Kaitlin

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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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

 
 

The Messiness of Community

Community is a word that is comforting yet terrifying to many. We long for community, to be surrounded by others with a common goal and heart, to love and be loved, to laugh with others and cry with others. Yet, there is something that holds many of us back from true community, and that is vulnerability.

Why? Because we are afraid. Afraid to be completely known. Afraid of being rejected. Afraid of judgement. Afraid of getting our hearts broken.

Honestly, these are all things that can happen, and many times do happen, when we are vulnerable with people, but if we do not allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable, we can never FULLY experience love. If we’re not open and honest, how can we expect to grow? If something is worthwhile there will almost certainly be some sort of risk involved, and I think experiencing love and growth are definitely worth the risk!

C.S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Being vulnerable is one of the bravest and most necessary things we can do as human beings.

I believe that being vulnerable is one of the bravest and most necessary things we can do as human beings.

Jefferson Bethke said, “To be truly human, is to be truly known.”

You may read that and say “Yes!”, yet still hide behind things like social media. We have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but how many of them know that you spend your days worrying about how you’re going to pay the rent? How many of them know that you eat your dinner alone in front of the TV every night? How many know that you dream of becoming a doctor, but can barely pass your classes? How many know why you bow your head and thank God for every meal?

I am not saying that we need to broadcast everything about our lives on social media. I am saying that we need to get into a community of people who we can interact with face-to-face-- a community of people who love each other, who believe in each other and desire to see each other grow. Paul encourages us in Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” When we’re in a community it is harder for us to hide behind false intentions and pretty masks. It’s so awesome because then we know we are kept accountable. We know that there will be someone to encourage us when we fall, and we can trust that when we are corrected it is for our good.

I’d rather take the messiness of community and possible joy, than the cleanliness of isolation and sure despair.

Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” When you take a deeper look at the word community, the prefix com- means “with” and -unity means, well, unity--oneness, unit, agreement, sameness. So community means literally “with unity” just like that psalm says, “to dwell together in unity.”

Jefferson Bethke said, “I’d rather take the messiness of community and possible joy, than the cleanliness of isolation and sure despair.” You see, we were not made to live in isolation. We were made to live WITH others. We were made to love and be loved, and the only way we can experience the true depth of that is to be vulnerable.

 

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It Really Is Simple

We try to overcomplicate the message of Christ, and in doing so we turn away those who do not completely understand. We try to tell the story using religious words and tons of different Bible verses and in turn confuse the heck out of people who didn’t grow up around and in the church.

Anyways back to my point. This morning God reminded me of a great and simple truth. Jesus not only died an excruciating death on the cross, but he also carried and took on the weight of every sin anyone has and ever will commit (that I don’t completely understand, but somehow he did it).

He didn’t just die for a few. He didn’t just die for the good ones. He didn’t just die for the people who have it all together. Jesus died for everyone, and all we have to do is accept him. It’s the simple gospel.

Here’s the awesome thing you can’t miss. Jesus took on the weight of sin of every person. That means even those who would reject him. That is crazy right?! He died on the cross so that all would have the choice to follow Him. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.” He didn’t just die for a few. He didn’t just die for the good ones. He didn’t just die for the people who have it all together. Jesus died for everyone, and all we have to do is accept him. It’s the simple gospel. It’s John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”. It’s that simple. All we have to do is believe and receive his amazing and wonderful gift of salvation. Yet, so many people reject it. Why? Well maybe because they don’t want to give up their sinful life. Maybe because all they know about Christianity is that we are a bunch of hypocrites who want people to live by a ton of rules. Maybe it is because all they hear is don’t do this and don’t do that, instead of hearing words like, Jesus died for those things and if you come to Him, He will forgive you of everything and wipe your slate completely clean.

We each have certificate of debt that we have accrued over our lifetime, and there is nothing we can do to pay the debt of our sins. No matter how many good deeds we do we can never repay the debt. BUT when Jesus died he took that certificate of debt and do you know what He did?? He paid it in full!!! He took the punishment we deserved, making us free. There is nothing we have to do in our human effort except to accept God’s great gift and follow after Him. Once we accept his gift He will be with us always to help us on our journey. He promises to give us strength, and peace, and to love us unconditionally. So once we decide to follow God we have assurance that He will help us finish the race until the day when we will be able to see God face to face and spend eternity with Him!

There is nothing we have to do in our human effort except to accept God’s great gift and follow after Him.

All we have to do is receive God’s wonderful gift and follow after Him. It’s simple, not necessarily easy, but totally worth it.

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What is Art?

To love, is art.

For those of you who consider yourselves not to be of the artistic bent, you probably wouldn't consider that your life could be artistic by any means. We've grown up with this stigma that artistic people are a group of individuals who see life through a different lens, and while this is true of artists who spend their time creating through things like painting, or drawing, or creating music, or writing, the same is true for every other individual. We are all unique, and so we all have the ability to see life through different lenses, which makes life so much better! Genesis 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.'" If you believe that we were all made in the image of our Creator, then you have to believe that we were all made to create. It's that simple.

As an artist, I do tend to notice things that I find others just pass by. I tend to get caught up in the details of things and notice the way colors, and light and texture interact with each other. That is how I experience God. Art in the literal form is my expression of love. That is how God created me. But he also created each one of us to express love through the different gifts and abilities he has given us. When we use the things God has given us for loving others, that is the greatest form of art. We are creating moments where people see glimpses into the heart of our Father. When we take those extra minutes to listen to somebody who just needs to feel heard, that is love. When we give of our resources to help someone else advance, that is love. When we go to the places where everyone else is running from and just talk and laugh with the ones others reject, THAT IS LOVE. And to love is the greatest form of art.

When we use the things God has given us for loving others, that is the greatest form of art.

Vincent Van Gogh one of my deepest inspirations said, "The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people." One thing many don't know about Van Gogh is that before he started to paint he actually tried being a missionary, but because of his eccentricity and the fact that he dealt with depression from a young age, the people in the church didn't want to be associated with him, so they turned him away. So, he turned to art.

I just love the way his mind works and how even though he was rejected by the church, he didn't turn from God. He saw that art wasn't just an aesthetic thing, it was in the way you live. He saw that art was in the way you feel something deep down in your soul, something that is so strong that you have to believe there is an ultimate creator who loves and desires to interact with us.

You see, when we truly take hold of the reality that we were created to create, we bring the most glory to God

If you still think that your life isn't art read this. "If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music ... Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” Martin Luther King Jr.

You see, when we truly take hold of the reality that we were created to create, we bring the most glory to God. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father." And since we were made in the image of God, we were made to create. For someone to say about a street sweeper, "here lived a great street sweeper" it would be because that street sweeper understood that even though his job might not have been as romanticized as Shakespeare or Beethoven's, if he was sweeping with the same passion, love and courage those men did it was there that the heart of the father was revealed. It is that kind of mindset and attitude that brings honor and glory to God. To say that no matter what I do, I am going to approach it with the same tenacity, and boldness, and focus, and vulnerability, and creativity, and love, and passion as those men, that is art. 

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Treasure Holders

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

The more and more I learn about God and his ways the more and more I learn how different they are from the world's ways. I've often heard that when people look at you like you're insane for doing certain things you know it's God. I mean, we read in Scriptures that we're supposed to be set apart. We're supposed to be different (Romans 12:2). We read that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). And as I study the following passage of scripture I am reminded even more of his higher ways.

In 2 Corinthians 4:6-9 we read, "For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed."

The treasure he is speaking of is the knowledge of God and his glory and the clay jars are us. In ancient times clay jars were used as a metaphor for human weakness. Clay jars are fragile and can easily crack.  Once cracked they are of no use. But God has decided to place his glory, the greatest treasure, inside of us--us broken people. I love the picture we get from this. We are like a clay pot with cracks holding a great treasure. We have cracks from broken families. Cracks from depression. Cracks from abuse. Cracks from worry, doubt and fear. Cracks from wrong decisions, and even from decisions we didn't have the freedom to make for ourselves. We are all broken. We have all fallen short. That is the hard-hitting truth and reality. And the enemy tries to tell us, "You're broken. You can't do that. You're no good. You're weak." and in our minds we begin to believe the lie that because we're cracked, what use are we to God anymore?

But the story doesn't end there. Oh no, the story is so beautiful!

God's grace abounds in our brokenness. God chose to and was glad to place all the fullness of himself inside of us broken people (Colossians 2:9-10). Why? So that his glory would shine for all to see. You see many of us have tried to fill our cracks with other things. Maybe it's love from the wrong places. Maybe it's working to make yourself feel accomplished. Maybe it's trying to be independent so that you can feel like you made it through on your own. Maybe it's placing religion over a relationship with God. Whatever it is, God's power and glory is inside of us waiting to shine through. You see, it is such a beautiful picture to think of light bursting through all the cracks. It shows that even though we are broken he is greater. He is greater than depression, broken marriages, doubt, abuse, fear of failure. He is greater. So because he is greater and he is inside of us we have assurance that even though we may have troubles we will not be crushed. We will face more hardships in this life, but we are never abandoned by God. It is in our trials that God becomes glorified because we can stand up and say, "Even though this happened I am still strong because the one inside of me is greater than anything I have faced and will ever face!" When we let his light shine out of our darkest times so that others can see him, he receives all the glory, not us. 

So stop trying to fill in the cracks with things that won't last. Allow his light to shine through the cracks from the darkest places inside of you, so that he may be glorified and others may know how great of a treasure we hold!

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What Will Your Answer Be?


A while ago I came across the hebrew word Hineni (pronounced He-neigh(like a horse)-knee) which means "Here I am" and I absolutely love the deeper meaning and significance of it. Hebrew words are so awesome because they have such depth! So here's a little Hebrew lesson for you all because I know you want to feel like you're in class again (not), but just trust me for second, it'll be worth it!


Hineni is special because it is found in the Bible when God is calling a person. Like when he showed up in a burning bush, Moses's response was Hineni, "Here I am". I know, it doesn't seem super exciting, but in a case where a person would respond saying "Here I am", there was another word they could use. That word is "Po Ani" which means "I'm here", but not really present. You know, like when the teacher is taking attendance and calls your name and you say "Here!" from the back row of your history class. Hineni however, has more depth to it. Josh McClendon wrote, "It’s about being here, and close by, and present, but also about readiness, awareness, awakeness. It’s a lot like the word we translate as “Lo!” or “Behold!”  So we get the sense it’s more of a “Here I am!  Look, it’s me!  I’m present, listening, and ready to roll.  I’m at your service.” (https://joshtmcc.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/175/) Isn't it so cool how one word can have so much meaning and power behind it? Alright the Hebrew lesson is finished. See, that wasn't so bad!


We find other heroes of the faith responding to God in such a way. When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God calls his name and he responds Hineni, "Here I am Lord. Tell me what to do." Or when Samuel heard the voice of the Lord in the night, He responded, Hineni, "Here I am. I'm ready to do your will." Or when Isaiah hears God ask, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” He responds Hineni, "Here am I. Send Me!"


Do you think these men truly knew the risks involved? Do you think they were possibly thinking in the back of their mind "Oh crap, what did I just get myself into?" Do you think they thought they were the most qualified? 


We actually get a chance to see how Moses felt when God called him to speak in front of Pharaoh. He responded saying, "I'm no good at speaking. Don't you think maybe you might possibly want to choose someone better?" Simply put, he felt unqualified to carry out God's call. I love that we get a chance to see the authenticity of this moment. Moses was walking out what he had committed already to do from the moment God called him in the burning bush, and he faces his next step from God to continue saying "Here I am", and we get to see what he does. As we read on, Moses allows his low self esteem to get in the way. God instead, has to use Aaron, Moses' brother as a mouthpiece for Moses.


We find that God works through imperfect people. We also find that when we can't do something on our own, God will bring someone to walk alongside us. We find that as Moses goes before Pharaoh, Aaron is always with him. As you read the accounts of the times they go before Pharaoh to tell him to let their people out of slavery, it sounds like it is just Aaron speaking the words God gives to Moses to tell Aaron, but then as the time goes on it looks like Moses actually does speak to Pharaoh.  In Exodus 11:4-8 we read, "Moses said, 'Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die...And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger." 


I think it is awesome to see the grace of God in this story. His plan was for Moses to speak to Pharaoh, but instead he has Aaron be his mouthpiece, but doesn't take Moses out of the equation. With Moses feeling unqualified, God could have decided to use just Aaron or someone else for that matter, but Moses said "Here I am. Ready to do your will", so God brings Aaron to encourage Moses. God said, "I'll still use you. I still have great plans for you. I still want you to be the one to lead my people out of slavery, so I'm going to do whatever it takes for that to happen." And now when we remember the story of the Israelites' plight, and how they were freed from slavery, and how a man led them across the Red Sea we remember a man named Moses, who followed the call from God out of a burning bush.
 

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