Living Sacrifices

It’s the 4th of July here in the States. A time when we celebrate our independence from that monarchy and reign of the British so long ago. I joked it was the original Brexit on a couple of social media platforms because IT WAS. We often take this time in America to show our respect for the Founding Fathers of our quite young nation (look at other countries y’all, we’re pretty green behind the ears still) and honor those who have sacrificed for our country through battles and wars.

We are very sentimental that way as Americans, remembering the sacrifices of others to give us the independence we exercise through tubing on the lake, shooting off fireworks until the neighbors call the cops, and playing Florida Georgia Line at top volume. We like that word sacrifice alot around this time of year, what with Memorial Day and 4th of July, and the regal nature in which we honor those that ultimately sacrificed their lives so that we can not be under a reign of a monarchy or dictatorship.

But I don’t think we like that word being applied to our lives, or what we are asked to do. It’s good for others, but no so much ourselves. Believe me when I say I wrestle with this just as much. Because sacrifice means something has to be given up, it has to be surrendered…or even killed. So I look at Paul’s words to the Romans in chapter 12 and start to see the bigger tension evolving.

“That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

See we are living…breathing…acting…doing…and yet, we are to be sacrificing ourselves for God, to Him, because that is the reasonable response to the God who saves, redeems, loves and sacrificed Himself for us. It means to me I have to kill off myself in every moment, give myself over not to my whims, desires and emotions, but the Spirit within me. Not choosing this world (as Paul continues on telling us) to live into but transformed by Him in every single part of us. It is the surrender of ourselves for the sake of something better-the very best we could ever encounter, God Himself.

So when I want to dwell in this place of sacrifice and seeing how others have given of themselves I cannot help but look at the sacrifice of Christ and the daily act as this living being of sacrificing myself unto Him, His reign, His rule and His will. Not for some selfish pursuit or half-hearted liberty I can conjure up but for the ultimate liberty in Christ.  Not to pursue my own life, but one sacrificed fully for the very best thing…Christ.

Oh that I wish it were as easy as I like to deceive myself that it is. But sacrificing myself and all that selfish desire, ambition and emotion is hard. The person that says it’s easy is lying, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean I give in and lean back into a self-pursued life. It means going hard into transforming my mind, knowing my strength is not my own, but Christ’s in every. single. moment. if I but ask, seek with my heart. Y’all, this Christian life of sacrificial living isn’t easy but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to surrender my attitude, my mouth, my mind, my weakness…every single bit of me even the parts I really don’t want to give up, to know I am serving God in faith.

So where might you need to live as a sacrifice today? What area has God been hammering in on you that needs to be killed off in order to be set apart?

On Good Friday

This post originally published in 2016. As I have journeyed through Holy Week this year with intentionality I felt this post said more than I could write today…


It’s a grey morning. Oddly the birds that have been chirping the alarm of morning are silent today. There’s just an eerie silence cast over this morning.

My day beckons to get busy, with errands and the gym, lists and emails. Yet here I sit.

I sit in Good Friday, where many often question the goodness of this day. We rushedly point to Sunday, of the hope coming, the joy awaiting the sunrise of Resurrection reminded.

But I don’t want to rush through this because in order for there to be joy in Sunday, there must be mourning and grief on Friday. There must be the inner realization and confession of my heart. The cross, that which brought death and mockery onto Christ, was mine. It should have been.

My distance from God? That too was mine to address.

Yet He is there, in my place, in all of our places, because of love unfailing. Because of the unconditional pursuit He has for us. To bring us back, to bring us in, and to be the way for us to God. He bridged the distance as He anguished those six hours on this day so 2000+ years ago. He closed the gap, and gave up His life in my place.

Reading Matthew 27 is difficult. It is hard for me to see that which I caused on the landscape of eternity, Christ wondering why God had forsaken Him there. “It is because of me,” I want to tell Him. But He knows. Yet in this Friday mourning I sit, I know that He does not want me to put back on the guilt and shame of sin. He never asks me to carry that again, as He took it on there on that cross. He took on the taunts and mocking of those who would mock me, those He came to save as well.

I have talked about the redemptive nature of Good Friday before, but today, this Good Friday I sit in the story of it. The reality of what this day was, what it is for us. All of us. There is grief, mourning, the reality of sin and the cost which was paid for us. His death lingers over this day.

Before I try to push that truth aside and get lost in the busy of the “other” of a Friday, I want to sit in Good Friday. That it is good for me to recall and focus on what today is, what it means, Who He is, and Who I say He is. Today I rest in the gravity of Friday, the message of Who Christ is on the cross.

The Palms

It is the start of holy week across the nation, as Christians turn their eyes to the week that marks the events leading to the cross and resurrection of Christ. When I think about Christ’s entry into Jerusalem then, I cannot help but envision the palm fronds waving in the air, people shouting “Hosanna!” just as the gospels tell us.

The picture it draws isn’t one of a great victory parade, but of a humble entry on a colt, borrowed from someone. The crowds that had followed Christ in his teachings were now crowded into the busy streets of Passover week, throwing down their blankets for his entry. We often talk about the choice of the cross, His acknowledgement of sacrifice for us, His coming to redeem us from sin and death.

Palm-Sunday-Cross-1024x429But if we take a moment, we see that decision laid out right here, right in the words of instruction to the two disciples to go into the village and find a colt tied to a post. He knew then what this would bring about, the obedience of the will of God becoming the the prevalence of the time He had. Without this entry, there wouldn’t be a crucifixion, a resurrection, Redemption come in the form of God Himself with us, Christ.

We need this week, the entry into the city with palms waving. We needed Him to come as a humble King, unexpectedly with grace and humility, not with pomp and circumstance. We needed Him to come, not for the temporary salvation that Israel was thinking but for the eternal salvation from sin, death.

Palm Sunday ushers in new life for us all, a turning in the story of Christ to the reality of our need for Him. The shouts of “Hosanna!” coming forth from us, shouts of “Save, I pray” calling from our hearts, knowing He comes not just for my momentary circumstances but for me, my heart, my redemption, every bit of it. We wave our own palms today, celebrating the entry of Christ into the city, into our hearts and lives, forever changing the landscape of life, death…ushering in Redemption and access that we would not have without it, without Him.

These palms we see in the gospels at the entry of Christ? They were there in temple as well, on the walls that King Solomon had built, that Christ would enter tomorrow…but they are also there in Revelation, in the hands of  every tribe, nation and language honoring the Lamb of Passover seated on the throne. Those palms are waved today in us, with shouts of Hosanna, Save now! For we celebrate His entry into the city, into our hearts, into salvation and redemption, into life eternal for us.

Daffodils in Winter

SONY DSCI cut daffodils out of my front yard the other afternoon.  Daffodils…Y’all it is the last day of February.  The high today here in Nashville? 72. This is ridiculous.

I am having NONE OF IT. NONE.

This winter kid is having serious withdrawals of no snow, freezing temps and big sweaters. My sinuses hate me, my allergies are in full swing and I do not want to look at pastel colored things just yet bunny rabbit.

I want my winter.

In my tantrum of missing winter, I had somehow misplaced that Lent begins Wednesday. As in tomorrow. I have been looking toward Lent in many respects as a means of shifting thoughts and heart-dwellings more towards Christ and less in the muck I have found myself sinking into in the new year. While I have bemoaned the lack of said winter, I can now see the hope coming forth earlier as a good thing. It means a time of seeing my need laid bare for Christ and the gift that is salvation brought forth at Easter.

I may not have liked spring reminding me of the hope, the joy and the need for Christ but I can now understand more than ever how deeply my soul needed the newness of life coming from the earth…reminding me that from that very earth is where I came and that without Christ, it is where I would return.

Lent can be the focus as spring ushers in the coming reminders of salvation, resurrection and life in Christ boldly. It’s a time to give space, time, attention and focus to our need for Christ and His love for us that was so great He beared it all for us. When I want to choose discouragement over a lack of snow, I can remember the joy that is the site of yellow daffodils springing up each morning and evening, every day on my table, and what that life represents to me as a fellow ground-dweller.

Spring would look much different without the hope of salvation, the promise of freedom and the love of a Savior.

Love, Silence and Refugees

Almost four months ago I sat at a small table in a refurbished warehouse/gym on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy. I was a foreigner in a land I didn’t speak the language, but was welcomed with open arms by a community as I sought to get to know them and how they served. At this table sat several members of our team, along with an Italian citizen and two refugees from Ethiopia.

That night we were assisting the home church with a fellowship time for the refugees, as they were in temporary housing adjacent to the church. Bologna had turned into a holding place for many refugees seeking asylum and assistance from Ethiopia mainly, and were seeking to work and provide in order to bring their families into the safe haven as well.

That night the refugee crisis came right up to me, not just on a tv screen or a story shared in social media. That night among the 11 men who were there only 2 spoke English, the other nine speaking French…but none speaking Italian. They had no means of supporting themselves while they waited for the paperwork and government red tape to clear them, they were simply there. And the church was seeking to honor them, their humanity and our love for our neighbors by opening up their doors and hearing their stories, giving them a place to be and feel like a human once more.

As I sat at that table, I wanted to run and do something else, be somewhere else because the stories were hard, they were real, and they were sitting right in front of me. One 17 years old, without family, sent out to escape to a better life outside of war and poverty, telling us about his favorite thing to eat-a stew his mother makes. I thought of my nephew, just four years younger, and how I pray he never knows that life but these do. The other man was 30, years of running and war were very apparent in how he talked and in his eyes.

For almost four months now I have thought back countless times to that cold night in Italy, sitting in that room with those men, and hearing their laughter as we played musical chairs…simply to take their mind off of the hard and into enjoyment for a time. I think about their feet, in flip flops that didn’t fit as Italy was heading into fall, and clothes that were a couple of sizes too big but all that they had. I think back to the smiles and frowns, the heartache and unsaid words of worry and despair.

I sit here this weekend and grieve for my country. A country of privilege that has decided to turn their hearts towards hate and doubt, to throw up arms and walls rather than choose to work through the fear-mongering to the root of the problem. A country that no longer sees the refugee as a person but something to hate and despise. That is not me, nor is it the God I love. When I love my neighbor as myself, I don’t get to define that neighbor nor how to love them. It does mean I welcome them, even when it hurts, even when I don’t want to do it and it means that I love instead of judge.

I am thankful that I live in a country which provides such profound freedoms, but I now begin to see that the things we have sat silent on, thinking that they’ll right themselves, have instead turned to ugliness and hate, to rhetoric and headlines. When you give refuge to the least of these, you are giving it to God Himself…regardless of belief or religion. We are called to love as He loves, to love those who don’t look like us, to love those that seek harm. Love doesn’t give boundaries or policies, it simply does.

Love means sitting in the hard and putting a face, a name, humanity to crisis. Love means standing when those around you call you to sit. It means stepping up for those who cannot, those who have been told to keep quiet. Love means filling the gap between it all to show His love for them, for us, for all.

For me, to hear the refugee and shrink back means that I am disobedient to the call to love that Christ Himself has given Himself for. The call to redeem the downtrodden, the outcast and the forgotten isn’t done through me but through Him, but when He calls me to love He calls me to be His love to them, for them. It means not being silent, not allowing the ugly to win and fear to see victory. To go beyond quoting the Scripture but living it out for those who do not know it, who need to see it as living Truth and for obedience to the One who first showed us how to love.

The Manger

You know the song we sing around this time of year, “Away in a Manger”? Well that song has been on my mind for weeks now. Odd, I know. Of all the Christmas carols, hymns, songs to have, that one isn’t one that truly sticks out as a mind-grabber. But alas, here I am this morning humming it while I clean up breakfast and look at the tree partially lit up (half the lights at the top went out, it’s a thing I just don’t have the will to drag out new lights for).

The line “the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head” is what keeps popping into mind and I am having a hard time here with it. Here’s why…

I think we like to look at Christ as this babe in a feeding trough there in a stable-structure. We like to see Him as this babe that shepherds came to marvel and wise men sought to honor with gifts, but we keep Him there in this context throughout our lives.

jesus-in-the-mangerWe have this concept that Christ is infant-to wonder and lavish love upon, but we don’t like the reality that His Presence commands of our lives. We don’t like that when He came with us, our selves got a bit too uncomfortable, our lives got rocked by Emmanuel. God with us.

Because that meant we couldn’t point to His absence, His silence, as excuse. He physically laid out His life, relinquishing the glories of heaven and His right in order that we might be in relationship with Him. In a few months we’ll look to Him on the cross, but I think we often upgrade the image of Christ as a babe in order to downplay our need for Him.

When we put Christ only in the image of the manger, born in a stable as a helpless babe, it appeases our self to think He can’t do it all, He can’t be relied upon and maybe He needs our help instead of the other way around. We don’t greet Him with welcoming in our lives often, but instead stare in wonder at this humanness of God Incarnate instead.

In reading Luke’s account of Christ’s life, I love the honesty of Mary with Gabriel. Just yesterday  we talked about Zechariah’s response to him as he hears the news of an impending birth. Then just a few verses later, we see Mary greeted by this angel (y’all he wasn’t some little cherub all cute and fluffy, this was Gabriel, mighty angel come to bring the news). Same truth of a birth coming, only this one is the Savior of the world, God Himself. Mary’s initial response is one of confusion, not doubt. But how can she get pregnant as a virgin, unwed? She wasn’t doubting his news, she just couldn’t see the possibility of it with her.

But her response to Emmanuel coming to her, coming to us?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.

“May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Is that how we respond to Christ the King? Is that how we address Him even now, knowing His redemption of our souls was purposed through this very season we celebrate? Do we look to Him as the authority of our lives even in the context of the manger? Because y’all, He didn’t stay in the manger. He didn’t stay in the tomb. He reigns, rules and intercedes for us…

He’s not away in some manger, helpless and in need of us. It’s us that needs Him. We needed Him thousands of years ago, in that manger, to herald a new hope, to rejoice as our weary souls cried out for a Savior. We needed the new morning, new mercies, redemption and grace. There it all came, in the form a baby, heralded by an angel and under all authority given by God Himself, so that we may say “I am the Lord’s servant.”

Advent Week: Hope 

This week I broke my first pair of Ripstix, at 5:30am…They are lightly weighted drumsticks used in a fitness class I’ve been taking (I shared about POUND one Friday Favepost) for the last 11 months. It’s a big deal to break them, and it sparked a little hope in me on this well person journey I’m on. 

This week I got asked out. It was unexpected and provided a little hope that I might not be single until death (or The Lord returns). 

This week I saw people chipping in, time and talents, money and spirit to assist those who lost everything in the fires of my beloved Smokies. While lives have been lost, I have seen hope in the eyes of those found and those that made it out. Hope in words and deeds alike. 

Much of this week hope has been very tangible for me. It’s no coincidence as it’s the first week of Advent, the week of hope. While it’s nice to hope in the physical, the tangible, people and things, it’s not where our hope should remain. Our hope should be fully vested in Christ, who is the Hope of the World. A world that needs Him just as much as you and I do right this very minute. 

When I look at hope in Scripture, I see it woven in stories of lament, trouble and heartache. Stories like Ruth, Job, Hosea. I see it reminding us of the praise that is due when we hope in Him from the Psalms. Paul naming Christ as his hope, and ours too, in letters from prison. I am reminded of the truth of Romans 5:5, that hope does not disappoint because of Christ-God’s love poured out. 

Through trials, perseverance and character defining moments we push after hope, hope in the Christ who came thousands of years ago because of us right now. Christ that knew we would need Him, a Hope Everlasting, at this particular time and for this particular season. We hope in One Who is written across the pages of Scripture and lived out fully in our daily lives, calling us to hope in something better than a health plan or a person. 

He is our hope. Then, now and eternally. That hope does not disappoint but instead fills us, knowing our hope lasts when it’s fully in Him.