Do you really deserve it?

Have you ever given a gift to someone and instead of them saying “thank you” or showing appreciation for the gift, they take it as if it was something they always deserved and you were just finally getting around to giving it to them? If you have, you understand how frustrating this is, if you haven’t, I assure you, live long enough and you will.

Blame participation trophies, government handouts, or whatever you wish, but our culture and generation has started to believe everything is entitled to them. They don’t need to work or earn anything. It’s the “I got a degree, so now I deserve a bosses paycheck” mentality and it’s ripping apart the work ethic and the gratitude of our society.

Unfortunately, the issue of entitlement and lack of gratitude isn’t a new issue. It may have been classified as something different back in Biblical times, but in Luke 17:11-19, Jesus faces the same issue:

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

In this story, Jesus saw the men with leprosy and had pity on them — they weren’t entitled to healing, they didn’t work for healing, they simply were blessed with Jesus’ pity and love. Yet, only one of the ten returned to say thank you for the gift of healing he had been given. Jesus saved these ten men from being outcasts in their society, they were able to rejoin their families and friends. They could be a part of the working class again and no longer have to beg for a livelihood. Not only did Jesus give them healing, he restored their status and their families, yet they still did not say thank you.

What I find interesting is the one that did come back and say thank you was a foreigner. Back in the times of Jesus, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, so as Jesus healed the men, I wonder how many were Jews and how many were Samaritans. Did this man come back and say thank you because he knew Jesus was a Jew and therefore it was even more of a statement and miracle that Jesus chose to have grace on him? No one would have questioned Jesus’ choice to heal the Jews, but a Samaritan was a whole other story. Maybe the others felt they were entitled to Jesus’ healing powers, after all, if they’re of same cultural backgrounds they were supposed to have an upper hand in society. But does that make it right to ignore the gift given and go on without gratitude?

Do we as American’s tend to feel entitled to all that is given to us? As Christians do we just figure since we prayed the prayer once we are entitled to the grace given and forget to say thank you to Christ for his sacrifice and his daily grace? Or do we truly appreciate every gift that is given to us? Do we have an attitude of gratitude, never letting an act of service or a gift be given without a thank you?

Honestly, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of entitlement. Our society surrounds us with images and messages that we deserve everything and it’s our right to have what we want. But God’s society teaches us to live life knowing we deserve nothing, yet are given everything because of God’s grace, mercy, and love for us.

Jonah 4 is another perfect example of our entitled mindset. In this chapter of the book, Jonah is sitting in the hot desert sun, God provides a source of shade for him to sit under, but then some bugs come along and eat the leaves causing the plant to no longer provide shade. Jonah becomes furious with God because he no longer has shade and once again is out in the blistering sun. Yet what did Jonah do to deserve the shade? Instead of seeing the shade as a gift from God that was graciously given and can be taken away at any time, Jonah felt he was entitled to the shade and it was God’s duty to provide it to him.

If you don’t believe you’re living an entitled life, think through these few examples:

Your janitor takes out your trash every day, they miss a day because they were busy doing something else…do you help them out and take out your own trash or do you get frustrated because they didn’t find the time to take it out? When was the last time you thanked the janitor for keeping the office clean?

You’re on a team and your team goes out for dinner or for an activity, do you gratefully appreciate wherever they chose to go, or do you complain because it’s not the exact place you wanted to go? Do you complain about the driving of the coaches or do you appreciate the money spent on getting a car so the team gets to go out on fun adventures and isn’t stuck in the hotel all weekend?

When you continue to pray a prayer, but God choses to respond in a different way than you asked, are you appreciative for the response and thankful for a God who cares enough to listen, or do you get upset and abandon your faith because you felt entitled to the result you didn’t get?

Whatever it is you feel you are entitled to, realize everything in this life is a gift. We aren’t entitled to God’s grace, His grace is a gift given to us. If He choses to extend judgement instead of grace, we shouldn’t be upset because we don’t deserve anything but judgement.

So please stop living an entitled life. Live a life full of gratitude. If someone does something for you, say thank you. Say thank you a hundred times a day, to the cashier, the waitress, the janitor, to whomever it is you tend to take for granted. Don’t be like Jonah or the nine ungrateful lepers. Be thankful for the shade and the healing God has given you, and if it’s taken away, say thank you for the time it was given. Be grateful and see everything as a gift. I promise you, your life will become a million times brighter when you do.

Finding Amazement

Amazement : An overwhelming feeling of surprise or astonishment


This past weekend I flew to Indianapolis for one of my dearest friends weddings. While on my flight back, I ended up sitting next to a young boy who was traveling alone. I don’t know if this was his first flight but during takeoff, I couldn’t help but notice how he stared out the window in amazement while so many other passengers were already engrossed in their work or movies.

It got me thinking — the first time people fly they go through a wide range of emotions. Most are completely amazed by the airplanes ability to hold all the people, luggage, and machinery it takes to operate, yet still fly so easily. Some have hesitations, but chose to trust the ability of the plane, the past planes they’ve seen, and the testimonies of people enough to get on the plane. Some are excited to see the world in a whole new light, and any fear they may have had begins to slip away.

Yet, overtime all of these emotions seem to level out. People who travel a lot lose the amazement of flight. They no longer stare out the window mesmerized by the takeoff and landing. They don’t admire the mountains, oceans, cities, fields, and millions of people they fly over. They simply pull out their book, put in their headphones, or start their work the minute they sit in their super small seat. Some even close the window, completely shutting out the view. They’re still trusting the plane to get them from place A to B but are no longer excited for the journey, instead they’re simply there, using the plane for a means to get to their end.

As I thought through this, I couldn’t help but notice how it not only happens to our flights, but more importantly, it happens to our faith. When starting off, new Christ followers are on fire for God. So excited about the journey ahead, maybe slightly fearful but irregardless they trust the ability of our Creator to get them to where they’re going. They stand amazed as they see the world in a whole new light, admiring what God has created and the difference His presence makes in their life. But as time goes on and they become more comfortable in their faith, life happens, and the church experience is no longer new, they become unamazed. Simply going through the motions each day — still trusting God, but no longer enjoying His journey fully — just simply getting through the ride.

I’ll be honest, it’s easy for me to be amazed by God when I’m in a new place. Sitting on a mountain side in California a couple weeks ago, there was no prompting needed, I could easily dwell on the amazing ability of our Creator and the magnificent world He has made. But in the mundane of daily activities? I mean how do you find time to be amazed by God when you’re drowning in work or running from one activity to the next? When at the end of the day the only thing that amazes you is how great your bed feels when you know you can fully give yourself into sleep?

Truthfully, I’ve found it’s not hard, it just takes effort and the ability to be still. You see, on the mountaintop in Cali I’m by myself, no cell service, no interruptions, no distractions, just simply me and the amazing creation around. At home, I have work, practice, friends, Netflix, and a host of other distractions. In both places, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me. In both places, I have the ability to talk to God, but in one place I have the desire and amazement, in the other I have distractions and deterrents.

I’m guessing for you, it’s the same way — in the quiet of your life, you’re able to focus on God and His amazing nature, but as soon as your day begins He becomes a mere item crossed off your list instead of the mindset guiding your thoughts. With the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us, we have an irreplaceable gift — literally God lives IN us… that alone should make us live constantly amazed.

Hebrews 12:1 states, “Since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.”

When was the last time you “threw off everything that hindered you?” Don’t misunderstand this, this isn’t asking when was the last time you got rid of a bad sinful habit or repented of your sins but with the distinction made, the writer is separating what hinders you from what entangles you. Both keep you from spending time with God and reaching His full potential for your life, but our hinderances don’t have to be sinful. Maybe one of yours is binge watching a season or show on Netflix — although not sinful, is it helping you “run with perseverance the race that is marked out for you?” Or maybe your job is so overwhelming that it constantly consumes your mind — again not sinful, but it’s keeping you from spending time with God. So what are your hinderances in life?

Now let’s be real — for some people (like myself) your schedule always seems to fill up, whether it be with every church activity or a wide range of interests, you’re never sitting still. I’m not suggesting you change your entire lifestyle, but rather re-learn to be amazed. Throw off a few hinderances so you have time to think as you go from one place to another — turn off the music and enjoy the drive home. Notice the cute houses or the busy street — marvel at the fact that every single person you pass, God knows indefinitely. Admire the fact that each person, tree, dog, or whatever you pass was created uniquely by God’s design — no two things look exactly alike. Or turn on the radio and appreciate God’s gift of music and the people He’s chosen to give the gift too.

Choosing to be amazed isn’t difficult but so often we bog ourselves down with so much stuff, we don’t give our minds time to dwell in amazement. We put God as an item on our to-do list: morning quiet time  prayer before dinner  said goodnight grace √  and then fill our day with every other activity we can think of.

Instead why don’t we try threading God throughout our day. Teaching our minds to notice the amazing world He has blessed us with. Spending time reading His scripture to learn, instead of to check it off our list before rushing off to answer emails. Seeing each interaction we have as not just another interaction at work, but realizing the person in front of you or on the phone with you is a unique individual created by God, loved by God, and known by God.

I challenge you to change your mindset, be like the boy on the plane, sitting in amazement even if nothing is new. Run the race God has for you, not the busy race the world is telling you to run. Enjoy the small moments. Thank God for the unexpected blessings. Notice the sunny day, love the uniqueness of those around you and pray for a heart of amazement.

Throw off the hinderances, dwell in the Spirit, and I promise you’ll be amazed by our Creator.

Freedom isn’t Free

Freedom isn’t free — a common known phrase often used around Memorial, Veterans and Independence Day. Why? Because we never want to downplay the sacrifice our soldiers and their families gave in order for us to obtain the freedom we have today.

This past Memorial Day I was preparing the devotional for the volleyball team I help coach and stumbled upon that phrase. We so often think of freedom only being in a political sense. Our Bill of Rights gives us the freedom to do a lot of things — speak, petition, vote, etc. We’re the “Land of the Free,” a place so many run to to find refuge from their oppression. But how true is that phrase when looking at our spiritual freedom?



As a Christian, our spiritual freedom allows us to talk with our Creator, to be free from our past and the mistakes we’ve made. It allows us to be washed in an ocean of grace so we have the full assurance of our salvation. This freedom guides our future, allowing the best path to open for us if we fully follow what the Word says.

Freedom isn’t free. The freedom we’ve obtained through Christ came at a cost.  For America, men go off to war all the time, hoping to come home to their families again, but know there is a cost to keep our country free. For Christ followers, God sent His one and only Son, knowing full well Christ would be ridiculed, tortured, and crucified, so that we could obtain this freedom (John 3:16). He wanted us to live a life free from our sin stained flesh, much like our government wants us to live a life free from the restrictions of the lands they left.

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If you’re new to the Christian faith or haven’t really explored it much you may think I’m crazy in saying Christians have “freedom” — since let’s be honest, many people feel Christianity can be restricting. Honestly, yes it can, but when you realize the restrictions are for your own good they soon become less restrictions and more guardrails, keeping you from going where you could hurt yourself.

Think of it this way — if our government didn’t have the laws in place and we just let anyone and everyone do what they wanted to do, our nation would be a disaster. People would be stealing when they saw fit, no taxes would ever be paid so our roads would be worse, we would start to live in a world of fear — is this freedom? No not really. Our freedom lies inside the guidelines our government gives. Through these guidelines we are able to achieve great things. Our homes are safe. Our highways are paved. Our lives are lived without real fear.



Christ’s sacrifice gives us THE SAME sort of freedom. Let’s look at a hot topic: abstaining from sex until marriage (Eph. 5:5; Heb. 13:4). God puts this as a rule to protect us — nothing good ever comes from extramarital sex. Think about it, you’re connecting yourself with someone in the most intimate way possible — no one can know you more physically than someone who has sex with you (Gen. 2:24) — yet there is no promise they will stay with you, no matter what they say there is no guarantee of forever (because the Bible also says a marriage covenant is forever — but that’s a whole other topic). Has anyone really woken up from a one night stand and not had any guilt about it? Or gone through a breakup and regretted giving their all to the person? Is that freedom? Or are you becoming a slave to your sexual desires — only fulfilling the need because it’s there and it feels good, not because it really benefits your life? Maybe that’s just my mindset but I’ve seen too many friends deal with this to really think you can shake it all off as easily as people try to play if off like they can. Let me clear something up — I have nothing against sex at all, our God-given desire is to be known fully by another — but that doesn’t mean we need to be fully known by the entire high school baseball team. Understand? Look at this on the flip side — talk to any couple who waited until marriage to have sex and you’ll notice there is absolutely no regret in waiting. Their sex life means something because it’s just between them and doesn’t have their past in the bed with them causing them to compare. In both scenarios we have the freedom to choose. One choice leads to freedom from guilt and shame the other choice leads to momentary fulfillment but weight on our conscience.

I know it’s just one example and y’all might not agree, but when looking at freedom you will always have discrepancies as to what being “free” really looks like. A free spirit is usually someone who just goes with the flow, does whatever they feel, and doesn’t have a care in the world. Their perception of freedom might look way different than someone who needs a lot of structure in their life to feel fully themselves. God’s freedom allows us to be completely who we were made to be. Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us.” Being set free in Christ is releasing the weight of life from your shoulders. He’s got everything under control. You’re free from worry. Free from guilt. Free from shame. You’re given grace and forgiveness. Your life is a whole new blank slate every day — nothing — and I mean nothing — can separate you from His freedom once you’ve fully accepted it.

A part of the freedom Christ gave us was the freedom to choose. You may not believe in the whole Jesus thing — you might think you’re better on your own and making your own decisions — and that’s your choice. God isn’t forcing you to choose Him, He’s giving you the option, but when you fully understand the freedom you have in Christ, the gift of Heaven, the salvation from Hell, and the love you will receive, the choice becomes a whole lot easier.



As I wrap this up, let me be clear on one thing — God’s freedom does not include freedom from hardship or suffering on earth. Our freedom to choose comes with consequences and unfortunately we don’t get to choose those consequences. Sometimes we have hardships that have nothing to do with our specific actions but rather are tied to the fact that evil is in the world. God doesn’t enjoy suffering, so please don’t ever think that God is wishing suffering upon you. Yes, Hell is a place full of suffering people are condemned to, but if you choose to reject God and all that He has offered to you there’s consequences for your choice, just like if you choose to commit a crime, there are consequences for your actions. I don’t wish that upon anyone — if it were up to me, everyone would come to love the Lord and experience the freedom I have found in Him. But unfortunately that isn’t everyone’s choice.

Freedom isn’t free but a life in Christ is, and it provides you a freedom you won’t ever regret. A freedom you never knew you wanted and a freedom you’ll want everyone to have.

True Vulnerability

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms.”

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about finding our identity in Christ. Yesterday I came to the full realization that although I wholeheartedly believe it’s true, I haven’t wholeheartedly accepted it.

As I write this weeks blog I realize sometimes you have to be completely vulnerable with yourself and others in order to bring about the change that is desperately needed. So please know as I write every word, I’m not asking for sympathy or pity likes, but rather hope that my complete vulnerability will not only start a change for me, but allow others to start the change they need as well.

For those of you that know me well, you might know where this all began. About 10 months ago I got into a relationship with a guy that I thought in so many ways was the perfect guy for me. I was excited about the relationship and felt I finally fit in with all my coupled friends. As the time went on, I started to ignore the red flags, making excuses on his behalf, why? because I was so excited to finally “fit in”, to finally have someone to talk about when all my girl friends were talking about their dates or weekend plans. When he and I were having a good day, I was on cloud nine, but when things weren’t going so well, I felt extremely low. To give him the grace and respect everyone deserves, I’ll spare the details, but after an extreme rollercoaster ride of emotions, things came to a complete abrupt halt in February. He had moved on and was happy with someone else, so why in April was I still struggling with the fact that things had ended? Why was I so desperately vying for the attention I knew he wasn’t going to give? And that’s when I realized where my identity fell.

So often I find myself striving to fit in or be accepted by others. Yes, I’m always myself and I truly believe I am, but where I seem to find my value has not been in what our Creator thinks of me, but rather what the created think. I busy my schedule to the point of exhaustion because I never want anyone to think I’m not willing to help them out. I cling to an unhealthy relationship because I find confidence in the skewed acceptance I felt. I build my identity on the things I can see and the perception I feel everyone expects me to be. But that’s so wrong.

The scriptures call us to surround ourselves with godly people and as I talked with my best friend last night, I was reminded just how important that is. As she dug down deep into my confidence issues, from when I got kicked out of my friend group in middle school because I wasn’t “cool” enough, to when a close friend replaced me with a new girl in town, to my weight struggles and acne flares, I realized my confidence issues stem from something so much greater than being rejected by a guy.

I so often find myself striving and striving to be accepted by others that I forget I’m already accepted by God. My senior year in college I worked 4 jobs, took 18 credit hours, was the President of an organization, and constantly created events for my friend group so we could have some great memories before we parted ways. I was EXHAUSTED to say the least, but in my eyes I was accepted. I was loved for all I did and I found confidence in knowing I could handle everything that was thrown on my plate, even if it came at expense to my well-being. How ironic that in my senior year at a Christian college I so easily walked straight into the trap and temptation of mistaken confidence.

Unfortunately, this carried over into my internship, relationships, career, and everything afterwards. I was confident in who I was until something went wrong. I was unable to see it as a circumstance that changed or a healthy failure I could learn from; instead I saw it as something wrong with me, something I was unable to be successful at, something that I strived to own and completely failed. I would look around at all my friends and their successful careers and relationships and soon I would be piling more stuff on my plate so I could “measure up” or have a valid excuse for why some things I so desperately wanted weren’t working out.

As I walked through the streets of Richmond, crying and noticing just how far off track I’d let myself get, I came face-to-face with the full acceptance of God’s grace. Our Creator does not make mistakes, He knew our struggles before we had them. He’s been working on this issue in my life for years and sometimes the things that tear us apart and completely break us (like a failed relationship) are our saving grace. They allow us to hit the bottom of OUR confidence and OUR efforts so we can recognize how desperately we NEED CHRIST.

Grace

This weekend is Easter weekend, and what better time to be reminded of how great our God is. To Him I am perfectly accepted just the way I am. No extra activities or boyfriend could make me more valuable to Him. No work accomplishments or smaller pant size could make me a better asset to His kingdom. In His eyes, I am everything I need to be because He created me with everything I needed. There is nothing I can do or say to change that. To Him I am worth sending His Son to die for me so that I may live eternally with Him.

So how do I wholeheartedly accept that fact? It’s easy for me to believe but hard for me to accept. I can read in the Bible everything God has called me and made me, but it’s so challenging to remember that when the world is telling you something completely different. But that’s just it. Why do I need to worry about what the world says? Why do I need to carry the weight of their approval? I don’t.

So starting today I’m taking back my life. I’m putting the word “no” back in my vocabulary and understanding that taking time for myself is extremely important. I’m cutting out the things and the people that cause anxiety and make me feel I’m not worth the value God has already given me. It’s a process and will take time, but as I grow in an understanding of God’s grace and acceptance, the confidence I need to get through the day will soon come from Him alone. God has equipped me with everything I need to accomplish the purpose He has set out for me. I am enough because God says I am and that’s the reality I chose to live in.

Lifes Expectations & Realities

Expectations. They can motivate us. They can break us. They can define us. They can haunt us.

Realities. They can change us. They can push us. They can defeat us. They can scar us.

My life expectation was to be engaged or married, with a job in baseball, living on a farm in the midwest while having the whole adult life figured out.

My life realities, I’m as single as they come, working in a non-profit, coaching volleyball (a sport I came in knowing nothing about), living on a city street in Richmond, realizing daily how much I have to learn about being an “adult”.

Our life expectations can throw a loop in how we view ourselves. Am I a failure because everything I expected to happen after college didn’t? Has God forgotten about me because I’m still single? Did I waste all my money on a degree that is producing a job I never thought I’d be in?

To be honest it can, and it has. This last year has been a real struggle for me because my life realities are so far from my life expectations. Are they bad, not necessarily, just different. But for someone like me who’s had a life plan figured out since our middle school career fair, it can really shake a life dynamic.

Life hasn’t been easy, maybe it hasn’t been an outward suffering, but inwardly I’ve suffered. Wondering if I measure up. Wondering why relationships fail when all I want is to be married. Wondering why God’s curved my path in the way that He has. Then I remember this quote:

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How often in the midst of our failing realities do we forget that GOD DOES NOT FAIL. We may see our current circumstances as uncertainties and failures, but we have God and that is enough of a reality for me. Each and every day we live in the reality that God sent HIS SON to die for us so that we could spend eternity with Him. Wow.

If I truly believe and live in that truth, then I should never feel my shortcomings or failed expectations define who I am. I am not less of a person because I’m single. I am not less of a value because my job is different than what I thought. I am a whole person, living in the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ.

If we look at the story of Joseph for a minute I think we can see how real this is. Joseph probably didn’t go into life expecting to be sold by his brothers into Egypt, to build his life back up only to be wrongly accused of a crime, then to reconcile his reputation only to be forgotten about by the very people he just helped, but that’s exactly what happened (Genesis 37-44). One failure after another. One escalated place, one low-life place. A rollercoaster life, most likely full of confusion, joy, suffering, excitement. The one common theme through the entire story — God was there.

If Joseph had not been sold to Egypt, he wouldn’t have entered Potiphar’s house. If he didn’t enter Potiphar’s house, he would have never been thrown into prison. If he had never been thrown in prison, he would have never met Pharaoh’s cup bearer. If he had never met Pharaoh’s cup bearer, he would have never been recommended to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. And if he had never interpreted Pharaoh’s dream (through God), he would have never been in command to lead Egypt during the famine.

So what’s your Egypt? What’s your hard place of failed expectations and haunting realities? The place you feel is doing more harm than good? Could it be God is just preparing you to save a nation? Preparing you for the job He has called you to do.

Romans 8:28, “And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.”

HIS purpose, not ours. HIS glory, not ours. HIS plan, not ours. He works all things for OUR good. GOD DOES NOT FAIL. So stop thinking that He does.

Go live in the realities God has set before you, fully glorifying His name and understanding that His purpose is leading us to something greater than we could ever imagine. There will be suffering, there will be hard times, but there will also be eternal glory for those who never lose sight of the realities of the cross.