The Best of Company

Some nights I reflect on the day I just experienced and am so grateful to have spent my time in such good company. After meeting with old friends, mentors, and spending time with my family, I truly appreciate the people in my life. But I often find that those days in good company don’t measure to other days I’ve spent in the best of company. It is the days that I haven’t taken the time to be in the presence of the Lord that I’d like to go back in time and do differently. My days are completely different when I spend time with Him.

Hebrews is a great book in the Bible that encourages me in my faith. There are so many pieces of wisdom in each chapter that I often only read one chapter at a time. I could write down thoughts for an hour on just one chapter. This morning, as I continued in this book to Hebrews 6, the author seemed pretty blunt in what he was saying to his audience. This letter was to encourage people in their faith and help them hold on to what they believed in. One verse says this,

 

“So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding…” (Hebrews 6:1)

 

I read this and stopped to question why the author would write this in his letter. He wasn’t out to condemn people and make them feel immature in their faith. No, instead he wanted so badly for God’s people to move forward in their faith because he knew of the blessings that come from a growing trust in the Lord. He had incredible hope when he put his trust in Jesus and he wanted these people to experience the same thing.

 

We can experience this hope when we choose to seek Him more and more in our lives. We should always want to be growing in our faith as Christ followers. Let’s not settle, but continue to learn more and more about who God is. The more time we can take to learn about who God is, the more we can be like Him in our everyday lives.

 

The words of this letter highlight God’s promises that come to those with faith and endurance. Hebrews 6:19 says,

 

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls”.

 

I read this and see the hope we have because of the God’s promises. He wants to give us so much. If we knew just how much He has planned for us, we would want to sit with Him for hours upon hours everyday and just listen for a glimpse of the future plans He has. Why don’t we? Why don’t we want to spend time listening for those promises and plans? He has promised you life when you receive Jesus Christ into your heart. He has promised you life after death because of what Jesus has done on the cross and on Easter day. He has promised you blessings after obedience because He delights in giving to His children.

 

The words I read this morning reminded me of the strong and trustworthy anchor I have because of the hope God has given me. In a world with many problems, many arguments, and many situations that bring a loss of hope, I hold onto the fact that my God has redeemed me and the world for a bright future. Because I was able to spend time with Him this morning, I am ready to take on the day with the hope I have in Him.

 

This post was meant to be very simple because I believe spending time with God is very simple. If you don’t know where to start, open up the book of John. Read a few chapters and take notes on who Jesus is; His character and His actions. Get to know the One you follow and aim to be like. The only complication comes when we choose to come up with excuses or don’t give God the time of day. I encourage you to take some time reading His Word and pouring out your heart to God in prayer today. He is waiting to spend time with you and you will walk away being thankful that He is in your life.

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Plant Your Feet Before Moving Forward

Imagine your life as stepping stones that lead to a final destination. You can see the stone you are standing on and a shadow of the one ahead. There is only a glimpse of what is to come but you know it is there, awaiting your arrival. The rest of this picture is dark. Around you, all you can see is trees because you are deep in a forest trying to find your way through. You can hear the wind gliding against the trees and the sound of wildlife. What you cannot hear is any sound of human life nearby. You are walking this path of stepping stones on your own. Your destination is close, but you are oblivious to how many stones it will take to get there because they are hidden from your sight.

This picture is the story of my life. As a person who loves to know what is going to happen next and to plan for it, I struggled with this scenario for a long time. Throughout high school I tried to find who I was in my future. My career, my location, and my relationships were the areas of my life that seemed to have the answers of who I was becoming. While these things can tell a lot about who we are, they are not who we are.

A loss of identity can get us way off track from where we need to be. When I talk about where we need to be, I mean that sweet spot where we know we are doing what we were made to do to the best of our abilities. Isn’t that what we love? Being able to do what we are naturally good at for a greater good and purpose? Finding that purpose and fulfillment in our lives is so important, especially at a young age. Finding success in our passion is something we strive for in years of schooling and training to become what we have dreamed about becoming throughout our short lifetime. The question we want an answer to is ‘How do we get to that sweet spot’?

Let’s go back to the stepping stones. I believe this picture was given to me by God to help me see how to reach my goals in life. It is a reminder, everyday, that my sweet spot is not ten stepping stones ahead of me. My sweet spot is where I am now. The stone where my feet rest is my calling and my purpose today, tomorrow, and everyday until it is time to move onto the next stone. I first need to plant my feet before I move.

I’ve learned from so many wise mentors in my life that my future is decided everyday by what I decide to do on the stone on where I stand today. Living today like it is my last but also as a launch pad for the dreams I strive to see become reality. There is a combination of both that get us to our goals.

For the first time in my young life, I feel like I am exactly where I need to be in order to fulfill my purpose in this life. The gifts and abilities given to me are being used and grown for a better purpose than just myself. I say this not to lift myself up but to lift up the One who’s plan excites me everyday. My Heavenly Father has guided me to this place in life to where I can see success in ministry and things He calls me to do because I allow Him to do immeasurably more through me than I could ever do by myself.

A wise woman once told me that the greatest success in Christian leaders has come from not just listening to God, but listening to God and doing what He asks. It is as simple as that. Hearing from God is one thing and for those of us that have heard from God, it is amazing, right? It is amazing to hear from God clearly because His plans are so good! But how we measure our success is not in how much money we make with our gifts, how many people see our success on TV, how nice of a house we own, or how good we feel about ourselves when the day is done. Our success is measured in our obedience to Christ.

When we choose to be present on the stone on which we stand, we learn to live for the moments that are fleeting. Instead of worrying about the next step, we plant our feet and look around at the view we may not have noticed before. Instead of moving ahead too quickly, we stay in the place where we can see clearly and not a place we have to walk around blindly. If we move too quickly, we may find ourselves stumbling in the dark.

Let God reveal your next step. Let Him walk alongside you in the journey of reaching your goals in life. Have dreams and have ambitions but let God get you there. His gifts are your gifts. You are made in His image. When you know your Father better, you will better know yourself and the gifts He has given you. Every good thing comes from Him. There is so much goodness He has in store for you not just in the future, but where you are right now.

Think back to the picture of the stepping stones. Where are you now and where do you want to be someday? At the end of your life, what do you want to be known for? Think of your ultimate goal, what is awaiting you at the end of your stepping stones. For me, I see a cross at the end of my path. When I think of the person I want to be and become, I think first of how I can pick up my cross daily. That is my goal every step of the way. I pray that as a Christ follower this can be your goal every step of the way as well.

Continue on the journey that you have embarked on, young traveler. Take the time to stop and smell the roses in the forest. Don’t look back at the mistakes. Only look, for a moment, at the times that made you grow stronger. Be careful not to stray from this path because the Light is showing you this path for a reason. This path teaches you patience, faith, hope, joy, and contentment. Don’t lose sight of it because it leads to good things.

‘Who’ Instead of ‘What’

I am writing today for the young college students, high school seniors, and, quite frankly, anyone else who is stressed with figuring out what they want to do with their life. This season of my life is coated in questions. I’m constantly being asked, “What are you going to do when you graduate?”, “Where do you want to work in a few years?”, and “What are your plans?” All good questions. At times, I think those of us on the receiving end tend to twist those questions into doubts and worries about the future. They can even make us worry so much that we start to quickly map out a five-year plan in our heads.

A recent conversation with a wise friend brought me to this conclusion: You can’t always choose what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. What you can choose is who you are going to be. Despite location, age, family situations, relationship status, current job, or economic status, I can hold on to an identity I choose to keep my roots planted in.

I’ve always been a fan of consistency. When I find a good restaurant, I find all and any opportunity to eat there with friends. Whenever I start watching a TV show that I thoroughly enjoy, I have to watch it the whole way through and finish it. I have even attained the same place at our family dinner table since I was in elementary school. So when the road gets twisted and curvy, I’d like to think that I at least get to ride in my same car the whole way through.

When you embark on a road trip, think of the constants you hold on to. You have whatever you packed in your suitcase, your vehicle, and the people who tag along. These things are what we count on to have throughout our journey. But what if I left my favorite pair of shoes at the hotel we stayed in last night? What if we pick up another friend along the way? And what if our vehicle breaks down and we have to buy bus tickets to get back home? No, sometimes there things aren’t constants. The people, the things, and the places are not always going to be what we planned. The one thing we can be sure of is who we are going to be in those situations. That is our constant on this journey.

As I just finished this last semester of college, I realized that I am halfway done with my undergrad schooling. That statement has not sunken in to my skull yet. Wow, how the years have already flown by. And before I know it, I will be walking across a stage, shaking a hand that will hand me a diploma with my name on it. This will be an accomplishment I never dreamed I would achieve. You see, college wasn’t even on my agenda until March of my senior year of high school. Plans changed, dreams changed, but I didn’t change.

While I’m growing up and seeking opportunities to someday make a living and use my talents for a greater purpose than myself, I find more and more that I need to stop asking myself what I’m going to do in the next few years and start asking myself who I want to become. Right now is a foundational time of my life where I get to learn and grow in an environment that acts as a launchpad for my future. I’m learning many lessons and growing in more ways than I ever have before. The most important lesson I am taking away is the lesson of being true to myself and my calling in this world before I worry about my future career. It is when I find security in who I am that my future will unfold and be more fulfilling than I could ever plan it to be.

Who do I want to be after I graduate? Before any career, any specific position, or any location, I want to be these three things:

  1. A passionate, faithful Christ follower
  2. A selfless, loving friend, daughter, sister (and someday wife and mother)
  3. FUN

Make a list of who you want to be, not what you want to be and keep them close to your heart. Don’t let questions about your future bring anxiety or unnecessary planning. Plans change! Be who you are and hold on to this in any season of life. You will reach the mountain tops with your talents and abilities. We often forget to get to the top, we have to climb. And life, like our good friend Miley Cyrus once said, is ‘The Climb’. Scenery will change, people may change, and tasks to keep climbing may change. Don’t forget who you are along the way and let go of worries that hide who you are. It is when we let go of those worries of careers, jobs, relationships, and future plans that we feel lighter on our feet as we gradually reach the mountain’s top.

Man of Sorrows

I want to begin this blog post by stating this: it is okay to not be okay. Sadness is something we all deal with. It is real and brings us to dark places. But often we hide our sadness under a smile or shade of happiness we applied to our faces that morning. We may think there is no time or space for our sadness amidst the busyness we have signed ourselves up for. Our schedules are jam packed, we get little sleep, and we have so many people to please. Has anyone ever felt this way?

I go to a Christian university, and love the community that I have the privilege to live in. But something I’ve noticed is when life is difficult and heavy, we think we have to have it all together. It feels to me like sometimes as Christians, we think there is no time in the day to deal with struggles or loneliness or grief or sadness. We know the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

But how are we dealing with the heavy burdens life brings our way? I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: If I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that it is okay to not be okay.  I’m confident in this because of a verse in Isaiah 53:3:

“He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…”

Jesus was the Man of Sorrows. He came on earth to die for all humankind; billions of people who knew and didn’t know Him. He fought for our salvation by carrying our burdens and sorrows to the cross. All of the pain, sin, and darkness of the world was placed on His shoulders for a world that had turned away from Him. He knows sorrow. He knows pain. He knows sadness.

These past three weeks have shaken my world and opened my eyes to how we deal with pain. My grandma passed away, three weeks ago now, to be with the Lord in Paradise. She was ready to be in the Lord’s presence and it gave me peace knowing she passed peacefully. God gave me the incredible opportunity to see her the night before her passing; to tell her how much her testimony and love meant to me. It was a beautiful time because we know that because of Jesus, she is now healed and complete in Him. Now separated from suffering and darkness, she is living in the light of Christ.

I live with seven other girls in a suite at my school. I love them all dearly and again want to thank them for their comfort and protection during my time of grieving. A community that is full of compassion helps bring healing to hurt.

On the day of my grandma’s funeral, my phone blew up with messages about another one of my roommate’s grandpa passing away. The hurt and pain that I was feeling was no longer just mine. My dear friend got to see her grandpa before he passed, but still came back to school with the loss of a loved one.

Our dorm room was feeling the weight of loss and grief that week. We were shocked by these two losses happening so close together and dealt with it with as much grace as we could. And to our surprise, another wave came rolling in. My roommate got a sudden phone call a few days later with the unexpected news that her grandma had passed in her home. I cannot tell you the heaviness of that day as we carried on throughout our classes in disbelief. We kept asking each other, What is happening to our room?

Many tears, many hugs, and many prayers later, we all rallied around each other in community for the loss we continued to feel for each other. The love I felt for these friends grew so much in those few days.

As I write to you now with a heavy heart, I write of the news that another one of my roommate’s great-grandma has passed away suddenly. Another shock that seemed too much like routine in our room. The heaviness and weight of loss still rests on our shoulders as we grieve for our dear friend and roommate.

This time will always serve as a memory, definitely not a fond memory, of how we deal with loss in a broken world. I hold onto that verse in Isaiah to remind myself that Jesus was the Man of Sorrows. He came and suffered with us and for us. He understands loss. In the book of John, we’ve all memorized a small verse in John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” I remember this verse because Jesus mourned when he heard of his friend Lazarus’ death. He felt pain. He knew what it was like to lose someone to death. He was human, like us. I look to Him during this time of loss.

God does not like death. He mourns with us and calls us as the Church to deal with loss together. He does not want us to be alone. I hold tightly to Him in a time of deep sorrow and am thankful for the community He has given us in His Church. Thank you for support and love from those that have heard about what has been happening over the past few weeks. We appreciate your prayers in this time. Not just for comfort, but for protection in a time where much seems lost. We hold on to the promises of the Lord and trust that He will bring blessings out of sorrow and pain.

Psalm 23:4,6: “Yea, 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. … Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

2 Corinthians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

Just Let It Go

A few days ago became a holiday for me. August 16 was a day of celebration. This is the day I decided to wait for since last summer. In the summer of 2015, I felt challenged and called to give up shopping as I stared at my overflowing closet. Crazy, right? For one year I didn’t buy myself clothes that would just keep ridiculously filling my closet. Yes, it was a challenge. But challenges can bring out the best in us and I learned so much about myself throughout this year. August 16 was the day I decided to end this endeavor. It was a rewarding day to say the least.

I’ve had a few people ask me how I feel after the year and what I’ve learned. It has been a few days and I’ve bought a few clothing items that I’ve been saving up for over the past few months. My mind has been jumbled with little time to sit down and remember where I was one year ago compared to now. Here I am with a challenge conquered still wondering why in the world did I give up shopping for one whole year?

I gave up shopping because it was something I knew I needed to do. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever had a gut feeling that wouldn’t let you think of anything else besides that one thing you had to do? Those feelings haunt me and don’t let me sleep at night. When I knew that this was something I had to do, I couldn’t let myself find excuses for an escape. I accepted the challenge and looked ahead to this new adventure. Difficulty awaited me but so did reward.

The biggest change I faced this year was how full my wallet was. There was actually cash in my wallet, people. From being a person who spent all her paycheck on shopping, coffee, and food, I noticed a slight increase in my savings. My money wasn’t coming to me for a quick visit, I actually had money camping out in my purse! Crazy, right? I never had to worry about gas money or food while on the road or expenses that needed to be paid. God continued to provide for me and instead of swiping my card at the mall, I put the money in a place where it was needed or where it could grow.

My eyes were opened to where I put my money. Where we put our money often shows where our hearts are. I wouldn’t say I  was putting my money towards my looks and outward appearance last year. I would instead say I was spending all of my money on myself. I was selfishly throwing money away for my wants not my needs, creating a mentality that what I was being given was all mine with no room for generosity. Focusing on our wants more than our needs creates an empty life. Yes, we need clothing. But if I never shopped again, I have enough clothing to last me the rest of my life! But if we have the resources and ability to bless people with what we’ve been given, that brings so much more meaning and purpose to life than a full closet.

What this year has left me with is a perspective on our grasp of things. When I first decided to give up shopping, my hand was in a clenched fist. It was very difficult to see something I wanted to buy and not go try it on with the possibility of a purchase. As the days and weeks and months dragged on, I slowly let go with empty hands. How much more freeing it is to go about life with empty hands! No burdens, no things to weigh you down.

Holding on to our things can be dangerous because they are temporary. When that thing fails to exist or gets lost or breaks, we are left disappointed and dysfunctional. We may not know what to do with ourselves. Imagine losing your phone for three days. A device you use for weather, time, communication, entertainment, capturing moments… What would you do without it? There’s a scary question.

If I can leave you with one thing today, it would be a challenge that you can take or leave. Let go of something for awhile. A day, a week, a month, or even a year. Let something go that has a grip on you as you hold it in your hands. What is one thing that absorbs your focus and energy that could be used for a better purpose? What can you give up in order for you to give more to others?

Not spending my money on clothes gave me more reason to bless others with my money or be able to create more memories with friends on trips or special events. Giving up something leaves a space for something better to fill it. If you feel challenged today, I encourage you to not let this gut feeling pass. Trust yourself and see what happens when you let go. See how you react without that one thing and how much you rely on it. I promise you after the difficult beginning of your journey, you will experience freedom with a new perspective on who and what you are living your life for.

 

 

 

 

Fear For Breakfast

I am a breakfast person. Coffee, french toast, bagels, bacon… the works. If I were to pick one meal of the day to eat for the rest of my life, it would be the first meal of my day. You have probably heard people say breakfast is the “Important Start To Your Day” meal. It “sets you up for success or failure”. As a very independent person, I never wanted to believe that something other than me could determine how my day was going to look. I thought no matter what I ate, I would be able to turn my day around through my attitude and strong will. But food is a funny thing. What we consume affects every aspect of our lives. It not only affects our physicality, but our mentality and spirituality.

I’ve been very conscious of what I consume this summer. So conscious that I even gave up unnatural sugar for one month. For the month of July, one month of the year where ice cream becomes my actual friend, I stuck to a diet that consisted of vegetables, meat, nuts, little grains, and little fruit. There were snacks here and there without sugar I would find and treasure. You would be surprised at how much food has added sugar to create an addictive taste!

What I noticed during this month was how much more energized I was during the day. I wasn’t depending on coffee or naps to keep me alert. The days didn’t feel too long or drawn out. I wasn’t day dreaming about going to bed early that night. It was a wonderful thing to actually enjoy my day and the company I was with because my body was feeling energized and capable of anything! All because I was conscious of what I was consuming.

So yes, I am a strong advocate for healthy consumption. It determines a lot and gives us a launch pad with energy for the day. Breakfast is emphasized by health nuts because a good beginning promises a strong end. If I start my day by eating a donut, I might just feel like a donut at the end of the day. Donuts still look good on the outside but lack a significant substance to contribute to one’s health on their insides. If I don’t benefit my health on the inside, how can I be my best self without the energy to do so?

What we consume can change everything. It can change our thoughts, opinions, attitudes, and struggles. And in a season of political importance with many decisions to be made, we need to talk about what we are consuming on the daily.

We are in a culture where we are constantly consuming fear. We eat it for breakfast. We are exposed the moment we wake up and unlock our phones. It creeps in our dining rooms and kitchens when the TV chimes in from the living room. We discuss it in our break rooms and cafeterias. It even comes back around when we gather for family dinner after a long day of work and school. How do we escape this fear when we are constantly consuming it?!

Living in fear is like living with cancer and not doing anything about it; allowing it to creep into every part of us to affect all that we do. It is burdening and toxic to those around us. Fear can be passed down from generation to generation because of the unexplainable influence it has on us. Why are we so easily taken over by fear?

Just like consuming food, we consume many things the media tells us. The media tells us that we should be afraid for the future of our country. The media tells us there is no hope. The media tells us our leaders will ruin our lives and bring despair to future generations. Without going into a political rant, I want to give you a reminder this morning.

Our hope is not in a politician. It is not in a law or an amendment. Our hope is not in fair pay for all. Our hope is not in equality. Our hope is not in man. Humans have messed things up since the beginning of time. Why is now any different? Why do we think now is the time to find some person we can depend on to “save” our country?

Our hope is in Jesus Christ and He is who we look to for these issues we face and so desperately hope to fix. We can hope for equality, fair pay, good laws, and good politicians. We cannot hope in these things. If life hasn’t already smacked you in the face with this truth, let me tell you this: Life isn’t fair! Things don’t always go our way and yes, there are many problems our country and world faces today. We are constantly being confronted with new problems that seem to make our hearts sink again and again. But let us not forget the constant that has always been and still remains to be our hope and salvation.

Jesus Christ is a man worthy of our faith and trust. He is the Son of the one who has a plan to ultimately glorify Him and His people. When there are times of trouble, He tells us not to fear. He has the final say and the ultimate victory in the end.

I once heard someone say, “Fear did not come from the Lord. So where does it come from? The devil. We don’t want anything from the devil! Give it right back to him and receive the courage and strength from God. He has much greater gifts to give than the devil.” If we are to be like God, we cannot hold onto fear because it is not of God. As His people, we must practice trusting in Him and not letting fear cripple us. It is how we can see this world change.

Let us not fear tomorrow! Let us not fear today. Don’t constantly consume messages of fear that want us to tremble and look to temporary things for a distraction. Those things are of false hope. Instead look to the one who wants to guide us through this mess of a world to our final destination of union with Him. That is the hope we can hold on to. That is the hope that should wake us up every morning and energize us to serve others in our lives and be our best selves.

Let’s consume His hope before we are faced with fear. Wake up and open your Bible first before opening your phone. Let’s have more conversations about solutions than about the problems. Pray instead of worrying, and pray without ceasing. And learn how to trust in these times. Learn how to lean on Jesus who is in control of the end of it all.

Don’t be crippled by fear. It is something this world wants us to hang onto. But God commands us to not fear. He instead commands us to be strong and courageous. I’m sure you’ve heard a verse like that before. It is time to start living it out!

Trust in Him and point to Him; our hope and our salvation. Jesus Christ is Lord of all and has conquered sin. Let us remember that in times of trouble.

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

A Generation That Gets It

July sixteen, two thousand and sixteen is a historic date for America. It is a historic date for our generation. A historic date for the Church. In Washington D.C. there was a gathering of hundreds of thousands of young people who desire to see change in our nation and our world. I reflect on that event today because it has not and should not stop. The spirit and purpose of this gathering continues admits darkness, it’s Light shines through.

The roots of all the problems our world is facing comes from brokenness. We’ve seen how dreams, people, and lives have been shattered because of the evil we see happening like a daily routine. There is hatred that cuts through like a knife in our society. Now we face division in our communities, in our nation, and in our world. We all have come face to face with this reality and have to decide how we deal with injustice. Imagine you knock over a beautiful vase that has been passed down in your family for generations. It was so priceless and so precious to your family because of its history. The pieces that now lay scattered on the ground were once so beautiful when they were together. Today as we face division and hatred, we face this question: How do we deal with the broken pieces scattered across the floor? How can we see beauty when there is so much brokenness?

The One that can bring these pieces together is not a politician, not a pastor, not an entrepreneur, not a motivational speaker, or even a billionaire. There is One who humbly came to this earth from paradise to see beauty rise from the ashes of our world. One who saw the broken pieces on the floor and became the Way to bring them back together. His name is Jesus, Jesus Christ. He is the living Son of God who desires a relationship with everyone and restoration for our lives!

I’m telling you, friends, that Jesus Christ is the only One that can bring these broken pieces, us, together.

Together 2016 was appropriately named for the need in our nation. This gathering of people ages 14-22 represented a generation that wants to see beauty out of brokenness. Hearts were longing for unity in our nation, not out of selfish ambition, but out of love for others. I have never experienced an event so unified and moving.

 

It was such an incredible privilege to represent my generation at this event. A high school student and I, two ordinary people, had the opportunity to pray over our peers about the issues we know we face. I cannot begin to explain to you how overwhelmed I was with the Holy Spirit’s presence that day. From preparation backstage to walking out and seeing the sea of people next to the Washington Memorial, I knew that God was there and He was speaking clearly to us about the future He desires for us.

 

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God used so many incredible communicators to preach the Gospel at Together. Many big names took the stage to remind everyone why Christ followers hold on to Jesus as our hope. His story of redemption was declared so that our stories would be changed. With all the stories we constantly hear in the media that make our hearts sink to our stomaches, we were reminded of a story that we need to be sharing more than anything else! The Gospel needs to be communicated in whatever way, shape, or form God has called you to share it. Especially as a young person! Your voice and your influence can inspire this nation to come together in a time that evil has designed for us to flee from unity. This message was preached boldly on the stage that day for our generation to hear.

While inspirational leaders are used by God to communicate His Word, it wasn’t the people onstage that shaped the event. People like Tim Tebow, Christine Caine, Francis Chan, Hillsong United, and Lecrae didn’t bring people together. They were simply leaders and communicators to usher us into the presence of God. And it was so humbly done. These names were talked about, not highlighted. It was Jesus’ name that was lifted higher than anyone who was apart this event. That is why Together 2016 was like no other event I’ve ever experienced.

When Jesus is the reason for a gathering, in the hearts of those who organized the event as well as those who drove miles to get there, lives are radically changed. God does so much more than we could ever do or ask for.

Our generation gets it. We understand that there is brokenness and problems that don’t point to any logical solution. But as I saw hundreds of thousands of Christ followers stand together in our nation’s capitol just few weeks ago, I was reminded of our solution. Our solution is to point to Jesus Christ. As a generation that longs for justice, longs for peace, and longs for love to conquer hatred, we need to continue to stand together under Jesus’ name to see beauty rise from brokenness.

Let’s give Jesus the broken pieces and see restoration in our land.

2 Chronicles 7:14- Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

Deuteronomy 30:3-13-  3 God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. 
4 No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there 
5 and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors. 
6 God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. 
7 God, your God, will put all these curses on your enemies who hated you and were out to get you.
8 And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God, keeping all his commandments that I’m commanding you today. 
9 God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you’ll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life. Yes, God will start enjoying you again, making things go well for you just as he enjoyed doing it for your ancestors. 
10 But only if you listen obediently to God, your God, and keep the commandments and regulations written in this Book of Revelation. Nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back. 
11 This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. 
12 It’s not on a high mountain – you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. 
13 And it’s not across the ocean – you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it.

 

 

First Things First…

“You got so much to do and only
So many hours in a day.”

-Billy Joel

These words written by my good friend Billy are so true. Time is fleeting. It is constantly slipping from our fingers. Middle school feels like it happened a week ago. High school flew by right after I blinked. Here I am at the end of my first year of college… Now THAT is weird. Time goes by so fast. We know that. We live that. But we still have problems managing the time given to us. There are games, practices, homework assignments, papers, family events, school events, church events, birthday parties, dentist appointments, coffee dates, etc. They all fill up our schedule and keep us really tired.

What is the solution? Cutting things out of our lives? Trying to say “no” more  when people ask? Losing sleep to get more things done? Drinking six cups of coffee to stay awake?

Scheduling our time is important and should be considered a discipline in our lives, but there is a far better solution. Something greater than stressing about what needs to get done. Something greater than setting five or ten alarms on your phone to remind you of what is coming up next. We can do what Jesus claims to be our first and greatest task:

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

Let me explain myself.

 

If our first job is to love God, I look at all the worries of my day and think of how small they are to the powerful God I have a relationship with. Because God is a Provider, Friend, Listener, Healer, Redeemer, and Guide for us. Having God on our side is the best thing we can have to face our day. Not only for our benefit but for the benefit of the world around us, for His Kingdom. If He is all we got, we have got everything we need to do what we are called to do everyday. He is more than enough and will provide our every need. Having His guidance will help us keep our sanity and cool when there seems to be so few hours in the day.

He is Provider because He is Father. His love for His children transcends all boundaries and barriers we may face in this life. His love wants to carry us through our struggles, hurts, and stress. So loving Him first, growing in relationship with Him first, will affect the rest of our day to day lives. Being filled up by Him each day can be enough for us to face our day and find the strength to continue on. He can support us more than coffee, more than sleep, more than the things that we go to for refuge. Those things are not even close to the power of of the Holy Spirit and the Father’s love for us.

Think of your very best friend.  That person in your life who carries your burdens with you, listens to your problems, and wants to do everything in their power to support you through your struggles. God wants to do that for you and more! He wants to do that for us. He is doing that for us as a Heavenly Father. His love shows how He wants to be in the center of every part of our lives; good or bad. That means the chaos in our lives as well.

So each day, when you wake up to take on new challenges, first things first… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. Your relationship with Him matters much more than your paycheck or your deadlines or your social life. Make each day worth it by letting Him take control and lead you through the busyness. His love never fails and will not fail you when time is running out. God values your time and wants to help you use it wisely while you have it. He is Provider, Giver, Healer, Redeemer, and Friend. Love Him first.

A Dream of Freedom

I had a dream the other night that everything in my life was being controlled. I was in bondage and imprisoned to someone who controlled me. My money was his, my job was his, my friends were his, my relationships were his, my wardrobe was his, my time was his, and my words were his. I was constantly aware of where he was because he was always there, watching to see that I did what he wanted.

This dream became a nightmare as I kept falling deeper and deeper into the bondage of a sort of slavery to this man. It was terrifying. Every move I made had to be done just the way he wanted. I feel suffocated and shaken by the grips of this captivity. And it all felt so real.

I woke up from my  nightmare in the middle of the night and started contemplating what I would do. Because I was still half asleep, I still thought the dream was real. Even if it wasn’t, that feeling of captivity was still fresh on my mind. I felt unsafe and unsure of what to do.

As I started feeling more awake, I started thinking about what this dream meant. Why was I having a dream about an evil man controlling my life? I had never experienced anything like this before. It didn’t relate to anything in my life. But God showed me that it had everything to do with me and my story. It had everything to do with many of our stories. We all can relate to this story of slavery to an evil one.

Before I became a Christian, I was a slave to sin, fear, and the devil. I was constantly being tempted and drawn to things that were meant to kill and destroy me. The evil one doesn’t care about my well being. He only wanted to steal my happiness, joy, and ultimately, my soul. The bondage I felt in my dream was representing his grip that he had on my life. But that was all before I turned to the One who set me free.

As I lay in my bed, contemplating how I shake this horrible feeling of my dream, I asked myself, “How do I break free from this evil?” And in my tired daze, I said to myself, “Jesus! That’s how!”

I know it was only a dream. This may sound silly to you. But that simple reminder of what I’ve been saved from was a game-changer for me during this Easter season. Do we actually realize what we’ve been saved from?

The world can often shield our eyes and make sin look like the good guy. It can make the lifestyle of living in slavery to sin look like freedom! Like we can do whatever we want. But once we step back and think of the devil’s motives behind the lifestyle he wants for us, we see how true this verse is:

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

Being reminded of the captivity of sin has made me see just how significant Easter is for us! For me, I am reminded of how Jesus showed His love for us and set us free. I believe I had this dream to remind me of what I’ve been saved from and what I am now promised.

This dream was about the promise of freedom. Freedom from pride, abusive relationships, racism, sexism, sex trafficking, addictions, illnesses, fear, abandonment, physical pain, past mistakes, doubts, and loneliness. The only One with the power to give us freedom from these things is Jesus Christ. Through His death and His resurrection, we now have the choice to choose new life with Him that is apart from our bondage and our past. His act of love for us created a new path to leads to life.

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

We have so many problems in our world and in our society. There are things we can cry and complain about and be disgusted with and angry about. But I’m telling you, your only hope and only solution to these things is Jesus. Because of what He did on a cross, we know that Jesus conquered sin and the devil so that we no longer have to live with those things anymore. He has the power to free us from the chains of our slavery to sin today!

You don’t have to be enslaved to the devil’s standard of money, careers, friends, relationships, wardrobe, time and talk. He wants you to let all of these determine your joy when we know that ultimately, these things don’t fulfill us. The enemy keeps telling us that they will. He has no problem with lying to you. All he wants is for you to be entrapped to live his way with these things.

Jesus Christ wants you to have an abundant life. We see that through what He did on the cross. This season of celebration is important because it is a game-changer for all people. We now have a way to escape bondage and run in the gift of freedom. I am so thankful that Jesus saw us in our captivity and longed to set us free. He didn’t just talk about it, He did something about it. He did something we remember thousands of years later. It’s that important to us and this world.

He is risen! Get excited about what He did for you. Don’t worry so much about your Sunday outfit or Easter meal or Easter baskets as much as you simply celebrate Jesus and what He has done. He has set you free and longs to free the rest of the world from captivity.

He has a dream of freedom for all people. I hope you do as well. Tell the world of what Jesus had done!

1 John 5:12 

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Luke 24

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

 

Why We Do It.

Last weekend, on a Sunday night, Marion High School opened it’s doors to 300 people who came to worship the Lord at an Enlightened event. In the small city of Marion, Indiana, we saw hundreds of students being serious about their faith in their school. God spoke to us about helping those in need and being the ‘Good Samaritan’ to our peers in our schools. The people you’d least expect were called to step out and be courageous for the Lord. We were empowered and inspired by the testimonies and songs shared by high school students from this school. This event changed the atmosphere at their school and in this city. We praise God for speaking to us so clearly on March 13, 2016 at Enlightened Marion. What started at a school called Byron Center High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan is now an event happening in different schools and students who strive to bring Christ on their campus. What a joy it is to remember where we’ve come and where we are going!

God had a plan for Byron Center High School since before time began. He knew that Enlightened would be planted there as a seed only to grow into more schools, more states, and impact more young people’s lives. He knew that lives would be saved, people would be called into ministry, and lives would be restored in His name. The number of people who showed up to the testimonies shared were no surprise to our great Father. He made us to move and work for His glory. As students gathered to worship two years ago in a high school auditorium, we felt the atmosphere change in that building.

It was worshipping together with brothers and sisters of Christ that changed our perspective on how we are to worship. We weren’t worshipping in our comfortable box with the people we knew well in youth group. We were praising our Father in a high school with hundreds of other high schoolers from many different schools, homes, and faith backgrounds. It was Jesus that brought us together and it was Jesus that was glorified.

The reason I believe in Enlightened is because I long for the days when I can worship my God with my peers in uncomfortable situations. I long for the day we can go out of our comfort-zones and give God all we have because He deserves that and more. It was incredible to experience a worship time that wasn’t about us for a change. It was great to look around the room and see people truly moved by God not the songs. God’s hand is over this ministry and I know He is continuing to see His plan unfold in the years following that first event.

The definition of event is, “a thing that happens, especially one of importance”. We remember events and we look back to them. Can you remember the first time you went to school? Or the day you got your license? If you’re a Christian, do you remember the day you turned your life around and gave it all to Jesus? Do you remember those significant moments in your life? Of course you do! They are things of importance that have changed your life forever. They change the way we think and act and speak. They give us new perspectives and new insights on how to be better and become the person we always strive to be.

The most important event to me is not Enlightened. It is not when I first learned to ride a bike or drive a car. The most important event that has affected my life deeply was Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection three days later. Yes, I realize I just gave you two events but they go hand in hand! Jesus didn’t just die, He rose from the dead! And when He did, He saved us from sin and death. That is good news and that is the reason we do everything. It is the reason we have thankful hearts. It is the reason we go out of our way to help a neighbor with a chore. It is the reason we give to the homeless and abandoned. This good news is the reason we wake up and take on the day with a different mindset. It is the reason Enlightened started.

Enlightened is a ministry started by high school students that is devoted to supporting and equipping high school students to lead an event full of worship and story telling at their school for their community. These events are for high school students to encourage their peers to be the salt and light in this generation. We focus on schools and hold these events at schools because we believe, as students, that it is the biggest mission field God has given us in this season of our lives. There is a story to tell; the event where Jesus died for our sins has affected our lives. We need to share this event with our friends! Because if we know how great our lives became after we experienced Jesus in our lives, we know we ought to share it with the rest of the world. The Gospel gives us a mission to go and tell the world. We want to invite our peers to join us as we live for this mission!

Why young people? Why students?

Students are cool. Students are passionate. Students care a lot about what they choose to care about. And students have more power in this world than they know. I had the privilege of working alongside many students in planning Enlightened events. I got to see how God has gifted each one of them to contribute a special part to Kingdom Work in their schools. Some students loved talking to people so they greeted students at the doors of their event. Other students loved technology so they ran the slideshow for lyrics and videos during their event. There were even some students that took on the responsibility of raising money for materials needed for their event. God used every single person on each Enlightened Crew (the whole group of student leaders) to leave a prominent impact on their high school’s campus.

Enlightened birthed and grew because God planned for students to do big things for Him. We see Him continue to call and equip high schoolers to lead Enlightened events at their schools now. The process is not easy. It is not a road easily followed. But it is a good road, because through it all, we get to experience God’s work in us. His provision through the planning process of an event is surreal. From financial issues to filling in spots for a team, God provided. He is the Provider, and we’ve seen why He is called Provider.

God has a plan. And for now, Enlightened is continuing to grow and seek out opportunities to reach the Gospel to young people everywhere. We love what we do and we are so thankful that God allows us to be apart of the journey.

Matthew 5:13-16  

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town build on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.