That Reminds Me

Do you ever hear a song and feel like it was written specifically for you? Or played at the perfect moment, just when you desperately needed to hear it? That happens to me quite often.

I decided that my word for this year is beloved. I’ve been asking myself if my knee-jerk responses to circumstances, conversations, and actions of myself and others are loving or not as a filter to determine how I should respond. Sometimes I do myself proud and choose a more loving response. Sometimes I forget completely and allow my default reaction to surface– one that is often not very loving in nature.

But I’ve heard several songs on the radio lately that remind me of who I am, and they have served as well-timed and desperately-needed reminders of my identity, regardless of how well I perform or try to respond more lovingly.

So whether I need to remember who I am, who Christ is, or what my purpose is, these songs (and plenty of others) come to the rescue with little daily reminders that I so desperately need.

You are loved
If your heart’s in a thousand pieces
If you’re lost and you’re far from reason
Just look up; know you are loved
Just look up; and know you are loved
When it feels like something’s missing
If it hurts but you can’t find healing
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, know you are loved

And you, don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else
You don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else

You are loved

-“You Are Loved” by Stars Go Dim

You are essential, not accidental
And you should realize
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved

-“Beloved” by Jordan Feliz

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This racing, this running
Oh, you’re working way too hard!
And this perfection you’re chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause He love’s you like you are!

So go ahead and live like you’re loved
It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be

And live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved
live like you’re loved

And live like you know you’re valuable
Like you know the one that holds your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don’t be afraid to live in that grace

…Live like you’re loved, walk like you’re free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you’re loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

-“Live Like You’re Loved” by Hawk Nelson

I’m sure there are many other songs with similar messages, but these have been hitting me square between the eyes lately. If you’re looking for more uplifting, encouraging music to remind you of truth and give you better perspective throughout the day, I suggest you check out Air1 and KLOVE— they’re some of my favorites! In the meantime, look these songs up on YouTube. You’re welcome. 😉

 

Are there songs that have impacted you deeply? Feel free to share below in the comments!

Great Expectations

What kind of expectations do we have, either consciously or subconsciously for this life we’re living?

Do we feel entitled to certain things? Do we think our lives are supposed to be easy, free from pain? I think it’s very easy for us to get comfortable and assume that we’re secure, ignoring the fact that hard times come, and that’s not a sign that we’re not loved, but an indication that we live in a world fraught with sin.

Do we forget that we were told that we would have trouble (John 10:10)? Do we forget that we were given hope for that very reason? There’s a reason that the reminder that we will have trouble in this world is followed with the command to not fear. Our first response to trouble is often one of fear. But that’s not the end of the story. We don’t have to live in that fear.

Do we remember what lies ahead of us? Do we remind ourselves of how this story ends? No matter what happens here and now, we have eternity set before us, a promise of a life to come with no tears, sorrow, crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4). Good and truth will win out. Our God conquered death and overcame sin and evil for us, and we are more than conquerors through Him. That is what we should expect– not that life will be easy or that we will win every battle, but that in the end, we will be on the winning side of the war.

Do we live in anticipation of God working in the world, and in the lives of those around us? Or do we let our eyes deceive us? It’s easy to think that because we don’t see God moving in our daily lives or working some big, dramatic miracles in the ways we expect that He isn’t at work.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

He is at work. He is moving. In big ways and small ways, through some of the most unlikely circumstances and people, He accomplishes His purposes. And He wants us to be a part of it. But I think sometimes we let our expectations get in the way.

Do we expect too much? Do we expect some big, grandiose enlightenment or life-changing moment to happen to us before we can do something? Are we waiting for the next big thing before we really live our lives? Are we holding back in the hope that something has to happen before we can step out and make a difference in the world? What are we waiting for?

Do we expect too little of ourselves? We’ve been blessed with the resources and gifts we have, given a unique personality and calling, a precise footprint to leave behind us in this world. We are all where we are for a reason, and there’s always something we can be doing, even while we wait. Our lives are made up of small moments, and we can always love those around us like He loves us, no matter what our day jobs or present circumstances are. We can live differently. We can be present. We can love. We can have faith. We can encourage and uplift. We can serve. In big ways and small ways, we can live like love.

May you and I both consider what expectations we’re holding for our lives and be willing to let them go in favor of understanding the truth of what we’ve been promised. There is a great inheritance for us ahead, but the road we have to take to get there is sometimes bumpy. If we’re willing to hang on and even adjust our outlook from time to time so that we can see the bigger picture, we might just find that life exceeds our wildest expectations. Now wouldn’t that be something?

 

Lightening the Load

It’s so easy to get pulled down by the weight of the world that we carry on our shoulders. Everywhere we turn there seems to be more and more bad news, destruction, disappointment, devastation, pain, and loss. But what if we didn’t have to carry it? What if we could lay it down and walk freely?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 1:28-30

We need to recognize that we are not defined by the world. We are not defined by what we do, what happens to us or the world around us, or who others say we are. We are defined by whose we are. And we are God’s. We are His masterpiece. We are His heirs. We are victorious in Him. We are beautifully and wonderfully made.

What if we decided that we will no longer be defined by the length of our to-do lists or the relative weight of our accomplishments? What if we were to choose each day to let ourselves be defined by something completely independent of our striving? What if instead of trying to do more, instead of trying to be more, we simply embrace the fact that we already are enough?

No matter what this world tries to convince us of, we are enough. We don’t have to live the way others tell us to live. We don’t have to believe the lies of the enemy. We don’t have to try to fit ourselves into the box set before us. We don’t have to live in the shadows, where shame, guilt, fear, and insecurity surround us.

In Christ, we have the freedom to release our stress and our heaviest burdens and walk through this life helping others do the same. We get to leave behind the cares and concerns and worries of this world and set our sights on one in which God will “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes. And there will be no more sorrow or crying or death or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

Yes, difficult times come to us all. Bad things happen. We get hurt. We make mistakes and suffer the consequences. We get ourselves in over our heads with committing to too many things and comparing our lives to those around us. But we don’t have to live our lives that way. We can grieve and hurt and heal and keep moving, keep living.

No matter what happens in our personal lives, we are God’s. We can rest assured in our identity in Him. Regardless of what goes on in the world around us, we can be comforted knowing our God is never shaken. He stands firm in the fiercest storm and holds us close. We don’t have to carry our baggage around like dead weight. Through individual struggles and in the midst of a culture filled with fear, we can dare to live differently.

We can show this world that there is more to life than our endless to-do lists and the bleak outlook the news broadcasts give us. There is abundant hope and overwhelming joy for the taking.

Will you join me in taking it?

 

Further reading:

When You Feel Like You’re Not Enough by Renee Swope, (in)courage

Have You Made Busyness an Idol? by Rachel Moreland, Relevant Magazine

Kairos 20’s by Kristyn Emmer, Awkward 20-Something & Surviving It

Digging Deep

Emotion modification without a deep digging of what’s underneath is only a mask. If we just work on changing outward emotions, we’ll usually skim over the deeper beliefs that lead us to those feelings. Every emotion reveals a belief about who we are and what we want. Every emotion shows us where we have placed our identity and our value. Every emotion reveals how we see God. If we want to reshape our emotions, we need to address the underlying beliefs. -Nancy Ma, Relevant Magazine

Shoving our unpleasant feelings into a closet or brushing them under the rug in a pathetic attempt to hide them from others (and ourselves) will only result in a bigger blowup when the final straw is added to the camel’s back. We are emotional by nature; we cannot ignore what our emotions are trying to reveal to us.

Like when I wrote about the value of fear in our lives, other unpleasant emotions like sadness and anger have something to show us. If we let them, they can point to deeper issues and areas in our lives that need attention.

We continue to feel pinpricks of unpleasant emotions when we brush them aside and try to ignore their presence. Letting ourselves really experience unpleasant emotions opens the door to greater introspection and growth. It allows us to examine the reasons behind our emotions, and that is the only way to truly process them, challenge our faulty perceptions and assumptions, and change the underlying beliefs causing us to feel what we do. We get the privilege of comparing what we’re believing in the moment with what we know to be true, and then we get the opportunity to change the messages we’re believing to better align with things we know to be true but sometimes have a hard time embracing. And only when we resolve the underlying issues, exposing and addressing the cognitive dissonance we’re experiencing, can we truly find peace.

Discomfort is a precursor to change. If we ignore unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings, we are more likely to stay complacent. If, instead, we acknowledge the presence of fear, anger, worry, anxiety, or sadness, we may find in ourselves an unmet need that requires changes to be made. To continue to grow, we need to be challenged. We need to feel discomfort if we want to keep moving forward, pushing the boundaries of what is known, safe, and comfortable. If we feel opposition or discomfort, it’s likely a sign that we’re outgrowing our old patterns and in need of new ones, or that we’ve subconsciously adopted incorrect beliefs that are chafing against our core values. Only when we take a closer look can we see the problem for what it is and take steps to rectify it.

When we try to modify our emotions or behaviors without exposing the beliefs behind them, we aren’t able to sustain the change. Much like a child told to do something just because their parent said so, we aren’t motivated by enough to truly change when the desire is only for an outside result without any inner transformation. But when we lean into the discomfort, we can resolve the underlying issues and pursue the outward transformation that we aspire to with greater chances of success because we have already eliminated the biggest obstacles lurking under the surface.

So instead of bottling up our emotions, labeling them as “bad,” and avoiding talking about them, let’s embrace them and learn from them. I know I’m going to make a serious effort to continually acknowledge how I feel, and then take it a step further to ask myself why I’m feeling that way, in hopes that I might iron out anything that is lurking like a skeleton in my closet. Will you join me?

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Sometimes telling the truth is scary. Honestly answering someone when they ask how you’re doing can be intimidating, like leaping off a cliff and not knowing if you’ll plummet to the ground or be caught by a safety net.

Vulnerability is frightening. We often shy away from being vulnerable, showing our true colors. Instead, we put on masks and hope that others see only what we want them to see. Most of us prefer the security of life spent behind our masks we’ve so carefully created and maintained over the years. We spend a great deal of time agonizing over what words to use, clothes to wear, facial expressions to employ, body language to convey, and pieces of our lives to share with others. We are very intentional about curating our images.

We equate vulnerability with weakness, thinking that if we show others our struggles, our sore spots, our brokenness, that they will view us as less than. We care so much about what others think, as if parts of us have never grown out of our junior-high insecurities. We work incredibly hard to try to impress people who are too busy worrying about how we perceive them to care about our self-presentation.

But don’t we long for deep connection? Don’t we long for honesty in others? Do we not try to teach our children that “honesty is the best policy?”

What if there was a way for the cycle of shame to be broken in our lives? What if there was a way to divorce ourselves from the pressures that culture puts on us to be rich or beautiful or well-respected? What if there was a way for the pressure to be relieved to perform and achieve and measure up in order to be a person of value? What if we no longer felt a need to prove ourselves, to validate our own existence in the world’s eyes and also in our own eyes? What if our secret battle with shame was neutered, freeing us to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward neighbors who are near to us, and also toward neighbors who are on the other side of the world and need our partnership and support? What if there was a way that we, having had our shame undone, could also contribute to the undoing of shame in others?

My greatest joy as a Christian pastor is that I get to tell people that such a remedy exists. When Jesus allowed Himself to be stripped naked, spit upon, taunted, rejected and made nothing on the cross—when He, the one who had nothing to be ashamed of, surrendered to the ruthless, relentless shaming that led to our redemption and healing—He accomplished our liberation from shame.

Because Jesus took on Himself the full freight of our shame, we no longer have to exhaust ourselves with endless and futile efforts to make something of ourselves. We now have an inner resource that can liberate us from preoccupation with self. We now have an inner resource that frees us to treat all people as our equals. We now have an inner resource that endearingly and compellingly invites us to join God in His mission to love. – Scott Sauls, Relevant Magazine

If honesty is what we value in others, why do we make exceptions for our own behavior? Why don’t we take the leap and set the standard for those around us by engaging in vulnerability?

Good leaders lead by example. If we open up the door for honesty, we are giving others permission to be real and share their truest selves with us. We then can have the privilege of enjoying deeper friendships and more rewarding relationships as we develop greater trust after having seen one another’s flaws and bearing one another’s burdens. When you share the nitty-gritty details of life with others, you are inextricably linked to them in a way that you never could be when all you allow others to see is the polished veneer of your Instagram account. Let us today endeavor to be real with one another.

What We Need

We like for things to be wrapped neatly in pretty packages and tied up with ribbon. But real life is so much messier than that. And it’s within that mess that we can discover its beauty. It may be hard to see at first, hidden in an unexpected place, covered with a layer of dirt, but it’s there. And it’s that much more glorious when we weren’t expecting to find it.

We need to be open to stumbling upon these great moments and beautiful discoveries hidden in the messiness of life. We believe so many falsehoods about who we are and what we ought to be, all in the name of religion or face-saving or reputation. Let me take a moment to encourage you to believe some refreshing truths that just might allow us to live a more authentic, beautiful, messy life.

We need to not pressure ourselves to feel like we have to have it all figured out all the time. The world will not fall apart if we admit we don’t know what we’re doing. We grow closer to others when we admit our own faults and failures, as we then give others permission to do the same, allowing us to grow together and support one another.

We need to just take a step back and breathe. Things are not as bad as they sometimes seem. Taking a moment to gain proper perspective can relieve much of the stress we carry around every day. When we take an account of all the ways in which we have been blessed, we see the brighter side of life.

We need to remember that we have enough, have accomplished enough, have been productive enough, have planned enough, and most importantly, that we are enough. Right here, right now. We don’t need to acquire more stuff, check more things off our to-do lists, or climb more rungs on the corporate ladder to be an accomplished, successful group of people. We have all triumphed over obstacles and battles in our lives, both great and seemingly small. Let us not compare our trials to those of others, but instead remember that we are enough just the way we are. We are loved and cherished for who we are, not what we have done.

We need to remember that it’s not up to us to make everything go smoothly. We have been given the gracious opportunity to let go of this burden. We worship the God who is at work in our lives and those around us, making new things happen where we can’t see them right now. When we have faith in His plan, trusting that He is working both in and through us, we no longer feel the responsibility of striving to work for Him. Instead, we know that He is already working, and we get the amazing chance to work with Him, as He uses our daily interactions to point people to Him. How freeing it is to realize that we have been blessed with this gift, allowing us to do our part, but to trust that God will work everything together for good in His perfect timing and unique way that is far beyond what we could ever dare to ask or imagine.

We need to give ourselves more grace. We are far more forgiving with others, allowing them room to make mistakes. But when it comes to forgiving ourselves for our inadequacy, we are stingy. We hold ourselves to much too high of a standard. And we need to take this moment to extend ourselves the same measure of grace we give to those around us. We need to love ourselves like we love others.

We need to remember that we are beloved children of the living God. We serve a God who is far greater than this world and all its sorrow and darkness. He delights in giving us good gifts, and He is our loving Father, abundant Provider, and strong Deliverer.

 

What else do you think we need to remember? I’d love to hear your thoughts.