Lately

Lately, there’s been so much that I want to say, but there just isn’t enough space to say it. I’ve never been so sure and confused at the same time – sure of the call God has on my life and confused about how and what He plans to use to accomplish it. There’s been such a stirring of ‘more’ in my spirit, and no adequate way to articulate it.

I am so burdened for my generation. My peers. My friends.

The world gets darker and darker by the day. I don’t want to ignore that fact under the guise that I’m just trying to be positive. There is a lot of stuff going on right now – globally, nationally, spiritually. It’s not a time to kick back and relax. I know that this isn’t the message any of us really wants to hear, but it’s the honest one. This is an opportunity: an opportunity to present the world with a real Hope. A real Life. A real Love.

We have been sold counterfeits on real living, and it’s time we rose up against it (not with poster boards telling people they’re going to hell and that the kingdom of heaven is drawing near). How do we combat such terrible darkness? With light. With love. By being a healing balm to a wounded world.

We will never make progress by fighting fire with fire. Jesus never commanded us to live in such a way. Jesus gave us a new commandment: to love one another as He as loved us (John 13:34). Jesus said that if we’re insulted, to turn the other cheek. If someone asks for the clothes off of our backs, we’re intended to give it to them. Even proverbs says to be kind to our enemies; showing kindness in the midst of selfishness is like heaping coals on the enemies head (Proverbs 25:21-22).

This is not a new concept, it’s just an unpracticed concept. How can we truly begin to heal the world until the church stops wounding itself? Not only is this a call to love our enemies, but to truly, honestly, love each other as God loves us. That means accepting people (all people) with their junk, with all of the things that make relationship inconvenient. Jesus calls us to a life of inconvenience because Jesus calls us to a life of true, authentic, messy love.


Cherish Right Now

My Pastor, Joel Osteen, said something impactful recently. He said, “These are the good ole days.” Similarly, a character on one of my favorite television shows said, once, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good ole days before you’ve actually left them.”

Every day we’re building our story with the people who happen to be in it for the day. Every day is a ‘good ole day’. I’m realizing that more and more. You can’t control what’s gonna happen tomorrow, or who’s gonna be in it. You can’t control life. There’s gonna be challenges. There’s gonna be trials. You’re gonna Be challenged – if not by people who love you, then by people who hate you, but you only get one shot at today.

I’ve decided that I’m gonna cherish every moment that makes me love life a little bit more. You don’t always get those. Some days take more out of you than it gives back. You don’t always get to choose who shows up in your life, but you do get to choose to enjoy everyone who loves you today. A few weeks ago Jesus really got a hold of my heart, and he asked the question, “Why can’t you just enjoy me? Enjoy the life I’ve made for you? The people I’ve put in your life for right now?”

Ouch. Sometimes we miss that allowing ourselves to enjoy life as it is, is an act of faith. Nothing is perfect all the time, but sometimes if you’re really looking you can come across a perfect moment. We’re often tricked into taking those moments for granted because we can’t compartmentalize them and figure out how they fit into the big picture.

Well, news flash. You don’t get the big picture. That’s where faith and trust come in. The greatest act of faith for me in this season has been: allow myself to love my life as it is. Even the parts that are imperfect. Even the parts that scare me.

Today, I got to share a moment with Jesus that was very precious to me. I won’t go into details about it, but God allowed something to happen that was very close to my heart. There was no guarantee that it would last outside of today. There still isn’t. But I felt it very strongly in my heart to say, “Y’know… this may not last forever, but I’m gonna choose to cherish it for what is right now. I’m gonna choose to be grateful for right now because Jesus YOU ARE FAITHFUL, and I WILL YET TRUST YOU.” 

 The truth is, if we really believe that God is on our side. If we really, truly believe He is for us and not against us, then we can walk freedom. We can give ourselves permission to enjoy life. We can say thanks for a great meal or we can say thanks for a great friend or we say thanks for great weather. We can say thank you for just about anything because every good thing is a gift from the Father. I’ve found in the last few weeks, it’s when we’re thankful for what have – in the midst of what we don’t have – that we can truly open our hands to receive the fullness of all that God has for us.

At the end of the day, it’s about releasing control and trusting in the only Hope we have: Jesus. Trusting that He’s real and good and that he rewards those who diligently seek after him (Hebrews 11:6)


Knowing About God vs. Experiencing Him

There comes a point in our walk with God where our faith can no longer be co-dependent on anyone else’s.

When we’re younger, so much of our opinion, our personality, and our belief systems are influenced by people we love and trust. This begins with our parents and ends with our peers. As we grow up, we learn about God through the experiences of other people because (at least in my experience) I was too young to fully understand who God was.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t encounter Him personally when I was younger because I did; but let’s be honest, we’re in a process of ‘getting to know’ God that will never end. The depth of his love and his grace and his mercy and his character are immeasurable, and the constraints of time are not enough to fully behold who He is. I digress…

As we grow, there comes a time where we leave the covering of our “parent’s beliefs” and our “friends beliefs” and enter into “our beliefs”. No one else’s relationship with God can sustain my own. Second hand revelations, encounters, worship, prayer; intimacy with God just simply won’t do. It’s because God loves us so much that He uses our weaknesses, our trials, our challenges to draw us close to Himself. Jesus said, “In this world, there will be trials but take heart for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Some mountains we speak to, but some mountains we’re meant to climb. Some trials can be prayed away, but some trials we’re meant to endure. All impossibilities were meant for faith. 

 

It’s only now that I’m discovering that my faith was comfortable. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. I had a comfortable group of friends, a comfortable ministry, and a comfortable dream (that I was not working for but hoping would magically fall into my lap)… It’s not until I was forced into discomfort that I’ve had to believe for things that look and feel impossible.

The Israelites who were born in the desert did not know God as a deliverer. They only heard of God as a deliverer. While it was important for their culture to share these stories and make memorial stones to remember what God had done, it wasn’t enough for a lot of the people in the bible not to go astray. It’s because second hand knowledge of God is never enough. Our knowledge of God can never compete with our experience with God. It’s our intimacy with God that will sustain us in every season.

David wrote in Psalms 119:11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” This speaks to a place of intimacy that David had with God. In the time that David wrote the psalms, the bible didn’t exist as you and I know it. He didn’t sit for hours in a coffee shop dissecting scripture using Hebrew and Greek Lexicons to better understand the Holy Bible. The Words that David had hidden in his heart were words that God himself spoke in moments of intimacy and worship as he shepherded his father’s sheep.

In this season, I feel very strongly that God is collectively challenging our culture and our character as the Body of Christ. This is not a time to become complacent about the things that God has placed in our lives. It’s not a time to serve ourselves. It’s not a time to become petty or bitter over temporary feelings (that in hindsight won’t matter ten years from now). It’s not a time to fight each other; it’s a time to fight for each other. It’s not a time to fear darkness; it’s a time to conquer it. How are these things possible? Intimacy with God that births vision, passion, empathy; perfect love. Jesus alone is the answer.


Three Things My Father Taught Me:

It’s funny, y’know; we inherit so many small things from our parents that we hardly notice until we get around other people. There are certain things we just do without thinking about where it came from or why, but there are other things… foundational things that our parents teach us, and today I want to share the three things my dad taught me.

parents

Honor: Growing up, I watched my dad do many things, but one of the things that had the most impact on me was the way he went out of his way to honor others. There were countless times where my dad would completely change direction when we were headed somewhere simply to say thank you to a Veteran or Serviceman/woman. The sincere gratefulness he had in his face when he thanked them deeply impacted me.

Loyalty & Love: These two go hand in hand. Ever since I was little I watched the way my dad relentlessly pursued my mom, the way that he loyally stood by her, the way he sacrificed his desires for hers. I watched him buy flowers simply because. I watched him refuse to eat simply because she wasn’t eating, too (though in my opinion this one is a little too much haha). I watched him stand by his family when things were hard, and most people would have cut them off completely. I watched him give grace to people who didn’t deserve it (if I believed in deserving grace).

Integrity & Character: These are essentially the same thing. I’ve seen my dad get removed from projects he was working on when he was an insurance salesman because he wouldn’t shortcut or cheat or lie. I’ve seen my dad get lied about and silently endure the ridicule and shame. I’ve seen my dad go all the way back to the grocery store because the cashier forgot to charge him something – even if it only changed the purchase by cents. I’ve also seen him go all the way back to the grocery store because they gave him too much change (even if it was only cents).

These are cornerstones in my life because I’ve seen these things modeled. I couldn’t be who I am without it. I wouldn’t be as dedicated to people in my life if I hadn’t first seen dedication in my life. So, for all the crap that I give my parents (particularly my dad), the truth is: I owe him a whole lot. So much of my perspective has been shaped by his hands, and I’m truly honored because of that. There’s no one in the world with as much loyalty and dedication as he has, and definitely no one with as much character and integrity.

Daily, I find myself trying to do things that he would do; like saying thank you to a veteran or doing something I know is right, even if I don’t feel like it; like saying sorry even if I’m not wrong. I know that I’m still learning, but I think I’m at a great advantage because of everything that my parents have taught me. I carry it into every day, and I know I’ll carry it into my future family – for that I’m truly thankful.

Steph

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We Remember:

I decided that I like the phrase “We Remember” over “Never Forget” on days like this. “We Remember” feels a little more sacred to me, like I’m setting aside time to remember what happened in New York City fourteen years ago. I like it because it’s intentional. Not “never forget” like we have no choice, but “we remember” like we’re purposefully reverent.

I think it’s important to remember to good with the bad some times. I think it’s good to lean into the pain because pain refines, and it reminds us that we are real – not invincible or indestructible. As a country, we bleed. As individuals, we bleed. We are human and we are breakable.

September 11th is important to me because it reminds me that when we’re united we don’t care about arbitrary opinions, political propaganda, gas prices, the DOW – we simply care about each other. On September 11th, we stood together as a nation and wept together for each other. It didn’t matter what we believed or who voted for the previous election. It didn’t matter if we were Jewish or Hindu or Christian, it just mattered that we were people drawn together by a mutual loss.

Every year, I watch the footage of what happened on September 11th. I do it because when it happened I was much too young to fully comprehend what was going on. I was a kid, then. Now, as an adult, I understand the depth of the impact that those attacks had on us as a society. We were shaken but united.

I dream of a day again in the United States where we can – apart from a terrorist attack – stand together because we’re people – black or white, gay or straight, Christian or atheist. Simply because we’re people.

So, in honor of those who lost their lives: I pray we would choose kindness over judgement, we would choose unity over division, we would choose to see each other as people and not as opinions. I pray comfort for those families who have lost those they love and I pray that we – the church, America, both – would reach our hands to those hurting in this time (and any other time) and be a light to them.

National-Sept-11-Memorial-Museum


Live a Life Worthy of Your Calling 

^ That’s Ephesians 4:1. 

Paul pleads with the followers of Ephesus to live a life worthy of their calling. What does that mean though? I guess to answer that question you first have to answer the question: what is my calling? 

In this particular context, the Greek word Klēsis (calling) means to be called or summoned, and it refers to Gods invitation to salvation for all people. So, live a life worthy of our salvation. So, we’re thinking, “What does that mean exactly? We can’t earn salvation, so it can’t possibly mean that.” (You’re right, it doesn’t mean that at all). 

The next verse goes on to talk about Unity in the Church (which if you know me at all is a passion of my heart):  

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭2‬ NLT)

A life worthy of our calling is not a life in which we make no mistakes; instead, it’s a life where we’re gentle with each other (and ourselves) for making mistakes. It’s not about batting a thousand because you never will, but it’s about being a #rideordie friend in the midst of chaos, it’s about looking at people’s faults with tenderness realizing that you’re in as much need of grace as they are. It’s about leaning in together with one purpose: Glorifying God. 

At the end of the day, we will be known as disciples of God by one thing: our love for one another (John 13:34-35). This can’t be underestimated. This is what it means to live a life worthy of our calling. 

We love others not because they’re worthy! Its not because we’re worthy! It’s because God is worthy. As Jesus did, we’re called to do. Jesus washed feet. Jesus forgave sins. Jesus protected sinners from stone throwing. Love serves. Love conquers.  Love covers. 

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭31-32‬ NLT)

Now, more than ever we need to stand with each other. There is a war for souls. We have the grace of being saved, and now it’s time to be the hands and feet of that grace to a generation that is quickly chasing other things. For such a moment as this, we were created. 


The Year of Due Season 

At the beginning of the year Pastor Joel declared that 2015 would be the year of the due season. Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” 

What does that mean exactly? Because I’ve been asking myself that question over and over again. I asked myself that questions when I saw more obstacles than blessings, and more difficulties than opportunities. But last night, I think God deposited a revelation in me. 

What does it mean to harvest? 

  
This. This is harvesting. 

Harvest = hard work. Honestly, when I think of the word “blessings” I think of opportunities that I don’t deserve or money that came from seemingly nowhere, but what I don’t think of is hard work. Blessing is not synonymous with leisure. It doesn’t necessarily mean taking a load off on an island somewhere (it definitely means that sometimes, but not always). The bible says that the HARVEST is many, but the WORKERS are few. In case you missed it: we are the workers. And the harvest is people. The harvest is salvation. In that process, God takes care of our desires and our needs and our wants, but let’s not forget what our PURPOSE is: bringing people into the knowledge that Jesus died for their salvation.

So, yes: 2015 is the year of due season. It’s the year of break through. The year of new opportunities, healed relationships, and amazing blessings for our lives. We will be blessed because God is good. We will reap the harvest because God is faithful, but that doesn’t mean we get to be lazy about it. Harvest is an action word. As we prepare our lives to recieve God’s abundance, let’s not forget that is not a call to do nothing, but a call to do something.