From Shallow Conversations to Walking on Water: An Invitation to Deeper Communication

IMG_0024Imagine that you’ve just arrived at your hotel for a much-needed vacation. You don’t even bother unpacking your suitcase because you have one thing in mind – the pool. Growing up, you loved to swim so much that you might as well have been a fish, and even now, something comes alive in you any time you’re around water. You don your swimsuit, race through the hotel lobby, and practically take out a couple kids as you jump right in…to the shallow end of the pool. The cool blue water barely makes it past your knees, but you don’t care. You’re just happy to be able to swim again. Never mind that water this shallow makes swimming next to impossible…

Suddenly, you’re aware of some snickering going on right beside you. You turn to see some fellow vacationers pointing and laughing at the floaties you’ve strapped on your arms. You wonder what they find so amusing. This is the way you’ve always gone swimming. The shallow end of the pool is comfortable and fun, and your floaties keep you extra safe. As you stand there musing, you overhear someone say, “Why don’t they swim in the deep end? It’s clearly where they belong…”

For the first time, you take a good, long look at the other end of the pool. There are people of all ages making a grand entrance with backflips off of the diving board or tsunami-inducing cannonballs. As terrifying as that seems, something buried deep in your soul begins to leap. You start to feel a tug on your heart as a little voice inside you whispers, You were made for more than the shallows. Take the plunge into the deep.”

And…cut. Come back with me to reality. I know what you’re thinking: “That story makes no sense. What grown man or woman in their right mind would swim in the shallow end of the pool while wearing floaties like a child? That’s so silly.” You’re right. It is silly. It’s also exactly how most of us are content to communicate with each other. Think about it. When we say hello to someone, we often ask, “How are you?”, to which they typically respond, “Good!” or “Fine!” They may even turn the question back on us: “And how are you?”, and we’ll say “I’m doing well, thanks!” Really? If you’re anything like me, you’re most certainly NOT fine all the time, and I’d venture to guess that the people you’re talking to aren’t either. Chances are, you’re both more content to swim in the shallow end of the pool of conversation where things are safe and predictable than to dive into the deep end of your hurts and worries and doubts.

In other cases, you sit down with a trusted friend for coffee, and you find yourself shooting the breeze for hours, talking about things that won’t matter tomorrow: the weather, the score of last night’s game, or the latest dramatic outburst from one of the Kardashians. It might be fun for a couple hours, but you leave feeling like nothing really got accomplished. Somehow you said a lot without saying anything at all. If you’re honest with yourself, you know it doesn’t have to be this way. You crave connection and desire depth, and friend, that’s exactly what you’re about to find. What I’m proposing to you isn’t some quick fix for all of your problems or a cure for shyness or a list of twenty riveting conversation starters. I simply want to show you that we were all made to dive into the deep waters of intimate connection. In fact, I know Someone who’s inviting you to walk on water.

In Matthew 14, we find a well-known passage that has inspired songs and sermons for centuries. Instead of letting familiarity bore and blind us, let’s look at this text with fresh eyes and insert ourselves in the story. Verse 24 tells us that Jesus’ disciples were in a boat on the lake fighting heavy waves. Have you ever been there, fighting wave after wave of fear, loneliness, or depression, desperate for rescue, convinced that the roaring waters will be the death of you? Or perhaps that friend you meet for coffee is fighting to stay afloat, just waiting for you to throw them a life preserver, to ask how they really are, to be real with them, to go deeper.

After struggling through the storm for a few hours, the disciples saw Jesus coming toward them, but he wasn’t rowing their way in a boat or even swimming… He was walking on the waves! As you can imagine, His followers were more than a little rattled by this. They couldn’t fathom how a human being could possibly do such a thing, so they assumed Jesus was a ghost. Immediately, Jesus set them straight by saying, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here!” Beloved, I believe He’s speaking the same reassuring words over us today. If you’re terrified to own up to whatever it is you’re struggling with or resisting the urge to give someone else the space to be vulnerable with you, remember this promise from Jesus from Matthew 18:20, Where two or three gather in My Name, there I am with them.” If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing to someone who’s hurting or not being able to explain what you’re going through, be encouraged. Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:19-20, Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking – it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” That makes those waves look a little less threatening, doesn’t it?

Let’s take another look at Matthew 14. As it turns out, Jesus wasn’t the only water-walker in this story. Peter called out to Jesus, and Jesus immediately asked him to come to where He was. Just like that, Peter leapt over the side of the boat…right onto the crest of a wave! And then another! And another! Perhaps you’re thinking, “Of course Peter could do something like that. He was in Jesus’ inner circle. Total VIP status. But me? If Jesus knew the things I’ve done, He wouldn’t think twice about letting me stay in the boat. He wouldn’t want to use me.”

Consider Peter’s track record with me for a moment: He was rash, impulsive, and pretty insecure most of the time. This same man that met Jesus amidst the waves would later deny knowing Him three times. Yet, even knowing all this, Jesus told Peter, “You are the rock, and on this rock, I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus saw past Peter’s failures and flaws and breathed life into who he would become. Because He does the same with us today, we don’t need to enter the depths of vulnerable conversation in fear. The waves may seem daunting, but with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can scale them with ease. When we ask Him to take us further than we’ve ever ventured, He will always say, “Yes, come.” Even if we falter, He is quick to take us by the hand, ever attentive, ever strong for us, never allowing us to drown. So what are you waiting for, beloved? With Jesus as your guide, you’ll be able to navigate the tides of real, impactful conversation with more bravery than you ever thought possible. Don’t settle for the shallows of small talk. You were made to walk on water.

Stop Trying to Turn Your Passions into a Paycheck

If you’re anything like me, you entered college starry-eyed, nervous, and a little naive, hoping the next four years would put you on track to finding the job of your dreams. We tend to choose a major based on the things we know we’re good at, the things that drive us and spark our inner passions, the things we could use to make a difference in our chaotic world. Fast-forward a few years. Most of us graduate with a few more loans than we expected and a few more pounds than we hoped to gain (thanks, Taco Bell), but in the prospective job market, we come up empty-handed. Let’s face it. The expectations society places on us to land the “perfect” job fresh out of college are nearly impossible to meet. Most of the employers we’d really like to work for require their applicants to have years of experience, and forming the connections needed to break into your field doesn’t happen overnight. The result? We often end up at a 9-5 job just to make ends meet, holding out hope that one day we can turn our passion into a paycheck, wondering all the while, “Am I really good enough to do what I love if I’m not getting paid for it?”

After months of working my own 9-5 job, sifting through countless job listings in my field, and doing quite a bit of praying, Jesus gave me the answer I so desperately needed: Regardless of what culture tries to tell me, I don’t have to live this way. I wasn’t meant to be miserable or to question the gifts and talents God has given me, and the primary purpose of those gifts was never to make money. To explain more fully what He meant, Jesus pointed me to the accounts in all four of the gospels where He clears the temple. Each gospel writer words the action-packed event a bit differently, but in short, Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem to find merchants selling the animals meant to be offered as sacrifices to the Lord. He was filled with righteous anger and overturned their tables, indignant that they had turned His Father’s house of worship into a marketplace. It can be easy to read that story and jump to the conclusion that Jesus acted too harshly, so let’s try to place ourselves in His sandals. We know He was fully God, but He was also fully human, so He experienced the full range of human emotion. If someone was making a mockery of your father and blatantly disrespecting him in his own house, you would be hurt and upset, too, wouldn’t you?

We can take the illustration a step further. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” We are homes to the Spirit of the Living God, and like the misguided merchants of Jesus’ day, we have bought into the lie that our offering – our gifts, talents, and passions – don’t mean as much if we aren’t able to make money from them. I imagine it breaks God’s heart to see us striving and stressing over gifts He gave us that are ultimately meant to display the diversity and depth of the Giver, not to indicate the worth or usefulness of the one receiving the gift. Please understand that all analogies break down at points, and the issue in our case is less a matter of morality and more a problem of priority. It is not inherently wrong to get paid for doing the things we love most, but if we start to focus more on the function of the gifts than the heart of the Giver, we’ve missed the mark. If we begin to place our identity in what funds our salary, our bank accounts may eventually be full, but our hearts will be left desolate.

If we took a detour from the fast track of the American Dream and slowed down to listen, I think God would whisper to our hearts, “You can trust Me. Lay your gifts at My feet and watch how I can use them to bring hope and healing to a hurting world, even if they never earn you a penny. I see every one of your efforts. Not one is wasted in My capable hands. I treasure everything you offer Me in faith, but you are worth so much more to Me than simply what you do.”

Friends, let’s put down our résumés for a moment and rest. Let’s ask the Lord to rekindle a joy in us that compels us to create just for the fun of it. Most importantly, let’s store up the riches of our Father’s words that are worth more than gold: “Well done, My child. I’m proud of you.”

Called to Create, But Not Defined By It

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When asked about his approach to writing, author Ernest Hemingway’s response was brief yet powerful: “Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Like Hemingway, writing is often as easy and natural for me as breathing… Except when it’s not. Anyone who has ever met me will tell you I am undoubtedly an external processor. Situations and thoughts hardly make sense to me if I am not able to put them into words. As much as I love talking through things, I thrive when I write about them. There is something equally exhilarating and therapeutic about scouring the depths of the English language to find the best words to communicate what’s going on in your head and your heart. You can imagine my frustration, then, when the vice grip of fear and insecurity began to take hold of my writing process.

For several months, my notebooks collected dust on bookshelves, and my list titled “Blog Post Ideas” was blank. I wondered whether my goal of becoming a full-time speaker and writer was simply a pipe dream. Suddenly, all my feelings seemed trivial, and I became convinced that the thoughts and convictions I yearned to put into words couldn’t be nearly as impactful as what I was already reading and hearing from others. I found myself asking, “How do you wrestle with the reality that you were wired by God to have words running through your veins – wild words, lofty words, bold words – all the while knowing you must tame them, master them, and make them palatable yet piercing, relatable yet riveting? How do you grapple with the relentless, insatiable need to pour out your soul on paper while knowing full well that your inmost thoughts will likely be scrutinized, criticized, and even flat-out rejected?”

Once the fog of self-doubt lifted, a simple answer from Jesus became clear: Write anyway. Don’t just write despite the fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and brokenness that is threatening to silence you; write because of it. Let it drive you, carry you, inspire you, and, at times, completely wreck you, but do not, under any circumstances, let it stop you.

If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “I’m definitely not a writer, and I’m not even sure I could call myself ‘creative’”, I have news for you. You are creative because the One who formed you is the Creator of every good thing, and you were made in His image. You are most truly you when you are creating. Who knows what person or thing or experience is out there waiting to inspire you to form something that only you can?

Realizing the creative potential in each one of us led me to another question, “How do you rise above the label of being a “creative” – a writer, a singer, a sculptor, or a whole host of other crafts – and fight off the temptation to let your work define you?” The answer, again, is simple, but the process of allowing this truth to root itself in every fiber of your being is easier said than done: You must choose to believe that Jesus defined your worth when He went to the cross for you 2,000 years ago, and He stamped you with His seal of approval before anyone else got a chance to disapprove.

It’s less about what you do and more about who He is; in Him is complete freedom – freedom to feel, to think, to doubt, to wonder, to fail, to hurt, to live, and to try again. Create out of that. Let your work be messy, gritty, and your own definition of beautiful. More than anything, let it be fully and unashamedly you, a way for those who encounter it to dip their toes into the raging sea of things that make you tick. Know that the One who made you sees all those things – the pure and the ugly, the joy and the pain – and calls them worthy of being shared, fully redeemable, and good – very good.

Why the “New Taylor” Should Have the Church on Its Guard

If there’s one thing Taylor Swift knows how to do with her songs, it’s sparking conversation (and also writing ultra-catchy choruses. Let’s be real). The superstar has done it again with her controversial new single, “Look What You Made Me Do.” In typical Taylor fashion, her lyrics (while admittedly watered-down a bit from her country crooner days) draw you in with cryptic story-telling and a back beat that leaves you wanting more. But as a follower of Christ who was more than a little bit unsettled upon hearing this biting track for the first time, I had to ask myself, Should I be wanting more?”

Ever since her arrival on the country music scene in 2006, I was a self-proclaimed Swiftie. I bought and memorized every song on every album, kept up with her on-again-off-again dating history, and sang along at every tour. Bless my poor dad for taking me… However, after attending her 1989 tour in 2015, my Taylor fever began to subside. I was disappointed to see my role model, “America’s Sweetheart”, prancing around the stage in the tiniest of skirts and crop tops, singing lines like “You can want who you want – boys and boys and girls and girls” and “His hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room.” I know, I know. She’s not a little girl anymore. She’s her own person, so she can do what she wants, but for the first time, I was ashamed to call myself her fan.

Despite all of that, I was thrilled when I heard she’s releasing a new album in November. I had heard whispers that she wants to “revamp her image”, so I thought, “Finally! We’ll be getting the older AND wiser Taylor. She’s gotten this “edgy bad girl” phase out of her system, so I can proudly wave my Swiftie banner once again.” Upon hearing the revenge-fueled “Look What You Made Me Do” last Thursday, I realized that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the ominous opening instrumental began to play and Taylor’s punchy vocals kicked in, something in me started to say, “Whoa. This isn’t right.” I brushed off the uneasiness that initially washed over me, reasoning that I was being too judgmental. “Cut her some slack,” I told myself. “This just isn’t the Taylor you’re used to.” As the song played on, though, I knew that something deeper than a dislike of an artist’s new sound was at play here. There was a spiritual undercurrent to the whole thing that I couldn’t ignore. The only thing I knew to do was to ask Jesus what it was about the song that was giving me spiritual red flags. What I realized next went far beyond melodies, rhythms, and drum tracks.

When it comes to music, the enemy knows he can’t get most Christians to listen to songs with tons of bad language, drug and alcohol references, or sexual innuendo because it’s too “in-your-face”. Instead, judging by Swift’s new song, he’s slipping in something we can all relate to that dishonors Christ just as much – vengeance.

Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, love our enemies, and pray for those who wrong us, not to sing along wholeheartedly to lyrics like, “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me. I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams.” Granted, Ms. Swift doesn’t claim to be a Christian, so I don’t expect her to act like one (though my heart hurts for her because being angry and holding grudges can’t be a fun way to live), but those of us who are Christians do have the God-given responsibility of guarding our hearts and minds, and that includes our song selection. I’m a big believer in the philosophy “Garbage in, garbage out”, or, as Scripture puts it, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

I don’t want to give the impression that my music choices are perfect. They’re far from it, so I need this reminder just as much as anyone else. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 to stand guard and watch out because the enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and one of his weapons of choice is trying to get Christians to look nothing like Jesus.

Make no mistake about it – What you listen to becomes what you live for. The things the world tells you don’t matter are usually the very things that the Lord says matter most.

Am I suggesting that you should only listen to worship music until your dying day? Of course not. There are plenty of great songs out there in a multitude of genres, but we must remember that words have power, and song lyrics fall into that. If the music playing sounds nothing like Jesus, maybe we should just hit “skip”. And if we’re worried about what other people might think, we can take a much more solid piece of T Swift’s advice: Shake it off.

Discovering the Only Identity That Matters

I’m learning that many of my favorite verses of Scripture aren’t the classics you would embroider on a throw pillow, but they’re just as powerful & bring me just as much hope & encouragement.

A new favorite that I’ve tucked away in my heart is found in Acts 4. Peter & John are standing before the Sanhedrin after they heal a lame man in the previous chapter, & verse 13 notes, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter & John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.”

I did a little research, & it turns out Peter & John were close to my age at this point! They were young, yet they were bold enough to speak the convicting truth of the gospel to men who would have loved nothing more than to silence them. It’s no wonder Paul told Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his age. In fact, Paul may have been thinking about those two young men when he wrote that. He was one of the religious leaders before he met Jesus, so he was probably among those who witnessed this display of God-given bravery. He was there at Stephen’s stoning a few chapters later, so it wouldn’t surprise me. That’s why it’s so important to be unashamed of the gospel & to speak its truth everywhere we go without backing down – We never know who could be listening or the seeds those words might plant.

And here’s another thing – Peter & John had just healed a man, yet they were still called ordinary men. It’s not what we do for God but God Himself in us that makes us more than ordinary. It’s all Him.

My favorite part of the verse comes at the very end: “They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” Above all else, I pray that’s how people know me. Not “the worship leader”, “the writer”, or “the missionary”… simply “a woman who has been with Jesus.”

A Little-Known Verse With a Big Challenge

One of my favorite things about reading through entire passages of Scripture is coming across little verses hidden in the text that I had never noticed before. Today, the Lord had me in John 6, and verse 43 caught me by surprise:

“But Jesus replied, ‘Stop complaining about what I said.'”

Well, that gets straight to the point, doesn’t it? As Jesus looks at our world, especially His Church, and sees so much division, don’t you think He turns to us, His followers, with love, firmness, a touch of exasperation, and a dash of sass and says, “Stop complaining about what I said”?

He reminded me very plainly of some of the things He asks of us, even those things that are hard to swallow and even harder to carry out:

Love people, even the ones who look or believe or act nothing like you do. Pray for people, even the government leaders you don’t agree with, the boss who treats you unfairly, and yes, even the terrorists intent on destroying and harming. (Remember how an encounter with Jesus turned Paul, a terrorist, into one of the world’s greatest missionaries.) Forgive people, no matter how much you’d prefer to get revenge or how badly they hurt you. Above all, take up your cross, die to your own desires every day, and follow Jesus.

That’s right. Die to yourself. What a controversial calling in our me-centered culture. If you choose to call yourself a Christian, you bear the name of Christ. You live by His Spirit. Your thoughts, preferences, dreams, comfort, safety, and even your very life must be left as an offering at the foot of the cross for the Lord’s glory and for the sake of the world He loves. Those souls you serve will be the ones you call brother and sister in heaven. They are worth more than anything you could collect in this life. In Jesus’ own words, what good is it for someone to gain all the world has to offer but give up their soul?

Stop complaining about what Jesus said, and just do it. Do it as a child whose Father wants them to be free from rules and religion. Do it as one loved more than you’ll ever know by a God who died to know you. Don’t let complaining rob you of your identity.

Remember who you are.

Get Ready, Another Eclipse is Coming

All of the excitement and anticipation surrounding today’s eclipse made me think of an event yet to come that I hope and pray would stir an even greater sense of joy in the heart of every believer: The day when everyone will once again look heavenward, this time to see Jesus Himself coming back to take His people home. The day when we will need no light, lamp, or sun because Christ Himself will finally eclipse the darkness of the world to shine His glory for all to see.

As I thought over how beautifully that parallels today’s event, the Holy Spirit convicted me with a few questions:

Am I as eager to soak up Scripture and wisdom from the Lord to share it with a world in desperate need of a Savior as many are to buy up “eclipse glasses” and share them with their friends?

Am I more in awe of the beauty of the creation than the brilliance of my Creator?

How can I be so concerned about people protecting their eyes from the sun & yet so often apathetic about protecting people’s souls from spending eternity without Jesus?

Everything in heaven and on earth points back to truth about the One who made it, so today, I’m thankful for the reminder that “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Don’t Pray To Be Safe. Pray To Be Sent.

A couple months ago, Asbury University’s Director of Cross-Cultural Ministry interviewed me about my take on cross-cultural competency and missions. Once she got me talking about my heart for missions, I couldn’t stop. I went into the meeting having no idea what I would be asked or what I would say, but an hour later, the director had at least ten pages of notes, and I had the answer to the question I didn’t know I had been asking: Yes, I really am called to cross-cultural missions.

Truthfully, I can’t remember half of what I said, but it resonated with the director so deeply that she asked me to come back to campus after I graduate to speak about cross-cultural missions. Even though I haven’t heard from her since then, I often wonder what I might say if I ever give that message. Thoughts have been swirling in my mind about stepping out of your comfort zone, letting go of your appearance and the “American Dream”, and reaching out to the marginalized, all great points to be sure, but my heart and mind keep getting pulled towards Isaiah’s boldness when he said to the Lord, “Here I am. Send me.”

As I mulled over where I am in this process of understanding and living out my call to missions, I asked myself what simple piece of advice I would give to students grappling with the same thing. The answer was simply this: Don’t pray to be safe. Pray to be sent. There wasn’t some kind of addendum to Isaiah’s prayer that said, “Send me, but also protect me from sickness, exhaustion, terrorism, people that are resistant to the gospel, people that tell me I’m crazy for doing missions work, or any other kind of inconvenience imaginable.” Isaiah got straight to the point – He wanted to go and proclaim the Lord’s goodness, whatever the cost. Am I suggesting that we shouldn’t ask God to protect us? Absolutely not. He promises to be our “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”, and He delights in being just that for us, but it’s worth noting that two things in this verse are present – God and trouble. Praying for protection isn’t wrong; in fact, it humbles us by giving us a way to acknowledge our frailty and our need for the Lord, but safety can’t be our top priority if we want to serve as Jesus did. Jesus confirms this guarantee for a less-than-easy life years later when He says to His disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Sadly, many of us have bought into the “American Dream” (health, wealth, and prosperity) version of missions: “I’ll go on this well-organized, perfectly planned out trip with my youth group/university/best friends for a week… maybe two… preferably somewhere warm… probably somewhere in Africa, actually. People love to hear stories about Africa. I’ll make sure that someone brings their super expensive camera that cost more than my plane ticket to take Instagram-worthy “candids” of me laughing with adorable kids. Maybe they’ll even get a video of me teaching the village the one hymn I can actually remember. I’ll buy a few trendy, handmade bags to use as conversation starters once I’m home, give a heartwarming speech to my church (or at least some sort of post on social media) about how my life was forever changed, and give myself a pat on the back for clearly meeting my “missions quota” for the rest of my life.”

I don’t want to downplay the importance of short-term missions work or serving in third-world countries in any way, but a lot of us have clearly missed the point. If we truly desire to call ourselves followers of Christ, our lives should actually resemble His in some way, including the fact that He “did not come to be served but to serve”. When we adopt the aforementioned “American Dream” mentality about service, it’s not others we’re serving, but ourselves. It’s easy to try to meet our own needs for comfort, recognition, and happiness without once considering laying all of that aside (along with our own basic needs for survival if need be) to give it away to someone else. We seem to have forgotten that anyone can do “good” things like meeting another’s basic needs of food, water, and shelter, but only we, as Christ followers, have been sent out by Him to give gifts that only He can give – the saving love and grace powerful enough to bring His lost children home to their Heavenly Father forever.

As much as we’d like to believe it, we aren’t promised safety (or likes on Instagram for that matter). In fact, we’re more likely to lose friends, social status, basic comforts, and maybe even our lives when we’re truly following Jesus with everything we have and everything we are. The good news is, Jesus promises that anything we lose for Him here on earth will be repaid to us abundantly in heaven. Of course, I’m not implying that we should intentionally seek to be in harm’s way or that Jesus’ intent is to harm us (after all, He tells us that His plans for us are to prosper us and not to harm us), but being a completely committed follower of Christ means we are willing to sacrifice our social lives, our personal lives, and possibly even our physical lives in order to be sent into a world that Jesus died to save. If He saw each person as worth dying for, then we should, too.

Stray Hairs and Set-Apart Hearts

Being tempted feels a lot like having a pesky stray hair clinging to your arm. Initially, it doesn’t seem that bad, but the longer it’s there, the more unbearable it becomes. Many times, you can’t see it without a change of perspective – looking in the mirror after you brush your hair, the light hitting your shirt a certain way, or even a friend pointing it out to you and asking if they can help you get it off, but no matter how you discover it, you know you would do anything to get rid of it. Often, it’s somehow managed to become so embedded in your clothes that you have to tug quite a bit, and you probably aren’t even sure how it got in there that deep, but once it’s gone, you see it for what it is – light as air, dispensable, unable to hold you back any longer. It might be a challenge to get rid of, but with the brightest of light, solid friends, and a good look at your own reflection from time to time, it doesn’t stand a chance.

Today, do the hard thing and ask Jesus what the “stray hairs” are in your life. Ask Him for His light to give you a new perspective and illuminate dark places in your heart and mind that you might not have even realized were taking root. Surround yourself with close friends who have your back and aren’t afraid to lovingly tell you that some things might not be quite right in your life. Take an honest look at your heart and ask yourself what’s holding you back from being more like Christ. Walk with confidence. Jesus has given you the power of the Holy Spirit and an abundance of His grace to pluck those “stray hairs” off of every part of your clothes – for good.

Giving Up Worrying for Lent

I’m giving up worrying for Lent. No, it’s not some food fast or a social media cleanse, but as I reflect on what has consumed my heart and mind lately, it’s been worrying: worrying about post-grad plans, worrying about exams and projects, worrying about friendships… The list goes on and on. Usually people give up something that they love for Lent, but I’m choosing to give up my comfort zone. This constant state of worrying definitely isn’t an enjoyable mindset, but it’s a mindset in which I’ve made a home. I’m so used to worrying over everything that I have a hard time thinking about things any other way. Jesus doesn’t want my heart and mind to be weighed down like this. He longs for me to lay all of my worries at His feet because every one of them matters to Him. Besides, worrying about things will never change the outcome anyway. It will only serve to break me down, burn me out, and crowd out any space that I could give myself to listen to and trust in Jesus. Why hold on to worry like a life vest to keep me afloat when I can instead let myself be carried in the arms of the Prince of Peace who walks on water? Starting today, I’m exchanging my chains of worry for the freedom that comes from receiving God’s peace. If worry threatens to take root in my heart again, its voice will be drowned out by my song of praise that comes from accepting the grace of Jesus – grace that allows me to rest, grace that knows what’s truly best for me, grace that walks with me through the process of letting go.