Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Liam woke up before 6 a.m. for a good chunk of the summer, and it was rough! The first week was especially brutal. I felt groggy most days and had to go to bed early out of sheer exhaustion.

With new nap problems on top of this, I didn’t have any time to myself. I didn’t write at all that first week, and I couldn’t find the opportunity to relax and unwind at the end of the day either.

A few weeks into our new “routine”, as I was battling my strong-willed boy to get his socks and shoes on so that we could go outside before it got too hot out, I found myself telling him how I didn’t need him to have a bad attitude. As it was, he woke me up too early again, and I was still irritated about it, so he better behave!

Not even a minute later, a familiar phrase came to mind.

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

It comes from the following passage in Scripture:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

I immediately felt convicted. But to be quite honest, I felt slightly annoyed too. The truth is, I didn’t want to be convicted. I had already sacrificed so much for my son. Did I have to sacrifice my sleep and have a good attitude about it too?

I called my mom to talk about these issues, and as I expressed my frustration to her, she lent me a sympathetic ear and promised to pray. She also stated something she has told me before—that she believes God would use motherhood to refine me.

I’ll admit it’s not something I’ve wanted to hear. Being refined through parenting is painful! Fortunately, a friend and I have been reading through a book about motherhood for several months now, and one of the chapters in particular has helped me to see the process of refinement in a different light. It has caused me to recognize that I was seeing refinement through motherhood as a punishment when I needed to see it as a promise of better things to come.

In all reality, we must be refined if we are to be ready for greater ministry opportunities, responsibilities, or positions of influence in the future.

Just as a baby has to grow into childhood and then adulthood to enjoy certain activities and opportunities, we also must grow to enjoy and experience all that God has in store for us, and a lot of that growth will take place through refinement. Because of that, we need to see this process as a blessing and gift as we look forward to what God may have in store for us as a result.

I can’t say that I became an expert on graciously accepting the way God was refining me this summer, but I did learn a few things about how to keep no record of wrongs in the process. They are as follows:

Confess your feelings of resentment as they arise.

It was so helpful for me to do this. As I confessed my sinful attitude to God and asked Him to change me, He did. I wasn’t all the sudden the gracious, godly woman I wanted to be, but I was on the right track, so I kept confessing and asking God to work in me.

Set boundaries.

Keeping no record of wrongs doesn’t mean we accept any sort of beahvior or action from others. All relationships need boundaries in order to be healthy and thrive. Even relationships with toddlers.

After that first week of waking up between 5:30 a.m. to 5:45 a.m., I bought Liam an alarm clock that my friend (the one I’m reading the book with) recommended. It looks like a traffic light and is set to red during the child’s bedtime. It then turns green at the time that the child can get out of bed the next morning.

Although this alarm clock hasn’t kept Liam from waking me up, he’s making progress. Now he takes me back to his room for us to both lie down until the light turns green. It’s a huge improvement in my mind, and I also have to admit that I kind of love watching Liam get so excited over the light turning green each morning. It never gets old!

Learn to see the process of refinement as a blessing and gift.

I have a ways to go before humbly accepting the trials and hardships of life and truly seeing the process of refinement as a blessing and gift, but I want to get there. It’s something I need to pray for—that God will shift my perspective to see the goodness of such a “gift” as He prepares me for better things to come.

The best thing to come, of course, is becoming more like Jesus in the process. May He really help me (and us) to believe and long for that! Nothing else can compare to such a promise.

Liam is no longer waking up before 6 a.m., and I haven’t been struggling with resentment as much as a result. I’m sure it will someday rear its ugly head again, however, and I want to be ready to deal with it when it does. I’ll continue to pray that God shifts my perspective regarding refinement and that He’ll help me to love my family and others a little more like He does.

Ultimately, resentment and other wrong attitudes do me no good. So may God help me to choose forgiveness and kindness instead as I continue to learn what it means to keep no record of wrongs. And in the midst of these hard life lessons, may I choose to really believe that refinement is a blessing and gift that always comes with a promise—that the best is yet to come!

Happy Jesus Day

“Happy Jesus Day!” my son exclaimed to me a few mornings ago in his little toddler voice.

I reveled in the cuteness of those words rolling off his lips. It was a phrase I had never heard before, and it was especially precious to hear my son say it since it centered on Jesus.

After soaking in the sweetness of the moment, my next reaction was to want to “correct” him and tell him that Jesus’ day was in December or the spring when we celebrated His birth and resurrection. Instead, I remained silent, and I’m so glad I did. After all, shouldn’t we see every day as Jesus’ day?

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118:24

When I think of the fact that the LORD has made each day and intentionally created me to live in this period of time, it makes me recognize that He has specific things in store for me each day.

He has ways in which He wants me to know Him more deeply; people to pray for, encourage, and love; insights for me to make and mull over; moments to spend with my husband and son. And He has those tender moments planned out too—ones like that morning a few days ago where He showed me that He is actively at work in the life of my young son.

In all reality, each new day is an opportunity to go on a treasure hunt that has specifically been mapped out for us by God. We need only to be willing to discover. So let us pray that we would have the eyes to see and to appreciate each jewel when we come across them. And let us truly meditate on the fact that this is the day that the Lord has made and ask God to help us rejoice and be glad in it, no matter what the day may bring.

Today, new treasures are waiting to be found. So let’s start this treasure hunt together. And as we do, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Jesus Day!

We’re Asking the Wrong Question

When I took this picture, I could see hints of a rainbow lining the opening of these clouds. It was a good reminder that God is often working in ways beyond what we can understand or see.

As I was driving home from the grocery store several weeks ago, I felt sad once again over how political Covid-19 had become. It’s disheartening to see that the political affiliation of each news source has caused such vastly distinctive views on the issue. I am also discouraged when I consider the possibility that different institutions could be taking advantage of this illness for their own personal agendas and gain. It honestly makes me anxious when I think about it too much.

As I pondered how political this pandemic had become, it dawned on me that politics has played a role in everyday life for centuries; Jesus’ crucifixion, in fact, was no exception to that.

The days leading up to Jesus’ death, the chief priests and Pharisees sought a means to crucify Him. Politically, they feared the Romans would take their place and nation from them if Jesus was to continue gaining followers through His miracles (John 11:48). As a result, they plotted His death.

Although the disciples had a far more favorable opinion of Jesus and His signs, they also had wrong political views about Him.

Peter rebuked Jesus in one instance after He prophesied to His disciples about His death and resurrection. Jesus, in turn, reprehended him for not having his mind set on things above. (Matthew 16:21-23). On another occasion, James and John came to Jesus alongside their mother, who asked Jesus to allow her sons to sit at His right and left hand in His kingdom, causing the other disciples to become angry (Matthew 20:20-23).

And on yet another occasion, one of Jesus’ followers explicitly stated what he and other believers had been hoping for in Jesus all along (but no longer believed was possible)—that He would redeem Israel (Luke 24:18-21).

Ironically, this particular individual told these things to Jesus Himself before he realized to whom he was speaking. He and other followers of Jesus had yet to realize that Jesus had indeed planned to redeem Israel all along, but not in the way they had expected. He accomplished redemption through His death and resurrection and made it available for all people of all times. It simply had to be received by grace through faith.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

-Ephesian 2:8-9

When I think of the religious division, schemes, and hidden agendas that saturated Jerusalem before Jesus was crucified, I am struck by the fact that God didn’t work out His plan for salvation in spite of the political climate of the day. No. Instead, He worked through it, and He can work through the political climate of our day to accomplish His purposes too.

God didn’t work out His plan for salvation in spite of the political climate of the day. No, instead He worked through it, and He can work through the political climate of our day to accomplish His purposes too.”

This is something I find myself needing to remember when I sense anxiety rising within me over Covid-19 or any other issue we have faced this year.

If you are like me, and you have felt uneasy over the divisiveness of each political party on how Covid-19 should be handled and viewed (and all other issues, for that matter), or if you, too, have felt worried as you try to figure out what men may be scheming in the midst of these times, then perhaps, my friend, we’re asking the wrong question.

Maybe it’s not a matter of trying to understand the hidden agendas of men in this pandemic or to somehow reconcile each contrastive view, but to better ask God what He is doing through this time and in each issue.

He may not just be working in spite of the chaos in which we find ourselves today. He could very well be working through it, and perhaps it’s the very thing that He is using to bring redemption to even more individuals than we could possibly know.

We can rest assured that, no matter what comes tomorrow or how chaotic life seems, no one will thwart God’s plans. He is not surprised by the events of this year, and He is still in the business of making all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Let’s keep believing that. Let’s find hope in knowing that God’s purposes will always prevail.

Living Water

I took a picture of this same scene in March, when the plants were lush and green. I knew they wouldn’t stay that way for long.  It’s really dry here, and the summer gets too hot for much to stay green without some tender care.

Just a few short months later, I snapped the scene pictured above. It goes to show that not even the most native of plants can withstand the heat and dryness here. Not in a lush, green sort of way, at least.

Heading into this summer, I knew not to underestimate this climate. I was determined to give even more water to the plants in my front yard than I had before, and to do so more often. So far, it has been paying off. I haven’t lost any plants this summer (unlike last summer, unfortunately).

As I have faithfully watered my plants throughout these last few months, the thought has crossed my mind that perhaps I am not drinking enough water myself.

There are so many benefits to drinking water. Too many to list. But there are a few that are especially pertinent to this moment in time. They are as follows:

  1. Drinking enough water in hot weather keeps one from getting dehydrated.
  2. Drinking enough fluids in general helps in the recovery of illness.

Considering that we are still experiencing the heat of summer during a pandemic, how much more important it is to drink enough water!

I speak of this in a literal sense, but I urge us even more so to consistently drink of the living water.

In John 4, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman about this very topic. Weary from travel, He asks her for a drink of water from a well. In response, she questions why He would ask her for a drink since the Jews and Samaritans didn’t have anything to do with each other.

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:10

He responds to her similarly a few verses later as they continue to converse.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but 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 4:13-14

Although the Samaritan woman is never explicitly told what Jesus meant by this living water, its explanation is given a few chapters later.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 7:37-39

As believers, we have been given this living water because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. The question, then, is are we drinking from it daily? Are our lives regularly empowered by the Holy Spirit?

The weather may be cooling down within the next few months, and we may not have as great a need for water physically. However, the spiritual, political, emotional, and mental climate is not. The truth is, we are all going through a fire of sorts in this moment of history. We can all feel the heat. And the “news forecast” only promises hotter weather in the future. So what will we do to withstand it?

If we want to be like the tree described in Psalm 1, then perhaps we need to take a similar approach to the one taken with my plants this summer. We need to water our souls even more and a lot more often.

Let’s do so by asking God to truly fill us with His Spirit each day, and let’s abide in Christ and His Word even more than we ever have before. Perhaps, in doing so, we will be able to even refresh others in the heat, dryness, and barrenness of this season. Let’s be that spring of water that will draw others to the living water.

*For more information on how to live a Spirit-filled life, visit https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/the-spirit-filled-life.html

Blooming Bushes

Liam and I skipped our daily walk a few days ago, but when we resumed it the following morning, I was delighted to see that all of the green bushes bordering the pathway were bursting forth in full color with hundreds of tiny, purple blossoms.

It was a good reminder to me that life doesn’t always just suddenly change for the worse. It can change for the better, too.

There are plenty of present-day examples of this–an engagement or beginning of life as a married couple, a positive pregnancy test, a new job, a promotion, a move to a new city (or new residence, for that matter), or a granted scholarship promising further education and adventures to come. Life is full of positive changes, some more unexpected than others.

As I think about how quickly circumstances can change, I’m hopeful in knowing that this year can swifty improve as well.

The truth is, all our present trials are like an insect under God’s foot. He could squash them whenever He chooses. He doesn’t need the strategies we have worked so hard to implement this year nor the remedies or solutions that we are currently striving to find.

It would be nothing to Him to cause these present problems to dissipate.  He is God, and there is no one or no thing more powerful than Him.

Nonetheless,  He has allowed these current difficulties to continue for this season for His good purposes, and we have to choose to believe that and to fuel our faith in the beauty that He is bringing out of ashes. I know I’ve heard several stories about individuals placing their faith in Jesus as a result of these present trials. I’m so thankful that people are finding new life in Christ in the midst of a year that is so focused on sickness and death.

Still, I’m encouraged to pray that the fullness of God’s work through this pandemic will come to a completion soon, and I’m hopeful that its end will be just as unexpected and beautiful as the purple blossoms on all those blooming  bushes.

Breathe

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-pixabay-39669.jpg
Photo taken from Pixabay

If I had to choose a word to describe this year so far, it would be breath. It has undoubtedly been the greatest determining factor as to how we have experienced these last eight months worldwide.

Because the coronavirus is thought to be spread by inhaling the respiratory particles of an infected person,1 it was the cause of a quarantine across our nation and around the globe earlier this year. It has also encouraged and even mandated social distancing and face masks in certain states.

It has caused restaurants, schools, sporting events, stores, and churches to close their doors for a time (and for some of them to stay shut). Furthermore, once an individual is infected by the coronavirus, breath becomes an even greater concern since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness2 that, for some people, leads to hospitalization and possible death.

If all this were not enough to convince a person of the underlying theme of breath this year, we must not forget how pronounced this idea was in late May and early June as individuals started to inundate social media with three simple words— “I can’t breathe.”

This statement echoed George Floyd’s own words before he died a horrific and unjust death, but it speaks so aptly to this year in general. I can’t breathe. The truth is, this year has probably left us all feeling like we can’t breathe at some point or another, regardless of our reasons. How can we catch our breath, after all, when so much tragedy has occurred in such a short amount of time?

Years ago, I was given a One-Year Study Bible as a gift, and as I started to read it, I was intrigued by the emerging theme of breath throughout its pages.

One of the ideas that struck me most was how often individuals were brought to life when God placed breath within them, the most glorious example being how mankind came to be.

When God created Adam, He formed his body out of dust. Adam did not live, however, until God breathed the breath of life into him (Gen 2:7).

We see a similar example in Ezekiel 37 when God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the dry bones. As he does, God causes tendons, flesh, and skin to cover them so that they become bodies once again. Nonetheless, it is not until Ezekiel prophesies to the breath by the Lord’s command that these bodies are given life and stand to their feet as a vast army (Ezekiel 37:10).

Similarly, the two witnesses in Revelation are brought back to life three and a half days after they are killed when God places the breath of life into their dead bodies (Revelation 11:11).

What fascinates me about these passages is the fact that God was so intentional to place the breath of life into each of them. He is also intentional to do so with us today. Our lives did not happen by accident. They have been God’s doing. We are truly in His hands.

Another idea that stood out to me throughout Scriptures was how often a person’s life was described as a breath. Consider the following passages:

“You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”Psalm 39:5

LORD, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.Psalm 144:3-4

As I read these passages (and others) years ago, it changed the way I thought about my own life. I started to view it as a breath that God had breathed into me, and its length would be only as long as a slow exhale at most. As a result of these insights, I had some questions to ponder. What would I exhale? Would I breathe out the air God had breathed into me? Or would I merely exhale my own hot air?

I don’t think of these questions very often, but I should. I have the opportunity to determine what air I will breathe every day. I get to choose what I will inhale and what I will exhale consequently, so I need to be deliberate about what I am breathing in.

Recently, as I was rereading the passages mentioned above, I stumbled upon a well-known passage from 2 Timothy. It states the following:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”2 Timothy 3:16

This passage only confirms to me that, if I am going to exhale the “breath of God” regularly, I need to do so by inhaling His God-breathed Scripture daily. The more I allow His Word to permeate my heart and mind, the more my own short “exhale of life” will reflect Him in my words and actions.

In a year in which we are asked to restrict the breadth of our physical breath and thus slow the spread of the coronavirus, let’s deeply exhale our life in a way in which the Gospel and God’s Word will be spread to others. Let’s use our breath to speak words of life into others through truth, encouragement, and lasting hope in God. This world needs the breath of life in a way that it has never known before, so let’s be a reflection of the Breath-Giver in whatever way we can and see what He does as a result.

1 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#Spread

2 https://www.healthline.com/health/coronavirus-vs-sars

How Love Can Move You

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

A few weeks ago, I was looking through some old documents and found an excerpt from the summer in which I met JJ. Although we had just met, we knew that we were mutually interested in each other and were getting to know each other better as a result. As I pondered what the future might hold, I wrote the following words:

Lately I find myself thinking about relationships more. I would like to be in one, and I ask myself quite a bit nowadays what I would be willing to do for a relationship. Would I be willing to move to another country (or even another state, for that matter) for a relationship? Would I be willing to switch gears and leave a ministry position or move into a different ministry position in order to be in a relationship?

A lot of times, it is hard to think about doing any of those things if I didn’t have thoughts of moving to those places or doing those new things in the first place. But I keep coming back to the same conclusion—I would be willing to do a lot of things to be with the man I loved, and knowing he loved me would inspire me to be daring and try new things.

Thinking of this makes me think of my relationship with Jesus. It makes me wonder how much I love Him. He has called me to go to new places with Him, and I have been willing to go. He has also called me to some new job positions, and so far, I have been willing to accept those positions. However, will I always feel this way? Do I feel this way even now? I recognize my need to ask Him to cause my love for Him to grow and to be sustained. I also recognize my need to remember how great His love is for me. When I am confident of His love for me and love Him in return, I am willing to do so much more than I ever dreamed possible, and I know that is exactly where I need to be.

It seems appropriate to have found this entry recently. JJ and I are once again waiting to hear about a job he applied for earlier this summer. We should know no later than the first week of August.  If he gets it, that will mean a move to the Northeast.

I was originally excited about the possibility. I am one of those odd people that likes to move. I like packing, cleaning, the actual move to the new place, and the unpacking that follows. I guess the whole ordeal gives me a huge sense of accomplishment in the end.

My excitement has been waning as of late, however. JJ mentioned how much it will snow there in passing last night. It’s something I knew, and I’m used to the snow since I grew up in Colorado. Nonetheless, I have lived in warmer climates for over a decade now, and I’m not too fond of the idea of cold, snowy days. Also, Liam has been waking up early for more than a week now (before 6 a.m.), and the lack of sleep I have been getting because of it makes a move feel overwhelming.

There are, of course, some general concerns regarding COVID-19 as well. The pandemic would definitely complicate a move, and it would be hard not to get to hug my friends goodbye.

I’m still willing, however. I love JJ, and wherever he goes is where I want to be. I also know that JJ loves Liam and me and only considers job positions in places where he believes our family could thrive. I am very thankful for that.

Even so, I believe it is God’s love that should thrust us toward a possible new place to call home—not our own for each other.

Our own ideas and knowledge are limited, after all. As much as we have researched about the Northeast and the new job that JJ would have, we don’t know everything about this position or place. We won’t truly know if this will be a good fit for our family unless or until we go.

God knows, however. And He knows if this is what He has in store for us. He has known all along. If we go, it will be because He moves us there and has lovingly determined these next steps for us.

That’s not to say that we won’t have struggles. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that we will think the Northeast is a good fit for us if we go. But if this is where God guides us, we can trust Him in it because He loves us, and we can have faith that He will open our eyes to see His goodness in it, no matter how differently we may have thought life would be.

Although most people probably can’t relate to the idea of a possible physical move right now, I believe that God would like to move all of us in unexpected ways this year (and He probably already has in many ways).

How does He want to move you at this time? Perhaps He wants to lead you to volunteer at a food bank in the midst of the economic hardship so many have encountered this year. Or perhaps He is moving you to donate blood. Maybe you sense Him directing you to talk to your neighbors as you pass them on your daily walk or He is challenging you to call your friends or family that have yet to begin a personal relationship with Him.

The things God is calling us to do may be challenging. We may struggle in the midst of trying to obey Him. But let us pray that God would cause our love for Him to grow and that we would understand His love for us more fully. When we are confident of His love for us and love Him in return, we will be willing to do so much more than we ever dreamed possible, and that, my friend, is exactly where we need to be.

Let Freedom Ring

A few weeks ago, Liam and I saw an educational clip during the commercial segment of his favorite cartoon on Nickelodeon. It was about Juneteenth, a holiday observed on June 19th in recognition of the liberation of the last of the slaves in 1865.

The sobering part about this story is that Abraham Lincoln had issued the emancipation proclamation over two years prior to this event. In essence, the individuals who were still serving as slaves were free, but they didn’t know it. No one had bothered to tell them until almost two and a half years later.

I find the parallels between the historical events of this day and the life of a modern Christian at times to be astounding.

Before we came to know Jesus as our Savior, we, too, were slaves. We were held in bondage by sin. But when we placed our faith in Jesus, He wrote an emancipation proclamation over our lives. We were set free.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:36

How easy it is, however, to live as if we were still slaves. We have an enemy that would do anything within his power to make us succumb to our old master, and we also have our own sinful flesh to battle against daily.

Just as the Civil War had to be fought to give slaves their freedom, a civil war wages in our minds each day, and the outcome of each battle will determine if we walk in the freedom we have been given. Will we surrender to sin or to righteousness?

It is a battle that, first and foremost, we must face with the truth by abiding in God’s Word, as stated in the following Scripture:

 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

Freedom, then, is found in knowing and believing the truth and seeing who we are through the lens of truth.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I began a long and arduous journey into weight loss. It was one that spread over the span of ten years, so you can guess that it was not an easy road for me. It took more discipline and self-control than I thought I could ever possess, and I found myself asking God to give me them often. I messed up a lot during this time; I ate too much junk food at times and put on some of the weight I had lost. But I didn’t give up. I started afresh each time and asked God to help me all the more. And I believe He did. Now, over ten years later, I have been able to maintain the seventy pounds I’ve lost, and I have more confidence, energy, and overall feel more healthy than I ever did in my twenties (Is it just me, or is this starting to sound like a commercial?).

After losing the first forty pounds, which happened within the first two to three years of my weight-loss journey, I started to feel a conflict of identity. Whenever I went to a store to try on clothes, I would always go to the women’s section first. I would then have to remind myself that I was smaller than that and force myself over to the misses’ section of clothing, all the while feeling like a fraud and insecure over what other people must be thinking as they saw me browsing the clothes in that section.

The truth is, I still felt like a bigger woman. I felt pigeon-holed into that identity because I had been overweight since early childhood, so I had learned to see myself in that way and to accept it as an ingrained part of my identity.

Not long after my own mental struggle began, I started to hear about other people having the same issue. It’s apparently a common problem among people who lose weight rapidly.

I have overcome this battle since, but it was not a battle won overnight. I achieved victory through constantly reminding myself of whom I had physically become. I’m glad I got to that point. I couldn’t truly enjoy the transformation I had gone through until I did.

As believers, we have all gone through a transformation. We have been given new identities.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Just as I had to recite the truth to myself about my size, however, we will often find that we need to recite the truth about who we are in Christ to ourselves. We will have to remind ourselves that we no longer need to shop in our former section of clothing, because God has clothed us in His righteousness.

After the individuals that had been owned as slaves were set free, they and their descendants still had a long road ahead of them in order to obtain equal rights. Although the United States has made progress in this aspect, the fight for complete equality still persists today.

As followers of Christ, we were given rights the moment we believed. Among them, we have been given the right to be called children of God and have been made co-heirs with Christ as a result. This was not something we had to fight for or earn for ourselves. We will not live in the fullness of what God has granted us, however, unless we are once again willing to engage in the battle for our minds. It is still a matter of knowing and believing the truth and seeing ourselves through the lens of truth. It is still a matter of abiding in God’s Word so that we can recognize truth when we see it, and consequently reject a lie when we see one as well.

As the 4th of July draws to an end here in the United States, and we celebrate our own independence and freedom as a nation, I pray that we will become more aware of the freedom we have been given in Christ and understand the battle for our minds in which we must engage. Furthermore, as we fight, I pray that we would do so by immersing ourselves in the truth found in God’s Word. Let us never again live as if we were slaves, because Jesus Himself went to battle on our behalf to give us this freedom through His death on the cross. He shed His blood so that we might have the victory, so let us live in the fullness of our freedom as a result!

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:57

The Tapestry

Ten years ago, I bought the tapestry pictured above on a mission trip. I hadn’t intended to buy anything so early into the project, but I couldn’t resist the intricacy and vibrant colors of this cloth, and I’m glad I couldn’t. It has served as a reminder to me of how I need to view and live life, especially in those moments when I can’t make sense of it.

After buying the tapestry, I started to think of my life as a thread—a thread whose length and color had been determined by God, and He held it in His hands, masterfully weaving it into the tapestry that He was creating of all time.

Just as many tapestries don’t use a thread of color in one spot only, I saw how God was weaving the thread of my life into different places and intertwining it with different people at different times. And even though I couldn’t necessarily see a pattern emerging out of my life, I knew I could trust God to weave my life into His tapestry in a way in which it would be part of a far greater design, and He would be glorified by it, regardless of how little I understood it at times.

The truth is, the summer of that mission trip felt very random to me. It was beautiful, for sure—one full of adventure and new experiences and big steps of faith. But I couldn’t understand why He had prepared certain places and events for me that summer, as thankful as I was. I couldn’t see a clear theme or make any sense out of it all. Nonetheless, I decided I would focus on pleasing Him, even when I didn’t understand His purposes. And I would trust that He knew exactly what He was doing with my life. The tapestry helped to cement those ideas in my mind.

Ten years later, life feels random once again, but in a very distinct way. This year has been full of tragedies, including the global pandemic in which we still find ourselves today and by which our lives continue to be grossly affected.

This year has felt haphazard at best. I don’t doubt that God is in control and that He is using these worldwide events to draw men and women to Him. Still, I can’t make sense of what God is doing in my own life in particular. I once again fail to see a theme to it all.

It is in times like these that I need to think about that tapestry. I need to remind myself that God still has the thread of my life in His hands, and He is still weaving it into His design in the way He desires. He knew that our lives would intertwine with this year and all of its chaotic moments from before time began, and He is still masterfully weaving our threads into this year as He sees fit. We only need to make it our aim to please Him, regardless of how much or little we understand.

One day, when this earth has passed away and Jesus calls us home, I imagine an unveiling of this tapestry that He is creating. Although we can only see bits and pieces of it from the backside here on earth, we will see the final product on full display from the perspective of the Master Weaver on that day.

Perhaps this year will be one of the intricate patterns to the piece. Perhaps other hard seasons of our lives will also form an intricate design on the cloth. Whatever the case may be, there is one thing I know—that Jesus’ life will be woven into every thread of ours. It will be at the center of the piece and will cover every inch in which our life as a believer is woven. And as we gaze at the beauty and splendor of this tapestry, our knees will buckle under the weight of God’s glory, and we will bow down and worship Him with thankful hearts for how He graciously wove our own lives into His incredible masterpiece, this story of all mankind.

In our moments when obedience to Him feels random, and we can’t understand what God is up to, let’s keep this image in mind and keep offering our lives to Him to use as He desires. We only have to focus on obeying Him and to keep having faith that one day we will see that tapestry in all its fullness.

Until then, may God help us to live by faith and not by sight. May we trust that He is using us in His master design, especially in those moments that don’t make any sense to us.

Let Your Light Shine

Years ago, a friend of mine told me about how she used to read Corrie Ten Boom’s story every year.

I don’t recall the full extent of our conversation anymore, but I do remember a few details. The gist of it was about a question that a person in the book had asked Corrie Ten Boom. Namely, how was she able to save so many Jews during the Nazi regime? How did she and her family set out on such an endeavor?

Corrie Ten Boom humbly answered that she and her family hadn’t sought out Jews to save. Rather, many Jews had looked for them because of the reputation that she and her family had made for themselves before the war.

Years before the holocaust, the Ten Boom family had determined to be a blessing to their community. They provided food to the hungry, gave money to the needy, and hosted children whose parents were missionaries in different countries. Corrie also started a girl’s club in which she taught the young ladies about faith and practical matters, such as sewing.1

The Ten Booms were guided by their faith in all aspects of life, and they stood out to the community because of that faith in action. Therefore, when the darkness of the Nazi regime permeated the Ten Boom’s town, the Ten Boom’s light shone all the brighter.

I’m reminded of Matthew 6:33 as I think of Corrie Ten Boom’s story and what she and her family were able to accomplish.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The Ten Booms lived this verse out beautifully.

A little over a month ago, I went jogging around the neighborhood. As I reached the last stretch of my jog, I looked up and saw the light pole pictured above.

At mid-morning, it was shining brightly, oblivious to the sun that was overpowering it or the fact that the other light poles on the block had turned off for the day, ready to rest and prepare for their night shift later that evening.

I felt compelled to take a picture of this peculiar light pole that morning. It seemed too symbolic not to. So I pulled out my phone and managed to capture a crooked shot of the image as I jogged by, and I’m so glad I did. The light pole reminded me of what my friend had told me about Corrie Ten Boom years earlier. It also reminded me of something I had prayed for at the beginning of this year—that I would be a light in my neighborhood.

As the year began, I felt very much like that light pole. It seemed as if I was trying to be a light on a sunny day. Nonetheless, I continued to pray that God would make me a light and started to make plans as to how I could further invest in the lives of my neighbors and be a blessing to them.

Little did I know how futile those plans would be.

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

As Covid-19 swept over the globe and disrupted our normal routine and that of countless others, I found all of my plans crumbling to dust beneath my feet.

It was ironic to think that God had most likely put the desire on my heart to be a light to my neighborhood when I was essentially “hiding it under a bushel,” or, in my case, in my home under quarantine.

I find this is how God works many times, however. He takes what seems impossible and makes a way.

While I found myself alone with my son at home most days, God was opening a door to have conversations with my neighbors through text messages. It has been through this means that I have been able to send them a link to the Gospel message (the one I sent them can be found here: http://www.4laws.com/laws/englishkgp/default.htm) and have also been able to invite them to my church’s online services.

In the more recent past, I have had even more opportunities to have contact with them from across the street or between yards, and even though we haven’t been able to have deep and meaningful conversations through this means, I do not take these moments for granted and trust that God is at work even in simple moments like these.

Not only have I seen God giving me opportunities to be a light through creative means, but I am hearing stories from other friends who are meeting new neighbors for the first time through daily walks or more time spent outside. Only God could take a global moment of isolation and separation to allow His children to get to meet people they may have never known otherwise. I’m so thankful for how He works.

The darkness continues to close in among this nation and our world. Although I have been aware of it before now, I don’t know if it has ever felt as thick to me as it does now. But perhaps this is what it takes for us, as believers, to truly be lights that make a difference in this world. Perhaps this is how our lights will truly shine and others will be drawn to that, and ultimately to Jesus.

I am reminded of my need to kindle this flame each day, but I am also painfully aware of my shortcomings to be a light each day as well. Nonetheless, I am confident of what the following verse from Phillipians 1:6 says:

“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…”

In the meantime, I’m going to keep asking God to help me be a light.

1 https://www.biography.com/activist/corrie-ten-boom