Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Do You Know Your Influence [Part 2]

I have no influence. I'm too young for that.

Or maybe...

They're too young. They can't influence me. 

We often categorize the ability to influence someone by age. We tend to think those who are influential are the those who are older and the younger crowd must just follow in accordance. The reality is that while age can give you more wisdom and insight than those younger, no matter what age you are, if you’re leading something or in a position to be seen as a leader, you have someone looking up to you, i.e. someone under your influence.

This was something I didn’t understand when I was in that position as a college student even though I had looked up to college students when I was younger.

I remember going to volleyball matches where I would idolize the girls on the court. I watched them in awe. I shied away from talking to them because they seemed so untouchable, something I never thought I could be.

But then I found myself in their shoes. And I remember stopping and looking around me after one match. The young girls were so excited to talk to us and I thought, "I am now what I used to idolize." I don’t feel like it. "I’m not like those girls I looked up to." But I was. I was there. I was a leader. I had a platform. I had people looking up to me (whether I liked it or not).

Didn’t seem fair in my mind because I didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose to have my life on display to be scrutinized. Or so I thought. But... the reality is I did.

Playing varsity college volleyball was my choice that placed me there. Choosing to play on the USA Netball team placed me there. Choosing to walk out my calling in ministry places me there. There's been so many choices along the way that I've made that have placed me in positions of influence (even whether I had a title or not). I even saw it put me in a place where I was able to impact a woman's relationship with Jesus who was 33 years older than me.

The hard part for me is that I’m not one that ever likes to be the center of attention or the one in front of the crowd. I’d rather set stuff up to see others flourish. But I’ve noticed that, probably because of that, God seems to like to put me in those places. It’s a part of dying to myself for the cause of making His name known and glorifying Him. Jesus tells us to count the cost of following Him [Luke 14:25-33; Matthew 16:24-28]. I have been crucified with Him. It's no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me [Galatians 2:20].

This is what we’re called to be as Christian. We are to be the salt and the light of the world [Matthew 5:13-16]. We are to carry the gospel to the world [Matthew 28:18-20]. We're called to lay down our lives as Christ did [Galatians 2:20]. 

And this isn’t a "you must be perfect because people look up to you" type of post. This is a "do you know what your life preaches and promotes by how you live it?" post. It's possible to walk through your mistakes and the imperfections of life and promote Jesus.

So here's the deal... No matter where you find yourself, if you’re reading this, you have influence. You are a leader. You have someone looking at your life as an example for how they should live.

Do you know your influence? Are you using it to promote yourself or Jesus?


Want to go back and read Part 1?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Where Am I?

Where am I?

This is a question I ask myself every year around my birthday in assessment of the previous year of life. I'm an analyzer, assessor, and goal oriented type of person. This time can be encouraging. This time can be eye opening. This time can be insert just about any range of emotions or thought processes possible.

As I look on this past year, I see so much joy and so much pain. I see so much God.

There's times I sit and think about the deep desires of my heart that haven't necessarily manifested in my life, but that doesn't really get me anywhere. Those moments look like me taking inventory and continuing to place those things in the Lord's hands, knowing that if this is a desire He has placed inside of me, He will fulfill it. If it isn't a desire from Him, He will transform it.

The most important, deepest desire in my heart is to know the Lord intimately. I truly believe that if that's my sole desire, it'll never go unmet. Even if I never get married or mother my own biological children, I will extol the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be on my mouth (Psalm 34:1).

"One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple" (Psalm 27:4).

I'm excited, hopeful, and expectant for the year of life ahead. Though, as the birthdays come and go and the years don't feel different from one to another, I feel a shift in my heart and my focus. My goal this year is to fall more in love with Jesus and allow the Lord to continue to mold and shape my heart to be more like His.

I refuse to ever entertain the pity party of hope deferred (Proverbs 13:12) because my God, through how He has loved me, promises me more than anything I could ever attain myself, an eternity with Him. I'm thankful for my friends and family who have walked with me, been patient with me, challenged me, and loved me beyond what I even know.

The Lord is good and his love endures forever (Psalm 100:5).

Be blessed.

Confession: I don't do any of this perfectly.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Do You Know Your Influence?

Have you ever contemplated to impact you can have on someone's life?

Over the many years I have played and coached sports, it's become clearer and clearer that coaches have an amazing opportunity and access to make, break, encourage, etc. the trajectory and course of their players' lives.

I've played for countless coaches, having played sports basically my entire life. Some of them encouraged me and made me feel invincible. Some of them broke me to the core of my being, at least that's what it felt like. Some of them told me I wouldn't make it, that I would never be good enough.

The words, "You won't survive the next level," rang in my ears for many years. They had the power to motivate me, as I worked to prove that coach wrong, and the power to cripple me, as I came into agreement with them.

Well where does all of this power come from? There's an old saying that says "Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Well I call that a flat out lie. Words matter. There's life and death in the power of the tongue [Proverbs 18:21]. Like I mentioned earlier, the words, "You won't survive at the next level," are what stuck with, motivated, and crippled me. It wasn't whether or not I got enough playing time, but what was spoken.

Think about what people have spoken over you in your life and how that has shaped and impacted what you've done or how you've thought about yourself or others around you. Have they influenced you?

Go with me on this... Wars don't just happen, right? They are declared.

     Declare [v.] - say something in a solemn and emphatic manner.

You could say that's extreme but holocausts don't just happen. Slavery doesn't just happen. Divorce. Bad reputations. And so on. All of these things don't just magically happen one day. There are ideas planted by statements made from people voicing or declaring their opinions. With our words we have the power to define perceived worth.

Why do I say all of this?

In our day in age and with everything that's going on in the world, in America, and the social media age, it seems like we could all stand to take a step back and take inventory of the words we're using and what we're saying.

Words seem to find themselves just these images on a page that we can throw around without consequences now that we all have access to our own personal platforms via social media. When we don't have to look at the reaction on people's faces, it gets a lot easier to say whatever we want.

What I mostly want to challenge us with today is these two questions:

  1. Are we speaking life or are we speaking death?
  2. Do we know our influence? 
We all have influence whether we think we do or not. I pray we take inventory of this influence and commit, to the best of our abilities, to only bring positive influence and speak life in all that we do.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Have You Ever Just Sat And Stared at Your Skin?

Have you ever just sat and stared at your skin?

It's fascinating stuff.
It's the largest organ in our bodies.
It regenerates itself.
It's the most "flaky" organ in our bodies.
It's also seemingly the most deadly organ in our bodies.

I don't know the stats but too many people have died because of the color of their skin.

And for what?

I'll never understand the motivation. I'll never understand the plight. I'll never understand most of it.

Have you ever sat and just stared at your skin?

The different wrinkles. Spots. Scars.
It's the organ that most readily shows age. Battle wounds. What life has brought you to and through.
It gets dry. It gets ashy. It gets oily. It gets burnt.
Some try everything to make it darker. Some try everything to not let it get darker.
We paint it. We pick at it. We cover it up. We show it off.

Everyone has it.

Yet every society has used the shade of our skin to divide and define a person's worth.

I understand how this has happened because I see the depravity of man, but, at the same time, I'll never understand it because I understand that we're all made in the image of God. Black skin reflects God just as much as my white skin.

I recently sat down with one of my Black friends and asked her the same question, "Have you ever just sat and stared at your skin?" And this is what she had to say,

"Yes, I’ve stared at my skin.
As I look at my skin, I sometimes don’t know where to begin.

Skin is so superficial, yet so sacred.
Yet, it masterfully points to our Creator.
It’s darkness hides scars, but has failed to hide the scar of shame that’s become a norm.
When I behold my skin, I see burden, responsibility, and beauty.
I have wrestled with questions, of 'Why God?'

Why should I be made to feel as less than?
Why should I shoulder the weight of oppression or continued micro aggressions?
Why should I fight harder just to be seen as an equal?

I remain perplexed by my Black skin.
It’s richness of hue is absolutely stunning.
This perplexity of beauty and burden I am willing to bear.
Because my skin is not for my glory, but for God alone.

If it causes me to love and trust God in a greater way; I will bear it.
If it causes me to see the imago dei (image of God) in others; I will bear it.
If it causes me to reconcile with my neighbor; I will bear it.
If it causes me to remain on my knees until change comes; I will bear it.
If it allows me to empathize with the marginalized; I will bear it.

I will bear it.

I don’t believe skin color was created to divide us. I believe it reflects beauty as God sees it.

Real beauty exudes harmony.

Yes, I’ve sat and stared at my skin, but I have also stared at your skin, my White friend.
In both I see beauty.
I see you.
You are beautiful.
Thank you for seeing me."

Her words are so beautiful. I'm so thankful to have friends who look different, think differently, and come from different backgrounds than I. I see you, friends. I stand with you. I pray for you.

We need a revelation of Jesus now more than ever.
We can't have true justice without Him.
We can't truly love one another without Him.

I pray that we would see each other's skin and the pain and fear that may be harbored and that we would take the time to bear it with one another. 

Have you ever just sat and stared at your skin?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ocean Thoughts

All our lives we're looking for love.
We look for it from our parents first.
They created us so they must love us. 
Especially our fathers. 
If they aren't there then we tend to look to others.
...we look to bottles.
...we look to needles. 
...we look to...
anything but Jesus. 

To what end?
Can they save us?
Can they love us? 
It might feel like love but what may feel like love can be disguised as death.
If we look to our parents first for love because they made us then why do we so quickly turn away from the Creator? 
Do we really understand love?
It doesn't seem like it. 
Can we really understand love?
Jesus died for us. 
Gave up His life for us. 
If the greatest love is that one should lay down his life for his friend, then there's no greater love than found in Him. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reasons to Not Lose Hope

As I watch the news and read articles about recent events regarding racial tensions, terrorism, shootings, I can't help but think of a few things...

I wish sin never entered the world.

I wish humanity would love one another unconditionally.

I wish it didn't feel so hopeless at times.

It's hard to watch the news and see the brokenness that plagues society, that plagues our hearts.

BUT there are reasons not to lose hope:

Jesus came to Earth and lived the sinless life.

     God didn't give up on us even though we turned our backs on Him. He still came in pursuit of us. He has so much love for us that He humbled Himself to the point of denying His divinity and came to Earth as Jesus. There is plenty of historical evidence that a man name Jesus of Nazareth lived during the first century outside of the Bible, but the Bible includes four eyewitness accounts of His life on Earth and His sinlessness. He even experienced everything we'll experience on this Earth yet remained sinless. He can empathize with us. But that's not all...

Jesus died the death we deserve.

     He has so much love for us that He humbled Himself to the point of death. That death is something we deserve because of our disobedience and sinful hearts. Jesus' death is even something historically documented as fact outside of the Bible. But that's still not all...

Jesus resurrected and redeemed us from the separation our sin creates.

     He overcame that death and resurrected, conquering sin and death once and for all. He created a bridge between God and man that we might experience everlasting life and intimate relationship with our Creator once again, as He originally intended. Jesus' body missing from the tomb is something also documented outside of the Bible.

If the story presented in the Bible is true, which I believe it is, and Jesus is who He said He is and did what is recounted numerous times, then...

Why not believe in a great Creator who loves you?

Why not believe in a God who can empathize with your weaknesses?

Why not believe in the greatest miracle of all times?

Why not believe in the greatest news ever told?

What is there to lose except maybe your pride? Your chains? Your strongholds? Everything that holds you back from being a loving, fulfilled, complete creation?

Did we create the world? Did we set everything into motion? Do we hold all of eternity together with perfect precision? No. And how could all of this intricate universe come from nothing? Wouldn't we still see things randomly appear if that were the case? Why is it a fact that everything that comes into existence now has to be created if that wasn't the case for everything in the beginning?

So why do we think we can decide what's right and what's wrong? What's God and what's not? That it's somehow relative? Truth can't be relative. It just can't. If truth is relative, when one "truth" says another "truth" is a lie, which one is true? Logically, they can't both be. There has to be absolute truth.

We have to start from somewhere. The question is, where? Where are we going to base our moral truth, our moral compass, and source of truth? In people, who have very little control over anything, or in an all-powerful, loving Creator, who knows everything intimately, controls everything, and made everything to be exactly as it is?

The hope isn't in ourselves but in God and allowing Him, and partnering with Him, to restore His creation. It is there that we find harmony, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. If you think about it, aren't these the things we long for in everything that's wrong with society? But what are those? We find this list in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can't find them or foster them or cultivate them without God.

So I ask you this question, are you truly in search of truth or just arguments that will validate your own opinions?

Don't take my word for it. Get out a Bible. Do some research. Have conversations with people who believe differently than you. Let the search for truth be a never-ending quest.

And just because it may feel hopeless at times, doesn't mean there is none. Because... there's always Hope.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Life's Little Messes

I can remember a time I was sitting in Starbucks listening to a father interact with his daughter at the table next to me. It made me think: what must it look like for God to interact with us as our Father. I think about this a lot when I observe children with their parents.

When the pair sat down at the table, he helped her up onto the booth chair and tucked her into place with the table.

He gave her a muffin he bought her and asked her if she wanted some water. Upon her request, he promptly retrieved the water for her.

As the pair sat, the father spent time on his phone but also asked his daughter what she had learned at school that day.

He listened intently to the sorrows a 5 year old may face in a day at kindergarten.

After the two had enjoyed some time together, the daughter spilled her water on herself and was immediately very upset. She cried and said everything was ruined.

The father comforted her and reassured her that it was ok. She cried harder as she felt that her clothes were ruined but the father continued to sweetly clean her up and tell her it was no big deal.

As I ponder back through this series of events, I think, how many times have I sat before God crying because I think everything is ruined but He continues to reassure me, it's ok, my beloved. Why does it take so much for us to understand that God is a good, loving Father?