To The College Student Seeking to Follow Their Passion

“Do what you’re passionate about,” my advisor said as I sat–a confused college freshman–before her, having a 18-years-of-life crisis.

Passion has never been something I’ve lacked.  Passion for an individual subject in school, however, has been a troubling concept for me to grasp for as long as I can remember.

By definition, passion is something for which you feel strong emotion. Above all, I have a passion for lost people to experience the abundant grace of Jesus.  Beyond that, I have passion for many, many aspects of this world.  I am passionate about whichever book I’ve read the week before that I’m convinced is my new favorite.  I am passionate about taking road trips when I should probably be studying or not spending money on gas.  I am passionate about loving my friends well.  I am passionate about learning–I never want to stop.  I’m passionate about spreading the word of Jesus’s redemption to those who believe they’re so far from its realm.  I’m passionate about going on adventures and making memories.  I feel a strong desire and love for all of these elements of my life and the world around me.  I don’t see my future lacking any of these desires. They are my passions.

As I sat before my advisor a year ago, I didn’t realize that her simple statement would lead to so much discovery and growth in what the Lord was trying to teach me.

I’ve come to find that many of us have put faith and hope in the same myth: The right thing to do is choose a major that you are passionate about. “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”

I am not arguing that one cannot love and enjoy their job, nor am I arguing that one should choose a major and career for the pure sake of getting hired and making money, regardless of whether they enjoy what they are doing.

However, I propose the problem is that when we receive these pieces of advice, we hear something that abundantly pressures us.  We hear that college is where we will choose a major that we are passionate about, and then we will look forward to the career that will overflow us with joy.  This sounds incredible in theory, but then we get to college and realize that it’s not as easy in execution.

Maybe you’re like me and every class you take convinces you that you should spend the rest of your life studying that subject.  Or maybe you fall on the other end of the spectrum, wondering how you could ever pick one of these subjects to focus on for even another semester because they’re all so uninteresting.  Both ends of the spectrum have something in common: when they hear “follow your passion,” stress abounds.  To the one who loves school, the stress of choosing a single area of study cripples you. You just want to learn all of the things. To the one who has never loved a day of school in their life, the stress of not feeling a passion towards any major cripples you.

So here lies our pivotal issue: the passions that we are following, I argue, should not solely be in a school subject.  We are called to so much more. We are called to an abundant life of compassion and servitude for others.  We are called to a life of freedom and adventure, love and relationships, joy and worship.  We are called to go beyond the walls of an office, a studio, a lab, a building.

While I believe we are all created uniquely, so as to excel in different work fields, I also believe that these work fields merely facilitate the practice of the passions and desires that the Lord has hand-knit into our hearts.

I am majoring in Finance and Management.  I do not feel strong desires or emotions for the analysis of financial trends or economic patterns.  I do not feel passion for overseeing and managing a business system.  Climbing the corporate ladder and one day owning my own company does not bring tears of joy to my eyes. But my passion to provide redemption, opportunity, and the hope of Jesus to those who have felt so far from it through the establishment of a nonprofit organization one day does.  But even if my future takes unexpected turns and that nonprofit is never established, my passion will remain.  That is where I find hope–in the fact that the major I choose today will not hinder me from following my passions for the rest of my tomorrows.

So to the student, or “real-world” adult, that has received this advice and borne the pressure that accompanies it, take a deep breath.  Choose a major that you wouldn’t mind spending four years pursuing and eventually getting a job in.  Choose a major that you will enjoy.  But don’t worry about choosing a major that ignites joy and satisfaction in the deepest parts of your soul, because it is likely that it does not exist.

The Lord has put you where you are and has placed unique desires in your heart, and to those things you should be most aware.  Seek the Lord’s purpose for where you are right now.  Seek the desires He has given you.

Make a list of your dreams. No really, do it.  It’s some of the best advice I ever received.  List, on paper, what you dream to accomplish in your life and don’t let any items on your list be for anyone else.  While we all wish for happiness and health in the lives of those we love, make this about you. When you look at your list, realize that God has placed each of these dreams in you for a reason. Not so that you can pick the perfect major, but so that you can explore His world in a way that is unique to who He has made you to be, and in doing so, come to know Him better.

So now, a year later, I can say that my advisor’s advice was great.  I will follow my passions.  I encourage you to do the same.  But what I didn’t grasp a year ago was the peace of knowing that my passions will never be for a single area of study, job, or career.

Use your years at college to grow and discover who your God has made you to be.  Use your years to invest in the people around you and to be invested in.  Use your years to study hard and do your best, but to stay focused on what truly matters.

He has come that you may live.  Live abundantly. Seek and follow the passions and desires of your heart.

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What Are You Doing Here?

While the diversity of humankind is expansive and intense, diversity of the one desire that burns in the heart of every human does not exist. In every heart is the innate desire to be one with the One who fully made, knows, and loves the one in which He dwells.  Whether we realize the object of our longing or not does not negate what it is; who it is; who He is. 

Our awareness of the longing that we have to be in the presence of God should change the trajectory of our lives entirely, but so often we live as if we are blind to the truth.  The truth should cause us to do all that we can to come as close on this earth to His fullness and power as is possible.

God’s presence is most closely achieved through the act of humbling and surrendering ourselves in servitude to Him.  Yet so often we perform menial tasks and self-rescue missions thinking we will be growing closer to oneness with Him, when in reality, we’re only strengthening our dependence on ourselves.  In depending on ourselves more, the only logical result is that we are depending on Him less.  And when dependence is synonymous with unity in the context of The Word, this is a very dangerous cycle to be caught in. 

We wake up early and read our Bibles for fifteen minutes before starting the grind of our days; we attend church services once, or maybe if you’re a gold-star receiving Christian, twice a week; we volunteer in the community; we listen to worship music in the car; we share Christian culture-related articles on Facebook.  We spend our days building our Christian resume as if we will one day stand before the Lord’s throne in an interview, pleading to be the best candidate for the job–or in this case, entrance into eternity in His presence. We long to be with Him, but instead of simply surrendering the control of our lives that keeps us out of it, we work harder; we act kinder; we do better.

The truth is, the things we so often do to try to fulfill our desire for the Lord could be done without even knowing who He is or what He has done for us.  It doesn’t take someone who has tasted the goodness of Grace and been redeemed by the blood of Jesus to clean up his act and start doing more good.  It doesn’t take someone who has seen the greatness of a heart made new by the Creator of the Universe to be a nicer guy or sweeter girl.  It doesn’t take someone who has understood the power of being bought with a huge price to get dressed up on Sunday and head to church.  It does take someone who has been washed by the blood of the Savior of the world to surrender their heart–their entire life–to Him, though.  

Our calling for our life is so simple, yet impossible without accepting that we must surrender to Jesus. He told us that in order to save our life, we must lose it, and only when we lose it will we find it in Him. (Matt. 16:25)  Only when we release the grip on our plans for our future will we be able to experience all that He has designed for us to carry out in His plan.  Only when we let go of all that we think is best for us will we hear Him calling us closer and closer to true fulfillment.

The problem with holding onto control of our lives is the state of our heart that results.  When things go our way, our heart is content and prideful because of the work we did in life to get to where we are.  Instead, when we are living fully surrendered to God’s perfect plan, and we experience triumph, our heart is in a posture of thanksgiving and worship–a posture that we are called to live in every day of our lives.

The present is as close as you’ve ever been to eternity.  Are you going to spend the present trying to control the future that you ultimately have no say in, or are you going to humble yourself and serve so that you get just a taste of what your eternity will be like?  Are you going to work on making great your name and legacy on earth, or are you going to make disciples of all nations and save your fellow creations of God from eternal grief?

The desire burns strongly in our hearts for a reason.  The Creator who knit you together in your mother’s womb intentionally placed it there for your good.  He knew that only in surrender would you begin to quench the flames, and only in surrender would your life reach the potential that He designed for it.  The choice is yours and mine–we can choose to scatter droplets of water on the fire with our good deeds and Christian culture activities, or we can choose to douse the fire by picking up our cross daily, not being fearful of going where we’ve never been, and not being afraid to lose it all for His name.

It’s your desire. It’s my desire. It’s the desire of every man and woman who has ever been and will ever be.  The question is: what are you doing here to fulfill that desire?

No One Fights Alone

Sisters stand by your side no mater what. My Alpha Gam sister, Halle Lindsay, is running for Homecoming Queen at University of Alabama, so stand by her I will.

Apart from being one of the most genuinely joyful people I have ever met, Halle’s accomplishments on this campus make her someone beyond deserving of the title of Homecoming Queen. Homecoming Queen is an honor given to a woman of the University who embodies authenticity and unity–two traits that Halle epitomizes.

Halle’s resume speaks for itself: past-President of Blend (a student-founded organization that unites students of all backgrounds and walks of life), Executive Board member of Alpha Gamma Delta, Inaugural A-Team (an organization that accommodates first-year students’ transition to college) alumni, President of XXXI (an elite women’s honor society), served as a student recruiter, a member of UA for St. Jude, and a Sustained Dialogue facilitator.  Amazingly, these are only a blip of her involvement over the past three years.  But what truly sets Halle apart is not her lengthy list of achievements, honors, and involvements, but her character and true desire to change the world for the better wherever she is given an opportunity.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Strong and courageous are two of the most fitting words to describe Halle. Courage has been the thread woven throughout her entire college career.  As one of the first black women to integrate the Alabama sorority system, she stepped into a realm of uncomfortableness and uncertainty and stood for what is right.  But it didn’t stop with accepting a bid. Halle has been a true definition of a sister, friend, and leader to our sisterhood. She radiates joy, love, and encouragement, and leads by serving alongside those being led.

The impact Halle has made both within the Greek system and outside of it cannot go unnoticed.  As someone who has close friendships with people in every social circle on campus, her mark has been placed on the entirety of the University.

Even if Halle weren’t my sister, she’d have my full support in this election.  But the fact that she is completely finalizes my decision.  What is a sorority sister if it’s not someone you can count on for support? Sisterhood is where support begins.

With all this being said, I encourage everyone to do their research and vote for the candidate they feel is most deserving.  I encourage everyone to think entirely for themselves and practice voting decision-making skills that will be valuable for the rest of their life.  I encourage everyone to resist outside pressures and stand up for their own beliefs and opinions.  These practices go far beyond a Homecoming Queen election–they demonstrate courage: the very courage Halle has modeled in her time at UA, the courage that transforms you from a follower to a leader.

No one fights alone.

Voting takes place next Tuesday, October 6 from 7:00 am-7:00 pm on myBama.  Regardless of who will be receiving your vote, be sure to vote.

Who Is The God Behind Your Unanswered Prayers?

Put yourself in this situation:

You’ve been praying for the same thing for days, weeks, months, or maybe even years.  You’ve faithfully asked God over and over to just answer this one question or request. You’ve waited eagerly for a glimmer of hope that your prayer is going to be answered. You’ve waited for a ray of sunshine to penetrate the storm that has overtaken your life, but to no avail.

It appears God is silent. It appears He has no interest in working in your favor on this one.  It appears that He has greater problems to attend to.  It may even appear that the God you thought you were following all along isn’t who you thought He was: He isn’t good, He isn’t fair, and He doesn’t want what’s best for you.  You deserve better.  You haven’t done anything to deserve the storm you’re in.  You’ve done a lot of good, not a lot of bad, and you’ve always called yourself a Christian.

Why isn’t He listening? Why isn’t He answering?

Maybe it didn’t take much imagination to put yourself in this situation.  Maybe it’s the current story of your life.  The likelihood is that this has been you in the past, or is you presently.  If not, it will likely be you in the future because we are in this world, and this world we will have trouble (John 16:33).

In the pit of the storm, it’s so difficult to see clearly who God is and understand how He is working.  It’s so easy and natural to look to Him as a rescue agent that will instantly snatch you out of your trials, restoring you to a painless, perfect life.  

Where did this painful disillusion originate? Definitely not in His Word.  Where did we get the idea that being a Christian would make life easier? From the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus promises that following Him would make life harder. It would bring persecution and trials.  But He also promises that He has overcome the world and He is Hope in every situation.  

We tend to forget the entirety of His promises and just remember the part about Him being our hope.  We then turn that around to mean that when bad things happen, and our world starts crumbling around us, we have Hope to make all the bad go away; we have Hope to dry up the storm.

We naively and innocently believe this, but when we do, Satan wins.  Satan succeeds in making us perceive God as a genie.  Satan succeeds in making us create our own god who answers our every question and need.  

When I think about my tendency to fall into this perception of God, I think about Mary as she sits outside the empty tomb. As she weeps, Jesus comes to her and asks her why she is crying.  He gently rebukes her by reminding her that she has no cause for crying.  She has witnessed the fulfillment of His promise to rise again.  Mary was a faithful friend, seeking her Lord, but she wasn’t expecting Him to be alive, despite the promises that He had made. 

How often am I Mary? How often do I pray, or even worse, fail to pray, in unwarranted sorrow, over the things that Jesus already promised me He would take care of?  How often do I come to God in prayer, seeking a Messiah that died and never rose, rather than a Conquerer, a Lion of Judah, who has overcome the world?

When we pray, are we seeking the One who reveals His character to us in His Word, or are we seeking our own god whose character we’ve personally constructed?

When God is silent, we’re tempted to doubt His goodness; we’re tempted to doubt that His promises are true; we’re tempted to doubt that He’s in control and that’s He’s working entirely for us.  We fail to realize that in all our trials that He allows to enter our lives, He is working behind the scenes.  We look for Him through our narrow, earthly lenses and conclude that He’s left the scene.  

As John Piper reminds, God is often masterminding a thousand details behind the tapestry of our lives, and we only get to see three of them.  Sometimes we see them immediately.  Sometimes we don’t for years.  Sometimes we don’t see them until we’re with Him in eternity. And yet the truth remains: He is still in the business of answering our prayers. 

So instead of viewing your prayers as unanswered, start trusting.  Trust that the God you worship really is weaving together the threads of your life in a way that is greater than you could ever do on your own.

What if the world that you see as falling apart is really falling into place?  What if all the suffering that you’re enduring and all the loneliness you feel is what God knows you need to grow into all the potential He has for you and your life? 

When we keep our eyes focused on the pain around us, it’s natural to question God’s sovereignty and goodness.  But when we keep our eyes focused on His promises, it’s inevitable to feel His love and purpose.

You’re in His hands.  Your prayers are heard.  Your prayers are being answered.

Started seeking the real Him instead of the weak, unfaithful, genie god that you’ve created.

A letter to PNMs and Actives during Recruitment

Dear PNM’s and Actives,

It’s Tuesday; Ice Water Teas and Philanthropy Round are behind us. We sound like we smoke ten packs a day, our ears are ringing, and door songs are playing on loop in our heads. PNM’s have never been more grateful for air conditioning and actives have never been more grateful for naps. Being surrounded by hundreds of girls (and all their hormones) all day, every day has brought out every kind of emotion, and we’ve done everything we can to suppress them so we can present ourselves in the best way possible.  We’re halfway to Bid Day, and though the days are long, we’re beginning to taste a bit of the sweetness of the end of the week.

As I drove to Walmart last night for some isle-wandering therapy after a full day of door song singing, snaking, talking screaming into girls’ ears, and dancing, I found myself asking God for a new perspective on this week. From the outside, and from an initial viewpoint, Rush appears to be anything but godly. A process that seems to be based purely on judgements is hard to view as impactful to His Kingdom.  But as I looked to the Lord, I was reminded of His great power to turn the most worldly process into something powerfully glorifying of His character.  I was reminded of His sovereignty over every life He created, and my tendency to fall into thinking that my decisions will interfere with His plan.

As “Already There”, in perfect timing, began to play on the radio, I was reminded that the Lord has already made it through this week and is just waiting for everything to unfold as He perfectly designed.

To PNMs:

I don’t know exactly how you’re feeling as you’re going through this week, but I can imagine, based on my experience, it’s a wide range of emotions.  I imagine some of you have been dropped from houses that you loved and are replaying the conversations you had during Ice Water Teas trying to figure out what could have possibly gone wrong.  I imagine some of you are feeling judged and self-conscious.  I imagine some of you got invited back to all the houses you wanted to, and are feeling like you own Recruitment 2015.  I imagine some of you are constantly worrying about being released later in the week.  I imagine most of you are tired. I imagine most of you could go for a gallon of ice cream and some Netflix right about now but that would mean sacrificing precious hours of sleep so you’re refraining.

Whether you’re disappointed, fearful, anxious, excited, or overwhelmed, remember that God’s hand is over this week. Remember that God intricately and intentionally designed the story of your life and He knows exactly what you need, and when you need it.  If you look to Him and ask Him for discernment, He will show you that you have been placed exactly where you are at this very moment to glorify His name and be a vessel of His character. You’ve been carefully placed in your Rho Chi group to love your fellow PNMs, and you’ve been invited back to the houses that you have been for a specific purpose.  Seek the Lord and seek that purpose.

He knows what house you’re going to end up in and He knows that you’re going to be put there for a unique purpose. He knows that, even if you’re released from Recruitment altogether, He has a different purpose for your year in store.

“Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) Write these words on your heart as you go through the second half of this crazy week. Delight in His Word, His promises, and His presence, and He will put desires in your heart that point to His will for your life.  He will override your plans with His purpose.

From where You’re standing / Lord, You see a grand design / That You imagined / When You breathed me into life / And all the chaos / Comes together in Your hands / Like a masterpiece / Of Your picture-perfect plan / When I’m lost in the mystery / To You my future is a memory (Already There, Casting Crowns)

Bid Day is a memory to God. Recruitment is a memory.  All of the stress, nerves, disappointments, triumphs, mistakes of this week will contribute to the masterpiece of the Lord’s picture-perfect plan for You. Believe in that and rest in that.

To Actives:

God already has your Bid List.  He knows the girls that are going to be standing on your lawn in four days and nothing you do can change that. Instead of trying to manipulate His plan, seek it. Focus on displaying God’s love to every girl that walks in your house and seeing her as a beautiful creation modeled after the Lord Himself.  It’s easy to turn away from this mindset after a conversation that doesn’t go ideally, but renew your mind and heart with an eternal perspective.  You may be the only glimpse of Jesus that a girl sees this week.  Be filled with His joy and be bold in displaying it.

PNMs and Actives, we’re halfway there. Let’s finish with spirits strongly rooted in the Lord and hearts filled with His peace.

He’s already there.

Love is a Battlefield

In today’s world where, as a young person, I’m constantly being reminded by professors and publishings of the “1 in 2 marriages end in divorce” statistic, I often find myself wondering why. I understand the explanation of why the statistic is misleading, (many people get divorced/remarried numerous times and are counted for more than the couple who stays together forever) but even so, it’s impossible to deny that failure of marriages is rampant.

While I am definitely a hopeless romantic and am so easily absorbed by the beauty of marriage, I am also a realist, so I do understand that not everybody is wired like me. Not everybody is amazed by marriage and not everybody has incredible faith in it. In fact, I’d suppose if I were to conduct an interview of young people in all different walks of life, the majority would say they had a rather small amount of faith in the institution of marriage.  I argue that the reason for this dwindling faith is the culture of marriage that has been created in the last century, by the nature of mankind that has existed since the first man and woman were created. 

*Disclaimer: I’m nineteen years old and, from my estimation, a long way from being married. For this reason, I may seem like the last person that should be writing about marriage and divorce.  However, where I lack first-hand experience, I have the Lord, His Word, and eyes to see the ways of the world and the evidence of Satan’s destruction in failing marriages all around me.

As a wise, prophetic 80’s pop star once said, “love is a battlefield”. I’d argue that marriage is, in fact, the bigger battlefield.  You might think that’s basically saying the same thing, but I make the distinction for a reason.

We’re filled with this ideal that “love is all you need” to make relationships endure all circumstances, and as soon as we start questioning whether that love is present anymore, we flee. This is because of our confusion of “being in love” with true love. We flee because our feelings of “being in love”–being in that initial romantic, glorious state–flee. Our lack of understanding of love as a sacrificial, painful process of growing through all trials and changes in circumstances infects our relationships.

While every situation in this world involves a fight against the Enemy on some level, marriage is the most brutal battlefield against Satan and his schemes. In order to understand why Satan hates marriage so much and seeks to destroy it so badly, we must understand why God loves it so much.

After the creation of Adam, God immediately stated that “it is not good for man to be alone.” In Genesis 2:18-24 God’s love for marriage and creation of it as a divine institution is evident. Marriage is the beautiful representation of Christ’s union with His Church–He as the bridegroom, us as His bride. It is the regarding of man and wife as a single organism–’one flesh’–for life. Marriage is the closest earthly illustration of this heavenly union, so it is Satan’s most direct target for destruction. Causing the betrayal of a marriage oath taken before God and destroying a family from the inside-out gives Satan the ultimate satisfaction.  If this doesn’t spark a desire to fight against the Enemy and his ways, I don’t know what will.

If “being in love” is the driving reason for a man and woman to marry and the fuel behind the continuance of their life together, then there is no need for the contract and divine covenant that is, biblically, a marriage.  As C.S. Lewis said, “If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.”  The promise remains when one ceases to be in love.

Promises are made of actions, not feelings.  One can promise to pay for someones dinner, clean their house, or you know, casually to stand by their side through any circumstance for as long as they both shall live.  One cannot promise to never have a headache, to never experience unexplainable emotions, to never “fall out of love”.  And God, the Creator who knows our inmost thoughts and feelings, the Creator who knows how we react to situations,  still designed the covenant of marriage to last as long as they both shall live.  He knew that the initial feelings that we experience when we first date, fall in love, and get married would not last, but He still designed marriage to be for life.

“But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.  Love in this second sense–love as distinct from ‘being in love’–is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive from God.”         –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

While being in love initially inspires people to enter the divine institution of marriage, it cannot be the sustaining fuel if the marriage is going to last. Nicholas Sparks (and millions of other authors and movie producers–no fresh callouts intended…ily Sparks) has created a facade that when you’ve found “the one,” you’ll never lose the feelings of being in love.  Because of this, as soon as you start falling out of love, you immediately jump to the conclusion that this is not your “one” so you run.

From my detached perspective, it’s honestly humorous, but I know that it’s so, so real in relationships and marriages. I know because I’ve seen it.

I know sometimes it’s crazy to believe, but God–you know, the One who knows you better than you know yourself; the One who knows your spouse better than you know them–really knew what He was doing when He designed how marriage was going to work.  He knew that persisting for the long-run would bring far greater joy than constantly seeking the initial pleasure of “falling in love”.  When we first learn to ride a bike as children, it’s really exciting. We feel like we can conquer the world. But wouldn’t it be foolish to spend our life trying to experience that initial feeling of triumph rather than use our new skill to explore the world on two wheels?

Christ told us that something will not truly live until it has died.  Until the thrill and initial infatuation dies, the raw intimacy and joy that comes through fighting as one flesh cannot be experienced.  Where Satan seeks to destroy, Christ will overcome when two fight in His name.

With all this being said, the one thing that is threaded through all of Christ’s lessons applies: there is hope.

There is hope for a generation that has seen countless marriages, maybe even their own parents’, fall apart before them.  There is hope that we will understand the commitment and fight that marriage is–that true, sacrificial love is.

There is hope for those who are finding themselves progressively surrendering to the fight.  Where there is a desire for the power of Christ’s restoration, there is always hope.

There is even hope for those who have already severed the contract of their marriage. Anything is possible when the One who is love steps in.

Fight for love. Fight for marriage. Do not let the one who comes to seek and destroy win.

And for more musical art that proclaims God’s glory….

You’re Broken

You’re broken.

“No I’m not. I’m pretty happy with life actually,” you say.

But unless you’re reading this and you’re not a human, in which case I would love to meet you, you’re broken.

I’m broken. We’re all broken.

Until we realize and accept our brokenness as our natural state, we’ll never leave that state. 

Before we encounter and surrender to Christ, we’re broken and lost. We’re broken and we don’t know hope. We think we can put all our pieces together–if we just work harder, find someone who makes us feel valued and loved, prove ourselves as meaningful to the world. We strive for a mended self, but the truth is we only break ourselves into increasingly smaller pieces. 

After we encounter Christ, experience His power, surrender to His goodness, we’re broken and found. We’ve found hope and we’ve tasted grace. We’ve tasted Grace Himself. Our brokenness has never been as horrifyingly obvious to us as it is in His presence. We leave all our pieces at the feet of the One who has the power to create the most beautiful piece of art out of the most despicable pile of dust. 

But though He may create of us a beautiful piece of art, we still remain pieces. We remain pieces that must surrender daily to His artistry. His work is not done until He calls us Home, and He will progress in His work on us as long as we choose to surrender our pieces.

When we begin to believe that we are no longer broken, that we have been completely put together, that we have become the finished product that He designed us to be, we become useless to the Kingdom. When we don’t believe that we are still broken pieces that have to be turned over to our Artist every hour of every day, we lose the ability to be grown, used, and refined for the glory of His name. 

Remember to bask in your brokenness, for only then will you be able to truly bask in the grace and mercy of the One who gathers your pieces and spends your lifetime making you whole.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17 ESV

Love Did Win

Yesterday was a day that will most certainly be etched in the history of the United States. In 100 years, students will have “June 26, 2015” written on a flashcard as they stressfully study for their APUSH exam. Gays were officially given the right to be legally married and, expectedly, opinions were being voiced left and right.

While many have cried tears of joy and celebration over the SCOTUS ruling, many have fought with words of fury against it.  Unfortunately, many of the furious have been those who publicly declare themselves Christians.  This saddens me, not out of judgement, but out of protection for the truth and preciousness of the Gospel.

As Christians, we are called to guard the Gospel and to preach it always. We are to “be prepared in season and out of season: correct rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim. 4:2) It’s a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly and can only be done through reliance on the Holy Spirit.  However, it’s obvious, especially today, that many have neglected or ignored that responsibility and are missing one of the greatest opportunities in recent history that we as Christians have to preach the remarkable truth of the Gospel.

As #LoveWon trends on every social media site, it is certainly impossible for me to forget that gay marriage has now been legalized in all 50 states, but more importantly, it is impossible for me to forget that love so beautifully won over 2000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross.

To be upfront and clear, yes, I do believe that homosexuality is a sin.  I do believe that it is a desire of the flesh that is to be turned from, just as I believe pride, dishonesty, lust, and impatience are desires of the flesh that are to be turned from.  I do believe that marriage was, and continues to be, a beautiful gift from God that began when Eve was created from Adam’s rib: a unity of one man and one woman, and I do believe that God intended for this model of marriage to be upheld. I believe that as our Creator, He knew what was best for us and loved us enough to lay it all out for us in His Word.

While the Bible makes it non-negotiably clear that homosexuality is a sin, our call is not to first make known our condemnation for sin, but rather to first make known that the price of all our sin has already been paid out of immense, incomprehensible love. It is true that we are called to lovingly correct fellow believers when they are walking in sin, but if we look to Jesus as a model, we are called to love first and always.

In John 8 when Jesus encounters a group of teachers and Pharisees who are about to stone a woman for the sin of adultery that she has committed, he replies, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone at her.” After all the men have left due the realization of their own sinfulness, Jesus tells the woman, “Then neither do I condemn you,” and commands her to “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

There was no condemnation.  He saved her from being stoned to death, and then commanded her to leave her life of sin.  Love was first, and correction followed out of this love.

As followers of this loving Christ, our focus today should not be on arguing our stance on gay rights and condemning those in support of the ruling, but our focus should be on preaching the gospel.  Our preaching should come from a place of love and never from a place of condemnation.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God, and we are all justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Jesus when He died and rose again–when love truly won. (Romans 3:23-24)

The purpose of the Bible is not to be quoted in Facebook rants.  The purpose of the Bible is not to be cited in political debates and Twitter fights.  The purpose of the Bible is salvation.  God’s first and highest passion is for all of His creation to be home with Him.  Every word in the Bible serves to describe His plan and desire for salvation, and every citation of the Word should be rooted in this same desire.

Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:7) and He is the Son of a Father who is love (1 John 4:8). It should be very simple for us to understand and live by, but the darkness and complexity of the world has blinded us to the simplicity of the truth.  We are called to be instruments in the fulfillment of God’s plan, which is for all to achieve salvation.  The only path to this salvation is through the Son of Love.

I’m only human so my understanding of the Lord of the Universe is feeble and likely flawed in many places, but I stand in firm confidence that endlessly voicing opinions of opposition to homosexuality is not what is going to bring the LGBT community to salvation.  If salvation of everyone is truly our focus, many of us are going about achieving it so wrongly.

“Hate the sin, love the sinner,” the Christians post in order to lightly make their opinions known.  Yes, this call to hate sin and its evil nature but love everyone despite their innate sinful nature is Biblical.  It is undeniably true. But as vessels of the Light of the World Himself, is this the best declaration of the truth of the Gospel we can bring?  While only Jesus can bring a soul to salvation, He lovingly uses us to play a role in that process and we cannot disregard the importance of that role.

Instead of focusing on and condemning the sin that is being celebrated, we should be focusing on spreading the best news in all of history: that everyone–gay, straight, black, white, or purple–can be forgiven of their sins and can forever have the separation they’ve experienced from God removed, through the blood of Christ–the blood of Christ that was shed before love won the victory against death in the grave. (Eph. 2:13)

With this pivotal moment in the nation’s history, God has given us an incredible opportunity to make the greatest gift of His Son known.  “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:3-5)

America, world, the time that Paul spoke of two-thousand years ago has come. We are not to turn away from the truth and condone sin in order to appease itching ears, but we are called to do the work of an evangelist, and preach the Gospel–the Gospel of grace and love.

Instead of fighting with the LGBT community, let’s start fighting for it. Let’s start being vessels of Jesus, who fights for their hearts with the truth of salvation through love.

We are called to preach the Gospel that beautifully sings the song of love winning.

Love created man and Love created woman.  Love allowed His people the freedom to choose sin. Love consistently called His people to turn from sin and towards Himself.  Love sent His only Son to pay the inevitable price of sin–death.  Love turned away as His Son was gruesomely crucified and died on a rugged cross. Love fought the greatest fight in history against Satan and his desire for all to be in bondage to him in the future.  After three days of fighting, Love WON and conquered evil himself.  Love rose His Son from death and had Him command the world to make disciples of Him before bringing Him back home.  Love reigns on His throne waiting for every single one of His creations to join Him.

Love DID win and let us NEVER stop celebrating that and making it known.

What I Learned When I Blinked and Freshman Year Was Over

As I finished packing up my dorm this morning and said goodbye to the place I’ve called home for the past nine months, I experienced all kinds of emotions: sadness from goodbyes, sweet joy from memories, anxiousness for what the summer will hold, anxiety from the number of 40+ humans filling the hallways of my once ~young~&~hip~ building. But dominating all these emotions was disbelief at how quickly these two semesters had gone by.

At nineteen years of age I may not be the most qualified to make this statement, but life sure does go by quickly.  With each milestone I reach, time seems to be accelerating.

As I carried my final boxes to my car and wedged random items in every last crevice, Jesus showed up to teach me a lesson just as He always does at the most random of times.

The reason life seems to go by more quickly with each passing year is because this life we live on earth is a mere blip of our lifetime.  And before you tune this out as another “your life on earth is nothing compared to your life in eternity” spiel (though a very true and beautiful spiel it is, indeed), hear the truth and experience the craziness of it.  My freshman year seemed so short because compared to my ETERNAL (don’t even pretend to actually comprehend that) lifetime, it’s a speck of dust. I came into this world 19 years ago, but in 19 billion years, I will still be alive and better than ever.

We are made for eternity and the most tangible way to understand that is in the “I blinked and it was over” feeling.

In this lesson of understanding why my life seems to be passing by so quickly, I’ve also learned a few other truths.

Your time here is short. Don’t let a day go by that you don’t do something that makes your soul feel alive.  Have a sweet memory to reflect on at the end of every day.

Your time here is short. Spend most of it on building relationships.  You encounter the people that you do for a reason; value them, seek to know them, and seek to serve them.

Your time here is short. Laugh when you’re supposed to be serious, cry when you’re supposed to have it all together, and celebrate with pizza and chocolate even when you fail BECAUSE YOU CAN.

Your time here is short. Don’t let anything hold you back from making the best decision you could possibly make of following Jesus. Your time here may be short, but after this decision, your time absent of any hardships and in the presence of pure joy is NEVER-ENDING. 

(Photo Credit: my precious Brandy. RIP sweet Tut room 806.)

Less Criticism, More Community

Living in a place with a church on practically every corner, there is often a lot of talk about various churches and ministries.  Most often this talk is encouraging, positive, and life-giving.  There is incredible fellowship, servitude, and worship within the ministries and churches, and God is so, so present in the community. However, I’ve come to realize that there is also a great deal of criticism within the churches and ministries, creating ever-so-slight divisions that are toxic to the community of which Jesus desired each of us to be a part.

I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)

We are all worshipping the same God and risen Savior.  All who are born-again have the same Spirit living within, yet we spend so much time criticizing and analyzing differences in “styles” within churches.

One of my favorite criticisms* is the ever-spoken “the worship is just too much of a show.”     *insert heavily sarcastic tone.

Since when is it okay to go crazy in a crop top and flower crown at Coachella, celebrating the performer on stage, but not okay to jump around and raise your hands while worshipping an incredible Savior who DIED. FOR. YOU??? It’s okay to fist pump at concert, but not in the presence of a KING? Last time I checked, Nick Jonas didn’t pay the debt of your sins on a cross. Last time I checked, Lady Gaga didn’t either. So the next time you think about deeming lights, loud speakers, and a room full of raised hands “excessive”, remember why and who you’re celebrating. HE IS WORTHY OF A DANCE PARTY! CAN I GET AN AMEN?

At the other end of the spectrum is the lovely criticism of “boring” and “old-fashioned” worship.

To this I just have to ask, are we glorifying a Holy God or a style of music?  Are we glorifying loud bass and a sick guitar solo or are we glorifying a Savior through the declaration of His praise?  God is just as present in a room void of instruments and lights as He is in a room with an all-out concert setup.  Perhaps it’s the state of our heart that is leading to our boredom, rather than our surroundings.  I can confidently say that when the Spirit stirs in your soul, “boring” is not a word used in your attempt at describing your state.

These criticisms are only a drop in the bucket.  “Too many hipsters,” “too many old people,” “too many young people,” “only socially awkward people,” “only ‘popular’ people.” The list goes on and on.

The church and ministries should be places where we grow in learning about the teachings Jesus presents in the Word, engage in life-giving fellowship, and sacrificially serve our God.  The church is not about what we get out of it, but rather how much we give the Lord as a result of it.

“I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)

When we come together in the complete unity that Christ said He desired for us right before going to the cross to pay the debt of all our sin, I truly believe we will experience a radical difference in the way we love our brothers and sisters of Christ.  It’s not about overlooking differences, but rather seeing beauty and encouragement in the differences. The fact that we can use so many different methods to bring glory–ultimately fulfilling our sole purpose in life–to our Father is so incredibly beautiful.

“I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)

We were all loved infinitely before we were even able to have a first-hand experience of His love.  Believers all have incredibly different earthly stories, yet in the most perfect way, we have the exact same story from a Heavenly perspective.  We all live broken lives in a broken world, yet when we enter the Heavenly gates, our stories all become those of endless worship to our reigning King.  When we are standing (or more likely falling on our faces) before the power and presence of the Lord, I am confident that our choirs, acoustic ensembles, and stage lights will all be wiped from our memories, and we will only be left with an unquenchable desire to praise.  

We need to start coming together as a community and loving as a result of the overwhelming love we have received. Let’s start focusing on what truly matters–spreading the life-saving Truth of the Gospel and glorifying the One who provided it.