Re-focus

One of my new favorite things isportrait mode on my iPhone X. I love the way it focuses on a specific thing while blurring out the background. It’s especially great when taking pictures in a dirty house. The only downfall to this glorious technology is its inability to always focus on the right thing. I’ve often missed some real Kodak moments per se because my camera focused on the wrong image, blurring out what I intended to fix my focus on.

Example: The kids and I ran down to the creek today, and I was trying to focus the camera to grab a picture of our German Shorthair playing in the water, only it focused on the water and not my dog! Yes, they were both parts of the picture, but the important part, my dog, was the part that wound up blurry and distorted. The focus was on all the wrong things.

As I was thinking about what to write to you today, God reminded me of this truth: In light of eternity, does this really matter? His whisper challenged me to refocus. It caused me to notice that my focus is obscure; it’s been fixed on all the wrong things. My lack of focus has potentially caused me to miss some incredible moments. And maybe this is you today. Maybe there are some things you’ve been so focused on: work, fitness, finances, business, etc. that you have missed opportunities to glorify God in your life and to others. After all, in light of eternity, does it really matter how much money you’re bringing home, what size jeans you wear or how many abs you can count? Or if your child plays for a traveling ball team or a city league? What truly matters is whether you’re glorifying God; that’s why He created you. You are made for Him, and to lead people toward Him.

So, how are you doing? Where’s your focus? Are you stressed out trying to figure out this crazy life? Are you worn out? Burned out? If that’s you, maybe it’s time to fix your focus. Turn your focus back to our creator, the one who made us on purpose and with purpose. The one who loved us enough to send His son to die for us, the one who then sent a comforter to live inside of us, leading and guiding us. The one who paid it all so we could live an eternity with Him. Perhaps, my friend, you need to refocus.

And yet, there is another pit we fall into: What about those of us who are getting up every day with our intentions to serve in work, ministry, and our callings. Or those of us who are knee deep in His dream for us. We know ourwhy, but perhaps we’ve lost focus on it? Is it possible we’ve been focusing so much on self trying to make it all happen that we’ve lost our focus on who it’s for? We’ve placed self and the glory we gain in the process above the real focus, God’s glory. Y’all, I’m guilty far too often. And I think it’s time to refocus; remember the why behind what we do. The why should be the same for us all; to bring glory to our great God and lead others to Him. Heavy thought here, but People’s eternity depends on our focus. If leading people closer to Jesus isn’t your why, It may be time to fix your focus. Allow Him to guide you and your focus back to Him.

So whatever your focus is today: self, business, others opinions, your body, ministry, etc., let’s take a moment and ask God, in light of eternity, does THIS really matter? Fix your focus.

“Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent — Jesus Christ. I have glorified you on the earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
‭‭John‬ ‭17:1-4‬ ‭CSB‬‬

That Kind of Love

I’m sure I know the answer to this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway: Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you felt like your world was crashing and all H-E-double-hockey-sticks was breaking loose in your life? I’m assuming your answer is yes (me too, by the way). And if your answer is no, you’re likely too young to be reading this, or you need to check your pulse.

This was me a few months back. I was so hurt and frustrated by some situations and people in my life, and a poor, dear, soul of a friend had to experience my meltdown over the phone. I really do feel for her now, that was a rough day for both of us.

But seriously, we all have those days that seem like they couldn’t possibly get worse. Maybe you’ve lost your job, or someone you love has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Perhaps your spouse has just walked away from a marriage you thought was solid. Or maybe you’ve just discovered the addiction your child has been hiding. These are some of the worst things imaginable, right? But what if, you’ve been sent as a sacrifice for all humanity? What if, you’ve never done a thing wrong in all your life, but was sent to die a brutal death for a world full of sinners: rapists and murderers, human traffickers and cheaters, addicts and liars?

I’m so thankful God hasn’t asked such a thing of me. But He did send his son, Jesus, precisely for that reason. And I imagine, if I had been Jesus, I would’ve been on the horn (a phone, for all you youngsters) with all my peeps losing my mind over the day I was having! You know, similar to how I responded to my situation a few months back, but on a MUCH larger scale.

But, thank God, He chose Jesus instead. And I assure you, Jesus was a way better option than me. He wasn’t calling His bestie (John, the one Jesus loved) and complaining about the day He was having or texting His disciples asking for advice on how to dissolve the situation. Jesus was more concerned about his friends, the disciples, leading up to His arrest and execution than He was about himself. Jesus was more focused on you and on me than the imminent death He was facing. Several times before He was arrested, He urged the disciples to:

1. Believe in Him.
2. Not let their hearts be troubled.

Jesus cared more for His friends than He did for His life. Even though they would betray him, deny him, and scatter out of fear for being associated with him (sounds a bit like you and I at times). And this got me thinking about the kind of love that must be. The type of love He was extending to a rough group of friends, the kind of love He was extending to those whose sin was the reason for His existence. The type of love He has for you and for me, the ones whose sin nailed Him to the cross.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Love is what keeps us grounded when all hell is breaking loose in our life. Love is what causes us to forgive those who wrong us and pray for those who persecute us. And love is what held Jesus to a cross.

Friend, we are going to face times of hurt, frustration, meltdowns, bad days and worse days, but may we be careful not to neglect love for one another and never take for granted the love Jesus poured out for us on the cross. Believe in him and do not let your hearts be troubled (Jn 14:1). The savior has come and overcame, and He did it for you.

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Hold Tight

Toss and turn, toss and turn. I lay wide awake, my mind spinning in circles, battling and wrestling with my thoughts, the situation surrounding me, and the Lord. Maybe you’ve been there before, up all night wrestling through your struggles; whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Some nights it feels like a WWE match in my own room. I wake up exhausted and often without progress, only to fight the same battle again the next night.

After my last battle of the mind a few nights ago, I decided, enough is enough. I’m done letting the situation win. Tonight I’m not giving up until the Lord takes it from me, until I’m able to surrender the battle entirely. And that determination leads me to the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis:

Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not defeat him, he struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip.  Then he said to Jacob, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name? ” the man asked. “Jacob,” he replied.  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” he said. “It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he answered, “Why do you ask my name? ” And he blessed him there. — Genesis 32:24-29

As I read and reread this scripture, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the words spoken in verse twenty-six: Then he said to Jacob, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  Jacob had a lot of wrestling to do because of his past life as a deceiver, and when day broke he could’ve easily given up and let go of the fight, but he refused to let go until God changed him.

That thought challenged me and I wondered, are we willing to hang on? Are we ready to fight through until something inside of us is changed?  Or do we give up at daybreak only to face the same battle again and again?

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the tossing and turning, the battles that rage inside my mind and heart, the situations that never improve. I’m tired of revisiting the same fight night after night, day after day. I want change to happen in my circumstances. I want change to happen in my life, I want a blessing, but to receive change and a blessing, I have to be willing to hang on to Jesus and not let go until change happens. We cannot give up at daybreak just because it’s easier, we must hold on and not let go.

So what are you giving up on? What battle are you continually fighting? Maybe you’re fighting an addiction to alcohol, shopping, food, or drug addiction. Perhaps it’s an unending struggle with your spouse, or a battle with depression. Or maybe you’re fighting for the promises and dreams God’s put in your heart. I don’t know what you’re wrestling, but I know you can’t let go, not this close to a breakthrough, a blessing. Friends, God wants to give you a new name, a new identity based off what He sees in you, not based on your issues, your past, or your situation. But this requires you to wrestle until you receive what you are fighting for and what God has for you. Don’t give up.  

Sawdust Brownies

Cassie, have you tried these brownies? They are delicious. That was a lie straight out of my dear friends’ pie hole. Faith seems all sweet on the outside, but inside she is full of jokes and evil tricks, such as getting me to eat what I now call sawdust brownies. And I’m not lying when I say it took me ten minutes to chew and swallow that brownie. It literally tasted and felt like someone had poured sawdust right into my mouth. WORST. BROWNIE. EVER.

Just a side note here – Yes, I actually know what sawdust tastes like. I grew up in a family of saw-millers and construction workers. And those brownies may have looked good, but I assure you, they were NOT good.

Earlier this week, I started a Bible plan on the Bible app with a group of ladies. Just a way to further and create community among my sisters in Christ, and it was incredible. Ladies were opening up and sharing about things to women they didn’t even know. It was absolutely beautiful. But during the plan, there was one verse and thought that really stood out to me: there is no substitute for the presence of God.

Here’s the one thing I crave from God, the one thing I seek above all else: I want the privilege of living with him every moment in his house, finding the sweet loveliness of his face, filled with awe, delighting in his glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to him that he takes pleasure in my every prayer. Psalm 27:4 (TPT)

And that’s where the sawdust brownies come into play. Them there brownies looked incredible (I felt the need to use my best Carter County sawmill voice). They were everything you dream a brownie should look like, but someone had the bright idea they also needed to be healthy. YUK! Y’all, I don’t do healthy, I do tasty. Those brownies were lacking the latter. Anyways, whoever had made the brownies went to extremes to substitute all the goodness in the brownies with things like black beans, and gluten-free sawdust, I mean flour. But in the process of substitution, they sucked the goodness right out of them there brownies! But isn’t that what we do spiritually?

God has given us himself, everything we need to feel satisfied and fulfilled, yet we run to substitutions for our fulfillment. We feel alone in our relationship, so we stay up all night watching unrealistic Netflix romances or looking at pornography trying to fill the void, only building up more walls in our relationship. We struggle in our finances, so we go shopping to make us feel better for a moment, only digging ourselves deeper into debt. We feel empty and worthless, so we try and find our worth on social media, just to see that everyone else’s perfect Instagram is better than ours, sending us into a more profound depression and self-hate.

Do you see the cycle? When we start substituting God for idols, we lose. We lose our spouse, our friends, our homes, our worth, our faith. There is no substitute for Jesus in our life any more than there is a substitute for brownies.  You can run as fast and as hard as you want from the presence of God, but you will never be fulfilled, and you will never be free.

So I ask you, what are some areas of your life that you need to replace the sawdust with sugar? What have you been using as a substitute for your relationship with Christ? I pray that God searches your heart today and reveals to you the places you keep hidden. Friend, I believe in you and Jesus is waiting for you. Now go, and take back your life today.

P.S. – Shout out to my sweet friend and editor, Faith Schweizer. She is absolutely incredible and such an asset to this ministry and my life. (And if you’ve never heard her sing, you should! Go check her out on iTunes.) Thank you, Faither, for EVERYTHING!

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