December 4, 2014

Novocaine Can't Heal Pain

novocaine - a drug given to people to stop them from feeling pain 

(*The song that I've chosen to write about in this post is a song that grapples with loss and contains some provocative content in reference to the way one artist has chosen to deal with her pain. I am in no way seeking to promote the kind of destructive behaviors she sings about, and I would suggest that the song does not allow us to come to the conclusion that any of these behaviors are effective in dealing with emotional pain. If you are unfamiliar with the song and may find those things offensive or unhelpful, I suggest you refrain from listening to it and especially from watching the official music video. However, I empathize with the struggle this woman describes in dealing with heartache, and I think there might be something to learn from considering the ineffective methods we tend to use to deal with our pain.) 

Over the past few years, I've come to the realization that I'm not very good at dealing with pain. Not physical pain. The deeper kind. The pain of the soul. 

I think that's probably why the song Habits (Stay High) by Tove Lo resonated with me from the very first time I heard it. And considering the widespread popularity of the song, it seems that it may have resonated with quite a few other people as well.

Throughout the song, she sings about the many ways she has tried and failed to forget the love that she has lost. She longs so desperately to escape the very memory of him, because of all the turmoil that losing him has caused her. But none of it ever works. No amount of sex, drugs, alcohol, or binge eating ever helps her to truly feel better. 

And it makes me wonder if perhaps none of us are really that effective in dealing with our heartaches...

At the end of the day, I think our drug of choice is typically novocaine. We don't know how to find true healing, and so we try to find a way to become numb, to forget that we're hurting. Or if we do know where true healing is found, something else always seems to look better in the moment. So we reach for the novocaine. 

Now of course you won't find any of us raiding our dentist offices. We all have our own personal forms of this numbing drug - whatever we think will help take our minds off the pain that we're experiencing - whatever we can find that will help us deny the fact that we're not actually ok on the inside. 

For me, it's things like:
Dressing up
Seeing good pictures of myself
Receiving compliments
Getting likes on Facebook
Eating chocolate
Watching movies
Reading books
Listening to music

It's not that these things are bad in and of themselves. But I use them to distract me - to cover up the hurt. They're my novocaine. 

And the sad part is, I am completely aware that these things won't really help. Even as I am choosing them, I know that they cannot and will not heal me for real. But I like the temporary high they give me. I like that they make me feel better for a little while. But like any addiction, I just want more and more. 

The truth is, what I really should do is turn away from those things and turn to Jesus.

Because novocaine can never heal the soul. It can only make it numb. But the soul needs water. The soul needs bread. And these are the very things that Jesus offers us so that our souls might LIVE!

"Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'" (John 6:35)

But Jesus is more than that. He is a man who is acquainted with our grief. He knows our pain. He even bears our scars. Scars from the wrongs done to us, scars from the sheer brokenness of this world, and even the scars of the pain we've brought upon ourselves. He bears them all. And He alone can make it right.

I cannot claim to fully understand how the healing process works, but I do know that Jesus is the only place to start. From beginning to end, Jesus is the only answer for the healing of our hearts. We won't experience the full restoration that we long for until Heaven, but for now, we can always look to Him. 

"Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)

It seems so counterintuitive to believe that another man's suffering could restore our souls, but that's the only solution to our problem. We need someone else to carry our sin and sorrow on our behalf, and that's what Jesus has done. During His time on earth and especially on the cross, He faced the terrors of every horrible thing we would ever have to encounter and worse. Real healing comes when we choose to believe that. By His wounds, we are healed! 

It's really that simple. It's just hard to remember. And hard to choose to believe at times.

But the truth remains - His wounds are the only thing that can heal mine. 

So why settle for novocaine? Why settle for numbness when we could have LIFE?

As we look to the man whose wounds heal our own, Loving Him is Red!

What things do you use as your personal form of novocaine? 
What would it look like to turn away from those things and turn to Jesus instead?

October 2, 2014

My Soul Needs the Surgery

A few months ago, I decided that I needed to revamp my view of beauty. Well…in some ways, I've known it for a long time, but I just recently decided to get more serious about such an undertaking. 

If I'm honest, I think I began this quest with the intention of trying to find a way to feel good about myself - mostly because I was sick of the love/hate relationship that I had with my looks. I figured there must be a better way to live life - and with God's help, to feel secure and beautiful no matter what. But what I found, instead, is that the path to understanding true beauty has begun with the realization that I am actually far uglier than I have ever been willing to admit. And truthfully, the ugliest thing about me has nothing to do with the way I look. 

Now before you feel the need to frantically rebuild the broken pieces of my self esteem, you should know that this realization has actually been refreshing. I feel like the blinders have been removed from my eyes so that I am starting to see more clearly. 

Let me show you what I mean.

Check out how Jesus talks to those who are consumed with the outside while neglecting the inside:
 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:27-28)

Now, Jesus isn't specifically addressing the topic of physical beauty here, but I think there's a lot we can learn from the principles he's addressing. 

Since he starts out by saying, "Woe to you," that should get our attention. This is a curse. He is saying that there is great sorrow, grief, and distress in store for those whose lives look like these beautiful tombs - who care only about appearing outwardly righteous -because it is possible to look beautiful on the outside but be inwardly filled with death.  In other words, there is something very dangerous about looking good outwardly while there is something far worse going on within. 

If you go back a few verses, Jesus explains the motivation of why these people want to look good:
"They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others." (Matthew 23:5-7)

Essentially, Jesus is saying that these Pharisees are only doing good deeds to be seen by others. They don't actually love God or the people around them; they love what they can get from looking good on the outside. And these Pharisees are people that know the Law and had just talked to Jesus about the two most important commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:34-40).  Instead, they want others to see how great they are and to recognize them for it. They are putting on a show so that they will receive honor. But not only that, they want to be elevated above others. They want to be the best. They are proud. 

And sadly, what I am coming to find is that I am much more like these Pharisees than I ever realized.

Most of the time, I want to look good on the outside, not because I love God or others, but because I want praise. I want to be seen by others. So I put on a show. But not only that. I want to be esteemed more highly than others. I want to be the best. I am proud. And pride is not beautiful. 

Let me show you why. (But be warned - it gets really ugly…)

If we have our hearts set on being the best, being pretty will never be enough. Each of us will want to be the prettiest girl in the room. But in order for us to achieve such a status, we must compare ourselves with every other girl we know. And so, in some ways, it's great to be surrounded by girls, who by our assessment, aren't nearly as pretty as we deem ourselves to be, because then in our own hearts, we can still boast in being the fairest of them all. 

But then again, if we must be the best, it would be important that those who are of the same caliber of attractiveness stick together. We wouldn't want anyone to think that we could be somehow uncool for spending time with anyone who's less than gorgeous. So then, we would each need to make sure to have a posse of attractive girlfriends to hang out with. But they would also need to be just slightly less attractive than we are, of course. Otherwise, how would we ensure that all the guys would be interested in us, instead of in them? 

So then if there are girls in our lives who we feel are prettier than us, we will feel insecure around them. We will despair. We will resent them for it. We will not want them in our lives. We would rather they didn't exist. So every girl would have the potential to become our enemy if she threatens the position we really want - the fairest of them all. Because everyone (and I mean everyone) knows it's a truth universally acknowledged that a girl isn't worth anything unless an attractive guy thinks she's the most beautiful girl in the world and wants to marry her. 

But even if we do find such a man, we would really only be using him to feel better about ourselves. Though we would never admit it, we would secretly feel superior to all of our single friends. (Because didn't we feel inferior and unattractive without a man?) So we would not actually be satisfied by the man's praise or his love. He was never really our goal. We just wanted him to help us feel like we were worth something. But it can only work temporary at best. We could try other men, thinking that we simply picked the wrong one, or that we just need more affection and praise, but we would still find ourselves unsatisfied. 

And we haven't even begun to think of all the implications of getting older and the fact that our bodies decline with age. That reality will be too devastating to handle. Not to mention the fact that we have only been discussing one realm of the things we need to compete about if we are intent on being the queen of all… 

This is what happens when the ugliness of a heart fixed on self-glorification is left to run rampant. Friendships are reduced to no more than a constant competition. And romantic relationships exist merely to boost the ego. 

But the truth is, all the praise and all the admiration in the world could not satisfy a heart that is fixed upon being the best. In fact, God makes sure that our pride cannot be satisfied. As we seek to promote ourselves, He opposes us. James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Pride is utterly repulsive to Him and displays the heart of our rebellion; we don't want to worship Him - the One we were created to worship - we want to worship ourselves. And the ugliness of self-obsession cannot be fixed outwardly. It's our souls that need the surgery. 

And that's exactly the solution that Jesus gives: 
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26).

It is not enough to just look good. Our souls are sick. We need to be washed on the inside. And Jesus is the one who can cleanse our hearts (Psalm 51:10). He knows how truly ugly our sin has made us, and yet He still died in our place. He knows that it will never be enough for us to simply feel beautiful. He wants to make us beautiful for real.

But we will never become beautiful for real if we are too busy pretending that we already are. That's why the path to true beauty must begin with the realization of how ugly we are on the inside. Only then will we find that the fairest of them all is able to start to make us like Him. 

When Jesus changes us on the inside, He makes us more beautiful. He makes us like Him. 

Loving Him is Red.

September 26, 2014

Where is Hope in Death?

*Adapted from an earlier post, on the occasion of the death of friend and fellow member of the WAHS Class of 2005 - Mitchell Kelly. 

I can't tell you how much I wish I didn't have a reason to write this...

But death is one of the cruelest reminders that this world is broken beyond comprehension. And whenever we seem to forget it, it has this ugly way of interrupting our lives with its devastation, refusing to be ignored. 

I do not wish to assert any kind of expertise on this topic. Many others have certainly experienced the up-close-and-personal reality of death in a way that I have not. 

However, death is a reality, for those who have gone through the heartbreaking loss of a loved one and for us all. No one is exempt. So I offer this, not to belittle the pain of those going through the deep suffering associated with death, but as a fellow sufferer who is looking for hope in the midst of the saddest thing we face in this life. 

Here are some reflections upon the untimely death of a friend and classmate:

Earlier this week, I woke up to some sad news. A friend of mine had died. And death always has this horrible way of taking me by surprise. I was shocked. And speechless. I didn't want to believe it. couldn't believe it. But I had to face the facts: A man's life had ended. And there was absolutely nothing that anyone could do about it. This was final. Unable to be undone.

But he was young, intelligent, talented, loved by many... It seemed like his whole life was ahead of him. And now his happily ever after would never come to be. And it felt wrong. Completely wrong. 

And what's worse is that these same tragedies happen all the time - to our friends, to our families, to usThe heartbreak is inescapable. It's everywhere. 

Death doesn't care how old you are, how much money you make, or how many people adore you. No matter how long and how much you love another person, there's no stopping the cruel hand of death. Death kills happy endings.

Yet, there's something in all of us that knows that death is wrong, that it shouldn't be this way, that death shouldn't rob us of life and the lives of those we love. Especially when it's someone young. It seems unjust. We are desperate for these wrongs to be made right.

And they will be. There is hope. But we have to understand where to find it. 

You see, the only way to really understand death is to go back to its origin. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And He created man. At first, man had a perfect relationship with God in a perfect setting. There was no death, no pain, no suffering. But then man sinned. And when sin entered the word, death came along with it. "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).

So ever since Adam and Eve, sin and death have been a reality for us all. 

Life then, can feel like one tragedy after another - like there's no happy ending in sight. And we are powerless to protect ourselves or our loved ones from the harsh realities that await us with the mere passage of time. We can't turn back the clock. We can't heal every pain and suffering. We can't beat every disease, sickness, or cancer. We can't bring the people we love back to life again. Death is a fierce enemy who seems stronger than us in every way.

But there is one Man who proved to be stronger than death - who proved that He, not death, is the King.

Jesus, God Himself, came to earth in the form of man to live the perfect, sinless life that we could not live. And He died in our place to pay the just penalty for our sins. He took on our sins, our pain, our suffering, our death, our personal hell...during His time on the cross. And He did it all out of His love for us. He loved us so much that it killed Him. 

But death could not defeat Him. His perfect life was indestructible. He came back to life, as proof that God the Father accepted His sacrifice as payment for our sins. And when He resurrected, He proved that death would not reign supreme. He took on death, and He won. 

Though we do not see Him now, He gave us reassurance that He has gone to prepare a place for us, which means He will surely return to bring us to be with Him: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3). 

And when He does come back, He will win the final victory. He will trample all His enemies. "For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death"(1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Death will be defeated forever! So for those who trust in Him for life - He lets us share in His victory. Though we all die because of sin, Jesus offers eternal life. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). 

Sadly, if we do not accept Jesus' payment for our sins, we volunteer to pay for them ourselves. And since God is holy and just, the only acceptable payment for sin is death - not just physical death, but spiritual death - an eternal separation from God. Without Jesus, this is the perpetual tragedy that awaits us. Without Him, we have no hope. Death has killed and will kill every single happy ending, except the one that Jesus has resurrected - His own. And He wants us to be part of His eternal happy ending. All we have to do is believe: 

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:16-18). 

If we believe, Jesus gives us the opportunity to be a part of His happily ever after - the one that all others point to, the one that death could not kill. We just have to wait. Our hope is in Heaven. 

So for now, death may steal away our happy endings. I'm still grieving for friends who have seemed to leave this world too soon. I'm still brokenhearted for those around me who have lost those so dear to them. And all this pain just continues to reinforce the fact that w
e are made for a happy ending that this life cannot deliver. But Jesus can. With Jesus, death isn't the end. He can resurrect. He makes all broken things new. He's working on it even now. And in Heaven, all things will be restored. That's why His glorious story has the best ending:

 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new' (Revelation 21:1-5). 

Won't you embrace this hope of a happy ending that Jesus longs to give you?

In the midst of loss, grief, and pain...Loving Him is Red.

What other Scriptures have comforted you when dealing with the harsh realities of death?

How do you find hope when death kills a happy ending?

July 31, 2014

No Place I'd Rather Be

A few months ago, I made a pretty big decision. I decided to move. It was actually pretty scary for me, mostly because it wasn't part of my plan. It wasn't how my life was supposed to go. You see, I was supposed to get married before I ever moved someplace else. I wasn't supposed to leave State College as a single woman. I just wasn't

And yet...I was. Because, quite honestly, moving has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.   

For years, I have been waiting to find a man I would be excited to follow anywhere. And moving made me realize that I had already found him. 

How did I come to this realization, you ask? Well through my new favorite pop song, of course!

In the midst of all my packing, I stumbled across a song that, after hearing it once, I played over and over again: Rather Be by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne. The beautiful blend of classical violin mixed with a dance beat made for an excellent mood elevating song in the midst of the tedium that is packing. 

But it wasn't til I was driving away from State College that the lyrics began to stand out to me in a deeper way. It was like they were speaking directly into my heart and my life:

"We're a thousand miles from comfort. We have traveled land and sea. But as long as you are with me, there's no place I'd rather be."

As the words began to resonate in my mind, I couldn't help but reflect on all that was happening to me...

To say that my move was forcing me to step outside of my comfort zone, would be an understatement. It felt like that one small step was taking me "a thousand miles from comfort," and I was terrified that that step would leave me feeling completely and utterly alone. And yet, at that moment, as I drove away from State College, alone in my car, I realized that I felt anything but alone. My favorite person in the whole world had already gone out of his way to make sure that I felt known and loved. 

Just the night before, some of my State College and intern friends had thrown me an amazing dance party to commemorate my last night in town. And I'm not just talking about the kind of "dance party" where there's music playing, but everyone just stands around. This was a legit setup with a sound system, spinning colored lights, and everything! Plus everyone actually danced! It was so much fun! An absolutely fitting way to spend my last night in State College!

And now, as I traveled along the sunny backroads to Lewisburg, it occurred to me that the weather was absolutely perfect for a moving day. The lovely blue sky, the white puffy clouds, the warm sun, the green rolling hills that seemed to go on for miles…seeing them all in faultless combination took my breath away. It was truly awe -inspiring. 

Then it hit me.

I couldn't help thinking about the fact that there is already someone in my life who knows everything about me. He knows me better than anyone I've ever met. He knows the things that thrill me. He knows the things that make me cry. He knows how much I love dance parties. He knows how much I love the beauty of nature. He knows that music is the path to my heart.  

He knew that a sunny drive through the magnificent Pennsylvania countryside would be the best possible way to lead me out of State College and into Lewisburg. And He knew just the right song lyrics to use to speak to my heart at just the right moment.

"But as long as you are with me, there's no place I'd rather be."

And in that moment, I felt in my heart what I had already known in my head. As long as the Lord is with me, I can go anywhere and do anything that He calls me to. And there is never a time when He is not with me - His Spirit lives inside me! And that means I have nothing to fear. But not only that...I can actually enjoy the adventure of stepping outside of my comfort zone simply because I am taking that step with my favorite person - the one who loves me more than anyone I've ever known. So I would rather go with Him, wherever He leads, than be anywhere else with anyone else. As long as He is with me, there really is no place I'd rather be. 

So I already have epic romance. I have the love of a man who was so unwilling to let me get away that he continued to pursue me, even when I utterly rejected him. Jesus loved me with his dying breath. That's the kind of love I've always wanted - the stuff of fairytales - except this is real life! This is the only love that will do - the only love that could give me the courage to face any and every scary thing that life could throw my way. 

The truth is, I had been wanting to go to this place in my relationship with God for a while. But I think I was just too scared to take the steps needed to get there. Because I knew for Him to be the supreme love of my life, I needed to let go of the lesser loves that were competing for His place. And I'm so glad that moving forced me to do that.

And to think that all this while I had been searching for someone who had been with me all along... 

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways…Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. " Psalm 139:1-3,7-8

"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken…You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:8,11

When you're with the one who loves you most - Loving Him is Red!

June 26, 2014

Holiness = Better Than A Husband

Just to be clear, if you're looking for a marriage-bashing-I-don't-need-a-man kind of post, you won't find that here. What you will find is a culmination of some of the things the Lord has taught me as He continues to grant me repentance from my idolatry of marriage. And quite frankly, these things are just too exciting not to share. 

So here goes...

I recently realized something very sad but very important: I have been desiring marriage for the wrong reasons. And I didn't even recognize it.

I have wanted it for myself, for my own glory, particularly to prove that I'm worth something…

If I'm honest, this desire to establish my own worthiness has permeated all aspects of my life. So then, the underlying question behind everything I've done and every interaction I've had with others has been, "Does this add to or take away from my value as a person?"  If the interaction left me feeling affirmed, then I would feel great, but if not, then I would be devastated, in need of another way to prove my worth. 

The results: I have often used people for my own gain, rather than loving them for God's glory. 

And as if that's not bad enough, that's simply the indication of a deeper spiritual problem. When I need people to make me feel like I am valuable, it is clear that I have forsaken the gospel. The gospel tells me that there is nothing I can do that will ever prove that I am good enough; that's why God had to send Jesus as my substitute. But my heart tells me that someway, somehow I can be good enough, and that if I am successful, I will earn the love and affirmation of those around me. So instead of living in the freedom of the gospel, I offer myself back into slavery to sin as I endlessly try to earn my own right standing in the eyes of people - my favorite idol. 

Clearly, my heart has been such a good liar, that I often submit to it, without question. 

But I don't want to listen to it anymore. 

As the Lord has been good to shine His Word of truth into the darkness of my deceptive heart, I am beginning to see my sin even more clearly. At first, that's even more devastating than when others don't affirm me the way that I'd like. But as I admit to the full ugliness of my sin and receive the forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus, I find that my life doesn't have to be dominated by that sin anymore. I can actually change. 

Now what spurred this all on, you ask?

The Lord. He is relentless. He is so good and so loving that He is not willing to just give me the things that I want - like marriage - if it will feed my slavery. Instead, he wants to smash my idol and give me a whole new framework for thinking about life. He wants to make me into a whole new person. He wants to make me like Him - holy.

And holiness is a beautiful thing. It's actually the very purpose for which God created us. He made us in His image so that we could be like Him and reflect His glory to the world. And as He opposes the sin in our hearts to make us holy, He actually lets us participate in His divine nature! (2 Peter 1:4).

And since His Spirit lives in us, as He makes us holy, He is actually doing the work of the resurrection in our lives. "But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:10-11). These are powerful verses that we should not just easily dismiss! They are saying that if you're a Christian, God is at work in you, right now, through His Spirit, to bring all the dead things in you back to life! And that is no small thing! No one else can do that! Our God, is a God who does the impossible! He takes dead things and brings them to life! I'm just not sure what could be more exciting than that!

So whatever is currently happening in my life, it is given by God's sovereign hand to make me more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). And becoming like Jesus is not just a nice thing. That's the very reason I'm alive - to reflect God's glory. And I can do that more and more as He continues to transform me into His image - the image of His Son. That was so important to God that Jesus had to die to accomplish it. And if Jesus had to die to make it happen, it must be a big deal.

You see, Jesus didn't just die to make sure that I could go to heaven at the end of my life. He died and was resurrected to change the way I live now. On my own, the way I choose to live only brings me death. Without God's Spirit in me, I will only choose sin. And sin leads to death. But as God's Spirit is at work to change me, I become obedient from the heart, which leads to holiness - to life.

The problem happens when I believe, contrary to what God's Word says, that I know better than God does, where real life can be found for myself at any given moment. This does not and cannot lead anywhere good. It rejects the very purpose for which I was created - to be in relationship with God, to keep His commands, and live for His glory. It makes no sense. It's like saying that my laptop makes a better paperweight than a computer. My laptop has a capacity for so much more than being just a paperweight. And the same is true with us.

When I pursue idols by feeding my desire for marriage for my own selfish gain, I am acting as a paperweight. But when I pursue holiness by seeking to fight my sinful temptation to use my relationships for my own glory and choose to love others sacrificially for God's glory, instead, I act like a laptop that is being used to create movies, music, and so much more! I am living for my purpose! And that's the beauty of holiness. It allows me to live as God intended - to do what He created me to do!

So the work of the resurrection in my life is always better than any other gift God could give me - even the gift of a husband. That's why the Holy Spirit is truly the best gift God can give us (Luke 11:13). So then it doesn't make sense to look for in these other gifts what only God Himself can give. These others gifts then, like marriage, are only beneficial to the extent that they feed the work of the resurrection in our lives. 

But since I'm single right now, that means that God, in His sovereignty, has determined that, at the moment, singleness is the best way for me to become holy. And if holiness is the best possible thing for me, then truly God is being extremely good to give me this gift. And if He has it planned sometime down the line that marriage is the best way for me to become holy, then He'll give that gift in His timing. Either way, knowing Him and becoming holy like Him is still the best thing He could give! Why would I want less than the best?

The gift of knowing God and becoming like Him is truly the best gift of all, and that's why 
Loving Him is Red!

How has God been teaching you about the beauty of holiness?

April 24, 2014

Where My Demons Hide

Have you ever felt like something was hopelessly wrong with you - like something about you was broken in a way that wasn't broken in everyone else - a brokenness so insurmountable that the shame involved in admitting it to anyone, even to yourself, seemed a fate worse than death? 

I have.

For most of my life, I've hated my body - hated myself - believing that I could never be thin enough. But even admitting that struggle felt shameful. It didn't fit with my ideal version of myself. I thought that I should be able to eat whatever I wanted and still have a perfect body. And if that didn't work, then I at least wanted everyone else to think I was confident in myself (even if I wasn't). My flaws and imperfections just felt too devastating to admit. They felt like things that needed to be hidden, ignored, covered up. 

It was as though my life sang my own personal version of Demons* by Imagine Dragons. "Don't get too close. It's dark inside. It's where my demons hide." 

And it just felt too scary to really and truly admit my internal battle. I felt like admitting my struggles would just make them more real - that they would take over my life and define me. But it turned out to be just the opposite. Hiding my struggles allowed them to define me, without me even realizing it. But when I chose to unveil them, I could be set free from their power!

This is exactly what the Bible tells us in 1 John 1:5-10:
"5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:5-10).

Here's what I think John's getting at:
With God there is no sin and no hiding (v5). So if we say that we have a relationship with God while trying to hide our sins and struggles by keeping them in the dark, we perpetuate lies and actually train ourselves to believe them (v6). But if we admit these struggles to God and to each other, we can actually experience the goodness of those relationships, knowing that all of our sins have been washed away through Jesus' perfect blood, because He sacrificed His life in our place (v7). But if we try to pretend that we're not really that messed up, we just keep living a lie (v8). However, when we admit just how screwed up we really are, the Lord is eager to wipe away all the ugliness(v9). But if we claim to be ok on our own, we call God a liar and don't let His truth shape our lives (10).  

In other words, when we hide, we keep ourselves from the truths that could set us free (John 8:31-32).

Sadly, I've spent so much of my life hiding and pretending to be fine with myself that I didn't actually realize what it would take to get me there for real - what it would look like to be able to replace the lies I believed with God's truth so that I could be truly set free. So I let lies define me - lies that have told me I was fat, ugly, worthless, unlovable, and that there was no way out...and they kept me in the dark - in chains of hopelessness that didn't allow the light of the gospel to shine into this area of my life.**

Until now.

Now I'm finding that the truest freedom is in bringing my imperfections into the light. That way I don't have to be controlled by the fear of needing to hide them, because according to God's Word, they've already been covered by the blood of Jesus. And if that's the case, I have no reason to be afraid! I haven't been given a spirit of fear, but a Spirit of sonship, by which I can cry Abba Father, in the knowledge that I have been irrevocably adopted into God's family (Romans 8:15). And no flaw of mine could ever separate me from all of His Fatherly goodness and blessings to me through Christ (Romans 8:38).

So dear friends, I still feel like I have a long way to go in learning about these things, but I do want to exhort you - please don't hide. Hiding can never bring freedom. It only brings pain and death. But sharing your real self, demons and all, with the Lord and other trusted friends can bring peace and life, because you will experience the truth that Jesus' cleansing blood can cover over every flaw, every sin. And that truth will set you free. 

As Jesus' perfect blood covers our imperfections - Loving Him is Red!

*For the purposes of this post, I am choosing to use the definition of "demon" that seems to be implied in the song - an internal struggle or vice that plagues a person with trouble or unhappiness. The fallen angels that are referred to as demons in the Bible are not within the scope of this particular post. 

**If you are a female and can relate with my food and body image struggle, I would recommend the book "A Woman of Moderation" as a helpful resource. It has been a great encouragement to me in the midst of my struggle, and I would definitely suggest reading and discussing it with a trusted friend. 

February 13, 2014

Say Something, I'm Giving Up on Valentine's Day

I'm pretty sure I was destined to be a hopeless romantic. I was even supposed to be born on Valentine's Day. And it happens to be a holiday that I love. 

But it is a bit of a challenge for a hopeless romantic and recovering affirmation junkie to be ok with the fact that no man will be declaring his love for me on Valentine's Day, or any other day, for that matter. I just want someone to tell me I'm loved, that I'm beautiful, that I'm worth fighting for…  

I think that's why the song Say Something by A Great Big World* has recently resonated with me so deeply. The melancholy tone of the piano and string arrangement is perfectly paired with the devastating lyrical repetition of "say something, I'm giving up on you."  The song is truly a heartbreaking and beautifully humble plea for the singer's love to be returned. He just wants his lady to tell him that she loves him, to give him a reason to stay. The problem is…there's no answer, no declaration of love at the song's end. Just silence...

And that's the silence I often live in. I hear other men declaring their love for the ladies around me. But none do for me. And it makes me wonder. Is there something wrong with me? Am I too ugly? Am I not godly enough? Am I too much of something and too little of something else? What is wrong with me? Am I really and truly unloved?

In the midst of all this questioning, what I want is for some godly guy to just say something to stop me from this downward spiral, to tell me that I'm wrong and that I am loved by him. 

But it turns out I keep waiting for the wrong person to say something. I keep listening for the wrong voice. The Lord is the one who is constantly saying something to me. 

Here's what He said recently:

"You couldn't hear me over all the other voices, so I decided to quiet them. Are you listening?

I think that you are the most lovely and beautiful of all women (Song of Solomon 1:8). I love you. I created you. There is no one like you, and I am glad to call you my own (Isaiah 43:1). Don't ever forget it. Don't let the other voices drown me out. Because they will come, and they will scream loudly, but what I have spoken is the truth (John 17:17).  Don't forget it. Put away your jealousy, your pride, your anger, your bitterness (Ephesians 4:31). They have no place for a woman who fears me. But if you humble yourself, I will exalt you (James 4:10). I promise you this, and that means I will surely do it. 

I love you (Isaiah 43:4). More than you know. I died to rescue you, to get you, and I'm not giving up on you now. I will never give you up (Hosea 11:8). Come to me and I will give you the words of eternal life to restore your weary soul (John 6:68, Psalm 19:7). Don't let them go. Keep them in your heart always (Psalm 119:11, Deuteronomy 11:18). I love you. Nothing can change that. Not height nor depth, not angels nor demons, not life not death or anything else in all creation will be able to separate you from the love I have for you that's found in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing. So don't be afraid. 

You are loved. Always. Nothing can change that. Nothing. So don't run away. What you're looking for is here, with me. Come to me, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Don't run. Just stay. I love you. More than words. So let your words be few, and keep listening (Ecclesiastes 5:2). I'm always ready to speak, to lavish my love on you (1 John 3:1, Ephesians 1:4-8). You're the one who hasn't been listening. But listen now (Hebrews 12:25). I am ready to show you love you've never known, love you could only even dream of (Ephesians 3:19). It's here. It's with me. Stay with me. Abide in me (John 15). Life is found here. You find your life when you lose it (Matt 10:39). So let it go. Give it up. Don't try to hold onto it. Pour out your life like a drink offering to me (Philippians 2:17, 2 Timothy 4:6). I will honor it, I promise (John 12:26). You will not be put to shame (Isaiah 54:4). Anything you give up, I will give back to you one hundred times as much (Mark 10:29-30). 

Don't worry. I will take care of you. I am watching over your life. You don't have to be afraid with me (Matthew 6:25-34). Just trust. You can trust me. I will never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). I have given you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). You have it. Use it. Pursue it. Pursue me like I have pursued you. Never let me go. Stay with me til I have blessed you. Wrestle with me (Genesis 32:24-26). Just stay with me. Don't run away. I love you. Always. Nothing can change that. Nothing. Nothing can change who you are. Your identity is wrapped up in me. Embrace it. Savor it. This is my heart poured out for you. This is my body broken for you. This is my blood spilled for you (Luke 22:19-20). This is my love. 

In this is love, not that you loved me, but that I loved you and gave up my life, gave up my son for you (1 John 4:10). There is no greater love than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You're my friend. Keep my commands (John 15:13-14). That's how I know you love me (John 14:15). So stay. Stay in my love. Don't run. Don't leave. Stay. I want to show you real love. I have it. It's here. It's for you. It's real. It can never be broken. Take a chance and don't ever look back. Don't go back to your old life (Ephesians 4:17-24). Don't long for those other adoring voices to sing your praises. They mean nothing. They can't give you life. They can't give you hope. So stop fighting me. I have what's best for you. I promise. And it's here. Love is here." 

So if you're like me, and you just want someone to tell you you're loved this Valentine's Day, listen for the voice that's always speaking. Store up God's Word in your heart. If you ask Him to say something to you, He will. He won't remain silent. That's why He has given us His Word and has ultimately spoken to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2).

Because of Jesus, God wants to tell you that you're loved more than you could ever imagine. 

Will you listen?

On Valentine's Day and every day, Loving Him is Red!

* You may have heard the version of Say Something that features Christina Aguilera. I happen to be partial to the version I posted above, which doesn't feature any female vocals. I find that when I listen to the Christina version, I'm more apt to focus on the harmonies, but the original version allows me to focus more on the words and to feel the emotion of the song more poignantly.