Glory, forever

My favorite part about my church camp years wasn’t the outdoor activities or the service projects or even the bonding time with girls from my church…it was always the music!

There is one song that sticks out in my mind as I write this, the bridge and chorus of which goes like this:

“Take my life and let it be
All for You and for Your glory
Take my life and let it be yours
We sing

Glory to God, glory to God
Glory to God, forever
Glory to God, glory to God
Glory to God, forever”

So long ago, I sang these words along with everyone else during worship. I find myself coming back to that now, wondering if I really understood the power within what I was saying.”Glory to God”…easy right?

What has been on my heart lately is glorifying God when working to better His kingdom. Ultimately, bringing others to Christ, volunteering and other acts of kindness – doing good things – is about God, and generally we say it is “all for His glory”…but it sure feels great when you get some of the ‘glory’ too.

If you knew me in high school, “glory to me” sounds more like it.

One big aspect of my personality is that before becoming more stable in my faith, I had a tendency to manipulate people. I’ve always been really good at reading others, which is an excellent skill to have, but also a dangerous one. 

Accepting Jesus as my Savior didn’t my thoughts and desires and turn them a complete 180° right away. As I grew, I constantly struggled with the desire to share my faith just to get attention and recognition for myself. Sometimes, my intentions in offering advice or caring for people were skewed – remember, I was good at saying the right words. This caused me to very poorly love some people in my life and ultimately lose valuable friendships – eventually some people in my life could see right through me to my true intentions: to glorify myself.  

I loved hearing things like “you’re the best Christian I know” or “you’re such a good person” and believe me, I heard those words more than a few times. 

But later, I also heard words like “you’re such a hypocrite”. 

And were they wrong?

Looking back on the years of growing I have experienced, especially the last year and a half of being in college, I can freely admit that that was who I was. It hurts to know that I could be so unkind to others and have so little respect for the sacrifice that Christ made for me on the cross that calls me to love others unconditionally.

But I am not that person anymore!

As I have grown in my relationship with Him, God has really just broken my heart for the people in my life who don’t know Him. I touched on this a little in my post, Think Again. Sometimes when I think about it to much, I find myself crying over the brokenness of the people in my life. It has become less and less about me and I have realized that even if my intentions had been pure, I could never even hold a candle to how incredible God is and how infinitely He should be glorified.

I guess what I am saying is that I just want the people in my life to know Jesus. I want them to know that they are loved, that they have value and it isn’t found in friendships or popularity or school or creating an identity for themselves. I don’t have any desire for the affirmation that I used to receive, I’ll take the harsh words if it means that God is placed on a pedestal and I am humbled.

One day, we will bow at the feet of the Lord of the Universe up in Heaven. There will be no more pain or hurt and all glory and honor will be His, for endless days.

Until that day, I pray our hearts break for those around us who don’t know Christ; that we would be fearless in our pursuit of Him.

And that we would no longer live a life for our own glory, but for His.

Take our lives and let them be yours.

Glow in the Dark

The glow in the dark stars on the ceiling are making me a little sad and sentimental.

You know, those little stick on stars that light up when you turn off all the lights, stuck to the ceiling so lovingly by your parents.

Or grandparents if you had some like mine.

My brother and I used to frequently stay overnight at my grandparents’ house when we were younger, leading my grandpa to stick up those plastic stars on the ceiling of the guest bedroom. They are perfectly placed there, maybe even in constellations, to this day. I know this because I am laying under this “sky” as I type.

They’re a little faded now. You have to squint your eyes a little to see them these days.

It’s almost metaphorical.

Spending the night ten years ago meant renting a movie or playing games, popping some popcorn, baking cookies, being teased mercilessly by my grandpa and falling peacefully asleep under a sky full of pretend stars. It was a house filled with the love of both my grandparents, and their two little dogs.

Gosh how I miss that.

These days, the dogs are up there hanging out with Jesus.

My grandpa is too.

It’s strange how the world changes around you and you just have to keep pressing forward. In the midst of my whole world changing, I hardly have time to notice.

I wasn’t at the hospital much when my grandpa died. It was my senior year – I had things to do, plans to make. I didn’t have time to think about it, and really, I don’t think I wanted to.

Now I have a little time to think, and miss him.

Now I have a little time to think, and I’m thinking.

These days I spend a night or two with my grandma when I can. She’s lonely without her husband and her dogs to keep her company and she’s a little sad because she knows she is slowly forgetting.

She gets confused and calls me by my cousin’s name sometimes. She misplaces everything and she stopped driving and using the stove. She asks me the same questions or makes the same statements in conversation. No, it isn’t funny. Yes, it is painful to watch.

Sometimes, I get jealous. It seems like my parents care more about her than they do about me as I try to navigate college and figure out life. Selfishly, I allow her to irritate me when I know with every fiber of my being that it isn’t her fault.

But I don’t want to be stuck in that. My grandma is a woman who loves the Lord. She loves other people and always puts them before herself. She and my grandpa left their life in Kansas to come here to be a part of mine and my brother’s lives.

I am grateful for the life I’ve gotten to experience with them and the life that is yet to come.

Because moments matter.

Life moves quickly. Here I am, with a head full of thoughts.

Under a sky full of faintly glowing plastic stars.

Think Again

If you read nothing else on this page today, I want you to read this: without Jesus in it, life is hopeless and empty, even if it doesn’t seem to be.

I got a taste of this first hand this a few months ago.

On my dad’s side of the family, I have two cousins – a brother and sister who are close in age to my brother and I. We have basically grown up together, although more recently have moved apart a little and seen one another less because of busyness.

When given the choice between a family event and a retreat for Cru, I wanted so badly to choose the latter. I would have built relationships, had intentional time with God and just have had fun. But ever since I realized that both of these events fell on the same weekend, I knew where I was supposed to be, and that was Middleton, WI, with my family.

My cousin has apparently gotten in with some bad friends, friends who encourage her to party and in turn her grades have slipped. Who knows what else she has done! She has become cold, cruel and painfully disrespectful to her family. As a recent high school graduate, she wants nothing more than to get out of the house and have the “college experience” – not taking into account that going to an out of state school will leave her in deep debt.

She’s never been much for conversation, but now things were even worse. There were so many things I wanted to say to her, but I just couldn’t find the words. Her parents obviously had a strained relationship with each other, not to mention their relationship with her.

I’m not really sure why God wanted me there instead of enjoying quality time with my Cru family. I hurt more after this weekend in May than I had for a long time. All I know is that I was there for some reason, whether or not I ever see the fruit of that.

As an outsider looking in, all I could see was how empty and broken this home was, and I felt the weight of those things too. At one point during the weekend, I cried in the bathroom; at another, I went downstairs to blindly watch my brother and other cousin play video games. I felt like more of a “broken vessel” than I could have imagined. All I could think about was how my cousin had found her worth in something that wasn’t Jesus, and how much I wished I could change that but felt helpless to do so.

By all worldly standards, my cousin was doing great. She fit in and I would describe her as popular based on the people she knows and hangs out with.

But to God? Hmm.

I’m not saying a life without Jesus in it can’t be somehow good. By some stroke of luck, one can spend their whole life never seeking the Lord and be perfectly content. For some people, its not the life struggles here that cause them to seek God, but the eternity in hell that poses a problem.

Maybe those who turn to partying and friendships that lead them astray truly are happy in life. Maybe families who are all breaking a little at the seams manage to be okay without Christ.

I wouldn’t know.

But, I do know this. Whether or not you feel like you need God, you do.

I’ve seen it time and time again, not only in my own life, but in the lives of others.

God takes lives who are lost, people who have turned to partying or substance abuse, people who have depression or anxiety, those who are questioning their identities, those who have turned to relationships and sex to fulfill them, families that are falling apart; He can take every last broken piece, even in those who don’t know their own brokenness, and make them wholly and entirely His.

 

It’s not about religion, but a relationship. And like any relationship, it takes a little work.

But its worth it.

Because we ALL need Jesus.

 

 

The photo above was taken by my friend Desmond, whose photography I now have permission to use on my posts – talented guy!

Welcome to the Family

A few weeks ago, as a result of someone in my life being curious about Christianity, I reached out to others I knew for advice: I asked them what they thought the most important things to tell someone new to a relationship with Christ would be.

You know when you’re expecting something good but you get something more awesome than you could have anticipated? Yeah, me too.

All their thoughts were just too good not to share, so here they are!

Advice for New Christians (and reminders for ‘not-so-new’ believers too!):

“Above all, seek Truth. Once you find that, everything else falls away. And God’s word is ultimate truth, so trust in that and seek Him. All Jesus said we have to do is knock, and the door will be opened. So all you have to do is knock, and Jesus will come the rest of the way to pursue your heart.”

” 1. Being a young believer is the sweetest, yet sometimes the most difficult time in your walk, but every difficult time you encounter, The LORD brings you a step closer to Him and His plan for you! Never stop praying. Talk to God when you don’t understand something. Tell him about your heartache, your hopes, your frustrations…everything! He wants to hear from you. There’s absolutely NOTHING you can’t go to Him with. 2. You are going to fall short. We really all are, and we will until we take our last breath. But man, let me tell you, life with Jesus is a life I never thought I could have, until I did. Your eyes are opened to literally a new world filled with love from the LORD and the Holy Spirit. It’s not all easy and smooth, but when you hold tight to Jesus, everything you thought was impossible is super teeny tiny now. That’s God. He has power. 3. BE loved. Crack open a Bible, reflect on the love you are freely given. Ask God the big questions. You are never alone. Find community, and even though the world and it’s temptations feel bigger than this whole God thing, they are truly not. HOLD FAST, because you are never being let go of, unless you choose to let go.”

“Congratulations, you just made the best decision of your entire life. But it’s not a magic potion, life will still have its usual ups and downs. But this time, you have something worth fighting for. God will stand before you and behind you as you walk through each day. It will be hard at times, but cling to Jesus and the hope he has now given you. In the end, it will always be worth it. You are redeemed, you are a new creation, and you CAN do this. You are worthy. You are loved.”

“Becoming a Christian is one of the biggest decisions you can make. It’s laying down your will, accepting imperfection and loving without bounds. Confusion and questions will come, you’ll doubt, but rather than give up, search. Search scripture, many of the people of the Bible doubted too, and they leaned closer and asked God themselves. ‘I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24)”

“Always try to surround yourself with fellow believers; people who will build you up, encourage you, keep you accountable and help you grow in your faith. Always try to read your Bible when you can. It is like “daily nutrition”, the more you ‘eat’, the quicker you’ll grow. Search for Him in all areas and aspects of your life, and ALWAYS give Him the glory! Learning to trust God is hard at first, but it makes your faith stronger. You have to have patience and faith in His plan for you. He will never let you down and we can always count on his promises. When you’re faced with a decision, God’s Word is the place to go! PRAYER, that’s a big one. God loves when we talk with Him. Always put Him first in everything you do and decision you make.”

I hope that whatever walk of faith you are at right now, whether long time believer or never even considered Christianity, that this advice will inspire you in some way. Blessings!