Monday, March 28, 2016

Join the Cycle

2 Timothy 2:2
“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Go do. Go do was the phrase I heard over and over again in my head this past summer when I was trying to decide if I should come to Ignite or not. I had a lot of fear. I didn’t feel equipped, I had never felt called to the mission’s field, and I mentally was not prepared for such a radical deviation from my original four year plan. But God said, “Go. Go as I call you. Follow where I lead you, just as I sent my Son to the earth, a foreign land devoid of perfection. Be faithful, Charis.” I had no reason to doubt or fear, did I? I have grown up in the church, I have a solid foundation, and a heart that is seeking after the Lord. Before I was born, God knew and always purposed that I would join this mission’s training school. He knew that I would live in Antigua, Guatemala for three months, and he knew that it would forever change my life. He knew that I would serve for six months in Kenya, with four other incredible human beings. All of this he predestined, and every trial I have been through, every joy I have experienced, God has used to mold me, and guide my feet to the place they now stand today. Thinking about this blows my mind! God’s faithfulness endures forever, and even if I struggle to see, his goodness encompasses me in the light and the darkness, the seen and the hidden. Now what does this all have to do with being teachable, and teaching others. I honestly don’t know, but I had to get those words above, off of my chest. When I read this verse, I automatically thought of my church. My Pastor, David Rosales, has been faithful to teach and entrust the gospel, in the hands of my parents, for thirty plus years. My parents, therefore, have been given the tools they need to teach me about the Lord, trusting that I would be faithful to do the same for my family one day. The same teaching and equipping that my Pastor gave to my parents, has also been passed on to my mentor/family/youth pastor, Dustin. And Dustin has faithfully sown the seed in my life. I have been able to take the past six years of teaching, and mentoring, and share them with the other young girls of our high school, alongside another woman who has poured into me, Brandi, during our girl’s study. It is a cycle of faithful servants, strengthened by the grace of God, being so motivated and moved to spread the light with everyone they meet. I have never taken the time to look at this cycle, but now, I am so grateful. If one of those people had not been faithful to pour into me, and build me up, I might not be here today, or I might not have the same relationship with the Lord that I do now. Teachability is vital to the growth of the gospel, and if I truly say that I love the Lord, my main purpose in life should be to share Jesus in words and actions, with all people, no matter the cost. Too many Christians hear the sounds of the battle, and choose not to fight. We lay the “burden” of sharing the gospel, on missionaries or people that are “better” than us, and choose to remain silent.  But silence, and comfort is not the life we have been called to. We are called to arise and fight, to arise and shine, to arise and share, and it is our honor to give people the same hope that was entrusted to us, that saved our souls and rescued us from the pit. Jeremiah 20:9 says, ”If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” God, let me not hold back any longer. May I not live in silence, but may I be loud, shining boldly and brightly for the furtherance of your kingdom, the only one that truly matters. 

Application: In one week, I will be home again for ten days, and I will go to my home church for the first time in three months. I will be sure to find my pastor, and youth pastor, and thank them for being faithful ministers of God’s word. Without their training and their devotion to the Lord, I would not be who I am today. 

Whatever is True

2 Corinthians 10:5
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Thoughts are the death of me. I am naturally a more introverted person when it comes to the difficulties I face. I love to be the friend that listens to everyone else’s struggles and offers advice, but I don’t like to talk about myself. I don’t consider my problems to be “bad enough” to talk about, and I fear being a burden to people. I know this is a lie from the Devil, and it is a lie I fight each and every day, but it is often a battle that I lose. For most of my life, however, I was too busy to be truly alone with myself. I had school five days a week, and dance four times a week, for at least four hours each day. I kept myself busy, and it became an escape from my anxieties, and trials. This “worked” for most of my life, but then I had to stop dancing this past September, and the walls began to tumble down. I had time alone with myself, which meant time alone with my thoughts, which opened up doors for the Devil to enter in. I didn’t recognize it back then, but I see it so clearly now. My thought life has always been a problem. When I was eight or nine, I began to struggle with suicidal thoughts as a result of my rage problems. I heard voices telling me to throw myself off of the roof, and others telling me that I was too far gone. I believed that I was hopeless, and an unloved lost cause; it is by God’s grace alone that I didn’t give in to the lies. As I grew older, Jesus redeemed me from that sin, but the thoughts changed. I no longer struggled with suicidal thoughts, but with self-worth. I have always lived in the light of my mother, constantly being compared to her relationship with God, and what an amazing woman she is. It absolutely was not a pressure my mom put on me, but a culmination of various outside voices, and my own. I wanted to live up to the expectations and pressures, but I never could, and I felt like a failure. I became self-conscious, never feeling pretty enough, strong enough, good enough, or enough, for anyone. I was always falling short, and if I wasn’t disappointing someone, I certainly was disappointing myself. If I am being honest, this is a thought that I struggle with often. I don’t like reading my IBS’s aloud, because I don’t feel like they are good enough. I have never been in a relationship before, and I often wonder if I am pretty enough. I am even questioning if I should be sharing these things with my teammates, let alone whoever reads my blog. But all of these thoughts are lies, and they are all deeply rooted in a distrust of the Lord. When I threw fits and considered throwing myself off of my roof, I forsook the truth of the Bible. I doubted that I was loved by God, that he had a plan for me, that I was important, and that I could be forgiven. When I am self-conscious, I doubt my worth. I doubt that I am a redeemed, free, beautiful, adored, daughter of the Most High King. I become wrapped up in who I am, and what I have done, rather than whose I am, and what he has done for me. The only way I have been able to escape these horrible thoughts and lies, is fighting them with the truth. When I threw tantrums, I read through a ring of notecards with verses on them. I said them out loud, and would read them over and over again, until I calmed down. God’s word was the only thing that brought peace to my soul, and it became my key to deliverance. And now, my strategy remains the same. Almost every night before I go to bed, I read through several different verses that directly combat the lies Satan plants in my head. But the days that I do not fight the lies with the truth, I fail and I become downtrodden by my very own mind. I am my own worst enemy, but God has given me the tools I  need to take every thought captive unto the obedience of his will. It is only when I walk in discipline, and fight the battles with God’s strength, that I arise victorious. God, I pray that you would bind the enemy from my mind, and give me the determination to rise up and fight the schemes of the devil. “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable’, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Application: In an effort to be more open with my struggles, and to fight the lie that I am not good enough, I will share this IBS with a bible college student named Memo. He is from Mexico, and has become a wonderful friend of mine, but he told me recently, that he wanted to know more about my life. So tomorrow, I will read it with him and share my testimony with him. 

A Set Apart Heart

2 Samuel 11:11-13
“Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” Then David said to Uriah,”Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.”

The story of David and Bathsheba is one I have heard countless times, but never once have I looked at it with the word ‘discipline’ in mind. I see two men in this story: Uriah is a man disciplined unto the Spirit, and David is a man disciplined unto the flesh. In times of war, the King was supposed to be at every battle, but while David’s men were fighting his war, he was lying in bed. I am sure David never thought his one sin would create such catastrophic events, but that is what happens when we submit ourselves under the devil instead of God. David’s one lustful gaze, took him completely off course, and his heart that was once consecrated to the Lord, became consecrated to himself and his own fleshly desires. Uriah was a different man, a man who lived by a strong constitution, guided by the Lord, disciplined to follow God’s will. He had the opportunity to go home, eat rich food, and be with his wife for the first time in months, but not once did he turn to the left or the right, he stayed the course and kept his eyes fixed on the Lord. Many times, I have read this story and wondered how David could make such a stupid mistake, but now I understand. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it? But I the Lord search the heart, and test the mind, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” I am David all of the time. I let my eyes wander, I allow my thoughts to carry off wherever they desire, and often times I act on my feelings. The moment I act on my own emotions, is the moment I change alliances. Acting on what I feel, simply means that I reject God’s authority over me, and believe that my will is above his own. It’s a web that entangles, entraps, and ensnares, and once you fall into it, it is impossible to come out on your own, and David tried with all of his might to rescue himself. He recognized the huge mistake he had made, but still did not want to switch disciplines, the end result was the death of Uriah, the death of his baby, and great internal destruction on David’s part. Though Uriah died because of David’s sin, he stood firm in his beliefs, and was not shaken by the temptations placed before him. I want to be like Uriah, disciplined and concentrated on the Lord; firmly planted and rooted in the will of the Lord, and not ruled by my ever fleeting emotions. Jesus, I pray that every thought would be taken unto the obedience of your will, and not my own. Let me not go through this life working in my own strength; may I be consecrated unto you. 

Application: Tomorrow, I will keep track of problems that come my way, and write them in my journal. I will pray over them, that I might not act impulsively, under the obedience of my own will. 

The Key to Life

Psalm 119:9-11
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Ever since I was a little girl, my parents have given my brothers and I this verse to hold onto. I still remember my mom making me memorize it when I was a little kid. Over time, it became redundant, and in my eyes, the verse lost it’s meaning. But today, it has taken on a new meaning. I have been in Guatemala for nearly three months, and I only have two and a half weeks left. I have made relationships that will last for all of eternity, I have poured out my heart in ways that I have never experienced, and God has revealed to me walls I have put up that I didn’t even realize were there. The past three months have been the most adventurous, incredible, deep times of my life, but they have also been the absolute hardest. In a team of 20, and on a property of 60 total people, I still find a way to feel lonely. It probably sounds ridiculous, but there are days that I just feel like I have absolutely nothing and absolutely no one to talk to. As of late, I have felt this way multiple times throughout the week. I feel like I am in a pit, or in an ocean, incessantly drifting away from land. Today, God gave me a revelation about this very thing. I forgot that I asked God to make me desperate for him. I forgot that I asked him to make me wholly reliant upon him. It sounded like a nice prayer to pray, and it truly was something my heart desired, but I didn’t realize that being desperate for the Lord, means that I have to be stripped down to absolutely nothing. Sometimes, God has to take you to places where you feel utterly alone, so that you can finally realize you aren’t. He will never leave me, nor forsake me, and that is a promise, and God never breaks his promises. He is faithful and true, and the one thing I have is the Lord, and he is the only thing I need. His words are all sustaining, and life breathing. It was his very breath that brought us into existence, was it not? Psalm 19:7-8 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” This is what I have in Christ. I have his very words, his very breath, to carry me through every circumstance. Yet often times, I hold onto myself, and I drift away, looking to the left and right, wandering far away from the path of the Lord. But it is a moment, by moment discipline that I must take seriously. God wants all of me, all of the time, and I must be willing to let him in, to let him invade, and take a hold of my heart. Only he can preserve my life, only he can rescue me from the pit, only he can take my life from the ashes and breathe beauty into it. In every circumstance, dark or light, I have all things because I have the Lord, always; and in this nothingness, I have found everything. God let me not forget that I have the key to all joy, and all hope. I have your word, and that is more than enough.

Application: Every day this week, as soon as I wake up, I will pray for my whole heart to seek the Lord. I will pray that I cling to his words, the words of life, through thick and thin, and lean not on my own understanding, for my life is in the hands of the maker of heaven. 

In Light of Eternity

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 

Reading this verse, I can’t help but write about class 10’s adventure yesterday. At 6:00 a.m. we left towards the humungous volcano at our backs, Agua. We began our hike around 7:30, and we didn’t get back home until 6:30 at night. 38,695 steps, 17 miles, and about 9 hours later, we finished the climb. It was absolutely the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done, and it was one of my greatest mental battles as well. We took plenty of breaks along the way, but the battle was uphill at a steep incline, and the paths were filled with all kinds of hindrances. The only thing that kept me going, was knowing that the prize would come at the end. If I could just make it to the top, if I could just keep pressing on, I would experience victory and witness beauty unlike any other. I can tell you right now that it was not Charis who was hiking, but the Lord. I had no strength, my legs ached, and for about half of the hike, we got stuck in a cloud and I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me. But the verse that I kept going back to was Hebrews 12:1-2. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The battle Jesus took on the road to the cross, and the pain he experienced, was infinitely worse than anything I could ever imagine. The perfect, sinless, Son of God, carried the weight of the entire world’s sins, on his shoulders, and it killed him. Now all he asks of me, is to carry my cross, lay aside my fears, sins, and anxieties, and follow him. He doesn’t promise that the path is going to be easy and flat, but he promises that the view at the top will be worth every tear, every trial, and every pain. The last quarter mile was treacherous, and the group I was with, struggled physically. But we held each other’s arms up when we couldn’t breathe, we carried backpacks when the load was too much to carry, we prayed and proclaimed scripture, and we climbed together, as one body. Every step we took was intentional, and every word was spoken in encouragement, to carry us to the very top. When we finally made it, I couldn’t stop smiling. There was a cloud blocking our view of Guatemala below, but the prize for me was not the beauty of God’s creation, though that was a plus. No, the true prize was knowing that I survived. The prize was knowing that I held on, and God faithfully strengthened my bones to make it to the top. The prize was knowing that when I run in light of the end goal, I can make it through any circumstance, with joy. I will run in light of eternity, knowing that one day, I will stand before my Abba Father, my maker, my very best friend, and hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.” I will see him face to face, I will finally be able to dance with my Savior, for all of eternity. The prize I will receive, the infinite joy that will well up in my heart, makes everything I experience on earth, worth it. So I will not run just to run, I will run, I will endure, I will press on, and I will pursue, with all passion and faith, to meet my God. 

Application: I so easily forget the lessons God has taught me, and I so easily forget about my God, and who he is. I don’t want to forget, I want to remember, and I want to remember this lesson, as long as I live. I will memorize 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 and Hebrews 12:1-2, so that I never forget to press on. 

Training Up

I Timothy 4:8
“for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

I have heard this verse many times throughout my life, but today, as I have time to meditate on the words and let them sink in, this verse has taken on a new meaning. There is a short phrase at the end of verse seven, that has really impacted the way I live my life. All it says is, “train yourself up for godliness.” I have never trained for a marathon, or gone to the gym, but I have trained in dance since I was six years old, and that has to count for something, right? I still remember getting my splits for the first time, learning how to do double and triple pirouettes, and those glorious days where I could actually do fouettes and alisicone without losing my spot. Those days of harvest were the absolute best, but they didn’t just pop up out of thin air. I had to work hard and practice every single day; I was dedicated to the task and I had a genuine desire to be a better dancer. But no trick could compare to finally receiving my pointe shoes. It is every dancers dream to become strong enough to begin training in pointe, dancing on the very tips of our toes. And again, that moment didn’t just pop out of thin air. In fact, it took about seven years of training for me to finally buy those pink satin shoes when I was thirteen years old. My dance teacher even started a pre-pointe class for us girls, so that we could be better prepared and strengthened. Once I began pointe classes, however, I realized that the training really was not over. No, gaining my pointe shoes was only just the beginning. Soon pointe class began, and toenails were bleeding, calluses were forming, calves were cramping, and feet burned in pain. Learning to dance in those shoes felt awkward, and there were many times that I felt like giving up. But after months of practice, sparks began to fly, my body was growing comfortable to the pain and finally, I had broken my pointe shoes in. But alas, my shoes eventually wore down and I had to buy new, hard, pointe shoes all over again, re-experiencing all of the pain of dancing in new shoes, once again. The training never, ever stopped. Likewise, training for godliness need not ever end. There are times in my life where I have felt like I have arrived, as if I have become good enough, strong enough, godly enough, but there is no arrival in Christianity. No one is perfect, and it is not humanely possible to completely deny our flesh and submit to God’s will all of the time. We can never stop training, and the fight is never over, but a majority of the time, I live like it is. Yes, God has already won the war, but that does not mean that I should sink back and relax, never persevering to attain the prize of the upward calling that Paul talks about in Philippians 3:14. I need to be willing to submit to the Lord, and I need Him to teach me, and be my trainer in this painful, yet beautiful life. Jesus, may I look to you in times of great pain and joy. Be my strength. I want to be molded and formed into the likeness of your image, becoming like you in word and deed, but I can not do this on my own. Jesus, be the center of my life. May I be dedicated in yielding to your will, no matter the cost. “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:19-20)

Application: Tomorrow we hike agua for about thirteen hours. It will be hard and strenuous, and the Lord will have to be my strength if I am going to make it out of there alive. When I wake up, I will write the phrase, “train yourself for godliness,” on my hand, and as we hike up, I will pray that God gives me a disciplined and obedient spirit. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Beauty for Ashes

Philippians 3:12-13
“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. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

Paul’s honesty in this passage of scripture, inspires me to do the same. I can honestly say that there was a time in my life where I really felt like I wasn’t that bad of a person. When you are surrounded with people telling you that you are so precious, and pure, it is really hard to not get prideful, and to ignore what they are saying. I knew I wasn’t perfect. In fact I knew that I was hiding so much wickedness in my heart. I knew the mask I was putting on every day, and I knew all of the things I had done and experienced in the past. But alas, I continued to strive for perfection, but not to honor the Lord. No, I pressed on to make myself look better. I pressed on so that I could meet everyone’s endless expectations. I pressed on because I wanted to feel good enough. I think a lot of people, especially kids who have grown up in the church, know exactly what I am talking about. We so badly desire to live up to the standard our older siblings, or our parents have created. We forget who we are living for; not for ourselves, but for the Lord, not for man’s approval, but for the Lord’s. We forget that Christianity is not about a list of rules, and doing things in order to gain God’s favor. Christianity is about one man, compelled by everlasting love and endless grace, coming down from heaven to take our place on the cross, and free us from the chains of sin. It is about this restored relationship, and friendship mankind is able to have with God, the creator of the universe. Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” What’s done is done. The anger I lived in for so many years, the impure and lustful thoughts that no one can see, the bitterness that I have stored inside, the self-centerdness, the lack of trust, and all of the self-sufficiency I have clung to, it is all gone, it has been nailed to the cross. I don’t have to live in who I used to be, I need to kill that old man. The old Charis has died, and continually, each and every day, I have to sacrifice her old desires and old habits on the altar. And truly, if I am living in who I used to be, I am slowly killing myself. But God, calls me to press on and to strive to be daily restored unto the image of his likeness. He asks me to lay down my life, take up my cross, and follow him, wherever he goes, no matter the cost. What lies ahead will be far greater than anything I have left behind, but I will never be able to make it to that promised land if I am constantly looking back. I have to look ahead, right into the eyes of my Father. He alone is my aim; He alone is my joy; He alone is the satisfaction to my soul. Proverbs 4:25-26 says, “Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Jesus, all I need is you, let me not forget. 

Eyes open, eyes ahead, looking forward, never back. Feet moving, slow and stead, running to Jesus, who never lacks. In you there is an abundance, always more. In you I have found life and eternity is in store. Search my heart, know my mind. Find my sin, and set it aside. Fill me up, overflow me with you. Captivate my gaze, for you are perfect, always true. I’m pursuing, I’m chasing, I’m running to your arms. Let me not turn, let me not fall. Jesus take my heart, Abba take it all. 

Application: I will write out, “beauty for ashes,” on a notecard, and hang it up on my closet door. This paper will serve as a reminder to not forget that the old man has died, and the new man is being restored day by day. 

From Death to Life

Philippians 3:11
“that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

God has been surrounding me with this idea of resurrection, and he has been speaking revival to my soul, since before I even came to Ignite. During my three months of waiting to come to Guat, God placed a song on my heart: Spirit of the Living God, by Jeremy Riddle. The chorus says, “Spirit of the Living God, come fall afresh on me, come awake me from my sleep. Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow.” I remember hearing that song for the first time, and feeling like God was talking directly to me, and He was. He was giving me the prayer I needed to wake up from my spiritual slumber. I struggled a lot before I came here. I was accepted to IGNITE in September, and I didn’t leave until January. I had four months to kill, and the days seemed never ending. After the initial joy and excitement subsided, I began to grow cold to the Lord, and bitter in my heart. I felt like he had taken everything from me. After twelve plus years of dancing, I had to quit. After believing for months that I would go to college, I dropped out five days before I was supposed to move in. All of my friends were gone and enjoying their new journey, and I was stuck waiting. I felt like a tree, completely stripped of all of it’s leaves, left only with broken branches, barely surviving. I knew IGNITE was God’s will, He made that clear as day, but my identity was completely lost, and nothing He was doing in my life made any sense. I became so caught up in the why, when, where, and how, that it began to slowly kill me and cause me to become apathetic to the Lord. But one day, God spoke to me through his creation and reminded me of the change in nature’s seasons. Summer has to die, in order to become Fall, then Fall fades into Winter, and out of Winter, new life blooms amidst Spring. It’s a cycle of change, a process of death and life, slumber, and rebirth. Surely a tree must be stripped of all of it’s leaves in order to grow new ones, and the flowers must fade away in order to spring back up with vibrancy and life. I too must lose my leaves every once in a while. Pieces of who I am, must be cut away so that the glory of who God is, can shine through me. And what a beautiful thing it is, that my Jesus loves me enough to stoop down low and take away pieces of me, in order to be fulfilled with the fulness of Him. This is a picture of resurrection that I had never thought of before, and suddenly everything made sense. God was taking away the things in my life that I held so dear, so that I would have nothing left to cling to but Him. In that moment of realization, my heart broke and my perspective changed. I felt reawakened. God’s voice was loud again, his presence was near, and his light captivated my gaze. I was being restored into the image of His likeness again, and a beautiful, heavenly exchange was taking place within my bones. Stripped of me, I became clothed in his righteousness. I still had no idea what God was doing, but it didn’t matter, because I knew whose I was and I knew who was directing my every step. 

A few weeks before I came to Ignite, my best friend, Seleena, shared with me her verse for the year. 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 as sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” These verses quickly became my lifeline. Within the first two weeks of being at Ignite, I had to experience a new kind of resurrection, and one that I never expected. As I have so often explained in my other IBS’s, I grew up feeling like I had to meet everyone’s expectations and as a result, I never felt good enough. I became so stuck on myself, and being that good Christian girl everyone wanted me to be, that I led myself into the pit of self centeredness. Everything was about me. How could I be good enough? What can I do to make myself look better, or “holier,” than I actually was. Many times I felt like I couldn’t hear God, and looking back now, it was because of my own blindness. I had been wandering around this earth with both of my hands covering my eyes, thinking that I knew the way that leads to life and the fullest of joys. But I know nothing, and I am nothing apart from Christ. It took me leaving home, leaving all of the expectations, to finally realize that I wasn’t really all that good. In fact I was, no I am, a horribly evil human being, devoid of all goodness and grace. God ripped my heart right out of my chest, and began to tear away the build up of sin that I had been burying for so many years. For so long, I tried with all of my might, to be a self sufficient Christian, able to do everything in my own strength. I didn’t want to come to God, or anyone for that matter, and burden them. I wanted to prove to God that I was strong enough, good enough, and capable enough to handle life on my own. I thought I was doing God a favor, but I was so wrong. I am in desperate need of the Lord. A.W. Tozer says, “It is doubtful that God can use a man greatly, unless he hurts him deeply.” God had to invade, and rip me open, in order to restore me unto Him. It’s painful beyond all belief, but I have never felt so alive, so new, so whole. He promises to revive us when we come to Him, and constantly he is drawing us near. May we press on to know the Lord, and pursue his purpose, no matter the cost. 

Application: We do not have IBS class this week, and I usually hate to share my writing with other people. Considering that I really opened up in this post, I will take time out of the day to share my IBS with one person. 

Resurrection Song

Philippians 3:10
“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

This verse reveals quite the challenge: know the power of Jesus’ resurrection, share in his suffering, and become like him in death. God, what does this even mean, and how is this humanly possible? I am a wicked and vile human being, and I could never, ever begin to understand the depth of Christ’s sacrifice for me. I am not perfect like Jesus was, and I will never carry the weight of the whole entire world’s sin on my shoulders. God, help me to understand what you are trying to speak to me. 

I may not be able to fully grasp the concept Paul is explaining, but one thing I do know is Jesus. I know who he is, I know his character, and I know how he acted at his death. Isaiah 53:7,11 says, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth…Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous and he shall bear their iniquities.” Never once did my Savior complain, or cry out against his Father. He was whipped, beaten, mocked, tortured, publicly shamed, and crucified, and he never said a single word, until right before he committed his spirit into God’s hands. He was completely humble, and wholly obedient and yielded to the will of the Father. He served, and loved all the way up until the very end, because he knew the bigger picture. Jesus knew that death would only last a few nights, and three days later, he would overcome and arise victoriously. His conquest enabled all people on earth in that present time, and the times to come, the opportunity to gain life abundantly and eternally, forever pardoned from their sin. He overcame death, and gave us the opportunity to have a resurrected life as well, and Galatians 2:20 truly unravels the greater meaning behind Philippians 3:10. It says, “For I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” If I am to gain Christ, be found in Him, and know the power of his resurrection, I must give up all of my rights. I hold no authority, and I truly have no worth apart from Jesus; I am simply a pile of ashes. But, when I can release my grip on my life, and kill the wandering ways, and wayward thoughts and desires of my flesh, I am restored unto beauty and I begin to conform into the image of His likeness; and like Christ, my flesh perishes, and my spirit is revived and reawakened to the joy of my salvation. Truly, life begins the moment I die. Life begins the moment I begin to understand the depth of God’s love for me. That He would even think to send his son to save a filthy wretch like me. Jesus, give me a heart that is willing to submit unto your spirit, and may I draw upon you for strength, to fight against my flesh each day. 

Application: Going on to week eleven, I have become weary. Life has become very routine, devotions have become dry, and it just seems harder to love and minister to people. That being said, I will pray for God to resurrect my heart and become the driving of everything I do. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hidden in Christ

Philippians 3:9
“and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

To gain Christ, and be found in Him. From the time I arrived in Antigua, nearly three months ago, ‘till now, my prayer has been that I would be wrapped up in the Lord and hidden in Christ. Colossians 3:1-3 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” My desire is that when people see me, they would see Jesus; when they hear me, they would hear Jesus, and that before they get to know me, they must first get to know the Lord. That is how I want to be portrayed: a daughter who bears the marks of her Father; an image bearer of the Most High God, never fully attaining perfection, but always striving to be more like her maker. However, that mentality has gotten the best of me, at times. It has become, “how many good things can I do for the Lord, so that he loves me,” and it is absolutely exhausting. It is one thing to strive for perfection, but to be consumed with the idea of never failing, has caused me to forget the grace and love of Christ. I am not bound to a book of rules, or a list of impossible worldly expectations and standards. Although there are commandments to keep, morals to hold onto, and discipline given when I stray away, I must not forget that I serve a God of second chances. Out of the abundance of his love, God sent his son to take my place, my spot on death row, that I might have the opportunity to gain abundant life. Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” More than anything in the world, God desires my heart. He longs to know me, to speak to me, and to spend intimate time with me. He loves when I serve him, but above all else, he just wants me. He wants to sing his resurrection song over me, gives me new skin and dress me in righteousness. I will never be good enough, but God is more than enough, and if my life is hidden in Him, my ashes are traded for beauty, and my worth shines from within. It is a beautiful and heavenly exchange, and one that requires me to allow God to pierce my flesh and invade my heart, tearing apart all of the wickedness within. Then, and only then, does healing come, and new life begins to bloom. But the choice is mine. Do I have the faith to come? Do I take God at his word, and believe with the fulness of my being that he will wash me clean and make me anew? There are times that I come running to the Lord, in desperation, but there are also times that I just want to run in the opposite direction. I am a fickle, wayward human being, and it destroys me knowing that I could just as easily turn my back on God, but I can’t forget. I can’t forget who God has been, who God is, and who he faithfully will be. God remains, always, he is the only constant in my ever-fleeting, ever-changing life. Jesus, may your voice move my feet to follow your steps. Let me not forget what a merciful and gracious Abba I have. I can’t do anything on my own, so may I lean into you and draw from the vats of your strength. 

Application: Today, I will write the word hidden on my wrist, and find quiet time to spend completely alone with the Lord.

Gaining Christ

Philippians 3:8
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I might gain Christ.” 

This verse rocks me to my core and has always been one of my favorites. One of the biggest things I have learned since joining IGNITE, is that I am not as good as I thought I was. I grew up with a lot of expectation and pressure on my shoulders. Everyone at my church knew my family, and everyone knew me. They constantly told me what a wonderful girl I was, how I was so much like my amazing mother. I felt like I had to be perfect, and failure was, and honestly still is, my greatest fear. I don’t want to disappoint people, and I want to go above and beyond the expectations that are placed upon me. This led me to try with all of MY might, to be the Charis everyone wanted me to be. I did my best to be good enough, to check off all the boxes of being a “good Christian,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. But pleasing people is exhausting, because they are never, ever satisfied. There was always a new weight to carry, and in my mind, I would never be good enough. I knew Christ, just for the sake of knowing Him, but there wasn’t wonder or awe. Coming to a new country, with twenty one plus people who don’t know who I am and have no expectations for me, has been a breath of fresh air, but it has also awakened me to my own shortcomings and insecurities. My life has always been about me. I have to be good enough because what I look like matters. I have to read my bible, and pray, so that I can be a good Christian. There was no room for Jesus, and I have realized that often times, I come to God so that I can get something out of him, rather than coming to Him, just to simply get to know him. But that Charis is gone now. I had to bury her in the grave the first week I was here, because I could not bear to wear the mask any longer. Everything is loss, nothing in this world satisfies and fulfills the depths of my soul, only Jesus. He is my gain. In him, I have gained abundant life on earth, and the future hope of eternal life in the presence of His glory. I have gained grace to strengthen my bones, and love that awakens my soul like the birds chirping in the morning. I have gained joy to carry me through the darkness and the light, and new mercies every morning. And I have gained wonder, absolute awe, that I could be so loved, so cherished, and so adored, by the God who created all things hidden and seen in the universe. All I had to do was let Him invade my heart, all I had to do was come to Him and fall on my face. That one step has given me all things that pertain to life. It has given me Jesus, the greatest, most precious gift that I will ever know. There is nothing that compares to the surpassing worth of knowing my Abba Father. He is steadfastly faithful, even when I turn my back on Him. He tenderly speaks to me, even when I plug my ears. He looks on me in love, though I reject Him constantly. He reveals to me the path of life and dances with me in every season; carrying me if need be. God, wrap me up in you. May I truly believe, with all of my heart, that you are all I need. “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Application: The moments that I feel the most in awe of the Lord, and recognize the fullness of Him, are when I am dancing. I know that sounds weird, but some of my most precious times with the Lord are through those intimate times of worship. This week is going to be busy, but I am going to find time to dance with the Lord, before this week ends. 

Little Sister Duties

2 Corinthians 13:11
“Finally brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

If I am being completely honest with myself, this idea of giving grace to one another, is an area I suffer in. It’s funny because my name means grace, and yet I am so horrible at giving it! I was a rough kid, full of anger and rage, and definitely not the forgiving type. My brothers could definitely attest to my character. If they wouldn’t share legos with me, I would scream. If they didn’t listen to me, I would cry. If they even looked at me, I would punch them. Some might say that I was simply performing my little sister duties, but looking back now, it was just one of my biggest flaws shining through, and I caused disunity and division amongst us. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” I was not gracious, or loving, and my words did not build up. I know I was young, but one of my biggest regrets in life is not pouring into my brothers during our childhood and early adolescence. This became very clear to me in Jr. High and High School. I saw the way some of my friends treated and were treated by their siblings, and I longed for that. I longed for deep connections with my brothers, and more than anything, I wanted them to trust me, and come to me for encouragement. For some time I was just bitter, wondering when my brothers would step up, but I eventually realized that the equation was double sided. Encouragement, grace, communication, all of it had to start with me. So I started to shut up and listen to them when they talked to me. I allowed them to purposefully annoy me, without getting too ticked off. I began to drive with them to church, so I could spend one on one time with them. I started to check up on them and sit in their rooms. But the most important thing I did was pray. When we would have big fights, I would write them letters, or share scripture with them, and it changed our relationship completely. It was the word of God, sharper than any double edged sword, that created unity and multiplied our love for one another. I pursued restoration, comfort, and peace, and God moved. Now, we trust each other, and actually have deep, meaningful conversations, which I thought might never be possible. God, I thank you for being faithful in every relationship and circumstance of my life. Thank you for choosing Jonathan and Jonah to be my brothers. Grow my grace, teach me to love, and may I be determined to build up, rather than tear down. 

Application: When I have wifi, I will talk to both of my brothers, and tell them how much I love them, and apologize for the years of bitterness that I created. 

Dancing in Harmony

Romans 12:16
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

Living in harmony with another person has to be one of the most difficult things in the world. Scratch that. Dancing in harmony with another person is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I danced at the same studio from the time I was six, until I was eighteen. A majority of the girls who began dancing at the same time as me, also stuck it out until the very end. We grew up together, and spent at least four hours a day, four days a week together. During performance season, I would sometimes see those girls for two weeks straight, no lie! But I wasn’t just seeing these girls, or having conversation with them, I was dancing alongside them. We were one team, and with each dance we performed, we had one message and one purpose to offer. Our purpose was to make Christ known, and within making Christ known, we each found Christ ourselves. When that purpose was fulfilled, dancing truly felt like magic. My bones would tingle, my face could not help but smile, and I don’t even remember breathing. I never saw people in the audience, and often times, I would forget that my teammates were even there; it was as if I was being ushered into the presence of the Lord, dancing with him and following his lead. I get the chills when I think about it; it was the most transparent version of me there has ever been. My last recital, was one of absolute harmony. Every dance was breathtaking, and felt absolutely incredible. Though we all dance differently, and have different strengths, it was as if we were dancing as one body. Our purpose was Jesus, and it moved us to tears. But when I lost sight of the purpose, the whole team suffered. I can tell you with certainty, that every single one of my teammates would tell you the same thing. When one person was distracted, when they lost sight of the goal, when they put themselves before God, our dancing was not as powerful, and the message was not as vivid. I remember leaving performances feeling so defeated, because I knew that I was the weak link. But instead of wallowing in self pity, I gained even greater motivation to commune with the Lord and gain the fire I needed to dance with all passion. It is so vital to live in fellowship and friendship with the Lord, because when we don’t, the whole body suffers. Jesus, take away my pride, remove Charis from the equation, and teach me to serve with all humility and grace. Let every word, and every deed be done unto your glory, and for the furtherance of your kingdom.

Application: When I have wifi, I will text my dance family and thank them for the many years of laughter, love, and growing in the Lord.

Let it Shine

I John 1:5-7
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 

Yesterday during On the Mount, this verse became very real to me. I was thinking of my past, and the way I was raised in the church. For many years of my life, I felt like a phony; always wearing a mask. I was always told that I was such a good girl— precious, innocent, pure— but no one really knew the real Charis. They only knew what I was putting on every single day. No one knew that for the majority of my childhood, I was filled with rage and suicidal thoughts, nearly throwing myself off of my roof every week. No one knew that the more and more they told me I was ‘good’ and ‘innocent,’ the more and more insecure I became, and the more worthless I felt. I am not saying that I didn’t have a relationship with God, or that I didn’t believe in Him, but I was certainly not the girl everyone expected me to be. I had my mind made up that I would never, ever be good enough, but in hindsight, I was looking at it all wrong. My heart was so deceptive; I had no idea the unimaginable light I held inside of me. We all have it. We have all been made in the image of God, we all bear the marks of his workmanship, we all have his light within our hearts, it is just a matter of when. When are we going to let it shine? When are we going to allow God to invade our hearts and tear apart anything and everything that goes against his nature? When will we let Him expose our darkness? When will we be free, and lift the shade off of the lamp?  When will we get over ourselves, and realize that our worth comes from a life that is hidden in Christ? It is simply a matter of time. As I grew older, the weight of my sin fell off of my shoulders, and Jesus became real. One of my favorite verses  says that God is clothed in an unapproachable light, and even still He draws us near, and calls us to come to Him, every second of the day. His glory is so radiant, that I cannot even begin to walk towards it; but God, rich in love and abundant in grace, wants me to come to Him, and if I could catch a glimpse of Him, even for just a second, I wouldn’t be able to help but shine. On the margin of my bible, I found this quote: “The object of our shining is not that men may see how good we are, nor even see us at all, but that they may see grace in us and God in us and cry, “What a father these people must have!”” Jesus, may I be so wrapped up in you, that you are what people first see in me. It is not about what I can do, or how good I am. My heart is desperately wicked, and devoid of anything lovely and true, but when I let you in, and allow your light to captivate me, I am transformed and renewed into the image of your likeness. May I reflect you, radiate you, and be found in you, Father. 
During my High School graduation, I had the opportunity to speak. My entire speech was about this theme of light and darkness, and it was centered around the lyrics of my favorite song called, Emphasis. It says, “The smartest thing I have ever heard is that I don’t have all the answers, just a little light to call my own. And though it pales in comparison, to the overarching shadows, a speck of light can reignite the sun, and swallow darkness whole.” These words pierce me every time. Do I believe in the power of Christ inside me? Is the Light of the World, enough? The darkness within myself and the darkness in the world, is suffocating. I feel like I am drowning, like I am trapped in a prison, incapable of finding any way out. But have I already forgotten: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” “A speck of light, can reignite the sun and swallow darkness whole.” A spark can set a whole forest ablaze. Twenty one little fires can set twenty one forests ablaze. We all come from different backgrounds, with different struggles, but one thing we have in common that binds us together, is the light of Christ, the spark to everything. We only have this one life, and I would like to be able to say that I lived, and dwelt in the most marvelous of lights. God, may I do something bold, and something bright with the grains of sand within my hourglass of time. May I live passionately, love persistently, and never shy away from shining. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:9-11) 

Application: I want to dwell in the light, and have the darkness within me exposed. Today I will tell one person about past/present struggles, that I have never told anyone about. I will ask that they will hold me accountable, and from it, greater trust will be built. 

Communion with God and Men

Amos 3:3
“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”

For almost two weeks, my sister, Caitlyn, and I have been waking up early in the morning to go running together, and work out. In just a few weeks, IGNITE class 10 will be hiking for thirteen hours up Volcano Agua. Initially, this was mine and Caitlyn’s motivation to run, but I can tell you right now that if we were never going to hike Agua, I would still get up every morning, Monday-Saturday, to run with Caitlyn. I truly hate running, or at least I did a few weeks ago, but this discipline has united me with Cait, as well as with the Lord. The first half of my running time is dedicated to prayer for anything and everything, but during the second half, I try my hardest to shut my mind down and just listen for the voice of the Lord. I look up at the sky, and stare at the sunrise if only for a few moments, praying that God would never cease to take my breath away. It has created such sweet communion with the Lord, and I have seen his faithfulness to me, and heard his voice, in ways that I had never experienced before. I feel like I truly am running this race, hand in hand with the Lord. The cherry on top? Caitlyn is experiencing the exact same thing, and in running together, we are growing stronger. Just the other morning, God spoke to us separately about the exact same thing we had prayed for that morning. It blew my mind, but it really shouldn’t. That is simply who my God is. He is faithful, and when two people are running to his arms, they are bound to meet in a holy collision. Of course there are mornings, that I just don’t feel like getting up to run. Alright fine, every morning I battle waking up or skipping out on exercise, but then I remember that I made a covenant to my sister, and I am not going to let her run alone. Two are better than one. Two means accountability, honesty, vulnerability; and two people seeking Jesus will find him in two different, mind blowing ways. We need each other, and I can’t hep but believe that God handpicked all twenty one of us, because we needed each other at this exact moment of our lives. There have been several times where one of you have spoken to me, or bared your heart before me, and it was as if God was talking right to me. Yet again, another display of God’s steadfast faithfulness. Jesus, thank you for calling me one of your own, and for longing to commune with me. Thank you for bringing twenty strangers into my life, and making them my family. May we come to you, running with all persistence and faith, in search of you. 

Application: Tomorrow morning, Caitlyn and I are going to go outside five minutes early and sing a worship song before we start running, in order to set our mind on the Lord.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Running the Race

Luke 12:37-40
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Awake. This word sticks out to me like a sore thumb. Every morning my alarm goes off at 6 o’clock in the morning, and though my eyes are open, I can assure you that I am not awake by any means. My mind is still in fantasyland, my socks are usually inside out, and I truly am lucky to put on my clothes the right way. But when I step outside to go on my morning run, and become physically active, I feel alive. My mind starts to wake up, my eyes are opened wide, and I begin to think and pray about all kinds of things. In fact, I feel the most alive at 6:15, just as the sun peaks over Agua (one of our many volcanoes here) and illuminates the sky with a wide array of vibrant colors, frigid air racing past my face, than I do at 3 in the afternoon. I feel alive, because I am moving, running, and working hard. I am fully awake, because I am fully active and wholly dedicated to the purpose set before me. Now normally, I hate running; all I have ever been passionate about is dance. But being in a country, and in a facility, where I really cannot find the space, time, or isolation to let my creative genius go wild, running has been my outlet. When I run, I seek the Lord, I listen to worship music, I look at the divine creation that surrounds me, and God speaks to my soul. This pictures paints a striking similarity to what my life should look like as a follower of Christ. I do not want to be a Christian that resembles who I am at six a.m.: Delirious, drowsy, and barely able to get dressed. I want to be a Christian that resembles myself at 6:15, while I am running and taking in the beautiful creation around me. I need to be active in my ministry. There shouldn’t be an off switch, but so often I make a way to find one, and I shut myself down. I walk by homeless people all of the time, without giving them a second thought. I look at people as people, instead of souls who are in desperate need of a Savior, but I am called to a higher standard, that requires me to have eyes to see, and ears to hear the spiritual needs around me. I am called to be an active disciple, running the race God has set before me, in order that I might gain Christ, and be found in Him (Philippians 3:8b-9a). I need to be running in constant pursuit of knowing Jesus and making him known. Every word I speak, and every action I take has the power to turn people to Christ, or away. When I am awake, through the empowerment of the Spirit and his strength, God lives and shines in and through me. But when I am sluggish, and struggling to rise up to do the work God calls me to do, I am of no use. I forget to clothe myself in the whole armor of God, and with eyes half opened, I am bound to trip and fall. Jesus, awaken my soul, and revive my heart. I do not want to be sluggish, I want to be alive and driven by the fire you are kindling in my soul. Keep my eyes open, Father.

Application: As I was sitting here and writing this IBS, my sister, Caitlyn, was also sitting by me and writing her IBS. We, unknowingly, both began to write about our daily morning runs, and we decided to do a joint application. At the beginning and end of our race, we are going to look at each other and say, ‘ready,’ so that we do not forget that our race is never over. 

Friends Forever

John 15:15
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called friends, for all that I have heard from my father I have made known to you.”

During my first week of freshmen year, I had to meet with my counselor to set up my four year plan. I still remember running to the car, bawling my eyes out because I had no idea what classes to pick out, or what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Then Junior year came around, and college started to become the topic of every conversation. Everyone and their mother was asking me where I wanted to go, how I was going to get there, and what I wanted to do; and still I had no idea, because God had not told me yet. Then, I had a revelation and realized what I was passionate about, and God led me to the right college. I was accepted and I was confident that I would be going to Biola University, studying kinesiology, so that I could do therapy with special needs kids. But five days before move in day, God had a completely different plan and redirected my steps, leading me to apply for IGNITE instead. I can tell you with total honesty, that during those five years of my life, I was absolutely confused at what God was doing in my life. No matter how many times people directed me to Jeremiah 29:11, I, for the life of me, could not believe that God truly had a purpose and plan for me. This verse says that everything Jesus hears from God, he makes known to us, but I didn’t see that coming true in my life. As I sit here typing this IBS, however, God is revealing to me the reason why. As much as I loved the Lord, I was more concerned with the information I could get out of him about MY future, MY purpose, and MY plan, rather than seeking Him in order to gain knowledge about who he is. That is one of our human flaws, is it not? We are relational people, but we so often look at relationships as, ‘What can I get out of this? What are you going to give to me?’ And when it comes to God, we picture him as someone far off, too out of reach, and too vast to ever understand. That is the way I pictured God only six months ago, when MY plans for MY life were not working out. But they weren’t working out because MY plans did not align with the Lord’s, and I was not praying for God’s will to be done, I was simply praying that what I wanted would work out. I had the opportunity to give a speech at my high school graduation, and I remember encouraging my classmates to live passionately, and be okay with not knowing. I have to laugh at that, because I clearly had no idea what was to come in my life. But Isaiah 55:6, 8-9 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  There will never be a time in my life, where I can for-see God’s actions, but that should be my motivation to pursue Him with even greater passion and persistence. I will never, ever be able to comprehend the vast mystery of the Lord, but He is always calling me to come. To come and lean into his love, rest in his grace, and discover the depths of his being. He longs for me to know him deeply, just as he has intimately known me since before I was born. Jesus says that he doesn’t call us servants anymore, but friends. I am a daughter of Jesus, adopted into the fold and given his holy spirit to lead me, and I am a friend of the Son of the Most High God! I may not always know what He is doing, but I do know who he is, and he is always speaking to me. He sings through the birds, dances in the leave rustling breeze, rages and rolls with the tide, and shines through rays of light. He surrounds me, engulfs me, and captivates me, but it is my choice to listen, or not. Hosea 6:3 says, “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.” Jesus, I will press on to know you as my father, my shepherd, and as my very best friend. 

Application: Today, I will write in my journal, who God is to me, and all of the attributes I can think of, that so perfectly describe what a loving Father, and precious friend, he is. 

Be Okay With not Knowing

Matthew 20:26-28
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When I think of someone in my life who has revealed to me the image of a servant, I automatically think of my mom. For as long as I have been alive, she has been a woman of humility and great grace. In the morning, she would run on the treadmill with a list of names in front of her, praying for their specific needs. Other days, she would take me to my grandmas house, and I would paint my grandma’s nails while my mom cleaned her house. Recently, I remember having a conversation with my mom about servanthood. We were at our church’s women's conference, and my mom signed up to clean the bathrooms, yet again. It always baffled me. Why did my mom always, always sign up to clean toilets, at the expense of listening to the wonderful bible studies? That’s a rookie’s job anyways, shouldn’t one of the younger leaders be doing it? But my mom, in all of her wisdom, reminded me that there is no job too low for her to do; she is not above anything. Often times she would recruit other ladies to help her, by telling them how fun it would be, letting out a sweet little, “Woohoo!” at the end. I felt so convicted. Who am I to stoop down low, get some dirt on my knees, and wipe down some toilets? I am nothing! I am not above anyone, and I am certainly not too good to do “the least of these” kind of jobs. Have I forgotten, once again, who my Savior is? Have I forgotten how he lived his life? Jesus came to this earth, knowing full well that he would sacrifice his life, for the sake of the world. He knew that the people he was saving and healing, would just as quickly turn their backs on him, and yell, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” And he of course knew, that his very own disciples, the ones whom his soul so deeply loved, would flee from his presence, and even deny him. Yes, he came to earth knowing exactly how his story would play out, but he loved, and he loved, and he loved, even still. How much more should I love the people God places in my life? In Guatemala, it is so much easier to have compassion on the poor and needy, but in America, I walk by homeless people in front of the grocery store, begging for money, and I don’t even give them a second thought. How sad! Why do I do this? Why do I pick and choose who I love, and who I serve? Because I walk through this life in submission to my flesh, with my will guiding my every step. I don't live this spirit filled life, Jesus asks us to live. I don’t want to give up my comfort, for the sake of serving someone else. But I have to fight this mentality that so often rules my life. May the life of Jesus and his ministry on earth, give me the motivation to live and serve beyond myself, relying on the strength of Jesus to guide my every step. 

Application: As I noted above, I really do not enjoy cleaning, especially cleaning bathrooms. This Saturday, I will clean our entire bathroom until it is sparkling clean, with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. 

Get Up and Get Dressed

Luke 17:7-10
“Will any one of you who  has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the  field, ‘Come at once and recline at the table?’ Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink , and afterward you will eat and drink?’ Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.”

IBS have been a real struggle for me lately. I stare blankly at these verses, wanting to get the task done, rather than allow the Lord to take his time and speak through me. I hear how some of you guys write, and how the Lord speaks so profoundly to you, and I allow it to discourage me and keep from speaking up. I wonder why God doesn’t give me such pretty words to say, but he does and he will if I take Charis out of the equation and simply let God do his thing. Jesus, give me the words to say, and the courage to say them. 
The big thing that really stuck out to me in this passage is the verse that says, “Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink.’” Dress properly and serve me. I grew up dancing at the same studio from the time I was six, until I was eighteen. Over the course of twelve years, I became pretty acquainted with dress codes. We had to wear certain outfits and specific shoes that would get our job done the most effectively, efficiently, and gracefully of course. Often times, because our studio was smaller than most, I would be in twelve out of the twenty four dance numbers, and I had quick changes. Over the years I was able to change my entire costume—dress, tights, shoes, and hair—in two minutes flat, but only because I had the goal in mind. I knew what I was dressing for, and I was so eager to get back out on the stage and fulfill the passion of my soul. I knew that if I was in the right attire, I would be able to dance at my maximum capacity, and share a story that might captivate the audience, and hopefully give them a glimpse of God’s love and beauty. I want to be this way in my walk with the Lord; willing, and obedient, knowing the ultimate goal in mind—to know Christ and make him known. I want the same passion I had in dance, to dress quickly so I could get back onstage as soon as possible, to be the same passion I have for the Lord. But the thing is, with God I don’t have twelve quick changes, I have one work to accomplish, and one dance to complete; me and Jesus, always and forever. I know most of you can’t really relate with this, so here is Jeremiah 1:17 to give you a better picture: “But you, dress yourself for work; arise and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.” Every day when I wake up, my first thoughts are about me. I think about what I am going to wear, how I need to make the bed, and how I need to hurry up so I can go run with Caitlyn and get fit. Jesus is not at the forefront of my mind. It is not: Lord, I give you my day to do with it whatever you please, but rather: Lord, here are all of the things I need to get done today, please don’t bother me too much. I dress myself for my work, but I do not dress properly to serve as the Lord has called me. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you might be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” The whole armor of God— the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit, and the gospel for our feet—leaving not one area of our lives unchecked. Jesus, help me not to forget about you. In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus. And every moment in between, may you be the heartbeat of every thing I do. May I not sit by passively, or resist your spirit. I am not called to idly stand by and wait for the you to do all of the work for me, you call me to rise up and walk, to rise up and dress myself for service. But it is not in my own strength, certainly not. Nor is it in my own righteousness. I am a filthy sinner, so desperately in need of my savior. But it is by your strength, and your power. You strip me of my unrighteousness, invade my heart to make it pure, and clothe me in beauty, a garment of praise. I am clothed in righteousness. I am new. I am whole.

Application: I truly hate reading my IBS’s out loud, and I always resist God when he tells me to read mine out loud. So today, I will be one of the first ones to read my IBS out loud. After all, a big part of dressing yourself for work, is stepping out of your comfort zone.