May 5, 2016

This Burning House

I just kept staring down at my blackened hands, obsessing over them, turning them over and over. Panic began to set in - "How did this even get on me!?! I can't have this on me!!!" It was then that I was reminded that I had just been in a burning building - the house that had been my home, a safe haven for me - and it was now filled with thick black smoke. 

I had underestimated the fire. I thought I could walk through the house unscathed. I thought I could confidently waltz in to simply open windows - get the smoke out before things got too bad. They had already gone in with the fire extinguishers. I thought things would be ok now. But as the smoke filled my lungs and my eyes, I knew that even this small task was far too big for me. It was already past the point of bad. This was a full on emergency. I was glad I had already called 911. This fire was out of control - too much for us to handle ourselves. I stubbornly opened two windows, fixated on doing something to help. But that was my limit. If I stayed in the house any longer, that smoke was going to consume me. 

Even after fleeing the source of the smoke, it stayed with me - in my hair, on my hands. It was like it had become part of me. All I wanted to do was remove any reminder of this smoke from my body - wash my hands immediately. I couldn't stand to look at these hands that were so covered in filth and yet, I couldn't look away. This thing that was destroying my house was on me - threatening to destroy me too. And that was more than I could handle. All I wanted was to rid myself of this horrible black film...but I couldn't. It wouldn't make it go away. This burning house was not just a nightmare; it was my reality. All I could do was just stand and watch helplessly.

Even days later, I keep replaying everything in my mind. The smell of smoke and the soot that covers everything I own has been too much to bear. I think subconsciously it reminds me of something else - sin. If I'm honest, I know I can't save myself from the blackness that has covered me due to my own disobedience to a loving Father. It has rendered me absolutely stained in every way, and there's nothing that I can do about it in my own power (Jeremiah 2:22). It permeates every aspect of my being. It's not just outside of me, but in me, part of me. It consumes and spreads, bringing destruction. It's ugly, it's devastating, and it deserves God's wrath as a punishment (Romans 1:18)

But unlike me, Jesus did not underestimate the fire of God's wrath. He knew what He was getting into when He walked into the smoke filled house of my sin and faced God's wrath against it. His soul was troubled unto death as He thought about facing it, but He set His eyes on completing the mission His Father had given Him (Matthew 26:38-39). He was going to save the world. The black soot of sin covered not only His hands, but His entire being, as He who never knew sin, became sin in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Father's anger toward our transgressions burned hot and fierce upon Jesus, who became our substitute. And though the cross was too much for anyone to bear, He stayed. That was the price our sins demanded. He could have called His rescue squad of angels to intervene. But He didn't. Jesus didn't wash His hands of the soot of my sin - instead, He carried it through the flames of God's judgement - the judgement that should have been mine. He died - covered by the blackness of my sin - so that I could be clean. 

What I faced on Monday was terrifying, but what Jesus faced was a thousand times worse. And that makes me thankful that He knows what I'm going through and has made sure that I will never have to experience the full extent of the terrors my encounter only pointed to. The victory of His resurrection means that He not only conquered the blackness of sin with His perfection, but He has offered to let me have His spotless robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10)

God spared our lives and the house on Monday. There's plenty to struggle through in the aftermath. It can feel overwhelming at times, but Jesus has dealt with the scariest part of all. He hasn't just cleansed my hands but my blackened soul has been washed white. I might not have been able to escape this house fire completely untouched, but in His grace, Jesus has completely shielded me from the fiery wrath I deserve. I was helpless to remove the blackness of my sin, but He has washed me clean. That is surely a reason to rejoice. 

Loving Him is Red!

April 28, 2016

More Than a Dandelion

Have you ever been awestruck by a dandelion? 

As I was walking home yesterday, I found myself absolutely enamored by these so-called weeds in a way I never have before. When you think about it, their lifecycle is incredibly mind-blowing. How does this little yellow flower somehow turn into a round puff of white perfection? And how does the wind blow with such precision that these aerodynamically designed little seeds end up taking flight and dancing upon the air? 

Though I didn't find an answer to these questions on my journey home, I stopped to admire many a dandelion puff along the way. I just couldn't get enough. I marveled at their perfection. I watched the seeds dance in the wind and all but reenacted Belle's epic dandelion scene from Beauty and the Beast. 

I couldn't help it. 

And I don't want to help it. I don't want to get used to dandelions. I don't want to simply pass them by like they're ordinary. I don't want to see their beauty as some sort of an inconvenience. The truth is that dandelions are spectacular, and so is the rest of this breathtaking world. There are real masterpieces before our very eyes every second of every hour of every day. 

So I never want my senses to become so dulled that I begin to find life boring or uninteresting or not worth infinite study and consideration.  I don't want to get tired of beauty or build up a tolerance to life. Rather, I want to let it make me crave for the beauty of the Creator, because I was made for something more. 

I always want the moon to stop me dead in my tracks, the sunset to leave me sighing in peaceful delight, the ocean to send me into instant composition, the feel of the smooth sand beneath my feet to leave me dancing, the open fields to send me frolicking, and the first snow to send me on a mission to catch a perfect snowflake on the tip of my tongue. 

All these things might seem commonplace, but they're more than just mere moments - more than just normal. They are reminders that we get to be a part of something special: God has given us life and He gives it abundantly, particularly through Jesus (John 10:10).

So I never want to see the beauty of this world and take it for granted. Instead, I long for that loveliness all around to point to a divine Creator who is every bit more enthralling than the present beauty my eyes now behold. I never want to become so spoiled and spent on the pleasures of this life that I do not pause and give thanks to the One who invented them. I never want to get used to living this abundantly glorious life. Instead, I want to breathe in the wonder of it all and ask for more.

Surely this world was meant to prepare us for something far more glorious that incomparably surpasses the loveliness of every inch of splendor that surrounds us. And if we don't appreciate this lesser glory, how will our souls ever be prepared to embrace something far greater than our current limitations could dare to fathom? How will our hearts ever be ready for the surpassing joys of Heaven if we fail to value the glimpses of its fractured perfection all around? How do we dare dream of more if we simply shrug our shoulders at the best of all we see? 

So a dandelion might just be a weed. Or it might be something more. It might just be a way to see the creative power, wisdom, intelligence, perfection, goodness, and grace of a truly unique and amazing God. I, for one, think I'll stick with the latter.

Loving Him is Red!

In what ways have you learned about God through looking at creation?

Wanna join me in an Instagram photo challenge to help us notice the beauty of God in the created world? I try to post a photo a day, and I'd love to see your photos too! @sarahmonticue

April 14, 2016

Piece by Piece

Over the past few months I have felt more broken than maybe ever before… At times, I honestly wasn't sure if I could bear it. But I'm hopeful that all of this brokenness is on it's way to becoming something good. Here's what I've been thinking about.

It's hard to deny that Piece by Piece by Kelly Clarkson is a powerfully emotional ballad. I mean, who wasn't in tears after watching her performance on American Idol?!? The stripped down piano-based version, along with the extremely personal lyrics, and the vulnerability of her singing all lend a poignant rawness that is particularly appropriate for the topic she has taken on in this song. 

I resonated with the lyrics right away. With each listen, I felt more and more like she understood my life - like I wasn't alone in my feelings of being shattered in pieces. The words "I begged you to want me, but you didn't want to" felt all too real to my experience. And there was no use holding back the fountain of tears that came with, "Back then I didn't have anything you needed so I was worthless." Her words encapsulated the feelings and fears I had carried with me for so long. And she articulated them in such a way that made it impossible for me to ignore them.    

But though she was singing about how her father's departure left her in pieces, she was also singing about a man who came along and loved her - who collected all those pieces and put her back together. And that was something I couldn't relate to. Though there have been times when I have felt like God has restored me, a lot of the time, I just don't feel put back together. I still feel broken. But the longing to be put back together, to have what she describes…that goes down to the very depths of my heart. 

So I found myself with mixed emotions. I was happy for her that she had someone in her life who was restoring that picture of what a man should be like. And even more than that, I was glad that he could show her what God is really like. We teach each other so much about who God is, and when we love, we show others the very heart of God (1 John 4:12). But I also began to feel like maybe that's what I needed. Maybe that's what was missing. Maybe that's why I was still broken. Maybe if I could just find the right man to stick with me and show me what love is really like - then I could be whole too… But that didn't seem right either. Whether it's with Kelly or with me, the promise of "he'll never walk away" is not a guarantee. All of us are too fragile. Even when we have the best of intentions, we all fail in some way or another, even accidentally. And then there's the fact that all of us die… We just can't avoid it. Finding another person to restore you is not secure enough to truly provide real and lasting healing.  

Even as I began to grapple through the feelings of unwantedness and worthlessness like she describes in the song, I found myself spiraling into a pit that seemed unending. I just couldn't bear it if those things were true. Those things could not define me. It was too painful to even think about. I needed them to be contradicted. I hoped that the validation and affirmation from my other relationships would help outweigh that internal sinking feeling…but it didn't work. It never works. I ended up feeling even more alone, more broken, more hopeless. And that's when I began to realize and started to admit to myself that maybe we're all too broken to actually offer each other the healing we really need.

In so many ways, I'm just like ancient Israel - looking to other people and kingdoms to do the impossible:

"When Ephraim saw his sickness,
    and Judah his wound,
then Ephraim went to Assyria,
    and sent to the great king.
But he is not able to cure you

    or heal your wound." Hosea 5:13

No one else can heal us. The deepest healing that our broken souls need cannot come from other people. It just can't. We don't have the cure in and of ourselves. Because the thing of it is, I may be unbelievably broken, but so is everybody else. Our lives may be cracked and fractured in different places, but we're still all shattered in one way or another. We're all broken. We need something more. Our wounds are far too deep to be bound by any human. 

Real brokenness demands a real Savior. 

There's just no way around it. I have searched with all my might to find another route to healing, and they all come up short… And isn't that so often what it takes for us to see what's right in front of us? We have to try every other option to see that it doesn't work. And then, when we've come to the end of the line, we finally come to our senses. We need God. 

"  I will return again to my place,
    until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
    and in their distress earnestly seek me.
“Come, let us return to the Lord;
   for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
  he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.” Hosea 5:15-6:1

I wish I could say that the healing happens instantaneously. But it doesn't. I wish I could say I've finally learned my lesson to stop chasing after other things to do what only God can. But I can't. I'm still broken. I'm still going to fail. But I do know that God is not going to give up on me. He is committed. He's not leaving. If I was worthless to Him, He never would have sent His most prized possession - His own Son - to the cross on my behalf. And so I have hope that He's going to keep putting me back together piece by piece, little by little, from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor 3:18).

Loving Him is Red!

What things do you tend to run to in order to look for healing?

In what ways has Jesus begun to heal you piece by piece?

*Hi Dad, if you ever end up reading this, I want you to remember that I have already forgiven you. I know you're just like me - broken. I know how easy it is to look everywhere besides God to find healing for a broken heart. That's what we do. You, me, everyone... I'm not writing this to hurt you or make you look bad - I just know there are other people out there like Kelly, like me, who are struggling through the aftermath of having an absent father, and I want them to know they're not alone and that healing is possible - even if it takes a long time. If you're still looking for healing too, I hope that you find it in Jesus - little by little - piece by piece. 

February 14, 2016

An Inextricable Connection

This weekend, I had the opportunity to have some girls over for a Valentine's Day sleepover. It was the best. We had an awesome popcorn bar - complete with Reese's Pieces, chocolate chips, and marshmallows. We relished in the splendor of the new Cinderella movie. And of course, we stayed up way too late. But my favorite part was the Bible study on God's love that we did in the morning. As we looked at a passage from John 15, we had the opportunity to listen in on some of Jesus' last words to His closest friends:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Jesus is the vine. He is the source of all life. I am a branch - inextricably connected to Him. He has guaranteed our connection through His Holy Spirit that He's given to all who believe in Him for life. Apart from Him, I certainly have no life at all.  Even if I thought I could do anything without Him, why would I want to? He is everything. He's the One who wants my life to be beautifully fruitful. And that's part of why He wants me to stay close to Him. Any good that comes from my life is only because I'm connected to Him. 

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2)

I am not just connected with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. I am also connected to the Father - the vinedresser. He's the one who takes care of the vine and the branches. He knows what He's doing when He takes away branches or prunes the ones that aren't bearing as much fruit as they could. So when hard things happen in life, I can take heart in knowing that my Father is using those things to help me be even more fruitful. And all the while, Jesus is with me in every situation - because we're still connected, even though other things in my life are taken away. 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9-11)

The Father is not just good and powerful, but He is also loving. He has loved Jesus, and Jesus shares that love with me. One of the ways He shares that love is by giving His commandments. They are meant to help me experience the Father's love more fully. And how could they not? The first command is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second is love your neighbor as yourself. Those commands not only extend love to me, through helping me to relate with God and with others, but they help teach me to become someone who overflows love. That's the kind of person I want to be. That's the kind of life I want. A life that overflows with love is a life that overflows with joy. 

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you...You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide. (John 15:12-14,15-16)

Jesus has loved in the greatest, most beautiful way imaginable. He has laid down His life in order to call me His friend. He paid the price that my sins deserved so that I could be connected with Him. And this amazing demonstration of love comes from someone I would have never chosen to love if He had not loved me first. And yet His persevering love took Him all the way to death on a cross. 

Now He has called me to love others in that same sacrificial way. How free a person must be to be able to sacrifice themselves for the good of someone else! That's the kind of free I would love to be - to have such a focus on things of eternal significance. And that is exactly the result that Jesus promises in the lives of those who are connected with Him - they will bear fruit that abides. He promises to help us love like Him so that our lives can produce something more than earthly accomplishments. He can help us love in such a way that our lives can create ripples of lasting impact. 

Surely Jesus offers the truest, deepest, most secure, loving connection anyone can ever offer. Though there will be hard things about being connected with Him, He will never leave. And He promises a life so full of love and joy that it seems almost too good to be true. But it is true. And real. And overflowing. And lasting. 

So this Valentine's Day, I'm glad to be inextricably connected to Father, Son, and Spirit. 

Loving Him is Red!

What other things did you notice from John 15?

In what ways has your connection to Jesus added love and joy to your life?

January 16, 2016

Traffic Trials of Various Kinds

A few days ago, I started off on a journey, thinking that I would be home just in time for dinner. But when I pulled into the driveway, 3 and a half hours later than expected, I found myself strangely thankful for what the journey taught me about life and the nature of unexpected trials. Here's the story and what I learned along the way. 

I began my trip on a lovely winter day. The sun was gloriously shining, and as I traveled on, the sky began to glow with a beautiful rosy-orange color. I couldn't have picked a better time to travel. Or so I thought. 

As darkness fell, a sudden snow squall started to assault my car until I couldn't see anything except for a wall of white. I worked to get closer to the car in front of me - my lighthouse to guide me through the storm. And I began to pray for help and protection in the midst of this unexpected blizzard.

Once I made it out of the snow, I thought I was in the clear. Little did I know what the rest of the journey held in store… The snow had come so suddenly and the temperature dropped so drastically that the roads had turned to ice. It was literally an accident waiting to happen. So when traffic slowed to a standstill, I realized that must have indeed been the case. I hoped for the best, but as time ticked slowly away, I began to wonder if I would ever get home. 

With trucks blocking me in on every side, I couldn't see anything that was happening, so there was really no way for me to know when we would start moving again. For all I knew, I could be waiting there for hours upon hours. All I had was this nebulous idea that I would get home eventually. But because I didn't actually know when that would be, I couldn't truly anticipate the end of this unexpected hardship.

As minutes turned to hours, I began to berate myself for leaving when I did. "Why didn't I leave in the morning?" I thought, feeling as though I had made a terrible mistake.  I couldn't help but wonder, "Why had I made such a poor choice?" But as I continued to ponder, I realized how many elements to the story were totally outside of my control. I had no idea that there would be a sudden snow squall. I had checked the weather, but it didn't indicate blizzard-like conditions. And there was no way I could have known that there would be an accident or that I would get stopped for hours, while waiting for the aftermath to clear. 

In fact, there was no way to know what would have happened if I had left even a few minutes earlier. Perhaps it could've been me in that accident. Instead, because I left when I did, I was able to sit in my warm car, rather than dealing with broken bones, damaged vehicles, tow trucks, or worse. 

As it continued to look as though I might be there for quite some time, I decided to read through the book of James in preparation for my meeting the next day. That had been the whole reason I wanted to get home. 

Here's what James had to say: 
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

As I reflected on the passage, I realized that this snowstorm and traffic jam were trials of various kinds. And somehow there could be joy in the midst of them. So when I considered the various factors of my current situation, I began to think that maybe this journey was intended for so much more than just getting me home in time for dinner. It was teaching me profound truths about the nature of going through hardships - the very thing I was studying. 

Here are the things I learned:
  1. You often can't predict the beginning or the end of a trial. Instead, they surprise you and make you feel like they will last forever.
  2. You typically aren't aware of the suffering you've been spared by going through the trial that you did, instead of another.
  3. At the beginning of a trial, you have no way to predict the amazing things that you will learn in the midst of it. You only see them in hindsight. 
  4. In reality, you don't need to know or predict any of the various aspects of your trials, because there is a God who is sovereign over all. He is weaving the details of your story together in a way that is so magnificently perfect that you wouldn't believe it if told. He is the source of joy, even when you can't yet see the beauty He is in the midst of creating. 
I wish I could tell you that I learned these things perfectly after those quiets moments of reflection in my car. But the truth is, after I finally got rolling again, I ended up getting stopped a second time, after only about 10 minutes of driving, while the tow truck came to clear another accident. I once again immediately began to wonder if I would ever make it home, and this time I even started to worry about the possibility of running out of gas. 

But as I reassured myself that there would indeed be an end to this trial, I reflected on the fact that for those who are in Christ, these trials, no matter the size, are only momentary (2 Cor 4:17). One day, all suffering will end (Rev 21:1-4). Christ has taken on the suffering our sins deserve, and we have a guarantee that we will not face any of the trials of this life in heaven (1 Peter 2:24). That is surely something to look forward to. That is surely a reason to hope. And because we're still living, and He's not done with us yet, we can rest assured that any trials we face in this life are part of His plan to make us like Him - steadfast, perfect, complete, lacking in nothing.

Loving Him is Red!

What's the hardest part of facing trials in your life?
How has the Lord helped you find joy in the midst of them?

November 19, 2015

I Idolized Marriage and Neglected Missions

I didn't mean to do it. I didn't even know I was doing it. But I allowed my marriage idol to slowly kill me - to distract me from the life that God was calling me to.

As I shared in Burn My Bridges Down, I hit a breaking point about 2 years ago. I didn't want to live that way anymore. So I made a decision to repent. And to keep repenting every day. At first it didn't seem like it was working. But months later, I looked back and realized I was somewhere else entirely. I was at the end of the tunnel.

That's what drove me to go on a missions trip. I decided to stop reserving my summers for getting married and decided to start making actual plans. It had been years since I had gone on a foreign missions trip, and so I wanted to get outside my American bubble and see what was happening in the rest of the world. Little did I know what I was getting myself into

To prepare for the trip, our leader asked us to listen to several sermons, one of which was called Doing Missions When Dying is Gain. I wish you could listen to it. Please do. But the part that really resonated with me was when he was explaining Colossians 1:24. Here's what he said about it: 

Paul’s self understanding of his mission is that there is one thing lacking in the sufferings of Jesus. The love offering of Christ is to be presented in person through missionaries to the peoples for whom he died. And Paul says, “I do this in my sufferings. In my sufferings I  complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” Which means that Christ intends for the Great Commission to be a presentation to the nations of the sufferings of his cross through the sufferings of his people. That’s the way it will be finished. If you sign up for the Great Commission, that’s what you sign up for.

In other words, when Christians suffer for the sake of - or even at the hand of - those who don't yet know Him, that is part of how those people can actually see and begin to comprehend what Christ did for them. What a beautiful thing! Through their suffering  even unto death, Christians are actually given the privilege of displaying a picture of who Jesus is to people who have never heard of Him!

As I began to realize these magnificent truths, I was simultaneously moved by the beauty of sacrificial love and by the sadness of my failure to live up to such a glorious calling. I had signed up for the Great Commission, but I had not yet truly signed up to die for those for whom Christ died. Getting married and doing ministry in America was my idea of the Great Commission. It wasn't wrong to desire those things, but I had never even considered going into a dangerous place to bring the gospel to those who had never heard. I rarely even thought about the fact that anyone was taking the gospel into truly hostile territory. 

Though it wasn't intentional, through my idolatry of marriage and the Christian version of the American dream, I had been ignoring billions of people who still had no access to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ - people who were living and dying, never even knowing that God sent His Son to die so that they could be adopted into His family.

And if Christ had died for me, so that I could have a new life in Him, then I couldn't continue to ignore these people. I needed to at least consider how the Lord might be calling me to follow Him into His death - death to myself and the American dream, or even physically - so that these people might see a picture of how much God has displayed His love for them through Christ, through me. 

I needed to continue to repent. And my repentance called for action.

At first I wasn't sure what to do. But I knew I needed to do something and began to wonder if my response might involve music. I started by writing a song that I hoped would help draw attention to those I had so easily ignored - the unreached. And I wanted to show real faces to go with the startling statistics of the billions of people who still have no way to hear about Christ. So during the missions trip, we took footage of the people and places our team visited during our time in Colombia. And with a lot of help from friends to record the song and edit the footage, we finally have our finished product!

My hope is to have the opportunity to share the video with as many people as possible that it might propel others to take action to reach the unreached. The song is also available on Noisetrade for a free download. I also want to provide the opportunity to respond immediately through giving toward reaching these unreached people, and that's why I've committed to give all the money that is donated through my Noisetrade page toward reaching the unreached. 

My goal is to get 2016 views of the video and raise $2016 towards reaching the unreached by the time we ring in 2016 - that those who dwell in darkness might see the great light of Christ. 

Will you help me meet this goal? You can start by sharing this video on social media and by donating through my Noisetrade page.

The need is so big, and individually we're so small, but together, we're the body of Christ, and that means we can accomplish so much more for the sake of His Kingdom than we ever could apart!

Jesus is the one who died for us and for people of every tribe, tongue, and nation. 

That's why Loving Him is Red -

and so much more than any earthly marriage.

Are there ways that you're tempted to abandon the call to reach the world for the sake of pursuing the perfect wedding and marriage?

What can you do right now to help reach the nations for Christ?

In addition to John Piper, I seriously benefited from:

David Platt - God's Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death Defying MissionsUndaunted by Resistance: Sustaining Missionary Zeal for the Sake of the NationsRadical   
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Paul Miller - A Praying Life Seminar
Matt Perman - What's Best Next
Bob Kauflin - The Gathering Conference
Scott Belsky - Making Ideas Happen

July 28, 2015

My Fight Song

When I first heard Fight Song, by Rachel Platten, I couldn't help but like it. This girl's battle anthem felt like my own. Her "take back my life song" seemed to fit me perfectly, because I felt like I had just started really living again. I had come out of the tunnel I had been in for so long. I was finally free. 

And yet, as I listened to the words, I realized that it wasn't just a song that fit me. It was challenging me. Pushing me. 

Because my "take back my life song" isn't complete. There's still more taking back to do… And it starts with some brutal honesty. But first, let me give some background.

Many of you know that I majored in music in college, because I planned to pursue a singing career. And many of you also know that I gave up that career path after being deeply impacted by the gospel of Jesus Christ during my time in college. I had come to the realization that I loved music more than I loved God. But the most beautiful part of it was that God still loved me. He still wanted me back. He still sent Jesus to die in my place. And that kind of love can't help but change you. It's the kind of love that reorients your life. 

And that's what happened to me. After experiencing the grace-filled love of a forgiving Savior, I wanted to put Him first in my life. I didn't want music to compete for the top spot in my heart. And I didn't want to live a life that was all about myself anymore. I wanted to love others as Jesus had loved me so that they could know Him too. And I wanted to do something with my life that would serve an eternal purpose. So I gave up the music dream and went into full-time ministry. 

And it has been an absolutely amazing journey! I'm still so thankful that I get to have the best job in the world!

So far, I haven't told you anything new. 

But what many of you don't know - and what I didn't even know until recently - is that I also backed down on the music dream because I was afraid.

And I'm still afraid.

But the difference between then and now is that I realized I can actually admit it. I'm done pretending. Because even when you have to confess things about yourself that you don't like, there's something strangely freeing about honesty. There's no more wasted energy on putting up a facade. You can just live (1 John 1:5-10).  

 So this is me being honest, giving up the facade, and taking back my life: 

Fear tells me that I'm not good enough. Not talented enough. My singing is weak. My lyrics are lame. My melodies aren't original. My instrumentation is poorly done. My piano skills are not what they should be. And no one really wants to hear my songs. And I listen. I agree. 

But then I remember that I don't need to be good enough. I just need to be who God has created me to be and do what He has called me to do.

The truth is, I'm really not something great on my own. If all the resources I have are simply myself, that is certainly reason to panic, because of the obvious fact that I am limited. But God is not. He has all the resources that there are, and He is pleased to share them with me. 

And He directed His power towards me to accomplish His good purposes in my life and in the lives of those around me (Ephesians 1:15-23). He has prepared good works for me to walk in them (Ephesians 2:1-10). And by definition, good works mean work. That means effort. And that means that there will be times when I am going to want to quit, because it simply feels too hard. But anything worth doing is bound be difficult at times. That doesn't mean give up. That means keep going.

So it's not about me and my talent. It's about the bigness of my God and the fact that He can take my feeble efforts and make them bigger than I ever dreamed. He can take my one match and start an explosion. 

And that's what I want. That's what I long for. That's what I dream of. I want my life to mean something. To make a difference. To have an impact. To change the world. And I don't really know how that's going to happen or what it will look like. But I don't want to give up trying. 

Because I don't think much of my loaves and fish, but Jesus can take them and feed a whole crowd (John 6:1-15). That's what I'm banking on.

So I can take risks. I can fail. And none of it will change the fact that I am declared perfectly righteous in His sight - spotless and without blemish. 

And that's why I have to make music. That's why I can't quit. Though I may not have very much talent in my own eyes, I believe that God can take what He's given me and multiply it for the good of His Kingdom. 

I have wasted too many years living in fear. And now it's time to overcome. It's time to live like more than a conqueror (Romans 8:31-39)

That's my fight song. And you can expect one in musical form coming soon :)

Loving Him is Red!

What fears are holding you back from really living life?

What would it look like to live as more than a conqueror?