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I shall not be rendered ineffective!

I won’t be ineffective; I can’t and I won’t be rendered ineffective… 

I don’t want to miss out on blessings or God given opportunities because I was “too lazy” to exercise my faith, trust, and boldness spiritual muscles, only to be labeled a lazy Christian because I CHOSE ‘Easy Rd.’. I don’t have to be strapped down and held back by labels or tags against me.

The ONLY name I wish to possess is: DAUGHTER OF THE MOST HIGH KING!!

But – I know I am only human; I will stumble so I just pray His grace will abound.

“But I have this against you: you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen, repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place…” (Rev. 2:4-5, HCSB) “So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16, HCSB)

In case you’re in shock too, these verses ARE IN THE BIBLE so please so kindly lift your lip off the ground and listen up: I’ve read these and heard these verses before and I would think, “WOW Lord! How stinking harsh. I’m totally confused: didn’t you say you would fulfill your purpose in me (Psalm 138:8, HCSB)? Didn’t you say you had all these great plans for me to do even greater things in your name Lord (John 14:12, ESV)? So what’s with all the harsh antics?” I know sometimes I lean more on the idea of being inactive because of “dry spells” or “self-induced inactivity comas” because of complacency. How can I fight against that and make my wandering heart stay steady and attuned to God, His heart, and plans for me?

Dry spells in my faith are the most painful. See, this thing called complacency isn’t a place or a word that should be in the life of believers – EVER; but sometimes it happens. To be completely vulnerable and honest, I ALLOW it to happen. I know I shouldn’t grow stagnant or still and I shouldn’t allow these dry spells to creep up on me. I’ve heard a new term recently by my pastor (shout out to Community Church of Chesapeake, VA) that could most likely label me well when a dry spell ensues; his word was – ‘staytheist’. Weird isn’t it?! It’s like he fused “stay” and “atheist” together; it is strange but I promise it fits in what I am going to say, so keep in step my friend. A ‘staytheist’ is someone who stays where they are in their faith for fear of what’s next, the unknown, or afraid of possible steps needed to take to walk through necessary doors into a God sized opportunity. To me, a ‘staytheist’ is a doubter, disbeliever, and person gripped and crippled by fear.

I can be a stayeist who doubts, disbelieves, and fears the unknown future or what’s next to see my own God sized doors of opportunity. When this fear, disbelief, and doubt occur, I induce a dry spell; but what gets me out – what breaks up and humbles me, is HIS GRACE! The scales of disbelief fall, my heart of doubt breaks, and my once fear-filled voice returns in gusto, full of life while my self-induced chains of bondage to my spot of staytheism, becomes a place of upheaved rubble in the presence of the Almighty. The very person who could have calmed me and soothed me into peace; I had distance myself. Somehow, I expected that by my very human claim to stay put, would satisfy my momentary state of doubt, disbelief  and fear and could be a match for the tidal wave of unfailing love, grace, and mercy that I needed from my Abba! Through my running, I am still pursued by a mighty warrior – yes, He disciplines me accordingly– but lovingly sets me back on the path of the calling He fashioned for me. It is through His perfect love that all my doubts, disbeliefs, and fears are driven out and put to shame (1 John 4:18, HCSB).

So to all my Complacent Christians or Staytheists out there: Arise sons and daughters! Drop those hole-filled shoes! Cease your striving and turn to grace; allow it to shower you with the love for which you’re desperately searching, feel the acceptance you’ve always wanted, and embrace HIS GRACE. For if we wish to be effective vessels for the Kingdom, we must always thirst for His righteousness (Matthew 5:6, ESV), pursue the things of His heart (Philippians 4:8-9, HCSB), and be steadfast as to be worthy of our callings (Colossians 1:10, HCSB) and worthy of carrying the Gospel (Philippians 1:27, HCSB). It is by His grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV) and by Him and His grace, my dear friends, we are sustained (Isaiah 46:4, NIV). His grace clears the stains of our sin, doubt, shame, disbelief, and fear, to tattoo – inscribe on us a high calling; His grace shows us our purpose (Ephesians 2:10, HCSB) and keeps us on our journey. The peace of walking in His grace is obtained by a life fully surrendered to Christ through the receiving of salvation by His atoning blood on the Cross. By entering into this relationship with our Abba Father, we have everything we need to live.

Complacent living and staytheism can seep in, but even if, His grace abounds all the more!

-Vickee

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The Chains Are Already Broken: Choosing Grace

Sometimes it can be pretty tempting as someone saved by grace to become a little self-righteous and prideful when we look at others caught in sin. I think sometimes we forget what it was like to be in the grips of sin and death, to be caught in the addiction. Or, maybe by the grace of God you never had that one “big” sin struggle – but let’s be real, we all have a struggle with sin, hence the grace of God.

If I’m honest, there have been times that I have looked at others caught in certain habitual sins that I have been saved from and become angry, or hard-hearted, or anything but compassionate. Now, there is a place for righteous anger, don’t get me wrong, but there is a place for compassion, too! It’s as though I had forgotten that my escape from those sins was by the grace of God. I had no reason to be proud.

But I think our sense of pride can sometimes come from a forgetfulness of the snare of sin. Now, words are a funny thing. Sometimes they can be used so much they become “Christianese” or so cliché that we forget the weight of their meanings, but there is a reason we use those words! Let’s look at two words for a second: caught and snare.

Caught – past tense of catch; intercept and hold (something that has been thrown, propelled, or dropped).

  • capture (a person or animal that tries or would try to escape).

Snare – noun; a trap for catching birds or animals, typically one having a noose of wire or cord.

  • a thing likely to lure or tempt someone into harm or error.

Those are pretty strong words. Neither portrays exact willingness on the receiving end, but that is no mistake on Satan’s part! The Lord wins us with His loving kindness; the devil is conniving and has to manipulate us into what is essentially quicksand.

I was recently humbled – God is pretty good in that arena. Although God is good and faithful to keep us in His grace, I was reminded how once we choose sin one time, it becomes all the easier to choose it again, and again, and before you know it, it seems as though sin is grabbing you. Even when you know how bad, how wrong, how hurtful it is – to you and God – it consumes your thoughts and you feel almost like an addict feeding a fix. Sin is obsessive and completely insane. That is why we say people get “caught” in the “snare” of sin, because it truly does grab a hold of you making you feel powerless.

But there is hope for the sinner. Like Judas and Peter, there is the gift of grace and the offer of whether we accept it or mourn our sin in worldly grief. Judas chose the latter and it killed him – literally. He was so consumed by the guilt and shame of betraying Jesus that he hung himself. Peter was also extremely distressed by his denial of Jesus BUT Peter remembered the message of his friend and Savior – the message of forgiveness of sins. He remembered the grace that Jesus said was available. Peter’s sorrow was met with repentance and the acceptance of grace.

Accept God’s grace! Choose to use the power that is waiting for you in Jesus to overcome your sin. The chains are already broken; we need only to believe it.

 

Chelsea Prevosto – Intern

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Seeking God While The Rest Of The Women Are Seeking Men

People know me as a go getter. I have a business mindset, I’m driven, confident, and have finally found a sense of belonging when it comes to my social status and most importantly my relationship with God. People have said that college will be the best and most terrifying years of your life, and they were right. I have experienced highs and lows but through it all, I’ve had the privilege to see what God can do in someone’s life no matter the circumstance.

Over the years, I have had my doubts and insecurities, one of the most difficult obstacles I’ve had to overcome is being 20 and never having a boyfriend. Having always been told it was because I was “too intimidating,” gets a little old when you’ve heard it for 20 years. In the back of my mind I began to think that maybe it is me and maybe it’s something that needs to change. My grandmother tells me to this day I need to “dumb myself down so the man can feel like a man”. I have since then taken these excuses as more of a complement. I know that the reason I’m “too intimidating” is because God made me that way. Don’t get me wrong, I have my flaws and need to be guided at times but I don’t find my identity in men, material things, or success, if there’s one thing that college has taught me it’s that if you don’t find your success in God then you will not find success at all.

Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Reading this verse allows me to see that regardless of how many times I see my friends get boyfriends, or I get called “one of the guys”, become too stressed over whatever my day entails, or feel unworthy of someone to intimately love, I have the blessing and the wonderful opportunity to look to God. Expanding and deepening my relationship with Him has allowed me to feel a sense of belonging, love, and security. I have the ability to cast my burdens to God and ask of him amazing things. He is the creator, beginning and the end, there is nothing He cannot do and I have the astounding opportunity to be in relations with The Creator. I could not ask for anything more.

College has taught me many things:

  1. Don’t pull an all-nighter, it will never be as beneficial as you think.
  2. Don’t avoid your workouts, they may not be fun, but once you’re done you’ll be thankful you did it.
  3. Smile at everyone your walk past.
  4. Don’t sit on your cell phone all day, engage with those who are with you physically.
  5. Find friends who love you, encourage you, and help you grow in your faith.
  6. Challenge yourself and what you believe.

And most importantly…

7.    Ask great things of God, He is capable of so much more than you could ever imagine and don’t be afraid to trust Him and the wonderful things He can do in your life.  -Morgan Buhrow, intern

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Getting In Shape…Spiritually!

Think of someone you know who is in really good shape. What did they do to look that way? It probably took countless hours of running, strength training and eating a healthy diet. Often, we are inspired to work out and get fit when we see athletes and people in really good shape. (I know I am!) We may even ask a friend who is in good shape if they will go with us to the gym because they are knowledgeable and know how to make the most of a workout. Some people will even hire a personal trainer because he or she has good tips, will help you be effective and would correct you if you are doing an exercise improperly.

In our culture, even in the Christian culture, so much emphasis is placed on the external and “getting in shape”. Yes, we should take care of our bodies because they are the temples of the Holy Spirit, but have we taken the time to think about what it looks like to become “fit” spiritually?

1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.”

“So where do I start?” Well, much like you will not turn into an Olympic athlete overnight, you will not become an expert on God right away. Training is not always easy. It’s hard to find time to get to the gym in the midst of a busy schedule. Similarly, we may think, “I don’t really have time to have a 30 minute quiet time with God every day!” That is an excuse. You will always have time for what is important to you. I have friends who are dedicated, college athletes and they wake up at 4:30am to go to practice for 3 hours before starting their classes. If people can be that dedicated to a silly sport, we can be that dedicated to the God of the universe! We must be focused and determined!

Make time to read the Bible daily—this is how you hear from God and learn about Him. Start small and work your way up. If I wanted to run a marathon, I would start by running a mile here, 2 miles there and slowly work up to it. Most people cannot just sit down and read through the whole Bible in one day. Read a chapter (or less) and really soak in the truth and then maybe try a couple chapters the next day.

Grow your prayer muscle! Make time to just be still in the presence of God. Confess your sins to Him and let Him take away your anxiety and fears. He loves you and is eagerly ready to hear from you.

Fellowship with other believers (which can be in a church setting, but doesn’t necessarily have to be) is a great way to get helpful tips from other “fit” Christians who are further along in their walks with the Lord and can give you godly advice. They can also help you become aware if you are “exercising” wrong. Often times, pride and self-centeredness can creep in and we need someone to call us out on it in a loving way.

This idea of becoming “spiritually fit” is especially important for anyone who is a leader in the faith. I would never ask for training advice from someone who is lazy, never goes to the gym and eats ice-cream sandwiches every night. If you are in a place of leadership you need to be “working out” spiritually every day! You are a spiritual trainer which is a bazillion times more important than a personal trainer—so take it seriously!

When I think of someone who is spiritually fit, I think of our founder, Autumn Miles. She is devoted to God. She doesn’t make excuses. She has a deep, intimate relationship with Christ. She works hard because she is filled with vision and purpose and God has refined her and shaped her to become a strong and effective leader. She has inspired me, more than she will ever know, to keep pushing on and never give up.

-Karinna Johnston, intern

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God’s Plan > My Plan

 Great things never came out of comfort zones. 

This is a quote that I have heard repeatedly within the last couple years, and for some reason, it has really stuck with me. I have been crawling my way out of my many comfort zones for the last several years and to be honest, it is downright scary sometimes. There is a passage within the book of Isaiah that I have always clung to and it is in chapter 41:10-13.

            “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

            I have clung to this passage for several years because of the peace that it has brought when worry, doubt, anxiety, and fear have consumed me in various circumstances. I have recently graduated college, but I can recall my sophomore year so clearly. Having already changed my major twice by the fall semester, I was beginning to feel the pressure of getting my life together. People always tell you college is the best years of your life, but at that point I was beginning to wonder what the heck I was doing. So as I sat in my education major classes and felt absolutely no passion for the work I was doing, I knew I needed to change my major (yet again). I felt like I was going through a quarter life crisis–people have those right? I began combing the degree completion plans to see if anything really fit me. I dreaded to tell my parents because after all, they were paying for me to get a degree in something. I didnt want them to think I was wasting their hard earned dollars. I began to pray, and pray, and pray. I begged for answers because I honestly just wanted to know the direction the Lord wanted me to go.

            It was uncomfortable. The not knowing what I was doing and the struggle of wondering whether I should stick it out haunted me. Throughout the process of praying and waiting on the Lord for the next step, I realized that the only reason I truly wanted to teach was because I thought there was security in it. I thought that at least when I would graduate I would know exactly what job I was looking for. Crawling out of this comfort zone was difficult. I had to let go of my idea of job security and embrace the Lords right hand in this season of my life and allow him to show me the path He wanted for me, not the one I was trying to force.

            From a young age, I had loved art. I enjoyed arts and crafts at camp and I liked doodling and drawing. While I never took many art classes in school I took one in high my senior year and loved it. I never considered a degree in the arts because I did not think one could make a decent living out of it. Looking back now, I see how foolish I was to put God in a box. I stepped out of the comfort zone of the major I felt was correct and into the unknown major of Graphic Design. My family was a little skeptical at first, especially since this was my third major. I cant say I blamed them, but I felt the Lords presence over the whole circumstance. It was scary to step into a brand new degree plan and start all over. It was scary to step into something that I felt no real security in. That being said, it was comforting to know I had stepped into something that I felt the Lords hand all over. Just as the Lord says in end of that passage, Do not fear; I will help you He helped me in the same way.

            That was two years ago. I had never used a Mac computer, and didnt even know how to turn it on in my first class. I had no idea about photography, or hand lettering, or what the Adobe programs were. All I knew was that the Lord had put me in this degree program and wanted me there. Now as a recent college graduate with a degree in Graphic Design and job that uses those skills I am grateful. I am grateful for the Lords provision. I am grateful for his prodding to step out of a comfort zone and into the unknown because it didnt just change my degree path, it change my life.

 

-Molly Hitch

 

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Getting Serious About Scripture

I have yet to read an article or hear a sermon on the unimportance of the Bible. No one is saying, “Actually, reading your Bible isn’t necessary!!” Why? Because we all know that it is important. The Bible is our sustenance, our source of comfort, the foundation for our values and beliefs as Christians. It’s the very place where we learn about Jesus; who he is, what he’s done. If we want to follow Jesus, reading the words of Jesus is a sure way to do it. Knowing all of this, why don’t we do it more? Why don’t I do it more?

I’m preaching to myself, here. People expect me to have it together already. I’m a pastor’s kid, an intern for a women’s ministry, I went to a Christian school, and I sing on Sunday mornings. But I can admit that I do not have it together. Not even close. There are people in my life that I am ashamedly guilty of envying because of how strong their faith is. I see the posts of people’s seemingly perfect lives- lovely Instagram pictures with Bible verses and stories of the Lord moving attached to each one- and I sit and wish that my faith were as strong as theirs. Meanwhile, I don’t make reading my Bible a priority, and I don’t run to the Lord when I’m in a crisis. I can admit this publicly because I want to change this behavior pattern that I have had for too long.

I want to get serious about chasing after the Lord. I know that God has so much more joy and hope and freedom for me, and it can be found within the pages of His word. I know this because it is perfect (Psalm 18:30), it’s true (Psalm 33:4), and it’s forever (Isaiah 40:8). These three qualities can only be used together to describe the Lord and His word, and I want to know both of them a lot better. So if you can relate to any of this, join me. I have a plan. I’m going to start in Matthew and read all the way through the New Testament. And by reading 3-4 chapters a day, I’ve found I can get it done by the end of 2015. So join me in making the Bible a priority and seeking the Lord on a daily basis. Join me in attacking the root of jealousy and getting real with Jesus and others around me.

 

-Taylor Hughes

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Are You Willing To Fight?

Are you willing to fight? I recently came across the hostage story of Kayla Muellar and could not help but think what I would do in that situation.

It also reminded me of how incredibly lucky we are to have freedom and how freedom, much like grace, isn’t free. It comes with a price. Also, it makes me think about our son whose job is to protect and serve our country. I think about how I’ve always ended our correspondence with the words KEEP PUSHING.  See, we decided that in our family we are going to fight; we are going to keep pushing no matter what because when we feel as though we cannot go on anymore, we know that we have a father in heaven that will take over. We know that no matter what GOD WINS and all that is required of us is to GO and KEEP PUSHING. Keep trying and to never give up.   As I was reading the story of Kayla Muellar and came across a letter she wrote her family, I saw how Kayla never gave up. Daily, she would look forward to the day she would be reunited with her family.   It kept her going knowing that her family would try and keep pushing through. It also mentioned how Kayla would try her hardest to be kind and spark conversation with those that held her captive. This reminded me of Philippians 1:12-14:

Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,  so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,  and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.”

Although Kayla never actually made it home, I am confident that God used her to impact those around her. I am sure we will never hear the stories of love and kindness she showed or even forgiveness she may have given but I guarantee you someone’s life was change because of her situation.

I am also encouraged to be stronger and love deeper by her story and as I sit and visualize what I might do in that situation, I have to say that she has ignited a flame within me because of her sacrifice; reminding me yet again that Jesus did not die in vain, Grace came with a price. Freedom does as well. It’s time for Christians to stand up even if it means risking it all, to love as Jesus did. Justly. We can no longer sit back and allow evil to prevail especially when the victory is already ours. ARISE brothers and sisters, equip yourself as Ephesians 6:10-18 says:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

-Laurie Graham

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How to Find Comfort in an Uncomfortable World

If you are living anywhere besides under a rock, you undoubtedly know that this world is feeling anything but comfort right now. It’s as if there is a re-opened wound of hurt and hate that is gushing out into the streets. There is chaos all around, but I’m not naïve enough to think that all of the world’s problems are the ones we see in the news. There are real things that you are going through that I will never hear about from this side of Heaven.  There are real struggles that are keeping you from feeling comforted by any means. If you feel unsettled, confused, unsure, even afraid of your current situation of your life and the world, crack open a Bible with me to Isaiah 40 because the Lord has something for you to hear.

Isaiah 40:1-2 (ESV) reads:

Comfort, comfort my people,

Says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

And cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the

LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

I’m gonna let you in on something really cool here.  You are Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter what your name, age, ethnicity, race, political stance, or financial status is.

Your warfare ends with Jesus.

Your iniquity is pardoned.

But let’s go back to that first line. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” The Lord of Heaven and Creator of the universe is speaking comfort over you.  Where are you looking for your comfort? In all the chaos where or who are you running to? Jesus is the one who gives true comfort and peace and He is not sitting in Heaven withholding it to watch you squirm. That is NOT a picture of our God. He is gracious and loving, giving of all things when we ask. So let the Bible be your stronghold, your firm foundation so that when things feel out of control, you have the Word of GOD to remind you that the Lord is good and He comforts us with His love.

Let’s look back at Isaiah for a moment, though, because somehow it gets better.

Verses 3-5 say,

A voice cries:

“In the wilderness prepare the

way of the LORD;

make straight in the desert a

highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

And every mountain and hill

be made low;

the uneven ground shall become

level,

and the rough places a plain.

and the glory of the LORD shall

be revealed,

and all flesh shall see it

together,

for the mouth of the LORD has

spoken.”

I typed out these verses exactly how they appear in my Bible and I know that they look like some kind of poem or lyrical phrase but these words are truth. The Lord is going to come to us and look at how badly He wants to. He will literally lift up every valley and He will literally bring down every mountain and hill to make the ground level so that His glory can be revealed. I don’t know about you, but that comforts me.

We have a God that can do all of these things, and yet He is so relational and loving that He cares about how we feel. You can look at Isaiah 40 as see what the Lord is capable of doing and yet He will take your burdens away and pardon your sins! He will make the ground flat in your life so that the walk is easier and HE can get the glory.

My prayer is that you would go to Jesus for comfort. Don’t ignore the brokenness that is filling our country; that’s not the solution. This is possibly the worst time for Christ followers to back down and hide from the issues we’re seeing unfold. This world needs the same comfort that we have in our Lord and it’s our job to let them know where it is. Fill yourself so that you can fill others, because when you know the truth of the Gospel, how can you be anything but comforted?

-Taylor Hughes

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The Good Shepherd

Ezekiel 34:11-16 says, “For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.  And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD. I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away.”

The Lord our God is our Shepherd. He is our protector and our guardian. In all our trials, he is there watching over us. He will seek us out and save us from our sins and comfort us in our defeated moments. We are never alone; he is always by our side. Throughout your life, remember you can always call to your Shepherd. He will hear your cry and come to your rescue. It is so reassuring to know that we will always have Christ to save us from ourselves. I find comfort in knowing that no matter the deep hole I find myself in, I will always have my Shepherd there to pull me out, comfort me, and guide me home. Ezekiel 34:16 says, “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away.” He will always be our good Shepherd, He will always be our protector, He will always, no matter how far we’ve been driven away, bring us back to where we’re supposed to be with Him.

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Giving God Control

What’s Love Got to Do:

Everything.

I never realized how warped my view of God’s love was until last week. I thought I was over that “stage.” That stage of learning that God’s love is always good, trustworthy, perfect, patient, kind and not insisting on its own way. I thought I’d been challenged in understanding that God’s love was different than my love, or the love of ex-boyfriends, parents, step-dads, and friends. No matter how good or bad, it is not God’s love.

Being able to image Christ’s love is a privilege; it’s an honor. But we can hardly fathom God’s love completely, let alone show it perfectly, which can make things complicated for some of us.

I’m currently reading through William P. Young’s The Shack (such a good read for anyone who has dealt with grief that has challenged their perspective … of anything, but especially of God. And with all of the tragedy happening lately, I’m sure it’s not a stretch for many of us). But, in light of this, one quote has really stuck out to me – “Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions.”

In other words, what we believe deep down helps us to form what we think to be true about a given situation. And while emotions can be a beautiful gift, adding color and depth to life, they can also make things dark and bleak very quickly.

I’ve been reminded recently how easy it is to believe one thing to be true … because I want it to be true. Because all of my experiences have told me that it must be true the way that I see it.

I saw things, I saw people, and I saw God one way, and I wouldn’t let God show me otherwise.

I have had times of being mad at God for not stepping in and saving me from making choices I regret. I’ve been mad that He didn’t step in before Eve took a bite of that apple and handed it to Adam. I’ve been mad that He has loved His Creation enough to give it, to give us, the very independence we ask for. I was mad because surely I would never have asked for such a thing…

Can you say arrogance? Don’t worry; I’ll say it for you (talking about myself of course).

I stepped into the role of judge. I judged The Judge. That’s a pretty horrific realization. But we are pretty fickle and fragile as humans. We can be so lost in our own perception of reality or so sure of our own judgments and it only takes the briefest moment, the quickest sight, or one word to alter our perception for much longer than the circumstance itself – as does stepping away from the Truth itself.

If we are not careful to be on guard, what we hear and see can manifest itself in our heart and mind.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23

My heart has not always been watched over very well; sometimes we can’t help what happens to us, but for me, I know I have not watched over my own very well, either. My view of love has been distorted because of the love I’ve seen and the love I’ve chosen.

People always leave, so God must too, right? Can’t trust people, must be a reflection of God!

WRONG. So, so, wrong, dear sister! Just because we believe something firmly doesn’t make it true.

“Be willing to re-examine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don’t want to trust them more than Me.” – The Shack

God is so gracious to us, He even gives us an example of this in Acts 10. In verses 10-16, Peter, a Jew, followed the Law of Moses and did not eat any animal that was “unclean.” Then the Lord gave Peter a vision:

And Peter became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.  In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.”

Peter was so adamant about what he believed that he would not even hear from THE LORD. The Lord had to call him out on this not once, not twice, but THREE times!

We’re human. We are not immune to having deep rooted, passionate beliefs, but let us lean in and listen when He’s talking. He is a gracious God; He may even repeat it a fourth time for you.

And about those things that we could not control that may have happened to us – the good news? God is in the business of restoring and redeeming what sin destroys. But for the freedom we do have – let’s protect the hearts He’s given us and let our Jesus shape our world; don’t let the world shape our Jesus.