hunger deeply

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Come quickly—
The Savior stands ready, forgiving

Drink freely—
His water is yours without cost

Rest abundantly—
In His peace, to the world, unknown

Love unreservedly—
For He, the Savior, loved us first

Abide safely—
Shadowed beneath the Almighty

Seek fervently—
He has promised a reward lies ahead

Hunger deeply—
In Him your soul shall be fully satisfied

five methods for keeping a journal

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On the subject of keeping a journal, some people can’t do without it, some couldn’t care less, and some aren’t sure how to journal. Thankfully, writing a journal is something that’s hard to do wrong, which tends to be a reason for me to enjoy the art.  The past five years have transformed my personal journaling style from a monotonous transcription of my days into a thoughtful practice of growth. Today, I wanted to share my five most frequent methods for keeping a journal.

Record The Day

This is probably what most people think of when they consider writing a journal. In this technique, the main objective is to keep a record of the events of your life, with as much or as little detail as you desire. I never regret being able to look back and read about the specific days, circumstances, and events in my life and especially the people that filled them. Recording the days we live helps us look back to remember what God is doing in our hearts, understand the beauty and struggle of life, and appreciate the human beings whose lives are impacting our own.

Observe God’s Work

John Piper once said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life and you may be aware of three of them.” In an effort to keep my eyes open and heart mindful of God’s work, I dedicate pages of my journal to bullet-point lists of anything I see God doing. It’s simple and practical: Start with a blank journal page and designate it as a page to remember what God is doing. Whenever you see God work–in those “random coincidences,” answered prayer, visible intervention, etc.–write the date and a sentence summary of what you observed. When the page is finally full of observations, start a new page. I love sitting down and reading through the filled “God’s Work” pages in my journal. It never fails to be a huge encouragement.

Journal From Scripture

I can’t talk about this method highly enough. If I didn’t journal from Scripture, I may have never stuck with journaling at all by the time I reached adulthood. Credit for learning this method goes to a dear sister from church who’s example of faithfulness in Scripture journaling never fails to inspire me.

Begin with a passage of Scripture (usually, I’m meditating through a book or passage, so I’ll just use the next verses in line wherever I’m at) and meditate on them in your journal. Depending on the length of the passage I may transcribe the passage first, or simply note the reference. From there, journal your thought processes, insights, takeaways, and applications. This can go so many directions and never grows old. The biggest benefit is meditating on the Scripture–but it also helps to remember those meditations, follow thought trains that may have felt insignificant and been ignored, and take thoughts captive to Christ.

Write Your Prayers 

I admit this one can sometimes feel awkward if you aren’t in the habit, but the best cure for that is to get in the habit! Writing down prayers helps me focus and think clearly about what I’m really saying to God rather than meandering across the place. I specifically like to write down prayers from significant seasons in my life or significant dates (e.g. a prayer at each year’s end) and during seasons when I’m particularly praying over and over for the same thing. It’s also helpful for identifying the honest state of my heart and observing things that arise as frequent struggles or burdens.

Express The Truth
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My journal is filled with a multitude of artwork including sketches, full drawings, and hand-lettered quotes or verses. I admit, this has a lot to do with the fact that art is my “thing” and the visual effect is amazingly helpful to my processing thoughts. Still, I think there’s a deeper purpose here: taking the time to process in a slow and reflective way highlights the importance of the Truth that we’re handling. It also means that particularly meaningful thoughts will stand out to me over and over when I flip through my journal.

I view my journal as an ongoing work of art–honest, heartfelt, and truthful–made beautiful because it is an expression of God’s handiwork in my life. Above everything else, though, I journal because it aids growth in the Lord by remembering.

“…They should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”
-Psalm 78:7

a reflection on living

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Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl: she grew up in a normal family, got an education, struggled to make sense of a torn-up world, and nurtured hopes and dreams in her heart. But there was more to her story. In the early 1940’s, she became a part of the White Rose, an anti-Nazi activist group that her older brother had co-founded. He had been insistent that she not know about the work, but once in confidence of the knowledge she was insistent that she would join.

The Nazis were baffled, angered, and intent on abolishing this “huge” undercover organization that was massively infiltrating Germany. They were oblivious to the handful of twenty-somethings right beneath their noses who were covertly responsible for the whole resistance themselves.

That was until on February 18, 1943 when discovery and arrest put an end to the secret operation. The executions that took place on February 22, 1943 put an end to her life. The legacy Sophie’s twenty-one years was one of heartfelt sacrifice and courageous dedication to principle.

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
-Sophie Scholl

*     *     *     *     *

Tragic stories of courage and unflinching dedication are heart-wrenching and incredibly inspiring. Heroes, as we think of them, appear to live in a world far beyond the scope of our own three meals a day, our struggle to get up with the alarm clock, our hours of work or home responsibilities, and our coffee with friends. And so, I sometimes wonder what it is that turns ordinary people into the stories of sacrifice and courage.

*     *     *     *     *

Before Sophie risked her life and died for it, she wrote these meaningful words in her journal:

“I want to share the sufferings of these days.
Sympathy becomes hollow if one feels no pain.”

-Sophie Scholl

It’s easy to wonder what situations and emotions I can share in suffering as if the opportunities are limited. I forget too easily that we live in a world that is bearing up under the curse of sin; even creation is groaning for the day of redemption. Some eras of history are perhaps more difficult or horrific than others, but every day is filled with people’s who heartache and pain is too difficult for them to bear alone.

With my church family this week, we were challenged to intentionally take the opportunities God has given us to share the joys and sorrows of others, in imitation of the way Jesus lives. Jesus did not shrink from pain. He didn’t shrink from understanding it, from interacting with people who were experiencing it, or from bearing it Himself.

Whatever life may hold, there is incredible value in being a person who will share in sufferings with others. God calls us to it–that very fact alone ought to be tremendous motivation.

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” 
-Galatians 6:2

*     *     *     *     *

Do you see a connection between that journal entry and the way Sophie’s life ended when she was only twenty-one? That simple journal entry is the mindset of sacrifice and courage which ultimately exemplified itself in a huge way at the end of her life. In Sophie’s story we can glimpse again that big things start with a humble heart attitude. While we are tempted to want to do the brilliant things, we are most wise to seek out the selfless things.

Through compassion and humility, we are available for the Lord’s work–in imitation of Christ.

for the prayers you keep praying

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There are certain prayers that God asks us to pray for a very long.

Mercifully, God also brings us to the point, where we can’t even stop praying those prayers. But although when we care about about a prayer, our hearts face temptation to grow weary. We long for answers. After all, that’s why we keep praying.

This week, I was faced with the feeling that we need to see prayers answered. You know what I mean? There are prayers where we struggle to understand why they aren’t answered; ones where finally receiving an answer would bring such relief. A subconscious question seemed to form in my mind: can we can receive some answers….quickly….?

Jesus doesn’t tell us that exactly. What He does say is that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. He does say to have faith in God. He does say that God delights in our prayers. And He does say that there is a reward for the labor and tears we bring to the Throne.

For anyone who’s praying the same things for a long time, this brings comfort to my own heart:

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear;
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I’m under His care.
(Moment by Moment, hymn)

What grace it is, to remember we aren’t alone bringing a burden over and over to God’s door. We aren’t shifting the weight alone, hoping one day to let it go. Jesus is sympathizing and bearing, no matter the time frame. If it’s been years, Jesus is bearing that burden for all those years with you.

Don’t we want to trust God? Isn’t that the desire welling up inside us, that distinct longing that we cannot (nor ever want to) escape? Oh friend, trust Him with those prayers that you’re still praying. That’s what I want to do, too! God is instilling beautiful virtue in your life right now. These trials are making you more like His Son. Those prayers are precious to His heart, right now. He’ll carry them for as many years as He asks you to. And you will have your reward; God loves when His children trust Him!

From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 64:4)

on being unique and authentic

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I have two overarching thoughts about the fashion industry. First of all, individualistic people shop at thrift stores. For all the hype about being unique, it makes no sense to me how people shop by trends. Like I heard once, “If it comes in Small, Medium, and Large, it’s not unique; it’s commercial.” Regardless of what the fashion industry says, they aren’t helping us gain authenticity. They’re selling us something. There’s a big difference in that.

Secondly, why the big deal with being unique? The hard reality of it is that people stand out in society not by being different but by doing what everyone else does–just doing it better. This uniqueness- your genuine self shining through (i.e. authenticity) becomes not about being real or even being different, but about being better.

We desire authenticity because it should bring us closer to the people around us. It ought to deepen and strengthen our relationships, and help us grow. Sadly, I find that a prevalent “authenticity” of our society–the “authenticity” that draws attention to itself and follows the latest trends–is doing pretty much the opposite.

There’s a danger of commercializing ourselves in quest for authenticity. In putting our own lives on display and subjecting them to the standards of strangers, we have done nothing to deepen our relationships; but we may face more temptation to fit in and conform to a standard that holds no significance. We may face greater temptation to be visible and affirmed by people who have little bearing on our lives. And we will face the temptation to be absent from our personal reality in the quest to be seen by a wider audience.  

Perhaps it would be helpful to remember in our search for authenticity that we do not have to be unique. Honest and real, yes; but uniqueness does not matter. I think what we’ll find is when we let go of being unique, we will actually become unique. Unique, not for trying, but for letting our authenticity shine through.

Do you see the difference? We are not to be unique in an effort to be authentic. That’s a focus on the outward: a desire to impress, to be seen, to fit in and simultaneously to stand out. Our authenticity–the genuine honesty of our lives–is the thing that is unique, in and of itself. There is no need to be enhanced or promoted, which would cause our authenticity to lose its reality.

It is freeing to put aside the goals of authenticity that society presents, and instead strive for authenticity as a trait of Godly living. Jesus left us the best example of living a genuine life- honest not only before people, but also honest before His God. He lived by a standard higher than His society and experienced a deeper life as a result. He interacted with society in a way that certainly attracted attention, but not for the sake of attention. When there was opportunity, He slipped away to what mattered most, the privacy and personal connection with His Father.

Don’t aim for an authenticity that cheapens what’s real, seeks to prove your worth, or places you on display. Aim for hidden authenticity–like Jesus.

authenticity

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Society craves authenticity, as if honest living alongside our fellow humanity is a lost treasure. I remember the first time I realized someone asking me, “How are you?” was nothing more than an acknowledgement of my presence rather than a legitimate inquiry. They don’t really intend for me to answer that. We want open, honest living together because among so many people it doesn’t exist.

To me, the word “authenticity” has a beautiful ring to it, and yet I can’t help but cringe when I hear it in conversation. It’s been overused and cheapened, same as words like unique and awesome. What do words like these even mean anymore?

The word “authentic” basically means genuine.  You would think, of all things, at least being genuine would come naturally. The reality of the matter is we lost our authenticity at the fall. Sinful deception and shame, hand in hand, shattered the open and honest beauty of life as God created it. Sin and shame brought into existence hiding, excuses, and mis-representations of ourselves. Today our world is still in bondage to these enemies, and as a result authenticity is not the given we might expect.

Do you want to be authentic? That’s a good thing. God created humanity to live honestly before Him and alongside one another. We ought to strive for authenticity, that genuine honesty in our day-to-day lives around those we come in contact with. 

I strongly believe that authenticity matters even, or perhaps especially, in this fallen world. But our society does not seem to attain it. The harder many try, the more distinctly out of reach it becomes for them.

Why? In part, because many people have lost sight of what authenticity even is. To many people authenticity means something along the lines of “being seen for who I am.” Authenticity–that honest living alongside others–has been reduced instead to a striving for being seen by others. People want to be seen: to be seen as individualistic, unique, expressive, valuable, deserving, and the list goes on. In the name of authenticity, people will go great lengths to portray these positive images of themselves. In part this is why we have selfies, and social media. This skewed focus of authenticity also gives people a perceived license to boldly flaunt their sin- and “no one can say anything because this is just the real me.” We need authenticity. But when it comes down to it, we do not need to be more readily seen, but more real and more honest about the truth of who we are. 

[more about authenticity in the future. thanks for reading!]

mindful of GOD

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I’ve spent a quiet morning gearing up for another busy week. It’s looking to be a week full of really good things- dear friends visiting, time with the church, fellowship over Scripture memory. And it will be busy.

This morning, I needed quiet to focus on the Lord. The Word has a lot to say about today, but it doesn’t really differentiate whether today will be busy or not. There are certain things that must remain staples through every season: hungering for the Lord, awaiting the day of Christ, taking care to encourage, and resist the devil. These are the things that really matter. All the other busyness that fills my days- those are the circumstances God thought were most perfect to help me learn “to live is Christ.”

How will I hunger and thirst for God, in what the psalmist calls a “dry and weary land”? It won’t happen by forgetting about Him through all the busyness. It’s seeking the Lord whole-heartedly again and again that will keep our hunger alive and growing. David Brainerd wrote words we could long to claim as our own: “Of late God has been pleased to keep my soul hungry, almost continually, so that I’ve been filled with a kind of pleasing pain. When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of Him the more insatiable and my thirsting after holiness more unquenchable.” 

My life will not be characterized by “to live is Christ” if I am not mindful of the Lord through the busy days. I pray God will give us hearts that are mindful of God, are open wide to God, are longing for God. That is a heart God will satisfy with His goodness.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” -Colossians 3:1-4

this ordinary day

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I wrote about it recently- the fact that our everyday living is the thing that propels us forward. As I’ve discussed it with others, I’ve found this idea resonates in a bigger way than I had expected. So many people need to feel the same need to make sense of ordinary repetition.

   *     *     *     *

I have a habit of placing the calendar date in the page margin of literature that especially speaks to me. It can be any kind of writing- Scripture, devotionals, fiction and non-fiction. After underlining or starring the passage, I simply write the date in the margin. Rarely, if ever, do I comment on the passage or my thought-process involved in noting it. Only the date- it helps me keep track of significant thoughts for the future, and perhaps helps call back the time-frame in which I particularly benefited from the idea.

Earlier this month, I looked up at my calendar and dated a verse in my Bible. “2.3.2017.” It was a random, uneventful Friday afternoon, but the thought process felt funny:

This Friday is no longer ordinary. Years from now someone might look back and wonder about the significance of the day. To me, it is only Friday afternoon. It is a special sort of ordinary. 

*     *     *     *

Of course, our longing is that today would not only be another day but a worthwhile day, or even a day of eternal significance. It will be. Live today well. Not so that it will live down in history, but because it will live down in the historical record managed by Your God. Live today well because because today matters. Today is the day to love truth. Today is the day to uphold God as supremely significant. Today is the day to love and encourage and serve. Today is the day to give up everything to gain Christ.

*     *     *     *

I long to see what God will do through today’s. Who will we serve? How will a Scripture passage dramatically impact the future of our lives?  Which souls will we see saved? Which prayers will we pray that we will one day know have been answered?

All of those huge blessings will take place during repetitious “today’s” where God’s children believed their Father and walked faithfully in obedience.

Today. This ordinary day matters.

truth & appropriate response

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Creation proclaims Truth in a way that our intellects are wired to understand: there is God. Holy Scripture takes this fundamental Truth and expounds everything humankind needs to know: Who God is and what humanity is obligated do with itself. We have been gifted with the knowledge of Truth, a gift we do not deserve and cannot live without it. Yet, apart from God’s work, we naturally reject it and only want to play around with it.

Jesus made it very clear that all His followers must instead follow the Truth with complete commitment. There is no room for playing around or halfhearted devotion.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it…No one who puts His hand on the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:23-24, 62)

This does make logical sense. A reality so all-encompassing as God could hardly demand less than everything from His creation.  God demands individuals stake the scope and breadth of their life on Himself. 

Since it’s hard for my finite human mind to understand this capacity of living to God, so it helps to break the idea down into bite-sized steps.  Instead, I can think of it this way: God’s Truth always demands an appropriate response. The truth of God’s existence requires an appropriate response of submission. The truth of the gospel demands an appropriate response of repentance and belief. In Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill he explained to the Athenians not only the truth of God, but the appropriate response to the revealed Truth.

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” -Acts 17:29-31

Not only must we respond to Truth as a whole, but this is worked out by giving an appropriate response to every aspect of Truth. What does God mean for His children to do with the truth of His Throne of Grace? Draw near with confidence and find the grace needed. The mercies of God appropriate our lives as Spiritual worship to God. Every recorded detail of the life of Jesus matters- He reveals God the Father to us, tutors us in living the life meant for God’s creation, and demands the worship of every individual. We stake our lives on Truth by giving God the appropriate response to every facet of Truth He makes known. We refer to this idea more commonly as obedience.

These thoughts help me get my mind around the the practical essence of Biblical faith: Submitting entirely to God’s Truth by  obediently offering the appropriate response in every situation. 

Does it sound impossible for humans accomplish this? Absolutely. Without God’s gift of faith, we will always reject the truth and flee our obligation to God. That’s why it matters so much that Biblical faith is founded in God, springs from God, and looks to God- always, with no exceptions.

paths of progress

jotyfsflky4-simson-petrol.jpgI was honored to have the opportunity to share a guest post at Satisfied by Grace today. This blog belongs to a wonderful friend of mine, and I would encourage you to check out her writing!

From time to time, we inevitably look at our lives and question whether we’re getting where we want to go. That is certainly a discouraging feeling since we spend so much time trying to get things done, meet our goals, and progress – whatever that means for each person.

If things are feeling difficult, and you can’t sense whether you’re making progress, remember that our senses cannot always be trusted. We need to base our lives on something stronger than mere feelings. Consider instead how God’s Word presents the reality that every single person is progressing down a path in life—even the ones who don’t feel like they are getting anywhere….

Click here to continue reading.