Transition, Transition, Transition

Today’s Coffee of Choice: Post Alley Dark Roast blend from Seattle’s Best Coffee (to give a strong push to my day and to help me get back to a regular blogging routine)

Today’s Scripture: He would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples. – Mark 4:33-34

It’s been a crazy season of transition for yours truly. My family and I are now located in a different part of the States. Boxes are still being unpacked after almost a year in a new home. Stress levels have been tested in the midst of a hectic summer. A new school district, a different job market, and a different routine are prevalent in our lives. It has been through this season that one thing has remained constant to me: The faithfulness of God in the midst of seasons of change.

I’ve been thinking, once again, about a term I was introduced to in college at a Cru leadership conference: Agape love. Honestly, in the season of stress I’ve found myself in, I’ve been shocked at the lack of faithfulness that can sometimes exist within a Christian church culture attempting to ooze answers to the general public. However, I think I am just relearning what it takes to be truly committed to following the example of Christ. I’m also rediscovering what His agape love for me is all about and learning to depend on him alone in the midst of life’s challenges.

For those of us who are Christians in more ways than church attendance and verbal affirmations, the friendship and love demonstrated to us by Christ’s life is vital to our personal growth. In a world where any excuse is found to demolish what real love and commitment should look like, it is essential to cling to the principles taught by Christ before His death and resurrection. I think that’s why, in the midst of major upheaval, I find myself reading through the Gospel of Mark once again. Mark has a succinct way of presenting the facts of Christ’s teachings. His writing also has a direct way of transitioning between events and parables… something I’m enjoying in the midst of a season where indirectness and foggy ideals have threatened to steal whatever joy the stress of the move has not touched yet.

The changes the disciples and Christ experienced in their own lives are highlighted throughout the book of Mark by simple descriptions and basic explanations that reflect the agape love Christ had for his closest followers. Today’s highlighted Scripture from Mark 4 references the immense care Christ took with those who stuck by him throughout the transitions of his own life. He taught with a method all of us love: Storytelling. He also took the time to explain the various metaphors and often complicated imagery contained in some of his parables to those who traveled with him. I believe he does the same with us in the midst of seasons where we are uprooted and planted elsewhere. In my case, he continues to use everyday lessons and parables to display his agape love and faithfulness despite the confusing examples I’m often presented with by those claiming to be his followers.

It is my prayer that, if you are in a season of change, you rediscover the faithfulness and care Christ has for you. Please comment below if you would like me to pray for you. Blessings!

Leaving It All Behind

Today’s Coffee of Choice: “Jamaican Me Crazy” freshly ground beans from Village Street Cafe

Today’s Scripture: It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. – Hebrews 11:27

Have you ever had to leave something or someone you loved behind? Whether it was for a brief time or an indefinite period, the process of leaving is not easy.

Glendale2015Recently, cancer once again forced me to experience separation from individuals I cared about. In the recent months, I’ve lost two more friends to the disease. The shock I faced in 2010, when cancer worked its way through my family while also facing the sudden deaths of several friends, was revisited. (Click here to read my thoughts surrounding funeral four of six during that time.) One of the recent individuals I lost served as a mentor to me as a young Christian and is still one of the main examples of faith that propels me forward in leadership roles I carry in my current season. In tandem with the loss of my friends was tragic news of the deaths of two young children of a dear couple in ministry in North Carolina. Learning of it made me hit my knees so hard on their behalf I think the carpet prints are still there. Then, there is the beautiful friend who succumbed to the choices she made while living ALL the aspects of a model’s lifestyle in Europe…. The devastation of it all can be so overwhelming sometimes.

Grief is tricky. Unless you have suffered a great loss, you cannot understand the mixed emotions or sudden tears that can often interrupt a day. Grief is also not limited to the loss of a loved one. It can happen with the loss of a pet, a marriage, or even a change in where you live. I can’t help but think that the Israelite nation faced grief as they stepped away from everything they had ever known, despite the pain they endured as slaves while living in Egypt, and pushed forward toward the land they were promised.

So, how do we deal with grief? I once had a conversation with the author of The Mended Heart, Suzie Eller. She shared her thoughts on the grief that often occurs within abuse survivors, and a cancer survivor who was seated at a table with us shared her perspective as well. Until that point, I had never considered grief as a response to abuse or living through a terminal disease, but it made sense to me as we all talked. The conversation was one of those I will never forget where time stopped and sisters in Christ were encouraged by each other in a way only God can make happen. One of the main conclusions we all came to is that you just have to let grief work its course in your life, not fight the emotions, and surround yourself with safe people while doing so. We decided that:

Truth Breeds FreedomAnother way I’ve discovered to help process grief is to cling to the wisdom found in Scripture. This helps negate the lies and negativity often found in the world around us. In Hebrews 11:27, we see five keys to follow when facing any major challenge… including the unpredictability of grief:

It was by faith (#1- HAVE FAITH!) that Moses left the land of Egypt (#2- Choose to leave the “Egypts” in your life behind you.), not fearing the king’s anger (#3- Don’t fear.). He kept right on going (#4- Don’t EVER give up.) because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible (#5- Keep your eyes fixed on Jehovah Jireh, your provider.).

May God bless you if you’re in the throes of grief during this season of your life. May you find His great peace in the midst. Please comment below if you would like me to be praying for you.

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Choosing to Suffer

Today’s Hot Drink of Choice: Starbucks Breakfast Blend

Today’s Scripture: By faith, after Moses was born, he was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward. – Hebrews 11:23-26

If you’re like me, the title to today’s blog makes you cringe. All of us have different levels of pain tolerance, and most people don’t want to choose to suffer. Some consider a remodel or addition to their home excruciating, while others endure unspeakable horrors at the hands of monsters and wonder if they have the right to admit to how much they hurt. It’s true that some people can’t help the suffering they endure because of circumstances beyond their control. Despite this, within Scripture we see examples of people who chose to leave riches and comfort behind while taking the harder, but higher, road.

Moses is one of these people. He was adopted into royalty and had all the riches and power of ancient Egypt at his disposal. He chose, however, to pursue the harder road of helping those of his biological heritage escape the desperate trap of slavery. He gave up everything he ever knew to follow God’s specific will for his life: To be a voice and a vessel of deliverance and direction for the nation of Israel.

Throughout the Bible we see amazing examples of those who consciously chose suffering for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the most powerful example of this. Imagine having all of the resources of Heaven at your disposal and choosing a humble existence and brutal death instead of living it up! I’m pretty sure I could never make that choice.

So how do we live out this often misunderstood, but essential, aspect of commitment to God in today’s distracted world? I believe there are three key ideas that can help:

1. Focus on the FACT that God will never leave you or forsake you.

I cannot tell you how many times my confidence in God has pulled me through situations that seemed impossible. God and I have a solid track record. He has saved me from some really nasty stuff, and I know I can count on Him. However, my confidence in his faithfulness would be easily shaken if I didn’t practice number two….

2. Make prayer and study of Scripture a daily priority.

We live in a crazy world. There are people saying and doing all kinds of things in the name of religion. To know the true perspective of the God of the universe who sent His son to die for all of humanity it is necessary to invest one of the most precious gifts we are given in this world: Time. Being committed to prayer and reading the book God penned through amazing people throughout Christian history is vital to staying on track in this lifetime.

3. Surround yourself with Godly people who live the kind of life you desire while emphasizing holiness and self-control.

Not everyone is who they say they are. It often takes effort to discern sincere people versus those who are great communicators yet low on morality. It is wise to surround yourself with those who have proven they are sincere in their faith and are more experienced than you are. If their Christian walk looks like you want yours to look in a few years, then it’s good to examine the positive aspects of how they’re living.

For more on the topic of suffering and Christianity, check out this great book with some thoughts from some of modern Christianity’s examples of spiritual giants:

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