1.27.2014

Eternal Security


There is no greater security in the world than knowing that you belong to God.  As a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ, you have confidence that you are His and this world has no power over you.

‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’
- 1 Peter 2:9

It’s easy to say this when things are going well for us.  But we never know what tomorrow holds.  Or even later today.  Job difficulties, health issues, family problems, stressed relationships... All these things can change in an instant.  And it is so easy to fall into the trap of fear that this world holds open for us.  Fear causes us to build up walls and hoard our time, money and love. Or waste these things on a temporary life.

But no matter what happens to our physical bodies, our eternal future is assured to us by Jesus Christ Himself.  

'But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.'
- Philippians 3:20-21

Life isn’t easy.  Life as a Christian isn’t easy.  In fact, it’s harder because we are called to give up our possessions, take up our cross and follow Him.  Deny the world.  Hate our families.  And carry a burden.  For what?  For a far more beautiful outcome than we can imagine.  It’s all part of having faith and trusting in the hope we have in Jesus - Who is not swayed, moved or shaken by anything.  He is steadfast, true and eternal.

Be encouraged today that His love never fails.  And He will never fail you.

---

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.’

- Romans 5:1-2

1.25.2014

Meeting a best friend


Almost two years ago, I received this email from a girl.  Much like many of the other emails I receive from readers.

Hey I'm Emily and I have been reading your blog for probably two or three months now.....I am seriously in tears right now...I was reading "He Picks Us Up" and it was exactly what I needed to hear! I have been struggling so much the past few months, with sin and falling and failing to notice God in my life. I just switched to a new church less than two months ago and I haven't fully gotten back to normal yet. Life is crazy right now....and I really needed that! Thanks so much...please pray that God would help me get up and move on. 
Much Love,
-Emily

But little did I know that my reply to it would begin a long chain of email correspondence.  And that God would use those first emails to create a bond with this girl who lived all the way across the country from me.




She became one of my best friends.

And two weeks ago, on January 8th, 2014, I was able to meet her face to face for the first time.


There's a pin we found on Pinterest that says 'I'm wild, she's sweet'... and it really applies to me and Emily.

For almost two years, our friendship has been based solely on emails, chats, phone calls, texts, FaceTime, letters, packages and the grace of God.  And this month, He worked everything out perfectly for me to fly out to Pennsylvania and spend two weeks with Emily and her family.  And we had an amazing and lovely time.


Don't ever believe someone who tells you that you can't become 'best friends' with someone you've never met face to face.  Emily's and my friendship is living proof against that.  And the biggest reason why we're such close friends is because the love of Christ has been the center of our friendship.  She is one of the most encouraging people and one of the few friends I have been blessed with who have continually pushed me closer to the LORD.  She's amazing.  And I love her bunches.

---

I apologize for the rather boring matching outfits.  It was about 19 degrees outside (with snow and heavy wind), so...


1.19.2014

Incomprehensible Peace


Peace is something that we all seek.  Something that this world needs more of.  We can try to create it - in our homes, our relationships, at our jobs.  But no matter how much we want it, and try to make it ourselves, it's something we can't find outside of the One Who IS peace.

We live in a fallen and depraved world.  But God is a God of peace, not of chaos.  And He sent His Son, the Prince of Peace, to bring eternal peace to us.  He gives us this peace internally, regardless of what the world is trying to give us externally.  No matter what forces come against us, His peace surpasses all understanding.  It's supreme, unchangeable, never-ending.  And it's ours today.  Only through His death.

God never leaves us gasping for breath amidst, what we think, is chaos.  He is always in control.  He doesn't allow things to happen to us that is more than we can bear.  And if we think it is, His strength and peace are only a prayer away.

---

'For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace...'
- 1 Corinthians 14:33

'Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you.  Not as the world gives, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled.  Neither let it be afraid.'
- John 14:27

---

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, peeps.  I've been away from home, across the country - in Pennsylvania, to be exact.  I return to Oregon on Wednesday, so from then on, you'll be seeing more of my own writings.  I hope you've enjoyed the guest posts though:)

1.15.2014

When Plans Fail | guest post

There once lived a boy; a boy who, for as long as he could remember, wanted someday to be married. As the boy grew older, so did that desire. Eventually the boy became a man, a young man, but a man nevertheless. He lived with his family… but he didn’t want to. He began to feel trapped. And his family frustrated him. They didn’t understand him, he thought. At times, it felt like they didn’t even love him. They were selfish and proud and insensitive, and all this boy-man wanted, all he could think about now, was to get away; to marry a girl who would understand him and love him the way his family didn’t (or maybe couldn’t); to marry a girl, and get away; to escape.

That’s the nature of my plans, sometimes. They aren’t exactly God’s plans, but sometimes I can’t tell the difference because my heart can be so delightfully deceptive. (My plans could be God’s plans. I mean… Getting married might be exactly what God’s calling me to do. Who are you to say otherwise? Right?) Sometimes, I convince myself that my plans, dreams, and desires are what God’s leading me to and that my family (or whatever situation I’m in that I don’t like) is what He’s leading me away from. And so I plan. I scheme. I devise my own way...

...and I fall flat on my face.

That’s usually what ends up happening when I try to set goals and make plans. God comes along and causes my plans to fail. He crushes my dreams of “a better life.” He sabotages my attempts at chasing my dreams. It almost feels like He… enjoys… causing my plans to fail. But why does He do it? Why does He thwart nearly all of my plans??

He does it because He has a purpose and a reason for the situation I’m in: There are lessons that He’s trying to teach me right now. Here. Where I am. But why? What makes these lessons so important that He has to cut me off at the knees sometimes? (At least that’s what it feels like when the life I thought I was going to live suddenly becomes nothing but a shattered mirror, reflecting the dream I once had but only in broken pieces.) Why would He cause such pain just to get my attention?

It’s because He’s making me more like Christ. The lessons He’s teaching me now, right where I am, are important because it’s going to make me more like Christ. My family seems to me to be selfish and proud and insensitive because I am selfish and proud and insensitive. This is one of God’s gifts in disguise: He places me with people who act as mirrors, reflecting back to me the flaws that I so clearly see in myself. But so many times, I’m blinded by my own selfishness and pride to notice.

So many times, I look inward but not to learn. Not to search my heart. No, I look inward to focus on how “bad” my situation is; How frustrated I am with the people around me (who, in fact, act the same way I do); How I could never be happy unless I escape this situation. If only I had x or did y or lived in z. Then I’d be happy. I get mad at God when I don’t get my way… I delight only in myself and my own desires.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

Instead of getting mad, instead of allowing myself to become so self-centered as to either become depressed or bitter, I need to learn the lessons God is teaching me. I need to learn them now, as soons as I can, and as quickly as I can. I need, everyday, to take my plans to God and ask that His priorities would be my priorities. I need to give up (in a sense) on chasing my dreams (the ones that aren’t from Him). I need to stop worrying so much about what the future holds or about all of the details and unknowns. Instead, I need to focus only on doing the things that I already know I’m supposed to be doing… the things God has already told me I should do. He needs to be what I desire, not a woman I can escape to (going back to the original example). Because if I don’t learn this lesson, now, that same woman whom I run to will simply become a woman I will one day want to escape from. And the process will repeat itself, presenting another (harder) opportunity to learn my lessons.


“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Psalm 37:5-6 (ESV)

---

Joseph Wilson is the oldest of six kids born. In his mid-twenties (but most of the time acting half his age), you can find him in central Tennessee with the rest of his family. He enjoys art, cartooning and illustration, animation, and classic '90s toons and toys. Professionally, he works as a freelance illustrator and web designer. Unprofessionally, he plays video games with his younger siblings... many times losing to the youngest few who possess far more "A-game" than he ever had at their age. When he makes the time to write, he finds it useful to write about topics that God is working Him through because he's able to share what he's learning with others. To find out more, visit his site at jgwilsondesign.com




1.13.2014

Trust vs. Desperation - which one are you? | guest post


Wait on God and don't be desperate.

When it comes to a relationship, you may be desperate to be in one. But when you’re desperate, you tend to miss things and not be thankful for everything you already have.

Every person who ‘has their life together’ and seems to have Godly character and a great personality, quickly becomes a ‘possibility’. But what if the person God has for you is the person you overlooked?  What if the guy/girl you think is perfect isn’t the right one for you because your person is still in the works?  Stop looking for possibilities. Wait for God to show you, and usually, God never uses big spot lights, and they won't just pop up with a sign saying, "I'm the one".  You have to wait, be patient, and let God bring you together at the right time.

If you are trying to see a relationship that isn't there and trying to ‘help’ God along by looking at all your friends that seem ready now, then you're doing it wrong. God doesn't need your help. You need His. Along the same lines, if you’re looking at every new person you meet, and asking yourself, is he/she the one? Then maybe you need to stop thinking about it so much. 
When it comes to thinking, it’s very easy to overthink.  We often do this without realizing it, and we usually don’t like to admit it either (myself included). The problem is, with overthinking, comes worry. We start to worry about this guy/girl that seem so perfect for us, they have an amazing personality, they’re really good looking, and above all, they love Jesus!! They MUST be the one, they have to be...oh, but what if they aren’t, what if I don’t get--- Stop right there. We need to slow down and take life at the pace God gives  us. If we rush right through it all, we might miss a miracle.

Instead of asking “What if” about what could happen, what would happen if you started asking “What if” about your current situation?  What if God is going to do something incredible in your life, that He could only do with you while you’re single?
What if God has an amazing plan for you to fulfill, but it can only start now, in THIS season of life? Don’t waste a second on wishing for a life that you don’t have right now.
Chances are, most of you are going to get married, and move on to that life sometime in the future. Not everyone will, but I believe God made the majority of people, for marriage.

Just be patient. Wait. (I know, I know...it’s super duper hard)  But remember that the person God has chosen for you could be the person you least expected. They could be the one who was right there the whole time, or they could be the one you have yet to meet. Trust God’s plan for your life.  You never know what adventure He has waiting for you.

My point in all this is that, when we are desperate for the next thing, the next season in life, then we will never be able to recognize that the season we are in now is already a blessing. There are so many things God has for us if we just take our time and follow His plan. 
That doesn’t mean follow His plan, while constantly looking over our shoulder to see if that special someone, or that new season of life is almost here. It means fully looking to God, keeping your eyes on Him, and taking that step of faith to wait for Him to bring the next season. Trust me, when you completely fix your eyes on Him, the next season of life will come so quickly, you’ll wonder why you didn’t trust Him to begin with.

I do want to leave you with one last thing.

-It is okay to keep your eyes open for that “special someone”, because there is a difference between keeping them open, and actively searching.
-It is okay to want to get married. I know I want to get married someday!
There is a difference between wanting to get married, and being desperate for it.
-It is okay to be attracted to someone, because there is a difference between being attracted, and assuming that they must be the one.
Guard your thoughts and keep your mind on the things above, and God will make the pieces fall into place.

---

The opposite of desperation is Faith and Trust,
Faith and Trust, in someone greater than you.

---

Hiya!  I'm Cody.  I'm a messed up, hurt, and saved by grace individual.  My heart has been broken, crushed and renewed by Jesus.  I'm a musician, a huge lover of music, breakfast and basically food in general.  I love my family and friends.  And my hobby is sound design for visual media.
Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, my dream is to touch lives for Jesus through my passion for music.

1.07.2014

Faith in the unseen


In a world that revolves around the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ mentality, the power of ‘faith’ can so easily be lost.  

We all lean on and trust in what we can see.  So many people live behind a wall of restriction that is built by self-reliance, self-knowledge and self-understanding.  As believers, we are told that we are to live and walk by faith, not by sight.  

We must continually check to make sure we are keeping ourselves in the land of God’s guidance instead of our own.  When we step out in faith and obedience to God’s Word, we will land on solid ground because we are fulfilling His will in our lives.  It’s a faith and trust that we can never have on our own.  It’s something that, by being His children, He gives us new eyes in our spirit and a heart that is activated by faith, courage and belief that He will keep His promises.  

Do we trust, day by day, that God will provide for us?  Do we hope for the future and believe that God will meet whatever needs we will have?  God knows the desires of our hearts.  He knows what provisions we need. 

Living by faith will always lead you to the solid ground of grace and truth.  

Live by faith.  Not just by what you can see.  

---

‘For we walk by faith, not by sight.’
- 2 Corinthians 5:7

1.06.2014

Loving thy neighbor



I think we can all say that we are quick to find faults in others.  And if you don’t, then I’ll admit that I do.  It’s part of being human, I guess.  We are jealous of others’ accomplishments, and not shy to point out their weaknesses.  

But is that truly ‘loving they neighbor as thyself’?

Jesus tells us, in Mark 12: ‘...you shall love the LORD your God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  And the second [command] is this, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’.’

If I truly love my neighbor (by the way, ‘neighbor’ in this text literally means ‘anybody’), I should test my love by asking myself questions such as ‘Am I glad that he achieved what I have failed at?’, ‘Am I glad that he has succeeded in goals that I have tried to reach?’, ‘Am I praising the talents and gifts that God has blessed him with, but that I lack in?’

If I love my neighbor as myself, there should never be any hint of jealousy in my heart towards him.  I should be happy for him.  I should rejoice for the goodness God has displayed on him, but denied me.  I should be just as happy for what he has that I have wanted, as I would be if I had it.

This new year, let us remember to look around us and be joyful for others, happy for what they have, and thankful for what God has given each of us.

---

‘Rejoice with those who rejoice...’
- Romans 12:15

‘Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.’
- Romans 13:8

‘Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.’
- Romans 13:10

1.03.2014

If you're looking for a sign to not kill yourself...


...this is it.

Suicide rates have risen considerably over the past ten years.  People die more by committing suicide than in car accidents.  Most of us may think that these are mainly teenagers, but statistics have risen to middle-aged people as well.  It’s estimated that 38, 364 people killed themselves in 2013 alone.  An average of 101 individuals per day (one per 14 minutes) will die by suicide.

I think that this is something that is over-looked in society.  It’s an everyday occurrence that we either choose to ignore or have absolutely no idea about.  

A Twitter follower recently messaged me to ‘say goodbye’ because he was contemplating killing himself.  While I think a lot of people on social networks make up stories just to get attention and sympathy, I honestly think this guy was serious.  And I know a lot of others are too.

As someone once said: ‘When one person commits suicide, others begin to see it as an option.  ‘If they did it, so can I’ is their mindset.’  

Reasons for suicides can vary according to different people.  The ones I’ve talked to have given me ‘reasons’ such as:

  • I just hate my life
  • No one cares for me
  • God has no interest in me
  • I fail at everything
  • There’s nothing special about me


And all these statements are usually followed with ‘It’s okay.  No one will miss me.’

I don’t claim to be an expert in this whatsoever.  And I’ve never experienced suicidal thoughts so some of you may be wondering ‘Well then how do you know what it’s like?’  Or even you yourself may be contemplating suicide and telling yourself ‘Raquel has no idea what she’s talking about.’

Well, maybe I don’t.  Maybe I don’t know what it’s like to want to kill myself.  Maybe I don’t know what it’s like to not want to live anymore because ‘life is just too hard’.  But I can tell you what the complete opposite of that spectrum is.

It’s this:

Life is precious.  Life is a gift.  Life is something God chose to gave you.  Why?  I have no idea.  I ask myself why He lets me breathe every single day.  It’s a question without an answer, really.  

I know that nothing I say can make you feel better.  Or change your mind.  Or make you realize your life has a purpose.  I don’t know you.  I don’t know what you’ve been through.  Or why you’re contemplating this action to take your own life.  And I won’t pretend that I do.  I know that’s something nobody likes - when a person says ‘I know what you’re feeling.  I know what you’re going through’.  It really is a lie, because no one can understand.  Everyone’s situation is unique and different.  And I’m sorry it is.  If I could, I would want to experience everything you have just so I could be able to relate and be able to help you through it.  But I can’t.  And no, I’m not trying to ‘push’ religion on you or just ramble on cliche things about God that I’m sure you’ve already heard.  All I can do is tell you the truth of what I know and believe with all my heart.  You may ask ‘Well what does God know about death and suicide?’  A lot, actually.  Because He killed His own Son.  For us.  (Can you imagine killing your own child for people who hated you?  I think that’s the biggest act of love ever.)

God created you in His own image.  And His own breath gives you life.  His hands shaped you and made you.  He formed every part of you.  Every little detail of your body is His own design.  You are wonderfully made.  No matter what others think about you, you are perfect in His eyes.  You are God’s own workmanship.  While you were still hidden from this world inside your mother’s womb, God knew you.  He knows all your anxious thoughts, every hurt you feel, every painful experience in your life.  And He thinks such precious things about you.  More thoughts than the sand on the beaches.  He wouldn’t have given you this life if He didn’t know you were strong enough to live it.  And when you think you’re not strong enough, He is - because His power is perfected in weakness.  God is always with you.  You can’t live life on your own.  It’s not by your might or power, but by His.  He cares for you.  He protects the children He loves.  No, life isn’t perfect.  It’s rough.  But instead of questioning God why He isn’t making things smooth for you, ask Him why He’s choosing to let you breathe right in this moment.  And I promise you, His answer is this:  

‘I know the plans that I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a future and a hope.  Call to me, pray to me, and I will listen to you.  Seek Me and search for me with all your heart and you will find Me.’

And I am very sure of this - that He who started this beautiful work in you, will perfect and complete it.  Your life is precious in His sight.  And not only His, but those around you.  You may think that no one will miss you.  But I promise you, they will.  Your parents will be devastated, your siblings will cry for weeks, people at your school will go solemnly about their business knowing that their classmate is gone.  A suicide makes a domino effect.  You’re not just thinking of hurting yourself.  You’re thinking of hurting others.

Please, please don’t consider killing yourself as an option.  If you need help, there ARE people who want to help you.  (Click HERE to contact someone right now).  And if you ever need someone to just talk to or pray for you, feel free to email me any time: itisjustraquel[at]gmail[dot]com

And even if this whole post didn’t make you stop and think, I hope and pray that someone or something else will.


{The photo featured in this post is the result of a project by Carlos Navarro called ‘The Suicide Sign’.  The people holding the cardboard sign are all recording artists who have joined in suicide awareness.  And the sign says: 'Suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse.  Suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better.'}

---

(Genesis 1:27, Job 33:4, Psalm 100:3, 1 Corinthians 12:9, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139, Psalm 41:1, Joshua 1:9, Zechariah 4:6, Philippians 1:6)


1.01.2014

Why Are You Here?


Do you ever wonder why you’re here?  Why are you alive?  Why are you breathing and why is your heart beating?  

Well I certainly do sometimes.  

When I look back on my past and all the years I’ve been living, and then to the present, where I am now, I see many things.  But the biggest picture I see is my purpose.  What God has used me for.  And how He is using me.

Somehow, some way, He decided to take my life - just a simple girl born in Portland, Oregon - and use me to accomplish things.  All for His glory.  It certainly hasn’t been the easiest road.  And part of Him using me has only been because I allowed myself to give in to His plans for my life.  I can sit here and go through life like everyone else does.  Just go with the flow.  Do the norm.  Go to college.  Get a job.  Go to church.  Love my family.  Those can all be good things, of course.  But what’s the point of all that if, through it, I don’t bring glory to my Savior?  If that’s all the I’m alive to do, then what’s the point?

God wants you and me to do great things.  He wants us to accomplish amazing goals.  He wants us to change the world.  But we have to choose to do this.  And we have to accept the fact that we can’t on our own.  We must surrender our plans and our lives to His will and say ‘God, I am Your servant.  Send me.  Do with me as You please.’

With the beginning of a new year, ask God to show you what He wants you to achieve as His son or daughter this year.  And what lengths are you willing to go to to please and serve Him?


Happy New Year, peeps!  Y’all are amazing.  Remember that He has great plans for you.  I pray that 2014 holds incredible adventures for you.

---

‘Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you.’
- Hosea 10:12