Warning: Discretion Advised

When I was growing up, my parents always used to warn me about the movies I wanted to see. When I’d get invites to go to the movies with friends, honestly, sometimes I didn’t even think to ask what the movie was. The only thing on my mind was hanging with my friends – the movie was secondary. But of course, as I went to ask my parent’s permission, they would always expect to know exactly what movie we were planning on seeing, what I knew about it… and where they could read a thorough review. Though this often drove me crazy and sometimes meant that I wouldn’t get to go… they made sure that I learned a few lessons. 

1. Don’t be mindless and not know what you’re about to be doing/watching.
2. Don’t assume your friends are making a wise suggestion…
3. Be discerning.

When my parents eventually turned over the “key” to my movie watching decisions, I found “being discerning” could sometimes be difficult. Whose standards should I base my decision on? My friends said it was ok… so it should be, right? My parents probably wouldn’t like it… but they are really strict. I’m sure I can handle it, I reasoned.

We can “reason” our way out of anything. As long as we turn our conscience off first.

Right now, you and I are in a battle that requires incredible discernment. This battle is with way more than just movies… rather, what we believe, what we support, what we give our lives to. Each one of those areas in our lives have been attacked, and without even realizing it, we may have had the truth stolen right out from underneath us. What are you standing on? Why do you believe what you believe? How have you determined truth?

There are many things that appear one way, and are another. We all love the saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”… but how many people actually like to dig deeper when the cover looks great and is extremely popular?

I feel a deep burden to remind us all to be discerning in these times in which we live. We are bombarded daily by so many voices and messages – we can’t be lazy and neglect to sort and discern each one. If something blows up and becomes crazy popular – don’t take it at face value. Research it. Pray about it. Seek to really understand and determine God’s position on it. Don’t blindly follow something without knowing exactly where it’s leading you (and others).

I want to leave you with some verses to dig into and meditate on. I encourage you to ask God to reveal if there is anything that you have mistaken for truth or have not dug deep enough into. Pray that He would give you wisdom and discernment, and that you would clearly see everything with His eyes and heart. I am doing the same. 🙂

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” 2 Thessalonians 5:21-22  

*Do you have a story of God revealing an area in your life where you hadn’t been discerning? How did He reveal that to you? And what did He call you to do differently? I’d love for you to share your story below.

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What is my book “Wake Up, Generation” about?

 So,

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I wrote a book.

My very first book.

And it releases THIS August.

I couldn’t be more excited!! The truth is, God has been writing this book on my heart since I was 11 years old. I never grew up thinking I would be an author, but as my story has unfolded, there was no way I could keep the things God has been teaching me to myself. They’re too big. Too essential. Too life-changing. I had to write a book.

This book is about finding your purpose. It’s called “Wake Up, Generation” because I believe my generation has been sleepwalking in apathy, blind to our life’s value, and worst of all, numb to our true purpose. The world tells us that we’re young and have all the time in the world to “get things together”. But as I found out as a cancer-stricken 11-year-old, we don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow (James 4:14). Our life is a precious mist that can be taken from us at any second. We don’t have time to be apathetic. We don’t have time to mess around. We don’t have time… to waste.

If you feel drowned in the sea of indifference and mediocrity… this book will inspire you. If you feel lost in the maze of countless expectations and routes… this book will free you. If you feel hopeless beyond all reason… this book will begin to restore you.

Some of the specific things God has led me to cover in this book are: reclaiming your value, discovering your gifts, igniting your God-given passion, writing a mission statement for your life, learning how to live the mission God’s given you, and opening your eyes to global needs so you can use your life to change the world around you.

This is a book about waking up to your purpose. This is a book about refusing to waste your life.

If you’re still breathing, there’s a reason why you’re here.

That’s what my book is about.

My Sleepless Night: Are Our Blessings Traveling In Disguise?

Last night, I told the Lord that I missed Him. I hadn’t gotten to spend as much time with Him the past few days as I would have liked, and I wanted that time to draw near to Him again. I asked Him to bring me back into close communion and to give me special quiet time with Him.

It was late in the evening and I was trying to get some work done, but my brain was shutting down and my eyes were drooping, so I decided to call it a night and head to  bed. Fortunately, I usually don’t have trouble falling asleep or even staying asleep for that matter, so I drifted off to dreamland rather quickly.

At 4:20am, I was woken up by terrible pain in my stomach and a feeling of sickness that made my whole body miserable. I laid
there for a while in hopes that it would just go away, but it only got worse as the minutes went on. I decided to pull myself out of bed and see if I had any medicine or vitamins that would relieve my pain and help me feel better. I took what I found and hoped it would work quickly.

Minutes slowly turned into hours. I was too uncomfortable to read, or even distract myself on the computer, so all I could do was lay there. I began to pray… what started as praying for God to take away my pain turned into prayers about everything. There has been much going on in my life lately that I’ve needed to pray about – prayers for people close to me who are in need, prayers for my own wisdom and guidance, prayers of thanksgiving and reflection. For the first time in a while, I had time to really be alone with my thoughts and the Lord. It wasn’t rushed trying to wrap up my morning devotion to start my day, and it wasn’t cut short by my tiredness at the end of the night when I’m about to fall asleep. It was unhindered time.. it was exactly what I asked for… but certainly not in the way I intended.

Sometimes blessings are the same way. We ask for something good – and then, much to our confusion, something uncomfortable, even terrible happens. What happened to the blessing that we asked for? Doesn’t God want to bless us?
He does… and He did. His ways are not our ways, and He desires to open our eyes to be able to see the answer to our prayers that He has often already given us.

How ironic that when I told God I missed Him and wanted more time with Him – He gave it to me by waking me up in the night with a stomach ache. Perhaps that sounds a little less than desirable… and well, it certainly wasn’t how I had envisioned it. But the truth is, it was exactly what I needed.

In fact, I still haven’t even gone back to sleep yet… I’m writing this and the sun has already risen. But this time was really precious to me, and my day, my week will be different because of it. My stomach ache was my blessing.

Is there a blessing in your life God is trying to give you that you may be missing? Look closely… it just may be in a clever disguise.

In honor of Haiti: My song, “Not Forgotten”

One year ago, today, Haiti was struck by a 7.0 earthquake that devastated their country. Exactly one year later, the country is still in ruins and in need of much help. Over a million people are living in tents with unspeakable conditions. Of the survivors still living in tents, approximately 380,000 are children. Women and children, as young as 4 and 5, are being raped by gangs operating unchecked in the 1,200 refugee camps.

Though money has been pledged to help Haiti from several countries, most of that money and help has yet to arrive. I was shocked to hear that less than 5% of the debris from the earthquake has been cleared… leaving enough to fill dump trucks parked bumper to bumper halfway around the world. (information from http://bit.ly/ifEaxF)

While it has been a year since this tragedy, it is clear that the Haitian people are still in great need of prayers and help. Though a year of other disasters and needs have piled up since theirs, they cannot be forgotten.

Soon after Haiti was hit, I shared that I would be releasing a song that I had written and recorded for them which would benefit World Vision. My plans to release that song were altered, and I was unable to release it as I had planned. Now, in order to share the song with you, I have made a video of remembrance to honor this day one year ago. I will let you know when the song is available to be purchased for the proceeds to support World Vision.

For now, may this song and video be a reminder for us to pray and help in whatever way we can. May the precious Haitian people know they are not forgotten.

All of the work on the song was generously donated by: Chris Omartian, who wrote the song with me and produced it, Paul Allen, who played guitars and Tony Palacios, who mixed it.

The Start of A New Year

Everyone loves a new beginning. Just like the phrase, “out with the old, in with the new”, it’s a chance to put past things behind us and start fresh.

The New Year always brings a string of resolutions and reflections, and I’ve usually been the type of person to make a whole list of personal ideals for the upcoming year. If you saw my blog post last year at this time, you’ll see what I mean. 😉

This year, however, I didn’t make a 10 ft scroll of promises, but I focused in on something that I found even more beneficial. With my notebook and pen in hand, I wrote out 3 bad things that happened to me in 2010, and 3 good things. I then listed some things that I was looking forward to potentially happening this year, and a few key things that I’d love for the Lord to strengthen me in.

What was fascinating to me was with these things clearly laid out before me I was able to see a direct correlation between the struggles of my year in 2010, and the blessings. Each one of my three negatives were then followed by either a fulfillment of the need or loss, or an answer that I had been searching for… and those were the three highlights of my year. I didn’t notice this direct connection until after it was written and staring me in the face. The “aha” moment was astounding, and left me dumbfounded at the Lord’s in-genus provision!

This beautiful discovery of God’s hand in my 2010, gave me a platform to see the new 2011 from. It’s like peeking back in a book at the chapter you left off in and refreshing yourself on what it said. Suddenly it gives context to the next chapter that you’re about to embark on. When you know where you came from, you can know where to begin.

As I sat and stared at the new number, 2-0-1-1, I felt the need to dedicate myself and the year to the Lord. I gave Him my dreams for the year and the things that I’m most excited and hopeful about – giving Him permission to do as He sees fit and knowing full well that may not look like what I had envisioned. I dedicated my heart, my time and my relationships. This new year is more about dedication for me than it is about my resolutions. I found so much peace and excitement in putting this year in God’s hands rather than clinging to the list in my own.

Action Challenge: I challenge you, if you haven’t already, to seriously dedicate this 2011 year of your life to Him. Share with Him your dreams, your hopes, your needs, and lay them at His feet where they belong. If there are things in your life that you know you need to turn from, make this the year that you start anew. When we submit ourself to the author of our lives, we will never be disappointed by the story He writes.

The “Thankful Box”

There’s something beautiful about being thankful.

When I was little, I made a box called the “Thankful Box”. It was a box where you’d put the list of things that you were thankful for after writing them out. My family used to do that each year, but for some reason we hadn’t in a little while.

Last night, we rekindled that old tradition. We got out some index cards and scribbled down the things that we were thankful for this year. After we finished our dinner, we opened the box and picked out the first card. One by one, we went around the dinner table sharing what we had written and what we were thankful for. What initially seemed like a cute little thing to do, turned into hardly a dry eye at the table. As we took this moment to share our thanks… for each other, for God, for our lives and the blessings of the wild journey we’ve all been on… there was something so deeply profound that came out of our words. There was something about sharing and recognizing our gratitude that was so overwhelming – like the deepest joy you can imagine.

I read in my devotional the other day that thankfulness is God’s love language which enables us to communicate intimately with Him. That really struck me because if thankfulness is one of the main ways that God wants us to show our love for Him… I feel like I haven’t been loving Him very well. I realized I sometimes carry around a spirit of ungratefulness and even entitlement to God and His love.

I heard a speaker the other night who asked a question that I’ve been thinking about for days. It was this: If God never did ONE more thing for you in your life, would you still be thankful?

I stopped. Would I?

Here’s the thing. Even if God never did one more thing for me in my life… I have every reason in the world to be grateful to Him and give Him my life. He’s the creator of the Universe who came down to earth to take on MY death and save me. How could I ever demand more from Him?

But then the speaker said, with gentleness in his voice and reassurance in his eyes…”But God is a good God and He will be with you and He delights in blessing you.” Suddenly, my heart was just so humbled. God has already given me everything… but He loves me enough to not stop there.

I have every reason to be thankful.