six hundred forty-nine thousand one hundred eighty-four

I’ve been super inactive on here the last semester, and for that I apologize. This is an adaptation of a sermon I wrote for my final in Biblical Preaching last semester. Hope God uses it for someone else too.

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Once upon a time…I went to this terrible awful place called public high school. It wasn’t actually that bad… When I was in high school, we had this thing called “Project Graduation.” We would basically go from graduation, to dinner, and then all come back to the school for a bunch of games and a photobooth and food and just being kind of crazy with our class for the last time. The goal of it was to keep us from going out and partying by having something for us to do.  The end cap of the night was an auction, and we would spend points we’d earned all year while working sports events or doing various community service projects. I got some random little stuff, a shelf unit, and a cheap laptop… but my absolute favorite thing was a kindle fire. I love to read. I honestly don’t really feel like myself this semester because I don’t have enough free time to do personal reading.

As much as I love to read, I also love just learning little somewhat useless facts. I’m going to combine those two loves and share some random facts about books with you. On amazon, when you search books about sex, there are 300,000. There are 500,000 about Christianity. There are 200,000 about money. And there are over 600,000 books about love on amazon. People are looking for love. They’re looking for an explanation; they’re looking to find love; they’re looking to learn how to give love… Society is looking to fill the need for love in their lives. Thankfully, Christ has made it really clear what His disciples need to do about that.

Let’s look at John 13: 34-35. Jesus is talking to his disciples around the table where they’d dined together, in the room where He’d washed their feet, and at some point in the day before they went to the garden where He would get that traitorous kiss on the cheek. He said, “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”

Just looking at that it may seem like it’s simple, but when it comes to our day to day lives it’s not always so easy to put it into practice. So let’s break this down a little bit, because obviously this was important to Christ, so it must be important to us.

Jesus starts off saying that this is a NEW commandment. That’s not because this is a new concept or anything, but because it is for a new object and a new measure.

So, first, let’s look at WHO this command is saying to love, this new object. The reason this is a new commandment specifically and not just another commandment, is that we’ve already seen this one, and the disciples were familiar with it already in their Jewish culture. He’s alluding to Leviticus 19:18, where the Israelites were told to “love their neighbor.” Now, in their day and age, the Jews had watered down “love your neighbor” enough that they were able to pick and choose who they wanted to love. But Christ changed it. He switched it up from just “your neighbors,” which was more easily twisted, to loving everyone who falls under the umbrella of “one another.”

Now, we have to realize that he’s sitting in a room with his disciples, and the immediate “one another” was the other disciples in the room that day. It seems a little bit odd to tell His disciples to love the other disciples there with them at first. But if we as believers do not love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, how on earth can we then go out and love anyone else? We have to start at home, and make sure our immediate family is healthy before we can go out and start loving everyone else.

Okay, so “one another” was this new object. But now we need to figure out the “new measure” I mentioned a minute ago… So let’s look at HOW this command is saying to love.

The “measure” of this love is “as I have loved you.” Jesus isn’t saying to love someone within our own capacities. We are fickle with our love; we are selfish. Humans as a whole love conditionally. As hard as we try, there’s no such thing as unconditional love within a human heart. That’s not the kind of love Christ is talking about. He’s talking about striving to always pour out the holy and pure love that we receive from Heaven. He’s talking about letting the Spirit guide us into being as selfless and caring and sacrificial as He was.

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus showed them a new standard of love by washing the disciples’ feet and completely humbling himself in a very tangible way. He didn’t just talk about it and expect them to get it…He got down on that dirty floor with his bowl of water and washed their dirty, sandy, tired feet. He did the servants job. He gave these baffled men a glimpse of the love he wanted them to give. The fact that he had just done this for them made his words even more impactful to them in this situation. Obviously, we know that Christ then went on to show them, and the rest of the world, His love in the most absolute way possible, but the disciples didn’t know what was coming yet.

Trying to love like Jesus is asking doesn’t mean you need to go find yourself some nasty feet to wash today, and it doesn’t mean you need to die for someone today, or maybe ever in your life. It means to seek the highest good for another. Agape love sacrifices for others. It is an act of will, a decision, not trying to find some fuzzy feeling for someone. It is a commitment. This Good Love, capital G, is not about your needs or my needs; it’s about God’s will. God is Good, and God is Love, and His will is for us to give this Good Love to one another. When Jesus says, “as I have loved you,” He sets Himself up as the standard by which His disciples are to forever measure their love for one another.

Now we’ve covered WHO we are supposed to love, and HOW to love them. But realistically, I know you’re probably asking WHY you’re supposed to go through life throwing this holy love at people.

That answer is pretty simple: this is a commandment from Christ. It’s not a suggestion or something we just need to think about. He’s saying, “this you have to do for me” because how we love directly effects how He looks to the world. And this loving isn’t some fuzzy feeling; this is Love the verb.

It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t say that we had to like everyone. You don’t have to like someone to love someone. I spent the majority of my life loving but strongly disliking my father. We had an incredibly tumultuous relationship. I won’t go into details here. But there was never a doubt in my mind that I love him. I always have and I always will. But the more I figure out how to love without liking, and try to figure out this Christ-like love towards him, the more I am able to like him, and see that God’s been working in him in the last few years. You won’t like everyone. That’s life. But you’re still asked to show Christ’s love to them.

To demonstrate that we are believers and shine His light, we’ve got to show this kind of intentional, intense love for one another. Nothing will surprise and interest this broken world as much as a group that can love totally and beautifully. It’s not always a big complicated thing to love properly. Vocalize what you’re appreciative of without including “but” or a negative as well. Learn to seek out another believe and speak encouraging words. Hug someone. Find ways to serve your church more or other believers somehow.

After you leave, you’ve got to go finish exams or pack up and move out and you’ll probably be pretty stressed. That stress means you might get in a fight with your boyfriend, or your mom, or your roommate. Instead of exhibiting that Christ-love, you will show anger. You may get road rage driving back home or be stuck on a plane next to the worst person ever. You might want to give this person a piece of your mind…

These are all natural fleshly impulses that we all feel. But God is calling us to live a supernatural life that is dependent upon His strength. John is informing you and me that we can’t live the Christian life on our own for even an hour. We are weak and susceptible to sin. The only way that we can exude love is by constantly abiding in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit. “Love one another as I have loved you.” That has always been Christ’s desire for us. And if we can live out this love in our daily lives, maybe people won’t need to write so many books about love. Maybe they’ll see that the only book about love that they need has already been written, by the One with the love they need.

tornadoes sirens and lightening strikes

Ok first, that title is somewhat misleading because I will probably only mention the tornado siren that went off tonight twice (including this) in this post but I’ve never heard one outside of a test so I was excited (yes, about potential death and destruction) about it happening.

In case you’re not from the US and stumbled upon this, or just didn’t look outside tonight and were oblivious to the sounds of thunder and lightening  (lightening doesn’t have a sound, Kait…) thunder and rain, this is what the whole middle of America looked like tonight.

Yes, that is just central Texas, but the storm stretched from Nebraska down to CTX so it was straight down the US.

I was sitting in Taco Cabana with the wonderful girl I’m going to live with next year and a plate full of fajitas, and was prepared to knock out some homework. The clouds were this beautiful, expectant, rain-heavy, dark-periwinkle blue color that was so wonderful I almost (almost, because I was starving post-workout) stopped to take a picture of them. But as we got our food, it took less than five minutes for the clouds to go from that beautiful blue shade to such a dark green-grey that it almost looked like midnight at 8 in the evening (which was sunset tonight; so it should’ve been pink, not black). We hightailed it back to campus, and right as we were near my building the tornado siren around the corner started wailing.

I love storms. SO much. I think they’re ridiculously beautiful and they ALWAYS put me in a worshipful mood (because hello look how majestic and powerful and wonderful they are and how much bigger and better  is God than some storm).

So of course, being me, I was like “dur hur, time to write a cheesy post about storms and strong towers and foundations, because duh” …ok and because I felt the Spirit nudging me to look storm verses up. As if I’d really make that connection on my own. I’m an oblivious idiot most of the time so He has to nudge (punch?) me hard when I need do do something.

And I started reading about how He’s our stronghold (in Isaiah but obviously a recurring theme). And I started reading a few psalms about dealing with tempests (because David was a poet so why not use a fun word like tempest). And of course the parable about building on the rock foundation.

I was reading these verses about how God protects us not just from the physical storms around us but from the spiritual tempests we weather too, and I was listening to the thunder’s drum-beat and the rain’s steady patter against my window and watching the lightening paint purple and blue streaks across the dark clouds, and simply marveling… When God told me to call a family member. And I knew her family was dealing with their own storm. And I knew that it was a storm I had faced before, and I knew the the images and emotions in that storm’s winds and waves. Because I’ve faced the waves that are tossed higher than my head by rape. I’ve felt the power of the wind blown by eating disorders that will bowl you over. I’ve seen the burning power of the lightening strike that is the electrifying decision to finally end my life. This storm is a familiar one. The scars that line my arms and body may be from my own hands and a razor blade, but they are really from the feelers that lightening bolt sent down before its big strike.

And all the little pieces of my testimony, that at the time were soul-crushing and all encompassing… I made it through. I would never wish most of my story on anyone else. And I wouldn’t say that I’m glad it happened how it did, but I am thankful that it happened, because now I do have that testimony. Because God can use it for incredible things. Because my past pain means that I can understand others’ pain, and help them find the healing I have. Because my twisted testimony can bring so much glory to God.

My twisted testimony can flash out just as bright and just as hot as those electric streaks that danced through the dark tonight. I get the privilege to dance through the dark every day, and touch those people that have been burned by the same terrible lightening I have. But now, instead of that pain, I can be a conductor for the spark that can shock their hearts into beating again.

But I have to be grounded to be able to conduct that life-lightening. I have to be grounded in the Rock, and have that firm foundation, or else the storm that I’m always in will blow me away and drown me again, and then I won’t be able to breathe myself, much less pass on a spark that I can’t find anymore. I have to build my life on the Rock to be able to paint the dark like I watched that lightening do tonight. I want to shine like that.

when still isn’t still

It’s 14 days before my last final of this semester, and that means that my world is exploding and being crazy. I pulled one all-nighter already this week and haven’t made it to bed before 1am the rest of the nights so far. (I am accepting donations of coffee and white monsters and 5 hour energy shots, if you’re feeling generous.)

I had to find time to just chill out or I’d go insane. We’re told to, Be still, and know that [He is] God.” But life is crazy, and that’s really hard to do sometimes. 

Thankfully, being spiritually still doesn’t always mean being physically still. That would be lovely, but that’s a luxury I don’t have today.

Today is my “rest” day this week, so no cardio. Just a resistance band arm workout on the floor of my dorm room. I had worship music pumping into my ears and surrounding me with peace.

That was my little bubble of calm in the middle of this storm. A simple arm workout. 1 minute before I started I was emailing my roommate old papers to use for reference and listening to her essay and reassuring her that no, it doesn’t sound stupid, and yes, I think she’s going to pass it. And not even 30 seconds after I finished my reps, I was in a flurry of texts with my media group about a project and trying to re-film some scenes in time to not fail a project and in turn probably the class. And as can be expected with text messages, there was some confusion that just added to the frazzled feeling of the conversation.

But I have that bubble to draw from. It wasn’t even that much time, but I was “still” with God and my arms are tired in that happy way and my heart is full of Him and the quiet determination that comes from being filled with His strength, and knowing that I’ll get through these two weeks fine, albeit somewhat lacking in sleep.

So whether you’re a mom or a college kid or a teacher or anything that’s making you run around like a chicken with your head cut off like I am, remember to be still with God, whether you’re actually still or not. Blast some Hillsong while you chop veggies. Dance to Planetshakers while you vacuum your living room. Sing along with Ascend the Hill or All Sons and Daughters while you take a shower. But be still in your heart and let God’s presence wash over you and soak into you. That’s all that matters.

Be still, and stay sane.

suicide, depression, and christianity

Yesterday (4/13/15) was two years since one of my high school best friends died. She committed suicide.

I’m not going to blog about whether people who kill themselves go to hell or not or if Christ’s blood covers that sin as well. That’s for people way more theologically advanced than me, and even then – who knows? That’s still up to God.

What I am going to talk about is depression. Because that’s something that I’ve dealt with for as long as I can recall. I can remember being in fourth or fifth grade and thinking, “I’m a kid… shouldn’t I be happy? Why am I sad all the time?” I can show you the thin white lines that lace my forearms and biceps and wrists and hips and stomach and the darker purple-silver ones on my thighs where normal cuts didn’t get deep enough.

And what I am going to talk about is suicide, because the first time I tried to kill myself was in sixth grade. Little 11 year old me was going to fall on a butcher knife in the middle of the kitchen because she was so depressed. (what I would give to have 5 minutes with her or just hug her…) And that was only the first time I tried.

I know these personally. These demons have been around me my whole life. Sometimes I sarcastically call them my friends, but I know they’re my enemies. They are from the Enemy. His job is to steal, kill and destroy. That is exactly what depression does. It steals your joy; it kills your hope; it destroys your desire for life at all.

Depression tells you that you are alone. That no one loves you, that no one will understand what you’re going through, that no one cares. It isolates you from your friends and family and everything that you were once interested in.

Not only do 1 in 10 American adults face depression at some point, the number of people diagnosed with depression goes up by 20 percent every year. (source) Whether you think that’s because of our increasing techno-social dependence, or something to do with genetically modified foods, or some other theory that’s floating around society: the facts are still the facts, and depression is something that you or some you love will face in their lifetime.

Depression isn’t anything new either. It’s been around since the Bible times.

Jeremiah 20:14-18 says,
14 Cursed be the day
    on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
    let it not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
“A son is born to you,”
    making him very glad.
16 Let that man be like the cities
    that the Lord overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
    and an alarm at noon,
17 because he did not kill me in the womb;
    so my mother would have been my grave,
    and her womb forever great.
18 Why did I come out from the womb
    to see toil and sorrow,
    and spend my days in shame?

Job 7:15-16 says
15 I would choose strangling
    and death rather than my bones.
16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
    Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.

The book of Psalms is full of different examples of King David, the “man after God’s own heart,” crying out in deep depression and sadness.

Psalm 32:3-4 says
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up[a] as by the heat of summer.

Psalm 102:4-7 says
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
    I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning
    my bones cling to my flesh.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
    like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake;
    I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.

Psalm 6:6 says
I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.

But Psalm 42:5 shows us a slightly different story:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation.

David tells his heart: hope in God! He doesn’t say “praise him right now” or “just be happy” or something silly like that. He acknowledges that he can’t necessarily find joy right now. But he does hold on to the future, and hold on to the knowledge that everything won’t stay dark forever. Pain lasts for the night, but joy IS coming in the morning!

I don’t have any magic words for how I got past my depression. Truth is, I didn’t. Those “friends” will likely be around for the rest of my life, because they’re caused by a hereditary chemical imbalance in my brain. The difference is that I am familiar with ol’ Depression’s lies now. I know how to combat them. I know the verses to read, the things to focus on in prayer. Not that depression doesn’t grow and evolve with me as I learn, but I grow and learn with it, and the goal is to grow with God faster than my “friends” do.

In a strange way, it’s comforting to look down at my arms or legs and see those silver-white lines. They fade more and more as the years separate me from that 12 year old with a broken mirror, desperate for something, and from the 14 year old who was given a razor blade that allowed her the ability to quickly and easily slice away at her arms upwards of 50 times in a night. Those are brutal memories to think and talk about, but they are a huge part of my testimony, and I love seeing my scars, and seeing how God has used them to open the door to countless broken people who see that I can understand them. I will be sad when my little lines are completely invisible to the naked eye, because they represent the daily battle I have to do on the soul-level.

So if you are dealing with some “friends” of your own – all I can say is just hold on. There is always hope. There is a dawn coming for your night. No, life won’t always be sunshine and roses. In fact, it may stay looking like a gloomy, foggy mess forever. BUT, you wouldn’t even be able to see that fog if you hadn’t found some sort of light to see with. Fog can be so beautiful and magical.

It’s a fight. You don’t have to win every battle! You are allowed to take a day off from life. You are allowed to stay in bed all day if the fight to just even live gets too exhausting. Just make sure you get up that next day after your little break. Just keep fighting, and one day you’ll find someone to fight with you, and maybe multiple someones to help. And it will slowly get easier and easier. Hope.

My hope for anyone reading this jumble of emotions and thoughts is the same as Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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If you or someone you know is thinking about hurting themselves in some way, here are a few resources.

imalive.org
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
1-800-273-TALK
afsp.org

even if he does not

Don’t worry, I’ll be back to my usual black and white pictures soon. But this little piece of Daniel 3:18 that I painted tonight looked better in color.

Daniel 3:17-18 – “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Even if He does not… we will be faithful.

Even if He does not…

  • make following my calling simple
  • make paying for SAGU easy
  • heal my father’s heart toward my mother
  • choose to heal my depression
  • make all the steps of my path clear
  • make it clear how to escape my sin habits
  • give me a rainy season
  • show me the way out of the desert

HE IS STILL GOOD.

Even if He never does another thing that makes sense to me or makes my life any “better” by my standards, He is still GOOD. He works ALL things for the good of those who love Him. My furnaces, whether I am delivered smoke-free or killed, will glorify Him.

He can deliver me from my battles and my personal furnaces. I believe that with all of my heart. He is bigger and better and stronger than anything I will ever face. He can deliver me. But even if He does not, I still will follow, and I still will praise Him.

on followers, faves, and forgiveness

I love having the timehop app. It’s really fun to see old pictures and old memories. It’s also really interesting to see how I acted on social media compared to the actual state of my heart. I went to church a little in the beginning of high school because I had to, but I consider when I got saved to be October of my senior year. So it’s kind of funny to see bible verses or overly spiritual things popping up on my timehop from my sophomore and junior years, and thinking back to what I was actually doing at that point, and how far I really was from God.

It’s so easy to put a good face up on social media. To post a few verses or a Tozer quote, and act like everything is peachy.

I want to be transparent. Just because I post something pretty on my blog and it says something that touches your heart, or it looks like I have my act together, doesn’t mean that’s the truth.

I mess up all the time. Constantly. Daily. “Big” sins, and what feels like a million “little” ones (even though I know they all equally put Jesus on the cross). I’m not great at this thing called life. And I’m also not great at facing God when I feel convicted.

I let the healthy and helpful prodding of the Holy Spirit become twisted into a guilt that then pushes me farther from God. Instead of it drawing me closer, Satan knows how easy it is to get in my head and use that to do the opposite.

In my quest to chill out a little bit and go, “Okay. Where are You really at with my guilt and my sheepishness and wanting to not be in trouble…?” I dug in to see what I could find on forgiveness.

(spoiler – there’s a ton of stuff on forgiveness.)

Psalm 103:12 says, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”

1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’”

Acts 3:19 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,”

I dig some refreshing from the Lord. And I need it today, while I try to figure out where conviction from the Spirit ends and guilt that will hurt my relationship and my worship begins.

Conviction is a good thing. Healthy. Necessary. Conviction is when little Jiminy Cricket hops up on my shoulder and goes “Hey Kait, do you really think that’s what you should be doing/ thinking/ reading/ watching/ saying right now?” Conviction is from God and is designed to help me walk out who I should be in Him; it’s my compass in this adventure called life.

Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you, self?!

I don’t know how He deals with me so often. I hurt Him so much.

But can’t you see His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin, Kait? Self, that voice is love.

One of my favorite songs says, “A father who doesn’t discipline/ Is one watching his kids/ Playing in the streets of sin.” That’s the point of conviction. To keep my reckless self from running out into the dangerous street and getting my heart all beat up. And I know that in my head, but it’s hard to remember when my shame makes it hard to come back to God after one more mistake.

Don’t be discouraged when you see everyone else’s pretty social media. Their timehop’s probably won’t match their actual hearts next year, either.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant and patient God is with you? So hang your head a little when you come back to Him. It’s okay. Apologize, once again. And remember that He longs to wipe away your sins and refresh you.

the name thing

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In high school I saw somewhere to take that passage and put your name in it to remind you how to be. I then promptly forgot about it because I didn’t really care much for God most of high school. This morning I was drinking coffee and eating oatmeal with flax seeds and hoping that God would give me more energy from our time together before my 8 am lab (because whoever lives above me was apparently building furniture last night after midnight). He reminded me about that idea this morning.

Kaitlin is patient.

Kaitlin is kind.

She doesn’t envy.

She doesn’t boast.

She isn’t proud.

Kaitlin honors others.

She isn’t self-seeking.

She isn’t easily angered.

She is forgiving.

Kaitlin doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in truth.

She protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

That is love. God is love, and those verses say so clearly “love is” those things. If I’m trying be to be like God, then I’m trying to be like that passage. I was praying my way through those goals and then simply said “I want to be love.” God reminded me of John 15:13. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” But in daily life, there’s not necessarily always something life threatening going on to cause you to need to lay your life down. There’s just the daily grind and 1000 tiny choices and interactions. But by being patient and kind and humble etc. we are BEING love and in spirit laying our lives down for our brothers and sisters. This is the greatest love.

Try the name thing. Be love in the world.