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Salt & Branch
Jun 12, 2019
In The Initial "Yes"
What does the time between the stirring to do something God’s told you to do (big or small) and when you say yes to it reveal about our relationship with God? Now, let’s make sure we are on the same page with this before I go forward. This is a heavy topic. And it would be easy to feel like I’m here to teach you how to be a better Christian-- not the case. Hence, the context from last week’s episode. I have made many mistakes, and will continue to. I’m human. I lived for many years, about 22, not seeking to grow my relationship with God. So the ideas that I present in this series are things that I’ve learned and been corrected on, and trying to make into patterns of my behavior that will eventually be a natural reaction. Recently, I knew I was slowly becoming aware of the convictions and boundaries God was wanting me to draw with a guy I had been dating. It probably took me 4-6 weeks to say yes to the final boundary that He had wanted me to draw all along. Again, the guy was never a bad guy, but it started to become apparent to me that protecting my heart was not as high of a priority as it was when we were dating (rightfully so), but since my feelings remained the same for him, I did not take on a more accurate view of the dynamic until the tail end of that 4-6 week window. I saw that the time it took me to say yes and trust God with new boundaries, that would not only place this guy appropriately in my life and heart, but also reinforce the status of single, yet again, was rooted in fear of going back to that place. My friend put it beautifully as I cried to her on the phone one time, “You got a taste of what God has planned for your life, and it’s almost harder to have a taste than not know how good it will be.” I’m picturing taking a bite of a friend’s sandwich they ordered and liking it more than your own but handing it back to them anyway… on a lighter note. He is a good dude who loves the Lord and looked out for me, that’s hard to hand back to God when it seems to be what’s right. I know now that it wasn’t right because it wasn’t right right now. I saw this delayed response of mine was rooted in fear. And if we really spend a moment thinking about it, I would say a lot of what we all do everyday is rooted in fear. I’ll get this job because it makes more money because I’m afraid I won’t have enough. I’ll take the easy route because I’m afraid I’ll fail and embarrass myself. I’ll hold out hope for the rekindling of a relationship because I’m afraid God doesn’t have goodness for me in another season of singleness.... Yikes. So maybe there’s something you know you’re putting off: joining that club but you’re too nervous to be the new kid, talking to the new person at work because it seems like an effort, donating or investing in a cause that helps people. Or maybe it’s bigger than that. Maybe it’s a stirring to sit with your Bible more, or start a small bible study with your friends, or to drink less or confess an addiction to a spouse or significant other. Or maybe it’s a risk, like quitting your job for a new career, one that no one will see coming but has grown to an un-ignorable level in your heart. Or maybe you’ll go back to school. Or adopt a kid. Or try to have one, just one more time. Or maybe it’s to write about that one year of your life when everything seemed to be hanging on by a tattered seam. But now it’s getting personal… What is your hesitancy to God revealing in your heart? Are you afraid something won’t be easy? Or work out the way you envision? What if it’ll end up better than you expected? What if you meet people who become fixtures in your life that you don’t want to imagine life without? What if this step opens doors for an even more exciting step in the future? What if this step, this initial “yes,” builds a confidence in Christ and who He is that you can rest in when the next decision presents itself?
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Salt & Branch
Jun 04, 2019
In The Initial "Yes"
Welcome to the KINDLING extension of “The Initial ‘Yes’” Series on the podcast! If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, go to Soundcloud or Apple Podcasts to catch up. If you’re here after listening to the podcast, you are here for the juicy details… and to be honest, you’ll only get a little. I’m not gonna expose this guy involved or tell you his name or occupation but I can tell you a little bit more about the nature of the relationship. Because let’s be honest, if you’re anything like me, you live for these details. So we met in December of 2018 in kind of happenstance circumstances. He was, and still is (at the time of posting this), waiting on an answer for a career change. He has been waiting longer than expected so logistically we should’ve never met if everything had gone to plan for him. Shortly after meeting and getting to know each other, we started dating more intentionally. Within about a month or so, he drew the line of friendship to be mindful of investing in a relationship that he planned to end if he left to pursue the job he was waiting to hear back on. I understood where he was coming from, but I didn’t think it was right for me to just walk away and stop speaking (that's how I usually play it). We tried to “just enjoy each other until he left” thinking he was getting a call shortly after the conversation. Three and a half months later and still no call, I found myself struggling to be friends in a way that protected my heart and kept him in my life. It became difficult for me to stay close to him without investing more of my heart. I grew irritated with the situation and the struggle, sometimes taking it out on him in angsty reactions. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I had little patience with him because those reactions were counter to how I interact with everyone else… Finally, I knew the “friend” line needed to be drawn for my own sake. I knew I had to take a big step back in effort to protect my heart that was still invested in a relationship that no longer existed. It wasn’t until I faced this task I knew God put on my heart, did I see how terrible I was at being obedient with this. I realized the angst I felt was fruit of my delay in obedience. (Yikes) I didn’t trust that life would be awesome after I drew lines that established me “single”.... Again. The day after I talked with him about these new boundaries, I sat in a coffee shop by myself waiting for a friend. It was like Jesus Himself was sitting across from me when I heard this statement in my mind: You can go one of two ways with this: You can learn from this or you can be upset with this. What’re you gonna pick? It felt like my arms moved on their own, opened to a new page in my journal, and cataloged the lessons I learned over the last six months. And honestly, there are moments when I’m irritated by how things have come to be. I’m irritated with him, with God, with myself. *picture me raising a fist to the sky* But then I remember the list I wrote down in my journal and take a deep breath. It was worth it. All the irritation and confusion and care and intention and desires. All the changes and analyzing and praying and crying. It was all worth it. It took about a week or so to get to that point, but I’m there 90% of the time. With this list of lessons (most about obedience hence the new series), I feel silently equipped for the next season of life, whether that includes a guy or not. I remind myself of the things God has tasked me with to get done, and honestly, I couldn’t get them done in a relationship. Singleness--right now-- seems incredibly purposeful. And I’m gonna run with it.
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Salt & Branch
Feb 06, 2019
In MEANINGLESS
Oftentimes when I think about friendship, I think about the benefits of having people around to chat with or share ideas. I mostly see friends as people who I can confide in and spend time with. I usually don't see friends as stabilizers. Stabilizers? We can all comfortably agree that there will be storms in life. There will be moments where we cannot withstand the waves alone. And many of us will now think to ourselves: Yes, that's why we have Jesus. Which is true. 100%. But we also have people Jesus has intentionally put in our path to be vessels in which He can stabilize our hearts in the midst of storms... if only we'd let them. Ecclesiastes talks about the benefits of having people in our lives do life with us. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up (Ecc. 4:9-10). Upon first glance, these verses made me think about the work of our hands and how a team could (and usually does) yield a better product than the ones we try to do on our own. But what if we viewed "labor" as emotional labor, too? What if we intentionally brought those closest to us even closer to our worry and doubt and fear? What if we brought them into the fold, asked them to get their hands dirty with us as we examine the areas of our lives that bring the most shame? Doing life alone is meaningless, at least according to Solomon. And you know what, at this point, I'd have to agree. Victories are better celebrated when you have more than yourself to high five.
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Salt & Branch
Jan 30, 2019
In MEANINGLESS
"Chasing after the wind" is all over the book of Ecclesiastes. And I think on first notice, we all just think of chasing about stuff that we'll never fully catch up to or obtain. When I first started reading through this book more intentionally last week, I found myself brushing this idea off as if I didn't do it that much. I didn't consider money or recognition or relationships or projects or accomplishments to be places and sources of distractions that yield sustainable joy. Don't get me wrong, many of these things are wonderful and I believe God wants us involved in the details of this life. I believe He wants us to invest in others and projects. He wants us to grow the Kingdom on Earth and create and grow and share. But the accomplishments of our hands will never be the source of joy and peace our hearts are looking for; they are meaningless in the cultivation of the peace our souls yearn for. A relationship with God is what brings the peace. A relationship with God is the soil we need for our seeds of dreams and goals and relationships and projects to yield a harvest. I don't know about you, but I want my life to be a field full of beautiful crops and flowers that were planted in times of honest pursuit of God's heart, not the world's. So as we continue to look through Ecclesiastes, it's important that we remember King Solomon was writing from a place of realizing our doings on Earth pale in comparison to the pursuit of a relationship with God. He's not necessarily saying we shouldn't have these doings on Earth, just that we should look at them through the appropriate lens-- a lens I know I could be more mindful of.
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Salt & Branch
Jan 23, 2019
In MEANINGLESS
How much weight are we supposed to put on the things of this world? How much should we care when something goes wrong or we come up short? How do we respond when our dreams don't pan out the way we thought or the plans we constructed for our lives take a dramatic shift? I know I put too much stock into the earth. At times, I care too much about my financial stability. I care too much about the affirmation of others. I care too much about the work of my hands, as if it was only my hands doing the work. I'm not too cool to say I've read Ecclesiastes. The only parts I'm familiar with are the "a time for ____ and a time for ____." I didn't know King Solomon wrote it (the wisest of the wise). So I certainly wasn't expecting for the 2nd line of the book to say, "Everything is meaningless!" (NIV) He goes to say that everything under the heavens is meaningless. Harsh. I know. So it got my attention and that's why I'm doing the series. I want to know what Solomon is getting at here. If he's the wisest dude around, surely he was on to something good. Recently, I've been incredibly humbled and provoked to examine the status of my relationship with God. I've discovered that I am in a bit of a... shift.. for lack of better words. I have been in hot pursuit of a greater depth with Him for a while now. It was not until just recently did I see that what my soul needs to get back to the basics; to pursue WISDOM from Him. Because I'm learning that that wisdom allows for a fresh visual of God's heart. It breathes fresh air on dreams and fears and worries and anxieties and hopes. And I don't know about you, but I could use a Breath of fresh air.
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Salt & Branch
Jan 02, 2019
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
So far Front Row Friends (FRFs) has discussed friendship in the light of fire. Looks like we got a bunch of pyros over here. Reflecting on these friends fanning dreams and works into flame led me directly to think about the refinement that comes with friendship with my FRFs. Psalms 66:10-12 “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads’ we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” God allows us to be refined through the process of earthly difficulties that illuminate the sin that entangles us during our brief duration on the earth. I think I’m often refined through my FRFs. Knowing I have a safe space to share my struggles is pivotal. God knows my heart, but having accountability and encouragement through friends who spur me onto love Jesus wholeheartedly has been one of my greatest treasures. I ponder this gift. They are like the Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abendagos in life. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendago were Jews who would not bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar and were thrown into a blazing furnace as a consequence (Daniel 3). These men were fully convinced that they were honoring the Lord and did not waver in their stance. Upon being placed in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar saw four men walking around unharmed, when only three were thrown in. I envision this as my FRFs and God. If we pursue righteousness together, God will show up and meet us in the fire and refinement. He protects and shows me his glory through friendship. Friends who care about my walk with Christ call out the areas in need of growth, but only do so in love (Ephesians 4:15, Hebrews 10:24). The people in my life who gently correct with pure intentions and genuine love and acceptance have a front row seat. They have the ability to speak into my life and prompt me to look inward. I think the Lord uses these friends to show me facets of His grace, mercy, love, kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness. I love that when I encounter these friends, I encounter Christ-- and this in and of itself brings me to a place of abundance.
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Salt & Branch
Dec 28, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
Growing up it was hard for me to be real with people. On the surface, it would seem that I was close with others, but in reality I kept everyone at a distance. My “friends” knew the most shallow version of myself and I was okay with that. It meant that I didn’t have to get into sharing the complete mess of who I really was. It was easier to walk through life that way, not having to admit my failures, and pretending that I was a better follower of Jesus than I really was. On the outside, everyone saw a young man living for God, but on the inside I knew I was a slave to my sin. Don’t misunderstand, I wanted to be free from my sin, but I also wanted victory without having to admit that I was currently defeated. I believed I could conquer life’s struggles alone, and somehow I would eventually reach a point of victory in my life from all that I was going through if I just kept fighting. This all changed one morning when I was sitting with a friend talking casually at Starbucks and he straight-up asked me how my soul was. He asked how I was doing spiritually. He told me to cut the crap and be completely honest about where I was at in my faith, while affirming me that nothing I shared with him would separate our friendship or make him think less of me. This moment changed everything. In that moment, my friend was inviting me to be a part of something I had always wanted but never truly had. He was willing to be my “Front Row Friend.” He was asking me to be near him… the type of nearness you’re scared to enter into, but when you finally enter it you never want to go back to the emptiness and loneliness of before. As I sat with him I began to break down crying and my mouth willingly began sharing the reality of where I was REALLY at. The porn, the lust, the masturbation, and the addictions of my life all began to come into the light as I finally understood my vulnerability is not a weakness, but my VULNERABILITY LEADS TO VICTORY. This is why James 5:16 teaches, “...confess your sins to one another, praying for one another that you may be healed.” This is what it means to have Front Row Friends. They are like a fire. When kept at a distance, you can only see what you desire to feel, but it isn’t until you’re truly near the flame that you actually experience its warmth! In the same way, FRF’s bring light and warmth to my life, inviting me to draw near to the flame of friendship. The more I choose to distance myself from my FRF, the colder, darker, and lonelier my life becomes. However, the more I choose to be near my FRF, the warmer, brighter, and more fulfilling my life is! FRF are the people in my life I can regularly confess to. They know the DARKEST parts of who I am, and in response they shed the LIGHT of God’s Word into my situation. They are with me in the COLDEST moments of my life and speak the WARMTH of His truth into every circumstance of my journey. They cry with me, they laugh with me, they pray with me, and they love me. The closer I am to them, the more like Jesus I become. So if you’ve been living at a distance, it’s time to choose to be near the flame.
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Salt & Branch
Dec 21, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
I used to struggle with the feeling that I didn’t have those Front Row Friends that I could count on. Throughout my youth and even into my adult years, I often found myself in want of more reliable friendships, but unsure how to develop them. However, when I took an honest self-evaluation, I realized that it would have to start with me, and, if I wanted those FRFs in my life, I was going to have to start being an FRF to others. Implementing this new idea completely changed the way that I connect with people and has since led to stronger and deeper relationships in my life. One of my favorite characterizations of God is found in Hebrews 12:29 when the author describes Him as a “consuming fire.” A consuming fire is a fire that destroys EVERYTHING in its path. If you’re someone who thinks that God is out to get you, then this might seem kinda scary. But, understanding this aspect of God’s love will help you form those FRF relationships, and it will better equip you to better become a FRF to others. Maybe you’ve heard of The Great Chicago Fire, one of the most destructive fires in history. This fire destroyed 1/3 of Chicago, left over 100,000 people homeless, and potentially killed hundreds of people. But one thing that caused this fire to spread so easily was a phenomenon known as a fire whirl. It’s like a tornado… but with fire! It's formed when superheated air rises and comes into contact with cold air. Talk about a consuming fire! THIS is how God is characterized? At this point, you’re probably wondering, “What does this have to do with a FRF?” But, if we’re going to learn what an FRF looks like, we’ve got to first learn how God loves us! His love is powerful. It climbs mountains, crosses oceans, and overcomes obstacles to be with you. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, how far away you run, or how many times you doubt God. His love is unrelenting, and nothing can make Him change His mind about you. As the Shulamite woman wrote in Songs of Solomon 8, love is a fire that water cannot quench. God's love for you burns so strong. He loved you before you ever reciprocated that love. You didn’t deserve it, but He freely gave it!  If you’re looking for true FRFs, the key is to first become an FRF to others. We can definitely take a cue from God on this one. If His love for us is that unconditional, then we should let that challenge us to love others the same way. When you learn to be an FRF to others, your relationships will grow, and you’ll soon find those FRFs that you can count on in return. But the first step is to always love others the way that God loves you, like a consuming fire. As a FRF, you have a responsibility to love, encourage, and support others at all time. Don’t let anything stop you from being a FRF! 
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Salt & Branch
Dec 19, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
Recently there was a picture going around on social media showing the difference between two rooms that were in a house fire. One room had the door open during the fire and the other room had the door closed. The room with the door open, as you can imagine, was completely destroyed. The room with the door closed had barely been tampered with. Sure, there was some residue, but the material things in it weren't even touched by the flames. I was so moved when I recognized that the Lord actually does this with our friendships. He closes friendship doors to protect us from the flames - to protect us from getting burned. For the past 4 years, I've asked the Lord to give me ONE word for the entire year to resonate on (with the purpose of growing closer to Him). 2018 is control - I heard God clearly telling me give Him full control of everything. This year, He has taken full control of my friendships and is in the process of closing a few friendship doors to protect me from getting burned. I didn't know this in the beginning, but He is definitely showing me who He desires to have in my front row. Since this series started, I've been wrestling with the thought of what a FRF really is and who would be in my front row. If you looked at my friendship pattern over the years, it looks like this - striving to fit in, befriending anyone and everyone, getting involved in the wrong friend-group for way too long, the Lord blessing me with some real friends, and now surrendering it all to Jesus to figure out who is in my front row. The past couple of weeks, I've continued to take it back to scripture and the friendship between Paul and Timothy has really been sticking out to me the most. Paul was Timothy's mentor and their friendship thrived because of the respect they had for each other. They were both so confident in Christ and so determined to spread the gospel and advance God's kingdom. The reason this story really resonates with me is because I have my very own Paul, her name is Heather. She's incredibly wise and always points me back to Jesus. I met Heather when I was 15, she was my Young Life leader in high school but our friendship has become so much more than that. Despite my stubbornness over the years, she has never given up on me. She sees my potential and often reminds me of it. I have learned so much from her and will always look up to her godly wisdom. Within our friendship, I'm often reminded of the power God has and that He can bond two people together in such an incredible way if they have the same end goal, Him. She's one friend that I know will be in my front row, without a doubt.  Besides Heather, there's only one other person I am certain will be in my front row... Jesus. I am FOR SURE saving a seat for Him. So when I am looking at my future husband in the eyes, I'll glance over and be reminded of who designed him for me. With only two seats filled, I know that my front row seems really empty, but I'm okay with that. When it comes down to it, I'd rather have four quarters than one hundred pennies. It's really that simple. God spreads His gospel by the way we live our lives individually and also how we operate in the kingdoms of our friendships. If we allow Him to take hold of the hinges, even though He may close the door, He will always shelter us from the flame.
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Salt & Branch
Dec 14, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
I grew up as a pyromaniac. My earthly dad was a fireworks attorney while I was a young kid, so we have a lot of memories lighting things on fire and watching them explode. One memory sticks out the most though. My dad brought home this smoke grenade that was used by the military to hide troops as they were passing by. Joyfully, we ignited that bad boy and realized we opened a can of worms that we weren’t prepared for. The smoke came billowing out of that thing and didn’t stop for what seemed like an eternity. We feared the cops were going to be called after we realized smoke was lingering over the road in front of our house. Thankfully after a solid 25 minutes, the smoke eventually stopped and we avoided arrest. As I was replaying this story years later, a question popped into my head: Why didn’t you just run through the smoke and extinguish the thing? Instead, I choose to sit back and watch as cars drove through smoke so thick they could barely see five feet in front of them. I don’t know how to say anything of lasting value without the Word of God, so I figured that’s where I should point us to. In 1 Samuel 23 we see David in the wilderness literally running for his life from King Saul when Jonathan (Saul's oldest son and David's close friend) went to David and said this: "Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” Jonathan boldly stepped into David's clouded outlook and delivered a message in truth that began to smoke out the worry and fear that surrounded him. This passage exemplifies what it means for someone to step into our smokey struggles carrying the only tool that could clear the smoke. For me personally, someone who strengthens my heart in God is a FRF. My heart was made to know God, so therefore I NEED friends that will lead me to Him. In moments of my life whenever my vision was clouded due to trials we face on Earth, I’ve been saved by a FRF who was willing to brave my smoke. I didn’t realize the true importance of FRFs until a recent season of trial and testing. FRFs were made to be the tangible reminders of God’s presence and pursuit of smoking out our fears and worries in the midst of heartache, pain, and confusion. One of the most powerful moments for me was when my numero uno FRF, Nick, showed up for me in a season of wandering, confusion, depression, and embodied truth that resonated so deeply it carried me through the pit. He didn’t hit me with bible verses, or try to fix what I was going through. He just showed up, looked me in the eyes, and reminded me of how God carried him in those same seasons. He strengthened my hand in God by reminding me of who I am in Christ, and laid hands on me and cried tears of compassion after I had allowed a smoke screen to form around me. I don’t remember everything he said but I remember the moment when the smoke slowly started to lift. We all have seasons when circumstances and mindsets require an FRF to throw on an oxygen tank and face our pains with us. It’s humbling to admit that I am who I am because FRFs have saved me from suffocating. I imagine Jonathan and David wouldn’t be the examples of gritty faith they are without the FRFs they had. After all, that’s the story of us all. Without the greatest FRF, Jesus Christ, we would all still be suffocating.
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Salt & Branch
Dec 11, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
Be on the hunt for new friends. The Indigenous Australians practiced a method called Fire-stick Farming where they would scorch the earth to transform vegetation and adjust the actual plant or animal species surrounding them and their village. Pause on that for a moment. Their familiar environment - everything they knew and went to for nutrition - they burned. No back up plan, no undo button, no guarantees, nothing in writing here - just faith in the process. *insert mind-blown emoji* Recently, my faith journey has dared me to step into my own metaphoric Jordan River. However, before I was able to reach the edge, I had to find the riverbank, and before I could find the riverbank, I had to walk the path, and before I could walk the path, I had to find God’s path, and before I could find God’s path, I had to put my faith in the process...I had to light my world on fire with the intent to transform both the external and the internal vegetation. The fire raged. It isn’t easy to control, but that’s the point isn’t it? For us to let go and let God control the way we see those closest to us, those new to us, and those we could never imagine being a part of our journey. And if you aren’t patient in the process, it can be dangerous. I began to see the outline of a path for me with the flames dancing just on the edge of the walkway, heat flickering at me simultaneously clearing the way. Don’t misunderstand this to be easy. There are times I am terrified of where God is guiding me, and I am unable to clearly see the direction of the path ahead. God knows we might have doubts because he knows us intimately, so he places Front Row Friends (FRF) on our path to affirm the direction. But only when we take the steps in faith. In my life-long relationship with the church, one of the go-to bible verses is Jeremiah 29:11 - “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” There are times when we are unsure what our future holds. As we begin to follow God’s path, FRF show up to fan the flames shaping our path because they are guided by God. In this scorching season, we must keep our eyes open and alert for the new FRF that are transformed by the fire. God is actively moving and shifting our relationships. Someone who was a FRF last month might be in the third row, someone who was a FRF 10 years ago might be in the tenth row, someone who was a mentor might be a FRF, and someone you never even knew existed a month ago might be the newest FRF forged by the fire emerging onto the pathway ready to walk with you toward God’s calling. When will you light your world on fire for God or fan the flames for your FRF?
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Salt & Branch
Dec 07, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
I’ve never really felt like I fit in. I never fit into a social mold, a specific table at lunch, or a specific club. I just floated. I sprinkled myself where I wanted to be and let nature take its course. Saying all this, I also never felt like I had many friends. I had some but I guess it never felt like I had enough. Walking in that rhythm I never felt like my friends were… my friends. Like real friends. Front Row Friends. I CAN say that throughout my life I have been blessed with knowing many beautiful people.However, they come and go. Never the same as seasons move on. Always changing as the wind changes directions. I won’t lie. I constantly question why this is. I have had moments where I didn’t understand why some that I went to High School with still hung out but I only have Facebook acquaintances. I really got serious about this question this past year. As I turned 25, I asked the Lord to shake me out like a rug and reveal areas that need healing. Friendships were one of them. Through this post (that I really struggled with finding words- and finally gave it to God), I have been forced to face the answers to my questions. First, who is God as a FRF? He is everything in every moment. Always within reach. Never intimidated by what we go through, ask, or feel. He is always there to help and guide. Second, who am I as a FRF? The goal is to be like Christ is to me for others. Available. Always ready to listen. Always ready to comfort. A constant. Finally, what is my definition of FRF? The same as above mentioned. As I was reflecting on these FRF traits, I remembered something I had learned recently about the science of Controlled Burns. One of the main reasons that farmers put together a controlled burn is to maintain the health of nature. Controlled burns help rid of weeds and other harmful growths. They can bring back nutrients, bring down the risk of wildfires, and ultimately lead to better future growth. So- that’s it. Simple as that. FRF rid of weeds like lies and pride. They bring back nutrients by reminding me of my dreams and goals. They encourage during stressful seasons. FRF act like a Controlled Burn.
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Salt & Branch
Dec 04, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
I love my people. I love spending time with my people. I love spending time with God alone. Be alone with the Father. Wait, what? This is about friends Erin, did you get the memo? Uh yeah, I did… be alone with the Father, but like how Jesus did. He would slip away often and spend time with Him. Be alone with God. I say this because the more time you spend with God, the more He leads you to community and knowing people. This may be the most relatable part of Jesus for me and my introverted self. I have the permission to spend time ‘alone’ with the charge to then go out and love my FRONT ROW FRIENDS. My peeps, my tribe, man I love them and even more so I love when they get connected. When I think about how I would want all my FRFs to meet we are on my back porch sitting around a campfire. Think about it, campfires have all the best things; people, stories, laughter, encouragement, s’mores. ALL THE THINGS. I hear all of our stories building on one another, not because everyone knows everyone but because we all have a singular commonality: Jesus. My role as a FRF has change over time, but for this season it is to create space for people to meet people. To build room for God to be glorified within a growing community. As I host this “campfire” aka be a Front Row Friend, I’m constantly slipping away asking God “Do I need to fan this flame or stir it’s embers? Who do my people need in this moment? What are they going through?" It all comes together. Being alone with God fuels me to be the FRF they need and that God calls me to be for each of the people who so often fan my flame and stir my embers. If my friend is pouring out their heart for the homeless, or how God has been present in their life recently, I am bouncing back with excitement. I am fanning that flame higher and higher. On the flip side: when we are walking in the shadows, God feels distant, we're at a loss for words; it's time to stir. The embers are dying out but holding on, waiting to be reignited by the other flames around them.
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Salt & Branch
Nov 29, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
Growing up, I was the baby and only girl of my siblings. On the street that I grew up on, where many of my fondest childhood memories were made and my athletic ability was born, I was the only girl-surrounded and forced to hold my own with the 7 boys who lived near us. I’ve always appreciated the sweetness that girlfriends bring- dolls, nail polish, cupcakes, fierce attitudes, and nurturing hearts. In my life, I’ve been fortunate to foster relationships with girls who felt a lot more like my sisters than friends. And while SOME of the “sisters” that I’ve known all of my life will be in the proverbial front row-many more of them won’t (and not because I love them any less). I’ve found that my front row friendships feel different. My conversations go deeper and I’m free to share my wildest dreams without criticism with my front row friends (FRF). The common thread in these friendships has been and will continue bee our shared love for Jesus and our individual desires to grow in relationship with Him. The verse that most accurately depicts FRF in my mind is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. This verse speaks to the advantage of companionship and the essence of how and why front row friendships thrive. FRF help each other succeed by speaking life into hopes and dreams while lovingly offering correction when necessary. They lift each other up when one falls-to stress, failure, doubt, worry, fear, etc. A FRF will get down in the mess with you, not to wallow, but to help you to your feet so that the journey that you’re purposed for continues. FRF warm you with their presence, words of wisdom, laughter, and in my case tears lol. In the moments when life is the coldest and darkest that it’s been a FRF can change the atmosphere and restore light where there was once darkness. Most importantly, FRF protect and defend you with all that they have (not just physically, but spiritually). In my own life, my FRF showed up on the front lines of battle with the Enemy armored with the Truth to cover me with prayer (at times when I have lacked the words to articulate). Over and over, I’ve seen FRF rally and charge boldly into the battle of another’s life to resuscitate and empower them to hold tight to the promises of God’s word. But FRF don’t just risk it all on the battlefield they stick around long enough to see the victory that you were believing for. In the world that we live in when it is easy for people to bow out when life gets harder than they signed up for and friendship requires more than they were prepared to give…it is my FRF who have walked through the fire with me that I am most thankful for. Fireproofed and front row. This post is dedicated to a special front row friend, Mercedes Rutledge, who unfortunately won’t have the honor of sitting on the front row at my wedding, but will have the best view from Heaven. Mercedes, you are forever etched in my heart.
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Salt & Branch
Nov 28, 2018
In FRONT ROW FRIENDS
About a year or so ago, the topic of weddings was prominent through my friend circles. The subject ranged anywhere from who was getting married, to who wasn’t, to what our weddings may look like one day. During one such conversation, I shared that I didn’t want a bridal party, much to the surprise of my friends around me. What? Why?! Some of my answer was to spare us all the drama of picking humans and paying for dresses and feeling obligated to spend a ton of money. But the more I sat on the idea, the more I realized that it’s truly something I want to do because the day isn’t about the photos or the dresses or the friends or me or my husband or the cake. For me, I want it to be about celebrating the covenant created before God. I want it to be me, my bud aka husband declaring our promise with our favorite people surrounding us--that’s big enough for me. Besides, it’s not like I won’t have my people there. I’ll still have my Front Row Friends. These are the friends who are gonna sit front row for the wedding. They won’t be standing next to me because they’re not a part of the covenant, but they sure are important to me. They’ll sit right next to my family because these friends are more like family. I’ll let them wear what they want because that night is a celebration of new chapters and joining journeys. It’s not about them and it’s not even about me. As I look back over recent years, some people I thought would be front row have moved back a couple rows. Some aren’t even coming to the wedding. (Yikes Hannah, that’s harsh. Is it?? Or is it just part of life? I’ve moved too many times to expect many humans to transfer into new chapters of life organically and fully). And that’s okay, because I’ve not fully transferred into theirs either. But shoot, the ones I keep… they’re top notch. They’re my biggest fans and strongest supporters. They cheer with ease when I excel and offer a listening ear when I overanalyze a setback. I want the front row to be filled with shouts of excitement for achievements and correction rooted in love for blind-spots. And to put the pressure back on me: what does it look like for me to be someone’s FRF? Right now, it looks like honesty. It looks like intentionality when I feel like turning into a hermit in stress. It looks like shutting my mouth & letting them have the mic (which can be hard for me to do sometimes because I always have so much to say). It looks like pumping their dreams with gasoline and being the voice that constantly whispers: Light the match.
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Salt & Branch
Sep 18, 2018
In ON OUR END
I don't receive criticism well. I just don't. And I wish I did, because it's not like I think I know it all. I know I have so much to learn, even in the areas where I feel like I know a lot. There's a pride issue here... I'm aware. Recently I got what the earth likes to call "rejected." Not a fun thing to talk about or receive. The moment after the rejection began an evening-long battle of worth. I literally felt like I was in a battle of choosing who determined my worth. And I'm familiar with all the details of God's purpose, and how cool I am (LOL), and that I'm a young woman that anyone would be lucky to have... I know, I know. But it stings. And that's okay that it stings. So I did what I do best: run away. Literally. I put on my shoes, changed my clothes, and went for a run. I allowed my endorphins to help my mind refocus on who I am and who my Father says I am. The farther I allowed myself to get away from the moment (literally and mentally), the better look I was able to have of it. The commands I know Holy Spirit has whispered to my heart like be honest early, share your story, speak of Jesus like He's a tangible human in your day-to-day, can sometimes cause me to be set apart or "overlooked" by the world around me. I tell ya what though... the peace is insane. The breaths I take are deeper the more honest I am with others. Some people tell me I take things too seriously. Maybe so. But there's no part of my heart I'm willing to take lightly. If I was unwilling to receive this person's rejection, I would find myself in a state of need to perform or shift a behavior that is not part of my story anymore. I'm seeing the power in reception without identification. The power in reception and replacement. The power that comes when we replace the world's "rejection" for the truth that the only acceptance our heart yearns for is the one Jesus died for us to have.
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Salt & Branch
Sep 14, 2018
In ON OUR END
Because why not? I've been thinking lately about what it means to dream big dreams, and then do something about it. I've been encouraging my students to have big goals and go for them. All this talk about their goals made me more aware of how I've let mine fall by the wayside. I've allowed myself to get consumed in the day-to-day tasks, the ones that have a short shelf-life and function a bit like a checklist. I wonder what God thinks of a mindset that is focused on the day-to-day tasks. I wonder if He gets frustrated when He sees us limit our vision for our lives. We tend to only dream dreams we believe we can achieve. We can't fail something we never started. We fall prey to the comfort zone dreams, the ones that won't really hurt if we don't hit our mark. I know I do. I wonder what would happen if we chased after the dreams that keep us up at night, the ones that terrify us to pursue because we know that if we failed, we'd lose "everything." I can't help but think about what God is able to do with a heart that is willing to dream big dreams. Because the God I'm getting to know seems to be in the business of building wonder and bravery in those who love Him....If only we would let Him.
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Salt & Branch
Sep 07, 2018
In ON OUR END
It's amazing to see how we can be used when we stay in our lane. When we mind our business and do our work and love others and trust God. I said this to a student today when he began to boss the girl next to him. My exact words were actually, "Stay in your lane, homie." To which he responded with a somewhat shocked look at my defense for her. Because he wasn't wrong for telling her to be quiet after I had asked them to start working, but it wasn't in his lane to tell her that. That was my lane. I'm seeing the importance of lanes and knowing which ones are ours and which ones are not. I'm seeing how people also have a tendency of getting out of their lanes when they don't believe they are worthy of the lane. There are times when we think, as followers of Christ, God is angry with us to a point where He no longer wants to hear our prayers or provide us with wisdom. But this couldn't be farther from the truth. Sometimes the phrase stay in your lane is to help keep people out of the lanes they shouldn't be in. But what if we think about the other side to this. What if we use this phrase as an encouragement to stay in our lane. To stay in that lane as a Child of God. Receive the power God says we have, the love He gives, and trust the plan He has to seek perfect justice on the oppressors. Stay in your lane. Keep your eyes fixed on what is good. Our lane calls us to love, and to give freely, and to be bold, and to declare His Name to others, and to sing His praises. Stay in the lane that calls you Son or Daughter, that has a place prepared for you after this life, that asserts it is by grace you have been saved.
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Salt & Branch
Sep 05, 2018
In ON OUR END
Being honest is not something I shy from. Ask anyone close to me, I can sometimes be too honest. I'm honest quickly with people about an assortment of topics. A few years ago, I made a decision to stop lying. In all forms of it. Even the white ones. And I tell you what, I've begun to see the benefit of that decision. People have approached me with questions they desire honest answers to because I know you're going to be honest. And this isn't something I pride myself on because the longer I've made a conscious effort to be honest, the more clarity I have that this is how we're all called to live. So when it comes to a relationship with God, sometimes it requires us to be honest with ourselves. In order to get to the root of a fear, or doubt, or achievement, we have to accept the truth of the matter. We have to see that we are in need of a God who saves. We need to be honest and admit when we need help or have fallen short. In the moments when we accept our limitations or dependency of God, we get a better glimpse of not only His Glory, but His desire to be in relationship with us. I'm in a season where I'm forcing myself to take a better look at myself. At first, I sat in my imperfections, upset that I wasn't better at this or more proactive with that. I've noticed however, that the more honest I am in the prayer of asking God to reveal more of me that needs refinement, the more I see how facing the truth in myself is actually becoming the best thing for me.
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Salt & Branch
Aug 31, 2018
In ON OUR END
That's my biggest struggle these days, in a lot of areas. Waking up early. Getting exercise. Journaling. Posting on this site. Hitting good shots on the tennis court. Trusting God in every circumstance. Pursuing His heart on decisions--even the small ones. Not having a late night snacks... I like carbs, sorry 'bout it. What I'm seeing these last few days is that a lack of consistency in communication with GOD only affects me. My patience is thinner. My outlook is bleaker. My reactions are harsher. My peace is fluctuating. My purpose seems less significant. My Father seems farther. So on my end, I know I need to pick it up a bit. We all talk about how busy we are... "I don't have time for bible study right now," or "I'm too tired in the morning to get up to spend time with God." And I ain't judging because I've said the same things myself. But something else I've also had on the brain these days is that we all have time, we just choose to spend it differently. When I say, "I don't have time," it actually means "I don't feel like making time." I wonder if the same is true for all of us. For some things, maybe more than others. I'm sure there are things we'd all love to fit into our schedules. But I'm also sure there are things we know we should fit into our days that we're not. What I love about this topic is that no matter how inconsistent I am, God remains consistent. My faith or trust or bible-reading or prayers or hope or early mornings or devotionals or evangelism doesn't dictate His love for me. I can always come home. We can always come home. We can always do better and try harder. And that'll be true till the day we die. So on our end, I'm going to give grace to myself for the moments I fall short in the ways I know I could do better and rest in thankfulness that God is perfectly consistent.
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