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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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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Way Too Many Compromises

I think I'd be ok to say that we all live pretty selfish lives. We think about ourselves before almost anything else. This isn't necessarily bad, it's just human nature. It is bad though when we don't let ourselves get past our first initial self centered thoughts.

There have been so many times where I've been in situations and all I can think about is me. The situation I keep finding myself doing this is when I am walking by the homeless. I try not to make eye contact with them. I walk briskly by and sometimes even ignore them when they try and make conversation. I know, I know, I'm a jerk. But I've now made it a point to just embrace the opportunity to show love to anyone at anytime. What could I possibly have that is more important than spreading Christ's love?

The big idea here is that we make way too many compromises. Let's look at this in a big picture way. Throughout life we make excuses when situations come our way. We start to think certain things are more important than the Kingdom. We are too old or young to live out the desires God has placed in our hearts, the list goes on, but God has given us specific gifts and tasks to do and they bring glory to Him.

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
— John 17:4

It can be hard to stay focused on the work that God has given us. But that is the whole point to our existence. I've noticed that It's always pretty easy for young people to have big goals and dreams that seem impossible, but are willing to work hard and not let the odds mean anything to them. And I've seen and experienced myself, the reaction older people have to young dreamers. It's a mixture of excitement and jerkiness. To me it shows that maybe they had dreams that they compromised so they could do "life", when in reality compromising your dreams takes all the life out of living. This isn't a bash on the older generations, it's more of a callback to your dreams. It can be hard to look back at your life and realize you didn't really do what you wanted. It can be paralyzing, but it doesn’t have to be.

God wants a generation of elderly people who are willing to change, even though they are told they cannot.
— Francis Chan, You and me Forever

If it's hard for young people to find themselves and what they love, and express that with their life, it has to be a million times harder for older people who compromised themselves for an "ordinary" life. It's never too late to make a change though. We have to think selflessly and remember that the dreams God has put in us are our jobs, the work that will bring Him glory.

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What to do When Life Gets Hard

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I love the reminder fall gives us. As I feel the temperature dropping and see the leaves changing I am reminded of the ever-changing seasons of life, more so our spiritual lives. It’s a funny idea that God who never changes, created us and the world around us to constantly change. Every Christian goes through high and low seasons and it is what we do through those seasons that determines the strengthening or weakening of our faith. We all love the high seasons when doors are constantly opened for us and everything seems to go right on track. When we sense a freshness in our spirit. When we always sense God guiding us and walking with us everywhere we go.

It is the low seasons that we don’t like very much. When we feel like God is far from us, and don’t sense His presence guiding us. When nothing good seems to come our way, only bad news after bad news. It is in these times that we can begin to doubt, when we can begin to listen to the lies of the enemy trying to scare us from pushing through. But it is also in these times when we can choose to cling even tighter to Christ.

This can be seen so clearly in the life of Paul. If anyone can boast about suffering it’s this guy right here. He was shipwrecked as a prisoner on a ship, bitten by a deadly snake and survived, stoned, beaten and whipped, imprisoned without a trial, yet he was the very one who penned the words to “live is Christ, to die is gain, but if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.” Phil. 1:21-22 Even in prison he was praising God, and because of that prisoners and even the guards heard of the Gospel message. Paul lived with an eternal mindset believing that the things he did on this earth in whatever circumstance he was in could help further the Gospel. That is what he lived. He lived a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul lived with an eternal mindset believing that the things he did on this earth in whatever circumstance he was in could help further the Gospel. That is what he lived. He lived a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What an encouragement that whatever suffering we are facing in our lives it can be used for God’s glory. I know it sounds strange and a little confusing, but think of it this way. When people see you going through hard times, and you say no matter what that you will praise God that speaks something to them. It also speaks something to the devil. It tells him that it doesn’t matter what he tries to do to you because you will still praise God. It tells him that you will not stop following after God and leading others to Him.

In my devotion this morning a line stuck out to me it said, “Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.

“Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.”

I have been in a place like that in my life where it seemed like nothing I tried to do alleviated any of the pain or heaviness I was feeling, and it was then when God was who was left standing there. This caused a huge shift in my life. I determined to cling so tightly to God, to walk with him daily in prayer and reading His word. And wow, what a change that brought to my life. It was through a season of suffering that I learned to rely on God and nothing or anyone else.

So don’t let hardships of any sort that try to come against you stop you from running to what God has for you. If something is difficult, or scary that probably means that you should run even harder towards it because the enemy will try anything to keep you from what God has in store for you. And don’t be afraid of losing because we have the ultimate finisher on our side, the one who always finishes victorious!

Read these words from Paul in Philippians 1:20-30

"Paul’s Life for Christ

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Live as Citizens of Heaven

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it."

until next time
until next time

The problem with phrases like, “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” & “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep”: Part 2

Here is quick recap of what I wrote in Part 1. Basically we need these phrases because we don’t feel beautiful, and one reason for that is because we measure ourselves by the world’s standards instead of how God created us. 1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts (keep yourselves from idols).”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an idol as “an object of extreme devotion," and a statistic from The Dove Campaign says that "72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful." From what I see all around me I think it is safe to say that beauty has become to many women an idol. So the problem with phrases like “Beauty is more than skin deep” and “You’re beautiful just the way you are” is that they put all our focus on being beautiful.

The media tells us that in order to feel good about ourselves we need to weigh a certain amount, have a boyfriend or just flings and one night stands, live a certain lifestyle, have a lot of money and the list goes on.

In order to get those things we have to look a certain way. It is this constant cycle, we try and fail, try again and fail again. Doesn’t it get tiring? We try so hard to look pretty or attractive in order to gain popularity and get noticed, but then when it doesn’t work we try something else. All this does is leave us feeling down and insecure.

That is what the world does, and that is all it will ever do because it is fallen and like it says in 1 John 5:17b, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

All Satan wants to do is keep us from realizing and believing the truth about our beauty because then he will lose his power.

The truth is, beauty is not the ultimate goal.

What happens when we idolize beauty is we become inward focused and think too much about ourselves instead of others because we are worried about our image. This in turn actually makes us unattractive, especially on the inside, because we are so consumed with ourselves. You probably can think of at least one person who you really don’t like being around because all they think about is themselves. These are people who have placed self-image and beauty on a pedestal.

What happens when we realize that beauty is not the ultimate goal? Well, we realize that our relationship with God is more important and that the ultimate goal is to bring Him, not ourselves, glory. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

When we live our lives for God we become women whose focus is not on ourselves, but on loving God and loving others. When this happens we will truly become beautiful because we are doing what we were made to do—worship God.

The problem with phrases like, “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” & “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep”: Part 1

 
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We have all heard the campaigns for women young and old telling them that they shouldn’t have to dress a certain way or wear a ton of make-up or lose weight to “feel good” about themselves. I am all for encouraging women to be comfortable in their own skin and embracing the beauty that God gave them. However, there is just something about this view that is missing the mark. Even though we are bombarded with these messages, women are still left feeling like they are never quite there. The whole, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” spiel sounds great, and deep down we want to believe it, yet it’s still not enough for us women to feel content with our image.

I won’t really get into how the fact that culture has set an imperfect standard skews women and men’s view of beauty, because that would take too long, but be aware this does play a role in it.

I believe we are afraid to go deep, to get to what’s really keeping us from seeing ourselves as beautiful

I believe it goes deeper than that though. In fact, I believe we are afraid to go deep, to get to what’s really keeping us from seeing ourselves as beautiful. In order to explain fully why I don’t like those phrases, we need to understand WHY we feel like we aren’t beautiful just the way we are and WHY we believe that beauty is more about looks than what’s inside. That’s the reason these phrases even exist because somewhere along the way (way back to when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit) we stopped believing we were beautiful.

So here it is: the fact simply is, we are trying to measure ourselves against the world’s standard. Did you hear that, THE WORLD’S STANDARD, not God’s.

If we say we are Christians, then our approval cannot be found in anyone or anything of this world because we have been told to be set apart. Yet, we have found ourselves, ladies, measuring our beauty against others.

So when it comes down to it our self-image and esteem issues are rooted in the fact that we choose to measure our beauty by the world’s standards and not to see who we are in God’s eyes.

Now that we have that figured out we need to change our way of thinking because we have become wired to think the way the world does, and evaluate ourselves the way the world does.

When we look to the world to see what is beautiful all it really ends up doing is putting us down because we feel like we will never be good enough. For example, we may see ourselves as average or even feel pretty good about our appearance, but we say, “I will never be as stunning as so-and-so.” Comparison is indeed the thief of joy.

But when we look to God and what he sees as beautiful, we are left speechless and amazed by his grace. When he looks at us he sees us without blemish, his wonderful and beautiful creations. He sees us in our worst state and says we are beautiful because we are His. When we are confronted with how God sees us something inside changes and causes a transformation in our hearts.

When we are confronted with how God sees us something inside changes and causes a transformation in our hearts.

When we put all our time and attention into the world we will begin to look like it—a fallen and broken place, but when we shift our focus to God, we will begin to reflect his image—our perfect, gracious, loving, tenderhearted, and beautiful Creator.

Now, I hope to have helped you understand why, despite the fact that people tell us that beauty is more than skin deep, we still feel unbeautiful (yes, I just made up a word), and how changing our perspective is the first step to really seeing ourselves as beautiful. In Part 2 I will share why I think the phrases “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” and “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep” are hurting us more than helping us.

Want to read Part 2? Click here > Part 2