“to suffer with”

“to suffer with”

Dry seasons. WHY GOD?!!!???! No but seriously. I’m definitely in a dry season of life right now, and at first I wondered why God has me here. In 9 days I leave to spend 2 months working at my favorite place on earth… CAMP! And I expect God to do big things in me this summer, but ever since I got back from school I’ve been in this awkward in-between stage. I’ve been overwhelmed and lacking in motivation, which is a very nasty combination. But God is still faithful and still knows how to speak to me even through the dryness. So God is teaching me about compassion through this season of life, preparing me for whats to come this summer. He’s been giving me a little sneak peek at what’s to come in my next season.

I’ve always used the word “compassionate” to describe myself, but I realize now that I didn’t even know what it actually meant. Compassion doesn’t mean sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, but compassion is doing something about it. It’s nothing you can do with your mind, or even your heart. Knowing the truth and being able to act on it are two totally different things. Compassion is an action out of plain and simple love. Just because I have a soft heart doesn’t make me a compassionate person. The word “compassion” in Greek is oikteírō, and that means “to respond with deep sensitivity.” I’ve never recognized the “to respond” part before. God doesn’t call me to dangle my feet over the edge, but to dive in headfirst. God shows compassion to us, not to make us feel good, but so that we can pour it back out to those in need. Jesus Christ, and all he did is our ultimate example. But look deeper than just His mighty actions, look at the intentions behind them.

Compassion doesn’t come naturally. We were born with sin and each day we wake up with sin in our hearts. I don’t want to be the person that I wake up as, I have to ask God to come into my heart and take over instead. Compassion takes persistence and constant prayer. Compassion is unique and scandalous in our world today, and its easily noticed. Be the one that stands out, not the one who just notices that one that stands out.

Compassion is bold.

Be compassionate as Christ was. Do you know that Jesus doesn’t love people because he thinks that if he loves them enough they just might love Him back?? God loves without expecting anything to come from it. Compassion is loving when you aren’t loved back. Its doing something for someone that you know fully well wouldn’t do the same for you. So many Christians say “I have to love this person because they might see the love of God through me.” I think that its great when non-Christians decide that they see God through someone enough to pursue it themselves. But I also think that that’s not how Jesus would have loved. He loves us ALL just as we are, and even if we never come to see that, He still does. People aren’t a project. People are an opportunity to love. Compassion is a decision and its committed and the only intention it has it to love purely.

Compassion isn’t “depending,” its “regardless.”

1 Thess. 5:11-14 is exactly what being compassionate looks like– “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

Compassion is tender, compassion is genuine, compassion is eager, compassion is spontaneous, compassion is pure, compassion is simple, compassion is CHRIST. There are so many opportunities to show compassion every day. Listening well. Paying it forward. Giving advice. Stopping for the man with the homeless sign. Being real and vulnerable with people. Speaking kind-hearted words. Smiling. Praying. Loving. Its not about getting more opportunities but about changing your attitude towards them. The opportunites are actually endless because YOU CAN CREATE THEM WHEN THEY ARENT THERE. Its all in the perspective. When you don’t see opportunities to be compassionate, its because you aren’t looking hard enough. Seek out a chance to be scandalously genuine in such a fake world.

…and God gave me all this in a DRY season 😉

desperately in love

desperately in love

This is my fourth draft of this blog post. I usually don’t struggle too much with coming up stuff to write about, because I just take things I am learning about, feeling convicted of, or dealing with myself and turn it into a post. But its been a weird week and I haven’t been in the Word very much or really spending any time with God at all. So I sat down to write my post and I didn’t have anything to say. I pulled up a podcast and listened to it, thinking maybe I could use this idea and turn it into a post, so I pulled out my laptop and started typing. I got maybe 2 paragraphs in, and I couldn’t write anything else. And the same exact thing happened 2 more times.

At that point, I had spent about 3 hours trying to figure out what to do and I couldn’t take it anymore and I just broke down before God. Between sobs I asked Him why I couldn’t do this, why it was suddenly so hard. Asking God is always better than trying to keep going on your own. Sometimes He answers immediately, and sometimes He lets you learn a little more before. Today He must have thought, “she’s been going at this for way too long, I’ll just cue her in,” because almost immediately He gave me answers.

Recently I’ve been really convicted of basically playing the part of a godly woman without actually being one. I’m too concerned with if people are thinking, “wow, this girl is on fire for the Lord,” rather than just being a girl who is on fire for the Lord. I’m doing the right things, but for the wrong audience. So when I came before God asking Him about this post, He told me that I was doing the same thing here as I was in other areas of my walk with Him. I want people to think I’m wise, and I want people to think I have unique interpretations, and I’ve gotten so caught up in what they are thinking that I forget the purpose. I’ve been glorifying myself through all of this, but God deserves the glory because these are not my words, they are His. I just get to be His vessel. I just take pieces of my walk with God and share them with whoever reads this. It’s one of the beautiful things that I get to do for His Kingdom, but through this I boast in myself, rather than in Him. I’m selfishly taking all the praise and not giving any of it to the One who really deserves it all.

Vulnerability with God is a good thing, and something I personally lack. I like to pretend like I already know everything, but its just hurting me, because I’m not allowing myself to be taught. This is GOD we’re talking about. Be real with Him. Be real with yourself. Be teachable. If you aren’t taught, you can’t teach, and if you can’t teach anyone you can’t make disciples and that’s the Great Commission. This is why we live. If I don’t ever come before God desperately in need of a Savior, then I will never fully receive all that I can have from Him. We need to know that without His power, we cannot go on.

In the past 3 tries for this post, I tried taking something that had no connection to me and turning it into something that sounds passionate and wise. But instead it came out forced and it wasn’t personalized, it wasn’t my own. I was aiming to please the wrong audience. A message born in the mind, will only reach minds, but a message born in the heart reaches other hearts. I was just trying to write something I thought the world wanted to hear, not something from my own heart. But I don’t care if no one thinks my writing is good, because its not about what they think. Not at all. Its about bringing all the praise and glory to Him and how He can work through me. And that’s what I’m doing now.

This is such a breakthrough for me. I came before God desperately and asked for help with something I’ve been ignoring for far too long. I realized it was time to stop aiming to pleas people and start aiming for the heart of God. This sin has been binding me, but love sets me free. There is no chain that love can’t break. We influence people by the way we love them and the way we love God– and loving isn’t just saying the right words and doing the right things. We don’t follow rules, we follow our savior. A pure, joyful, and genuine heart is evident. We don’t have to work at it or try harder, we just let go and love.

Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you.

Psalm 31:17

go home

go home

I wanted to write about the prodigal son this week because its been on my heart lately and I’ve been feeling convicted about it, and since I knew everything I wanted to write about, I pulled up a blank post. But instead of typing I just stared at it for 20 minutes. For some reason I couldn’t think of like a cool story from my life or something that just matches up so perfectly. I closed my eyes and asked God to reveal something to me. In that moment I realized that the reason I couldn’t pinpoint a specific time is because I am the prodigal child all the time. I am constantly running away from God and searching for unconditional love in all the wrong places. Look around you. We are all prodigal children.

There is only one place we can find redemption and its in the arms of Jesus. Every other road we take is just a dead end. GOD is the road to eternity, GOD is the road to joy and fulfillment. I have never looked back on a time where I listened to the Lord faithfully and said “wow, that was a shipwreck.” There were storms and rough sailing, but God is the ultimate sailor. He knows how to protect us and lead us through the storm until we finally reach the peaceful shores of eternity. We don’t actually have to know, we just have to trust that He knows.

Reading through the parable, I was struck with awe in how kind the father was to the son. It wasn’t like he was just welcoming him back because it was the right thing to do, it was through pure and genuine love. Mercy and grace are different things. Mercy gave the son another chance, but grace gave him the robes and the feast and the celebration. When you realize that you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, you realize that God is waiting. And He’s not waiting so He can say I told you so, but He’s waiting so He can show you the true and unsearchable riches He has promised. So He can treat you in an extravagant way with love and passion.

We are slow in our return to God. And honestly, if it wasn’t for Him I don’t think we would ever really get there. Humans are so prone to tripping. We get up and fall down and get up and fall down. When we think we’re finally on top, we get sucked back into the things of the world. But we don’t have to get to God on our own. We take one step towards God and He takes ten towards us. We could never want to reach Him as much as He wants to reach us. He is so crazy about you that He CONQUERED HELL so you would never have to go there. No matter how far you run, you can’t outrun a love that knows no boundaries. When you stop running, you don’t have to turn around and walk all the way back so God can reach you. You just stop running and look up. You are never outside God’s grasp.

The son asks his father for his inheritance and his father freely gave it to him. Instead of being grateful and honoring his father, he packed up all he had, left, and ultimately forgot about his dad. And when I read this I get angry. How could he do that?! His father is so kind and he is so selfish. But this is actually me and you. We are so selfish. We want the inheritance without the father. We want the sin without the misery that comes along with it. We want the benefits of being a follower of Christ without actually following Him. It’s just not possible though. When we pray a prayer of salvation we can’t pray for deliverance from emotions and feelings such as guilt and shame. We need to pray for deliverance from SIN. In Him we are free from sin and therefore free from sorrow. When we realize that our sin will not satisfy, we come back to the Father. And when we come back to Him, we have to come back humbly and say “Father, I have sinned against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” We can never be given the gifts of mercy and grace if we never acknowledge that we need them.

Wandering comes at a price. Stop looking aimlessly around and start aiming for the heart of God. He standing with arms wide open, just waiting for you to run into them. He is ready to welcome you back with compassion. He is so ready for you to come home.

–Luke 15:11-32–

the clean testimony

the clean testimony

Last summer, when I was in Belize, the leaders on my trip asked me if I would share my testimony for the congregation at the local church in Crooked Tree. Honestly I was shocked. My testimony was too simple. It wasn’t exciting enough. To me, this story had always seemed almost boring. There was no exciting trial that I faced and no drugs or addictions to overcome. Just me meeting God.

As I look back now, I know that it was a lie, thinking they made a mistake choosing me to share and that I would probably just be wasting my breath. Who am I to say that God can’t use my story to change a heart? Because our God is involved, this story is anything but boring. Its real and beautiful and thrilling. Its my personal journey with the Lord. This week God has opened my eyes, to what I thought I already saw so clearly. This is MY life, MY story, and MY walk with God, and obviously I thought I knew what I was talking about, but it turns out I was telling it all wrong. So here’s what I’ve uncovered:

1) He uses any mess as a platform for His power. By that, I mean the messiest messes, but also the cleanest messes. People tend to think on two extremes, that either they are way too far gone for God to use them, or that they have lived too good and too easy of a life that their story isn’t powerful and He can’t use it. Everyone who walks with Christ and pursues a relationship with Him has a story and every single story has power and is so worth telling. “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for my soul.” (Psalm 66:16-19)

2) We always underestimate a testimony that doesn’t involve drugs, sex, witchcraft, porn, addictions or anything of the sort. But any story with a focus on Christ is worth telling. Don’t think any less of it. And also don’t start out by saying “well this is kinda boring and typical…” because if you believe that your story doesn’t have the power to change a heart than you’re going to have hard time trying to change hearts. Tell your story with passion.

3) A “clean” testimony has just as much power, if not more, than a “messy” one. God never had to show you how bitter sin was in order for you to know how sweet He was. You just believed that He was right when He told you. You never had to go find out for yourself. That is undying trust and THAT has so much power behind it. You so strongly believe that He loves you so much that you never had to walk away from God just to turn around and run into His open arms. You never had to know the pain of living without Him, because you just knew that living with Him was so much better.

4) Some people have the story of sin-filled, crazy lives, and turning from that lifestyle to Jesus is a powerful story too! But if that’s not your story don’t wish that it was. You were obedient and you took the easy way– the way that God cleared for you! Don’t play that down. Be gracious that God gave you the faith that He did! Be gracious that you grew up in church, but also that one day you truly found Him for yourself.

5) Don’t try to claim that you don’t have a testimony. Salvation is not a process, its not just a prayer. It’s a person. His name is Jesus Christ. Salvation is an encounter. When you meet with Jesus in a sweet place for the very first time, it changes your life. THAT is salvation. That is your story. So if you have ever, ever encountered the Lord in a way like that, you have a testimony–and a powerful one too. It doesn’t have to be a certain time, or place, no bells & whistles, no “angels sang and I gave up drugs and came to live in the Lord’s presence.” Because if that’s not your story then its not your story! Its someone else’s.

So a testimony is not a crazy experience. Its just simply you meeting with God. And no matter how that happens, its the most beautiful story you’ll ever tell. Tell it with passion and love, and most of all tell it with purpose. Tell your story and with each word aim for the hearts of those who listen.

 

the wait

I believe that the term “wait” gets misused too often. There’s 2 different contexts but we almost never use the good one. There’s worldly waiting and then there’s godly waiting. When God asks us to wait, we wait how the world waits. God would never ask us to do the worldly wait–sitting around, doing nothing, eating, watching tv, just simply waiting.  But when God asks us to wait, He is asking us to watch and pray. He is asking us not to sit back but stand up and do something. To be productive for His kingdom. Worldly waiting is so passive and we serve such an active God. He doesn’t call us to live a passive life. He calls us to action. We have to learn God’s definition of waiting and stop using our own.

We act as if there’s nothing better for us to do, that earth is just a waiting room before the Promise Land, but do you really think that there is absolutely nothing better to do than sit around waiting for Jesus to come back or for you to die and go to heaven?! If you think that God is okay with laziness think again. If Christians claim to love people (which we do) then nothing could ever justify only watching and being okay with the world straying further and further away from the God we love. You were put on the earth for a purpose. And I know you’ve heard this a million and one times but it’s true. God could have saved himself a huge heartache by just not creating us as humans. He could have said “I’m content with my creation so far and I don’t need humans to ruin it.” He could have skipped over the whole life on earth thing and just put us all in heaven. But he chose to give us life on this earth, so use it. He put us here so we should do all that we can to tell him that he made the right choice in giving us life.

We use waiting as an excuse. There are scary things that we have to do as kingdom workers, I know. But every time God gives us an assignment we can’t just sit and wait for more on His part. God gives us opportunities left and right, and we aren’t blinded to them, we are scared of them. When it comes to opportunities, most of us shouldn’t be praying for clarity or for more of them, we should be praying for a changing attitude towards them. More opportunities aren’t going to benefit us in any way if we’re still scared of them. Last summer God gave me a mission to tell my non-Christian friend about a word I got for them while praying, and I was too afraid of what they might’ve said that I never did it. And the whole time I was thinking, “God, give me another sign that I should tell them this,” or “I’ll wait for the perfect time, God give me a clear opportunity to do this.” Ecclesiastes 11:3-4 says, “If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or the north, there it will lie. The farmer who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” Nothing will ever perfectly align, but if we keep waiting we will never even get the chance to try. So in reality, all this time I was not waiting for God to give me a sign, but He was instead waiting for me to act. And the regret I have in my heart knowing that this friend won’t  know what God had to tell them hurts way worse than any discomfort I may have had while actually telling them. We can’t just step outside our comfort zone to do one thing and then hop right back in again, instead we should broaden our comfort zones so we’re okay with doing more for Him. Because being active isn’t just something to do, its in your heart. God doesn’t want His work done with a grumpy heart. He wants a glad heart. He wants you to want Him.

So whatever God is calling you to do just stop waiting. I mean this as a wake up call for someone. To whoever needs it: get up and do it. Whether it be having more quiet time with God, having a difficult conversation with someone, walking up to a stranger and praying for them or sharing the gospel, doing missions, or literally anything that God has called you to. God rewards those who pursue Him with faithfulness. I promise that it will be uncomfortable. But I promise when you are done your heart will soar with happiness. Take risks for His glory. The joy God fills you with outweighs all else. And nothing fills you with joy more than doing His work with a glad heart.

the christian club

Dear Father,

You love me. I can’t compare your love for me and your love for others, because you love us equally. You love us differently and uniquely, but you love us the same. I know it’s not a competition God, but I still act as if it is. I idolize other believers. I worship them instead of You. I look at Christians and say things like “I wish I had their worship style,” or “I wish I had guts to carry out my faith in the way they do,” or “their faith looks cool and fun, I want something like that.” But God, its not about the glamour. It never has been. Jesus isn’t glamorous, Jesus isn’t showy–but the world is. We have to make whatever we do look “cool.”Christians warp God’s word to justify themselves. They pick and choose. This part we’ll listen too, but this part makes me feel bad so I’ll just ignore it. Christianity isn’t a club, but Christians tend to make it seem that way. Many people of my generation (myself included) get too caught up in the culture of Christianity and lose focus of Who it is all about. We worship the worship, we worship the feeling, not the God. We think that we need to be that cute, hip, Jesus lover who posts lots of artsy instagrams with coffee and a bible. We show off our walk with God so much that it becomes tainted because we take God from the center and put other people in His place. We no longer worship God just because He is good, we worship because we want people to see us. Lord help me, I have gotten so good at being a Christian that pleases the world that I forget that I live to please You. And the more I appeal to the You, the less I appeal to the world. I pray, God, make me unappealing to the people around me. Don’t let the world dictate how I live my faith out. That is not for anyone to decide, its between me and You. A relationship with the Lord is an intimate and beautiful thing and if I let other people of this world be such a major part of it, then we lose that closeness. God, bring me back to the beginning when its just me and You. Let me be unique. If I worship through art, then let me do art in Your name. If I worship through photography, then let me take pictures in Your name. And if I worship with my hands high to the heavens, dancing and singing at the top of my lungs, then let me do that. And if I worship in a peaceful place with You, arms at my sides and eyes closed, focused on Your majesty, then let me do that. God whatever I do, let it be in Your name. Let it be what You have made me to do, not what I think may be appealing to those around me. I just pray that in whatever way we worship You, we do it because You want it, not because the world wants it. Because worship isn’t meant for us to connect with You, its meant to bring praise to You, no matter what connection we are feeling, and there are millions of ways to do that. If we live to appeal to the world, we just hurt ourselves. When we fill ourselves with things of the world, we are only filling ourselves with emptiness. Things like money and friends and looks and grades will all fail us in the end. And soon there is so much empty in us that there’s no room for Jesus, something actually filling. We’re just inflicting pain and hurt on ourselves. I just want You to take my hands and fill me with You so there is no room for anything else. I want You to show me who I am in You, and teach me how to worship in my own way. Show me that Abby that You have made, not the Abby that the world has made.

In Your Precious Name Lord,

Amen.

is

Today I was sitting in the library having my quiet time. I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel by myself and I’m not gonna lie– its been hard. I’ve never successfully read through a full book in the old testament, and its trying. So today as I sat reading I was just feeling so defeated. I try, but truthfully half the things I read just fly right over my head. I want to understand so bad, I want to broaden my Bible knowledge, and its rough when you know you should be able to grasp, but you just can’t. So when I finished the chapter I was on, I was feeling beat down and frustrated, so I just asked God what to do. He said “read psalm 46.” oooookayyyy? So I flipped to it, and looked it over. I had never read it before. So, I sat and read psalm 46. I was a couple verses in, and I bet you couldn’t guess what song came on my Pandora. Psalm 46 by Shane and Shane. I was literally stunned. I have never been so sure that God was trying to tell me something… here’s the main lyrics in the song.

Lord of Hosts, You’re with us

with us in the fire,

with us as a shelter,

with us in the storm.

You will lead us through the fiercest battle.

Oh where else would we go, but with the Lord of Hosts.

Though oceans roar, You are the Lord of all,

the one who calms the wind and waves and makes my heart be still.

Though the earth gives way, the mountains move into the sea,

the nations rage, I know my God is in control.

psalm 46 1-3 says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” HOLY. WOW.

There is no problem too big for God, and there is no problem too small for God. I’ve faced my share of “big problems,” but as I sat in the library today I think the main part of my hurt came from the thought that this problem-feeling dumb as I read through a chapter in 1 Samuel-was just too small for God to care about. I mean honestly, some people don’t even have access to a Bible, and I’m upset that I can’t relate to something that the old testament says. God wanted to show me that there is absolutely no problem too small. He cares about each and every inch of me, and there is nothing that gets overlooked. God takes our “mountains” and throws them down into the depths of the sea. God is powerful, but he is so intimate and personal. He created the universe, but he still knows exactly how many hairs are on our head. He cares.

I could turn every word into praise and sing them for a thousand years, and I would still not be able to sing of how great He is. There is no word strong enough to describe Him. Every beautiful word I can think of still comes up short of truly capturing all that God is. So I’ve resorted to this statement: God simply is. We can’t exaggerate His character because He just is. He is everything eternally. There’s no exaggeration. There’s no overstatement.

So today God gave me reassurance. He gave me confidence. If God is who He is, He can guide me through 1 Samuel. He can also guide me through the big stuff too. A few months ago I was actually going through some big trials in my life. But God is the same today as He was a few months ago. The same God who led me through then, will lead me through now. God is mighty and meek. He is strong and soft. He is bold and beautiful. Our life circumstances tend to dictate which side of Him we see in that moment. Today God was soft. He brought Himself down to my level for a minute and told me just how much He cares about me and my seemingly small problems. If its something you care about, chances are God cares about it too.

“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire.”

–Pslam 46:9–