Adulting Basics

{By Taylor Turner}
Life gets real – fast. High School: over. College: graduated.

Then the reality of life settles in. Initially you feel the weight and responsibility of being an adult; and soon thereafter your parents get really smart very fast – and I mean really smart almost overnight. Trust me on this. They seriously become the smartest people on the planet and your biggest resources and fans for quite practically everything (thanks, mom and dad).

Then the ‘adulting’ symptoms begin to appear. From cutting the lights out when you leave the room because the bill hits your bank account at the end of each month (its now a chronic habit of mine) to realizing that your bank account is not a bottomless pit of Benjamins.

As I get older, it is becomes even more clear that life is full of rewards and responsibilities. Money has a component of both. Money: one of the most powerful tools in the world, for good and bad. Everyone understands that you must use a hammer to put a nail in a board – not a screwdriver. When we know how to use a hammer we reap the rewards of getting that nail in the board. It’s the same with your finances: you can’t spend more than you earn – except our buddies in Washington, D.C. have “legally” monopolized that in the Department of Stupid. In short, we only reap the financial benefits of money when we take responsibility and use the right tools.

The first thing to do is write your financial goals down – on paper.

Trust me it helps. Take five to ten minutes and think about your goals for this year: want to save for a trip to the Bahamas for the weekend or a road trip to a state near you that you have never visited, start saving for the car you have always wanted, or it could be as simple as saving money for a rainy day. It can be any goal but make sure to write it down. It will help.

Your goals are written down – now for the easier part. Although this part takes consistency, it is easier because most people never make the time to figure out their goals in the first place. The next part is keeping track of your goals. Thankfully there is a multitude of free software tools available exactly for this. Since I am just a tad bit nerdy, I use excel; and although I love it, it is definitely not something that everyone will find helpful. Here are a couple programs that I have found over the past year which are user friendly: YNAB, HomeBudget, EveryDollar, or Mint.

Life is what you make it: you have to take it by the horns and get ‘er done.

By setting goals for yourself, you will already be far ahead of the pack (most people never think about this) and by following through with your goals you will be setting up yourself and you grandchildren to reap the rewards of you some time to lay out your goals. As one well-known gentleman says, “live like no one else right now so that later on you can live like no one else.”

How to Find Your Purpose In a Noisy World

{Guest Article by Gaby Triyono}

Who do you want to be one day? What do you want to do in life? What is your dream job? These are all questions that many of us have been asked since high school, and maybe even until now. But did you know that you don’t need to come up with your own dream job or choose someone else’s dream?

Did you know that you were actually made with a unique hidden purpose?

I lived my whole school life trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life. My elders wanted me to be a doctor, my parents wanted me to be a lawyer, and the list just went on. I went through college and took career test exams that were suppose to detect which careers would match me best.

All these efforts were done to find that perfect dream job, my purpose for life. At the end, I decided to choose business marketing only because it seemed like a safe major that couldn’t go wrong. But even after choosing my major, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Many would ask me what do you want to do in life?

I really didn’t know.

My answer to them would be, I want to own my own marketing company, or I want to be a marketing coordinator for Amazon, or I want to be a business consultant for Deloitte. My answer would continuously change based on the current job availabilities out there. I thought my purpose would be limited to the options I see in this world, or the job labels that were out there.

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally found my purpose in life. And not just any purpose, but a unique purpose with no job labels.

I found a purpose that I didn’t have to make up about because I was created for it.

You were created for a purpose that only you can fulfill, a purpose that God made you for. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I made you in your mother’s wound, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.”

God made everyone with a special purpose, a special work that can only be completed by you. Don’t neglect the dreams that God has placed in your heart, and if you have not found it yet, do not give up because you do have one.

So how do you find your special purpose?

First, by finding your unique gift from God. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

You have been given a special gift from the Holy Spirit to help minister to others and fulfill your assigned purpose from God. But before you can find your purpose, you must know your gift or talent from God. You can’t have dreams and aspirations without first knowing what you’re passionate about and what you’re gifted in. For instance, you can’t have dreams to be a famous chef until you have found your talent and passion in cooking.

You must go and find your passions from God. My God-given dream is to be a writer, speaker, and author will inspire others in growing their love and faith in God. Back in college, I didn’t have any dreams that were inspired by God.

I didn’t know what my purpose in life was because I hadn’t yet found my passion in God.

But after putting myself out there and trying different things, I finally found my gift and purpose from God. We will never know what we are good at or what we love until we try it. If you’re a good cook, you probably didn’t know it until you tried cooking. None of us were born knowing what our gifts and purposes are in life. But just because we are not aware of our gifts and purpose from God does not mean we do not have a God-given purpose in our lives.

God has special plans for all of you, so go out there and find your hidden purpose from God. Try different ministries, serve others, get involved in your community, and see where God will take you. You don’t have to make up a destiny for yourself because only God’s destiny for you will give you a life to its fullest. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future.” Your great purpose doesn’t come from you, it comes from God.

We will never live satisfied lives if we try to be someone who we were never created to be.

God has set you apart for a special purpose – will you find that special calling?

gaby triyono

 

Gaby Triyono is an ordinary girl who has a big heart for the Lord. My passion is to inspire others to walk in Christ. You can read more of her writing at her blog LivingRevelations.

 

My Way of Making 2016 the Happiest Year Yet

{By Ellery Sadler}

Have you heard of people picking a word for the year? Generosity. Focus. Contentment. Rest. It’s a way to set the tone for the year and refocus yourself when sometime about March you forget all your New Year’s resolutions.

I like the idea and I’ve done it for a couple years myself, but this year I couldn’t think of the right word. No word really stuck out to me. No Bible verse jumped off the pages. But as I looked back over 2015 and thought about what I’d learned through the myriad of experiences: making new friends, learning how to connect with high schoolers, serving with Young Life, running on little sleep and lots of school, letting go of the past, traveling – one thing stood out to me: I am blessed. You are blessed. I used to think of being blessed as outward expressions of God’s favor: success, happiness, safety, health, family. But being blessed goes beyond the things that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. We’re each blessed in different ways, and most of the time it isn’t in material success.

Blessed does not mean being happy. Blessed means being made holy.

Every experience, every breath is a blessing, a holy consecration of that moment of time we call life. Every moment can be counted a blessing if it is viewed in light of God’s desire to make us holy by giving us the holy experience of life.

Whether you’re panting after running a marathon or using an inhaler or slowly taking your last breath – it is a blessing. Because being human is an incredible gift. It is an unfathomable gift to be brought into being, to be created.

A lot has happened in the last year and looking ahead, I couldn’t pick one word that encapsulates what I think God is calling me to. But I had an epiphany yesterday. (Driving for seven hours in the car often leads to epiphanies, just fyi.) And I knew my word for the year would actually be a phrase.

It’s a G I F T.

This is the motto I want etched across every adventure, every heartache, every friendship. It’s a gift. It’s a gift to be love to someone else and be loved yourself. And it’s just as much a gift to feel heartache and disappointment and pain. Because there is no greater gift that the human experience. Yes, it’s messy but it is also unbelievably beautiful. And gifts are meant to be opened, enjoyed, and shared.

So open life. Fling open the doors of your heart and love with a reckless, crazy kind of abandon that makes people wonder who told you it was ok to invest in people like that. Stretch wide the corners of your mind and broaden your horizons. Read and learn and travel and educate yourself. Open your apartment or dorm or home and invite people in for a meal, a conversation, a chance to connect.

So enjoy this year, enjoy it to the fullest. I think there is often a misconception that enjoying something is selfish. Enjoying something is worship. It is an expression of gratitude to the giver. So enjoy this year because the One who is giving it to you is worthy of your worship. Enjoy random walks in the rain. Enjoy your little cousin’s silly jokes. Enjoy your classes. Enjoy your late nights with friends. Enjoy the smell of summer. There is no room for guilt in a heart that is grateful. Breathe in and enjoy what you’ve been given.

And share your blessings. People say blessings should be counted, and they should. But more than hoarded in a numbered list in your mind, they should be shared. So scatter blessings this year. If you’ve been blessed with a great sense of humor, tell your funny stories – this world needs a little more laughter and a little less stress. If you’ve been blessed with a car, give somebody a ride that doesn’t have one. If you’ve been blessed with enough room, let a friend crash on your couch. If you’ve been blessed with a wonderful family, invite your friends over and share it.

Gifts were never meant to be just received. Gifts are to be given away.

So that is my resolution for the year of 2016. It’s not something fancy. It’s not really something that can be checked off of my list of things to do. It’s just acknowledging what I’ve been learning: every single moment – whether happy or sad, whether ordinary or crazy – is a gift.

my goals for 2016

And that is the way I want to live in 2016.

The One Thing You Need to Remember Heading Into 2016

{By Lana Jackson}

“But as for me the nearness of God is my good; I have made the LORD God my refuge that I may tell of all your works.” –Psalm 73:28

Be encouraged. Jesus is near to you. He wants you to be near to him. This Christmas season is a reminder of how God became near to us, when Jesus Christ was born into our world. At that moment everything changed. The Son of God, became the Son of Man, so men could become sons of the Living God.

new year resolutions

God the Father, the Creator became Immanuel, God with us. God with you. And in doing so he gave a part of this creation (i.e. humans) the right to become his relation, to become related to him as his children—sons and daughters. As John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

What other part of the creation has that privilege?

Who else has that right to move from being a creation to a relation?

Does a tree have the right, does a lion or a bird? No. It’s just you, it’s just for you.

It is as if, Jesus left heaven and went camping on earth, and decided to pitch his tent right next to yours. His tent became your refuge—the safe place to go when the world outside raged around you. This is the love of God: he comes to where you are so that you can be where he is.

He pitched his tent next to yours so you could have access to him. God loves you, he loves you . . . You are the one he loves. He is near you, so very close to you. And his nearness is your good.

Don’t forget to remember.

The Inconvenient Truth About Pursuing God

{By Ellery Sadler}

Pursuing God goes beyond Bible study. It goes beyond service. It means facing the inconvenient truth that on your own, you aren’t good enough. And remembering that day in and day out. But even more than remembering you aren’t enough, to pursue God well, you have to remember that He is.

It is so easy to ease into apathy; so convenient to stay where we’re comfortable. The issue is, when we’re comfortable we feel like we’re in control. When we feel like we’ve got this thing called life figured out – we’ve got a great girlfriend or a job we love or good grades – we begin to feel like we don’t need God. I mean, hey, we’ve done pretty well on our own right?

Wrong.

Oswald Chamber’s, in his devotional My Utmost for His Highest, dares his readers to pray to be desperate for Jesus. I like a challenge, so I accepted his dare and began to pray that God would make me desperate for Him. I didn’t exactly realize what that would entail. Desperate means frantic, at your wits end, when you’ve tried everything and nothing works, when you have nothing left to lose. It’s that creeping feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’ve done your best but it isn’t enough. Being desperate for Jesus still means being desperate.

So I prayed. I didn’t feel anything change. My grades were still good, my freelance writing job was going well, I was making new friends. Hey, this whole desperately pursuing God thing wasn’t so bad after all. I kind of imagined giving Mr. Chambers a smug smile. But I love this about God: He never does what’s expected. I pictured some sort of instantaneous change in my soul when I prayed to be desperate.

But instead, it was a slow growing realization that I am not enough on my own.

I’m not superwoman. I can’t juggle twenty things without getting crabby and stressed. I don’t know how to always have joy. I haven’t mastered the art of finding peace. I don’t know how to love people like He does. Slowly, I realized that the things that I thought made me who I am, were not mine at all. They were Jesus in me. Joy? Without Jesus, forget it. Peace? Without Jesus, it’s not happening. Serving? Without Jesus, I want some applause for my ‘servant’s heart’. Courage? Even with Jesus, that’s a struggle. I began to see that I am not enough. I can never be the best version of myself, unless I am actively, desperately pursuing God. Without God, I am nothing.

Pursuing God is scary. Not because God is scary – He is beyond amazing – but because I am. Because human nature is. I was beginning to see that I had become so comfortable in my relationship with Jesus, that it wasn’t really a relationship at all. It was kind of just co-existence. And God deserves more than that.

He deserves our entire being, our entire heart, our whole desperate, messy, gloriously insufficient existence.

To pursue God well, you have to admit you need Him. You need Him every single day, not just for the big moments, not just when there is a crisis, not just when that promotion comes up or that final exam is due, but in every nitty-gritty, detail of every ordinary day. It also requires faithfulness.

Pursue means to shadow, to chase, to trail, to hunt, to practice.

A shadow never leaves its object and we are to shadow the Father. A hunting dog doesn’t stop trailing until it finds its prey. A musician doesn’t stop practicing until they have mastered the piece. This is how we are to pursue the heart of God.

Pursuing God means continually investing in your relationship with Him. It means understanding the deadly power of apathy and fighting against it. It means seeing God in everything, look for Him constantly because He never disappoints.

Most of all, pursuing God is understanding that He is more than enough.

 

What To Do When Your Friends Move Away

{Guest Post by Mark Casper}

 Like most people, I hate goodbyes.

Unfortunately, this past summer my wife and I had to say goodbye to several of our closest friends, all of whom were moving to other cities for new jobs and opportunities. It was particularly bittersweet for us, since our community was just beginning to come together in a really wonderful way.

What we experienced is not uncommon. Studies have shown that a person living in the U.S. will move close to 12 times in his/her lifetime. Especially for those of us who live in large, transient cities, losing friends is inevitable. So how do we deal with this issue, practically and biblically?

Feel the Freedom to Mourn and Lament

First off, it’s a deeply sad and peculiar thing when your community starts to move away. On one hand it’s expected (even my wife and I don’t see ourselves living in our current city long-term), but on the other hand it can catch you off guard.

When I first heard the news of our friends’ move I felt hurt, confused, and angry–both with our friends and with God. I felt as if an unspoken contract had been breached.

What? You’re leaving? But how could you?

God, why are you taking these friends away from me?

Laments and frustrations such as these course through the pages of the Bible. Just ask Job (Job 1:20-22) or the Psalmist (Psalm 13:1-2). It’s ok to mourn your friends leaving. It’s ok to be frustrated with God about it. It’s just not ok or healthy to stay there.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

As the Psalmist does in Psalm 13, we must temper our laments (“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”) with reminders of God’s goodness and faithfulness (“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”). We need preach to ourselves the truth of God’s sovereignty, mercy, and gospel of grace.

When my wife and I first moved to our current city, we only knew one person. Over time, God provided us with a wonderfully rich community. It was a pure gift from him. He did it once–do we not believe he can do it again?

Trust the Father’s Pruning

Let’s be honest: if we were writing our own stories, most of us would not include isolation, loneliness, or suffering (aka the part where our close friends move away). But Jesus tells us that the Father prunes those he loves, in order to make them more fruitful (John 15:1-2).

Pruning is uncomfortable. Pruning is painful. No branch would ever volunteer to be pruned. But because of the gospel, we can trust that even in the midst of difficult situations our Father is always doing something for our good and his glory. After all, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8: 32).

Move Towards Community

After our friends moved away, I was tempted to wallow in an isolated state of self-pity. Every day I didn’t get an invitation from a friend to hang out took me deeper into the hole.

My mentor in college had a saying that has stuck with me:

“Community will never come find you. You must go find it.”

Whenever our friends move away, we must not wait for others to take their place–for they will never come. Instead, we must continually seek out and cultivate new relationships within our churches, trusting that over time a new community will form.

Hope in the Gospel

There’s a great passage from Sheldon Vanauken’s poignant memoir A Severe Mercy. In it the author finds himself in a situation that feels all too familiar for some of us: he and his wife moved to a new city for grad school, formed an unbelievably rich community of artists and intellectuals, (including a deep friendship with C.S. Lewis), and then had to move away for a job opportunity.

Before he leaves, Vanauken and Lewis have lunch at their usual spot one final time. There the great professor and writer, who played an instrumental role in Sheldon’s conversion to Christianity, makes an astounding statement. Vanauken remembers it this way:

“Lewis said that he hoped Davy and I would come back to England soon, for we mustn’t get out of touch.

‘At all events,’ he said with a cheerful grin, ‘we’ll certainly meet again, here–or there.’

Then it was time to go, and we drained our mugs. When we emerged onto the busy high with the traffic streaming past, we shook hands, and he said ‘I shan’t say goodbye. We will meet again.’

Then he plunged into the traffic. I stood there watching him. When he reached the payment on the other side, he turned around as though he knew somehow that I would still be standing there in front of the Eastgate. Then he raised his voice in a great roar that easily overcame the noise of the cars and buses. Heads turned and at least one car swerved.

‘Besides,’ he bellowed with a great grin, ‘Christians NEVER say goodbye!’”

The gospel gives us hope that we will not only be reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 8:11), we’ll also be united with God himself (Rev. 21:1-4). Therefore, let us weep when our friends leave, for on this side of heaven, all good things must come to an end. But let us not say goodbye, for a day is coming when we will all sit down at the table of our King together.

 

mark casper

 

Mark Casper is a writer and graphic designer who lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife. Find him online at markrobertcasper.com and on Twitter here.

 

What to Do When God Leads You Through the Wilderness

{By Lindsay Chilton}

When we have seasons of not knowing where God is leading us we learn to just survive. But I think we’re supposed to also live in the unknown, when He has us there.

Wilderness looks different for many people.

For Moses, it was exile in the desert for 40 years. For Joseph, it was slavery and imprisonment in Egypt. For John, it was literally going into the desert wilderness and surviving on locusts. Although these men had different kinds of wilderness they all had similarities.

First, the wilderness is uncomfortable. No one looks at the middle of the desert and thinks “yeah, this is where I want to build my vacation home”. Moses had gone from living in an Egyptian palace to surviving with the desert nomad people. All of the luxuries that he was used to had been stripped away from him and he had to learn to survive as a shepard. Joseph had been the youngest child of Jacob. His father presented him with a beautiful coat, he was Jacob’s favorite, and he did not have to work the fields with his brothers. This all was taken away when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. He worked hard, had an evil woman tell lies about him, and ended up unjustly imprisoned in Egypt.

Second, God had His hand on all of it. He was molding all of these men for a greater purpose that He had already planned. Moses had to learn to be a leader, Joseph had to be humbled, John was being prepared to speak of the coming Messiah. These men also trusted The Lord throughout all of this.

When you’re in the middle of the wilderness you can’t see what God is doing with you.

when God leads you through the wilderness

In fact, a lot of the time you might find yourself questioning God and what He’s doing with you.

Know that He’s not done with you yet. In fact, the opposite is happening because He’s molding you to become the person that He can use. He uses the wilderness to bring us closer to Him. When we’re wandering around in the desert with what seems like no direction or we feel stuck, we have a tendency to realize just how much we need to rely on God.

The wilderness isn’t comfortable and we’re not supposed to be content with staying there. Many times we feel restless and want God to move us on so that we can feel fulfilled or go and see new surroundings. This is not how He works. He has a very specific plan for every single person, but He doesn’t just throw us all out to go complete something for Him with no preparation.

He trains us and our hearts for our path.

People also tend to assume that the wilderness time isn’t part of the plan and is a spiritual detour when, in fact, it’s one of the key parts to serving The Lord effectively. I’ve been guilty of this before, definitely. I’ve assumed that little seasons of wilderness or waiting were somehow a “mistake” or a punishment when, in reality, they were preparing me for something that I could not have done without those seasons of wilderness and waiting.

Another key attribute of the wilderness is the blindness. It’s hard to see how The Lord is going to use some of our circumstances and we try to make sense of everything that He’s doing. But, here’s the thing, He doesn’t expect us to understand all of His ways or the ways that He’s dealing with you and your heart. This is the hardest thing to remember because a lot of the time I expect Him to explain Himself to me. But He doesn’t have to and I have to be content with that knowledge and know that He will work it all together for His good. This fact isn’t  easy to cope with and I don’t always like it (in fact, I rarely like it). But, praise the Lord, I’m not in control and He knows exactly what He’s preparing our hearts for. And it’ll be better than we could have ever imagined.

So, I’m going to leave y’all with this. When you’re in the wilderness and you don’t know where you’re going and the path is hazy, embrace the wilderness. Trust that our Lord is molding us for a purpose that He has in store for us even though we cannot understand it in the middle of the desert.

 

Stop Worrying So Much About Making a Big Impact

{By Ellery Sadler via Relevant Magazine}

“She is so successful.” “He is on a path and going somewhere.” “Isn’t it amazing how she’s so purposeful and productive?”

People talk about intentional living like it is the epitome of Christianity, like success in the eyes of our peers is the goal. “Don’t waste time.” “Get busy.” “Do good.”

But Jesus cares so much more about our heart for Him than our work for Him. True that faith without works is dead, but works without faith are useless. And where does faith come from? How does it grow?

In the soil of empty hours, as much as in busy ones. Faith grows with time.

Slowing Down

In a culture obsessed with wasting time as quickly as possible, it’s a foreign idea for us to waste time slowly and purposefully. But I think purposefully wasted time isn’t actually wasted. Our culture has become a strange juxtaposition of hundreds of minutes wasted browsing Facebook and no minutes wasted letting our thoughts wander.

[SEE MORE at RELEVANT MAGAZINE]

Why Tables are Sacred to Christians

{By Alexandra Presley}

“May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old broad jokes to fling

at the stars and tell them we are men.”

– Robert Farrar Capon

Tables. They are sacred places.

Your table is a sacred place. Maybe it is your family’s table, the one you have come to for your entire life: old, sprawling, and wooden, gouged with years of loving and always crowded around with clamor. Maybe it is your own little table: brand new, and quiet, and tentative, because there are still only two mouths to do all the talking and eating above it. Maybe you don’t have enough time and your table isn’t so much for eating as it is a place for setting things down as you hurry in and out the front door.

Every table will either be neglected or beautiful depending on what you decide to do with it.

But, neglected or beautiful, it is still sacred. Remember that as you scoot in all the chairs, as you fold each napkin and put a fork at every place. Make habits and make rituals. No matter how simple, no matter how brief, no matter how loud or wild or messy, a meal at a happy table is sacred and more than sacred: it is beautiful.

Holy things happen at the table.

why christians should eat together

At the table, there are cups flowing over with mercies while enemies watch, dismayed. There is poured-out perfume on perfect feet, the scent heavy and sober in everyone’s nose. There is a rejected cripple who is made a son and given a place. There are broken halves of bread and a cup passed from hand to shaking hand. Jesus ate at tables, so many sinners’ tables – imperfect and wonderful. They called Him, begged Him, to come and eat with them, because they knew that a meal is a beautiful gift. He threw tables over, too.

And He knelt beside them while washing dirty feet. There are tables that are full of fatness, and tables that are empty and lean. Tables are where speeches are made and prayers are said, and where milk often gets spilled. A table is one of those places where a betrayal is most shocking, because you can’t help but trust the people you eat with. The table is where affection grows up into love, as food is made and meals are shared.

To sit and eat with people, brushing elbows and passing butter, is to make communion

The table is where we get filled up. This is definitely not so that we can quickly eat and quickly forget. The table is meant to be marvelous enough to pull us back, again and again, wanting more. A man once wisely said that “we were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.”

The table is a place where we go because deep down our hearts still long, more than anything else, to taste goodness. And anyone who comes and truly tastes goodness will always hunger for more. And people with that kind of hunger can learn to make beautiful things.

The table is home. Songwriter, Josh Garrels, recently released a beautiful album about coming home, and one of his songs is called “At the Table”. In profoundly simple lyrics, he tells the glory of that place: “There will always, always be/ A place for you at my table/ Return to me.”

A place at a table means belonging. It means being wanted.

It means there is some part of life missing when you are not there. It means that, for things to be right, the chair must be filled and the plate must be set. The table is where they seat the prodigal and where he suddenly knows without a doubt that he has truly come home.

But, as nice as it sounds, it is actually not easy to sit down at a table with the people you love. It’s much easier to hurry your separate ways and gulp down your separate meals. The table takes time. It takes effort. It takes you.

The table is where we have to open up our clenched, sweaty fists, where we’re hoarding away that little lump of bitterness. And we have to wash our hands before we sit down.

Coming to the table means we must first forgive completely, so that we can look them all right in the eyes without any shame. Coming to the table means we have to stop everything else and be still, and that might be the hardest part of it all. Sitting still makes you incredibly vulnerable. The table makes you incredibly vulnerable. Sacred places have a way of doing that. But vulnerability is not a bad thing, so don’t be afraid to sit down. Come and eat. Laugh out loud and make your table good.

Make it holy. Make it great. And know, with joy, that it is strength to sit still there.

The Art of Seeing What Isn’t There

{By Austin Griesinger}

My grandfather is an interesting man. He was a millionaire before he turned 30.

the art of seeing what isn't there

I’ve been working for him for the last 6 months. He’s spent his life doing just a little bit of everything. Everything from working for his father’s roofing company when he was very young to owning his own used-furniture store (twice). He’s run a realtor firm and now owns a hotel. We just began a venture to start a tourism program in Gonzales Texas where he is also the Chair of the Republican Party. So, yeah. He’s done some stuff.

In the last 6 months I’ve tried to glean as much knowledge and information from him as I can. Throughout his life he has made and lost several fortunes.

While I love learning lessons in business from him, that hasn’t been the most impactful thing he has taught me. Learning how to make money, how to make allies politically, and how to make a name in a small town are just a few of the great things he’s taught me. That said, the one thing that really sticks out is a principal that I began to take in subconsciously that he later affirmed for me.

One industry my Grandpa is currently in is that of “real estate.” I put that in quotes because what we are actually doing is not what most people think of when they hear the words “real estate.” He has owned different warehouses and other various types of properties for many years and is constantly finding ways to make a profit off them. Either by remodeling and then selling them, renting them out “as-is”, or just letting them sit until the property value goes up.

One such project is a house that a friend of his sold to him. We are in the process of remodeling and then selling the house at a nice profit (hopefully. Fingers crossed. Pray for me.) It’s during the early stages of this process that he has taught me this valuable lesson.

The lesson of not just seeing what something is, but seeing what it can be.

The fact is the majority of people only see what is. They see their surroundings in black and white or in 2 dimensions.

Learning to “see what it can be” comes naturally to some but for most of us it has to be learned.

When he taught me this principal of seeing what can be instead of just what is, he was teaching me about old houses and how to buy cheap and sell high. While that’s a fantastic lesson to learn it’s not the ultimate lesson to be learned.

Being able to apply this principal to others is the most valuable lesson.

When it comes to other people there are two popular trains of thought.
1) You make judgements about people.
2) You don’t make judgements about people.

This is a tricky subject. Making a judgement about someone isn’t wrong! The actions we take after making those judgment are what may be wrong, even if its just in our thoughts. Every second of everyday you are making judgments about little things like how good a restaurant is or how smart a cashier is. We do it all the time subconsciously. What really matters is what we do with those judgments.

So if you don’t buy into the second train of thought which is, “all judging is wrong,” then you’re left with the second option which is making judgements about people and things. The secret is to take that first option and add on this principal of not just seeing the as-is but the can-be. On of  the greatest displays of love is to help someone become the person they dream of being. To take them from their “as-is” and push them to their “can-be” and to eventually help them see it as a “will-be.”

Society will tell you that you simply have to just accept people where they are. Don’t try to change anyone, or you’re intolerant.

As Christians its our job to spread the good news, and sometimes that good news involves breaking the bad news to people who are in sin. We have the responsibility of seeing others who are in their “as-is” and helping them towards their “can-be.” We also have to realize that the only way to make it to the end of that road is with the help of the “I Am.”

When Living a Saved Life Isn’t Safe

{By Yolanda Jackson}

As summertime settles in, I’ve been praying for many of my friends, including my sister, who are about to head out on foreign mission trips this summer. In my prayers for them I always ask that God would keep them safe so they can carry out his work in the country they are serving.

No sooner did I finish one prayer where God convicted me that safety is not always His plan for our lives.

safety and the christian life

The conviction should not have been so shocking for me, but it was. I want to share what God put on my heart about this particular conviction. I hope that it will encourage any of you InsideOut readers that are also heading out on mission for the Lord this summer.

When I was probably 7 or 8 years old I received my first Bible, it was one of those leather-bound Precious Moments Bibles. As of today, the binding is hanging by a couple feeble threads that I’m tempted to snip off so I can superglue the whole thing back together. Anyway, when I received it the first scripture I memorized was Psalm 91. Most Christians know that Psalm 91 is an often quoted Psalm about safety and the Lord’s protection; it is often referred to as the soldier’s prayer for those fellow members of the faith who are also in the armed forces.

As I memorized this Psalm I mistakenly believed that God would always keep me safe from the “bad things” in life.

As Psalm 91:9-10 says: “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you.” And that is emphatically true, I believe that with my whole heart but I think I misunderstood this scripture to mean that nothing bad will ever happen to me.  This is not what the Psalmist means, what he means is that when we encounter danger (because we will encounter danger)  we can be certain of God’s presence whether to comfort us or to rescue us because we have made the presence of God our safe place, our refuge. There literally is no evil, no danger that can occur or “befall us” that the sovereign presence of God does not permeate.

As we practice the presence of God through spiritual disciplines like mediating on scripture, praying, and praising God in worship, we enter into the “dwelling place” of God.

He becomes our immediate safe place in times of trouble.

But I know that in my life, as well as in the lives of many faithful people in Scripture (e.g. Jesus, Paul, Esther, Job, Naomi, etc) that sometimes God allows us to encounter great tragedy and danger for purposes that we have yet to understand. This made me think that perhaps safety is a benefit of being in the presence of God, but not the destination for the people of God as we live in the world. One of my favorite passages of scripture, affectionately referred to as the Hall of Faith affirms this by saying:

“. . . and others were tortured . . . others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground, men of whom the world was not worthy.”

–Hebrews 11:35-38

Men of whom the world was not worthy . . .

This was the conviction I was given during my prayer for my friends going out on mission, it came through the above Hebrews passage.  I began to realize that I did not fully accept that the Christian life isn’t always going to be safe. God doesn’t promise me safety. God promises me deliverance and honor (Psalm 91:15). And most of all he promises me his presence. God kept Psalm 91 in the canon of Scripture because he knew we needed reassurance of his presence even in times when we’d have to encounter danger and endure.

This should be of great encouragement for us 21st century believers who live a world that has literally escaped from reason. A world where the threat of ISIS beheadings, the devastation of racial prejudice, the collapse of world economies, injustice in our justice systems, and the advanced schemes of satan that threaten foreign mission fields are all actual realities of our day.

Regardless, Psalm 91 assures us that our protection is found in Christ alone—in the truth of what Jesus has already done to reconcile us to himself on the cross.

Therefore, my goal as a Christian is not to lead a safe life.

Our goal as God’s people goal is not to protect ourselves from the dangers of the mission field, by packing ourselves tightly into a church building. Our goal is not to hide from using our spiritual gifts as we sit in our pews Sunday after Sunday, taking more notes. Our goal is not to get caught up making a living in the world instead of making a difference for the Kingdom. Our goal is not to keep our children so comfortable and protected that they don’t understand how to encounter a world that desperately needs to see the light of Christ in their hearts and minds.

And our goal is definitely not to reach the gates of Heaven safely and have Jesus say to us: what did you do with the one talent I gave you, and we respond “Oh that thing, I buried it—you know to keep it safe” (Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30).

No.

We are Easter people. We are the people of God. The idea of a personal, monotheistic God— the God who is there and has made Himself known is entrusted to Christians. It is expected of us to have great expectations and get our hands dirty protecting and furthering the interests of God and His people. After all, our God is great, it’s His wisdom that set the universe in motion, His hands that made human life, and it’s His love that’s keeping the stars apart!

Therefore, my purpose as a daughter of the King, our purpose as the elect of God is not to live safe lives but to live  . . . saved lives; lives that demonstrate the mystery of how a perfect Man, who being in very nature God, could shed His own precious blood to buy us back from slavery to sin and death.

Do not misunderstand me, it is not easy for me to say these things.

I want to be safe and I want you to be safe too, because living a saved life is sometimes risky, undignified, and dangerous.

But the fact is there’s something here that’s bigger than my life, bigger than your life—that’s cause of Christ. And you and I are called to know and to honor God and to make disciples of all nations. We are called to preach. To exhibit by our conduct a model of what we hold to be true and to somehow get out into the medium of human language the truth about God. To do this, we’ve got to be willing to do hard things and put ourselves out on that proverbial limb sometimes, requiring the necessity of divine intervention. For us to do less than that is to forsake our calling.  For us to do less than that is to pretend that The Great Commission will not also require great risks.

 “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure (or shall we say danger) … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

God help us.

God help me and help my friends going into the mission field not to concern ourselves with whether peril or security lies ahead. Help us Lord to create with our lives only something which can be held to highest standard of Jesus Christ and to make His supreme worth the centerpiece of everything we create, whether safety or danger lies ahead. 

“Yes, LORD walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; for your name and your fame (not our comfort and safety) are the desire of our hearts.”

–Isaiah 26:8

The Art of Authentic Prayer

By Ellery Sadler Via Relevant Magazine

relevant magazine ellery sadler authentic prayer

Prayer is a strange and wonderful thing. It takes practice, and I’m still learning how it works—and I imagine it will be a life-long lesson.

I’ve been keeping a daily prayer journal for a year and five months now, and I’ve learned a lot about prayer by doing that. I’ve also learn a lot about myself.

Here are four things I’ve found that commonly sidetrack us from an effective, authentic prayer life.

[SEE MORE at Relevant Magazine …] 

9 Invaluable Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Life

{By Ellery Sadler}

Growing up with a fantastic dad changes your life. It changes the trajectory of your future. It’s almost Father’s Day, and in honor of my favorite man in the world, here are 9 of the lessons he’s taught me that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

the most important things my dad taught me

1. Attitude is Everything

One of the first pieces of advice I remember my dad giving me was, “If you have to clean, dance with the vacuum.” At the time, I just thought I had a super cool dad who could dance with cleaning tools, but now I realize his message was not so much about breaking out the dance moves as it was about attitude. Attitude changes everything. If you approach even menial or tedious tasks with an attitude of thankfulness, you can turn cleaning the house into a dance party. (It happens frequently at our house.)

2. Don’t Ever Try to Be Noticed for Your Generosity

My dad is one of the most giving people I’ve ever met, but he never talks about it. He has given so much away, and when people have tried to get his picture in the paper or his name on their donor list, he always refuses. Why? Because he believes that generosity doesn’t need recognition.

You know. God knows. That’s enough.

3. Climb Out of the Box. And Stay Out.

Don’t we all just love the box? I know I do. Comfort zones are so lovely and, well, comfortable. But my dad has been blowing comfort zones and stereotypes and boxes and preconceived notions out of the water for as long as I can remember. The discussions at our dinner table are sometimes shockingly deep or strangely counter-cultural or hilarious. Just plain hilarious. But that’s the way my dad thinks. He lives life from a different angle.

4. Your Mind is Your Money Maker

My dad has the soul of a visionary. He is an entrepreneur. A business builder. A mover and shaker. He’s always taught me and my sisters that our minds are our greatest asset. Don’t count on other people to figure out your life or give you the right job. Always, always do everything with excellence. Set yourself apart by doing more than just your part. Use your brain. And make your brain make money for you. He always says that you want a job that uses your mind as your skill, because your mind can always learn and grow and (in the immortal words of Taylor Swift) it never goes out of style.

5. Adventures Come To Those Who Make Them

My dad is the king of making adventures. That could mean making a raft out of tree trunks when we were little (where did those spare tree trunks come from anyway?) or riding semi-wild horses through the mountains of Colorado (which could be part of the reason I don’t love horses) or ‘purposefully’ getting lost in a maze of Venetian alleys (why do some people hang little witches over their doors?). Don’t wait for adventure to come to you, go out and find it. Or make it happen right where you are.   

6. Money Is Meant to Be Spent – Don’t Hold Onto it Too Tightly

While as I child, I did (and maybe occasionally still do) use this as an excuse for the money burning a hole in my pocket, the principle is very true. Anything you hold onto too tightly will own you, be it money or career or status or popularity. Money has a funny way of changing people, of controlling them. So never hold onto it too tightly. Keep it in the flow. Keep it moving. It is meant to be invested and given away and spent, not hoarded.

7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Thinking

Our world is so completely drowned in noise and inundated with nice, easy to understand sound bites of information, we forget to think for ourselves. One of the most valuable lessons my dad has taught me is to use my brain. Like, actually use it. Process information. Analyze details. Look at the big picture. Think through things for yourself.

For some, this comes easy. Some people are just better at thinking, I guess. Once the TV is off and the questions are asked, for some people, it can be hard to actually think. But your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. So practice. Practice thinking.

8. A Man Needs to Be A Man

There is something special about having a dad that can fix literally anything, drive a boat like a boss, look fabulous in seersucker, build businesses from his brain, and be the kind of man you can both respect and adore. He’s shown me what a real man is by example. My dad has always made it clear that a man doesn’t have to fit a certain set of rules or have a certain amount of money in the bank to be a man – he just needs to be a real man. And what does that mean? It doesn’t have to do with looking like Captain America (although that is nice) or having a high power job or checking the right boxes.

My dad has taught me that a real man is a leader. He takes responsibility. He is the first one to show up and the last one to leave. He follows through. He is upfront and honest. He doesn’t back away from a challenge and if he gets into a mess, he handles it with integrity. He thinks of others first. He finds the humor in life and realizes life is about so much more than just him. He isn’t afraid to be himself. Most of all, he loves God and he loves others. That is a real man.

9. Go Big or Go Home

If there is one wonderful lesson I’ve learned growing up it is go big or go home. My dad has showed my sisters and me that it is good to dream big, and then turn those dreams into a reality. Want to start a business and become a millionaire? Go for it. Want to find a way to travel the world? Do it. Want to be president? Work for it. Want to change the world? You can.

Big ideas are only as good as the action you take to make them true.

So don’t be afraid to dream bigger than most people even think. As Leo Burnett said, “When you reach for the stars, and you may not quite get one, but you won’t get a handful of mud either.”

Also, laughter is good – very good. Never lose your sense of humor.

 

What has your dad taught you? Comment below!

 

 

 

The Big Reason Why Your Life Needs a Little Absurdity

{By Alexandra Presley}

“We will not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time.”

– T.S. Eliot

 

All of the best things in life are absurd.

It is absurd that we are born, that we live, that we die. We are very absurd to love, tremendously absurd to marry. Beauty is absurd, and so is goodness, and so is truth. It is absurdity to have babies and absurdity to love them and absurdity to watch them grow up. It is absurd that our hearts can be so empty of hope that they break or so full of laughter that we dance. It is absurd that God died, most absurd of all that He is alive again.

Life is absurd because we can’t explain any of it away. We are hilarious characters in a preposterous story about all the Goodness defeating all the Evil.

Our Author has quite the sense of humor and sometimes we don’t know how to handle that. It’s not entirely our fault, either, because the world would like nothing better than to make us all into cold-hearted cynics. Every sorrow, every pain, makes us a bit older inside and eats away at a bit more of our hope. It’s hard to look at life with a sense of wonder when our eyes are tired and our hearts are chilled. But don’t scoff.

Fairytales are more than true and everything will, in fact, end happily ever after.

why life is a mystery

Children are better able to handle mysteries. But we all get older. And too much focus on being terribly grown up and terribly smart gets us terribly lost. When we are grown up, we look for the concrete, the clear, the sure, and we discover, in bewilderment, that we cannot rationalize irrational things. We forget that life is absurd and that absurdity is mysterious, and that irrational things don’t make sense. Children are wise. They laugh rather than rationalize; they believe rather than explain.

why are fairytales so good

You will never ever rationalize the fact that He loved Jacob and hated Esau. You will never rationalize a dark that always turns into dawn or a world that will be good again. Our God chops down the forest, but He never leaves it dead. He breaks the stony hearts, but He binds up the hurting ones. He casts out the lofty pretenders, but He picks the wretched harlot up in His arms and makes her beautiful again.

In the midst of a large, wicked, noisy world, the tiniest baby life can hold inside of it a wonderfully gigantic piece of God’s kingdom. That is absurdity.

Our King hides Himself from us. There are some things so enormous that we cannot bear to know them yet, and so He puts us in a sheltered place and He comes by with His back toward us. But this turning away only shows how great His love really is. It’s great enough to protect us from Himself, from knowing too much. In the beginning, when the man and his wife lived in the perfect garden, their hearts were children’s hearts. They worked and played and loved. They were not ashamed to be naked. But too soon they were asked the most dangerous question in all of history: “Did God really say..?” And then as they scoffed at God and ate the fruit, they suddenly knew too much and their hearts grew heavy with sin. Innocence hid her face and was gone.

We have looked on and lived on in such darkness that now the pure light hurts our guilty eyes. But it is a holy pain. Stare straight into it and keep your eyes wide open. Don’t cower. Don’t wallow in your shame. You can’t be afraid to accept scandalous grace. You can’t be afraid that you will get too much or that you will not deserve it. You can’t rationalize. Instead hold out your hands and hold onto the things you’re given. Be brave enough to let Christ see your sin. Be brave enough to let Him put a new robe on your burdened shoulders and to let Him wash off your filthy feet. Be brave enough to not understand and to be joyful in your ignorance. Marvel and marvel again that He calls you His Beloved. That is absurdity.

We need to be strong enough to see the mysterious paradox of everything and to laugh our heads off.

For now, there is bewilderment and sin. But all will be made well. There will come a day when fat baby hands will drag serpents out of their holes. A day when we will be able to stand strong and happy and fearless with His face toward us. And the brilliance of His light will still hurt our eyes, but we will never want to look away. And we will realize that all we have ever searched for was there all along.

And when we see Him face to face we will suddenly understand everything for the very first time.

How to Decline a Relationship Graciously

{By Samantha Roose}

Dear Friend,

I heard you are encountering a difficult situation and I wanted to share some rare advice.  Please read the following with grace and understanding, realizing that these are situations and thoughts I have stumbled upon.  I am in no way an authority on the following subject. It is merely my hope to present what I have found as I have sought the Lord. So, take what you can and leave the rest. I’m under the strong opinion that guys and girls can in fact be ‘just friends’.

However, what should you do when you learn that one of the guys whose friendship you greatly enjoy as ‘just a friend’ is actually madly in love with you?!

how to decline love graciously

It’s not a situation any of us look forward to or one that gets easier the more you walk through it.  However, it is an opportunity to glorify God and practice selflessness. In fact it is one of the most selfless situations I have ever encountered.

Here are some key points to remember:

1. Fix your focus.

Look ahead. Don’t avoid. Walk faithfully. 

I once heard a story about driving a race car.  A young man received the opportunity of a lifetime to drive a race car on a racetrack.  Coming around the first turn at break neck speed he turned the steering wheel but his eyes were riveted to the wall of the track speeding toward him.  Suddenly, his driving coach turned the wheel and shouted, “Look where you want to go!”  The car corrected itself. They were approaching the second turn. This time he turned the wheel and fixed his eyes far beyond the sharp turn. No near-death encounter this time.

Moral of the story: look where you want to go. Focus is everything.

When I want my dancers to leap higher I tell them to look up.  It’s simple and it works every time.  As I have walked through graciously declining attention I focus on two things: 1) how can I glorify God most; 2) how can I serve the young man best.  If your goal is to bring God glory and point the young man in your life to Christ that’s what you need to focus on.  Even if those things are your goal, but you’re focusing on not causing him pain you’ll cause pain anyway just like the “racecar” driver the first time around.  His goal was to get around the turn, but he was focused on not running into the wall.  Don’t look at the problem, or even attempt to avoid the problem.  Fix your focus on where you want to go.

2. Communicate clearly.

Don’t delay. Don’t sugar coat it. Be honest. 

As women we innately want to lessen the impact or significance of any pain we might inflict.  So, when faced with a difficult discussion or sticky situation we sometimes procrastinate, hoping that the attraction will fade away.  Other times we beat around the bush and hint at our feelings in order to let them down gently. However, men are programed differently than women and grasp onto any shred of hope we leave.  A good friend of mine once told me of a conversation with her brother.  She mentioned that if “blank” guy was ever to get in a relationship then she would know he was not her guy.  Her brother looked at her and said, “What do you mean?  There’s definitely still a chance.  Nothing is final until they are engaged and even then there is still a little bit of hope.”

My friend and I laughed over this story, but through it I realized when we do not communicate clearly with the young men in our lives we are not serving them or saving them from pain.  Instead, we are serving ourselves.  Clear communication is the most selfless choice we can make.  Honest and prompt communication although difficult is one of the best ways we can respect and honor the men in our lives.

3. Intentionally Affirm.

Be respectful. Don’t degrade. Speak truth.

Regardless of the situation gentlemen are children of God as such they deserve respect.  Graciously declining love does not include stepping on the men in our lives, putting them down, or shredding their masculinity.  If anything it is an opportunity to point them toward Christ. Do NOT take this as an opportunity to paint a picture of all the inadequacies you see in him.  Instead point out the strengths in your admirer. Essentially you are saying, “I do not want to be ‘more than friends’ with you, however you are good guy whom I respect and believe will do great things.”

Being respectful and encouraging with your communication is selfless. When you are admired “against your will” it’s tempting to tell them all the reasons why they aren’t who you want as “more than a friend.”  Guys lay a lot on the line when admiring a lady.  Your goal is to communicate that you are turning down their attention/affection, not them as a person.  Setting aside your frustration and acknowledging the young man as a child of God is selfless and brings God glory.

Finally, trust God.  Trust God with his heart.  Trust God with your heart. 

Trust God with you future.  And trust God with all the heart involved.  If you are being obedient and seeking God’s will and glory above all He will do exceedingly, abundantly, above all you can ask or imagine.  He is a faithful God who does work all things together for His children.

Simply,

Sisi

What are your thoughts? Have you ever experienced a friend wanting to be more than friends? Comment below! 

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