The Good Shepherd

Just a few little updates:
1. I’ve added a link to my navigation bar to my posts on wholemagazine.org. I write devotionals for them every Tuesday, so there’s a new post each week. I hope you check it out!

2. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of music I listen to while I’m writing or doing a Bible study, I have a pretty crazy-big/awesome Spotify playlist that you can listen or subscribe to here 🙂

3. I know I’ve failed on my promises of more regular posting so far! I’m sorry! It’s something I’m working on, but I can’t really guarantee anything regular as of yet 😛 I just had my interview for grad school a few days ago (pray for that if you’d like!), and finals week is coming up, so I’ve been busy! Hopefully things will smooth out soon, though. In the meantime, I’ll post as much as I can. Thanks for understanding!

There are lots of metaphors for our relationship with God, aren’t there? Father/children, groom/bride, vine/branches, and the list goes on. I think my favorite one, though, is that of the Good Shepherd and his sheep.

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 Photo credit: Giulio Bernardi on Flickr

The metaphor tells us a lot about who God is but also a lot about who we are. Knowing those two things tells us in turn what our relationship with God should look like. I want to take a quick look at that with this post. There are two main chunks of scripture that talk about this metaphor, one in John and one in Psalms. They each correlate with a certain aspect of the relationship displayed in this analogy. So without further ado…
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Where’s Your Place?

I feel closest to God when I’m near the water.

There are two places where I always feel connected to the Lord in a special way, and that’s where they both are. I frequent the dock at the lake a few miles out of town. The stars are so bright and beautiful out there, and I’m always amazed by them. I also love going to the rocky Oregon coast when I can — the waves crashing in and out is so mesmerizing. I spent this weekend in a little town on the coast called Cannon Beach, and it was such a great getaway.

I’m not sure what it is exactly, but something about both of those places never fails to remind me how big God is and how small I am. I get something there that I can’t get in the everyday hustle-and-bustle of life. I have to get away and be out there.

It’s where I clear my head best, where I break before God, where I receive answers I’ve been waiting for.

I guess it’s not so much the water itself — although I do love that — so much as it’s me purposefully getting away to be alone with the Lord. I have to be intentional about setting apart time to go to either of them. Then I go out expectantly.

With all that said, I guess what I’m asking you is: do you have a “place?” Somewhere you can be alone with God? If you don’t, I would encourage you to find one. (It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant; it could be your bedroom!) Wherever your place is, go out there frequently. Set aside time on purpose. Go before the throne of grace expectantly. When you seek after God with all your heart, he will never let you down.

So… Where’s your place?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Just wanted to let you all know that I will hopefully start posting more starting next week. I think I’ve worked out a schedule for writing and posting that works for me now, plus I finally paid for a URL (to give me incentive to not let my money go to waste!), so expect some new stuff soon. In the meantime, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Prone to Wander

One of my favorite hymns is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” because it’s not only beautiful but so raw and honest. It doesn’t sugarcoat anything: “Oh, to grace, how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be. Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love! Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.” Yeah. Sounds like me. Does it sound like you, too?

Our hearts are prone to wander. We are incredibly inclined to leave the God we love. I guess desiring independence is human nature. If it wasn’t, we would never move out of our parents’ houses! But desiring independence from God is a sign of wrong thinking. We know that underneath it all. Still, though, how often do we do it anyway?

I often find myself – and I’ve heard from others that this is a problem for them, as well – bringing the “big things” to God and thinking that I can handle the small things myself. The big things? I know I can’t handle those. Lord, please help me get into the Master’s program I’m applying for. Lord, please protect my family and keep us safe. But the little things are totally within my grasp, or so I think. I can handle this situation with my friend; we just need to talk it out. I can handle the problem I have with lying/gossiping/whatever it may be all the time; I just need to try harder to be good. I begin attempting to rely on my own strength instead of using God’s. I get exhausted that way, and I make mistakes. My reliance on myself leads me down the wrong paths. I sin. I’m prone to wander.

Something that I’ve been learning recently is that I can’t trust myself. On my own, I will never be strong enough to resist temptation. If I fall into the trap of believing that I can do it without Jesus, I am destined to fail. If I start believing that I’m not prone to wander, wandering is the first thing I’m bound to do. Friends, I encourage you to realize a few things that I am working on realizing myself:

  1. You will never be good enough. I don’t mean that in a harsh way, but it’s easy for all of us – myself included! – to start deceiving ourselves here. We start thinking that we’re doing pretty well on our own and relying on Jesus a little less. But here’s the thing… The only righteousness and goodness we have in the first place is what he gives us. On your own, without Jesus, you will never be good enough. You will never be strong enough on your own to not wander. Neither will your pastor or your neighbor or your parent or me. None of us is good enough. And if we left it there, our story would not be a happy one. But…
  2. God longs to help you. He wants you close to him. He wants you to walk in righteousness and be in fellowship with him. I love the part of the song that asks God to “bind my wandering heart to Thee!” We need his help if we’re going to not wander away from him. And he desperately wants to give us that help! He desires a relationship with us. He wants nothing more than to help you stay close to him. Ask him to give you the strength you need. Take everything, even the things you think you can handle, to him. He will be faithful!

Be encouraged! We are all prone to wander. But thank goodness we have a savior who “came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10 ESV). You will never wander so far that he can’t find you and bring you back. You are his beloved. Believe that and cling to him.

[Note: Jon Acuff has a great post about this same topic that I think you should all read, too! You can check it out here.]

Hey, guys!

Just wanted to make a quick announcement that I wrote a guest post for my friend’ Melissa’s blog Compassionate Odyssey, and it’s up today! You can check it out here! Let me know what you think 🙂

A Case for Sloppy, Wet Kisses

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are two kinds of Christians… Those on Team Sloppy Wet, and those on Team Unforeseen.

“How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan is probably my favorite contemporary worship song. You’re probably familiar with David Crowder Band’s cover of it. In DCB’s version, there is a line that says, “Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.” John Mark McMillan’s original line, though, is, “Heaven meets earth like a sloppy, wet kiss.” For some reason, this line seems to cause controversy wherever it goes in the Christian world 🙂

It seems like the argument I hear most often against “sloppy wet” is that it sounds creepy or too seductive or something for church. (My counterargument is that “unforeseen” is even creepier.) But I think the people who make that claim are missing the point personally… Here’s why I love “sloppy wet” so much.

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Inside Jokes with God

In my experience, inside jokes are the best ones. It’s the stuff that’s only funny to you and one or two other people. It’s usually pretty silly, and it makes absolutely no sense to anyone who wasn’t involved. It’s stuff that actually means something because it’s born out of a “you-had-to-be-there” moment you’ve shared.

I have inside jokes with God. Yup, I said it.

Well, I have one inside joke with God, I guess, not really multiples. You know what it is? Psalm 46:10. That’s it.

What makes it an inside joke is that it’s only funny to God and me. You probably didn’t see the hilarity, did you? But it makes me chuckle every time. It was a verse that God gave me a few years ago when I was impatiently praying for something that — hey — I’m still praying for today. “Be still and know that I am God.”

I shrugged it off in that prayer time without thinking anything of it, but then I started seeing it everywhere. In devotionals. In songs. As the verse of the day in my email. It was crazy! And that was when I knew that God was totally pranking me. He wasn’t going to let me get by without picking up on the joke we were sharing. Hey, Hannah! Be still! Know that I’m God! You rascal! (He might not have said all of that.)

To this day, I still smile when I see it. It might be because I’m still waiting for that thing that I was praying for way back when. It’s become an inside joke with God and me. When I’m feeling impatient, he tells me to be still. It’s a reminder that I’m being silly because everything is in his hands. It’s become one of those things where I’m sure God is looking down and saying, “Ohhh, you,” with a warm smile because he knows I’m overreacting to something he’s got under control.

Whenever I see that verse, I know God is smiling back at me, his impatient daughter. We laugh together about it, I’m sure. I remind myself to be still and know that he is God. I know I probably won’t ever master being still until I’m in heaven with him, so this is one enduring inside joke, let me tell you. It might seem silly, but that’s the point of inside jokes, right? Maybe you had to be there.

Do you have any inside jokes with God? Verses you see everywhere that hit way too close to home? A song on the radio? Something else? Let me know in the comments!