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.

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!

Beautifully (Part 2)

If you read my recent post, Beautifully, you may know that I decided to go the month of February without wearing makeup. It was an interesting and difficult experience that I would like to share with you.

I have to confess, the first two weeks or so – and especially the first few days – I nearly forgot that I wasn’t using any makeup and I would pull it out and set it on the counter only then to remember that no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t use it. In part this was because of the fact that I had become so used to going into the bathroom first thing in the morning and slathering on foundation, blinking into mascara and putting on chap-stick at the very least. There was also a part of me that truly did not want to put myself through this, and just wanted to give up and forget I had ever decided this in the first place.

But mostly, it was difficult to look in the mirror at my hyper-pigmented, scarred and blemished skin and small eyes that begged for mascara and eyeliner, and not be able to cover it up and hide the things I really didn’t like seeing in the mirror. So many times I argued with myself in the morning, coming close to slipping up and falling back into the routine I had become so used to.

But I didn’t.

I’m not writing this because I want pity – or recognition for muddling through it for that matter.

But, In blunt honesty, the entire month was hard.

Really hard.

I avoided mirrors so I wouldn’t have to look at myself. I had to keep reminding myself why I was doing what I was, but even that was unconvincing.

My most powerful lesson came after I had begun to wear makeup again.

I play piano, have for eleven years, which means I often get volunteered to play for events – especially at church. Anyway, the women’s ministry we have at my church had asked me to play for them at an event on Saturday, which meant I got to listen to the speaker they had lined up. She said something important in her lesson that I didn’t realize the power of until I was driving home after the event. It sounded a little something like this:

It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you are “too thin” or “too fat”, whether you have wrinkles or scars. You are made, fearfully and wonderfully in the image of God, and YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL and WORTHY despite the things you don’t like when you look in the mirror.

I’m paraphrasing a little, but this was the context of what she said, and I was blown away. It seems like women are told something like this all the time – by our parents, our friends, our significant other – you name it. How many of us actually believe it? Ha.

Yet, to doubt our own beauty and worth is to doubt that God’s creation is perfect and that he made each of us, knit us and molded us so intricately.

To not love ourselves and how we look is, frankly, an insult to God’s handiwork.So why is it so easy to pick and choose what we like and dislike about ourselves, and beat ourselves up over those things we have deemed unworthy and not beautiful?

I wish that I had a good answer for this, but I truthfully don’t. It’s hard to love the things we find so easy to hate. There are many days that I get so worked up in comparing myself to others and picking apart my flaws that I bring myself to tears. .

I see so many others feeling the same, and it breaks my heart.

So, if you are reading this, I challenge you. 

Don’t allow makeup to enslave you like I did, like so many other women have.

Freely, unashamedly look into mirrors and tell yourself how beautiful you are – even if you don’t feel that way – until you believe it. God made every piece of you, He has numbered the hairs on your head and He loves every last inch of you. In you, He created a lovely and fearless soul and He will gently remind you day by day how much you are worth if you let Him.

I have challenged myself to do the same.

Because I can promise you that you are fearfully, wonderfully, beautifully, intricately made in the image of a perfect, glorious and loving God.