Lexington: January/February 2017

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IG: @allisonantram

FB: Kate Grounds





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CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER FB, IG: @katelynvphotography katelynv.com




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EDITOR'S NOTE I’m incredibly good at making resolutions. I obsessively look for the ways I can improve, and then make checklists to do so. And with every New Year comes a clear and sparkling chapter to scribe whatever beautiful and improved version of myself I aspire to; it is as these Januaries greet me that the invitation to be and do better is especially alluring. Some of last year’s resolutions included: be healthier, rest habitually, have more grace. But what I continue to find is that however well-intentioned my resolutions may be, or even how productive they are, they do not induce a heart-change. No amount of my striving or effort could will me into “having more grace.” Because grace is something we receive, not something we earn. And it has taken me a long (LONG) time to learn that. Maybe a lot of us are here: at some sort of crossroads, looking to the year in front of us like a path to be carved out, looking at ourselves and our faith and our story like a check-list of self-improvement rather than a canvas for God’s grace. I recently read a book called Wild and Free, and one of my favorite passages is when the authors discuss God’s inherent goodness. There is a quote that reads, “When my eyes are on me it’s ridiculously difficult to believe I am anything good. The other option is… to ask for eyes to see that the main character of this story is our Father – relaxed and at ease, not striving or fearful of what is going to come of his production. Holy and perfect. Creative and intentional. Artistic and almighty. And like when we read a book from a different perspective, we can really hear what His voice sounded like when he declared all that He’d made to be good.” So let’s start there. Instead of staring at ourselves and picking out our flaws to be fixed, let’s look at Jesus first. Breathe in grace first. Because if we want real heart-change, it won’t be in all our well-intentioned striving to be “better;” it will be in radical love, drenched in grace, for the glory of our Creator. Even as I piece this issue together, scolding myself for my shortcomings and demanding that I do better, I have to intentionally surrender my attempts. I have to turn to the gaze of the empowering Creator who makes everything good; who lovingly watches over us and rejoices over even the smallest of our baby steps. My heart for this issue is that we would tune into that – that we would be challenged (myself included) to start our years with hearts surrendered to rest in a love and grace incomprehensibly freeing. With love, Allison Antram


A little over a year ago, just after getting married, I moved to Mount Sterling, KY with my husband. I never dreamed of living this far east in Kentucky, let alone having Lexington be my go-to city. Learning all the new places to go shopping and where to get the best coffee, I quickly noticed that multiple establishments contained the name “Gateway” in their title: “Gateway Plaza,” “Gateway Children’s Services,” “Gateway Medical Center.”

“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).

His love is constantly being refined and perfected in each of us who have given Him our lives. We are a work in progress. What I see in my brothers and sisters is His love in them, working to make them who He made them to be and fighting against the mold of the After visiting a local shop in Mount Sterling, the world. So when two Christians collide, it should bring owner informed me that this area is the Gateway to the forth twice as much of His love rather than twice as mountains and the bluegrass. It connects Kentucky at much competition for our personal ministry endeavors its core and is a central hub to the rest of the east coast, to thrive. To hear and be heard, to see and be seen. We north, or south. It didn’t mean much to me at the time, are not always meant to be the leader as well as not but the more I live here the more I see the gateway always meant to be the minion; we are always meant to come to fruition. Lexington connects a multitude of be His servant, no matter what nature. areas that would otherwise remain detached. A simple Rather than running circles around each other, having trip to pick up toilet paper might cause you to collide with someone transferred here from New York for separate but same goals, why not work together? We more affordable living, a West Virginia native who each have a unique manifestation of His love that came here for employment, or a college graduate who ultimately fits together for the same purpose. fell in love with the city and decided to stay. At some There are multitudes of ministries boldly proclaiming point or another almost everyone from surrounding the love of Christ in Lexington, and 2017 is the year to rural areas will venture in to Lexington, some daily. collaborate in these ministries so we can all march in With that sort of colliding power, imagine the step in one direction, so that everyone in Lexington possibilities. What if Lexington could be the gateway and the surrounding areas has a platform to serve. Not to the love of Christ? To be a city that shows His love only to meet others who believe the way they do, but in such an immeasurable way that all who pass through more importantly to reach the lost. To be the gateway they seek. To bring truth to the popularized idea that the gateway feel His presence. “Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place.”

What if Lexington could be the gateway to the love of Christ?




HOW HAS MUSIC IMPACTED YOU & YOUR FAI TH? I grew up in church, so the first time I ever sang or played piano was in the context of worship music. I loved it. I went to see the Bethel music crew in Atlanta when I was 18 years old and I saw this freedom of expression and comfortability in their worship leading. And I saw that same spirit and freedom in singers like Loretta Lynn, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstandt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris. I was so inspired by that and even as a little girl I remember wanting to be that so badly. I wanted to be that free and SING. The first time I ever wrote a chorus at the piano, it was so bad, but I finished it and it rhymed really well. I'm pretty sure the end phrases were like... “more,” “tour,” “your”... but it changed something in me. That feeling of purpose I had been longing for in so many other communities and careers had finally found me. I can't see myself doing anything else.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU? WHAT DO YOU LOVE TO WRI TE ABOUT? I love country music, I mean LOVE country music. Like the good, gritty stories of the day-to-day life. When I heard those stories in the music of Johnny Cash, John Prine, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn (and so many more), it resonated. I could say, “oh, that's me!” or “oh, I am not alone because I've felt that too.” I want to make music like that – a dialogue on the day-to-day feelings that we experience like hopelessness or Love, stories on family and job hunting and money and all of those things so that people can listen to my music and say, “hey, me too!”

WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS FOR YOUR MUSIC? That's what I hope to do. I hope to make people laugh, provide space in my music for people to reflect and feel and not be so caught up in the busyness of the American lifestyle. I want to provide an experience for people who come to my shows and listen to my music that connects them to simplicity and Love – some real hippie stuff – but I think this world needs some more environments for Love. And I think that's what I'm learning about the most right now. I need some more space in my life. With the hustle and hurry in the day-to-day, and the degree that technology that invades my life, I can get to the end of a day, or 2016, and say what did I even do? So I want to make more space to chill out, be with people, set some goals, and work toward them. Songwriting becomes that space for me, so I hope my songs can also provide that for others.

I want to make music that people can listen TO and say,


WHAT HAS INSPIRED OR CHALLENGED YOU RECENTLY? I had an incredible opportunity to volunteer at a refugee camp in Athens, Greece in early December. I've never met a group of people more deserving of love in my entire life. Pakistani, Syrian, Afghani alike. I learned so much from them and their horrible struggles and all that they had to give up. I was completely unprepared for that experience, but the Lord quickly showed me how no fancy, cliché Christianity was ever going to fix this problem. I had to dig deeper... and digging deeper meant more Love. Just simply loving people. That alone was so inspiring. Not just for my music, but for my life. All Jesus did was LOVE people right where they were – the religious leader, the prostitute, the woman at the well, the tax collector. I had to look people in the eyes that my country has taught me to hate and see them as the Human Beings that they are and Love them. Once doctors, lawyers, or students are now trying to make a way for themselves when their home has been uprooted and demolished. We can all resonate in some way with that – when we see these refugees as the human beings that they are, listen to the story of their journey and hardships they have faced, we can respect them as they deserve. And we can love them. I think that is the greatest lesson of all and that's why I follow Jesus.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU & YOUR MUSIC? I am so excited to be going into the studio FINALLY. I am recording an EP with some dear friends of mine here in Lexington this spring with some songs I have been working on and writing this past fall. We hope to get it out around May or June of 2017. There are so many talented musicians and creatives here in Lexington. It's been really amazing connecting and working with them for this little record. I am excited to be playing some shows this Spring and play these songs live. I love playing in the bars... the crowds are the best for testing out my writing. They'll tell you if they don't like what they hear and hoop and holler if they do. It's making me into the songwriter I want to be.


Let me read you a couple of sentences from my prayer journal the summer before my junior year of college: “God, I pray that you can turn me into a woman who has a deeprooted faith in you. I don’t want to be filled with so much doubt and insecurity anymore. I want to become sure and confident of my identity in You.” Exactly a month later, with swollen eyes, a tear-soaked pillow, and a broken heart I angrily begged God to take that prayer back. We pray these kinds of doe-eyed, dangerous prayers all the time, don’t we? We ask God to make us stronger, bolder, and more courageous. We ask Him to deepen our faith and make us more like His Son. We ask to be pushed, molded, and even broken down and built back up if need be. But if you are anything like 20-year-old me, praying these types of prayers feels a lot like agreeing to run a marathon with your annoyingly athletic and overly enthusiastic best friend: It sounds great at first, but when the time actually comes to put on your big girl pants, run the good race, and fight the good fight, you cower back in fear and regret ever asking to be challenged in the first place. When Jesus came to me in August of 2013 and lovingly extended out His hand and invited me into a season of journeying up an undeniably unpleasant mountain, I reluctantly accepted. And may I just say, I am not one of those “cute” hikers who hardly sweats and smiles the whole way up like those unrealistic women in the Playtex tampon commercials. No. I am a stubborn struggler who is often filled with more debilitating doubt than admirable faith. So when I came face-to-face with a season full of predicaments and pain, I had to learn to rely on Jesus and give myself more grace than I was use to or comfortable with. It was not a splendid sprint up the mountain. It was a slow and laborious crawl, and at times I feel like the Good Lord Himself had to swoop down and carry

cross-armed and pouty-faced me onward. But onward we went. Let’s backtrack a bit. I became a Christian when I was sixteen. January 1st, 2010 to be exact. Although I had been raised by God-honoring parents, I moved around a lot as a kid, so going to church was never a super consistent part of my life. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that the Gospel message started to really “click” for the first time. The years following my baptism were the stuff made of dreams. I got my first boyfriend (who I dated for the next three years), fell in love, went to Ireland twice, won a cheerleading national championship, graduated with honors, started college at my dream school, and made the very best friends in the entire world. I know--let’s all take a moment to celebrate me. I remember thinking the following: “My gosh, living a Christian life has been so delightful and enjoyable so far! I should have become a Christian much earlier!” If you are playing out my life story as a movie in your head, then you know it has to take a turn for the worse at some point. The plot has to thicken. The challenge must arise. Lives lived solely on the mountain tops often make the most boring of movies, anyways. My junior year of college was when the waterworks really started. For starters, the guy I had dated for the past three years and would have married in half a heartbeat unexpectedly broke up with me. Perhaps I was blind, but I didn’t see it coming. I had never felt such intense pain and rejection like that before. Suddenly my five-year plan was flung off course, and there was nothing I could do to steer it back. I learned the hard way that no amount of money or puppy dog eyes can make someone want a future with you, no matter how attached to the idea you’ve let yourself become.

In addition to the breakup, I had just started my hardest semester:18 credits, 45 practicum hours outside of class, and a new job. I know people say that there’s never a good time to breakup with someone, but the first week of that stressful semester seemed like the worst of times. I still laugh at how inconvenient the timing was, but then again, God was about to show me that nothing about this season was meant to be convenient or easy. On top of all that, I got in a bad car accident two weeks after the breakup, which totaled both cars involved. We were both okay, but I was shaken up for quite a while, and losing my mode of transportation just seemed to add insult to injury. I was also having the typical cold-feet-about-my-college-major experience that usually hits about halfway through college, so on top of all my emotional instability, I was questioning what I even wanted do with my life. Can you say identity crisis? It was like in one swift moment, I watched the tide sweep in and violently take away my dream guy, my car, my confidence in the future, and, for all intents and purposes, my sanity. I guess there’s a reason Jesus says in Matthew 7 that the house built on sand easily crashes under pressure. My feet were stuck down deep in the grainy mess of life, and I stood and watched as my sandcastle of identity and purpose dissolved in a blink of an eye. Living in such a swirl of confusion, anger, and heartbreak was too much for 20-year-old me to handle, so I dusted off an old coping mechanism and dealt with pain like I always used to: I stopped eating. I developed an eating disorder during my middle school years when my dad’s job forced me to leave my lifelong friends and start a new life nine hours away in Dallas, Texas. Interestingly, I didn’t start counting calories and under-eating in order to lose weight and get skinny: I have always been a very petite, eat-six-cupcakes-and-notgain-a-pound kind of girl. I did it as a way to feel in control during a time when I had so little control over my surroundings and current situation. And this coping mechanism stuck. It’s funny what you’ll start doing to deal with pain even at a young age when you don’t yet know there is a God out there who loves and cares for you, who has the very hairs on your head numbered. As expected, continuing this unhealthy eating pattern eventually created self-image issues, and I spent a good chunk of middle school and high school very insecure and bodyobsessed. I even got to the point where I was seriously considering asking my parents for plastic surgery as a Christmas present, but luckily I found the Lord shortly after and starting gaining some much-needed perspective. Becoming a Christian helped me start to gain confidence,

become more others-focused, and genuinely helped me deal with pain in a much healthier and less destructive way, so when my eating disorder started to rear its ugly head after the breakup, I became extremely frustrated. Hadn’t I already dealt with this issue and left it in the past? To be honest, so much of my eating habits during this time period were done on an unconscious level. I simply slipped back into a past coping mechanism, and I didn’t realize how much this bad habit had started to resurface until my mom and sister started pointing out how much weight I was losing. I remember crying angry tears and asking the Lord why I can’t just keep this harmless (in my eyes) little habit of cutting calories here and there, and His answer was clear: I was not going to deal with pain the same way I did before I became a Christian. It was time to learn a better, healthier, and holier way to deal with pain that involved surrendering to the Lord and taking some important first steps. I finally made an appointment to meet with an eating-disorder specialist and began the long and painful process of seeking healing for one of my best-kept secrets and most treasured little pets. Although it was a step in the right direction, I was an absolute mess. It may have seemed like just a breakup, but this season what about so much more than that. It’s like the breakup uprooted all these old insecurities and ushered in so much confusion and self-doubt, and on top of everything else, I felt like I was on emotional overload. I cried probably three times a week for a couple of months. I know people have been through much more traumatic things. I’ve never seen myself as an overly strong individual, so it all hit me really hard. With the best intentions, people kept offering me empty Christian clichés like, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” and “He gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers,” but I wasn’t having it. I felt neither in control or strong, so it seemed ten times easier to wallow than to find the truth in what everyone around me was saying. I blew up balloons filled with bitterness, hung up streamers of sorrow, baked a cake full of callousness, and threw myself the biggest pity party of the 21st century. The invitation was addressed to anyone still stuck in the past and refusing to trust God with the future. What a fabulous and life-giving event it was! While I fully believe there is a time for tears and sadness, when you start to develop a semi-morbid outlook on life and talk about the “good ol’ days” at the age of 20, you may have taken things a bit too far. Thankfully, the Lord has always filled my life to the brim with amazing friends and family, so the people closest to me knew when it was time to intervene.

The Lord used the next few years to really shape and and prune me. Since I had started dating a guy shortly after becoming a Christian, I had never really been forced to figure out this whole Jesus thing on my own. I quickly realized post-breakup that I was being called to a pretty long season of singleness in order to work through some past issues and get myself whole again (and I’ve been single for three years now, so I’d say God’s really held up His end up of the deal, ha). My neighbor once told me that everyone needs to go through a good heartbreak at some point in their life. She said it builds character, stirs up empathy, and rips off the rose-tinted glasses we sometimes view this sin-filled world through. While I wish we didn’t live in a world where “I love you” is so often not enough and trust is so easily shattered, I understand now what she meant. Pain is the great connector, the most effective shot of humility. It is the highlighter that forces us to finally read and study our own broken nature. It is the spark that allows you to look at another bandaged up, broken human being and say, “me too.” It is what pushes us to clean off shelves full of self-curving pride in order to finally make room for God. I didn’t understand then why God was allowing me to go through a season of such despair and uprooting, but now I do. It was in those years that I learned the beauty of the Gospel message and my constant need for grace. It was in those years that I was able to look at my own reflection in a mirror and watch Jesus seal up cracks of deep-seeded insecurity with just the tip of His finger. It’s like I really saw myself for the first time--not as a weak, unworthy, shell of a human being, but as a beloved child of the one true God. It was in those years that that I found power in vulnerability and the courage I needed to chase the dreams the Lord had intentionally interwoven into the fabric of my life. It was in those years that I found a well of hope and love that will change the way I look at all the years to come. It was in those years I finally started to believe in myself, but more importantly I finally started to believe in God. Red words written on thin pages over two-thousand years ago were no longer just words: they had come to life, and they were ushering me into a new season, marked by surrender and fueled by Holy Love. In addition to helping me heal through the breakup and work through some insecurities, God taught me all sorts

of things. I learned how to better surrender to God’s plan for my life, what it looks like to really trust Him with the future, and how to make my faith more about what I can do for God then what He can do for me. I learned that worry is more of a conscious choice than a chronic illness, and that sometimes God will leave us in unchanged circumstances until we are forced to view both Him and ourselves in a more Biblical manner. I learned that envy plants bitterness in our hearts and ammunition in our mouths, and that cultivating a mindset drenched in joy is one of life’s brightest ambitions. Learning these important life lessons took a while and was in some way a very painful process, but it also produced in me a deep and long lasting appreciating for God’s unending grace and mercy. I could honestly write pages full of what God taught me throughout this threeyear season: you’re really just getting the highlight reels. It has been a bittersweet, transformative past three years, and I can look back now and see God’s fingerprints all over this difficult season in my life. I asked for deeper roots and to become more confident in who the Lord made me to be, and in His own unique way, God used this season to answer this prayer in abundance. He used my imperfections to show me His unending grace, and I come out healed and whole on the other side. I can only hope and pray that the Lord will use future trials to continue this building of a much sturdier faith. One thing is sure: the firm foundation has been laid. I still have my days where I wrestle with doubt and battle insecurity. In fact, as I sit here and attempt to translate years of my life into a few pages of carefully constructed words, I do so at the end of a darker day. But those days are much rarer now, and over time, the Lord has helped me filter these days through a much more joyful, optimistic, and Gospel-centered mindset. I’m now sitting at the top of my mountain. Jesus is next to me, and the view is breathtakingly beautiful. I see other mountains shrouded in clouds of mystery far off in the distance, but they don’t invoke the same panic and worry like they use to. For the Lord has used the last few years to teach me of His trustworthiness and the importance of character-shaping seasons. I went into this season knowing Him as God, and I came out knowing Him as Father. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.








"I remember being six years old and always finding a way to my mother's makeup vanity and taking every chance I could to play dress-up." O ver the years, my love for and knowledge of beauty, fashion, and everything in-between has grown exponentially. Although my career in dentistry is about the furthest thing from beauty and fashion, I definitely have an artistic mind and have been deprived of an outlet for these interests outside of dental school. What better way to bring my ideas to life and grow my creativity than through a blog! WHY ARE YOU MAKING THE BLUSHED BOUQUET BLOG & WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS FOR I T?

To go a little deeper and explain why I'm finally venturing on this journey with my blog deserves a backstory. My dad passed away this July, and learning to experience life after he was gone has been difficult to say the least. When I reflect on the past several months after his passing, I realize that losing him has really taught me how to live now more than ever. I feel like for the longest time, I wasn't doing the things God had placed on my heart. It's easy to become sedentary and get lost in the daily demands

we have on us, ultimately setting aside our interests. I've had these passions welling up inside me, and so many ideas and dreams that I once took for granted. My dad was such a hard worker and was always striving to keep his dreams alive. He inspired me in so many ventures throughout my life, along with my decision to pursue a career in dentistry, and now I definitely owe my desire to pursue this blog to him. I understand how short our life is on Earth, and I finally have the courage to make the most of it by taking leap of faith to display what I'm passionate about, out there for the world. My main hope for this blog is that my readers will see the love of Jesus in me. I truly want my Blog to be a reflection of Him in every way, even through commonplace topics like beauty and fashion. I want every single person that reads to know they are beautiful and loved. Finally, I hope others will enjoy my take on the beauty and fashion world and be inspired in a Christ- centered community. WHAT DOES BEAUTY MEAN TO YOU IN THIS NEW VENTURE?

So many friends and family members are always asking me for beauty/ hair advice, tips, and tricks. Somewhere along the way, my friends began asking me to do their bridal hair and makeup, along with other opportunities. It's something I enjoy so much. What I love about this field of work is that I get to experience and play a part in the beauty (both inside and out) of each person I work with. True beauty comes from Christ himself and His light shining inside of us...

...I've had the privilege of working with so many Godly women - none of which would ever need a drop of makeup for their beauty to shine. I believe what's so great about something as simple as makeup or a new hairstyle is it brings women together in a loving spirit - and that is what's really beautiful.


The most difficult part of creating and designing my blog has definitely been time. Since I'm a full-time dental student, my free time during the school year is few and far between with what can sometimes be a really demanding schedule. However, with more consistent timeWHAT ARE YOU EXCI TED ABOUT? I am so excited to have a creative outlet to voice my management and the desire to have an outlet from such a interest in and enthusiasm for beauty & fashion, feature high-stress environment, I've been able to curate the beautiful and artfully created imagery, and display the beginnings of my dream blog! With that being said, of course the actual design itself talents of my other friends and collaborators in the process. The photography aspect of blogging is one I'm most excited would be a close runner-up when it comes to difficulty. I for. I was actually a photography major at the beginning of don't have a Media degree, so I called in backup when it my college career before I chose to pursue dentistry, and it came to nailing down my website. I have several graphic has remained an active hobby over the years. I strive to not designers (My husband Ben and Bonnie Guinn Photo & only produce high quality and articulate imagery, but to Design) to thank for helping to get my blog up-andnow compose it through displaying my blog content with running, as well as Kate Howell from Ivory & Lace Photography for taking these beautiful photos! the help of talented fellow photographers. WHAT DOES CREATIVI TY MEAN TO YOU?


I believe Jesus inspires creativity, and He has definitely I am so excited for 2017 and what is to come. I am most given me a creative mind and heart. My career choice reflects that to an enormous extent. One of the main reasons I chose to pursue dentistry is because of my artistic ability and my desire to create a beautiful smile for every single patient I encounter. Dentistry is art in itself - you are creating something meaningful and beautiful, along with restoring ones health and vitality. Creativity defines the essence of my lifelong career as well as my inspiration behind starting a blog centered on beauty + fashion.

excited to see how I grow in my blog, with other people, and my relationship with Jesus. I want to continue to surround myself with encouraging, positive, and invigorating people who have similar dreams and goals. And I'm excited to consistently try new things and have the courage to take opportunities when God places them in front of me.

Inside the front cover of my bible are quotes and scriptures that have pierced my heart in some way over the years. A lyric that put words to my thoughts. A quote that better articulated my emotions than I ever could. A one-liner from a sermon that hit the nail on the head. These words that fill the cover of my bible have helped me along in my faith of better understanding who God is and who He says I am. I have clung to these truths in many dark seasons and professed them over and over again until I actually believed them. But you know, the funny thing is some (if not most) of these tiny pieces are part of a much larger whole of which most of the time I haven’t even read entirely. I realized this the other day when I went to write down a line from one of the chapters I was reading from C.S. Lewis. Most of the quotes and lyrics and scriptures written inside my bible, that hold a heavy weight in my heart, are from books and songs and sermons and chapters in the bible that I have not ever read completely or even at all. As I was processing this, all the while still writing down the quote from the chapter that I haven’t finished even to this day (insert face palm here), my eyes scrolled across yet another C.S. Lewis quote I had written years ago… “We are far too easily pleased.” (For the sake of transparency here, I do not even know where THIS quote came from. You see my frustration.) We are far too easily pleased. I am far too easily pleased. I am far too easily pleased with taking the one part of the puzzle that makes sense to me or resonates with me at the time and leaving the rest untouched. Now, to

you this may not seem like too big of a deal, and maybe in the grand scheme of things not finishing a book is lowest on the totem pole of sin, however the Holy Spirit pressed me on to think if I am so easily pleased with one line in a song, what else am I easily pleased with? What else are we, as the body of Christ, easily pleased with? Affirmation from creations, not the Creator. Instagram bible, not the Holy bible. Being fed, not feeding others. Pornography, not purity. Fakeness, not friendships. Casual sex, not commitment. Scrolling on screens, not looking across the table. Watching show after show, not nurturing our faith. Retweeting, not listening. Our specific church pew, not the poverty outside the church door. Sound bites, not sound teaching. And on and on it goes. I am so guilty, SO guilty, of these things. There have been many times when I blatantly defy Paul’s call from Romans to not be conformed to the pattern of this world. This world and what it has to offer is appealing and so addicting to me that I am willing to sacrifice my time with Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, for another episode of The Office. THIS IS A PROBLEM. A huge problem. And I know this doesn’t just describe my life, but the lives of so many Christians. We have the life-changing, life-giving, lifesaving truth of the Gospel in our hands, yet we are too busy clicking, liking, scrolling, and hashtagging to share it with our neighbor. We are comfortable with sitting in our church pews on Sunday morning but not sharing our table with the unbeliever for Sunday dinner. We are far too easily pleased.




And believe it or not, this is Satan’s plan. To glaze our eyes with the lie that going to church and taking pictures of our bibles at coffee shops and retweeting other Christians’ commentary on scripture is what being a Christian is all about. To coat our hearts with the lie that someone else will take care of the children in foster care, someone else will send money to help the Syrian refugees, someone else will share the Gospel with that person. He wants us to be satisfied with the safe haven we have secluded ourselves into so that we will miss all the pain, suffering, fear, and sin that is running wild throughout our world. You may feel a sense of urgency right now, and I pray that you do. Every single person that you encounter today is either as close to Hell as they will ever be, and on the flip side, as close to Heaven as they will ever be. This world is Heaven for some – can you think about that for just a second? This world, with all its cancer and death and failure and disappointments and loneliness and anger and hatred, is your neighbor’s HEAVEN. This is as good as it gets for a lot of people in our lives, yet we are so easily pleased with assuming that someone else will tell them about Jesus that we do nothing. So, where does this leave us? This leaves us wrecked with heartache for our world. This leaves us longing for our Father to return and make all things new. This leaves us with a heavy responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus until He comes again. And with this responsibility to share the good news, love our neighbors, open our doors, and pull more seats up to our tables comes another responsibility to surrender. These acts of kindness and evangelical conversations are nothing without Jesus being at the root. A lifestyle that looks like Jesus comes out of a heart that knows Him. The

transformation He makes in us is what counts. My desire for this New Year is that rather than spending time on making resolutions and focusing on how we can change for ourselves, that maybe we would make time to set down our phones, to spend a few more moments with Jesus, and invite others to the table. Instead of focusing on what we can change about ourselves, maybe we could focus on what we can change about the world we live in. God has given us this radical, unconditional grace that far exceeds any gift possible. Let us run the race with confidence from Christ, living in freedom of the grace He bought for us on a cross, and not be so easily pleased with the pleasures of this world. There has to be more than what this world can offer… and in fact there is. His name is Jesus. And His love for you is radical and untamable, and so overwhelming that the only thing you can do is love Him back. And loving Him looks a whole lot like not being too easily pleased with this world, but rather only being pleased with Jesus, the redeeming love He died to give, and the people He died for to save. Unreserved, unrestrained, your love is wild, Your love is wild for me It isn’t shy, it's unashamed your love is proud to be seen with me You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourselfto tease us Uncontrolled, uncontained, your love is a fire Burning bright for me It’s not just a spark, it’s not just a flame your love is a light That all the world will see

(Pieces by Amanda Cook)


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