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.

police and prayer and pursuit

God is so cool. Just have to throw that out there. I have to shout from the rooftops – but since it’s quiet hours I’ll blog instead.

I woke up and the Spirit was all over me and I was so filled with Him all day. How wonderful. There’s nothing better.

Worship was so amazing at church this morning. And smack in the middle of singing about how “He is freedom” and “He is healing” God hit me with some instructions.

They were simple: pray for a police officer today.

Uh, okay God. Sure. That’s not what I was expecting to hear from you this morning, but if you put an officer in my path, I’ll totally do it.

He showed me that it would be at a traffic stop and that was that. I went back to worship. When we sat down, I put a reminder in my phone and told myself that if I hadn’t seen a traffic stop by that evening, I’d go to the police station and at least just walk in and ask to pray for someone. And you know what?

I forgot.

That reminder on my phone didn’t help at all. And I was torn up about it.

Come on Kait! It’s been forever since you’ve gotten one of those “crazy” instructions. How could you blow this? If He can’t trust you with something little like praying for a cop, how can He trust you to do big things for His kingdom?

I was driving across campus after filming in another dorm with a pal in the passenger seat, and just across the field from my dorm… those blazing blue and red lights; an officer in a traffic stop.

I said, “Will you do something crazy with me?”

She said, “Is it legal to walk up to a cop during a stop?”

I said, “I dunno, but God was pretty clear.”

So we walked across that field (and I almost stepped in literally the biggest ant pile I’ve ever seen) with the flashlight on my phone on so he could see us coming, and when he got out to talk to the driver a second time I called, “Officer? Can I talk to you when you’re done?” and he said “Sure.”

He asked how he could help us, and I said, “Um, can I ask you something a little crazy?” His wary expression melted when I said “So this morning in worship…” and explained that I wanted to pray for him.

And Abe, if you read this, I’ll keep praying for your health. And of course your safety. And you were so wonderful and I’m so thankful for you and the rest of the officers you work with that do what you do.

That hug after our prayer wasn’t three people, it was four. Abe, my friend, me, and very tangibly, God.

Psalm 95:7-8

For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you will hear His voice:
Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness.

Don’t harden your heart if He calls you to do one of those crazy or weird things… You never know what He could be doing.

little reminders

Sorry I’ve been a little MIA in the blog game lately. I was kind of letting my life spiral a little but I’ve grabbed the reigns again (well…more accurately I’m working on releasing control of the reigns back to God).

When I was a senior in high school I participated in Fine Arts for my church. One of the things I did was a spoken word poem-thingy, and I wound up in the top three for our district and took it to nationals.

Lately, I keep asking  “God, what the heck am I even doing?” like all the time. I keep wondering where my fire and my hunger went (as if it’s some puppy that would scamper off, and not something that I need to maintain). So I would repeat little parts of the poem to myself as a reminder of what I had and what I’ve come from and where I should be – where that past 2013 me wanted this current 2015 me to be at spiritually.

👉 So here’s the video. 👈 Because hopefully it will encourage you as much as it does me and as much as it did for those people in that gym.

My God breathed the stars and called them by name/
That same breath is in me and I am not called to be tame/
That great commission was not written to sit on a page/
It was meant to be lived by me no matter my age.

the pause button

I’m eating Spaghetti-O’s for lunch at work right now, because sometimes you need to feel little again, and kid-food is a wonderful way to do that.

This post isn’t going to be tied into my food like the last one; I just wanted to share my Spaghetti-O joy.

Do you ever hit pause with God? I find myself doing that all the time.

Let me explain, if you don’t know what I mean. Sometimes, I take a mini-break from God. (It’s entirely unintentional, but it makes complete sense because to live for Christ, you have to live completely intentional.) Sometimes, I forget to carve out time with Him. I forget to pray continually. I don’t share a cup of coffee or tea with Him; I don’t pause and take a moment to be in awe of His creation when I see a raindrop or a leaf or a bird. I don’t take time to be grateful. I don’t take time to seek the Spirit and put on my armor.

It’s not that I don’t want it! It’s just that life gets crazy and busy and there are 5000 distractions hurtling themselves at my brain always. But if I don’t live intentionally, I end up subconsciously hitting “pause” on my relationship with God.

It’s always harder to go back to the gym after the holidays than it is to go back 24-48 hours after your last workout. That’s where I’m at. I paused over the Christmas week (dumb right? Christmas! It’s about Him!) and now I’m trying to hit play again but my muscles are stiff and weaker than they were. Stretching hurts more; I’m not as flexible as I was before my pause. And flexibility is a huge thing in my relationship with God. He’s not going to stop molding me, ever the wonderful Potter, but if I’m not flexible with His ways and His guiding and His molding, that continual changing and shaping are going to be a lot more painful than they have to be.

And I need that molding. I don’t like me. I don’t want to be like me. I’m awkward and kinda crazy (not in the fun way) and really really bad at inter-personal relationships. I don’t want to be me. I want to be like Him. I don’t want to be the lumpy finger pot with cracks all over that I am right now; I want to be a pretty, useful vessel for Him. That’s what the molding is for.

I don’t want to be like Zephaniah 3:2, that says, “She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God.” (It’s talking about Jerusalem in context.) She doesn’t obey authority, she can’t accept correction, and she doesn’t have trust in God….all because “she does not draw near to her God.” That’s not a pretty picture, especially for someone (me) realizing that she’s neglected to draw near to God. I want to have an obedient heart for authority (it makes life a lot easier) and I want to be able to accept correction from a mentor or concerned friend without getting angry or something, and I desperately need to trust God. Life is crazy on it’s own, and based on the fact that some big changes are coming my way and I’m also going to school to be in the ministry, trusting God is HUGE.

If you hit pause like me, don’t worry. Whether it was for a week or month or even if it may have been so long and so unconscious that you have no idea when it happened… don’t worry.

The Bible is full of encouragement for us pause-ers.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you….”

Zechariah 1:3 says, “Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

Jeremiah 3:22 says, “‘Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.’ ‘Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God.'”

Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

So if you think you’ve paused… It’s okay. It’s never to late to hit your play button.

on spinach and sin

It’s 4 days till Christmas, and I’m sitting in my dorm room. (I’m okay with that; I’m going home tomorrow morning.) I’m sitting in my dorm room eating a can of spinach and a can of tuna. You should know something: I LOVE tuna. I mean that. I would eat it every day if I could. I can’t, because my mom and roommate both don’t like it, and I’m not sure what that mercury would do to me. But, my roommate is home for break, and I am not yet home for break, so there is no one around to care about my tuna!

This tuna is seriously making my heart joyful, y’all.

The can of spinach on the other hand…….not so much. I dig spinach. I love it on pizza, and in omelettes, and steamed and buttery, or with some tangy raspberry dressing with turkey and cheese in a salad. Spinach is my pal. But if you’ve ever eaten in any kind of cafeteria in your life, you’ll understand the difference between the happy spinach I just described, and the kind you get from a can. Unfortunately, that is what I am currently holding my nose and eating – because I bruise easily so I figured I’d get some Iron in me, and because I read that eating too much Ramen is bad for women’s hearts. So I’m trying to now limit myself to ONE brick of Ramen a day from the case I have sitting on top of my dresser. (it’s less than $3 for 12 meals though. That temptation is never going to go away.) I’m not sure if I’ll make it through the whole can honestly, but I’ll at least get half, so that my body is happier with me.

Most of us remember how canned spinach tastes from our cafeteria-eating days. But there’s another component I’m not sure you’ll remember right away.

The smell.

Obviously, my wonderful tuna has a distinct smell. But when I opened up that can of Popeye’s brand spinach (it had a picture of him on the can. I had to), the smell hit me and I instantly questioned my decision to eat a whole can of the stuff.

As I sat down with my tasty tuna and sad spinach, I went “hey God. What do you want to tell me today?”

He said, “Your sin smells like spinach.” …okay, He said it stinks, but I’m just really not loving this spinach right now.

I tried to press Him for more, but just felt His nudge to dig in for more on my own. I think at some point every teacher (at least every math teacher) I’ve had has told me “you’ll learn it better if you do it on your own than if I give you the answer,” and God is ever playing teacher with my wandering self…

I’m no stranger to the idea of smells + God. I love the idea that our prayers and our worship are like sweet incense to Him. I pray that my songs smell sweet to Him almost every time I’m in a corporate worship setting. There’s just something about that idea that my heart loves – probably because I love good smelling things. Scentsy pots and fabreez and those little cone air fresheners are my pals. My paintbrushes are nestled in some scented wax balls in a mason jar on my desk. And if I enjoy things that smell good this much, of course God does. He’s the one that gave us a sense of smell and made all these wonderful smelling things (and not so wonderful smelling things – lookin’ at you, spinach).

But as much as I love to think about things smelling good to Him, I’ve never really stopped and said, “If my prayers and good things smell sweet, what does my sin smell like?” until now.

Uh…GROSS. They smell super bad. (Super bad. Click at your own risk. Maybe you didn’t ever think about that verse in that light before…you probably wish you still hadn’t.)

That’s gross. That’s so gross that I want to go take that part out and just say it smells like a dung beetle rollin’ his way across Africa (watch that video; it has fun sound effects).

But at the same time, I’m really glad God showed me that. Because I LOVE how uncomfortable and unhappy that metaphor makes me. I don’t want to smell like this can of spinach, much less that, to God.

I love smelling good. I have like 5000 scented lotions and body sprays spread between my dorm room and my bathroom at home. I shower almost every day (yes, almost. I’m in college. It’s normal). I brush my teeth. I wash my clothes. I use all kinds of air fresheners, like I said earlier.

But until now, I never realized that I don’t put nearly as much care into how my actions and my life smells to God. All over the old testament, there are verses referencing how burnt offerings smell pleasing to God. But what does my offering smell like? I know I’ve prayed that I want my life to be an offering or a living sacrifice more times than I can count. But I want my offering to actually smell pleasing to God, not just be something that I give Him because I should.

I don’t want you to think that I’m somehow missing the fact that Christ’s sacrifice is what washes me clean and makes me smell good at all. But if all my actions and choices and words can be a sweet smelling incense and sacrifice, not just my prayers, then I want my life to be as wonderful smelling to God as possible. I want to smell like something He delights in and rejoices over. I want the scent of my life to glorify Him, and not just my physical scent based on showers and perfumes.

And y’all…I finished my can of spinach.