Saturday, January 14, 2017

Resilience



I was reading Ultrarunning Magazine the other day. The very first article was about reflecting on the past year. It closed with the phrase, "May your every run be a great one," followed by the signature of the author. Reading that, something inside me scoffed at Karl. I let out a somewhat mocking chuckle. That phrase didn't sit well with me.

You see, not every run is going to be great. I know from experience. Too much experience... I think that's why I reacted with so much negativity to that phrase. It's wishing its readers something impossible. If your runs aren't all great, then that's normal. We all have runs that hurt, that take way too damn long, that are accompanied by shit weather. The list goes on. Perfection doesn't exist here. Everyone knows that. And I'm sure we're all aware that things aren't always great. They can't be. And they shouldn't be. Runners know this. And this an ultrarunner's mantra.

While the great runs are, well, great, the not so great runs have their place. Maybe even more so than the great runs. It's the hard runs that teach us how to suffer. They teach us what we're made of. The hard runs bring us to our limits and dare us to cross them. They teach us resilience. That no matter how much you hurt, how tired you are, how uncomfortable you feel, no matter what, you must keep moving forward if you want to succeed. The hard runs are the runs we remember. They become the stories we tell that inspire those around us. The hard runs make us stronger. They become the, "Well, if I can that, I can _____," reference points. It's the hard runs that change us. Not the great runs.

Life's the same way. In the movie Creed, Rocky Balboa is spot on when he says this:

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean nasty place and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. Nobody's gonna hit you as hard as life, but it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth, go out and get what you're worth. But you've gotta be willing to take the hits and not point fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody."

There is no progress without struggle. And the road to success is filled with all kinds of struggle. But its not the strongest or the fastest or the smartest or the most attractive that succeed. It's not the ones that have it all together. Success belongs to the ones who are great at suffering. It belongs to those who can take hit after hit after hit and keep moving forward.

So, I hope there are things in our lives that go wrong. That knock the shit out of us. I hope we bleed a little bit. And experience some pain here and there. I hope that not everything in our lives is great, but rather that our lives are great.

Because greatness is not defined by perfection, but resilience.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Joy Unexpected


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)


My life has become one of unexpected joy. God has been showing me that He can offer abundance and richness in the seasons I try to avoid or escape. The seasons I thought would be my most miserable and draining times in life have surprisingly been some of the best and most fulfilling.

That's God's character though. He loves surprises. He's unpredictable. He makes the weak strong and the foolish wise. His ways are upside down. And I cannot express to you how thankful I am that my ways are not His ways.

If I had it my way, my life would look a lot different than it does now. I would not be the person I am today. And I would not be doing what I'm doing. And I'm pretty sure my life would suck. To put it in the simplest terms possible.

If I had it my way, I never would have gone to Young Life. And this crazy awesome life would have never been a thing. I never would have gone to club and experienced the open armed love of Jesus for people who have no interest in Him. I never would have gone to weekend camp and seen a tangible relationship with God. I never would have gone to summer camp and experienced the depth of my sin or the depth of the love of a God who loves sinners. If I had it my way, I never would have met God. And my life would not look like it does now.

If I had it my way, my life would have looked perfect after becoming a Christian. I would have memorized the Bible and never sinned. If I had it my way, I would not have struggled as much as I did with the sin I could not let go of. If I had it my way, I would not have encountered the God of universe intimately and personally and I would not know Him as well as I do today. If I had it my way, I would not be as strong as I am.

If I had it my way, I would not have majored in Biology Education in college. I avoided science like it was the plague my freshman year. If I had it my way, I would have majored in Social Studies Education. And I would have missed out on learning about the complexity life holds. If I had it my way, I never would have seen the purpose my life carries just in the fact that I exist. Psalm 139 would have never become as real and tangible to me as it is now. If I had it my way, I may not have been here.

If I had it my way, I would not be a runner. I used to hate running. If I had it my way, I never would have heard the story that changed the trajectory of my life. I would not have joined a running group at my church. And I would not have crossed the finish line back in 2014. If I had it my way, I never would have met one of my best friends. In fact, I probably would not have met most of the friends I have now. If I had it my way, I never would have seen all the beautiful sights I've seen on my runs. If I had it my way, I'd still be running for all the wrong reasons. And I would still hate it.

If I had it my way, I would not have been a leader. If I had it my way, I'd still be timid and shy. And too afraid to voice my opinion or to take a stance. If I had it my way, I would not have the confidence I have now. And I would not be as bold or as comfortable as I am in my interactions with people. If I had it my way, I would have never volunteered to take a position in front of anybody. Ever. I look forward to it now.

If I had it my way, I never would have moved in with complete strangers. If I had it my way, I would have chosen comfort over obedience. I would not have experienced the faithfulness and providence of the Lord. If I had it my way, I never would have witnessed the beautiful interwoven intention that exists in our life stories. If I had it my way, I never would have experienced strangers becoming friends becoming family. I would have missed out on a community that works to serve and love each other in sacrificial ways. If I had it my way, I would have never seen the awesome reward that risk can hold.

If I had it my way, I would not be student teaching at Cooper High School. If I had it my way, I would not be student teaching at all. I tried to find a way out last year. Out of the three options I was given, student teaching was the best one. So I applied. If I had it my way, I would have been placed at five other schools before Cooper. I put Cooper down as a last resort choice. And that's where I ended up. I was somewhat disappointed to find that Cooper was my placement. If I had it my way, I would not have been placed with one of the best teachers I've met. And I may not have seen the heart of a teacher that deeply cares. If I had it my way, I would have never changed my mind about teaching.

If I had it my way, my life would not be as rich and full as it is now. If I had it my way, I would not have the deep deep friendships I have now. If I had it my way, I would not be who I am today.

But I didn't have it my way. I had it God's ways.

And I'm thankful my ways are not God's ways. My ways would have never changed me. My ways would have kept me safe and comfortable. My ways are stagnant.

But God's ways... God's ways change people. God's ways turn things upside down. While God's ways may be scary or risky, they're definitely always worth it. God's ways are vibrant and alive.

Thank goodness God's ways are not my ways.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Learning to Own My Story

"What happened?"

Hearing that question sends my stomach through the floor. Every. Single. Time.

It yanks me back to the shame and embarrassment, the confusion and darkness, that I walked through not too long ago. It punches me with the pain, the hurt, the hopelessness, and the loneliness I thought I'd never escape.

I freeze.

"It's a long story."

Why is it so hard to tell the truth? To just tell the story...

"I hurt myself."

A few years ago, I was in a dark place. I was hurting. I was numb. Life had lost its colors. Everything felt gray and lifeless.

I was struggling with an eating disorder. I was intentionally hurting myself to try and numb the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, and worthlessness that had become my constant companions. I was depressed. I had kept it all secret. I tried to convince myself (and everyone else) that I was fine. That nothing was wrong. I hadn't been hospitalized. I wasn't underweight. I didn't have any near death experiences. And more than anything, I was a Christian. I thought that I was supposed to be okay. I didn't think that I could claim to be following Jesus if I was struggling like I was. So I did everything I could to hide the truth because I was afraid of what recovery would require. And I didn't want to be a burden to anyone.

You're only as sick as your secrets. And the longer you keep your secrets secret, the sicker you become. I eventually reached a point where hiding wasn't possible anymore. My secrets started to leak. People were noticing that something wasn't right and they began to ask the questions I had been afraid to hear for so long.

I had two options: I could lie and keep running from the truth OR I could surrender and let people in to help.

Brené Brown once said,

"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."

My body is littered with scars. Physical, visible scars. Each one of them tells a story. Stories of pain, loneliness, frustration, shame, and emptiness can be seen etched into my skin.

But these scars tell another story. One story. A story of hope and redemption. A story of healing. A story of something broken being made beautiful. MY story.

When people ask about my scars, I shrink. The answer demands vulnerability and vulnerability is scary. It's choosing to let people see who I really am, rather than trying to convince them of something I wish I was. Vulnerability is telling the truth when the truth is too hard, too painful, or too embarrassing to tell. It's choosing to show up and be seen rather than run and hide.

Every time I tell my story, I show people the raw places of my heart. The places I so often see as ugly and painful and undesirable. It makes me feel weak and exposed. Naked. Sick.

BUT every time I work past the initial feelings of shame and embarrassment and allow people to see the story behind the scars, something incredible happens..... People see strength rather than weakness. Healing rather than brokenness. Hope rather than despair. And ultimately, life rather than death.

In telling my story, my weaknesses become my strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is beginning to make a whole lot more sense.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

God tells us that His power is made complete in our weaknesses. That when we let people see our failures and our flaws and our struggles, we actually get to experience God's power in the process. His healing, redemptive, life-giving power. Who doesn't want that?

I'm still learning to own my story. It's not easy. It's awkward. But I'm finding that when I tell people the truth behind my scars, I experience a little bit more freedom and healing each time. 

I want to share my story. I want people to know that there's hope. That healing and recovery are possible. That death and darkness don't have to win. 

Ultimately, I want people to see that victory is found only in Jesus. 


Have you told your story? Why or why not?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

You Call Yourself

You call Yourself the Light
This darkness makes it hard to see
Please guide me through the shadows
That I may continue on with Thee

You call Yourself the Shepherd
I'm prone to wander and to roam
When I go to leave Your presence
Break my legs and bring me home

You call Yourself Provider
In shortage I tend to plead
Remind me that You freely give
And will fulfill my need

You call Yourself First and Last
All that was, is, and is to be
When my heart ponders and I fret
Tell me that You are before me

You call Yourself the Vine
In You life finds its root
Help me to abide in Thee
That I might bear Your fruit

You call Yourself Redeemer
Mending all the broken pieces
When I break again and again
Show me Your fixing never ceases

You call Yourself the Peace
But the storm leads me to fear
When the waves begin to crash
Let me know You will draw near

You call Yourself Father
There are times when I feel distant
Help me remember I'm You're child
And that You bend down to listen

You call Yourself Creator
You laid all of the foundations
When I try to stake my claim on these
Remind me they are Your creations

You call Yourself Love
Deeper and wider than the sea
When I feel like no one cares
Show me all You've done for me

There are many names You call Yourself
But this I know for sure
You are the great I AM
And Your names will all endure

Monday, January 4, 2016

On Fear


What is fear? Why does fear exist? How can fear have such a strong pull on us?

A few months ago, I listened to a conversation on fear. One gentleman explained how God never intended for us to be anxious or afraid. He compared our relationship with God to his relationship with his kids. He talked about how he desires his kids to trust him and how, when he asks them to do something that involves risk, he wants them to know that he'll be there when they need him. 

I've thought through that conversation over these past few months. In my own life, I've seen how fear has led me to the redemption God offers in Jesus. Fear has led me to healing, freedom, peace, etc. Based on my personal experience with fear, I know it has a healthy position in my relationship with God. The conversation I overheard was not sitting well with me so I invited God into my thoughts...

Surely not all fear is bad, right? God took me back to the Garden of Eden...

"Look at Adam and Eve," He said, "What can you tell me about them?"

Reading through Genesis 1 and 2, I tried to imagine what life would have been like. I watched Adam and Eve work the land. I witnessed them play with lambs and lions. They ran and laughed through the garden. They swam in the river that ran through it. They climbed the trees and slept under the stars. They did all of this naked (there's a picture for ya). God kept them company through all of their naked adventures.

There was no hint of fear...

... Until the fall...

God gave Adam and Eve one limitation in the garden: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God gave this commandment out of love. He did not want Adam and Eve to experience death. The serpent (Satan) came and twisted the truth. He confused Adam and Eve and questioned God's love for them. They ate the fruit and sin entered the world.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:7-10)

Sin entered our existence and as a result fear, anxiety, shame, etc. came with it. Genesis shows us that fear was not a reality until we disobeyed God. Adam and Eve weren't afraid until they ate the fruit God told them not to eat. It was THEN that they fled and hid from God for the fear of Him.

Fear is not of God, but fear is certainly not a sin. There is some fear that is healthy and necessary. Since God cannot be afraid, He is not the source of the fear we experience. Fear comes from God's enemy, also known as Satan or the devil.

I believe Satan is in a constant state of fear. He rebelled against God and was cast down into Hell. He knows what his future holds. God will one day destroy him. The Bible sometimes refers to Satan as the prince of this world. He leads us into temptation and sin. When we experience fear, it's because we're under Satan's dominion. 

So how can fear be a good thing then? Well, fear tells us that something is wrong. Fear resulted from the painful separation of God and man and the entrance of sin and death into the world. When Jesus died on the cross, He removed that separation and made it possible to walk with God again, bringing us back to life. When we invite Jesus into our lives, that fear can be removed. Our fear exists to motivate us to get right with God.


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18








Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Love Wins

Over the past week, media has been overrun with the news of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage. As a result, every feed that I tune into has been turned into one giant colorful debate. Is it right, is it not right, and ultimately, what does God think?

I've been heartbroken witnessing the arguments that have taken place, the hurtful words that have been said, the judgment that has been cast, and the hatred that has been displayed. By everyone.

There are two groups that have been on my heart throughout everything: the LGBT community and my Christian brothers and sisters. There are words to be said to both of them.


To the LGBT community...

First and foremost, I'm sorry. I'm sorry on behalf of all my Christian brothers and sisters. I'm sorry for all the painful, thoughtless words we've thrown at you. I apologize for shunning you. I'm sorry for speaking before listening, condemning without understanding, and for acting out of pride and arrogance rather than love and humility. We've been called to imitate Jesus, and we represent Him poorly sometimes. I'm sorry for giving you such a deficient image of Him. He's the good guy here, I promise.

God loves you. He loves you more than you could fathom, more than you could imagine, and more than you could withstand. His love is everlasting. God knows everything about you. He knows what you are and are not. He is aware of your whole life story. He sees every skeleton in your closet. He knows every single shameful secret you've kept hidden. Heck, you may not believe that He's real. Doesn't matter. He still loves you. More than any person ever could. God's love isn't based on performance. You have it. You can't pay for it, earn it, or deserve it. You simply have to receive it. And He can't and won't force you to accept it. He asks you to choose Him.


To my Christian brothers and sisters...

Stop it. Stop arguing. By fighting each other, we're only defeating ourselves (1 Cor. 6:7). Stop pointing fingers. The world has enough of that. Stop posting Bible verses in hopes of changing someone's mind. It's not helping. We miss Jesus's point when we use His words as weapons against others.

Remember who the real Enemy is. The Supreme Court is not the Enemy. The LGBT community is not the Enemy. The United States is not the Enemy. We aren't supposed to be fighting people; we're here to fight Hell (Eph. 6:12). We're waging a war against darkness, hopelessness, pain, and hatred. Our Enemy is Satan and our most powerful weapon is Love. Utilize it.

Don't forget where you came from. There was a time when you were lost. Remember? And we all know you didn't pull yourself up by your bootstraps and turn your life around. Redemption doesn't work like that. We have done nothing to earn salvation and our faith is not some great achievement. We have been saved by grace through the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8). We are in no position to cast judgment. Jesus expects more failure from us than we expect from ourselves. The truth is, we all deserve death.

Finally, imitate Christ, for to be like Christ is to be a Christian. Examine Jesus's ways and you'll find that he did not condemn, but showed compassion, mercy, and love in every circumstance. Look at how He responded to the woman caught in adultery in John 8. She was dragged before Him, naked and ashamed, by "the keepers of the law." They wanted to kill her. Jesus said, "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone." One by one, they left until Jesus and the woman were alone.
"Didn't even one of them condemn you?" He asked.
"No," the woman responded.
"Neither do I," Jesus replied.
We see in Jesus that it's not God's wrath, anger, or impending judgment that leads us to change, but rather His kindness (Rom. 2:4). The way of gentleness brings healing. He tells us, "Let me teach you, for I am humble and gentle at heart." The most characteristic feature of the humility of Jesus is His forgiveness and acceptance of others. He comes to us with open arms not pointing fingers. Love is a far better stimulus than pressure or fear.

To be "in the world but not of the world" implies that a Christian is not influenced nor intimidated by the values of our American culture. And if we want to have any impact at all, we must first love America before trying to minister to it. Our love is what will bring hope and change. Therefore "let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us." (1 Jn. 4:7-12)

Jesus summed up "the law" with two commands:
1. Love God.
2. Love people.
The rest was crucified with Him on the Cross.


Love wins. Love has and always will continue to win. 


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What A Good Year



"For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done"
- Psalm 92:4

Wow...

I've always heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Honestly, I don't think I have words to even begin to give worth to any of these pictures. They capture priceless events and relationships.

I never saw 2014 coming. I could not have planned nor predicted this past year. These past 12 months have been months of adventure, growth, joy, and radical change. I'm a completely different person because of what God has done in my life this year.

I am filled with the inexpressible and glorious joy that 1 Peter talks about when I recall all the precious moments of 2014. They truly are things that I will treasure in my heart for years to come. I'll look upon these days and be reminded of the Lord's good and sovereign will. He knows what He's doing, even if I don't understand His ways.

I took a risk in January. I accepted an invitation. I entered into uncharted waters, trusting that God was leading me in every step. Everything changed. Looking back, I often ask myself What would my life look like had I not said yes? I can't say. What I can tell you is that the risk was worth it. I didn't lose anything. In fact, I gained so much more than I thought I would. God surprised me. He's good like that. Always.

Entering into 2015, I don't see how it could possibly compare to 2014. But, God is capable of so much more than what I limit Him to. He loves surprises and He's unpredictable. Who knows where He'll take me.

One thing I'm certain of...

God knows best. I can trust Him.

How was your 2014? (Happy New Year)