Devotionals

Salve for the Soul When You Wake Up in a Funk

Do you ever wake up in a funk? I’m not sure anyone else really uses that term, but it’s what my mom always said. It just means I woke up in a sad, pessimistic mood. You see, I pulled the intercostal muscles along my right side (again) without even doing anything strenuous and I haven’t slept well the past two nights. So I woke up in a funk. The minute I was awake I grabbed my phone and mindlessly watched Instagram stories for an hour. And you know what? I felt even worse.

Mindless activities used to distract from pain, sadness, or reality usually come with negative side effects. Like feeling worse. Like ignoring the Lord’s call to bring my worries to Him. Eventually I got out of bed nearly crying and my husband encouraged me to read my Bible.

This morning, I need to know who God is. If I know who He is, I can better understand who I am. I can better understand my purpose. I can better understand the significance of my life. But to know who He is, I have to spend time thinking about Him.

I opened my Bible to Psalm 23, which is my personal favorite Scripture. It’s always spoken to me in powerful ways and drawn me into a closer, more tender relationship with the Lord. Today I decided to read it through a new lens. For every verse, I asked myself and God “who is my shepherd?” By that I mean- literally, who is He? What are His qualities, characteristics, passions, and purposes?

Who is my Shepherd?

  • The LORD
  • Provider
  • Knows me
  • Caring
  • Knowledgeable
  • Persistent
  • Wise
  • Strong
  • Honorable
  • Close by
  • Protector
  • Comforter
  • Hospitable
  • Holy
  • Love
  • Generous
  • Good
  • Pursuer
  • Eternal

I take comfort in these words, knowing that my identity comes from God alone. The only opinion that matter is His. Not my family’s, friends’, or coworkers’ opinions. Just His.

So if He is all of these things, who am I? I take His qualities one at a time and I ask myself what identity His qualities give me.

Here’s a sample of my list:

  • Daughter of the LORD of the universe
  • Provided for
  • Known
  • Cared for
  • Pursued
  • Honored
  • Near Him
  • Protected
  • Loved
  • Saved

As I created my two lists, I grew closer to the Lord. It’s incredible how many different ways there are to connect with Him. He’s able to connect with me (and you!) in an entirely unique way. Because He made us unique and knows what each of us needs.

So let me encourage you, friend. Read your favorite Scripture today and ask God who He is. He will reveal Himself to you in layers, ever more complex as He draws you deeper. And your heart will be moved to worship. And that posture can change not only your day, but your life.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness
or his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” -Psalm 23

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Devotionals

I Am Never Alone

I took the Enneagram test a few weeks ago. I know, I know- late to the game. For those of you who don’t know, Enneagram is like a (in my opinion) better version of the Myers-Briggs personality test. It tells you your tendencies, fears, areas of strength, etc. I’m a type 6 wing 5, which means that my main fear is being abandoned. And let me get pretty real here: that’s absolutely true for me.

I fear that I am worthless. And that I will therefore be abandoned. I think, in a way, that’s classic middle child syndrome. Middle children tend to feel overlooked or left out or unimportant. But regardless, I hold on tight to the people around me because I do not want to be left behind. Or forgotten.

My birthday is tomorrow. Let me confess something: I’m always disappointed by my birthday. You see, I want people to prove that I have worth. I measure that in the recognition and affirmations that I get from the people around me. Let me clue you in on a little secret: that’s a terrible idea. If my worth is based on the behavior and affirmations of others, I’m bound to be disappointed, as demonstrated by my frustration with my birthday year after year. No matter how much love and affirmation I receive, I’m bound to let their behavior prove that I am worthless in my own mind. And that feels terrible.

Today, I prayed about it. I did some thought work. I wrote my thoughts down on paper and then examined them. I decided to change them, starting with this one: “people don’t care about me.” Then I asked God what to replace this thought with.

He whispered “I am never alone.” That God’s thought for me to adopt into my brain patterns- a thought to truly think on purpose. And, friend, it rocked me. God always knows exactly what I need to hear and what words I need to think. It always brings tears to my eyes.

I am never alone. You know why? Because I am completely known and fully loved by God. He is with me always and therefore I am never alone. I can ignore Him, mentally walk away, tune Him out. But He is always there.

Part of my personality is to be extremely loyal to the people around me. My Enneagram type is even called “The Defender.” But you know who’s more loyal? God. He does not abandon me when times get tough or I’m ignoring Him. He does not ignore me when I’m frustrated, hurt, or confused. Because He’s loyal. More loyal than I could ever imagine.

He’s so loyal and committed to being with me that He sacrificed His own son to bring me into deeper relationship with Him. What?! Who does that?! God.

I might not deserve it. I might not understand it. But God is always with me. I am never alone.

And friend, neither are you.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” -Psalm 137: 7-18

 

Devotionals

Always Remember What God Has Done

Do you ever feel like you keep hearing the same message from completely different sources? It’s almost like a weird deja vu. My friend Phoebe calls them Sacred Echos. Well, I’ve had one the past few days. You see, at Church we’ve been going through a series in Exodus, following the story of Moses. And usually when God does something completely miraculous, He asks the Israelites to remember and preserve the memory for posterity. Sometimes it’s with a physical sign, like stones, and sometimes He just tells them to remember that He’s the LORD. And as I read, it seems obvious that they should remember. Like duh, you’re not likely going to forget the Red Sea literally splitting in half for you to walk through.

And yet…do I remember all the miracles I’ve seen in my own life? Do I remember all the times God has come through and unexpectedly answered my prayers? Do I remember the times I’ve felt His presence so deeply, I know without a doubt He’s there? How easily I forget. How easily I fall into discouragement, despair, frustration, confusion, or doubt.

Today, I heard a similar message on one of my favorite podcasts. She encouraged me to remember what God has done for me. To make the reminder visible, symbolic, near to me. Just as the Israelites had physical reminders of God everywhere in their home and on their person, so I too can make physical signs. I can remind myself that God is there, has always been there, and will always be there. Always. Nothing else in my life is constant except the presence, love, and acceptance of the Lord. And He always comes through.

He came through when I survived what should have been a fatal car accident with barely a scratch on me. He came through when I had blood clots, 3 procedures, and 1 major surgery in the span of 6 months. He came through when I struggled to survive my first year of teaching. He came through in providing me with the most loving, incredible partner.

And He’ll continue to come through. For me…and for you. He’s relentless in His pursuit and He won’t relent until He has us completely. Until we realize our utter and complete dependence upon Him. Our dependence brings us freedom and joy. He wants to be near us. He wants to take our yoke in exchange for His. His is much lighter and much more bearable. Because His Son has already done all of the work for us. For eternity.

So remember Him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” Psalm 77:11

“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
 The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.
 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
    he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
    are drowned in the Red Sea.[b]
 The deep waters have covered them;
    they sank to the depths like a stone.
 Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
    shattered the enemy.” -Exodus 15:2-6

Devotionals

Citizens of Heaven

Living here is uncomfortable. I’m not talking about my apartment or my car or my classroom. I’m talking about here. On Earth. Despite the best efforts of 21st century appliances and tech, we’re still uncomfortable. Something feels off. Wrong, even.

Pain is ubiquitous in this world. It’s inescapable. Death surrounds us. We, as a culture, have both a fascination and horror with death. It feels so final to us. So permanent. So wrong. So we consume hours of tv shows that surround death. Death of characters, characters who investigate death. We try to make sense of it. “Oh, that character had to die to advance the plot line. That makes sense.” Or “They had to find the killer to give the deceased rest.” Bizarre, isn’t it, that we vainly try to make sense of death. That we somehow think our actions here can benefit the dead.

This world feels terrible at times. War, discrimination, inequality, sex trafficking, child pornography, suicide rates, mass shootings, drunk driving, poverty. Everywhere we look this world oppresses us with its evil. And pain and fear drive the actions of humans. At times, in our sinful bodies, it drives us. It’s uncomfortable.

But we don’t belong here. We are not of the world. We are not stuck here forever. We don’t belong here. As believers, we feel this every day. We feel the horror this world has to offer and we feel that something is wrong. It is wrong. So wrong.

You see, we’ve been redeemed. Jesus has saved us from this broken, hurt, weeping, sinful world. Living here feels uncomfortable because this is not our home. In our lives on Earth, we will fulfill our God-given purpose. In addition to the pain, we will experience healing, redemption, and worship of our Creator.We even get snippets of His greatness through nature and the beauty of other people. And we crave more. And it’s uncomfortable.

Someday we will stand in the true presence of an almighty creator. The One who created beauty from literally nothing. The One who looked at a broken, sinful, terrible world and chose to love it, to cherish it, to save it. As unworthy as we are, this is where we belong: in heaven with the Alpha and the Omega. We belong in Heaven with Jesus, who paid for our sins with His body and His death. The sins that created this broken, hurting world in the first place. He was forsaken that we might be saved. He will someday fully redeem the earth, give us new bodies, and allow us to be forever with Him without the pain of this world. Discomfort and death will be gone. And we will finally be home.

“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us…Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” -Philippians 3:14; 17-21, bold added)

Devotionals

Relatability is Overrated

We’ve all been there: scrolling through Instagram seeing the same old posts time and time again. An artful shot of a Starbucks cup. A cart full of cute (but unnecessary) items from a Target haul. A plate full of delicious looking food with a matching caption about being stuffed beyond belief. An entire day spent binging on Netflix.

As much as I love Instagram, connecting with others, and sharing common interests, these types of posts rub me the wrong way. Obviously it’s incredibly important for human beings to form genuine connections with others and sharing common interests, habits, and struggles is totally a part of that. Real, raw social media posts are awesome. Sharing real life moments is awesome. Delving into the struggles of the Christian life is awesome.

So what’s my problem with all the Starbucks and Target posts?

I feel like at some point we confused relatability with gluttony. In my opinion, many of these posts revolve around over-indulging. This can look like buying too much, eating too much, consuming too much sugar or things that are bad for our bodies. If these posts were about having a vulnerable, honest look at these over-indulgences and calling them out for what they are, I’d be totally for it. But what I see happening is almost a celebration of gluttony.

Gluttony is one of those hidden sins that few people talk about. How many sermons have you heard about it? I literally don’t think I’ve ever heard one. Yet the Bible has some strong words to say about treating our bodies well, spending our money wisely, and avoiding over-indulgence (see verses below).

Sin should never be casual. Our sin nailed the Lord of the universe to the cross. Now, we don’t need to feel guilt or give in to self loathing. Those things are tools of the Enemy. Instead, we need to be aware of what’s going on in our hearts. God cares about how we spend our money and treat our bodies because it’s an outward sign of an inward reality.

Is the treasure of my heart God? Or do I worship the luxurious things money can buy me? All of our resources come from God. He owns them. It’s important for us to take that seriously and surrender our spending habits to Him. Now maybe that means He does want you to buy some pretty things from Target. Or have the treat of a Starbucks drink. However, it’s important to seek Him first and put the idols in our lives where they belong: underneath the authority of God.

So let’s be relate-able in a different way. Let’s share about the sin driving our over-indulgent behavior. Let’s ask God what we should be spending our money on. Let’s not compare the answer God gives us to the answer he gives someone else. Each of us is incredibly unique. God knows what each of us needs specifically. What’s good for you might not be good for her. And vise versa.

I struggle with making the treasure of my heart the Lord. I compare my home’s decor with my friends’ beautiful Instagram posts about their own home. God has not gifted me with the talent for design. And right now our money is honoring God by paying back our debts. Yet someday that might change and maybe God will want us to allocate funds for that purpose. But that’s not our season right now and that’s okay. What’s important is surrender and acceptance of God’s will. He knows what’s good for us. He loves us without measure. And He will not withhold the good things we need.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” -1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3: 13-21

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:21

 

Devotionals

5 Thoughts on the Nebulous Topic of Quiet Time

Quiet time. You hear about it all the time in the Christian community. Everyone talks about its importance and how much it impacts their lives. Yet so many of us struggle with figuring out what it looks like on a practical level. We struggle with the discipline of sitting down, quieting our minds, and spending quality time with God.

As I’ve pursued this journey of quiet time, here are a few things I’ve discovered:

  1. Not everyone’s quiet time looks the same. Sure, sitting down, reading your Bible, and praying are standard. And we absolutely must read our Bibles and pray. Scripture is one of the most powerful tools we have against the enemy. How can we know what comes from God and what comes from the Enemy without Scripture? So it’s absolutely a must. However, your quiet time can have variety. You can read one verse and then go on a walk and meditate on that verse. You can read a book by a Christian author that helps you better worship God. You can go through a Bible study workbook. You can listen to worship music. You can get down on your knees and pray with your arms lifted to the Lord. You can dance before Him. You can paint, draw, sculpt as you pray and dwell in His presence. You can journal. You can talk to Him out loud. The list is unending- because as I’m learning from Jen Wilkin’s None Like Him, we serve an infinite God and therefore He is not bound by a single method of connection.
  2. Quiet time is a habit. Seriously, it doesn’t just become a habit on its own. You have to plan, prioritize, and repeat it daily. It takes 21 days for something to become a habit. We have to have the discipline to daily surrender our schedules and days before the Lord and commit to spending time with Him. This might sound harsh but, friend, you need to hear it: you cannot claim to have a relationship with someone you don’t spend time with. Let’s not kid ourselves. We must make tiny sacrifices to die to ourselves daily and choose God.
  3. Quiet time is not a prerequisite for God to love you. We don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. We already have it. Jesus already died for our sins. Guilt has no power over us. If we miss a quiet time, God is not holding a grudge. He’s not mad. He’s waiting. He desires your time because He has the purest of loves for you. We must view quiet time as a beautiful gift to spend time with the one who loves us the most- and surrender our guilt when we’re not perfect.
  4. God is fun. No, really. Who do you think invented the idea? God wants to have fun with us during our quiet times. We can seriously let our imaginations run wild with Him. We can go on hikes and adventures. We can laugh with God and have private jokes. God is not serious all the time. He’s playful, delightful. He’s certainly not stuffy and boring.
  5. Our days have more joy and perspective when we spend time with Him. In reality, we are citizens of heaven, not this world. And because we’re citizens of heaven, this world can drain us and leave us feeling discouraged and empty. What if we looked at quiet time as a way to recharge and get perspective on our earthly lives? Things that loom large in daily life pale in comparison to eternity. Don’t get me wrong- pain is pain and I would never hope to diminish someone’s suffering. However, when we look to eternity with the Creator, we can realize that healing will come, this earth will be redeemed, and the battle has already been won- by Someone much bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine.

Friends, let’s spend time with God, not out of obligation, but out of delight and joy. All good things come from Him. And when we give Him our stresses and worries, He will bring healing, refocus, and joy.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3: 16-17

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3:20-21

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:6-7

Devotionals

Is Anyone Actually Patient?

“I’m just not really a patient person…” says the girl on my podcast this morning. I’m struck by how odd of a statement that is. It’s a common enough phrase- we describe people as patient all the time- but what does that actually mean? When we get down to it, is anyone actually patient?

I don’t think so. I’m going to get kind of philosophical here but I’m pretty sure we humans are just a mass of hugely inconsistent contradictions. When you really think about it, people rarely personify one word perfectly. I believe everyone is both patient and impatient.

For example, I am patient with teenagers when I’m trying to teach them how to write. I don’t mind them not getting it right the first time- in fact, I expect the process to be time consuming and somewhat painful. However, I lose my mind when I have to wait in a line. I just lose it. I can’t believe that someone would waste my time for no good purpose (which is why my husband and I bring books to Disneyland).

Isn’t it interesting how we humans want to label ourselves and each other. It feels organized or somehow satisfying to label things or put them into categories. We love pigeon-holing people and then pointing out when they do things out of line from our perception of them.

Is this fair? It doesn’t feel fair. However, regardless of its fairness, it is the reality of how we think about humans. And on a much broader scale, it’s a key difference between humanity and God. We can’t put our hope in people- because people aren’t consistent enough. They’re not safe enough. We think they’re one way and then they go and do something “way out of character.” But who characterized them in the first place? Who decided that they had to be that way?

Humans will fail us. God will not. He is completely unchanging. He was, is, and is to come. He is the perfect version of all the things: love, patience, kindness, peace, mercy, grace, wisdom, etc. We might be patient in one way, but God is patient in all of the ways. And He is patient as we live out this life, make mistakes, run back to Him, ignore Him, and repeat the process all over again.

Our heavenly Father is the only safety. He’s actually the only one we can count on to always be consistently who He is. How beautiful is that?

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” -Hebrews 13:8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” -1 Corinthians 13: 4-10