Living My Best Life

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection

— Romans 6:4-5

This here is so key. We so often forget the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. We don’t think about the fact that by partaking in His death – through baptism, through denial of the flesh, through the putting away of our sins – we also partake in His resurrection. And I think when we do acknowledge this sharing in the resurrection we think of it as a future exclusively heavenly thing. We don’t realize that the instant Christ was resurrected He shared this resurrection with us. We don’t realize that the dwelling of the Holy Spirit inside each of us is the promise and the active bestowal of the resurrected life here on earth.

The problem with many of us – me first and foremost – is that we don’t acknowledge the resurrection in our lives right here and now. We don’t live as those who are resurrected. We live as people still dwelling in darkness, drowning in the troubles and the sins of the world, rather than living as victorious children of the King, full of life and hope.

Christ did not just die for us to eventually one day get to heaven after living a life of self denial and misery. He died and rose so that here and now I can live as one who is truly alive, who knows her worth, who bathes in the love of her Father. I should be living “in newness of life”! I should be shouting from the rooftops, dancing with joy, singing praise for the gifts of love, of peace, of healing, of life!

Imagine what life would look like if we only lived a true full life in the knowledge of who we are and who He is that created us!

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Where Did You Come From, Where Will You Go

but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. … (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) … For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

— Romans 2:10-11, 13-15, 28-29

This is such a great chapter. It captures so much of the essence of Christianity. It speaks of redemption, of hope, of renewal, of acceptance.

Prior to Christ the Gentiles either knew nothing of God or knew Him only as God of the Jews. But enter this massively new chapter of our Story, of God coming down to earth to be with us, to accept not just the Jews, but all. Enter in now limitless acceptance. This passage speaks volumes because it is saying that all — Greek or Jew, sinner or saint — have the ability to be called, have the acceptance of Christ, regardless of physical circumcision or familiarity of the Law.

What does this mean for you?

This means you are accepted. You are welcomed by Christ to live according to His will and obtain a truly resurrected life. It makes no difference what you have done or where you have come from–when you come to Him with an open, repentant, seeking spirit He will always accept you.

All I have to say is thank God for that. I have strayed. I have walked down strange roads, roads displeasing to Him, roads that lead to self-destruction. Anyone in his right mind would be done with me by now. And yet here Christ is with open arms, waiting for my willing heart, my seeking spirit to come home.

A Fruit Called Love

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. … As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. … If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. … As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. … You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you.

– John 15: 2, 4-5, 7, 9, 16 (OSB)

The words “love” and “fruits” are repeated so many times in this one conversation Christ had with His disciples. Coincidence? I think not.

We get it wrong so often. We think that God wants something from us other than our love, but He doesn’t. Literally everything that should come from our discipleship, our friendship with Christ stems from this one thing: LOVE. It’s so simple, and yet we insist on complicating it!

God = love. So when we abide in God we abide in love. Every fruit, every action and word, every outcome should be a direct result of love. Out of His love are we able to love – Him, others, ourselves. And that is why He says, “you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” When we truly dwell in God and His love, His desires become our desires – we no longer desire and seek silly or selfish things, but what God desires we will desire, and when we ask they will be done.

The deeper we delve into our relationship with God, the deeper in love we become and the closer to God we become – in our desires, our thoughts, our words, our appearance. It takes time and it takes effort: we are pruned just as a plant must be pruned to ensure it continues to produce good fruit, but the more time and effort we put into becoming more like Him, in abiding in His love, the more we become love. This is what we have been chosen to be.

And really, that’s what the world needs now more than ever, right? Love.

For I Am Yours And You Are Mine

Blessed is he whom You have chosen and adopted; he shall dwell in Your courts.

– Psalm 64:4 (Orthodox Study Bible)

I definitely forget that I have been adopted, that I have been chosen. Think about the difference – with a biological child, there is always a chance that this child was unplanned, unexpected, or what have you. But when a child is adopted, is chosen, the process is long and sometimes grueling, and yet the parents are dying to be with and to have this child, no matter what it takes.

God chose me. He went through a long, hard, arduous, life-taking process just to have me for Himself, just to be my Papa. As much as an adoptive parent puts into getting a new child, God literally gave His life so I could be His daughter.

Why then do I act as if He wants to hold back from me what is best? What parent would go through all that to have a child only to hold anything back from her? When I feel like I am begging Him for what is best for me why do I think He hasn’t been right here with it in hand just waiting for me to be done with my childish tantrum to give it to me?

…we shall find Him ready as the morning, and He will come to us as the early and latter rain to the earth.

– Hosea 6:3 (OSB)

I am chosen.

I am adopted.

I am loved.

I am the daughter of the King.

Cracked Vessels

“I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, And restore comforts to him And to his mourners.”

-‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭57:18‬

This is kind of an incredible verse!

Here God is saying He has seen my ways — all my ways. Even the not-so-great ones. But instead of washing His hands of me He tells me He will heal me. Because I’m broken. My wandering ways are a result of my brokenness, and God not only acknowledges that, but He takes the brokenness and says “I am going to heal it”.

He doesn’t just say He’s had enough of me or my mistakes and failures. He heals me. He leads me. He restores me.

God is ready to take the broken, shattered pieces of my faults, my failures, my mistakes, and put them together. Once I realize that and finally let go of the pieces He Will put me together so that His Love and His Light can dwell in me and others can see that light in the cracks that make up my vessel.

So I lay down my pieces. I am done trying to put them together myself in all the wrong ways. How about you?

Man Oh Man, It’s Time For The New One

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

— Colossians 3:12-17

This passage really could not have come at a better time. The preparation week of Lent is coming to an end, and fully-fledged Lent is upon us. It is now the time to put our proverbial money where our mouths are and make a real change in how we are living our lives. I decided to take this passage and break it down, virtue by virtue and self-reflect, and I would encourage you to do the same. Here we go:

  • Tender mercies: not just mercy, but tender mercy; that’s a whole other level of mercy. Have I been merciful to those around me? Or do I get frustrated with others, refusing to let go of their faults and refusing to give the benefit of the doubt?
  • Kindness: do I show kindness to others around me? And when I do where is it coming from? Is it coming from the little that I have or does it stem from the kindness that I am receiving from God?
  • Humility: this is a biggie. What am I focusing my life around? Is it all about me or is it about those around me? Am I doing or saying things to keep attention focused on me? What are the intentions behind my actions and words?
  • Meekness: I don’t think we always know what being meek means, but it goes along with the theme of the rest of this passage. Am I gentle with those around me? Am I soft and calm? Or am I boisterous and loud and saying whatever pops in my head without regard for the consequences?
  • Longsuffering: Am I patient with the people in my life? How about with God? Do I allow Him time to work in my life or do I decide to take matters in my own hands? Do I live my life in the “my way or the highway” mentality or do I leave room for God to do His work on His time?
  • Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another: similar to the attributes above, how am I dealing with people I interact with? Do I forgive or do I insist on holding onto grudges and what I think is owed to me? Do I bear with those who feel like a thorn in my side?

I will be honest with those of you out there reading this, I have not been the best at basically any of these things lately. I haven’t been putting on love like Paul calls for us to do.

But that’s the beauty of this season! It’s another opportunity for a fresh start, to put on love, to be ruled by the peace of God, to be filled with the word of God.

Instead of being ruled by our passions and pride and selfishness and insecurities, let’s choose to be ruled by the peace of God.

Take Me Off This Roller Coaster

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise

— Hebrews 10:35-36

So I’ve been struggling quite a bit the last few months. The last few months have been filled with doubts and insecurities and disappointments…basically the opposite of confidence and endurance. I have depended so much on myself and on the hope I tried placing in others. So naturally I was let down. Repeatedly.

To be honest, things have really stunk lately. I have been riding an emotional roller coaster — no stability, nauseating, and filled with a lot more downs that ups. And for what? For nothing. I cast away my confidence in God and in His love and care for me, and I tried to depend on myself instead. What did I gain from that? Nothing but heartache. Nothing but misery.

I lost my confidence. I lost my endurance. If I’m really being honest, I lost my faith in God’s grace. No reward. No promise. Only bitterness and hurt. That’s what resulted.

Can anyone else relate to this? Lord, I hope not, but also kind of hope so.

But you know what? I’m done. I’m done trying to do things on my own. I’m done seeking after things that mean nothing if I’m not rooted in Christ to begin with. No more running after nonsense. It’s time to get back to where I need to be, where my soul will finally be at peace once more, where self-doubt will turn into love for who God created me to be.

I hope if you are struggling with self-worth, if you are struggling to find meaning or are just filled with hurt and doubts, that you will join me this Lenten season to throw all that out so we can fill ourselves with the thirst-quenching Living Water.

May we remember that the Holy Spirit is He who is in us. May we remember that we are the Father’s royal children. May we remember that we are the beloved of the Son.

Now is not the time to give up on hope. Now is the time to renew our confidence, to increase our endurance, and to prepare to receive the promises we have been given.