Thursday, September 30, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
A couple Sundays ago, my pastor proposed a question to me and for many reasons left me with an unfamiliar uncomfortable feeling. From that moment, a wheel of thoughts started rotating in my mind asking the question: Do I love God more than my old life?
This question asks if I am truly happy and so in love with the Lord that no matter how much fun my old life was, God is worth much, much more. But I have had faith as a part of my life for a long time, and so this question confused me.
“I don’t have an old life apart from God,” I thought. But as I thought some more, I realized that we all have an old life. An old life can be anything from the extreme of an addiction, ranging to little mental sins or acts based on self-righteousness. I know I can look back on the past two years and place them in the category of my “old life,” or a life that was much more comfortable for me in comparison to how I am living now.
The comfort of my old life was having control: control over my body, over my relationships, and attempted control over the direction of my life. It was easy for me to go through life that way because I thought I had what I wanted and needed for happiness. Most of all, there were no surprises such as an undesirable body weight, a broken heart, or a failed situation that would make me feel uncomfortable and out of my own control. It is so desirable to live in the way that gives us the most control, as we try to fill our thirsty hearts with what we feel is the best solution. But there it is: in that moment, we are saying to God, “I love my old life more than you. I love being in control of my life more than I love you, and ultimately I love myself more than I love you, God.”
It says in Matthew 6:24,
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…”
Although we do not need to despise our own lives, as many believers may see as sinful ‘humanness,’ to love God fully, we do need to love the life that God has given us and love him with the faith that his wisdom for our lives is above all else.
But why did that question make me feel so uncomfortable? Thinking about it, I discovered that I still see parts of my “old life” appealing and desirable.
When things get rough or frustrating, my first instinct is to think of a plan; how am I going to fix this problem, what do I need to do to make myself feel better? And there I am, placing myself right back where I was before, trying to control my life and not allowing God to work in the ways that are best for me, loving myself more than God.
When I look back at my old life, there were many things that were easier, but there was no true happiness, no fulfillment, and certainly no peace. My life was so full of worldly happiness, like the size of my body or the friends I thought would give me what I needed—things that could never fill my soul of what truly satisfies. What truly satisfies is God’s love.
So, I’ll ask again: Do you love God more than your old life? And to add to that: Do you love God more than comfort, more than control, and more than this world?
The life of loving God more than yourself is challenging and extremely uncomfortable, but when all is said and done, and we start depending on him to fill our hurt and get us through our challenges, aren’t those the things that make us feel stronger in His love? When we look at our struggles as acts of love from God we can view our lives in a completely different perspective. When I look at the hurt or the frustration of a day, I stop focusing on myself and my hardship. I strive to look to the lives and struggles of others and use my experience as a testimonial to support the people in my community and my life. I’m not saying that it is an easy fix of an old habit, or is the solution to solve all my problems, but it is a goal that I can strive towards.
In Revelation chapter 2, God acknowledges,
“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place…To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
He knows that a life loving Him first will not be easy, and will not be comfortable. He knows that we will fall at times and go back to our old ways. I can stand as a witness to that statement and say that I struggle everyday with loving God more than my comfortable old life, but I also stand with the knowledge, that he will always be there to pick me up.
Each of us has our own struggles, our own hurts, and our own desires to live a comfortable life. It is something that presses on our hearts each and every day and we are faced with challenges and decisions. But we have a choice. We have free will given to us from our Lord to choose. You have the choice how you want to live you life.
So what’s it going to be? Are you going to love God more than your old life?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
- I am His own. (1 Samuel 12:22)
- He sees my heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
- He heals me. (2 Kings 20:5)
- He makes me glad with the joy of His presence. (Psalm 27:4)
- I will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord forever. (Psalm 27:4)
- He will never forsake me. (Psalm 27:10)
- He is near me. (Psalm 34:18)
- He is enthralled by my beauty. (Psalm 45:11)
- He rescues me. (Psalm 91:14)
- He crowns me with love and compassion. (Psalm 103:4)
- He satisfies my hunger with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
- I am wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
- I speak words of life to others. (Proverbs 15:4)
- I belong to Him (Song of Songs 7:10)
- He bears my pain. (Isaiah 53:4)
- He gives me a crown of beauty instead of ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)
- He wraps me in a robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10)
- He calls me by a new name. (Isaiah 62:2)
- He crowns me with splendor. (Isaiah 62:3)
- I am His workmanship. (Isaiah 64:8)
- He knows me. (Jeremiah 1:5)
- I bear His name. (Jeremiah 14:9)
- He loves me with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
- He speaks tenderly to me. (Hosea 2:14)
- He dresses me in rich garments. (Zechariah 3:4)
- He takes me to a quiet place and gives me rest. (Mark 6:31)
- He gives me treasure in heaven. (Luke 12:33)
- He does not judge me by appearances. (John 7:24)
- He sets me free. (John 8:36)
- I am chosen. (John 15:19)
- I reap holiness and eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
- I am accepted in the Beloved. (Romans 15:7)
- He sees me as I am. (2 Corinthians 3:16)
- He turns my hardship to glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
- He clothes me with Himself. (Galatians 3:27)
- He delivers me. (Galatians 5:1)
- He gives me power. (Ephesians 1:19)
- He redeems my past. (Philippians 3:13)
- He gives me hope. (2 Thess. 2:16)
- He encourages my heart. (2 Thess. 2:17)
- He sympathizes with my weakness. (Hebrews 4:15)
- He gives me everything I need. (2 Peter 1:3)
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
“I just feel like I have to be perfect…We so desperately want to fit in…It’s a constant struggle.”
The faces are pretty but often contorted with uncertainty and pain.
“It’s just coming at you from all angles with everyone saying how you’re supposed to look and what you’re supposed to do…When I didn’t automatically fit in and I saw that people were making fun of me, I’d just go home and cry…On the inside I just hated myself and I thought, why am I not enough?”
Ever since God first gave me the vision for Wonderfully Made, our team has unceasingly dreamt of creative ways we can share the struggle today's young women are enduring, and the message of hope God has for His daughters. I've always thought how epic it would be to create a documentary that authentically captured the world our generation of girls finds ourselves spinning in, while unveiling the message of our true value and worth in Christ. Well, the Yellow Roses team beat us to it and I'm so glad they did because I know this documentary will help raise awareness about the burdens our generation of girls is carrying and spread the hope-filled message of true beauty, purpose and worth God has for His daughters. I discovered the Yellow Roses film through our dear friend, Author & wmVoice Nicole Bromley whose powerful story is featured in the movie. Never before have I encountered a film that so poignantly captures the struggles every young woman encounters to some degree or another. I recently had the privilege of speaking with Karie Hughes, one of the films inspiring producers and we're exploring ways Wonderfully Made can come alongside their team in helping get this message out there! Stay tuned.
To purchase the Yellow Roses film & learn more about how to be involved, visit their website.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
By Jennifer Strickland
A while back I had lunch with a woman who had honored me to share my testimony at her women’s luncheon. I had just moved from California to Texas at the time of my speaking and felt unusually emotional in front of the microphone. I nearly always shed a few tears at some point in telling my story, and at this particular event, the tears streamed down my face.
I am very honest when I tell about the world I came from. For the sake of the women in the room, I don’t wear a perfect mask; instead, I share my experience from the heart. I intimately recall what it was like to call out to God I didn’t know from a place of sheer darkness, to be answered by Him, and to pass by faith into a life of light. Typically, I speak and write from the pit of my stomach, from the place that remembers well a life without God at the helm. Over our debriefing luncheon, the woman commented that many women were moved by my testimony, but also asked if she could offer a correction.
“Absolutely,” I said, inching forward on the edge of my seat.
“The daughter of the King is not a victim, Jen,” she said, “She is a victor.”
At that moment I knew that as much as Christ had triumphed over my past, as much as God had restored my life with incredible blessing, I was at that time still speaking as a victim of the world. I was still giving more weight to the ways I was hurt than to the ways I’ve been healed. Why was it that I still shed tears when I told the story? Was I still hurt? Was I living like the wounded instead of the restored?
Many of you come from greater pains than I; many can’t even imagine life on earth without the Word as your guide. But if you have laid your life at the throne of Christ, you are given a beautiful, resplendent crown to wear, no matter where you come from.
Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa 61:1-3
Are you giving the brokenness in your heart more weight than the fact that God can bind it up? Are you giving more weight to the captivity of your past or the freedom of your future? The darkness you’ve been released from or the shackle-free life ahead? The mourning or the comfort? The grief or the provision? The old spirit of despair or the new garment of praise? The ashes or the crown?
Recently, I felt the Lord ask me a simple question: Which weighs more, Jen, the crown or the ashes? The ashes are our pasts: the hurts, the injustices, the debts owed us, the ruins of what we had once hoped for but didn’t bear fruit. The crown of beauty is our future: the healing, the purpose, the truth, our cancelled debt, forgiveness, and grace. I have a beautiful crown I put on at some of my events to show women and girls the power of what it is to be a daughter of God. I think I’ll take a scale today and weigh some ashes and weigh that crown. Of course I already know which weighs more.
I refuse to put more weight on my ashes, for the past can’t tell us who we are. Instead, I lay hold of the crown of the Daughter of the King, which gives us an eternal identity and destiny. We are crowned in victory, hope, restoration, and joy. The crown of the faithful carries the weight of authority and purpose that no bucket of ashes could ever outweigh.
Today and in the days to come, choose the crown.
I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent.” Psalm 132:18
How has God traded in your ashes for a beautiful crown?
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Allie Hart is Santa Clara University's fabulous Co-Director!
A RebelXSi camera,
2 duffel bags,
I had said goodbye to my parents only moments before and found myself wishing to see them just one last time. I sent one last text to my boyfriend and reluctantly turned my cell phone off, dreading the next four months without it.
Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Little did I know that the next four months would consist of some of the best experiences of my life. I don’t think I have ever witnessed as many God moments as I did while on that trip. And after just a few days on that boat, I knew it was exactly where He needed and wanted me to be.
The first incredible gift God gave me was a wonderful roommate, Anna, who would soon become my best friend. I know Anna will be one of the bridesmaids in my wedding-that is how close we were at the end of our adventure.
Anna always allowed me to be me. If I was having a bad day, I didn’t need to lie to her when she asked “how are you doing.” If I was mad, I could yell.
It felt so good to not have to pretend to be someone I am not. Do you ever feel that way? I do all the time in class, while walking on campus, and sometimes with my friends.
The relationship I had formed with Anna is the type of relationship God wants us to have with Him.
How freeing is it to know we don’t have to hide?
But how hard is it to realize we’ve got some sticky cobwebs we don’t want to bring up ever again? It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. And God has given women the ability to be extraordinary friends and confidants. I never want to miss out on that.
About a year ago, I left for one of the best journeys of my life.
And as I sit here today watching some of the goofy videos Anna and I made, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with the love God has put in my life.