Christmas Isn’t the Beginning — Or the End

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Do you know where the Christmas story begins? Because often, we start in the wrong place.

Our advent calendars will start out with. “And it came to pass in those days, that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” (Luke 2:1)

But that’s not really the beginning. Some may even start earlier in Luke 1, opening with an aged Zechariah, and the birth of John the Baptist. But that’s not far enough either.

We don’t need to flip back a chapter to find the true opening of the Christmas story. We need to go back an entire Testament. This story doesn’t start with an espoused Mary, it doesn’t start with a barren Elizabeth. It doesn’t even start in the New Testament. No, the Christmas story starts with, “In the Beginning.”

In fact, we can’t even truly call this the Christmas story, for that is far too small a scope. It would be like calling the Lord of the Rings “The Battle of Hornburg” story. This isn’t the Christmas story. This is the Reality Story. The Story of Everything. The Great Story.

Because if we just begin in Luke, we miss the whole reason for the Story.

So let’s flip back the pages, and begin this Story properly. Continue reading

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Your Work Is Worth It (TCB Article)

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(Originally published on Top Christian Books)

Do you know one of the hardest questions for those of us who have grown up in church? Not “Why do you dress like that?” or “That’s how you’re doing relationships? Really?” or “Why do you believe that?” No, the real, true, dreaded, impossible question.

“What’s your favorite Bible verse?”

Ok, perhaps I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek. But this is still always a difficult question. How do you expect me to pick just one verse out of the entire Word? How can I love just one sentence of God’s story more than the others? It depends on my struggles at the moment. It depends on what I’m studying. It depends on what He’s teaching me. It depends on the month, the day, or the hour. Which is a blessing in a sense, proof that His Word is living and active, continuing to teach us throughout all of life. But that doesn’t make answering the question any easier.

However, there has been one passage this last year that has stayed very near the top of my list. (Notice, I said passage, rather than verse, so technically I’m still evading the question.)


“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Because honestly, this last year has been exhausting. All of us have experienced this. We have basketball practices to make and get-togethers to schedule and papers to finish and doctors to call and finals to take — and we’re tired. We’ll soldier on through our weeks, but still inside of us we cry “How long?”

We know it shouldn’t be this hard. We know we shouldn’t have to struggle against so many sins and situations. We groan, just like the rest of Creation, waiting for everything to be made new. We look about us at this corruption, and long for the Something Better that is coming. All these attacks, fears, and hatred — we know it can’t go on like this. Our world is restless for restoration. All our own selfishness, weakness, and impatience — we know it can’t go on like this. We’re eager for the day when we will be made new.

At the moment, we feel surrounded by the darkness, punctuated only by the slow red-and-white flash of ambulance lights. Lost on these tilting plates, the world seems sliding faster and faster into chaos.

But it won’t always be this way.

Finish reading here.

Dancing in the Dawn of the Unknown

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Do you know the land most people avoid, the realm that many fear? We whisper its name with hushed breath, we build tall walls about our homes to keep it away.

The Unknown. That strange land, of which we’ve heard rumors of great mountains and valleys, bustling cities and quiet streams, but such mist lies over it that we doubt their existence.

Because we fear change. We fear difference. We fear the unknown. Because we can’t see precisely where our road may lead us. We can’t hold our fates in our hands. We feel helpless, out of our own control — and we hate it.

How little we realize we hold no power even here.

But every now and then, either stepping willingly or shoved, we enter this realm. And when we do, glorious adventures can unfold. Continue reading

You Have Nothing to Prove

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That desperate urgency to explain. That grim dread of questions. That awkwardness of trying to fill the space with more words. We’re not strangers to feeling like we must prove that we measure up.

And in some ways we’re more susceptible to this than the rest of the world.  The homeschooler. The stay-at-home mom. The college student taking a different route. The young couple choosing accountability. The single who’s not focusing on a relationship. Because we’re different, we’re choosing a different path, so we think others inherently look on us with distrust or disappointment. We have this ever-constant pressure to explain ourselves.

I should know. I’m a graduated homeschooler, living at home, on an alternate route to my degree, and 100% single. I know they aren’t true, but in the back of my head I still hear the whispers, They think you’re a failure.

And I’m desperate to show them I’m not. If people ask me at all about my future, I’ll smile and launch into my speech about how my route is so much cheaper and faster, and how I’m not really interested in many of the things other people my age are, because I’m so busy with other work, and how I’m involved in this and that and succeeding in this and that and how planning to do this and that. Then they’ll smile and nod and go “Oh, that’s nice” and hopefully never ask me any questions ever again. I have my script, ready to rush through it at any time. But that desperate dread still sits in my stomach.

Because, really, it’s not their questions I’m afraid of. It’s not really their opinion. The fears and whispers assaulting me aren’t from outside. They’re my own. Continue reading

This Isn’t Safe: TCB post

I was recently asked to join the Top Christian Book’s Writing Team, and I’m privileged and excited to share my first post with them with you. Check it out!

“Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion — the lion, the great lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan… “Is he – quite safe?”

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver… “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” – The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

I think often we echo Susan, asking if our God is harmless. Because we would like a Coke-Machine God. We can insert our prayers and good deeds, and ding! He spits out a comfy 9-to-5 job, a comfy white-picket house, and even a comfy Mercedes-Benz if we’re really spiritual. We want a talisman Jesus. We can sit Him up on our car dashboard for when we want a favor or a free parking spot, and aha! He lays out a road of good fortune. We want a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Lord. We can walk along our own merry way, but if we happen upon some hard times, someone’s sick, or a job is lost; we can pay attention to Him and whoosh! He shoos away all our troubles, just like the ending of all those Hallmark movies.

We’d like just a nice, beneficial God. He’s comfortable, easy, and safe.

But a God who decimates our comfort zones, who desecrates our personal idols, who demands our entire being? No. Thank. You.

Read the rest here.

How to Say “I Love You”

How To Say I Love You

As featured on the Rebelution.

This summer I staffed at Summit Ministries, which was an exhilarating, exhausting, hilarious, heart-wrenching, broken and beautiful time of growth and service and encouragement and learning.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about questions.

“What do you mean by that?” “How did you come to that conclusion?” “What are the ramifications of that belief?” These and dozens of others were expressed and encouraged at Summit throughout the summer. But I want to talk about one particular question. One that none of the speakers, staff, or students — and yet all of them — ever directly verbalized.

How do you say I love you? Continue reading

The Thunder of God’s Presence

The Thunder of God's Presence

I love storms. Hearing the rushing, rolling majesty flooding through; staring wide-eyed at the bright paths from the clouds flashing in and out of existence in a moment’s time; soaking in the jostling booms multiplying against the hills — I revel in it.

I mentioned this strange delight of mine at a friend’s house recently, and their dad suggested that perhaps it wasn’t that unusual. He pointed out that often the Bible uses thunder as an allegory for God’s voice, and we moved on to discussing the instances at Sinai and other places.

But that one thought stuck with me. Biblical allegories should be the best ones there are, for the Great Author of all has made both things being compared. So it can be enlightening to dig deeper into them, discovering the facets of Himself the Creator reveals in His creation.

Because thunder, scientifically speaking, is the noise created when air molecules rush in to fill the space emptied by the searing heat of lightning. The roaring crash is the sound of a vacuum being righted. Emptiness being filled. Continue reading

Looking Back — My First Blogiversary

My First Blogiversary

How do you measure growth? When you’re young it’s easy: inches and shoe sizes and buying longer pants yet again. But what about when you’re older? How do you measure the growth of the mind? How do you trace the trail of the soul? We can walk about with our eyes the same color, our clothes the same style, our days the same schedule; and yet our insides completely changed.

And we forget. Familiarity breeds — ignorance of it ever being any different. When we forget to look back, we think we’ve always lived in this same plane, in this same place. Which means we lose a little. We lose those hard-fought victories, we lose the jumping in exultation, we lose the heart-wrenching convictions, the spirit-overwhelming love.

Growth is good. By looking back we remember where we came from.

This last year has seemed so very short, and yet as if it’s been forever. Here I am, blogging for a year with about 150 followers. That’s amazing and wonderful and — terrifying. Continue reading

A Practical Guide to Culture: Book Review

A Practical Guide to Culture Book Review

If you’ve never gotten onto a river ride that you mount using a giant spinning table — well, I’m not sure if I would recommend it to you. Oh, they are easy enough to find. There’s one on the Rio Loco ride at Sea World, and I’m sure Six Flags or any other theme park with a river ride has one as well. But I waver in suggesting it to you. Because as enjoyable as the rest of the ride may be, that wooden platform is completely and utterly unbalancing. Literally. You step off of a firm concrete slab, onto a twirling place of confusion, where neither your feet nor your stability is right. You mentally know that this is completely safe, but still your adrenaline jumps as you rush to a boat as quickly as you can, for a moment irrationally worried that you might be left behind. And sometimes, that’s what life can be like for young adults.

I should know. I am one. Continue reading

We’ve Shattered Our World

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The world hurts. But not as much as it should. Because honestly, I closed myself off, tried not to feel much over Manchester. Not because it wasn’t an utterly abhorrent thing, not because the loss of innocents isn’t tragedy, not because the inside of me shouldn’t cry at such loss, but because I shut myself off from the pain. There’s too much — I don’t want to feel.  Something inside cries that I’ll be crushed if I do. Because month upon month, week upon week, day upon day, some new horror overwashes us. I don’t want to acknowledge it. I don’t want to accept it, because then I must accept too that our world is shattered.

This place where we thought at least children are safe — it doesn’t exist. This world where people’s lives were respected — it’s not here. Our world, our towns, our homes, man himself — is shattered. Continue reading