Monday, July 27, 2015

hope should consume us

This past week I had the honor of visiting our nation's capitol of Washington D.C.. With as many memories made and lessons taught, I had to share a few. I went to a conference known as Student Leadership University. This second level of the program edifies the students of leadership skills, along with a rich history of the United States.
I went into this program unsure of what would occur. Last year, this past summer, I did not know what I was getting in to. The day before my group left to go to Orlando to experience the first level of this leadership conference (101), I decided to join them. The DAY BEFORE they left. I never make decisions like this, please know that. Yet the undeniable experience of a enriched craving for skills that exemplify Jesus was always there at the conference. We were taught time management skills, how we personally interact with others, and truth that comes straight from God. That "yes" from my parents was the sovereignty of God playing out and shaping my future. Not only, that year, did I learn a lot about the people around me, but I learned how to dream. We were taught to think of a dream that we had, something that if we knew we would never fail at, we would accomplish it. That dream is being shaped and molded to this day. With anticipation I wait to see what it fully is and how God will use it.
This year, a new thread of my heart and mind was built. All my life I have said the pledge. All my life I had been taught that America is great and beautiful. Let me start by saying that before I went to the conference, I couldn't wait to leave America. I didn't hate it, but for years I have hoped for an escape. Especially since I experienced my last international mission trip, I've looked forward to nothing less than to go to a foreign country. There was a Supreme Court Justice ruling recently that drained my love for this country. The adversity towards Christianity and the disregard for scared things such as human life and liberties hardened my heart. I have become a victim of bitterness with regard to leadership in this country. All I saw was a spot of land that denied God and life to the full. What I was fully ignoring was what Christ assures us of. "Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" is what Paul writes in Romans 5.
With this in mind, let Jesus assure you that there is hope in the smallest and largest of tragedies. We all listen to someone or something. The voice that you listen to is the one you belong to, and although there are countless voices on earth, there are two that fight for our attention. One of fear and depravity and the other of rest and hope. Our prayer every day should be one of trust. Perseverance is the key of all progression. We know our troubles may not be gone tomorrow, but we know that God will overcome this life through our faith. There is an old, African proverb that says, "The fist is not big enough to block out the sky." This plainly means that hope and what we have on the horizon is always bigger than the ugliness of violence and corruption we see daily. Though the struggle and hardships around us may seem close to our face and terrify us, it's not bigger than what's beyond it.
In D.C., this was the theme of the week in my personal dialogue. Knowing that right now, there is the love of God in this nation was astonishing to me. Why do we so often think that? It's because we confine God. We limit Him with how we view things. We see the unpleasant and we assume that it won't get better. This discouragement ties people down and makes people slaves to distrust.
As believers, we should allow the opposite to reign in our lives. Hope and encouragement is what sets us apart from any other religion. Having the anointed position of being encouragers, we are called to remind ourselves of the triumph in the Lord. When you are an encourager, your point of view is eternity-minded. You are beautifully crushed and fully abandoned when you have hope. That is how we are to live every day. With the hope we have, we see with new eyes. Those new eyes shine with promise and joy for the days to come.
With this in mind, let Him assure you that there is nothing in this life that can damage your prize of hope in Jesus Christ. No wavering thing the earth offers in the form of evil wins against the rule of a good Father with almighty power.
I believe that everyday is a new invitation to come to the Father with childlike faith and trust Him with all the pieces of our lives. I have come to see Him as the patient de-puzzler of my mind and heart. Next time you watch the news, keep this in mind: the world is not too much for Him. Let go of fear, let Him love you freely and lead you as a kind Father. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

lush, green and vibrant

Summer is the time that flies by. People view it as fleeting, something to chase. The common thread of this season is that the common man describes it as entertaining, but never satisfying. We always wish that we did more on the bright, breezy days when we were stuck inside working, writing papers for summer school, or simply because it's summer and we were too lazy. The other side to summer is what she is best known: sunny days and the continuous cycle of the growing flowers that began in the spring. Along with the rain, summer is a season of growth. It is a break between the sweet spring and the crisp fall. Personally, the sweltering fire of the sun is not something I bask in like most, or even enjoy. I am a fan of the cold weather. The season not of death (like most of my friends would argue), but vision. One where I can see through the trees due to their lack of leaves, a time of clarity. Yet the summer calls me by name every morning when I wake up. It says, "Get up, you have calculus today" or church, or Wired training, or a paper to write for English, or Jesus whispering for me to crack open my eyes early in the morning for a word. There will always be a time of preparation, studying, or relaxation over the summers. It is a time where a person is designed and designated to develop.
I find myself constantly wanting to skip the growing pains of summer and jump right into the certainty of winter. Daily I hear myself wanting to take an easy way, the unordained street of self. The Father calls me to a road less traveled, one that He calls each of us into fellowship and prosperity with Himself. As a God well deserving of every ounce of glory, He knows the moments of the grass growing greener is what makes the lawn beautiful. The completion of the flowers in a garden or on a porch set up the atmosphere. It is not only beautiful but a process of intimate detail. He calls us into those intimate details. Jesus wants us to look upon these growing pains with joy. These are the times where we are called. We feel Him working in our sprit, notice Him throughout our days, and get energized by His presence. When we become aware of where growth must occur, we become extremely humbled. How unexplainable of a God would become so small as to be interwoven into our lives and thoughts? His gracious acts that bring us to our knees and break our hearts due to our sin are some of the most vast times of deliverance! Knowing that we do not have all the answers, that we are not the best teachers, or that we will never attain perfection can be wearisome. We always crave being the best, having the best things, knowing something someone else does not. Yet, the Greatest One who knows all these things and has all the answers takes all the payload. When we fully grasp this concept (never) will be the day we have finished growing.
The life that flourishes during this time of year is eye opening. Every one gawks at the Botanical Gardens and seems mystified by the beauty. Not only does new life of the Kind reign in new family's hearts and souls, but reaches to the farthest places and depths we never thought He could attain. I always go back to the mountains in Costa Rica. The summer was hot in Alajuelita, but there was a grand breeze that was constant, quite unlike the southeast of the United States. That breeze does not just call me back everyday because of the great views the country offered. In fact, the only "beautiful views" were this picture. The streets of this city lay in ruin from poverty and grief. The summer in Costa Rica cries out to me because of the budding fellowship and voice of God that week. How many times do I crave that week over again on repeat? I cannot describe to you the artistry in the fresh and promising breath of a God who loves us.
A segment of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:6) reads, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Just as hunger and thirst are keen to our appetites, our craving for the Father's heart and mind is what defines us. The process of our growth is found in chasing after Him. We experience life itself within Him, and it is life to the full. The most vibrant colors of this everlasting relationship scream their beauty to a dying world, longing for more than what they have. People are unconsciously dying for the Father's Life, not realizing their opportunity for initial commitment and further development as beautiful new creations with a hope and future. It is our calling to now reveal the lush, green and vibrant season of loveliness and power to the wilting and cold among us. As we draw nearer to the One of life change, we become broken but full at the same time. We overflow with blessing and the rain of a Heavenly Father with a mighty Love that still pours.

Friday, May 1, 2015

end of the beginning

Today is study day. The last thing I should be doing right now is writing. The challenging, prestigious, consuming subject of chemistry is calling my name, and here I am, ignoring it for a whole hour. I am currently parked on a bench directly outside the doors of the library on the most perfect grounds for studying, this green lawn shaded perfectly with a great oak tree. I sit here and ponder my escape from living the "dorm life" but at the same time wanting to sit here forever. I feel like I have been going to this school my entire life, and at the same time I feel like I just moved in last week.
I look back and see the countless works of the Father cradling me in times of stress and the beauty in growing and flourishing with Him in fellowship and relationship. These last five weeks of not going home and patiently waiting for the end have come to me as a shock by inviting me in with welcoming arms. Making "glory" friends, attending a godly church, and making an A on a chemistry test are some of the few blessings that have been lavished in these past weeks. Sadly, this is the end of an adventurous freshman year as a college student, but the best is yet to come. Summer holds many promises that I'm excited to unwrap, and this coming fall will prayerfully express the glory of God in my life as I battle three science classes and a too-good-to-be-true fishing class. Yes, a fishing class is what I'm most ready for. These last few days as a freshman will be stressful and wonderful. Having a hope of moving out of that tiny room and seeing my family and friends back home is enough to push me to last. Just as this tree I am relaxing under shields me from the sun, spoils me with shade and a cool breeze while at the same time allowing me to witness the beauty of all the sun rays around me, the Father spreads the length of His arms over me blessing me in ways that no one can comprehend. Whatever awaits me this summer, fall, and the coming summers I cannot tell, but resting and trusting in the daily provision and goods of God will be what lasts. Therefore, witnessing the promise of today is my heart's only concern.
Matthew 6:25-34 says, Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Yesterday I was worrying about today...what am I going to study tomorrow? What will I eat for lunch? Will I succeed in studying? What if I don't? What if I don't study at all? What will happen to my grades?
Many of my friends from home are seniors, wondering how their lives will play out, whether staying at the community college or going off to a state school or private college. I have been preaching to these seniors saying "Don't worry. Your life will play out for the Kingdom. God has big plans for you!" While all along needing to preach this to myself daily. Whether a middle schooler, a high school graduating senior, a college student, or adult the Father is always among you, waiting expectantly for you and constantly loving. Whether or not a person accepts this Love, it will never waiver or be overcome. That in itself is something to rest in for the rest of your life, no matter what the enemy attempts to cram into your mind or heart. That hope is eternal and never ending.
As this years comes to a close, I am excited, full, and ready for more. This end of the beginning is, after all, the beginning of something great.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

be still

The Father expectantly waits for us to come knocking at His door. He is the ultimate good listener and He speaks with force. This book is anointed with love of the Holy Spirit and recently reminded me of a past experience. As I write this I'm listening to "Be Still" by Steffany Gretzinger, one of the best songs out there. I write this with full confidence and the love of being still.
The word "savor"(v.) is defined as "to delight in, enjoy or appreciate completely, esp. by dwelling on it". Savoring is something that humans have long forgotten and lost appreciation for. How often do we sit outside and look around just for the sake of looking around? At the same time, savoring is an art that we are dying to restore. My favorite park on this earth is located about twenty minutes away from my dorm room. The first time I came to the park was during the fall. I went with some of my closest friends who were here for the weekend. The leaves were orange and bright red, coating the ground. There were waterfalls, big and small, that were interwoven throughout the rocky hike across the water and downstream. It was probably 7:00 AM and no other people were there but us. This simple park not only drew and draws me back to my love for the outdoors, but the Holy Spirit. This was the time of year when the temperature started dropping (which I love), and the leaves were only beginning to fall. Mornings like these became quiet, even though I was with some really loud people. There was clarity. The Holy Spirit prompted me to continuously savor. That word itself causes the heart to slow down. It provokes the soul to stop, breathe, and look. By looking and listening one is coming to the King. I see friends laughing, love being given and received, and a group of crazy, hysterical, goofy teenagers meditating on creation. A holy, eternal moment. A moment I will never have again. This makes the heart expand. Your soul overflows with genuine delight. You know that you're delighted in. Your eyes are opened, and you're overwhelmed with the Spirit's simplicity. Something so simple changes people. The simplicity of it all may seem to have no meaning but to me it is life, abundantly. This abundant flow of blessing and eye-opening truth and joy is directly from the Father and right in front of us. The privilege of the air in our lungs and life in our soul is to be received with thanks and praise. Standing still and taking it in is the first and last step before Jesus overcomes us and establishes a newness in our hearts. Ask Him to come make space, in the stillness. In Job 37, God says, "Hear this Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God". In my opinion, Job was not someone that had the time to "stop and consider". His life was a testament to trails. Emotionally alone, tormented and angry, Job was asked to stop and consider. His livelihood and property were destroyed, his family is killed, and he suffered bodily affliction.
In the chaos of storms, we drift away. One knows that God is ultimately good, but when we see it, it becomes clear. We feel Him all around in the quiet, in the re-arranged atmosphere of peace. How beautiful and fulfilling it is when we see it come full circle. It is up to us to ask Him to make room for Himself in every part of our hearts. Jesus, please don't let me waste my life with empty busyness and clutter. Help me to make room for peace, stillness, laughter, and energy. Help me to live You out.

Friday, March 27, 2015

uniquely and wonderfully

A thief we are all aware of has been in contact with me lately known as comparison. I've noticed him a lot lately...from the way I find myself coveting to the average sting of jealousy. I partake in it and see it all the time. Girls see someone with clearer skin, a smaller figure, or blonder hair and are consumed by what they don't have. Flaws become more visible and character traits are nearly invisible. It seems to me that what makes or breaks someone is how full their eyebrows are rather than the compassion in their hearts. The more successful a person appears, the more someone covets their reward.
I know several outgoing and loud people. A lot of times I wish I was like that, honestly. I wish I was loud and not embarrassed easily, however that was not God's plan for me. He planned to make me a delicate person that turns blood red whenever I'm embarrassed. He made me that way with purpose and intent. We see others and notice things or accomplishments we desire because we are human. And as humans we look to human things. But through Jesus we are offered another way, a way that trumps all others ways. We are called to live through our own bodies, personal purpose, and spiritual callings because we are a royal priesthood, a chosen people, a people belonging to God Himself (1 Peter 2:9).
What is beautiful about Jesus is that we do not understand what that means for us, however He does. We don't know how we will be used for good through our "flaws" that we notice so easily. However, God turns what man intended on its head. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart". I don't know about you but that compels me. It gives me a greater drive to accomplish what God has planned for me (great, outstanding plans: Jeremiah 29:11). It makes me want to chase after God more, and gives me a passion. The hype will eventually fade without the lasting faithfulness of Jesus, and reminding myself of this daily is what keeps the hype going.
He doesn't just look beyond our flaws, He uses them and makes them beautiful! Once we realize that we can never wrap our minds around that idea is the day that we are severely humbled. One of my favorite songs is Touch the Sky by Hillsong United. It talks about touching the sky and finding life whenever we are on our knees, humbled before God. It actually just came on shuffle as I'm writing this: a God thing. Such an awesome God He is that He would use what man intended to taint the world to make this place more holy. He wants us to love Him with our bodies and personality traits. He seeks after us and waits for us at the same time. By His hands we are uniquely and wonderfully made, and once we start living like it, the world will flourish under His wing. Jesus, invade our hearts, minds, and eyes to seek after You and what You offer rather than what the world reveals.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

justice for a righteous God

In the same few verses of Scripture where God expresses His everlasting love (Romans 8:31-35) He reminds us of His perfection through His justice, therefore strengthening us and solidifying our hope.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any change against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died...more than that, who was raised... who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?"- Romans 8:31-35

There is so much beauty in those verse, Verse 33 says: "Who shall bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?" This rhetorical question is meant to have an answer of: no one. This is great news for us...the fact that no one can make the charges stick is a gracious and merciful fact; and we have God to thank for that. "It is God who justifies". He is a God of peace, and there will one day be peace. But as of right now, persecution is real and palpable. In the past week there has been immense grief over acts of terror, pain, and suffering because evil is real. This is the part where Jesus steps in and is great to say that He justifies. This does not mean that we need to get excited about revenge for those who fight of the enemy, but that we rejoice in the knowledge of Christ being lifted up and restoration of Christ followers in Jesus' name. Also, not only do we know that God will lift us up; we also know that no one else can drag us down. And there are four reasons why no one else can condemn us. Firstly, Christ Jesus died. Secondly, He was raised. Thirdly, Jesus is at the right hand of God. And fourthly, He intercedes for us. There is no appeal against God. Interceding means that Jesus sees us. That is a priceless gift and honor we have that we will never be able to comprehend. He graciously bends down to listen to us (Psalm 116:2) and keeps us from the evil one (John 17:15-17). Through Jesus Christ no one can condemn us and His love is always out of justice and peace.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


As Christ followers, the church is responsible for how we represent God. It isn't a simple task, but people's futures and hopes are on our backs. The great thing is, we don't have to do the heavy lifting. Jesus lives in us, therefore we have the privilege of owning the greatest job in the world. His plan is to basically carry us through it while we honor and glorify Him. We are a vessel unto the greatest King, and how we are used depends on our willingness and vision. Jesus is seen through the people of God who spend time with Him, extol Him, and love others. John 13 has been hitting me lately. Verses 34 and 35 say, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." The word love is used four times, so I'd consider it important. Our compassion and love is a mighty tool that can be used for magnifying Jesus; love and compassion are not weaknesses or vulnerabilities. This love is seen and shines best when we are willing to be servants, that is, get on our knees and be willing to scrub people's feet (also in John 13). God uses us just as He did Jesus...he was a vessel. Jesus was God in the flesh. We are Jesus' descendants; that's a big deal to me. Jesus lives in us.
God uses His faithful church in countless ways, and usually we do not pay attention to it. In other words Jesus cannot help but come out of us, to others, when we interact. God is an "all consuming fire" (Hebrews 12), and He wants all of us. As He takes over our lives, we get the honor of experiencing Him, and other believers will be driven by this passion as well. Although we are empty handed as vessels, we are most definitely not forsaken.