[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] 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

[Reflection] Abounding Grace

I’m constantly blown away by God’s grace towards rebellious people. We repeatedly miss the mark, yet He continues offering us grace after grace. When I was new to the Faith, the Old Testament terrified me. Why? Because it tells stories that reveal God’s power to destroy disobedience. As I’ve matured, I now see these stories in a new light – laced with grace and hope in the coming Savior, rather than wrath. Traces of grace can be seen throughout the entire Old Testament, beginning with the moment we first tasted death.

At the fall (Genesis 3), God had every right to kick Adam and Eve out of Eden without caring about their livelihood. He didn’t even owe them a “Sayonara!” God clearly stated they were not to touch or eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, and all it took was a serpent spitting promises of false wisdom for them to break God’s only ground rule. I’m not a parent, but I’ve spent several summers coaching. I’ve felt disappointment towards athletes I’ve invested in when they’ve disregarded clearly stated instructions, and can only imagine how much more disappointment and anger God felt towards the very people He breathed into existence. He had no reason to show an ounce of compassion towards Adam and Eve, but…

…the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. -Genesis. 3:21

The very same God who was betrayed, showed grace. My heart can only praise Him for that undeserved gift and what it foreshadowed…Jesus.

At the fall, we became incapable of communion with God because of our sinful nature. We needed someone or something to bridge the gap. We needed to be clothed by robes of righteousness, not rags of corruption. A little over 2,000 years ago a man named Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, preached the Word of God, was beaten to the point of being unrecognizable, spat on by the very people He came to save, and hung on a cross to die with criminals. Three days later He conquered the death we ate in Eden and bridged the gap.

At the cross, God clothed us – again. The leather garbs from Eden foreshadowed the coming of a greater garment – the righteous robes of Jesus Christ. Those who’ve confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord are no longer draped in rancid rags, but instead are covered in the righteousness of Christ. We’re given grace upon grace upon grace. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels. -Isaiah 61:10

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21

October 7th

I’ve dreaded October 7th for a while because it symbolizes the end of a chapter and a leap into the unknown. I’ve had a full-time seasonal job to occupy my days for the last eight months. A job with people I adore. A job that was joyful. A job that was fun.

October 7th marks the end of eight months of consistency. I’m not a huge planner, but knowing where I’ll be from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday is something that gives me comfort. I’m surrounded by amazing people who encourage and support me in times of need, and fortunately I’ll be working part-time for an incredible woman of the Lord for the next few weeks. Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides. I have income for another month as I continue job seeking and interviewing. PRAISE THE LORD!

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:19

But what’s next? That’s the unknown that sends chills down my spine because honestly, I have no idea. For the first time in my life, my next days don’t have a specific plan. I know what my passions are, and I know I am blessed with intelligence and useful skills. I have so much joy to offer, and I’m searching for the place where my passions and career ambitions intersect. Am I called to stay in marketing? Am I called to ministry? Am I called to write? Am I called to missions? Am I called to stay in Austin? These are just a few of the thoughts that launch me into a whirlwind of confusion over where I’m headed next. After the confusion sets in, I start questioning who God has created me to be and the purpose of my life. In these moments, I hear the sweetest Voice whisper in my ear that He brings peace, not confusion. The Voice reminds me that He has me in the palm of His hand, and He has plans for my future that were ordained before time. I find myself stepping out in blind faith, trusting that I’m not walking off of a cliff, but rather into a life lived for the Voice’s glory. The Voice overwhelms me with peace. The Voice brings me joy. The Voice gives me purpose.

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Here’s what I do know about tomorrow: it’s never guaranteed, Jesus is the same and my purpose to glorify Him remains. So cheers to what tomorrow brings, and the vulnerability of walking by faith, not by sight. It’s amazing to me that when we are most vulnerable, we are the most secure.