Cultivating Humility

Cultivating Humility

I heard someone say recently the most humble thing you can do is believe you are who God says you are. To put it simply: when God says something to you, believe Him. Whether it’s a specific identity, a promise, or even a kind word, believe that He means it. He’s not a God who teases us or gives things just to take them away. Psalm 111:5 says He satisfies all who love and trust Him, and He keeps every promise He makes. He takes care of His people—He satisfies and meets every need we could have and He keeps His promises every time.

I believe Jesus fully lived in this place. He was so connected to the Father that he knew exactly who he was every moment of every day. John 5:19 says, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. Everything Jesus did, whether it was praying, signs and wonders, healing, etc. he did from a place of knowing the Father and knowing His identity as Son.

 The first time we see this identity is in Matthew 3 when John baptizes Jesus. Matthew 3:16-17 says,

 And as Jesus rose up out of the water, the heavenly realm opened over him and he saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the heavens and rest upon him in the form of a dove. Then suddenly the voice of the Father shouted from the sky, saying, ‘This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him.’”

 Other translations of this verse say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” I think it’s important to highlight the fact that Jesus’ identity as Son was given to him before he ever started his ministry. In other words, Jesus had done nothing to earn this identity; the Lord freely gave it to him because that’s who he was. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to fully rest in his place of Sonship, and I think this moment of declaration and identity prepared Jesus for his ministry to come.

 Jesus was in step with the Holy Spirit. Recall John 5:19—Jesus did nothing apart from what he saw the Father doing. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to be connected with the Father. 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 says, “’What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him,’—these things God has reveal to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Because the Holy Spirit rested upon and lived inside of Jesus, he was able to connect with his Father 24/7. Jesus never questioned who he was as Son because he so deeply trusted and believed in what the Lord declared over him in Matthew 3. Jesus knew the weight and the authority of his identity and place as Son and he fully lived out of that place. He lived from a place of relationship and rest with his Abba Father. He lived from a place of deep trust that his Father would take care of him no matter the circumstance. Jesus knew God and was so deeply known by God that he did whatever was asked of him. We see this depth of trust and humility in Matthew 4:1 immediately after he was baptized:

 “Afterward, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the lonely wilderness in order to reveal his strength against the accuser by going through the ordeal of testing.”

Immediately after the Lord shouts from the Heavens about His beloved Son, Jesus went into the wilderness and was tested by satan. Now I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty upset if I were Jesus. He could have started his ministry right then and there. He could have proclaimed that he was the Messiah in that very moment. But instead, he follows the Lord into the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, an act that required him to be fully dependent upon God.

 Why is this important?

 Because immediately after the Lord revealed Jesus’ identity as Son, He asked Jesus to fully believe in that identity. He called Jesus to a place of dependence that empowered him to walk out of the wilderness unharmed and victorious over satan’s attacks.

 The truth is Jesus was so humble that he believed he was who God said he was. He wasn’t anything more or anything less that his identity as Son. He didn’t overcompensate or have fear about not being good enough. He fully trusted in the identity the Lord have given him and lived from that place. He exemplified humility so well and so beautifully—even in the most tempting and trying times Jesus trusted his Father without question.

 So, how do we cultivate this kind of humility in our own lives?

 Boy howdy is this a million dollar question. Obviously Jesus sets the bar infinitely high with a perfect example of how to live from a place of humility and confidence in identity. So practically speaking, what does it look like for us to live from this place too?

 I think first and foremost we have to know God and be known by Him. We have to know His character and His nature in order to believe His truth. We have to know that the God who called us by name out of our grave is the same God who gets down in the dirt with us and says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” We have to know that we are unconditionally loved by a good Father who satisfies those who love and trust Him and keeps every promise He makes.

 Secondly, I think we have to give God the space to speak into our identities and then believe Him when He speaks. We will never hear what our hearts long to hear if we don’t give God the opportunity to speak. Now this requires some vulnerability and some trust, but I think it’s worth it if it leads to an encounter with our Abba Father. Once He speaks, then it’s our turn to believe Him.

 Finally, I think we have to remember we could never earn what the Lord freely gives. No amount of persuasion, achievement, or striving would ever be good enough to earn something from the Lord.

 1 John 3:1 says, “Look with wonder at the depth of the Father’s marvelous love that he has lavished on us! He has called us and made us his very own beloved children.”

 Romans 8:16 says, “For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, ‘You are God’s beloved child!’”

 Both of these verses reveal the unconditional beauty of God’s Father heart. He lavishes His children with love and His Spirit empowers us individually to hear and believe that we are “God’s beloved child.” In the place of realizing we could never earn God’s love I pray we would know the depths of it at the same time. Our good Father knows no boundaries and freely gives His Son, just so we could know what it means to be the children of God.

 In the midst of our brokenness, our shame and our sin, I pray we would encounter God with naked trust. I pray we would take our projections off our Father and let Him show us who He actually is. I pray we would humble ourselves and believe Him when He speaks. I pray we would let Him empower us the same way He empowered Jesus, and I pray we would live from the identity that we are the beloved Sons and Daughters of a good Father.

Author | Elizabeth Sprinkle

Don’t Grieve the Spirit

Don’t Grieve the Spirit

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).

As I continue to go deeper with Christ, I find that there is more freedom in the Christian life than I’m comfortable with. We don’t live out a black and white faith. We don’t get formulas or step-by-steps or strategies. We get the Holy Spirit. So when these questions start to emerge:

  • How much is too much?

  • How far is too far?

  • Should I listen to ________? 

  • Should I watch _______? 

We are often left feeling …

http://gph.is/1fdfma8

Or worse - In an attempt to control God and/or master our faith, we decide on hard and fast rules for ourselves… and sometimes force them on others. 

That’s exactly what the Pharisees did. They rushed to fill gaps in the law with man-made rules and rituals. In doing so, they lost God’s heart behind the law. It was no longer about protection but prestige. They didn’t care about being set apart as much as they cared about being successful. 

When Jesus came, “not to abolish the law but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17), he took that corrupt power out of it. He knocked the rigidity out of it and returned it to a divine order, an overflow of God’s heart for His people. And the Spirit continues this work in each of us. And we wrestle. Our flesh longs to break the law or control it - to ignore it or subdue it. But all brings grief to the spirit. 

What does it mean to “grieve” the spirit? I love the way Charles Spurgeon said it in one of his sermons,

“Grief is a sweet combination of anger and of love. It is anger, but all the gall is taken from it. Love sweetens the anger, and turns the edge of it, not against the person, but against the offense.”

God’s heart is for us. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is prompting us. The Holy Spirit is guiding us. The Holy Spirit is wooing us. When we live out of our own strength, when we act on our own wisdom, our words and actions can have a weak or foolish ring to them. But when we heed the Spirit, even our most meager efforts reverberate with power and love. 

“I grieve the Holy Spirit by wandering around in the desert of my own thoughts and ways, too busy or too lazy to drink from the fountain of faith and power that is in God’s Word,” Helen Simmons wrote in this Active Christianty article. 

Of course there are hard and fast rules for the Christian. But we do not get to create new ones. We reach a point when we have to stop painting by numbers. We have to let the colors bleed and see where they go. We have to step out into more with the spirit. It will be messy. There’s no guarantee of what the picture will look like. There’s only another brush stroke. And evaluation. And another brush stroke. And evaluation. The Artist is with you. The Artist is within you. He gently guides your trembling hand. Are you heeding his touch? 

Author | Claire Jordan

Change in the Air

Change in the Air

I love being on the brink of new seasons. The first taste of fall’s crisp air after a long hot summer or the first bloom of spring after a barren winter, I’m always captivated by how the transition brings hope for something different, something new.

We’re on the brink right now, aren’t we? Our summer adventures are coming to a close as we begin a new chapter. For some of us, we’re ecstatic to be back with our people and for college to rev up again; we’re dreaming up all the ways this year will be good. For others of us, there’s a bit of a tug on our hearts. Maybe summer was hard. Maybe family stuff is pretty hectic right now. Maybe our health isn’t what we thought it was. Maybe relationships feel pretty broken. Maybe last year’s baggage just won’t stay in last year. Whatever it may be, transitions from what we knew to something new can be a bit tougher than we thought. 

Sometimes it’s shame that overshadows the hope that things can be better this time. Sometimes comparison steals our friendship with destiny because we let fear talk us down.

Whatever it is that may stop you from believing that this season could really be more than you imagine, I’m asking you take this moment and breathe. 

Lay it down.

Surrender it here.

Say His name.

It’s okay if it has been months since you’ve even spoken to Him out loud. There’s no condemnation here.

This is your beginning. Let the Author of Life speak into it.

What does He have to say? 

“Can you not discern this new day of destiny breaking forth around you? The early signs of my purposes and plans are bursting forth. The budding vines of new life are now blooming everywhere. The fragrance of their flowers whispers, “There is change in the air.” Arise, my love, my beautiful companion, and run with me to the higher place. For now is the time to arise and come away with me.” Song of Solomon 2:13

There is change in the air, dear one.

Positioning ourselves for more starts with this right here: connection with the Father. James 4:8 says “Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you”. Just like it says in Song of Solomon, to reach the higher places we so desire for this year we must go with His presence. 

Here in His presence, let Him show you this new day. Let Him tell you what’s breaking through in your life and the promises of more He so longs to shower over you. 

One of my favorite parts of this verse is the first sentence: “can you not discern this new day of destiny breaking forth around you?”

One of the simplest things we can do in surrendering the past and dreaming for the future with God is just being curious! I think too often I miss the new thing blooming before me because I can’t see past the weeds. Curiosity is an intense desire to know…would we dare to be curious about who He is and what He’s up to?

Eric Johnson once said, “God wants to do something you have never seen before, something you’ve never heard of before, and curiosity is a key in understanding and moving into the Presence of God.”

The start of more is turning our heads to the Presence of God. The joy we so long for, the connection we yearn for, the belonging we desire, the more we’re destined for…it all ripples from the heart of God. Knowing Him and being wrapped up in His presence transforms the weariest of wastelands to streams of living water.

I want to encourage you that this is your destiny to take. You were not meant for the wasteland. You are called to arise to the high places with the King. More is yours because of the gift of Jesus. So I bless you, friend, in the name of King Jesus, that every promise of more would overflow in your life this year. I bless you with intimacy with the Father. I bless you with courage to be curious. I bless you with hope to trust the process of surrender. No matter the unknown, He is always, always better than you think, and His love for you will bring you rest that you never thought possible.

Thank you, Jesus, for change in the air. For life budding at the vine. Even on the brink of newness, Your steadiness never changes.

Author | Emily Goldin

The Beauty of Becoming

The Beauty of Becoming

I’ve returned to Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest this summer. I often pick it up in slower seasons when I can sit with his words that cut to the quick. This man understood how to go higher and deeper with Christ and call others to do the same. Several of the devotions throughout the summer have pointed to the idea of sanctification, or of becoming more like Christ - of becoming holy. The past two days were entitled “Sanctification: The Death Side” and “Sanctification: The Life Side.” One humbles and the other lifts up. One challenges and the other equips. The truth at the center of it - sanctification is both life and death. 

This is the truth at the center of John 15 as well. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”  

Jesus paints a perfect picture here of the Christian life - a constant dance of death and life - and the celebration and the mourning of both. 

Chambers said, “In the process of sanctification, the Spirit of God will strip me down until there is nothing left but myself, and that is the place of death… Am I willing to reduce myself down to simply ‘me’? Am I determined enough to strip myself of all that my friends think of me, and all that I think of myself?” 

God, our gardener, will continuously prune and repurpose. And it hurts. And we fight it. We think, “Are we really supposed to endure this? Is it supposed to be this difficult?” Yes. He is stripping us of the dead limbs we cling to so fiercely. Whether we gladly give them up, reluctantly let them fall, or tighten our grasp - it’s all a death in some way. It’s all giving up control. 

But what is his promise in pruning? “...while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Death gives way to new life. 

Chambers continues, “The great wonder of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He changes our heredity. He does not change human nature - He changes its source, and thereby its motives as well.”

If Christ is the vine and we are the branches, our position is permanent. We have been grafted in - as sons and daughters. To be a Christian is to be connected to the source of life. So when everything we hold dear is gone, when what we were so sure of has been stripped away, when our last lifeline fails, we open our eyes to find that we are still very much alive. And that our empty places, our severed limbs, our barren spots have become perfect ground for new life. 

Chambers concludes, “Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal.” 

The only option is to sink deeper. The only way is to lean back. When we finally let go, when we give in to the pruning, only then can we see our sin and idols and shame and striving for what they are - limbs on the ground that were dead all along. Then we look at the new life growing all around and wonder, “Can this be real? Did he really exchange beauty for ashes?” Yes. When the unbearable death of sanctification overwhelms, sink deeper into the source of life and the glorious hope of who you are becoming in Christ. 

Dear Lord,

Thank you for pruning me. I’m sorry for fighting it and frustrating the process. I pray for perspective and hope when it feels like everything I hold dear is being stripped away. Thank you for the new life you bring. Thank you for being my Source of life. Amen. 

Author | Claire Jordan

Abide in Me

Abide in Me

He is the Vine, the source of life.

 We are the branches, completely and utterly dependent upon Him. 

 The branches are to abide in the vine.

 In John 15 verse 5, Jesus says that if we choose to abide in Him, we will have endless opportunities to bear a whole lotta fruit. He goes on to say that without Him, without being in communion with Him, we can’t actually do anything. Much less bear any good fruit. Without Him, we can do nothing. Nothing of significance. Nothing of purpose. Nothing good or worth celebrating. Nothing to be proud of.

 If we want to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, we have to abide in Christ. But what does Jesus mean when He says, abide? I wouldn’t say we use that word regularly. Abiding is a sincere and genuine verb. To abide is to remain in something. To stay put. To dwell and endure. You can’t accidentally abide. You intentionally choose to abide. When we abide in Christ, we are fully present with Him. We engage with His spirit within us. We choose to stand in His love and do everything with Him. 

So where does the fruit come in? One of the places that God describes what he means by fruit is in Galatians 5:22-23. He says that this fruit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these things are good, pleasant things to carry and express to others. They’re not always easy to carry, but they come naturally when we abide in Christ. 

 The Message version says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”

We have the opportunity and responsibility, given to us by God, to abide in Him and bear His fruit. There is zero pressure attached to this command. This is not a “bear my fruit or I won’t love you,” kind of thing. He simply encourages us to first seek Him and know Him, to abide in Him, and these fruits will follow. If we whole-heartedly devote and surrender ourselves to Jesus, being joyful won’t feel like work. Being gentle won’t take a lot of effort. We won’t be worn out after exercising patience. We will actually embody these characteristics that God so freely gives to us. When we’re in love with God, and have an intimate, deep connection with Him, we’ll be the light that this world needs. 

Jesus, in John chapter 15 verse 8, says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” We should be eager to bear fruit, so that we can deflect all the credit, glory, and honor to God. Everyone we encounter should know that we love God because of the fruit that we bear. It’s evidence that He is good. It’s proof that He lives in us.  

God gives us more ways to bear fruit in 2 Peter 1. He talks about embracing knowledge and perseverance, godliness and mutual affection. The Message version goes on to say, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God doesn’t just want us to have all this information about the fruits He offers. He needs us continue abiding in Him, to continue storing up these qualities and enhancing our character to better reflect His. I want the way that I live to be effective and productive, fruitful and beneficial, totally worthwhile. 

People should not only know that we love God because of our fruit, but they should be so taken aback by the realness and goodness of who we are, that they want to love God themselves.  

There’s fruit that grows inorganically. 

There’s fruit that bruises because it is not taken care of. 

 There’s fake fruit that always tends to disappoint. 

But good, healthy, real fruit grows by being properly nourished according to its needs.

Let’s abide in Christ and depend on the ultimate Provider to produce His fruit. 

It’s sweeter anyway.  

Author | Katherine Burnette 

The Way, The Truth, and the Life

The Way, The Truth, and the Life

Think about the person you most trust in your life. It could be a friend, a parent, a sibling, it could be anyone. Why do you trust them? Is it because they’re loyal? Are they trustworthy and honest? Do they love unconditionally? We all have lists a mile long of what makes someone a good friend. Whether its red flags or green lights, some sort of list or criteria has been created to help us filter out who we want in our corner and who we don’t.

Often times, this list gets projected onto our relationship with the Lord as well. Our experiences shape and define how we see Him. Whether it’s truth or not, we have this lens we see the Lord through. But how kind is He to remind us time and time again of who He really is? How encouraging it is to know He’s a God who isn’t afraid to confront our doubts and fears when they don’t align with His truth.

So how do we align ourselves with God’s truth about who He is? How do we make sure our list, our criteria matches with who He actually is? And most importantly, why should our thoughts about who He is be rooted in the actual truth of who He is?

“Don’t worry or surrender to your fear. For you’ve believed in God, now trust and believe in me also.” John 14:1 TPT

 In the first part of this verse, Jesus is empowering His disciples to not worry or surrender to their fear. Immediately after, Jesus calls them to trust and believe that He is who He says He is. Jesus does the same for us: He empowers us and then He calls us. Why? Because He know we can’t do it alone. He knows that if it were left up to us, we would cave to our worries and our fears. We would’ve already given up before the race even starts. But what happens when you focus on the Lord instead of your worries or fears is things change. Truth begins to take the place of lies. Chains begin to fall off. Transformation begins to happen and it’s important to know that Jesus first and foremost empowers the transformation and then calls us to trust and believe Him.

 I think this is how we start to align ourselves with God’s truth about His identity: we choose to trust and believe instead of surrendering to our worries and fears. The moment we take our eyes off our worries, our fears, and even the ways we think God is lacking and focus them on Jesus we allow change to happen. This heart posture of, “Lord I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m going to choose you even though I don’t understand,” is all the Lord needs to remind you of who He is. It’s an open invitation to know Him and be known by Him. 

Now why is this important? Why should we be rooted in the truth of who Jesus is instead of who we think He is?

Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Father except through union with me. To know me is to know my Father too. And from now on you will realize that you have seen him and experienced him.” John 14:6-7 TPT

It’s so easy for me to overlook this verse and just say, “Yupp. He sure is. I’ve heard this before.” But the moment I slow down and breathe and let this sink deep into my bones, I can’t help but be in awe.

 To put this simply: Jesus is everything.

 He is everything we will ever need—whether that’s where we are going, what we are believing, and even the air we breathe. And the best part of it is He’s inviting us into a union with Him.

He’s inviting us to know Him and be known by Him—to the depths of our being. He’s inviting us to see and experience who He is. He’s inviting us into truth and life because that’s who He is.  Jesus is inviting us into a relationship that encompasses every aspect of this declaration He has just made.

 When we trust and believe that Jesus is everything, nothing else matters. These identities He reveals in John 14 are quite literally filled with truth and life because that’s who He is. He’s not subject to changing, He’s actually constant and steadfast and these are the identities He empowers and calls us to believe in John 14:1. In this place of choosing belief over unbelief we break the holds the enemy has on our life. We begin to let light into dark places. We begin to choose resurrection over death. We choose a King who unconditionally empowers us and loves us however many times we need Him to.

 So in the times where you want to surrender to your worries and fears, I pray you would choose to trust and believe in Him instead. I pray you would choose to do the hard thing over the “easy” thing. I pray you would choose to fight instead of laying down. I pray you would choose light over darkness and resurrection over death. I pray you would choose this relationship that will always offer truth and life because that’s who you’re choosing: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Author | Elizabeth Sprinkle

Worship

Worship

Worship is at the heart of my relationship with God. I know it is a pivotal point in many people’s, but for me, if I don’t posture my heart toward God in worship, I’m not in a good place. Worship has given me countless moments with God that have pushed me to pursue Him even more. Worship has always pushed me to find God in the midst of the hard moments. In times when I did not know if I would find God, worship reminded me He was the same God in the hard moments as He was on the mountain tops.

 Worship brings us to a state of remembrance (s/o to Housefires for finally releasing I’ll Give Thanks). Just hearing that song brings me back to moments of intercession this past year whether it was a lead prayer, weekly staff prayer meetings, or personal moments. This one song reminds me of all God did throughout the entire year. It reminds me that there is so much more to believe in. I can point to so many songs that bring me back to these deep wells with God.

 Worship is like a spiritual reset button. This has been true throughout my entire college experience and into a summer that was characterized by difficulty. Summers are hard. Summers physically away from community are especially hard. Worship reminds me of the character of God when the ways that He works in my life has not been so evident.

 Worship has meant everything to my relationship with God this summer. I have been in a season that has been defined by resting in the actual character of God over any promises or anything I think I hear from God. When my mind and heart have not known how to trust God, my soul has remembered the person I’m trusting in when I have taken the space and time to worship.

The hard thing is worship in the summer outside of church can be hard, depending on how you define worship. Worship can look like playing worship music in your room at home, your apartment, or even just in a coffee shop. It’s not necessarily about the setting, it’s about the posture of your heart. If you aren’t feeling worship music that day, the book of Psalms can be a great tool to use to say over yourself, write down on a sticky note to read throughout the day, etc. Worship has to do with our positioning toward God.

 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” –Romans 12:1

Worship doesn’t even have to do necessarily with singing, it can be about the way we respond to the world around us. Worship puts God in His rightful place, it lifts Him up. So, if you’re at work and in a moment where you could be frustrated and take it out on your team, if you choose to serve and love them the best way you know how to, that is worship. Worship is any point where we can take the focus off ourselves and onto God.

When we worship, it postures our hearts to receive from God. That should never be the intention of worship. We should not worship just to treat it like a magic 8-ball that will give us the answer to every question. Worship just opens up the space for God to reveal Himself, and as He does so, our hearts and minds are set right. When our hearts and minds are right, we are better set up to hear God’s voice through all the other voices coming at us from our friends, family, culture, etc.

Author | Cristina Rosiles

I Am the Resurrection + the Life

I Am the Resurrection + the Life

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

“Do you believe this, Hannah?”

When I’m reading this, I cannot help but to imagine Jesus explaining to me that He is the resurrection and life and that believing this means that I will never die. And then Him straight up asking me: Do you believe this?

I think I would obviously want my answer to be yes. A resounding yes! And honestly, I think that if Jesus came and asked me that question right in this moment, I would say yes and mean it.

But...

But then begs the question: Am I living as though I believe this truth? Am I living as though I have access to the fullness of life and eternity?

I think in some ways I do live this way, but if I really sit and think about it, there are definitely ways that I am not living in the fullness of this truth.

Now, you might be sitting here thinking, “What does it even mean to live like that?” I don’t have all of the answers, but I think it’s beneficial to break down what Jesus really means when He says that we get to live life in this way.

Faith

If we are living with the assurance of eternal life, I think that this requires some faith. And faith is literally what this is all about. Living as though we have access to the fullness of life and eternity. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

I think this looks like if God asks us to do something—even if in our own eyes, it looks like the end result will be a disaster—we do it! I think it means that knowing that the hard stuff is worth it because it is walking in line with the One who loves us unconditionally. I think it means just trusting in God in every circumstance and believing Him to be good and to be who He says He is.

Hope

When we have faith, we also get to operate in hope. Hope means that we get to know that the best is yet to come and that when bad things are happening, we can rest in a supernatural peace that God has us. Now, this isn’t a self help thing, where we always just get to hope that every single thing we want is going to come to us. But it is knowing that no matter the outcome, God is going to care for us because He loves us and has our best interests at heart. We get to lean into the best case scenario instead of the worst case scenario.

Like in this story from John, we get to lean into hope that the dead will come to life. We get to lean into hope that the sick will be healed. We get to lean into hope that financial ruin will be reconciled. We get to lean into hope that broken relationships will be restored. We get to lean into hope that our histories will be redeemed. And this is all within complete reason because we have God on our sides when we believe Him to be who He says He is. Y’all, this is HUGE. I don’t know of any other way that we have access to this sort of hope outside of the love of Jesus. I don’t know of another religion, I don’t know of another lifestyle.

The fact that we have the hope of God just simply being who He says He is is insane!!! When we choose to believe Him, something crazy happens!!! He responds.

He responds

If you read the entirety of this passage from the Bible, you’ll see that Jesus’s friend Lazarus has died. And in the midst of this is where Jesus is talking to Martha about His giving access to eternal life.

When He asks her if she believes these things, she says yes. And she believes it. And what happens next is crazy: Jesus directly responds to her belief!! He quite literally walks into a grave of a man who has been dead for days and RAISES HIM TO LIFE. I mean, this is CRAZY!!!!!!! This blows me away.

When we believe and we have faith and we have hope in Jesus, He responds!! I don’t know all of the theology and mechanics and reasons behind it, but I just know He does. Faith and hope give space for God to do the literal impossible in our lives. Again, I don’t fully understand it, but I just know that this is what I see over and over and over again in the Bible, in my life and in my friends’ lives.

But what about doubt?

I think this could be easy to read this and be thinking, “Well, I have a lot of doubt, so I’m not sure how this would work.” Listen, I think that you can have faith and doubt simultaneously. Faith is choosing belief, choosing action, choosing hope and truth despite the doubt. It’s saying yes to God’s whisper when doubt is screaming in your ear. So, if you have doubt, that’s okay! Please do not feel shame.

I just want to encourage you that these things of faith and hope are for you. You don’t have to be some sort of special Christian to have access to these things. Jesus says if you believe, they are yours. 

I want to encourage you to sit down and ask God where there is space for faith and hope in your life. Ask Him to give you direction on what it would look like for you to live the truth Jesus speaks of here in John 11. He doesn’t want to keep you in the dark. He will give you direction. But simultaneously, He will give you grace upon grace upon grace. I’m SO excited for you to lean into more faith and hope and truth. It will bring about so much freedom and goodness and intimacy and joy!!!!!!

Author | Hannah Cole

Life at His Feet

Life at His Feet

I wonder if Mary’s heart was beating fast as she gazed upon her Savior for the first time. Her sister’s complaints fading into the background as she heard the sound of His feet walking around her home. He stops walking, and words of life start flowing from His lips. 

Her heart whispers, “Closer, Mary, closer.” She stops at His feet and sits. Listening intently to every word He says. 

This was the moment they met. At His feet. That was kind of Mary’s thing- intense adoration and beautiful devotion to her King. Each step Jesus took closer to her, she took another until she was there again- bending low in worship, bestowing beauty to the author of her heart. 

Jesus shared a precious exchange with Mary as well as her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus. There was a love there that bonded them together so uniquely. I can imagine when Lazarus became ill there was panic laced with faith. Death was on the table, but there was still hope because they knew Jesus.

But Jesus didn’t come until 4 days later (John 11:17), and Martha met the Lord in sorrow, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (John 11:21)

Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

“Yes, Lord,” She says. “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world” (John 11:27)

Gosh, do I commend her faith here or what. So many times when brokenness becomes too real of a reality I can lose sight of who I know the Lord to be. Even in heartbreak, Martha was resilient in her faith and hope in who Jesus was. 

Hearing of His coming, Mary ran out of her house to meet Him. I would love to have seen this moment between the two of them. Bloodshot eyes and tearstained cheeks, she once again fell at Her Savior's feet. This time filled with a defeat that pierced her soul.

“Lord, if you had been here…” she declared to Him and wept.

This moment wrecks me. I can so easily be Mary, can’t you? The countless moments we meet Him at His feet with wonder in our hearts- contemplating the brokenness of our reality and the divine timing, hope and life giving spirit of our King. They don’t always intertwine the way we dream for them to, do they? But then I read stories like this and it gravitates me back to the heart of God. It reminds me of who He really is. 

There was something in Mary’s posture, in her words that struck the Lord’s heart so deeply tears welled in His eyes. Though He was determined for His beloved family to know there was a greater glory on display, He wept with her. 

There bent low in the dirt, compassion met heartache as hope lingered on the horizon.

Can we stop here, just for a moment, in the dirt with them? This is where hurt sliced so deep and the God of life came closer and closer to His child in need. 

I read in a devotion this morning about the beauty of Jesus’ identity revealed in this chapter. It said:

“To Martha, Jesus established Himself as God.

To Mary, Jesus established Himself as human.” 

(She Reads Truth)

Resurrection. It’s not just a promise for the sting of death to leave. It’s a promise for rebirth and restoration. Dead things will live again. Cold hearts will beat again. Voids will be filled again. And life. It’s a promise of abundance, a fullness we can’t explain, a compassionate and deeply kind God who will always give love, and light, and life to His children. 

There are times I am so faint of heart that I just need Him, I just need His presence to do what only He can do. So when Jesus stopped, and wept with His girl, my heart is filled with so much hope that He will always stop in His tracks to give life back to my heart however it needs. 

Here with Mary, Jesus displays a great glory of God. He isn’t afraid to endure pain with us and even more, He isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes so that we may weep no more. 

The brokenness of grief remained in the tomb with Lazarus’ grave clothes, and the hope of Christ was established once again.

I wonder how their faith and hope felt after their brother’s resurrection. The admiration in their eyes gazing at their Savior. The gratitude in their hearts. Little did they know another tomb would soon hold the grave clothes of their King and resurrection and life would rise to greater heights than they could dream. 

Mary. A woman enthralled by her King never stopped drawing near to Him. Many days after her brother’s return to life, there was a dinner held for Jesus. Martha served like she always did and Mary drew closer, like she always did. She knelt at His feet and let her hair fall as she anointed the God of life. 

I pray that our faith would be encouraged by this story. That our hope would be restored in believing the Lord will give life to us forever. That like Mary, our hearts would long to sit at the feet of our King in every season. Jesus, crown your children with lovingkindness and redemption. Reveal yourself to us, with personal intimacy, the beauty of who you are. Thank you for never leaving us but filling us again and again. 

“How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness! Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring.” Psalm 84:5-6

Author | Emily Goldin

Community.

Community.

Community can look very different during the summer. Especially if you are going from a place with constant accountability like Wesley, to different places around the world away from what you’re used to, community can look very different. Your community may look like just you and your family, different faces every week, or a group of total strangers that you have to live with. Whatever it may look like for you, know that if you are struggling with it, you are not alone. Community over the summer is HARD.  

One of the biggest things I have struggled with over the years during summer break has been how to operate with healthy boundaries in a community that looks very different from our day to day at Wesley throughout the school year. At Wesley, we have a safe environment that encourages vulnerability in our relationships. Between small groups, discipleship, and friends who are chasing after God with you, you have numerous opportunities to open up and talk about what’s going on in your life in a healthy way. But when everyone separates for the summer a lot of these things stop. When this happens, how do you handle the shift? Because, God is still moving in your life, things are still happening that you may need to process out, you’re still human and therefore you are still going to face trials… So what do you do?

It has been my observation so many times that one of two things can happen when you don’t have your normal community to talk to.

  1. You overshare with people who probably don’t need to know all of these personal things about you.

  2. You isolate yourself and rebuild walls you spent the past year tearing down. You may not even realize you are doing so, because you mistake walls for boundaries. 

If you fall into this first category, it can get messy pretty fast. Community in your life should have different levels. Jesus demonstrates this in His time here on earth. He is kind and loving to every person He encounters, but He has 12 who truly know Him. Beyond that He has two that know more than the other 10, John and Peter. You could say they are Jesus’ right hand men and have the most access to Him and His life. Jesus modeled this lifestyle, and therefore it is important that we practice it as well. 

During the school year, you have your discipler/small group leader/mentor, and a couple of very close friends who will walk with you through the deepest parts of your life. These are what our director, Daniel Simmons, would call your “not everyone needs to know, but someone has to know” people. Then you have your friend groups, who get to do life with you, but aren’t going to know every detail. Then you have your coworkers and acquaintances, who get to spend time with you and have some good conversations here and there, but they won’t know everything you do. Then you have your peers, who you should be kind to and love them well, but they don’t get access to any part of your personal life. 

Over the summer, these circles get distorted due to differing physical locations, change in schedules, and other things that change your day to day interactions. So, if you are not with your close people, you may begin to crave talking out the things happening in the depths of your heart, especially if you are a verbal processor. But, its very important that you don’t go out and begin letting random people into places of your heart that they haven't earned access to yet. This can wind up hurting you, and may put unfair expectations on the other person that they won’t know how, or even be able, to meet, leaving you both hurt in the end. 

If you find yourself falling on this end of the spectrum some helpful tips to keep your boundaries clear and walk in spiritually healthy community are:

  1. Identify your inner circle people. (Your personal John and Peter) 

  2. If you are with them this summer, great! Do what you normally do :)

  3. If they are far away, set up some type of accountability system with them that works for the both of you. (For me, if I begin feeling a certain way that is connected to the deeper parts of me, I shoot my people a text and say “Hey! Just letting you know this is happening in me, I would love to talk when you are free. No rush, I’m just texting you now so you can hold me accountable to talk about it when we are together.” Yours may look similar, or it may be totally different, as long as both of you are happy with it, do your thing :) Accountability is key.

  4. Know yourself. Take notice of patterns you fall into, what emotions are drawn out in what circumstances? When you begin to identify triggers to emotional things that may be heavy for you (or just topics that identify with the depths of your heart), make sure you have an outlet where you can talk about it after you experience these things so you don’t spill your guts to the first person you see. 

  5. Journal. If you don’t have a way to contact your people, writing everything out on a page can be extremely helpful to both process, and have as a reference for whenever you get back with your people and want to talk. 

Now, if you find yourself falling into the second category, it can be a little sneakier, but eventually it will cause issues down the road. Not having set times in your week with the people you normally let in can cause your mind to start spinning in circles and you can easily forget to look at what God is doing in a certain situation. If you have a hard time trusting people you may not know how to reach out and speak up when something is stirring inside of you. And when you get around new people you may act more cautious as a means to not let people in too early. There is a lot of wisdom to this one, but sometimes, in an effort to maintain healthy boundaries you can accidentally build a wall in its place. By hiding what is happening within you to those around you, the walls begin to form and eventually trap everything into a small compartment where even you may not be able to reach them. To some of you, that may sound great because it means you won’t feel the hard things. But I can promise you that that is not the case. I have learned that numbness is a type of pain we don’t have words for. You think you’re good but when you finally crash, it hurts more than before because the whole time you were numbing, the wound was digging deeper. 

So how do you avoid numbing your feelings and isolating yourself in the summer when your community is not around? I would say that my advice is pretty similar to the first side, the difference is the inner battle in yourself you will need to overcome when putting them into practice.

  1. Know your inner circle people.

  2. Set up your accountability - and actually reach out to them. 

  3. Journal - let God into this process with you.

  4. Make plans. Don’t get swept away in your inner world and pull back from normal community fun. Hang out with people. You can have a healthy balance of rest and activities. 

    1. If your summer is pretty dull, try to set a schedule and stick to it. It can have grocery store runs, cooking, gym time, and reading on it in addition to work and plans with people. But stick with it, this will help you avoid overthinking everything by yourself or, on the flip-side, just laying in bed and not addressing anything going on in your life.

  5. Take time to remember how far God has brought you in the past year. It may surprise you how much He has moved - this will help you to maintain your breakthroughs and keep yourself from falling back into old habits and keep your eyes towards God when you feel alone. 

Summertime can be the best - but it can also be really tough. So keep your head held high and keep moving forward, God has good things for you this summer. And August will be here sooner than you know. :))


Author | Tori Kramer

The Shepherd & The Sheep

The Shepherd & The Sheep

I love that Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  A shepherd is such a perfect way to describe who he is to us.  It gives us a window into God’s character. In John 10:1-21, Jesus tells the Pharisees the parable of the Good Shepherd.  

“I alone am the Good Shepherd, and I know those whose hearts are mine, for they recognize me and know me,  just as my Father knows my heart and I know my Father’s heart. I am ready to give my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

First I think it’s important to understand the parallels in this passage.  Jesus says that He is a mirror image of the Good Shepherd that he is describing, and Jesus is a mirror image of God.  So when I’m describing the character of the shepherd, I’m also talking about the character of Jesus and ultimately God.  God is so kind to give us Jesus.  He is God in human form, so we can understand Him better.  God got on our level to make sure we understand his character.  

“But the true Shepherd walks right up to the gate, and because the gatekeeper knows who he is, he opens the gate to let him in. And the sheep recognize the voice of the true Shepherd, for he calls his own by name and leads them out, for they belong to him. And when he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them and they will follow him, for they are familiar with his voice.” John 10:2-4

The sheep know their shepherd, they recognize his voice, and they follow him.  Jesus says the sheep will run away from a stranger and not follow him because they know it is a voice of a stranger.  How beautiful that is.  It’s a mirror image of what our life with God is like.  We belong to God, He has made us part of His flock; therefore we recognize His voice.  He created us with the ability to know our creator and know His voice.  

I love that. We were created to know God.  You innately know the voice of God.  He has been speaking to you your whole life.  You are not the exception to the rule.  

God is trustworthy.  The sheep follow their shepherd without hesitation.  They have pure, untainted trust in the shepherd.  They will follow him wherever he goes because they know that the shepherd has good intentions.  The shepherd knows what’s best for his sheep and will not lead them astray.  

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  John 10:10-11

The image of a shepherd shows us the sacrificial love that God has for us.  John 10:11 says that the good shepherd will sacrifice his life for his sheep.  God made the ultimate sacrifice by sending his son to die for our sins.  God is not in the business of giving up on us.  He was willing to sacrifice his son in order to have a right relationship with us.  So He’s not giving up on you now. 

When I read that passage, it makes me feel safe.  Part of the shepherd’s job is to make sure that his sheep are safe and the thief does not harm his sheep.  He is even willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  God will keep us safe.  He is our protector.  He does not want any harm to come to His own.  It’s super comforting to know that the creator of the universe is on our side.  

“If a man owns a hundred sheep and one lamb wanders away and is lost, won’t he leave the ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go out and thoroughly search for the one lost lamb? And if he finds his lost lamb, he rejoices over it, more than over the ninety-nine who are safe. Now you should understand that it is never the desire of your heavenly Father that a single one of these humble believers should be lost.”  Matthew 18:12-14

I know this isn’t part of the same parable, but I think it’s important to talk about.  In all this talk about the shepherd protecting his flock and the sheep following him, it could be easy for you to think that you’re just part of a crowd.  That the shepherd doesn’t notice you.  But he does.  God knows YOU.  Individually.  I love that in Matthew 18, Jesus is using the analogy of sheep again. If just one sheep wanders off, the shepherd will go after it and will rejoice when he finds the lost sheep.  

So all these things that are true about God are true in your individual relationship with God.  God sees you in his flock of sheep, and you are important to him.  So here’s a list of characteristics about God that I see from this parable of the Good Shepherd.  Even if you can’t fully believe these things about Him, try relating to Him as if He is these things anyway.  Speak it until you believe it.  

God is kind

He is good

He is trustworthy

He speaks to you, and you know His voice

He is gentle

He is a strong leader

He is protector

He is provider

He is our guide

He wants good things for us

He is comforter

He is safe

He is home

Author | Sam Forbes

The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is My Shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1 ESV

 Wow. What a declaration David makes. David, who was also a shepherd, knew the depths and the power of this declaration. He knew the hours of hard work and labor it takes to be a shepherd. He knew how tough it was to keep the flock of sheep together and he also knew how rewarding it was to find his sheep that had been scattered. He knew every aspect of what it means to be a good shepherd and how much that job requires of you. This statement is drenched in intimacy, hope, and confidence because David knew the faithfulness and intentionality of the Lord on such a deep level. David fully related to the Lord as “his shepherd” because the Lord met him in those places. The Lord met him on those long nights turned into early mornings. He met David in the valleys and on the mountains, in the pouring rain or the sunniest day of the year. It didn’t matter where David was, the Lord was always there with him making sure he wanted for nothing.

 I think it’s important to understand that if the Lord is the shepherd of our lives, then we have to be His sheep. That’s the role we have in this relationship: He is the shepherd and we are the sheep. What does this mean? It means we have zero obligations or expectations other than being a sheep. The Lord expects nothing from us; He carries all the responsibility in this relationship because He is the shepherd, not us. So when David writes this Psalm he fully understands the role of being a shepherd, but he also understands the role of being a sheep because the Lord has this place in his life.

 But, what exactly is the job of a shepherd? You see, David knew the Lord as shepherd because David was a shepherd. Before David was anointed to be king, he was keeping the sheep for his father and I can only imagine in 2019 shepherds are few and far between these days. So, what does a shepherd do? Obviously a shepherd takes care of sheep, but there has to be more to it than just standing around looking at a herd of sheep all day and all night right?

 Shepherds honestly have the hardest job of anybody. They have to maintain the health of their sheep, as individual sheep and as a herd, and they have to find the sheep if they have wandered off. Being a shepherd is a 24/7 job with no breaks and no rest. While this is the hardest job, it is also the most important job. If it weren’t for the shepherd there would be sheep everywhere doing whatever they wanted to do. Back in the Old Testament they didn’t have fence lines like we do now; they just had wide open fields where everything could roam together. Quite literally, shepherds take on the role of a vet, search-and-rescue team, and a fence all in one. It’s crazy all the responsibility shepherds carry, but what’s crazier is all the opportunity shepherds have access to.

 Shepherd’s get to build and steward life and they protect the sheep when an enemy comes against them. They provide safety and security for their herd of sheep and they provide healing if the sheep get sick or injured. I mean this is some anointed, heavenly work if you ask me. Shepherds are fully responsible for every aspect of a sheep’s life and in the exact same way, the Lord is the shepherd of our lives. He builds, stewards, protects, heals, and anoints us as His people.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5 ESV

 A little context for this verse—In the Old Testament, it was very common for shepherds to anoint their sheep. During the summertime, sheep are susceptible to a disease known as “scab.” This disease is super contagious among a herd of sheep and is caused by a microscopic parasite that thrives in warm weather. Scab is a disease that could wipe out an entire herd of sheep and in order to heal this disease shepherds have to go, catch the sheep, and individually anoint their head and bodies with oil. How intentional this act is for the shepherd to care for his sheep.

Now let’s apply this verse knowing the intentionality and context behind it.

Not only does the Lord prepare the table in the presence of our enemies, He invites us to sit down and eat. We aren’t meant to stand against the wall while everyone else eats at the table. As the sheep of the Good Shepherd, we are created to sit down at the table and freaking eat. And not only are we created to eat, we are empowered to eat. You’re battling shame? Okay. Sit down at the table and be anointed by the Lord. You’re battling fear? Sit down and eat. You’re battling every sin in the book? Okay. Sit down, let the Lord bring a 5-course meal, and eat every bit of it in the presence of your enemy. When you “eat” the Lord’s goodness and truth in front of your enemy you are actually disempowering the hold he has on you. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” Basically, the Lord wipes His feet on the floor mat of the enemy. So, when the promise is “you anoint my head with oil” you are empowered by the very breath of heaven. Just like the shepherd anoints the sheep to heal scab, the Lord will anoint you to empower and to heal even the dirtiest, most diseased places of who you are.

 Shepherds are with their sheep through thick and thin. In the midst of every storm, every sunny day, every lost moment, shepherds are there making sure their sheep lack in nothing. Sheep would die without the shepherd taking care of them, and I think the Lord is inviting us into that kind of dependence on Him.

“You were like sheep that continually wandered away, but now you have returned to the true Shepherd of your lives—the kind Guardian who lovingly watches over your souls.” 1 Peter 2:25 TPT

 Every moment you’ve wandered away, every time you’ve been afraid or broken, every time you were scattered from the Lord, He’s waited patiently for you to return. He’s sought you out, anointed you time and time again, and even empowered you to face your enemies every time. He’s made sure you’ve lacked in nothing and has filled your cup till it was overflowing. He is the Good Shepherd that lovingly watches over your soul, over your heart, over every part of who you are and He invites you to come home no matter how far you wander away.

So Lord, we ask you to take your place as the Good Shepherd in our lives while we take our place as the sheep. Remind us that you are in charge—that it’s your job to take care of us. Help us, empower us, anoint us to be so dependent on you that we would trust and know you as the one who cares for our deepest needs and desires. Remind us that you lovingly watch over and care for every part of who we are. Thank you that you expect nothing from us and you actually empower us every day. Thank you for the grace you give us to be your sheep while you’re the Good Shepherd—come and have your way in our lives Lord. We need you, we want you, and we are desperate to encounter you. Thank you for your grace-filled, unconditional love Lord. You’re better than our wildest dreams.

Author | Elizabeth Sprinkle

A Beloved Family.

A Beloved Family.

Family has always been God’s design for us. All throughout Scripture we see God bringing back together family like in the stories of Jacob and Esau and the prodigal son to show God’s heart is for us to live together, being for each other as deeply as possible. Even though it is God’s original design for us, unfortunately, humanity doesn’t always get it right. We are people; therefore, we are flawed. No matter how good we like to believe we are, we are prone to error. So, family on Earth is messy. We all come from different upbringings that have shaped our foundation and that have given us unhealthy tendencies in one form or another.

God’s design was corrupted at the fall. You see moment after moment after moment throughout history of people turning against each other, brother turning on brother, father turning on son, grandparents turning on grandchildren, etc. Part of God’s redemption arc for humanity is bringing us back together into family. One of the greatest gifts that God could give to us is the fact that community is meant to mirror family.

One thing I am absolutely convinced of is that God’s redesign is ALWAYS better than the original. There is a fascinating verse in the Bible that constantly reminds me of this nature. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But all of us who reflect the Lord’s glory with an unveiled face are being transformed into his own image, from one degree of glory to another. This too is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The interesting part is we don’t know what better looks like. We actually cannot conceptualize what better looks like, because we have yet to experience it. So, if you come from a rough family life, there is better for you. If you come from a great family, there is still better to be experienced with God. We are constantly moving from one degree of glory to another, what a wonderful gift that God can give us. God, in his infinite kindness, gives us a second chance at family as we grow up and have the ability to choose our family, our people. Even better yet, God gives us another chance at being a part of his family. 

Family is hard for some and a treasure for others. Your family is the most fundamental building block of the way you operate. Whether we see it or are desperately fighting against it, your family is a large part of who you are and why you do the things you do. You can let that be a good thing, even if your family history isn’t so good. Your family might have done the best they absolutely could or they might have royally messed up, you can still find the goodness of God in it. God is offering the most hope-filled alternative in offering you your place in his eternal family. He is choosing you. Nothing else matters. It is you and God FOREVER. God chooses you in every stage of life, not just the you right now. God has seen the scared little kid you used to. God has seen the angry, angst teenage you used to be. God has seen the cocky, eighteen year old young buck you used to be, thinking you had it all together. God chooses each side of you. 

“And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” –Romans 8:15

We’re all moving towards something at any point, desperate to belong somewhere. That truth isn’t a bad thing, it is simply a state of the human condition. As you draw closer to God, you will come to the simply truth that you are enough for God. You have never been an orphan. We may act out of an orphan mindset, but you have always been chosen by God. You, exactly as yourself, mistakes and brokenness as you are is enough. You are 100% entitled to be exactly where you are, whether that is a good or bad place.  

You are defined by your family, and it is okay to say that. Your new family is God’s, that includes the people you get to do life with. Your family is your people, let that comfort you over the summer. You are not doing life by yourself for yourself. You are doing life with people for God. There is no such thing as lone ranger Christianity. Let that truth wash over you today. God did not leave you stranded this summer, whether you are back home or in a completely new city. God is right beside you, let God love you in the place you are in right now. He longs to love you in this moment, let him show you his love for your season right now. Let his love look differently this summer, it is a good thing. I promise.

Author | Cristina Rosiles

Brighter and Clearer

Brighter and Clearer

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16 

My name - Claire - means “bright and clear.” As a child I had a blanket with my name and this verse embroidered on the corner. I used to run my fingers over the stitching, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” It brought me joy and made me proud of my name. 

Over the years, however, there have been times when this passage filled me with shame and sorrow - a fear that my light had dimmed, or worse, gone out. 

There have been plenty of days when it seemed impossible that I ever have or ever could shine bright and clear enough to light a house, much less a city. 

Things that make me feel dim: 

  • Distraction 

All too often I find myself running to a thousand different things - tv, food, friends, etc. I am searching for rest and joy, but I am left feeling frantic and frail. 

  • Disobedience 

Ouch. This one hurts but it’s so true. I actively resist Christ, along with His compassions and commands, and my clarity suffers. This often comes from and/or results in deeper fear, reverence, or love for something other than Jesus in my life.  

  • Denial 

Denial prolongs my battle with distraction and disobedience. I pull the covers up over head and hide just a little longer.

We all have our ways of feeling dim. We can even get comfortable in the lower light, in the squinting and suffering. But Jesus calls us higher and deeper - and brighter and clearer. He calls us to Himself. 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 

The light, the imparting of it, the maintaining of it, the brightness, the clarity - it doesn’t come from us. It comes from the Light of the world. Our light then, depends on our proximity to the Source, on our willingness to let Him be our keeper. It comes from our denial of distraction and things that dim. 

We come to Him - flickering and fighting, covered in dust and darkness - and He wipes us clean, so that we may shine again, brighter and clearer. It is Him who brings us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is Him who finishes the work in us (Philippians 1:6). It is Him who polishes and positions us to shine as a city on a hill.

Jesus, 

You are the Light of the World. You are our source of light. I’m sorry for when I run to the dimmer and darker things. Restore brightness and clarity once again. Thank you for your command and kindness in helping us complete it. 

I love you. Amen 


Author | Claire Jordan

I am the Light

I am the Light

One thing that I have realized about Jesus over the years is that while He is humble and walks in the utmost humility, that does not shake the fact that He is fully confident in His identity: He knows who He is and whose He is. Whose He is matters because when we know that Jesus is God’s, we can fully trust what He says about who He is.

In John 8:12, Jesus tells us that He is the light of the world. Since Jesus is so sure in the truth surrounding His identity, I think it’s important that we take seriously His choice to use the word “light” here. When He says that He is a light, what does this say about His character in a way that we can truly relate to?

I think that there is a lot more that can go into this, but I think more than anything, I realize a sense of how absolutely safe Jesus is. I know that may seem like a bit of a jump, but don’t worry—I’m going to elaborate!

What do you look for in a friend? Obviously, there are a lot of things that I like to see in my friendships, but a big one for me is safety. I want to be free to be myself around them without fear. If something hard is going on or there’s something that I don’t love about my past, I want to know I can open up those parts of my heart to them without being judged. I want them to know my hopes and dreams and for those things to be celebrated and not pushed to the side.

When I think about Jesus being the light, I think about how light exposes everything in its path. So, if Jesus is the light of the world, when He is around us, things are going to be exposed. The good, the bad, the ugly. My past sins? Seen. My hopes and dreams? Seen. Literally every single aspect of my heart and my mind? Seen.

And at first thought, the idea of that vulnerability can be honestly really scary. The things of our hearts are special, so letting Jesus expose all of these things (since He is the light) can be a lot to take in. However, a few verses later in the same conversation, Jesus tells us that He judges no one. If you look at this passage from John 8 and then one a few chapters later in John 12, you will see that both times when Jesus talks about being the light, He also talks about trust and the idea of judgement. Jesus tells us that He is not here on earth to judge.

This is important: when Jesus tells us He is the light, He almost immediately follows this by saying that He does not judge. He knows that it can be scary to expose our hearts and our histories and literally every part of our hearts, but after He tells that we are seen, He lets us know that what is seen is not judged. We actually get to choose to trust Jesus and be in relationship with Him instead of simply being scared of HIs judgement.

So, when we realize that Jesus is trustworthy and that His seeing us is a good thing, we get to live in the safety of friendship with Jesus. So, what does this mean for us?

I think that it means that we get to live in the freedom of knowing that God is trustworthy. He sees our sin, and when we live in Jesus, He chooses to not judge us for it. He actually loves us, comforts us, and calls us out of the darkness and into the higher places. Every single part of our hearts is safe with Him, and we have the privilege to choose to trust Him.

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to just sit and be with Jesus. (Maybe play some peaceful background music like this.) Ask Him to come in and be the light. Ask Him to expose the good things He sees in you. Ask Him to expose the hard places. Acknowledge that He doesn’t judge. (If you feel judgement in shame in this moment, know that this is not of Jesus. That is not in His character. Hold fast to the truth of His character and not any negative things you’re feeling in the moment.) Ask Him where He wants to go from here. And even where it’s hard, allow Him in. The places and peace that will come in this process are worth it.


Author | Hannah Cole

Summer Intimacy.

Summer Intimacy.

Meditate on His word.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. "

John 15:4-5 NIV

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The summer is full of wonder, and mostly time. Long days, warm nights, twinkling stars, and golden sunsets call summer its natural home. During the season of beauty and awakening, an abundance of God's words freely flow like fireflies in the night, waiting for someone to notice and capture the magnificence. If you look, the Lord is painted within every character of summer, as her breeze dries the sweat on your brows. It's a beautiful time to be with God and to wait with Him for the promise of fall to come.

It can feel exciting to have this special type of freedom, but the solidarity of the few months can also provoke anxiety for the very same reason. Structure has the potential to be small, alone time makes itself more certain frequently, and purpose/calling/mission of your life can feel temporary or at a distance.

Of course, this can all depend on where you are or what God has called you to this season. For some, the summer can be full of adventure in a foreign place or it can be full of adventure right where you have been for a long time.

Either still and slow or from one adventure to the next, summer is a season of waiting and anticipation. And it requires full surrender.

In my experience, this summer has been slow. So slow, I am almost wishing fall would come sooner. It's okay that I am honest about the way I feel toward this season, but I know I need the rest. It’s painful for someone that is used to running about 100 mph with a full schedule for most of her life. Last time I was in a period of stillness, it didn’t go so well for me. However, I knew before entering, the Lord was calling me to rest in a way I never had before. It's the beginning of July, and I am finally learning to love where I am.

The acceptance of this season, and seasons in my past, has given me peace only by wholeheartedly handing my need to control and understand everything to the Lord. It is truly incredible the amount of heart work and revelation I have gained through this simple and continual act of dying to myself.

To be honest, I spend most seasons with Him intimately through surrender to my flesh and obedience to His Spirit. I need to do this most in seasons that are still and slow, because my mind tends to wonder, anxiety increases, and then I begin fill my schedule with useless addictions. This tends to happen when am running ahead of Him.

For me, the surrender looks like choosing to be connected to Him every day despite my fears, doubts, and uncertainty about the future. I intentionally seek Him when I first wake up, and ask Him to create my day. I ask Him to be Lord over how I react to my day reflecting the essence of everything that is Him. Intentionally asking Him to be Lord doesn't happen everyday, if I am honest. Sometimes, I rant about what is on my mind or rush into reading scripture without asking Him to reveal Himself through the words. I want Him to be Lord, so I am more frequently trying to avoid projecting every emotion or religious tendencies on Him without asking His love to be present first. The first gaze upon His eyes affects everything.

After I know that my spirit is connecting with Him, I read His word or do something with Him that is on my heart or feels "right." Sometimes, I have gut intuitions that lead me to what we are supposed to do together and sometimes it's hard to be obedient. This is a part of being disciplined in my faith. What I find over and over again, each time I surrender to His leading, the time spent with Him is always amazing and exactly what I needed.

Most of the time, He gives me freedom to choose however I want to spend time with Him. Remember, He called us friends… not slaves.

This summer I am taking the mornings to create spiritual discipline, reading through the Old Testament and New Testament in a parallel form. I have more time in the mornings, so this gives me space to really dissect what I am reading and experience Him through accounts of the beginning of creation, Joseph, Moses and Jesus/His disciples at the same time. It has actually been really fun, and sometimes difficult too.

Throughout the day, I try to stay connected to Him all the time. I am always talking to Him in my mind, asking Him questions, inviting Him to lead me, and asking Him to awaken me to His kingdom everywhere I go. Talking to Him without ceasing has been a quite process throughout my life. Even now, sometimes I find myself complaining or questioning rather than letting Him speak to me or show me His faithfulness in my life and in life surrounding me.

I also stay connected with Him by having worship music playing or silence (allowing conversation with Him) whenever I am in the car or in the house. I find that it purifies my thoughts, or turns into a song of prayer. I'll often speak to Him about other people. My friends, family, issues I care about, and ministries are often on my mind. When hopelessness or concern about them enters, I immediately cast all of my cares on Him. Again, this has been a process and more often than not, it takes me a second to remember not to dwell on what is on my mind but talk to God about them. I find myself shifting atmospheres quite a bit, too. So, whenever I am driving around Athens, running on campus, or completing errands, I am always praying-- releasing hope, joy, love, and revival in those places.

During this season I am trying to stay connected to community and spiritual guides as best as I can. In other seasons, those two things can be automatic, but in seasons of transition or isolation, it takes effort to choose to be vulnerable and held accountable with the family God has given me in Athens. This summer, I have been intentionally surrounding myself among trustworthy friends and I meet with my spiritual mother at least once a week. Every time, I experience the Lord with them as I surrender to the treasures of the Lord I hold and the treasures they have for me, even when it is difficult to be vulnerable or trust.

In the evenings, I go on runs with God or sometimes walks, and I ask Him to be so present I can feel His touch. I often see Him in creation with little ways He knows I receive Him. I enjoy the sunsets or the night full of stars most, so those are often the times that are the most intimate for us.

I also love to do things with Him like sitting at Jit Joes in five points with an iced coffee and a mind full of revelation or contemplation and my laptop. In these moments, I like to write what I am feeling or pieces of revelation to give other people! Other times, I look through my old journals full of prophetic words and encounters with Him from seasons past. He reminds me of His faithfulness and beauty throughout my life.

Believe my words and experience. It is possible to be intimate in the Lord with everything you do… I even go hit softballs off the tee sometimes with Him!

In the process of allowing yourself to surrender to His intimacy in everything, do things together you love, be obedient to the things you don't love, and let Him speak more than you do.

Ask Him to reveal Himself in everything that you are seeing -- people, places, His creation, etc. Go to a coffee shop. Hike on nearby trails. Have a date with Him. Consume His word with your Spirit. Listen to worship music and praise Him in every environment. Pursue intimate relationship friends and intentionally ask them about their relationship with the Lord. Be vulnerable. Be challenged. Run or dance. Find Him in books, in movies, in sporting events. Speak with Him wherever you go. Invite Him into your dreams. Surround yourself in love, peace, and joy. Be healthy with Him. Cook with Him. Eat with Him. Live this season unselfishly surrendered to the journey He is unfolding, whether steady rain, vibrant sun, cool air, dry wind, or intense storm.

He is Immanuel- God with us. He isn't going anywhere, and it is always perfect timing to get to know him… no matter the season.

Author | Emily Helton

Our True Provider

Our True Provider

So many times there are things in our life that we think are too much for God.  We think that we have to fix them ourselves or figure out how to maneuver our way through life while dealing with these things.  That is just not true.  God wants nothing more than to be a part of every aspect of our lives both big and small.  When we think about God as our provider, we typically think about Him providing financially and I know just as well as you do, that He does that in abundance for every person who gives Him the opportunity.  But how else can we let God provide for us? 

As I began praying my way through this topic, I remembered the story in the gospels about the woman with the issue of blood.  This woman had been suffering for twelve years from constant bleeding.  The story tells us that she had spent every penny she had on seeing specialists and no one could find a cure.  She had one last resort.  She needed to find Jesus. Luke 8:44 it tells us “she touched the fringe of His robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.” Without even asking for anything or expressing her need, this woman was healed! I don’t know about you, but if I was her, I would have stopped right then and there and shouted or done a dance or something! She was healed!! But that’s not this woman’s story.  Jesus asked who touched Him and no one would own up to it, until she realized she could not hide.  When she fell in front of Him, she explained to Him how she had only touched His robe and that she was immediately healed and He responded “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Can you imagine? 

What if we approached our issues with this mindset? What if we were confident that just one touch from Jesus would be exactly what we need? What if we knew without any doubts that one encounter with Him would be the way to heal our hearts? We would probably live life a little differently.  So as you remember God as a provider, I think it is so important to remember that he provides more than just money. He provides safety and security. He provides adventure and freedom.  He provides healing that is complete and full. Many times it seems like our last resort, but maybe we should start to see Jesus as our initial instinct. Just to touch Him. 

There is a song that so beautifully paints the picture of this story.  My favorite lines are part of a verse and the chorus.  It is so simple and so sweet. It says:

Well I'm desperate 'cause it's never or it's now

If I could just touch the hem of His garment

I know I'd be made whole

If I could just press my way through this madness

His love would heal my soul

(One Touch: Nicole C Mullens)

I pray today, we can see Jesus as the only true provider of this beautiful life that we get to live.  That we see Him in a way that highlights His glory and wonder. Because of this we would long daily for Him to provide everything that we need both big and small.

Author | Morgan Attebery

The Source of Life

The Source of Life

Imagine our entire Wesley body, all 1000 + of us climbing up a mountain together. Now imagine that times five. Climbing up the mountain step by step, a crowd so thick forming not even the mountain top is visible anymore. Can you imagine the sweat dripping down our backs, the dirt on our feet, the grumbling of our bellies…the wonder in our hearts as we made our way up the ascension in search of Jesus?

I imagine this to be like the five thousand seeking the One who could perform signs on the sick and leave their eyes astonished at the miracles before them.

Who could this man be? How could it be? When death hovered so closely, when thirty years of illness lingered, just His word alone brought forth life that should have been impossible. 

Every step they took on that rocky hill marked by the anthem of their search “who is He?”

As they searched, He saw them. One by one arising to the ground He stood on, and He didn’t miss the emptiness their journey brought. 

His first thought when He saw them lingered around filling their stomachs: “Philip, where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” John 6:5

Now can you sit with me here and imagine Philip? Jesus knew He was asking a trick question, but here’s Philip staring at the horizon of the mountain watching person after person making their way up. I would’ve thrown my hands up and laughed like Sarah. The impossible things you say, Lord!!!

Here is Philip. “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” John 6:6

Have you ever been in a position where even the best solution you could dream up wouldn’t really even cover the need you see in front of you?

Same. 

Sometimes I will let myself dream of the best solutions…the ideal ones that make my heart giddy. I see colorful life building up, lights shining bright, every good thing coming forth and I drink it all in. Gosh, yes, this would be perfect.

And then I get a scary dose of reality and all the bright lights dim, all the color fades, and I just see the black and white. But…it won’t work. It’s not working. 

It’s in those moments that the emptiness deep in my heart, deep in my belly creeps back in again, and I realize just how much I’ll need God to come through to make any kind of ends meet to my dreams, to my reality, to my life. 

So, with empty bellies shouting loudly, what did Jesus do?

He gave them their fill. As much as they wanted. And nothing was lost. No one was missed. No stomach wished for more.

Yet, even on the mountain getting their fill, they had only guesses for their search of who He could be.

“He’s the prophet!” they declared. But, even their best guesses of the king he could be, didn’t compare to the King He was. They still didn’t understand. All they could think about was their history- the way God had provided for Israel in the Wilderness and the way He had provided for them on the mountain. But every moment they deemed Him provider was based solely on temporary sustenance.

Jesus is the King who permanently sustains our lives not the king who temporarily fixes our emptiness.

He is the source of our lives.

So just a few days after they took bread from His hands and ate their fill, they heard the words of life spill out over His tongue as He said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35)

This statement was radical. He was telling them who He was- the kind of King He is. The source of all life.

Whether you’re in a season of ascension, seeking out more of Him, wondering at who He is, wondering at the miracles He’s done before you…or if you’re in a season looking at what’s ahead and not even your dreamiest solutions could handle the multitude before you…I encourage you to dwell in His presence and remind yourself of the kind of King He is.

He’s the King who doesn’t let emptiness get the last word. He fills every gap and nothing is missed. He speaks and life springs forth.

He is and life flows.

Jesus, we are in awe of you. You are the King of Life. The One we so long for, the One our deepest cravings are satisfied with. Thank you for never leaving us thirsty or hungry. Fill us to overflowing, Lord. Fill our hearts, fill our minds, fill our emptiness. Where we doubt provision, may Your presence break open doors of impossibility. You are our everything. Thank you for who You are, King Jesus.

Author | Emily Goldin

Summer Survival Guide

Summer Survival Guide

Summer is a special time.  It’s my favorite season and it holds a special place in my heart.  There’s a freedom and playfulness that doesn’t seem to be there in other seasons.  The days are longer and I have more time for things I love.  

As much as I love summer, I notice that I sometimes put God on the back burner.  I don’t do it intentionally.  I just fill my days with other things, then realize that I haven’t been including God in my plans.  Honestly it makes sense that it’s harder for us to find God in the summer.  During the school year, we have a rhythm with God.  You have certain times a day you know you will spend with God, reading, or listening to worship music.  You have different activities in your schedule with a community of people also going after God.  Once summer comes, your rhythm with God is changed because your schedule changes.  You might have so much time you don’t know what to do with it, or you might be so busy that you think you have no time at all for God.  Either way it’s so important that you know you can thrive spiritually in a season that looks different than what you’re used to.  

My advice to you if you’re feeling disconnected with God in the summer:  think about what you normally do in the school year to connect to God and do those things.  It’s so simple.  You just have to intentionally put God into your new schedule and make a new rhythm with Him.  

Here are some things that I do to connect with God.  

Get in the word.  If you want to know God’s heart and learn what His voice sounds like, it’s important to know His word.  Get to know His character.  Pick a book of the bible and start reading.  

Listen to worship music.  Worship Him.  

Beni Johnson says this about worship in The Happy Intercessor- “The Greek word for worship is proskuneo; it means ‘to kiss.’  It is a feeling or attitude within us that keeps us close to God…. Worship comes from within us and goes with us throughout our day.  When we adore God, we are kissing Him.”  

Journal your prayers.  Write down your thoughts.  Let God speak through you.  Go back and read your journal from the past and take note where God has come through.  If He did it once, it’s a lot easier to believe He’ll do it again.

Read books.  I highly recommend Garden City and God Has a Name by John Mark Comer! 

Talk to God.  Out loud.  Randomly thank Him for things.  A relationship is built from spending time with someone and having constant dialogue. 

Surround yourself with community.  This one is so important for the summer.  We lose our built in community, so you have to intentionally create it for yourself.  Reach out to people.  They need community too.

Do something creative with God.  Get out of your box.  Take a risk and include God in the process.  Paint something, create something with your hands, design something.  Do it without the pressure of perfection.  Just let God create through you.

Those were some things I like to do to connect with God, but there are so many other ways.  

I also want to say that your life wasn’t meant to be compartmentalized into “God things” and “regular life things.”  Literally everything you do, God is involved in it.  So everything that you love about summer, beautiful landscapes, yummy food, driving with the windows down, God wants you to enjoy those things.  He delights in the fact that these things give you joy.  So practice bringing God into the simple things you delight in by simply thanking Him.  

Summer is a special time with God.  There’s less distractions.  All you have to do is look at Him, and He’s there, excited to spend time with you.  

Author | Sam Forbes

 The Most Precious Claim

The Most Precious Claim

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Jesus released cultural whiplash with those two words.

The Jewish leaders started looking for stones to throw at Him. To them, what Jesus said was blasphemy against God. To those who trust in Him, it is His most precious claim.

The Pharisees knew exactly to what He was referring. In Exodus 3, God called Moses to go and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses asked God, “who should I say has sent me?” God replied,

“I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14).

I AM - by giving Himself this name, God was declaring Himself eternal, completely self-sufficient, and uncaused. There was none before Him and He is forever. When Jesus took the name upon Himself, He revealed Himself to be God and claimed His very nature.

This claim supports the start of the gospel of John, in which John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1-2).

The Greek word here for “Word” is logos. Greek philosophers referred to logos as the “the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning.” It was seen as the force behind all perfection and harmony in nature. They spent their lives trying to find/define/pin-down logos. Some believed it to be a set of rules, while others thought it may be the feeling of happiness itself. For the Jews, it was the law of the Old Testament. Regardless, they agreed that the ultimate goal in life was to align with this logos.

Enter Jesus - who broke the rules, shirked His own feelings, and gave His very life to be with you.

The logos - what we are to align ourselves to - is not a set of rules or a fleeting feeling, it is the person of Jesus. For, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:4). He is God - the perfection and harmony behind nature, the source of life, the unchanging, eternal force of existence itself - the “I AM.”

He entered into His own creation that we may align with Him. He came to take our scramblings for self-righteousness and give us Himself - the source of perfection.

And as we see with the Pharisees in this passage, He does not please the world or what is left of the world in us. He denies what we know to be true and flips our little worlds upside down.

Dallas Willard said it best in The Divine Conspiracy:

“He comes where we are, and he brings us the life we hunger for. An early report reads, "Life was in him, life that made sense of human existence" (John 1:4). To be the light of life, and to deliver God's life to women and men where they are and as they are, is the secret of the enduring relevance of Jesus. Suddenly they are flying right-side up, in a world that makes sense.

Call off the search. Stop chasing after rules, regulations, formulas, and feelings that come and go like vapors. Embrace Jesus as I AM. Enter into a living, breathing relationship with the true, eternal Word.

Jesus,

You are I AM. Thank you for entering into my mess and embracing me. Help me let go of trying and striving and scrambling. I want to cling to You. Amen.

Author | Claire Jordan