[Reflection] Jesus: The Ultimate Valentine

Sometimes I spend time reflecting on what the Lord has taught me. One of those moments happened last week. I’m so glad I stumbled on this post I shared a couple Valentine’s ago. These words ring true today, and always will. Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all!

February 14, 2012:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

It’s Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air, flowers are being delivered and bellies are growing from a plethora of heart-shaped chocolate boxes, all of which have become symbols of Hallmark’s biggest holiday.  Despite receiving a cookie from my coach after 6am practice – Happy Valentine’s Day! – and a bag of M&M’s from my professor – I know, pretty good haul – it hit me hard this morning that the greatest Valentine’s gift doesn’t come in a heart-shaped box. In fact, the best gift I’ve ever received came in the form of a blood stained cross. Has Hallmark sold one of those lately?

Valentines

Despite my opinion that we should show love daily, Valentine’s is meant to be a “special day” centered around showing affection towards the ones you love most.  As a Christian, the greatest act of love I’ve ever felt was that fateful day when my sinless Savior was tortured and hung on a cross for every sin I’ve ever committed, am committing, or will commit.  Chick-flicks – my favorite movie genre (Yep, definitely going to see The Vow tonight with my lovely FCA ladies) – constantly emphasize loving someone enough to take a bullet for them and that is exactly what Jesus did for us.  He was sinless, yet suffered the most shameful death of His time to save our lives (I’d just like to take a moment to emphasize He died for us WAY before we were even thought of on this earth – pretty awesome, right?)…now that is true love.

I’m going to pose a challenge for today: Don’t dwell on the gifts you receive or your relationship status. Instead, bask in the love of Christ, keeping your eyes focused on what is eternal.  After all, Jesus doesn’t give us gifts that will wilt or be devoured in a few days – or in my case, minutes – He gives us everlasting life!

Praying you are overwhelmed by Christ’s unconditional love today and always,

-Mer

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myTunes Monday

“You build me up like a city of gold
The battles rage but I’m standing tall
You formed my heart like an empire
The wind and rain can’t stop this fire
If only I could see it from Your perspective
The beauty and the grace of Your architecture”

“Architecture,” Jonathan Thulin

Be blessed!

[Reflection] Thieving

My heart broke as I sat across the room witnessing my friend’s joy drain from her face. Conversation was flowing back and forth from person to person while she surveyed the room, measuring herself next to the people around her. I understood the pain she experienced. After all, until a few weeks ago I moved through life with the same tendency to weigh my gifts against the people around me.

It all started with the ending of a relationship. There wasn’t a big fight, it just ended. Since nothing technically “went wrong,” that must’ve meant there was something wrong with me, right? I guess I wasn’t tall enough, athletic enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, or godly enough. The list goes on and on.

Hi, I’m Meredith and for two and half years I’ve battled with comparison and it’s stolen my joy.

Sure, to the people who know me best I was still my quirky self, but exposed to the rest of the world I hid so much of who I was designed to be. I don’t watch much television (my cable is currently broken), rarely listen to the radio, laugh like Elmo, am taller than the average human, haven’t worn a Size 0 in a decade (and most likely never will), am a nerd, enjoy nerf gun battles, have a natural sway when listening to music, and so many other things that many people wouldn’t consider normal or attractive. I’ve resented many of those qualities for so long. Maybe if I knew what happened on the latest episode of The Bachelor, if I dropped 10 pounds, or if I didn’t laugh as awkwardly, she would want to be my friend or he would want to ask me on a date.

I’m here to tell you that all of those thoughts were lies straight from the pits of Hell, and so are the ones you’re contemplating right now.

I’ve known for a while that comparison owned me, but I didn’t want to enter back into pain where it started and I certainly didn’t want to tell anyone how I felt. I fell right into Satan’s trap. For over two years comparison kept me from growing closer to my Maker. For over two years I rejected the person God handcrafted me to be. For over two years I suppressed some of the very characteristics of God that He chose to manifest in me. That’s sin-full, y’all! In the words of one of my closest friends, Satan is a heifer!

The day I confessed my comparison struggle to a friend was the day freedom flooded my heart. Ask some of my running buddies (who still says that?! I guess I do…). I’m sure they’ll be happy to tell you all about my worship jazzercising. And guess what? I’ll let them without being ashamed. Why? Because I LOVE the joyful spirit the Lord’s manifested in me. In an earlier post, I claimed love as my resolution for 2014, but I’ve realized I can’t love the God who created me, much less others, without first loving the person God has made me. Talk about conviction. The Spirit pierced my tainted heart with Truth.

Comparison

Comparison is the thief of joy, and frankly it’s stupid. Here’s why:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

-1 Corinthians 12:4-20

 How well would the body work if everyone was a foot? Yes, we could get places, but we wouldn’t be able to see where we were headed. Knowing how clumsy my feet are, I’m certain that wouldn’t work out very well for God’s kingdom. I’m convinced that’s why God arranged the members in the body, each of them as he chose, knowing best how they would be used for His glory.

Don’t let comparison steal your joy. You aren’t lacking anything. You’ve been given everything you need to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. Don’t let Satan win by making you believe God has shorted you. The Lord’s too good to leave any of us lacking gifts we need to grow His kingdom. Just because your gifts are different than the person’s next to you doesn’t make you inadequate. Chunk those lies straight back into the pit they came from.

[Reflection] Laced with Love.

Love. That’s my goal for 2014. Not the mushy, chick flick, lasts-a-couple-weeks kind of love, but the selfless, entering-into-pain, unconditional, messy kind of love. I want to love God, love Jesus and love others more recklessly abandoned than ever before.

Why?

Because Jesus tells us love is the most important thing we can do, and there’s not enough love flowing in the world. There’s a lot of like disguised as love, but when the going gets tough, like walks out the door. Love stays. Think about it. Jesus had the power to remove himself from the cross, but he stayed. He stayed for me. He stayed for you. What are you going to do about that kind of love? I’m going to lace 2014 with it. Will you join me?

Typographic-Poster

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22:36-40

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:35

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” -1 John 3:16-18

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13

myTunes Monday

Christmas is a little over a week away, and one of my biggest concerns is that we’re forgetting what we’re actually celebrating. Don’t miss Christ is Christmas. The whole reason for celebrating is that God came down to rescue us. Since Genesis 3, God’s redemptive plan has been in motion. The pinnacle of His plan was Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection that paved a way for us to enter in our Father’s presence. Jesus isn’t an accessory to Christmas, He is the reason for the season. The Bible points to restored community with God, and that restoration begins with the birth of a baby in a manger.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name “Immanuel.” (which means God with us.) Matthew 1:23

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, I want to point you to His finished work. This week’s myTunes Monday pick does just that. Shane and Shane‘s song, “You Loved My Heart To Death,” reminds us of the baby’s purpose. His first breath was destined for his final exclamation: It is finished. He loved our hearts to death.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

[Reflection] Walking Tall

Today marks the end of a season of waiting. For a year, I’ve been allowed to trust The Lord more than I’ve ever experienced before. Notice that I’ve been allowed to trust The Lord. I could say I was forced to trust God during a year’s worth of interesting circumstances, but that makes it sound like God doesn’t give us the option to follow and trust in His divine plan. We have two options in every situation: to follow, or not to follow. I could have easily wiped my hands of God when the going got tough, but pressure creates diamonds. This year has been a refining processes. I’m still flawed, but I walk taller and with more pep in my step knowing that God is worthy of unwavering trust.

If you asked me on December 15, 2012 how the next year would unfold, I would have responded with internships leading to full time positions, a cozy apartment in Austin draped with excessive decorations, and a comfortable salary. Today, I woke up on a pullout couch, am starting a new job in an unfamiliar place (which I’m ecstatic about!) and will be moving into an apartment with minimal furnishings soon. My cup overflows in ways I was not expecting, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that the The Lords plans trumped my own.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

My heart wanted comfort, The Lord wanted my trust. I haven’t seen my bed in a year. I’ve lived in a condo, the spare bedroom of a family’s home, and a photography studio. I’ve interned at a university and minor league baseball team. I’ve worked for a non-profit, wedding planner, and photographer. I’ve spent a week in a third world country. I’ve made life-long friends. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. And The Lord has been trustworthy through it all. I’ve often sang “You are faithful,” and now my heart believes it. When I replay the events of this last year, I see God’s fingerprints in every frame. I’m thankful for every unexpected turn, every closed door and every moment I’ve had the option to stay in the boat or walk in faith across unchartered waters.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

[Reflection] White as Snow

Current state: Snowed/iced in, slightly delusional.

I’m an extrovert, so I naturally gain energy from being around people. Due to frozen roads, I’m completely isolated from humanity – okay, that’s slightly dramatic, but you get the point. Cabin fever is beginning to set in. So far, I’ve named my heater “Sonny” and have been referring to my situation as hanging out with “Sonny and Mer” (get it, Sonny and Cher…). It’s getting harder to convince myself I haven’t completely fallen off my rocker. On the upside, my window faces a fall-colored tree and a yard blanketed with the icy mixture that’s graced North Texas over the last 24 hours.

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As I stare out my window concocting an escape route, I’m pleasantly haunted by the following: Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. My view is breathtaking, and I can’t get over the juxtaposition of bloodstained, red leaves and pure, white snow. Scripture tells us creation points to the Creator (Romans 1:20), yet it always stops me in my tracks when I stumble on such a beautiful depiction of the Gospel right outside my window. As I pout about my circumstances, God is reminding me of what the cross accomplished. My past, present and future sins: washed as white and snow. My debt: paid in full. My soul: accounted for in the book of life. My joy: complete in Jesus.

‘Tis the season.

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“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.” -Isaiah 1:18

myTunes Monday

I think this one speaks for itself. Enjoy “You Love Me Anyway” by the Sidewalk Prophets and have a blessed week!

The question was raised
As my conscience fell
A silly, little lie
It didn’t mean much
But it lingers still
In the corners of my mind
Still you call me to walk
On the edge of this world
To spread my dreams and fly
But the future’s so far
My heart is so frail
I think I’d rather stay inside
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How You love me
It took more than my strength
To simply be still
To seek but never find
All the reasons we change
The reasons I doubt
And why do loved ones have to die?
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway
See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life
But You love me anyway
Oh, God… how you love me
You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
You love me, You love me
You love me, You love me
How You love me
How You love me
How You love me

[Heart Fuel] Hope

HaitiHeartFuelBiblical hope does not disappoint. Did you catch that? Biblical hope does not disappoint. Let that Truth soak in for a moment. The hope we have in Christ continues rising no matter the circumstances we’re walking through. That should overwhelm us with peace. Valleys lead to mountaintops. Tears are wiped away. Joy is eternal. Hope is rising.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. -Hebrews. 6:29