Author update & Lent is here again

Author update & Lent is here again

Hi friends,

These past few years have been some of my least productive years in writing to date, but busiest in changing, stretching and growing. From finally working out forgiveness with certain people, to becoming a wife, to becoming a mother, learning to weigh a full time job with home and family responsibilities. I’m also very excited to announce that my application to become a staff writer for Tirzah Magazine was accepted and that I am now an official contributor over there too! Tirzah is an online publication dedicated to encouraging young women in leading lives and faith and I’m proud to be associated that team of godly women.

I have at times been overwhelmed, underwhelmed, joyful, grieving, and maybe a little bit crazy. But I’m hanging on to the call to write and to take up my pen in obedience and renewed confidence that only the Lord can provide.

Speaking of obedience and renewed confidence, you may know that today the season of Lent is upon us. I wanted to repost an article from a few years ago, because I found myself being reminded of how if we are not careful, we can turn it into a mere “Christian New Years’ resolutions day” rather than a heart-honest call to turn toward the Lord with renewed zeal.

I hope you enjoy it!


Why I’m dreading Lent this year [originally posted February 8 2016]

Lent is this Wednesday. I know. “What? Already?” I believe my exact reaction was, “AGAIN?”

Every year it’s the same. I spend all kinds of time sitting at Starbucks with my laptop trying to decide whether it’s coffee or chocolate that will get the boot. “Hmm…maybe I should just give up Facebook,” I think to myself, washing down a bite of chocolate-chocolate-chip muffin with a swig of mocha latte.

Lent is like the Christian version of New Years Resolutions. You make up your mind to give something up or start doing something good, only to let yourself slide until you have completely forgotten about the funny promise you made to God 40 days prior. (Chocolate bunny, anyone?)

If you’re not familiar with Lent, it is what Christians call that stretch of time between Mardi Gras and Easter. It is a time set out in the church when believers usually focus on growing closer to God through Prayer, Fasting, and Giving. It’s actually a great opportunity to rekindle the dryness that periodically creeps into our faith-lives. Everyday life and responsibilities cause so much noise in our heads that we forget to focus on the One who is the only source of wisdom, comfort, and salvation. This is why I’m such a huge believer in the practice of Lent. We learn to slow down and establish a structure of prayer that is oftentimes missing from our lives. So why am I dreading it?

Over the past 2 months I my article-writing engines have been on overdrive and I have loved every stressful minute of it. I’m writing for and with God for you good people spread across the Interwebs and all the while, I hear my heart beating in step with each piece. It’s buzzing with excitement: you are doing exactly what you are meant to do. I have SO many ideas for how to glorify God with my writing and my blog.

However, Lent means I have to slow down. It means that I actually have to stop trying, pull it back a bit, and slow down so that I can commune with God. As much as I don’t want to slow my mad productive pace, my soul hangs in the balance if I do not. I’m like a toddler running out the front door and down the driveway before my mom has time to put a diaper on me — I tend to run way ahead of God’s plans before I’m ready.

But this relationship with the master of the universe is vastly more important than anything I post, write, plan to write. I’m hearing his still, small voice in my heart saying, Be still, Molly. Quit trying to prove to me how awesome you are.

I want to be intentional about this year’s season of Lent so I won’t be posting every single day, but only as the spirit leads. I will be listening for God’s voice and striving toward closeness with Him.

Won’t you join with me in search for an intentional Lent? Whether this is your first Lent season or 100th, let’s take Lent seriously together this year. Let’s both commit to being companions of Jesus, instead of competitors. ☩

Refocusing within the flames

Refocusing within the flames

Hi Friends! After a long break, Joshua chapters 23 & 24 are finally up.

Over the past several months I have come to realize that my focus has truly been split between wanting what the world has to offer, and wanting what God has to offer.

Joshua 24 speaks beautifully to that point. First he reminds us of where we’ve been and then where we are now. God has already proved his faithfulness to us – what more can he do to show he is worthy of our trust?

Joshua doesn’t demand the same answer from everyone. He simply requests that each and every one of us take a hard look at what we want out of life and then commit to it.

If you want to follow the world, do it with full-fledged commitment. If you want to follow the Lord in faith, don’t just say so – really do it and just watch God transform you and your path.

It’s up to you and no one else can make the decision for you. Not your parents, not your peers, not your pastor. Just choose something – or else allow yourself to become a terrible waste of perfectly good potential.

I love this word, not only because it’s challenging and bold, but because it is so applicable in every season of life.

As for me, you might have noticed that I’ve been MIA over the past several months. For those of you who don’t know, I’m now 5 months pregnant and experiencing all the pleasures of pregnancy, like being told the same cliche advice over and over, and having total strangers touch my belly.

It’s great, but it’s made me realize something important. There will soon be a little sponge who will witness everything I say and do, and naturally, want to imitate me. I am about to become an example -one of the first and most profound examples- of faith in Christ to another human being. Does that just blow your mind? It does for me.

As such, a holy fire has been lit under my bottom to strive for more scripture-soaking than ever before. If following Jesus was important to me before, it is now a matter of life and death.

Not that I look forward to coercing my child into faith – I’m not that naive. Rather, to practice what I preach. My goal is to be a living witness to the transformation faith in Christ brings – not only in our individual lives but here in the midst of a world falling apart. The last thing I want it to see is another hypocritical Christian family who says one thing on Sunday and does another on Monday.

I’m sorry that I haven’t always been this zealous, but He’s faithful in giving me a fresh new reason to go forth on the directive I received many years ago. It was to learn, live, and share with others how Jesus is the only thing I need to navigate my life.

I’m not sure yet what this will look like for the blog, but I’m planning – God willing – to incorporate more scripture study, more discussion, and more application to the 2017 world in which we find ourselves.

Molly

What do my social media posts say about who God is?

What do my social media posts say about who God is?

It’s one question I don’t think I ask enough.

I spend so much time online that sometimes I feel like I live inside the Internet. I am swept along with each wave of happiness, outrage, hilarity, disgust, and heartbreak that happen across the headlines every day.

And then a year in review pops up. I thought I was safe in His arms, secure, and savoring His Presence. I patted myself on the back for all my goodness. In actuality, rarely do I ever post except when exceptionally indignant or proud of my opinion. Everyone else sees a snarky, sarcastic and scathing “Christian”?  This should not be.

So am I saying that you should care what people think of you based on my online presence?

Yes. And No.

As a believer in Jesus, I say YES. We need to be constantly aware of how we are perceived by others. There is the obvious like hateful words, swearing, crude humor, grumbling. And the more subtle things too, like the things we may say with good intentions? Like choosing to respond to a controversial post in which Jesus’s opinion would be in the minority. When we are unkind people think God is unkind.

15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.[a] Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

1 Peter 3:15-16 NLT

And in doing just that: responding as Jesus would, we should NOT care what they think. Because we are safe in a Just God’s arms. We have been blessed and chosen by God. As such, we now have the freedom from man’s judgement to share this beauty of freedom with everyone. 

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Hebrews 6:19 NLT

I started collecting inspiring images with wisdom written across in beautiful wide strokes. There is an abundance of them online, just waiting to speak some truth into someone’s day and then it occurred to me that maybe other people might appreciate them too. That’s why I started faith curator. It’s just a simple collection of faithful images I think are awesome and glorifying to God. Most images are taken straight from various places online, but I make my own from time to time too. Credit given where it is due.

So now, every time I post something, the question I ask myself is, not how do I look, but to whom do I look? I’m hoping you’ll see Jesus every time.

The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

Miracle surgery restores sight to children: Why drag God into it?

Miracle surgery restores sight to children: Why drag God into it?

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

John 9:1-3

I  love the videos of people seeing or hearing for the first time. I saw this one on my Facebook feed today and of course, had to watch it.

Two blind sisters see for the first time

20/20/20 is a foundation that pays for children to have these surgeries done, who could otherwise never afford them. Without them, the children would be needlessly blind. The surgery given to them is called a “miracle”, and indeed it is. So many happy tears, faith and hope in humanity: restored.

Then I saw the comments on the Facebook post. Do we see joy for these girls? Encouragement to the good people who have made this happen? Do we see praise for the existence of mercy in this dark world?

Nope. Just a bunch of people turning on each other, scoffing and spitting on those who chose to praise God for His work. Just like in real life. I stand back from my immediate reaction and think: The Internet is only an extension of the actual broken world full of actual broken people (myself included). Why wouldn’t it be like this?

Capture

Why drag God into it? I used to think like that too. One spring break I went on a trip to Mexico to build houses with my youth group. The first night we were there,we huddled in a group and took turns praying. One person prayed: “Thank you Jesus, for all the work you did today.” I’ll never forget the ignorant yet innocent question I blurted out within that circle of believing Christians: “What did he do?”

It was an honest question. I didn’t mean it rudely, but it didn’t make sense to me. Wasn’t that me out there, carrying sheets of dry wall all day in the blistering sun? Wasn’t that us, nailing planks together, and toiling our arms off painting the wall? What work did Jesus do today? How does he get credit for work that I did physically? I don’t understand.

I’ll also never forget the looks of disgust I received. I often wonder about that moment in time. Why did no one ever take me aside? No one ever approached me regarding my little outbust. Especially those leaders. Wouldn’t that have been the perfect opportunity to teach a seeking 14 year old something amazing about the Gospel?

And these commenters, the people all around you as you go through your day who ask, “What did he do?” What do you tell them?

Do you recoil in disgust that someone has the audacity to either know or refuse to know God? Or do you take them aside lovingly and explain to them the hope that you have in Him?

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

And if you cannot talk to them, can we not pray for them? That one day, when God sees it fit, they will also know the joy of faith and hope and belief.

It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'”

Romans 14:11

 

 

99 sheep

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Luke 14:5

Which is greater, 1 sheep or 99 sheep?

What strikes me about this passage is the shepherd’s ability to notice that one sheep is missing. I’m not so sure I would be able to tell the difference between a herd of 100 and a herd of 99. They would look pretty much the same to me. If I were a shepherd in charge of 100 sheep and one got lost, I probably wouldn’t realize it for a long time. Furthermore, I probably would be more eager to cut my losses than to try to find it. After all, a sheep lost for who knows how long, could very well have been long since digested by a wolf. I could leave my herd exposing them all to vulnerability to search, but it doesn’t seem like a great payoff.

For God, though. He knows every single one he has made and he keeps watch over us. Not in the creepy santa claus way, or the judgmental court reporter way. He protects and oversees.

We all are so valuable to him he will not risk losing even one of us. The less fortuate, the more fortuate, the lazy, the downtrodden, the super rich, all the different types of us.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely. Ps 139:1-4

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 cor 13:12

When I obey, I’m blessed. When I’m blessed, I’m confident. When I’m confident, I obey.

When I obey, I’m blessed. When I’m blessed, I’m confident. When I’m confident, I obey.

The cycle carries on, but not as a circle as some treat it. No, you are not passing the same points in the road, but slightly different ones. We experience life as a spiral, passing through similar yet different points on the road. Every time you see something that is very much like something else you have seen before, you choose whether to react better than you did before. And so obedience, when repeated, builds itself up, like the strong foundation Jesus told us about:

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

When I obey the Lord, I can rest in the knowledge that He is pleased. Not that I receive all I ask for necessarily, but being open to His ways, I am less inclined to cling to my way. When I realize (again) that I love to be blessed, my confidence increases. Even though I don’t know exactly what I am doing all the time, it is easier it is to make the next choice in favor of the Lord because I trust Him. By this my obedience also increases and it is easier it is to make the next choice in favor of the Lord. And when it’s not easy, which most of the time it is not, I am still seeking wisdom. And fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalms 111:10).

 

How to pray

Stop struggling, stop trying to do it on your own, with your own power. Be like a trusting child who has no doubt that her Father will see and respond to her need.

He is so much bigger, so much stronger, so much more loving and compassionate than you can understand. Do you know what this means? The “God” of your head does not match the God of the Bible, who is the Most High.

He says, “You struggle inside your mind with a conception of me that is not true. Be still. And know me. Know that I am God.”

Stop expecting progress. Stop interfering in his work. Just be calm and trust Him.

Lord, in my own sin, I’ve deceived even myself into thinking that I am in control of our relationship. Help me accept your outreached hand and trust.

Thought to ponder

1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

How are you being a good steward of God’s grace today? Remember, your bank account of Grace is constantly overflowing! Give it away generously so that Jesus has more and more opportunities to top it off 🙂

Have a blessed Thursday!

Redeemed

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ~Romans 10:9

It’s Friday, that most looked-forward-to day of the week full of hopeful plans and hawaiian shirts, right? Even though we are redeemed at all times, there’s something about a Friday that feels “more” redeemed 😉  I’m so thankful for the rest that is right around the corner – Praise God, truly, for weekends!

Last night I got a few hours of sleep and feel like the walking dead today. Despite my constant desire to leave work and go climb in bed, I am also looking forward with excitement to the goals I have in mind. I have some ideas for writing projects, including a new series for this blog and this weekend I intend to flesh those out more fully. Yay!!

Battling Discontentment

I don’t hate my job, but some days I get frustrated. Like, really frustrated. After a bad day as a tech support agent, I find myself grumbling that I shouldn’t even be here. It was supposed to be an entry-level, temporary position — a placeholder until my “real life” began. Well, turns out, God had other plans.

Maybe you understand all too well what it’s like to be in a situation that doesn’t exactly knock your socks off. Sometimes we all feel like our daily lives are a boring, desert wasteland. “My job just isn’t important enough to make a difference,” I think, “Paul told us that whether we eat or drink to do everything to the glory of God, but his calling really was for the Glory of God, while mine seems to be ‘answer the phone and bear the brunt of strangers’ anger and plain meanness’. What does tech support have to do with my ultimate great commission which is to live a godly life and lead others to christ? What gives?!”

Discontentment is a judgement call on our situation. It’s a dark fog that obscures our view of God and encourages all kinds of dangerous attitudes, including doubt, envy, and grumbling. The truth becomes smaller and smaller, while evil thoughts of the heart become larger and more looming.

So what do we do when these thoughts plague us?

I understand that when these thoughts strike, it’s almost never our first instinct to cry out to God. But God’s light scatters the dark and disorderly thoughts. It helps me to methodically run through four simple truths:

  1. God is good, faithful, and true (Ps 107:1; Jn 14:6; 1 Cor 10:13)
  2. God loves me and desires to teach and correct me (Heb 12:1-13)
  3. God hates grumbling (Num 14:26-35)
  4. My appropriate response is to God is thankfulness and praise (1 Thes 5:18; Ps 106:1)

Our feelings are fleeting and a natural result of our brokenness.  David’s prayers were nothing short of human: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Ps 43:5). So don’t beat yourself up over your shortcomings, God knows. I like to think of these are life preservers that won’t let you sink while you make it to higher ground.

More ammo:

  • Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature… and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col 3:5,9)
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord (James 1:23)
  • Do everything without complaining or arguing (Phil 2:14)
  • The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all those who keep his covenant and obey his decrees (Psalm 25:10)
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4)
  • For the word of the LORD holds true, and everything he does is worthy of our trust (Ps 33:4)
  • O Lord, Your loving-kindness goes to the heavens. You are as faithful as the sky is high (Psalm 36:5)

Whatever your brand of discontent may be, I’m praying for you, friends. Remember to cast everyone on Him because He cares for you!