Monday, August 29, 2016

Choosing Gratitude & Knowing Who I Am

Psalm 97:10-12
“O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the light of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!”

Hate evil—that seems like such an obvious command. If you asked someone if they loved evil, no one in their right mind would ever say yes. Yet evil is exactly what we are. How much easier it is to do what is wrong, rather than right. It is easier to be fake, and to lie about who we truly are, than to be honest and real. It is easier to make others look bad, in order to make ourselves more appealing. It is easier to just dwell in darkness and not let the light come in, because the light illuminates, the light exposes, the light shows us who we truly are and what we are really made of. As much as I deny it, sin is my very nature, it is what I am made of, but not what I was intended to be. I, Charis Bassi, was made in the image of God, to reflect the glory of His likeness. I was not created to follow my flesh, to walk in my will, and make a name for myself. I was created to follow the spirit of God, to walk in His will (no matter how terrifying it may seem), and to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. And if I would only believe in Him, that evil inside of me will be overcome by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He makes me upright in heart, and gives me a cause for joy amidst a dying world. He holds my life, he establishes my steps, and he delivers me in all of my troubles. So if I truly love the Lord, than I can push past the pain, kill my flesh into submission, and walk as He walked on this earth. How could I not do that for my God. He sent His son—perfect, holy, and blameless—to an earth that blasphemed against Him, and forsook His name. He was the one that everyone was waiting for, but nobody knew Him. I want to know Him. I want his light to eradicate the darkness inside of me, even if that means discovering the deepest, and scariest parts of my soul. Because embracing the light is embracing victory. Embracing the light is a life preserved, a joy illuminated, and a heart revived to recognize the grace of God that surrounds us. I want to recognize the grace of God. I want to see my sin, and remember that my holy God loves me. I want to see Jesus in people’s eyes, in the blooming flowers, the rainy skies, the incredibly beautiful days and the incredibly painful ones, because both are promised. But who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want to see the beautiful, overlooked things of life? Yet, so many don’t, and so often I don’t. I think the key is to know the darkness. You can’t recognize and appreciate light, until you are stuck in the dark. You can’t be helped until you recognize the need within you. You can’t see good, until yo go through the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can’t know the joy of victory, until you experience a few defeats. It’s honesty. It’s being honest with ourselves and with God, and realizing that our Amazing God, rich in love and abounding in mercy, wants a people who are so quick to turn away from Him. He loves us, and hates our evil. I love Him, and hate my evil, and He promises to deliver me, and bring me into the light. That is beautiful, and that is just another thing I have to be grateful for.

Application: I have a list of one thousand things that I am grateful for, and I want to get that list to two thousand things, by the time reentry ends at the end of October. Seeing God’s grace, means seeing me for who I am not, and that is something I so desperately need to be reminded of every day!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Drawing Near

Hebrews 4:16
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I have access to all hope, yet I feel hopeless. I have access to all power and strength, yet I feel weak. I have access to grace, mercy, and forgiveness, yet I choose to wallow in self pity. I have the God of all comfort, yet I walk through life feeling utterly alone. It really doesn’t make sense. If Jesus were to ask me who I say that He is, I would tell Him that He is the Son of God, my Savior, my friend, the one who can do all things. And as much as my mouth would speak it, I am not so sure that my heart always believes it. I have a Father, a Savior, a Mighty God, a friend, and a High Priest who is not unable. I have access to a God who is able to do all things, who is not bound by the limits of human weakness, but I often am the one who sticks Him in a box and tells Him what He can or cannot do. Why? Why don’t I believe that God is who He says He is? That if I would only draw near to Him, than He would do the same to me. I guess I have a fear of coming to His throne of grace (as ridiculous as that sounds!). For as long as I can remember, I have been independent. I don’t like to be helped, and I really don’t like to tell people my problems. I want to do things on my own, but I am learning that I can’t. I can’t bear the weight of my sin, and I can’t hold onto everything I think or feel, all by myself. God did not create me, or any of us, to live this way. He created communion with Himself and each other. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Cast your cares on me, for I care for you” (1 Peter 5:7). And He also says, “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). It is only in this coming step, that I begin to discover who I am not, and who God is. It is only in drawing near to Him, that His character is more deeply and intimately revealed to me. He might have to tear me open a little bit. He might have to break me apart. He even might have to take things from my grasp that I have been holding onto for so long. But the pain of pruning means healing and new life in the end. It’s grace that draws us near, it’s grace that breaks our hearts, it’s grace that healing comes. Father, break me to heal me. Help my flesh to die, so that your spirit might live in and through me. May I not forget who you are—holy, able, loving, gracious, and mine. You are mine, and I am yours. Draw me in, Lord, and let me not be afraid. 

Application: I have spent a lot of time with Jesus this week, writing down all the things that are in my head, but I am not really good at telling people my struggles. When something pops up, I will tell Autumn what is on my mind, this week. 

Jars of Clay

2 Corinthians 4:7
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 

Jars of clay are fragile, they aren’t very beautiful, they crack and break easily, and that is exactly what I am. I am an earthen vessel. I crack easily, I fall apart, I am fragile, and truly I do not have this beautiful, valuable heart. But what gives me worth, what gives me value, and makes me beautiful, is the treasure that is living inside of me. God chose earthen vessels to hold the most beautiful prize of all—Jesus Christ. Some people may think God did this to make fun of our weaknesses, or maybe to ‘show off’ how perfect He is, and how vile we are. But that is not why He chose us. God has chosen me to possess the greatest gift in the world, to reveal His surpassing power and my utterly desperate need for Him. People see me serving the Lord here in Kenya, and many praise me as if I am the one doing anything. The reality is that it is not me, it is Him. It is my Jesus living inside of me, He is doing the work. It is His love, His strength, His grace, His words, His hands and His feet. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of me, and apart from Him I really can’t do anything to further the gospel or build His kingdom on Earth. I remember before coming to Ignite, struggling with the idea of giving up dance, school, and work for an entire year. One day, He gave me this picture of a tree that had been stripped down to nothing—no leaves left, just limb and branches. That is exactly how I felt. I felt like God was stripping me down to nothing, taking everything that I thought I was, all the things that I had become so wrapped up in, away from my grasp. But I am learning now that all of those things, as much as I love them and still have a passion for them, do not compare to the treasure that lives inside of me, and the gift it is to share Jesus with the world. Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” My life is to be hidden with Christ in God. I am to live a life completely wrapped up in Jesus, that when people get to know me, they get to know Jesus, and when I speak, they hear words that are inspired by the Lord. That in all things, Christ is proclaimed in and through me. I am weak and feeble apart from the Lord. I am nothing more than a pile of dirt and dust in the wind; but with my God and in my God, I have purpose, worth, and beauty. I am not just a pile of clay, but a vessel being worked by the hands of the Master Potter, and being filled up day by day with Him, as I choose to pursue Him. Father, make my life to proclaim the power of Jesus Christ—not me, but always you. 

Application: I love to write, but I don’t really love to speak. But, I have been given an opportunity to speak at a girl’s study this week, and I will share this message with them. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Be Poor

2 Corinthians 6:4, 8-10
“but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities…through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” 

God, you have been overwhelming me with the fact that your plans are so beyond my reach, so far above the imagination of my mind. January 2015, when I was sick with a 103 degree fever and missed all of my finals, I began to really wrestle with what to do with my life, and where to go. I remember sitting in bed crying, and calling out to you. Then you gave me this vision: working with special needs kids all around the world. I thought it would be a cool thing to do one day, but never really believed it would come true. I didn’t know that my youth group’s missions trip to Antigua, Guatemala, just six months later, would entail going to a disabled community hospital, and getting to play with and pray over those kids. I didn’t know that you were going to call me back for Ignite Class 10 in January 2016, instead of attending Biola like I had planned. Then I was able to go to that very same hospital, almost every week, for three months. I didn’t know that you would send me to Kenya for six months, where I get to go to special unit every Wednesday. None of this was of my will. If I had it my way, you know that I would have gone to Biola. Certainly that would have been the easier, more comfortable choice, but this was your wild adventure, your journey to bring me upon. I am not the one who is writing my story. It’s not my responsibility, is it? No, it’s yours. I did not carve out this journey for my life, you did. Oswald Chambers says, “We are not here to do work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has laid hold of us.” “Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). It was you, God, who laid hold of me and drew me to yourself. I didn’t lead my feet to stand in Kenya, you did. You laid hold of me. You gripped my heart and said the word, “go.” And what a gift it is to know that I don’t have to figure my life out, because you have already done it. And I know that a life shaped by your hands, is a life filled to the brim with hope and peace, but, that doesn’t mean things will be easy. Without fail, someone gets sick nearly every week, and it’s discouraging. Every day, I am met with new spiritual battles—Satan telling me I am not good enough, or whatever lie he chooses to tell me for that day—but expected to pour myself out for the kids, and at the same time, watch them walk through things I have never experienced before. It’s hard. Sometimes, no, a lot of times, I want to give up. But you say that the time for salvation is NOW. NOW is the time to endure. NOW is the time to hold fast. NOW is the time to love. NOW is the time to give grace. NOW is the time to take heart. NOW is the time to rejoice. And NOW is the time to pour out until I have nothing left. Again, Oswald Chambers says, “The primary word of the spiritual vocabulary is now. Let circumstances take you where they will, but keep drawing on the grace of God in whatever condition you may find yourself…Never hold anything in reserve. Pour yourself out, giving the best that you have, and always be poor.” So yes, there is a constant struggle, but I am certainly not at it alone. God, you do not tell me to serve on my own. You don’t ask me to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. What you do ask me is to be faithful now, and to reach the end of myself. To reach the limits of what is humanely possible, allowing you to do the impossible. Jesus, may I leave this place completely empty. I have nothing to offer, but you, and you are everything. I have nothing, and yet I possess everything in you. NOW is the time to let you be God, and do the unexpected, unimaginable, things that only you can do. There are two months left. Jesus, let these grains of sand count. 

Application: I will write out the word now, and tape it to my wall, so that every day I am reminded that the time to live, endure, and love, is now. 

My Stream in the Desert

Acts 7:9-10
“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt, but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.”

I ran on rooftops, but God. I kicked and screamed, but God. I failed, fail, and will fail, but God. I hated myself, but God. I wasn’t enough, but God. I was weak, but God. I fell down, but God. I wanted to die, but God. I doubted, but God. The mantra of my life has always been, and forever will be, but God. Much of my life I have hated this. I wanted to save myself, fix myself, do good on my own, be strong enough, good enough, just enough, period. But the truth is, I am not. I don’t have the strength to face each day. I don’t have the ability to heal the holes in my heart. Broken things can’t fix broken things—it does more damage than good. Yet most of my life, I have walked around with this mask, this facade that says I have it all together; I can do it; I am not a broken vessel. Why did I do this? Why do I still do this? Why do we all hide our real selves from each other, and even worse, try to hide our real selves from God—the one who created us. We are not okay. I am not okay. I am such a failure, but God! Can’t I see that it is not about me? It never was about me, and it never will be, because it is truly all about someone who is so much bigger than ourselves. The truth is, you can’t depend on anyone in this life. Not your parents, not your siblings, not your friends, not your spouse, and certainly not yourself. No one can fix you, heal you, or pour out enough love to satisfy the depths of your soul. But there is one. There is one who is far above it all. He hasn’t failed me and He never will. He sees my shortcomings, and even still, He wants me. Jesus, my Savior, the one who descended from His throne above to piece me back together, and take the death that should have been mine. He knows the real me, and He pursues me moment by moment. He gets it. He gets my brokenness, and He doesn’t leave me hanging. He saw Joseph sold into slavery, mistreated and abused, and He rescued Him and led Him into a land of abundance because of His faithfulness to the Lord. He rescued and revived, restored and renewed—and He has been doing this same thing for me, time and time again. And He doesn’t just pick me up, set me down, and move onto the next basket case. He walks with me—before and beside—and leads me to lands that are flowing with milk and honey, if I walk obediently and in step with Him. He is my stream in the desert, my reason to sing, my sunshine and joy. He is my hope—the one who takes my brokenness aside and makes me beautiful. May ‘but God’ continue to be the anthem of my life, because I cannot handle this life on my own. I need you Jesus, desperately, and you want me deeply. And who gets the better deal from this relationship? Surely it is me. I gain in abundance. I gain everything in you. “There’s nothing that I have need of, because there’s nothing you haven’t done. You make my soul alive, you put your love inside” (Never Going Back—United Pursuit).
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” -Isaiah 35:3-6

Application: When I catch myself thinking of my present trials and sufferings, I will be intentional with prayer, and remind myself who my God is.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

1 Samuel 12:24
“Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully, for consider what great things he has done for you.”

Zechariah 4:6
“Not by might, nor by my power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.”

It’s one of those days, God. Actually, it has been one of those weeks. One of those weeks where I wonder and allow my thoughts to wander far away from Kenya. I wonder about anything and everything, except my present ministry. I wonder why You brought me here. I wonder what my life would have looked like if I had just remained comfortable and gone to college. And when I think of these questions, the what could have beens, I become so discontent that I just want to give up. I know how awful this sounds, Lord, but it’s real. All that I can see, is all that I am not, and again I have found myself searching for something more apart from you. It’s an endless, vicious cycle, and I hate it. I hate that I allow myself to become discontent and ungrateful, unfulfilled and wanting more. I don’t want to live in emptiness, shallowness, and loneliness. I want to be free. I want to be faithful. I want to be rich in love and a giver of grace. I want to want you more than anything in the world. I love my team, I love these children, I love teaching Math and Bible, I love going to the children’s home and to special unit, and I love this country and all of it’s beautiful people, but God, I am not good enough to be here. I have nothing to offer these kids, and I have nothing to offer my teammates. I don’t know how to love. I don’t know how to serve. I don’t know how to teach. I don’t know how to be effective. But that’s just it—I can’t; You can. I am not strong enough, but you are. You are stronger than any force in this world, and in my weakness your strength is made perfect, and you shine. You don’t ask me to be enough, or to carry the weight of the world, you just ask me to come to you and drink deep of the rivers of living water. You ask me to come to you, willing to be broken apart, and then made whole in your hands. You ask me to come to you and surrender, to give it all away to the molding of your hands. You’re not asking for me to do anything more than be present in your presence. Jesus, help me to get out of the way so that you can shine through me. Help me to tear down any expectations I may have, and be here faithfully. I don’t have the words, the actions, or the love in my heart, but you do. God, you have it all, and all I need to do is ask. I may have nothing to offer in it of myself, but I have you, and Jesus you are everything. You are all these people need; you are all that I need, nothing more and nothing less. In times of discouragement, in times of not okayness, in seasons of fear and doubt, I must remember to remember. I must consider all that you have done for me. Father, you have been so gracious, and so good. I am on an adventure I never intended on going on, I am in a country I never thought I would live in, I am teaching things that I am not qualified to teach, and I am getting to work with special needs kids, once a week—the very thing I would have pursued in college, I am getting to do. There is no better place for me to be than right here in the center of your will. Thank you God, for sending me to Kenya, thank you for re-directing my life and holding my hand every step of the way. I am blessed, truly blessed to be here. Though I am not enough, you are enough. You are everything. Ignite awe and wonder within my heart, and teach me to be faithful as you have been so faithful to me. But may I not forget that it is okay to not be okay. You don’t ask me to have it all together, you just ask me to come to you, and pour out my heart before you (Ps. 62:8). And how beautiful it is, that in this not okayness, I have discovered my desperate need for you. I need you deeply and undeniably, because I truly can’t do this apart from you.

“The Holy Spirit is determined that we will have the realization of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives, and he will bring us back to the same point over and over again, until we do.” -Oswald Chambers// I read this just after writing these words. God is so good! 

Forgetting to Forgive

Titus 3:1-3
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

Ouch. I look at these verses and I see so many areas that I fall short in. Submit to authority, but what if I am right and they are wrong? What if I don’t trust them? Speak evil of no one, but what if I need to get some things off of my chest? What if they wronged me? Be gentle—well that has always been a hard one for me. I grew up with two older brothers, gentleness is really not my natural tendency, but are any of these? No. No, not at all. I don’t like to submit, I am not quick to obedience, I speak evil of people, I fight back, I am not gentle, and I don’t show perfect courtesy to people. I fall short in every single area, and as much as I love to make excuses, I can’t. The Bible doesn’t leave room for excuses, and God certainly won’t make exceptions when He judges me. But thank God for grace. Thank God that he takes my shortcomings, and teaches me to yield to Him. Thank God that He heals broken bones, and binds up our wounds. Thank God that He trades beauty for ashes. John 8:36 says, “So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” This does not mean that I am perfect, that I won’t slip up, or even that I won’t place myself back under the bondage of sin, it simply means that I am forgiven. God gave me the perfect pardon through the death of His son, and Titus 2:14 explains, “[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” He died so that I might live. He died so that I might have second, third, twentieth, hundredth chances. He died to make me whole and restored, renewed and redeemed. He died to give my life a new purpose—a purpose that will build up His kingdom and bring to light the truth of His word. He gave me grace, grace upon grace upon grace, that I might give that same grace to others. No one likes to be kicked when they are already down and out, and to think that God could have done that to me—no, he should have done that to me, but He knew that what I really needed was love, discipline, and gentle guidance. So if God has imparted that same forgiveness and grace to me, what is stopping me from doing the same to others? 

Application: There is one person in my life right now that I am having a really hard time forgiving. I don’t want to be bitter anymore, I want to give grace. This week I will spend every day praying for that person, and praying for God to change my heart. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Precious Promises

Psalm 119:50
“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”
2 Peter 1:3-4
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us His precious and very great promises so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

Precious promises. Precious promises that give me life, joy, peace, and hope. All of the comforts that this world can never offer me, are found in the arms of my Jesus. They aren’t hidden from my sight, no. They are right in my view, right in my grasp. So why do I go looking for anything but Him? Why do I search, and search, and search, hoping to find fulfillment and hope someplace else? Why can’t He just be enough for me? I don’t know. I don’t know, and I don’t really have an answer. Instead of claiming these precious promises, I hold fast to the lies of the enemy, which as of late have been endless. He tells me that I am ugly, fat, not good enough for anyone to love, that I am too far gone, that I am running in vain, that my future is hopeless, and I am not called by God, that God doesn’t care about my cries, and that I am just one, big failure. These are just a few of the things Satan whispers in my ear, and for whatever reason, I give him the time of day and entertain every single lie. Lies that offer me no hope, love, joy, peace—no life, only death. But His promises, they give me life, and life more abundantly. Abba, you bore me in your thoughts, and breathed life into the dust to create me. You say that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; that I am your workmanship, created to do good works which you have prepared beforehand. You say that all have fallen short of your glory, but that your love covers over a multitude of sins. Jesus, you have good, good plans for me, and if I am willing and obedient, you will lead my feet to a land of abundance, the land of the living. Jesus, bring these words to my memory when I am feeling so low. Let me not forget that your ways and thoughts are higher than my own. I have access to infinite and divine promises of hope. In my affliction, in the valley, on the mountaintop, and in the field of flowers, your promises, the love of your heart, is the only thing that keeps me alive. Only you, Abba. Only you give me life, and purpose. May I stop giving the enemy the time of day, and instead reflect on that which is lovely, and true, and honorable, and pure. Thank you for granting unto me, all things that pertain to life and godliness. I love you, Jesus. 

Application: These next three months I have in Kenya, I will write down all of the promises that God grants unto me, while I am doing my morning devotions. Now I will have something tangible to look at, when the lies seem overwhelming. 

Jesus Knows

Psalm 34:17-18
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

It has always been my life goal to not end up brokenhearted, whether that be by a guy, friend, family member, pastor, or any person really. It’s a pretty reasonable goal to have—I don’t want to be hurt, and no one with a soul wants to be hurt. It is the reason why we put up walls, lie about how we are truly feeling, and have such a hard time trusting one another. We as humans know what we are capable of. We know the damage that we can inflict upon one another, and it scares us. Unfortunately, this ‘barely alive’ feeling that David is talking about, is inevitable. I am truly blessed to say that I haven’t felt this way many times in my life. I have faced hardships for sure, but I think my life has been filled with greater joys, rather than pain. However, I do know this crushed feeling. I remember when my dad lost his job. A lot of people knew about it, my friends definitely knew about it, but no one really knew all that was going on in my heart. It didn’t matter how many people surrounded me, I always felt alone. By God’s provision, I was able to continue dancing as many days a week that I wanted to. It was in those moments, when my dance teacher would turn off all of the lights and just let us dance, that I stopped wrestling and started to let the Lord hold me. By the end of the night, I would usually end up in a ball of tears, but I felt held, I felt heard, and I felt loved. As inevitable as these heart breaking moments are, they are not a cause for lost hope. No, there is always hope, and my hope just so happened to come in the form of a baby, born in an evil, soul piercing world that He did not deserve to live in. Jesus, God in the flesh, came into this world because He wanted to save me, and not just save me, but know me—my pains, my joys, my bone crushing moments. But His bones were actually crushed, and His heart actually broke, because we all betrayed Him, forsake Him, and crucified Him. You see, we tend to feel alone on a daily basis, but we will never know true loneliness like Jesus did. God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that is a promise I claim with an iron fist, but Jesus didn’t have that promise, He was forsaken by His own Father, if for but a moment. I will never know that kind of pain and separation, but I know that He will always know and feel the same hurt I experience every single day. My brother, Jonah, reminded me of this in a letter He wrote to me about a month into Kenya. This is what he told me: “Psalm 34:17-18 talks about how the Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed. David uses the word ‘contrite’ here, which speaks about being pulverized and ground into dust—it is an adjective describing complete destruction—and it is a feeling that all of us have suffered within one way or another. But what’s rad about this verse, is that there is another place in the old testament that uses this word for crushed—and it’s found in Isaiah. Isaiah writes about one who was “bruised for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities…” This is the same crushed used in Psalm 34. Jesus knows your pain, and he understands the trials you are going through; so know this, when everything has gone awry, and you’re laying face first in the mud, don’t be afraid. He, Jesus, the Lord, your comforter, understands what you’re going though, and He is right there beside you. So don't give up sister, hope in Him.” My cry reaches beyond the temple, even into His ears (Psalm 18:8), and “He will surely be gracious to me at the sound of my cry. As soon as He hears it, He answers me” (Isaiah 30:19). My God is not far off; He will never abandon me to the dust. His ears are attentive to my voice, and He desires to be near to me, carrying these dry bones if need be. He will never stop saving me. I am not alone. 

Application: I will text my brother, and thank him for the letter he sent me, and for encouraging me to hope in God.

The Coming Step

Isaiah 26:3-4
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” 

Perfect peace. Wow. Perfect peace sounds like a dream, some type of fiction that I can never make come true. It’s true, honestly, I can not make perfect peace come true in my life. As a child, I raged and peace was far from my grasp. I wanted to kill myself, I wanted to die, and my thoughts were endless. Most of my life, I have battled some form of insomnia. I would sit in bed from 9 o’clock at night until 3 o’clock in the morning; my mind would not stop running. Though I am not filled with anger anymore, nor do I battle restless nights consistently, my thoughts still plague me constantly. There are days that my brain won’t shut down, and I feel helpless to the attacks of the enemy. I had a week like this a couple of weeks ago. Two of my close friends graduated, my brother is graduating college today, and my mentor got married. I couldn’t stop thinking about all that I was missing out on back home. Then of course I started thinking about my future, and the pending question of, “what in the world am I going to do when I go back to California?” People say that the future is bright, but mine is looking pretty bleak. So what do I do? How do I find peace in a world that is full of such chaos and mess? How do I find joy in a world that is full of so much pain and depression? I go. I go to the arms of my father.
The one word that God gave me for the year is come. I must come to the Lord, because God knows I can’t handle this life on my own. I was reading about the woman at the well in John 4 a few weeks ago, and I noticed something that this woman did that I am so lacking. She came to Jesus, sat and listened, and then her eyes were opened, and her soul was fulfilled. I have the answer to perfect peace, and yet it is that coming step that is just so hard. Why? Because I have blinded myself. I have become so self absorbed and consumed with my own problems, fears, insecurities, and doubts, that all I can see is me. It’s as if I am walking down a path with both of my hands covering my eyes, and Jesus is standing there with His arms stretched towards me, just waiting for me to put my hands down and find him staring right into my eyes. I have to look to Jesus, there is nothing that he has not done for me. I can’t play the ‘what if’ game in my head, and trying to figure out the plans God has for me in the future, makes me inefficient for the ministry He has for me today. So this perfect peace that seems so out of reach, is really right in my grasp, if only I would just open up my eyes. Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” God, you are a refuge for me. All you want me to do is come and sit with you, and listen to the promises you have for me. Father, help me to take that coming step, and drink deep from the fountain of living water—your words, which are life to my soul. “I can run straight into your arms, unafraid, because every time I need you, I’m met by love.” (Met by Love-United Pursuit) 

Application: I am going to write out this verse and hang it up in my closet, so that every morning when I wake up, and every night before I go to bed, I am reminded that peace truly is not far off. Though I may never have consistent peace, I have a faithful God, and if I remind myself of who He is, and what He has offered unto me, how can I not find relief in Him. 

Monday, June 6, 2016


Psalm 51:8
“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.”

A year ago, this verse probably wouldn’t have meant anything to me. It would have been just another pretty sounding verse, but I wouldn’t have understood the meaning of it like I do now. Why? Because brokenness really wasn’t a part of my vocabulary. I was the girl who had to be strong. I didn’t have time to be broken and vulnerable before the Lord. I had to look after my brothers, and my friends, the kids at my school, my dance team, and the youth group kids. I had to be strong, always. It’s not like anyone really put this pressure on me, but over time, I think I put the pressure on myself. I wanted to feel like I could protect, care, help, even ‘fix’ somebody. I wanted to feel strong and important. The truth is, I was not strong, I was weak. I did not have it all together like I tried so hard to make it seem. I was broken and hurting, but I suppressed those feelings so I could take care of someone else. My problems, my fears and insecurities, didn’t matter, and I really didn’t feel like I was worth anyone’s time. I became so caught up bearing the weight of everyone else’s burdens, that I neglected my own pain, and I didn’t bother coming to the Lord. It was just me against the world. Looking back at who I was a year ago, even six months ago, makes me laugh. I really thought I could make it through this year unbroken, doing everything on my own. I genuinely believed I was strong enough to walk through this life, but God knew I wasn’t, and if I have found anything in Ignite it’s this: brokenness. 
My friend gave me this verse a few weeks before I left for Ignite. Hosea 6:1-3. “Come, let us return to the Lord. For he has torn us that he might heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up that we might live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Slowly but surely, God used the power of this verse, to show me what a wretched sinner I am. The mask began to fall off, and I saw myself for everything that I was not, and in return, I saw God for everything that he was, is, and forever will be. He broke me in the most beautiful of ways. He revealed to me my never-ending cycle of self-sufficiency and the independence I so desperately try to have apart from the Lord. It’s pride that told me I was strong enough, good enough, even that I wasn’t important enough to come to the Lord in honesty and openness. And for the first time in my life, I longed to be broken by the Lord. I longed for him to carve away pieces of me, and fill me with the fulness of him. I longed for Jesus to tear me apart, rip my heart open, and shine his light in my dark, messed up heart. I needed my eyes to be opened to who I really was—broken, prideful, self absorbed, and battered by the world. But now, my broken bones rejoice. They rejoice because the Creator of the Universe, the Maker of my inmost being, my Friend, my Father, my Redeemer, is mending me back together. He is trading my sorrow for joy, my ashes for beauty, and breaking me apart to build me up to be the woman he designed me to be. Now, being broken isn’t about being weak, it’s about being willing. Being willing to be exposed; being willing to listen to God’s voice; being willing to come to Him; being willing to change and be renewed day by day. A.W. Tozer says this, “It is doubtful that God can use a man greatly, until he hurts him deeply.” We have to know who we are not, so that we can remember who God is—faithful, loving, gentle, holy. He died for me, and I think it’s time that I let pieces of myself die for Him too. 

Application: There were a few people in my life who saw right through me, and poured out their hearts, and so much of their time, mentoring me and loving on me. I want to write to each of those people and thank them for how they have pointed me to Jesus, and helped to heal parts of my heart. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Grace Upon Grace

John 1:11-13; 16-17
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood more of the will of man, but of God…For from his fulness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

So you chose me, Abba. You actually want me. Me! All you want, is all of me—a sinner, a rebel, a slave to my flesh—but never has that ever changed the way you look upon me. My brain will never be able to understand that. Why do you want me? Don’t you see my flaws? Don’t you see my weaknesses? Don’t you see all of the times I have turned my back against you? Don’t you remember being beaten, mocked, spat on, and then murdered, by people who have the exact same heart as me? Certainly I was not in the crowd, but I might as well have been. Yet, none of this matters to you. You have chosen to forget, chosen to cleanse and erase all of my shortcomings, and all of my many mistakes. It’s not that I am perfect now. It’s not anything I have done, really. It’s you. It’s love. It’s the power of forgiveness that looks upon a wretched creature like me, and sees all that I could be. You know my fears, insecurities, doubts, and all of my brokenness, but you choose to look deeper. The deeper you go, the more darkness you will find. Yet, it seems that the more you invade my heart, the more grace is given, the more joy is released, and the more hope I can see. Am I broken? Yes. Beyond repair? No. No, I am not too damaged, or too far gone, never for you. Now I am being broken and undone in a way that I have not felt in such a long time. Freedom. The brokenness your light is creating as it pierces the darkness, is setting me free. The chains are falling off. I am still a slave, but a slave unto a new master. My flesh is still my default. It wants to curse, instead of bless you. It wants to rebuke you and run away, but my spirit cannot seem to get over the fact that you chose me, and for that I will crucify my nature, daily. If anyone would want me, if anyone would want to dine with me forever, if anyone would want to walk hand in hand with me, if anyone would want me to be their beloved child, their precious daughter, than they deserve all of my devotion and love. You don’t deserve someone like me, and I don’t deserve a Father like you, but I guess that is why this relationship works. You don’t see the dirt in me. You know that I am but dust, a jar of imperfect, incapable clay, but you call me your own. You take these ashes and transform them into something beautiful. No matter how many times I run, and no matter how many times I fall, your love never ceases to chasten me; you never stop saving me. My soul will sing of who you are, Jesus. You are my Abba, my Father, my Beloved. I don’t deserve such a Savior. I cannot promise not to fail, slip up, and fall. All I can promise you is that there will forever be more brokenness to fix, but that is okay. That is perfect, actually, because it just proves how I need you. Oh, how desperately I need you inside of my heart, doing what only you can do. 
So grace upon grace? Yes, truly all is grace. All is light. All I see is you. 

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of, for to have been thought about, born in God’s thoughts, and then made by God, is the dearest, most precious, and grandest thing in all thinking.” -George MacDonald

Application: My application is to post this IBS. Not just on my blog, but on my Facebook too. I was encouraged recently to be bold with the ministry God has entrusted me with, and I know that this is what God is asking me to do right now. So I will embrace vulnerability, and be brave, even in the simplest of ways. 

Pursuing His Presence

Psalm 105:3-5
“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgements that he uttered.”

I am currently sitting on the couch at our home in Kenya, all alone, fighting off a fever. If I am being totally honest, Kenya is not where I want to be right now. My heart longs to be wrapped up in the arms of my family and friends once again. I want to dance again, every single day. I want to attempt to bend candy canes at the candy store. I want to belt out songs in the car with my closest friends. I want to walk along the ocean shore, and see the mountains every morning that I wake up. I want to feel my fluffy little puppy licking my hand in the morning, and I even want to see my twenty one year old, evil cat. I want so much, but do I want what the Lord has for me? He has done some pretty incredible things the past year, and even more amazing things the past five months I have been on this adventure. A year ago, I was preparing to graduate high school, dance in my last recital, and move on to the bigger and better things awaiting me at college. I did not know that one missions trip to Antigua, Guatemala would change the course of my life forever. I did not expect to move to Guatemala, and then half-way around the world to Ongata Rongai, Kenya, teaching fifteen classes every week to some of the most precious children I have ever met. I was supposed to pursue a career in occupational therapy, and help people with disabilities. Instead, God brought me here, where I am able to hang out with people with disabilities every single Wednesday afternoon. The faithfulness of God. Have I already forgotten the incredible work He has done in my life? That He would even think of choosing me and using me is far beyond my comprehension. I am unworthy to live such a life. I am unworthy to teach kids about Jesus, and I am unworthy to be in Kenya, Africa. What have I done to deserve such favor from God? And yet, here I am, wallowing in self-pity, wishing I was back at home living my comfortable life, completely forgetting the wondrous works the Lord has done. I am but dust, a mere pile of useless ashes, but in the hands of God, my life is transformed into something beautiful. I find purpose, joy, peace, and hope, oh what hope I have found in a life surrendered to the Father’s will. Unfortunately, none of this has been easy for me. I want to be in control of my own life. My heart wants to seek the Lord, but my flesh wants to seek myself. There are times that I wonder what would have happened if I had rejected the call of the Lord on my life. I wonder why God took me away from home, my family, friends, dance, my career. I wonder if my life would be better doing what I originally wanted to do. I wonder why God had to strip me away from all that I have ever known, to teach me more about Him. Maybe I am the only one who thinks this way, but I am confident that all twenty one of my teammates feel this same way sometimes. It is our very nature to question the work of the Lord. It is our very nature to doubt His hand, when nothing He is doing makes sense. I want so badly to be okay with not knowing. I see the Lord bringing pieces together, but the jigsaw puzzle still remains unsolved. I don’t know why God brought me here, and my heart longs to see this puzzle complete. I want to know why me, but in this time of my life, God has not given me many answers. 
The why, however, is not the question that matters. The question that I must face every day is, can I be okay with not understanding the ways of my Father? Do I trust Him, and is He enough for me? I long to answer yes, but no, not on my own, not a chance. I can’t finish the next six months without Him. It has to be me leaning on Jesus, resting in His grace, and reaching for Him. My heart has to seek the Lord, because He quite literally, is the only thing that I have. My heart need not despair and be overwhelmed with anxieties, why’s, and what if’s. “I would have lost heart had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage” (Psalm 27:13-14). It is all a matter of who I am following. If I follow my heart, and seek my ways, then I will likely drown in pity and sorrow. If I follow God, however, I find a cause for joy, a reason to hope, and a purpose that is far beyond myself. His presence is enough, and daily he draws me into the Holy of Holies, just to talk to me, and hold me. I cannot conceive all that His mighty hand does, and I if I were able to understand, He would not be God, but a manmade idol, trapped in a box. What is truly wonderful, is that He doesn’t ask me to understand, all God asks of me, is to be present in His presence, be still and know that He is God, He is in control, and He will never fail or forsake me. On a day of great discouragement and despair, I have found the greatest encouragement and strength. Great are you Lord! My heart will seek you and rejoice. In the chaos, in the mess, in the uncertainty, one thing remains: Jesus. He is all that I need.

Application: Today, I will be present in His presence, continually coming to sit at His feet. I will spend this day to read, pray, listen, and meditate on the faithfulness of my Father, instead of seeking the will of my flesh. 

Letting God be God

Ecclesiastes 11:5
“As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”

God sure does have a funny way of speaking to us the very words we need to hear.  A year ago, I was given the opportunity to speak at my High School graduation. I only had a few weeks to prepare, and I had no idea what to talk about. I knew that my purpose was not to go onstage and make a fool of myself. I didn’t want to go up and brag about my ‘accomplishments,’ my class, my teachers, or even thank my family and friends. It was all too overdone, too cliche. All I did know was that God had given me one last opportunity to speak, not only to my classmates, but to their families and friends sitting in the crowd. It was a moment that I did not take for granted, and an opportunity that I was not going to waste, or abuse. One day, the words began pouring out of me, and I grabbed my notebook and pen, scribbling down everything that was popping into my mind. It seemed like the speech came out of nowhere, but truly, it came straight out of the heart of God. Certainly they were not my words, or thoughts, but His. 
The message He gave me was based around a song entitled, ‘Emphasis.’ The chorus cuts right to my heart every time I hear it. It says: “Was it all just a grain of sand in an hourglass? The smartest thing I’ve ever learned is that I don’t have all the answers, just a little light to call my own. Though it pales in comparison to the overarching shadows, a speck of light can reignite the sun, and swallow darkness whole.” Light. Light illuminates, radiates, reflects, casts shadow, awakens, and eradicates darkness. To us, it is nothing more than a flip of a switch, just another thing in our control. We choose to sit in darkness, or stand in light. We choose to flip the switch on, or off, and we don’t think twice about our decision. But how often, oh how often, we do this to the Lord. His light never ceases to shine, and with His spirit living inside of us, we have access to that everlasting, ever radiant, ever bright light. So why do I place a shade over it constantly? Why do I turn off the switch and not think twice about it? Solomon knows the answer. It is not unintentional or accidental, it is purposeful, though I believe many Christians have grown oblivious to it. We cover up the light within us, because we don’t understand what God is doing. “…you do not know the work of God who made everything.” We don’t know what God is going to do with the light inside of us, and it scares us half to death. We ask God to take us deeper and lower, and to make us bold and bright, but we doubt that He even knows how to take us there, and that He will give us everything we need to accomplish His will. Yes, we finite human beings doubt the infinite, Creator God. We fear and hide. Remember Jonah? Jonah was so afraid of the calling God had placed on His life, that he tried to run away from God. He did everything he possibly could to escape God’s plans, all because He didn’t understand. We poke fun at Jonah all of the time, failing to realize that we are Jonah, every second of the day. We are always running away from the call, not towards it. I tried to run too, but God gave me a word a few months earlier, that kept me walking in his steps. God told me to be okay with not knowing, to live passionately, and love persistently. I had no idea that this speech I was giving was really just for me. In a few short months, God would take all of my plans and slide them off the table. He brought me to Guatemala, and now Kenya, and for what? Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that question. I don’t know the why yet. I don’t know why God’s plans were different than mine. I don’t know what He is doing in my life. Truly, there is not one aspect that my mind has begun to conceive, but I can’t forget how faithful, how steadfastly constant, my God is; I want to be that kind of a daughter to Him, and no matter how much I don’t understand, I will always know who God is, and that has to be enough. I have to let God be God. I need to let Him be everything, and me, nothing. I was reminded often in training that I must keep the main thing, the main thing. The main thing is not the why, it is not me and what I can do, in fact, it has nothing to do with me. The main thing is Jesus. That’s it. It’s Him, always. It is His light in my being, His fire in my bones, His breath in my lungs, and if I give in to Him and let Him completely take over, there’s no telling what He will do in and through me. So I must learn to get over myself, get over fear, stop brooding over the ‘impossibilities’ and uncertainties, and let God work in ways that I can’t understand. Those are the ways that take people’s breath away. Those are the ways that bring people to their knees. Because no matter how uncertain our lives may seem, when they are resting in the palms of our Maker, nothing is uncertain, all is steadfast. 

Application: I desperately need this as a daily reminder, therefore I will write out this verse, as well as this saying: “be okay with not knowing, live passionately, and love persistently.” I will hang it up in my closet so that I see it everyday, and an reminded to let go, and let God be God. 

My Greatest Support

Psalm 94:18-19
“When I thought, “my foot slips,” your steadfast love, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” 

If I am being honest, the first three weeks of living in Kenya have been so hard. I find myself surrounded by people, and yet feeling utterly alone. The mornings have been my greatest battlefield, and a lot of times I choose not to fight. I wake up wondering why in the world God brought me half way around the world, wishing I could be back home, where everything was comfortable and so much easier. Even when I go back home in late October, my life will not be any easier. A lot of changes are happening, and I have no idea what adventure awaits me next. Sometimes, I have myself convinced that my future truly has no hope, that there really is nothing to sing about, but God, it’s a lie, and I know it is a lie straight from the mouth of the devil himself, so why am I believing it? Why won’t I let you be enough for me? I hear you calling out my name, asking me if I trust you, but it has become such a battle to say yes. Job 15:11. “Are the comforts of God too small for you?” Are you not the God of the universe that made the land and the sea, the moon and the sun, the stars and the sky, man and animals, and every living wonder? You are the God that I cannot escape, for your presence is all around me. And although I am convinced that you have plenty of other better things to be doing, you still come to me, consuming me with your love, and overwhelming me with your simple desire to know and save me. You have never let me down, you have never failed me, and you never cease to pursue me. What do I have to fear? Why do I waste my time doubting the only thing that is consistently constant, and forever faithful, in my life. You are even faithful in the songs that I sing. Just as I was feeling so alone, a song called, “Met by Love,” played through my headphones. The bridge says, “We can run straight into your arms, unafraid, because every time we need you, we’re met by love. We can lift our hands to heaven, full of faith, because every time we worship, we see your face.” Your steadfast love is my greatest support. Thank you Jesus, for counting me as worthy enough to die for. Give me beauty for ashes, light for darkness, life for death, joy for sorrow, and healing for pain. Take me deeper still, and allow me to reach the limits of all that is humanly possible, so that you can do the seeming impossible in my life. I entrust my life in the palm of your hands, the most perfectly skilled hands in all the earth, knowing that you know exactly what I need, and I don’t, and that is okay. I never am alone, you find me. “God’s goodness is the great support of sinking spirits…God’s comforts will reach the soul and will bring with them that peace and that pleasure which the smiles of the world cannot give, and which the frowns of the world cannot take away.” -Matthew Henry

Application: I will remind myself, every time I am feeling low, that God is the greatest support of sinking spirits. I will look back at my list of things I am grateful for, and reming myself of His goodness to me.

Dead Faith

James 1:22-27
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

A dead faith is worse than no faith at all. I have this saying written on the top of James, and usually I gloss over it, not ever giving it a second thought, but today it has me thinking. I know so many Christians who say they believe in God, but don’t live by what His word teaches. They view God, not as a friend or a father, but as a judge, a creator, or a ruler somewhere far off in the sky. I understand why they feel this way. I grew up in the church and pretty much lived there three days a week, I attended a Christian school, and went to a Christian dance studio. My life has been surrounded and consumed with the Lord since I was a little girl. It was hard not to become numb to Him, because many times, I felt like God was being shoved down my throat. My life was built around mountain top experiences, and spiritual highs, lasting for a few weeks, and then seemingly disappearing out of thin air. There were two, week long camps every year, multiple worship nights, and study after study. The problem? I depended on those retreats, conferences, and nights of worship, to carry me throughout the whole year. I knew that God would break me during those times, and reveal himself to me in a powerful way, and I expected him to, but I believed that that was all I needed; just one “God experience” per year. But that one “experience” faded away in a matter of weeks, and it was not enough to get me through the year. My idea of a relationship with the Creator of the Universe was skewed. God is not something to be experienced, God is my friend, He is my father, my protector, my guide, my counselor in the morning and night, and the one being who knows me, even better than I know myself. He sent his son to die on the cross, so that I could have the opportunity and joy, of getting to know my Maker. Jesus died, because He longed to know me, love me, and be in communion with me, until we one day meet face to face. This is what so many people lack, and it is the same thing I lacked for years: communion. God is near, and James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” To live in communion with the Lord, is to be vulnerable with Him, and to pour your heart out before Him, allowing Him to see all of the hidden ways buried in the depths of our being. We have to let Him rip off our masks, so that we can finally see God for who God is, and us for who we are not. Only then does God’s word truly begin to cleanse us from the inside out, renewing our minds, and transforming our hearts. We begin to sincerely live out the word of God, being hearers and doers. The years of knowledge finally travels from your head, to your heart, to your hands, and your feet, and God becomes the heartbeat of everything you do. I don’t need mountaintop experiences to sustain me anymore, because God takes my breath away everyday. His grace is all around us, whether it be in the giggle of a child, the song of a bird, or the sounds of rain in the middle of the night. Be intentional. Look for glimpses of God all throughout the day, write them down, and remember. Remember why you believe in Him. Remember why you love Him, and you won’t be able to keep yourself from living and loving the way He so faithfully did on earth. 

Application: This week, I will write down the glimpses of God that I see throughout the day, and mediate on the reason why I love the Lord so much. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Life Made Worthy

Proverbs 18:2
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

This verse takes me back to one of our first few weeks in Guatemala. Everyone was still getting to know each other, and it was taking me some time to get used to being around so many people all of the time, but we were beginning to become a family. Then, we were given a class called, ‘team commitment’. We had all of the time we needed to come up with a team verse, a team code, and applications that followed our mandate, and they locked us in a room until we were done. That day will forever be engraved in my mind. At first, the task sounded pretty simple, but boy was I wrong! It was honestly one of our worst days as a team, but it was the day that turned everything around, and it became IGNITE Class 10’s stepping stone to true unity. Fill a room with twenty one people, twenty one voices, twenty one different interpretations of the task at hand, and you are bound to discover discord, and multiple conflicting opinions. By God’s grace, however, we came together and formed something that truly transformed our team. Our team commitment goes as follows: 
“Complete my joy, by being likeminded, having the same love, being in one accord, of the same mind” (Philippians 2:2). We are committed to one mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose, in Christ. Applications: Daily devotions, praying for one team member each day, praying with someone when asked, abide by Matthew 18. 
This commitment did not come about easily, or without tension. It was a struggle to agree, and I came to realize that unity cannot be forced. You can’t force twenty one strangers to love each other, and live peaceably with one another, but the love of Christ that binds us all together, can. It wasn’t until all twenty one of us recognized this fact, that we are all one at the foot of the cross, and no one person’s opinion was greater than another’s, did we finally come up with our standard, or rather, God’s standard, of living. It was by God’s grace alone that he brought twenty one complete strangers, from twenty one different walks of life, with twenty one different pasts, to meet in one country, and begin to run this race of faith together, hand in hand. It was by God’s grace alone that a family was formed, hearts were transformed, and we all were able to see ourselves for who we truly are: broken, useless, pieces of clay, made precious, beautiful, and full of value, in the hands of our Maker, our Creator, our Abba Father. Not a single one of us is worthy to be serving the Lord. We are not worthy to teach, and love his children, but we are all called, and made worthy by the love of Jesus. Our worth does not come from who we are, or what we have done, but whose we are, and what He has done on our behalf. Our flesh had to, has to, and forever must die, that the power of Christ, the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead, might live and thrive within us. This year is not ours, it is His; it is not by our strength, but wholly through His. The very class that could have wrecked us all, became our greatest victory, and brought twenty one strangers into a bond that will never be broken, and for that, I am forever grateful. 
Jesus, as I am sitting on this airplane heading home, I can’t help but think of the past three months. All of the memories, all of the laughs, all of the tears, all of the joy, every kids club, every outreach, every night of prayer, we did together, as one body. Leaving them feels like a piece of my heart is being ripped out of my chest, but I believe that we shall all witness your goodness in the land of the living. If we are willing and obedient, we will see your faithfulness and goodness, poured out on our behalf. It is going to be so hard doing life without my brothers and sisters, but the work you are going to accomplish in and through us, far surpasses anything I can dream up, or imagine. Thank you Jesus, praise you God, for leading me to take a leap of faith, and join IGNITE. Thank you for every single person you brought into my life; strengthen them for the purpose you have planned for them. Make us brave, and draw us near. 

Application: During my ten days home, I will text all twenty one of my teammates, at least once, with a word of encouragement. I am going to miss them deeply, but God is going to use them mightily, and it is time for us to walk in the plans he has established.

Learning to be Taught

Proverbs 12:1
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”

I have never been one to love discipline, or enjoy correction. As a little girl, I was full of anger and I had a spunky, strong willed attitude. If my mom or dad asked if I wanted to be spanked, I said, “Go ahead.” I had no concept of respect, and no concept of a self controlled tongue. I was a spitfire, and my mom always said that for every word she spoke, I would give a thousand more. I never cared if I got in trouble, I just wanted to live the way I wanted to live, and act the way I wanted to act. I hated reproof, I hated correction, I hated knowing that I was in sin, and that I was wrong, and like this verse says, I was a fool. I really was the demon child that every parent prays against, but thankfully Christ intervened and set me free. As time went on, and I grew older, I began to realize how much I hated what I was doing. I didn’t enjoy throwing temper tantrums, I didn’t like being punished, I hated the way I felt, and I hated the way I was destroying my family. My mom did not deserve my fury, and my brothers and father, did not deserve such disrespect. I felt like a monster, and I so badly wanted to change. So what changed me? Romans 7:22-25, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” This verse led me to recognize that I really could be in control of the sin that was controlling me. It was my choice to relent against my mom and yell at my dad. But with the power of Christ living inside of me, I had the ability to gain the foothold in this fight, and allow the Lord to give me a renewed spirit. It was the the word of God washing over me, the character of Christ renewing my mind and transforming me to be a reflection of his image, that made me who I am today. Scripture was the key, because it reminded me of who I was supposed to be, and how I was supposed to become the person God created and called me to be. God traded my heart of stone for a heart of flesh, and took me from a girl who was unyielding and unteachable, to a woman who is yielded to the holy spirit, and willing to grow, learn, and be taught. It was quite the journey to get here, and I still struggle with being teachable, but God came rushing through my soul, and I am not who I once was.

Application: Tonight, I will sit down with Autumn, and ask her if there is anything in me that she believes I need to change, and I will bring what she says to the Lord, and ask God to yield me to his spirit. 

Come and Remain

Luke 2:46
“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

Jesus is amazing. He is fully God, perfect, blameless, spotless, the son and exact image of his father. Yet, he is fully man as well. Tempted just as we are, filled with emotions, and able to grow and learn, but never once did he sin or veer off the course. I wonder what life must have been like for Jesus. He of course knew all of the answers, and he had all the power of God within him, and yet he was able to grow. Jesus was able to learn and be taught, and he had the most coachable spirit of any man in all of history. This verse finds Jesus sitting in the temple courts, inquiring of the Rabbi’s, gaining knowledge, astounding them with the knowledge of the scriptures that he had, and he sat with them for three days straight. Jesus knew he was the perfect Son of God, the sacrifice for the sins of the world, but still, he hungered and longed to grow, and to discover more about his Father in Heaven. This story absolutely blows my mind! Jesus wanted to be taught? The Great Teacher, the all knowing, all powerful, Wonderful Counselor, brought himself so low, that he allowed men of the earth to teach him about his dad. This must have left Mary and Joseph dumbfounded too, because when they found Jesus in the temple, they asked him why he had done such a thing, and Jesus’ answer must have wrecked their hearts. He says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (verse 49). Why wouldn’t Jesus be anywhere else, but at the feet of the Lord? The heartbeat of everything he did, was to glorify his father, so why would he not talk about God, any chance he could get. It is a beautiful picture of the heart my Savior had. All he wanted was more of his Abba Father. All he wanted was to become like him in all of his ways. So If Jesus needed to be trained, and if he needed to increase in wisdom and favor with God, as verse 52 says, how much more so do I? I want to have this same longing and desire for growth, that the Son of the Most High God had. But what is getting in the way? Me. I get in the way of my own relationship with the Lord; my flesh fights my spirit to the death, and usually the flesh wins out. I don’t want to change, and I don’t really need to change because I am not that bad of a person. But I am that bad of a person, I am the chief of sinners, and if I really think this way, then I really do need to change, desperately. Change may hurt, teaching may be painful, but it is not done in vain. I have never been able to keep a plant alive, but that is simply because I did not care enough to water it, and cut away the dead pieces. God cares enough. He loves me so much so, that he wants to spend an eternity with me, but I must allow him to step into my life, take a hold of my heart, and begin to prune away the dead, and unfruitful parts of my life. God, bring me to this place of humility, and help me to be willing to learn and grow.  A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere, may I come and remain. 

Application: There is an area in my life right now, that I am having a really hard time being teachable in, and I really have no idea what God is trying to teach me through this. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I will come to the Lord’s feet and lay it down every day, asking that he would enlighten the eyes of my heart, to understand his ways.