Embrace Holy Interruptions & Be Gracious

This past Sunday, I had been asked to preach at a local Methodist church (due to my Lay Servant School training) while they transition to a new pastor. Fortunately, my own church meets early, and since the churches are in the same small town, I got to attend my church before giving the sermon at the other one.

The lectionary this past week featured Mark 5:21-43, which tells of Jesus’s encounters with Jairus and an unnamed woman as He and the disciples travel through a village. Jairus’s daughter is sick, so beckons Jesus for help. The unnamed woman also seeks healing, but rather than throwing herself at Jesus’s mercy, she simply finds Him in the crowd and touches His garment.

My pastor spoke about “holy interruptions,” which I thought was an intriguing takeaway. These stories are technically interruptions to whatever Jesus and His disciples had been on the way to do. If we look outside of ourselves and take the time to really see people and situations around us, and if we actively try to follow the Spirit, we might find that God constantly throws “holy interruptions” in our path–conversations and actions we didn’t intend/expect to have/take…but they were meant to be. Another word that’s often used for these instances is “divine intervention/interaction.”

I think of the good samaritan story here. The priest and the Levite missed the holy interruption God put before them because they were in a hurry…because they were putting their convenience before others’ suffering…because they were too stringent about the rules/laws.

It’s perfectly possible to justify their actions by pointing to said laws. Yes, it’s true that one would be ceremonially unclean for several days if they touched a dead or dying person, which would be especially inconvenient for a priest or Levite. But there are also laws about caring for your neighbor. God had already modeled unconditional love to them. So, to me, it’s a matter of discretion. They should’ve known helping a neighbor in dire need would be worth not being allowed to enter the place of worship temporarily.

We, too, often lack discretion…mostly out of selfishness or short-sightedness. The combination of those qualities causes us to lack generosity with time, money, grace, love, patience, peacemaking, forgiveness, etc.

I’m not going to call my grandma back because she’ll keep me on the phone an hour (But once she’s gone, will I lament how I clung so hard to my time instead of sharing it with her?) That friend hasn’t apologized, so why should I be the one to initiate reconciliation? (But once they’re gone, will I regret holding that grudge?) My fiance always leaves the coffee table a wreck, and the fact that I have to straighten it up makes me naggy and resentful. (But in the grand scheme of things, is it reallyyy THAT big of a deal? If he got in an accident tomorrow, would that matter to me anymore?)

Remembering that we all die and life is short, fragile, and unpredictable grounds me. Be joyful, be generous, love hard, forgive swiftly, all that jazz. Easier said than done, but yeah, worthy goals.

Anyway, my pastor also talked about peace. When Jesus tells the woman to go in peace, He doesn’t just mean to be well and be blessed. He means, “go in salvation.” Jesus offers peace that passes understanding. In my message, I discussed how Jesus offers HOPE to hopeless and desperate people.

It was an emotional morning. I got teary-eyed several times during my home church service and rode on the verge of choking up through my sermon. To me, this is one of the most stirring stories in the Gospels, period. And it’s ripe with important lessons on peace, hope, faith, mercy, healing, compassion, and more.

I’m thankful for that beautiful story and thankful I can write out my thoughts on it. Writing is a therapeutic exercise in reflection. I needed a little break, to remind myself that this is a hobby instead of a job–I’m not obligated to post week unless I want to–but I’m happy to be back.

In honor of today’s topic, shalom!

P.S. Check out my YT channels! 🙂

I Gave Up Online Shopping for Lent This Year (Sort Of)

With Easter just in the review mirror, I’m admittedly relieved that the season of Lent has passed. This year, I attempted to give up online shopping. I didn’t completely fail, but I didn’t completely succeed, either.

FYI, Lent is the six weeks leading up to Easter that symbolize the forty days Jesus spent in the desert–mentally, emotionally, and spiritually preparing for His ministry while Satan tempted Him. Lent is a season of preparation and reflection–preparing to celebrate Easter and reflecting on what Jesus’s life, ministry, death, and resurrection mean for us (salvation, eternal life, a call to follow Jesus and love/help others).

To commemorate Jesus’s temptation in the desert and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, many Christians give something up for Lent like a certain beloved food or social media–anything that would genuinely be tough for that person to go without for forty days.

My own experience with Lent has varied over the years. When I was younger, I didn’t REALLY understand it. My conception of it was superficial; I knew WHAT but not WHY. For instance, I might decide during Lent NOT to get any of the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies that sat next to the cash register in my high school lunch line. But they were just sooo darn tempting and delicious that I would eventually break…and that was that, experiment=failed. I was metaphorically gritting my teeth to do it, almost arbitrarily, rather than using it as a way to draw closer to God or enrich my spirituality. Once the futility of that–giving something up only for the sake of giving something up–dawned on me, I stopped commemorating Lent for years.

As of this year, I’m making intentional choices for what I’m giving up and why and approaching it differently–which brings us back to my Lent resolution.

During the pandemic, I’ve practically become an online shopping addict–it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s fun, it’s fulfilling–and that last one is so problematic, for reasons I’ll expound on in an upcoming sustainability post. Knowing how this compulsion has gotten out of hand made it a clear choice of something from which I should attempt to abstain for forty days.

I had some urgent purchases, like “need to buy more of this skincare product I’m running out of” and “my laptop might have a virus so need to back everything up to an external hard drive ASAP,” but I resisted many temptations. Admittedly, I went plant shopping in person a couple times, which felt like a loophole. A couple plants I ordered before Lent arrived during it, which also felt like cheating.

As far as using these temptation opportunities to turn to prayer, I didn’t always do that; there was still a lot of good ol’ teeth gritting where I resisted the urge but didn’t use it as a spiritual exercise. It’s hard for us to lean into God’s grace, which goes back to the ever-prevalent “saved by grace vs. saved by works” concept; people have always tried to be righteous on their own instead of asking God for help.

This whole experience has made me reflect on a lot, like how blessed I am to be able to afford fun stuff while many have to penny pinch, how the cycle of consumerism is insatiable (you always want more), how consumerism is inherently self-centered and self-serving while Christians should be serving others as much as possible. While I’m probably not going to stop online shopping, this experience will make me take a little more pause when I want things and be less impulsive.

Though I hope to do better in the future, I did at least learn some things from my Lent resolution this year; it wasn’t just superficial or arbitrary.

What’s your experience with Lent been? How did you commemorate Lent this year? Thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid, a fun break from serious stuff. Check it out and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

The Bible Can Justify Anything, So Weigh Scripture Against Scripture

You read that title right! So, how can we discern the heart and will of God–if His Word can be twisted to fit any narrative? Well, I won’t pretend for a moment to have all the answers–as if all the answers could be had. But looking at scripture as a whole is a good suggestion.

People have gotten upset in the past when I’ve spoken against fixating on one tree within a whole forest. I think some Christians are so wary of “progressivism” that their blasphemy radar is waaay too sensitive. Viewing scripture holistically is the only sensible way to approach the Bible. The alternative is pulling verses out of context and building a doctrine out of them.

In the book Oliver Twist, the orphanage director, who serves as the parish beadle, is a mean, selfish man. When he meets nine-year-old Oliver, he gives him a cold, stern lecture (because why be kind to a CHILD WHO IS ALONE IN THE WORLD, right?) and quotes 1 Cor 13:11: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. Hey, man, ever read the one where Jesus says that we should become humble like children? Or the one where Jesus insists His disciples let the children come to Him? Guess not.

This fictional example reflects the contradictons that lie within so many Christians who are condescending, rude, and unempathetic–in the name of Jesus. Pride and righteous indignation reign even more supremely than God in many of our hearts. Have we forgotten that Jesus said the first would be last? Or how Paul wrote that none of us have cause to boast because we are only saved by faith, not our own works? Or, like, the other countless ways we are told in the Bible that arrogance is condemned? I think the man who went out to eat after church that’s screaming at a waitress because the chef messed up his order missed the memo. The town gossip who happens to hold several “power positions” on church committees just doesn’t get it. [SN: I’ve literally heard the term “power positions” used in reference to church committees. Hmm…ever heard of “servant leadership?”]

In a totally different instance, I once wrote a post in which I said that followers of Jesus should be active in helping their neighbors. A reader pointed out the sentence fragment of 1 The 4:11 (and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you) as a way to negate what I’d said. I replied that, perhaps in that particular scenario, the Thesalonnians–Christians in Greece–needed to keep a low profile to avoid persecution (confirmed by a Google search). But it’s clear when one reads the entire New Testament that we are called to really love our neighbors, and biblical love is an action verb. We must take up our crosses and follow Jesus, being His hands, feet, and face in the world, because the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

The Bible has been used to justify so many things–slavery, bigotry, political agendas, etc. I don’t want to delve into it all because ain’t nobody got time for that here; countless others have written articles, essays, and even whole books on these subjects. And people disagree.

But here’s the point: weigh scripture against scripture. And always stay humble enough to learn and take direction from the Spirit.

Have you ever seen a Bible verse taken out of context? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Random Life Updates: COVID-19, Ice Storms & More

Well, the plan was to write a blog post to coincide with my newest video on whether money is really the root of all evil. But after a crazy week, I’m typing this the evening before posting, fearing I’ll lose power at any moment. Looks like this’ll just be a casual “updates” post, and you’ll have to watch the video if you’re curious about the money topic. 😉

It’s a longer story than you likely care to read, but getting to the point, my fiancee and his mom have COVID and have been quarantining in her house for a week and half. I’ve had two COVID tests five days apart that both turned up negative, and I haven’t experienced any symptoms. Somehow, I avoided catching it from him. [Though I still feel paranoid in the back of my mind, since the incubation period can last up to two weeks. Pray for ya girl!]

Part of me wants to shout–thank the Lord! But I feel weird/guilty for thinking that way because faithful people, and good people in general, have contracted and even died from this virus. So, I don’t know what to say or feel. But I am grateful. [BTW, my fiancee and his mom certainly haven’t had a jolly time, but based on what’s happened so far, I believe they’ll be okay.]

Of course, while they’ve been sick, we were hit with freezing rain that caused widespread power outages. Thankfully, they didn’t lose theirs, and mine came back within one day. Sadly, some people went days without it, but everyone finally got it restored…then, we got MORE freezing rain. As it turns out, my last post on dealing with the cold weather as a disabled person was well-timed.

(Somewhat) unpopular opinion: WINTER IS HORRIBLE!

This week, I also worked my tail off finishing our next District United Methodist Women newsletter and completing my tasks for the newspaper, along with spending a lot of time editing this week’s video to be informative yet fun and fast-paced. Plus, I filled in for my pastor Sunday, so I wrote, recorded, edited, and uploaded a worship service with some music spliced in, too. Last Saturday’s power outage didn’t help me on any of these fronts!

So, that’s how I’m doing. I’m ready for this season and this pandemic to end!

How have you been? Have you also experienced wacky weather? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re intrigued by the title/thumbnail; like (helps with the algorithm) and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Complaining About Cold Weather as a Disabled Person

Dealing with a disability is always hard in some ways. But surviving winter seems to take it all to another plain of misery (partially saying that for dramatic flair, but partially serious).

First off, the cold exasperates achy joints. Cold AND rainy? Ugh! My seven-year-old knee injury isn’t letting go of her grudge any time soon. UN-limber limbs and balance issues go together like peanut butter and mustard.

Recent pic of my family

Using a wheelchair obviously means I get less blood circulation throughout my body. While most people walk and stand frequently, my doing so is restricted to transfers (like getting out of my chair and pivoting to sit on the toilet seat) and the 3ish (give or take) times a week I work out and/or squeeze in some assisted walking practice. So, whether I’m freezing my butt off outside or sitting inside, still colder than I’d prefer to be (don’t wanna make the electricity bill too high), I’m lacking the warmth that comes with full-body movement. If I’m sitting outside in the winter while the wind is blowing hard, I’m done. Thank goodness my fiancee’s mom gave me a space heater for Christmas so I can now get more toasty when I’m relaxing at home.

Due to what I mentioned above, and my nerve/blood/etc.’s general inability to travel efficiently to the furthest corners of my body, my calves are literally always cold. Even on a hot summer day, I’ll reach down to touch them, and they’re moist and clammy…yet still cool! But their perpetual iciness reaches new heights in the winter. The coldness in my calves seems to actually radiate and spread into my bones; I wonder at times if they might, on some chilly day, shrivel up and detach from my body.

Sometimes lately, I have this fun, new FA symptom where I’ll be so cold while climbing in bed that my leg muscles tense up uncontrollably. I have to pull on the covers and wait a few seconds for my body to warm up before my muscles relax–then, I can adjust myself into a comfortable position.

And let’s not forget the dreaded shower. It feels sooo nice inside, but opening the door/curtain and feeling that blast of chilly air collide with my damp, warm skin…it’s just cruel.

Needless to say, my plants and I are anxiously awaiting Spring!

What’s your attitude towards and experience with cold weather? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

P.S. Here’s my latest vid. Please watch if you’re intrigued by the title/thumbnail; like (helps with the algorithm) and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your support! ♥

Is Christianity Superficial & Arbitrary?

Those who’ve read the Bible and/or had God set their hearts on fire for mission and ministry know the answer to this question. In case it wasn’t obvious…NO! But I have to remember that many people did not grow up in church (or didn’t grow up in a church that was actually passionate about meeting people’s physical and spiritual needs and also exemplified grace within its walls). For so many, ideas of Christianity as a religion, Christians as individuals, the purposes of church, etc. stem from bad experiences, sterotypes, etc. But you know what’s the sad part?

We did that!

Generally, the responsibility for distorted views on these subjects lies with Christians and the church.

The Christian who walks in a grocery store without a mask and harrasses the cashier about going to hell may be the only “Jesus” that person ever meets.

When sects of the church turned sexual purity into an idolatrous obsession or fixated on the blasphemous horror of R-rated films and secular pop songs, they sent out the message that Christianity’s main purpose was to dictate people’s lives.

When certain mega churches opened their doors to preach a prosperity gospel yet closed them to the hungry, freezing homeless people outside, they demonstrated that religion is only needed when it can be manipulated to support capitalism and the status quo.

Maybe that ruffled your feathers if you believe R-rated movies and secular pop songs are sinful. Self-control, wisdom, discernment, and conviction are integral to the Christian life. And if a song or movie or whatever else makes you feel uncomfortable or promotes wrong choices, don’t partake in it. I know some things convict me waaayyy more as I’ve grown closer to God. For me, it’s more often things like “the harsh words I said to a loved one in a moment of impatience” or “an instance when I could’ve witnessed but was afraid.”

But, I digress…

Here’s the point: Christianity is about being reconciled to the God of the universe, who created all things and loves us dearly, through Jesus, who died and was resurrected to defeat sin and death. The Holy Spirit guides us through life in pursing God and following Jesus, and this relationship with the three-in-one God gives us a life abundant in love, joy, hope, peace, and strength; we’re driven to share these things with others.

THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS. It’s sooo much more than the “rules to follow for a ticket to heaven” box in which we want to confine faith.

This week’s video briefly delves into this topic. Amazingly, what I wrote here isn’t even part of it; I just said a prayer before opening this blank post and word-vomited everything above as fast as I could type it. Divine guidance or the heretical musings of a misguided woman? You can decide. 😉

If you have five and a half minutes, I’d so appreciate a watch. Also, hit the like button and subscribe if you enjoy it. Thanks so much for watching and/or reading!

We Need to Stop Apologizing

We often feel guilty for things we shouldn’t.

The desire to please people feels almost instinctive for me, probably due to both nature and nurture. People like myself are hyperaware of the shifting moods around us; we sense tension in the air. We can tell from the subtlest change in vocal tone or body position that someone is defensive or relieved, irritated or intrigued.

And many women (+ some men) apologize far too often. We endlessly criticize ourselves. No matter how hard we try, we’re never polished enough, prepared enough, impressive enough. We are all too aware of our inadequacies. These issues are worsened by the social-media-comparison-game; our cluttered houses or loud kids or hastily-thrown-in-a-bun hair seems pitiful when we behold stylish women with picture-perfect homes and mild-mannered children.

Below is a list of things we need to stop apologizing for:

  • Not wearing makeup and/or fixing up our hair
  • Not having an immaculate home
  • Being tired
  • Not being able to take on another volunteer role
  • Needing time to ourselves and/or to relax
  • Not having the meal prepared just yet when people are ready to eat
  • Speaking up during a group conversation
  • Correcting misinformation
  • Our children misbehaving
  • Not wanting what a telemarketer or real-life salesman is advertising to us

Can’t you picture these so easily?

I’m sorry; I look like a train wreck today.

I’m sorry; I’ll have dinner ready in just a few minutes.

I’m sorry; I think you meant to say “the Civil War” rather than “the Revolutionary War.”

I’m sorry; I don’t need a new health insurance policy.

I know some men are more sensitive or more geared the way I’m describing. But I’ve only ever been a woman, so that’s my perspective; feel free to share another viewpoint. As a woman, I conciously and subconciously feel that I need to be small. Many women try to take up as little physical and metaphorical space as possible. Since speaking our minds, having needs, and requiring attention does the latter, we often compulsively apologize to minimize ourselves.

Coincidentally (or is it divine fate?), the lectionary this week includes lines of Psalm 139, which tells us we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Remember that you are specially crafted in the image of God and infinitely beloved.

To all those who are empathetic, who are people pleasers, who nitpick themselves, who never seem to be good enough: you are worthy of all the space you take up and more. Stop apologizing for being human.

What else do people need to stop feeling guilty for? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

P.S. In my latest vid, I discuss bitterness, both in the nation (extreme political divides) and my personal life (having a progressive disability, the tension that arises in the caretaker-disabled person relationship). Then, I mention other instances that can cause bitterness and beckon viewers to reflect on who or what causes bitterness in their lives. Then, I end with a devotional.

Please watch, like, and/or share if you are interested. Thanks so much. ♥

2021 Goals, Resolutions & Blogging Plans (+ a Convicting Sentiment on Prayer)

As we settle into the groove of a new year, many of us contemplate what we’d like to accomplish. Sharing those goals and resolutions is socially acceptable but sorta-kinda borders on narcissistic because let’s face it–no one cares as much as me! 😉 Still, for fun and accountability’s sake, and to perhaps provoke you to think over your own goals, I want to share some of mine.

“Typical” new year resolutions:

  • Drink more water.
  • Start a vitamin regimen.
  • Create a cleaning schedule.
  • Use daily to-do lists more often.
  • Get my living space totally organized.
  • Get rid of clothes and other items I don’t use (no matter how much it makes me feel guilty).

Lily-esque goals:

  • Read scripture and pray daily (more on that below).
  • Read 1-2 Shakespeare plays and more books on historical events.
  • Upload videos to my YouTube channel regularly.
  • Come up with a good name and intro for my channel.
  • Get a camera and a better set-up (depends on finances).

Fortunately, my goals and resolutions for the year can happen despite the status of the pandemic. Like everyone, I’m eager for a return to normalcy, even if our new version of that requires a little more caution and cleanliness. IDK about you, but I’m fine with people washing their hands more, businesses wiping down their bathrooms frequently, etc.

My blogging habits may shift a bit this year. Since I’m directing a lot of creativity and energy towards my YouTube channel, and there’s only 24 hours in a day, I may devote less time to composing lengthy blog posts. I’m not going anywhere; writing is still my #1 passion. But since I’m also writing video scripts, my posts might be less in-depth at times. I will probably have weeks when I want to break down a topic and go deeper, but other weeks, I’ll turn out a shorter post like this one (well, I thought it would be…ha). Some weeks, I might take a “two-birds-one-stone” approach and blog on a subject about which I’m also making a video–not always, but sometimes.

I’ll leave you with a convicting sentiment I came across the other day. I read a post about “not making time an idol” with regard to prayer (though I’m applying it to scripture reading, also). It essentially read that we’re all busy, so incorporate your relationship with God into your life constantly, as He’s never out of reach. There was also a quote from someone who said, “I never pray for a long sitting, but I never go 30 minutes without praying.”

While there’s an argument to be had about making time for God and/or prioritizing devotionals, it is hard to the point of impossibility for most people to carve out a lengthy prayer-and-scripture-reading time in their schedules. And even those who could do so for some days likely can’t do it every day. Though the phrasing of time being an idol struck me as odd, it did make me contemplate whether I’ve become a bit legalistic about my relationship with God–reserving it for an “official” devo time, almost treating it as ceremonial when it should instead be interwoven in the fabric of my being. So, this year, I’m going to try to let that go and pray and read scripture every day, whenever and however I can, for five minutes, 20 minutes, an hour, or whatever length of time is available. [Sidenote: “Can we become legalistic about our relationship with God?” definitely needs to be a future vid!]

Now you know my goals and resolutions for the year; what are yours? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Please watch, like, and subscribe if you want. It’d mean the world to me. ♥ My channel will generally feature Christian topics, but I have some ideas related to disability and books, and I’m wondering if I should make two channels or have one channel that’s a mash-up (like this blog). Let me know if you have input on that!

This post is part of Twinkl’s New Year Campaign, and is featured in 20+ New Year’s Resolutions For Families

“The Perfect Gift” (a Christmas Poem) + a Proclamative Scripture Compilation

A couple weeks ago, I posted about gift giving during the holidays. It’s estimated that Americans waste billions of dollars on unwanted presents every year. I provided some tips for buying special gifts people will appreciate while also supporting local crafters, small businesses, and sustainable companies.

Multiple family members asked me what to get each other this year. Using my own advice, I gave deliberate instructions for each person and even went shopping on one person’s behalf. I can’t wait to see the look of delightful surprise on each face as they unwrap their presents. “It’s the thought that counts,” as they say. When my loved ones receive gifts perfectly tailored to their needs, interests, and style, they’ll hopefully know they are seen and loved.

These family members want so much to please each other that they seek advice, striving to make that just-right choice. We all want to bring joy to our loved ones. As I mulled it over, I decided to write this poem.

Since my next post would fall on Christmas day, I’m going to take a week off to prepare (I’m about halfway done wrapping!) then relax and appreciate my loved ones when the day comes. I wish you all a Merry Christmas–or Happy Holidays if you celebrate Hannukah or a different special time. God bless you all, especially anyone who is grieving loss or loneliness in this season.

The Perfect Gift

It’s the most wonderful time of the year–

Christmas and winter holidays are here

How the beauty of the season touches my soul!

I love to watch the magic unfold

Lights, decorations, stockings, wreaths

A festive mantle dressed in red and green

Tinsel wrapped around the beloved tree

Little figurines forming a nativity scene

These traditions are backed by a special thing–

Out and about, in the air, a certain feeling

When “chestnuts roast on an open fire”

Everyone’s spirits seem to be higher

What is Christmas spirit, and where does it come from?

Being more thoughtful and generous; sharing love

How exactly did this concept come to be?

What causes the boost of joy we see?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My family consults me for gift ideas

“What would mom, dad, brother appreciate?”

We want to see the look of satisfied gratitude

As they unwrap the box on Christmas day

What’s the perfect gift? We ask–

We ponder, bargain hunt, search, strain

But we should realize the very best presents

Don’t require us to wrack our brains

Our presence is the best present!

Money can’t buy time together ♥

Having people who genuinely care for us

is a blessing; there’s nothing better

Except for one other thing–

Ultimately, the reason for the season

God’s love for us, demonstrated through Jesus

The eternal hope of salvation

Thanks for reading! 🙂

P.S. I put this together for my church service Sunday and am sharing here so y’all can be blessed by the wanderous beauty of the good news and God’s word.

Be strong and let your heart take courage–all you who wait for the Lord (Ps 31:24); weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Ps 30:5)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger coming to announce peace and salvation and bring glad tidings! (Isa 52:7)
Arise and shine, for now, the light has come (Isa 60:1); He brings good news to the oppressed, binds up the brokenhearted, and proclaims liberty to the captives. (Isa 61:1)
You and all people–the blind, the crippled, and the lame–are invited to God’s heavenly banquet. (Lk 14:21)
The Lord comes to vindicate the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, and the poor. (Zech 7:10)
This hope is the sure and steadfast anchor for our souls. (Heb 6:19)
So, ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters! And you who have no money–come and eat! (Isa 55:1)
Let the humble hear and be glad; O, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. (Ps 34:2-3)
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior! (Lk 1:47)
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. (Jn 14:6)
He comes not to be served but to serve–and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Matt 20:28)
For those who revere His name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Mal 4:2)
Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Matt 21:9)

What Is God Preparing ME For?

On the second Sunday of Advent, most of us heard sermons based off Mark 1:1-8 in which John prepares the way for Jesus. He beckons the Israelites to repent of their sins and receive a baptism by water, symbolically cleansing their spirits. Jesus would follow John and baptize with the Holy Spirit. Just as John prepared the way for Jesus, I’m reflecting on what God has been preparing me for in 2020.

In the last few years, He’s done a lot of work in me. Though I grew up in church, I don’t think I had my own faith, which is normal for a kid. Throughout my early college years–surrounded by different influences from those of my comparatively-sheltered adolescence–I grew lukewarm. That changed when I took an English course in which we studied the Bible. In that time, I read more scripture than I ever had, which sent me on a new trajectory of rejuvenation and rediscovery. Over the following years and up to now, I devoutly read the Word and prayed fervently. For the first time, I actually pursued God. And it changed my heart and life.

The pandemic has transformed the way we conduct our church services. I had taught one Sunday School class beforehand (for approx. 2 years) with 5-10 attendees each week, and we always did book studies. Now, since we meet outside, it’s more practical for everyone to be in one SS class together. Also, so we don’t have to sanitize books and so no one feels behind if they miss a week, I am conducting SS straight from the Bible. Each week, I study the upcoming sermon passage then find another passage (from the Gospels, unless the sermon will be from the Gospels) to compare , contrast, and discuss. Between my college training as an English major (analyzing themes, symbols, etc. is my jam), my God-given spiritual gift of teaching, and His guidance, we’ve had enriching lessons and conversation each week. I love that by connecting and finding the parallels between different parts of the Word, we are deepening our understanding of the ethics, will, and heart of God.

Since corporal singing is risky with regard to spreading germs, my mom and another lady named Cindy at church perform a handful of songs during the worship service. They study the sermon passage together to coordinate music that aligns well and reiterates the scripture’s themes. Like me, their biblical interpretation abilities are being pushed and tested. Since my mom and I play huge roles on Sunday mornings, we now spend time each week discussing the sermon passage, SS passage, and potential song choices. This new habit has been beneficial for my mom and me’s relationship; the times we passionately discuss and dig into scripture are when we synergize best. In the last few months, she’s become a spiritual confidant to me. I’m grateful for this new facet to our friendship.

Other spiritual relationships are strengthening, too. Before my mom and Cindy select and practice their songs, they spend an hour or more grappling with the scripture before deciding on the most fitting ones. I talk with my pastor for about half an hour each week once I solidify my SS lesson; I run the gist of it by her, and she tells me what she plans to focus on in the sermon. She bolsters me with encouragement, and we help each other by sharing ideas and interpretations that hadn’t occured to each other.

2020 has been an extremely difficult year for many people. I found out around Thanksgiving that my sweet Aunt El in Arkansas (my dad’s home state) contracted COVID in a nursing home and passed away. I count my blessings every day that I or a close loved one haven’t contracted it yet, and due to my privileges and blessings, I have not faced the turmoil of financial strain, homeschooling children, relapsed alcoholism, and countless other issues. Let us always be cognizant and compassionate to the suffering of our neighbors!

This year has challenged me to grow in discipleship and leadership. The last few years have all led to this point, today, as I type these words. Here I am now, nursing the strongest spiritual bonds of my life and leading about 20 people each week in the cutting, dissecting, and consuming of the Living Word. The Lord is refining me, and some of those around me, like silver (Zech 13:8-9). What does it all mean? What does the future for me, our church, our community, America, and the world hold?

Who knows. But it will all be used to further the kingdom of God, which brings good news to the oppressed, binds up the brokenhearted, and proclaims liberty to the captives (part of Isaiah 61:1).

The OT prophets cried out to the Israelites to turn back to God–“so He could give them mercy” (part of Isaiah 55:7). John does the same, urging them to repent of their sins; he would baptize with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. And salvation–the hope, peace, strength, grace, joy, conviction, and sanctification offered by and through Jesus–would be opened not just to the Hebrews but to the whole world. We who lean into our calls to discipleship are preparing the way for His second coming and, in the mean time, doing the work to bring hurting, imperfect people (all people) to the really, really GOOD news of Jesus.

Thanks for reading!