Emptying Myself

The green trees collided perfectly with the red splattered clouds against the blue sky this morning. Sunrises always make me smile. However, this morning, as I walked down the hill to my favorite coffeeshop, the Creator’s unique painting of the sky gave me pause.

Passing by a house that towered above the other houses, I noticed the sunrise reflected perfectly in the third level window. Every splotch of red and dash of blue was captured in the clean, empty window. As I walked further, the small amount of sunlight was magnified when it hit the window just right. 

Does my life do that, Lord? I thought. Is my life empty enough to reflect You? When people look at me, do they see You? Or do they only see my pride with a small attempt to reflect you on occasion?

I’ve said it a thousand times before. Biblical Christianity is weird. The world strives to teach us that our #1 goal needs to be standing out as an independent, awe-inspiring, basically egotistical, one-man show. The more people act as if we are the end-all to everything successful, the better.

But then Christ calls us to be “less than” in everything. The world calls us to be everything. Christ calls us to be nothing and let Him be everything within us.

It’s scary, being called to nothing. Initially the fear, “what if I’m not enough?” comes up constantly. To be honest, I don’t think that inward war ever goes away. No matter how much Christ comes through, no matter how old we get, there will always be a battle to be “more” so we can prove ourselves. 

Just like the sunrise in the window this morning, though, we start to learn that the more we’re comfortable in our emptiness and weakness, the more Christ can shine. 

Learn to accept being an empty canvas. Christ can fill more space in your life that way.

When The Holy Surprises

I only write about things that ultimately feel real. Which is why, until last night, I kept my engagement off any projects I was working on. It just didn’t feel real. And then, we had our first “chat.” Chats are usually amazing when done with the guy that stole my heart. But the laughter was more overwhelmed and nervous than it was giddy last night.

The questions of, “How do we manage storage? How much will that apartment cost? Can we handle living on a college campus for two more years if we’re only seminary students?” 

The big decisions, and the frustration on both of our faces, made it feel real. Every dramatically real decision discussed made the ring on my finger mean a little bit more. I laughed every time my fiancée and I answered a topic with an authoritatively affirmative, “I don’t know, Babe.” 

In our mid-twenties and trying to start off on the right foot, we are most assuredly still looking for an “adultier adult.”

As I hit the pavement yesterday to process alone, I laughed for real as I realized how much God had transformed my heart in the last two years. Two years ago, the “I don’t knows” would have scared me to death, possibly even made me angry. Now, though, I can’t help but anticipate the surprise as God weaves together a story I wasn’t looking to be a part of three years ago.

I chuckled even harder thinking about how very against surprises I’ve always been. Up until a year ago, I liked surprises as long as my twenty questions were answered when I got wind that a surprise was being planned. Now, surprises still make me nervous. I am, after all, a journalist. I was born to ask questions. But, I’ve had to learn that sometimes the surprises aren’t about me.

We often view the phrase, “Wait and see” as God’s frustrating approach to sanctifying us. And it often is. But, I have to wonder: Is it possible, that at times, God quite literally says that because He knows how to love more deeply than we do? Is it possible His command to “wait and see” is because He knows that by trusting Him and letting Him essentially surprise us , He’ll be able to show us a level of love we wouldn’t understand otherwise?

Surprises take trust, trust takes faith, which is basically the backbone of believing in Jesus Christ.

Already, Now or Not?

“Wait till 5:00 for dinner.” I hated that command as a kid when waiting meant I couldn’t eat now. It seemed like the magical hour would never come and I’d starve to death waiting for the clock in the living room to chime it’s freeing chime. My thought was always the same: 

How am I supposed to wait that long?!

Somehow, though, I survived. Ironically enough, by 5:10, I had already forgotten my mother’s perceived cruelty for making me wait. I was fed. I was happy. My stomach pains which I felt resembled starvation were already forgotten. 

I thought I knew what I wanted… I thought if I could get the sugary or salty snack right when I first desired it, I’d be satisfied. My mother knew better, though. She made me wait because, if I did wait, I’d be satisfied with something better for me. Not only that, it was quite possible I’d like it more, if only I could wait!

I should have learned then what I’m still learning now — anticipation for a promise fulfilled is not cruelty. Our world often tells us differently. In a world where robbery is okay as long as you don’t get caught and Netflix is best because there are no commercials, waiting and anticipation are rarely experienced. 

I often anticipate promises I know God has spoken over me, yet I’m very firmly told to wait in fulfilling them. Often times, I can almost hear my heart mumble, “Fine. I’ll wait. But not joyfully. Definitely not peacefully, either.” When I catch myself grasping that attitude with an iron fist, I can almost guarantee you I miss out on the little blessings God hands me simply out of love, not necessarily out of promise. 

What would happen to our hearts as Christians if we didn’t merely settle with being content in life only when a promise was fulfilled? What if we took God up on His promise to provide for us and then kept our eyes open, rather than ignore His will for us until it fit into our plans?

What if we reveled in anticipation and longing because it makes us relish Jesus’ presence more?

Ugly Side of Rio

I love the Olympics. There’s a large part of me that loves the games because I am most assuredly not skillful enough or graceful enough to even attempt any of the sports myself. So, like numerous others around the games, when I can’t, I find satisfaction in watching. 

Don’t hear this as a, “Boycot the Olympics” speech. If I did that, I’d be a force to be reckoned with for the next two weeks. But there’s a side of Rio we never want to think about. To the Christians in my audience, I beg you to think about it. 

As you watch the games and they pan over the brightly lit nightlife of Rio, see what they don’t want you to see: A struggling industry that caters to child prostitution because any dollar made is a precious dollar spent. 

The roads are packed with the, “You only live once” crowd for the next two weeks. The kiddos are being told its beneficial for their families. The “industry” is so big that even if a few heroically-minded people rescued three or four children, their spots would be filled by new recruits within an afternoon. 

Welcome to Rio. 

As a Christian, I often find myself acting as if praying doesn’t have power. When I think of this heartache, I mutter, “Jesus, the only thing I can do is pray.” 

Wrong. It’s the most powerful thing we can do. Pray against the industry. Pray for the kiddos’ protection. Pray their hearts are guarded with supernatural power. Pray for freedom. Pray the economy has a miraculous turn where they aren’t interdependent on prostitution to keep the lights on. 

Enjoy the Olympics. Pray for Rio. 

I’m Not What I Seem

There’s something scary about social media. There’s something down right terrifying about being a Christian on social media. Those two things combined mean you’re signing yourself up to always being watched and weighed. 

It may seem like it’s all I talk about. The “Christ stuff” takes over a lot of my too-many-a-day posts. I’m here to tell you, though, I know how to have a conversation without quoting scripture. If you’re not a Christian, I may seem shallow because that’s all I talk about. The Christ stuff. 

But if you know me in real life, you simultaneous give a sigh of relief and mockingly scoff in disgust at how much my life isn’t as great as it may look on social media. 

I don’t always rush to prayer. I’m not always happy. I don’t always accept people as they are right off the bat. Sometimes, I cuss like a sailor and forget to feel bad about it. Often, loving someone I disagree with is a secondary choice… Not a primary one. I still complain. I still struggle with speaking when I don’t know all the facts. 

I’m messed up, but you don’t see that on your respective computer screens because… Who wants to talk about that?

I was once blown out of the water when an older Christian man told me he was, “…still being saved” when I asked him when he first asked God to save him from his sins. The guy’s point was this: 

On this side of Heaven, your sanctification (being made clean/holy) is never complete. It’s a process. Sometimes, that process hurts. It’s often ugly. It’s hard to see. 

What you see on social media isn’t all of me. I will never claim to be perfect. I will never claim to always have my life together. I claim Christ… But even that is a work in progress and the waters of my life and my faith often look muddied.

But what I will do is strive to make the 5% of my life that you do see on social media be worth your eternal time. It may just be worth your “eternal time” because it makes you laugh and lifts your spirits enough to get you through the day. Or, it could actually be a “Look-At-Jesus Post” where the lessons of my faith have to pour over onto the white backdrop of my screen.

But like I said, I strive for that. Forgive me when I fail. Forgive me when all you see is a selfish, affirmation-needy, prideful bigot. 

I’m a Christian. Sanctification is a process. Sanctification may not be what it seems.