Dress for the Occasion

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” Colossians 3:12-14 MSG

If you were invited to a wedding you would dress for the occasion, right? If you’re a girl you’d find a beautiful dress and probably wear heels and some jewelry, and if you’re a guy you’d probably put on a button up shirt and grab a tie or bow-tie, and maybe even wear a suit if you’re feeling extra dressy. If you were going for a run you wouldn’t wear heels and dressy clothes though. You would need shorts and a t-shirt or tank top and definitely running shoes. What we wear is often based on what we are doing, and in this passage it says God has called us to live a life of love, so we need to dress for such a lifestyle. When we put on an outfit we are presenting something to others, a lot of times it’s one of the first things people notice about us. So think of it that way. Are the first things people are noticing about your character things like quiet strength, discipline, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, and contentment? Or do they see someone who is easily upset, impatient, always having to be right, holds grudges, rude, and arrogant? As I examine myself I see a mix of both. There are times when I nail it and handle a situation with kindness or humility and then other times when I become impatient or I find myself being lazy and not practicing discipline. I think we can all relate to that, unless you’re Jesus and perfect. So how do we clothe ourselves in these qualities daily?

1. Prayer

It is so vital to be in constant communion and communication with God. Jesus said, “Abide in me, I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you ABIDE in Me.” (John 15:4) I love this illustration of our relationship with Jesus. If a branch becomes disconnected from the vine it no longer receives the nutrients it needs to produce fruit. Just like a vine, we cannot produce fruit such as love, patience, compassion, and so forth, unless we are connected to Jesus. God, who is the true vine, IS love, which is at the root of all these things, so if you want to be able to love and show kindness and humility, it’s going to take continually abiding in Him because like Jesus said, we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in Him and stay in constant communication with Him.

2. Surround yourself with those who will call you into abundant life

This is so important. Just today I was reminded of that. It was just a little comment they made that made me realize the way I was thinking about something was not based in love or in the way Jesus would have. I was convicted and realized I needed to be Jesus to these people because Jesus loved those that everyone else passed by. Our close friends, the ones we talk to about life, should be those who are themselves striving to walk daily in the love of Christ. You will be able to tell who is and isn’t by their fruit, just like I mentioned earlier. Do they have peace and joy in their life or do envy and bitterness follow them wherever they go? Are they willing to confront you in love and call you to walk in the same or do they listen and agree when you’re wallowing in self pity over something? So what kind of life to do you want? I know I want a life filled with love. So make sure you have compassion, kindness, humility, a quiet strength, discipline, contentment with being second place, an even-temper, forgiveness, and most importantly love in your wardrobe. Realize these are essentials that God picked out for you to wear everyday. I hope as you get ready for your day tomorrow you will look to the wardrobe God assigned you and be sure to dress yourself for a life of love!

until next time

Do We Really Trust God With Everything?

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” Psalm 143:8

As I read this verse from the Psalms a refrain started playing in my head, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.” Many of us have sung this many times, but do we truly mean the words we are singing? Are we truly willing to surrender everything God? Is our life a reflection of that proclamation?

I realize this verse doesn’t exactly say surrender all to Jesus, but David is saying ‘I trust in You Lord, I give myself to You for I know you will show me where to walk.’ He is saying I trust You enough to give myself over to You.

Our we willing to do as David did and give ourselves to God? Do we really trust Him?

We ask God to give us direction in our lives. I know I do daily, but do you see, in order for God to lead us all the way to where He desires for us to go we have to give up everything to Him, even the good things. Even the dreams and gifts and passions He has given us. I know it sounds crazy and it’s hard, but I honestly would rather entrust God with the dreams He has given me because I know He will take better care of them than I would.

Is it really that important to surrender all to God?

I don’t know what it is that may be hard for you to surrender. It’s different for everyone. It may be friendships, romantic relationships, the financial stability of a good job, talents and abilities that you rely on, or a maybe it is a dream of yours to get married, or to have children, or to own a business. Whatever it is, before we can receive from God we have to surrender these things to Him.

God is willing and desires to use us and take us as far as we are willing to go, but that’s just it, only as far as we are willing. We can say God I give you all of this, but that little thing over there, yeah I can’t give that up. And God’s response is, “That is awesome I will bless and use what you have given me, and use you in great ways, but I can only take you so far because that other thing you’re not willing to give to me, well, it is standing in the way.”

And it may even be a good thing. It may be the desire to be married and do ministry together with your spouse, which is a good thing, but God is asking that we give Him our desires, so that He can bless them and use them in awesome ways. Because when we give that desire to God we are saying God I trust that You will do with this dream whatever is best for me. Surrendering shows God our complete trust in Him. Not surrendering shows God that we don’t know if we trust that He will work everything out for good.

God’s heart breaks when we withhold from Him because He knows that there’s so much more He can give us in exchange.

God will only take us as far as we are willing to go. He doesn’t force Himself upon us. That is why He gave us freewill. He wanted our love for Him to be a choice, not something done out of obligation. Giving ourselves completely to God is a response to His generous, unrelenting, extravagant, compassionate, patient, unending love. So we can rest assured that if we entrust God with everything it will be given back to us with so, so, so much love, and in far better condition than if we were to keep it for ourselves.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” Psalm 143:10

until next time

When We Believe We’re Not Good Enough

We’ve all heard the phrase, “I’m my own worst critic.” Many of us have probably even said it. In the last few months I have begun to be a pretty bad critic of myself. I didn’t want to be that person who judged other people for their actions, so I resorted to judging myself and my own thoughts and choices. Now, my judgment of myself has not been a result of some huge thing I did or because I turned from God, but I have judged myself for not being a good enough, radical enough, on fire enough, Christian.

I know, it sounds stupid right? Yet, here I am realizing the way I have come to think of myself. Instead of seeing where I’m at right now as a season of growth and learning, I have begun to see it as a season that seems like I have put everything in reverse. I have begun to look at others and say to myself “That person, they’ve got it. They’re really doing something awesome for God. They’re life is so on fire. They just seem to always get it right. I wish I could be like that.” That last line right there is where I need to catch myself. As Roosevelt once said, “comparison is (indeed) the thief of joy.” Those words have definitely played out in my very walk with Christ.

I have allowed myself to compare my growth and walk with Christ to others’. I have allowed it to cloud my thinking, to make my view of myself lower. I set goals in my life, and when I fail I am hard on myself. I made a decision and followed through with it and then a month later I realize how stupid that decision was, and I think, ‘God why did you let me do that?’ How could I have been so naïve? I am so selfish. Will I ever get it right? I have become my own worst critic in these moments. I start to question my own ability to discern where God is and isn’t leading me.

As I’m even writing this now, tears are starting to fill my eyes. Why? Because I have lived with the lie that I’m not good enough. I have believed it. I have come to God ashamed that I still haven’t learned yet. I’m still making stupid decisions. I have believed that I’m not a good enough Christian. That I’m not someone who others can come to with their problems because I’m still working out mine. These lies made me begin to believe that God was angry with me.

But he isn’t. Instead all I hear him tell me is I LOVE YOU. I AM PROUD OF YOU.

He doesn’t place shame on me. He doesn’t say, “I can’t believe you Kaitlin. You still haven’t learned this yet? You’re running out of trys. If you haven’t gotten it by now, there’s no hope.”

No he doesn’t say that. Those are all lies from the enemy trying to convince us to give up. To keep us from running after God and to keep moving forward.

It won’t do me any good to beat myself up over my choices and for having to keep coming back to God saying I still haven’t learned how to ______________(fill in the blank with whatever you’re struggling with). God in all His mercy takes our hand and leads us back to the start and says, I am with you. Walk with me child.

“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:6-10

until next time

photo courtesy: http://albumarium.com/53949a1f7670732086e31900-solitude/53fe293e7670735c60580e00

Will He Ever Be Enough?

We all have those places where we like to go to think and clear our heads right? Well one of those places for me, well actually activities, is mowing the lawn because it’s loud enough that it tunes out the noise around me. I spend most of my time while I’m mowing the lawn to pray.

I know it sounds weird, but it works for me. Maybe you should try it.

Anyways, it was one of those days I had to mow the lawn and I was praying about my singleness asking God to give me patience and to enjoy where He has me now, instead of always longing for that ‘someday’ when I’ll meet that ‘someone’. I don’t always feel this way. I’ll go through seasons where I enjoy this time in my life where I get to be single, but then there are also times when my heart really longs to have someone to share life with. This desire and longing isn’t a bad thing. It is how God made us, but sometimes my focus can get lost a little too easily. That is usually when God steps in and has to refocus my attention.

As I was praying and mowing the lawn He told me something that I will never forget.

He said, “If I am not enough for you, if you cannot be content with Me alone, you will never be content with any man on this earth.”

That pierced right through my heart.

In my prayers I ask, “God bring me a man who loves you, and if you could please hurry that would be great.” Or, “God, I’ve already waited so long, when will it be my turn to fall in love.” I can easily justify these requests, since I am 22 and have never been in an actually dating relationship with someone. Just because it may be His plan for someone else to be dating or getting married right now, it doesn’t mean it is His plan for me right now. We get easily side tracked looking at other people’s lives, but we need keep our eyes on our own path and where God is taking us. My desire is to one day be married to a man of God and serve alongside him for the glory of God, but that is not what God has for me in this season of life.

In my head I trust God to bring someone in His perfect timing, but sometimes my heart doesn’t follow as easily.

What God spoke clearly and directly to, was my heart’s desire, my desire to be loved completely and unconditionally. That desire can only be satisfied through God. I am not saying that we are incapable of loving to great extents. We are just not capable of loving to the extent that God can and the extent that we truly need. God made us relational people, and from the beginning of time He saw that it was not good for man to be alone. He understands us more than we probably understand ourselves because He made us. He wired our brains. He is the one who created emotions and desires. And He is the only one who knows how to love us the way we need it.

If my heart is not satisfied enough in God—enough that, IF I had to spend the rest of my life single, I would be content because I already have all I need in God—then even if I got married tomorrow to the man God has for me I would never be satisfied.

I would never be satisfied because I would be placing unrealistic expectations on my husband. I would be expecting him to love me the way only God can. I would be looking to him to fill me and complete me, always to get let down because he is human and not God. I sure wouldn’t want my husband to be looking to me to love him the way God does, and so I cannot expect the same from him.

So the journey starts with allowing God to fill that hole in your heart. Allowing Him to come into your heart and do some remodeling on it. Allowing Him to restore you. Allowing Him to pursue you and show you what it means to love and be loved. Allowing Him to become more than enough. So that whether you are single or dating or married you will always be content because you know that you are complete because the God who made the universe loves you with everything he has.

I encourage you to read this quote over a few times, say it out loud about yourself, and meditate on the magnitude of God’s love for YOU. Think about the reality of what it means for God to love you MORE in a single MOMENT than ALL the lovers could in a LIFETIME.

god can love you more

until next time

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

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 big role in it.

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 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, 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

Forever Loved

In light of what day it is, thought I should write a little of my perspective on Valentine’s Day.

First off, for all you single people, yes you are single, but you are not alone in your singleness, so quit using the phrase “forever alone” because you are not the only one who is single on Valentine’s Day.  We all have friends who are single, and if you happen to not have any single friends, you need to find some other friends besides your parents.

Ok, back to what I actually want to say.  Valentine’s Day isn’t in itself a bad day.  I’m all about having a day to show people some extra love.  I just don’t like how it, in turn, makes so many people who don’t have a special someone feel.

So if you happen to be one of the millions of people who suffer from “Forever Alone” syndrome, especially on Valentine’s Day, I want to encourage you today.

I know this is stereotypical, and I promise I am not going to go on a rant about making Jesus your boyfriend.  However, I do want to remind you that Jesus is our first love.

I want you to know that God longs to ravish your heart and wrap you in his arms.  He longs to fight for you and rescue you.  He longs to give you life and hope and joy. 

God is Love

All throughout the Bible we find examples of God’s love for us:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”  1 John 3:16

We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” Ephesians 3:17-19

His love is perfect, everlasting, unconditional, passionate, gentle, and also jealous.

I want to focus on the last thing I mentioned there.  God is a jealous God, but it is not the kind of jealousy you and I feel.  His jealousy is a righteous jealousy.

It says in Exodus 20:3-6, “You shall have no other gods before Me.You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

At first glance this seems harsh, but God has a right to be jealous.  He is the most Supreme Being, the God who created the world and each one of us.  He has a right to be jealous when we choose others things over Him.  God says, do not make any idols or have any other gods above him, but I think that many times we place relationships on a pedestal.  We make finding “the love of our life” an idol.

So as you see, Valentine’s Day has good intentions, but we have turned it into a day to pursue love with another person, and place that above pursuing God.

Don’t get me wrong, loving people is what God has called us to, and I am not saying that everyone who is in a relationship is making that person an idol.  I have witnessed in many cases though, that people whether they are dating, engaged, or single; tend to put the pursuit of a relationship with someone above their pursuit of God.

We cannot fill the longing in our heart and desire for love with any relationship, only God can do that, and he promises to fill us up to all the fullness of Himself.  (Eph. 3:19, paraphrased)  Doesn’t that sound so much better?  He is jealous because he sees that we long to be filled with love, but we look for it in all the wrong places.

God simply longs for us to turn to him and let him fill us with his love.

So let’s stop saying “Forever Alone” and change it to “Forever Loved” because God has loved us since the beginning of time, and will continue to love us for all of eternity.  It says in 1 John 4:8, that “God is love”.  Who could ask for a better valentine than that?