Distracted

Distraction has become a habit.

The world is a busy place. “Busy” is the new “fine.” How are you doing? How are things? How’s life? It’s fine. It’s busy. Busy but fine.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most distracted one of all?

Huh, that’s funny. The reflection’s not changing.

I am a full-time high school student, scrambling to not just get college applications in but also to do interviews, apply for scholarships, fill out information for honors programs, and schedule visits. In addition, I work about 20 hours a week, volunteer twice a week, head the school newspaper, and try my best to have a social life.

Distracted.

It’s funny how even the busiest of us still find times for our phones, though, isn’t it? For the internet? Goodness, I love the internet. I think it’s a wonderful place. But it’s another

distraction

meant to ease our minds. But does it?

Listen, the reality of it is, I can’t really simplify my life all that much. I have to go to school, I have to navigate this college chaos, I have to work in order to save for said college. But I can change my outlook on it.

I’m a fairly anxious person. I don’t show it that much. I’ve gotten better in the last few years at dealing with it. There were some cool but not super fun ways God has made me more resilient. But I have this color-coded schedule glaring up at me as I type and it’s just so

distracting.

Most of my anxiety is future-oriented. I’m a pretty future-oriented person. I have a hard time relaxing now knowing I have work to do later. Even when I’m in the moment of something part of my brain is worrying about the other three things I have to get done that day and mentally calculating the time I’ll have to do them and when on earth will I have the chance to refuel and it’s completely crowded, drowning,

distracted.

Learning to live in the moment is less about not planning for the future and more about, as my dad says, “controlling the controllables.” When I’m in school, I can’t also be working or planning. When I’m with friends, I can’t also be writing an essay or doing an interview. So controlling the controllables means looking at where I am and saying, “What am I doing right now?” and doing that to the best of my ability, with my whole mind, rather than letting it splinter.

“For I have learned in whatever situation the secret of being content.” I was talking about this verse with my Pre-K Sunday school class this morning and I asked them why they thought Paul could be content, why he could be joyful and satisfied, even when crazy things were happening. The answer? “When I am afraid I will trust in God, I will trust in God, I will trust in God. When I am afraid I will trust in God, in God whose Word I pray.” I will trust in God, whose Word I pray.

(This is a quick side note, but the Word of God is the most incredible thing. The words wash over you in this way that is both refreshing and restorative and cleansing and yet also cuts straight to the heart.)

Lord, teach me the secret of being content! Let me trust you not just with my words or even actions but with my heart. I will go out on the limb, I will scale the mighty summit, I will step into the waves, just keep my eyes above. Thank you, Jesus!

“Lift up your eyes on high, and see! Who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power: not one is missing.

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”  (Isaiah 40)

It’s funny how when we remember who exactly our God is, everything else goes strangely dim.

May you not strive to control the uncontrollables, but remember who can.

Blessings,
Bre

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Lost in translation

Do you let life interpret God or does God interpret life?

(You can read that multiple times if you need to.)

We may not say it, may not give it voice, may not ever even shape it into words in  our minds, but we do this all the time. Your situation shapes your view of God. It shapes your emotions, love, contentment, and peace. It shapes your trust and your faith. As soon as things start going bad, you start questioning your relationship with God. Oh, I haven’t been spending enough time in the Word. Oh, God hasn’t been speaking to me lately. Oh, I just don’t have that spiritual strength I used to.

Here’s the reality: Your relationship with God does not depend on how you feel, but what he’s done. And God does not depend on how I feel, but on who he is. God does not depend on your circumstances, status, struggles, or state of mind. God’s character is not determined by your situation, stresses, social circles, or stage of life. The truth of who God is is unaffected by your decisions, desires, despair, and delusions. God is based on one thing, and one thing only: Himself.

In Exodus 3 when Moses stood barefoot before the fire that did not destroy and asked God what name he should give to the Israelites to describe their God, the Lord answered with five powerful words: I AM WHO I AM.” Tell them “I AM” has sent you.

I AM truth. I AM righteous. I AM love. I AM holy. I AM good. I AM just. I AM strong. I AM gracious. I AM glorious. I AM enough. I AM sovereign. I AM in control.

Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes, in the good times, we take God for granted and forget to be in awe, to be constantly learning more fully who he is and so then when the trials come we’ve forgotten that. We’ve forgotten who he is, this God we claim to serve.

He is a God who transcends circumstance and surpasses situations. He destroys excuses, eliminates obstacles, and supersedes fear. He is over all and in all. He is sovereign, and he is strong. He is powerful, and he is protection. He is refuge, and he is restoration. He carries us through the fight and protects us through the night. He is over every worry and every conflict and every stress and every complicated situation life throws at you because He is Lord.

Ask yourself this question this week, and remember to keep your eyes above the waves. Blessings!
–Bre

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Kindness is underrated

Kindness is underrated.

In Proverbs 11:16, the writer says that “A kindhearted woman gains respect, but a ruthless man gains only wealth.” This is an interesting truth. When I spend so much effort and time and energy and thought and worry and anxiety and frustration and work striving to attain what one might call success in the eyes of the many, how many of those people’s opinions really matter anyway? Sure, it’s pretty cool to be recognized for something you do, and you can definitely ride on the high of it for a while, but there comes a point when you start to question yourself despite the constant affirmation because no matter how much praise you get you’re also always going to be criticized, you’re going to be disliked, you’re going to face challenges, you’re going to fail sometimes, and you’re always going to doubt yourself at times. Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be. 

French soccer player Aurelien Collin once said that while most people come to Christ in a dark time in their life, he found God at the highest point of his. He was named MVP of the MLS cup, and it was that night as he realized he should be out celebrating, on top of the world, when he asked the question, “Is this all there is?” The next morning he went and found a chaplain and started asking questions, trying to find out if there was anything more. He found his answer.

John and Hank Green are people I admire immensely. They’ve raised thousands of dollars for charity and create educational and interesting video content on YouTube over multiple channels (links at end of post). They’re unapologetic nerds simply out to “make the world suck less.” John Green is known widely for his NY Times bestselling books such as The Fault in our Stars and Paper Towns, and Hank is the successful founder of EcoGeek, VidCon, Subbable, and VidCon, among other things. I’ve heard both brothers say, on separate occasions, that they’ve often been asked what it’s like to be successful. And what they’ve said is that it’s a weird concept to them to be put in this little box that, necessarily, can contain only a few, because society’s definition of success seems to be being recognized by a large number of people for your achievements, and so by default only a relatively small number of people can fall into that definition because we can only keep track of so much in our brains. And what they’ve said is, that you don’t really have success so much as you have successes. You have high points, where you achieve something great, you create something worthwhile, but you never arrive, is what they’re saying. This is never it. You never wake up one morning, and say to yourself, this is it, I’ve made it, I’ve arrived. And to be honest, they said, in the end, what you’re really concerned about is the people who are really close to you. And they’re the people who see the real you, behind the achievements and goals and dreams. They see you, hopefully, for your heart. And that’s what God sees too. And hopefully, what they see is kindness, and integrity. And those things are the things that often come in small packages, packages that aren’t much in themselves but when they become a lifestyle, a core part of you, people notice. Especially those people who are close to you, who care. And even more especially those people who receive it. And maybe, in the end, those are the people who matter. Proverbs 12:25 says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

Kindness and integrity, those are things you have to develop as habits, not as gestures. They don’t happen in one giant donation or a grand week-long missions trip. They’re things that happen on a day-to-day basis, in the way you respond to challenges, the way you speak to others, the way you treat authority, the way you interact with coworkers, the way you treat the needy, the ways you give of yourself or hold back, whether you’re willing to reach out or take that step or be bold in love or live out what you keep on saying. They don’t happen all at once. And they don’t happen automatically. They’re habits you have to build steadily and intentionally, checking yourselves in the little things you say and do, the ways you respond when things don’t go your way, and when they do. It’s not glamorous or thrilling, but it brings almost irrational joy, even when at first you might be questioning if it’s really worth it. Even if it means you have to get a little bit out of your comfort zone. As the great Dr. Seuss once wrote:

matter

Kindness is underrated.

————————————————————————————————————–
I’ve been doing a study on kindness, and I looked up every single verse in the Bible that mentions kindness (NIV). If you want to check out the list, click here.

Hank and John on YouTube:
The Vlogbrothers
Crash Course
SciShow
Mental Floss
The Art Assignment

HOPE

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

 The God of hope. That’s a new one.

We don’t usually think of a God of hope. We think of a God of wrath, of power and holiness. A God of fire and thunder and wind and storm. A God who sends down lightning from above and shatters the walls of Jericho. A God of power and strength and rage and perfection. A God who demands, a God who judges, a God who is far, far away or a God who is all too close.

Or, we’re all too happy to ignore that part of God. We see a God of love. A God of love and grace and peace and mercy. A God who is gentle, who is near and undisturbing. A God who sends us a Baby, a God who died on a tree, a God who is the rescue from my sins and this world around me. A God who cares and who will take care of all my needs.

Both/all of those things are true of God. I think a lot of times we have trouble seeing both at once. I think a lot of us like to fit God in a box. We like a self-made, custom-fit God to neatly slip into our puzzle exactly as we want him to.

NEWSFLASH: that’s not how it works.

Something I’ve been learning over the years is that God does not depend on how I feel, but on who he is. Neither my pain nor my pride can change his character. I could go on and on about this, maybe I will someday. But for now I want to talk about this verse I found yesterday, in Romans 15:13, because God is a God of hope.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Hope. We don’t give a lot of thought to hope, a lot of times, do we? 1 Corinthians 13;13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” We hear a lot about faith and love, and for good reason. But hope? Hope doesn’t seem to fit.

Hope is wishy-washy. Hope doesn’t seem to require grand, sweeping gestures to prove our devotion to God. Hope doesn’t come down and bleed and rise again for me. Hope doesn’t have an application for me. Hope is only for the desperate. The needy.

WRONG. On all counts.

Hope is a challenge. A dare. Hope is what Christ died for. And hope is life-changing–because we are all desperate and needy. Hope is security in something bigger than yourself.

God is a God of hope.

Is it making sense now?

Hope is not a quality. It is a promise. The Bible is full of them. The one that most particularly struck me this week is found in Isaiah 33.

Verses 1-14 declare God’s power and greatness:

You who are far away, hear what I have done;
    you who are near, acknowledge my power!
The sinners in Zion are terrified;
    trembling grips the godless:
Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
(verses 13-14)

But then in verse 17, there is a shift.

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
    and view a land that stretches afar.
In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror:
    “Where is that chief officer?
Where is the one who took the revenue?
    Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
You will see those arrogant people no more,
    people whose speech is obscure,
    whose language is strange and incomprehensible.
Look on Zion, the city of our festivals;
    your eyes will see Jerusalem,
    a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved;
its stakes will never be pulled up,
    nor any of its ropes broken.
There the Lord will be our Mighty One.
    It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams.
No galley with oars will ride them,
    no mighty ship will sail them.
For the Lord is our judge,
    the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
    it is he who will save us.
(verses 17-22)

There! Did you catch it? God’s promise: you will SEE.

Because here’s the thing: not only are you desperate and needy, but you are blind.

I know all too well how easy it is to lose my sight. You can probably relate.  In this world, it’s not too hard. I don’t do it on purpose. I just sort of, slip into everyday life, and boom! Lost.

Things start to become a lot more important. Things like status. Like friends. Like reputation. Like possessions. Like achievements. Like goals. Like plans. Like success. Like comfort. Like fun. Like business and busyness.

These are things that are important. Or that would be, if this world was all there is.

You see, because I can’t see it, I struggle to remember sometimes that there is a world beyond this one.

That’s amazing to me. The hope of this place called heaven, where he will wipe every tear, every weary, frustrated, angry tear from my eye, and all these burdens that I feel but don’t quite know how to name, my shoulders release and I fall into your arms…

I cry out to God, why can’t I live like it’s heaven on earth now? What would that look like? For you to be all I need, now? For me to never look back, now? For you to always be there for me, now? Why do I have to be here? Why can’t I go to heaven now and have all of this then come true?

Oh, wait…

God does not depend upon how I feel. Neither does he depend on where I am.

Here’s the thing. Right now, it can be really, really hard to see. Really hard. And I’m about ready to give up. But God is a God of hope. And hope does not give up. And hope promises, that you. Will. See.

You will see.

You will see something beautiful, something glorious. Something unlike anything this world has ever encountered. You will watch the fireworks as heaven and earth collide, and observe the awesomeness as his glory breaks the skies. You will see a city where there are no tears, no heartache, no sorrows, no weariness, no burdens, no depression or desperation or need for anything but more and more of this glorious light, filling our eyes and being drunk by our souls. You will see God for who he really is, and in that moment everything else will have faded to dust.

I crave it. I crave hope. I crave security in something bigger than myself. Because it reminds me, that all this stuff that does create these tears and these burdens and this weariness–it’s all going to go away. It reminds me that he does meet all my needs, now, and he is so, so close to me, now, and why should I be looking back, now?

It reminds me that he promises something beautiful. God is a God of hope. And hope, is how I see.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Bre

hope 6

Who You Are

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WHAT you are vs. WHO you are: an intriguing and dangerous concept.

Intriguing, because sometimes I forget to make the distinction. Dangerous, because society doesn’t want you to.

Society wants to fit you into a mold. Society wants to file you away according to your appearance, abilities, academics, achievements. Your public successes and failures. The things you show it. The parts of you that everyone sees. Society wants to know what you bring it, and is never satisfied, always demanding more. If only you were ______, then you would be good enough. If only you could do ______ a little better. If only…

My biology teacher once told me a story from his senior year of college, when he and some friends went camping in the woods. They cooked steak over a fire and made some rocks explode, but as the moon climbed and the darkness fell, they began to talk. One had graduated and was in the world, working in a lab, while the rest were still seniors. The natural question they asked was, “What’s it like?” What’s it like, being in the world, making money, living the life you’ve studied for, spent so many years preparing for…

And he who had always made it in college by doing the bare minimum was in danger of losing his job at the lab because he consistently procrastinated. And he who had been on a six-month cycle of girlfriends, moving on whenever he lost the fun, was now engaged to the girl he’d been dating for a year but was afraid now to fully commit, fearing that down the road, it wouldn’t be “fun” anymore.

And he said, “I was preparing for what I knew I wanted to become–but not who I wanted to become.”

And he told them, “Figure out who you want to become.

Boy, does that strike home.

Especially when it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, and when all you feel like you should be doing is more, more, more. I get so caught up in what I’m doing, what people see, my public image, and hold myself to the impossible standard, and I feel like I’m only ever signing up for more, but all I ever feel is less.

And I feel like the half of what I’m doing are the things nobody sees. And I know it’s selfish of me, I know it’s my human pride. Shouldn’t I be striving to live the life that goes unseen? Because here’s the thing: most of the things that really matter, do go unseen by most. Those are the beautiful things, the worth-it things. The things that give life.

And here’s the thing, those things that matter–they don’t go unseen by the people that matter. They don’t go unseen by the people they directly affect, affect deeply. People notice, when you care. It surprises me sometimes, though it shouldn’t.

And also…they don’t go unseen by God.

Sometimes, when I think of God as all-seeing, it scares me more than anything. Because I know my heart. I know its dirt and dust and grime and dark shadows and cobwebbed corners. The things I hide.

But there’s something bigger about an all-seeing God. It’s called grace.

Not wishy-washy grace. This is no dripping, drizzling, downsized grace. This grace is drenching. It’s torrential, it’s tidal, it’s transforming. It’s whitewater, riptide grace. It tears you apart until there’s no part of you safe from the blinding light of grace, the light that’s like a powerwash on your heart. It stings and moves you a little bit, and there’s no dirt that can withstand the power of this grace.

And because of this grace, you’re a stained glass window. You’re beautiful to him.

And this all-seeing God, he understands. He understands because he crafted every fiber of your being, tuned every string in your body, wove together the strands of your soul and sculpted the crevices of your mind and fashioned the turnings of your heart–he understands. You don’t have to explain yourself to him.

This all-seeing God, he sees what you do in secret. He sees what no one else does. He sees the dirt and the shame and all of the things I want no one to see.

But he also sees the things I feel like no one does. The things that I want them to know. The things that I hold precious and I feel like no one else listens.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like much, though. We take it for granted. We say, God, yes, I know my reward is eternal, but look at what ____ is doing. Look at what they get. God, I know my reward is eternal, but I need something now. How am I supposed to give up ______ for that?

We feel like God expects something of us. We feel like we owe him something. And don’t get me wrong–he does. And we do. And it’s more than we could ever do on our own. And we know that, so we do one of two things: we don’t even try, or we try so hard, we make our checklist of do’s and don’ts, and we’re never satisfied, and we see God as the taskmaster. But…he’s a lot more than that.

He delights in his children. He delights to see them walking in the truth.

That breaks me. When I think that God could actually be pleased. Delighted. Giddily excited. The God of the universe…smiling for me.

I forget so quickly. But that…when I think of that, that’s what drives me on. It’s when I think of heaven, where he’ll wipe every tear from our eyes, every sorrow will be erased and every trouble will be vanquished, every darkness will be conquered and every sleepless night disintegrated–when it all fades away, and there’s only him, standing there with open arms. When I finally see it–when I finally see how all of this, it was really nothing.

It was really nothing.

And all that’s left is purity of joy and peace and love and holiness. A purity that could never be matched on this earth.

So have hope, take heart, and remember–remember that who you are matters a whole lot more than what you are. Your love matters more than your label or lack. What you see matters more than being seen. Your grace matters more than your grades, and your Spirit means more than your status, success, or security.

He sees. Ask him to help you do the same.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”And Elisha prayed, “Oh Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”
Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha….

2 Kings 6:15-17

Lord, give us your eyes.

Bre