Friday, September 7, 2012

Consider it JOY

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:1-4


Talk about a week of trials. This last week has been one of the more difficult weeks I have experienced. So many battles to fight. Tough decisions to make. Heart-breaking conversations. At the end of this week, as I reflect on all that happened, my heart is at a strange place. It is heavy because of the pain and of the long road it knows is ahead. But at the same time it is joyous. Because when I look back at this last round of warfare, I realize how much time I spent calling upon the name of the Lord.

 Nothing induces an amazing prayer life like difficulty does.

 Sometimes it is hard to keep a joyful mentality when it comes to the difficulties we face in life. But we just need to change our perspective. Trials aren’t an indication of failure. Trials are the training ground for our spiritual well being.

 Imagine you are prepping for a triathlon, or something equally intense. You know what is expected of you. You know the level of difficulty is far beyond anything you have experienced.
How do you train?
Do you sit at home and eat bon-bons and watch movies about training?
Do you watch other people train and hope to be as good as them one day?
Do you pamper and baby your body?
No. You literally get up everyday and beat your body into submission.
You push yourself. You go beyond your limits. You allow yourself to feel pain. Because if muscle isn’t tearing, then it isn’t rebuilding stronger than before.
If you want to run well, then you have to train well.

Why? Because training puts your body to the test. It produces perseverance. And when perseverance finishes its work, training will have made your body perfect and complete.

Sound familiar?

We live in a fallen world. It’s not a matter of if there will be trials; it’s a matter of when. Thankfully the Lord is gracious enough to give our trials meaning and to allow us to be strengthened by them.  That is why James says “Consider it pure joy.”

Be joyful - because the alternative is to be upset; and we all know that doesn’t help anything.
Be joyful - because your faith is being put to the test.
Be joyful - because you are being made ready for battle
Be joyful - because when perseverance has finished its work, you will be made perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Be joyful because adversity usually, not always, but usually means you are doing something right for the Kingdom. The devil doesn’t sabotage himself or those doing his bidding. If you are feeling particularly attacked, look at your life.

If God is working through you, the devil will try to work against you.
Just take joy in the fact that God has chosen to use you!

The greatest people I know face the biggest trials.
But what the devil uses to distract them, God uses to strengthen them.

 So here we are at another choice.
Do we crumble at the sign of trials or do we choose to see them for what they are and rise above?

Christ get’s the victory when you do!










Thursday, August 30, 2012

Do you want to be well?

Do you want to be well?
This was the first question Jesus asked the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.
It seems like an odd question. Of course this man would want to be well. He had been an invalid for 38 years.  The only logical explanation would be that he desired healing. But still, Jesus chose to ask. So there had to be validity as to why.
When I look at my own life and the daily choices I make, I can see how being well is very much a choice. What do I put in my body? What do I allow to fill my mind? How hard to I push myself? What kind of people do I surround myself with?
Most of the time, what I put into something determines what I get out of it.
If I want to lose weight, I count calories, I control my portion size, I cut out unnecessary junk. If I want to be stronger I exercise, I lift weights, I push myself.
If I want to be at peace, I meditate on what is true, excellent, praiseworthy. If I want to have a clear mind purposed on Christ, I don’t allow myself to watch meaningless shows on TV.  If I want my spirit to be uplifted, I surround myself with positive people. The Lord has given us strong minds and strong wills. And most of all, he has given us choice.
Choice is a powerful weapon.
It is so easy to surrender responsibility. To say, “If God wants this to happen, it will happen.” But THAT can be such a cop-out. Don’t you think that Jesus wanted the lame man to be healed and whole? Yet, he still asked him. 
I cannot get upset with God for where I am at in life. Yes, there are some things that are out of my control. But there are a LOT more things that are in my control. If I choose to spend every day alone in my room watching TV, and then cry because I have no friends and no purpose, whose fault it that?
I have had a great many friends who come to me for advice, whether about a guy or a life decision. I can do everything in my power to lead them in the right direction.  I can tell them everything the Bible has to say about picking a marriage partner, I can read them story after story and pray fervently with them and for them. I can lead them straight to the water. But ultimately I cannot swallow for them. They have to choose to drink.
It is the same way with life. Christ has our ultimate BEST in mind. He speaks to us. He puts people in our lives that can point us in the right direction. We have an entire book of instruction that He graciously left for us. But unless we utilize these gifts, we will not see wellness in our lives.
When Jesus asked the question, the lame man responded with, “I have no one to help me into the pool.”  Jesus didn’t bend over, pick him up and carry him into the pool. He said, “Take up your mat and walk.” He immediately put responsibility into the lame man’s hands. YES, Jesus was the reason he could walk. In that moment, Jesus healed him. Jesus gave him the ability to walk, but it was up to the lame man to do it.
Everything is a choice, right down to our attitudes.
When you are feeling frustrated in the midst of your circumstance, stop right where you are and figure out how you got there. What decisions did you make to lead you there? And then use the powerful, God-given weapon of choice to overcome those circumstances. Pray for strength as an aid to continually walk in the right direction. Be obedient. God will lead you out of the muck and the mire. But you have to listen and be obedient to His call.
If your circumstances are actually out of your control, then use the weapon of choice to change your attitude. Choose to be content. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
There is so much freedom in recognizing the responsibility we have.
Be activated by this truth.
Take up your mat and walk.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why Do We Return?

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. Proverbs 26:11

Why do we do it? Why do we return to the things that hurt us; the things that so evidently bring disease and sickness to our souls.

Why do we try the same things over and over expecting a different outcome? Albert Einstein called this behavior insane. It is insanity to think that things we’ll be different this time around. But many have convinced themselves otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I have just as much hope as the next person (maybe more). I will always believe in the possibility of change and growth in people. I will always hope and pray for the best in those I love. But I will not pretend that I am the only one capable of bringing it out of them. I will not convince myself that they are lost without me.

I learned the hard way that you cannot be someone’s savior. As much as I wanted to be the one who brought out the good I couldn’t be. For some reason I was toxic to the person I was trying to help. Instead of pulling him up, I held his hand as we weighed each other down and plummeted. I prayed over him, cried over him, and racked my brain about ways to make things better. I tried SO hard to lift him up, but my arms weren’t strong enough.

But I loved him, so I stayed. And when he finally let me go, I realized how weak I had become by holding onto him.

It’s a tricky thing, bearing someone’s burdens. You are trying so hard to drag them out of the desert; you don’t even realize you yourself are quickly becoming thirsty and drained of strength. But when you finally stop to take a breath, and no one offers to carry you for a while, you see the situation for what it is.

It’s not hard to recognize when something/someone is bad for you. I think anyone in a toxic relationship is at least aware of the toxicity to some degree. And even if you are playing the fool and pretending not to notice, I am sure those closest to you have pointed out their concerns in one way or another.

When we finally take our hands off of our eyes and our fingers out of our ears, some of us find the strength to walk away. Something happens that turns us upside down and in that moment we make the right choice. In that moment we see things clearly. We are confident and strong in our decision. But then the time passes and the decision sets in. Nostalgia hits and our minds flood with the FEW good memories of our relationship. And because of those few things, we return.

I tell you now, from someone who has experienced this, it is a vicious cycle.

You return hoping for better. And because he lost you for a while, he pretends to have changed. For a little while you are convinced that things are different. But eventually things return to how they used to be. People get lazy, guards get let down, and you are squashed back under the weight of an unnecessary burden.

It is not yours to bear.

Ladies, we were not created to lead men. We can be a strong support system and continually point them to truth. We can walk beside them and help them stand, but we cannot carry them on our shoulders.

No man worthy of spending the rest of your life with would allow you to do so.

We were created as whole people; men and women alike. If the man you love is not complete, you need to understand that you cannot complete him. Don’t lose half of yourself trying to be the other half he needs.

Too many times we fall in love with someone’s potential, with who they could be; but are you ok with spending forever waiting for them to become it?

Married women, obviously this is a different battle. No, you should not leave him, but you cannot try to fulfill him either. His fulfillment has to come from Christ or you will squeeze the life out of each other. Pray and pray again. Call out the best in him. Challenge him to rise, but understand you cannot get him there on your own.

Single women; be brave enough to walk away and strong enough to stay away. Remember that nothing can change him like Jesus can. Be fervent in prayer for him, but mentally, physically and emotionally let him go. Things will not get better if you stay in the picture. In the same way he is distracting you, you are distracting him. You have to bow out and let God take it from there.

Remember that you are a glorious creation. You were made with a purpose. You have your own battles to fight and your own destiny to fulfill. Do not become distracted.

The right one will be whole.
And when he comes along so will a peace that cannot be explained.
Wait for him.

Me and my Caleb.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ramblings about pride and forgiveness

What if we could admit failure? What if we could all admit that in one way or another, we were in the wrong? What if today we could practice humility? What if today we could practice forgiveness? What if we could look into our hearts and own up to the fact that we are no where near, nor have we ever been anywhere near perfect? What if we could accept the fact that that is ok? Would life look differently if we didn’t try to wear the mask of perfection? Would we have more love in our life? Would we have less hate? If we let go of the things we are holding onto would we feel scared? Or would we feel free? Do you ever wonder why you are still holding onto something? Does holding onto a grudge give you meaning and purpose? Or is it just a way of saving face? Do we hold grudges because we think that we are entitled to? Do we deserve an apology? Is this whole thing about what someone owes us? Don’t we owe everything to God? Doesn’t he pardon us day after day, mistake after mistake? If so, what if we lived like him.

Forgiveness is the struggle of many, especially Christians; which is sad, because we receive it every single day of our lives. “Yes, I’ll have some of that Lord! Thank you for your sacrifice” we say to the Lord, to whom we owe our entire lives, then our brother approaches us, who owes us a couple of pennies and we say, “NO, I won’t give it away. Your sins against me have cost way too much. HIS grace is sufficient for me, but my grace is not sufficient for you.” Sometimes we even say this to ourselves. That doesn’t sound right at all does it? So why do we continue to hold onto things? Is it our perfection complex?

For me, I am trying to be ok with the fact that I am not perfect. I have huge pride issues in my life which makes it very difficult for me to admit failure. Even saying I have pride issues is hard. But it’s true. And I have realized that when I am honest with myself and others, I feel lighter. It’s like this burden of supposed perfection is lifted and I can move and walk again. It’s actually amazing. But it’s not easy. Every time I get close to admitting something about myself or my past, I find myself re-wording things and changing them to sound more like the Brittany I want to be and less like the Brittany I am. I try to create this infallible, perfect persona. I literally stress out about the fact that people might see my mistakes. As a people pleaser, I will tell people what they want to hear and I have realized that it makes me a liar. I have lied to hide truths. I have misled people to believe that I am something I am not. And I want to be done doing that. It’s a process, but I know it will be worth it.

I have seen first hand what pride can do and no amount of saving face is worth that cost.

Pride separates families. Pride destroys your character. Pride hurts the people you care about most. Pride can find anything good and ruin it. Pride steals from you. Pride becomes a habit. Pride gets stuck in your head. Ultimately, pride makes a mess only humility can clean up.

And that’s where it starts. We must come humbly before the Lord. We must come humbly before our brothers and sisters. We must forgive even when we aren’t asked to. Some people may never realize their mistakes. Or maybe their pride keeps them from repenting. But in the end, when you stand before the Lord, you will only have one person to answer for… yourself. You will be held accountable for your mistakes, not others. So make things right. Look at those things in your hands, the things you feel entitled to hold onto. Lay them down at the feet of Jesus. Look at the burdens on your back, the things you haven’t forgiven yourself for. Take them off. Lay them at the feet of Jesus. They are his. He bought and paid for them on the cross. As I head a pastor say once, “Stop stealing from Jesus.” Lay your pride down; He is the only one with the right to wear it. Lay your stones down; he is the only one with the right to throw them. Lay your burdens down; he is the only one with the right to carry them.

Find freedom in letting go.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


These lyrics popped in my head today. 
I remember being up at The Joshua Wilderness Institute, sitting around the fireplace, listening to Brent Lamb sing one of the many songs he wrote. 
That year was one of the most difficult years for me. I went to Joshua with everything in place. When I got home, literally everything in my life had changed. There was nothing I could do. I had no control. Everything was out of my reach. All I could do was trust. 
One of the most beautiful things in my life came out of all that change. She is pictured below. 
She is a picture of innocence. Something so new, so beautiful, so untouched. 
These lyrics always reminded me of the beauty of innocence. So I paired them with Journey Grace for this picture.