on holy huddles

“Is being different because of faith worth the sacrifice?” I just bought Shauna Niequist’s new devotional book, Savor, and this was the question I gathered from the April 28 devotion. But my immediate answer was “Yes! A million times yes!” I know I would be lost without Christ. Then I started thinking, “I don’t really feel that different because of my faith…”

“Is being different because of faith worth the sacrifice?”

I feel pretty far removed from this question. I am so different than those who do not live in the way I define as Christian that I do not even feel the tension of being different anymore. It really does not occur to me that people get so wasted they can barely walk unless I walk past Greek row at the right time. I rarely get upset about being the “church girl” like I did in high school because I am surrounded by countless “church girls” and just as many “church boys” at all times. We unconsciously encourage behaviors from each other like doing quiet time, and discourage behaviors like blacking out drunk, because of the way we associate some behaviors with being more holy or righteous. I no longer feel out of place for the way I talk and the books I read and the places I spend my time because every other person I choose to be close to at school spends his or her time the exact same way. In fact, the only tension I feel now is when I am operating in a way that is not exactly the same as my Christian friends.

I remember in February, when we got assigned “littles” in our sorority: girls who are a year younger that we are supposed to mentor. None of my roommates, myself included, drink at school. Of my 9 roommates, 7 are also in Chi O, and my little is the only one who drinks out of that group.

Sidenote: She is an incredible person. My inclusion of the fact that she drinks is not a jab at her, but an admission of how knowing that about her helped me realize my own sin instead.

It honestly seems like a Herculean (and unfortunate) feat that I have wedged myself so deeply in the Christian corner of campus that I can count the amount of people who might ever send me a drunk text on one finger. I have rejected college culture by identifying so fully with a group of Christian people, but in that I have also rejected its people, who are just as loved by God as I am.

Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we isolate ourselves when Jesus was a friend to all?

Christian community is not a bad thing. It can be helpful in strengthening our relationship with Christ, but overwhelming dependence on it causes idolatry. To me Christian community is also very comfortable. And very Instagrammable. It’s easy and pretty to wake up and do my quiet time with my cute devotional book and go to breakfast with my also-Christian roommates and talk about what Jesus is doing in our lives and support each other and then take a picture of it sometime throughout the day and Instagram it and be a perfect Christian girl. So easy. Yet so heartbreaking to Jesus.

It’s so easy to end up in a holy huddle. It’s so easy to want to surround ourselves with people who act and speak just like us because we equate an action we may not share with another, like drinking, with an inability to connect with that person on any level. That’s not true: we are all children of God. College and the lifestyle it fosters can be a threat to life with Jesus, but its people rarely are. If the strength of my relationship with my Savior rests on how many Christians I can grab and gather around me, I need to take a look at that relationship again.

In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul states, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” My realization of how problematic holy huddles can be does not mean I am not currently situated right in the middle of one. I am. I am the worst sinner when it comes to this problem; I write this to become aware of my own shortcomings.

And maybe it’s not always a problem, maybe sometimes it’s where we need to be to grow in faith. But right now, Jesus is telling me, “Come closer to me and then look further out to all the children I love so much. I have given you eternal eyes!”


sunday kneel

This semester has been one of the Lord revealing his wisdom to me through what he gives and takes away. I am ever at the mercy of an all-powerful God. He will bring me and all his children back to himself, over and over again, no matter how two-faced we are, proclaiming his praises with our lips while fully loving the world and its distractions instead. May my heart and mind be transformed by wisdom from you, God, but may it turn me to humility and submission rather than pride and self-promotion.

I love you, forgive my unlovingness (1 Corinthians 13:1)!

I believe, forgive my disbelief (Mark 9:24)!

I sin, forgive my self-love and self-righteousness (1 John 1:8)!

Jesus, empty me of everything that is not of you. Make me desperate for your presence. Make me weep because I know how good you are. Transform my heart to want you alone. Rid me of self-love and self-promotion; place in me the desire to know you more fully and show others your redeeming and perfect love. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Start with my realization of my ugly, sinful heart.

Putting anything above my Lord and Savior is an insult to who he is and the ways he has extravagantly loved us. Even so, having anything merely coexist with my God is not less of a sin. God, make me desperate for you and help me to acknowledge that you give and take away according to what brings you the most glory and me the most good. Help me to not turn this into a system of rewards. Help me to not expect rewards in exchange for pious living. Help me count all things as joy, and live in the space of desiring your will for my life, even though it’s not “my plan.”

You are on the move. I’m just trying to keep up!

This final prayer is adapted from a prayer one of my roommates’ friends from back home began to pray recently:

Father, if you will it, I have this day to live for you. One day to grow, to read, to learn, to give, to obey. Today I pray that you make me desperate for you. Completely, utterly, and uncontrollably desperate. I want to cry out Abba, Father, to read your Word with awe, to pray to you with reverence, to fast with humility, and to consistently praise your holy Name. Please, make me desperate. Remind me of my mortality and set eternity in my heart. I ask in your son’s precious Name: make me desperate for you.

May this day and this final week of sophomore year glorify the goodness and saving grace you have lavished upon me!

come alive, dry bones

This morning, several of my friends ran the St. Jude Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. We made posters and woke up (semi) early to make sure we got a spot at the finish line to see our friends accomplish something amazing: running 13.1 miles before we would normally even get out of bed on a Saturday morning. While some of my friends might tell you they weren’t as prepared as they would have liked to be, they finished with grace and strength. It was incredible to watch. What I was not prepared for was how emotionally affected I would be by my sweet friends’ feet hitting the pavement over and over again all the way to the finish line.

We cheered as the first full marathon finisher approach the finish line right as we walked up, with a time of just over 2 hours and 15 minutes. What the human body can do is amazing. Praise God.

We watched a blind man, holding fiercely to two poles leading him, pace steadily toward the finish line. This one made me cry. Praise God.

We laughed as a young brother and sister squeezed their way up to the front of the fences. Grandma later told us that both their parents were running the half. What an example for your children! Praise God.

We cheered even harder when an announcer bullhorned, “First lady, behind you!” and the first woman to finish the full marathon rounded the corner, looking entirely too unfazed for having just run 26.2 miles. Praise God.

We hooted and hollered and our signs flew up in the air as we saw friend after friend round the last corner before the finish line. We screamed their names and waved and grinned and even if they didn’t see us, it didn’t matter. We were proud. They were living, breathing, running pictures of God’s faithfulness: the way he makes us come alive!

Perhaps the most poignant scene we watched at the marathon happened soon after we arrived at the finish line. I didn’t notice until it was already happening, but a woman began to collapse onto one of the fences right before finishing. It was scary and hard to comprehend how some people must be experiencing so much pain in the midst of celebration and joy all around. However, as quickly as she collapsed, what seemed like a dozen spectators around her began yelling for the medics and they ran to support her immediately. This was amazing. This is what redemption looks like: immediate validation when intense hurting happens.

For the past couple of weeks, I have had Ezekiel 37 on the brain:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

Y’all, we are given these bodies to know that he is the Lord. Hallelujah! Why do we ever search for other purpose in life?

While we watched runners finish this morning, I kept being reminded of the dry bones passage. We were dry bones before hearing the word of the Lord. He gave us breath, he attached tendons to us, he gave us flesh and skin. He made us come to life. He made it possible for over 20,000 people to finish a race of 13.1 miles this morning. But especially when the woman collapsing was supported so well and so quickly, I was reminded of the dry bones passage.

What if instead of experiencing pain alone, we told people? And what if we responded quickly and lovingly to others’ pain?

“Dry bones, over here! Let’s bring her to Jesus, so he can fix this and make her well!”

We are dry bones without the Lord. He gives us other people, in community, to notice when we fall back into being dry bones, no longer filled with breath that speaks the Word and flesh that desires to do his will. It is not always easy to run this race. There will always be pain and people who need so desperately to be led back to the Lord for their dry bones to be revived. Me included. Followers of Christ included. There are really no exceptions to this.

He is our destination. We’re all just walking each other home.

And on a good day, we’re running each other home.

known by her true name

Ask any of my friends: for a few weeks now I have set up camp firmly and happily on my soapbox. About nicknames. Of all things.

Do you want to know why?

I understand that people love nicknames. One of my roommates has said that she feels loved best when people use nicknames to address her. I love that. I’m glad that she can pinpoint when and why she feels loved by people. I want everyone to feel loved.

I don’t love nicknames, though. To me, nicknames can be divisive. They put some on one level and some on another. I realized this when I noticed, over and over again, my friends and myself using certain nicknames for each other that proved we were closer to each other than another might be. I noticed my friends and myself also saying things like, “That person called me _____. Only certain people can call me that. You can only call me _____ if you are really close to me.” This endearing way of addressing one another sent a message to outsiders: “We have something you don’t. We have walked through parts of life together that you have not. You are not allowed in.”

Jesus let everyone in. Jesus walked through every part of life imaginable with humans. Jesus visited our planet so that he might show us perfect and blameless love, not more ways to divide ourselves against each other.

I pray that my actions may point back to Christ and his inclusion of all into the family of God. I do not believe calling my friends certain names, with the intention of proving I am closer to them than another, fulfills that purpose. Nicknames can be defining. I don’t want to alter anyone’s view of identity in Christ by the terribly arbitrary decision of whether or not I call them a potentially-endearing, potentially-exclusionary nickname.

In Kalley Heiligenthal’s song Ever Be, from Bethel Music’s new album, she sings:

You will have your bride:
Free from all her guilt
And rid of all her shame,
And known by her true name

I have clung to this line. Jesus calls us by our true names, back to him, through his sacrifice on the cross. If this is not a defining moment in how we view our identities, we’re doing something wrong. Our identities are so much more than who we allow to call us nicknames and who we feel comfortable enough nicknaming.

Our identities are firmly rooted in the sufficiency of Christ. If I need to be called a nickname by my friends, I first need to look at my relationship with Christ: Am I fulfilling belonging needs with flawed and broken humans more than with the Creator and orchestrator of my life, the one who loves me and calls me back to himself?

I pray that I might desire and seek first the name he calls me, and all others who love him: child of the King. There is no distinction. We are all his children. The distinction is in the intimacy of each of his relationships with his children, which need not be broadcast to the world by our sad hearts looking for affirmation. Praise Jesus that our source of true affirmation is so holy and eternal!


Living on a college campus provides opportunities each day for coincidental run-ins with friends and acquaintances. The amount of people I know at school multiplied by the amount of potential locations they could be compared with where I find myself each day is a lot of math. But I’m thinking I end up with a pretty big number of potential encounters on any given day.  The small size of our campus almost guarantees I will see several people I know every day without planning for it.

I cannot count the number of times I have said or thought to someone, “What a coincidence!” in reference to bumping into each other.

Is this coincidence?

First of all, what is the definition of coincidence? According to my highly educated Googling of “define: coincidence,” the word means “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.”

This definition leaves God out. With faith in a Savior comes the realization that nothing occurs without apparent causal connection. This does not mean that my french toast for breakfast and the paper I finish writing late tonight are inextricably linked.

It means that whether or not I acknowledge it, God has planned all my days for his glory. Already. He has already done it. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is finished and so is the plan for my life: a sinful soul being brought back, over and over again, at the feet of my merciful Savior.

Regarding anything as coincidental is disregarding, on a holy scale, the presence of a living God who divinely orchestrates each of our lives. It is transforming to believe in human interaction this way. God divinely orchestrates who shows up in each of our days. For the past few weeks, the following quote from C.S. Lewis has rang through my head endlessly, especially whenever I witness or perpetuate the poor treatment of people, human beings created in the image of a divine God.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are moral, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”


It is immortals who we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. Most of all: It is immortals who we snub and exploit.

These are the words that stick in my head and will not leave, akin to a hometown car dealership jingle but with exponentially more significant consequences.

Lewis’ words, so impeccably chosen as to wake us up with a jolt to the reality of who we are, have begun to direct my interactions with the people I see every day – from my closest friends to complete strangers.

I snub and exploit people daily. My friends snub and exploit people daily. We even snub and exploit each other daily, without knowing it, without meaning it, without regard of the eternal consequences involved in treating people poorly.

Each person is a soul, very much loved by our God, either going to heaven or hell. If I do not remind myself daily of who the people I interact with truly are, I am in grave danger of letting selfishness and pride enter our interactions, removing the possibility of an encounter with the Lord.

If God created all beings, and God chooses who shows up in my life every day, there is no room for whining about a roommate or a friend or professor being annoying or exclusive or conceited – the list goes on. It is all for his glory, and it is not coincidental. How can I but praise Him for moments of fellowship that remind me of his power and grace?

you are my one thing

The farmer is good and the seed is powerful. The variable is the soil that receives it.

Who is the farmer? What kind of seeds are we dealing with here? Why is soil a variable?

In Mark 4, Jesus tells the crowd gathered around him the parable of the sower. He explains to them that there are four types of soil upon which seed can fall: along the path, on rocky soil, among thorns, or good soil. The allusion is simple: be good soil upon which the truth of the Gospel can fall.

Jesus is good and his message is powerful. The variable is the human heart that receives it.

I am continually humbled by the realization that the solution to my problems, whether with myself, another person, or God, is always repentance for my sinful state and prayerful petition to the Lord to change my heart, to turn my thorn-filled soil into good soil. The battle for my heart is already won. Praise Jesus! But this does not mean that sin, temptation, and pride have no place in my life. They are consuming. It is an all-out daily war to desperately plead for freedom from the bondage of sin and instead desire the Lord’s hand over my life.

At Ethos a couple weeks ago, we were asked to examine our “soil”. My soil is thorn-filled. I let love for worldly things coexist with my love for Christ. When I let this happen, Christ will always be choked out. He will always be left behind on the sidewalk while I’m trying to stuff every piece of unnecessary luggage I’ve ever owned into the car too. Sick. I just left my Savior behind. Can we turn around or nah?

Over and over again for the past few weeks, I have repeated in my head, “Change my heart! Make it love your work.”

Change my heart! Make it love your work.
Change my heart! Make it love your work.
Change my heart! Make it love your work.

It is interesting to me that in my translation, Jesus just uses the word “good” to describe the soil he desires for our hearts. After more than enough English classes, I’m under the impression that “good” is a pretty bland word to use to describe the way you want every precious heart to be after you, God. Seems like a missed opportunity. What about magnificent soil? Superior? Exceptional? I would even take great.

Wrong. Not a missed opportunity. When God was creating the world, “he saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10). Romans 8:28 uses “good” in the context of how God divinely orchestrates each precious human life on the earth. When Jesus calls the soil “good” in Mark 4:20, I believe he’s satisfied with his word choice. Good soil is exactly what he wants. It is humbling to step back from my claims of knowledge, my claims that I know which words Jesus should have used to turn more hearts to him, like more eloquent language is a deciding factor of whether a soul is saved.

This life is not about me and what I want. My life is a story about who God is and what he does in a human heart (Shauna Niequist). And when it so often becomes twisted up in the lie of self-preservation and fulfillment, may my prayer ever be: “Change my heart! Make it love your work.”