Wretches in the Midst of Sanctification

Temptation is sneaky. It creeps up on you at the moment you least expect – but should have been expecting all along. 

We are so short-sighted. 

I had been taking small steps for a long time. Indulging myself in little things that didn’t seem important. They felt good because they were a way to escape my restlessness. They didn’t seem like a sin. They were just feelings.

But then, my flesh saw an opportunity – saw how weak I had been becoming – and struck. 

I failed the test.

We don’t realize how wicked we are ninety-nine percent of the time. But then you fall flat on your face, caught in the middle of a wretched act. You stand distraught in front of your rebellion. 

We are rebellious creatures. We desire worldly, sinful, dirty, lowly things. We look defiantly into the face of God and choose them over Him.

Yet we don’t see it. We think we are holy. We think we are righteous, good people. We compare ourselves with others and think we are doing better.

Down inside, we are all utterly rebellious and wretched. The sinfulness is always there, we just don’t notice it.

Why are we so self-righteous? That’s not what Jesus called us to be.

Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed tombs. Clean on the outside. Rotten on the inside.

 At times like this, it’s discouraging because I see my utter darkness and wonder if I’ll ever be sanctified. Jesus has promised to sanctify us in this life, to an extent, and then fully in the next. 

We are all being sanctified – but that doesn’t mean we are sanctified. 

Think about that.

Paul expresses his disgust at this paradigm in Romans 7:21-24:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 

We want to serve Him, and yet our flesh doesn’t. Who will deliver us from our state?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:25)

Through Jesus Christ, although we are sinful and wretched, our sins are atoned for. We are washed clean, presented to God the Father as holy and blameless.

In His eyes, we are holy. 

What mercy!

So how do we deal with the sin that won’t be destroyed until our Savior returns? The more we notice our sin, I think that’s a sign that we are being increasingly sanctified. The older you get, the more you notice your sin. Perhaps it’s like getting closer to the blazing glory of God, and the closer you get you see your blemishes more clearly.

The sin is lessened, but it becomes increasingly visible.

And that is mercy as well. The more we notice our sin, the more we realize the vast distance between God and us. How far He had to go to save us. He had to lay down His own life – the most valuable thing in the universe.

When we are shown this monstrous contrast, we fall humbly before God’s feet, thanking Him for the work of His Son.

Because we are nothing, and He is everything. When we acknowledge that, we are free to live as what we are: wretches saved by the grace of God.

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him”

Colossians 1:17-22

Fifteen Blog Tour

Hello dear friends! Today, I have the immense honor of hosting a part of Amie Anne Woleslagle’s Blog Tour & Scavenger Hunt for her new poetry book, Fifteen, which releases on October 23rd! I got to interview her about herself and her book, and I am so happy, practically struck by stars, to be able to share this with you.

I’m happy because I need a book like this. I struggle with thoughts in my mind – dark shadows floating and piercing – and poetry is such a beautiful way to shine a light into people’s hearts.

Also, here is the beautiful cover:


Hello Amie Anne! I’m so glad to have you as a guest on my blog! First of all, if you could describe yourself with four words, what would they be? *Also I really love your name, it’s so unique and beautiful.* 

Awe, thank you. I think I would describe myself as loyal, ingenuitive, dedicated, and vivacious.

Also, what’s your favorite flavor of tea, or if you aren’t a tea person, go-to Starbucks drink?

See, I love both tea and Starbucks, so I shall answer both. My favorite flavor of tea is lemon at the moment, though it changes. I also love chai, Irish breakfast, English breakfast, and Earl Grey. 

Can you give us a quick description of your book?

Absolutely! “You’re not the only person who struggles with mental health issues, not the only person with demons floating in your mind. Fifteen is a book of poems crafted from one teenager dealing with mental health issues to another teenager in the same place. It covers true friendships, embracing joy, self acceptance, and living your faith while struggling with mental illness, all the while showing that, in the end, flowers will bloom in the ashes of your pain.”

Why did you write this book and what was the process like?

I wrote this book as a project given to me by a friend, and then it snowballed from a freebie for my email list to a book that I’m publishing. Definitely not where I saw it going, but I believe God knew just where it needed to go and who needs to read it. 

What has been the funnest (that’s a word) part of the process?

Definitely connecting with people. It’s been such a wild ride, but it’s been amazing to be able to connect with authors and readers alike.

What has been the hardest part?

Not giving in to the anxiety. I’ve never done all of this, and every step of the way there’s been these crippling fears and moments where I just want to scream because I. Don’t. Know. What. I’m. Doing. But God’s been there, and He’s given me grace and people to help me through this. 

Who/what has been the most influential in the creation of this book?

There are so many life experiences and people who have influenced this book. Each of the poems speaks to a different experience and different lessons learned thanks to different people.

What are your plans/dreams for the future?

*laughs* Well, those don’t really exist once the new year appears, so I guess everyone (including myself!) shall just have to see. 


If this hasn’t gotten you excited, I don’t know what will. I am so thankful to have been part of the tour. I have already gone and pre-ordered the book, and you should too! 

You can pre-order the paperback copy here, and the e-book copy here. If you pre-order it, you can sign up for some beautiful pre-order goodies that will be sent to your doorstep! You can fill out the form for the goodies here

Peace by Storm

I am tired, frustrated, and restless. I guess this year was not what any of us expected. I know that’s an understatement.

I just – feel so tired. Physically, spiritually and mentally. I don’t feel peace.

However, God’s truth and love triumph over my feelings. I know that. Then why can’t I bring myself to bathe in the Word?

Why, oh my soul, do you not just breathe and give thanks?

Praise Him, oh my soul! Bless Him.

I thank the Maker of the skies for a blanket of dark blue clouds heavy with rain. I will thank Him for the rain that is yet to come.

I thank the Maker of the birds for the soaring wings of seagulls. They don’t worry or fret. They soar, held up by His hand.

I thank the Maker of the storms for the lightning far away and the gray rolling in. I thank Him for the silence that has hushed all creation before He roars with thunder.

I thank the Maker of the winds for the gentle cool breeze, bearing whispers of a strong loud gale to come.

I thank the Maker of the storms for the thunder I now hear. For the power to be displayed. I thank Him for the reminder that He is. He is.

Hush my soul, be still. He is nearer than you know. Trust Him. He is faithful, it is so.

Rumble. Deep and full. The thunder is His voice stilling my soul. He is powerful and mighty.

The dark gets darker. But I am not afraid.

Even the bird scurries to hide for cover from the oncoming rain. It’s coming.

White. Flash. Like God took a photograph. It’s bright and nothing stands in its way, lighting up all. As to crash down into a busy world and say: “Look! Look! Look!”

Up. The blue patches become scarce as the pregnant clouds form a deep, dark wall. Thick.

The clouds are the backdrop. White flashes through and lights up the wall in purple and blue.

Boom. The thunder yells.

The first drops fall.

Birds scurry.

Windows close.

The long-awaited blessings stream down.

The thunder becomes deeper and louder and closer. The cracks of electricity rip apart the clouds with light.

The rain flows earth-ward.

The hum of raindrops hitting the ground fills the air and it grows louder. It whispers… and shouts. Be still.

Be still.

All are drenched in wet and peace.

The air is full of heavenly waterfalls.

Lavender – neon light fills up the sky.

A display of majesty.

Long-awaited silence.

Hush my soul, be still. He is nearer than you know. Trust Him. He is faithful, it is so.

My Newest Endeavor: Organization and Productivity

When I started up school about a month ago, I knew I was in for a challenge. I had just discovered the world of online writing. I was excited and had posted biweekly on my blog all summer long. I had big plans. Then I realized that school was coming up. What had started as a summer hobby had become a passion, and I didn’t want to stop. 

How was I going to maintain my writing while juggling eleventh grade? I’m not homeschooled. I don’t have the most flexible schedule in the world. Then it hit me. The one major area I lacked in was organization.

Organization: Why It Doesn’t Come Naturally To Me

I am a creative and spontaneous person. My mother will be the first one to tell you that I’m horrible at finishing what I’ve started. I always have a new project to work on. I get so excited about the project that I don’t strive to complete the first one. She’ll also tell you that I think deeply, and she has me repeat instructions to make sure I’ve heard them. Otherwise, I’ll continue on in my own world without realizing what she’s said.

With a personality like that, you can do great things, but you also have many struggles. You guessed it, a significant one is organization. With such a spontaneous personality, I am apt to forget, get lost in some thought or activity, or be lazy. Often because I think a structured schedule would be too hard to maintain. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, it’s that it’d be especially demanding and difficult. 

Organization: Why It Matters

I could just say, “Well, I’m bad at organization. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not one of those people.” Most of society would accept that excuse. After all,  (1) I’m a teenager, and (2) it’s not part of my “personality”. Why in the world would I try?

My writing instructor on YWW (the Young Writer’s Workshop), Brett Harris, encourages teens to rebel against the low expectations the world has for us. My thought was that I couldn’t organize, schedule, and plan easily and therefore I shouldn’t be expected to ever be successful in that area. 

But I needed to answer God’s calling to take on responsibility. I was being lazy. I was making excuses for myself. That’s not the kind of Christian I want to be. 

Productivity and organization isn’t about getting more done. On the surface, yes, that’s the goal. However, what I am learning is that our ultimate goal in organizing our time, energy, and productivity is to serve others as we glorify God. If I have done everything on my to-do list but haven’t served others or done it to the glory of God, it’s been a wasted day. 

That’s a huge struggle. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I waste my day. I’m lazy, or I am productive but for wrong reasons. I want to belong, or be known, or make a mark. 

But what if work and productivity was about creating beauty, serving others, and learning to be humble? What if organization was a tool to be a good steward? What if I was gifted in a certain way so that I could bless others and point them to Christ – not so I could draw attention to myself? What if my driving force in everything I did was that I was not my own? That the Creator has given me a tiny piece of His clay to help shape?

Organization and Productivity: What I’ve Done To Achieve It

I am just starting this journey. I am not an expert on the top five ways to structure your week or what timers you should be using. 

However, there are tiny steps I have been implementing in my days and weeks. Every little thing helps. Here’s what I’ve done so far…

  1. I’ve started a morning routine. My ideal morning routine looks like this: I get up at 6:30 am, make my bed, grab a cup of tea, and sit on the balcony to have devotions. After a half an hour or 40 minutes, I sit down to write for 15 minutes. This 15 minute writing session was inspired by Cassie Watson, a fellow YDubber who’s been doing a class on productivity. Although I often fail to implement this step, when I do, it’s extremely rewarding. I find that I have a ton of mental energy in the mornings so my writing sessions are more productive than a 30 minute session after school. I then go on to have breakfast, get dressed, and sit down for online school.
  1. I’ve bought a paper planner. People structure their time in different ways, but I decided to buy a paper planner this year, and I’m so glad I did. I’m still figuring out all the ways I can use it but it’s helpful to have all your organization & to-do lists in one place. It’s also aesthetically pleasing – a.k.a. happiness.
  1. I’ve made an ideal week schedule. Also inspired by Cassie Watson, I’ve created a Google Sheets schedule of what an ideal week of mine would look like, from 6:00 am to 10:30 pm. It’s color coded, and I have school, lunch, writing sessions, breaks, family time, and other things planned out in blocks. The idea is to plan my actual week around this schedule. I’ve yet to do this – it is a recent addition to my productivity endeavor – but I’m hoping to use it next week, and if I stick to it, for months after that. 

Those are three things I’ve tried to do to help myself out, but there are many other tricks and tips. I’d love to chat with you all about organization and productivity. What do you do to manage your time? What does your schedule organization look like? 

A Lesson For Young People from Crime and Punishment

This summer, I had to read Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky as assigned reading. When I first started the book, I was frustrated, because it seemed like a boring and useless way to spend my summer. (And that’s coming from someone who likes books.) But about halfway through, things started to make sense and I began to enjoy it. 

The novel isn’t called a classic for no reason. The characters are masterpieces in and of themselves. It is known as one of the first psychological thrillers. Although some parts really were thrilling, it was the psychology that intrigued me.

In case you’ve never heard of this book, I’ll give you some background. The story is about a young Russian student who decides to quit college because he is poor and can’t afford it. He then contemplates killing a horrid pawnbroker who cheats people out of their money. The money-desperate student hates the idea and pushes it to the back of his mind. However, over time, he can’t get rid of it. He ends up killing her and the rest of the book is about his conscience and the way the murder affects him and his relationships. 

In the story, the young man has a theory about humankind. To explain it quickly, he divides humanity into two groups: the inferior group, and the superior group. Inferior humans have to abide by the law and have little value. They follow whatever the superior humans do. The “superiors” have the right to kill to accomplish their goals. This right isn’t a legal one, it’s just something that is necessary to bring actual change to the world. His example is Napoleon: according to the young man, Napoleon brought great change to society, but he did it through slaughtering thousands. Was it necessary? In his eyes, yes. 

So that’s his theory in a nutshell. It’s also what he uses to justify his murder of the pawnbroker at first. Throughout the story, he grows more and more aware of, and at the same time more and more resentful to the fact that his theory was wrong. He doesn’t want to admit that he isn’t superior, and his theory itself isn’t valid. 

In the last couple of paragraphs of the book, the young man is in a prison camp. He’s gone through excruciating hardship, which was his own fault, and he is looking into the future. He realizes he loves someone and he wonders what life will be like when he gets out of prison. (And to find out who that someone is, you’ll just have to read the book. She’s one of my favorite characters.)

And then there’s this line:

“Life had taken theories’ place.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about that sentence for weeks. 

How many young people have theories? How many young people are passionate about the ideas they have? How many young people get in arguments and riot and yell – all because they cling to a “theory”?

The answer to those questions is quite obvious: most young people have theories or ideas and are passionate about them. Myself included. 

But here’s the thing: only ideas grounded in life experience and wisdom will stand the test of time. 

And here’s the dilemma: young people don’t have life experience. At least, not that much of it – we think we know a lot more than we actually do. 

So how do we fix this? How do we make sure that our ideas aren’t baloney? How do we make sure our theories are well-grounded and that we are fighting for the right things?

To that I have two answers:

  1.  The Bible
  2. People who are much wiser than us 

God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 

Colossians 2:2b-3

Ultimate wisdom and truth are found in Christ. When we root ourselves and are built up in Him (Colossians 2:7), we will gain wisdom. The more a young person is hiding God’s truths in their heart, the wiser they become. This is an amazing privilege because as teenagers and twenty-somethings, we don’t have that much life experience or personally-gained wisdom. However, if we hide God’s Word in our hearts, we will become much wiser than the average young person.

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.

Proverbs 4:1-5

Wisdom is a treasure. According to Proverbs, one of the places we can find that treasure is our parents. They have more life experience than us and they are wiser than us. We should be quick to listen to their words. 

Young people should also be listening to other people around them who are wiser. Teachers, grandparents, wise (and perhaps older) friends, elderly believers, pastors, mentors, etc. We all have people in our circles who we can listen to and learn from. 

The young man in Crime and Punishment discovered that life is much more reliable than mere theories. Real experiences are more valuable than intangible ideas. Wisdom is gained as one gains years. 

Dear young person, you don’t know everything. You actually know much less than you think. Be humble. Be quick to listen. Learn from wise and godly people around you. This will serve you far more than any endeavor for a theory or cause. 

The novel isn’t called a classic for no reason. The characters are masterpieces in and of themselves. It is known as one of the first psychological thrillers. Although some parts really were thrilling, it was the psychology that intrigued me.

In case you’ve never heard of this book, I’ll give you some background. The story is about a young Russian student who decides to quit college because he is poor and can’t afford it. He then contemplates killing a horrid pawnbroker who cheats people out of their money. The money-desperate student hates the idea and pushes it to the back of his mind. However, over time, he can’t get rid of it. He ends up killing her and the rest of the book is about his conscience and the way the murder affects him and his relationships. 

In the story, the young man has a theory about humankind. To explain it quickly, he divides humanity into two groups: the inferior group, and the superior group. Inferior humans have to abide by the law and have little value. They follow whatever the superior humans do. The “superiors” have the right to kill to accomplish their goals. This right isn’t a legal one, it’s just something that is necessary to bring actual change to the world. His example is Napoleon: according to the young man, Napoleon brought great change to society, but he did it through slaughtering thousands. Was it necessary? In his eyes, yes. 

So that’s his theory in a nutshell. It’s also what he uses to justify his murder of the pawnbroker at first. Throughout the story, he grows more and more aware of, and at the same time more and more resentful to the fact that his theory was wrong. He doesn’t want to admit that he isn’t superior, and his theory itself isn’t valid. 

In the last couple of paragraphs of the book, the young man is in a prison camp. He’s gone through excruciating hardship, which was his own fault, and he is looking into the future. He realizes he loves someone and he wonders what life will be like when he gets out of prison. (And to find out who that someone is, you’ll just have to read the book. She’s one of my favorite characters.)

And then there’s this line:

“Life had taken theories’ place.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about that sentence for weeks. 

How many young people have theories? How many young people are passionate about the ideas they have? How many young people get in arguments and riot and yell – all because they cling to a “theory”?

The answer to those questions is quite obvious: most young people have theories or ideas and are passionate about them. Myself included. 

But here’s the thing: only ideas grounded in life experience and wisdom will stand the test of time. 

And here’s the dilemma: young people don’t have life experience. At least, not that much of it – we think we know a lot more than we actually do. 

So how do we fix this? How do we make sure that our ideas aren’t baloney? How do we make sure our theories are well-grounded and that we are fighting for the right things?

To that I have two answers:

  1.  The Bible
  2. People who are much wiser than us 

God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 

Colossians 2:2b-3

Ultimate wisdom and truth are found in Christ. When we root ourselves and are built up in Him (Colossians 2:7), we will gain wisdom. The more a young person is hiding God’s truths in their heart, the wiser they become. This is an amazing privilege because as teenagers and twenty-somethings, we don’t have that much life experience or personally-gained wisdom. However, if we hide God’s Word in our hearts, we will become much wiser than the average young person.

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.

Proverbs 4:1-5

Wisdom is a treasure. According to Proverbs, one of the places we can find that treasure is our parents. They have more life experience than us and they are wiser than us. We should be quick to listen to their words. 

Young people should also be listening to other people around them who are wiser. Teachers, grandparents, wise (and perhaps older) friends, elderly believers, pastors, mentors, etc. We all have people in our circles who we can listen to and learn from. 

The young man in Crime and Punishment discovered that life is much more reliable than mere theories. Real experiences are more valuable than intangible ideas. Wisdom is gained as one gains years. 

Dear young person, you don’t know everything. You actually know much less than you think. Be humble. Be quick to listen. Learn from wise and godly people around you. This will serve you far more than any endeavor for a theory or cause. 

Then maybe we’ll become wiser, earlier.

5 Podcasts For Encouragement & Entertainment

So sorry for not posting last week. I struggled with time management and I was working on another email article for an email list, and wasn’t able to crank this out fast enough. So you get it this weekend. I’ll try to be more consistent.


Hello, my lovely friends! 

I decided to take a break from serious writing and give y’all a fun post instead. 

As probably none of you know, I adore listening to podcasts. They are one of my favorite pastimes. I believe they are so great for so many reasons and want to share them with you. Here are four reasons why you should listen to podcasts:

  1. They make consuming “non-fiction” content so much easier!
  2. You can listen to them at any time!
  3. There are podcasts on every subject imaginable.
  4. It’s a great way to multi-task. 
  5. (Yes, I know I said four reasons.) They are amazing!

Thus, I’ll be listing my top five podcasts. These are ones I have either listened to a lot in the past or listen to at the moment. Whether you have never listened to a podcast in your life or you listen to them religiously as I do, I hope this list will be a helpful addition to your life. *Smirk* (Also, the podcasts are not in order, they are just five ones I thought would be the best to share.)

  1. Age of Minority

Age of Minority is a podcast “for youth about the gospel” and is hosted by Jaquelle Ferris, author of This Changes Everything (how the Gospel transforms the teen years) and Sean Crowe, her father, and pastor. 

There are a couple reasons why I highly recommend this podcast. First off, Jaquelle and Sean have strong, biblical theology and aren’t scared to say things that are counter-cultural or “not cool”. This is the number one reason why the podcast is of such quality. They are also hilarious and fun, which makes their message relatable. Their enjoyable father-daughter relationship connects tremendously with the audience. 

The podcast regularly goes through different topics and discusses how the gospel changes those things and the way we look at them. For example, they did an episode on sleep and another one on pets. How in the world do they talk about those things in light of the Gospel? Well, they do and fill whole 30-40 minutes episodes, too. They also have done series on apologetics, hard topics in the bible, and more. 

Website

  1. Call to Mastery with Jordan Raynor

Call to Mastery with Jordan Raynor is an excellent podcast that I discovered recently. Jordan Raynor is the best selling author of Called to Create (which I have read) and Master of One. He is passionate about encouraging Christians to pursue excellence in their work for the glory of God. In his podcast, he interviews believers who have become masters in their particular vocation or field. It’s insightful, enjoyable, inspiring, and practical. 

Not an adult? Don’t worry. This podcast is remarkably encouraging to me as a teenager. I am reminded to be faithful in what God has called me to do in this season. Also, I am taught by the experience of those who are far ahead of me. 

Website

  1. Instrumental with JJ Heller

This podcast is hosted by JJ and Dave Heller. (I have a funny backstory about this podcast. I was already a fan of JJ Heller’s music when she started to come out with these episodes and on the cover of the videos she put on YouTube, there was a picture of her and the words “Instrumental”. I thought she was putting instrumental tracks of her music on her channel. I decided to listen to one day, and to my sheer delight, found out it was a podcast.) 

“Instrumental is a show about the big and small moments that shape our lives.” Every episode, they interview people and talk about their life stories, going backward. They start at the current season of life the person is in, and end at the beginning. It’s amazing to see how God orchestrates our stories and uses us in ways we never would have expected.

Website

YouTube Channel / Link

  1. Ask Pastor John

The Ask Pastor John podcast is a practical and quality podcast I recommend to someone looking for answers to difficult questions. The show is hosted by Tony Reinke, and Pastor John Piper is “featured” on every episode as he tries to answer questions that listeners send to him biblically. 

I would listen to this podcast with prudence as some of the topics aren’t ones that teenagers or even young adults should really be thinking about. Listeners will occasionally ask questions about marriage, relationships, and sometimes more sex-related topics that just aren’t what teens need to be listening to. 

However, John Piper has incredible wisdom and biblical insight which is hard to find. The episodes are relatively short, like little nuggets of truth and deeper thought to fit into your day.

Website

YouTube Channel / Link

  1. Hymn Partial 

My friend Cara Devereux and her friend Monet Funke co-host this podcast. I am not recommending this just because Cara is my friend. Their podcast is genuinely high-quality and interesting. 

In case you didn’t get the name, it’s a play on the words “impartial” and “hymn”. The podcast talks about all things church music. They have talked about the history of certain hymns, music genres in the church, and debates over music in the church. 

You should listen to this podcast if:

  • You like music.
  • You love history.
  • You love hymns.
  • You geek out unnecessarily over everything.

I wait with anticipation for their episode to drop every week. I seriously adore this podcast because I learn so much, and have become a church music geek because of it.

Website

YouTube Channel / Link

I hope you check out these podcasts, but most of all, I hope you find encouragement and wisdom and entertainment and hope through them. I do.

Do you listen to podcasts? If you do, which ones? What things have you done to entertain but also encourage yourself during these hard times?

Truth4TCKs: Citizens of Heaven

This post was originally a guest post (written by me) on my friend Clarissa’s blog. You can find it here.


When someone asks you where you are from, what do you say?

My answer looks something like this: Well, ethnically I’m from X country, and both my parents are from there. But actually, my dad grew up in Y country, and I grew up in Z country. 

I have a passport from a certain country, therefore I am its citizen, but I’m not very patriotic. I don’t share many similar views with the people of that country. Thus, I don’t feel like I belong there. 

Instead, I live in a different country. I adore it immensely, love the people, and yet I’m not its citizen. I don’t belong there either. 

So where do I belong? 

That’s the question every human being tries to answer. Many do find their answer. However, TCKs tend to not really know. This can be frustrating to them.

But for us Christian TCKs, it’s different. 

Why?

Because the Bible tells us that our identity is in Christ, and our citizenship is in heaven.

Our Identity: If We Don’t Belong, Who Are We?

As TCKs, we’re different. Some people love that, and others hate it. We can tend to find our identity in our TCK-ness. We try to tell people that they don’t get us because we’re different. We wrap up who we are in the fact that we’re different. As a result, we can be defensive. We can have self-pity because we don’t belong, or we can get rebellious when people talk about our passport country as home, simce to us, it isn’t. 

Where is our identity first found? Are we first TCKs, or first Christians? 

The answer is pretty simple, but it’s important. First and foremost, we belong to Jesus. 

How does that change our relationships? 

If we belong to Jesus, we love others who belong to Him as well. That includes the person who hasn’t left their town their entire life. That includes the person who seems to know nothing about the “outside world”. That includes the billionth person who asks you how life is like where you live.

We love them completely. Christ gave His life up for billions of people who can never understand Him. He is God, and we’re not. If Jesus could love like that, we need to love others who honestly, can understand us more than how we could understand Jesus. 

Citizens of Heaven

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:  Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Philippians 3:20-21

The old english meaning of conversation is the place where one lives (Online Etymology Dictionary, 2020). In Greek, conversation is politeuma, meaning community or citizenship (Bible Study Tools, 2020). In the context of this verse, the idea is that there are two spheres: the earthly world, and the heavenly world. Returning to the verse which reads For our conversation is in heaven. We conclude that we don’t belong here. Our community, our citizenship, our home is in heaven.

Most Christians aren’t TCKs. Whether they are Canadian or Kenyan or Turkish or Singaporean, they’ve grown up in the same place their whole lives. They have roots. They have a culture, an ethnic or patriotic community. They have a sense of belonging. 

But the thing is, all Christians are citizens of Heaven. None of us truly belong here. We have a better Home. 

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

– Hebrews 11:13-16 

This passage comes after the “Hall of Faith” as many people call it in Hebrews 11. It lists the numerous heroes of the faith from the Old Testament. The passage is talking about them. They sought a better country. A heavenly country. A country where every nation will come together and will be one people. God’s people. 

What Our TCK Lives Teach US

I think TCKs have an advantage. We don’t belong, anywhere really, on this earth. I’ve heard many TCKs call themselves “global citizens”. However, Christian TCKs don’t belong anywhere on this earth. Being a Christian TCK is a blessing. Because we’re not attached to any country 100%, we long for a better one. Thus, we can comprehend better that our citizenship is in heaven as compared to someone who has never left their town their whole life long. 

And just think about it! A country where all ethnic groups, all cultures, all languages will live together, as neighbors, praising God! Is that a comfort to a TCK soul or what?


Sign up for my friend Clarissa’s TCK Email list here.

How Strong Are Our Words?

Hello friends! Today, I wanted to dive into the passage below (Matthew 12:33-37) and break it into pieces so we can study it more easily. This passage is rich and convicting, and I believe it has a message that we all need to hear.


“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

Jesus (Matthew 12:33-37)

1) The Tree Is Known By Its Fruit

If a tree is healthy, has clean water, plenty of sunshine, and it is far away from any sort of disease, the tree will produce healthy, juicy, fruit. If a tree is diseased, weak, and in a dry area, the fruit will subsequently be unripe, small and measly. It might get rotten before it even turns ripe. 

Suppose you had two pieces of fruit in your hand. One was large, brightly-colored, plump, and juicy. The other was smaller, hard, with bruised spots, and was a pale brown color. What would you infer about the trees they came from just from looking at the fruit?

Jesus is using a very simple picture to show people how the human heart works. 

I once watched an American Girl movie based in Colonial America. In one scene, the grandfather is talking to his granddaughter after the grandfather and father have gotten in a fight. The grandfather says, “Words of anger are never from the heart.” That’s what the world wants people to believe. But Jesus says something different.

2) Heart Fruit

If someone’s words are uplifting, encouraging, fun, wise, lovely, and admirable, that shows you what is in their heart. If someone is constantly encouraging and lifting others, it shows that they are humble and they care for others. If someone is wise and is constantly teaching others about God’s Word, it shows that they have God’s Word stored up in their hearts. If someone is fun and lovely in what they say, it shows that they treasure the beautiful, unexpected, joyful moments of life. 

If someone’s words are discouraging, dirty, rude, foolish, and repulsive, that gives you a very clear look into their heart. They discourage because they are proud or they are insecure in who they are and thus they try to put others down so they can feel high up. When they constantly make fun of someone they are doing the same thing. Their words are dirty and repulsive because they treasure sin. They are rude in their talk because they find themselves to be above the person they are addressing. They consider that person worthless. When their words are foolish, it means they haven’t stored up God’s Word in their heart. 

You may think, “Breanne, that’s way too harsh.” But I didn’t come up with it. Read the verse again. That’s what Jesus was getting at. 

3) Good Can’t Come From Evil

In verse 34, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees He is talking to. Although the Pharisees’ words seemed good, Jesus knew what their hearts looked like. Their hearts were evil. 

So even when they spoke “encouraging” or “good” words, their intentions and wants were self-exaltation, honor and self-righteousness. They wanted to do good so that they could be seen and known and respected. But Jesus said that that wasn’t “good”. 

4) Good Treasure

Whatever you treasure up in your heart, that’s what’ll come out. To treasure up means to hold or keep as precious. What is most precious to you? Your reputation, or God’s? Acceptance and praise, or God’s presence? The words of others, or God’s Word? 

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 

Psalm 119:11

The more we treasure and store up God’s word in our hearts, the more we pour out that treasure. When we give importance to something, it changes our actions. 

5) Accountable For Every Careless Word

When I read this passage, this is what got me. We will stand in front of God, and He will hold us accountable for every word. Those careless insults, those empty foolish mockery-filled words. He says we are accountable for them.

We will be condemned or justified because of them. 

The Hope

But wait, you might say, didn’t Jesus die for our sins? Yes! He did. Romans 8 verses 1 and 2 say this: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

If you are a believer, you will not be condemned. 

The Warning

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Romans 6:1-2

However, we do not take grace for granted. If you are a believer, you should strive for purity, not trying to see how far you can bend the rules. 

If we are bearing bad fruit, we need to have a heart check. What are you treasuring? What are you deeming important? 


Disclaimer: I struggle with making fun of others because I am insecure in a certain situation, or putting people down because I think they are immature or “bad”. I care more about what others think than what God thinks, most of the time. Because what comes out comes first from the heart.


Some take away questions and thoughts to chew on:

When it comes to the words you speak, what areas do you struggle with? Do you tend to make fun of people? Or do you use crude language? Do you use your words to brag, and make yourself look bigger so everyone else feels a little bit smaller?

Why do you think you struggle in those areas? What sinful things are you treasuring or storing up in your heart? What are you prioritizing in your life, God, or something else?

What simple steps can you take to treasure the right things first? Remember, it’s the heart change that needs to happen first. What insecurities need to be addressed with God’s Word and His promises? What pride needs to be brought down when compared to the glory of the Maker of the universe? Memorize Scripture that addresses the heart issue, and meditate on that Scripture. Pray that God would change your heart and help you treasure the good and lovely.

God Seems Distant: Fact or Feeling?

Loneliness…

It’s not something I usually struggle with. I live with my large, loving family. I have friends that I see at school and church. 

Then quarantine happened. I was still with my family, and we had precious moments together. However, when I couldn’t leave my house, I felt secluded and tired. I felt alone in a weird sort of way. Because technically, I was not. I had people around me all day. 

But I lacked all the other relationships in my life. I lacked my church family. I lacked my friends, whether it be at school, in my neighborhood, or somewhere else. 

The biggest problem that came along with this feeling of seclusion is that it started seeping into my relationship with the Lord. I started to feel like, along with everyone else, he was distant. And it was frustrating. Very frustrating. 

This feeling wasn’t new. I often go through seasons where God has felt distant. This, I think, just felt unique because everyone else was distant as well. My friends and my friend Jesus, all far away. 

And I’m not going to say that I’ve gotten over this feeling. I still feel like this very often. Almost daily. 

But I need to remind myself of this: Facts supersede feelings. That basically means facts remain. Facts are truth. Facts are what are real. 

So I know what I’m feeling. I feel that God is distant. I know that when God feels distant to me, I get discouraged and don’t want to spend time in His word because I think I won’t be renewed or refreshed. 

So should I just pout? Just sit and worry? 

No. 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b

What do all these verses say? What are the facts? God is near. If I call on Him, if I repent from sin, if I am discouraged, and even just because I am His child, He is near. He is always near. 

So I need to repent of my self-pity and pride, and preach the facts to myself: God is near, even if you can’t feel it. 

Lord, I pray that you would give me faith to trust Your words. You have promised that You would always be near to Your children, to those who believe in You. Help me to focus on the facts, not my feelings. Thank you that You are near when others can’t be.  

Quick Thoughts on Art, Beauty, Creativity and God

Hello, my friends! I didn’t post on Saturday because we were on vacation. It was wonderful, but I’m glad to be back with you all. 


Created to create

In the beginning was the Creator. He existed before everything. However, He decided to create. The pinnacle of His creation was us. People. Creatures created in the image of their Creator. 

Being created in His image means that we are created in His likeness. Basically, we are simiThat means that we have traits and emotions and can think logically and can make decisions and can protect and love.

We are also creative. We are creative because God is creative. We love art and beauty and rhythm and poetry because God put the planets into motions in a rhythm no one can fathom. He created art in every butterfly and seashell and flower and sunset. He wrote poetry when He inspired authors to write the Psalms. He creates beauty when he transforms an ugly, wretched sinner into a holy, wonderful, Jesus-follower. 

God’s Gift to His Creatures

Art is a wonderful gift from God to us. It is amazing because it helps us learn things that we normally wouldn’t be able to remember. Take rhyme for example. Rhyme helps people remember things that an hour-long sermon never could. A song is more memorable than a lecture. An image is more powerful than an explanation. A story is more powerful than an argument. 

Art is a gift. 

Art isn’t always found the way it should be in the Christian community. We have wonderful artists creating music, worship music. And I’m not saying that we don’t need that. Worship music is important because we need to have songs that help us glorify our God. However, we also need poetry in our music. We need deep words that make us think. We need music that fills our soul with emotion and hope. 

We need authors that fill the world with light-giving stories. We need painters and artists that reflect God’s love for beauty. We need photography that captures beauty but also shows the world as the broken world that it is, that calls for social justice. 

Artists Making Art to the Glory of God

Here are two artists who are breaking the rules, creating beauty, poetry, light, and hope.

  1. Andrew Peterson

I can’t quite remember when I first heard of his music, but I’ve been (ever so slightly) obsessed ever since. He is a masterful poet, a talented musician, and someone who thinks very deeply about things. 

Another thing I love about his music is that his albums tend to tell a story. There is a beginning, you start with one song, and when you listen to the album, you end up somewhere else. You start out with depression, and you end with hope, for example. 

His songs aren’t simple, but they are good. They are beautiful art, deep poetry, and complex music. 

Listen to his album The Burning Edge of Dawn here, and visit his YouTube music channel here

He is also an author. He’s written the Wingfeather Saga Series, a fantasy series for children. He has also written Adorning The Dark, which is a memoir but also a handbook to all who are called to create, make, and spread hope in a dark world. 

Visit his website here

  1. Taryn Harbridge

A talented musician, Taryn creates covers and melodies of tunes we all know and love, whether it be movie soundtracks, folk songs, or hymns. Her main instrument is the violin, but she plays many other instruments. Her music is inspired by bluegrass and Celtic music. 

Everything she creates is stunning. She layers sound upon sound of the violin, pennywhistle, bottle-blowing, guitar, and vocalizing. You feel like you are listening to an orchestra. 

Listen to her instrumental cover of How Great Thou Art here, and visit her YouTube channel here