Thoughts

A Lenten Devotional

Lent

Here’s a short Lenten devotional I was honored to write for our Student Ministries devotional for Lent. Regardless of your views on evangelicals and lent, I find it a helpful practice to use the season to reflect on our Savior and prepare our hearts, minds, and lives to identify with his suffering, death, and resurrection. If you’d like to subscribe the university’s Student Ministries devotional, subscribe here.

My prayer through this is that God would be glorified, my joy would be multiplied, and you would be invited into that worship and delight.

Devotional

When Jesus calls us, we follow him.
When we follow Jesus’s calling, our story becomes joined with his story.
When we follow Jesus, we do more than consider the cost of following him, we pay the cost.
When we follow Jesus, persecution is sure to come.

Recently, twenty-one of our Coptic brothers were ushered out of this life and into the presence of Jesus by the hands of persecution, costing them their lives. Their story became his story. They were counted worthy to lose their life, only to find it in Jesus.

What is the cost of following Jesus? Or maybe a better question is: Do we think there is a cost to following Jesus? Matthew 10-12 highlights the costs for us, we can’t just ignore these chapters, we must read them.

And if I’m being honest, reflecting any amount of time on the cost of being a follower of Jesus Christ of Nazareth terrifies me. Thoughts plague my mind: What will I do when persecution comes? How will I respond to hostile actions? Will I denounce and recant my faith? Will I be ashamed of the gospel? In that moment of my flesh-filled despair, the Spirit overwhelms me with grace through these words of Jesus, “…do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour” (Matthew 10:19ff).

The call of Jesus is one of trial, hardship, and persecution. The call is one to share in his sufferings (Philippians 3:7ff) and not to fear the killing of our bodies (Matthew 10:28). Still, I wrestle with how can I not be fearful? How can I lose my life for Christ’s sake, only to find it in him?

The beautiful cost of following Jesus is that our story isn’t just supplemented by his story, by the gospel, by Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection–it is completely re-written by his story. Re-written with his suffering and victory.

We have no hope of finding rest outside of Christ’s suffering and victory.
We have no assurance of meaning in life, temporal or eternal, outside of Christ’s suffering and victory.
We have no expectation that we will be left bruised and unbroken or smoldering and not extinguished outside of Christ’s suffering and victory.
We have no thing, nothing, outside of Christ’s suffering and victory.

This is the cost of the call to be a disciple of Jesus: to count our lives and everything in the world as insignificant and to consider our affliction unworthy of comparison to the surpassing weight of glory which is ours in Christ, in identifying with him, his cross, and his suffering.

Only by allowing the author and finisher of our faith to re-write our story to be one of abiding, yoking, and resting in him, can we too stand before the world and cry:

To live is Christ. To die is gain. I share in his suffering, in his sweet victory.

Additional Resources

If you’re interested in more resources, here’s some that I’ve found helpful:

Achieving, the Killer of Delight

2013-06-24 20.59.30

This past week was killer: jam-packed from the early mornings to some late nights with work, grad school homework, small group, conversations, and prepping for our week-long vacation with my family in South Florida. Today, sitting in the Chicago airport, I cannot believe how we managed this busy schedule and didn’t get sick or back out of many commitments–God’s grace sustained us definitely. One of those graces is delight.

Have you ever taken the Strength Finders assessment? Strength Finders is a great tool to identify your strengths in hopes to help you maximize and operate in those strengths (as opposed to focusing your precious energy on your weaknesses). I have taken the assessment 3 times and each time two strengths have remained constant: learner and achiever. If you know me, you immediately know those are some of my biggest strengths. I completely embrace these strengths and try to maximize them constantly. But there’s an inherent problem with constantly applying my strength of Achiever, namely I never am satisfied; I never stop. And we–I–need to stop, to break, to delight.

The night before I had a 4-page paper due, 100 pages left to read for that paper, and needed to finalize some testing and code-writing for a work project with a deadline all this week, I hit my tipping point: either fry my brain and get this all done, or break away and take care of my soul.

There was an intense battle between achieving and delighting within me for15 minutes, which felt like 15 hours of feverish sleep. Then I realized: my drive to achieve and get my checklist done is killing my need to stop, to take joy in the journey, to nurture my soul, to delight myself in God in order to remain connected to his work remaining for the rest of the week.

I did the unthinkable. I put everything away. I turned everything off. I chose to delight myself in where I find God. I refreshed my heart, mind, and body rather than complete my tasks.

It was the best decision I made.

I laced up my Asics and went for a run, unplugged and I saw the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen all summer.

I read a new book I just received from the library on my hero, C.S. Lewis.

I sat on our balcony and watched the clouds cover the massive skies with their majestic forms while sipping iced tea.

I listened to my favorite album ever: Illuminate.

Why didn’t I understand this before? I asked myself. Achieving was killing my delight in the journey. Achieving was threatening my identity in Christ.

I encourage you to take a break from achieving and spend that time to delight in God. Take joy in your journey. There’s no better use of your time! Share some of the things where you are able to delight in God below, and share some tips that you find helpful in maintaining a balance between doing and being.

#TwentyFive #Gonna Thrive – 2 Month Status Update

(Author’s Note: I started this blog on Friday, June 21; however, I was interrupted by the biggest thunderstorm I have seen in the Midwest. Flash floods and winds up to 70 mph. Needless to say, I sought safe cover immediately. When I was able to resume, we lost power for 8 hrs. The dates therefore, are a few days off)

If you follow me on Twitter you are aware that starting the day I turned 25 I have tweeted about various activities with the hashtags #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive. These tweets are related to a larger objective to live intentionally this year and pursue life goals, establish desirable habits, an increase overall wellbeing. This started 2 months ago today, and I thought it would be great to provide an update about this and share with you the 5 movements of my #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive campaign.

The Start of #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive

The Start of #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive

The First Movement: Digital

My first goal was to digitize my life. I’ve written about my unsuccessful attempt to read the Bible digitally here, but that is just one area. I have moved to taking all notes (sermon, Sunday school, small group, and meeting) on my phone or tablet, I journal completely in Evernote (writing on that soon), and am trying to read books electronically (when I catch up on my queue, they will be electronic). The primary motivation factor in the digital trend was to archive in a meaningful and accessible way all of my journaling, notes, thoughts, meetings, and ideas. It’s going really well, and I wouldn’t go back…unless the power goes out indefinitely…

The Second Movement: Sleep & Morning Routine

My second goal was to increase the quality of my sleep while still being able to start my day 30–45 minutes before I had to. This goal is most definitely the hardest to balance with life, work, and grad school; I seem to either wake up early enough or sleep well enough. Never both in the same 10-hour window. (Ideally, I’d like to sleep 7 hours, from 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.). As an analyst I love data, and consequently purchased the Sleep Cycle App to help me measure the length, quality, and progress of my sleep. It works quite well! But still a lot of improvement to be enjoyed on this goal.

The Third Movement: Reading

My third goal is to read more books outside of grad school. I can speed read (about 600+ words per minute) so I can fly through content pretty fast; I need only to make the time for reading. My goal is 30 minutes a day (which is 18,000 words/day, or 72 pages(average)/day, or two, 200-page books/week). This is achievable, however I find that I am not able to carve out 30 minutes a day consistently. (On average I read 150–200 pgs/week).

The Fourth Movement: Health

My fourth goal is to “workout” more. Very SMART I know. The hope is to do pushups/crunches every morning, lift weights twice a week, and run at least twice a week. Again, achievable, but I simply have not cut out enough time to do this. I may need to alternate this goal with my reading goal and find a good balance here.

The Fifth Movement: Writing

The renewed interested in maintaing this blog is evidence of my fifth goal, to write. Of course I am not able to write as often as I would prefer, but I find my writing creativity coming more consistently than in months past. And I have enjoyed writing, which is the most significant difference this time.

That’s a quick look at my 2-month #TwentyFive #GonnaThrive goals. I’ll be sure to mark my progress and update you in another 2-months. But now I ask you, Do you regularly set goals for your self-improvement? What goals are you most inclined to set? What goals are you most likely to fail in achieving?

Would love to hear from you!

3 Lessons I Learned From Reading the Bible Digitally for 31 Days

I’m a big morning person, I love almost everything about the morning hours, whether it be the growing daylight, the perpetual stillness, or a steaming mug of coffee, I simply cannot go wrong getting up early. However, my morning routine (borrowed heavily from Michael Hyatt’s here) was too rigid and regimented, and I didn’t have room for creative freedom. Another problem: it was all analog. Old fashioned journal, bible, books, etc., the only digital part was playing music on my phone. This is not inherently bad, but when traveling or in a different setting, I needed to lug everything with me–not convenient.

So I scrapped it–all of it. I chopped it all apart and dove into my philosophy of a morning routine. What came out of this process was the essentials: my Bible and my journal and I converted to all digital (via Logos bible software for mobile and Evernote for the computer). The freedom in creativity I felt from the self-inflicted control of my old routine was amazing! I felt not only free, but also efficient and millennial doing it electronically. I stuck with it for 31 days.

Digital Bible

Then I experienced a crucible moment. I needed to do some reflecting, praying, and reading the Scriptures to hear the heart of God and see where he was moving. So I whipped out my phone and began “flipping” through the Bible trying to remember what I had read, what had impacted me, and some notes from previous reflections. Nothing but a few highlighted texts here and there. Not helpful. So I pulled out my leather-bound Bible. What a difference! I could easily flip through the entire text, passages jumped off the pages, past notes and reflections were written in the margins, and post-it notes scattered throughout full of important words from the Lord I had received.

My soul felt at home in that moment. I quickly wrote these 3 lessons from reading the Bible digitally:

  1. The Bible is always with me. I can pull it out in line at Starbucks, waiting for a meeting to start at work, or on the Transit Bus. However, in reality I pull up Twitter or Instagram or Letterpress long before I think to open the scriptures. It is nice to quick look up a reference, but outside of that, reading the Bible did not become spontaneous for me.
  2. Highlighting verses is a breeze, synced across all devices, and searchable in-app. This is a huge plus, except when I want to flip between a passage in the Gospel of John and a cross-reference in 1 John. For me, I’m an underliner, not a highlighter, so I found it distracting. I understand that is my preference and not everyone agrees.
  3. You can takes notes, like writing in the margins, but they are not the same thing. Yes, you can search the notes. Yes, an indicator tells you of an available note in a passage. But it requires tapping it and seeing your note out of the context of the verses. I love underlining because I often summarize or synthesize my thoughts in the margin next to it. When I open up my leather-bound, it’s there, popping out, almost distracting me. When I open my Bible app, I see something is there, and it doesn’t distract me from the text, but it does not call to attention to the value it holds.

Leather-Bound Bible

I understand these lessons are subjective and influenced by my preferences. But I would ask you: What have you experienced? What have you learned from reading the Bible digitally? What do you prefer?

Share your thoughts below!