Sunday, June 8, 2014

that time Jesus stood up for me

Life is messy isn't it? Beautiful, frustrating, confusing, and just messy. It's no secret that I've felt pretty out of control the past few years (I feel like that's all I've been writing about. What a killjoy.) and I've tried to regain control by over analyzing myself and Jesus. "THIS is why I am like this. Oh no wait.... THIS is why I am like this." I kept pressing preverbal spiritual buttons, trying new tricks to "fix" my confusion as to why I struggle so much. I felt broken and was mad at God about it. I began to doubt His love and presence with me. I knew in my head that his promises and covenant with me said He was here, loving me, walking with me despite what I felt or didn't feel. Yet my heart had a few other things to say about it.

I recently came across a verse in Romans 4 talking about Abraham's attitude regarding God's promise of children to him. He was in a pretty discouraging situation. God promised children and yet Abraham's wife was in her 90s, obviously past the child-bearing years and yet...

    "No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he gee strong in his faith 
     as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised." 

I read that and felt like a friend had given me a loving slap to the face. Then the Lord brought to mind something I read a long time ago in the Valley of Vision, "Help me honor thee by believing before I feel. For great is the sin if I make a feeling a cause of faith." For so long I have been waiting for a feeling of God's presence. And my lack of feeling causes me to doubt and have a lack of faith. I began to (begrudgingly) pray that I would boldly believe Him despite my frustrations and lack of feelings. "If this is what you are using to grow me deeper then bring it on! ...I guess. I mean I wouldn't choose this but I apparently don't get a choice and the only way to learn to trust someone is to just do it. So here we go."

This is the part when I get a little feel-y.

Weeks later I find myself on a plane on my way to a conference. There is something about being out of your comfortable bubble that allows you to hear and see things differently I think. Wouldn't you agree? I began a book that I had been excited to check out, Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. I knew it would challenge my theology and I love reading about women empowerment so I was down for the ride. The author spoke from a place that wasn't in any of my preconceived theological "camps". She takes her readers outside the campgrounds where divisive words are slung and theological punches are thrown far too often and just chats about the women of the bible and how Jesus interacted with them.

And you know what happened? Jesus met me there. He was in those pages and I saw myself in the ancient stories. I didn't agree with every word of her theology explanations but I didn't care. Jesus was speaking to me. My far too often dry eyes were burning with the brink of tears more often than not as I quickly drank up the words. Jesus used these words to look me in the soul and say, "I value you. You are a delight to me. I look at you with adoring eyes. Come here and stop striving." It came to a head on the plane ride home. I was thinking and talking badly to myself about my body (shouldn't that tape be warped from so many plays by now?) and I all of the sudden heard Jesus in the midst of my self-condemnation. "Sarah. Stop." Umm... I'm sorry, what? Stop what? "Sarah don't you see? You are beautiful and adored by me, so far beyond your body shape. I will stand up for you if you won't. Stop bullying my daughter. I have created her for Gospel purposes, purposes that have nothing to do with outward appearance. Purposes that are so far beyond your material, applause-seeking mind. You are precious in my sight and I love you." I have never heard or felt such loving conviction. It all made sense to me in that moment. He loves me and will defend me, even from the self-condemning tapes I play far too often.

It wasn't until I got myself out of my comfortable environment and conservative Christianese jargon that I could see and hear Jesus. He called me out of the Christian sub-culture that I depend on for assurance far too often and met me where it's just me and him. He knows that I depend on affirmation from people, correct theological pride, and my reputation more than I depend on Him. I was (and am) terrified to leave those comforts, as dysfunctional and unsatisfying as they are. But I'm seeing now I can meet with Jesus outside of the campgrounds and bring him in. I can navigate people, theology, and struggle with my foundation in him. I've talked about this before and seen other people do it but am now seeing what it actually looks like for me personally. I know that he values me and wants to use me for Gospel purposes. I trust that because of that truth He will guide me in my theology, relationships, struggles, doubts, and everything in between.

I leave you with this excerpt from The Message. I think this translation is useful at times, and this is one of those times.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:21-30 MSG)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do you ever watch TEDtalks? They are short lectures by smart, inspiring people about anything and everything. Technology, brains, relationships, science, happiness, and so much more. I recently watched one about vulnerability and if what I’m currently learning in life was a musical chord, this video was completely in key. The speaker spoke on the power that comes from sharing who you are with someone else and the desire we all have to belong and be known. And while she was not openly of the Christian faith, she made some profound statements that I think can directly relate to our spiritual lives.  While she was proclaiming the need for human connection (which is important), I truly believe that the greatest desire of every human heart is to be known, understood, and loved, by the only one truly capable of it. The most impacting thing she said was in reference to a new parent and their infant.

“They [the baby] are hardwired for struggle when they get here. And when you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, ‘Look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect—make sure she makes the tennis team by the fifth grade and Yale by the seventh grade.’ That’s not our job. Our job is look and say, 'You know what? You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’”

Do you see the difference in the two statements? One puts value on perfection and performance. No room for struggle or honesty, just expectation and disappointment. I can feel myself putting on my mask to hide my imperfections while typing this out!  Do you know people like that? Who don’t allow you to struggle? Where you have to act perfect or else disappointment will be felt in the room? Maybe you feel like this with God. Like he expects perfection from you and is disappointed when you let him down. If this is you then listen closely. I want you to now imagine God, your heavenly Father, looking at you at this very moment and saying those words we just read above. “This is my daughter. She struggles and will struggle. I love her. She is worthy of belonging and love because when I see her I see my perfect Son. I enjoy her and delight in her.”

Now don’t mishear me. It is absolutely true that God wants and asks for our obedience, but have you ever thought about the fact that God understands our sin better than we do? I get frustrated so often when I struggle with sin. But the truth is, God not only forgives my sin, but his understanding of why I am this way is far greater than mine. He sees the why behind my sin issues. He sees my hurts, my wounds I’m attempting to heal apart from him, and my defense mechanisms I’ve put around my heart like a wall of thick cement. By believing this, we see that we can’t hide any part of us from God and he wants to heal the parts we wish we could hide. If we don’t own and expose our shameful parts to God, we are only participating in behavior modification, not true heart change. So when our heavenly Father is asking for our daily, consistent, full obedience, He isn’t doing so from a distant place of disengagement or judgment. He is demanding our obedience knowing who we are and because of that he is able to tell us what we really need.  

Come clean with God. Bring those masks, defense mechanisms, and pitiful attempts to His feet. Watch and feel his love and compassion wash over you as he breaks your chains. He understands you more than you understand yourself. And tenderly loves you more than you can even grasp. Knowing this will begin the change you’ve wanted to see for so long.

Are there things that God has asked you to do but shame has kept you from pursuing obedience? What has God asked you to do that you are avoiding because you don’t think you are good enough or capable enough?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

the adventure: drinking it up and writing it down

5 months ago (today) I packed up everything I own and moved from my lifelong home town to a place where I knew 2 people. I had bittersweet excitement as I was embarking on this new journey. I had big dreams of who I was going to be in this new town, the struggles I was going to leave behind in Fresno, and the instance best friends I would make upon arrival. Now that I have been here for a semester, I can see that the Lord had different intentions for moving me down here. I've learned things I didn't expect to learn, struggled in ways I thought I was over, and felt God's guidance more than I expected.

People. The people here are completely wonderful. The other CBU staff members I get to work with are committed followers of Jesus, passionate about students, and… hilarious. If you know me you know that that is big for me to admit (being the I'm an aspiring comedian). However, there is something you can't just create in a group of people… the feeling of being known. Yes, these people are wonderful, but I would say up until recently, they did not know me. Unfortunately, I found that this feeling of people being on the outside was oddly familiar. I learned through this feeling of "loneliness in a crowd" that it was a feeling I had my last year and a half in Fresno that I could never quite put my finger on. The walls that I put up in Fresno and carried with me to my new life were a glaring hurdle in my desire to be known by these new, fantastic people. This led me to a lesson in…

Intimacy. What a weird word. A weird powerful word. I looked up synonyms for the word "intimate" and some were: close, dear, cherished, familiar, devoted, and more. What a beautiful thing we get to have with people! Platonic or romantic, family or friend. However, there is always risk in these deep relationships with sinful people as both parties have the capability to hurt the other or themselves in the process. In my adult life I've experienced the beautiful, worshipful intention of God-intended intimacy. I also (as probably most people do) carry with me scars from hurt. Through a few events since college, my heart had been hurt and I rewired my brain (subconsciously) to believe the lie that I could be self-sufficient and not need people. Because if I don't need people, then I can sit on my pride, help others when needed, but never really give pieces of myself. I could not see how my past hurts affected me, until I got here. Take deep wounds and add them to an underlying struggle with pride and you've got yourself a hot mess. Through counseling and a few key friends here and in Fresno, God is graciously showing me how to break down walls and let myself feel known by others. It's scary, but I'm learning. Allowing God to rewire my brain and accept the fact that desire for intimacy is not wrong, it's a God-given and God-glorifying thing.

This is just one of the many reasons I believe God brought me down here.

There is definitely more to come :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

the prize

it's 4:45 in the morning and my body apparently thinks 3 and a half hours of sleep was adequate so instead of looking at pinterest again, i'm going to attempt to redeem this odd hour.

last night i got home from an amazing, life-giving weekend. there is something invaluable and indescribable about being with people who know you so well, you could say no words or you could say a million nonsensical ones and they would know what you meant all the same (or at least feel freedom to tell you they didn't understand anything you just said). we talked about life, our struggles and victories in our walks with the Lord, our favorite herbs, patio furniture, and many more things that mean nothing and something all at the same time.

i was very loudly reminded of God's grace in my life regarding my friendships. and i don't mean this is a cliche' way. but really, the friendships i have are a testament to the Holy Spirit and him alone. because i've single-handedly ruined friendships, and God has single-handedly restored them. not even because i tried and begged for him to fix them, but because his plans and intentions are bigger than my sin.

one conversation in particular gave me a huge dose of clarity in my walk with Jesus. a walk that has honestly been a question mark in my mind. if someone were to ask me how i'm doing spiritually, i would have no idea how to answer right now. i don't know how to gauge it or measure it, but i wouldn't say it's bad but I wouldn't say i'm walking boldly in the Spirit either. i'm just... walking.

the question that was posed this weekend is, "is our end goal in life to be more like Jesus, or to know Jesus deeper?" i knew immediately the answer was (arguably) to know Jesus deeper and in the same instant i knew that that's not how i've been living or thinking. i can look back on the past season of life and become extremely disappointed in myself if i think too long. not because i was rebellious or sinful or anything like that, but because i didn't exude Christ the way i wished i had or in the way my pride wanted other people to see me. i didn't trust in His words alone, i longed and begged for the respect and approval of others, i knew the thing to do and didn't do it, i justified my actions and pushed blame. i could go on!

what i learned from this conversation with my friends this weekend is that my eyes have been on the wrong goal. i've been trying and hoping to have Christ-like fruit coming from my life (not a bad thing) but missing my relationship with the person of Jesus all together. if we are seeking to know Christ deeper, then we will show him better! by sheer cause and effect! by focusing on my one-on-one relationship with Jesus, my heart will be shaped like his, my mind will be filled with his words, and my attitude will reflect humility. But here is the thing... it won't be perfect. i won't always hit the mark. my pride wants to show everyone that i've got my stuff together, but that's not genuine! the truth is, i miss the mark more often than not, my thoughts are all over the place, i regret words as soon as i speak them sometimes. but that's the beauty of the gospel isn't it? I'm not trying to earn God's favor. He loves me right now at this moment as much as he will ever love me. when i focus solely on showing Christ in my life without going to him as my source, my motives are questionable and i miss Him all together!

what prize are your eyes on?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

copy and paste

I found this blog the other day. And honestly I wish I had wrote it. I don't know who this author is but she penned my heart. My words and feelings were on the screen before me and I felt like I had written it. I even just attempted to rewrite something like it but didn't even come close! So I'll just copy it here. 

Here is a glimpse of my heart and mind the past few months. It's unfortunate how often I choose my flesh over the Holy Spirit that is gifted to us to use in times like these, but moments like these make me even more thankful for the place in front of the cross where Jesus waits. Not frustrated or angry with me. But ready to pick me back up and walk with me. To remind me of my value and identity in Him. I hope this encourages you as much it did me. 


I sit slumped forward, discouraged, and hope runs thin as I replay the conversation. Why did I choose to be annoyed? Why did I choose to speak harshly? Why did I choose to let it get under my skin instead of absorbing the offense?

I know there’s a time to stick up for myself or clarify another’s misconception. But there’s also a time to choose to let things go, to absorb the insult, to respond with grace and kindness even though it seems so contrary to my natural response. I’m a Christian. I have a new heart, and one that is not of stone but is of flesh. This new heart it supposed to be soft and loving and my speech is supposed to be seasoned with grace. I continue thinking about the same conversation and I hear the unkind, impatient words that I spoke. Where is the softness? Where is the grace?
My heart is heavy, weighted. I wish I could simply rewind and redo the last few minutes. I chose to speak hard words of anger; I chose to do what was wrong when there was such a clear choice to do what was right.

But grace…

Sin is ugly and glaring, but it will not control, nor will it have the final say. Sin that leads to sorrow that brings me to Christ upon that cross that softens my heart in repentance that allows me to find forgiveness that covers me in His grace. What an intricate, compassionate design.

The weight lifts. The burden eases. The sorrow is replaced with peace. Peace: something that, even moments before, I was clawing at but that was out of my reach.

My mind returns to that recent conversation where I fell so short of the mark, where I was cold and annoyed and impatient and unloving. I can’t help but think how it’s altogether effortless to be gracious in the easy moments but that it’s a testimony to His goodness when graciousness abounds in difficulty, when graciousness marks me even when I’m responding to unkindness. 

I’m reasonably good at loving people when they’ve shown love towards me. I often fail at loving people well when they’ve hurt me. There’s nothing remarkable in the former; there’s something uniquely Christian in the latter.

I speak these words to someone I love:

“It was wrong to be short-tempered, to be unkind to you. I should have been gracious; I have every reason in the world to be gracious. Would you forgive me?”

How sweet it is, to hear words of love and forgiveness spoken in return. Repentance and forgiveness brings such freedom, such joy, such life.

There is no delight in sin or in the heaviness that descends. But there is a moment of profound, indescribable beauty when repentance is met with forgiveness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

be a blessing

i enjoy lists. i look at a list and know exactly what needs to be done so i dont have to worry about forgetting papers, appointments, etc. i especially love it when someone gives me a lists to follow. especially when that someone is a wise theologian. here is a list compiled by john piper (i did the little blurbs) on how to keep unity with each other. look at it. think about the areas that you struggle with most. and then do it!

1. let's avoid gossiping
gossiping is the first thing to do if you want to to hurt the unity of a group. not only are you making someone look bad in front of someone else, you are hurting the trust of the person you are speaking to! this is especially true with fellow believers. why do we feel the most freedom to gossip when it's about our own church family?

2. let’s identify evidences of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.
instead of looking at what the person is doing wrong, first focus on where you are seeing God work in them! then TELL THEM. how encouraging is it for someone to hear that God is being shown in their life. I can't say how many times i have felt lame and felt like i was being a dead-beat Christian then someone goes out of their way to encourage it me and i am reminded that God is SO much bigger than me and just because i can't feel him doesn't mean he is not moving!!

3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.
this kind of goes along with the gossip idea. if you find yourself having a major grievance with someone, ask yourself if you have talked to that person about it. if you haven't and have no intention to, do not talk to anyone else about it. if you need advice on the situation before you confront your friend, there are ways to go about it without bashing or gossiping! Talk to one person who is older and outside of the situation. And our motive when bringing another person in is to gain wisdom so there can be restoration. I have been trying to use these situations as a chance to rely on the Spirit to guide me, not any one person. Being an external processor, it's hard for me to not talk to many people about my issues. In reality, the only necessary person to talk to about it is the Lord. 

4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.
Believe the best in others. Believe that your fellow Christ followers are not out to get you. When we feel threatened it's easy for us to get defensive. Remember, we are on the same side here! Satan would love for us to be on different sides. We are far less affective that way.

5. Think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.
When you are in a fight or tension with someone else, remember, Christ died for both of you. In front of the cross we are equally helpless. Remembering this can ease the tension and the desire to bash others. You are no greater than the person next to you. Your sin issues are no holier. You are both children of the Most High.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

a crushed heart

When we say we are submitted to Christ, what are we actually submitting to? To Christ’s commands? To what The Well asks us to do? To spend time with Christ? All of the above? I don’t know what the exact answer is, but I do know where the answer begins.
David pens in Psalm 51, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
If our submission to Christ began with mere sacrifices (of time, sleep, money, etc.), it would be easy. But true submission starts so much deeper. The word “contrite,” when translated from the original Hebrew language, refers to be being broken, humble, and even crushed. So when presenting ourselves to the feet of the Creator we must first come with a contrite heart. A heart that has been broken before a holy, perfect God. This can be difficult! But when we allow ourselves to be broken before Him we can truly evaluate our submission to Him.
It starts at the core of who we are.
What do we think about when we are alone in our minds? What is our response when someone gets the praise for a job you did? What do we say to someone when gossip takes place? What kind of person are you when no one is watching or listening? It’s difficult questions like these that can reveal who or what we are submitted to. I would venture to say that it is far easier to do outward tasks than it is to take your thoughts captive, leave a conversation, or choose to believe that God’s opinion of you is far more important than anyone else’s. Why is that? If you are like me, it took you many years to realize you are in the center of your universe. Rewinding 25 years of patterns, mindsets, and habits is not easy. I am so thankful the Lord gave us his Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. We don’t have the power to change our own hearts, but we can do things to pursue a heart submitted to Christ. Brad gave the first 4 suggestions in a sermon (a couple years ago) and the last suggestion is mine.


Have you ever simply asked God to do a work in your heart? He is eager to make your will align with His. Spending time communicating with Him can look differently for different people. Journal, blog, pray out loud, pray in the car, get on your knees next to your bed, and more. Communicating with the Lord strengthens our dependence on him. 1 Thessalonians even tells us to make our requests known to him!
Question: What is your ideal way to talk with God?


There are 2 kinds of worship you can participate in. Both are vital for your growth.
  • Corporate – Worshipping, listening, and learning among other believers is not only beneficial, it’s biblical! The Body of Christ is the instrument God uses to reach the lost, sharpen each other, and it simply is honoring to Him when his children come together to praise him.
  • Individual – This does not necessarily mean singing worship songs for 20 minutes of your day (although it could). Worshipping God as an individual is simply doing acts out of adoration of Him. That could mean taking a walk and praising him for what you see, doing all the chores that day for your family, reading slowly over the lyrics of your favorite worship song, spending time in silence in front of him, the list is endless!
Question: What are things in your life that stir your affections (worship) for God?


We talk about this a lot at The Well. Living in authentic community. Seen not just in a weekly lifegroup, but among friends who can see and speak into your life. These communities are encouraging to be around, and point others to Christ.
Question: Is the community you live in God-honoring? Who are the people that God has placed in your life to make you more like Him?


In the books of Timothy and Titus Paul explains the importance of believers discipling other believers. This is where life change can really happen! Younger women learning from older women, older men teaching younger men. If you have learned about the Lord through a difficult circumstance, why not share it with someone going through the same trial?
Question: Is there an older person in your life that you want to learn from? Is there a younger person in your life that you could take under your wing and show them the things of God? Why not pursue these people?


It is impossible to be truly submitted to Christ while also being submitted to our flesh. In order for the Lord to truly be changing us into the image of His son, we must examine our lives and walk away from the “sin that so easily entangles.” What are you waiting for?
Question: What is an area of struggle in your life? What are you going to do to walk away from that sin? Who can you share this with to hold you accountable?
Self-reflection and analyzing where you are at with the Lord isn’t always easy, but always beneficial! I end this long-winded post (sorry) with these verses.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Our submission should be to Him who is our prize, our sustainer, and our motivation!