Do You Agape Me?

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It was the second time Christ had appeared to them since His resurrection. Seven of the disciples sat on the shore eating the fish Christ has provided for them after a long, fruitless night of fishing on the water. Suddenly, Jesus turned to one of the men in the group and asked:

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Simon Peter, surprised, responded, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs,” replied the Savior emphatically. Then, He asked again: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Tend my sheep,” Christ repeated. To everyone’s confusion, He asked again, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Simon Peter responded yet again, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

“Feed my sheep,” came the expected reply.

Why was Christ asking the same question again and again?

I have always wondered why this conversation in John 21 between Simon Peter and Christ is so monotonous. We get it—to love Jesus, we have to feed His sheep. So why the repetition?

Dannah Gresh, popular author of the book Get Lost, turned my perception of this passage completely upside down. It all comes down to the many words that the Greek language has for “love.” The two main kinds of love are phileo love (brotherly affection) and agape love (unconditional sacrifice). In her book, Mrs. Gresh re-wrote this conversation from John 21 with the original words for “love.” The result reveals something about Simon Peter that every Christian is guilty of: selfishness. Here is how the first two times Christ asked Peter this question really went:

“Simon, do you agape me?”

“Yes, Lord; you know that I phileo you.”

“Feed my lambs.” (aka—love with sacrifice!)

Jesus had literally just given His life for Peter, and all the disciple could offer was brotherly affection. Jesus, probably discouraged, rephrased His question the last time He asked it:

“Simon, do you phileo me?”

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I phileo you.”

Simon Peter, who just witnessed Christ’s death and resurrection, struggled to give up everything to love Christ fully. There were some things in his life that he was just not willing to let go.

If I am being truly honest with myself, I can relate to Simon. I often have a hard time loving Christ fully. When He asks, “Do you agape me? Will you give of yourself for me? Will you sacrifice your time, money, dreams, etc. to do my will?” I hesitate. As a human being, I am selfish to my core. I don’t want to do anything for anyone that requires sacrificing my own comfort zone and pleasure. Often, I answer half-heartedly like Simon Peter did: “Yes, Lord; I phileo you.”

The problem is that Christ does not require us to phileo Him. He does not honor us for that fuzzy, warm feeling we feel inside when we raise our hands in worship or smile at a stranger. He requires us to agape Him. He honors us for raising our hands in worship even though we are worried about what others will think, or smiling at a stranger even though he cut us in line at the grocery store. Loving Christ requires sacrifice.

In the last few weeks as I have been contemplating Biblical love, I have realized that the least we can do for Christ is agape Him. He gave us the ultimate sacrifice—His life. He made us clean before the Father by literally taking on the weight of our filth. He deserves our agape love.

In John 15, Christ tells us how to love Him: by loving others. What is astounding about this command is that not only are we told to love others, but we are commanded to love them as Christ has loved us. We are commanded to sacrifice ourselves for others. Admittedly, I am not very good at sacrificing myself for others. It’s easy for me to phileo those around me to make myself feel good, but I struggle to agape them as Christ did me. Simon Peter did too. But the amazing part of his story is that it does not end with this conversation with Christ in John 21. Simon Peter, known as the rock, went on to bring thousands to Christ, literally sacrificing his whole life to share the Gospel with others. Simon Peter learned to truly practice agape love. Can you imagine the smile on Christ’s face when Simon reached heaven? If Christ were to ask Simon once again, “Simon, do you agape me?” the answer would have been evident. Simon would have shouted, “Yes Lord! You know I agape you!”

When I come face to face with my Savior, I want to be able to say the same thing. I want to look into His loving eyes and exclaim, “Lord, I agape you!” and for my life to be evidence of that truth.

Will you join me in learning to sacrifice selfishness in order to serve Jesus? Starting today, let’s use our lives to selflessly show the world Who Love is. Let’s show a little sacrifice for the One Who gave us everything. What can you do today to practice agape love?


Beginning story paraphrased from John 21: 1-19, ESV
Ideas about John 21 and the life of Peter from: Get Lost: Your Guide to Finding True Love. By Dannah Gresh, pages 60-62.
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Perfect Love

 

Perfect Love

“God is love, so He must support all kinds of love.”

“I can do whatever I want because God will still love me.”

“If God loves me, then why did He allow this terrible thing to happen to me?”

I’m sure you have heard (or said) one of these statements before. People—yes, even Christians—are generally confused about God’s love.

What is the first picture that comes to your mind when you think of love? Maybe you think of a romance movie, a dramatic Shakespeare play, or a mother coddling her toddler. Or maybe your first thought is of a memory that is special to you, where you feel secure and happy. Whatever you think love is, put it aside for a minute and try to embrace with fresh understanding the true nature of God’s love.  

The problem is that we think human love and God’s love are one in the same. Thus, we expect God to accept our sin, coddle us, and keep us from the scary things of this world. When He doesn’t love us the way we think He should, we feel betrayed and doubt His goodness. As my pastor says, we forget that God’s love is not like grandma’s love. God’s love is just.

Think of the story in John 11 about the death of Lazarus. Christ could have prevented Lazarus from dying and he could have saved Mary and Martha from the pain of loss. But He didn’t. In fact, after hearing that His dear friend Lazarus was gravely ill, Jesus “stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (v.6). As a little student in Sunday school, I always asked the question, “why?” The people in John 11 mourning Lazarus asked the same thing (v.37). If Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, why did He allow them to experience this pain?

You may already know that John 11 contains the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (v.35). I have heard many preachers use this verse as an illustration of Christ’s humanity and love for us, and rightly so. But, once again, as a little child learning about this story in Sunday school, I wondered why. After all, Christ knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why did Jesus weep?

Jesus wept because He cared for Mary and Martha and was deeply concerned about their lack of faith. Like any person would do after losing a brother, both sisters blamed Jesus for not coming in time to save Lazarus (v.21,32). They did not believe that Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus, especially since he had been dead for four days. According to Jewish belief, the soul had already left permanently. This is an example of Christ’s just love. He did not do what Mary and Martha wanted Him to do, which was heal their brother. Instead, He did what glorified God, “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v.4).

God always loves us according to His sovereign plan, which is always the best for us. His love for us is not accepting of our sin nor according to our preconceptions. He did not heal Lazarus because He knew that raising him from the dead was part of God’s plan, both for Christ Himself, as well as for the faith of Mary, Martha, and the Jews. He loves us in the same way.

God’s love is a just love. It is not tolerant of sin and it does not resemble the love of your grandmother. It is reckless, consistent, and good. We cannot understand it, nor do we deserve it. The only reason that we can enjoy God’s sovereign love is because of Christ’s sacrifice. Christ took all of the wrath God has toward our sin, and left compassion and acceptance of us as people, apart from our sin.

Thus, God is love, but does not accept twisted and unbiblical human “love.”

God will always love you, but will not tolerate your sin.

God might allow some hardships to befall you, but it is all part of His perfect and loving plan.

If you are doubting God’s love in your life, remember that He does not love like we do. He loves by doing what is best for us and what will best glorify Him. He loves by allowing us to fellowship with Him despite our imperfections, because of Christ’s sacrifice.

This compels us to ask the question: “how we can show our gratefulness to Him?” Stay tuned for next week’s post about what it means to love the God Who loved us first.

 

What Does It Mean to Abide in Love?

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At the beginning of every year, I ask God for a word.

I do not ask for a list of resolutions, or even a set of spiritual goals, but a single word. At the end of every year, I find that my word has penetrated every area of my life, from how I treat my family to how I tackle my homework. This year, my word is “abide.”

Naturally, after confirming that “abide” is the word God wants me to meditate on, I sought to define it. After finding the dictionary definition irrelevant, I decided to draw my own definition from reading what the Bible says about abiding. While I have only brushed the surface of this study so far, I was surprised by what I found. I figured abiding in God simply meant spending more time with Him. What I found in the Scriptures, though, is that abiding is much more than that. In short, abiding in Christ is all about love: His love for us, our love for Him, and our love for others. Thus, by a happy coincidence, the second day of February finds me considering the ever-complex topic of Biblical love.

The book of first John is where I began my study of the word “abide.” I went through the book several times, circling every instance of “abide” in the passage. Glancing at the few short pages in my Bible that make up 1 John, I can count at least 22 occurrences of the word. Interestingly, almost every time John uses the word “abide,” it is accompanied by another word— “love.” Recently, my pastor gave a beginning-off-the-year sermon on the two biggest focuses that every Christian should have: loving God and loving others. It is the greatest commandment and encompasses the purpose of the Christian life. It seems so simple, but how is it done? We are such selfish beings—how are we supposed to deny ourselves to love others?

As I continued my study, I came upon another vital passage about abiding in Christ: John 15. Jesus’ familiar illustration about the vine and its branches took on a whole new meaning for me. I felt so incapable of loving God and loving others. But when I read verse four, I began to understand the key to denying myself. It says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (ESV). Ironically, we as humans are so desperately inept that we cannot love God, let alone others, without His help and power. We are so purely selfish that we cannot deny ourselves without His assistance. Backing up to verses 2-3, which declare believers as completely clean by the power of God, I found once again that it has nothing to do with my efforts and everything to do with Christ’s sacrifice. This is true love. This is the love that Jesus invites us to abide in, free from guilt and sin (v.9).

The passage ends with a command: “love one another as I have loved you” (v.12). Thus, to truly abide in Christ means to grasp, accept, and thrive off of His love so much that it overflows out of my life and into the people around me. Abiding in Christ means that I cannot help but love God and love people because of His inexplicable love for me.

As many times as I have read the book of 1 John as well as John 15, I have not stopped learning new things about what it means to abide in love. Throughout the month of February, I plan to share these simple lessons with you by studying God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others. I hope you will join me in humble adoration of the Savior that loved us enough to die for us, and, in turn, make us worthy of sharing His love with others.

2018 Book List

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One of my favorite places to be is in a book store, sipping coffee and reading the back covers of crisp, new books, each bursting with fresh knowledge and stories. I started off my new year right this year by visiting the nearest BAM and snapping pictures of interesting-looking books to add to my list. One of my goals for this year is to read before bed at night instead of checking my social media, which gives me about 30 minutes to an hour every evening. I plan to switch between fiction and non-fiction titles for some variety. So without further ado, here is my prospective book list for 2018:

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I watched the movies (twice) and have fallen in love with the magical world of Hogwarts. I am excited to see what these eight books have to hold! Random.jpg

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

The novel concept of a gentle and quiet spirit has been on my mind a lot lately. I received this book for Christmas and am looking forward to gleaning wisdom from its pages.

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

I am always working to release the idol of perfectionism in my life, and I am convinced that Shauna Niequist’s wise counsel will benefit me significantly.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

I have never read anything by Ann Voskamp before, but I have heard excellent things about this poetic, Christian classic.

The Spirit-Filled Life by Charles F. StanleyRandom

The description on the back of this book had me captured right away. I have been intrigued by the many interpretations of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible ever since I studied it in my theology class. Hopefully Stanley uses God’s Word to share truth about this highly debated topic of theology.

Counter-Cultural by David Platt

This is another title I have heard a lot about but have never picked up for myself. Jesus was counter-cultural, so, as a Christian, I should be too!

Kisses from Katie and Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors

Although I read the first book several years ago, I would like to read it again before delving into Katie Davis Majors’ new book, which came out last year.


Let me know what books you plan to read this year, as well as any that I should add to my list. May your reading this year be rich, entertaining, and full of truth.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

― Charles William Eliot

Interview with a Recovering Self-Aholic

Today, I am beyond privileged to bring you an interview with Kristen Perino, author of #Selfie to Selfless: Living the Life You Were Created For. A few months ago, when I decided to tackle the giant of selfishness in my life, I stumbled upon Kristen’s Instagram. I sent her a quick email thanking her for beginning the #selfietoselfless movement. I was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview for my blog. I hope she will inspire you just as much as she has inspired me!

You call yourself a “recovering self-aholic.” What made you realize that you were obsessed with yourself? What was the reason you decided to change?

I used to think of selfishness as “This is my last bite of cookie, and I am not going to share, so therefore, I’m selfish.” Suddenly, I realized that selfishness was not just the small confine of refusing to share, but I was living a selfish lifestyle that invaded nearly every area of my life. I was living entirely based on MY feelings, MY time, MY money, MY 26152516_171184246979521_4748597326577139712_nperspective, MY view. Unknowingly, I was obsessed with myself. Not just my reflection, but it was a mentality that was poisoning the way I lived life and interacted with other people.

I would not say that I am “changed”, because I am still a naturally selfish person, and I am still human, so that’s where grace kicks in. This is about a journey. It’s a process, not perfection. I am striving to live better, but many days I fall short. It’s not an excuse for any mishaps, it’s grace. I would say that instead of “changing”, it’s an awakening. I don’t want anyone to sell all their belongings and become “radically changed”. I am just encouraging them to be AWARE of someone or something other than themselves. It’s an ongoing process that will likely take me until the end of my days to work on, but every day, I am up for the challenge to live a little more selflessly than the last.

If there was one thing you could tell a younger self-aholic, what would it be?

Oh girl, there are SO MANY THINGS that I would love to tell a younger self-aholic. But I’ll narrow it down. First and foremost, I would say you were created with purpose, a plan and have incredible potential. There is more to life than what you see in the here and now. Secondly, you are BEAUTIFUL, so my lovely one, “selfie” until your heart is content because God created a stunningly beautiful human when He made you, but do not put your self-worth in that selfie. The tiny lens on your phone cannot capture the true beauty that you have inside you, nor does your “following” define your future.

How old were you when you began writing? Was it challenging being a young author?

I’ve always loved writing. I cannot do math to save my life, but I’ve always loved reading and writing. Writing just made sense to me. I am a grammar and spelling NERD.

(I love you for calling me young. I know I’m not old, but some days don’t feel so “young” any more)

When all this began, I knew God was whispering to my heart, “I need your voice. I need your voice.” And I thought, MY VOICE?!? What the heck? Why would he need my voice? Instantly, my lack of qualifications flashed through my mind, one being my age, and I was so hesitant to write S2S for that reason. In addition to my age, my real insecurity stemmed from not being married (or anywhere close to it), and not having any children. I am personally genuinely OK with my stage in life, but in the writing world, I thought that a husband and kids gave y26185292_301335120389446_886251550748442624_n(1)ou a rite of passage to suddenly be wise; as if people would listen to me more if I had those “credentials”. There IS so much wisdom that comes from being a mother and wife, but what if you don’t have those? Are your experiences discounted? I wanted people to take me seriously. But then I was completely convicted. God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. I had asked God to be used, so why was I pressing back when He was trying to use me? And then it became very clear to me that I am overly qualified at living selfishly, period. It doesn’t matter WHAT stage of life I could be in, the fact is: I was living selfishly. I have seen so many married couples that live selfishly. Sadly, I have witnessed singles, and mothers alike, act extremely selfish. This is a topic that crosses any age, any marital status, any income, or background. I personally, am an ordinary, very selfish, twenty-nine year-old, and I needed to write about it.

What is your favorite thing about writing?

I feel passionate about reminding others that they are not alone. If I can share any experience through writing, and it would speak to someone’s heart, then my job is done. We are stronger together. It’s when people feel alone, isolated, or they’re the only person going through a situation or circumstance, is when darkness creeps in. When are not meant to live in the dark, we are meant to spread light. How we spread that light is writing and speaking about the truth, encouraging one another, coming alongside our brothers and sisters, and whispering, “Hey, I’ve been there. You are not alone.”

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

KEEP WRITING, KEEP READING, KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN! I am obsessed with watching 26068347_324125497992417_4648313907549569024_nother women (and men!) who have come before me. I love and admire fierce, intelligent writers and speakers like, Lisa Bevere, Bianca Olthoff, Christine Caine, Jen Hattmaker, Carl Lentz, Rick and Kay Warren, and Havilah Cunnington. It’s so important to keep yourself inspired, but also to remind yourself that you are not them. You have your own story to tell. It is by no accident that you have the life and experiences that you have. You are meant to share through your lens. All of the above authors have kids and a family of their own. I don’t. I am single, living in Los Angeles, working in Fashion PR. My story will not look the same as theirs, but I respect and admire so much what they’ve done.

How can we get involved in the #selfietoselfless movement?

Well, I would be honored if people purchased the book! You can do so at www.SelfieToSelfless.com or on Amazon. It is also carried at smaller bookstores.

But on a larger scale, the best way to get involved with the movement is to sincerely look within, write down what selflessness looks like to you in your everyday life, and how you can start weaving it into your schedule, your home life, your weekends. We need to make being selfless part of our routine. At first it takes discipline, because being selfless doesn’t come naturally to most. But then after practice, it will start flowing naturally.

I talk about it in the book, but selfless acts can be anything; taking a friends phone call when you know they’re hurting, and all you want to do is go to bed. Or maybe it looks like taking your neighbors kids to school if that single mom is struggling. Or maybe you could buy Starbucks for the person in line behind you, while ordering your own coffee.

Being selfless is not a one-size-fits-all model. It won’t look the same for everyone. But I encourage you to start sacrificing what is most precious to you first. Example, if you value your time above all else, then start with selflessly sacrificing your time, whether that’s with an organized charity, or small acts with neighbors, family, or strangers on the street corner. If you value your money the most, then start by selflessly investing your money in pouring into others. You could buy gift cards to Starbucks, McDonald’s or Subway, and keep them in your car to give out to homeless people you drive by on the street corner. Everyone deserves food. If you value your wardrobe the most, then start by clearing it out, and donating to an organization in your community or city that gives back to a cause that resonates with you.

The possibilities are endless. We are such a capable generation. The sky is limit to how you give back. My most urgent question is; the world is hurting, so why are you waiting? It’s time to get in the game. We cannot wait for politicians, the church, or the government to intercede. Change starts with US, in our everyday lives.


THANK YOU, Kristen, for helping us as we seek to live selflessly. I cannot wait to read the book.

Why I Stopped Doing My Best

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My first year of high school was the year I really started to take school seriously. I began to care more about my grades, put more effort into my classes, and develop a genuine hunger for knowledge. In fact, my passion for learning became a bit of an obsession. Reading would take me many more hours than necessary because I felt that I needed to understand all of the content. I would spend most of my day pouring over my school books. You can call me a nerd, but I absolutely loved it. I felt like a dry sponge with a desperate need to soak up as much water as possible.

Today, as I look forward to my very last semester of high school, I appreciate this hunger as well as detest it. My obsession with learning blossomed into an obsession with my own success. I began to set expectations for myself, and would be crushed if I did not meet them. This attitude escalated as I continued to pour myself into my studies. My affinity for learning became a façade for my hidden sin of self-dependence and perfectionism.

My life verse during this time was Colossians 3:23, which says: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV). This verse encourages believers to do everything to the best of our ability to glorify the Lord. Instead of interpreting the verse correctly, though, I idolized the concept of “best.” Was I trying to do everything to the best of my ability? Yes. But I was not doing it for the Lord. I was doing it for myself. Instead of doing the things God had required me to do to the best of my ability, I was trying to be the best at everything. It was my way or the highway, as the saying goes. I became extremely frustrated when others slacked in their responsibilities or performed their tasks half-heartedly. I thought that I was the best.

My perfectionism took over and I became obsessed with success. Because it is impossible to be perfect and completely master everything (duh), I felt like a failure. It was then that some wise words from my mother came to mind. “Miriam,” she once told me when I expressed my deep fear of failure, “Success is simply doing God’s will.” Her advice hit me like a barricade. I didn’t have to be the best. I only had to do the best with what God had entrusted me.

I still love to learn. I still strive to do everything God asks me to do to the best of my ability, without compromising my biggest priorities. And I still struggle with the obsessive perfectionism that penetrated my mindset as a young teen. However, God continually teaches me that my imperfection is the ideal setting for His perfect plan. I stopped striving for my best simply to be the greatest and began doing my best in order to bring glory to the Greatest One of all. If you are a perfectionist, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that this is the most freeing thing you can do. Christ continually sets me free from the bonds of myself and He can do that for you too.

As I wrap up high school and move into God’s plan for my life, I must constantly remind myself that success is not a 4.0 GPA, dozens of friends, or even godly relationships. Success is doing God’s will—not to be the best, but to give my best to the God Who deserves it.

 

What My Christmas Tree Taught Me About Perfectionism

What My Christmas Tree...

Merry Christmas, sweet friends! I have a little short-but-sweet message on my heart this Saturday evening that I would like to share with you. I hope that you will be encouraged, as I was, to look for God’s hand in the little things this Christmas.


As I sit in my family room gazing at my family’s Christmas tree, I smile. The tree is a few inches too tall for our ceiling, so my hard-working daddy laboriously bent and manipulated the top branch so that my mom could display her Christmas star, to remind us of Jesus and that silent night in Bethlehem. Our ornaments don’t match. Some are Campbell soup ornaments collected by my great-grandmother, some are from the years each of my siblings was born, and some are from my parents’ childhood. Most of the ornaments are crooked, and some are flipped upside down.

But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Christmas Tree.jpgNormally I would call myself a perfectionist. Normally I would appreciate a perfectly balanced tree with all the matching fixtures. But not tonight. Gazing at this Christmas tree, I realize that it is the most perfect tree I have ever seen. The memories and the love it holds include its crooked star and Campbell soup ornaments.

I am reminded that human imperfection is the very reason that we need a perfect Savior and that God sent His Son to us on that silent night in Bethlehem. We, with our crooked ideas and upside-down lifestyles, could never be good enough to come face to face with such a holy God. Our imperfections were the ideal setting for His perfect sacrifice.

Sure, my Christmas tree is crooked. No, the ornaments don’t match. But God is using my Christmas tree, with all of its lovely imperfections, to help me relinquish my obsession with perfection for the only Person Who can perfectly satisfy me.

Confessions of a Christmas Fanatic

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Red and green lights reflect off the snow as I drive slowly through my neighborhood, enjoying the decorations in my neighbors’ yards. Christmas music blares through my car’s speakers while tiny snowflakes fall from the sky, ending their journey on my windshield. Parking the car, I swing open the door and am confronted with a blast of cold air mixed with the smell of pine needles and wet snow.

I step inside my cozy little home, and there in my kitchen is… a scarecrow? A garland of leaves? Pumpkin cookies?

Oh yes, I nearly forgot. It’s still November. We still have to get through Thanksgiving before my parents will even crack the lid on the dusty old bin of Christmas decorations. I have to contain my excitement for Christmas a bit longer—just until Thanksgiving is out of the way.

Why take the time to be thankful when Christmas is coming? Stores, TV commercials, and radio stations transfer immediately from Halloween to Christmas in the matter of just a few days. Thanksgiving is pretty much represented by a big meal, some football, and a huge, chaotic shopping spree. It’s kind of like the prelude to Christmas.

Oh, and sometimes I’ll see an occasional paper plate decked out in leaves, scarecrows, and pumpkins that reads, “give thanks.” For those who do not know the Lord, to whom do we give our thanks?

As Christians, shouldn’t we step back for a brief moment and evaluate our position on gratitude? The Bible tells us countless times to give thanks to the Lord. First Thessalonians 5:18 takes it as far as to command: “give thanks in all circumstances.”

Our first president, George Washington, a strong Christian and amazing politician, declared on October 3, 1789 that there was to be a day of Thanksgiving in America. In fact, he published a written proclamation of this official day. Washington says,

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation.

Modern Americans have strayed so far from this vision.

Yes, I am a Christmas fanatic. But my challenge both to myself and to you this year is this: let’s hold off on Christmas until the Friday after Thanksgiving. Let’s focus our hearts and our minds on all that God has done for us. Let’s make Thanksgiving a peaceful, memorable day of family, faith, and good food. Let’s hold off on the Christmas carols, restrain ourselves from posting scary pictures of Elf on our Facebook page, and keep the Christmas tree in the attic where it belongs.

Finally, let’s focus our eyes on Who this whole season is about. The Man who gave up His life for you and for me deserves all of our praise and devotion. This Thanksgiving, remember to give thanks to the God Who deserves it.

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Fall Reading List & Blogs I’m Loving

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“I am so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers.” -Anne of Green Gables

I hope you all are having a peaceful, cozy fall! My absolute favorite thing to do in the fall is to curl up with a good book. Sometimes, though, I do not have much time to read during the school year. As a result, I resort to shorter pieces, such as blog posts, while reading my books a little at a time. So, here are some blogs that I have been loving this fall as well as my fall (and probably winter) prospective book list. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Delighting In Him

I have been absolutely loving Moriah’s encouraging posts over at Delighting in Him. I especially enjoy her “Sweet Saturday Sayings,” a collection of excellent, thought-provoking quotes and beautiful pictures posted every weekend. Check out her blog for godly encouragement and inspiration!

B. Well

I stumbled upon this lifestyle blog a few weeks ago. It is run by two sisters who write honest posts about how to take care of the body that God has given you. Although they can be a bit overboard with the whole “all-natural” thing, overall, B. Well blog is refreshing, encouraging, and informative.

Lex Thomas

Lexi Thomas is a twenty-something girl who is struggling with cancer. Her vulnerable, honest posts give me perspective and remind me how amazing my God is. I do not know why God is allowing her to suffer so deeply, but, as her website says, “and we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good.”

And now, on to my book list:

Grace and the Preacher by Kim Vogel Sawyer

This is a book that I have been (slowly) reading for months, and I cannot wait to see how it ends! Kim Vogel Sawyer is an excellent author with an easy-to-read style. My favorite thing about her books is that I close them feeling encouraged, not depressed.

Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

My mom and sister have been pestering me to read this book for a while now. I cannot wait to dive into this mystery!

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

I have always wanted to read this book, and now it is one of the options for an independent class assignment. I am looking forward to learning more about Who God is.

-The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I was not allowed to read these books as a kid, and I am super excited to see what I think of them. I have a feeling that there are going to be some late nights in my future.

What books and blogs are you reading this fall? Have you read any of the ones above? Let me know down in the comments!

How to Stay Cozy This Fall

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Crisp wind bites my face as I step onto my back porch. I wrap my sweater tightly around my body, blocking the chill. Slowly, my lungs fill with the stingy, cool air and I breath in the beautiful smell of damp leaves. Bringing my coffee to my lips, I smile contentedly.

I love fall.

Everything about this season makes me feel warm and cozy. Despite the busyness of life, the cool wind whispers in my ears, “Be still, breathe in, and delight in this moment.” I am reminded of verses in the Bible such as Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Dwelling on these truths brings me great peace and overwhelming joy, which I long to share with you.

So, grab your warm drink and your coziest sweater and join me on my back porch. Let’s talk about what God is doing in our lives. Let’s talk about how to stay cozy this fall.

My first tip for staying cozy this fall is to slow down. Say no to more commitments, to wasted time, and to bad attitudes. Stay home one night instead of rushing around to get to this or that. Have a bonfire in your backyard with friends or family, read a book or watch a movie by yourself, bake a cake for someone in need. You will never remember the hours spent wasting time or spending it foolishly. What will stick in your mind are the memories made with family and friends.

Secondly, put your phone down. Turn it off. Leave it home when you go for a walk or spend time with your family. Overall, do more things that make you forget to look at your phone.

Lastly, you can stay cozy this fall by doing something different. October can be the time of year (especially for students) when the monotony of life begins to sink in and you feel like all you’re doing is going through the motions. So change things up a bit. Rearrange your furniture, switch up your routine, or try something different. Even our time with God can become monotonous if we are not careful. When this happens in my life, I return to the study of God’s love for me and, in turn, how I should love others. Dannah Gresh has an excellent devotional series called “The Love Feast” as part of her book Get Lost. If you have the YouVersion Bible app, you can download it for free! I am on my second or third time going through this love feast. I promise you that it will refresh your soul and return the vitality to your time with God.

These are only a few tips for how to stay cozy and simplify your life this fall. Now, I want to hear your side of our little back-porch conversation. What has God been doing in your life? What are some ways that you take advantage of this cozy season in an effort to “be still”?