanted them to hug me and hold my hand and pray for me. Just being with a person and letting them tell you what would help them most speaks volumes, because it means you are there for them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with someone who had just lost a job or they were freaking out about something or they were depressed and they would apologize for not being fun to be around. When someone apologizes for struggling and being human, don’t let them apologize. Honestly, don’t say “it’s okay” or “I forgive you”; the people that I feel safest with in this regard are the ones who say “don’t be sorry” because I know that they don’t just tolerate when I’m struggling. They love me even when I am far from lovely. I’m not talking about the emotion love; I’m talking about the action love.

James 1:19 tells us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” This passage focuses on avoiding evil by actually doing what the word of God says, and if you want to look more into that I highly recommend that you do – it’s James 1:19-27. When we take a closer look at why we word vomit on those who are hurting, we find that oftentimes it’s because we feel uncomfortable, so we selfishly fill the silence to make ourselves feel less uncomfortable. It’s not for the other person; it’s for us, and sure that’s not nearly as obvious as the selfishness of someone who has a plethora of riches and is unwilling to share it with the less fortunate, but it is self-serving all the same. When we are so focused on our personal comfort in difficult situations where we don’t know what to do we miss opportunities to show others that they are valued and loved. We miss opportunities to listen to those who feel like no one cares to actually listen.

Honestly, the best thing I can encourage you to do is to look into this concept for yourself. The book of James is a great place to start if you want a biblical view of how to show others you care about them. The main thing to get from James is that we need to be doers of the word, because when your life is changed by the grace of Christ, you are going to do things differently; it’s just human nature. When something life-changing happens, be it coming to Christ or having a baby, we act differently. One of the best ways you can be a doer of the word is by being slow to speak and quick to listen when you are with someone who is hurting. Please don’t say to me “it’s going to be okay.” Please do sit with me, listen to me, cry with me, compassionately take my hurt and burden to Jesus in prayer. Please do any or all of those things in place of awkwardly saying to me, “stop freaking out. You’re going to be okay.” Doing those things shows that you love both Jesus and the person you are comforting much more clearly than simply saying to them “it’s going to be okay”.

Get Some Rest

Rest is a good thing. I am so prone to try to fill my schedule to the brim, but it’s not healthy. This idea of stopping to rest is one that has been quite prominent in my mind the past few weeks. I realized how much I needed to reevaluate this recently for a multitude of reasons, but one of the simpler reasons was I came across a quote by Bob Goff author of my favorite book Love Does that said “It’s easy to confuse a lot of activity with a purposeful life. Get some rest.” If that isn’t me to a T I don’t know what is. I have recently found that the more I allow myself to rest the more I remember the things I enjoy. The more that I rest the more that I am able to not just survive the hour, the day, the week, whatever, in addition I am thriving.

I am often led back to a rather haunting thought: what’s the point in doing everything if you aren’t able to stop long enough to experience any of it? When my schedule is so full I’m so focused on surviving that I often miss opportunities to soak up the incredible moments.

Coming to the realization that rest is good is always incredibly freeing, because so often I feel obligated to do things that clutter my schedule and freak me out. I want to love God, others and myself well but so often I get focused on the first two and ultimately I fail because I get caught up in doing things rather than actually loving God and others. Honestly it very quickly and easily becomes me doing things for the sake of doing them and feeling good about myself because I’m doing things. In short I ignore the fact that I am only human and I need rest.

There are so many passages that I could point to that speak to this topic in some way, but I’m going to go back to creation. God created the earth and then took a day to rest. Later in the Ten Commandments He established keeping the Sabbath as a day set aside for worship AND rest. Why did He set these examples and expectations? Because He knows that we are only human and we need rest. Our need for rest points us back to Him and quite frankly that is beautiful. Lovely human as you read this remember that rest is a good thing that helps equip us for loving others and more importantly God.

Get some rest.

It’s All About Thinking of Yourself Less

For this particular post I am shamelessly taking inspiration from one of the songs we are going over in children’s choir for the upcoming musical. The song is called “Self Less” and shocker it’s about being selfless. I absolutely adore how they go about taking on such a common and easily forgotten topic. The entire musical does this in a very cutesy way, but I love this particular song.

The song starts off talking about the little boy who gave the two fish and five loaves of bread when Jesus fed the five thousand. Actually when I went to the gospels to find whether the little boy was a part of feeding the four thousand or five thousand I was not able to find even a mention of the little boy being the one who gave the food until the gospel of John (chapter 6). This honestly makes it pretty clear to me how insignificant this little guy was in the eyes of society. It would have been easy for him to say “How will my food help feed thousands of people? I won’t even bother.” However he did and because it was Jesus, he was used. Our Lord and Savior uses insignificant people like you and I who just want to love and bless others.

The next part of the song is a chorus that I’ll talk about later, after the chorus is a verse about the Good Samaritan. For this passage I went to Luke 10:25. The poor traveler was robbed and beaten almost to death. You would think that the religious guys who passed by him would have helped since they were devoted to doing the work of God, but for various reasons they were both too holy to help. Now the passage never says why they passed by on the other side, but there is certainly commentary and speculation out there if you are more interested in the why. The third guy was a Samaritan since our poor traveler was on the way from Jerusalem it’s a pretty safe bet that this guy was a Jew and in an area in which Samaritans weren’t welcome. Once again if you are interested in the why on either of these things there’s certainly commentary and speculation out there. Since the Samaritan was in a place where he was so unwelcomed it would have been easy for him to also pass by, but he didn’t. He took care of traveler and paid for him to be cared for even after he left. This Samaritan was very clearly not liked by the people surrounding him. There was a lot of prejudice against him, but he helped anyway. Our Lord and Savior is one who loves those that society does not and He uses them to bless the lives of others.

Now for the chorus, honestly it’s my favorite part of the song because it ties these two stories together so well. It says “If you’re looking for ways to be like Jesus, how you can live so people are blessed. It’s not about thinking less of yourself, it’s all about thinking of yourself less.” Both of these stories could have easily ended with “I’m not significant enough” or “I’m not welcomed in this area, staying to help this guy could mean bad things for me”, but they didn’t. Both people helped even though they weren’t likely candidates. They didn’t let their shortcomings or the fact that they felt uncomfortable stop them, instead they focused on the need at hand and gave what they could. I love that this chorus focuses on not thinking less of ourselves. I can’t count the amount of times that I let a pity party ruin an opportunity to bless someone else, I was so focused on myself and my shortcomings I completely forgot about the other person. Remember it’s not about thinking less of yourself, it’s all about thinking of yourself less.