Hope: In A Broken World

Hey guys, sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve posted! Between summer classes, work, and church activities, my calendar has pretty much been booked to the max. However, I’m back now with a topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately, and that I feel strongly that the Lord has put on my heart to share. I hope it speaks to someone today!ūüėÉ

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Hope.¬†It’s only four letters, but it carries with it so much meaning. So much beauty. It is a word that inspires images of joy. Images of a more peaceful world. Images of more love, and less famine. Images of a nation filled with people who genuinely care for each other; regardless of ethnicity or the color of their skin. It brings to mind a better future‚ÄĒfilled with less of the problems that we see in the world today. There is a reason the word has been used in charity organizations and political campaigns alike. Deep down, we all long for a world filled with hope. Deep down, we all know that hope is what this world truly needs.

However, for many of us, hope is something that seems allusive or out of reach in the world today. When we turn on the news, we see images of crime, famine, and hate. We see a world that frankly, looks anything but hopeful. For some of us, we need to look no further than our local high school or college to see living, breathing, people who seem all but hopeless. People who are fighting their own personal battles. Maybe financially. Maybe relationally. Maybe physically. Sometimes, a combination of all three.

I have always been affected by the stories that I hear around me. If a friend tells me about something they are struggling with, I want to do everything in my power to encourage them. If I hear about a worthy cause, or a group of people who are struggling (people living in poverty, with an illness, etc. etc. etc.) I want to do everything in my power to help them. I think it’s safe to say that this is the case for a lot of us. As humans, we are naturally affected by the stories we hear in the world around us. As humans, we are affected by those whose situations look hopeless. However, as Christians, we also posses the one thing that can truly bring them hope.

I remember when I first started college, feeling so affected by the condition of the world around me. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who seemed lost and broken. When I felt small and way too outnumbered to truly make a difference. Part of me was tempted to shrink back. To escape into some TV drama or another. To just survive‚ÄĒrather than do the very thing that God called me to do, which was to be bold. At one point, pushing past fear and trembling, God called me to give a speech about my faith in a class where a student was openly Wiccan. Needless, to say, this wasn’t easy, and I was sort of terrified but it proved to be an incredible experience in God’s faithfulness‚ÄĒand as the class went on, I saw him slowly develop a genuine interest in Christianity‚ÄĒeven nodding with interest as I read Bible verses in various other speeches that I presented. This still remains one of my most memorable experiences in my college journey thus far.

And, this was just one part of the lesson that God has been continuing to teach me throughout my journey of faith, and my journey through college. That as Christians, we have the hope that this world is desperately longing for.

It is far too easy to be silent. To let fear dictate us and stop us from doing the one thing that we have been placed on this earth to do. To believe that this world is too broken, too far gone, too far beyond hope. To forget the words of John 1:5, which says,¬†“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (NIV).¬†

I don’t know about you, but I want to bring hope to the broken and light to the darkness in this world.

I want to live in such a way that it points back to the One who has put breath in my lungs and given me life.

I want to exude joy, hope, and love even in places that seem to lack all three of these.

I want to be everything that Christ has called me to be, and never miss an opportunity to share His love with the people He has placed around me. 

If you are going back to school soon, I want to encourage you to look like hope in the place where God has led you! To never be afraid to step out in boldness, and share Christ with those around you. If you work somewhere, I want to encourage you to love your co-workers and boss and live in such a way that it points back to Jesus‚ÄĒand “work as if you’re working unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). Wherever we go and whatever we do, let us never be afraid to reflect the hope that we have.

Let us never let fear hold us back from sharing this hope.

Let us never let fear hold us back from sharing this love!

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“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 5:13-16 (NIV)

All This Time – My Testimony

Hey guys,

So lately, I’ve been praying and I’ve been feeling extremely led to do a video blog about my testimony. How I became a Christian. My walk with God. My journey through college. And God’s faithfulness in the midst of it all.

Thus, posted a video below about my testimony.

Hopefully it encourages somebody!

 

Poetry (Part Two)

Hey guys,

As a writer I am firm believer that words, thoughts, and ideas can be expressed in a variety of ways, ranging from blog posts, to stories, to poetry, and since I got such an incredible response on my last poetry post, I have decided to do another one!

I wrote about a couple of different themes that God has been speaking to me about and that I thought might be relevant to some of you all. Hopefully they inspire you today!

One In Ninety-Nine 

You say that you reach down from Heaven 

For the prodigal in the swine

You tell us that You’re the good shepherd

Who chases the one in the ninety-nine 

But what about the one left standing

Here at the end of the line? 

 

Surrounded by rags and by riches

Trying to reach far above

Trying to offer something

Unaware they are already loved? 

 

The one who is weary and battered 

Spinning her wheels so hard

The one who is worn out and exhausted

Needing rest in the Father’s arms

 

He whispers to her “My Child

You have always been cherished and loved

I thought of you on the cross

When I came down from Heaven above 

 

You have never needed to earn it 

Chasing after perfection so hard

Even though you don’t deserve it¬†

You have always been all that I want”¬†

 

Yes, I am the one in the many 

The lost sheep who wandered alone

The one running out from the pasture

Trying to do it alone 

 

Yes, we are all that lost sheep 

Until we are finally home

 

Worship 

Holy hands lifted high 

Hearts of God’s people touch the sky

In the house of God we may find

A glimpse of Heaven in our eyes 

 

But even alone in our rooms

When we are the only ones 

We are never separated from His presence

We are never separated from His Son 

 

He is with us in the car ride

When we turn up the radio loud

When we run through our days 

At high speed pace

Yes, God’s presence still abounds¬†

 

When it’s late at work and you want to go home

He is still with you 

And Heaven knows

When you’re talking to your friend on the phone¬†

Letting her know that she’s not alone¬†

 

When you’re weary in all of the madness

Of school and life’s daily tasks¬†

You can still rest in God’s presence

You still find rest in Him at last 

 

Yes, God is with us in all these times 

In the seasons of day and night 

He is our constant, our Holy Light

When all is wrong 

And when all is right 

 

So we can find peace and joy 

In knowing this truth truth abounds 

In the quiet and every day places

God’s presence is still clearly found

 

Reflection 

We are the lights

A billion stars 

Soaring, shining from where we are

We are the moon that reflects the sun

To shine His glory to everyone

 

We are the smallest leaves upon a tree 

Yet, still He sees and loves you and me

We are the acorns on a warm summer day 

Yet, still He says we are wonderfully made

 

We are the wind in the midst of our fears

We have the chance to change the atmosphere 

We are the trees on a cool summer night

Swaying and dancing in His sight 

 

We are the snowflakes that fall swiftly by day 

Unique and different in every way

Yet God is our Father who created us all

And into His presence we can freely fall

 

Each one of us was made to be

Someone who reflects His majesty

 

@ Courtney Whitaker, 2019

 

 

Hope For The Journey

“Trust in the¬†Lord¬†with all your heart¬†and lean not on your own understanding;¬†in all your ways submit to him,¬†and he will make your paths¬†straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6¬†

Recently, as we are coming to the end of this school year, and as I have just taken my last final for the semester (praise God!) I have been reflecting a lot on growth and change; where I have been and where I am going. And what this all means.

I’ve never been the kind of gal who loves change and uncertainty. In fact, I wrote a whole post on this a couple of months back here. However the older I get, the more I begin to see change through a new lens‚ÄĒand the more I realize how life is, in and of itself, in many ways, unexpected. If we are not changing and growing, we will eventually find ourselves stagnant. And when we are stagnant, than chances are, we are running from the place where God is trying to bring us to.¬†

Looking back on my college years, and even this past year, I’ve faced a lot of changes in a very short amount of time. I’ve changed majors. I’ve changed part time jobs a couple of times. I changed churches about a year ago. And on top of all of that, I’ve changed the way that I see change itself‚ÄĒand the ‘divine interruptions’ that so often get thrown our way. Some of these changes have been hard, but most of them have been really incredible. And all of them have shaped me into the person that I am today.¬†

Here’s the thing guys‚ÄĒlife is a journey. It’s a crazy, twisty, windy road with so many stops and views along the way. And we may not know where every path leads, but God does. He designed each of our routes specifically for us. And if we could see all of the plans that God has for us, I’m pretty sure it would totally blow our minds; because God’s plans and God’s promises are so much bigger and more spectacular than anything that we could ever imagine in our wildest dreams.¬†

I admittedly don’t know a lot about art or photography, but I do know that in both there’s a little something called ‘perspective’. Depending on how you draw a picture, or shoot a photo, the finished product is going to look totally different. Different angles give you a different perspective, even though you’re painting (or taking a picture of) the same person or object.

I am a firm believer that this principle applies in life as well. So often, we can only see life from our perspective‚ÄĒthrough the lens of the here and now. But what if we had the chance to view our lives from God’s perspective? What if we could see how He’s divinely orchestrated our steps into a symphony that makes up the story of our life? How would our perspective change if we could see every detail of our story? How would each of our lives look from God’s perspective?¬†

This week, I want to challenge you to see change‚ÄĒand life, differently. To see your life in light of a grander story. To see your circumstances through a different perspective, and see how much God has moved to bring you to where you are today. And if you are in a not-so-great-season of life, I want you to remember God’s faithfulness‚ÄĒhow He has guided you through these seasons before and how He will most certainly do it again. I want to challenge you to see your life in light of eternity. I want to challenge you to see life from this perspective‚ÄĒand trust the one who holds it all in the palm of His hands.

Because our God knows exactly what He is doing.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with change, or uncertainty about the future? What did God reveal to you through this time? Please feel free to share in comments section below! I’d love to start a discussion about this!ūüėÉ

The Cross = Love

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13 (NIV).

As a writer and aspiring author, I’m somewhat of a fan of stories.¬†

Ok, I’m going to be totally honest with you guys – that’s an understatement. I love stories; like really love them. I was that kid who went to the library every weekend to get new books to read all through grade school. You know the kid I’m talking about.

The one who brought books with them wherever they went. Who would sit on the steps at recess to read the new book in their favorite series. Who stapled very-homemade looking stories together and illustrated them herself with her crayons. That was me, I was that kid. And today, I’m pretty much a grown-up-version of that kid.¬†

I have a pretty wide range of stories that I have read and loved, but some of my favorite stories are the ones that focus primarily on the friendships and relationships between characters. Not just romantic relationships‚ÄĒbut relationships in general. Stories about friendship, and commitment, and sticking by the people who matter most through thick and thin. Stories that give us hope, and show us the better side of humanity.

I think the reason that stories like this have always stood out to me is because there is something inside all of us as humans that longs for this. To have someone in our corner who has seen us at our best and our worst. Who knows us better than we know ourselves. Who will always stand by us, through the thick and thin. Who loves us unconditionally.

We were wired for this kind of extravagant love‚ÄĒhowever, too often we can try to look to the wrong place to find it.¬†

So many of us try to fill this need with our relationships with those around us. Maybe we look for it in a particular friendship. Maybe we look for it in a clique, or the approval of a certain group at school. Or, maybe we look for it in a dating relationship‚ÄĒbelieving that if we can just have our happily-ever-after with the perfect rom-com soundtrack, all of our problems will dissolve in an instant.

However, none of these relationships will be able to satisfy us in the end. Sure, they might be great and they might bring us some sense of happiness, but they will never truly fill the need that we were created with‚ÄĒto know and be known by our Creator. No story that we hope to create or recreate can ever compare to the greatest story ever told‚ÄĒthe story of a God who came down to save a world that was broken and shattered and completely without hope.¬†

Jesus was with God in the beginning, when they (as a Trinity, along with the Holy Spirit) created everything in the world that we see and know today. Every blade of grass and every branch on a tree. Every cell and every particle. Every fish in the ocean and every bird in the air. He also created the first humans (Adam and Eve) and had perfect communion with them, until they broke God’s law and brought original sin into this world‚ÄĒseparating an entire human race from a Holy and perfect God. But even still, He loved us far too much to let us stay lost, and broken, and in chains.

He took on the sin of the entire human race and offered Himself as a final sacrifice so that we could be welcomed into God’s Kingdom. He loved us so much that He couldn’t bear the thought of spending eternity without us‚ÄĒeven suffering on a cross to give us life. And it is in His death and His Resurrection that we find life, love, purpose, and everything that we were created for.

I know this is a familiar story to many of us and I know that this is something that many of us have heard time and time again. But it is still something that is so important to remember‚ÄĒperhaps, especially during Easter week, when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, and the sacrifice that He made for each and every one of us.

If you are reading this and you are already a Christian, than I want to encourage you to never stop seeing this story with fresh eyes, and sharing this hope with a broken world.

If you are reading this and you have never heard it before, than I want you to know that God loves you so much and desires a personal relationship with you‚ÄĒall you have to do is let Him in.

If you are reading this and have somehow been burned by the church or by Christians who have acted less than Christ-like, than I want you to reconsider your ideas about God‚ÄĒand not hold God responsible for the things that people do. To know that God loves you and is still pursuing you‚ÄĒand wants you to see Him for who He really is.

Whoever you are reading this, God loves you. 

And this, to paraphrase Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, this is what Easter is all about. 

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“For God so loved¬†the world that he gave¬†his one and only Son,¬†that whoever believes¬†in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV).¬†

 

Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.¬†I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled¬†and do not be afraid.”¬† – John 14:27 (NIV).

Peace. It is a word that we all long for, yet few know how to find. A word that in just five letters, sends calming images to mind and a feeling of comfort to our hearts. A word that conjures up images of beaches and long summer nights. Christmas lights and fireplaces. All things nice, and cozy, and well‚ÄĒpeaceful!

It is also a word that is severely lacking from most of the word’s  vocabulary today. 

As humans in present-day-society, we are often encouraged to view life through the lens of lack and scarcity. We are encouraged to chase more prestigious jobs with a higher pay. We are encouraged to get into the most impressive college and make the dean’s list. We are encouraged to change our appearance based on perceived flaws and social norms. We are encouraged to be better, faster, and more. All while killing a part of ourselves in the process.

Little by little, we begin to place our hope in these things‚ÄĒforgetting that as Christians, our joy was meant to be something a lot more eternal.

Though it is something that on some level, I’ve known for years, I have been learning what it means to find peace in Christ, even in seasons that try and test this peace. I am learning what it means to breathe. What it means to let go and let God. What it means to find rest in God’s grace and love‚ÄĒand remember that in itself is enough.

As I write this, I am reminded of some of the things that give me sort of a ‚Äėpeace‚Äô in the physical realm. Warm tea. Ice cream and a good movie or TV series on Hulu. A new book. The feeling of a warm blanket. Lights strung during Christmas time. I am also reminded of the things that tend to steal my peace. Too much homework. Early shifts at work. Unexpected bad news. Running late for anything. Driving in torrential rain. These kinds of things, despite my desire to stay calm, often have a tendency to rob me of my peace in an instant.

Writing both about the things that give me peace and the things that send me into panic mode, I feel led to ask you this question‚ÄĒwhich is your faith for you? Is your faith in Jesus a place where you can find rest, a place that gives you the peace of eating ice cream and watching your old favorite movie? Or does it feel more like akin to the anxiety of too much homework‚ÄĒa task that feels overwhelming, and that you feel you must ‘perfect’ in order to win God’s approval?

According to Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, the Christian life should feel more like the first example. This passage says, ‚ÄúAre you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.[a]¬†I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.[b]¬†29¬†Simply join your life with mine.[c]¬†Learn my ways and you‚Äôll discover that I‚Äôm gentle,[d]¬†humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.[e]¬†30¬†For all that I require of you will be pleasant[f]¬†and easy to bear.‚ÄĚ (TPT).¬†

God wants us to find an unexplainable peace in Him. A peace that can carry us even when our lives are anything but. A peace that does not come from religious works or legalism, but from a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christian life does not mean we will not have trials, or feel stress from time to time, but it does mean that we have a hope and a love that can carry us through it. We have something that can sustain us even through the seasons that threaten our peace. 

This week, I want to challenge you to sink into that peace. To rest in God’s presence. To sink into His oasis. To remember that Jesus is gentle, humble, and easy to please.¬†¬†To find peace in His love, mercy and grace. And, to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

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How about you? How do you sink into God’s peace when the storms start to come your way? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section below! Also – check out this really great song all about this by Lauren Daigle¬†here! I heard it at a Christian conference a couple of weeks ago and it is really good!¬†

Borrowed Faith

“Love empowers us to¬†fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other‚Äôs troubles.” – Galatians 6:2 9 (TPT).

A couple of days ago, I had someone tell me that they felt extremely led to inform me that I needed to talk about borrowed faith on this blog‚ÄĒin those exact terms too. So, considering that doesn’t happen very often, and that I try to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leading in regards to this blog (and you know, life in general) I decided to give this post that exact title.

To clarify, when I use the term ‘borrowed faith’, I am not speaking in terms of salvation. Every person must make that decision for themselves and we cannot rely on someone else in our relationship and walk with God. We do however, all at some point, reach a time when we are struggling to have faith for our particular struggle or season. Seasons where all we can see is a tunnel of darkness with seemingly no clear end in sight. I have gone through seasons like this and I’m sure you have as well. They are only seasons, but when we are in them, they can seem to last a lifetime.

That being said, in times like these, we can (hopefully) lean on those around us to get us through. Where we can ‘borrow’ the faith of others when we struggle to have faith in the midst of our own situation. I had a season like this when I was a new Christian, way back in Jr. High School, when I was dealing with some complicated situations within my family. Situations that felt nearly impossible to walk through at that point in time. I’ve also dealt with plenty of other smaller seasons where I felt lonely, confused, or anxious‚ÄĒwhere God surrounded me with people who have helped me get through. People who’s faith I could ‘borrow’ when the weight I was feeling felt like too much to carry on my own.

However, sometimes, we are called to be this person for others. To have the kind of faith that someone can borrow when they’re in one of these seasons. As Christians, we are called to be sensitive to the needs of those around us, and be someone that others can turn to during these times. Someone that a friend could call up to share their problems with; someone who will pray for (or with) someone who’s struggling, and who reaches out to that classmate at school who is sitting alone at the lunch table nearby.¬†

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking, “I’m the one who needs to borrow faith today”. If that’s you, than I want to encourage you to reach out to someone you can trust; whether it be a relative, a friend, a youth leader, or a pastor. I want to also encourage you to go to God directly. Get on your knees and just cry out to Him. He knows every detail of your situation no matter how hard it may be or how alone you may feel. And things will get better. It may not seem like it right now, but life has a way of turning around at the most unexpected times in the most unexpected ways. So keep holding on tightly to that rope – you never know where the next chapter might bring you.

Or maybe as you’re reading this, someone comes to mind. A friend, or fellow student at your high school (or middle school, or college). A co-worker, or neighbor. Someone from church, or an extracurricular. Whoever it is, I want to challenge you to be intentional with this person this week. To let them “borrow your faith” so to speak. Be the person that you needed during a season like that. Tell them you’re praying for them, or offer to pray with them. Let them know Jesus loves them. Be a friend, and an ear that will listen. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40,¬†“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And in John 13:35, we are told that we are to be known by our love.¬†

Also, if there’s anything that you’re dealing with, please leave a note in the comments section or DM me through my Instagram page! I’d love to let you ‘borrow my faith’ and pray with and for you guys!¬†

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How about you? How can you be a voice of encouragement in your school and your sphere of influence this week? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!¬†