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Category: In My Life

Blessings of Flying First Class: Switching Places with Jesus

First class. How did I find myself with the blessings of flying first class?

I was flying to Minnesota, and I hadn’t anticipated a lesson on my identity in Christ. I had bought a normal airline ticket from Illinois to Minnesota, but when I walked down the center of the plane to my seat, someone was already there.

“I’m in 11D,” I said, apologetic but not really understanding how he could have sat in the wrong seat.

“Oh, you’re 11D!” He said. “Ok, so I’m supposed to be in first class, but I want to sit by my girlfriend. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind switching?”

Mind?? I didn’t even have to think about it. Who turns down an opportunity like that? “If you’re sure… yeah! I’ll switch.”

“Great. My seat is 3A.”

The aisle was full of people loading themselves and their carry-ons, so I kept walking toward the back of the plane. When the aisle was clear, I headed back up front. First class, really and truly.

A comfortable seat, plenty of leg room, a mini pillow and blanket set, my choice of snacks, the works. And I could have said no.

Alternative Story Endings (without the blessings)

I could have missed out on the whole first class experience.

The man could have preferred sitting in first class over sitting by his girlfriend, and never even offered the switch.

I could have told him that was very kind of him, but let’s each keep the seats we bought, and, hey, why don’t we be friends!

Also, I could have told the young man, “No, I paid for this seat and I intend to sit here, squished and uncomfortable. I did not buy a first class seat, so I will not sit in a first class seat.”

Or I could have accepted his offer but waited at the back of the plane and refused to take the seat I have been given.

Yes, I could have easily missed out on a lot.

And while I sat on the plane in my unearned seat, early in the morning, I realized just how much the whole situation reminded me of our relationship with Jesus.

Blessings in Jesus

Goodness, it was unexpected and comfortable to stretch out on the plane, to curl up in a small blanket and rest my head on a tiny, travel-sized pillow (which I did keep, by the way). But as I rested, I realized I was still hanging out in the back of the ‘spiritual plane’.  It’s like Jesus took my seat on the plane– my space on the cross– but I’ve been clinging to my sin, not willing to walk up to first class and accept what God has bought for me with his blood.

Jesus has given me his first class seat, and although I let him take my seat and agreed to take his, I hadn’t really gone up to sit in first class.

There are things Jesus has given me that I often forget about, blessings I refuse to take. Sometimes I do just forget. Sometimes I’m simply not aware. Other times, I know full well the blessings he has promised but for some strange reason I refuse to take them. Jesus didn’t just take my place in death, he opened to me a world of life.

Jesus:

 

That man gave me a far more comfortable seat than I deserved– and a spiritual epiphany.

There are far more blessings in Jesus than the 10 I listed here. In the comments, add your favorites to my list!

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The Day Pain Lost Its Power Over Me

In July 2016, I got a call from the doctor which should have scared me silly. I was on medication that required monthly blood work. The call should have crippled me, trapping me in its power.

“We got your blood work back,” the nurse said. “Stop your medication, call your primary doctor.” She told me it might be nothing, it might really and truly be nothing. It’s probably okay, just schedule an appointment with your doctor. Her words weren’t as encouraging as she’d intended them to be, but I wasn’t phased. “Your platelet count is down,” she told me, which wasn’t helpful since I didn’t know anything about platelets.

After a conversation like that, it would make sense for me to be scared. But I wasn’t.

Who has the power?

When the nurse called me, I had just finished slowly and thoughtfully reading 1st and 2nd Peter. For some reason, that summer day, I’d decided to sit down and read them both. And just as I finished, my phone rang. When the call was over, I was somehow still calm.

I was so satiated in God’s word the news didn’t bother me. I was too focused on who God is, and how powerful he is.

It’s like the wind and the waves of the world were after me, but I didn’t care because I was resting in God’s power.

Not his power to heal me– that’s not what I was counting on. I was calm believing that no matter what sickness came my way, God would never leave me.

It’s like the story of Peter walking on water.

 “And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” “

Peter was fine and even walking on the water, until he saw the wind. When he saw the wind, he was afraid, and he began to sink.

Then, I began to sink

Those first days after the phone call, I was fine. I had my eyes focused on God, and I was not afraid.

But as the days dragged on between the call and the appointment with my doctor, I began to ‘see the wind’. What are platelets, anyway? What does it mean that they’re low? How many ways is that going to change my life? Am I doing something that’s making it worse?

When I started focusing on the problem instead of on God, my faith wavered. 

Our thoughts are important. When I was thinking about God’s love, power, and faithfulness, I was calm. But when I thought about all the bad things that ‘low platelets’ could mean, I was afraid.

In between

A year later, and there are still a lot of questions. We don’t know what caused my platelets to drop. We don’t know how to make the numbers rise.

There are lots of things we don’t know. But there are many things we do know. At this point, it’s still not dangerous, and it doesn’t change my life at all.

Here between the diagnosis and the healing, God is the same. God is good. God is near me. No matter what problems and obstacles have come, God’s not going anywhere.

And I’ve already seen God use it for good, because I trust him a lot more. Things happen in life. Bad things happen, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason. But pain holds less power over me now because I’m trusting God like never before. Because God is powerful, and God is good, and God is near.

 

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5 Things that Reconnect Me to God

There are reminders of God everywhere. Around any corner, in any conversation, bursting from any thought. These reminders can reconnect us to God at any moment, if we notice them. To find out where to look, and what some of these reminders are for me, keep reading!

Knowing Where to Look

As I read the Bible, sometimes I look for ‘pictures’ of what I am learning. Often, they are obvious in the story, but sometimes I pick something random for myself. It looks a little different each time I do it, but the point is to pick a cue. Then, at any point when I see that cue, I am reminded about God and start a conversation with Him. The cue instigates, and we reconnect.

Tents

Recently I read Psalm 15:1 which says “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” I wrote in my journal about how living just in a tent with God was much more desirable than living in any castle. The truth for that day was about how near and present God is. And so I decided tents would remind me of God’s nearness, and how much better it is to ‘rough it’ with God than to ‘live it up’ on my own.

It’s been three weeks, and I still haven’t seen a tent, but I’m on high alert. And as long as I’m on the lookout, I don’t actually need to see the tent to remember how close God is. Any reminder will do, and suddenly I’m thinking about God’s nearness again.

Other Reminders to Reconnect

I don’t do this every time I read the Bible. (That would be a bit too much for me to keep track of!) It would be too hard to retain each one. But every few months something new sticks out.

Over the years, different visuals have drawn my attention back to God in different ways.

  • Nebula. Pictures of galaxies and nebula have become a reminder that God’s got this. No matter how big my problem is, God can handle it. If he can handle these giant things in the universe, he can surely handle my day to day problems. [ Related Post: Nebulae]
  • Storms are a reminder of how intensely God fights to defend me from sin (which is my enemy) when I call on him. Fiercely, intentionally, successfully.
  • The sun reminds me of how radiantly glorious God is, so radiant I can hardly look at him.
  • The wind reminds me of God’s nearness and power in the Spirit.

Eyes Open

The trick, for me, has been twofold: remembering to read the Bible with my eyes open, and remembering to go through my day with my eyes open. It’s easy to get into the habit of reading the Bible where we aren’t really paying attention, and it’s just as easy to get caught up in the routine of our days. But if we’re going to notice God and reconnect with him daily, then we’re going to need to pay attention. 

So now I’m curious! What are some everyday things that remind you about God? How did that come about?

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6 Habits to Actually Practice When You’re in Pain

Pain stinks. When pain sets in, we react. We usually don’t think about it, we just do it. And those reactions become habits. Now, in our fallen world, most of the time our reactions are worldly and unhealthy, but God can redeem even our reaction to pain.

My Unhealthy Habits

I have a lot of unhealthy habits when it comes to how I respond to and act when I’m in pain. I tend to put on blinders that only allow me to see my pain.

With these blinders securely in place, I’m no longer able to:

  • see God working
  • remember the truth about who God is
  • see others’ needs
  • believe that God loves me
  • remember how God has used my pain in the past

Instead, I go into self preservation mode, dropping what I was doing in order to do whatever necessary to get free from this pain. After all, it hurts! It’s a normal human reaction, I think, to want to avoid pain, problems, and trouble of every kind. But we can’t. It’s a normal part of human life. So, the question becomes, how are we going to respond?

New Habits

Any bad habit is an opportunity to replace it with a good habit. It takes time, of course, and perfection isn’t the goal. However, some of these habits make the pain more bearable because they take my focus off the pain and turn my attention to Jesus.

  • Trust God, even when things aren’t going as planned. Let’s face, it pain is never a part of our plans, but it still happens. In those times, we can remember the truth about who God is, and grow in our trust of him.
  • Choose to believe God will use even this for good… and maybe start using my imagination to think of how many ways God might possibly use this pain for good. Not in expectation that one of them will be ‘it’, but more to reignite my creativity and remember how very big and powerful God is.
  • Listen to truth. Find an audio Bible and when the pain hits you, listen to scripture. Or, listen to worship music. Another go-to thing to listen to would be verses set to music, like these at The Verses Project website.
  • Pray. Pray for others in pain, pray for whoever God brings to mind, pray for pastors, for persecuted Christians, for family and friends.

The Opportunities Given by Pain

Pain gives us opportunities. It is an opportunity to turn one’s back on God. It is an opportunity to wallow in self-pity. However, it is also an opportunity to lean on God, to let your faith grow, and to practice trusting God even when the going gets tough.

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The Day I Stopped Journaling My Prayers

I used to journal my prayers. I had a nice composition book, a great pen, and I was ready to go. And for a season, it worked.

What’s great about journaling prayers is that it gave me accountability. I could always go back and see which days I’d prayed as part of my quiet time, and even see what I’d been praying about.

It was also helpful to have a record of what I prayed for, something tangable to look back at and see how God had answered.

The Journaling Got in the Way

Pretty soon, the writer in me took over. I stopped praying from my heart because I knew I’d look back at what I’d written.

I slowed down my scribbles to make them more readable in the future, and kept losing my train of thought.

While my pen went forward with the prayer, my eyes scanned what I’d already written- was there a better word choice? Could I arrange that sentence better? Does that order make sense? I was editing my prayers, and no longer really praying. The habit was getting in the way of the relationship.

Oh, I’m sure God heard my prayers. And I know he met me where I was and goodness he answered so many of those prayers. But there came a day where I had to stop journaling if my relationship with God was going to move forward.

So I Stopped Journaling

I stopped recording my words so I could relax and be genuine. And when I stopped journaling, I felt closer to God. There was now no longer paper and pen between us, no formality or ritual. It was just Jesus and me, talking. And it was beautiful.

These days, I do a little bit of both. To an extent, writing while praying keeps me focused. I just have to keep an eye on myself to notice when it’s becoming a distraction rather than a help. Tools are great so long as they are helpful. The second they get in the way, throw them out. So, some days I journal. Some days I write bullet points. And some days I forgo pen and paper entirely.

 

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Why Reading Vs. Studying the Bible Matters

Reading the Bible is not the same as studying the Bible, and the difference is important. I know there is a difference because I’ve lived it. In my own life, I can tell when I’ve been taking shortcuts and just reading the Bible, and when I’m actually investing in my relationship with God. The two ways of approaching the Bible have many similarities, but they look different.

What Reading Looks Like

  • Of course, it’s easier to just decode the words and move on, glossing over things I don’t understand, over things that challenge my misconceptions. Just reading the words is a lot easier.
  • Similarly, reading doesn’t take much time. A quick read-through is just something to check off a list, it’s not spending time with God.
  • Reading doesn’t invite me to talk to God about what I’m encountering in the scriptures, or about my thoughts regarding what I’d read.
  • When I’ve simply read my Bible, I tend to forget the content, and any application I’d briefly thought of. And what good does that do?
  • When I go through the motions, I drift from God. I think about Him less, depend on Him less, and gradually invest even less in our relationship.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A few simple changes and I’m noticing God again in my quiet time.

What Studying Looks Like

  • Studying takes more time because it’s more than a once-over of the chapter or passage I’m reading. I pray. I reread. I think about other passages that say similar things. I ask God to teach me. I journal, and more.
  • Studying involves praying through what I’m reading, “talking it out” with God. This goes for things I don’t understand, maybe don’t like, or things I’m simply trying to process.
  • Studying involves recognizing something about myself or about God. Likely it’s something God wants to change my mind or actions about, or at least remind me about.

It is a stark difference, and a transformational one. When we meet with God regularly like this, studying His word and talking with Him in prayer, He will mold us into the image of Jesus that much quicker!

Now, I need some help from you! When you study the Bible, what tools do you use? How have you noticed studying and reading differing for you in your own quiet time? Let me know in the comments below. Please and thank you!

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Burden carrying by paying attention

The first time I saw Les Mis, I did not know what it was. I’d not heard of it, but it was on TV so I watched. I came in part of the way through, so I did not even know what the story was, yet here I was with tears in my eyes at “A Little Fall of Rain.” And then “Bring Him Home”? I had not bought a song on iTunes until that night. I’d only watched the last half of the musical and there was no doubt about it: I was addicted.

Since then, I’ve seen the movie, the movie musical, watched the 25th anniversary production, seen it live once professionally and twice by local groups, and listened to it (It’s a couple thousand pages, thick with French and history. I gave up reading it myself after only a few chapters!).

I’m still not sure why the story captured me so completely and immediately. I’m not sure why the characters mean so much to me, why I get so excited to talk about them. It’s amazing how much I can remember about made-up characters. From Les Miserables to Narnia; from Doctor Who to The Underneath, I know countless details—all because I was paying careful attention. I sincerely hope I apply myself that much in my friendships—you know, here in real life!

Pay attention to learn your friends’ burden (s)

After all, one of God’s commands to us it to carry each other’s burdens. I know from personal experience pinkflowerlakeburdensit’s impossible to carry someone’s burdens when I don’t know what those burdens are. Before I can carry a friend’s burden (pray for them and lend help where sought), I need to care about them and know what’s going on in their lives.

This sort of relationship isn’t instant coffee, like I used to think. I used to expect immediate closeness with friends shortly after meeting them. But that’s not how it’s supposed to work. It takes time, and trust, and effort to be able to share someone’s burden, and to let someone else share mine. So, here’s to gradually building deeper relationships, to carrying each other’s’ burdens, and to caring deeply for the people God has placed around me.

 

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