BLOOM

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We all have words that we live by right? Words that we use to remind us of our identity. Words that push us to keep going. Words that inspire us to acts of love or courage. Words that our momma told us growing up that we can never quite shake from our vocabulary. Words of wisdom a mentor or teacher told us that we hold onto. Words. What are yours?

Bloom. In high school, I remember seeing a poster with the words "Bloom Where You Are Planted", and I fell in love. I know it sounds a little silly, but the metaphor was so beautiful to me. I thought, “That’s going to be my life phrase right there!” The idea that we are all planted by our Father the great gardener just waiting to bloom into the beautiful flowers he has created each of us to be left me in amazement. So it stuck with me. Now, the person who wrote that quote might not have even been thinking that when they said it, but that is what comes to mind when I hear it.

But stretching ourselves thin to do as many good things as we can try to do makes us unable to go deep.

So, I went on with life using that as my motto. Yet, I think I may have abused it a little bit and taken it as ‘get involved in as much as possible.’ Exhibit A: my college years. I just didn’t like to say no to anything. I wanted to be as involved as I could. If it was to help other people, I was in. If it was fun, I was in. If it was a small group, I was in. If it was yet another small group, I was in. I was “coming alive where I was planted” or so I thought. I eventually realized, well, God opened my eyes to see that just because something is a good thing, doesn’t mean it’s what God wants me to do right now. There are tons of good things we can do. So many that it may seem overwhelming and never-ending. But stretching ourselves thin to do as many good things as we can try to do makes us unable to go deep.

Alas, I started to practice the habit of saying no. Let me tell you, it was hard. I would feel like I was going to miss out on something if I wasn’t there doing whatever it was someone asked me to do, but God, oh how gracious he is, always would show up in those moments where instead of doing something I decided to say no. 

Fast forward to this last year and that phrase “Bloom Where You’re Planted” has been on the forefront of my mind more than ever. A couple years ago I decided to stay in Lansing instead of leaving to find “better” or more appealing offers. God was pulling my heart here. So I have been saying “I’m going to bloom where I’m planted, in Lansing.” The funny thing is, my mind’s idea of what blooming looks like and God’s idea are far different. Just recently he spoke to me something that was so powerful, and I believe it can be to many others. He said, “I called you to bloom, not just bud.”

He said, “I called you to bloom, not just bud.”

Isn’t that how were are sometimes? We think we are at our fullest potential in a particular area, yet God has so much more in mind for us. He says you have only just begun to bud. It will take time, but it will be so worth it! You are going to be a beautiful flower. There is still more in you.

What area in your life have you stopped moving forward in because you thought you got as far as you could go or thought you had bloomed and so you moved on? Maybe you’ve only just begun to bud, and God is waiting to bring out even more gold. I know I sure am glad for those who have dug out the gold in me when I didn’t even see it. God created you for greatness, so why stop at good?

Hopefully, next time you hear “Bloom where you are planted” you’ll remember that you weren’t called to just bud but to BLOOM!

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Differences Aside

When I landed in London Heathrow on June 20th, I knew I was going to be uncomfortable. I landed in London with five weeks of studying and spending a lot of free time with people I had never met before. You see, I didn’t really fit into the group in some areas. There were differences that kept coming up because I wasn’t used to being surrounded by people who were so different than me. I wasn’t used to conversations where people were so passionate about stuff I couldn’t relate to. I wasn’t used to conversations that were draining and negative.

Then I’m challenged…should I really be uncomfortable? Should I really be uncomfortable because I’m around people who are different than me? Should the pure fact that I’m with people who I don’t spend a lot of time with at home make me feel as if I don’t belong and therefore not make an effort to reach out to them? I don’t think so.

I believe the Bible tells a different story. Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus going to be with people who made the disciples and religious people uncomfortable.

My comfort comes from the love of nail pierced hands on a cross, and that love should propel me to see the people, not the differences.

Looking over the past couple weeks here in England, I’ve seen that my focus has been on the wrong thing. I’ve focused on all the differences that separate me from the people I’m with. I see the differences and feel the uncomfortableness and distance myself. I don’t see the people. Jesus saw the people. He was comfortable in the uncomfortable because He knew where His identity came from, the Father above. I don’t have to feel uncomfortable in the situations I’m in here because I know where my comfort comes from. My comfort comes from the love of nail pierced hands on a cross, and that love should propel me to see the people, not the differences.

Have you ever heard of the chair analogy? You know the one that has a strong person stand on top of the chair, and a tiny, petite person stands on the floor? Then the strong person proceeds to try to pull the tiny, petite person up, except it’s nearly impossible. So the tiny, petite person tries to pull the strong person down, and what happens? The strong person comes down super easily. The analogy is supposed to make a point that bad company corrupts good behavior, so stay away from people who can pull you down. But..like Mike Donehey, from Tenth Avenue North realizes… we see Jesus surrounding Himself with people who could ‘bring him down’, if that was even possible. He argues that the reason why Jesus never got brought down was because He was already as low as He could be. He was the servant of all mankind, and He wasn’t scared of serving the people who were different than Him.

When I think about how I’ve felt uncomfortable, I’ve noticed it’s because I’m not laying my face down on the ground willing to serve others here. I’ve been standing on my chair trying to bring people and conversations up, which leads me to focus on the gap I create, instead of the people at hand. So I challenge you to find your comfort in the One above and get off the chair. Fall at the feet of those who are different than you with the love that Christ showed you.

- Kendall

Money Problems

I often have a lot of problems with the idea of money. It really annoys me when people's primary concern or goal is based around money and wealth. To me there is just so much more to be concerned about or chasing after than riches.

I am pretty young and naïve and haven't yet really experienced all of the responsibilities of life, but I know from my own experiences how easy it can be to start focusing on your paychecks. Don't get me wrong, I believe that money and wealth are good things, and God will bless us with certain things, but I don't think that we should put them at the forefront of our lives.

In Proverbs 28:19-22 it says, "Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished. To show partiality is not good, yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread. the stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them."

If we are faithful and patient we will be blessed. Not only with possible riches, but I believe that also with what we do in our day to day lives. We as people tend to just go, go, go, and don't take the time to really enjoy life. If we are just patient and take the time to enjoy the process and not just look at the final outcome, I think we will all be a little more cheerful and also a bit more community driven. All in all how much is our money really worth if we forget to spend time with friends and family, or even forget to enjoy all the earths beauty?

Take It Day By Day

Blessed be the Lord, who bears our burdens and carries us day by day, even the God Who is our salvation! Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
— Psalm 68:19

Ok, for real, I want you to take a minute and think of that. Read the verse over again and again until it takes root. 

Do you feel confused? Let him carry you. Do you feel abandoned? Let him carry you. Do you feel weighed down? Let him carry you. Are you unsure where you should go? Let him carry you.

The picture of this psalm reminds me of another one where it talks about God hemming us in, behind and before (Psalm 139:5). He goes before us and is behind us, and he is with us day by day. He is with you in the mundane. The chores. Your daily commute to work. Your walk to the bus. When you go to bed. When you wake up. When you make your coffee. When you're in meetings. When you go to the store. When you're watching tv. When you make your dinner. When you lay in bed dreaming. He is with you in everything, and he carries you day by day.

The beauty of this truth, is that God loves it all! It’s not like the only time he wants to spend with us in when we’re reading our Bible or praying or singing songs of praise to him. No, he longs to be intertwined, mixed into, and involved in every single part of our day. Work, sleeping, dreaming, eating, playing, laughing, crying. Every part! It is all beautiful to him. It is all holy because we are his children and we belong to him, and he is holy.

He longs to be intertwined, mixed into, and involved in every single part of our day.

Think also of the words the psalmist used, “day by day”. He didn’t say through it all, month by month, year by year. No he said every day. As I read it that way it helps me to zoom back in and look at my life one day at a time. What is happening in this moment? What is God longing for us to bring him in on? So often, we want God to reveal his grand plan for our lives, to lay out the timeline of events for the next 50 years, but instead he chooses to take moments and days to reveal more of himself to us and to teach us little things along the way that eventually all fit together to create the awesome plan he has for not only us, but for the whole body of Christ.

Blessed be the Lord, who bears our burdens and carries us day by day, even the God Who is our salvation! Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

So take a moment again and read that verse. If you are worried, if you are stressed, if you are afraid, if you doubt, if you feel lonely, remember he is carrying you day by day. When you can’t imagine enduring something for a year or month or even week, remember God is with you. Start by taking it minute by minute, and then another hour, and another day. Soon those days will become weeks, and those weeks will become months and you’ll look back and see how God carried you through everything day by day. Not once did he leave, and never will he ever leave your side. 

 

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Maybe You Should Go and Love Yourself

You can’t love others the way they serve to be loved without first loving yourself. To truly love yourself the way you should be loved is to know how God sees you and to know what he says about you. God says you’re perfect and you are His child because He decided to make you that way, and it made Him a very happy Dad.

I believe that loving yourself is just as important as loving God and loving others. Now how in the world can I say that? It’s not selfish to make sure you are taken care of and if you never take care of yourself then you will self destruct and burnout. If you say, “well if I self destruct and the world is a little better, I'm okay with that.” Then you could not be more wrong.

Loving others is more important, right? Loving God and loving others, the most important things… But a very important detail it missing here, so let’s jump over to the scripture.

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
— Mark 12:30-31

Now I want to highlight “yourself”. It’s understood here that we love ourselves, right? I would say that the connection point between loving God and loving others is to love yourself.

Think of it like a triangle diagram. God is on top on the next point is you and then the next is others.

Now I would say that's the way the triangle turns. I would say if you're running into a problem loving other people then you probably have a problem on how you see yourself and if you have a problem with how you see yourself then you have a problem with how you see God. It’s all connected.

It comes back to identity. We need to see ourselves the way God sees us, so what does that look like. We need to love God and love others out of the truth that we are loved by ourselves and by God. We need to love ourselves or we are outside of our identities as children of God.

Peace, Zach

 

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Healthy Things

Lately it has felt like everything I do or I am trying to do is failing or just isn't good enough. I have moments of passion for my music and art and then I face moments of doubt that paralyze me. I have doubts that what I am doing will never be known. It will never make an impact. But I recently ran across a quote (don't know who said it) that says,

"It's not about being big, it's about being healthy, because heathy things grow".

Sometimes we are so focused on making sure our life erupts with success in what we are pursuing so we can take it a little easier. But that's just not how things work all the time. We have to be patient and remember that life works in seasons. If things are going slow for you in your day to day, just think about how plants grow. It all starts with a seed, your passion or dream. You have to water the seed and figure out what the best way to make it grow is. It won't just sprout up overnight, it takes time and patience. It takes a lot of work weeding all the things that are holding you back or getting in your way, but if you tend to your plant properly, and with patience, you will have a healthy full grown plant, your work will not have gone waisted.

"Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy"  Psalm 126: 4-6

- Preston

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The Pressure's On

The other day I was scanning through the radio stations, which is a rare occasion for me. I came across a Christian station and decided to listen to it, and a song came on whose lyrics caught my attention. The words were, "When the pressures on he's making diamonds out of dust." I know, it's cliché, but it's an awesome picture of God's grace and also how it requires pressure to make dust into something beautiful--into something of great worth.

Whenever we come under pressure and face hard times our flesh immediately cries out for it to stop, simply because it's not easy. When life get's uncomfortable our immediate response tends to be "I want out". We will get all kinds of crazy stuff thrown into our daily lives that may feel overwhelming and at times unbearable that make us want to scream "Uncle!", but we have a promise we can cling to; Jesus promises that he will never leave us. You see, over and over again we find all throughout history God bringing people through things, not taking them out. He even sometimes places people right in the thick of things. Why? Because like the image of pressure creating a beautiful diamond, that is what happens to us.

Some key things we need to always remember and allow to take root in our lives are that God loves us (John 3:16), he is for us (Rom. 8:31), and he has our best interest at heart (Rom. 8:28, Phil. 4:19). He doesn't bring us through pain and suffering just because. It is always to build us up, to refine us, to create something even more beautiful, so that we can bring Him glory.

Take a look at this verse, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:3-5)

You have permission to believe the next time something difficult shows up that it’s not as an accident, but an appointment from God to take you to new places you could never have gone otherwise.

We need to learn to change our perspective when trials come because they will for sure come. Warren Wiersbe explains, that we must learn to see that the trials we face are not "accidents but appointments." You have permission to believe the next time something difficult shows up that it's not as an accident, but an appointment from God to take you to new places you could never have gone otherwise.

Wiersbe wrote, "At least in the world we know, it takes trials to make something beautiful and useful out of the raw materials of life. The student’s struggle with truth develops his intelligence; the athlete’s struggle with his records and his opponents helps to develop his muscles and coordination; the musician’s struggle with more difficult pieces develops his playing skill; and the soul’s struggle with the trials of life helps to build character.”

What a cool picture of how our life is made up of raw materials just waiting to be cultivated, like clay in the potter's hands we are being molded and shaped. Like a piece of gold we are being refined of in the fire. Like the dust under pressure we are being made into diamonds.

In closing think on these words of encouragement from Paul, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18