Faith and Grace

Opposing forces do not always equal a contradiction. While gravity pulls us toward the earth, a force called Normal force pushes back against gravity and prevents us from continuously falling down towards the earth (well, for some of us ;)). And even though this allows our net force to be zero, this meshing of forces does not cancel out either one, but instead it enhances our state of being. They balance each other so that we may remain in a state of equilibrium. In the same manner, grace and faith enhance one another. They do not have the capacity to contradict one another, as they’re two separate, but complete laws.

What is faith? There are many examples of faith that are portrayed in the Bible and while they each look different from one another, they all depict what confidence in God looks like. Hebrew 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It’s important to allow our minds to drift towards God within our gaps of everyday activities. When we daydream alongside God, we can imagine the things we didn’t know that we could imagine,and our vision for the unseen events that are to occur in our lives will automatically broaden. When we place an emphasis on what God wants to see happen in our lives, our confidence will deepen and our focus will become more stringent,and our actions will flow as a byproduct.

God’s grace is already available to anyone who is willing to receive it. He determined it long before we even had the capability to do anything for or alongside of God (Romans 5:8). We have eternal access to His grace, or His favor upon our lives. One definition of favor is “A feel or show of approval or preference for.” Faith is produced from having the confidence that at any given time, we have His favor upon our lives, and it was given to us regardless of whether or not our actions are favorable. You really cannot go too far to one side or the other because faith and grace coincide with one another, they do not contradict. What many call walking to close to the side of faith is not really biblical faith, but it’s self-sufficiency and sometimes, legalism. Biblical faith is only produced from a proper understanding of biblical grace. The deeper understanding of grace that we have, the more incredible our acts of faith will overflow from our heart.

A reason why some people believe that these two concepts are contradictions is because they believe that the sect of people teaching on them are hypocrites. Jesus never called those people who wanted to get closest to Him hypocrites. He defended Mary, who only desired to sit at his feet, even though there was other work that could be done. He stuck up for the woman who broke the alabaster jar in order to spend a moment in the presence of her master. And He’ll be the one to defend you and I when we seek Him with all that we have in order to understand grace on the level that these biblical figures have, and on an even greater level. Jesus called the religious people hypocrites and they were offended, instead of truly repentant and wanting to change their hearts towards Him. There is no such thing as getting too close to God. As with any other concept in the Bible, there is a worldly definition and a Biblical definition. When we strive to find out the meaning that God had intended, we will be able to share that wisdom with the world, and no one will be able to refute it.

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Anything is Possible!

Have you ever heard an American Idol contestant open their mouth only to squeak out a few off pitch notes? It leaves you wondering why no-one told them that their gifting wasn’t in making harmonious melodies. I remember one girl in particular who’s voice wasn’t that great but it wasn’t horrible. The first time she auditioned, she failed to receive a passing golden ticket. However hurt she must’ve been by the judges brutally honest comments, she still kept an open mind. Between her first audition and her second audition, she took singing lessons and improved. In fact, she improved so much that the judges were impressed and she was able to win herself a golden ticket so that she could enter the famous singing competition.

When I was younger, I would have instances where I knew in my heart that anything is possible. Usually these thoughts occurred to me when I was singing in the shower. I thought that if I just kept trying a little harder each time I sang, I could become an amazing singer. I truly felt if anyone tried their hardest and didn’t hold anything back, they could amount to whatever they wanted to. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I had practiced singing until I moved out and my Dad said, “We’ll miss your singing.” Haha, I had no idea anyone was listening.

While I still believe anything is possible, I don’t believe everyone should do everything. In fact, 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “Everything is permissible but not everything is helpful. Everything is permissible but not everything builds up.” Even though all things are possible, not all things are helpful to others. Some believe that if they ask God for anything, then God should be obligated to answer. But God loves us too much to answer solely on our desires, when we are not focused on His kingdom. Sometimes, learning how to become a better singer can add to His kingdom. It all comes down to relationship with God. Listen to Him and spend time with Him and soon you will find yourself focusing not on everything that you can do but on everything that He would have you do for His kingdom. And when you focus on His kingdom, you’ll come to enjoy whatever it is that He’s called you to do.

No Body Shaming Here…LOL, JK!

While I am not for body shaming, the very essence of the phrase, “No body shaming” has become somewhat of a fad. It seems as though most people that use this phrase are adapting the mindset of others rather than coming up with their own thoughts. An idea that was meant for good has transformed into a superficial health icon. Whatever seems to be the new phrase or the new idea for the month seems to ride the same strand of wind and falls out of everyone’s mouth that chooses to be in this path, even if they don’t believe in it. Those very people who are yelling, “There’s no body shaming here,” could also be the ones who are inwardly condemning themselves for the way they look…isn’t that body shaming?!

This downward-spiraling system doesn’t just pertain to those interested in the health field. Maybe you’ve already noticed that those who scream, “Tolerance!” as loud as they can are typically the most intolerant. Now, I know that not everyone is like this. But I think a good majority of people are lacking something to believe in. And so when someone else comes along with a good cause, they jump on the same train and act the same act. Sometimes people are afraid to settle down and think about what they really believe in. I think this is because people are afraid of standing out in the crowd. I mean, sure they’re willing to stand out to some extent…as long as someone else stands out with them.

The Pharisees in the Bible represent a group of people who carried a good message but people of that day just went along with it instead of questioning it. A horrible notion in the culture of Christianity is that you are not to question anything but rather just go along with it. This type of attitude over time will produce religion, not relationship.
Anyway, I once remember hearing a pastor speak about all that was required for a young boy to become a rabbi. A rabbi was someone who had mastered the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible. They were to completely memorize and rehearse those five books. If they so much as slipped up on one word, they would be told to “be about their father’s business.” In other words, they were not fit for handling the word of God, at least not according to society’s standards.

The very same process is at hand in society today, whether or not we choose to see it. As long as you’re playing the part, you’re in. You don’t have to truly believe in what you say you believe in, as long as you promote the agenda of the group. As long as everything looks okay at face value, it’s all good. After all, no one really digs into other people’s beliefs to find out why they believe what they believe in…unless what they believe in is too off-the-wall. Religion will create the perception that change is necessary but it will deceive you by “appearing” to occur deeper than the skin. When you come to God, you don’t have to put on a mask beforehand. He already knows you and loves you. But the more time you spend with Him, the less you’ll feel obligated to wear that mask and the more willing your heart will be to change alongside God’s heart.

I am a Millennial

I am a millennial,
I sit around all day.
When it comes to work,
I’d really rather play.

People pat me on my head,
and think,”little do you know.”
I really do not blame them.
I am super super slow.

I am a millennial,
I think I know it all.
I’ll turn left, maybe right
never shall I fall.

I am a millennial.
Well, that’s what others say.
I’ve worked hard for my own name,
But that label wiped it away.

I get out what I put in,
Just like all the rest.
What a day it turns out to be,
When I put in my best.

You may not be like me,
You may be like you.
That’s really all
that you can be….
It’s wonderful and true.

Your Eyes Deceive You

Your eyes deceive you, beautiful one.
They create walk-ways to your soul.
Full of open trust and expectation,
I see you’ve lost control.
Deep with wonder, pouring out awe.
Your eyes, they do deceive,
For when closed shut tight, those temptations…
Well, they will surely leave.
Temptations to run the other way,
to cut off from the norm
To be above and not below,
With us throughout the storm.

I know my walk-ways scare you,
You’re afraid of letting go
But I cannot lead my people
Through slits that everyone knows
My eyes must stay wide open
with the wonder that you saw
Passion fuels my inner being
As well as compassion and awe.
It’s not only for myself
that I must grow this way.
Running off of simple desires
that only my heart can contain
Will set the masses free,
Evidence will prove me sane.
Whatever the facts scream to you
as unrelenting as they may be,
Look into your heart,
Look into my eyes,
And please trust me.

I see you’ve made some points,
naive as you may be.
Some make sense to the natural mind,
But most I cannot see.
Your eyes deceive you, beautiful one.
They contain what’s in your soul.
But I ask you now,
While your eyes are still wide,
Who led you into that lull?
That glimmer of hope
soon will fade,
no longer will you evade.
Reality will settle before your eyes,
Then “hope” you will begin to despise.

I must move on,
My people are waiting.
I only hope you’re there too,
Instead of debating.
You talk about joining
the rest of the norm.
Well now I ask of you,
Where are they to go
When it begins to storm?
That glimmer of hope,
Once lived in you.
But I will not stop,
I will pursue.
Frightened one, the eyes that are deceiving,
Have solely been worn by you.

Au Revoir, My Friend!

Au Revoir, my friend
My faithful one.
How could I not have foreseen
This tragic end?

It is you I have wronged,
Right to your face.
I suppose that my heart
Was my only saving grace.

And still my “sorry”
Feels so unreal.
Not according to you
But to how I feel.

Au Revoir, my friend, Au Revoir!

From my looking glass,
I saw you glance.
I thought for a moment,
Maybe there’s a chance.

That maybe my old friend
Who once had my back
Would forget about the moment
That I created lack.

But I ran just before
He had the chance
To look my way
For a second glance.

Au Revoir, my friend, Au Revoir!

I sat there for years
Trying to make up.
Each word thought of carefully
Are they really enough?

When finally my courage
Was a little bit more,
I took a step through
That unyielding door.

What else was I met with?
Besides outstretched arms.

Never had he thought
That the intention was real
For me to hurt,
To take, and to steal.

Slowly I will bid
My current thoughts Adieu
My friendship that once was old,
Is now being made new.

I’m Not Ready Yet!

Have you ever wanted a cat for a pet but your parents gave you a fish instead? Did you ever want a brand new car before you had yet to find your first job? Have you ever wanted to start your own business while you’re stuck working as a cashier?

A friend back home once prayed something over me that has strongly resonated with me ever since. He said that he felt God telling me, “Don’t despise humble beginnings.” While it’s great to have a vision of where your future is going, it can be easy to forget about those awe-inspiring moments that erupt before our eyes daily. Sometimes we’re so busy staring at the ocean that is so far in front of us that we forget that we have yet to conquer the puddle right before our eyes. Because we look so far ahead, we begin to stumble over the very materials that we need to bear through the storm that surrounds our “glorious” ocean.

Missing God’s path doesn’t always involve having wrong intentions. Sometimes we just get ahead of ourselves and run into good ground that we weren’t yet meant to tread upon. James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” There are various scriptures that give a different perspective on trials than the world does, or even most Christians. Even our trials are to be looked at in a positive light. They can cause growth in our hearts if we allow them to. When we jump ahead to “the next best thing” before we’re ready, we create unnecessary trials in our life. Or we sit there wondering why it seems as though God has not been coming through for us. If we really want to, we can step around the puddle in order to reach the ocean faster. It may seem at first that we have somehow cheated life in order to get ahead. But what we only realize when we approach the ocean is that we’re missing the necessary tools to cross the ocean with. We now either have to make the choice to swim and most likely drown or go back on our original path with more wisdom. A lot of us, even when seeing how big the ocean is, are determined to make it across on our own. It takes the actual attempt of swimming across it to realize that we aren’t yet ready to tread those waters without help.

Although we all like to appear that we’re all living by Spongebob’s mantra (I’m ready, I’m ready!), it’s okay to admit when we’re not, both to God and to other people. God doesn’t want us to “fake it ’till we make it.” It’s one thing to act in faith and to believe for something before we see it. But God doesn’t want us to say or act as though we’re in faith just to please Him. You are already pleasing to Him. There is no worse feeling than the sense that you can’t be yourself in front of God. He already knows every intent, every thought, every action that you have and every will commit and He has decided to accept us regardless. It’s usually when we compare ourselves to others that we start to feel as though we should be at a certain point in our lives like they are. We forget that God uniquely created us and wants to be so intimate as to speak to us about our current situations. Contentment in the little things can be hard to come by because it goes against our human nature. By deepening your relationship with God, however, you can find the most awe-inspiring ideas in the little things. When you wait patiently for things to happen in God’s timing, it will be as if it couldn’t have happened at any other time. God knows all of the behind the scenes and if you allow Him to, He will enable various aspects of your life to intertwine in a beautiful way, when you are ready.

The Night Rapunzel Cut Her Hair

Rapunzel sat way up high, brushed her hair, and stared into the sky.
She was very beautiful, or so she has been told.
Being bound by what others said, she never tried to make her bed.
And so when she would lie down to rest, with the thoughts of others she became
obsessed.

She was despised by the rest of town, She never did falter nor did frown.
Or so they had been told.
Now she did have an unbreakable strength but in her heart she knew,
That what she had been portraying had not all been quite true.

Her hair was long, her skin was fair, she waited for her prince.
Her strength was undeniable, she waited day by day.
Her porcelain face was growing weary but still she did hold on.
Until one day when her real strength showed,
and she allowed the glass to crack.

She finally allowed beauty to come through.
Her outer shell shattered into two.
She wondered what they all would say
They now envied her in a different way.
The boldness that they saw in her
was something they wanted too.

But before the sun came up that day
she grabbed her scissors and went on her way
Her hair fell to the ground.
It did not make a single sound
but the chains fell off that day.

The night Rapunzel let down her hair,

God’s Way of Tying Shoes

From a very early age I knew that I needed God. I had everything that I needed in the physical realm and yet there was this awareness that I needed God, which fueled a lot of my actions. But this knowing that I needed God only came to me when I was spending time with God in prayer. I was ignorant of the fact that when you accept Christ into your heart, He rides along with you wherever you go. There would be moments when my family and I would take a car ride and I would look outside and appreciate all that God had created. There were small instances of the awareness of His presence in my life but, over all, I felt God’s presence when I deliberately spent time with Him and felt quite the opposite when I did not.

I remember one time I was hanging out with a group of friends who were complaining that someone they knew was talking about God too much. They were thinking, Doesn’t he have anything else to talk about? I agreed just to agree but when I got home that night and thought about it for myself, I wondered why would anyone not want to talk about God all of the time? The problem is that a lot of us (myself included) don’t always realize the extent of God’s goodness that He displayed when His son went to the cross. A lot of us don’t realize the goodness that He’s still offering to us daily. When we talk about what God has done for us in our lives, it makes His faithfulness and our awareness of Him more real to ourselves and to others. We can cultivate an atmosphere of His presence that surrounds us just by recalling what He’s already done. We can be the mediators that enable others to realize that they have been hearing from God all along. We have the hope of the entire world lying within us.

I have to wonder how many times God has spoken to those who are living “sinful lives” but I also have to wonder how many of those people are rejecting His goodness because they believe they are unworthy of that kind of love. I wonder how many of those people have “random” thoughts of, “I can change. I can be a better person, I have those capabilities,” but those feelings of condemnation strangle them from fully embracing the truth. I wonder how many people have met Jesus and don’t even recognize it as being him (or his voice). And I wonder how many times we’re presented the opportunity of putting into words what they’re feeling but fail to do so because our focus is not on magnifying His kingdom.

A few months ago, we had a guest speaker come to our school (Jacob Sherrif). I don’t remember much of what he talked about, to be quite honest, but he did present a visual that really stuck out to me. He was talking about a scripture that said something along the lines of don’t forget to acknowledge and include God in everything. He started to joke around and suggested that we need to include God in the act of tying our shoes. But then he got serious. You don’t need to acknowledge God in the ability to tie your shoes. I mean that’s something that technically you’ve been able to do on your own since you were six. But why not? Why wouldn’t you want to acknowledge God in an action that you could apathetically perform? (This is my version of what he said). Who created your hands that enabled you to take part in this process? Who created your mind so that you might understand? And who placed a piece of eternity in such a process that could be deemed as insignificant? When you become aware of His presence to the depth that your heart could become softened by acknowledging God through the intertwining of lace, your willingness to surrender to His will becomes more of a passionate need and less of a religious rule. Allow the awareness of His goodness to shatter the places of your heart that have become hardened towards Him. What happens when scabs peel off of an old injury? You discover tenderness underneath. God has given us a new heart that is tender and responsive towards Him but it’s still possible to become hardened if we don’t intentionally create that atmosphere of His presence.

A story that inexplicably broke my heart when I was younger was that of the widow who offered everything she had. She gave one coin and yet Jesus revealed that she had given more than anyone else. But it was all that she had. She had, to some extent, and awareness of God.
When the woman broke the expensive box of perfume and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair, she showed that she had an awareness of God. She recklessly abandoned who she was or what made sense to her to sit at the feet of God.
And when some of the disciples were first called by Jesus to come follow Him, they left everything they had to do just that. They too had an awareness of God.
Acts 17:28 says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
If we all become a little more aware that His very own breath is within us and surrounds us, then we all might start tying our shoes a little bit differently.

I Wonder if He Knows…

I wonder if she knows
how deeply rooted is my love.
That no matter how far she runs,
She is cherished from above.
I wonder if she knows
that I adore her sense of awe,
despite what she has been through,
despite what she saw.
I wonder if she knows….

I wonder if He knows
just how hard it is,
to open up my heart fully,
and let Him call me, “His.”
To abandon myself,
as I have done before.
To surrender completely,
so that I may have all the more.
I wonder if He knows….

I wonder if she knows
the potential that I see.
The emotion that I feel
when it involves jealousy.
I wonder is she knows
that what I have in store
is beyond what she can imagine,
That she can open up that door.
I wonder if she knows….

I wonder if He knows
about all that I have done
that when I strayed away
I even found it fun
I wonder if He knows
the guilt that I have kept
the face that I put on
and the tears that I have wept
I wonder if He knows….

I wonder if she knows
that I have stayed the same
that I never meant to tease her
or play a silly game
I wonder if she knows
that not everything is clear
that if it comes from me
it can’t be sown in fear
I wonder if she knows….

I wonder if He knows
how truly sorry that I am
that I never meant to hurt
the one and only “I am”
I wonder if He knows
that I long to come back
that I’m tired of this sickness
I’m tired of this lack
I wonder if He knows….

My daughter, don’t you know
you were never far away
I saw you walking down that path
I watched you every day
My darling, don’t you know
that I knew you would come back
that when you weren’t beside me
I discovered lack
My daughter, don’t you know?

My father, don’t you know
my thought and my intent
that when I saw you coming
I refused to relent
My daddy, don’t you know
the anger that I felt
I tried to let it go
It wouldn’t seem to melt
My father, don’t you know

My daughter, don’t you know
that you’re still my little girl
I think about you often
about when you used to twirl
My daughter, don’t you know
that you still make me so happy
look at what you’ve done
you’ve made me really sappy
My daughter don’t you know

My father, help me know
that this is really true
that you will always love me
despite what I do
My father, help me know
this peace that you give
So that I can really move on
and truly start to live
My father, help me know

My beloved, look at me
you really are my prize
not something to look down upon
not something to despise
I’ve seen everything you’ve gone through
I’ve seen it in your eyes
I’m so sorry you got hurt
By harboring all those lies
But let me tell you a secret
like the ones we used to share
All of that mess won’t matter
when you choose to become aware
of the goodness that’s within me

So here we are, yet again
standing face to face
things may seem hard, impossible even
But I will help you by my grace
Remember what I’ve done for you
I have taken away your sin
And now my plea to you is
Baby girl, please let me back in!